Yajnavalkya was acclaimed rishi or scientist in period 8th to 7th century BC. Once, Raja Janaka held a debate on spirituality which was attended by a large of sages and rishis including Yajnavalkya. During a debate, Vidagadha Sakalya raised several questions relating on types and number of gods. The debate has been mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Yajnavalkya explained the cause, types and the number gods and their basis. The details of questions raised and replies are as under:
1. How many gods are there? Vidagadha Sakalya asked the question repeatedly.
Answer: Yajnavalkya relied successively that number of Gods are:
· 3003, 303 - As many as are mentioned in the (group of Mantras known as) Nivid of the hymn of praise addressed to the Visvedevas (Parmatma) viz. three hundred and three, three thousand and three. Many form of gods’ manifest the man's desire which all emanate from the one vital force of material desire are dealt with.
· 33 - The various powers praised in 3003 & 303 are in reality only thirty-three gods. The eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati make up the thirty-three.
o Fire, the earth, air, the sky, the sun, heaven, the moon and the stars, these are the Vasus. Vasus or energies are said to enable the desire that manifests the forms of all that live as well as all the objects of the universe.
o The ten organs in the human body (five gnanendriyas, and the five karmendriyas), with the mind as the eleventh. When they depart from this mortal body, they make (one's relatives) weep. Because they then make them weep, therefore they are called Rudras.
o The twelve months (are parts) of a year; these are the Adityas. Within creation all is subject to change and transience, this mutability we call time and mortality. Time came into being with Creation. The Adityas represent entropy (energy balance) as the twelve months that represent the time effect with mortality.
o The cloud is Indra, and the sacrifice is Prajapati. Strength and sacrifice are the means of rites and rituals. These are included because rites and rituals are regarded as a part of the desire for further creation, so the cause and maintenance of Creation (which is the purpose here to reveal) must be shown to encompass such ritual (desire).
· 6 - Fire, the earth, the air, the sky, the sun and heaven these are the six.
· 3 - Three worlds, because in these all those gods are comprised.
· 2 - Matter and the vital force.
· One and a half - The vital force (material desire) represented by "The (air) that blows" (the breath of life, symbolizing the desire that maintains the life experience itself). It is one and a half because through its presence all this attains surpassing glory.
· One - The vital force (Hiranyagarbha, Prana); it is Brahman, which is called that (Tyat). Vital Force also as air or prana has been explained to be the initial energy or movement from original desire from which all of these gods, deities or energies followed. The vital force named in this verse as Brahman does not mean the Absolute Brahman, The Non-Dual Self. This Brahman is the conditioned Brahman of material creation. This Brahman is endowed with attributes by the ignorant who seek reality in Creation. Ignorance is the forgetting of our Unity with the Absolute.
2. Vital force symbolizes the desire to Create and maintain worldly existence. Vital force, the one cause of all the worldly gods. The material form of the body was created from this world and will again decompose back to the earth. The material universe will eventually return to rest when creation is subsumed as the Absolute Knowledge alone. Vital force symbolizes the desire to flourish through offspring. The ultimate resort of the entire body and organs is the being who is identified with lust.
3. The abode or support or material for a vital force will naturally be the earth. The vital force itself is the very product of the mind, ego and Manas.
4. According to yogic philosophy, the human mind been classified into four categories: buddhi (intellect), manas, ahamkara and chitta. Manas means sensory, processing mind, Chitta is for storage of impressions, Ahamkara means "I-maker" or Ego and Buddhi which knows, decides, judges, and discriminates. It is due to being led by Manas that delusion and ignorance cause the seeing of duality as reality. Manas needs to be supervised, not allowed to be a guiding light. The intellect led by Manas leads to delusion and ignorance. Higher Divine Truth is seen through mind controlled by Buddhi.
5. Within this universe, duality of justice and injustice exist. The sacrifice ritual is conducted within the realm of Dharma and righteousness through which justice is obtained. It is the priest that officiates and gives validity and authority to a sacrifice ritual and the correct remuneration of the priest completes the correct procedure. Remuneration rests on faith which is guided by mind and supported by intellect. This faith is the very belief of the ignorant in a deity vital force that supports their individual rites and desire for reward from a divinity of duality.
6. Mind rests in Prana. Prana rests in apana (down breathing). Apana rests in Vyana (back breathing). Vyana rests in Udana (out breathing). Udana rests in Samana. These are the eight abodes (the earth, &c.), the eight worlds (fire, etc.), the eight gods (the immortal food, etc.), the eight persons (the corporeal, etc.).
7. Water here represents the organs of the body. Vital force sustains the desire for physical manifestation. Water sustains the body; the body is the abode of the vital force. Who is his deity'? 'Varuna (rain). Prajapati (the father) represents the renewal or continuation of creation through the desire for wife, Son, wealth and fame.
8. Colors symbolize the appearance of duality through the various forms of creation whose instrument of vision is the eye. Sunlight enables the seeing of colours form and duality. That described as residing in the sun also has the status of deity or god. Sense of hearing provides information it is due to all the senses confirming the world of duality. It is the being who is identified with the ear and with the time of hearing.
9. Distance in all the directions (The quarters) of the universe also represent deity. East direction is named seeing the sun. The sun is elevated to a deity by those seeing reality in Creation. Existence of the sun exists is supported by the sense of sight and the eye represents the proof of the sun’s existence. Eye sees different colors. Colors are in mind. South direction is associated with the deity, Yama (the god of justice).
10. West direction is associated with the deity, Varuna (the god of rain). To support life rain becomes water and it is from water that rain is produced. Water comes with Creation. Creation arises from the seed.
11. North direction is identified with the deity, Soma (the moon and the creeper). The ritual and the priest produce soma or liquid to enable the fruits of the ritual. Soma rests on initiation and initiation rest on truth. This truth is the truth as reported by the senses. One knows truth through the mind.
12. Fixed direction (Zenith) is identified with the deity, fire. Fire rest on speech. Speech acts of Creation by speaking the objects of desire. Speech is guided by mind as it sees duality with its needs and desires as real.
Sri Nimbarakacharya – Dvaitadvaita Philosophy
Sri Nimbarkacharya was born in Pandarpur in Andhra Pradesh in 12-13th century. Sri Nimbarka was devotee of Krishna and spent his time mostly in Mathura, the birth place of Krishna. He wrote small work of ten verses known as Dasa-Sloka, giving a short exposition of his doctrine for beginners.
Nimbaraka expounded the philosophy of Dvaitadvaita – duality in unity. He basically adapted the doctrine of Bhedabheda of Bhaskara. According to him, Brahman has innumerable auspicious attributes but without any particular form. He transforms Himself into the world of duality and change, without losing His entity as the Absolute and unitary Being. The Jiva in his real nature is one with Brahman, but gets differentiated from Him in the state of bondage by what is called the Upadhis or adjuncts of body-mind. But in liberation, Jiva is becomes with Brahman, as a river becomes one with ocean when it enters it. According to Bhaskara, by performance of the duties imposed on one by the Vedas without any desire for their duties imposed on the practice of meditation on Brahman and the Jiva’s oneness with Him, the Jiva will be able, by the strength of his aspiration for freedom, to release him from the bondage imposed by Upadhis. Bhaskara’s system does not preach devotion to any form of the Deity, nor does it affiliate itself with any personalistic cult.
Nimbarka’s Dvaitadvaita philosophy is as under:
Brahman is only independent entity. He is known by several names as Parmatman, Bhagavan, Isvara, Rama, Krishna and Purushottama. He is free from the five kinds of imperfections (Klesas) viz. ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and fear of death. He is omniscient, omnipotent and His will is always accomplished (Satya-sankalpa). He is free from law of karma. He is Nirguna (without three gunas of Prakriti – Sattva, Rajas & Tamas). He possesses the six unique qualities – Jnana (knowledge to perceive everything), Shakti (Power to make everything), Bala (Strength to support world), Aishvarya (Sovereignty), Virya (tireless energy) and Tejas (Prowess to suppress opposing forces).
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya – the Dvaita
Sri Madhvacharya, who lived during 1238-1317 in Karnataka, propounded the philosophy of Realism, the Doctrine of the Two i.e. Dvaita. It accepts two entirely separate substances, the independent reality (God) and the Dependent reality (the Jivas, Nature and other allied categories). Consciousness is always bi-polar. There must be a knower (Jnata) at one end, and an object (Jneya) at other end. The Dvaita is further elaborated through fivefold difference viz. Jiva and Jiva; Isvara and Jiva; Isvara and Jada or inanimate substance; Jiva and Jada: Jada and Jada.
The highlights of the philosophy are as under:
Dvaita doctrine of Madhva has recognized ten ultimate categories as under:
Supreme Being (Brahman):
Jiva (Individual soul):
Prakriti is dependent on Brahman. (As against, Samkhya’s philosophy that Prakriti is absolutely independent entity and philosophy of Advaita that world is only provisional reality which is sublated when the Truth is realized.).
Space and Time:
Both unmodified space and Time are not perceived through any of the sense organs by the Saksi (witness), the intuitive power of the Atman, directly. In deep sleep when all the senses and mind are absolutely at abeyance, the saksi intuits bare ego, bare time and bare bliss. As no sense experience is there, it cannot be an ordinary perception and for that reason, not an inference. The evidence of Saksi alone certifies it. Both time and space are infinite but also infinitely divisible.
Avidya or Ignorance:
The sense of an independent self-centered existence is called Avidya, the Svarupajnana (the ignorance of one’s nature). It is the basic cause of the Jiva’s involvement in the miseries of Samsara consisting in repeated births and deaths. The locus of Avidya is said to in Jiva.
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Ramanujacharya was born near Chennai, Tamil Nadu and lived during 1017–1137. He composed philosophical works and committing to writing the special views that were being developed orally by Yamunacharya (the grandson of Nathamuni, the great Alver) and his predecessors, gave the system a solid foundation to the Vasishtadvaita or qualified non-dualism, one of the great Hindu Philosophies. He established Lakshmi-sampradaya, also known as Srivaishnavism.
He propounded the philosophy so called as “Vasishtadvaita” or qualified non-dualism. Under the system, he proclaimed that the unity is not the sublation of all diversity but the subordination of diversity to unity. World, jiva and God (the absolute one) are true and liberation from bondage is also factually true.
He refuted the Advaita doctrine of Shankara that the Brahman, the absolute as the non-dual being in whom the world of many is mere appearance ascribed by ignorance and not actually existing. Ramanuja questioned locus of ignorance, if it is in Brahman; Brahman is loaded with evil and becomes unworthy as a spiritual goal.
Jiva (Soul) & Jagat (Nature):
Jivas are hold of oppressive Karma that generates the spiritual blindness of ignorance and impurity. God is untouched by karma and therefore absolutely pure.
Srishti & Parlaya:
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Advaita of Adi Shankaracharya
Adi Shankaracharya was an exponent of Advaita Vedanta philosophy which is expounded in the following shloka:
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगत् मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः
(Brahman is the only truth, the world is illusory, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self)
Adi Shankaracharya was born in 8th century in Kaladi village of Kerala and lived for 32 years. He composed commentaries on the more than 250 Vedic texts (Brahma Sutras, Geeta, Principal Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Vishnushstrnam, Lalitatristi, Vivikcudamani etc.). Vivekcudamani expounds the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. As per Advaita Vedanta philosophy, there are two realities: Vyavaharika (empirical reality, Maya) and Paramarthika (absolute, spiritual Reality, Brahman). Maya create a bondage to the empirical world, preventing the unveiling of the true Self (Real, Atman, Brahman). The major highlights of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy are mentioned as under:
Reference: Sri Sankaracarya’s Vivekacudamani by Svami Madhavananda
Path of spiritual wisdom requires renunciation (त्याग) and Shiv ji is Acharya of path of spiritual wisdom.
By following the path of Spiritual Wisdom, Gyani experiences that body and jivatma, both are different. Gyani does not have attachment to anything or anybody. He does not accumulate things. His birth is for tapas. By tapas, one gets purified.
Role of Satsang:
To attain spiritual wisdom, satsang is necessary. Hence, satsang should be every day. It purifies manas (मन). Saints always remember-meditate on the almighty.
Yoga vashisht Ramayan has explained seven stages / roles of wisdom viz.
Great desire of auspiciousness (शुभेच्छा), Positive investigation (सुविचारणा), Tanumanasa (तनुमानसा), Sattvapatti (सत्वापत्ति), Dissociation (असंसक्ति), Pdarthbhavini (पदार्थभाविनी) and Turiga (तुर्यगा). These are explained as follows:
The first three roles in the seven roles are “instruments or means excellence” (साधनकोटि) and the remaining four are “wisdom excellence” (ज्ञानकोटि). During first three stages, one need to meditate over Brahman with attributes i.e. personal god. Reaching to fifth stage, the chord between body and consciousness (jivatma) starts breaking and one starts experiencing jivatma. At this stage, one dissociates more and more from body presence.
The great Saints of Spiritual Wisdom:
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.