Words from an Enlightened Being are sparks from the flame of his inner illumination. The moment the seeker's thoughts come in contact with those divine sparks, like the inflammable hay, they get aflame with Truth.
Dakshinamurti Stotra, one of the most profound compositions of Sankaracharya, is truly special as it conveys the highest knowledge-Advaita-in just ten verses. This commentary by Sri Ramanacharanatirtha Nochur Venkataraman is full of insights penetrating into the very heart of Vedanta jnana. The ineffable clarity born out of Acharya's direct and intimate experience of the Self is pure magic.
This majestic work is filled with clear guidance for a seeker, memorable anecdotes, cautions about the pitfalls along the way, various steps in this pathless path and innumerable meditative gems. The sheer poetic beauty of Acharya's words makes this an ecstatic classic.
Ramanacharanatirtha Nochur Venkataraman is an Acharya of Vedanta sampradaya. At a very young age, this sagely teacher started expounding on the age-old Vedic wisdom of the Upanishads, Gita, Bhagavatam and other texts on Vedanta. His discourses and writings are aflame with the power of fragrance of bhakti that one gets an intimation of one's spiritual essence instantaneously. Coming in the lineage of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, Nochur Acharya's talks and writings on Maharshi's teachings are a great guiding force for Self- enquiry.
"The whole moon and the entire sky
are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass."
Dakshinamurti Stava of Adi Sankara is a gem amongst the vast trove of stotras composed by him. A hymn of praise to Siva, the verses truly reveal the essence of Jnana. Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi too gave this Stava a high status by translating it into Tamil. What better authority is required to establish its special place? Dakshinamurti is traditionally 5 portrayed as the Mauna Guru or the Silent Preceptor. His Silence is the essence of the Mahavakyas that are found at the heart of all the Upanishads. To gain an insight into the nature and depth of that divine and primordial Silence, let us look to Sri Ramana himself to enlighten us. Once while answering the doubts of a devotee, Sri Ramana explained the great impact of Guru's Silence.
Silence is the most potent form of work. However vast and emphatic the Sastras may be, they fail in their effort. The Guru (Dakshinamurti) is quiet, and Peace prevails in all. His Silence is more emphatic than all the Sastras put together.
Eknath Swami, the Maharashtrian saint, in his commentary on Bhagavata has defined Vedanta Pravachana itself as mauna or Silence. What does this mean? As is so potently explained here in this present commentary, the words uttered by a Master, an Illumined Being, emanate from and convey Silence alone. It has been just such a Pravachana that formed the basis of this work.
An exquisitely inspiring exposition on this stotra of Bhagavatpada was given by Acharya Sri Nochur Venkataraman, in 2009 at Bangalore, in Tamil. The power of those words was such that the very listening could push a mature seeker into the inner stream of nididhyasana. A more or less spontaneous translation into English was undertaken, and that English rendition has been the primary impetus for bringing out this evocatively beautiful, sublimely meaningful, lucid and detailed commentary by Acharya.
Coming in the Rishi parampara of Arunachala Kshetra, Nochur Acharya has a special connection with this particular stotra. The primordial significance of this stotra and its association with Arunachala has already been elaborately revealed by him in his sacred work, Atmatirtham, The Life and Teachings of Sankaracharya.
To quote from Sopanam 39:
Acharya (Sankara) looked at the hill with wonder. Acharya said: 'The peace prevailing here is amazing.' Arunachala, which resembled Mahameru in shape, captivated Acharya's heart.
In this sacred place the hill itself is the linga... For a period, Acharya remained in profound mystic silence in chinmudra here. Several disciples experienced the state of Samadhi by the very power of his mauna. After a while, Acharya said, 'The aspect of Siva as Dakshinamurti is very prominent in this sacred place. This hill itself is the form of the great Silent Teacher — Dakshinamurti. The Lord as Dakshinamurti is ideal for worship, especially for renunciates —‘upasakanam yadupasaniyam upattavasam vatasakhimule.' The Lord, assuming a pure satvik form, gave Brahmopadesa to Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara by the power of paravak (the subtle-most realm of sabda which is of the nature of silence, which transcends idea, energy, light and sound.)
Even the silence of a Mani emanates paravak, so his is the uninterrupted eloquence. His silence is the song of the soul. Mature seekers relish his silence more than his words.
Sureswara requested Acharya to instruct him on the principle of Dakshinamurti. Acharya said, 'Sureswara, Siva is generally known in the Vedas as Rudra, which is His formidable aspect. Sankara or Sadasiva is the most gentle form of the Lord. Sadasiva means 'ever-auspicious'. Sadasiva is Brahman that is never contaminated by the triad-creation-sustenance-destruction. Sadasiva himself is Dakshinamurti...'
After this discourse, Acharya condensed the whole of it into a profound work, Dakshinamurti Stava, and gave it to Sureswara. The depth and grandeur of this hymn, resembling an Upanishad, astounded even a great scholar like Sureswaracharya. He later wrote a commentary on this work to which Acharya gave the name 'Manasollasa'.
The verses of this stotra fall into a mystical cadence as they unfurl themselves, bringing to us a sense of awe and joy.
They transform our inner space, assuaging a deep thirst for gaining the ultimate, the sublime truth of our own Self. They offer, or rather proffer a Light unto the darkness that life appears to be. They lift us into high realms of imagination and make possible the contemplation of the divinity that we all essentially are.
Truth is One they say. But yet, to approach it with such intensity and a passion as is available here is the fundamental yearning of all those who truly seek-and this special quality is what draws and holds our attention. We are irresistibly drawn to delve deeper, to reflect further, to actualize our understanding better as we continue to read, reflect upon and sing these verses. That too is the Guru's instruction, the intention of the Lord. Therefore, it is a blessing to avail ourselves of this opportunity to do so here, in this hauntingly beautiful rendering.
These words of our Acharya are a beacon-light that bring instant illumination, that ring forth like temple-bells with the glory of this ancient wisdom. And they do so simply, easily and swiftly-erasing our ignorance, healing our sorrow forever with the brilliant authoritative strength of the Word.
Why not Abide in Peace?
Once, an incident took place in Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's presence. A devotee visited Bhagavan, and offering a basket laden with fruits, prostrated. He then asked the Sage, "In satsang and in Guru's presence, we gain peace; but why does it disappear afterwards?" Bhagavan did not reply immediately, but simply remained quiet, immersed in samadhi with unwinking open eyes. A tremendous upsurge of energy was felt. A dhara-a mystical current of pure Self-awareness, pervaded all around. Devotees sat there bathed in that pure water of Spirit. While all were seated thus, under the spell of that profound Silence, a monkey entered the hall. As all were sitting still, it walked in boldly, and seeing the basket, took hold of one of the fruits. While doing so, it glanced up at Maharshi's face; Maharshi's gaze was also focused on the monkey. Then, the monkey became completely still as if in a painting—not stirring even a bit. Those witnessing the scene were incredulous, as that which is often quoted as an example for unruliness, stayed still for almost seven to eight minutes! After some time, the spell broke and then, of course as was its nature, the monkey again took hold of the fruit and started looking around. With a smile, Bhagavan remarked: "Ey, why don't you stay as you were? What kingdom are you planning to conquer?"
"Why not abide in that peace? What great attainment awaits you that you again need to move out of your inherent Peace?"—this question or remark from the Sage is a teaching for all, including the devotee who had initially asked the question. Even though we get a glimpse of this peace during satsang or while in meditation, why do we lose it later? It is because, when we board the flight of worldly ambitions, they acquire such greater momentum that, we are estranged from our real nature. Achievements gain more importance than peace.
Nature of the Atman (Self)
`Santoyam atma. This Atman is Peace'-is the declaration of Sruti. Peace is the very nature of the Self. When mind becomes still, sand or peace is revealed. When mind becomes distracted, the peace of the inner Self is not felt very clearly. When something helps the mind to touch the cool pool of peace within, we mistake that 'something' to be the cause of Peace. Peace, however, does not arise from any outside cause. Peace is Atman itself-its very nature. The Self is of the nature of pure Experience-anubhuti swarupa. The peace of the Self can never be taken away from us. All of us occasionally experience that peace in our lives, so to say, in between two disturbances. But that intermission soon gives way to thoughts. As clouds that cover the sky, thoughts overcast that inner peace. When the inner quietude exists, we hardly recognise its value and we ourselves disturb it by worldly activities that are deeply involving-and this generates attachment and aversion within us. We ourselves spoil that Peace due to our delusion that there is something to be achieved through effort.
In order to deal with the world, we must necessarily have likes and dislikes, and a sense of doership and enjoyership. Worldly activity cannot be undertaken without these four. By 'world' what is implied is ‘raga-dvesa-kartrtva-bhoktrtva bhoktrtva rupam jagat—likes, dislikes, doership and enjoyership taken form is the world.' I must have either a like or a dislike to deal with another, and I must possess doership and enjoyership in order to act in the world. When the mind is projected, it comes forth with these four aspects, and they come accompanied by bondage. When the mind subsides, it subsides along with these four; then the inherent contentment of our real nature (swarupa sukha) shines forth and the peace of the Self reveals itself. So, quietude of the mind is the greatest yoga-'paro hi yogo manasah samddhih. All activity, whether it be worldly, spiritual or ritualistic (vedic), takes place in the realm of Sakti. In the plane of Sakti, there is something called pancha-krtya-srshti (creation), sthiti (sustenance), samhara (destruction), tirodhana (veiling or forgetting), and anugraha (Grace or Self-knowledge).
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