Saturday, July 13, 2013

Advaitic perspective to "manasu kaaraNavalla"

This is in response to a recent discussion on a topic (started by Sriharsha Aswathanarayan) on the smaartha brahmin group on Facebook. 

Point of contention is a line from a daasa kriti: 
"manasu kaaraNavalla paapa puNyakkella, analaaksha ninna preraNeyillade" 
["mind is not the cause of the sins and piety (virtues), without the inspiration from you Oh Lord Shiva"]

The question was "how do we interpret this from Advaitha perspective?"
My initial response was:

"I am not sure why this needs to be interpreted in Advaithic perspective at all! It is written by a "dvaiti" great, a Madhva anuyaayi, Sri Vijaya Daasaru. Why cannot we appreciate both? 

Not everything needs to be interpreted philosophically; however, there is a philosophy in this too. I feel it needs to be relished the way it is."
However, the discussion went on and I thought of putting things together in a blog.


Section 1: Getting the Right Context and the mood of the poet

1) It is inappropriate to take the line out of its context and 
2) It is inappropriate to take the literal meaning of the line

First of all, the line is taken out of context, as such I consider the discussion itself meaningless, but the discussion has pursued for lengths. I am writing this blog to clarify a few things, from my perspective.

The above line is taken from a popular and beautiful song of Sri Vijayavitthala Daasa, where he seeks the blessings of Lord Shiva to bestow on him the "bhakti" for Lord Hari. Why Lord Shiva? Because, Lord Shiva is known to remove the poison in one's mind and bestow auspiciousness. It is in this perspective that He is being prayed for - to create the pure mind. 

We need to keep in mind that this line has been taken out of its context, which has distorted its true spirit. Below is the context:

kailAsa vAsa gaureesha eesha, tailadhAreyante manasu koDo hariyalli, Shambho || 
ahorAtriyali nAnu anujaragraNiyAgi, mahiyoLage charisideno mahadEvane | ahibhooshaNane enna avaguNagaLeNisadale, vihithadharmadi vishNu bhakuthiyanu koDo Shambho || 1 ||
manasu kAraNavalla pApapuNyakkella, analAksha ninna preraNeyillade 
dhanujagathamanahAri danDapraNamava mADpe, maNiso ee shirava sajjana charaNa kamaladalli Shambho || 2 || 

If we see here, the poet is writing about how he feels lost in this world; roaming endlessly. So he is seeking the mercy of Lord Shiva to pursue his goal - i.e. to attain Vishnu or Hari. He seems tormented and realized by personal experience that without the mercy of Lord Shiva it is difficult for him the association of virtuous people or other devotees. 

Is it an aberration to seek such blessings for the pursuit of a supreme goal? 

I will later discuss why the poet says that "mind is not the cause of paapa and puNya without your sanction"


Section 2: Understanding the kainkara mood

Sri Shankara writes: 
श्रुतिस्मृतिपुराणानामालयं करुणालयम्|
नमामि भगवत्पादशंकरं लोकशङ्करम् ||
Śruti smṛti purāṇānāṃālayaṃ karuṇālayaṃ|
Namāmi Bhagavatpādaśaṅkaraṃ lokaśaṅkaraṃ||

I salute the compassionate abode of the Vedas, Smritis and Puranas known as Shankara Bhagavatpada, who makes the world auspicious.

Here, Sri Shankara submits himself to Shankara BhagavatpAda, similar to how Sri Vijaya Dasa submits. Sri Shankara and all aachaaryaas seek the blessings of the guru and God to pursue spiritual goals. How do we understand such prayers from Advaitic context? It is a practice to take the blessings of a guru, a greater 'devotee' or a greater personality or a greater deity or divinity to pursue personal goals.
Section 3: Objections in the discussion

Objection 1) Mind [alone?] is responsible for paapa and puNya

Two friends make similar objections: "paapa punya are purely actions and not athma, athma or brahmha is not responsible for these actions if i am right" and "as per advaitha, paapa and punya are actions of mind and not the athma or brahma". 

and ....

"Advaitins believe that mind is responsible for everything. The paapa punya is for the body that arises by actions which is a consequence of thoughts (vasanas). So, from advaitic point of view, mind is responsible"

Before addressing this objection, it is important to go back to the original line. "manasu kAraNavalla paapa puNyakkella, analAksha ninna preraNe illade". 

There are two important parts of the line:

1) "manasu kAraNavalla paapa puNyakkella" and 
2) "analAksha ninna preraNe illade"

We cannot and should not discuss the first line alone without the second. 

Do we not agree with the statement "tena vina triNamapi na chalati?", does that not apply to the mind also? Is not the Lord sitting within. Does not the Lord say "sarvasya chAham hridi sanniviShTo mattah smritir jnAnam apohanam cha", i.e. "I am the Lord of everything and from me comes remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness"? So, does that not imply that even though we are in control, actions are "sanctioned" by Him? Reading Gita will provide a great perspective to this. So, there is mind and there is action, but then there is a discussion of the Lord within everyone, who sanctions all actions - not that he is a dictator but as a witness.

Moving on .... 
a) Here, the underlying assumption is "according to "dwaita" mind is not responsible". I do not know where this conclusion is rooted from. If it is rooted in the statement-in-question then it is misplaced, because even the dvaitis quote and accept in the the below statements:
mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha-mokshayoh
bandhaya visayasango muktyai nirvisayam manah

b) There are many contradiction ins the above claims made by my friends. Here is why: as per advaitha, how can there be a difference between mind, aathma and brahma? are they not reflections of the same thing? are not paapa and puNya in duality, and where is duality in advaitha? 

c) First of all what is aatma? Second, without aatma or brahman where is the mind? who takes rebirth, just the mind? who is stuck in the material world and why? what is the role of aatma then? can mind be independent of aatma? If aatma and paramaatma are the same then where is puNya and paapa for paramaatma? where is karma for paramaatma? Sri Krishna says "aatmaiva aatmano bandhuH aatmaiva ripuh aatmanah", which aatma are we talking about here?

So, even though "manasu kaaraNa paapa puNyakke" appears true, it would inappropriate to say "manassu maatra kaaraNa paapa puNyakke". That would be a misplaced statement; i.e. it is wrong to say that "mind alone is responsible", mind is just a via media, because Manasu is dependent on a number of factors and what Sri Vijaya Daasa does is to purify it by submitting it to Lord Shiva.

Sri Shankara says that the are things that are beyond mind and speech Pratarbhajámi manasám vacasámagamyam. No one can say that the mind is entirely in one's control and different people find different tools and approaches to mind control. So, manasu cannot be the lone contributor to paapa and puNya, and manasu is not entirely in our control, so there must be a sanctioning agent! right?

Objection 2) Why did vijay daasaru, a madhva by tradition tell these lines?
I will address just this question. 

If you know, VaishNavAs, or Bhagawata anuyAyees, are obligated to respect and worship Lord Shiva, however some followers fail to do so. They lack understanding. So, it is wrong to mix the confusion of some followers with tatvavAda or dwaita itself, that would be a generalization error. Below are some examples from vaishNava scriptures and please note that Sri Vijaya Dasa says mentions bhagawata in his poetry:

In Srimad Bhagawatam, Lord Shiva is considered the Supreme VaishNava
nimna-gAnaM yathA gangA devAnAm acyuto yathA
vaiShNavAnAM yathA Shambhoo purANAnAm idam tathä

So, Shambhu is an important figure. 

kas taM carAcara-guruM nirvairaM shAnta-vigraham
AtmArAmaM kathaM dveShTi jagato daivataM mahat

Lord Shiva, the spiritual master of the entire world, is free from enmity, is a peaceful personality, and is always satisfied in himself. He is the greatest among the demigods. How is it possible that Daksha could be inimical towards such an auspicious personality?

4.7.50 Sri-bhagavAn uvAca
ahaM brahmA ca sharvashca jagataH kAraNaM param |
Atmeshvara upadraShTA svayan-drg avisheShaNaH ||

From Brahma Samhita 
kshiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesha-yogat
sanjayate na hi tatah prithag asti hetoh
yah sambhutam api tatha samupaiti karyad
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

Just as milk is transformed into curd by the action of acids, but yet the effect curd is neither same as, nor different from, its cause, viz., milk, so I adore the primeval Lord Govinda of whom the state of Sambhu is a transformation for the performance of the work of destruction.

Similarly, the other verses that follow after these in Bhagawatam also reflect the oneness of Brahma, VishNu and Shiva. 

Bhagawad Gita 11.15 

arjuna uvaca 
pasyami devams tava deva dehe  sarvams tatha bhuta-visesa-sanghan |
brahmanam isam kamalasana-stham  rsims ca sarvan uragams ca divyan ||

Bhagawad Gita 10.23 

"rudranam sankaras casmi"

These are just cursory references that I remember. I also know that VaishNava aachaaryaas go lengths to describe why Shiva is to be worshiped (I am unable to quote verses but I have read it from authentic sources). Learned VaishNavAs and aachaaryaas even claim that if one does not worship or respect Lord Shiva then he cannot be a good vaishNava and would be committing a great aparaadha. If some do not follow, let us not blame the system.

So, we cannot compare some mean minded dwaitis to the great works of great vaishNavaas. How can we disregard the greatness of Purandara daasa and Kanakadaasa and tag them as biased. They are "focused" and their perspective was different, why disrepesct for difference of opinion, practice and perspective?

There are several other objections, questions and challenges that I will address separately in separate posts.

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