Beach 2: First steps in the Ascent to the Divine

Wave 6: An Overnight Capsule of Dharma ( Part III)

(Continued from Part II)

Does Dharma compensate for adharma?

Another question of Dhritarashtra is: Do dharma and adharma cancel each other? Does one destroy the other in the life of an individual? The answer is important for the understanding of Hinduism. No, Dharma and adharma do not cancel  each other in the case of an individual who performs actions without detachment. Whatever puNya-karma one does, one reaps the fruits of that puNya and whatever pApa-karma that one does one reaps the consequences of them also. The two coexist.

[Note by VK: In the context of modern practice, it is significant to note that when ill-gotten riches find their way to the Hundi of the Lord of Tirupati, probably in the expectation that the ills of the sources of the riches will be washed off, Sanatsujata tells us that you may get puNya for your donation to Tirupati but your sins in acquiring those riches would still have to be accounted for in toto!]

It is not as if you compensate for your sins by doing good. The compensation is only in terms of vAsanA and not in terms of the fruits of your actions. That is why in the Gita (Ch.9 -21) the Lord says: Ascending to the heavenly worlds by their puNya-karmas they enjoy in the heavens the divine feasts of the gods; having enjoyed in paradise larger facilities, the reward of their good deeds exhausted, they return to mortal existence (to pursue their path on the ladder of evolution, either upwards or downwards axcxcording to their vAsanAs). Coming back to human existence is necessary here; for, animal existences, for instance, are only a passing phase in the journey of the soul.  Man’s body is precious. It has the highest evolutionary value  because of unique brain and spinal centres. Only man can grasp the loftiest aspects of divinity and make efforts to rise in the ladder of evolution. Exceptions are rare.


Vedas and Rituals.


Does study of the Vedas erase sins or not? The answer is No. The sins that one commits have to be atoned for and consequences experienced.  The study of the Vedas will only point the way to salvation. So the next question arises.  Then why Vedas? Because they are the ones which show you the right way.  Man has the need to be released from the apparently eternal cycle of deaths and births. The need for Moksha is taught by the Vedas. They tell you the right attitude to rituals.  The rituals are for the purification of the mind. Unless the mind is purified even the teaching of the  Vedas would not take you far. What is the value of rituals? “What is the significance of pure tapas?” is the next question. The tapas, -- askesis, that is – itself has to be faaultless. What are the faults or defects in doing tapas, or penance? The answer comes very elaborately.


Thirty-one steps

In the style of all ancient religious and spiritual literature of the orient, Sanatsujata classifies the faults in doing rituals, tapas or penance in a systematic way, which gives tremendous insights into what Hinduism actually wants from you in terms of your daily mental attitudes and training. These are steps which are not necessarily sequenced. The teacher here lists twelve defects to be avoided, seven pitfalls of the human mind to be warned against and twelve positive virtues to be cultivated in earnest.

The twelve defects which have always to be avoided are:

Wrath, lust, greed, delusion, desire to know about material happiness, non-compassion, jealousy, unashamedness, sorrow, desire, envy and disgust.

Human failings which are to be condemned ever are:

Sensual pleasure-seeking, being immersed in trivialities, regretting after giving, miserliness, feeling of weakness, gloating over one’s own lineage, and hate or distrust for women.

The twelve positive virtues are:

Knowledge, Truth, Self-control, scholarship, absence of intolerance, shamefulness for the vices, patience, absence of jealousy, sacrificial ritual, giving, courage and calmness.

Vedas versus Knowledge.

The question is now raised.  What is the result of mastery of the vedas?  The answer is scholarly.  Truth is One. That is all what the Vedas are supposed to reveal.  The root word vid  from which the word Veda is derived, has several connotations: to be, to exist, to know, to be conscious of, to enquire, to gain.  The One that exists is the the Ultimate Supreme Consciousness. The thing to know is that One without a second.  That has to be enquired into. And by that enquiry you reach the highest gain, namely Moksha. This is all there is to know from the entire Vedas. Instead of learning this single lesson from the Vedas one keeps on going round and round the truth. Thus the Vedas became a vast ocean of words.  Truth does not need so much scholarship. Those who possess scholarship of the Vedas are called Brahmins.  But the real Brahmins are those who are firmly established in that One Truth.

There is no single knower of all the Vedas. By knowing the Vedas one does not know what is to be known. The knower of the Vedas knows only what the Vedas say; but the knower of the Truth is different. By studying the Vedas one gets to acquire knowledge but neither these knowers nor the Vedas themselves know the Reality:

Yo veda vedAn sa ca veda vedyaM na tam vidur-veda-vido na vedAH  (Sanatsu: II – 43).

Even then, it is the Vedas which point to that Reality for the knower of the vedas to become the knower of Brahman. The Vedas cannot make you the knower of Brahman. Let us not confuse understanding with a larger vocabulary. Like the branches of a tree which help to indicate the direction in which to look for the archlike streak of the moon two days after new moon, the Vedas only show you the way.  Only when your conviction of a truth is not just in your brain but also in your Being can you vouch for its validity.

Important note:  There are four significant shlokas (II – 41 to 44) in this context in Sanatsujatiyam, which should be read and enjoyed in the original, along with Shankara’s commentary.  Go to Four Gems.

Why is knowing the Vedas not knowledge?

This eloquent testimony against the inability of the vedas to take you across the ocean of samsAra comes from no less a person than the foremost brahmin, knower of Brahman, first progeny from the mind of Creator BrahmA and one of four such sons of BrahmA who had their spiritual insight by a direct inspiration fm the Dakshinamurti form of Lord Shiva, the form itself being a manifestation for this very purpose of giving, not only knowledge of Brahman, but the state of being Brahman. So much is talked about the inability of the vedas expressing themselves about Brahman, because, the very nature of Brahman is an abstraction. 

Abstraction is a concept which we very often meet with in Science, particularly in the field of Mathematics. But the abstraction of Mathematics and that of Vedanta have a distinct difference between themselves which put them totally apart. The abstraction of Mathematics – like Infinity for instance –can be put in precise words and so, can be communicated not only effectively but by exact language and symbolism. Not so in Vedanta. The abstraction which leads to Brahman can never be put into precise language – that is the sorry predicament of the Vedas themselves, as can be seen from such statements as “From which all speech retreats; not having reached it (even) by the mind”:

Yato vAco nivartante / aprApya manasA saha // (Taittiriya U.)

To know that such is the case is itself right knowledge, that paves the way for an intuitionistic experience of the Supreme reality that is Brahman.

Continued in Part IV

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Mar.5, 2007  Copyright Ó V. Krishnamurthy