How Our Own Choices ENtrap us…2

Lessons From Ra:ma:yana !

The Nature Of An A:cha:rya

-Continued from previous month…

3) An a:cha:rya has not only jna:nam but also anushtta:nam:

An a:cha:rya is a perfect practitioner of karma yo:ga, having given up the conception that he is the doer, the proprietor of actions, or the enjoyer of the fruits of the actions. In the beginning of Sundara Kanda, as Hanuman was about to fly into the skies, He says (5.1.39):

“yattha: ra:ghava nirmukthas
saras svasana vikramaha |
gachche:th thadvath gamishya:mi
lanka:m ra:vana pa:litha:m ||”

March Single

“I shall go to the Lanka ruled by Ra:vana with the same speed as that of the arrow released by Ra:ma”. The above words indicate that Hamuma:n does not see himself as the performer of the action. He sees that he is simply an arrow released by Ra:ma, who is performing the action. An arrow has no speed or energy of its own. It goes with the speed and possesses that much energy with which its releaser empowers it. Similarly, Hanuman, although he is about to perform one of the most difficult tasks of crossing the ocean, considers himself as a mere instrument in the hands of the Lord. He does not think it is his action. He thinks it is Ra:ma’s action. He thinks Ra:ma is using him as an instrument for Ra:ma’s own purpose. He does not even think that the action is for him, or that he gets the reward of the action. He is aware that Ra:ma gets benefited by the action. Thus, carrying these three conceptions, he is a perfect karma yo:gi.

An a:cha:rya is a stthitha prajna. A stthitha prajna is one who is fixed on the goal and does not budge from it under any circumstances. In the Sundara:ka:nda, Hanuman undertakes a near impossible task of crossing the ocean by jumping over it. Although Mt. Maina:ka and Lord Samudra offer hospitality and request Hanuma:n to rest on Mt. Maina:ka, he does not stop for resting, for, he believes he is going to lose time. He faces obstacles such as those thrown by Surasa, which he intelligently crosses over. Despite seeing a number of women with Ra:vana, he is not even slightly disturbed in his consciousness, and does not lose track of his goal.

An a:cha:rya is himself a perfect prapanna When difficulties come to the a:cha:rya in the a:cha:rya’s life, he remembers and depends on the Lord alone. But there is a protocol for approaching the Lord. The Lord is always approached via bha:gavathas and pu:rva:cha:ryas. Hanuman teaches how to meditate on the Lord (5.13.59)

“namo::sthu ra:ma:ya salakshmana:ya

de:vyai cha thasyai janaka:thmaja:yai |

namo::sthu rudre:ndra yama:nile:bhyo:

namo::sthu chandra:rka marudgane:bhyaha ||”

namo:sthu ra:ma:ya – Take shelter of God
sa lakshmana:ya – along with one’s own a:cha:rya
de:vyai cha thasyai – Because Si:tha De:vi’s mercy is needed for her to show herself to Hanuman (because the mercy of Goddess of fortune is needed for fortune to fall on us), she is to be meditated upon.

janaka:thmaja:yai – in this specific instance, Hanuman’s effort thus far had been unsuccessful. Si:tha De:vi appeared on Her own accord to Maharaja Janaka who tried to plough the field for performing yajna. Thus, he remembers Janaka:thmaja:yai … “only you have to show yourself to me. I cannot search for you.” Similarly, fortune, represented by Si:tha De:vi strikes on its own accord. For this we have to pray to the Lord, to our own a:cha:rya, along with Maha: Lakshmi. After that, he is praying to the rest of the bha:gavathas. Thus, a very beautiful sequence of prayers is given to us by our pu:rva:cha:ryas:

We begin with “lakshmi na:ttha sama:rambha:m” and chant the thaniyans of the rest of the acharyas and azhwa:rs.” Before beginning any endeavor, for success, we must remember to recite these slokas.

Thus, Thrijata notices the following characteristics in Hanuma:n (5.27.51)

“pakshi: cha sa:kha: nilayah prahrushtaha
punah punascho:ththama sa:mthvava:di: |
susva:gatham va:cha mudi:raya:naha
punah punas cho:dhayathi:va hrushtaha ||”

a:cha:rya is pakshi – has both jna:na and anushtta:na as his wings
sa:kha: nilaya – someone who has Ve:da sa:khas as his abode
prahrushtaha – experiencing the Supreme within, he is always blissful
“punah punas cho:dayathi” – Again and again, he reassures the ji:va – don’t worry, God will come and protect you.

4) Among the bha:gavathas, an a:cha:rya is the one who feels the pain of the Lord.

Even though Sugri:va forgot about it, Hanuman remembers and goes to Sugriva and reminds him of his duty to search for Si:tha. In the Udayavar Thiruma:njana Kattiyam, Ra:manuja is addressed as “sarvesvara a:pad dhanam”, probably indicating that he became the wealth that came to the Lord’s rescue when the Lord felt troubled seeing the condition of the ji:vas in samsa:ra.

5) An a:cha:rya is humble

Despite possessing the ability, Hanuman never considered himself the most able. Despite doing such wonderful things, in front of Ra:vana or Si:tha, he says he is one of the least powerful of the Va:nara army. “maththaha prathyavarah kaschin na:sthi sugri:va sannidhau” Despite doing everything, he does not go and declare in front of Ra:ma that it was he who did it all. He considered himself as Ra:ma ba:na

6) An a:cha:rya cares about the Lord’s feelings

When Hanuma:n is unable to find Si:tha, he becomes despondent. They trusted and sent him. How could he return without finding Si:tha? If he did so, Ra:ma would kill himself. Thinking so, he regained his composure, and continued the search.

7) An a:charya narrates pure glories of God.

When Hanuma:n sees Si:tha, he notices that her faith is seriously damaged by Ra:vana, who faked himself as a saint. If he revealed himself as an envoy of Ra:ma immediately, she might shout and wake everyone up. She might consider it to be one of Ra:vana’s tricks. The ji:va faces a similar situation in this world. Seeing so many bogus sa:dhus and gurus in this world, a ji:va may get repeatedly cheated, and lose faith in sa:dhus altogether. When Hanuma:n narrated pure glories of the Lord, she could identify him to be a genuine person. This is one of the characteristics of a real a:cha:rya. A real acharya is not one who declares himself God. He is one who considers himself servant of the bhagavathas connected to the Lord. Later, we find Hanuma:n declaring himself as not da:so:ham ra:masya, but “da:so:ham ko:sale:ndrasya”. He does not even declare himself as an independent a:cha:rya, he always comes with a parampara of a:cha:ryas behind him. Kulasekhara a:zhwar says: “thad bhruthya bhruthya paricha:raka bhruthya bhruthya, bhruthyasya bhruthya ithi ma:m smara” – “see me as a servant of a servant of a servant of a servant of a servant of a servant of a servant of yours.”

8) In a short time of contact with the acharya, there will be substantial change in the consciousness of the ji:va.

As declared in the Bhagavad Gi:tha verse, “abhithaha brahma nirva:nam..”, mo:ksham is almost half attained when one comes in contact with a genuine a:cha:rya. In a small amount of association with such an acharya, we begin to quickly notice a substantial change in our own consciousness. Lanka, which represents our body is already half burned. This is the tha:pa samskara provided by the acharya. When we come in contact with a sada:cha:rya, we quickly notice a substantial change in our hearts, in our way of life, because by his teachings, he accomplishes a lot. On the other hand, no matter how long a person may associate with a bogus guru, there is no change seen in his way of life.

9) An a:cha:rya is auspicious to both the Lord and the ji:va

It is the a:cha:rya who unites both the Lord and the ji:va. He gives life to the Lord by giving him the whereabouts of the ji:va, and to the ji:va, by giving him the howabouts of the Lord. Hanuman sustains Si:tha De:vi by telling her about Ra:ma, and he sustains Ra:ma’s life by giving him information about the whereabouts of Si:tha.

10) There is no one more dear to God than an a:cha:rya

In the Bhagavad Gi:tha, the Lord says,

“na cha thasma:n manushye:shu
kaschinme: priya krutthamaha |”

“There is no one more dear to me among men than a person who gives this knowledge of Bhagavad Gi:tha to my devotee.” An a:cha:rya gives the knowledge of the self, the knowledge of the Supreme, and the means to reach the Supreme to his disciple. In order to be able to do this, he himself should have possessed all the characteristics mentioned above, and he may have to himself face so many oppositions, attacks, and dangers while in this world in his attempts to spread the truth about the Supreme and the ji:va. Some of our pu:rva:cha:ryas have been attacked, and killed in their attempts to protect God and preserve the truth. Attempts to kill Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya and Sankara:cha:rya have been done as we see in their documented histories. In the Ra:ma:yana, we see how Hanuma:n went through a lot of difficulties to accomplish the task of reuniting Si:tha with Ra:ma. Such a person is extremely dear to God. There is no one more dear than him, nor will there ever be one in the future – so the Lord declares in the Gi:tha.

Glorifying the arduous task Hanuman had performed, Ra:ma embraces Hanuman.

The Ji:va’s responsibility towards the a:cha:rya.

The ji:va must care for the a:cha:rya’s body and pray for his welfare, for, the a:cha:rya himself never cares for his own body. In this epic, we find Si:tha praying that Hanuman’s body may remain cool and not suffer burns. Our pu:rva:cha:ryas have taken extreme risks to protect their a:cha:ryas. Kure:sha and Maha:pu:rna went through such difficulties to protect Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya. Thus, one must be always predisposed to protect one’s a:cha:rya in whatever way possible, and pray for his welfare.

The killing of Ra:vana

The moment there is even a single desire independent of the desire to attain God, one gets another body. Just as Ra:vana is ten-headed, the mind is also ten-headed and expresses itself through the five senses of perception (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin), and the five senses of action (two hands, two legs, and the procreative organ) which are present as part of the body. This brings about, and continues material existence.The rajas in the mind has to be destroyed completely, and saththva should be firmly established in the mind for the liberation of the ji:va. This is the destruction of Ra:vana, and the enthronement of Vibhi:shana, which liberates Si:tha and reunites her with Ra:ma.

Ra:vana sought a boon from Bramha that no one can conquer him except humans. The inner meaning is that the mind can only be conquered by a human being, and not by other species. Therefore, the human birth is an extremely rare opportunity given to one for conquering the mind. It appears that to illustrate this, the Supreme Lord Sri:manna:ra:yana appears as a human to conquer Ra:vana. Only a person with a conquered the mind can reunite their self with the Parama:thma. This is the defeat of Ra:vana mentioned in this great epic.

Thus, Va:lmi:ki says that Ra:mayana is also about “Paulathsya vadha”, or the killing of Ra:vana.

These are only a few glimpses of the inner meanings contained in the great epic Ra:ma:yana. Let us all pray that this Ra:ma:yana rekindle our hearts with devotion to God and our respective a:cha:ryas!! All glories to our pu:rva:cha:ryas for the wonderful lessons they have given us!!

Balam vishno:ho pravardhatha:m!
Balam vishno:ho pravardhatha:m!
Balam vishno:ho pravardhatha:m!
Sarvam Sri: Krushna:rpanamasthu! Jai Sri:mannarayana!

-By Dr. Raghav Pavan Karumur, Minneapolis