Category: spirituality

Agasthiyar’s Tattuvam-300

Sri Sri Ravishankar gave me an assignment a few months back to translate certain works of Agasthiyar and Bhogar both of who belong to the Siddhar tradition. Until then I did not realize the importance of ancient Tamil texts as a treasure house of integrated Indic knowledge. Siddhars and Munis had continued spiritual quest in the mountains of South India for several millennia and had brought out practical wisdom in the form of Siddha medicine. There is a lot more to Siddhar texts than herbology. They for example elucidate building blocks which are common among different traditions in ancient India. Agasthiyar compares all extant philosophies of the Indian subcontinent using a handful of verses in his work Tattuvam-300. He achieves this by referring to the methodology of Tattvas. I had thought the Tattva methodology to be unique to Sanskrit texts called Darshanas. The Indian subcontinent has nurtured parallel systems of thought for eons. Scholars must have used a standard way

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Guru Tradition flourished in Dravidian lands

Tamil traditions recognize Sage Agastya as an important Siddha. Both stories and astronomical clues attest to Agastya’s antiquity. Agastya’s tamil works have been better preserved than his works in Sanskrit. They may contains many gems which maybe the missing links in the presently available Vedic literature. Agastya Paripooranam is one of Agastya’s tamil works. He elaborates in it the need for a Guru and the benefit of having a Sadguru. This was not much difference between the attitude to one’s Guru between the Dravidian and the Vedic traditions at the time of Sage Agastya. Reducing mental chatter and cultivating the skill to quieten the mind are goals of a Yogi. In the second verse below, Agastya tells us that this ability comes only with the grace of the Guru. With that ability all other talents start maturing. Silence as an important link is implicit in Vedic literature. Agastya makes it explicit. ======================================================================“Maturity is needed to consult volumes of scriptures. Life

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Directionally qualified Hell in the Vedas

Aruna Prashna mantras list four forms of hell Concept of Hell in religions around the world today is graphic. It is interesting to contract this fact with the definition of hell as described during ancient times, in the Vedas. There are four hells according to the Vedas (in the Aruna Prasna Mantras). They are assigned each to Southeast, Southwest, Northeast and Northwest directions. They relate to the mental turmoil one goes through in life. Southeast is the direction of Visarpi Naraka, or the hell of agitated movement. Sometimes a pain or a strong sensation makes one to move aimlessly, looking for some relief. A state involving such sensations is the Visarpi Naraka. At other times one may feel completely frozen, being overwhelmed with the intensity of these sensations. This second state of turmoil is considered to be the Avisarpi Naraka which is attributed to the Southwest direction. Self loath creates intense mental turmoil in anyone. This is called the Vishadi

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When did Yoga and Vedanta traditions diverge?

Yoga, Vedanta and mantra are three unique traditions which have been popular for several centuries in India. Strangely the practitioners of any one of three traditions do not readily venture into the others. Vedanta fans for example are not enthusiastic about stretching themselves on the Yoga mat, “OM” is the only sound which Yoga practitioners chant and Pundits feel content with chanting the mantras. Is it purely because of the differences in the approaches among the three traditions? Vedanta today appeals to the intellectually oriented, Yoga to the physically active and Mantra to those from families of chanters. But a cleft must appeared between the three tradition sometimes in the distant past. One finds a mention for example that Vaishnava Acharyas after the time of Nathamuni (few centuries before Saint Ramanuja) did not have access to Vaishnava Yoga. All Vaishanavas in Tamil Nadu today learn to chant Pasurams which were compositions in Tamil by Alwars, or Vaishnava saints who lived

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Patanjali, a Northerner or a Southerner?

The northern territories near Ayodhya and the lands as far south as Sri Lanka both stake a claim to Patanjali. Patanjali. French Indologist, Louis Renou of the 19th century, sided with the oral traditions about there having been two Patanjalis. Many scholars have gradually come to the same conclusion. It is far more likely that the grammarian Patanjali who wrote a commentary on Panini’s Sutras was different from the author of the Yoga Sutras. There is more evidence to the time of the former than the latter. Patanjali is an important personality among the Siddhas of the South. The medical system of Siddhars developed in parallel to the Ayurvedic system. Siddhars are reputed for their special powers to heal and to bless. According to the Siddhar tradition, Patanjali was born in Triconamalai in Sri Lanka and took Jeeva Samadhi in the famous Nataraja temple in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. The Chidambaram temple’s unique domes consists of 21600 tiles, the number of breaths

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References to Yoga in the Rig Veda

Aitareya Brahmana verse 1.7 The word “breath” occurs 379 times in Rig Veda’s Aitareya Brahmana. Pranayama and Yoga terms “Samana”, “Udana” and “Prana” together occur 147 times. Aitareya Brahmana is attributed to the sage Mahidasa who documented procedural notes related to the well known Soma, Agnistoma and Jyotistoma Yagyas. In fact Mahidasa uses the above Yoga terminology to explain the sequence of offerings made in the fire rituals. Yagya procedures are mysterious. It would not make any sense to explain them with reference to an unknown analogy. This suggests strongly that Pranayama and Yoga concepts were established by the time of Mahidasa. The date accepted by the academic community for the Aitareya Brahmana is ~2000 BCE. However, the academic community has given a date of around 200 BCE for sage Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras. Six approaches or Darshanas, were taught in higher institutions such as the Nalanda and Taxasila Universities in the past to comprehend reality and

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What does Brahma have to do with Collapsing Quantum Systems?

According to the scientist Sir James Jeans, the latest discoveries in Physics are hinting at a universe that is less of a machine and more of a great thought. Cartesian view of the Mind as an accidental product in the realm of matter is slowing waning and the older idea of the mind being the creator and the governor of the realm of matter is reviving itself. Sanskrit literature abounds in the elaboration of the latter. A Sanskrit work is called a “Purana” only if it includes the exposition of the creation process. Eight thousand meditating Rishis created eighteen Puranas and in each of them they repeat the following creation view.Brahma, the self born, found himself in the cosmic void and started looking for his creator. After searching around in futility, he took to meditating. He created beings within the mental plane. The beings he created at first, knew the secret of his creation and resolved not to become entangled in the creation

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Superconductivity & Mysticism

The idea of everlasting anything sounds incredible. When Superconductivity was proposed in the sixties even scientists were skeptical. Then they agreed that electric current could flow for long periods (10,000 years) at super low temperatures – zero degrees Kelvin. Semiconductor physicists started designing new material which exhibited superconductivity at temperatures a little higher than that. They found immediate application in medical equipment such as the MRI. A few years ago came the discovery that light can trigger superconductivity. It seemed that light was impacting the crystalline structure of a material. This week scientists have reported in the journal of Physical Review letters an even more interesting discovery. Superconductivity appears in a material even before its lattice structure changes and at temperatures close to normal. Quantum phenomena have been accepted in the scientific community for a while but the possibility of them happening closer to the human body temperature had been left to the domain of the mystical. Scientists from Max

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Celebrate a cosmic scale birthday!

One’s birthday as per the conventional calendar is only a crude approximation of the configuration in the sky when one was born! Tropical dates identify the position of Earth with respect to Sun ignoring the background of fixed stars. In a sense it distances our awareness from the wider cosmos by limiting it to a Heliocentric existence. While the complex molecules that make up our cells may have formed within the Solar system, every atom of our body was created in deep space out there!  Astronomers use the term “sidereal” to distinguish observations against a stationary background. A sidereal year is slightly longer than a tropical year. Vedic civilization recognized this and included the notions of tropical and sidereal in its calendar system. This calendar system utilizes the position of the moon as an additional peg to mark one’s birth cosmically. Moon too returns to its original position against the fixed stars and is close to its original phase on

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Assessing Time, Qualitatively

The Panchang is India’s traditional calendar system. It is named because it has five limbs or aspects. These five are associated one each to the five Maha-Bhutas (great metaphors). Karana – Earth metaphor Thithi – Water metaphor Vara – Fire metaphor Nakshatra – Air metaphor Yoga – Space metaphor Farmers until the advent of fertilizer based agriculture consulted the Karana tables of the Panchang to gain a timing advantages from nature. Karana’s association with the Earth metaphor is apt because of the agronomy association. Thithi being a division of the lunar cycle, affects water bodies on the planet. Oceanic high and low tides can be predicted using the Thithi tables. Celebrations were timed to coincide with the Thithi table to help the human mind drop its habitual barriers and merge with the festivities. Water is an apt metaphor for mental tension becoming diffused. The seven days of the week or Vara are named after seven significant luminaries in the sky who in

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