Dvaita verses Advaita philosophy

Ramanuja says that in the age of Kaliyuga, a person can get moksha or salvation from bondage and hence the cycle of rebirth if he/she simply utters the words "Om Namo Narayanan". He also says this can be done with one sitting right in the middle of samsara bandhana (or what we call ties with family life/ society so on).

I will flatly disagree with this theory in its literal sense. Lets take a good life today, a family with wife/hubby and children, a good income, a posh house, great friends without comparison and no rat race to prove self worth.
Its happiness all the way, but life will never have it so simple. There will be problems. And problems do not get dealt with without emotion and emotions bring with it unrest in the mind, fear and misery. Therefore is the recital of "Om namo Narayana" good enough to rid one self off that misery.

Ramanuja said this to those people who were illiterate and yes, you and I are largely illiterate in the field of spiritualism today.

These are some of Ramanuja's teachings:

1) You can follow spiritualism while following a life within the social network of your family and society.

My argument: Yes! With nagging parents talking investment in property, a spouse contemplating a brand new swanky car, a crying child going spoilt with added peer pressure, a servant mopping the house with her share of constant jabber, a cribbing sibling with clashing egos (am not referring to guns yet!), and not to forget your noisy neighbor playing Led Zeppelin (old fashioned?) right through Sunday morning while you are trying to concentrate on worship - "Om Namo Narayana" - Wow what peace! This is ignoring the calls to Allah, or Halleluja, or "Kaushalya supraja" blaring through loudspeakers at 5a.m. There is nothing wrong in recital of the mantra; there is every thing wrong with your environment. Where is the peace? Parents, spouse, children… When is this entire saga going to end, where is the silence and tranquility. Is this the life you chose for yourself or have you accepted that there is no escape. Or are there other ways of leading life, this being the most common and safe approach?

2) The second teaching is, after you have done your duty as householders you can retire to the forest and go into seclusion, but can always come to see the family. For e.g. meet your grand daughter on the day of her wedding or see her off to the US. Meaning you don’t entirely cut off from the family. But when you are involved in worship keep the family out of your mind.

My argument: How does this work. If my grand daughter is unwell, where will my mind be? Human bondage brings worry with it as much as it brings happiness. Both add to suffering from two ends of the same spectrum called Maya. If I continue to remain attached to the family I can quite forget my trip to realization for its completely impossible. Human bondage is a vicious cycle that one cannot get out of easily but has to put in complete effort to want to do so. Multi tasking of role-play and finding the self is completely impossible given our minds don’t even rest in one place in today's world.

3) The third teaching says that reciting "Om Namo Narayana" is all that it takes to attain salvation.

My argument: Maybe then, not now. If spiritualism was that simple we would all be saints by now, which of course as we can see is not the case. Happiness starts with the self. To exuberate happiness and goodness to all, the concentration should first be on the self. If I am not happy there is no way I am going to make you feel happy. Hence comfort with the self is far more important before one decides to look beyond his/herself.

My personal opinion on the teachings of Shankaracharya and Ramanuja is that both these saints were right in their approach, but with a difference. We need both approaches to be worldly wise and understand life and live through it. The philosophy of dvaita is required to understand the meaning of bondage, its character and hence its futility since it is Maya and only sucks you into its "Matrix". But it is needed nonetheless for the lack of that knowledge renders you completely ignorant for you will not understand peace if you don’t know what trouble is!

The philosophy of Advaita is needed to be brought in for it renders you compassionate and once all bondage is broken, the mind is set free, there is no pain nor love but pure goodness that flows from within to all creatures, to man, woman, mother, child, ant, cat or cockroach. There is no difference between the person in front of you defined by role-play as "mom/dad" or "daughter/son" or "wife/husband" or "stranger/thief" or "pet dog/cat Tommy”. Each is a life around you and detachment only leads to looking at all of them as one drop of a larger ocean of which you are also a part.
Hence finding yourself is most important for the truth you look for lies within.

Love of the Lord brings with it Bhakti which helps along the path of emotional spirituality while you apply human logic while living through life. Love can be for Lord Shiva (who helps you search for yourself) or Lord Vishnu (who helps you understand the world around you). The Mother Goddess...is for stronger willed people, for more potent experiences that might burn you out if you are not careful.

Great teachers have helped us re-look at our lives. Maybe its time now for us to unlearn...


The temple of the Self

A beat of the drum
A tap of my feet
A move of my limbs
A strange freedom of the senses

A constant vibration
Deep within the heart
A new world revealed
A gateway to leave human bondage

A stretch of my breath
A long stretch so fulfilling
Purity of the self
Fresh like the morning dew

Constant warmth within
A flame lit up forever
Igniting my passion to live
A life of my own

A source of energy
My elixir of life
My potent energy within
The Lord takes control of me

I am just a moving body
A world elsewhere
A place no one else belongs
A world divine

My body a temple
To worship
Built strong to house
The divine Lord within

My head the pinnacle
Of all thought and action
Of goodness and value
Of faith and complete surrender

The path to heaven
A path through me
A part to the greater truth
Why seek for it beyond me?


Definition of goodness in the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata: In the Mahabharata Kunti is considered the epitome of all goodness, an honorable and respectable queen mother to her children the Pancha Pandavas. Yet we fail to see the fact that she is responsible for the birth of her first son Karna, and the pressures of having come from a royal background does not allow her to acknowledge him as her son. How good a mother was she?

She didn’t bring him up, she denied him his experience of having a mother, and to top it all she asked him to use his “Divyastra” just once, hoping that it would miss Arjuna and therefore not take his life. Is discrimination towards children right to the point of taking a life? How do we expect to see Kunti as a good mother through Karna’s eye and yet he held no grudge against her.

Karna is known to be a very noble person in the Mahabharata, and everyone except Dhuryodhana, the so-called most evil person in the story, wronged him. Karna was a great human being and the one and only known threat to Arjuna when it came to archery or when it came to winning the hand of Draupadi. The insult bestowed upon him by Draupadi was one he would never forget. Was it right on her part to publicly insult Karna in a court with full audience during her Swayamwara, on the grounds of his birth? How do we expect to see Draupadi as a noble woman through Karna’s eye?

Now lets take Dhuryodhana, the proclaimed villain in the Mahabharata. He had to fight for the throne since it was not even his fault that his father was a blind king and that questioned his eligibility to the throne. Would you in his position not take objection if such power were denied to you, should you have been the possible heir to the throne of Hasthinapura? Of course you would hate your cousins no matter how noble they were.

In all this chaos, the Pandavas have been the worst sadists when it came to Karna, for they kept referring to his caste, as a charioteer’s son, and that he is not of noble blood. Are Yudhishtira and Arjuna the epitomes of Dharma, when their noble birth only fills them with contempt and fear towards Karna because he is just as good despite being born in a lower caste? (Of course they didn’t know he was their brother but putting down someone on the grounds of birth is just a clear indicator of what pride they had!) And at this moment Dhuryodhana was a good man to make Karna his friend, to acknowledge his presence and respect him as a man of valor. Then why do we consider Dhuryodhana an evil being? There was goodness in him and at no cost was it going to display itself towards the Pandavas. Through all these insults that Karna had to live through, Kunti maintains absolute silence.

Therefore how do we judge goodness? Do we say Karna was wrong because he joined the Kauravas because at that moment between Yudhistira (the epitome of goodness and Dharma) and Dhuryodhana (the most evil), it was Dhuryodhana who stretched out a friendly hand? Now is that not goodness, irrespective of Karna's background?

Or do we say Krishna was good when all the political manipulation took place thanks to his ardent bias towards the Pandavas. He didn’t do things as a mark of goodness; he did politically correct things, which need not be defined as good. And what did Karna do to deserve the fate he finally got! Maybe it is seriously time to start thinking. Karna was the best son of them all!

Disowned by his own mother
Insulted by his own brothers
Respected by so called villains
Wronged by the Lord Himself
A good-natured man sees such fate
When the Lord himself chose not to protect him
Who will believe in Goodness?
When goodness itself is being ignored.
By the very Incarnation of Lord
Who tried to spread goodness in this world.
Karna was indeed the most noble of them all
Such was the ocean of goodness within him
That he gifted it away to the world before he died.
A symbol of perfection
That beats the very Lord Krishna Himself.


A finger for the future, an angula for the past

I held up my hands in prayer to God this morning and as I opened them I stared into them and my palm and wondered about the power they held. My fingers smeared and shining yellow with turmeric powder, reminded me about the life I have chosen to lead. A life of orthodoxy, one of purity as prescribed in the shastras, one that states that purity of the body is very important apart from that of the mind.

It was a moment of bliss, a decision I had made to follow this path. As I stepped into it deeper, I came to realize the meaning of all that has been told to us as kids. Today I have slowly begun to realize the reason for this lifestyle and more than anything else I have learnt to appreciate every moment of it. I stared up at the portrait of the Lord, smiling down, enigmatic and yet calm. He seemed to speak a million truths, both big and small through the flame of the oil lamp as it flickered in front of me.

It is a small wick, a bright flame, eating into the wick, sucking out the oil as it lives through the worship. A potent flame that needs the oil to survive, I remembered what my Guru had said. The flame is important, for it is the path that connects you with the Supreme, hence the size of the flame should definitely not exceed the division of the angula (finger) on my hand. The flame shows me the path, the character of which is defined by the height of one division on my index finger. One division, a whole world undiscovered, one finger engulfs a complete world of serious mathematics.

I turned my hands to see a series of lines that define my character, my identity in this universe. These almost looked like they were my blueprints in this world, in this space that we call reality. I thought about the importance of these fingers of mine, that each finger held a truth, a truth that leads man to paradise, undefined by modern science, lets say unknown to modern science.

A finger or an angula has been a basic system of measurement in olden times. One angula clearly defined the base, the root to an entire temple construction. It’s amazing that we could probably find out the size of Rajaraja Chola’s finger based on the basic system of measurement he would have used to build something as superb and mammoth as the Brihasdeshwara temple at Tanjore.

Imagine a ritual, to prepare the ground for the building of this magnificent temple, a ritual that defines the man building it is Rajaraja Chola, of a particular Gotram, a particular naksharam, in a particular yuga, on say Somavara (day), in a particular month, in a particular year, considered auspicious, as the ruling king of the Cholas in the south of Bharat desha, so on and so forth… in a series of mystical words that enter the ears of the devas and super Gods who now have placed him and have accepted his offering of building a temple on this earth, the soil of which is so pure and powerful.

And then the yajna fire rises, and the offerings of ghee, herbal twigs, fruits, flower, camphor, honey and jaggery are made to complete this grand start. Now the funds roll out, the construction begins and as every new pinnacle on this gigantic pyramidal roof is reached a huge ramp is built to move the final cover stone (stupi) up the tall vimana. Such an imposing structure, so massive and awe inspiring, that it reduces our presence to nothing. Would anyone even stop to think that the basic measure started with his angula or index finger!!! A small measure, imprinting Rajaraja Chola’s very being into every stone that was cut and put into place, inscriptions that spoke of his greatness somewhere hid the fact that yes, he had left his blueprints here long after he was gone…

Now that is Immortality...all bundled into a finger...
this is leaving a legacy behind.