The term Avatāra (अवतार) in Sanskrit means 1) Descent, alighting; descending or going down into; 2) Form, manifestation; 3) Descent of a deity upon earth, incarnation in general.
The Vedas, the Puranas, the Epics and the Bhagavadgita acknowledge the incarnations of Vishnu as an essential and important function of creation to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds and keep the chaos and demonic forces under control.
An incarnation of God is also different in many respects from a manifestation (vibhuti) or an aspect (amsa) of God. Practically, everything is a manifestation of God. A manifestation may or may not be aware of its divine nature. Its purpose may be limited in scope and influence, and it may represent only some qualities or aspects of God such as his knowledge, intelligence, power, wealth, beauty, aura, grace, etc. Secondly, a manifestation of God may happen with or without a form, not necessarily upon earth, whereas an incarnation always happens upon earth and in corporeal form only.
Technically, all living beings are incarnations of God only, since the soul or the Self is an aspect of Brahman and identical to him in all aspects. However, there is a fundamental difference. The incarnations of God are full-fledged. He manifests all his power and knows inherently his divine purpose upon earth. In contrast, the living beings are subject to the impurities of egoism, delusion and attachments.
With the above introduction, let us now study a wonderful Sloka which depicts the qualities of Lord Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Pl. Listen to a wonderful recitation of the Sloka by the young Carnatic Musician Sri. Ashwath Narayanan in Ragamalika as a Virutham (approx 9 mts).
O Lord! Bestow on me just that much of health necessary to worship Thee. Then I shall practice the eight-limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) and earn Thy grace.
Meaning of the Sanskrit Words
कल्यतां – health; मम – for me; कुरुष्व – kindly bestow; तावतीं – (at least) that much; कल्यते – (by which) I can perform; भवत्-उपासनं – worship of Thee; यया – by which; स्पष्टम्- definitely; अष्ट-विध-योग-चर्यया – by practicing the eight limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga); पुष्टय-आशु – (I will) be nourished soon; तव तुष्टिम् – (with) Thy grace; आप्नुयाम् – I will attain i
We commence our study of Dasakam 4 of Narayaneeyam with a couplet from Adi Sankaracharya’ Viveka Chudamani.
न देशकालासनदिग्यमादि लक्ष्याद्यपेक्षाप्रतिबद्धवृत्तेः । संसिद्धतत्त्वस्य महात्मनोऽस्ति स्ववेदने का नियमाद्यवस्था ॥ ५२९ ॥
na deśakālāsanadigyamādi lakṣyādyapekṣāpratibaddhavṛtteḥ | saṃsiddhatattvasya mahātmano’sti svavedane kā niyamādyavasthā || 529 ||
529. The noble soul who has perfectly realised the Truth, and whose mind-functions meet with no obstruction, no more depends upon conditions of place, time, posture, direction, moral disciplines, objects of meditation and so forth. What regulative conditions can there be in knowing one’s own Self?
Adi Sankaracharya- Viveka Chudamani
Rediscovering one’s fullest potential on all levels of human consciousness—physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual, by controlling the Body-Mind-Intellect Complex, therefore should become the uninterrupted philosophy of life for ordinary mortals like us.
The science of “controlling of the mind” [“citta vrtti nirodhah” otherwise called as Yoga] in all the levels human consciousness has eight (“ashta”) distinct processes (called as the limbs “anga”) as per Sage Patanjali. This science is what is called as Ashtanga Yoga.
The first four limbs—yama (self restraint) , niyama (things to do), asana (posture) , pranayama (breathing technique) —are considered external cleansing practices. The internal cleansing practices are —pratyahara (detachment), dharana (steadying the mind) , dhyana (contemplation).
Through the practice of correct breathing (Pranayama), postures (asanas), and gazing point (driste), we gain control of the senses and a deep awareness of our selves. By maintaining this discipline with regularity and devotion, one acquires steadiness of body and mind.
However, it is “not possible to practice the limbs and sub-limbs, when the body and sense organs are weak and haunted by obstacles”.
Bhattathri and Ashtanga Yoga
In Dasakam 4, Narayana Bhattathiri is therefore requesting Lord Guruvayoorappan to give him, good health adequate enough to practice Ashtanga yoga and earn his grace.
In that process, Bhattathri explains the devotional path to be practiced through ashtanga yoga for ordinary devotees like us to understand.
He also explains the benefits of practicing this Yoga by highlighting the gains that Sage Naradha and Sukhadeva enjoyed.
Bhattathri also outlines the two distinct routes (the immediate and gradual routes ) that devotees can follow for attaining liberation.
Bhattathiri concludes the Dasakam, with a request to Lord Guruvayoorappan, the embodiment of pure consciousness to cure him of his internal and external afflictions and protect him, who is always singing only Lord’s glories.
Like we did in Dasakam 3, starting from June 24, on every Ekadasi Day of the month, we will take up one sloka for study and present its chanting, transliterations, translations and meaning in English and Tamil.
YO Lord! What is the use of my mere prattling? O Bestower of boons! I have resolved that till Thy Grace descends on me, giving up all my lamentations, I shall do prostration at Thy holy feet which are in front of me, sing Thy glories and do service to Thee as best as I can. Thus worship Thee !
I am starting a new series on “Lessons for Life” as per my limited understanding of our Scriptures. When we talk about lessons, we should be clear as to why are we looking for lessons. If we analyse this “why”, a little bit deeper in our own life, we end up with the basic issue which explains the title for the first topic – Objective Tensions and Subjective Confusions. We all are subjected to; no exceptions.
The choice of words directly takes us back in time and space to Kurukshetra, the battle field and the opening chapter of Bhagwad Gita.
Here is my limited understanding summarised and presented in Tamil and English. Please feel free to comment and offer your valuable inputs & suggestions for me to continue my learning.
காயமெனும் பாத்திரம், போடுவது நாடகம்,
ஆடி ஒய்வதில் இல்லை சந்தேகம் – எனினும்
மாறுவதையும் மடிவதனையும் மறுத்திட்டு,
பாசமுடன் பந்தமென்று சொந்தம் கொண்டு
மடமையுடன், மனதினிலே இன்பம் தேடி
கடமைதனை விலக்கிட்டு, காண்டீபம் நழுவிட
பரமனிடம் ஏவுகனை பெற்ற பார்த்தனவன்,
சரணமடைந்தான் தனது சந்தேகம் தீர்த்திடவே
சிரம் தாழ்த்தி வணங்கிட்டு போர்களத்தில்
பரம்பொருளாம் தேரோட்டி கண்ணணிடம் !
My limited understanding of the core issue
A mind with illusion leads to lack of clarity resulting in despondency. “When a man with a sense of duty is caught in illusion, even then he can’t bear to face the sense of reality which is the naked fact of his lapse from duty. He usually covers it up with an inquiry into principles”.
In this world of bitter competition, each one of us is compelled to battle constantly with things and beings. The external challenges persecute us. Deep within ourselves also, we have become helpless slaves to our uncontrollable desires and undisciplined thoughts. We modern humans have come to shreds and is torn between objective tensions and subjective confusions. The former is not in our control and we cant escape.
Lesson 1 – So, our success is measured by the extent we control our inner subjective confusions.
bhavatsnehii sO(a)haM subahu paritapye cha kimidam |
akiirtiste maa bhuudvarada gadabhaaraM prashamayan
bhavadbhaktOttamsaM jhaTiti kuru maaM kamsadamana ||
மருத்₃கே₃ஹாதீ₄ஶ த்வயி க₂லு பராஞ்சோ(அ)பி ஸுகி₂நோ
ப₄வத்ஸ்நேஹீ ஸோ(அ)ஹம் ஸுப₃ஹு பரிதப்யே ச கிமித₃ம் |
அகீர்திஸ்தே மா பூ₄த்₃வரத₃ க₃த₃பா₄ரம் ப்ரஶமயந்
ப₄வத் ப₄க்தோத்தம்ஸம் ஜ₂டிதி குரு மாம் கம்ஸத₃மந || 9||
Meaning in English
O Lord of Guruvaayur! I find that even those who are indifferent to Thee are leading a happy life. O Bestower of boons! Even though I am an ardent devotee of Thine, I am undergoing various sufferings. Why is this so? O Lord! Will this not bring disrepute to Thee? Hence, O slayer of Kamsa! Kindly eradicate my diseases and soon make me one of your foremost devotees
O Lord! In my mind, which is now very agitated due to mental and physical afflictions, may Thy beautiful form manifest, which is of the nature of Knowledge-Bliss absolute. This will excite me with supreme devotion causing horripilation all over the body and tears flowing in ecstasy and in such a thrill, my endless sorrows will melt into insignificance.
The festival of Meenakshi Thirukalyanam celebrates the divine wedding of Meenakshi Amman with Lord Shiva. This grand celebration is held in Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu and is one of the biggest events here.
This annual event takes place in the famous ‘Meenakshi Amman Temple’ at Madurai and devotees from all corners of the world come to witness this magnificent event. A part of the renowned Chithirai festival, Meenakshi Thirukalyanam is held on the 10th day. On this auspicious day thousands of devotees from Madurai and adjoining areas come to the ‘Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple’ to observe the celestial wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati). Devotees throng the temples in large numbers to seek the divine blessings from their lords.
Legend has it that the emperor Kulasekhara Pandyan was the founder of the ancient city of Madurai. He was succeeded by Malayadwaja Pandyan. Malayadwaja Pandyan and his consort Kanchanamala who did not have any children of their own, worshipped with the desire of obtaining progeny. During the course of their ceremonial prayer, a baby girl appeared in the sacrificial altar miraculously.
The Royalcouple brought up this child as their own and named her Tataatakai. An odd feature about the baby was that it had three breasts instead of two, and that a divine prophecy decreed that the third one would miraculously disappear, at the princess’s sight of her consort to be.
Tataatakai grew up to be a valorous queen; she was also known as Meenakshi, the one endowed with fish like eyes. Tataatakai embarked upon a DigVijaya or a tour of victory, across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. In the course of her travels she came to Mount Kailash where she encountered Shiva; upon standing in front of Shiva her third breast disappeared and a valorous warrior princess transformed into a blushing bride.
Lord Siva directed Meenakshi to return to Madurai and promised her that he would join her in eight days as her groom. Accordingly Meenakshi returned to Madurai, and at the appointed time, the divine wedding was celebrated with pomp and splendour. Maha Vishnu, believed to be the brother of Meenakshi is said to have given the bride away.
The legend of Meenakshi Kalyanam brings together four of the six main streams in popular Hinduismi.e. the Saiva, Shakta, Vaishnava and Skanda faiths – and this grand culmination of faiths is still celebrated in great splendour today, in an enactment of Meenakshi Kalyanam each year, when images of Skanda and Vishnu are brought to the Madurai Meenakshi temple from Tirupparankundram nearby. Also of significance is the grand procession of Kallazhagar towards Madurai from the AlagarKoyil temple in the outskirts of the city.
How fortunate I am to attempt to translate the Meenakshi Pancharathnamala, a garland of 5 exotic flowers filled to the brim with bhakti by Adi Sankara. Indeed I am very lucky.
vidhuuya kleshaanme kuru charaNayugmaM dhR^itarasaM
bhavatkshetrapraaptau karamapi cha te puujanavidhau |
bhavanmuurtyaalOke nayanamatha te paadatulasiiparighraaNe
ghraaNaM shravaNamapi te chaarucharite ||
விதூ₄ய க்லேஶாந்மே குரு சரணயுக்₃மம் த்₄ருதரஸம்
ப₄வத்க்ஷேத்ரப்ராப்தௌ கரமபி ச தே பூஜநவிதௌ₄ |
ப₄வந்மூர்த்யாலோகே நயநமத₂ தே பாத₃துலஸீ-
பரிக்₄ராணே க்₄ராணம் ஶ்ரவணமபி தே சாருசரிதே || 7||
Meaning in English
O Lord! Be graceful to remove all my afflictions so that my two feet will take delight in reaching Thy temple, my hands in performing worship to Thee,my eyes in seeing Thy enchanting form, my nose in enjoying the fragrance of the Tulsi leaves offered at Thy feet and my ears in hearing the stories of Thy glories and great deeds
“The magic of music can bring about that experience of contention-free connectedness to the whole …
I see music as a blessing of Ishvara for the self-conscious, self-judgmental human to survive and experience, for the time being, the reality of the oneness with the total, the Lord, without any qualifications for it.”
Swami Dayanananda Saraswati, the composer thus spoke about music. His compositions have simple, yet soul stirring verses.
Here is one on Lord Rama. My understanding of the composition and translation in Tamil is presented here for the Rama Navami Festival.