Sunday, September 17, 2006

Story 36 – Story of Prahlada – 4

Narada continued:

Hiranyakashipu didn’t like the way his son was behaving. But still, in order to learn vidya, he sent the child Prahlaada to asura Guru Shukracharya. Prahlaada whose mind was totally immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord was never interested in the teachings of the Guru and he ignored all of them as his mind would never rest in those teachings.

Once Hiranyakashipu called his son nearby and asked him as to what he learnt from the Guru. Prahlaada replied that instead of being totally immersed in the ocean of samsaara, totally in dark ignorance it is better if everything is renounced & the person goes to the forest and does Bhagavad Bhajanam.

Hiranyakashipu again sent the child to the Guru instructing them that the child is fully immersed in the thought of Vishnu and hence should be taught such that he forgets Vishnu.


Srimad Bhagavatham here again emphasizes on the thoughts that might/will be nourished in a real devotee or jnaani of the ultimate reality of Lord. Whatever be the situation or environment, the jnaani will be ever immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord. Jeevan muktas are also called as people who have jnaana nista or being established always in the ultimate reality of Lord (with the knowledge that there is no duality whatsoever here but the Lord alone remains, one without a second).

Whatever the question that is put forth to the jnaani, the answer will always revolve around the ultimate reality of Lord alone. This is what Narada says in the bhakthi sutras that “after having attained ultimate devotion, the devotee will think about the Lord, speak about the Lord, hear about the Lord, experiencing the Lord alone”.

There is a famous story explained to show as to how a person will give the answer in such a way that it always leads to the ultimate reality of Lord. There was a school teacher who used to teach the students about cows – he used to teach “the cow is an animal, it has four legs, it gives milk etc. etc.” The teacher used to always teach about the cow alone. One day there was inspection and during that time, the teacher taught about the cow. Next inspection also the teacher taught about the cow alone. The very next time, the inspector asked the teacher to teach about something else – at that time, the teacher started teaching about the tree thus “the tree gives shade, it has branches, cows are tied to the tree, a cow is an animal, it has four legs, it gives milk etc. etc.” Thus the teacher came back to the cow topic.

Similarly for the jnaani who has realized that there is nothing here apart from the ultimate reality of Lord – that everything is but an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord, there is nothing that he can think or speak about. Whatever he speaks will be about the Lord alone, whatever he hears will be the Lord alone. When the jnaani hears about murders in the world – instantly he will think that these murders are killings of the Ego alone & thereby it is the Lord who is making the jeevas kill themselves so that they merge into the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus for a jnaani or a bhaktha, there is nothing apart from the Lord to think or speak about. He sees the world as a play of the Lord which has no real purpose but is just a sport which is only an illusion in the Lord. The Lord through his plays is pointing out himself so that the people in the play who have forgotten their own very nature of Lord might remember him. As the drama shouts about the substratum of the light that illumines the drama – as the dream shouts aloud about the substratum of non-dual dreamer, similarly the world is shouting at each one of us that there is nothing here but the Lord alone.

As the goldsmith sees gold in all ornaments, similarly the knower of the ultimate reality of Lord sees the Lord everywhere. Thus he has nothing apart from the Lord to seek or think or hear. Thus whatever is asked to such a jnaani, his answer will be related to the Lord alone. Thus when Prahlaada was asked about what he learnt from the Guru, he replied that everything has to be renounced and the ultimate reality of Lord has to realized through constant contemplation.

What is renunciation?
Real renunciation is renunciation of the Ego that “I am doing this, I am doing that”. Instead the bhaktha always thinks that there is nothing to be done here – I am a mere instrument in the hands of the ultimate reality of Lord. Whatever seems to be happening is nothing but an illusory activity in the reality of Lord. Having this thought and attitude is real renunciation as herein the seeker is always contemplating on the ultimate reality of Lord as everything.

The emphasis on going to forest and seeking the Lord is that there will be fewer distractions. When there are fewer distractions, contemplating on the Lord will be easy. But this also doesn’t mean that a person who is in the forest will be able to contemplate on the Lord easily. Pandu went to the forest to contemplate on the Lord but succumbed to worldly pleasures and hence died. Thus renunciation is in fact total and complete surrender to the ultimate reality of Lord.

As to how the five year kid of Prahlaada was able to get so strong devotion to the ultimate reality of Lord, there is a story mentioned. When Hiranyakashipu went to do tapas, his wife was pregnant. At that time, the devas kidnapped Hiranyakashipu’s wife but Narada met them on the way & took her to his ashram. Narada then taught hiranyakashipu’s wife Vedanta but instead of the mother learning and understanding Vedanta, it was the kid Prahlaada who learnt Vedanta inside the womb of his mother. Thus when he came out, he was complete jnaani and bhaktha.

This is the reason why pregnant ladies are instructed to hear to puranic stories and good things so that the child inside imbibes these and when the child is born, it gains spiritual qualities. It is the same import which we get through abhimanyu learning about the chakravyuha from his father when he was in the womb of this mother.

We need not be sad if we haven’t come to this world with inherent spiritual tendencies – what really matters is whether we are able to appreciate the ultimate reality of Lord at this moment, thereby striving to realize the Lord from this moment itself. If we are able to get this strong desire to realize the ultimate reality of Lord in this very birth itself, we will be striving to realize the Lord through constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord.

We will continue with the story of Prahlaada the next day.

Prahlaada went to the Gurus and when asked by them as to what he had learnt, replied thus:

“I offer my prostrations to that Lord by whose Maya people are deluded into the thoughts that “I am this, they are that, I am different, they are different”. As iron pieces are automatically attracted to a magnet, similarly without my knowledge my mind is totally attracted to the ultimate reality of Vishnu.”

The Gurus tried to divert Prahlaada’s mind into dharma, artha and kaama but they couldn’t. They tried to create fear in the 5-year old child but were unsuccessful.


The reality or truth is that there is nothing here apart from the ultimate reality of Lord, one without a second. What seems to be present in the illusory world is in fact nothing but an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord. As different gold ornaments are nothing but names and forms in the reality of gold, similarly the duality that is perceived is only names and forms of the ultimate reality of Lord of the nature of absolute consciousness.

Thus we all are the Lord alone – there is no difference whatsoever here – whatever seems to be present, whatever seemed to be present, whatever will seem to be present are all the Lord alone. Everything in the world is based on time, space and causation. These are nothing but mere illusions in the SAT or EXISTENCE which is the very nature of the Lord. As there is nothing apart from the Lord, thus we all are the same as the Lord.

If that is so, why don’t I realize that I am the Lord???
Vedanta attributes this to Maya or avidya. Both words mean only veiling of the ever present Lord. When the seeker who is the same as the Lord is deluded through Maya or avidya (the power of the Lord), he considers himself as limited to the body-mind. Since there are many bodies and minds in the world, therefore the seekers considers himself as different from others & others as different from himself. Thus dual perception is created as a result of the ignorance of one’s own very nature of Lord (which is called Maya or avidya).

This Maya is what deludes a person into thinking that the duality that he perceives is real. This is what Bhagavatham is explaining here. The Lord himself explains in Gita as to how to overcome Maya. Maya is easily overcome by total surrender to the ultimate reality of Lord, who is the owner of Maya. We can consider Maya as that power which deludes everybody other than the Lord. Thus if we seek the Lord who controls Maya, then we will be easily able to overcome Maya. This is very similar to the magic of the magician. All viewers are hypnotized by the magic of the magician whereas the magician is the one who controls his magic. If a person seeks the magician, then he will overcome the magic of the magician. Similarly a person who totally surrenders unto the ultimate reality of Lord will overcome the Maya of the Lord.

Lord thus says in Gita
Daivi hi esha gunamayi mama maaya duratyayaa
Maameva ye prapadhyanthe maayaam etaam taranthi te

My divine power of Maya which is made up of the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas is very tough indeed to overcome. But those who take refuge in me totally, they easily overcome this Maya.

It is this same prapatti or surrender which Sankara mentions in Bhaja Govindam as SATSANGA:

Trijaggathi sajjana sangathireka bhavathi bhavaarnava tarane naukaa
There is no boat other than association with saints in the three worlds.

What is prapaatti???
Prapatti is not just seeking the Lord during tough times or weekly visiting him at Tirupathi or any other temple. Prapatti is total and unconditional surrender to the ultimate reality of Lord with the knowledge that whatever is present is the Lord alone.

The Lord himself speaks about this thus:

Yo maameva asammodah jaanaathi purusha uttamam
Sa sarva vid bhajathi maam sarva bhaavena bhaaratha

Who knows me as the ultimate reality behind the illusory world, he seeks me through all ways knowing me as the non-dual reality of Consciousness.

Narada explains this thus:

Sarvadaa sarvabhaavena nishchintaih bhagavaaneva bhajaneeyah

At all times & through all ways, surely the Lord alone has to be sought.

Thus surrender to the Lord is seeking the Lord as the one and only real entity amidst the illusory objects of the world and as the substratum of all illusory names and forms. A seeker who thus seeks the reality behind the world, he overcomes the delusive power of Maya by the grace of the Lord. When the Lord withdraws Maya which has veiled the Lord from the seeker, the seeker realizes his own very nature of Lord. This is what is called as moksha or atma nivedanam in bhakthi scriptures.

All dual notions are caused due to Maya and these dual notions are converted into likes-dislikes which leads to temporary happiness-sorrow. Thus the only way to achieve eternal and everlasting bliss is by seeking the ultimate reality of Lord and overcoming the delusion of Maya.

We will continue with analysis of the purushaarthas the next day.

The last day we saw that Prahlaada was tried to be deluded into dharma, artha and kaama by the asura Gurus but Prahlaada’s mind so immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord that nothing whatsoever could gain his concentration from the Lord.

Today we will spend some time analyzing on the purushaarthas. We have discussed this quite a number of times here itself but as Veda Vyaasa says in Brahma Sutras that “asakrid upadeshaad” meaning that learning/implementing has to be continued again and again until the thought of the ultimate reality of Lord becomes natural & the seeker cannot live even for a second without the thought of the Lord & the thought that everything is the Lord alone, one without a second.

Vedas speak about 4 purushaarthas which are things that are of some meaning to a purusha or human being & those which have to be preserved and used to realize the ultimate reality of Lord. These four are dharma or righteousness, artha or worldly possessions, kaama or sensual pleasures (loosely translated as lust) and moksha or liberation.

We have to remember that ultimately the goal of human life is ever-lasting bliss. This bliss can be achieved only through realization of the eternal Lord who is the substratum of all beings and who is the one behind the illusory world. Until a seeker realizes his own very nature of Lord (the seeker is the Lord alone as the Lord is one without a second & there is nothing apart from the Lord here), there will be sorrows and sufferings from the illusory world. The world which is filled with temporary and sorrowful entities can give nothing but sorrow alone. The world might seem to be giving temporary happiness but the very same happiness when lost leads to sorrow. Since all worldly possessions will be lost one day or the other, therefore a seeker cannot get eternal bliss from the world. Eternal bliss can thus be achieved only through realization of one’s own very nature of Lord. Eternal bliss is the very aim of each and every person. We all are seeking bliss in worldly objects – even though we might seem to be having different goals like becoming rich in life, gaining power, clearing IIM etc. but all these are strived for just for the sake of everlasting happiness. We think that happiness will be achieved through all these & hence we seek it. Nobody will seek a snake because everyone knows that the snake will lead only to sorrow (through danger). Thus we all are knowingly or unknowingly seeking eternal bliss which can be achieved only through realization of the ultimate reality of Lord.

It is this realization of one’s own nature of non-dual Lord that Vedas call as moksha. Moksha is getting rid of sorrows and sufferings thereby rejoicing in eternal bliss. Moksha is thus the final or ultimate purushaartha to be attained by a seeker. It is true that attaining moksha is not as easy as we think. The world is filled with sensual pleasures which are so tempting that it diverts our attention and deludes us (through Maya of the Lord which we learnt recently). Thus in order to progressively lead a seeker to moksha, Vedas speak about the other three purushaarthas. Dharma means always being righteous. Righteousness is always speaking the truth, always doing good things to everyone – these are ways in which we can gain peace of mind and control of the mind so that we are in a conducive environment to contemplate on the ultimate reality of Lord. Artha is seeking the worldly pleasures as per the rules and regulations put forth by the scriptures – the rules that we shouldn’t covet others wealth, we should gain possessions only through the right way & always offering them to the ultimate reality of lord. Kaama or enjoyment of sensual pleasures is also done so that we don’t overdo the same instead enjoy sensual pleasures as a duty towards the world remembering the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus lust or sexual pleasures are not forbidden in the scriptures – but sexual pleasures for the sake of mere enjoyment are forbidden – instead if it is accepted and advised for progeny so that through enjoyment, passion is subsided as well as the duty towards the world is performed.

The above three purusharthas of dharma, artha and kaama are to be followed only by that person who has still passions left in the mind & thereby cannot completely control them. Thus he follows the scriptural injunctions and enjoys the three purushaarthas always remembering the ultimate reality of Lord & offering all actions unto him. Slowly the seeker will overcome the passions & thereby totally contemplate on the ultimate reality of Lord. It is due to this reason that the four ashramas of brahmacharya, grihastha, vaanaprastha and sanyaasa are mentioned in the scriptures. It is generally a wrong notion that a person has to compulsorily follow the ashrama in the right order. Vedas proclaim a person to enter into grihastha only and only if he has passions still left in him & thus unable to directly enter into the path of renunciations. The other set of people who are eligible to directly enter into the sanyaasa ashrama are mentioned in the scriptures as nitya brahmachaaris (eternal celibates). Similarly the three purusharthas are only for that person who is unable to directly seek the fourth purushartha of moksha.

For a person who has once tasted the fourth purushartha of moksha by contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord, the other three purusharthas are of no use. Such a person can never be deluded into the three purursharthas – he is ever immersed in contemplation of the Lord. He whose mind has been filled by the thought of the Lord, he can never get deluded into worldly things. This is why the Lord got the name of Rama in one of his avatar – the word meaning “one who attracts everyone”.

Thus we have to constantly remember that the purushartha that has to be really gained is moksha alone – the other three purusharthas might be enjoyed and achieved but giving highest priority to moksha alone. Else the seeker is sure of falling a prey to the delusion of Maya – thereby ever immersed in the ocean of samsaara characterized by births and deaths.

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