TYPES OF SASTRAS IN SANATANA DHARMA

Sastra means scripture.  When we analyse the meaning for sastra in the language Sanskrit, it is sasanath iti sastram, which means that which governs or directs or guides and by that way it puts us in the right path is sastra.  Sastra shows us the right path in two ways; one is it gives us knowledge about what is to be done (vidhi) and the second is it gives us knowledge about what is not to be done(nishedha).  Sastras explain the sanata vaidheka dharma.  There are nine type of sastras through which the sanatana vaidheka dharma is explained. 

The four vedas

Rig veda

Yajur veda

Sama veda

Atharva veda

The six Vedangas

Siksha : It gives the rules for the recitation of the mantras like how to pronounce a word, in what place the tone and pitch has to be raised etc.

Kalpa : It gives us knowledge about how to perform the Vedic rituals.

Vyakarana : vyakarana is the Sanskrit grammar.

Chandas : chandas is the arrangement of letters according to meters in Sanskrit.

Niruktam : It is the etymology; it gives us knowledge about how a word is coined based on the Sanskrit root verb.

Jyotisham : Jyotish means the heavenly body which have light.  Jyotisham means the deep study of the heavenly bodies which have light.  It is an entire science and what we know as astrology is only a speck of that entire science.  Astrology is reading the individual horoscope and finding out how a person’s life is influenced by the other heavenly bodies.

The four Upavedas.  For every Veda there is an Upaveda

The Upaveda for Rig veda is Ayurveda. It is the Indian medicinal science.

The Upaveda for Yajur veda is Danurveda.  It is the science of archery.  It also

give information about the duty of the rulers, how to deal with politics, the duty of the citizens etc.

The Upaveda for Sama veda is Gandharva veda.  It is the study of all the art forms mainly Indian classical music, Indian classical dance and the rules of poetry.  It also gives information about how sound (mainly music) influences the body and mind. 

The Upaveda for Atharva veda is Stapathya Veda.  It is the science of Indian architecture.  It gives information about how a city must be built, how the roads must be laid, the measurements for building a house and everything concerned with building is given in this sastra.

  Tantram :  It is a way of worship using the mantra (sacred sound) and yantra (sacred geometry).  It has great benefits.

Dharshana : That which shows a perfect path is dharshana.           

There are three nastika dharshanas, six aasthika dharshanas and three special dharshanas.

The nastika darshanas are not dependent on the vedas.  The three nastika darshanas are

  • Charvaka darshana
  • Boudha darshana
  • Jaina darshana.

          The six aastika dharshanas are

  • Nyaya darshana
  • Vaisheshika darshana
  • Sankhya darshana
  • Yoga dharshana
  • Purva mimamsa (Vedic karma kanda)
  • Uttara mimamsa (Vedanta)

The three special dharshanas are

Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar) has its own darshana

Ayurveda has its own darshana

Tantra sastra has its own darshana

So all together there are twelve darshanas.

Smiriti : That which is to be remembered is smiriti.  They are the ideas, concepts and findings of the great masters.  They explain the norms of the society at different times.  It is subject to change with time. 

Puranas : puranas are written by Sri Ved Vyasa having the Vedic ideas and concepts in mind and merging with it the real life stories.  There are eighteen puranas.

Ithihasas : They are the history. There are two Ithihasas.

Prasthana tria : Upanishads, Baghavad gita and Brahma sutras are together called the Prasthana tria.  A person well versed in prasthana tria is said as a sastri.

These are the nine types of sastras through which the Sanatana vaidheka dharma is explained.

Hundreds of Rishis are involved in bringing out these sastras and hundreds of acharyas are involved in giving detailed explanation, commentary and meaning for these sastras.  Thus it is brought to the common man.

THE MEANING OF THE WORD DHARMA

Hindus follow the sanatana vidheka dharma.  Sanat means everlasting (eternal). Sanatana means that which is eternal.  Vidheka means that which is related to Vedas.  It also means that which is originated from the Vedas.  It also means that which is sustained by the Vedas.  Dharma is a concept (tattwa) which has deep meaning.  We cannot precisely define it however, using metaphors we can explain to an extent, which I will explain in this article. 

  1.  Dharanat iti dharma.  This is the understanding of dharma at the highest level.  Dharanat means that which supports.  That which supports this entire universe is called dharma.  In that sense Brahman/Conciousness or Ishwar/ God is dharma.
  •  Dharma is that which makes an object different from others, by its nature or guna.  For example, the dharma of the sun is heat and light.  Likewise, we all have a unique nature which makes us different from others.  That unique nature is the dharma of that person.
  • Jagat sthiti karanam dharma – The universe is existing because of dharma.  The Lord created this universe and he created the Sapta  Rishis and the Prajapati.  He also created the four Sanat kumaras – Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana,  Sanat kumara.  The Lord as Dakshinamurthy imparted the Vedic law of work, which is otherwise known as the law of righteousness (pravirthi marga) or knowledge to the Sapta Rishis.  He imparted the law of cessation of work (nivritti marga), that is meditation and detachment to the Sanat kumaras.  The two Vedic laws, the law of righteousness and the law of cessation of work (knowledge and renunciation)   bring stability to the creation.  The Sapta Rishis taught these laws to the future generation, to the sishyas.  They in turn taught to their sishyas and thus it came to us generation after generation.  Practicing these laws help to sustain this creation.  Due to the lapse of long periods of time, the practitioners of the law of righteousness had dominant desires in them and due to the lack of discriminative knowledge it brought lawlessness in the society.  The adharmic way of life dominated the society.  And so to revive the spiritual knowledge and to bring stability in creation, at times the Lord or the pure Consciousness manifests among human beings as avatars.  The avatars have pure knowledge and they teach the fellow beings this knowledge and thus bring back stability in creation and help to sustain the creation.  Therefore, law of righteousness and knowledge help to sustain this creation. 
  • When one performs his duty with a pure devoted mind, then it brings satisfaction to his life.  That which gives satisfaction to one’s life is dharma. 

These are the meanings given for dharma in the scriptures. 

Dharma leads one to the higher level of existence.  It removes the negatives in one’s life and it expands the mind.  Whoever follows the vidheka dharma is a Hindu.               

THE MEANING OF THE WORD HINDU

The meaning of the word Hindu

India has been a proud land of the Rishis for thousands of years.  Rishis (the Sages) searched for truth in the deeper layers of the mind.  When the mind is calm, without thoughts, then it is one with the pure Consciousness.  It is one with God.  When it has thoughts, it is separate from the Consciousness.  The Rishis merged the mind with the pure Consciousness and they found the truth and revealed it as Vedas.  The Hindus follow the Vedas.  In this article, I would like to share with you the meaning of the word Hindu. 

The word Hindu is not there in the ancients scriptures like the Upanishad, Brahma sutra or Baghavad Gita.  Somehow, it came in to existence after the Puranic period.  There are many meanings for the word Hindu.

1. Hinam dushyati iti hindu – the meaning for this sanskrit sentence is Hinam means to discard, dushyati means negatives, the entire meaning of the sentence is: a person who knows to discard or destroy the negatives is known as the Hindu.  They may do some rituals or may chant mantras or by japa and meditation, somehow, by following the Vedic way they discard or destroy the negatives.

2. Hindu can be split as H: + Indu.  H: is a beej akshara in Sanskrit and it means the Sun.  Therefore H: represents the Surya vamsa.  Indu means the moon and it represents the Chandra vamsa.  That land which is ruled in the ancient times by the surya vamsa and the chandra vamsa is called the Hindu Rashtra, and the people who live there are called the Hindus. 

3. Hindu can be split as Hi + Indu, Hi means the Himalayas and Indu means the Indu sarovar.  Indu sarovar is the ancient name for the Indian ocean.  That land from the Himalayas to Indian ocean (that is from Kashmir to kanyakumari) is known as the Hindu rashtra and the people who live there are Hindus, and the land where the Hindus live is called Hindusthan.  The ancient name for Bay of Bengal is Ganga sarovar and the ancient name for the Arabian sea is Sindhu sarovar.

4. The people who were settled on the banks of the river Sindhu were called as Hindus.  In the ancient times when the foreigners came to India for trade, especially the Persians, they found it difficult to pronounce the letter “SA” and so they mispronounced the word as Hindu.

These are some of the meanings for the word Hindu.  The Hindus follow the Sanatana Vaidheka Dharma.  Sanatana means eternal, Vaidheka means the Vedas and Dharma has a lot of meaning and but here the meaning taken is – the way of life.  It can be simply said as Sanatana Dharma.  Sanatana dharma is a way of life.  Seeing it as a religion is like seeing the vast sky through a small window.  The main objective of Sanatana dharma is freedom and universal acceptance.  The Hindus follow the Sanatana dharma and attain liberation.

THE ANALOGY OF TWO BIRDS IN THE UPANISHAD

THE ANALOGY OF TWO BIRDS (DWA SUPARNA)

The analogy of two birds (dwa suparna) is very famous in Vedanta.  In this article I would like to share with you the meaning and implication of this analogy.

The analogy of two birds comes in the Mundaka Upanishad as two verses – 3.1.1 and 3.1.2.

The analogy explains, on a tree with lots of branches and fruits, two birds are sitting on two different branches.  The two birds are of the similar nature except their gunas.  One bird is sitting on the higher branch and the other is sitting on the lower branch.  The bird sitting on the lower branch is hopping from branch to branch and tasting the fruits of the tree.  Some fruits taste good and some are bitter or sour.  Some are very sour.  Immediately the bird gets disappointed and it is taken aback.  It sits quite for some time.  At times it looks up at the bird sitting on the higher branch.  Meanwhile, all the time, the bird sitting on the higher branch is just observing the bird on the lower branch, without moving from its place.  The bird on the higher branch does not taste any fruit.  The bird on the lower branch is attracted by the calmness, peacefulness and the luminance of the bird on the higher branch.  It goes and sits near the bird on the higher branch for some time.  After sometime by its inherent nature, it hops from branch to branch and tastes both good fruits and bitter fruits.  Whenever it tastes a bitter fruit, it goes near the bird on the higher branch and sits there for some time and this drama continues.  The lower bird by its acquaintance at times with the bird on the higher branch, the nature of the lower bird gets gradually transformed like the higher bird.  After sometime, the nature of the lower bird gets completely transformed and it becomes same as the higher bird and gets absorbed in the higher bird.  In fact, the lower bird realizes that, there is no lower bird itself and it is the imagination of the higher bird. 

This analogy explains the mind of a spiritual seeker.

The implication of this analogy is, the bird on the higher branch is compared with the Atma.  The bird on the lower branch is compared with the jiva.  The Atma is always calm and it is the witness of the jiva.  The jiva performs karma and it tastes the results of its karma.  The jiva is the combination of the sthula sarira (gross body), sukshma sarira (subtle body), karana sarira (causal body) and citabasa.  The sthula sarira is the combination of the five basic elements.  The sukshma sarira is the combination of the seventeen components (the five pranas, five motor organs, five sense organs, mind and intellect).  The karana sarira is that darkness we experience in deep sleep.  It has the subtle form of all our karmic impression.  The reflection of the Atma falls on the sukshma sarira and it is called the citabasa.  From the sukshma sarira the consciousness is transferred to the gross body.  The citabasa makes the body and mind active.  Without the citabasa the body and mind are inert.  The consciousness we experience in the body and mind is the citabasa.  In deep sleep this consciousness disappears.  However, when we wake up we are aware of our sleep.  This is due to the pure consciousness, Atma.   

The lower bird which is compared to the jiva is a karta (doer) and bhokta (experiencer).  When the citabasa is attached with the motor organs then the jiva is a karta.  When the citabasa is attached with the mind and sense organs the jiva is a bhokta.  A jiva is a karta and bhokta and so desire arises in the mind.  Whenever a jiva tastes the result of a negative karma, it is taken aback, becomes depressed and it does some spiritual practices to balance its mind.  Again by the instinct of its karma it involves in doing fresh karma and tastes the fruits of the old karmas.  This process goes on.  By involving in spiritual practices, gradually its nature gets transformed and it becomes calm and peaceful.  The jiva continuously involve in spiritual practices, after some time it realizes that, “I am that which I am trying to meditate on”.  The jiva realizes that it is the Atma itself and the jiva is the mere reflection of the Atma.  The jiva realizes that the world is not different from its Self.  This is the ultimate realization.  The jiva become Atma or Brahman. 

This is the implication of the two birds (dwa suparna) analogy.  It is a very important analogy in Vedanta.  Vedanta is nothing but the shift in consciousness from the lower self to the higher self.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SRIMAD BHAGAVATA

THE IMPORTANCE OF SRIMAD BHAGAVATA

Srimad Bhagavata is an important purana among the eighteen puranas in Hinduism.  Srimad Bhagavata was written by Sage Vyasa.  Apart from writing Srimad Bhagvata, Sage Vyasa had organized, separated and codified the Veda into four sections as Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda.  Since he has codified the Vedas he was known as Ved Vyasa.   He taught the Rig Veda to his disciple Pyla Maharshi, Sama Veda to Jaimini Maharshi. Yajur Veda to Vysambayana Maharshi and Atharva Veda to Sumanthu Maharshi.  All the four were the disciples of Sage Veda Vyasa.  He has written totally eighteen puranas and ithihasa Mahabharata.  He taught the puranas and ithihasa to his disciple Romaharsha Maharshi. 

Even after doing so much, at the end of dwapara Yug, he felt an unrest and dissatisfaction in his mind.  He searched for reasons but he could not find out.  At that time he met Sage Narada.  Sage Ved Vyasa and Narada were worried about the mentality of the people in Kali Yug.  They discussed that the people of Kali Yug will be lazy, their life span will be short, and dharma will fade away in this Yug.  They were concerned about the life in Kali Yug.  Sage Ved Vyasa expressed about the unrest in his mind.  After hearing Sage Vyasa, Sage Narada said, ‘You have codified the Veda, written many puranas, wrote Mahabharata, but you have not written about the chaitanya that is residing in all; that is Sri Vasudeva Krishna.  You have not written about bhakti which is a very wonderful and powerful emotion; and hence write about bhakti towards Sri Vasudeva Krishna’. 

Sage Ved Vyasa took the words of Sage Narada as an intuition and wrote Srimad Bhagava from the Vyasa guha on the banks of river Saraswati.  After writing it he taught Srimad Bhagavata to his son Sri Suka Brahmarishi.  All his disciples taught the vedas, puranas and ithihasa to their disciples and it passed on generation after generation through guru-sishya parampara.

Srimad Bhagavata is written in a very lucid form explaining the history of Baghavan Krishna; including in it were various facts and stories that happened during Sri Krishna’s life time.  Srimad Bhagavata is the essence of all the Vedas and puranas and hence it is known as the fifth Veda.  Vedas are suitable only for the people who are highly spiritually elevated, and puranas are suitable for the people who follow dharma.  Srimad Bhagavata is suitable for the people from all walks of life including women and children. 

Srimad Bhagavata is a nivritti purana where we can find the solution for many of our problems in life.  In our life we are expected to follow two dharmas; they are the vyavahara dharma and para dharma.  Vyavahara dharma are the duties we follow in our life using our gross body like, earning money, taking care of our family, accepting professional responsibilities etc.  Paradharma is related to our mind.  We all have skills and talents.  We develop it according to our opportunities and situations.  Sometimes our talent and skills are respected.  Sometimes they are ignored or rejected and sometimes not given the due value.  During such situations our mind goes into depression.  Such depression may push us in to problems both in the family and in the profession.  Spirituality is absolutely helpful in such situations.  Reading Srimad Bhagavata helps to keep our mind in a balanced state.  The hymns and Gitas in Srimad Bhagavata helps to keep our mind stable.  We understand that even Baghavan Krishna has many problems in life and we perceive how he overcame it in his life time. 

Srimad Bhagavata is devotional text embedded in philosophy.  Hence Srimad Bhagavata is considered as an important text in Hinduism.

UNDERSTANDING ADVAITA PHILOSOPHY(NON-DUALITY)

Advaita is a profound philosophy.  It is the philosophy of knowledge and understanding.  In the history of philosophies advaita emerged much later, probably after the naiyaka, vaisheshika and Sankya philosophies.  Even though they were advaita gurus in ancient times, it was Sri Sankaracharya who made it available to the layman. 

In advaita philosophy, understanding is more important than any spiritual practice.  Advaita philosophy is a two step teaching and understanding.  The first is the discrimination between the Atma and anatma.  It is otherwise known as viveka.  At present we assume ourselves to be a body with a conscious mind, and some are not even aware of the conscious mind.  They simply assume themselves to be a body and that is why when the body dies they imagine that everything is lost.  According to advaita philosophy, each individual is a conscious being. 

Let us understand this with a traditional example.  Few pots filled with water are kept in the garden.  The quality and quantity of the water may differ.  Sun light falls on all the pots.  The reflection of the sunlight and the image of the sun may differ according to the quality of the water.  If the water is pure then the reflection and image are good.  The reflected sun is only an image and so it may not have the qualities of the original sun like the heat, brightness and radiation.  Likewise, the body is compared with the different pots.  The water is compared with the different minds and the sun is compared with the supreme consciousness.  That one supreme consciousness is reflected on different minds.  Only mind has the property to reflect the Consciousness.  The reflected consciousness is called chitabasa.  Every mind has a conscious ego “I”  It joins with other thoughts and it becomes our personality.  An individual or jiva is a combination of body, mind, and the reflected consciousness.  This combination is anatma; Anatma is inert.  It cannot perform its action without the pure supreme consciousness.  Atma, which is the supreme consciousness is intelligent.  Hence Atma is different from anatma.  This is the first step of understanding.

The second step of understanding is, I am that supreme consciousness.  I am that Atma which is all pervading.  It is the ultimate understanding.  Anatma is the reflection of the Atma.  The mind has different impressions and all the impressions become alive because of the Atma; and advaita says Atma is Satya (existence) and anatma is only reflection (maya).  Advaita philosophy never denies the universe; it only says that it is the appearance (mitya) and not the reality.  The individuals are appearances or reflection and the reality is Atma.  When the individuality is removed from all of them what remains is Atma.  Brahma satya jagad mitya: it is the core of Advaita philosophy.

These are the two steps in understanding advaita philosophy.