Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bhamathi – born Jeevanmuktha?

Most students of Advaitha Vedantha have likely heard the name “Bhamathi”. Bhamathi is one of the sub-schools of Advaita Vedanta. I cannot claim to know much about these subtle philosophies, but I am fascinated by the story behing the Bhamathi school.

The interesting fact is that Bhamathi, the eponym behind the name of this sub-school, was the wife of the main author of this sub-school, Vachaspathi Mishra. You can find more details on them here. While using pen-names of loved ones/spouses are slightly common now, it is amazing that such a attribution happened several centuries ago! How did this come to be?

Vachaspathi, soon after marriage, completely forgot himself and his householder life, in the study of Vedantha and writing several works elucidating them. Decades rolled by when he barely paid attention outside of his work, thus likely neglecting his new wife.

What did the little wife do while her husband was tucked away with his palm leaf manuscripts and his tomes on various topics, his mind and body engaged in lofty philosophical thought? Did she manage her household on her own, care for aged in-laws, handle the affairs of property/land? Did she quietly serve him, anticipating his every need? Did she sharpen his bamboo brushes, prepare his palm leaves, dry and bind the written leaves? Could she read his works, comprehend them and understand their importance?

As her friends went on to bear children, celebrate festive occasions, enjoy the joys of married life, did she ever feel angst? Did she glace wistfully at the little children playing in the roads? Did she ever wish for the simple gifts that young brides seek from their husbands? Did she ever hesitatingly wait for her husband to look up from his work when she served him food? Did she resign herself to her lot or accept it with equanimity?

Legend goes that, one day, on the verge of completing his magnum opus (a commentary on Adi Shankara’s Brahma sutra Bhashyam), he looked up to see an elderly lady lighting a lamp. Not recognizing her, he questions her about her identity and learns that she is indeed his own wife “Bhamathi”!! He is naturally stunned, but touched by her unconditional support, uncomplaining nature and devotion to her duty.

As most legends are, this one is likely an exaggeration. However, it probably is based on some truth. Bhamathi could have been a born Jeevanmuktha who did what she felt was her duty, with no expectations or desire whatsoever. She may have known the import of her husband’s work for Hindu philosophy or she may have been ignorant of it, yet she supported him selflessly in his endeavor, her ego annihilated.

Can there be a better example of Shithapragna lakshana?

Incomparable beauty – Guru’s actions – #3

 

Does praise affect him?

Inspite of a wonderful devotion towards Swamiji, I control myself not to constantly show it amid people. I think it would make people uncomfortable to see unbridled devotion (It used to be the case with me – when people raved about their Gurus, I have stood embarrassed and unable to understand the guru bhakthi not many years ago, so I do understand!)

However, once in a while, it gushes out. Words of praise and gratefulness gush out, often incoherently. A friend told me to control it since it might make Swamiji uncomfortable. I feel strongly that it will not – I will control for others’ sakes, but he will understand. He is not like us ordinary mortals for such praises to go to his head – we cannot superimpose our weaknesses on somebody like him.

After all, for such saints, “tulya-ninda-stuti ” (Bhagavad Gita 12.19) Criticisms and compliments are alike for them.

When I do say such things, he passes it on to his guru. Kanchi Paramacharya speaks of this too in his “Namaskara mahima”. Let him pass it on, but for us, we do need to verbalize this once in a while directly.

 

 

 

Incomparable beauty – Guru’s actions – #2

Continuing on my Guru’s immensely beautiful actions.

Weariness with samsara

It is hard to measure progress in spiritual sadhana. However, the increasing periods of calmness and the ability to be in solitude have been blessings for me.

What was troubling me was a notion in my mind that family and work relationships were intruding in my contemplation and sadhana. Following my planned sadhana and my chosen values felt difficult and I was tending to pass the blame onto others close to me.

While this unnecessary torment went on for some time, it reached breaking point one time and I broke down before Swamiji. The compassion I got from him is incomparable – this is a compassion that is devoid of any judgements, any disappointments and any expectations. (when I analyze the compassion I give even my own children, it is tinged with either a judgement on their behavior or an expectation from them or stems from a disappointment in them).

His message was simple – nobody can hinder your spiritual progress/sadhana. However, in samsara, one also has to be subtle and not so in-the-face when following one’s path. Sadhana cannot be devoid of love for family, friends, etc.

When I analyzed my blabberings to him later, I felt it was very childish of me. However, he never treated me as anything other than an exalted person. I hope to show the same kind of compasstion to others.

Incomparable beauty – Guru’s actions – #1

 

I am going to maintain a running list of all the things my Guru says and does – I find each of this not just inspiring but so beautiful – the beauty of something that is unadulterated, filled with love and unmistakably divine.

Guru demonstrating his own guru bhakthi

Swamiji has been recommended quinoa for his diet for some health reasons. We have been including quinoa during his bhiksha for several months.

However, over the summer, when I went to provide bhiksha with quinoa, he declined. I was shocked at this sudden puzzling change. On asking, Swamiji says he was following the instruction from his guru to avoid new-fangled foods. My first reaction was to argue against it and defend quinoa as not being new-fangled and being healthy/diabetes-friendly, etc. However, Swamiji said “Guruji said and that is enough for me”.

I was fuming, but I  chewed on it for several days. The message he was teaching is that it is necessary to completely surrender to the guru. One cannot pick and choose what one will follow and what one won’t. Disagreeing with even one of the messages with our intellectual powers will only undermine shraddha and hence, disturb sadhana.

In retrospect, I thought, how does it matter what it is right or wrong in these non-spiritual matters? What matters is the fact that Guru completely banishes one’s ego that one lets go of the intellectual rights and wrongs.

Swami Gnananadha says “A true disciple has no sadhana to perform. He has only to surrender himself completely to his guru”. Our swamiji demonstrated this in such a simple manner, but it has left such a powerful expression in me. I feel the complete surrender and can only pray to Swamiji to keep me surrendered. Alan Jacobs-ji calls this “the jaw of the Guru-tiger” from which there can be no escape”. I will be blessed to be caught permanently in the jaws of my Guru-tiger!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth of Guru bhakthi – A miracle

 

This is the journey of how Guru bhakthi found me (not vice versa, since I never went looking for it and in fact, even resisted it!)

A miracle
That still dazes me.

Prose feels inadequate, poetry slightly better
To inscribe my journey to the guru’s feet.
A journey that involved no effort
A journey like that of a flimsy piece of metal
Drawn to the majestic magnet.

Skeptical I was when people mouthed venerations
To their gurus, masters and gods.
I doubted that I would ever feel so –
I, who reveled in the power of my intellect.

Guru breaks those doubting walls
And enters your conscience.
Before one can fathom the change,
Love and devotion take a stronghold.

Love as no other love on earth,
Devotion as for nothing else.

Guru intrudes into every thought
Purifies it before it morphs into action,
Smooths away worries; creates bliss.

Every action of Guru
Even His very existence
Is a lesson, an inspiration,
Verily a spiritual doctrine.

Love from the Guru of the kind
That makes one want to rise up
To make one deserving.
Love of the kind
That provides solace,
And strength to stride through life.

A miracle indeed.

 

Prose is definitely inadequate for certain topics such as guru bhakthi and guru mahima – which explains why saints like Adi Shankaracharya chose the poetic form to wax on the glories of Guru. (Guru padhuka sthothram, Guru ashtakam, Guru sthothram).