Beach 7: The Art and Science of Spiritual Love
Wave 9: ADVAITA BHAKTI THROUGH CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE OF NARAYANEEYAM
Note: You may want to read the Introduction, if you have not already seen it.
Sloka No. 8 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 94 - 9):
yadyal-labhyeta tat-tat-tava samupahR^itaM deva dAso’smi te’haM
tvad-geh-onmArjan-AdyaM bhavatu mama muhuH karma-nirmAya-meva /
sUryAgni-brAhmaN-AtmAdiShu lasita-catur-bAhum-ArAdhaye tvAM
tvat-prem-Ardratva-rUpo mama satatam-abhiShyandatAM bhakti-yogaH //
Tr. Oh Lord! Whatever comes into my possession, I offer it unto Thee. I am Thy servant. Let me repeatedly do with utmost sincerity and interest such devotional duties as cleaning Thy temple, Thy altar! Let me perform the worship of Thy four-handed form conceived as manifesting in the solar orb, in fire, in holy men and in the Atman!. Let my mind be ever in communion with Thee through devotion, which consists in the melting of heart into a continuous stream of love ever flowing towards Thee!
Comment. The sun and fire have always been considered holy in all religions and in Hindu culture and literature, starting from the time of the Vedas, they each take the first place in physical representations of the Absolute. The very first prayer of the Rig veda is to ‘agni’, the God of fire. He is the symbol of the Divine Will, Power and Force. He is the messenger who connects the offerings of the humans with their divine destinations. He also brings the messages and presents from the Divine to the human world. The last prayer of Man before he leaves the body should be to ‘agni’, according to the very last verse of the shukla Yajur Veda.
agne naya supathA raye asmAn vishvAni deva vayunAni vidvAn;
yuyodhyasmaj-juhurANameno bhUyiShTAnte nama uktiM vidhema
Oh agni, show us the right path, lead us to eternal freedom, Thou who knowest all. Preserve us from the deceitful attraction of sin. To thee we offer our salutations, with devotion, again and yet again.
The Sun is another major visible expression of Divine Light, representing the infinite power, majesty and glory of the Almighty . But mark it, it is not the visible sun or the visible fire that is worshipped or considered as the Absolute. Behind the physical sun there is the concept of a surya-devata and behind the physical fire there is the concept of an agni-devata. That is where, as the poet says here, the Lord is reachable to us.
Sloka No. 9 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 97 - 3):
tvad-bhAvo yAvadeShu sphurati na vishadaM tAvadevam hyupAstiM
kurvan-naikAtmya-bodhe jhaTiti vikasati tvan-mayo’haM careyaM /
tvad-dharmasy-Asya tAvat-kimapi na bhagavan prastutasya prNAshaH
tasmAt-sarvAtmanaiva pradisha mama vibho bhakti-mArgaM manojnaM //
Tr. As long as the experience that ‘Thou art the All’ does not arise, shall I continue to perform your worship thus. Soon shall I attain to this experience of the unity of all existence. Thereafter I shall move about with a complete identification with Thee. Oh Lord! For one traversing the path of Thy (Bhagavata) dharma there cannot be any downfall or destruction. Therefore bestow on me the capacity to follow the path of bhakti, the most fulfilling of all spiritual paths.
Here the thought is that bhakti matures into the ultimate jnAna. To
speak of two
paths bhakti and jnAna as if they are mutually exclusive is contrary to the
yo mAM pashyati sarvatra sarvaM ca mayi pashyati /
tasyAhaM na praNashyAmi sa ca me na praNashyati //
meaning, He who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me, never becomes separated from me nor do I become separated from him. This is nothing but the brahma-bhAva where one is in brahman all the time.
Sloka No. 10 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 94 - 4):
tval-lokAd-anya-lokaH kvanu bhaya-rahito yat-parArdha-dvayAnte
tvad-bhItas-satyaloke’pi na sukha-vasatiH padmabhUH padma-nAbha
evaM bhAvepy-adharmArjita-bahu-tamasAm kA kathA nArkANAM
tan-me tvaM cchindhi bandhaM varada kr^ipaNa-bandho
There is no sphere other than Thy transcendent state of Vaikuntha that
is free from the fear of death and downfall. Even satya-loka (the world of the
highest level of divine existences, where the creator Brahma lives), Oh
Lotus-navelled One, is not found to be a secure and happy place by the
Lotus-born Brahma at the end of two parArdhas (that being the life-span of a Brahma).
What then to speak of those who, in consequence of their unrighteous deeds,
have incurred numerous sins and reside in hells. Therefore Oh Giver of
boons! Friend of the Lowly!
Comment. Recall: Certain is death for the born (‘jAtasya hi dhruvo mR^ityuH’) (Gita II – 27). Even Brahma, though the first-born, is born and the end awaits him. What begins has to end. Every movement of the Sun across the sky implies the passing away of our lives. This continual reduction in the remaining part of our lives is something that the scriptures are never tired of pointing out, because even after all this, we tend to forget this especially in crucial moments of self-consciousness, anger, jealousy, passion or disappointment. (See also ‘Death on the Wings’)
Sloka No. 11 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 99 - 10):
avyaktaM te svarUpaM duradhigama-tamaM tattu shuddhaika-satvaM
vyaktaM cApy-etad-eva sphuTam-amR^ita-rasAmbhodhi-kallola-tulyaM
sarv-otkR^iShTAm-abhIShTAM tad-iha guNa-rasen-aiva cittaM
mUrtiM te samshraye’haM pavanapura-pate pAhi mAM kR^iShNa rogAt
Thy nature as Absolute Being is not manifest to the
senses or the intellect. It is therefore difficult to grasp or attain. But Thy Being manifest in shuddha-satva
(spiritual purity) as
Comment. This is the explanation why followers of advaita have no reservation about the worship of the saguNa form of God while striving to comprehend the nirguNa concept of Godhead. Bhattatiri, through this sloka, sets at nought all the nagging dilemmas of a doubting advaitin, in regard to worship of the Formful. The real Nature of the Absolute Godhead is ‘duradhigama-tamaM’, that is, to reach out to it is most difficult, almost impossible. Recall, Gita Ch.XII – 5: Greater is the trouble of those whose minds are set on the manifest; for the goal, the unmanifest, is very hard for the embodied to reach.
klesho’dhikatarasteShAM avyaktA-sakta-cetasAM /
avyaktA hi gatir-dukhaM dehavadbhir-avApyate //
The philosophy of advaita has two facets. One is the 'kevala-advaitam' and the other is 'bheda-abheda-advaitam'. The former one will not even talk of any attribute-ful form, as a possibility in the absolute sense. In other words, even Ishvara belongs to a lower reality than the Absolute. And because, everything other than the Absolute is non-real, Ishvara has to be non-real. (See also ‘The message of One-ness’) But the bheda-abheda-advaitam says that the wavy surface of the ocean even though it appears as if it can be distinguished from the ocean, IS the ocean. There is no distinction between them. If we have to make a distinction between them that distinction is one ‘without a difference’. In other words, bheda (difference, distinction) appears ‘without a real difference’. God is the highest being in devotional thought and He must therefore be Absolute also, even as the wavy surface and the ocean are one and the same in spite of the apparent difference. Bhattatiri’s advaitic leanings are in this category.