Practical Vedanta

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Tue May 18 19:57:24 CDT 1999

Sankaran Panchapagesan <panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU> wrote:

>        My other question was basically to Vaidya Sundaram. He said
>he had enthu to do social service, etc. he placed greated weight on
>Maharishi's words, and concentrated on AtmavicAra instead. But as
long as
>one has not renounced all desires and the world (sannyAsa) such
>is not valid because dharma includes social service, and as long as
one is
>not doing AtmavicAra full time, by slowly conquering and eliminating
>desires and taking sannyAsa, one has to do social service as a part
>dharma. Otherwise philosophising at the jnani level would necessarily
>constred as escapism, as Madhavan Srinivasan did, right? (don't take
>offense, but such is the perspective from outside).

What is social service? If it's helping others to the extent possible
it's good. I presume all of us here try to do that. If you are
thinking about rewriting rules in smR^itis, etc, then advaita is not
for you.

Further there is no "GYAni level" here. A GYAni has no conception of
differences, much less social service. A few quotes from Ramana
Maharshi who you seem to like:

"The smritis say something. They are not apprpriate now. I will reform
the world and rewrite smritis." Saying so, people are cutting capers
in the world from time immemorial. Such reformers have come and gone;
but the ancient smritis still stand. Why waste time over such matters?
Let each one mind his own bussiness. All will be well. (page 138,

D: I am trying to follow instructions. But caste distinction is
painful. It must go.
M: To whom does it cause pain?
M: It is you who say it. There are countries where there are no
distinctions of caste. Are they free from trouble? There are wars,
internecine struggles, etc. Why do you not remedy the evils there?
D: There are troubles here also.
M: Differences are always there. There are not only human beings, but
also plants, animals, etc. The state of affairs cannot be helped.

[ ... ]

M: There is diversity in the world. A Unity runs through the
diversity. The self is the same in all. There is no difference in
spirit. All the differences are external and superfecial.

[ ... ]

D: The people feel the injustice of caste distinction. It must be
rooted out.
M: You can *individually* arrive at a state where such distinctions
are not perceived and be happy. How can you hope to reform the world?
Even if you try you cannot succeed.

My comments: If you want to help people in society, go ahead and do
it. Why think others must follow your foot-steps? Further note that
it's not from the stand point of a GYAni that the Maharshi is
speaking. It's from a sAdhakas viewpoint.  Bottom line: The state of
no distinctions can be arrived at only by self-realization. If you
think it's a cop-out, so be it. Then, it's for you to realize that
advaita is NOT, I repeat *NOT* for you, and move on to something else.

You also seem to have not realized Anands point. If  some people
cannot follow their duties, does it mean everyone else does not? Or
does it mean everyone else should start doing "social service" just
because some people do not follow their duties? That's absurd, to say
the least.


>From  Tue May 18 21:10:00 1999
Message-Id: <TUE.18.MAY.1999.211000.0400.>
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 21:10:00 -0400
Reply-To: ramakris at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: shrI daxiNAmUrti: the symbolism and his worship - 5
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Explanation of the symbolism:

Tradition and purANa-s describe the appearance of the Lord as follows:
The four putra-s of Lord brahma sanaka, sanatkumara, sananda and saunaka
were born of Lord Brahma's mind to help him in creation. However, the
four R^ishhi-s were pure of mind and were not interested in worldly
things. They rightly held that the world was impermanent and desired to
know that which is permanent, i.e., brahman. Since their minds were
pure, the omniscient Ishvara assumed the form of a youth named
daxiNAmurti and sat at the root of a Banyan tree. Sitting at the root of
the tree, the Lord silently instructed the four R^ishhi-s. *The root of
the Banyan tree* indicates the origin of the universe, i.e., brahman.
taittirIya upanishhad says

   yato vA imAni bhUtAni jAyante | yena jAtAni jIvanti |
   yatprayantyabhisaM vishanti |

   [From which these beings are born. By which, when born, they live
    In which, when departing they enter]

   tadviGYAya | tadbrahmeti |
   [That is to be known. That is brahman]

By being *motionless* he indicates the senses are completely under his
control. According to yogic texts, if the senses are not under complete
control, it is impossible to attain the state of physical
motionlessness. Since his form is free from any forced rigidity, it
indicates that this his _natural_ state. The mANDukya upanishhad also
says: "*shAntam* shivam advaitam". The casual posture can also be
obviously interpreted as his Lordship (Ishvaratva) of the universe. The
*asura*, also called the apasmArapurushha, indicates the ego who he
alone can subdue.

The significance of *bhasma* is briefly stated in the atharvashira
upanishhad (69). The bR^ihajjAbAla, bhasmajAbAla and kAlAgnirudra
upanishhad-s are completely about bhasma, the methodology of wearing it,
results of wearing it and its philosophical significance. This topic is
also explained in the li.nga and shiva purANa-s. Obviously, the bhasma
has a very deep significance, and has various levels of meaning. Here
I'll just quote the reknown ASU (69):

   agniriti bhasma | [ (What is) Fire, (is) ash ]
   vAyuriti bhasma | [ (What is) Wind, (is) ash ]
   jalamiti bhasma | [ (What is) Water, (is) ash ]
   sthalamiti bhasma | [ (What is) Earth, (is) ash ]
   vyometi bhasma | [ (What is) Ether, (is) ash ]
   sarvaM ha vA idaM bhasma | [ All this (i.e, the universe) is ash ]
   mana ityetAni chaxU.nshi bhasmAni | [(What is) The mind, and these
                                                eyes (are) ashes]

If things which look different are completely burnt, they lose their
differences in form and attain a similar nature, i.e., they become
ashes. Similarly, the universe seems to be made up of different elements
like fire, wind, etc. The mind and the sense organs apparently perceive
it and seem to be different from the universe. However, this difference
is only an illusion and they are truly non-different from the
substratum, namely Atman. In this case the "fire" which burns up the
name and form in the universe is the intuitive realization of Atman.
After this intuitive realization, "the ash" or residue which is left
over is brahman, since any illusion requires a substratum. Thus, the
bhasma symbolically shows the great advaitic truth, "brahma satya
jaganmityA". Note: The short upanishhad kAlAgnirudra-upanishhad gives
various levels of intepretations of bhasma and is worth reading

[to be continued in next post]

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