CHAPTER – 14
Namadharaka asked Siddha, ‘Holy one, after having expounded the supreme doctrine of Gnana Yoga which is the highest means to attain liberation, why did Sree Guru again proceed to explain the intricacies of Karma Yoga at length? This has raised a doubt in my mind: Karma or action is born of nescience. How then can it be employed to annihilate the nescience? Pray, clear my doubt’.
Siddha replied: Namadharaka, just as the crab, at its birth, is said to break open the womb which has conceived it, so too, karma which is born of ignorance can be employed as the means to destroy it own source. Again, a brass vessel which is used for cooking, gathers soot. Later, when it is rubbed with dust gathered from elsewhere and the vessel is dipped in running water, the soot is cleared off; its original metallic sheen is revealed. So too, the performance of karma without attachment for its fruits, and later, by renouncing action itself and passively accepting the experiences of life, a man becomes the repository of such virtues like perfect control over his senses, mind and body. Only such a one can attain perfection I the final, true, renunciation of karma. In fact, no one can at any time remain free from action. For life it self, like all other phenomena, is the dynamic function of the three modes of Gunas of nature. The ignorant man will get attached to it through desire for its fruit, while the enlightened one remains detached to its results, employing it just as a means of perfecting his faculties. The perfect gnani continues to perform karma yoga in order to teach the world by setting up an example. ‘I am aware that people follow the path I tread and so I perform all actions meticulously’ so said the Guru once. Now listen to the miraculous acts of the Lord pertaining to karma yoga. By listening to them, the fetters of nescience will be broken and liberation accrues.
In those days, one of the neighbouring states was ruled by a Muslim king who was cruel and who was particularly hostile to Brahmins. He used to summon learned Brahmins, force them to recite the Vedas in his court, contrary to Hindu Law, on promise of gift of money. Tempted by the offer, some Brahmins gathered about him and did as he wished. He used to listen to the merely literal exposition of the Vedic mantras and then he used to vilify the sacred Vedas and the pious Brahmins who were esteemed for their proficiency in the Vedas. He thought that the principles of righteous living contained in the Vedas were false. Once, two despicable but learned Brahmins, who were puffed with the pride of their learning visited the king and said: “We are well-versed in Vedas and Sastras. We challenge you to present before us any pundit who is as learned as we, in your court, for a metaphysical debate.” The king summoned all the learned Brahmins of that place, but none of them dared to accept the challenge, being over awed by their claims of scholarship. So, with the consent of the court and the court-scholars, the king honoured the visitors by parading them around the city on an elephant in a grand procession, and later bestowed on them valuable gifts. Such, indeed, is the fate of false Vedic scholars who are entangled in the lure of pomp, wealth and luxuries and who are unconcerned with the moral fall implied in such a conduct. At last, the visitors said: ‘Oh king, without frequent learned debates, the fruit of our learning goes in vain. Please grant us the royal permission to challenge and defeat all the scholars of the land in public debates and secure written testimonies of the same’. The king acceded to that request in vicious glee. At once the visitors extracted the written testimonies of their victory from the royal priest and went away in search of further conquests and glory.
In the course of their travels round the country, the two scholars approached the learned sannyasi, Trivikrama Bharati, and said, ‘If you are indeed a knower of the Vedas faces us in a public debate, or else give us in writing that we are the victors!’ The sannyasi replied, ‘Scholars like you are indeed worthy of worship. I am no such. Further, I am a sannyasi and so victory and defeat are the same to me. What if I win or loose in the debate?’ Then they produced the testimonials of the victories they had won earlier and demanded, ‘Either you commence the debate, or issue a testimonial of our victory’. So Trivikrama wanted them to follow him to the presence of Sree Guru where it can be decided whether he would participate in the debate straight away, or issue a testimonial. As Trivikrama, in all his humility, proceeded on foot, the proud visitors proceeded in well decorated palanquins. Trivikrama entered the monastery of Sree Guru and addressed him: ‘Supreme Lord, just as the owl cannot witness the glory of the sun, these pundits who are blinded by nescience cannot know you for what you are. Pray, free me from the vexation of these fellows who are incensed with pride and self-glorification.’
Sree Guru summoned the scholars into his presence and said to them, ‘What do you hope to achieve by such a demand, revered Sirs?’ They said: ‘We are scholars par excellence. We have been traveling about this land to defeat all fellow scholars in public debate, with the royal permission. Your disciple has brought us to you. Do you know the Vedas?’
Sree Guru said, ‘My dear ones, you know how many were the demons (Raakshasas) that were undone by their own pride. Indeed, there is no one who knows the whole of the Vedas which are without beginning and end. In ancient times, sage Bharadwaja did tapas in order to master the whole of the Vedas and vowed himself to a life of celibacy. Pleased with his austerities, god Brahma granted him ever longer spans of life time, during which the sage mastered prodigious parts of the scripture. Yet, much more remained to be mastered, till at last Brahma showed him the glowing mountain of Vedic knowledge that remained to be learned! Sage Bharadwaja wondered how long it would take to master it all and whether he could ever hope to do so in all eternity. Lord Brahma then gave him a few handfuls of that Vedic lore. Till now, sage Bharadwaja has been learning it and has not yet finished it.
Later, Sage Paila of yore studied the Rigveda; Vaisampaayana studied the Yajurveda; Jaimini studied the Saamaveda; Sumanta studied the Atharvanaveda, Sage Vedavyasa was their guru. In the previous cycles of existence, those endowed with very long life studied all the existing portions of the Veda. But in this dark age of Kali, people are dull witted and are content with learning a few branches (Saakhas) of each of the Vedas and yet they proudly claim to have mastered them in Toto. Indeed, they are slaves to wealth, delicious food and women. Hence, they do not attain spiritual perfection despite all their life of learning.
Once sage Vyaasa enumerated the branches (Saakhas) and ‘limbs’ of Vedas (Vedaangas). Ayurveda is the secondary branch of knowledge related to the Rigveda; it is bright as gold; it belongs to Atri Gotra and has the Gayatri metre (Chandas). It has Brahma as its presiding deity and is two forearms in length. It has wide and long eyes and a vividly built neck. It has four branches in it, viz., Saakala, Bhaashkala, Saamkhyaayani, Aswalaayani and Maandukya Saakhas. It has eight other branches called Jata, Maala, Sikha, Lekha, Dhwaja, Danda, Radha and Ghana. It has six limbs of learning called Niruktha, Vyaakarana, Jyotisha, Chandas, Sikha and Suutra. Who can ever hope to master the whole of the Rigveda which is so vast?
Now about Yajurveda: It is bright like the sun and is five forearms high. It bears a skull. It is lean and tall. Dhanurveda is its secondary Veda; it has the Trishtup metre (Chandas). It belongs to the Bharadwaja Gotra. Its presiding deity is Lord Vishnu. It has eighty six branches. At present, only eighteen of them are extant. It has six limbs. Who can thoroughly master this Veda which is so extensive?
Saamaveda is self-restrained (Daanta), pure and is decked with flower-garlands. It wears skin as raiment and bears a staff. It is six fore-arms in height. Gaandharva or the knowledge of music is its secondary Veda. Lord Rudra (or Shiva) is its presiding deity. Jagati is its metre. It belongs to Kaasyapa Gotra. It has seventeen branches and six limbs. Now, only nine of its branches are extant. Who can ever hope to master it all?
Atharvanaveda is mighty and turbulent in nature, white in complexion and is of the form of desire. It is auspicious and is well-contented with its own spouse. Yantraveda or knowledge of mechanics is its secondary Veda. Anushtup is its metre. Lord Indra is its presiding deity. It has nine branches and five Kalpas. Who has ever known it through?
In this Indian subcontinent, during this dark age of Kali, Brahmins are reciting Vedas in the presence of the unworthy. That is why they lack sattwaguna (pure longing for true Being). The Vedic mantras are kept safe from popular idle curiosity by such ritual initiations as Utsarjana and Upaakarma. When truly learned, they are capable of bestowing everything worthy on its knower, like the mythical wish-granting cow (Kaamadhenu). The whole of the creation is under the control of the deities; the deities are under the power of mantras; the mantras are in the possession of pious Brahmins. Such Brahmins are worthy to be worshipped even by Lord Vishnu. During the Krita (fourth) age (i.e., the age of wisdom and truth), Brahmins refused to accept any prize or possession, even if someone offered them kingdoms and all. Hence, they were spiritually very powerful. Even deities were under their command. Still, they were not proud of it at all. On the other hand, they were rich in humility. Such proud ones like you had only become brahmaraakshasas (wicked spirits endowed with magical powers) in the past’.
The impatient scholars interrupted Sree Guru, saying, ‘Holy sir, why tell us all this? Either face our challenge if you dare, or else tender your testimony of our victory in learning.’ Then Sree Guru beckoned to a low born man who was passing that away, drew eight lines on his body with sacred ash and said, ‘Tell me who you were!’ The man at once attained knowledge of his existence seven lives earlier and said: ‘Lord, in the first of these lives, I was a Hillman named Maatanga. In the second, I was a hunter named Ravana. In the third, I was named Gaangeya. In the fourth, I was a farmer. In the fifth, I was a caste-merchant named Somadatta. In the sixth life, I was a Kshatriya named Govardhana Varma. In the seventh, I was a Brahmin and I had thoroughly learned the Vedas and Sastras’. Then Sree Guru sprinkled ash on his body and said, ‘If you indeed were a Vedic scholar, may you vanquish these Brahmins in a scholarly debate!’
The visitors were amazed at and scared by this miracle and the power of the Master that could work it in a wink. They submitted to Sree Guru, sought his refuge and craved to be spiritually uplifted. Now it is was Sree Guru’s turn to admonish them. He said, ‘You have recited the Vedas in the presence of a hostile and an alien (i.e., the Muslim king). You have scorned sannyasins and pious Brahmins. In consequence of such sins, you will be become brahmaraakshasas. If you repent for your sins, live on in peace for twelve years, reciting the Vedas with devotion, then you shall be liberated.’ The Brahmins then proceeded to the holy Sangama, took a holy dip, left off their mortal bodies, took birth as demons and stayed there. At the end of twelve years, once they saw a pious Brahmin who forgot one of the mantras he was obliged to chant on the occasion. They taught him the same and thereby they were liberated.
In this manner, those who are infatuated with pride and thereby swerve from the path of righteousness and those who scorn pious Brahmins and sannyasins will be born as Brahmaraakshasas in wild forests. Only through true repentance for their misdeeds will they become pure again.”