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Our Temples

“bhruvau bhugne kinchid-bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini
tvadiye netrabhyam madhukara rucibhyam dhrtagunam
dhanur-manye savyetarakara-grhitam ratipateh
prakosthe mustau ca sthagayati nigudhantaram ume.”

“O Uma! In Thy slightly knit eyebrows, intent on dispelling the world’s fears, I imagine the bow of Rati’s lord (Manmatha), strung with the string of Thy shining bee-like pair of eyes, held in his left hand, with the middle parts of both concealed by the forearm and the clenched fist covering them.”
- Saundaryalahari, verse 47
In this verse of the Saundaryalahari composed by our Acharya, the eyebrows of the Divine Mother are described.

Sri Acharya went to Kailasa and by the grace of Isvara obtained along with the five Lingas the Saundaryalahari consisting of a hundred verses containing mantras and a description of the Mother’s form from the crown to the feet. As he was bringing the script of the poem, Nandikesvara obstructed him and succeeded in seizing fifty-nine verses. Sri Acharya was able to retrieve forty-one verses which contain the mantras and completed the poem by adding his own composition of fifty-nine verses describing the divine form from the crown to the feet. In these fifty-nine also there are mantras embedded. Of these, the present verse praises that aspect of the Mother’s form which dispels the fears of all the worlds.

For removing fear, it is usual to knit the eyebrows slightly. Therefore, in the verse, the Mother is described as being “intent on dispelling the world’s fears”. When the brows are knit for the sake of removing fear,they bend like a bow. If the brows are knit out of anger, the brows will be raised. Then, they will not resemble a bow. Because the Mother knits the brows slightly for the sake of removing fear, they bend like a bow. They are seen to resemble a bow. So, the Acharya says, “bhruvau bhugne kinchit”: “bhugna” means, “slightly knit”. The two eyes extend upto the ears. The black pupils shine like the black-bees. If it were asked, whose bow is this, the reply is that it is the bow of the Lord of Rati, Manmatha. Because he is the lord of beauty, his bow also is beautiful. The poets describe that bow as ikshu (sugar/cane). The string for that bow is constituted by bees. Thus, the pupils of the eyes that extend upto the ears are said to be like the bees that constitute the bow-string of Manmatha. In another verse of the Saundaryalahari, Sri Acharya says, “maurvi madhukaramayi” (bow-string made of black-bees, v.6). If the knit brows and the pupils of the eyes are compared to the bow and bow-string respectively, there is some difficulty, so thinks the Acharya. There is a region in between the two eyebrows. And between the two eyes there is the nose. These two partially hide the bow and the string. The Acharya gives a thought to this.

There are ten names of Arjuna:

arjunah, phalgunah, parthah, kiriti, svethavahanah,
bibhatsur, vijayah, krishnah, savyasachi, dhananjayah.

It is usual to recite these ten names when it thunders. This is because thunder is Indra’s bow, and Arjuna was Indra’s son. Of these ten names, Savyasachi is one. The meaning of this name is “one who can shoot arrows even with the left hand”. Ordinarily, one holds the bow with the left hand and shoots the arrow with the right hand. But Arjuna’s distinctive greatness was that he could hold the bow with the right hand and shoot with the left hand also. In the same way, Manmatha too is Savyasachi. If the bow is held with the right hand and the arrow with the left we know how it would be. So are the Mother’s eye-brows and eyes. Thus says the Acharya. Mushti is closed fist. Prakoshta is the forearm near the wrist. Savyetaragrhitam means “held with the hand other than the left”. Here the description is “like the bow held by Manmatha with the right hand”. It is when the bow is held with the right hand that the closed fist and the forearm will hide respectively the middle part of the bow and of the string. This will not be so if the bow is held with the left hand. Therefore it is that the Acharya says "savyetaragrhitam." The region between the eye-brows and the part of the nose between the two eyes are like the fist and the wrist.

There is a place of pilgrimage called Madhuvana. In Tamil, it is known as Nannilam. The legend in regard to this holy place is that there the bees offer worship to the Mahalinga. Till today there is seen a honey-comb in the temple there. That is why the place is called Madhuvana.

There was a Chola king by name Kochengat Chola. “Ko” means a king who wears a crown. “Chengan” means “red eyes”. In Sanskrit, he is referred to as “Raktaksha Chola”. That Chola king was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He undertook renovation works in regard to several temples. For such works the name is “yanai-erat-thiruppani”. This means “reconstructing the temple-disposition in such a way that elephants will not be able to enter”. From this it can be inferred that in former days the elephants could go in. In ancient times, great sages were worshipping the Mahalinga for their own sake on the banks of rivers, in forest regions and underneath trees. In those times, other people did not go near. But, in the Kali-age, in order to make available the worship of Lord Siva to others also, the kings arranged to build temples in accordance with Agamic rules. The kings made provision for those performing Siva Pooja daily. Thus, in places where the sages had been worshipping by themselves the Mahalinga, the kings built temples and appointed for worship those priests who had received the necessary initiation (diksha). Because in the Dharma Sastras, it is laid down that Brahmins should not worship for monetary emoluments, the arrangement for a section to receive initiation was made. Thus, in all of these regions, the Siva temples were constructed by the kings later on for the Mahalingas which were being worshipped in those temples according to the Agamic rules. In each of the temples, even today, there is to be seen a sthala-vriksha, a sacred tree. There are also such names as Thillai-Vanam and Tejani-Vanam. In Thiruvanaikkaval there is the jambu tree; in Kanchi there is a mango tree; in Mallikarjuna, Putarjuna and Madhyarjuna the tree is Arjuna. These are the Sthala Vrikshas in the places mentioned.

When the renovation work was done for the Thiruvanaikkaval temple, there was only a bark left of the jambu tree. The Chettiyars of Kanadukattan, who did the renovation were afraid that , that bark too might go, and so they had the ekaadasa rudrabhishekam performed for it. By the power of mantra that bark began to sprout and has become a tree again. Even now, there is a place called Vennaval near Thiruvanaikkaval,. Naval is the Tamil name for the jambu tree.

Why did Kochengat Chola undertake the renovation work referred to as yanai-erat-thiruppani? He began to hate the elephant. In those days, if there was hatred for some one, it used to be said that, one should forego devotion to Siva. That, they thought, was the greatest harm that could befall one. Why did this king hate the elephant? In regard to this, there is a legend. We should believe the sthala puranas (legends about holy places). Just because some sthala puranas might have been fabrications, we should not think all the legends are so.

In the Devaram hymns, the incidents connected with the holy places have been referred to. These incidents are related in the Puranas. The age of the Devaram is about one thousand and five hundred years by now. Relying on the evidence, which is much more ancient, the saints who sang the Devaram hymns recorded those incidents. Those who followed in the post-Devaram period have also alluded to the same incidents. Even now there are corroborative indications. In Thiruvanaikkaval, there is still a jambu tree. Beneath the tree, there is a Linga and figures, by the side of it, of an elephant in the pose of performing abhisheka, and of a spider nearby and seals of copper plate inscriptions. Similarly, in Madhuvana there is to be seen a honey-comb. The symbolic representations at Thiruvanaikkaval indicate the legend connected with that place, which is as follows: In those ancient times, there was a sage by name Jambu, who was performing austerities at that place. Because he was performing austerities lost in meditation for a every long time, an anthill covered his body, and plants and creepers grew as also a jambu tree. The Mahalinga, which he had been worshipping, was now being worshipped by a spider. Since the Mahalinga was in the open, the spider was weaving constantly a web over it so that the sun would not fall on it. An elephant was performing abhisheka to the Mahalinga everyday with the water from the Kaveri river brought in its trunk. By the spilling of the water, the spider’s web was getting destroyed. The spider got annoyed at this. It entered the elephant’s trunk and bit it. In Ayurveda it is said that the poison of luta is the most harmful. Luta means spider. The elephant killed the spider by razing it to the ground, and it also died on account of the poison. The spider was reborn as Kochengat Chola. Because the spider’s eyes were red with anger at the time of death, it was reborn as the Chola king with red eyes. Hence, the king was angry at the sight of elephants. And, he had done yanai-erat-thiruppani for seventy temples. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His devotion to Siva has been praised even by Alwars in the Periya Thirumozhi. While mentioning that Kochengan built the Vishnu temple at Nachiyarkoil, it has been stated that he was the builder of many Siva temples.

"Place with devotion on your head the sacred feet of the Lord who is the consort of Nappinnai with roseate lips and who, in the past (at the time of His incarnation as Parasurama), destroyed all the kings and overcoming the might of enemy king, Karta Veeryarjuna, in the battle-field and cut off his head. Go to the temple at Thirunaraiyur which was visited for worship by the Chola kings of noble lineage who built seventy temples for the Lord with eight shoulders whose lips repeat the Purushasuktha of the Veda.”
-- Periya Thirumozhi, 6, 6, 8.


Of the fourteen dharma-sthanas (the sources of knowledge of dharma), six are auxiliaries, four are sub-auxiliaries, and the Vedas are four, namely, Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharvana.

The greatness of the Veda is limitless. Yet, on the empirical level we may understand its greatness in a way. Of the holy places in the world Kasi is believed to be the greatest. While speaking about other holy places, it is said that they are equal to Kasi. From this, the greatness of Kasi is evident. This place (i.e. Varanasi) is referred to as the Southern Kasi. Uthara Kasi is on the Himalayas. Vriddhachalam is known as Vriddha Kasi. Sometime ago I stayed at Bugga. That place is also called a Kasi. If there is a place referring to other sacred places, it is said: "This one is equal in greatness to Kasi, this other one is even a little greater".” There is a verse about Kumbakonam.

anyakshetre kritam papam
punyakshetre vinasyati
punayakshetra kritam papam
varanasyam vinasyati
varanasyam kritam papam
kumbhakone vinasyati
kumbhakone kritam papam
kumbhakone vinasyat

The purport of this is that Kumbhakonam is holier than Kasi. By saying so, it is made evident that Kasi is holy in a special manner. By giving Kasi as the standard of comparison, its greatness gets increased. About a hundred years ago a great man composed a sloka about Kasi.

kshetranam utthamanam api yad upamaya ka pi
loke prasashthi
chittadravyena mukthikrayam abhilashatam
yadbhutha panyavithi,
saksad vishvesvarasya tribhuvanamahita
ya pura rajadhan
ramya kasi sakasi bhavatu hitakari
bhuktaye mukthyaye nah
--Mahisha sataka vyakhyanam.

That which has become famous by being cited as the example for the most sacred places is Kasi. There, if one gives the money, which is, bhakti (devotion) one could easily get mukthi (release). The market where this is obtained is Kasi. This is what is stated in this sloka.

Similarly, the Veda which is great by virtue of its contents has received esteem in empirical usage also.

The Ramayana is a well-known epic. It is in different forms. The story of Rama has been told in plays, musical compositions, poems, etc. Everyone talks about the Ramayana. In Tamil, Kambar has sung the Ramayana in the vritta metre. Arunachala Kaviroyar wrote in the form of a play. There are versions of the Ramayana in all languages such as Marathi and Telugu. Kalidasa wrote the kavya “Raghuvamsa”. It mostly relates to the story of the Ramayana. King Bhoja composed the Ramayana campu. Bhavabhuti wrote the Uttararamacharitha. Ramabhadra Dikshita wrote a play called Janaki Parinaya. There are several types of Ramayana: Ananda Ramaykana, Tattvasangraha Ramayana, etc. To the question, why is the Ramayana so all-pervasive? One who has written the story of Rama replies thus: Just as sugar is put into the payasam prepared in any house, so the Ramayana is a necessary ingredient (of anything that is good). When there is no Pooja possible, some recite the Ramayana in its place. When the greatness of Ramayana which is so all-pervasive is referred to, it is said that it is the Veda.

Veda prachetasadasit
sakshad ramayanathmana
The Mahabharatha is also called a Veda.
bharathah panchamo vedah.

Even as the Ramayana is held in esteem, the Vaishnavas hold in esteem the Thiruvaymozhi. It is said, “Maran Satagopan did the Veda into Tamil” Thus, that too is regarded as a Veda. In Tamil the most famous work on ethics is the Kural; and it is described as a Veda.

Thiruvalluvar wrote the Thirukkural. At that time there was in Madurai the last Sangam. There was a plank given by Lord Sundareswara. Those who had the necessary fitness could sit on it. If anyone did not possess the fitness, the plank would reject him. We are not inclined to believe this. But we are ready to believe that if a coin is put in, a ticket comes out of the machine kept for the purpose. Thiruvalluvar went to the Madurai Sangam taking his Kural with him. Generally scholars bestow no esteem on others. Because of this, one who is dull-witted cannot claim that he is a learned person. When taken in this way, the scholars’ attitude does some good. But that tendency should not be allowed to exceed the limit. That would be wrong. The members of the Madurai Sangam asked Thiruvalluvar to place the manuscript he took with him on the plank. It accommodated that manuscript alone, and threw out the other scholars who attempted to get on to it. This made the scholars realise the greatness of the Kural; and each one of them composed a verse praising the great work. One of them said thus:

“It is not easy to weigh the relative merits of Sanskrit and Tamil and say that one is superior to the other – because Sanskrit possesses the Veda, while Tamil has the Kural of Thiruvalluvar”. (Thiruvalluvar Malai).

It is well known that Thevaram and Thiruvachakam are regarded as the Tamil Veda. These fall within our religion. The Christians brought their scripture to this country. They named it Sathya Veda. Thus, when we consider the usage current in the world it is clear that the Veda is accorded special esteem. It is a well-known practice to refer to an established great test while speaking about the greatness of other texts.

At the end of the Dvapara age and at the beginning of Kaliyuga, i.e. about 5,000 years ago, Sage Vyasa classified the Veda into four parts. He was responsible for the coming into being of Uttharamimamsa, the eighteen Puranas, the Bharatha etc. He divided the Veda into branches, taking into consideration the ability of a single person to study and benefit by it. Each branch is called a sakha. Vyasa’s four disciples, Sumantu, Paila, Jaimini and Vaisampayana, learned from him the four Vedas namely, Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharvana. Vyasa taught the Puranas to Suta. Therefore, in the Puranas it is mentioned that Suta spoke them.

In the Rig Veda there are many sakhas. Of them, only one Sakha is extant. It is known as the Aithareya sakha. For the Yajur Veda there were 101 sakhas. Of these, only three are extant. There were 1000 Sakhas for the Sama Veda. Only two of them are available now – Gautama sakha and Talavakara sakha. Not even one sakha of the Atharvana Veda is at present available. In Orissa (Utkal) in the North, there are eighteen sub/divisions of Brahmins. Of them, one group is known as Atharvanika. From the name we come to know that the forebears of this group should have studied the Atharvana sakha.

Vyasa divided the Veda into 1180 sakhas. At present only eight remain. (Although there were many more, Vyasa thought that number was enough for Kali age. That number itself has been so considerably reduced now.)

In a sakha are contained all topics that are necessary for a Brahmin to perform his karmas from birth to death.

ekam sakham adhithya srotriyo bhavathi.

The kings of those days used to grant what are known as srothriyam villages to a scholar who had studied an entire sakha. No tax would be levied on such villages. As those who studied the Veda had no other profession, it was known that they could not pay kist. Even now there is no-tax on srothriyam villages. It is only in our country that there have been generations of families who perform duties relating to spiritual welfare, without engaging themselves in secular professions. Therefore, our country has a greatness which will never be destroyed. Those foreigners who have come to know of our country’s greatness through Vivekananda and others hold us in high esteem. Paul Deussen of Germany says that there is no one greater than our Sankaracharya. He has studied well the Advaita sastras. He has sent a photograph of his to be placed in Kaladi, the birthplace of the Master. It is in our country that there is the power, which makes for instructing the Truth that is the Self. Those who study the Veda will not endeavour to ensure for themselves the means for empirical comfort. So, in order to keep them above want, the kings gave them a little land and levied no tax on it. Hence it was that in our country there were many srothriykas (those who had studied the Veda)


Our Acharya taught Advaita in order that all beings may be redeemed. We who have come in that tradition are visiting all sorts of places. When we do so, we are reminded frequently of Him and of His Advaita teaching. Now all of us have met here. At this time, the memory of Sri Bhagavatpada comes to all of us. This is an important fruit of the tradition he has left for us that we should be constantly wandering about. This is not alone. There is also another purpose. The Acharya established our religion and the way of dharma from the Cape to the Himalayas. He has also given us a command. His command to us is that we should expound the various topics connected with our religion, when we perform the Pooja of Sri Chandramouliswara at the different places to which we go. For this purpose, He has also made us bear His name. Therefore our main task is to spread the teachings of the Bhagavatpada, being in the Sanyasa Asrama. We call those as Acharyas who have established religion. It is usual for those who have established religion to refer to our Acharya as the Bhagavatpada. It is not our habit to utter the name of those whom we revere.

There is the wish in us, i.e., in all beings, right from the ant onwards, that we should remain without dying but each and every being dies again and again and also is born again and again. We have heard from the epics that there were many great people who have conquered death. In recent times, it is known that there was one such great person of that nature, Sadasiva Brahmendra. Now also there may be some great ones but they do not come to us and tell us what is the medicine that will remove the disease called death. It is this highly potent medicine that the Bhagavatpada has taught us. We can acquire it even while living. We do not have the sufficient power for getting it after death. Those of us who died formerly have taken birth again. Is that not so? Even because of this what I stated just now is clear. Similarly one who is not surviving cannot die. Because we died previously, we should have taken birth. If we probe thus still further our head will reel. Let that be.

I said that we couldn’t acquire the medicine for not dying after death and that is known from the fact that we have taken birth again. In the same manner, we know that even in the previous births, when we were living we did not discover this path. The reason for this is this: Is that not so? Thus the disease known as birth and death haunts us all and has been baffling us. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, II.27.

jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur dhruvam
janma mritasya cha.

If we find happiness in the process of repeatedly dying and taking birth we need not seek for the medicine which will give us the state of deathlessness. We do not see this to be the case.

For man there was set up a body by someone, somewhere. As long as that lasts, hunger and thirst will continue to afflict him. In order to pacify them, everyone has to go in search of many things. Because they are helpful for our purpose, there arises in us the desire for them. If there is some hindrance in the way, we get angry. It is in order to remove the disease consisting of hunger and thirst that all of us go through so much difficulty. If it is some other disease, it can be removed through some medicine. But this disease cannot be removed that way. It arises time and again, and continues to give us trouble. If some Siddha can give us medicine for remaining without hunger, there will be no need to suffer in this manner. Some days ago I was at a place in Chittoor district which is a Theertha for Bugga. Near that place there are two springs, called Kailasa kone and Sadasiva kone. The word “kone” in Telugu means a mountain stream. There are Siva temples at those places. I went there. They are merit affording and very pure waterfalls are there. All around there is a quietude as well as peace. When performing ablutions and taking bath there it would occur to the mind “Let us stay here itself, hereafter we need not go anywhere. There cannot be a better place. Yet why do we come back from there? Is it not because of the torture of hunger? Those areas are so fine and mentally satisfying. Since this came to my memory I spoke about it. When for a man there happens relation to a body, it is called birth; when the body relation is removed, it is death.

I said that as long as this body lasts hunger would not leave us. Then it means that when the body goes the trouble will disappear. There seems to be an easy way of achieving this. Now a days when some people are guilty of some great mistake, or have to face some unbearable sorrow they take a revolver, shoot themselves. Can this be a way of removing the relation with the body?No, it cannot. Although this gross body goes, there is some sort of another body. One has to be wandering somewhere with that one. Again one must take another lowly birth. Committing suicide is not the right way. The dharma sastras say that suicide is a heinous crime. We have suffered such difficulties earlier by committing many sins. Along with them, if the sin of suicide also joins, births and sufferings will only increase. Even at the present time, committing suicide is thought to be a great crime. If one person murders another he is sentenced to death in the court. What for is this? By sentencing him to death will his sin be removed completely? Not at all. That punishment is not for his good. If he continues to live he will murder many more. Is that not so? Better than the death of many in that manner is the death of one. That is why the punishment is given. Let this be.

The body is a great disease. Committing suicide is sin. Remaining without death is the supreme state. All this I have said. What is the way to reach that state? It is this that the Bhagavatpada has taught us. In each and every religion the respective preceptors have taught a particular method for gaining this end. The Saivas sponsor a method. Another method is taught by Vaishnavas. Different from these two, others show a third method. Many other means have been expounded. The Bhagavatpada does not discard any of them. They are all acceptable. But through them there can only be a temporary remedy for this disease. The root-cause of the disease will remain attached to us. A man gets malaria. We give medicines like quinine. If these are given the fever stops. But will this do? If we are able to get some medicine, which will remove the cause of this fever so that it will not recur, will that not be supremely valuable? Curing the disease called the body through the methods taught in other traditions is like taking quinine. For temporary relief we must take that also. Accepting all the various means the Bhagavatpada teaches another method, which is superior to all of them. I have already stated that we cannot take this medicine after death. At that time all our faculties like the eyes, the legs, etc. would be devoid of any power. The Purusha suktha is chanted every day at the time of the Pooja. In that suktha the following mantra occurs:

tam evam vidvan amritha iha bhavathi
nanyah pantha vidhyathe yanaya

The meaning of this mantra is: He who has known this Self very well becomes one who has attained the state of deathlessness even in this birth. For gaining this state there is no other way. Amritha means moksha. To those who have gained moksha there are no birth and death. Therefore moksha is called amritha. The disease called the body is not something, which has come to man anew. It has come from countless time and without our knowledge. We require only the experience of those who have had this disease cured by taking the appropriate medicine. Even like this disease the medicine which is meant for this is also stated in the beginningless Veda. We write a book. Before the writing it was not there. The Veda is not like it. It was not written by someone. The conclusive view is that it is like the perennial teaching. I shall tell you about it when there is time. In the passage cited above there is the word iha (here). Therefore even while this body lasts, it is clear, the state of deathlessness can be gained. This way alone is the best. Why? If as is stated in other traditions this state is to be gained in another world, we cannot know about it now. Those who have gained it will not come back and tell us about that experience. The purport of the passage is that Self-knowledge is the means to the state of immortality. I said that the disease consisting of hunger and thirst is common to all beings. In order to satisfy it there are required instruments such as eyes, tongue, etc. The mind too is needed. Through the mind we come to know which objects are good and which are bad. With the help of these instruments we acquire many objects. In order to protect them there is required a house; in order to help us a wife, son, relations, friends and others. Without stopping therewith, we begin to have great conceit in them, thinking they are ours. If there is pain for the instruments—eyes, legs, etc. we imagine that the pain has come to us. If the body gets emaciated, we think that the suffering is ours. From this, is it not clear that we have not understood our true nature? Although sometimes we say “This is my mind”, “this is my eye, my body”, etc. separating ourselves from them, yet at the same time the conceit of identity does not leave us as is evident from such statements as “I am tall”, “I am short”, etc. The medicine, which will destroy this, is Self-knowledge alone. It is customary always to find the proper medicine for a particular disease. If one takes on oneself on account of ignorance, the troubles which are not there and suffers as a consequence, the proper medicine for that is the knowledge that these do not belong to one. If we realise that the body is not ours then the disease called the body will go of its own accord. For the sake of this, one need not commit suicide nor is there required a search for some other means. By these methods, the connection to the body will become only all the more. This I have stated already. The Bhagavatpada has taught us that we should realise bodilessness even while the body is there. This is immortality (amritha), release (moksha).

tadethat asarirathvam mokshakhyam
--Sutrabhashya (I, I,4)

This is what he has said. You may have many friends. So long as you think they are yours you will regard what are their happiness and misery as yours. Let us suppose that at some time later they themselves become our enemies, then we will not have any relation with their happiness and misery. May be, we may think that they should experience some misery. Why is it so? In regard to them, the conceit “mine” has gone. In the same manner, we must treat our body. Here before us there hangs a plantain/stem. If that dries up do we dry up? We must often think of our body as a piece of flesh, which is tied up, nearer than the plantain/stem. Because we have the conceit “I”, “I” it has taken root in us. We must constantly reflect thus. Desire, anger, hatred, fear, all these belong to the mind and not to me. Hunger, thirst, etc. belong to the body, they are not mine. If we do so then the deep-seated conceit will disappear little by little. In the Upanishads it is taught that our Self is extremely pure. Iswara is the one Reality that is all-pervasive, pure and blissful. Everyone should realise that we are truly that Isvara. The body, etc. that are seen by us are different. We are different. Thus we must know the distinction.

tam svaccharirat pravrheth munjadivesikam
dhairyena tham vidhyacchukram amritham
Katha Upanishad vi, 17.

Just like drawing out pulp from the munja grass the Self should be separated bravely from the body. Then it will be seen to be pure and deathless. This is the meaning. We see a thing here – there are two: the object and the subject.

What is seen is different from that which sees. The body is what is seen, therefore the one who sees, the Self, is different from it. He who thinks that the Self is what is seen is an ignorant person. This is stated in the Kenaupanishad:

avijnatham vijanatham, vijnatham avijnatham

To them who think they know, it is not known. To them who think they do not know it is known. This is the meaning. Let this be.

If we wish to remain without death, the disease consisting of the body, etc. should go. He who is without body is Iswara. So we should always have the contemplation “I am He”. Some persons would say verbally “Iam He” (soham, soham) while sitting and while standing up. Unlike this it is better to utter the statement after knowing its meaning. It is very easy to say that we should think that the body is not ours. It is difficult to realise this in practice. If somebody beats us is it possible for us to think that there has been no beating, that there is no beating, that there is no pain? By what means can we achieve this? If it is not possible to think that there is no body, we must begin to think that all the bodies in the world are ours. This is the remedial means. By thinking so, when others suffer we will think of going to their help. The happiness and sorrow of others will become ours. The thought that whatever we do is not for us will automatically arise.

It is this that is taught by the Lord to Arjuna in the Bhagawad Gita. All things should be performed as an offering to God. Therefore we must toil for others always. Every action that we do must be offered to God. Always we must have the contemplation “I am He”. As I said yesterday, we must constantly raise the slogan, “namah parvathi pathaye”. This is the state of having left the body even while living. In the sastra this is called jeevanmukthi.

asariram vava santham na priyapriye sprisata

This passage of the Chandogya (viii, xii, I) gives the same teaching. The meanings are pleasure and pain never approach a man who lives without body. This is the meaning. The medicine taught to us by the Bhagavatpada for remaining without death is the same. This is given in the form of a verse by a great person. This verse has been cited by the Bhagavatpada in his Brahmasutra bhashya (I, I, 4).

gaunamithyathmano satthve putradehadhi badhanat,
sadbrahmathmahamithyevam bodhe karyam katham bhavet.

The Self usually is distinguished into three. Gaunathma (the figurative self), mithyathma (the illusory self), and mukhyathma ( the principal Self). Our son, friends etc. their pain and pleasure are ours. This conceit is in every one. Have I not said this? This is gaunathma. Gaunathma means figurative self. We know we are different from the son, friends and others. Even then, the conceit that we are they come to us. So, this has been stated to be gaunathma. The conceit of “I” in the body etc. is mithyathma. Separating the pure Self and realising it to be Brahmin and that we are. That is mukhyathma. If the two gaunathma and mithyathma are given up the relation to the son, friends, the body, sense organs, etc. will be removed. Then there will arise the knowledge “remain as the true Brahmin" After that there is nothing that has to be done. This is the meaning of the verse cited above. Therefore all of us should endeavour to acquire this medicine which is true knowledge as taught by the Bhagavathpada, our supreme Preceptor. Then we shall gain always the pure state of bodilessness and the supreme bliss without any blemish. In order to achieve this, we must always think of God and perform good deeds. Sri Chandramauliswara should bestow His grace on us for this. This is our prayer.


Karalagna mrgah kareendra bhango
Ghana-saardoola vikhandanosta jantuh:
Giriso visadakritischa cheetah
Kuhare panchamukho-asti me kuto bheeh.

Lord Narayana made up His mind to remain as a man when He incarnated as Rama, in order to teach the world the importance of reverence or Bhakti towards father, mother, teacher and God. He so identified Himself with His human role that He behaved exactly like an ordinary mortal and when any one attributed to Him qualities of God, He reminded him that He as only a man � Aatmaanam maanusham manye. Similarly though Sri Adi Sankara was Lord Siva incarnate, he tried to inculcate Siva-bhakti in the people by his actions and writings. One such composition of his is Sivaananda Lahari.

In the above verse occurring in Sivaananda Lahari, Siva is conceived of as having five faces, four of them looking at each of the four directions, east, south, west and north, and the other turning upwards. The upturned faced is called Eesaanam, while other four faces are called Sadyajaatam, Vaamadevam, Aghoram, and Tarpurusham. Siva holds in his right hand a deer (hence valam-kai-maan in Tamil), symbolic of the mind which is unsteady or restless. This aspect of the mind is found referred to in the Gita in the words, chanchalam hi manah Krishna. The deer is also by nature restless and timid and continuously turns its gaze hither and thither. But when the same deer is held in the hand of Siva, it gazes into His benevolent eyes, keeps its look steady there, forgets its fear and remains motionless, with a feeling of security and happiness. Siva wears the hide of an elephant and that of a tiger. In the atmosphere of peace and security that pervades in His presence, all creatures remain motionless and blissful, their mind concentrated on Him and Him only. Where is fear, asks the great Acharya, when this five faced Siva is in the cavity of my heart?

There is an interesting story about the manner in which Siva came to wear the hide of an elephant. It is said some sages who believed that the observance of the rites prescribed in the Vedas is everything and that there is no need to have devotion or bhakti to God, created an elephant by their mantra power and set it to attack Siva, towards whom the wives of the sages were attracted, even as Sri Krishna attracted towards himself the devotion of the Gopis. Isvara performed his Oordhva Taandava, tossed the elephant about like a ball and ultimately tore it up and covered Himself with its skin. On account of this dress, He came to be known as Krithivasah. The Vedas use the expression, (Krithivasahpinaakee) in several places, Amara Simha, a highly intellectual person, though a Jain has done full justice to the Vedic names of God in his Sanskrit dictionary. When enumerating the names of Siva, he has included the Vedic name, Krithivasah.

There is a story about the meeting between Sri Adi Sankara and Amara Simha. Both Jainism and Buddhism expounded only truths which are within the comprehension of the intellect. Adi Sankara was able to convince Amara Simha that the Ultimate Reality or Isvara Tatva, is something beyond the reach of mere intellectual comprehension. Amara Simha thereupon started consigning all his writing to the flames. Adi Sankara rushed forward to prevent him doing so, but was in time only to save Amara Kosa, which has become a book of eternal value.

The Gita also teaches us that the Vedas and the rites enjoined therein are not the be all the end all of our spiritual quest, but that there is also the Vedanta or the highest conception of the Supreme which transcends the intellect. It is up to us all to develop Isvara-bhakti and derive happiness herein and hereafter.

The description of Siva, the Lord of the universe, in this verse, can also be applied to the lion, the Lord of the jungle, Panchaasya or panchamukha is one of the names for the lion, derived from the fact that its head and mane together present a broad (pancha) appearance in contrast to its wiry body. While roaming about, the lion catches hold of deer with ease and also kills the elephant or tiger that corsses its path. Its den is known as kuhara, and when it is prowling about, the other animals of the jungle remain hidden and motionless.

November 4, 1957


In some context or other, we constantly come across or hear the word "Vedanta". When any person's conversation becomes a little above the average standard or has the tinge of a sermon, we say " You are talking Vedanta". In the Gita, the Lord says that He is the origin of Vedanta. Literally, Vedanta means the end or the concluding portion of the Veda. In any well-written essay, the writer will indicate the subject matter at the beginning and record his conclusions at the end. Therefore, any intelligent person, by reading the Upakrama (beginning and conclusion) of a thesis, will get any idea of what is about. Similarly, if we take any section of the Veda and read its beginning and its end, we will be able to grasp what that section deals with.

The constitution of any country and its laws are limited by time and place - kaala and desa. But the vedas are the eternal laws or Sanatana Dharma. That is why when a person asserts a position taken up by him, though a different view is possible, we say, "Are your words the words of the Veda?" Isvara is Veda Swaroopi or embodiment of the vedas, and one of the Veda Mantra says that Maheswara dwells at the beginning and the end of the Veda.

Yo vedaadau swarah prakto vedantecha pratishtitah.

The Vedas frequently use the expression idam, atha, tat and etat. Idam refers to that which is near, atha to that which is not so proximate, and tat to that which is distant. In this context, it is worthwhile noting the existence of an affinity between the various languages of the word, a fact which we can understand when we examine the root or origin of some of the words. Without entering into philological or other controversies, it can be stated that in the distant past one culture and one civilisation prevailed throughout the world. While that old culture decayed and disappeared, or gave birth to a new culture and a new civilisation in some parts of the world, they continued to exist and flourish in other parts of the world. That culture and civilisation go by the name of Sanatana Dharma. There is evidence to show that the Mitra cult, Maitra-Varuna referred to in the Vedas, prevailed in certain parts of Europe before the advent of Christianity. In some Far Eastern countries, though the rulers are Muslim, Observances prescribed in the Hindu Sastras for coronation are followed when a ruler is put on the throne. Counting from the month of March or Chaitra, the first month according to Hindus, it will be seen that September is the seventh month, October the eighth month, November the ninth month, and December the tenth month. For days of the week, the names of planets used in India are adopted in other parts of the world also.

This is a small disgression. Now coming back to the subject, it should be realised that the expression tat occurring in the Vedas refers to Isvara. The Vedantic tatvam is the realisation of the swaroopa of Iswara, or the Ultimate Reality. The plain meaning of tatvam is truth or reality. The secrete of understanding this reality is contained in the world tat-tvam, the realisation of tat or That as tvam or yourself. The jnana-mudra, or the sign of the hand with the tips of the right thumb and the index finger meeting, is an indication that Tat which appears to be distant is within oneself. When we look at the horizon, we get a feeling that at a distant point, the earth and the sky are meeting. Suppose we decide to proceed to that meeting point. As we go on walking, the supposed meeting point goes on receding further and further and ultimately we will find ourselves back at the point from where we started. In other words, the point from which we originally looked at the distant meeting point on the horizon is also the point where the earth and the sky meet.

There is an interesting story of a young woman who decided to marry only the greatest person on earth, though her parents had selected a bridegroom for her. She fixed the king as per object and when she approached him for requesting him to take her as his wife, she thought that a Sanyasi to whom the kind paid homage must be greater than the king. Thereupon she left off the king and when after the Sanyasi. So the story goes on and ultimately she came to the starting point and married a common man, who turned out to be none other than the person whom her parents had selected.

While Tat is a Ultimate Reality, the Upanishads proclaim that idam, or that which is in our proximity, cannot exist without a root or origin - Nedam amoolam bhavishyati. A tree sprouts from the earth, is sustained by the earth, and is finally absorbed by the earth when it decays. All the things we perceive with the aid of our five senses are connoted by idam. The perceiver within us is the origin of the things perceived. As the same electricity shines in different colours and with varying brilliance according to the colour, size and powers of the bulbs, so too the same Isvara is within all of us and looks through the window of our mind at all things without, which are rooted in Him. The origin of diam is jnana and that janan, though apparently confined to the mind of individuals, is full and all-pervasive. The root of all things with life, whether stationary or moving , is in that all-pervasive janana, which is the Tat of the Vedanta. That is what the following verse in the Gita also tells us :

Avibhaktam cha bhooteshu
Vibhaktamivacha stthitam; Bhoota-bhartru cha tat jneyam
Grasishnu prabhavishnu cha

The Tat or That which is the Ultimate Reality achieved through jnana, must be understoo9d as the Protector, Destroyer or Consumer, and the Creator of all bhootas (elements like air, water and fire, and all beings, moving and stationary), who appears divided between these elements and beings, though He is invisible. This Tat is seen at the end of the Vedas, and we realise that all-pervading Truth or God by contemplating on a seeming part of that Truth. This is known as Isvara dhyaanam or devotion for or contemplation of a particular manifestation of God and is a process of learning to be ready to receive with both hands the fruit of janana and Bhakti when the time is ripe for the fruit to fall, namely, the Divine grace to descend.


Who is God and what is His definition? In almost every religion, God is referred to as the Creator, the karta, responsible for the creation and sustenance of the Universe. Since every effect must have a cause, namely God, for this Universe. This is brought out inthe Brahma- Sutra by the expression karta Saatraartha tvat. Another defition of God is that He is the dispenser of the fruits of our actions, be they good or evil--- Karmaphala-daata. The question may be asked why we should have be Bhakti for the God who is the creator and dispenser. These are His self -chioasen funtions and he does them. Why should we have devotion to one who created, not at our request, and who dispenses, not according to our choice?

This question does not arise in the arise in the case of schools of thought which deny a God altogether. Among the Vaidika systems, the Saankhya denies a creator -GOd and the Poorva Meemamsa has no use for Him. It is a non-intelligent principle that is responsible for the world according to the former, and the dispensation of fruits of actions is due , according to the latter, to Adrshta, and a God is unnecessary for the purpos. Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada combated both these positions and established that a Jada vastu cannot come from another JadaVastu, an intelligent God alone must be the cause of the Universe. He also showed that a Chaitanya (power) is necessary to dispense fruits of Karma according to the merit. In fact, Sri Sankara directed his criticism mainly against the views of the Saankhyaas and Meemamsakaas respectively and onlty incidentally against teh Buddhists, though he is depicted as having Banished Buddhism from the country by the froce of dialectics. As a matter of fact, it was left to two nea-contemporaries of the Sri Sankara, Kumarila Bhatta, the Meemamsaka, and Udayanacharya, the Taartika, to undermine the foundations of Buddhism. Kumarila disproved the no-Karma plank, and Udayana the no-Isvara plank of Buddhism.

Having established that there is a Creator,who is Srshtikarta and the Phala-daata,the question remains why should we show Bhakti to Him? The Yoga sutras of Patanjali provide the answer. After defining Yoga as a the control of mind's activity, the question of the way to control that activity comes up for considertation and it is answered that this can be brought about by worship of God, who free from any imperfection or blemish ,who remains unmoved and unmovable,who is the Sttaanu(stable one),amidst the imperfect and instable things of the world.Being the all-knowing Intelligence,God is not affected by anything which could distract the mind and prevent its control.It is such an ideal that we should have before us, to train ourselves in mind-control,so that the mind may be almost absolutely study like a flame in a place where there is no brezee.Since concentrated meditation on a thing transforms one into the likeness of the thing meditated upon,meditating on God,who being Omniscient is still unmoved and unaffected by want or desire, makes on like God Himself.As one holds fast to steady pillar to prevent from being tossed about,so too should one bind oneself through Bhakti to God,to steady one's mind.

The purpose of prayer is not petition for benifits.Such petitioning implies either that God does not know what we want,which will militate against His Omniscience,or that He waits to be asked and delights in praise,which will degrade Him to the leve of ordinary man.Why then do we pray? Though Omniscient God is immanent in every creature and knows what is in the heart of every person, yet, if what we wish to say in prayer remains unsaid, it afflicts our heart and so prayer heals that afflicition. By prayer ,we do not seek to change what God ordains; in fact,we cannot do so. We go to Him to remove our impurities. As Tiruvalluvar said, we attach ourselves to Him who has no attachments to rid ourselves of our attachments. A devout consciousness that God exists will itself do the miracle of alchemising us into purity of nature. We obtain a spiritual charge into our frame by being in His presence.

Guru is Isvara in human form, but who is, however, freefrom the triple functions of creration, preservation and destruction, which pertain only to Isvara. If we have absolute faith in him, the Guru will dower us with all for which we go to God. In fact, God is needed only when we cannot find a guru. Guru-Bhakti is even higher and more efficacious than Daiva-bhakti. Sri Vedanta Desika has declared that he does not consider God higher than Guru.According to a verse, when God is angry, the guru protects you; when the guru himself is angry, there is no protector in the world. If we surrender ourselves absolutely without any reservation to the guru,he will save us from all sorrow and show us the way to salvation. It is due to lack of guru-bhakti, that Isvara-bhakti itself is waning in the hearts of men.

October 20, 1957


No doubt, it is to some extent desirable, in this world, for a man to earn a name and fame and also material wealth. All these things come to some people unasked. Others do not get them, however much they may try. But these things do not attach themselves to us permanently. Either we leave them behind, or they desert us in our own life-time. Therefore, name, fame and wealth are not objectives for which we should consciously strive with all our energy. What we should aspire and strive for is a life free from sin.

There are two aspects to this freedom from sin. One is absolution from sins already committed (Paapanaasam) and the other is non-commission of sins hereafter, by purifying our mind and making it free from evil thoughts (Paapa buddhi). The former can be achieved by absolutely surrendering oneself to God, realising that He alone is our Saviour, nothing happens without His knowledge, and that whatever happens to us, good or bad, is by His will and only for our ultimate good. Resigning oneself to the dispensation of God is the essence of absolute surrender or Saranaagati. We will be free from evil thoughts hereafter only by Bhakti or devotion, that is to say, by devoting every free moment of ours to His thought or repeating His names or listening to His glories.

The claim of Christianity is that God appeared on earth to wash off our sins. It is sometimes argued that there is no corresponding conception in Hinduism. This is not correct. In the Gita, Sri Krishna has given an assurance that He will absolve from sin those who surrender themselves to Him. The Lord says

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam saranam vraja;
Aham tvaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa suchah.

Sri Krishna asks Arjuna not to grieve telling him "I will free you from all sins (Sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami), if you give up all other Dharma (Sarva Dharmaan parityajya), and surrender to Me absolutely (Maamekam Saranam Vraja)". In this context, the import of the expression, Sarva Dharman Parityajya has to be understood correctly. The emphasis of the Gita is on each man performing his prescribed duties in a spirit of dedication. Therefore, the call to " give up Dharma" cannot be a message of inaction. Sri Krishna wants Arjuna, and through Arjuna all of us , to do the duties pertaining to our station in life. But what He wants us to give up is the notion that the performance of these duties will by itself lead us to the cherished goal. Sri Krishna wants us to perform our Dharma, giving up the notion that they are the be-all and end-all of life, and surrender ourselves to Him without reservation.

In the verse previous to the one I have just quoted, Sri Krishna says :
Manmanaa Bhava Madbhakto
Mayaajee maam namaskuru;
Maamevaishyasi satyamte
partijaane priyosi me.

When Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, "You are dear to me(priyosi me) it means that all of us are dear to Him. So, when he gives the assurance "satyam te prattijanne", we can take it as an assurance given to all of us . The assurance is that we will reach Him (Maamevaishyasi). For that purpose, we have to fix our thoughts on Him(Manmanaa Bhava), become His devotees(Madbhakto Bhava), worship Him (Madyaajee bhava) and fall at His feet(maam namaskuru).

If we analyse one's affection towards one's son or wife, we will find that it ultimately resolves itself into one's love for oneself. A man is fond of his son only so long as that son fulfils what he expects of him. Supposing that son gets married and neglects his father, the affection will turn into enmity. It follows that the affection we entertain is with a purpose and not selfless. But there is no purpose or object behind one's love for oneself. When we come to realise that the "I" we love so much is "He", our mind becomes saturated with Him. That is the significance of the expression, "Manmanaa bhava". We think of Him not for securing any favours, but because we cannot help thinking of Him, having realised that the soul within us is none else than He. When this realisation takes deep root, the mind enters the state of Avyaaja Bhakti.

We have examples of such selfless devotion to God in our Puranas. Akroora and Vidura had such Avyaaja Bhakti, Dhruva and Prahlada are examples of those who surrendered themselves to God even from their childhood. Sabari and Kannappar are examples of persons regarded as unlettered common people, on the bottom rungs of the social ladder, Who are animated by an overwhelming devotion in which the consciousness of their individual entity has been completely wiped out. Parikshit is an example of one, who, within the last seven days of his life, experienced the bliss of devotion achieved in a life-time. Khatvaanga is an example of a person who got purified by concentrated devotion of three and three-fourths Naazhigas, or 90 minutes.

While Saranaagati helps to "write off" past sins, Bhakti alone will keep our minds away from sin. The heart has to be kept clean through Bhakti so that the full effect of His presence there may be realised. In the ultimate analysis, surrender and devotion are the two facets of the same thing. In this life, all householders are engaged in various occupations necessary to maintain themselves. While so engaged, their minds will be concentrating on their work. But it is during their leisure that their minds are likely to go astray. This leisure must be utilised in developing Bhakti, through various process like Naama Japa(repeating God's name), Satsanga(keeping holy company), pooja(worship), satkathasravana(listening to Lord's glory), etc. The idea is to somehow keep our thoughts engaged on God. We should have no occasion to commit sin through mind, eyes, ears and speech. Even when we make any representations in our prayers, it should be in a spirit of detachment, namely with the realisation that nothing is unknown to Him and with a feeling, "Let Him do with us as He pleases". Let us, in this way, strive to pursue the path of surrender and devotion, and earn the grace of God.

February 28, 1958