Understanding meaning of Mantras and then chanting
In the discussion that ensued between the Yaksha and Dharma Putra, Yudhishthira, the question comes, is it necessary to understand the meaning of the Names of the Lord, or the meanings of Mantras before chanting them? The Shastra say that, it is not necessary to know the meaning of the chants, the results are inevitable. Just as a baby, need not know the nature of fire, simply by touching fire, one can experience intense heat, similarly the results of chanting mantras and the names of God is inevitable. But the argument is that, even without knowing, the mantras can deliver results; what would be the result if one chanted the mantras by thoroughly understanding the meanings? It is matter to be contemplated upon.
What brings the Brahmana to lower level of consciousness?
The next question of the Yaksha to Dharma Putra was, “What makes a Brahmana being identified as a lower being?” What makes one of lower thinking is his view about Death. The way one views death, will reveal the consciousness of a being. If Death is experienced, one is said to be still in human consciousness. That being the case, one can never be promoted to the higher platform of a divine being. To understand this deeper, one has to look into the dynamics of the term called Death. According to Shastra, the separation of life-force from the body is never Death. This is the clear verdict of the Scriptures. All that is destroyed is verily Death. The right understanding and realization of the nature of spirit can never culminate in Death. The one who has wrongly identified the body as Atman, as the “I”, is the one who is possessed by Death. The illusion of the body with the spirit, results in an experience known as Death. When a Brahmana is consumed by this illusion, he has fallen in consciousness. This is the answer that Dharma Putra issues to the Yaksha.
Misidentification of Atman as the body
It is because of the faulty identity of the Atman with the body which makes one believe that something is human, something is an animal and so on. All the attributes of size, shapes, good, evil and such things, result as a matter of such faulty understanding of the nature of Atman, says Yudhishthira. When someone is sick, our core is of the wrong understanding that Atman is sick and so on. Atman is never subservient to any attributes. No attributes are applicable to Atman. Atman is part and parcel of Brahman. It is the servant of Supreme Brahman and its very nature is free of all attributes imaginable. It is full of Ananda. Atman is most subtle and full of Jnana, by its very nature. It falsely seems to acquire the sins and blessings of the body and hence appears to be having attributes, just as a crystal placed near a colored flower seems to acquire the color of the flower although it has nothing to do with colors or the flower. On removing the flower, the crystal regains its original transparency. Similarly when the body is separated, the Atman is relieved of all the erstwhile qualities of the body, although it has been ever free of qualities.
What is Bhranti?
When something is assumed to be something else, it is termed as “Bhranti” (भ्रांति). The Atman is assumed to possess all qualities of the body, which is Bhranti. The one who has realized that Atman is different from body, is free of Bhranti. This Bhranti has been the result of continuous association of body with Atman. How do we ascertain that the Atman and body are different in everyday experience? Language itself exposes the fact that Atman and Body are different. When one says “This is my hand, this is my leg”, it is established that “I” and my body are different. The one referenced by “I” is Atman and the rest are simply adjuncts to “I”.
What stops us from Knowledge of Brahman?
When we become sick, when somebody criticizes us, when something is not the way we desire, there is unhappiness. All this, we attribute it to ourselves which causes a drain of energy through lack of further enthusiasm. If there is a loss of something in our lives, death of a dear one, we attribute that loss to the Self and we get identified with that loss. The loss is always of the body, the attributes of gain and loss are always to the body and not to the Atman. This has be realized. When this realization comes, there arises a separation and the habit of identifying ourselves to people, things, events and circumstances starts to diminish, owing to the understanding that we are neither the body nor the mind. Since Shastra itself is considered as a direct evidence to this statement, we can easily rely on Shastra and accept this statement as an assertion of Truth alone. For example, when a person is attacked by common cold, we go to the physician and he prescribes medicine. It is a well-known fact that common cold, whether treated or not, remains in the body and continues to trouble at least for a week. Then what is the need for medicine. Yet mentally, one feels enthused, if one consumes medicine. Similarly if we are to accept the statement of absolute Truth that Atman is unaffected by anything of the world, irrespective of any catastrophe, our heart shall be established on the fact that Atman is ever free, thereby one will never worry for impediments on account of body and the world, knowing them to be fleeting and ephemeral. This shall reinforce tremendous energy into us so that we raise our consciousness and pursue spirituality irrespective of time, place, circumstances and state of the body. For a Brahmana, Death is verily the ignorance of the fact that body and Atman are different and have nothing in common.
Which mistake should a Brahmana never commit?
This was the next question that the Yaksha raised to Yudhishthira. To this Yudhishthira replied that the Brahmana should never malign or count the faults of others. Additionally he should never discuss the faults of people with other people. Hence “Para-Ninda” (परनिंदा fault finding in others) is to be avoided by the Brahmana. One should be fully cognizant of one’s own faults and on the other hand should not fault-find with others. According to Shastra only three divinities have the right to consider the faults of others. They are Yamaraj, the Lord of Death, Sriman Narayana and Mother Mahalaxmi Devi. One has to only note the great qualities of the Lord and one’s own short-comings.
Parashara Bhatta’s understanding about faults.
Shri Ramanujacharya had a disciple known as Koorat-Azhvar. His son was Parashara Bhatta. Parashara Bhatta was once offering Satsanga in the association of devotees. There were some participants in the Satsanga who were envious of Parashara Bhatta and they openly started to criticize and malign Parashara Bhatta. Very happy with the criticism, the Bhatta gave away his valuables and shawl to his critics, fully content after listening to abuses hurled at him. The other people were quite amazed by the Bhatta’s demeanor and enquired, “Dear Master, we cannot understand the reason why you should donate things to those who criticize you?” To this the Bhatta replied, “Shastra says that we have two duties, one is to continuously praise the Lord and His glories and the other is to always find fault with oneself, thinking about one’s shortcomings. Now, I do not find enough time to count my shortcomings because all my time is gone, talking about the Lord. I am extremely grateful to these beings who have kindly made up for my non-adherence to the duty of finding my own faults, and have taken up the duty on my behalf, thereby finishing the other-half of my duties” Even if someone has a fault which is injurious to society, a person has to come face to face with that particular individual and point out the fault in the open and not point fingers at him, at his back. This is the right way to deal with other’s faults. Another necessary attribute of fault-finding is that, when we are identifying certain fault in others, one has to be certain that, that fault is not present within themselves, only then can one be qualified to point that fault to the person concerned. This is the Shastra approved method to bring faults of others to notice.