Asvala was the hotri priest of Raja Janaka. Yajnavalkya was acclaimed rishi or scientist in those times. During a debate held in the court of Raja Janaka, Asvala raised several questions relating to Vedic Ritual to Yajnavalkya. The debate has been mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Vedic Yajna or fire-sacrifice has four priests viz. Hotri, Adhvaryu, Udgatr and Brahma who pronounce Rig, Yajur, Sama & Atharva Vedic matras respectively.
Yajnavalkya explained the technical matters of the ritual, modalities and benefits of fire-sacrifice or Yajna. The questions rose by Asvala and explanations given by Yajnavalkya are mentioned as under:
Answer: It is not possible to escape death as long as the sacrificer considers himself as a human being. As long as this assertion of individuality is there and the Truth behind this individuality is not known, one cannot escape death. There should be, simultaneously, together with the sacrifice, a meditation. It is not enough if you merely offer oblations into the sacred fire during Yajna or give material objects in charity. Internal contemplation is necessarily to be associated with the sacrifice. All are four priests in a fire-sacrifice i.e. yajna and Yajmana cannot escape death unless they meditate that the principle of speech which is responsible for the recitation of the Mantra and the human beings. This knowledge is liberation. This is called Mokṣha. This is freedom from the trammels of death.
Answer: All perceptions are Yajnas are performed through the senses. The time factor is in the process of day and night. The moment you become one with the seeing principle i.e. sun, you are freed from death. And the time factor in the process of days and nights will not work there. In the sun, there is no day or night. This is how freedom from the operation of days and nights and the time element is achieved. This is freedom from the death.
Answer: The breath, the vital force, with the operation of which the chant of the Sama is made possible, should be regarded as the real chanter of the Sama. The reciter of the Sama Veda, can identify himself with the principle of breath and vital energy inside, and that vital energy be identified with the Cosmic Vital Force, in other words, if the meditation on Hiranyagarbha be conducted simultaneously with the sacrifice, then the priest can be freed from death.
Answer: If a sacrifice is merely a performance without a meditation, death cannot be escaped. But if the meditation is done simultaneously with the performance of the sacrifice by which the performers get identified with the deities at once, there would be a final harmonious adjustment of all the four conductors, in a unity of purpose which will culminate in the realization of the one Divinity, which is the aim of the sacrifice, and then, there will be no death.
5. In this sacrifice, how many Rig verses are used, and what types of verses are used? What is the purpose of this chant? What does he gain by it? Do you know what he will gain by the recitation of these Mantras which are of a very comprehensive nature?
Answer: The Hotr, the Rig Vedic priest, uses three types of verses viz. the introductory verses, the principal Mantras which are connected directly with the offering of the oblations and the Mantras which are having their concern with the results of the sacrifice, the glorification of the deity of the sacrifice called Sasya. These Mantras are forces which are released by a method of recitation, and these forces are directed to all those objects which can be regarded as living or non-living. So it is an all-powerful chant which can exercise a control over all beings and gain everything.
6. How many oblations are offered in the sacrifice the Adhvaryu, the Yajurvedic priest? What are those Mantras and what is the connection between these Yajurvedic Mantras that he chants and the results that he expects from the performance of the sacrifice?
Answer: There are three oblations which are offered along-with three types of Mantras. These will produce three kinds of effects. First type of Yajurvedic Mantras when recited causes the flames to flare up vertically in the direction of the sky or the heaven. Second type of Mantras in the Yajur Veda will cause the flames to make a roaring noise and they rush upwards as if a lion is opening his mouth. Third set of Yajurvedic Mantras will make the flames go down and bury themselves in the Yajna Kunda. When he recites Mantras which are capable of flaring up the flames vertically, they will produce a force which will take him to the celestial region. The celestial region shines like the flames that go upto the sky, deva-lokah; When he chants Mantras which will make the flames roar with gusto, they will produce a strength and a force and potential by which he will gain the Pitr Loka, or the world of the ancestors and When he chants Mantras which will make the flames go down and bury themselves in the pit, they will produce another kind of vibration which will make him a good human being in the next birth i.e. manusya-lokah.
7. Which is the deity, by the power of which Brahma, the Atharva Vedic priest protects this sacrifice? How many gods are there whom he resorts to for the protection of this Yajna that is being performed here?
Answer: There is only one God i.e. the mind of the Brahma, the priest. He conducts his mind in such a manner in respect of the purpose of the sacrifice that it becomes a force by itself. The mind can assume infinite forms through the functions that it performs. So the mind is identical with what is known as a group of celestials called the Visve-devahs (deities of universe). These are the protectors of the sacrifice. As a matter of fact, every god is nothing but one function of the mind. The Atharva Vedic priest raises himself to the status of an all-comprehensive force, by the very concentration that he practices.
8. What are the set of Mantras which the Udgatri, the Sama Vedic priest chants here and the purpose?
Answer: The Sama Vedic priest chants three types of Mantras – the introductory, the oblationary and the laudatory i.e. the Prana, the Apana and and Vyana respectively. He must meditate in a manner by which the vital breath within becomes the deity of the Samaveda. The whole earth can be governed by him, by the force generated by the introductory chant. The atmospheric world can be controlled by him by the recitation of the middle one. The heavenly world can be gained and controlled by him by the recitation of the third chant, namely, the laudatory one.
Asvala felt that every question was answered and that he could not put any further questions.
Riddle of being born poor or rich, birds or worms, riot torn regions or prosperous regions etc., is lucidly explained by Vishnu Bhagwan in Garuda Purana. Shri Hari informed his vehicle Garuda in the Garuda Purana that wealth, sons, wife and family, kinsmen, even body are transitory; possessions are not eternal; death is certain. Relations soon fade away. Hence, why not accumulate good deeds. Sinful deeds bring misery. The good and evil karma goes into next birth. Attachment is the root cause of miseries. As a remedy for attachment, one should develop attachment to the good, discrimination, and purity of the eyes. Such person shall not be able to do bad deeds.
In chapter 15 of Garuda Purana, Vishnu Bhagwan has explained in detail about importance of meditation and devotion. Human Body has seven energy centers (chakras). Meditating on these chakras commencing from the base chakra with unwavering mind and by repeating the Ajapa-gayatri, upwards and downwards, the person feels oneness with the almighty.
Sri Hari further, tells Garuda that the path of devotion is far superior. For purification of mind rituals, performance of righteous duties and sacrifices (Tapas) are surely useful. But total devotion to Sri Hari yields a fruit which is the most valuable end everlasting. Meditation and devotion, if practiced as prescribed, one enjoys the eternal bliss of unification with the almighty.
One who, firm in non-attachment, worships me, thinking of no other, full-vision, with tranquil self, attains liberation.
Vishnu Bhagwan explains in chapter 15 as under:
Importance of meditation:
Importance of devotion:
Sri Hari further, tells Garuda that the path of devotion is far superior for all those who are attached to the world. For purification of mind rituals, performance of righteous duties and sacrifices (Tapas) are surely useful. But total devotion to Sri Hari yields a fruit which is the most valuable end everlasting.
Sri Hari concludes saying that the man who follows all the things detailed above would find union with Him and gets eternal liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He enjoys the eternal bliss of unification with the Supreme Being.
Vishnu Bhagwan explains in chapter 16 the Law of Liberation as under:
Garuda Purana, a Vaishnava Purana deals in detail about the anatomy and chemistry of body and soul in its chapter 15.
Grauda Purana provides great insight on the anatomy of body and Atman as follows:
The Garuda Purana, a Vaishnava Purana is one of eighteen Mahapuranas, containing 8,000 to 19,000 verses. The modern era version of Garuda Purana is likely of 800 to 1000 century AD. It contains dialogues between Bhagwan Vishnu and his vehicle, Garuda about death, afterlife, sins, life in hell, location of hell, Yama, punishments meted out to the sinners, types of funeral rites to be performed for the departed, modes of liberation from rebirth cycle etc.
Garuda Purana is supposed to be chanted after the demise of a person; and especially in the 13-day mourning period. It is associated with many superstitions such as – it is inauspicious to keep the text at home; it is inauspicious to read it in any other period except the mourning period etc. etc. Nothing could be farther than the truth. In fact, this is the scripture which deals at length, about consequences of good & bad deeds, why a few people enjoy all comforts & others toil and how to be liberated from the cycle of birth-death. Chanting of Garuda Purana during mourning period was probably prescribed with the intention that the loved ones of deceased would better realize the importance of good deeds and liberation from rebirth cycle.
Grauda Purana addresses the burning questions about life, death and after death. It provides great insight on the following:
Reasons for vast variety of living beings and some persons being born as pauper, sick and others with silver spoon
(Numbers in bracket hereunder are reference of Garuda Purana - chapter/page/verse)
Life after death, the journey of the soul, death and its aftermath, Rebirth
(As per modern science –
Importance of charity
Significance of Mourning of 13 days’
The major “verse-wise” details from Chapter one to fourteen are explained below (chapters 15 & 16 are dealt in separate articles):
Chapters I to VII deal with Hells (mentioned below in bracket as chapter/page/verse).
Chapter VII to XIII deal with Ceremonies for the dead
Chapter XIV deals with Heaven.
Saint Ashtavakra, the revered Vedic sage of Hinduism, explained the attributes of ignorant person and liberated or mukt person during the dialogue with King Janaka of Mithila Kingdom.
People are of four kinds viz. wise, seeker, ignorant and idiot. Idiot is one who enjoys bodily actions. Ignorant has spiritual knowledge but no inclination for liberation. Seeker is interested in liberation. Wise person is already attained wisdom of liberation.
Dull or ignorant assumes renunciation of wealth, house, kingdom, home etc. is asceticism. Offerings made in temples, pittance given to beggars or poor etc. are not renunciation. Whereas enlightened person resides in jivatma and drops all worldly desires. He is neither passionate nor renunciant.
Saint Ashtavakra explained the following characteristics of ignorant person and realized person:
Enlightened or Realised or liberated Person:
Ashtavakra Gita – the Enlightenment or Spiritual Wisdom
This universe has two perpetual powers i.e. spiritual wisdom and ignorance. Ignorance is for world and spiritual wisdom is for bliss. Ignorance takes the person away from jivatma and spiritual wisdom brings him closer to jivatma. Truthfulness, love, purity, uprightness, renunciation, dispassion, compassion, mercy etc. feelings are immortality.
Jivatma is not away in heaven or in Himalaya or temples but inside everybody which needs to be experienced. Jivatma is pure, serene, infallible (without defect) and not wavering. But due to clouds of thoughts and desires, jivatma cannot be seen. By clearing distractions, thoughts and desires from mind, enlightened person see the truth. He becomes observer, witness. World is based on imaginations, good or bad. All imaginations are in mind. Once curtain is lifted from mind, world appears different. Now the person can see jivatma which is unbound and free.
Realisation or experience of Jivatma (soul, self) is the spiritual wisdom, rest are information gathered from outside. Spiritual wisdom is beyond intellect and cannot be understood from books or scriptures. Intellect cannot provide solutions to different belief-systems and opinions. Hence, person aspiring for spiritual wisdom should avoid them. Just believing that jivatma is unchangeable, eternal and pure is not sufficient, realizing is necessary.
Enlightenment or Spiritual Wisdom;
Eligibility for Spiritual Wisdom:
Ascent of Spiritual Wisdom:
Ancient Texts in Hinduism
Vastness, language barrier and lack of proper documentation of Scriptures in Snatana Dharma have been enigmatic to everybody including Hindus. The purpose of this article is provide bird view to the ancient texts in Hinduism so that one can realise the incredible knowledge available and advances made by the ancient Hindu Scientists, commonly called as Rishis.
The ancient texts of Hinduism may represent in form of a Dharam tree. The Roots of the tree are Truthfulness, Austerity, Selfless duty and Charity (Daan); the Trunk of the tree is four Vedas; the Branches of the tree are Vedang, Upvedas, Yogmarg, Mantras and Shastras; the Leaves are Puranas; the Flowers are stories of Rama & Krishna and the Fruits are Festivals, Sanskars, Arts, Music, Dance, Science etc.
The ancient knowledge was transmitted through Guru-Shishyia (Teacher-Student) tradition verbally. Texts which are heard are called as Shruti and texts which are remembered, are called as Smirti. Vedas are Shruti. Shruti means the divine messages heard by great seers. Vedas were revealed to the ancient sages by the Supreme Being through his divine powers namely Agni, Vayu, Aditiya and Angira. Rigveda through Agni, Yajurveda through Vayu, Samveda through Aditya or surya and Atharvaveda through Angira (Atharva). Each Veda has three portions: Samhita (mantra portion and hymns); Brahmanas (ritual portion); and Aranyaka (spiritual philosophy) besides Upanishads. Smritis include Dharma Sastras (8), Itihasa, Purana (18) and Vedangas (6). Mahrishi Veda Vayas compiled the Vedas around 5000 years ago.
Upanishads are part of Vedas are commonly referred to as Vedanta i.e. last chapters or the highest purpose of the Vedas. The Upanishad (upa – near, ni – down, sad – sit) means sitting down of disciple near spiritual guru. Total Upanishads are 108, out of which principal Upanishads are 11. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma i.e. the cumulative effects of a person’s actions.
Vedangas (limbs of Vedic Studies):
Brahmanas, Aranyaka and Upanishads fall under this category.
Sutras are collection of syllables and words in shorthand, containing rules & directions with which the teachings of ritual, philosophy, grammar, or any field of knowledge can be woven. A collection of sutras becomes a text. A sutra is different from other components such as Shlokas, Anuvyakhayas and Vyakhyas found in ancient Hindu literature. A Shloka is a verse that conveys the complete message and is structured to certain rules of musical meter; an Anuvyakhaya is an explanation of the reviewed text, while a Vyakhya is a comment by the reviewer. Sutras first appear in the Brahmana and Aranyaka layer of Vedic literature.
The compendium of ancient Vedic sutra literature that has survived, in full or fragments includes the Kalpa Sutras, Smarta Sutras, Srauta Sutras, Dharma Sutras, Grhya Sutras, and Sulba Sutras. Sutras of Hindu philosophy include Samkhya Sutras, Yoga Sutras, Nyaya Sutras, Vaisesika Sutras, Dharma Sutras and Brahma Sutras.
These are six in number viz. Nyaya Darshan, Vaisheshika Darshan, Astang Yog Darshan, Samkhya Darshan, Poorva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa. (Articles of these are already published in this website under the category of Philosophy)
To guide the society, various rishis (scientists) have written their opinions, known as smiritis. These contain rules aimed at inspiring the people towards their duties and maintain peace and order. These are sixteen in number viz. Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parashara, Apastamba, Gautama, Vishnu, Daksha, Samvarta, Vyasa, Harita, Satatapa, Vasishtha, Yama, Devala, Sankha-Likhita, Usana, Atri and Saunaka.
'Purana means old times texts. The purpose of Purans is to transfer Vedic knowledge to the coming generations in simple language. The Puranas are post-Vedic texts which typically contain a complete narrative of the history of the Universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of the kings, heroes and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology and geography. There are 18 Puranas, divided into three categories, each named after a deity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. There are also many other works termed Purana, known as 'Upapuranas. The Puranas satisfy our popular cravings, by catering to our physical, moral or spiritual needs.
There are 18 Mahapuranas and an equal number of subsidiary Puranas or Upa-Puranas and many 'sthala' or regional Puranas. Of the 18 major texts, six glorify Vishnu; six glorify Brahma; and six glorify Shiva viz. Vaishnava aspects - Vishnu Purana, Naradiya Purana, Bhagavat Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana; Brahma as central deity - Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana; Shaivite aspects - Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana.
The Puranas provide insight into the aspects of idol-worship, festivals and devotions.
The Mahabharata (containing the Bhagavad Gita) and Ramayana are the national epics. The Mahabharata, attributed to the sage Vyasa, was written down from 540 to 300 B.C. The Bhagavad Gita, a philosophical dialogue between the Shree Krishna and the Arjuna. The Gita discusses selflessness, duty, devotion, and meditation, integrating many different threads of Hindu philosophy.
The term Agamas literally means tradition. The Agamas are a collection of scriptures of several Hindu devotional schools. The Agama texts describe cosmology, epistemology, and philosophical doctrines, precepts on meditation and practices, four kinds of yoga, mantras, temple construction, deity worship and ways to attain six fold desires. Each Agama consists of four parts viz. Jnana pada (spiritual knowledge of reality and liberation), Yoga pada (Physical and mental discipline), Kriya pada (Rules for rituals, construction of temples (Mandir); design principles for sculpting, carving, and consecration of idols of deities for worship in temples and for different forms of initiations or diksha) and Charya pada (lays down rules of conduct, of worship (puja), observances of religious rites, rituals, festivals and prayaschittas). The three main branches of Agama texts are those of Shaivism (Shiva), Vaishnavism (Vishnu), and Shaktism (Devi).
The Scholars have explored six ideologies inherent in Vedas. These are Shankara’s Advaita, Ramanuja’s Vashishtadvaita, Madhva’s Dvaita, Vallabh’s Shuddha davit, Nimbark’s Dvaita-advait and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Achint bhedabhed. (Articles of these are already published in this website under the category of Philosophy)
Bharata’s Natya sastra, Vyakarana Sastra, Vimana sastra, yantra sastra, Mantra sastra, manas-sastra, and so on, drama, metalurgy, health sciences, and a host of other subjects. Commentaries (bhashya, tika, tippani, vartika) –this is an enormous fund of literature in itself.
The Path of Moksha - Ashtavakra Gita
In Bhagavad Gita, Shree Krishna made discourse on four paths of salvation to Arjuna during Mahabharata. These four paths of spiritual realization are based on the premise that people are born with different temperaments and tendencies. The four paths are knowledge (jnana yoga), the path of devotion (bhakti yoga), the path of action (karma yoga), and the path of meditation (raja yoga).
Sufi-saints have also defined four stages viz. shariyat, tarifat, marifat and hakikat. Shariyat means following methods-preparations, rules-regulations, system-procedures, self-control, remedies etc. Tarifat means ego is lost, performance is stopped. Marifat means experience of consciousness but duality remains. Hakikat means only consciousness remains. Liberated person experiences consciousness everywhere. Hence, he neither criticise, nor praise, nor excited, nor angry, nor acquire, nor reject. He lives naturally
Sri Ashtavakra says, modern amenities and instruments are invented by human being with great efforts and research. Likewise, people are making efforts such as japa, tapa, yoga, sadhana, hath yoga, mantra sadhana, worship etc. to find almighty. But almighty is inside each one. Only requirement is to clear the mind. Doer-ship or ego develops stress of expectations. Non-fulfilment of expectations causes miseries. Ego and almighty, both cannot remain together. Once “I am-ness” dropped, almighty remains. The opposites (violence-non-violence, compassion-cruelty, politeness-harshness, humility-pride etc.) appear till duality. When entire universe appears as one consciousness, opposites disappear.
Sri Ashtavakra has preferred the spiritual wisdom as a path of moksha. He explained the paths as under:
Ashtavakra Gita – Spiritual Experience of Raja Janaka
Sri Ashtavakra described Raja Janaka about various aspects of body, ego, mind, soul, almighty and liberation. Raja Janaka being highly detached from worldly desires and was competent for spiritual enlightenment, experienced instantaneously the spiritual experience.
Enlightened guru says, “अयमात्मा ब्रह्म” means jivatma is brahman (parmatma). After enlightenment, disciple says, “अहं ब्रह्मास्मि” means brahman is omnipresent and jivatma is little knower and at one place. When the difference between jivatma and parmatma disappears, the state is moksha. In moksha, liberated person becomes free, without aspiration and bondage.
Sri Ashtavakra examines the validity of his spiritual experience of Raja Janaka. Raja Janaka explains about the different aspects after attaining the spiritual experience in various chapters which are as under:
Chapter – 2: On realisation, Brahman & Jivatma:-
Chapter – 4: Enlightened Person & World:-
Enlightened person drops ego, due to this his actions are natural and without stress, without aspiring for its fruits. He treats the world as play or dream.
Chapter – 5: State of Spiritual Enlightenment:-
After attaining spiritual enlightenment, one realises that he is eternal jivatma and there is nobody else. So nothing can be renounced. Only thing, one can drop is pride of body which is biggest bondage. Dropping of it leads to moksha.
Pleasure-pain is attributes of mind, hope-despair is attributes of chit, and life-death is attributes of body. But one is pure & eternal jivatma which is only witness.
Chapter – 6: State pf Moksha:-
The person neither desires to acquire anything, nor want to renounce anything, nor have attachment, nor have detachment, nor have fondness, nor has dispassion, nor feels life, nor moksha, in that state of void and waking, only consciousness remains. Once that state is attained, all efforts such as dharna dhayan, meditation etc. becomes useless.
Chapter – 7: Role of Senses of perception:-
All restlessness is due to mind. Desires, lust, better position, need of more wealth, expectations, need for respect, need of moksha etc. are attributes of mind. All these efforts create restlessness.
As ripples and waves rises in ocean, likewise these develop in mind but die down without damaging anything in enlightened person.
Senses of perception and mind are always attracted towards sense objects and are satisfied through senses of actions. When senses of actions are not remaining, these attractions continue in subtle form which leads to re-birth.
Chapter – 12: Process for Spiritual wisdom:-
Practice and dispassion are essential for spiritual wisdom. Sri Janak says, first I restraint bodily actions, then speech actions; later mind actions. Like this, I was made available to spiritual wisdom. One should ignore bodily actions, speech actions & mind actions and become observer. All actions are carried out naturally.
Chapter – 13: Pains & Actions:
Chapter – 14: Enlightened Person & Future Actions:
Chapter – 19: Experience of Jivatma:-
Chapter – 20: Concept of Advaita:
Raja Janaka has explained the spiritual experience of realisation of Brahaman, Jivatma & Universe in the following chapters and verses (the respective verses and chapters in Sanskrit are mentioned in the end):
Ashtavakra Gita – the Body, Mind & Jivatma
All dies, king dies, pauper dies, intelligent dies, ignorant dies, enlightened persons like Gautam Buddha died, even Shree Rama & Shree Krishna died. But jivatma is eternal. Body made of three attributes (sattva, rajas and tamas) takes birth or dies or experiences childhood, youth and old age.
Modern science says, matter and energy is not destructible but can be transformed. Likewise, spirituality also says, jivatma is not destructible and eternal.
Sri Ashtavakra described Raja Janaka about various aspects of body, ego, mind, soul, almighty and liberation in various chapters. He described that the disinterest or indifference towards desires and living in sacrificial way arises peace. One should live in curbed (limited) way. One should drop doer-ship and let the things happen in natural way. Instead of doer, one becomes seer. It will bring peace and eligibility for spiritual wisdom.
The various aspects are as under:
Brahman (Parmatma, Almighty or God) & Jivatma (Soul, Self):
Desires & Karma (actions, activities):
Bondage and Attachment:
Detachment & Dispassion (वैराग्य):
Sri Ashtavakra explained the above aspects in the following chapters and verses (the respective verses and chapters in Sanskrit are mentioned in the end):