Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kathopanishads | Discourse at Ramakrishna Ashram Part - I

After a long time I attended the discourse at Ramakrishna Ashram on Kathopanishads by Swami Atmashraddhananda. Here is a write-up of whatever I understood there. Swamiji started off with reading out the sloka and then started explaining it in his inimitable style of raising questions and answering them.

Those who have not known the (nitya in sanskrit)Reality of eternal truth will never find peace - eternal happiness in other words. As long as we think that Reality and we are something different we will never see it. Reality is inside us, rather reality is us and we are reality. This Reality is permanent, it has no beginning and has no end. Hence it is the ONE. Eternal peace is for those who see the Reality and not for those who discriminate.

Spirituality is a quest for the Reality. It begins with the question "Is there something Real in this world?" and finding the answer is the end of the journey. Let's take the learning curve of a child for example. He begins with an understanding of the moving and the non-moving. A cat moves and a table doesn't. Pleasurable and not-pleasurable is the next stage. Here he does not think whether it is beneficial or not, it is all about pleasure. Next stage is Good or Bad. And so on there are various stages. But very few people can come up with the question of Real or Unreal.

More often than not, when a person undergoes a very strong experience is when he comes to this question of Real and Unreal. For others it is just between pleasant and unpleasant. For others it is all matter(that which can be sensed through our senses). But as per our Upanishads and other Holy writings of the Hindu Religion and according to the Lord Yama, it is Nitya from which everything has come. All material is a form of thought. The Upanishad thought varies from the mechanistic thought in this manner about Nitya.

He, who has the ability to discriminate the Eternal from the ephemeral, destructible from the indestructible and is able to find Nitya amidst Anitya is the one will experience Shashwatha Shantihi eternal peace.

A small story to better understand eternity and the ephemeraless. The Lord of Rightenousness Yama wanted to teach the Pandavas a lesson. While under exile, the Pandavas wandering in the forests felt thirsty and so they rested under a tree. Yudhishthira instructed Nakula and Sahadeva to find if there was any water source nearby. Nakula and Sahadeva climbed to the top of trees and surveyed the surrounding. They couldn't find any water per se but they saw a certain kind of trees that grew only near water sources. This also points to the knowledge of flora and fauna that the people of those times had. They inform Yudhishtira about the same and they proceed towards the spot to find a lake.

In the meantime, Lord Yama has taken the form of a stork and is standing nearby the lake. Sahadeva proceeds to get water for all of them. Then the stork speaks. Ok, let's just assume that they understood each other's language if you find a stork speaking to be so illogical. It is an altogether different topic that we don't understand a fellow human being's language itself! A stronger indication of the harmonious living between the flora and fauna and the human beings.
The stork says, "I will ask you a few questions. After you answer them
successfully, you may take water from here and go".
But Sahadeva is in such a thirsty state and also seeing his family members
state he just ignores the stork and bends down to collect water. As soon as he
comes in contact with the water, he falls down dead!
The same fate befalls Nakula, Bheema and Arjuna.

After waiting for an inordinately long time, Yudhishtira himself makes it to the lake and encounters the stork. Immediately he realises that it's not an ordinary stork. And he pauses to take the quiz voluntered by the stork. This quiz is the famous "Yaksha Prashna" that we have come to know of. One question in that quiz was related to eternity and ephemralness.
The Stork (in-the-form-of-Lord Yama) asked, "What is the latest wonder?"
Yudhishthira answers, "People die daily around us yet no one believes that
he is going to die"

Later on, Lord Yama shows his true form to Yudhishtira after being pleased with his answers. And also brings all his brothers back to life. The point here is that, we are Eternal (Nitya). But this Body is not. We realize that we are eternal but restrict the understanding to our body-mind consciousness and hence we are fearful. When we approach Divinty we become fearless. Identification with Anitya is why we never see the Eternal Truth.

Continued in Part - II


Blogger Parvati said...

Hmmm. Ok. Now for the 2nd part.

1:01 AM  
Blogger mysorean said...

There it is!

10:56 PM  

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