Sri Sankara is revered as one of the most important Indian philosophers and foremost advocate of Advaita Vedanta. While his commentaries and analytical treatises embody the fundamental tenets of this philosophy, the many devotional works he composed also illustrate the core teaching of Advaita Vedanta. In this book, Swami Tatvavidananda deals with two of Sri Sanhara's: shorter works, the Prarthana Satpadi and the Ekasloki, both of which are particularly poetic and emphasize the true nature of the individual self as being non-separate from divinity.
The Prarthana Satpadl is remarkable for its potential to evoke devotion in all those who recite it. It seeks the grace of the Lord so that one may have humility, compassion and love for all, and command over one's mind and impulses. This prayer describes the spirit of total surrender to the Lord and defines the role of devotion in purifying the heart of the seeker.
Swami Tatvavidananda's style of teaching is notable for the Vedantic parallels he draws to the subject matter. This helps the seeker effortlessly discover the essence of Advaita Vedanta in all his teaching. He describes various puranic stories that occur in the context of this prayer and reveals the underlying Vedantic implication of each. Knowing the philosophical import of these familiar stories indeed helps uncover the wisdom they contain. The comprehensive unfolding of the value of compassion in this section will also be found to be particularly relevant.
In this text Swamiji also highlights the aesthetic aspects of both works, which add to their beauty. The reader will appreciate the wonderful consonance of meaning, meter, and melody in Sri Smikara's choice of words in the Prarthana Satpadi, and come to identify the interesting stylistic device employed in the Ehasloki, which is Sri Smikara'S shortest work. As the name indicates, it comprises but a single verse and contains questions and answers that are artfully strung together to unfold the topic of self-enquiry.
Swamiji explores the human predicament in some detail here. It concerns man's interminable search for happiness and security in the things and people of the world, a yearning for freedom and completeness prompted by notions of insecurity and inadequacy, a desperate and misguided search that does not cease even upon his death. Swamiji's emphasis here is again on the fundamental premise of Vedanta, which is that the happiness and security considered so integral to human existence is the very nature of each individual.
Working on this book gave me a wonderful opportunity to dwell upon the teaching, and I am grateful to Swamiji for having entrusted this task to me. The text will surely lead the reader to appreciate the wisdom of the Upanishadic teaching, even as it gently guides him along the path to his own self discovery.
Swami Tatvavidananda dedicates this book to the memory of his respected father, the late Mahamahopadhyaya Sri Rani Narasimha Sastry, from whom he learnt to recite the verses at the early age of 9. Swamiji also pays sincere and reverential tribute to Sri Akhandanandaji Maharaj of Brindavan, in respectfully acknowledging the inspiration derived from him.
The Prarthana satpadi is a beautiful prayer that consists of
six verses followed by a final verse, which is the phalasruti or
statement of the benefits of its recitation. In Sanskrit, the
word satpadi means a sentence consisting of six words. This
prayer is called a satpadi because everyone of its lines
consists of six words or phrases. The word satpadi also
denotes the honeybee, which has six legs or padas. The
connotation of the bee that seeks the nectar of flowers is
significant because poets often compare the face and feet of
the Lord to the lotus.
The symbolism here is that, when recited with devotion,
these verses transform the heart of the devotee into a 'bee'
that would always abide at the lotus-feet of the Lord, in self-
surrender, or in His lotus-face in contemplation. The Prarthana
satpadi is set to a melodious rhythmic meter and evokes
devotion in anyone who recites it.
The highest goal in devotion is the complete surrender of
the self at the lotus feet of the Lord. This is the metaphor
implied by the title of the encomium, and, interestingly, the
first line of the phalasruti is entirely a declaration of self-
surrender. Devotion is a rasa signifying both the nectar and
the sentiment of devotion.
sri Sankara's vision of Vedanta
sri Sankara has written bhasyas or commentaries on the
Upanishads, on the Bhagavad Gita, and also on the famous
Brahmasutras of sage Badarayana, The Upanishads are the
primary source of the knowledge of Brahman. The ten
Upanishads upon which Sri Sankara has commented have
come to be known as the ten major Upanishads. The Gita is
revered as a text of authority in Vedanta, being the
quintessence of the teachings of the Upanishads, and, most
importantly, a treatise on Vedanta in practice. The
Brahmasatras examine and explore many significant
statements from the Upanishads. Many of these statements
that need further rational elaboration are discussed in detail
by Sri Sankara.
sri Sankara's commentaries are extensive and provide an
invaluable elucidation of the vision of Vedanta. They are
thus seen to constitute the first tier in the compendium of sri
Sankara's Vedantic works. These three sets of commentaries
are collectively known as the prasthanatraya or three-fold
system or march to liberation. Each prasthana may be likened
to a lane in an expressway. The three bhasyas help us reach
the goal of gaining Self-knowledge and liberation.
The vision of Vedanta appears to contradict the common
human experience. Consequently, before embarking on the
study of these commentaries, a student would need an
introduction to its basic concepts. It is for the purpose of
providing this initial groundwork that Sri Sankara composed a
few texts, known as prakaranas. He has highlighted different
aspects of Vedanta in each one of these prakaranas. For
example, the Pancikaranam highlights a certain model of
creation, together with meditation upon Om. These prakaranas
constitute the second tier or category of his literature.
Sri Sankara has composed a number of hymns and prayers
highlighting the role of bhakti, devotion, in purifying the heart
of the seeker of the Truth. The Prarthana satpadi is one of
these popular works that inspire devotion. We consider these
works to constitute the third category of his writings.
sri Sankara is one of the greatest of devotees
A general misconception about Sri Sankara is that he is an
intellectual giant, but one without much devotion. However,
the fact is that sri Sankara is one of the greatest of devotees,
neither opposed to devotion nor to action. Yet the fact
remains that action becomes a mechanical and repetitive
ritual, and devotion turns into superstition in the absence of
the correct understanding of the Truth. Sri Sankara's vision
encompasses all three aspects of human endeavour: action,
devotion, and Self-knowledge.
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