Archive for the ‘Chapter 01’ Category

(19+20)/1: Action And Thoughts

October 26, 2006

Summary: The only way to really know our understanding of the world around us is to honestly try and put our current thoughts in practice. This unity of thoughts in our mind and our actions in the world clears way for further and finer understanding. Acting on our thoughts is just like getting our digestive system ready for fresh food by passing the nutrition of previous intake to the body.

Verse 19 and 20: Akaar CharanYugul, Ukaar Udar Vishaal, Makaar Mahaamandal, Mastakaakaare. He Teenhi Ekwatale, Tethe Shabdabrahma Kavatalale, Te Miya Shri Gurukrupa Nameele, Aadibeej.

Translation: ‘A’ stands for the pair of feet, ‘U’ stands for the elongated stomach and ‘M’ stands for the large circular head (of the Lord Ganesh). Due to the grace of Guru, I (had the good sense to) bow to the eternal silence (Aadibeej), where these three parts take form because of which the entire creation is seen to exist.

These two verses should be understood in the light of Vedanta philosophy. One of the most famous Upanishads is the Mandukyopanishad with Gaudapad’s Karika and Shankaracharya’s commentary on both. Mandukyopnishad says in its first shloka that the whole creation is nothing but the word Aum. In the next few shlokas it explains that ‘A’ stands for the gross world, ‘U’ stands for the world of dreams and ‘M’ stands for the state of deep sleep (sushupti). The fourth part of this word, it says, is the silence because of which this word can be heard! That part is what is called the fourth stage (literally ‘Turiya’, the fourth), which stands as a mute observer of the all the preceding stages of our existence. Here, Dnyaneshwar Maharaj has taken this abstract explanation and given it a wonderful concrete form in the body of Lord Ganesh.

He says that the feet of Ganesh stand for the gross world. Here we should understand that feet actually are a symbol for all the five karmendriyas, the five organs of action. Since the gross world consists of outward actions, it is highly apt that the organs of action represent it. Next comes the mental activity, the dream stage. It does not have an outward realization. Only an individual can understand what goes on in his/her mind. Not anyone else. However, all our actions are outcome of the various thought processes in our mind. Therefore, this stage is best described by what goes on in the stomach, which stands for the entire digestive process of our body. When we see something or hear something, the internal thought process triggered by it is like our digestive process triggered by intake of food. Only when we fully digest food, its nutrition can be passed on to the limbs. Exactly like that, only when we understood a thing in our mind, can we act on it. As limbs stands for action, this association of stomach to our internal world of thoughts is extremely beautiful. The last part is the brain. The symbol ‘M’ stands for deep sleep, or the stage in which we are in communion with our inner most self. This is like seeing the essence of all the input. Which is the job of the brain. However, all these three parts of our body exist in space, without which there is no room for existence. That space is likened to the nirvikalpa samadhi from where everything originates and where everything will end. To understand this and see its full significance is possible only after your Sadguru has given you his full blessings. Therefore, Dnyaneshwar Maharaj says that: it is because of the grace of the guru that I am bowing down to the primal cause of all existence, the Aadibeej. This very beautiful explanation of the Advaita philosophy marks the end of Ganesh-stavan of Dnyaneshwar at the beginning of his great book Dnyaneshwari. What a fantastic way of showing the unity of Ganesh with Advaita philosophy!

Apart from its poetic beauty, we should also try and see how this description can be used to further our sadhana. Let us go back to the explanation that stomach represents the thought process, our existence in the mental realm and the organs of work represents our existence in the gross world. I said that only after digestion takes place in the body nutrition reaches limbs. We can turn this argument around and say that the only way we can ‘prove’ that digestion has taken place in stomach is to see if the limbs have received their quota of nutrition. Viewed this way, what this simile is trying to tell us is that: we can be sure of our understandings only if we can act on it in the gross world. Many a times, we see people say that I have understood it but I cant act on it. In Marathi there is even a proverb to this effect ‘Kalata Pan Walat Naahi’. Our sadhana is mostly done in mind. We meditate, recite certain mantras and try to keep our mind steady so that it can receive truth. All these activities are done in mind. How can be sure that we are proceeding in the right track? The only way of knowing it is to see our behaviour in the gross world. It is exactly like knowing if the food is digested or not by seeing its effect on our body. Events such as: while meditating we see a flash of light, or if we see our guru coming and imparting some instructions or if we see various forms of gods and goddesses in front of us, are all in the mental realm. Therefore, we are still in the digestive process. Hence, none of these represents the true progress in our sadhana!!! No doubt, they can be thought of as important milestones, but the real test of our progress can only be our behaviour in the gross world. Are we feeling compassionate to people around us? Has our understanding of other person’s sufferings increased? Are more people happy about our existence in this world? Positive answers to all these is the only sure proof of our progress towards understanding Truth.

This way of looking at our understanding of Truth also lays to rest a common misconception about Advaita philosophy. Many people contend that if we really believe that the entire creation exists because of us and grant no reality to the gross world, we can behave in any manner we want. We can even become a nuisance to the society at large or behave immorally because we don’t even grant existence to the society. However, if we really understand the unity of the whole world and digest this knowledge completely, then we must behave to everyone as if we behave with ourselves! The love we instinctively feel for our continued existence must be granted to all creatures, all thoughts and all deeds. Therefore, a true knower of truth will never even think of harming anyone because he/she sees himself in all thoughts and beings. Thus, such a person can only be an asset to the society. In fact, since such a person is the only real helper of the society as all others have put their own existence, or the existence of their professed philosophy at a higher priority than the rest. Hence, when it comes to a crunch, they cannot help everyone. This is the reason why most Indian saints do not go out of their way to do social work but concentrate on their own progress in Sadhana. This is the reason why our sadhana does not force us to do good deeds everyday but asks us to keep our mind calm and concentrate on seeing the Truth behind the gross world. Because, all the rest will automatically follow!!

Finally, just like our digestive system becomes empty after passing all the nutrition to the body, we become free to receive fresh and new ideas once we act on our present set of thoughts. As long as we have not put our present thoughts in practice, they continue to clog our mind and prevent entry to any new input. Therefore, further progress, further insights into Truth are possible only if the current set of notions are tried out and seen in their true light. Otherwise, we will continue build castles in our mind and stay on the streets in practice! Thus, it is of utmost importance that we honestly behave according to our understanding of Truth, our understanding of Dnyaneshwari, our understanding of people around us. This itself can be thought of sadhana and in this form, it is all encompassing.

(This entry is an abridged form of my ‘pravachan’ given on October 21, 2006)