Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Story 31 - Story of King Puranjana - 1

Srimad Bhagavatham - A Spiritual Insight - Story 31 - Story of King Puranjana - 1


King PrachaanaBarhi asked Narada the way out of desires and to attain realization of the ultimate reality of Lord. It is at that time that Narada starts explaining the story of Puranjana. Puranjana means that person who is after the city that is the body.

Scriptures again and again proclaim that the main cause of problems in life is ignorance of one’s own very nature of Lord. When one’s own nature is forgotten, then the Self (one’s own very nature) is mistaken as the body. This is what Vedanta calls as superimposition or Adhyaasa. The Self is superimposed on the not-Self. Thus the body is considered as the Self. In such a case, the person tries to give more importance and emphasis to the body. Lot of food, sensual pleasures are given importance as the body is considered as the Self. This might seem not to be causing any problem until the body is in good shape. The body is something which is subject to change – thus body also will undergo decay and disease. Thus when the body will be having disease, the sorrow or the disease itself will be considered as one’s own sorrow and disease. This is where the problem of considering oneself and the body comes. Thus the seeker who is of the nature of eternal bliss considers himself as suffering. It also goes to the extent that any measures are taken to keep up the body in perfect shape.

Lord Krishna calls this as Anabhishvangah in Bhagavad Gita 13th chapter which means thinking other’s problems to be one’s own problems.

The interactions with the world are the causes of problems – the interaction with the world is based on the superimposition of the Self with the body thereby considering oneself as the body. This leads to taking care of the body & leads to sorrow when the body decays. Not only disease of one’s own body causes problem but disease of one’s dear ones bodies also causes sorrow. Thus Sankara and the sruthi repeatedly stress that a person has to come out of the wrong notion that “I am the body” if he has to get liberated from the ocean of samsaara which is filled with sorrow only. Sankara thus says in Upadesha saahasri that when a person knows that “I am the Self” as strong as the thought of a ignorant person that “I am the body”, then such a person (who knows himself to be the Self) gets liberated even though he might not want it.

Setting aside the body doesn’t mean that a person has to get rid of the body but just means to give the body the necessary and limited need only and to have the conviction that “I am not the body”. We all have a particular body while in the waking state & while we are in the dream state, we have a different body. The waking body is different from the dream body. And in the state of deep sleep when we are not awake and not dreaming, we don’t have any body at all. This clearly shows that “I am not the body” as “I exist in deep sleep whereas body doesn’t exist in deep sleep”. The body is ever changing but “I” know myself to be changeless and the same person who was there 15 years back and still today. The body ceases to exist at the time of death but “I” never feel cessation of myself as “I” always exist. Body consists of different parts where “I” am partless as I am Consciousness in nature. Body is an object of “I” whereas “I” am never objectified as the Subject of all objects. Body is sustained by water and food whereas “I” am not sustained by anything but “I” make other things live because of my very presence as in dream “I” alone gives life to the dream world & its objects. All these show clearly that “I am not the body”, but due to strong addictions and ignorance, a person feels himself to be the body and suffers like anything not knowing that “I” am always blissful in nature. Thus one of the main aim of scriptural learning is to know that “I am not the body but the Conscious principle supporting the body and other illusory objects in the world”. In order to show how much a person suffers due to desires caused out of the feeling that “I am the body”, Narada explains the story of Puranjana. This story has really deep import for a seeker. In general, this is the story of the jeeva or the seeker who stays in the body and enjoys everything while suffering also but forgets his own very nature of eternal bliss.

The scriptures say that the body is the temple of the Lord. The body is the place where the presence of the Lord can be felt clearly. Thus Ramana Maharshi and others say that Lord resides in the heart of all beings – the heart being the spiritual heart from which start all thoughts. The body is called the temple because it is the place where Lord can be realized --- this analogy of considering the body as the temple is not to be extended too much but it just means that the body must be maintained as needed only so that it doesn’t pose a trouble for the realization of the seeker. If the body is suffering, then it is very difficult for a normal seeker to contemplate on the reality that “I am the Lord – one without a second”. If we go to a person who is having fever and say to him that “you are not the body, you are the Self”, he will not keep quiet and instead will beat us upJ. Thus sustenance of the body is essential until the seeker has crossed over the state where the body can pose problems or obstacles for the path of realization. Once the seeker progresses, bodily problems don’t affect the seeker as he knows himself to be distinct from the temporary and illusory body – he knows himself as the ever-present conscious entity of Lord or Brahman or Self. Thus it is very necessary that a normal seeker doesn’t discard the body – instead gives it the bare needs & contemplates on the reality of Lord.

If a person has to contemplate on the reality of Lord as different from the body, then he needs to know that body is temporary and will lead to sorrow alone. This is what the particular story of Puranjana shows – the story shows how a person gets addicted to various sensual pleasures & becomes a slave to the sense organs and their objects. It is but a pity that he who controls and gives light to the sense objects himself is affected by them & suffers because of them. This suffering in itself is only an illusion and the Self is never affected by the sense organs but only seems to be getting affected. Once the seeker realizes his own very nature of Lord, that very moment itself he realizes that he never was a slave to the sense organs and that he is always the non-dual absolute reality of Lord only. There is a very similar story appearing in the Tripura Rahasya. We will see the story of Puranjana next and if possible, will try to have a short look into the similar story appearing in Tripura Rahasya.

The body is considered in Vedanta as a house with nine openings. The owner of the body or resident in the house of the body is the Self or Atman who is not at all affected by the body or changes to the body. The body is called DEHA and the Self is called the DEHI.

The comparison of the body as a house with openings is very significant. Sankara in his Katha Upanishad Bhashya explains this deeply. The main import of comparing the body as a place where the Self lives is to show that as the owner of the house is not the house & not affected with the house, similarly the Self even though living in the body isn’t affected by the changes of the body. It may happen that the house-owner is so attached to the body that he considers it as very dear but this attachment is only an illusion due to ignorance. A real person will never get attached to the house & this attachment is not permanent too. That this attachment is not permanent is clearly shown when the house is on fire & the person saves his own life and considers his life greater than the house. Similarly it is only due to ignorance and superimposition that the seeker identifies himself with the body and seemingly gets affected by the changes of the body. When this ignorance that “I am the body” vanishes, the seeker realizes his own very nature of non-attached and eternal Self which is non-dual in nature.

Even as the house exists for the sake of the owner, similarly the body exists for the sake of the Self for enjoying at the empirical level. The body exists only because of the presence of the Self even as there is no house without the owner of the house who has built the house. Thus the owner of Self is independent whereas the body is dependent on the owner of Self. If the Self decides not to get attached with the body, the body just vanishes as it gets its existence from the Self alone. Thus Self is real whereas the body is only temporary and illusory.

The owner of the house is never limited by the house but seems to be limited when he is inside the house. Similarly the Self is never limited by the body as the Self is unlimited and infinite but just seems to be limited when its real nature is not realized.

The house is illumined by the owner and his presence through the openings, similarly the Self gives light/existence to things outside the body thereby making illusory objects seemingly existent. Operations of the owner happens through the openings in the house (which are windows and doors), similarly the operations of the Self which are perceptions of the external world (causing the dual feelings of happiness and sorrow) happen through the openings of the body.

Even though many explanations can be given for the analogy of comparing the body as a house with openings, the main and primary reason is that the house exists for the sake of the owner & the house never limits the owner who is independent. Similarly the body is just a place where the Lord or Brahman resides as the independent and ultimate reality of Consciousness. The body itself is seen only because of ignorance of one’s own very nature of Self distinct from the body. The body is ever changing as the house also always changes but the Self doesn’t change even as the owner doesn’t really change. Thus this explanation helps to distinguish between the body and the Self thereby helping the seeker to realize his own very nature of Self (very distinct from the illusory and changing body). When the reality dawns that “I am not the body”, most of the problems caused in the illusory world are removed. This is the aim of human life to get eternal bliss devoid of sorrows and sufferings. This can be achieved only by realization of one’s own very nature of Lord distinct from the illusory body.

The body is considered as having nine openings. These nine openings are two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, the opening for excretion and the opening for procreation. These are the places or openings through which activity as well as perception (perception helps in getting objective knowledge whereas activity helps in actions and getting fruits).

We have to remember while going through the story of puranjana that we are not the body but the owner of the body and hence shouldn’t become slaves of the body and its passions. We will continue with analysis of what Bhagavatham says about Puranjana next.

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