Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sandhyavandanam -1

There is a Sanskrit verse that talks about the various stages of life which every Vedic follower goes through. janmana jayate sudrah, samskarat dwij uchchte, veda pathnat bhavet viprah, brahma janati iti brahmanah. When a person is born, that is in the beginning stage, he is a sudrah only. Sudrah means prakrutha purushah – one who lives according to his nature. One who lives according to his raga and dvesha, one who lives by his instincts. For all practical purposes he is an animal-man. Man in the physical sense from anatomy but growth wise only an animal, one who lives by his likes and dislikes. His life is not governed by any discipline but he’s a free life and licentious. Undisciplined and unrefined life. That is why he is a “prakruthi purusha” and not a “samskrita purusha”. Vedas allows a person to live a shudra life but it only requests that he does not remain a shudra throughout the life. One can be shudra until the intellect is sufficiently developed, say for 8 or 9 or 10 years. But after that one has to go beyond shudratvam and enter the second stage.
              The second stage is Dwija and it is karman uchchte. He is a dwija because of his karma, disciplined actions. Refined behaviour and cultured conduct. This is an improvement from Shudra stage where a person is governed by raga-dvesha while for a dwija it is governed by dharma. I don’t do what I want to do but I perform those actions I ought to do. I don’t do what I like but I do what is the right. I don’t avoid what I dislike, I avoid what is wrong. When my life is governed by dharma, I become a dwija, samskrita purusha or a cultured person. How do you determine what is right and wrong for those are highly subjective. Like onion eating, for someone it is the only thing to be done and they quote medical journals also in support. We say tasmat Veda pramana che, karya karyu vyavestito. Whenever there is a controversy we go to court, for us the only court is “Sastras”, scriptures, the vedas. Whatever is “vihitam” is karyam and whatever is “nishadam” is akaryam. Those actions that are prescribed in the sastram are to be done, and those actions that are prohibited must be avoided. Therefore a dwija is one who is governed by the vidhi nishada.
          But there is a problem here. When a person goes from shudra stage to dwija stage there are a lot of disciplines, dos and donts. But he does not know the meaning or the purpose behind these disciplines, the principles behind it. So it becomes mechanical, I do them because parents say so or the scriptures say so. I do these actions from the pressures and commandments from outside. These actions don’t come out of convictions. Therefore such a discipline is a vague discipline, vacillating discipline, tottering discipline. So when anyone does “parihasa” of me, I feel inferiority complex. So when somebody questions I feel ashamed as I don’t know the answers. Because what I do, I myself am not convinced. Such actions don’t last long for there are a lot of mental conflicts and doubts. But if these disciplines have to be assimilated then one should know the meaning and principle behind them. And that is possible only by the study of scriptures. Dwijata follows these disciplines without knowing about them, while a vipra follows with knowledge, with understanding and without any conflict. Now you should not ask: why we should not reverse the process; first understanding and then adherence in practice. This we don’t accept because disciplines are habits that are formed when one is young in age. Discipline must be instilled in the earliest stage possible, right from getting up early in the morning. It is a habit that must be formed at the early stage, here understanding is not possible as the intellect may not be developed enough to grasp. Therefore I can’t teach meaning first, I have to teach external disciplines first. You become a dwija first by practising the prescribed actions even mechanically. It is okay to be dwija when young but sooner one has to know the meaning and spirit behind them. Viprah follows the disciplines and he understands the scriptures – an assimilated discipline and it is born out of convictions. This is the third stage.
            The last stage is brahmano brahma vedah. In the third stage a person follows “dharma dharma” and over time those can become a subtle bondage. It can be a golden shackle and a person has to go beyond dharma. But one must understand that the journey beyond dharma is only at an internal level. This is an enhanced understanding but at the external level, dharma would continue to be there. So one must follow dharma till death, there is no leeway here. One who has gone beyond the third level is called a “brahmanah”. By knowing the ultimate reality one goes beyond dharma. Only upon knowing Brahman one’s life is fulfilled.                
These are the four stages: shudrah, dwija, viprah and brahmanah. But here we are only concerned at the second and third stage. But what makes the change is change from indiscipline to discipline, and the study of scriptures. This transformation from the first to the second stage is done symbolically in our culture through a ceremony called “upanayana samskara”. After upanayanam a person life is governed by Vedic disciplines. A person is taken away from the mother who gave birth to the animal-man to the Vedas, the second mother, who has to give birth to man-man. This is symbolized by the sacred thread that I am bound by the three Vedas. I live no longer by what I like or dislike but my life is governed by the injunctions in the Vedas. Since this is the second birth for the animal-man must die to give birth to the man-man (from indiscipline to discipline) that is why he is called a dwija, the second born, the twice born. For the second birth the mother is the Veda matha as Vedas converts him into a refined person through her vidhi and nishada. And later through her teaching.
             And if a mother has to give birth a father is required. The teacher is the acharya or the guru or the teacher. Just as a mother can give birth only with a father, Veda can convey its message only through a guru. Matrugreti jananam divitiyam mounji bandanat; airasya matha gayatri pitu tu acharya uchchate! The local mother gives the first birth, for the second birth after upanayanam Gayatri is the mother and Acharya is the father. Gayatri represents the Veda matha and that is highlighted as in the second birth. Here in the upadesa the father of the child is the acharya himself. He becomes a symbolic for he himself is often ignorant! Thus upanayanam marks the transformation from first birth to the second birth. It also becomes the purificatory right, a sacrament, for the study of scriptures. The scriptures are so holy that one has to be relatively holy even to begin to study the. Like in a temple before installation of the deities lot of purification rituals like punyavajanam, abhisekam, japa, parayanam etc; just like we enter a house after grahapravashem (housewarming ceremony), if we want Veda to enter our body and mind we must be yogyatha. When a person is a shudrah, he is a kamachara (one who lives as per his desire), kamavadha (he will speak whatever comes to his mind, all those unprintable words), kamabakshah (eating anything at any time). Such a person has no right to hear or chant the Vedas. After upanayam an individual gives up kamacharah; he takes to whatever his prescribed in the Vedas. His words should become decent, anyone should be able to record him at anytime. Thereafter only he becomes samskrita, veda adnayanam. Thus upanayam serves as a purification purpose also.             
          As we have seen once a person becomes dwija his life is governed by Vedic teachings. What is the lifestyle the scriptures prescribe? I would say it involves three important factors.
a) It involves certain attitudes, how I look upon things and beings in creation? How I look upon my parents, my teachers, my elders. It involves having healthy attitudes or bhavana. Like matru devobhava, pitru devobhavah, acharya devobhavah, aditi devobhavah. You might you noticed that when our feet accidentally touches a paper, we touch it with our hands reverentially. For us paper means writing, writing means information, information means knowledge and knowledge is Saraswathi. These are attitudes that are always with you, not only for a particular time or occasion.
            b) The second important thing of following sastram is that certain values or virtues that must be followed. Like Ahimsa, Satyam, Astheyam, brahmacharyam, aparigraha etc. Say yamas and niyams
            c) The third aspect of a Vedic lifestyle is certain actions must be done, certain karmani.

In Sanskrit attitude is bhavana, virtues is gunah, and action is karma. Therefore we have to develop some bhavanas, develop some gunas and do some actions. In these talks I am not going to bhavana and guna but going to karmani.
Vedic injunctions include doing karmas and these can be broadly classified into five: Nityakarma, Naimittika karma, Nishitha karma, Kamya karma and Parischita karma. Nitya karma means compulsory regular activity. It can be daily or even monthly as in tharpanam, once in four months as chaturmasya karma…nityam means compulsory. Naimitikam means compulsory but conditional karma. On certain conditions like grahana karma, it may come in a month or may not come at all for a year. Then Kamya karma are those activities to fulfill desires. Nishitha karmas are those actions that are prohibited and they must be completely eschewed and avoided. It is mentioned so that we know what we should not do. Lastly we have parischitam which are compensatory, as pariharam. These are five kinds of karmas as part of Vedic rituals, in addition to attitudes and values. I am emphasizing because they are a lot of people who give importance to nitya and naimitha karmas – they do sandhyavanadam, wear rudraksha, do regular chanting at the temple –but they don’t have values. Minus attitude and values, the vedic lifestyle is incomplete.
         I shall now discuss about nityakarma. There are three aspects bhavana, guna and karmas; then in karmas we have five kinds and now we are zeroing into Nitya karma. One such nitya karma is the famous sandhyavandanam.
          In dealing with this subject I am going to give importance to meanings and thartparnyam part. I am not taking the anusttam part here. I am doing so because Sandhyavandanam varies according to a person’s varna and a person’s veda. Brahmana Sandhyavandanam (SV) is different, Kshthriya’s SV is different, Vishya’s SV is different. Rig vedees SV is different, Yajurvedees is different, and so is Samavedees. And if I have to talk about anusttanam to a group I cannot do them for there all types of people here. So I am going to give thatparyam or the principle behind SV.
        Now what is benefit of doing SV rites or rituals? According to the Vedas all nitya karmas must be done purely for the sake of spiritual upliftment. They are not kamya karmas and so we should never ask,” what benefit will I get by doing Sandhyavandanam”? Therefore SV must be performed without expecting any material benefit. If I do it “nishkamatah” what will I get? (laughs). But anyway Vedas lists a few benefits of doing SV. It says we will get spiritual progress, chitta shudihi (purity of mind), chitta nischalyam, chitta ekagraha (concentration of the mind), bhagavat anugrahah, chitta vishalatha (expansion of the mind), and grace of the Lord. Therefore the primary benefit of SV is spiritual progress, which is why it is called samskara karma. It refines me spiritually. Even though we are not supposed to ask for material things, it will come without asking. We call it “avantara phallam” (byproducts). In the SV mantra we are asking the lord for long life, we asking for health, we are asking for prosperity, we are asking for purity and ultimately we are asking for moksha, for jnanam. So everything is embedded in sandhyavandanam. All these are included in these mantras. Even though we don’t desire for them, they are all bound to come. Because of Ishwara Anugraham.          
The very performance of SV gives certain results. First it gives health and discipline. Because one of the indiscipline we all have is laziness. The first shatru, enemy, for us is alasyam. Let me sleep a little longer, let me have coffee in the bed, or let me read a newspaper in the bed or on Sundays I will never get up! So laziness or tamo guna is our worst enemy for spiritual progress. So to remove tamo guna we prescribe rituals. Some are so lazy they will ask: should do these rituals “manasically” (in the mind). Then he will do manasa puja lying down in the bed! No, kayika or physical activity is very very important to break the tamo guna. This is the first benefit is to break free from indiscipline. The second benefit is pranayama and japa are involved, there is improvement in physical health too. Pranayama has been proved to be good for both the body and the mind. Nowadays so many people are teaching pranayam as a therapy. SV gives psychological benefits from emotional stress. All our newspapers and magazine talk about combating stress and tension. Now so many institutes are coming up for teaching us relaxation and you have to dole out a lot of money. They will not relax the fees but promise relaxation to the mind! (laughs). Instead of paying money to learn relaxation doing SV is the best method for relaxation as it involves pranayama that is beneficial to both body and mind. Pranayama kosa is between annamaya and manomaya kosa. Therefore once pranayama is disciplined the benefit goes to annamaya at the body level and partially to the manomaya. So this is a relaxation exercise, tension releasing exercise, and there will be a lot of psychological benefits. But very careful, we are not doing SV for that purpose. You should not say,” I will do SV for relaxation” for it is the byproduct. The primary objective is spiritual growth and spiritual progress alone. There is physical, psychological and spiritual progress for anyone who does SV regularly.
              Now we will come to the meaning of the word “Sandhyavandanam”. Vandanam means ‘worship” literally it means “namaskara”. In this context it means worship but sometimes vandanam is replaced by “upasanam”. Sandhya Upasanam means meditation. So vandanam means both worship and meditation as both are involved. The word “Sandhya” has two meanings. One meaning is a “particular time”. Like in Tamil they say Sandhya Valai for vala is a Sanskrit word. ..nala valai or ketta valai etc. It is derived from the word “Sandhihi” which means “junction.” Or “union”. Sandhya means time of union, or that relates to union of two things. The sandhi between night and forenoon is the first junction called “dawn”, the second junction is between forenoon and afternoon and that is “noon” and finally the third junction between evening and night that is “dusk”. So the three junctions in a day are dawn, noon and dusk. So the time belonging to the sandees for it varies according to places and seasons. In summer it can be 5:45 or in the winter at 7:00, in some places like Dwarka it is 8:00 also. The first definition of Sandhya is the time associated with the junctions. So Sandhyavandanam is a ritual done at the time of three junctions at dawn , noon and dusk. Then there is another perspective to Sandhi; it is the junction between the devotee and the Lord. Therefore Sandhya is the time of union between the devotee and the lord. Or the time of appointment with the Lord. Now sadly the God appointment time as become TV appointment time! There is another meaning which we will see in the next class. Hari Om.

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