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Rationalism

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Haridasa Siva

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I often read the words of many ‘intellectuals’ (rationalists) in this forum that one should not chant slokas blindly and should understand them before one starts chanting them. I want to narrate my personal experience in this regard. I had the privilege of attending prayers at a nearby temple during my childhood. We used to chant a lot of slokas including Vishnu Sahasranamam, Lakshmi Ashtotram, Indrakshi stotram, Siva kavacham, etc. It used to be pretty fast and as a child (not knowing Sanskrit), I used to just parrot the slokas, most of them (if not all of them) with wrong pronunciation. It is needless to say that I did not know the meaning of any of the slokas. At the end, the devotees would chant the following mantra:

यदक्षरपदप्रुष्टं माथ्राहीनं तु यद्भवेदः
तत्सर्वं क्षम्यतां देव नारान नमोस्तु ते
विसर्गबिन्दुमाथ्राणि पदपादाक्षराणि
न्यूनानि चातिरिक्तानि क्षमस्व पुरूषोतम

The meaning of the above sloka is as follows:

Whatever I am doing, whether it is an act of (my) body or a word, or a thought or of senses or of instinct dictated by natural laws, all such deeds I dedicate (surrender) to Lord Narayana.
Lord Purushothama, forgive the short pronounciation or excess pronounciation of aspirants, bindus, syllables, words, quarters or letters committed by me during the recitation of the (of the Verses) Vishnu Sahasranaama stothra.

Ironically, I used to chant even the above mantra with mistakes and without understanding the meaning. Yet I did not give up attending the prayers. (Probably, the prasaadam was a pulling factor??). But today, I know the meaning of many slokas and I pronounce most of the slokas correctly. I of course close my prayers with the mantra given above, only this time I feel it for I know the meaning!

The point I am trying to make is that as a child, forming the mould is more important than to be rational. As one grows, the habit would be the base but rationalism would demand analyzing the purpose and meaning of slokas (or rituals for that matter).
 

sangom

Well-known member
I often read the words of many ‘intellectuals’ (rationalists) in this forum that one should not chant slokas blindly and should understand them before one starts chanting them. I want to narrate my personal experience in this regard. I had the privilege of attending prayers at a nearby temple during my childhood. We used to chant a lot of slokas including Vishnu Sahasranamam, Lakshmi Ashtotram, Indrakshi stotram, Siva kavacham, etc. It used to be pretty fast and as a child (not knowing Sanskrit), I used to just parrot the slokas, most of them (if not all of them) with wrong pronunciation. It is needless to say that I did not know the meaning of any of the slokas. At the end, the devotees would chant the following mantra:

यदक्षरपदप्रुष्टंमाथ्राहीनंतुयद्भवेदः
तत्सर्वंक्षम्यतांदेवनाराननमोस्तुते
विसर्गबिन्दुमाथ्राणिपदपादाक्षराणि
न्यूनानिचातिरिक्तानिक्षमस्वपुरूषोतम

The meaning of the above sloka is as follows:

Whatever I am doing, whether it is an act of (my) body or a word, or a thought or of senses or of instinct dictated by natural laws, all such deeds I dedicate (surrender) to Lord Narayana.
Lord Purushothama, forgive the short pronounciation or excess pronounciation of aspirants, bindus, syllables, words, quarters or letters committed by me during the recitation of the (of the Verses) Vishnu Sahasranaama stothra.

Ironically, I used to chant even the above mantra with mistakes and without understanding the meaning. Yet I did not give up attending the prayers. (Probably, the prasaadam was a pulling factor??). But today, I know the meaning of many slokas and I pronounce most of the slokas correctly. I of course close my prayers with the mantra given above, only this time I feel it for I know the meaning!

The point I am trying to make is that as a child, forming the mould is more important than to be rational. As one grows, the habit would be the base but rationalism would demand analyzing the purpose and meaning of slokas (or rituals for that matter).

Shri haridasa Siva,

I am one of those who say that as fully grown, responsible adult brahmins, we must strive to pronounce the mantras and slokas correctly and also to understand what they actually mean. So, I think I should clarify my position.

I agree that young children may not always pick up correct pronunciation especially if they are learning by chanting along with a large number of adults, and nobody is teaching them as such. But as each one grows up, he should try to learn the correct words, pronunciation and meaning. If this sort of thing is essential in our secular learning - science and languages - in schools and colleges which are for earning livelihood how is it that you hold that children or adults, can take whatever liberty they want when it comes to the most valuable aspect of life, according to you, viz., prayers to god which leads you to liberation ultimately? As an example, suppose your child does a simple arithmetic wrongly and fails in that class 1 or 2, will you be able to go and tell the teacher that even in matters relating to god, we just recite "யதக்ஷர பதப்ரஷ்டம்..." etc., so my child will simply write E &O E at the end of its answer paper and you should condone all the mistakes?

Sadly, you disprove your own claim. The ச்லோகம் you have written is full of errors. The correct rendering is as under:

यदक्षरपदभ्रष्टम् मात्राहीनम् तु यद् भवॆत् ।
तत्सर्वम् क्षम्यताम् दॆव नारायण नमोस्तुते ॥

विसर्गबिन्दुमात्राणि पद पादाक्षराणि च ।
न्यूनानि च अतिरिक्तानि क्षमस्व पुरुषोत्तम ॥

யதக்ஷரபதப்ரஷ்டம் மாத்ராஹீநம் து யத் பவேத் |
தத்ஸர்வம் க்ஷம்யதாம் தேவ நாராயண நமோஸ்துதே ||

விஸர்கபிந்துமாத்ராணி பத பாதாக்ஷராணி ச |
ந்யூநாநி ச அதிரிக்தாநி க்ஷமஸ்வ புருஷோத்தம ||


yadakṣarapadabhraṣṭam mātrāhīnam tu yad bhavet |
tatsarvam kṣamyatām deva nārāyaṇa namostute ||

visargabindumātrāṇi pada pādākṣarāṇi ca |
nyūnāni ca atiriktāni kṣamasva puruṣottama ||

The relevant ச்லோகம் for your "Whatever I am doing, whether it is an act of (my) body or a word, or a thought or of senses or of instinct dictated by natural laws, all such deeds I dedicate (surrender) to Lord Narayana." is this:

காயேன வாசா மனஸேந்த்ரியைர்வா
புத்யாத்மனா வா ப்ரக்ருதே: ஸ்வபாவாத்
கரோமியத்யத் ஸகலம் பரஸ்மை:
நாராயணாயேதி ஸமர்ப்பயாமி

What is learnt wrongly in childhood is difficult to correct later. You are not aware of which sloka means what and what is the correct rendering. அஞ்சிலெ வளையாதது இருபதிலோ ஐம்பதிலோ வளையாது. Hope you will reconsider your claim.

These slokas are to be rendered after all possible human efforts at perfection have been taken, not as a shortcut to fool god without making any efforts at learning the correct things.
 

Raghy

Well-known member
Sri.Haridasa Siva Sir,

Greetings. 'Rationalists' in this forum? There are very few of them. Most members in this forum are not 'rationalists'. Sri.Sangom has answered your message. If you meant Sri.Sangom as a 'rationalist', then, you are right; Sri.Sangom is a 'rationalist'.

You have one thing in your favour though; you seem to worry about getting the pronounciation right and striving to learn the meaning. That is commendable. Once I went to the local temple...(I seldom go to temple; in that instance, out of politness, I had to accompany someone to drive that person to temple), One of the gurukkal was sitting on the floor with eloborate 'pooja settings', murmuring something. When he completed I learned from him that he was chanting 'Rudram'!

Nowadays, we can get Cds of Slokas with proper pronounciation and we can get meanings of most of slokas and texts. It won't be a bad idea to utilise them.

Cheers!
 

Raghy

Well-known member
Sri.Sangom Sir,

Greetings. This 'காயேன வாசா....' slokam....I and my wife did not have the habit of chanting this slokam at the end of any prayers. I don't know if 'Iyengars' say this slokam at the end of the prayer. When I came across more Smarthas, I noticed they all say that slokam at the end of the prayers. I could be wrong, but I always wondered whether Iyengars didn't say 'காயேன வாசா...' slokam? By the way, it is very nice to see your participation.

Cheers!
 

Nara

Well-known member
..... I don't know if 'Iyengars' say this slokam at the end of the prayer.
SVs say what is called Satveeka tyagam at the beginning and at the end of all karmas, including, sandyavandanam, tarpanam, upaakarma, etc. The satveeka tyagam at the start is a reminder of sorts that the karta is dependent on Sriman Narayana for his existence, survival, and all actions, and therefore, it is the antaratma Sriman Narayana who is the ultimate performer of the karma and he is the one who enjoys the fruits of the karma. A similar satveeka tyagam is recited at the conclusion of the karma as well.

One version of this satvika tyagam is as follows:
भगवानेव स्वनियाम्य स्वरूप स्थिति प्र्वृत्ति, स्वशेषतैक रसेन मया स्वकीयैः च उपकरणैः स्वाराधनैक प्रयोजनाय परमपुरुषः सर्वशेषी श्रियपतिः स्वशेषभूतमिदं प्रातः सन्ध्यावन्दनाख्यं (change to the appropriate karma) कर्म स्वस्मै स्वप्रीतये स्वयमेव कारयति (कारितवान् at the conclusion)।

பகவானேவ ஸ்வநியாம்ய ஸ்வரூப ஸ்திதி ப்ரவருத்தி, ஸ்வசேஷதைக ரஸேன மயா ஸ்வகீயை: ச உபகரணை: ஸ்வ ஆராதனைக ப்ரயோஜனாய பரமபுருஷ: ஸர்வசேஷீ, ஸ்ரீயப்பதி: ஸ்வசேஷபூதமிதம் ப்ராத ஸந்த்யாவந்தனாக்யம் (change to the appropriate karma) கர்ம ஸ்வஸ்மை, ஸ்வப்ரீதயே ஸ்வயமேவ காரயதி (காரிதவான் at the conclusion).

SVs also recite காயேன வாசா, but not immediately at the end of Phala shruti of SV Sahasranaamam. SVs are supposed to recite two further sthotras at the conclusion of SV Sahasranamam, namely, Panjayuda Sthotram and Dvadasa Sthotram. காயேன வாசா comes at the end of Dvadasa sthotram.

Cheers!
 
OP
OP
Haridasa Siva

Haridasa Siva

New member
Sangom sir,

Thank you for your response. I must clarify the following:

1. I did not mean that "kaayena vaachaa...." or Yad akshara........" as an "E.&O.E." to our prayers. I meant it is important to have a good habit early in life especially chanting of slokas. Even if the pronounciation is wrong, it could be corrected later. I believe the two of us share the same view.
2. I was also only underlining the point "ayindil valayaathathu....". Again, we agree.
3. I did not intend to say that the sloka I have quoted is a shortcut or a licence to commit errors. The reason why I mentioned the sloka was to say that I did not , as a child, understand the meaning of even this sloka. and was chanting even this sloka with mistakes.
4. The reason why I referred to "rationlists" was to say tha forming the habit (of chanting slokas) is more important. It is not wrong one starts with mistakes (in pronounciation). One can (and should) correct it later in life.

I copied the verse from Google transliterate. I inadvertently have given the meaning of "kaayena vaacha". Thanks for pointing out both the errors.
 
S

SwamiTaBra

Guest
These slokas are to be rendered after all possible human efforts at perfection have been taken, not as a shortcut to fool god without making any efforts at learning the correct things.
Nice to seek you back here. The challenge in samskrit is with the sandhis, which frequently makes a word quite long incorporating numerous inflections.
My personal view is that at least for the sake of beginners, the scholars should split long wordings.
This will go a long way in reducing the flaws in rendering of slokas.

With rgds,
Swami
 

sangom

Well-known member
Sangom sir,

Thank you for your response. I must clarify the following:

1. I did not mean that "kaayena vaachaa...." or Yad akshara........" as an "E.&O.E." to our prayers. I meant it is important to have a good habit early in life especially chanting of slokas. Even if the pronounciation is wrong, it could be corrected later. I believe the two of us share the same view.
2. I was also only underlining the point "ayindil valayaathathu....". Again, we agree.
3. I did not intend to say that the sloka I have quoted is a shortcut or a licence to commit errors. The reason why I mentioned the sloka was to say that I did not , as a child, understand the meaning of even this sloka. and was chanting even this sloka with mistakes.
4. The reason why I referred to "rationlists" was to say tha forming the habit (of chanting slokas) is more important. It is not wrong one starts with mistakes (in pronounciation). One can (and should) correct it later in life.

I copied the verse from Google transliterate. I inadvertently have given the meaning of "kaayena vaacha". Thanks for pointing out both the errors.

Shri Haridasa Siva,

I said in my post, "I agree that young children may not always pick up correct pronunciation especially if they are learning by chanting along with a large number of adults, and nobody is teaching them as such. But as each one grows up, he should try to learn the correct words, pronunciation and meaning." This is because, in today's society, the young (working) parents themselves do not know many mantras, slokas, etc., or know them correctly, they do not have time to teach their children, unlike in the joint families of old, the grandparents are generally not available to teach the kids and so the kids are asked, at least, to join the group chanting of adults and thus try to learn. They imbibe the slokas/mantras with a lot of mistakes, even if printed books are given to them, because it is not teaching but only a sort of self-teaching. Thereafter, the pressures and vicissitudes of life takes them away and leave hardly any chance to correct what they leant originally; also, ego problems based on age, status in life, affluence, etc., do play a role in some people accepting their mistakes. All in all, there is usually no chance of "correction" in later years; yours is a rare example, but I can't say that with assurance.

The saddest part of all is that such half-baked people, who are not certified by any competent authority, sometimes start திவ்ய கைங்கர்யம் of teaching their erroneous versions to the next generation children! Hence, I will say all people who hold these things as holy and sacred should strive for perfection.

By the way, you were correct in labelling some people as rationalists. I am rationalist, not in the sense of an atheist. I believe there is a mysterious power which manifests as life here on this planet and that humans will never be able to comprehend that great force - which I feel is what religions named as God. I am also of the opinion that religions have been well-contrived systems of exploiting people in the name of god, though many religions may contain the accounts of people who believed God to be in a particular way, and also believed that they saw/experienced God (though we can't be sure that all such accounts are sincere - some might have been deliberate concoctions of the priesthood). But in the course of coming to such a conclusion and also because of the circumstances of my life, I have had some limited exposure to our scriptures and religious lore. While I personally do not endorse many of these mantras/slokas as absolute truths, I do give the correct versions and also try to explain the meaning for those who hold these mantras as some very esoteris, marvellous, treasures, about which they do not know. I hope people will this way get a better point of view of religion and, thence, of God.
 

saidevo

Well-known member
namaste everyone.

Although I don't dispute that artha-jnAnam is of great help and the habit must be inculcated among children, I wish to bring the wisdom of Sri Chandrasekhara BharatI MahAsvAmigaL, who as the 34th Jagadguru of DakShiNAmya Shringagiri Sri ShAradA PITham, about the connection between a mantra and its meaning:

SatyamUrti:- As in Mysore, in Chennai rAjyam too, there used to be no rain in several places. Since it rained well last week, it seems that subhikSham might result.

shrI SannidhAnam:- If all of you people, as far as possible, keep doing the svakarmAnuShThAna, will there be a situation without rains? If the puNya--good karma, of everyone accrues together, what could not be accomplished?

SatyamUrti:- (But then) We did not perform any karmas--rites, for rains!

shrI SannidhAnam:- Don't you daily chant the mantra इमं मे वरुण श्रुधीहवमद्या च मृडय--"imaM me varuNa shrudhIhavamadyA cha mRuDaya"--"O VaruNa, please fulfill this prayer of mine and make me happy here and now"?

SatyamUrti:- Yes, we keep chanting it. But then I see no sambandham--connection, between it and the rains?

shrI SannidhAnam:- In that (mantra), looking at VaruNa-bhagavAn, don't you do-prArthana--pray to: हे वरुण मृडय--"he varuNa mRuDaya"--"Hey VaruNa, make us comfortable. Accept our prayers"?

SatyamUrti:- Only now its meaning becomes somewhat intelligible. But we keep doing the sandhyA-vandanAdi karmas, mostly without knowing the meaning.

shrI SannidhAnam:- It would be visheSham--of distinction, if they are done with artha-jnAnam--knowledge about meaning. Even if the artham--meaning, is not known, those mantras would never go vain.

अनिच्छयापि संस्प्ष्टो दहत्येव हि पावकः

anichChayApi saMspRShTo dahatyeva hi pAvakaH
For, does not fire burn, even if touched without knowing? (*01)

In this nyAya-prakAram, mantras would perforce give their phala--fruits/results, although there is no artha-jnAnam (in one who chants them).

For more on the context of this conversation, check:
http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/philos...kripa-vilasam-greatness-guru-4.html#post61201
 

sangom

Well-known member
namaste everyone.

Although I don't dispute that artha-jnAnam is of great help and the habit must be inculcated among children, I wish to bring the wisdom of Sri Chandrasekhara BharatI MahAsvAmigaL, who as the 34th Jagadguru of DakShiNAmya Shringagiri Sri ShAradA PITham, about the connection between a mantra and its meaning:



For more on the context of this conversation, check:
http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/philos...kripa-vilasam-greatness-guru-4.html#post61201

Shri Saidevo,

Just as

अनिच्छयापि संस्प्ष्टो दहत्येव हि पावकः

anichChayApi saMspRShTo dahatyeva hi pAvakaH
For, does not fire burn, even if touched without knowing? (*01)

there was another incident in Sringeri itself - years ago, probably when Bharati tirtha was the swamiji - when one very devout brahmin came to swamiji and told him that he had married thrice but the wife died in short time. Then swamiji asked him - a very learned vidwan - what all poojas he did, which mantras he recited, etc. On his answering swamiji asked him to recite one of the mantras in which it was found that he mispronounced a word and the actually uttered word meant "please kill my wife". (I have this web page in my DVD back-ups. I will furnish it as soon as I am able to get it.)

So, in case you want to somehow establish your claim then you will have to concede that pronunciation is of utmost importance, if not arthajnaana, because ignorance does not seem to work there as in the case of meaning, even as per the Sringeri episode. It is indeed a life and death struggle like that of jawan in battle field, to recite mantras and people are all doing so casually! I would say that knowing the meaning and some basic familiarity with the language will help this correct pronunciation.

If however you hold that neither pronunciation (which goes against what another Swamiji of Sringeri seemed to demonstrate to the world) nor knowledge of the meaning of mantra is necessary, it will have to be conceded that anything said - sense or nonsense - in whatever tone one may wish, must have effect of mantra. Then all claims about the need to utter vedas and mantras with correct swaras, etc., will fall flat. We can then ask film lyricists to set vedas to new lilting tunes and still get the benefits - both material and esoteric!
 

saidevo

Well-known member
namaste shrI sangom.

In post no.10, I only spoke about artha-jnAnam, and nothing about/against correct pronunciation/intonation of a mantra, so I wonder how you could jump to conclusions as to the pros and cons of such inference!

For your kind information, I would never say, that mantra-uchchAraNam is not important, even in shlokas and stotras, and can be dispensed with by anyone--brahmin or non-brahmin. A case in point is this post of mine where I have said:

"Sanskrit kRutis and stotras should be recited and sung with perfect pronunciation, lest the singer--and the listener--should incur any bad effects of the meanings that might arise due to wrong pronunciation.

It seems that some artists who sing this kRuti pronounce the Sanskrit words and phrases wrongly, slurring over the words."

http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/translations-meanings/2840-learn-read-recite-stotram.html#post28923

On this same ground, I have objected to in the Hindu Dharma Forums, amidst stiff opposition, to people like Anuradha Paudwal, 'singing' the gAyatrI mantra, which is a Veda mantra with pronunciation shortcomings, as if it is a Hindi bhajan song. Among the popular women devotional singers, I find Smt.Uma Mohan and Gayatri Devi to be among the best in Sanskrit pronunciation in the shlokas and stotras albums they have released.

I haven't read about 'the other' Shringeri incident you have reported, but I am aware of the blunder of TvaShTa, who wanted a son to kill Indra, but got a son killed by Indra due to his wrong intonation:
Importance of Enunciation and Intonation from the Chapter "Siksa", in Hindu Dharma : kamakoti.org:

A mantra might work with the right uchchAraNa although there is no artha-jnAnam, but artha-jnAnam is sure to enrich the experience of reciting the mantra.
 
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sangom

Well-known member
Shri Saidevo,

I now recollect the relevant words of that mantra in the Sringeri incident. Instead of "bhāryām rakṣatu bhairavī", the learned scholar, perhaps due to slip of tongue or whatever, was reciting "bhāryām bhakṣatu bhairavī".
 
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