Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maya is hard to fathom, harder yet to transcend.

For a jivanmukta - who has transcended the realm of MAyA, the snake of samsara may well be a jewel, that like the Lord Parameshwara he can wear around his neck. For anyone but that rarest of mahatmas, one has to be weary about samsara.

Take the instance of King Bharata, from the Bhagawatam. Here was a King who renounces his family and kingdome, takes to the life of mendincancy and after years of tremedous penance and singlepointed worship reaches the rarefied heights of self-realization - and one day while this perfected Sage is bathing in a river, a tiger is giving chase to a pregnant doe who dies drowning in the water as even as she gives birth to her baby doe. Looking at this poor doe, a single thought came to Bharata's mind - 'Alas! by the Controller turning the wheel of time, has this one deprived of its kin, and now finds me alone for its shelter, only me as its father, mother, .. Surely having no one else it puts great faith in me to rely on .. fully dependent on me for its sustenance, love and protection; I shouldn't look away but instead know what the fault is of neglecting someone who has taken shelter and thus also act accordingly. Indeed is it surely of great importance that the civilized, the saintly, even though complete in their renunciation, as friends of the helpless are committed to the principles, even at the cost of their own self-interest......Indeed is it surely of great importance that the civilized, the saintly, even though complete in their renunciation, as friends of the helpless are committed to the principles, even at the cost of their own self-interest.'

Thus one sees that through the Bhagawatham Vyasa drives home a extremely important lesson here. What Bharata felt was undoubtedly dharmic. After all it was just a mere doe child. Why not take care of it? What is there to say that such an action is lacking in propriety. Surely he was acting only appropriately - just doing what needed to be done, and that too, thinking himself as a mere instrument of the Lord who seems to have put this young hapless doe at his feet to nurture. But as the Bhagawatam describes so vividly the nurture and caring for this single doe-child, not even a human baby, much less his own child, step by little step, day by day, has this Sage so bewitched, and engroseed, that it leads to his spiritual downfall - so much so that at the time of death it is the doe that is uppermost in the minds of that sage and he takes birth in the next janma as a deer himself! By the Lords Grace he actually remembers his prior life and what led to his downfall and laments thus "'Oh what a misery! I have fallen from the way of life of the self-realized, although I had given up my sons and home, lived solitary in a sacred forest as one perfect to the soul who takes shelter of the Paramatma and although I was constantly listening to and thinking about Him, the Supreme Lord Vâsudeva, with chanting, worshiping and remembering being absorbed, filling all my hours; by time does a mind fixed in such a practice turn into a mind fully established to the eternal, but again, fallen in affection for a deer-young, I am a great fool far from that!" The point is that even at the absolute pinnacles of spiritual ascent, one small lack of caution can drag a seeker down as rapidly as a ball spiralling downhill.

We can take the example of a alcoholic here. After years and years of going to the bar with his friends, per chance one particular person, out of a hundred hears about the dangers of alcohol, and a small desire creeps in him to quit. As he keeps hearing more and more about the dangers of alcohol, his dispassion or vairagya towards alcohol bbecomes stronger and this desire to quit and become free from his habit or mumukshutvam becomes stronger and stronger. At some point this alcoholic has built up enough discrimination or viveka to know that it is only his conviction that there is pleasure in alcohol that causes him to drink, and that as long as he drinks he will be tossed between the pair of opposites of joy on tasting the alcohol and sorrow when its effect wears off. Thus he realizes that unless he obtains freedom from alcohol, his death is both certain and imminent, and this further strengthens his vairagya to alcohol. Everyday he keeps brooding over these thoughts and building up more dispassion. ONe fine day while in the same bar with his same friends he finally makes a decision - enough is enough and i need to quit for good - and quit now. Now of course once this firm and extremely intense desire to quit has arisen, there is nothing preventing him from remaining in the bar. After all these are his friends and he can continue to sit with them and engage in lively banter, - if he is firm in his conviction that alcohol is poison, he is surely not going to consume! Sadly that is next to impossible. As long as even a whiff of alcohol is close to him, that alcoholic in his state of dependency, cannot but help get dragged right back into the old habit. Unless he makes a clean break from his fiends, from the bar, from any sight and smell of alcohol, his rehabiliation, which nothing but an establishment in sobriety, is impossible. Until the last vestiges of the alcohol vasana has not been fully and totally purged from his antahkaranam is he has his own interest at heart, this recovering alcoholic will never step anywhere near a bar. Only after he is established in his status as a sober individual, will he have the freedom to reenter the bar - and even then early on will at least exercise a degree of caution in making sure that come what may, no drop of alcohol ever touches his lips - there may be zero chance that now after all those vasanas have been erased that he will go back to that state but having known the miseries associated with that state this sober person will be wary of taking a chance.
This was what was Bharata's mistake - in one fateful moment of indiscretion he allowed what was seemingly a minor lapse in his sadhana - and the downfall was both abrupt and brutal.
SImilarly too, for a seeker, until he is well-established in his realization, and in his jnananishtA, he is best-served only by complete abandoment of karma - of course this can happen only when he has developed enough maturity, and most importantly enough intensity in his desire to really want to be free. But if after that he continues to tempt fate as it were, and remain in the midst of the very samsara his still feeble mind hopes to transcend he is severely depleting his odds of freedom.

That is why the Vivekachudamani cautions-

309. Even though completely rooted out, this terrible egoism, if revolved in the mind even for a moment, returns to life and creates hundreds of mischiefs, like a cloud ushered in by the wind during the rainy season.

310. Overpowering this enemy, egoism, not a moment's respite should be given to it by thinking on the sense-objects. That is verily the cause of its coming back to life, like water to a citron tree that has almost dried up.
324. As sedge, even if removed, does not stay away for a moment, but covers the water again, so Maya or Nescience also covers even a wise man, if he is averse to meditation on the Self.

325. If the mind ever so slightly strays from the Ideal and becomes outgoing, then it goes down and down, just as a play-ball inadvertently dropped on the staircase bounds down from one step to another.
Furthermore a question is posed and an answer also provided -
How is the exclusion of the objective world possible for one who lives identified with the body, whose mind is attached to the perception of external objects, and who performs various acts for that end ? This exclusion should be carefully practised by sages who have renounced ALL kinds of DUTIES and ACTIONS AND OBJECTS, who are passionately devoted to the eternal Atman, and who wish to possess an undying bliss.


Deo said...

hi shyam

i've been reading your blog, and have gained much from your articulation. I was wondering if you will be able to view this video (nanci danison) and post your comments.


sudha said...

I came across your blog recently. Great to read. Thanks.why no recent posts?

To a beginner, as you have pointed out the example of an alcoholic, samsara is full of traps.But as our Gurus say, you cannot make samsara responsible for your falling. The Sadhana Chatushtayams have to be strictly imbibed in you to go forth boldly. And as Dayanandaji was told by his Guru, not to run away but jump into this world where our karma has to be done without bondage.