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Sandhyavandanam - some doubts

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Sandhyavandanam - some doubts

There is lot of discussion about sandhyavandanam (svm for short) in this forum.
but I read its relevance cannot be questioned or critisised there. So, I am writing
here in new thread.

I have read that some asuras called 'mandehaals' attack the sun at time of sunrise and sunset and at noon time. see-

Sanatana Pages: mandeha

IndiaDivine: Daily News on Hinduism, Yoga, Health and Natural Healing

convincing-authoritative-justification-rituals.html

Some experts go one step more and say these mandehaals go on attacking sun when he is visible (not when he is not visible). And the argyams given by brahmanas become thunderbolts (vajraayudham of Indra) and attack and send these mandehaals daily - morning, evening and noon. they also come back to attack, get driven away to a far away island known as Aruni and then come back again according to strict time-table. (If I was suryan or mandehaal, i would have got bored to death and stopped attacking suryan and remained peacefully in the Aruni island, because i will know i am not going to win or get killed at any time!!).

This story was OK in those days perhaps. But now we all know that sun never
"sets" over earth. so if the story is for real the mandehaals will have to go do the
attack in infinite points throughout 24 hours so that their attack drama is staged for each place on earth at sunrise, noon and sunset. Now we will require 3 different sets of mandehaals at the same time also because when it is sunrise in one place it is noon at another place, sunset at another, is it not?

One more doubt comes to me - when sun does not get thunderbolts to help him
from mandehaals, like in Africa, europe, america and Australia (brahmins are there only for few years now there and we don't know if they do sandhya at exactly sunrise, noon and sunset times) what happened to the sun? Nothing, is it not? So, is it not clear that sandhya is one more way of impressing other people to say that brahmins have some special powers?

The funny part is the same mantra praising sungod is told to make the water become thunderbolts. this mantra is only praising sungod again. we do not say any mantra like "let this become thunderbolts and kill mandehaals and save surya' or something like that. then we can believe at least some logic behind the story. so, if sun has so much power to make our argyam into thunderbolts and help him, why he cannot drive away mandehaals himself with his power instead of troubling brahmins who are living so far far away?

and if sandyai is for this only what is need to recite gayatri after that?

I read about an incident in Guru nanak's life. He found a brahmin taking water from the river and pouring it in river itself raising both hands as high as possible.
Nanakji asked the barhman why he is taking water from the river and pouring it in
the river itself, just like that? brahman replied he is sending water to sun in the form of thunderbolts to help sun fight the asuras.

Next day brahman found nanak taking big vesselful water from river and looking in some particular direction, pouring the water into river itself, repeating this. the
whole water had become muddy. brahman got angry and scolded nanak for making water dirty and asked him why he was doing such foolish thing. Then Nanakji replied that he was tring to send water to his farms some miles away and said if brahman can send water to sun can he - Nanak - not sned water at least this short distance? the brahman understood and became follower of Nanakji.
 
M

mraghavan

Guest
Re: Sandyavandanam

Your question is a valid one and requires some detailed explanation. My mentor has taught me that our present day South Indian Brahman culture is really a synthesis of two ancient traditions, one rooted in Sanskrit, the other in Tamil.

The latter tradition is a rather pragmatic one, which sees the role of the Divine as being much more direct and unconditional. So faith and celebration replace complex ritual and ritualistic obligation. However, the Tamil side of our tradition does stress that cleanliness is important for a healthy life, and suggests that one should bathe three times a day, at sunrise, midday, and sunset. During this time, one could probably use the time to contemplate with gratitude for the blessings that the earth has bestowed on us. Indeed to honor the earth and to cool themselves further, our ancients would rub their foreheads with the mud from the riverbank, which later evolved into the religious symbols that we all wear today.

The belief in bathing has been superimposed with rituals of the Sanskrit tradition, which suggests that all people, especially Brahmans, as having responsibility in operating this world. They also stress that the gods only bless when they are appeased; hence our sacrament of "offering thunderbolts" results in the sun god blessing us with wisdom. Since even wisdom requires an offering to stay with us, our contemplation is not mere gratitude, but a focused meditation of request to beseech this wisdom to stay with us - the Gayathri Mantra.

Scholars, though, have maintained that true wisdom rests on mantrArtham, knowledge of the meaning of the mantra, rather than rote recitation. But, sadly, we have left that behind in favor of ritual.

My teacher has told me that only those rituals are necessary that bestow peace of mind. If meditation on the Gayathri and the ritual of sandhyavandanam give you such, then please continue forward. If not, then you may wish to consider leaving it for something that does encourage you towards this peace. Whatever be the case, know that it is the Supreme Being who Guides us in the choices in life.
 
OP
OP
S
Your question is a valid one and requires some detailed explanation. My mentor has taught me that our present day South Indian Brahman culture is really a synthesis of two ancient traditions, one rooted in Sanskrit, the other in Tamil.

The latter tradition is a rather pragmatic one, which sees the role of the Divine as being much more direct and unconditional. So faith and celebration replace complex ritual and ritualistic obligation. However, the Tamil side of our tradition does stress that cleanliness is important for a healthy life, and suggests that one should bathe three times a day, at sunrise, midday, and sunset. During this time, one could probably use the time to contemplate with gratitude for the blessings that the earth has bestowed on us. Indeed to honor the earth and to cool themselves further, our ancients would rub their foreheads with the mud from the riverbank, which later evolved into the religious symbols that we all wear today.

The belief in bathing has been superimposed with rituals of the Sanskrit tradition, which suggests that all people, especially Brahmans, as having responsibility in operating this world. They also stress that the gods only bless when they are appeased; hence our sacrament of "offering thunderbolts" results in the sun god blessing us with wisdom. Since even wisdom requires an offering to stay with us, our contemplation is not mere gratitude, but a focused meditation of request to beseech this wisdom to stay with us - the Gayathri Mantra.

Scholars, though, have maintained that true wisdom rests on mantrArtham, knowledge of the meaning of the mantra, rather than rote recitation. But, sadly, we have left that behind in favor of ritual.

My teacher has told me that only those rituals are necessary that bestow peace of mind. If meditation on the Gayathri and the ritual of sandhyavandanam give you such, then please continue forward. If not, then you may wish to consider leaving it for something that does encourage you towards this peace. Whatever be the case, know that it is the Supreme Being who Guides us in the choices in life.

Shri Raghavan Sir,

Thank you for your kind reply and also saying that i have valid question. But you have not said anything about the whole logiclessness of sandhya. I tried to bring that to notice of everyone.

Also you say "hence our sacrament of "offering thunderbolts" results in the sun god blessing us with wisdom". But as I was saying we are only offering water and praying for wisdom, as you say. there is no word for making that water into thunderbolt etc. you are silent on this.

again you say "Since even wisdom requires an offering to stay with us, our contemplation is not mere gratitude, but a focused meditation of request to beseech this wisdom to stay with us - the Gayathri Mantra." but this gayatri mantra again only asks sungod's power to guide our buddhi, is it not? there is no asking "wisdom to stay with us"-this seems little twisting to suit explanation, to me.

one more thing-you say the tamil-side tradition wants us to take bath three times a day. i have heard only two - morning and noon, no evening bath. is there any evidence to support? Ayurvedam strictly prohibits noon bath. there is also a saying in malayalam "ucchakkuli picchakkuli" means one who takes bath at noon becomes beggar! so, does it mean this Tamil-side tradition did not know ayurvedam?

in our sandhyavandanam or anything else, is there any mantram which says "thanksgiving" to any god for anything, i don't know-kindly tell me. only prayers are generally there in our brahmin system, asking for more and more and more of everything and praising every god skyhigh as parabrahmam but i don't know anything which really "thanks" god for anything. will be helpful if you will give some examples. some modern slokams might have been made for this but that is not going to support the argument.

As to your teacher saying "only those rituals are necessary that bestow peace of mind.", don't you think it is somewhat tricky thing? Tell me one ritual which gives peace of mind if the person does not first think "i will do such-and-such ritual, it will give me peace of mind", or he thinks "i have to do such-and-such a thing, otherwise it will be bad for me", then if he does that rite he feels satisfied and gets mental peace. even sleeping pills will not give you peaceful, natural sleep, my doctor says. so i think there is no ritual which has the real power of giving peace of mind; only common thing i find is mother singing even some meaningless 'thaalaattu' in whatever music she knows and the child sleeps - this ritual is effective, i have not found another.

many many brahmins do sandhyai even in 5 minutes and also claim they recite gayatri at least 28 times. one man told me he can finish (!) 108 gayatris in 10 minutes. i asked him how fast he will have to chant - it was a wonderful experience, to put mildly. all i could hear was something like"om boobvasva tatsavituvarnam bargodvasdimahidiyonapachodyat" without any stops or clarity! i don't know if this will give peace of mind and if this gives peace of mind, will that be OK as per your teacher.

Sir, you have not said anything about the "mandehaal" concept and its absurdity.

lastly, the word "sandhya" is supposed to mean joining or meeting of day and night. this noon business appears to me a copy from muslims, just to show we are no worse. don't you think so? is there anything to show that noon was spoken of as one sandhya in vedam, upanishad, etc.?
 
M

mraghavan

Guest
Sir

You are quite correct in your observations. My suggestion that mantra recitation is to keep the wisdom is incorrect. The mantra japam is intended to provide the wisdom through the sun.

Regarding how the sun turns water into thunderbolts, this is new to me. I am familiar with the idea of what the Vedas call "manthEhar", which is powerful asura that takes on the form of a small insect. One can imagine our ancients bathing in some lake or slow moving river, during which they may have noticed their view of the sun being clouded by gnats and mosquitoes that generally hover above stagnant water during the early morning. This may have led to the development of what is obviously a mythic story.

The obligation of pouring water to the sun would have to some explanation, and this is probably the only one to explain what is undoubtedly merely a superstitious act. The identification of the water being like a thunderbolt can be explained by observing that the sun's reflection in moving water would resemble a flash of light.

Ayurveda may say that bathing at Noon is not good; but the Tamils had their own sense of health, which basically involved keeping the body balanced between cool and hot. You may wish to peruse the "hot/cold" theory of Tamil culture according to Prof. Dennis McGilvray, Dean of Anthropology, University of Colorado, for more details.

Now, to your next point, of how one knows that a ritual offers peace of mind. Peace of mind is purely a psychological attitude, one that Tamil theologians suggests in having faith in One Supreme Being as one having utmost concern and offering unconditional affection towards this world. The rituals, taken from this perspective, can be used to remind one of this view. I personally have not found this in Sandhya Vandanam, but others have told me that they do. A key point is to know that whatever it is that gives you that connectio to the Divine, be it ritual, contemplation, study, or music, keep in mind that it is the Supreme Being who has Blessed you with that particular path. It is not your decision to make consciously, it simply just happens.

And, you are right; the Sanskrit tradition is rooted in trade off, in which something must be done to get something. While this is true of worldly life, I find it irrational to think that God operates that way.

I would appreciate your insights on this.
 
OP
OP
S
Sir

You are quite correct in your observations. My suggestion that mantra recitation is to keep the wisdom is incorrect. The mantra japam is intended to provide the wisdom through the sun.

Shri Raghavan Sir,

Thank you.

Regarding how the sun turns water into thunderbolts, this is new to me. I am familiar with the idea of what the Vedas call "manthEhar", which is powerful asura that takes on the form of a small insect. One can imagine our ancients bathing in some lake or slow moving river, during which they may have noticed their view of the sun being clouded by gnats and mosquitoes that generally hover above stagnant water during the early morning. This may have led to the development of what is obviously a mythic story.
With all due respects to our ancients, i still feel they were intelligent enough to make the difference between insects flying around and making them as demons attacking sun. IMO this myth might be a later form of primitive belief that the sun sets because he loses battle with darkness and for sun to come back the witch doctor performs some magic. [fyi there is one peculiar cult somewhere in Orissa - they don't believe in any god other than nature. in their main temple fire is worshipped. very early morning (night 3'o clock or so), huge fire is lit and bell rings. every one should come for darsan at that time.]

the brahmans must have taken over from witch doctor and as time passed the ritual came in evening also so that sun wins the battle of night and makes morning time because of thunderbolts sent by brahmans at sunset. the name Aruni island also may be that the demons are defeated - temporarily - and kept where there in arunodayam, only to attack sun again as sun sets.

madhyahnikam is a late comer and as i said, in imitation of muslim namaz practice. for justifying madhyanikam they said the mandehaals are always fighting with sun!!

The obligation of pouring water to the sun would have to some explanation, and this is probably the only one to explain what is undoubtedly merely a superstitious act. The identification of the water being like a thunderbolt can be explained by observing that the sun's reflection in moving water would resemble a flash of light.
could be but this is also very childish because any primitive man knows sun glittering in water. the name vajrayudham must have come from vedam and indra. so it is also a later concocted story, i feel.

Ayurveda may say that bathing at Noon is not good; but the Tamils had their own sense of health, which basically involved keeping the body balanced between cool and hot. You may wish to peruse the "hot/cold" theory of Tamil culture according to Prof. Dennis McGilvray, Dean of Anthropology, University of Colorado, for more details.
i will try to read and then say.

Now, to your next point, of how one knows that a ritual offers peace of mind. Peace of mind is purely a psychological attitude, one that Tamil theologians suggests in having faith in One Supreme Being as one having utmost concern and offering unconditional affection towards this world. The rituals, taken from this perspective, can be used to remind one of this view. I personally have not found this in Sandhya Vandanam, but others have told me that they do. A key point is to know that whatever it is that gives you that connectio to the Divine, be it ritual, contemplation, study, or music, keep in mind that it is the Supreme Being who has Blessed you with that particular path. It is not your decision to make consciously, it simply just happens.
i think we may not agree on this. i feel the supreme being or power just gives life and does not do anything till it withdrwas that life (kills) at prescribed time. whatever happens in between is one's own headache. but none of us is alone here, so it is a question of mixing of many, many people's choices, likes, dislikes and so on. nothing just simply happens, (as you say). it is difficult to me to believe that the supreme being blesses one person to be a beggar with disease but another to be billionaire with all comforts. how can such supreme being accepted? you will say then "karma". so karma is more powerful than supreme being and we should make idol of karma and worship that, not supreme power, is it not? all very mixed up and confusing if you think logically!!

And, you are right; the Sanskrit tradition is rooted in trade off, in which something must be done to get something. While this is true of worldly life, I find it irrational to think that God operates that way.

I would appreciate your insights on this.
I am not believing in separate tamil and sanskrit traditions, first of all. in all types of formula or tradition there is what you call "trade-off" with god. even in bhakti marga, one is asked to give himself to god - saranagati and all, is it not subtle trade-off? tell me one god concept where god comes to rescue an ordinary good fellow who does not do any form of worship, prayer, meditation, devotion or some such thing and say, simply toils in the field and then sleeps. did slaves have gods allowed?
 
M

mraghavan

Guest
It seems we are now entering the realm of polemic. Taking aside personal feelings, let us maintain some facts. From these, let us agree to disagree on some points, and feel free to draw our own conclusions.

1. Recent research has discovered that the first settlement of people into what is now India took place during the first wave of migration out of Africa into what is now Tamil Nadu. A later migration took place into the Northern regions of India by hunters and gatherers following the rivers. This second migration eventually reached South India, several millennia after the first wave. (Source: BBC's Story of India - Chapter 1, National Geographic's the Real Eve)

2. Archaeologists researching the origin of the Vedas have found the presence of homa kundas as far North as Russia, as well as elements of spoken and written Sanskrit as far North as Lithuania. But, the earliest known evidence for Vedic worship was in Turkmenistan, so this seems to be the source of the Vedic peoples who have come to be known as Aryans (Story of India, Chapter 1). There is also ample evidence to show that the use of fire to worship planets and constellations is almost identical in Greco-Roman culture, leading one author to suggest that one can literally put every early Vedic God into a Roman god's slot. (Seeing Through Texts, Fr. Francis X. Clooney)

3. There adequate evidence to suggest that the migration from the 1st wave into India had its own religious, political, and social systems, which were long established prior to the presence of Vedic religion. Such a philosophy was not rooted so much in the elements and planets (which are Vedic), but suggested the honoring of nature through 5 climate regions (mountains, plains, desert, etc.). Each of these regions had a predominant deity, but the three mentioned previously stood out amongst the others, Murugan, ThirumAl, and Amman. All three were seen to be present in the place which they were identified with, and were said to be active agents in the lives of the community (note that Karma is not mentioned anywhere here, as the Tamils had no sincere belief in it). (Source: The Relevance of Tamil Literature to Azhwar Philosophy, S. Kannan, Dravidian India by ??)

4. Saranagathi is not a physical or conscious act. It is simply a maturity into accepting that the Supreme Being is the sole responsible charge for this world, such that our individual actions and efforts are irrelevant, even our very existence rests on His Grace (discourse of Prof. M. S. Rangachari (not recorded) and Srilata Raman, Sri Vaishnava Concepts of Prapatti, Tamil Cats and Sanskrit Monkeys)
 
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