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SandhyaVandanam & Nithya Karmas in the context of modern living - what, why, how

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tks

Well-known member
#1
The objective of the next set of posts is to describe the philosophical significance of various Karmas/Actions/Rituals that is prescribed in our scriptures.

More importantly, at the surface level one will find major contradictions for reasons given for doing daily rituals such as Sandhyavandam for example.

The puranic stories associated with the explanations seem to be entertaining at best and are unsatisfactory for anyone wanting to know if there is a deeper significance.

No one wants a made up reason just to justify a ritual. If at all it has to be the otherway around - how could a ritual help one to attain a given goal.
What should be that goal?

The significance of the various parts of a ritual then has to then make sense without force fitting an explanation.

There are also other questions that comes up in the context of the knowledge of Science we all possess. If Sun never sets or arises, what is the point in doing a ritual that revolves around sunrise and sunset?

There are more deeper questions for those that are asked to do yearly Shraddhams.
No one knows what happens to a person when they die.

We have not met anyone that came back from death though there are books written by people who have 'come back' from their near death experience.
Those accounts cannot be trusted because death by definition is a state from where one never returns.

Therefore, no one knows what happened to our ancestors after they passed away. Why would we want to do rituals for them based on some Puranic stories?


Even for a seeker of knowledge (not the seeker of Punya and heaven, whatever those words may mean), performance of annual Shraddham function is prescribed.
How do we reconcile these prescriptions with lack of knowledge of what happened to our ancestors other than being asked to believe in some stories at best.

There are three groups of people in my thinking when it comes to such rituals .

1. One is to follow the prescriptions blindly. My view is to respect their beliefs. My request to them is to not detract the postings here with their beliefs since there are ritual sections for such posts. We would like to have a more reasoned discussions here if possible.

2. Other is to follow the rituals but then question them thinking that there may be some real significance. There may be Shraddha involved in this group of people. These set of posts are addressed to only those people.

3. Then, there are those that think that there is no significance to any of these activities. In my thinking, this approach also forms another set of belief systems only (lacking intellectual content). The General Section can be used to express such viewpoints and beliefs rather than here.

If there are clarification questions, kindly ask. I plan to write some posts over a period of time (perhaps once a week). When we have reached a natural stopping point it will be useful to have more discussions and counter points but only from group 2, please.
 

tks

Well-known member
#3
How does one detect Shraddha?
Shraddha is faith to be ratified by understanding at a later point in time and place.
It is deeply personal and is known only to the person. It is about attitude at the core of one's mind and is not detectable by others.

Normally it is wise not to judge anyone as to their faith or Shraddha since it is not possible. That is why in the opening post my statement had tentativeness in the description that "there may be shraddha involved" in some people .

However there are situations one is placed to judge. For example if I have to hire someone I need to be sure that their interviewing skills do not detract their lack of 'shraddha' towards their chosen profession. It is part of my duty to hire right and judging is part of that duty.

What we end up noticing is behaviour only which is available for our judgement.

In the next post, I will detail what I know are ways to know if our shraddha is real towards a topic. But it is only for self judgement and is not useful to judge others.

In the context of posting and interacting here, we all are pressed for time. Therefore at the very least I have to pick and choose topics to get engaged in.

If someone has a question and and if I have answers I will spend whatever time it takes to make sure the response is as complete as possible. In the end I do not control how it is received.

However if there was response not consistent with the spirit of the discussion I just move on and not bother with further interaction. In that sense I make a judgement on the behaviour only.

This topic area of Nithya Karma is about self growth for a purpose (to be expanded later) and is meaningless to someone if they are not personally involved.
There are people interested in such topics just like one may interested in a topic like Botany. For such people the discussion that follows will not be useful.

If one has Shraddha towards learning the truth (and only that person knows this), then their behaviour here may be consistent with their interiority of their mind, which will then make the topic area more relevant. That is the point I was making in the opening post.
 

tks

Well-known member
#4
How we learn?

The explanation of the 'why' aspects behind daily rituals such as Sandhyavandhanam can be easily described in few lines but without a rigorous understanding of the context behind the explanation, it will all seem just hollow leading to missing many of the profound aspects behind the rituals.

For example, in B.Gita Chapter 2 the real teaching begins in verse 11 and Sri Krishna actually has puts forth the bottomline of what to expect in the rest of B.Gita right in that verse itself. Without proper teacher interpreting commentaries such as Sri Sankara it will be easy to miss this part. Also all the essence of teaching contained in B.Gita is all covered in Chapter 2 itself but this itself is not obvious to a casual learner.

What I am sharing are my understanding of traditional teaching of our scriptures only. Obviously I could make mistakes but not knowingly so. The style of explanations and metaphors from modern context are my own but I am not putting forth any new insight. In fact my conviction after spending a quarter century is that what is taught in our scriptures cannot be bested.

In order to detect Shraddha in ourselves in approaching topics purported to help with our personal growth we may want to briefly reflect on how we learn things.

Then from the context of learning we can appreciate how our Shraddha towards a topic enables or detracts our learning.

Following this we have to understand the full context of what, why, how, when etc of the Nithya Karmas.

Then the explanation of how Sandhyavandanam and Shraddham in the modern context has relevance.

It is necessary to understand in the modern context of living these are applicable to all people including women. How it is observed may be different but the universal principles based on which the practices are prescribed is applicable to all human beings regardless of their caste, creed, gender, and even gender orientation.

So how do we learn topics of profound significance?

There is a well known verse which I want to quote and use it to explain the recognition of Shraddha in ourselves towards learning.


आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।
सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः पादं पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥- महाभारत, उद्योगपर्व



Simple Translation:

We learn from four sources (and it need not be precisely 25% from each source though the verse says 1/4th from each source)
They are
  • (Qualified) Teacher - The thread on Guru Purnima in this section amply addresses this aspect. It also describes indirectly the role of Shradda towards the Guru ROLE
  • Self - Our own analysis. I will share what I understand by this term later because we could be our worst enemy or our best friend in our effort to grow
  • Other people- The shraddha of others involved such as other students can make or break our growth. Therefore detailing the behaviour that are clues to watch out for will be important especially in an open forum such as this one
  • Time - Those with Shraddha gains knowledge and Nithya Karmas are but one small step as part of preparation. A baby takes about 9 months to grow from a single cell to a complete human being.



Next couple of posts will be about our Shraddha towards learning from other people, own self and how to leverage time to our advantage.
 

tks

Well-known member
#7
The thread got closed due to inaction on my part over a long time. At the request of one member, I requested Sri Praveen to open the thread so that I can complete what I intended to convey in the opening post. (Thanks Sri Praveen)


Since following Nithyakarmas prescribed in our scriptures require Shraddha (which is faith to be ratified by understanding at a later time), let me complete the discussion on Shraddha from the prior post.


Let me present the rest of the discussion in terms of a Questions and Answer format so that it is easier to parse for the reader.


1. Why should one follow practices of Nithya Karmas?
Answer: There is one and only goal accomplished by Nithyakarmas, which is the purification of our mind. Just like we take a bath to clean our body, these Karmas are essential part of a person's sadhana.

The motivation for making this effort is possible *only* when we have clarification as to what our purpose of our life is.

There is a discussion about purpose of a human life which is described in this post referenced below:
http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=26369&p=312626#post312626
That thread goes further to describe the *role* of a teacher in guiding us in our effort.




2. How do we show Shraddha towards a teacher?
Who we select as a teacher shows if we have shraddha towards a given topic areas.

A teacher of such topics as this one must have come in a Guru Parampara having mastered all the knowledge scriptures (Key Upanishads, Brahmasutras, B. Gita etc) . Such a person must necessarily be well versed in Sanskrit and be able to interpret the commentaries of teachers (Bhashyas and Tikas) independently. Such a person must have a good understanding of Science, and other schools of thoughts from both east and the west. This is necessary to be able to answer questions of a sincere student coming from a variety of background.

The shraddha towards a teacher means living up to the teaching of the teacher and not about physically worshipping such a person. This was highlighted in this post below
http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=26369&p=310268#post310268


3. How do we learn from others (peer students)?
If we have Shraddha towards learning a given topic area, we have to pick carefully who we engage in discussions with. Many that have no Shraddha towards learning cannot help and possibly harm our quest.

This means that all online discussion groups are not a suitable platform to learn from. This is because what is presented is not vetted for substance or sincerity or both.

Our own forum may have a limited use in the sense that some posts can possibly point to some references which can be useful.

We have far too many pseudo-intellectuals who throw in own imaginations and simply attribute their ideas to some Shastra. There are even people who may be formally qualified but may lack Viveka and wisdom. There is a saying which humorously captures this point.

यथा खरः चन्दनभारवाहि
भारस्य वेत्ता न तु चन्दनस्य ।
एवं हि शास्त्राणि बहुनि अधीत्य
अर्थेषु मूढाः खरवद् वहन्ति ॥

A metaphor is described about a donkey carrying many pieces of sandalwood. The answer to the question : "is the donkey carrying sandalwood" is definitively NO because donkey carries only a load. It does not carry the smell of sandalwood nor is it aware of its importance. The load is the same for the donkey regardless of what the load represents.

Similarly there are "scholars" who carry the burden of a lot of scriptures but do not understand them properly.

Belief which is not subject to reason cannot work well with teaching that is based on reason.

There people with highly developed religious ego due to belief in a Godman cannot help in our effort to learn. Similarly a person soaked in rituals without understanding are also best to not engage with. Knowledge scriptures do not mean much to them.

Those who chase after desires - even with religious rituals- cannot understand Nithyakarmas done only for the sake of inner purification.

Those steeped in superstitions also cannot engage in helpful conversations since their superstitions (astrology etc) cannot fathom the beauty of reasons.

Those who are unwilling to put the effort required to learn including learning Sanskrit usually are best avoided.

Our shraddha towards learning is evidenced by who we pick to learn from.



Now let me get back to the main topic area which is about Nithya karma itself. There is a verse in Vedantasara, which defines what a Nithyakarma is


नित्यानि - अकरणे प्रत्यवायसाधनानि सन्ध्यावन्दनादीनि ॥ ९॥


Simple translation: Daily Karmas, such as the sandhyāvandanam, which when not done causes harm, are termed nitya-karmas.


The harm above has to do with impediments to our learning the knowledge scriptures.


I will continue with the above topic in the next post.
 

tks

Well-known member
#8
There are four typesof Karmas- Nithya, Naimithika, Kamya and Prayaschitta karmas.



  1. Kamya karma is one which is done with a desire to achieve a given result. It may include Homam for longevity, rituals for seeking rain etc. No one can know if the intended results will materialize. They are however conducted due to our desires and insecurities supported by a belief in the Vedas that describe such Karmas. There is no harm if Kamya Karmas are not done but for a serious sadhaka, Kamya Karmas present a serious impediment to growth.
  2. Naimithika karmas are those that are not not always specified in the shastras and may or may not be a required duty (e.g., taking a bath after an eclipse). They occur at various times in a year. For the purposes of this discussions, I am not including here certain events such as Shradda events (which may be considered as Naimithika Karma by a few)
  3. Nithya karmas have logical and Vedic basis and are done without expectations of any result except for attaining inner purification of our mind. These are necessary to prepare our mind for learning greater truths about Isvara and our own true nature. These include Sandhyavandanam (which is to be done daily) and also include certain other rituals such as Shraddham that may come once a year for each of our departed parent.
  4. Prayaschitta Karmas - These are Karmas conducted with the intent to mitigate the effect of a wrong act.

The purpose of thisthread is to provide a logical basis as to why Nithya Karmas are essential partof our inner growth.


With Shraddha, ifone undertakes the performance of these Nithya Karmas, we are likely toencounter many objections from others.
While we may NOTchoose to learn from those providing often unsolicited objections , it may be useful to have an idea as to why people oftenspeak dismissively of such karmas.

A person who isunfamiliar but respectful of others will rarely offer objections. Those thathad followed such traditions blindly only to give them up later tend to be themost ardent critics. They are still in a 'fight' or 'flight' mode over suchrituals. The best thing to do is to not engage with such people.

In order to be sureour sharadda towards Nithya Karmas are not weakened it is necessary tounderstand a basis as to why such rituals lead to our inner purification (ofour mind).

This requires ananalysis of how we relate to other people and what we think to be ourentitlements.

After all we did notchoose anything in our life we claim to be ours. We did not choose our body shape/height, ourthinking capacity, our specific skills, our parents, our race, our gender tojust name just a few. In fact we do not control literally any event thathappens in our life. Yet we act as if we are in control celebrating ourownership to anything that comes our way.

Stephen Covey whowrote the book called '7 habits of highly effective people' has providedexcellent description as to how we relate to others in our lives. We start outour life being dependent on others (like parents) for our very survival. Manybut not all grow to becoming independent. The truly successful people end upunderstanding what it means to be 'interdependent'.

Let me quote from asource which provides a more detailed description of these three ways ofrelating to others - dependent, independent and interdependent.


"We start lifein a state of Dependence. We are fed, looked after and shown the way. Withoutthis level of support, we wouldn’t last very long. As the years go by, webecome more and more independent — physically, intellectually, emotionally andfinancially — until we are totally in charge of ourselves. For many, this stateof Independence, or Self-Mastery, is the ultimate goal. It is often seenin our society as the epitome of success. Few consider the next stage.

As a higher level ofmaturity, reaching Independence is a major accomplishment, but it isn’t theultimate ideal in effective living. “Life is, by nature, highly interdependent.To try to achieve maximum effectiveness through independence is like trying toplay tennis with a golf club.”

Yet the conceptof Interdependence is often misunderstood and many see it asregressive, as a step back towards Dependence. As a result, many relationshipscome to an end when partners, for fear of losing their hard-earnedIndependence, seek to re-affirm themselves.

Moving fromIndependence to Interdependence is not moving back to Dependence.Interdependence is a much deeper concept which implies a higher level ofmaturity. People who enter interdependent relationships (in business and inlife) are self-assured, confident and self-reliant. They know that what theycan achieve through Synergy with others is much bigger than the sumof what they would achieve independently.

“Interdependence isa far more mature, more advanced concept. If I am (…) interdependent, I amself-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working togethercan accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone (…) Asan interdependent person, I have the opportunity to share myself deeply,meaningfully, with others, and I have access to the vast resources andpotential of other human beings. Interdependence is a choice onlyindependent people can make. Dependent people cannot choose to becomeinterdependent. They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enoughof themselves.” (Stephen Covey)

From <https://coachingfortranslators.com/2015/03/06/interdependence-the-key-to-success/>

How does it all tieto doing our Nithya Karmas? That will be in the next post.
 
#9
Sorry for the interruption Sir

Today I stumbled upon this message in FB which is more relevant and would like to share with members:

மனு ஸ்ம்ருதியில் 'ரிஷயோ தீர்க்க ஸந்த்யாவாத் தீர்க்கமாயுர் அவாப்நுயு ப்ரக்ஞாம் | யசச்ச கீர்த்திம் ச பிரஹ்ம வர்ச்சஸமேவ்ச' என்று இருக்கிறது.
இதன் அர்த்தம் என்ன என்றால், ரிஷிகள் தீர்க்காயுள், ஞானம், தேஜஸ் அடைந்ததற்குக் காரணம் அவர்கள் விடாமல் செய்து வந்த ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தின் பலன்தான்.
ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தின் பலனைத் தெரிந்து கொள்ள இது ஒன்றே போதும்.
ஏராளமான பொருட் செலவு செய்து உபநயனம் செய்து வைத்தால் பலன் பூஜ்யமாகி விடாமல் பார்த்து கொள்வது இன்றைக்கு இருக்கிற பெற்றோர்கள் மற்றும் பெரியோர்களின் பொறுப்பாகும்.
அவர்கள் தான் இதைக் கண்காணிக்க வேண்டும்.
நம்முடைய பெரியோர்கள் ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தை ஒவ்வொரு காலத்திலும் தவறாமல் அதன் விதிப்படி செய்து வந்தார்கள். அதனால், அவர்கள் சகல வளங்களோடு வாழ்ந்தார்கள்.
ஆனால், இப்போதோ, ஆங்கில படிப்பு படித்த அநேகம் பேர், ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தை முறையாகச் செய்வதாகத் தெரியவில்லை.
ஒரு வேளை இதைச் செய்வது, நாகரீகக் குறைபாடு என்று கூட சிலர் நினைக்கிறார்கள்.
ஸந்த்யா வ,ந்தனம் போன்ற கர்மாக்கள் முறையான படி ஒழுங்காக நடைபெறாததன் காரணமாக இப்போது லோக க்ஷேமத்தில் குறைவு ஏற்பட்டிருக்கின்ற காரியங்கள் தோன்றி இருக்கின்றன.
ஒருவர் ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தை ஒழுங்காகச் செய்வதால் அவருக்கு மட்டுமே அந்த நற்பலன் போய்ச் சேருவதில்லை.
உலகில் இருக்கின்ற அனைவருக்குமே அந்தப் பலன் போய்ச் சேருகிறது.
இதனால் தான், ராஜாக்கள் தங்கள் ராஜ்யத்தில் வசித்து வந்த அந்தணர்களைப் போற்றினார்கள்.
அவர்கள் தங்களது நித்ய கர்மாக்களைக் குறைவில்லாமல் செய்தால், நாட்டில் வளம் பெருகும் என்று அவர்களுக்குத் தேவையான வசதிகளைச் செய்து கொடுத்தார்கள்.
தற்போதைய நிலையில் அக்னி மறையும் தருவாயில் இருக்கிறது.
இனி மேலாவது எல்லோரும் ஸந்த்யா வந்தனத்தை ஒழுங்காகச் செய்ய ஆரம்பித்தால், மறைந்திருக்கும் அக்னி, பூர்ண ஜ்யோதியை அடையும் என்பதில் சந்தேகம் இல்லை.
இதன் மூலம் உலக நலன் விருத்தி ஆகும். எல்லா ஜீவராசிகளும் சந்தோஷத்தை அடையும்.
சைக்கிள் வேகமாகச் செலுத்தப்படும் போது, பெடல் பண்ணாது இருந்தாலும், கொஞ்சம் தூரத்திற்குத் தானாகவே சென்று கொண்டிருக்கும்.
அது போல ஸந்த்யா வந்தனம் போன்ற கர்மாக்கள் செய்யப்பட்டுத் திடீரென்று நின்று விட்டாலும், முன்னோர்கள் செய்த கர்ம பலத்தைக் கொண்டு இப்போது நன்றாக இருப்பது போலத் தோற்றம் அளிக்கும். ஆனால், அது நிலையானதல்ல.
தாமதமாகக் கிளம்பும் ஒருவன், தான் பிடிக்க வேண்டிய ரயிலைத் தவற விட நேர்ந்தால், போக வேண்டிய காரியம் நஷ்டம் ஆகிவிட்டதே என்பதற்காக ரொம்பவும் வருத்தப்படுகிறான்.
ஆனால், உலக நலனுக்காகத் தான் செய்ய வேண்டிய ஸந்த்யா வந்தனக் கடமையை விட்டு விட்டால், அதற்காகக் கொஞ்சமும் வருத்தப்படாமல் இருக்கிறான்.
காயத்ரி மந்திரத்தைத் தினமும் குறைவுபடாமலும், வசதிப்பட்டால் சொல்ல வேண்டிய அளவுக்கு அதிகமாகவும் ஒருவன் ஜபிக்க வேண்டும்.
இந்த மந்திரம் மிகவும் சக்தி வாய்ந்தது.
எவன் ஒருவன் ச்ரத்தையுடனும், பக்தியுடனும் காயத்ரி மந்திரத்தைத் தினமும் த்யான பூர்வமாக ஜபித்து வருகிறானோ, அவன் பக்தி ச்ரத்தையை அனுசரித்து, அதே ஜன்மாவிலோ அல்லது தொடர்ந்து வரும் ஜன்மாக்கள் ஒன்றிலோ மிகப் பெரிய பதவியை அடைகிறான்.

Source: Face Book
 

tks

Well-known member
#10
Sri VB -

Thanks for sharing the Facebook post about the virtues of doing Sandhyavandandam etc.



The greatness of many prayers including Gayatri Mantram is that the prayer is not for an individual self.

One translation of this Mantra is "We meditate on the effulgent glory of the divine Light; may He inspire/activate our understanding (intellect)"

The key point to note is that it is expressed in plural using words such as 'We and Our' and not 'I and my' !



Most people in today's age believe in individuality and selfishness. There are studies about behaviour of millennials that confirm that they are some of the most selfish minded people!

Most people including those in India cannot see any reason to do rituals of yester years and that too for the sole welfare of others. It is also not possible to make a causal connection between acts of prayer and the welfare of the society. The appeal at best is in terms of faith and magic only, which is fine when a youngster is starting out and does not have the capacity to comprehend profound reasons.

For many adults and young adults of today, the appeal to belief and faith will not work.

The great news is that our teaching tradition does not require one to believe in anything either.

In this thread, my posts are explicitly not about seeking anyone to believe what is quoted but to understand them. They are not my personal beliefs (which belong in the General Section) but articulation of well thought out reasons why Sandhyavandanam and other Nithya Karmas are important for an aspirant who seeks to understand the Truth of Isvara (and ourselves).
 

tks

Well-known member
#11
The earlier post got truncated for some reason, re-posting with updates. The earlier one can then be deleted by admin (and only this post remains)
=========================================================================================

At the outset I would like to ask the readers, not to believe anything I write here or in other thread.

If belief is the basis for adopting our time-tested traditions, then my write up is of little use to such people. Our teaching tradition is not about 'mystery mongering' or about development of magical powers to twist nature's working. One needs an understanding that the law of nature is nothing but the laws of Isvara and are not subject to human intervention!

We are born dependent on people around us like our parental figures, and laws of nature that help us grow. All that we ever needed to survive until now was provided by nature in some form or the other.

Somehow our 'sense of doership' which is loosely translated as our individual ego may lead us to think that we are the cause of all our accomplishments and that our security lie in our bank account , our houses and our family. A little reflection will show that many of us lead a dependent and insecure life. A few of us are more fortunate to become independent but we may be reveling in the idea of being a self-made person!

Very few of us become independent contributors and realize we are actually interdependent on large number of factors for our wellbeing - nature, our parents, knowledge we gained by the works of others to name just a few. For such people their ego is under check because they realize that interdependence is the highest form of relating to other people and the environment. This is Satvic thinking at its core.

Before proceeding further to describe the connection between sense of interdependence and its relevance to following Nithya Karma let me describe few terms associated with the Karma model.

In a simplified version of Karma model, there are two factors that affect our life.

One is Prarabdha Karma that fructifies in this life and the other is Samskara which describes the impressions or residues from infinite number of past lives that affect an individual's behavioral attributes in this life.

For example one may be born in a highly dharmic family (an expression of Prarabdha Karma unfolding) but be crooked in terms of character traits (Samskara).

While I do not want to get into difference between the Sanskrit term Varna (a classification based on one's character) and Kula (classification based on birth ONLY), the point is that all are born as Sudra Varna regardless which Kula we are born in. This was discussed in this post in some detail.
http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=31217&page=9&p=342261&posted=1#post342261

But those whose Samskara is satvic, they will recognize the interdependence with others early on in their life and will have their ego under check.

Most people are usually eager to comment on other people's ego but rarely look at themselves. It is not possible to make comment about other people's ego based on their actions as perceived. A truly enlightened person could come across as egotistical and truly power hungry person can come across as a humble person. In other words we can never truly judge another person.

The only person whose ego state can be assessed correctly is only our own and no one else's.

A person whose character is predominantly Satvic will realize this interdependence and could be classified as belonging to Brahmana Varna.

Our scriptures assert that all human beings, have three kinds of debts from birth. This expression of interdependence is followed by what one must do to overcome the ignorance of our ego, by a conscious effort to be a contributor and pay back the debt.

These debts represent one's obligations to Devathas, Rishis and our ancestors . Before truly understanding the significance of these 'debts' of interdependence let me quote the verse.

The Taittiriya Samhita - 6.3, of KrishnaYajur Veda says:
जायमानो वै ब्राह्मणस्त्रिभिर् ऋणवा जायते
ब्रह्मचर्येण ऋषिभ्यो यज्ञेन देवभ्यः
प्रजया पितृभ्य एष वा अनृणो यः
पुत्री यज्वा ब्रह्मचारिवासी तत् अवदानैर् एव
अवदयते तत् अवदानानाम् अवदानत्वं

Approximate translation in context of this discussion is as follows.

A person with Brahmana (Varna) Samskara understand that he (or she) is born with three kinds of debt:


  1. Knowledge (that can lead to liberation) debt to the Rishis,
  2. Debt to devathas who preside over laws of nature
  3. Debt to our ancestors for making our life possible

One is considered to be free from his debt by leading a life of Dharma (doing rituals which in old days was Yajna), and by ensuring progeny.


In the next post I will describe in detail the significance of these three debts and how Nithya Karmas can help us towards our quest for liberation.
 

tks

Well-known member
#12
These set of posts do not convey my personal perspectives but represent an attempt to share teachings found in our scriptures that are relevant in our lives . I have provided references only where it makes sense.

The style of exposition is my own and is addressed to an audience keen to have a logical framework for understanding the profoundness of our teachings. These notes will not mean much to someone given to beliefs in magical powers of our scriptures.

But these teachings can make sense to someone, only if their purpose of life is aligned with the vast vision of human existence unfolded in our knowledge scriptures.

In the post referenced below, there was an attempt to describe part of this vision which is that while every birth is extraordinarily rare in this cosmos, only the human birth is endowed with this powerful discriminatory sense called Viveka .

Reference: http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=26369&p=312626#post312626

This wealth of Viveka is needed to overcome the bondage of suffering that is inherent in any Jiva. If we were to believe in the Karma model then we have been waiting for this viveka endowed life for countless lives probably in crores of lives. Most people unfortunately will let go this precious life by emphasizing on petty things.

It is possible to overcome this birth-death cycle here and now in this human life but it requires us to use our discriminative faculties. Most people will not.

Every transitory life of any Jiva is but an abode of misery only. Let me cite a specific B.Gita verse to make this point and the intent is not to get drawn into details as to why this life is an abode of suffering.


मामुपेत्य पुनर्जन्म दुःखालयमशाश्वतम् ।
नाप्नुवन्ति महात्मानः संसिद्धिं परमां गताः ॥ ८-१५॥


Minimal translation of the above is as follows. Sri Krishna presented as Isvara says that "Having reached me, Mahatmas do not get another birth which is the ultimate success. All births are nothing but abode of misery (Dukhalaya) only and is transitory.

The above verse has to be understood in the context as to what it means to reach Isvara. That is a major topic in its own right and not pursued further here.

While this Karma model of birth and death cycles can never be proved directly with any logic and experimentation, there are many indirect logic for its validity. Hence a belief in this Karma model is needed here as a starting point to make progress.

If we achieve this liberation from this birth death cycle by reaching Isvara, the issue of logic will cease to be relevant.

One of the key elements of preparation to use our viveka is to begin the practice of Nithya Karmas.

In the earlier segment, there was a reference to a verse that described our three fold debt. This idea of debt is often misunderstood and requires our capacity of viveka to appreciate how this debt relates to the fundamental interdependence of our lives in this cosmos. Let us understand this threefold debt in more descriptive manner and connect to the universal principle of interdependence.


  1. Debt to our ancestors

Without this physical existence we will be unable to have an opportunity to exercise our Viveka and achieve liberation. We were able to continue with our life because our mother carried us to full term while suffering enormous pain during delivery. Our parents nurtured us and fed us well. Our parents had their lives because our grandparents made it possible for them to have their human life to full capacity. In a mere time of ten thousand years we all have had billions of ancestors and it is only through their collective effort that we are able to take this human body endowed with these opportunities for liberation that we have been striving for countless lives.

Our existence and survival depended on the actions of our ancestors. Our debt is nothing but our acknowledgement of this interdependence to them for our life. We acknowledge this debt by remembering them every day and at least once a year symbolically as we go through the act of inviting them into our life for their blessings.

Sometimes silly stories are told that our Pitrus will curse us if we do not do annual Shraddham. That is evoking fear to compel us to do such rituals which is counter to the real intent of such rituals. We do such symbolic rituals to acknowledge our debt and to get our sense of doership under check.

The act of role plays when done with shraddha yields greatest results. In management programs, role plays are often used to train people to deal with complex situations. The role plays are actually useful only when the players are sincerer in their effort.

This shradda driven role play is shraddham, an important Nithya Karma key to subduing our sense of ego/doership.



  1. Debt to Rishis

Our growth depends on not only our parents but on the collective output of all the discoveries and inventions. Modern Rishis such as Newton, Einstein, Schrodinger et al transformed our way of life in the modern world. Almost all inventions of today are due to few of such visionaries.

When it comes to seeking the ultimate liberation we have no refuge but to the knowledge of the Vedas that were revealed by many of the Rishis.

Our personal growth is not possible without the contributions of numerous Rishis. Our ego needs to be aware of this debt anytime we think we did something all by ourselves. We are simply instruments in a grand scheme. We acknowledge our interdependence to the knowledge of the world that enables us towards path of liberation.

Some of our Nithya Karma rituals emphasize offering of water as expression of our interdependence to the knowledge of the Rishis.





  1. Debt to Devathas

The entire cosmos is but an expression of a set of laws that govern living and nonliving entities. Even in randomness there is order which is a statistical order. In chaotic expression of nature there are so called strange attractors. The world of biology, botany, sea world, insects, mammals, and human beings are ruled by a set of laws that do not have human origin. We as humans can only manipulate an existing law in our inventions and can discover what is already there but we cannot create new laws that pervades the cosmos.

The collection of all fundamental laws are Isvara's laws. Our ability to take this human form is due to a set of laws that operate including the laws of Karma.

Just like we divide physical laws and phenomena that we study as Science into multiple subject areas, similarly in the Vedic vision, there is a presiding deity for each subsets of laws. We have presiding deities for earth, water, fire, air and space.
Even a dead body that appears to disintegrate is due to a set of laws and hence even a dead body is a devatha in this vision.

Our existence is possible only due to dependence on air, water, space, fire, and the earth. All the energy that we ever see is Sun's energy. Our body is made up of atoms that were cooked by stars, billions of years ago. Nature's laws personified as deities make our living possible.

Our interdependence on nature is characterized by this sense of debt to Devathas.


In the next post, we will see how our observance of Nithya Karmas help in dealing with our debts and helps us grow as a mature person.
After that I will answer some of the questions raised in the opening post and conclude with a brief description of significance the Sandhyavandanam ritual.
 

tks

Well-known member
#13
One of the greatest miracles in this earth is this notion of 'doers-ship' that we all carry ever since we began to relate to others. This sense of doer-ship is loosely translated as ego in English for the lack of a better word. Let us see how this false notion of ego is destroyed by our commitment to Nithya Karma.

This sense of doer-ship distorts the truth and makes us feel like "I did it" when a goal is seemingly accomplished to our satisfaction. While asserting this sense of doer-ship, we actually forget how we are interdependent on millions of factors for whatever we deem is our success.

This "I sense" of doer-ship coupled with our unique likes and dislikes creates desires which become anger when those desires are not met. Desire need not be towards some material things only. It could be towards an ideology and its propagation as well. Anyone with some maturity know that desires and anger are our greatest enemies.

Some people put enormous effort to achieve a given result. Others just want to take credit for whatever happens around them. In all these cases our interdependence on millions of items is rarely noticed or acknowledged.

Nature presents itself as a system. Let us taken our own body for example. We may be proud (or sad) of our body, ancestry, or even our unique DNA . But we had no control in choosing any of these. Let us turn to modern microbiology to get another perspective of what we call 'our body'. Here are some startling revelations reported in a recent documentary called 'creatures within us'.

We tend to think that we are exclusively a product of our own cells, upwards of ten trillion of them. But the microbes we harbor add another 100 trillion cells into the mix. The creature we admire in the mirror every morning is thus about 10 percent human by cell count.

Altogether an average adult’s commensal microbes weigh about three pounds, roughly as much as the human brain. And while our 21,000 or so human genes help make us who we are, our resident microbes possess another eight million or so genes, many of which collaborate behind the scenes handling food, tinkering with the immune system, turning human genes on and off, and otherwise helping us function.

In other words, our body and specifically our intestines function as a planet to an entire species of microbes making upwards of several trillions of Jivas. In fact if one were to look at earth, we will not find that many creatures and diversity of creatures. These microbes that help with our survival and our demise call our body as their planet.

Our own DNA variety pales in comparison to diversity of these organisms which may have come from space and have colonized our body from time immemorial. A child in the uterus is not exposed to any of these organism except during child birth when our mother gifts us with these colonies of microbes. These enter into our system and grow over time and their colony is expanded by our other actions as babies . The microbes that entered and colonized our body enable our very survival.

Even our cells are constantly exchanging atoms with the universe as we eat , breath and excrete. In fact there are some estimates that claims that our body may have replaced all our cells in a span of seven years. In other words the body that we think we possess is but an iteration of what we used to have.

Even at the atomic level, the atoms that make up our body was cooked in massive and collapsing stars billions of years ago.

All this reflection makes us aware that our ego is but an insignificant and trivial player in this grand scheme of life in this multiverse.

Yet our ego runs our emotions and our lives. No amount of intellectual discussions can overcome this egoist sense.

Sometimes, a role play and ritualist approach with deep understanding is the only way to get our sense of doer-ship under check thereby enabling us to reach an ideal of sorrow free existence.

Such a thinking will eventually lead us to realize that the entire universe is but one family.

Just like the microbes do their part for our survival, just like the variety of events before us enabled us to enjoy this existence where we have the opportunity to achieve liberation, we too have a set of duties towards other beings.

We overcome our ego sense by doing our duty recognizing that there is but one master intelligence and one master doer. We need to realize that we (referring to our ego) are but an instrument in this grand scheme.

We reiterate this every day when we acknowledge our interdependence and our three 'debts' explained in depth.

Our Hindu way of life is about symbolism and role plays. These are extraordinarily powerful means that are employed in all walks of life. The idea of logo and trademarks or idea of national flags are powerful because they symbolically represent an ideal.

Top business school teach their students complex aspects of management and leadership through real and imagined case studies and role plays. If anyone wants to learn in these situations they have to take the role plays seriously.

Our Nithya Karma rituals such as daily pujas or sandhyavandanam represent nothing but an elaborate role play in order to instill this sense of interdependence and provide a means to subdue our ego while expressing our gratitude as a response to our three debts.

In Sandhyavandanam ritual, the solar orb of its seemingly infinite radius with limitless power is taken as Isvara personified as Sandhya devi.
The light of sun itself is taken to represent knowledge.


This cycle of death and life is nothing but abode of suffering.
Our sense of doer-ship prevents us from seeing and realizing that our very own nature which is Isvara is our only refuge.
The above cannot be intellectually understood and one needs to experientially learn to go past our sense of doer-ship.

The prescribed Nithya Karmas are powerful in dissolving our sense of ego and put us in the path to doing our duty and realize Isvara.

In going over the questions raised in the opening post, I verified that most have been dealt with.

In my view, one can easily write a book detailing the significance of every step involved in a ritual such as Sandhyavandhanam . That is beyond the scope of these set of posts.

In the next post I will conclude by explaining a few of the initial steps involved in doing a Nithya Karma such as Sandhyavandanam and also explain the doctrinal significance of certain ritual and its associated Puranic stories.
 

tks

Well-known member
#14
I raised the following items in the opening post of this thread. In order to reach closure of the thread, let me provide brief responses to those items in the context of discussions so far.

1. "The puranic stories associated with the explanations seem to be entertaining at best and are unsatisfactory for anyone wanting to know if there is a deeper significance." from Post #1
In Sandhyavandanam ritual, there Is a step called "argya pradanam" and there is a story associated with this important step. The question is to explore if there is a deeper significance to the story.

In another thread there is a discussion about how our Sastras address human needs to act at three different perspectives - emotive capacity expressed as love and Bhakthi, Intellectual capacity expressed as knowledge (Jnana) and acting capacity of our hands and legs through Karma and rituals.
Reference: http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=27541&p=327705#post327705

Puranic stories tend to evoke some kind of rudimentary Bhakthi in the listeners and rituals reinforce that Bhakthi towards Isvara. Knowledge of significance reinforces all three aspects in a sure footing.

There is a Puranic story about thirty million asuras called Mandehas, that wants to attack and devour the sun at Sandhya time (dawn. Dusk and noon). So the one doing Sandhyavandanam ritual is asked to sprinkle water which becomes like Vajra Ayudha (a weapon) to attack these monsters, not to kill them but simply make them ineffective. This kind of explanation seem meaningless to most thinking adult. First there is really no Sunrise or Sunset from the Sun's view point. Second spraying water with Mantra is all about some magic and is fine for a youngsters. How do we reconcile this story with our understanding? This question was actually raised in another thread (reference below) and was never answered as to the significance in that thread.

http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthread.php?t=22878&p=287245#post287245

The Mandehas represent mind (Manaha) and body (Deha) which is the cause of our ignorance in understanding Isvara (Brahman) which is symbolically represented by the brilliance of Sun. Our ability to be abiding in understanding of Brahman is due to millions of ways in which our mind acts and our body acts. The Gayathri mantra symbolically purifies us by this offering of water so that the inner light of Brahman in our Buddhi may be perceived by us. It is a daily effort to stay focused on Isvara and hence we do argya pradanam all three times every day praying for the wisdom to be able to recognize the presence of Isvara in our lives.


2. From Sun's point of view there is no sunrise or sunset. Yet we are told to do Sandhyavandanam during dawn, dusk and noon.
Response: First of all in modern times it may not be possible to do Sandhyavandanam three times a day for most people. If it is done with proper understanding even once, that will be a great start.

All Hindu rituals are designed from our perspective only here and now. We all experience sunrise and sunset. The fact that earth goes around the sun is an understanding but it does not take away our human experience of the beauty of sunrise for example. The Nithya Karmas are designed for our sake and doing Pranayama and meditation in the morning, has been shown to be of tremendous value to overall well being physically and emotionally. There are large number of published references as to the benefits of Pranayama and Meditation.

Here are two recent references to the benefits of Meditation and Pranayama
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/neuroscience-reveals-the-secrets-of-meditation-s-benefits/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/

It is only when a Puranic story such as Mandehas are literally used to justify doing Sandhyavandanam during sunrise and sunset that we have a logical problem.

With proper understanding of the significance of the Puranic story and benefits of doing Sandhyavandanam which includes Pranayama and meditation, there are no issues

3. No one wants a made up reason just to justify a ritual. If at all it has to be the other way around - how could a ritual help one to attain a given goal. What should be that goal? (post #1)

There are more deeper questions for those that are asked to do yearly Shraddhams. (Post #1)

All these have been fully answered in prior posts


Now let me suggest that if any of these discussions make sense to you that you start your Nithya Karmas soon. Women can do daily Pujas with sincerity, do Gayatri Mantra Japa meditation etc.

Men can start doing Sandhyavandanam rituals at least once a day. Other Nithya Karma in the modern world include, eating satvik food, meditation, Pranayama , Yoga and aerobic exercises.

In addition, listening to our knowledge scriptures and satsang with likeminded people are other things one can do on a regular basis.

Let me provide significance of some of the preliminary steps involved in doing Sandhyavandanam. To do justice to the topic and to reference Sri Sankara Bhashya on the Gayatri mantra and its significance will be a major task and not suited to be covered in a forum of this kind.

I am reposting something I had shared elsewhere a while ago to provide brief overview of the significance of some of the steps.

Daily ritual such as Sandhyavandanam can quieten our often agitated mind. A mind so 'purified' will allow for the possibility for one to see the reality the way it is.

The sankalpa or the commitment to begin Sandhyavandanam is for " DURITAKSHAYA DWARA SRI PARAMESWARA PREETHYARTHAM" etc which is about wanting to remove impurity (of the mind on a daily basis).

The invocation of Isvara is not about pleasing Isvara (though such interpretations exists) but it is about making a commitment to be aligned with Dharma (Isvara as representing the 'whole' and Dharma).

Water (represented as a Devata in Vedic style) is then used to symbolically wash the 'mind'. We use the water to wash our body and organs. In the same spirit the 'inner organ' of the mind is also washed symbolically with water. Invocations of all pervading form of the Lord (Vishnu) is also done again in the spirit of purification of the mind.

The preliminary steps continue with prayer and salutations to many forms of Isvara (including devatas for various planets) so that one's ego/mind is under check through this purification process.

Next is a sankalpa or commitment step to do Mantra Japa meditation using Gayatri Mantram.

The practice includes Pranayama to break the cycle of thoughts at key junctures.

Meditation and Pranayama are known to have excellent benefits to our body, mind (emotion) and intellect even in terms of recent neuroscience studies. Advanced students of Vedanta will use Gayatri Japa as part of a special form of meditation called Nidhidhyasanam.

Depending on where one is at in terms of their Sadhana there are few interpretations of the Gayatri Mantra.

The common meaning is something like "We meditate upon the effulgent glory of the Divine Light; may Isvara inspire our understanding and activate our intellect"

Sandhya Devi, the female principle of Isvara is invoked in the Solar Orb during the meditation. It is a role play which concludes by asking Sandhya Devi to symbolically stay at the top of a mountain watching over us.

The concluding rituals include more prayers include prayers to Akasha (space) by bowing to all directions.

Mrithyu - Lord of Time/Change is symbolically thought of as Siva also

Also this passage narrated by a few include invocations to Lord Siva in some interpretations

"Ritagum Satyam Param Brahma Purusham Krishna-pingalam //
Oorddhwaretam Viroopaksham Viswaroopaya Vai Namo Namah //
Viswaroopaaya Vai Namo Nama Om Nama Iti "

The conclusion of prayerful meditation is with recitation of 'Kayen vacha' which means

- Whatever have done with the Body, mind and intellect ,I surrender them to Isvara without personal ownership.

While I have not done justice to the whole practice with this brief write up, I wanted to share very basic information about this ritual.

If our attitude is right, the benefits of purified mind can lead one towards Isvara.

The ritual start with acahamanam but every word has deep significance. For example let us see the significance associated with the meanings of the word Achyutha, Aanantha, and Govinda .

Achuta is a name arising from a verbal root of something that does not undergo change (of its powers). The universe called Jagat stands for something that is constantly changing (every moment). However all change is sustained by a changeless core which is true in anything we observe. Even in Physics we understand change and solve problems by understanding what is changeless such as 'what is conserved' (e.g., momentum is conserved or energy is conserved which is the changeless core in a change).

So the Lord sustains this universe (which is in constant change in any of the smallest unit of time) as a changeless core and that is the only infallible thing there is. Achuta refers to this aspect of Isvara.

Aanantha - refers to limitlessness of Isvara whose swarupa is Ananda.

Govinda - refers to isvara that is knows through the Vedas.

Now that I have started the achamanam steps, I hope you do the rest :)

Please recommit to doing your Nithya Karmas during Avani Avittam day!

Om Tat Sat
 
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