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

viswanathan n vishy39 at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 19 02:40:43 CDT 2007

Shri Vyasji

Thanks a lot for such a splendid presentation of Garuda Puarana in nutshell. 
Till now I was thinking that Garuda Purana is mere ritualistic recitation in 
dwaitic tradition. Thanks again to make me understand that it also contains 
nector of Jnana.

But I didnt understand why you tried defending the rituals/ shastras in 
footnotes when things were so clear in the body itself. I always felt  those 
are mere means and once you understood "The Truth" even those are to dropped 
just as forgetting the boat after crossing the river. No point in getting 
attached to the boat and carrying it, isnt it?

Thanks again and pardon me if my views are wrong

with Pranams

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>Subject: Advaita-l Digest, Vol 51, Issue 6
>Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 12:00:02 -0500
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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>
>Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.64.0707161226010.19655 at jaldhar-laptop>
>Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed
>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 
>known as the jiva is but a part of Him.  These like sparks from a fire, 
>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 
>goats[10], birds, [wild] animals, Man, the Dharma-born[11], the Gods, and 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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]. 
>should with breath controlled, restrain his mind, never forgetting the
>Brahmabija[32].  With reason as the charioteer he should withdraw the 
>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 
>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 
>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, 
>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, 
>[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 
>[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

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