Tag Archives: Sanskrit

Safety in a House of Horrors

1.13.44

Maybe you think life is eternal, maybe you think it is temporary. In either case it is foolish to lament over affection, or anything else.

They key Sanskrit word in this text is dhruva, “permanent, real, reliable, changeless.” If the world is dhruva than nothing can be lost forever, so there is no need to lament. If the world is not dhruva than nothing can be kept forever, so what is the point of lamenting?

45

You worry, thinking, “But how can those poor helpless people survive without me?” You feel this way because you are ignorant of who and what you really are. Give this up.

46

You are in a body created by five elements and controlled by habit, causality and fate. You are like a person bitten by a snake, who rushes to help others.

The body is made of things we have no control over: the five primordial elements earth, water, fire, air and ether. It is controlled by habituations (guṇa), the law of causality (karma), and its resultant fate (kāla). To be encased in a body that is we can barely control is a perilous danger, like being bitten by a snake.

If a person bit by a snake wants to help anyone else, the first thing he has to do is stop himself from dying in the next few moments. Similarly if we really want to help anyone, the first thing we have to do is gain control of our selves; which is truly accomplished by self-realization and liberation from the wheel of karma. A person tied to the wheel of karma cannot free anyone else.

47-48

The strong devour the weak. The four-legged devour the legless. Those with hands devour those without. Life lives at the expense of the living.

Nārada says, “You think, ‘Oh no, my Uncles and Aunt have left the safety of my palace!’ This is ignorant. In this world life devours itself to remain alive. Is this ‘safe’? Animals devour plants. Humans devour animals. The strong devour the week. Does this principle not operate within your palace, too? No place is ‘safe.’”

48

In this frightful situation, O Emperor, we must try to see the All-Attractive inside and outside of everything; the one soul of all souls. It is a bewilderment to look towards any other.

The soul is the source of life and safety. No one but the soul of all souls can truly protect our life and ensure our safety. Therefore, in this house of horrors, we must try to see that one All-Attractive soul inside and outside of everything – and look towards him for protection. Only a fool looks elsewhere.


Is God Toying With Us?

Painting of the heavenly musician Tumbara. &qu...

38

Just then godly Nārada arrived with Tumburu. Everyone stood up to offer respectful greetings to the scholar.

Tumburu is considered the best Gandharva, musicians of heaven. He accompanies Nārada to assist his kīrtana.

39-40

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

“O godly one, I don’t know where my uncles and austere aunt have gone, aggrieved over the death of their children.  Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.”

Then, godly Nārada, the most spiritual scholar, began to speak.

The king tells the divine scholar, “Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.” The Sanskrit here is karṇa-dhāra iva apāre pāra-darśakaḥ. The first compound, karṇa-dhāra, literally means “someone with ears.” It implies someone with excellent perception, to which everyone seems deaf and blind by comparison. The phrase is often used for pilots and helmsmen, the people who can see where they are going. (The thing that steers a vessel is called an “ear” in Sanskrit. A person who steers is the one who “has the ear.”)

A person with superior perception can show us (darśana) what is beyond (apāra) our own limited (pāra) perception. The metaphor is that a good pilot can take one across insurmountable distances and obstacles.

41

Nārada said:

By no means should you weep, King. Everything is controlled by the Master. Everyone and all their leaders pay tribute to him, seeking sanctuary. He brings living beings together, and also takes them apart.

42

A cow has a rope through its nose. For humans, the rope is made of his orders. Thus all pay him tribute and receive sanctuary.

43

Just like a playful child brings his toys together and separates them as he likes, so too are humans moved by the will of the Master.

The implication here is that God is “playing with us.” This begs a very wrong connotation, because God is fundamentally unique and different than every other living being. “Playing with something” implies using a thing for one’s own enjoyment. A child does not play with toys to make the toys happy. This is because there is no intrinsic unity of being between himself and the toy. Even in an abstract philosophical sense, the bond of existential unity between a child and a toy is created by the Supersoul, it is not inherent in the subjects and objects themselves. At a more practical, subjective level we obviously know that a child comes from his mother’s womb while a toy comes from somewhere else, probably a factory in China. This disunity of origin does not exist between Godhead and the souls, both of which have their root-of-being  in Godhead.  So God’s play is different from child’s play. God does “play with us” but does not “toy with us.” A toy has no unity with the child that plays with it. But the soul does have unity with Godhead. Thus what serves the child may not always serve the toy, but what serves God always does serve the soul as well. The “play” of Godhead is therefore free from the taint of selfishness. His play benefits everyone.

We have very small, localized vision. Therefore it is not always obvious to us how the movements of God’s drama, which often appear cruel and painful, can somehow be sweet and divine. That is why we sorely need people like Nārada; people whose “ears” extend beyond our range of hearing; people who can show us the sweetness of divine will even in the midst of our tears and confusion.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part I

1.8.17

Saved along with her children from the blast of the ultimate weapon, devoted Pṛthā went before Kṛṣṇa, who was still ready to depart, and said this:

18-19

Kuntī said:

I give myself to you, the Original Person,
Master of energies and their source,
The undelimited existence,
Inside and outside of everything.

The fool’s eye,
Covered by a curtain of illusion,
Cannot see your limitless transcendental delimitations;
As an actor in costume goes unrecognized.

Do not think that the intimate associates of Kṛṣṇa are unaware of his majestic divinity! They are more aware of Kṛṣṇa than anyone else, because nothing reveals a person in more depth and clarity than a deep loving relationship with him. The do not always focus upon the power and majesty of Godhead because their relationship with Kṛṣṇa is more than that. But this does not mean that they lack any understanding of the true position of Kṛṣṇa.

Kuntī, mother of the Pāṇḍavas, immediately addresses Kṛṣṇa as the “Original Person.” The Sanskrit she uses, puruṣaṁ ādyam, directly connotes Kṛṣṇa as the original Viṣṇu.

She calls Kṛṣṇa “master of energies and their source” – īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param. This means that Kṛṣṇa is the controller of this world of energy, as well as the spiritual source from which the energy originates. Following this to its conclusion, Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as the lover of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the original spiritual source of all Kṛṣṇa’s energy (param-prakṛti).

She describes Kṛṣṇa as “undelimited existence inside and outside of everything.” She says that only a fool looks at Kṛṣṇa and thinks, “he sort of looks and acts like a human being, so… how can he be God?” Kṛṣṇa’s so called “delimitations” (name, color, shape, etc) are that very infinite undefinable spiritual substance itself. An eye befooled by the curtains of illusion cannot, or will not, see this. Illusion is the mechanism by which we experience something impossible. What is impossible is that an infinitesimal being such as you or I can be All-Attractive. When the true All-Attractive is placed before such eyes illusion closes a curtain over the truth, lest our hallucination of centrality become extinct.

Thus pitiful fools such as we overlook Kṛṣṇa every day, everywhere.

20

The greatest souls,
The scholars, the liberated,
Can see you by the means of devotion.
Can a simple woman also see?

Kuntī previously expressed that the eye covered by illusion cannot see the All-Attractive. Now she explains the cure to this blindness. The cure is to change what we want; instead of wanting to be All-Attractive we must want to be All-Attracted. Instead of wanting people to be devoted to us, we must become devoted to them and ultimately to Godhead. This is the “means of devotion” which allows great souls, scholars, and liberated people to see the Infinite Being in a concrete and tangible personal form.

Kuntī then humbly expresses, “I am no scholar or sage or spiritualist, yet I too can see you! How can a simple woman have this topmost divine realization? By the process of devotion.” The process of devotion is open to everyone, scholar and simpleton alike. In fact in some ways it is simpler for a simple person to embrace it.

Kuntī then gives two beautiful verses expressing her loving devotional sentiments.

21-22

I give myself, I give myself to Krsna,
Son of Vasudeva, Darling child of Devakī,
Cowherd Nanda’s dear boy;
Delight of our senses.

I give myself to you whose naval is like a lotus,
Who wears a necklace of lotuses,
Whose eyes are like lotuses,
Whose feet are like lotuses

23

Oh master of our senses,
As you freed your mother Devaki from her long imprisonment by treacherous Kamsa;
So you protected my sons and I, O Powerful,
From danger after danger:

Kuntī expresses her appreciation to Kṛṣṇa for treating her as lovingly and carefully as he did his own mother.

24-27

From poison, inferno, and the attacks of man-eaters,
From the vile assembly and the sufferings of exile,
From the midst of the weapons of countless warriors,
And from the weapon of Droṇa’s son, you kept us completely safe.

Let there be such dangers forever!
For, O Guide of the Universe, each and every one
Granted us your wonderful company;
Freeing us from the company of repeated birth and death.

Status, power, erudition, and beauty
Only increase the human hallucination
Completely Inhibiting us from sincerely turning to you
Who are within reach of those who have nothing else.

I give myself to you, the wealth of the wealthless
Who are unimpressed by the qualities of material things.
I submit myself unto you,
Lord of the Self-satisfied, gentle and pure.

When she enumerated all the dangers Kṛṣṇa protected her from his eyes asked of her, “Is that the goal of devotion then, to receive something in return?”

She passionately replied, “No! I want more dangers!”

Why?

Because in these times of danger she and her family always turned to Kṛṣṇa, found themselves in his company, and freed from the greatest danger: constant death in the cycle of reincarnation. It is implied here that devotional awareness of Kṛṣṇa delivers one from the cycle of reincarnation (saṁsāra) as a mere side effect.

She explains that people in illusion want more status, power, erudition and attractiveness – but these things only inflate our hallucinations. Such fantasies inhibit us from embracing the reality of our abject dependence on Godhead. Thus people who gain “good things” are at risk of losing their sincere connection to the best thing, the All-Attractive.

The All-Attractive is always within the embrace of those who hold on to no possession except him.


Bhagavatam… Buon Appetito!

There is a tree made of wisdom,
knowledge that fulfills your every desire and need.

On this tree is a fruit,
at the peak of ripeness.

A parrot lands upon the branches and pecks it with her beak,
its sugars and sweetness multiply.
Perfected,
like thickened juice within an impossibly thin skin.

Aho! You there!
You who crave for deep emotional significance!
You who wish to taste the true pleasures of life itself!
Yes you there, earthling!

DRINK IT!!!

Relish the nectar of this Bhagavatam-fruit,
again and again,
eternally without end!

This third verse of Srimad Bhagavatam is a beautiful poetic metaphor! The Sanskrit itself has an amazing meter. If “.” is a short syllable and “-” a long one, the meter of the Sanskrit is:

. . . – . . – | . . – . -

Here I will put the long syllables in bold:

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaM phalaM
zuka-mukhAd amRita-drava-saMyutam
pibata bhAgavataM rasam AlayaM
muhuraho rasikA bhuvi bhAvukAH

The meaning is as beautiful as the structure:

The Tree

The tree made of wisdom is a metaphor for the Vedic literature. “Vedic” literature is misunderstood by the definition of modern western scholastics. It is not merely the 3 or 4 original “Veda” but all the ancillary works which elaborate upon and elucidate it. That is the Indian conception of the term Vedic, and since India is the mother of the Veda, we ought to give it deference, no?

In any case, Vedic literature refers to the entire corpus of philosophical, practical, technological and religious material cultivated through at least a few dozen centuries in the region today called India. This includes the ritualistic four Veda; the explanation of their philosophical import, the Upanishad (108 principle books). The summary study of all this philosophy, the Vedanta Sutra. The application and retelling of the rituals and philosophy in semi-historical tales, the Purana and Itihasa (like Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayan). And many other appendixes to the original four vedas in the form of manuals (Aranyas) and treatises (Samhitas and Siddhantas), etc.

To go back to the poetic image – it would be stupid to envision a tree of wisdom and knowledge with only four branches! The tree of wise knowledge (“veda”) has hundreds of branches spreading in all directions, in the form of Puranas, Itihasas, Upanishads, Aranyas, Samhitas, Siddhantas, Tikas, etc. etc.

The Fruit

There are many fruits on this huge tree, of course, but one fruit is particularly special because it is perfectly ripe. What does it mean to be “perfectly ripe”? It means to be at the absolute pinnacle of one’s maturity.

The Srimad Bhagavatam is thus depicted as the absolute pinnacle of Indian spiritual wisdom at the peak of ripeness. We will soon hear from its opening stories how the main author, Mahamuni Vyasa, compiled this after compiling all other Vedic works and having thus achieved a zenith of spiritual realization. In particular the Srimad Bhagavatam is the grand-finale of Vedic wisdom because it is (a) the sequel to the Vedanta Sutra, which is otherwise the most important Vedic book; the “second ripest fruit”, you might say; (b) the 18th of the 18 main purana, thus also the culmination of Indian thought as expressed through that medium. Thus the Srimad Bhagavatam represents the pinnicle of both the philosophical genius of the Vedanta-Sutra, as well as the poetic and theatrical mastery and relative ease-of-understanding developed in the Puranas.

The Parrot

The Sanskrit word for parrot is zuka. Mahamuni Vyasa is given credit as the compiler of Srimad Bhagavatam, but the main narrator of this tale is Vyasa’s son zuka-deva (“The divine parrot” – Sukadeva Goswāmī). Suka is really the one who expanded upon the core material within this Purana and made it as sweet and wonderful and easily digestible as it now is.

The imagery of a “parrot” is not always positive in English because it carries the meaning of one who simply repeats words without understanding their meaning. This connotation is absolutely absent from Sanskrit poetics. Instead the connotation of “parrot” is a bird with a special type of saliva that, when the bird bites a fruit, causes that fruit to become extremely sweet and ripe. So do not carry over the English connotation and imagine that the Bhagavatam is being narrated by someone who merely repeats what he heard from his father, without understanding. Not at all. Quite the opposite. The Bhagavatam is as sweet as it is because Sukadeva’s telling of it enhanced, expanded, and amplified the original meaning into an even more wondrous perfection.

Drink It!

Finally, we are implored to take our place in the poem. Our place is to grab the fruit and enjoy it!!!

What is unusual about this fruit is that it satisfies hunger without reducing the hunger, and it is eaten without ever diminishing. The more you meditate upon what you will hear in Srimad Bhagavatam, the more you will be able to meditate upon it! The more you enjoy it, the more and more you will be able to enjoy it.

Specifically this metaphor refers to the principle that meditation upon the Supreme Entity, Śrī Krishna is infinite. It is not a means to a goal, but is itself the goal and the means. Therefore it is never abandoned. Even the persons who are steeped in spiritual perfection continue to feast upon the perfect fruit of Srimad Bhagavatam. Even beyond liberation, even in the spiritual locus, our tongues will forever taste and vibrate the delicious topics discovered within this amazing book!


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