Friday, March 15, 2013

Prasthana-trayam - The starting point of Spiritual Journey

In Bharatiya Spiritual journey there are 3 main treatise /pathways that help the spiritual seekers - rather named as the starting points - depending on their followers' mental /emotional makeup - they are called as "Prasthana-trayam" (Prasthana means starting - here it means starting of spiritual journey) - they are Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra. (Note each is mutually complementary and thus it is sufficient if one is studied well - contemplated and practiced

1. The Pouranikaah (means anyone who takes Itihaasa-Puranaas as the foundation texts and accepts the Gods as described in them - to whom "idihyam" is a pramaana or evidence) - In today's Bharatam we are all mostly Pouranikaas including many vaideekaas - all the deity forms to which we do Pooja and we prey = Shiva, Vishnu, Shakthi, Ganesha, Subramanya, Rama, Krishna, etc. in Murthi form, forms the basis of prarthana and also the prarthana vidhi and pooja slokas found in Itihaasa-puranaas. The Vedic reference of Shiva, Hari, are different from the Puranic references. In Itihaasa - the references are similar to Veda in essence - later in Puranaas the form is evolved and given importance - for the masses to easily grasp the concept of God - Sagunatva Eshvara - due to which Hindus are idol worshipers - such misconceptions have arisen

Thus the starting point of spiritual journey for those who pray is Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita - which by itself is found as part of Itihaasa itself - Gitopanishad as it is called - is equivalent to Upanishads (the forth part of Vedas) in letter and essence. This has no varna /ashrama restrictions for deep study and contemplation - this alone is sufficient for moksha - but it is to be noted that the study is just the starting point and saadhanaa needs to follow (means only study is not sufficient living life as instructed is also essential). For those evolved souls it is also the end in itself in their search of the ultimate.

||  Vande Ashtaadashadyaayineem Gitaam  ||

2. The Vaideekaah means those who follow strictly the aachaaraas found in Veda - Nowadays very few people are pure Vaideekaah though some exist. Some Sroutaas (vedic pundits) who follow only Srutis (Vedas) are also in this category - these people use yagna as the main method of worship - to vedic gods Agni, Indra, Surya, Varuna, Vayu, etc. (with form and formless natural phenomenon) again Sagunatva -Brahman in the Karma Kaanda of Veda - here varna/ ashrama restrictions are to be strictly followed - though many varna/ ashrama dharmas are difficult to follow. However some do follow - they need to protected as without them we will loose the edicts and "shistaachaaras"

The starting point of spiritual journey for this group is Upanishads -called as the Gnaana Kaanda of Vedas (if not all the upanishads - 10 major ones - Isa, Kena, Kata, Mandukya, Mundaka, etc. starting with the upanishad of their specific Veda /Shakha) - Here Nirgunatva Brahman is conceived as God. Again deep study and contemplation and practices are required - here knowledge of Vedic Saastras is essential such as Shiksha, Chandas, Nirukta, Vyakarana, Kalpa and Jyotisha for correct study and understanding of the meanings and contemplation of the meanings, teaching, etc.

||  Vande Sarvopanishadah Veda vidhushahscha ||

3. The third category of people are Shaastragnaah who can be termed as Scientists /Rationalists/ Philosophers or even in some case Atheists - this category mostly consists of people who are Naiyaayikaah, Mimaamsakaah, Vaiyaakaranaah, (all are scientists) etc. - I have not come across any such person who is a pure traditional shaastragna (may be in some respect Sri. J Krishnamurti falls in this category) and to my knowledge minuscule percentage of people may exisit in this category in today's Bharatam. But in our country there were many such people - people like Nagarjuna, Dharmakeerti, Dinnaga, Bhartrhari, Kumarila Bhatta, Mandana Mishra, Vatsayana, Arya Bhatta, Varaha Mihira, Vachaspati Mishra and many more belong to this category. Many Boudha scientist were in those days belonged to this category.

Though many are Bhattaas (means vedic scholars who received Bhaatam (certificate) - the sub-title later become Bhatt in Gujarat / Karnataka, Bhattacharya in Bengal, Battar in Tamil Nadu, Bhattatiripad in Kerala, Battoji in Andra; and Dwivedi ,Trivedi, Chaturvedi in North. Nowadays these are not scholarly titles but are merely surnames carried on from the ancestors and certainly many don't have anything to do with Vedas (Sad thing). Yet in Kerala and in Tamil Nadu still only those who are vedic scholars get the title of Bhattatiris and Bhattars or they are just Nampoothiris and Iyers - the tradition is still somewhat intact)

The starting point of spiritual journey for these Shaastragnaah is Bhrahma Sutra (atleast to a majority of them) - which is a terse difficult to understand treatise in sutra form (sutra=formula) by Maharishi Bhadarayana. For the correct understanding one should study and master Vyakarana, Mimamsa and Tarka (Nyaya/Vaisheshika) before getting into Brahma Sutra - Even though Shankaraacharya Bhashya is there, still only with a scientific /epistemological mindset one can study this deeply and contemplate on Brahman or the ultimate. Being part of this group is the most difficult as each siddhanta (theory) differs only slightly from the other. Each one has hair-splitting arguments and minute difference which even a scholar would find difficult to comprehend. Only a true scientist can interpret Eg: If you know Sanskrit and with a dictionary it is easy to read and understand Bhagavad-Gita - but it is difficult to understand Shankara Bhashya of Bhagavad-Gita because Adi Shankaracharya has used the language of science (Nyayaparam) in the bhashya of Gita. Each has its own Language, Epistemology and Ontology. Here Sagunatva and Nirgunatva Brahman /Eshvara are found in most Shaastras

||  Vande Sarvashaastrani   ||

Thus the prasthana trayam - Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra is meant for Normal people, Vaideehaas (disciplined people) and Shastragnah (Scientists) respectively - in mindset also bending towards Bhakti, Shruti and Yukti respectively, also the path of dharma is governed by shraddaa (as per Itihaasa-puranaas), Vaideeka aachaaras (as per vedas) and shaastra (as per science and cause-effect) respectively for these 3 groups.

4. In addition to these there is a 4th group which is wide in its philosophical base and practices - Sankhya/Yoga/Tantra which is not fully accepted by the scholars as a clear path for moksha as some of its practices are very subjective such as found in Tantra shastra. The path of Patanjali's Ashtanga yoga (also called as Raja yoga) which outlines a clear path for moksha is accepted with out the mystical elements of other forms of yoga. Yoga prescribes a set of practices not just spritual but worldly also for daily life as well as for the spiritual journey. Yogasutra of Maharshi Patanjali is a cannonical text and part of Shat Dharshana (6 philosophies). Some of the other texts related to Yoga /Tantra are - Tripura Rahasyam of Avadoota Datta Shiromani Dattatreya (the karma kanda is lost forever), Shat Chakra Nirupana, Hatayoga pradipika, etc. and all of the Tantra texts (Such as Vignana Bhairava tantra, Kaoularnava Tantra, etc.) also fall in this category. All most all Tantric texts are mystical and need a guru to just to even read let alone practice.

Ayurvedic texts follow many of Principles of Sankhya /Yoga /Tantra. (one of the earliest Ayurveda grantha is Agnivesa Tantra - Maharshi Agnivesa is Acharya Charaka's Guru)

Adi Shankaracharya the great reformer happens to be the only person who could appeal to all the groups because he was a Bhaktimaan, Vaideeka, and Shastragnah in addition he was also a great Tantrik. He could debate and rationally win over - with a Naiyaayika (Rationalist + Realist, Eshvara), Mimamsaka (Vaideeka + Exegesis person), Boudha (Atheist + Karma phala - chakra acknowledger), Jaina (Atheist + Karma phala - chakra, swarga acknowledger), Tantrik (Subjective scientist), Vaideeka (Vedic scholar, Sagunatva & Nirgunatva), Pouranika (bhaktimaan - Sagunatva), Sankhya (dualist /Karma phala - chakra), Vaiyakarana (grammarian /Saguna). A person who could achieve so much in just 30 years of life itself means that the hand of Vibhu is there.

Every time when there is a threat to or decline of Dharma, Vibhu takes different forms suitable to that occasion - Adi Shankaraacharya, Maharaja Bhoja, Shivaji Maharaja, Swami Vivekananda - great reformers and defenders of Dharma are indeed avataraas suitable to the occasions...

||   Vande Guruparamparaam Avataaraparamparaancha  ||