[Advaita-l] Advaita-l Digest, Vol 51, Issue 6

Sridhar sridhar at amritapuri.amrita.edu
Tue Jul 17 20:04:03 CDT 2007

                                 || Aum Sri Gurubhyo Namah ||

Aum Namah Shivaya Sir

That was very good to know it for oneself.

One must even be very fortunate to be associated with great souls and serve them to purify oneself.

Harenama, harernama, harerama iva kevalam. . . .

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Today's Topics:

   1. Overcoming Death (Jaldhar H. Vyas)


Message: 1
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 00:26:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at braincells.com>
Subject: [Advaita-l] Overcoming Death
To: Advaita-L <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
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Today, I heard the most tragic news.  A woman we know who was 7 months 
pregnant suddenly and completely unexpectedly died.  The baby could not be 
saved.  Her parents are in shock having the misfortune of outliving two 
generations.  Her 4 year old daughter faces a life without her mother. 
Her entire family is griefstricken and in mourning.

At such times when we are overcome with sadness it is customary to read 
and find some solace from the Preta Kalpa of the Garuda Purana. Actually 
an abridged version of the same called Garuda Purana Saroddhara by Pandit 
Navanidhirama is read. It tells of reincarnation and the various heavens 
and hells which are the fate of a person after he dies, the various 
rituals to be observed during the shraddha and other topics related to the 
subject of death.  Its last chapter is called mokShadharmanirUpaNam "the 
description of the means of Liberation"  This translation is mostly taken 
from the one in "Sacred Books of the Hindus" with some amendation.

Garuda[1] said:

I have heard from you O ocean of mercy! of the journeys of the soul due 
to ignorance in samsara.  I would now like to hear about the 
means of eternal Liberation.  O Bhagawan! O God of Gods! compassionate to 
those who seek refuge, in this terrible Samsara[2], unsubstantial, 
with no end of miseries, the endless multitudes of beings dwell in various 
bodies to be born and to die.  No end is known.  Always miserable in this 
world, no one is ever known to be satisfied.  O Lord of Moksha! tell me by 
what means they may be released.

Shri Bhagawan said:

Listen Tarkshya[3] and I will explain what you have asked which by even 
hearing releases a man from samsara.  There is a God, Shiva[4], who is the 
form of Parabrahman, partless, all-knowing, all-doing, Lord of all, pure, 
and without a Second.  Self-illuminated, without end or beginning, beyond 
the beyond[5], nirguna[6], truth, consciousness, and bliss[7].  That which is 
known as the jiva is but a part of Him.  These like sparks from a fire, because 
of their beginningless avidya, are seperated and encased in bodies by 
beginningless karma.  They are bound in forms of good and evil which give 
happiness and misery, resulting in differences of caste and status, health 
and length of life, and the wealth and fortune born of their actions.  But 
in every life they also have a higher subtle body[8] O Bird, which lasts 
until Liberation.

The Unmoving [creatures such as trees], worms [and other created creatures][9],
goats[10], birds, [wild] animals, Man, the Dharma-born[11], the Gods, and the
liberated[12], according to their order, wear out and cast aside bodies 
thousands of times, until by good deeds they become a man and if they become a
jnani they attain Liberation.

The embodied in the 8,400,000 bodies they pass through before attaining 
human birth, do not have the capacity to apprehend the truth.  Through 
millions upon millions of births, through the accumulation of punya, one 
is fortunate to obtain a human birth.  He who having with great difficulty 
obtained a human body, does not help himself over the step to 
Liberation--who in this world is more sinful than he?  The man who having 
obtained this highest birth and superior senses does not understand what 
benefits the atma is a slayer of Brahman.

Without a body, nobody obtains the goals of life therefore one should 
guard ones body as wealth and practice Dharma.  It is the means to 
everything.  Once lost, a village can be attained again, a field again, 
wealth again, a house again, good and evil actions again, but this body 
never again[13].  Thus the wise always do that which preserves the body. 
Even a leper does not wish to give it up.  The body should be guarded for 
the sake of Dharma.  Dharma should be guarded for the sake of Jnana and 
Jnana for the sake of union with the Highest--then one is soon liberated.

If one does not guard oneself against harm who will?  Therefore one should 
look to ones own benefit.  He who does not take precautions against the 
diseases of Hell while here is like a person afflicted with diseases who 
travels to a place where there are no doctors.  What will he do?

Old age attacks like a tigress.  Life slips away like water from a broken 
pot.  Diseases attack like deadly foes.  Therefore one should strive for 
the Highest.  So long as misery does not come, so long as calamity does 
not befall, as long as the senses are not decayed so long should he strive 
for the Highest.  So long as the body lasts, so long should Truth be 
pursued.  It is a stupid man who digs a well when his house is already on 
fire.  When the time of death shall be is not known by the embodied beings 
trapped in samsara.  Alas! caught between misery and happiness,  men do 
not know what is to their advantage.  Though observing the newly born, 
the sick, the recently deceased, those whom calamity has struck and the
miserable, people are never concerned, being drunk from the liquor of 
delusion. Even a 100 years of life is very little and half of that is 
sleep, half of that in turn is idleness, and even that which remains is
unfruitful due to the miseries of childhood, disease, and old age.  He does
not do that which should be done, when he should be awake he sleeps and when he 
should be careful he is reckless.  Alas! what man is not crippled this 

How shall the jiva that has taken a body which is like foam on a wave and 
is attached to fleeting objects be free from fear?  He who does not know 
what is good for him thinks the harmful is beneficial, the impermanant 
permanant, and the evil good.  Though seeing he falters; though hearing he 
does not understand; though reading he does not know, bewildered by the 
divine Maya.  This universe is immersed in the boundless ocean of death, 
though beset by the crocodiles of death, disease, and old age, he still 
does not understand.  Time though it erodes all with each moment passes 
unnoticed, just as an unfired clay pot dissolves in water imperceptibly. 
Air may be enclosed, akasha may be split, waves may be bound but life 
cannot be made permanent.  Earth collapses over time, even Mt. Meru is 
reduced to dust.  What shall be said of the body?  The wolf of Death 
forcibly slays this lamb of a mortal while he bleats, "My children! My 
wife!, My wealth! My relatives!  This has been done and that remains to be 
done." While he babbles like this Death overpowers him.  "It must be done 
tomorrow!  It must be done today!  In the morning! In the afternoon" Will 
Death care if ones desires have been done or not done?  Jiva!  You will 
soon face Death whose coming is indicated by old age and who has an army 
of dreadful diseases.  Will you not look for a saviour?  Death preys upon 
the man afflicted with needles of thirst, bitten by the serpents of 
sense-objects and baked in the fire of attraction and repulsion.  Death 
attacks children, the young, the old, even the embryo in the womb.  Such 
is the world of creatures.

The jiva leaving his body goes to the house of Yama[14].  There, what is the 
use of association with mother, father, son, and others?  Samsara is truly 
the root cause of misery.  He who is in it is constantly afflicted with 
misery.  He who abandons it becomes happy--otherwise never.  Samsara the 
source of misery, the root of all calamity should be abandoned at once.  A 
man bound in fetters of iron or wood may be freed but from the fetters of 
son and wife, never.  So long as the jiva makes attachments pleasant to 
the mind, so long shall the dagger of sorrow pierce his heart.

People are destroyed every day by the desire for great wealth.  Alas!  A 
curse on the food of the senses which ruin and steal away the senses. 
Just as the fish greedy for flesh does not see the iron hook, so the 
embodied greedy for pleasure do not see the snares of Yama.

Those men who do not understand what is good and what is not good for them 
who constantly pursue evil courses and are intent on nothing more than the 
filling of the belly, are destined for Hell O Bird.  Sleep, sex, and 
eating are common to all creatures but the possessor of knowledge is called
Man.  The one who is devoid of knowledge is called Beast.  Foolish men are 
tormented at the break of day by natures calls; at noon by hunger and 
thirst; and in the night by passion and sleep.  All these beings who are 
attached to their bodies, posessions, family, and other things, are born 
and die in ignorance alas!   Therefore should attachment be shunned 
always.  If it is felt it is not possible to give up everything, 
friendship with the great should be cultivated as the remedy to 
attachment.  The man who has not attachment to the good, viveka, and 
purity is blind.  How will he avoid treading evil paths?  All those 
delusional men who turn away from the Dharma of their Varnas and Ashramas 
and do not understand the highest Dharma will perish fruitlessly.

But there are some who are intent on the details of ceremonies and 
attached to the practice of vratas [without viveka.]  These 
imposters go about enveloped in ignorance.  The men who are attached to 
rituals alone are satisfied with mere names, deluded by the repetition of 
mantras, oblations and other things and dazzled by elaborate rites.  The 
fools bewildered by My Maya desire to obtain the invisible by [vows of] 
eating once, fasts and other vows, and by the emaciation of the body.  Of 
those who have no viveka, what Liberation can there be by bodily torture 
alone? What great serpent is killed by beating the anthill alone?[15] 
There are hypocrites who put on appearences and wearing matted hair and 
antelope skins wander about like Jnanis and even trick people.  He who is 
attached to the pleasures of Samsara saying "I am a knower of Brahman" 
while remaining ignorant of Karma and Brahman should be shunned like the 
lowest outcaste.  Donkeys also walk about among people in forests and in 
houses naked and unashamed.  Does this mean they are free from attachment? 
If men are liberated by earth or ashes alone, does it mean the dogs who 
always live amongst earth and ashes are liberated?  Jackals, rats, deer 
and others which feed upon grass, leaves, and water and always live in 
forests--should we consider them to be ascetics?  Crocodiles, fish, and 
others live their entire lives in the holy waters of Ganga--are these 
Yogis?  Pigeons eat stones and Chataka birds do not drink water from the 
earth--are these observers of vows?  Therefore this class of observances 
is just a show to make pleasure for people.  O Lord of Birds! direct 
apprehension of the truth alone is the cause of Liberation.[16]

Fallen into the great well of the 6 philosophies[17] O Bird, the dumb do 
understand the paramartha[18] bound as they are in the snares of animalism. 
They are tossed about in the dread ocean of Vedas and shastras; caught in 
the six waves they remain pseudo-scholars.  He knows the Vedas, Shastras, 
and Puranas but does not know the Paramartha, that imitators speech is 
like the speech of a crow.  "This is known; this must be known." thus 
bewildered by anxiety they read the shastras day and night but turn away 
from the Paramartha.  The fools garlanded in poetry and prose miserable 
with anxiety remain with senses bewildered.  Men trouble themselves 
variously but the Paramartha is otherwise; they explain it in other ways 
but the purport of the shastras is otherwise.  They talk about the 
greatest experiences not having realized them themselves.  Some have even 
stopped teaching and become engrossed in their own egos.  They repeat the 
Vedas and Shastras and argue about them with one another but they do not 
understand the paramartha like a spoon doesn't understand the flavor of 
food.  The fool not understanding that Brahman is seated in the self 
is confused and misled by the shastras--a foolish goatherd with the young 
goat under his arm peers into a well[19].  Verbal knowledge cannot destroy the 
illusions of Samsara.  Darkness doesn't disappear by talking about lamps. 
Reading, for a man without wisdom is like a mirror for the blind.  Thus 
for those who have understanding, Shastras are only a pointer to true 
knowledge.[20]  "This is known; this must be known"--he wishes to hear 
everything.  If one lives for 1000 divine years[21] he cannot reach the end of 
the shastras.  The shastras are numerous and life is brief and there are 
millions of obstacles; therefore the essence should be understood like the 
swan seperates milk from water.  Having practised the Vedas and Shastras 
and having known Truth, the wise man should abandon all the shastras just 
as one rich in grain abandons straw.  Just as there is no use for food to 
one who lives on amrit[22] so there is no use for Shastras O Tarkshya for one 
who knows Truth.[23]

There is no Liberation by study of the Vedas nor by the reading of the 
Shastras.  Liberation is by Jnana alone, not otherwise, O Son of Vinata[24]. 
The Ashramas are not the cause of Liberation nor are the Darshanas nor are 
any actions.  Jnana alone is the cause.  One word from the Guru gives 
Liberation; all other learning is pretense.  Among thousands of plants the 
Sanjivana[25] is best.  The Advaita [Brahman] acclaimed as auspicious is 
beyond any effort of action and is to be known by the teaching of the Guru 
not by the studying of even millions of texts alone.  Jnana is said to be 
of two kinds Agama[26] and Viveka[27].  Shabda Brahman[28] is of the nature of
Agama.  Parabrahman[29] is reached by Viveka.  Some prefer Advaita and some
prefer Dvaita but they do not understand the one reality beyond Dvaita and 
Advaita.[30]  Two phrases make bondage and Liberation, "mine" and "not mine." 
The jiva who says "mine" is bound; by saying "not mine" he is released. 
That is the karma that does not bind, that is the jnana that gives 
release.  Other karma leads to worry; other knowledge to sophistry.

So long as actions are performed, so long as the impressions of Samsara 
remain, so long as the senses are fickle, how can there be any realization 
of Truth.  So long as there is pride of body, so long as there is the 
sense of "mineness", so long as there is frantic striving, so long as 
there is fixation on future plans.  So long as there is not stability of 
mind, so long as there is not meditation on the import of the Shastras, so 
long as there is not love for the Guru, how can there be realization of 

As long as one has not realized the Truth, one should diligently do tapa, 
vratas, tirth yatra, recitation [of mantras], [sacrificial] oblations, 
worship, and study of the Vedas and Shastras.  If one desires Liberation 
for oneself, O Tarkshya, he should by every effort, always, and under all 
circumstances be attached to Truth.  One who is tormented by the three 
miseries should resort to the shade of the tree of Liberation whose 
flowers are Dharma and Jnana, and whose fruits are Heaven and Liberation. 
Therefore from the mouth of the blessed Guru the Truth of the nature of 
the Atma should be known. By Jnana a jiva is easily released from the 
terrible bondage of Samsara.

Listen! I will tell you know about the final actions of the knower of 
Truth by which he obtains Liberation which is called Brahmanirvana.  His 
last days approaching, the man rid of fear should cut off with the sword 
of detachment the desires connected with the body.  Courageously 
abandoning home, he wanders offering water at the holy places and 
meditates alone on a pure seat prepared in the prescribed manner.  He 
should mentally practise the supreme three-fold pure word of Brahman[31]. He 
should with breath controlled, restrain his mind, never forgetting the 
Brahmabija[32].  With reason as the charioteer he should withdraw the senses 
from the sense-objects with the mind and he should fixate the mind agitated 
by Karma, on the Purest with his intelligence.  He should meditate "I am
Brahman the highest abode.  I am Brahman the highest goal."  having realized
this he places the Self in the Self.[33]  He who when leaving the body 
utters the one-lettered Brahman Om, remembering Me goes to the highest

Hypocrites devoid of Jnana and Vairagya[35] do not go there but I will tell you 
about the wise who go to that goal.  Free from pride and delusion, having 
conquered attachment, always abiding in Brahman, with desires overcome, 
released from the pairs of opposites[36], they go undeluded on that eternal 
path.  He who bathes in the water of Manasa sarovar[37] which removes the 
impurities of attraction and repulsion, in the lake of Jnana, in the 
waters of Truth, he truly obtains Liberation.  He who expecting to die 
leaves his home and dwells in a sacred Tirth or dies in a place of 
Liberation[38], he truly obtains Liberation.  Ayodhya, Mathura, Gaya, Kashi, 
Kanchi, Avantika, and Dwarka these seven cities are known as the givers of 

This eternal way of Liberation has been described to you O Tarkshya! By 
hearing it with Jnana and Vairagya, one attains Liberation.  The knowers of 
Truth attain Liberation, the Dharmic people attain Heaven, sinners go to 
Hell, and the birds and other living things reincarnate.[39]


[1] Garuda is the vahana (mount) of Vishnu Bhagavan and the king of birds. 
This purana is a conversation between Garuda and Bhagavan.

[2] Samsara is the ever changing miserable delusion we mistake as 

[3] A name of Garuda because He is the enemy of snakes.

[4] Or shiva means auspicious so "there is an auspicious God..."

[5] "Beyond" implies a system of measurement.  What is beyond all 
measurement is beyond the beyond.

[6] Without definable characteristics

[7] Sat, Chit, Ananda

[8] Linga sharira

[9] It was the ancient belief that worms etc. were spontaneously generated 
from rotting meat, stagnant water etc.

[10] And by implication all domesticated animals.

[11] Beings like Gandharvas, Yakshas etc.

[12] In this context it refers to the divine sages like Narada, Sanatakumaras

[13] A slight exaggeration.  One who falls from human birth can regain it 
but its a long and arduous process.  Better to employ the good fortune of 
this life.

[14] Yama is the God of Death.  Other chapters in this book have described 
in detail the world of Yama.

[15] A common motif in Sanskrit literature is a snake living under an anthill.

[16] Bhagawan is hardly anti-ritual having described them in detail 
earlier in this book but here he is condemning those who observe the 
letter of the rituals but not their spirit.

[17] There are traditionally said to be 6 darshanas or systems of 
philosophy though actually there are a lot more.  Vedanta is one of them 
so does this mean Bhagawan is saying don't study it?  If one just takes it 
as one of six or many alternative views to be argue and bicker about then 
no, it is not useful.  But if it is taken as the path to Liberation then 
it is vital to study it.

[18] The highest good.  Brahman which is unsurpassed.

[19] The foolish goatherd thought one of his animals was missing so he 
looked in the well to check if it had fallen in not realizing it was in 
his own arms.

[20] The shastras cannot "produce" Brahman.  But they can destroy the 
ignorance that veils It.

[21] One year of the Gods equals 360,000 human years.

[22] The nectar of immortality.

[23] In this passage Bhagawan is not saying don't study the shastras but 
don't do so in a pedantic way treating them as just a collection of dry 
facts.  This kind of study is fruitless.

[24] Vinata is the mother of Garuda and birds.  Hence one of His names 
is Vainateya.  She is one of 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati who 
married Maharshi Kashyapa.

[25] In the Ramayana when Indrajit killed Lakshmana, Hanuman brought this 
herb which restored him to life.

[26] "That which comes down [from tradition]" A class of sacred texts or 
as in this case, sacrd texts in general.

[27] The ability to discriminate between the real and unreal.

[28] Brahman in the form of speech.

[29] Brahman in Its highest form.

[30] here dvaita and advaita do not refer to the philosophies of Madhva 
and Shankaracharya but those who prefer dvaita prefer to seperate out and 
segregate the unreal whereas those who prefer advaita prefer to see the 
unity of all things.  But actually, to understand the reality beyond, both 
approaches are inadequate.  Only that twofold Jnana will do the job.

[31] Omkara which is threefold because it can be phonetically broken down 
to a, u, m.

[32] Omkara

[33] I.e. he recognizes the atma is not something external but his own 
self and it is the same as Brahman.

[34] This is a direct quote of Gita 8.13

[35] Detachment from Samsara.

[36] heat and cold, light and dark etc.

[37] The holy lake on Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas.

[38] The 7 holy cities mentioned in the next shloka.

[39] There are several more shlokas which I have omitted which merely wrap 
up the chapter and the book.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>


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End of Advaita-l Digest, Vol 51, Issue 6
              || Aum shAnthih shAnthih shAnthih ||

srI pAda sEvAyAm


 || Aum lokAh samasthAh sukhino bhavanthu ||


mAtA cha pArvatI dEvi pitA dEvo mahEshvaraH |
       bhAndavA shiva bhaktAshcha svadEsho bhuvanatrayam ||
                                       -- srI shankara bhagavathpAda

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