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The Six Questions of Yudhishtrar to BhIshmAchAryA

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The format of these questions of DhAlbhyar are similar to
the Six questions posed by Yudhishtrar to BhIshmAcchAryA,
while latter lay in his death bed at the battle field of
Kuru KshEthram . Those six Questions are housed in
the following two slOkams of SrI VishNu Sahasra Naamam:

kimEkam dhaivatham lOkE kim vaapyEkam parAyaNam
sthuvantha: kam kamarchantha: prApnurmAnavaa subham

kO dharma: sarva-dharmANAm bhavatha: paramO matha:
kim JAPAN muchyathE janthu: janma-samsAra BhandhanAth

YudhishrA asks the grand sire, BhIshmAchArya:

1. Who is the Para Devathai(Supreme God)?

2. What is the highest goal(PurushArtham)?

3. Which is the Supreme God to be worshipped ?

4. Which is the Supreme God , whose names are to be mediated
upon and recited for gaining this highest PurushArtham?

5. What is the greatest Dharma?

6. What is the UpAyam to gain MOksham?

In ThiruvEngadam List , Sriman Sudarrshan has elaborated
beautifully on these questions and BhIshmAchAryA's
answers, given below:

The 6 questions Yudhishtara posed to Bhisma in the Prologue to the
Vishnu-Sahasranamam, in summary, were as follows:

(1) "kim ekam daivatam lOkE" : Who is the Supreme Deity? This
question relates to 'para-tatwa', the Absolute Universal Principle,
also known in Vedantic theology as "upEya", "parama-nissrEyasam",
"parama- purushArtham" etc� in other words, the End or the ultimate
purpose of existence.

(2) "kimvApyEkam parAyAnam": What is the most suitable means,
'upAya', to attain 'upEya'?

(3) "stuvantah kam": What is the 'upAya' ("laghu-upAya") to be
adopted which involves the least effort but results in the supreme
gain viz. the consummating "siddhOpAya"?

(4) "kamarchantah mAnavAssubham": Which is the "alaghu-upAya", the
strenuous but more profound means of attaining "siddhOpAya"?

(5) "kO dharma sarva-dharmAnAm": Which is the supreme dharma? Which
is the most suitable "sAdhyOpAya" i.e. the most effective means of
enabling "siddhOpAya"?

(6) "kim jappan mUchyatE jantuh janma samsAra bandhanAth": What is
the form of exercise ("sAlambana-upAya") to be performed in order to
secure release from earthly bondage and to have delivered to us the
Supreme End, the "siddhOpAya", the "upEya"?

******** ********** ********

In the Prologue to the Vishnu-Sahasranamam, when Bhishma begins to
answer Yudhishtara, the 'pitAmahar' surprisingly takes up the 6th
question first --- the one on 'sAlambana-upAya', the one about
performance of practical exercises designed to deliver 'siddhOpAyam'.

"jagath-prabhUm dEva-dEvam anantham pUrUshOttamam
stUvan nAma sahasrEna pUrUsh~suh satatOthitah:"

The easiest but most effective of practical exercises one can
undertake, says Bhishma, is "stuvan nAma sahasrEna" i.e. ceaseless
invoking of 1000 'nAmAs' of the Almighty Lord of all Celestials
("jagath-prabhUm dEva-dEvam anantham pUrUshOttamam") in a spirit of
utter devotion and in every possible moment of one's waking life.
(Ironically, the word "satatOthitah:" refers to the Almighty being
"always awake"! Alas, our own waking moments in life are severely
limited by more than half because of bodily craving for slumber.
Tondar-adi-podi AzhwAr, in his 'tirumAlai', bemoaned exactly this by
crying out, "pAdhiyUm urangi-pOgum ninrathir padhinai-Andu.."!). Such
an act of devotion is called "stuvan-nAma". It is more widely known
as "nAma-jappam".

The 'sAlambana-upAya' of "nAma-japa" has its origins in and owes its
sanctity to the Vedic 'srutis'. It is not a figment of somebody's
feverish religious imagination. In later passages below we shall see
what those 'sruti' origins are but first we should pause to answer a
rather unusual question. Why did Bhishma choose to take up
Yudhishtara's last question first? Why the curious reversal of
sequence? Why the odd behaviour?

None of the great "bhAshyakArar-s" of the Sahasranamam - certainly
neither Adi Sankara nor Parashara Bhattar - has taken pains to
explain it in their respective commentaries! Scriptural passages in
ancient texts are occasionally found to be awkwardly out of natural
sequence. But rarely, if ever at all, are scriptural passages
composed without an underlying purpose. Usually such purpose is
hinted upon at least, even if not fully revealed, by the great
"bhAshya-s" of a Sankara, a Ramanuja or an Ananda-tirtha. But in the
present case there seems to be no such help available.

Nobody knows why exactly but in the absence of any authoritative
commentary in the "bhAshyAs", there is no harm if we allow ourselves
to speculate a bit on the possible reasons why Bhishma deviated from
answering Yudhishtara's questions strictly in seriatim.
There are 2 possible explanations:

(1) Firstly, from the phrase "janma-samsAra-bandhanAth", it may be
easily inferred that Yudhishtara was desperately seeking to know from
Bhishma if there were any means of immediate relief from the pain and
distress of life caused by the tragic and inexorable cycle of
birth-death & rebirth. Bhishma quickly and intuitively understood
that Yudhishtara's last question voiced a deep "distress call"� It
was a veiled cry of pain and desperation. And it needed to be
immediately addressed even before anything else the Pandava prince
was anxious to know about.

When a badly injured person is rushed into the ER (Emergency Room) of
a hospital, the topmost priority doctors in attendance invariably
give is to relieve the patient's pain and suffering. The patient also
needs to be protected against spreading infection like tetanus. The
first duty of the doctors therefore is to administer an effective
painkiller and follow it up with a shot of 'serum anti-tetanus'.
Diagnosis, tests, detailed examination, treatment etc.� everything
else follows only much later.

By the same logic, Bhishma too dealt first with the question of the
means known as "sAlambana-upAya" which not only secures release from
but also inures one against the great pain and distress ("mUchyatE)
brought about by "samsAra-bandham".

(2) There is another explanation too given for the curious behaviour
of Bhishma. It is in the form of a little story worth recounting
here:

A good man once approached a Wise One for lessons on the Art of
Living. He was told to start with a thorough study of the
Bhagavath-gita. The man went home and eagerly took up the first
chapter. After almost 3 months and halfway through the chapters on
the 'samkhya-yoga' his mind boggled and, poor man, he simply gave up.
He returned to the Wise One to complain "Sir, there are eighteen
chapters in the Gita. If each of them is as formidable as the first
couple of ones then I'm afraid I must tell you I am unequal to the
daunting task."

"Can you instead direct me," pleaded the man with the Wise One, "can
you direct me to the heart of the Gita texts so that I can grasp the
core of their sacred essence without having to traverse their entire
length?". The Wise One replied, "If 18 chapters are too much for you,
my friend, then you better restrict your study to the passages on the
"bhakti-yoga" alone."

"Thank you, O noble Sir", said the good man to the Wise One and
departed.

Back home our good friend opened the Gita text and began his arduous
inquiry into the 'bhakti-yoga'. The chapters were long and the
passages interminable. The study of the "bhakti-yOga" consumed
another 6 months. Soon the man gave up the effort and returned to the
Wise One.

"Sir, the chapters on the "bhakti-yoga" too are beyond my powers of
comprehension! Can you direct me to a single 'shlOka' which may be
said to be a nutshell of the entire Gita?" The Wise One was by now
annoyed with the man's attitude� so typical of the modern times when
everyone expects to maximize rewards while expending minimum effort.
However he patiently advised, "My friend, if you want the Gita in a
nutshell go to the verse called the 'charama-shlOka" : "sarva dharmAm
parityajja�etc. You might find in it whatever you are looking for in
this world".

Our friend, the seeker of Truth, returned home, delighted in the
discovery that the whole of the Gita could be absorbed through the
study of a single verse! He spent another 3 months in zealous
attempts to commit to memory the Lord's famous 'charama-shlOka'. But
failing once again, he gave it all up! Returning to the Wise One once
again, he confessed, "Sir, the 32-syllabled "charama-shlOka" is too
long. It eludes my mind."

"So what do you want me to do about it?" asked the wise One with now
barely concealed acidic exasperation.

"Pray, direct me to a single phrase, expression or word in the verse
which epitomizes the Gita. That way I can rest content that I have
ingested all of the essence, if not the substance, of the Lord's
message in a single verbal capsule."

The Wise One thought carefully for a while and replied: "Leave out
"sarva dharmAm parittyajja"; leave out "mamEkam saranam vraja"; leave
out "aham tva sarva pApEBhyo moksha~ishyAmi"�.

Then after a pause the Wise one said, "Hold steadfast to the last
phrase "ma shucha:". It means "Do not worry or grieve". Believe me,
it's verily the essence of the Lord's Gita� "DO NOT WORRY". It's the
real secret of life. Hold on dearly to that phrase all your life and
never let go of it!"

The good man was absolutely overjoyed. He was delighted he had at
last stumbled upon the quintessence of the Bhaavath-gita� in a
single, memorable phrase: "ma shucha:", "ma shucha:"�. But it was
also now his turn to get terribly annoyed with the Wise Man. He said
to him rather crossly, "Sir, you call yourself wise! For over 12
months now I have been coming to you for lessons on the Gita. Each
time you sent me away to ponder over the most difficult chapters in
the text, while all along, the answer was already there in a single
phrase... "ma shucha:"... And yet you gave it to me only now after 12
long and fruitless months! Sir, if you'd given me the answer on the
first day we met, we might have both saved ourselves a whole year of
wasted effort!"

****** ******* ********

In taking up Yudhishtara's last question on 'sAlambana-upAya' first
for answering, Bhishma was wise enough not to commit the mistake the
Wise Man of the story was indeed guilty of! The supreme Vedantic
'gnyANi' Bhishma was, he was careful to follow the cardinal rule of
spiritual instruction ("upadEsa") viz.:

"Start with simple things first; the subtle can wait. Begin with the
essential; the substantial can follow later. Advance from small
things first, before going on to great ones."
And thus it was that Bhishma took up for elaboration
"stuvan-nAma-sahasram" before responding to profounder questions
Yudhishtara put to him in the Prologue to the Sri
Vishnu-Sahasranamam.
******** ********** *********
continuing from Part 27 posted earlier
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To Yudhishtara's question "kim jappan~mUchyatE jantur janma-samsAra
bandhanAth"?, Bhishma replied:

"jagat-prabhum...stUvan nAma sahasrEna pUrUsh~suh satatOthitah:"

meaning, "For sentient beings ("jantu") the practice of constant
"japam" or "stuvam" i.e. chanting or meditating upon the 1000 names
("nAma-sahasra") of the Almighty ("jagat-prabhu") is the best means
of relief from "samsAra-bandham" -- mundane bondage.

Bhishma recommends this as the best "sAlambana upAya". "Salambana"
refers to devotional practices such as "stOtra" or "stuthi" (singing
praises), "mantra" (incantation), "sree-murthy" (iconic worship),
"gandha-pushpa samarpaNa" (offering floral and aromatic worship) and
other similar aids to worship. To Yudishtara's question, "Which among
these 'sAlambana' is the best?", Bhishma's resounding and categorical
reply was "stuvan-nAma", "nAma-japa" or "stuthi"!

******* ********* *********

In the 12th-century AD, in the holy town of SriRangam, there lived a
great "achArya" called Sri.Parashara Bhattar. He wrote a magnificent
commentary ("bhAshya") on the Vishnu-Sahasranamam entitled
"bhagavadh-guNa-darpaNa". In that "bhAshya", in a celebrated passage
Bhattar showed how Bhishma's assertions on "nAma-japa" were based
firmly on the authority ("pramANa") of ageless Vedic 'sruti'.

Bhattar refers us first to relevant statements in the Upanishad
regarding the nature of "janma-samsAra-bandham". What really is it?
Why does it cause pain and distress in human beings? What is the
source of such pain and distress? Why do even the most powerful and
wisest men, like Yudhishtara, who otherwise lack nothing in this
world, yearn for means of eternal release ("mUchyatE") from it?

The Upanishad explains:

When we look closely at the inner workings of this world ("samsAra")
everything in it, both insentient ("achEtana") and intelligent
("chEtana"), seems to be bound by and functioning out of some great
Fear. The acts of beings and entities appear to be primarily
motivated by a super-ordinate Fear-Principle... "bhaya/bheeti". The
Taittiriya-Upanishad states this principle in poetic terms:

"bheeshAsmA~dvAtah pavatE
bheeshO-dEti sUryah:
bheeshAsmAd~agnish~chEndrascha
mrUtyUr-dhAvati panchama iti II " ("anandavalli" - 8)

"Out of Fear of Him the wind blows; through Fear of Him the sun
rises; through Fear of Him again Agni (Fire) burns and Indra (the
first amongst Celestials) officiates; and the 5th one, Death, that
too out of Fear of Him alone, flees ("dhAvati")!"

The purport of the above Vedic passage is that even great cosmic
forces of creation, like the Sun, Moon, planets, the tides of the
seas and the great elements of Nature like fire, water and wind� all
these forces or systems function incessantly, efficiently and
consistently. They do so because they are under pressure of a great
Fear. It is the Fear of overwhelmingly powerful Natural Laws to which
they are inescapably bound. These Natural Laws are expressions of the
Will of God, and they dare not be willfully transgressed. If the vast
and mysterious cosmic universe around us is seen to be working as
perfect clockwork or as some precise and well-oiled machine, it is
because an Unseen Hand rules it with, and at, Absolute Will:

"svastAnEshu marudh-gaNAn niyamayan svAdhIna-sarvEndriyah:" I
(Verse 5, "kAmAsikAshtakam" of Vedanta Desika)

"It is He, the Supreme One, who reins in the great natural forces,
restores all the great cosmic elements ("svAdhIna-sarvEndriyah:") to
their respective places and enables them to function in normal
ways..."

********* *********** *********

(continuing from Part-28 posted earlier)
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In the sphere of human affairs also this very same Fear-Principle
prevails just as universally as in the cosmic, but with one
fundamental difference.

While the Vedic gods (sun ("surya"), Fire ("agni") and Death
("mrutyu")) out of Fear of the Supreme Being ("asmAth bheesha"), each
functions in respective ways to preserve and sustain an eternal
cosmic order (i.e. God's Order), Man's sense of fear, in marked
contrast, somehow deeply alienates him from it. While Fear operates
as benign principle at a cosmic level, at the human end, it is the
chief and definitive cause of all of Man's miseries.

How? And why is it so?

It is common knowledge that only under pressure of fear does most of
the world's work get accomplished � efficiently or otherwise, and
incessantly too. We see that as long as there is a master around that
a servant fears, human work gets done. As long as there is fear of
hunger or impoverishment, human work gets done. As long as there is
fear of failure, human work somehow does get done. As long as there
is fear of the prospect of some grievous loss, real or imagined,
human work continues to get done� And as long as there is fear of the
unknown, Man ploughs on with work�

As long as Fear, of one or other kind, remains lurking somewhere
within human hearts, so long does Man continue to be driven to
endless activity and strife, to carrying out the work he perceives
the world, or fate, or both, has cast upon him. Fear is indeed the
key! It is the seat of much of human motive. It fuels all human
activity�

In Vedantic parlance, this is precisely what is called
"samsAra-bandham"--- the human bondage to worldly activity brought
about by the perennial sense of Fear afflicting Man called "bheeti"
or "bhayam". Release from "bhaya" or Fear, is thus what really
constitutes Man's emancipation from "samsAra-bandham".

********* *********** **********

The Upanishad proceeds further to clearly explain the basis of this
Fear. From a celebrated 'sruti' passage which Sri.Parashara Bhattar
quotes in his "bhAshya", we learn the following:

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin-na~drishyE~nAtmyE~nirUktE~nilayanE
aBhayam pratishTAm vindatE;
atha sO'Bhayam gatO bhavati".

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin udaramantaram kUrUtE;
atha tasya Bhayam bhavati".
("taittiriya-anandavalli" - 7)

This is the passage in the 'sruti' based on which Bhishma, in the
Prologue to the Vishnu-Sahasranamam, affirms to Yudhistara the value
of "srtuvan-nAma" as an 'upAya' to rid oneself of mundane bondage.

To understand this passage better let us break the phrase
"yadAhyE-vaisha" into:

"yadA eva" - whenever; only when
"hi" -- truly;
"esha": This one
"etasmin": in That One
"aBhayam pratishTAm vindatE": gets firmly established or united

Strung together the above words read as follows:

"Whenever this one gets firmly united in That one..."

What is meant by "this one" and "That One"? The Upanishad refers to
the soul of the individual Man as "this one", but goes on to describe
"That One", Brahman, a little elliptically as follows:

"adrshyE": unseen, invisible, imperceptible
"anAtmyE": incorporeal, spiritual
"aniruktE": inexpressible, indefinable,
"anilayanE": that which requires no support, no home, no refuge

When we string all the above words together they read as follows:

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin udaramantaram kUrUtE;
atha tasya Bhayam bhavati".

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin-na~drishyE~nAtmyE~nirUktE~nilayanE..."
"aBhayam pratishTAm vindatE"

And if we finally translate all aforesaid Upanishadic phrases they
would read as:

"The prospect of even the smallest separation
Is indeed the sum of Man's greatest fears in life";

"Whenever the soul of individual Man gets united
Into That which is
Unseen, Un-embodied, Inexpressible�
And is neither resident in nor supported by anything..."

The Upanishad pauses at this point, as if to momentarily ask itself,
"What happens then?" And immediately thereafter answers:

..."atha sO'Bhayam gatO bhavati"

"The state of absolute Fearlessness is attained!"

The Upanishad thus spells out 4 simple but great truths in the above
passage:

(a) What is Fear ("Bhayam")?
(b) What is Fearlessness ("aBhayam")?
(c) How Fear is born in us; why it torments us ("atha tasya Bhayam
bhavati")?
(d) How to attain the supreme state of utter Fearlessness ("atha
sO'Bhayam gatO bhavati"?

******** *********** *********
(to be continued)

With regard to the first question "What is Fear?" the 'sruti-vAkya'
states:

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin udaramantaram kUrUtE"

The word "antaram" means "separation" and the prefix "u-daram" means
"even the smallest possible". Fear is thus a state of emotion caused
by "even the smallest possible element of separation".

What is this "element of separation" and why should it cause fear in
Man?

The Upanishad does not answer this question directly but leaves it to
be contemplated by us on our own. And if we do reflect upon the
matter seriously, and if we were to imagine situations in life
typically involving separation, the answer becomes clear to us. Let
us take the following, for example:

(1) Why does the youthful lover live in a constant state of nervous
fear? Because of the fear of "separation" from her loved one, isn't
it?
(2) Why does an employee live in fear of his job? Because of
continual fear that, for any number of reasons, known and unknown to
him, he may suddenly be "separated" from the job, isn't it?
(3) Why does the rich man fear the taxman? Because he fears
"separation" from the great wealth he has amassed over so many years
of hard work, isn't it?
(4) Why do we all fear old age? Because we know it heralds the slow
but inevitable "separation" from a state of former good health, isn't
it?
(5) Why do we fear death? Because we know that it is the moment when
our body and self will forever "separate", isn't it?

********** ********** **********

It is interesting to note that the 'itihAsa' of Srimadh
Valmiki-Ramayana is full of instances of 'udaramantaram'.

Beginning with the separation of Dasaratha from Rama in the
'ayOdhya-kAnda', we come across the 14-year separation that occurs in
Chitrakootam between Rama and Bharatha. Then there is the tragic
separation between Rama and Sita that Valmiki describes through the
"Aranya" and "sundara" 'kAnda-s'. In the "yuddha-kAnda" we see the
separation between the brothers, Ravana and Vibeeshana. In all these
events Valmiki portrays the many ways in which Fear works upon the
minds of those concerned and how it causes pain and distress.

Rama himself tells Bharata:

"yaThA kAshTam cha kAshTam cha samEyAtAm mahArNavE I
samEthya cha vyapEyAtAm kAlamAsAdhya kanchana II

"Evam BhAryAscha pUtrAscha gnyAtayascha DhanAni cha I
samEthya vyava-DhAvanti DhruvO hyEshAm vinABhavah: II

("ayOdhyA-kAndam" - 105/26-27)

"As logs of wood come together on the wide ocean, and having drifted
together for sometime eventually part from each other, so do wives,
sons, kinsmen and possessions come together, and finally separate.
These separations on the ocean of life are unavoidable".

There is no better illustration than the incidents in the Ramayana to
show us how deeply and widely the Fear-Principle of "bhaya" operates
in the realm of human affairs. The sum of all our fears in life is
exactly equal to the sum of all the pain and distress we experience
from "separations" --- be they petty, fateful, real or imagined.

******** ********** ***********
(to be continued)

Fearlessness, on the other hand, says the Upanishad in the same
passage above, is a state of being that is obtained through the
absolute opposite of "separation".

And what is that? Once again, the Upanishad does not directly provide
us an answer because it is so very obvious. Common sense tells us
that the opposite of "Separation" is "Union". If separation is the
main cause of Fear, then it stands to reason that "uniting", being
its opposite, ought to result in the anti-thesis of Fear viz.
"Fearlessness".

We see this once again operating in many instances in ordinary life:
A bride fears separation from her parents home but the expectation of
matrimonial "union" with a husband fills her with optimism and
fearlessness, isn't it? Similarly, laborers who fear having their
working rights deprived, or separated, become fearless when they band
into a trade "union", isn't it? Many similar examples from daily life
can be imagined and hence we may conclude that, indeed, there is
Fearlessness to be obtained in "Union".

******** ************ *********

The "separation" of which the 'sruti' speaks is however not only
about the personal separations of the mundane world. It deals rather
with the ultimate cause of all separations in life in a wide Vedantic
sense --- i.e. the Upanishad speaks about the "mother of all
separations", so to say, and hence the "mother of all Fears too"!

The "separation" the 'sruti' describes is the one caused by a break
in the 'dhyAna' or an interruption in the stream of consciousness of
a "jIva", or individual soul.

Vedanta says that in reality the individual has no consciousness
independent of the consciousness of Brahman; in other words, there is
no 'separateness' of consciousness between the two. When the "jIva"
recognizes it has no real existence distinct or apart from that of
Brahman which alone is 'sat', and which alone exists, all Fear
vanishes. The 'jIva' may and does in fact experience its own limited
existence in the consciousness of time and space, but that is only in
so far as it is an inseparable, inalienable and integral function of
Brahman. Any sense of difference or "separation" between the two
arises, therefore, only out of the 'jIva's' own illusion or
ignorance.

"yan muhurtam kshaNam va api vAsudEvo na chinthyatE
sA hAnih, mahAcchidram, sa brhAntih, sA cha vikriyA"

"At any moment ("yan muhurtam kshaNam"!) when the 'jIva' ceases to
contemplate upon Brahman", the Upanishad says, "a big opening or
breach appears in the stream of the 'jIva's' consciousness through
which all manner of pain and adversities, experienced by the
individual, begin to infiltrate and invade life".

How to prevent such a breach in consciousness? The answer given by
Bhishma to Yudhishtara is: "stuvan-nAma" --- the ceaseless
"sAlambana" of devoted chanting of the 1000 names of Brahman so as to
keep the consciousness of the 'jIva' firmly rooted or "united"
("pratishtAm vindatE") in the consciousness of God ("jagath-prabhu").

The practice of "stuva" or "stuthi" or "stOtra" thus becomes the best
possible means to rid oneself the fear of "samsAra-bandham".

********* ********* *********
(to be continued)

(continuing from Part 31 posted earlier)
---------------------------------------------------------------------

The Ramayana is equally full of happy and auspicious "unions" as
tragic "separations". The events of "union" the Ramayana narrates are
in fact deeply symbolic or allegorical representations of the
Upanishadic account of the fundamental Jiva-Brahman unity.

There is the "union" between Vibheeshana and Rama brought about by
the former's act of "saraNagati" or absolute surrender to Rama. There
is the final "union" between Rama and Bharatha occasioned by the
coronation of "rama-pattAbhishEkam". But by far the most profound and
moving account of "union", when two separated, fearful and grieving
souls were re-united, is in that famous incident of the "sundara-
kANda" called "choodAmani-prasAdam". In that incident Hanuman returns
from his secret visit to Lanka, and carrying a message of hope from
Sita imprisoned in Ashokavana, he restores her tiara (crest-jewel)
into Rama's hands.

In the scene when Rama takes hold of Sita's "choodAmani", we see him
unable to hold back tears of joy. The outburst of joy felt in that
moment of "union", it is said, Rama did not feel even when he came
actually face to face with Sita later in the "yuddha-kAnda". The many
months of pent-up grief caused by the separation from Sita all broke
out in a single moment but vanished too at the same time:

"chiram jeevati vaidEhi yadi mAsam Dharishyati I
na jeevEyam kshaNamapi vinA tAmasitEkshaNAm II
("sundara-kAndam" - 66/10)

"I am like a dead man whom precious drops of rain water have suddenly
revived to life!" cried Rama to Hanuman after receiving the
"choodAmani". Unable to control the happiness flooding his heart Rama
took hold of Hanuman and warmly embraced him saying:

"krutam hanumathA kAryam sumuhadhBhruvi dushkaram I
manasApi yadanyEna na shakyam DharaNi-talE II (ibid. 1.2)

"idam tu mama dInasya manO Bhuya: prakarshati I
yadihAsya priyAKhyAturna kurmI sadhrusham priyam II

"Esha sarva-svabhUtastu parishvangO hanumatha: I
mayA kAlamimam prApya dattashchAstu mahAtmana: II (ibid 1.
13-14)

"What no man can even think of in his conception of what service to
me really means, this Hanuman has today actually rendered it for me!
I cannot give a suitable reward to you who have given me this
'choodamani' of Sita, as her message of love and hope to me! But I
can give you myself, O Hanuman! Here is my body; I will embrace you
tightly with it!"

******* ********* ********

The moral of the Ramayana incident above is that the practice of
"stuvan-nAma", "stuthi" or "stotrA" serves an ordinary 'jIva' in its
lifetime the same purpose which Hanuman served in bringing Sita's
"choodAmani" to Rama and thus enabling their "union". The "upAya" of
"stuvan-nAma", much like Hanuman, brings the individual and God
together. It removes the fear of 'separation' between 'jIva' and
Brahman, and in its wake creates immeasurable joy too ... the sort
that filled Rama's heart.
The other moral to to learnt is that the "upAya" of "stuvam" is
valuable not only to Man but to God too! We see this suggested in the
"itihAsa":

In the Ramayana, Hanuman's 'rama-bhakti' shines gloriously through
his abiding and absolute faith in the practice of 'stuva'. This is
evident from the last scene in the epic when after the
'pattAbhishEkam', Rama's coronation in Ayodhya, everyone takes leave.
The last to go is Hanuman, whom Rama and Sita affectionately ask what
possible gift they could give him in return for all the services
rendered by him. Rama says he will give nothing!

"ekai-kasya-upakArasya prANAn dAsyAmi tE kapE I
sEshasyEha-upakAraNam BhavAma kriNiNO vayam II
(uttara-kAndam 40.22)

The above has been movingly translated by the great Rt.Hon'ble
Srinivasa Sastri as follows:

"Hanuman, you have done me numerous services, all of the order of the
first eminence. For any one of them all my life is inadequate return.
If my life is pledged in return for even one of your numerous
services, I shall be in your debt in respect of the others, and I
shall be indebted to you in a manner that I can never think of
repaying".

So great is the debt of gratitude owed by Rama to Hanuman, the
personification of "stuva", that the Almighty is obliged to
acknowledge it openly and whole-heartedly!

Finally, Hanuman replies to Rama and Sita:

"snEhO may paramO rAjamstvayi tishTathu nityadA
bhakthischa niyathA veera BhAvO nAnyatra gacchatu II
yAvad rAma kathA veera charishyati mahItalE
tAvaccharIrE vatsyanti prANA mama na samshaya: II
("uttara-kAnda" 40. 15-16)

"Please give this one blessing alone, my dear Rama! That my affection
for you should never diminish. Do not allow me to think of anything
else, or to divide my affection between you and any other person or
thing. I want to live so long as your great 'nAma' is preserved
amongst the sons of all men. Let me be, for ever and ever, your
devotee. There is nothing else I want".

In those beautiful words of Hanuman we hear a clear, unmistakable
echo of the ancient 'sruti-vAkya':

"yadAhyE-vaisha Etasmin-na~drishyE~nAtmyE~nirUktE~nilayanE..."
"aBhayam pratishTAm vindatE"

********* ********* ***********

Later in the Vishnu-Sahasranamam, in Stanza 73, we come across a very
significant line that throws further light on why Bhishma placed such
immense value on the practice of "stuva". The line is:

"stavya: stavapriya: stOtram stuti: stOthA raNapriya:" I
The meaning of the above is that:

(1) the Almighty is the only one in all the worlds who is truly
"praiseworthy" ("stavya:"). In the 'Brhaspatya smriti' (Sri.Parashara
Bhattar quotes in his "bhAshya") it is stated:

"AdarEna yadA stouti dhanavantam dhanEcchaya
evamchEd viswakartAram kO namUchyEta bandhanAth"

"For the sake of receiving even small favors in this world, we see
persons of eminence being praised sky-high! What then is the surprise
in witnessing those devotees of God, who while in pursuit of His
greatest of gifts, "mOksha", praise the Almighty in the highest
terms?"

(2) singing His praise with affection and reverence is most agreeable
to Him ("stavapriya:); if this were not the case the 'Sahasranamam'
Bhishma conceived and composed would have been utterly meaningless.
That the Supreme Brahman is a "stOtra-priya" can also be gathered
from the way Rama embraced Hanuman � and Hanuman's renown was due
largely, as explained above, to his complete immersion in
'rama-nAma'.

(3) the urge in a devotee to sing His praise is also induced by the
Almighty only; which is why God is referred to as being a "stOtra"
Himself. The greatest of hymns sung by the devotees of God are, by
their own admission, the handiwork of God only. The Sri
Vishnu-Sahasranamam, which was inspired by the vision of Krishna in
Bhishma's moment of "antima-smriti", is indeed the best and most
shining example.

(4) He is "stuti" Himself i.e. God is not only the object of praise
but is Praise itself;

(5) He is also a "stOtA" i.e. the Almighty Himself showers praise on
those who revere and praise Him. This is evident from the way Rama
heaped praise on Hanuman in the "choodAmani-prasAdam" incident in the
"sundara-kAnda".

******** ********** **********

Thus ended Bhishma's first answer to Yudhistara's last of 6 questions
in the Prologue to the Sri Vishnu-Sahasranamam, known as
"Bhishma-Yudhishtara samvAda".

*********** ************ ************
(to be continued next week)

(continuing from Part 32 posted earlier)
---------------------------------------------------------------------

After answering the last and 6th question of Yudhishtara, Bhishma
by-passed the 5th, and went on next to address the 3rd and 4th
questions with regard to "siddhOpAya":

* "stuvantah kam"?: What is the 'upAya' ("laghu-upAya") to be
adopted involving the least effort but resulting in the supreme
gain viz. the consummating "siddhOpAya"?

* "kamarchantah mAnavAssubham"?: Which is the "alaghu-upAya", the
strenuous but more profound aspect of "siddhOpAya"?

****** ******** *******

The 2 questions to Bhishma were well and reasonably posed considering
that it is perfectly natural for a traveler, bound for a certain
destination, to be anxious to know if there was not only a way to it
but also whether it was safe and enjoyable too.

In his reply to Yudhishtara in 3 pithy but brilliant 'shlOkA-s',
which are a Vedantic mini-treatise in themselves, Bhishma sketched
all the salient features of "bhakti-upAya-mArga" -- one among the 3
principal pathways to God which earlier on, in the Bhagavath-Gita,
Lord Krishna had propounded as "gnyAna", "karma" and "bhakti-yOga".

****** ******* *******

In response to the question about the more difficult aspect of the
"bhakti-mArga" namely "alaghu-upAya", Bhishma provided an answer in
just one stanza:

"tamEva-Archayannithyam bhaktya purusha-mavya-yam
dhyAyan stuvan namasyanscha yajamAna stamEvacha" II

In response to the question about the easier or "laghu" aspects of
"bhakti-siddhOpAya", Bhishma took pains to reply in not 1 but 2 long
stanzas, perhaps because he was certain that 'laghu' arouses the
greatest interest of the largest number of people in the world:

"anAdi nidhanam vishnUm sarva lOka mahEshwaram
lokAdhyaksham stuvan nityam sarva dUkhAtigO bhavEth II

"brahmanyam sarva dharmagnyam lOkAnAm kIrti vardhanam
lOkanAtham mahadbhUtham sarva bhUta bhavOdh-bhavam II

******* ******** **********

In the 3 verses above Bhishma deals with the subject of 'bhakti' in
all its forms and manifestations as a valuable 'upAya'.

We can say that the two sides of "bhakti", "laghu" and "alaghu",
shown by Bhishma above are like 'yin' and 'yang', or like the two
sides of a coin called "siddhOpAya". The "alaghu" and "laghu" are the
"head" and "tail" faces of the same Vedantic coin but have
distinctive features and purposes that set each other quite apart.

They have however one common element. Both 'laghu' and
'alaghu'"upAyA" have a common element viz. the practice of "stuva" or
"stuthi" (already covered extensively in Posts-28 through 32). In the
former case, Bhishma refers to "dhyAyan-stuvam" ; in the latter, to
"stuvan-nityam".

In the first and 'alaghu' route, Bhishma speaks of "dhyAna" -- a
deeply meditative, exclusive form of worship of God. In the second
case, it is the "alaghu", easy and "nityam" or day-to-day, more
popular forms of worship, and very appealing to commoner and elite
alike. Both however involve "stuva", "stOtra", "stuthi" only --- i.e.
they involve worship of God through the chanting or singing of
'bhagavan-nAma' in praise. Where they differ is, however, in respect
of attitude and aptitudes possessed by the devotee. Between a
100-metre straight-sprinter and a 100-metre hurdles-sprinter there is
no apparent difference... both are first-class athletes, of course...
nonetheless, they belong to entirely different classes, isn't it?

********* ********* *********

Let us first examine the "laghu-upAya" i.e. let us study Bhishma's
last 2 stanzas collectively:

"anAdi nidhanam vishnUm sarva lOka mahEshwaram
lokAdhyaksham stuvan nityam sarva dUkhAtigO bhavEth II

"brahmanyam sarva dharmagnyam lOkAnAm kIrti vardhanam
lOkanAtham mahadbhUtham sarva bhUta bhavOdh-bhavam II

While describing "laghu" form of "siddhOpAya�, Bhishma repeatedly
uses the pre-fix "lOka", and its variants, with specific intent to
suggest its wide popularity and its relative ease of use. In the
space of two stanzas we see the "pitAmahar" use the word "lOka" 4
times, and twice in each one!

The word "lOka" has many meanings but the most common one is
"populace", "population", "people at large", "hoi-polloi"....etc. In
Tamil the equivalent word is �makkal�. What this means is that anyone
can resort to "stuvan-nityam" wherein God is chosen to be worshipped
in the 'laghu' form. It is open to one and all, without exception or
reservation. The object of such easy form of worship, Bhishma says,
is a God with infinite 'mass-appeal'... a super-eminently "popular"
God... a God who, in a manner of speaking, is "of the people, by the
people, for the people"... Which is why Bhishma hails God as "lOka
mahEshwara:", "lokAdhyaksha:", "lOkAnAm kIrti-vardhana:" and
"lOkanAtham". These epithets of God with the pre-fix "lOka" are meant
to indicate the special and unparalleled quality of God (or
"guna-visEsha", a topic covered earlier in this series/presentation)
known as "saulabhyam".

God does not live inside an "ivory tower" in the high "pearly
heavens". The Almighty is rather a "People's God", accessible to all
Creation, because as it has been said of Him in the Mahabharatha:

"anyAt pUrnadapAm kumbhAdanyAt pAdAvanE janat
AnyAt kushala samprashnam nachEcchati janArdanah:"

("udyOga-parva")

"Apart from the washing of feet by a full pot of water, and genuinely
solicitous enquiry ("kushala-prashnam") about His well-being,
JanArdana, the Lord, desires virtually nothing from His devotees"!

The God of Vedanta is said to be supremely satisfied and content with
a devotee who meets even the barest of His needs. And this fact is
attested to in the Gita by Lord Krishna himself:
"patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyA prayacchati |
tadaham bahktyupahRtam aSnAmi prayatAtmanah ||

(gItA 9.16)

"If a devotee offers to me a mere leaf, flower, fruit, or water with
sincere devotion and love, I accept it as invaluable treasure."

It is this unique quality of easy 'saulabhyam' which made the
'paramAtma', the Supreme Brahman, go knocking on the doors of persons
like humble Vidura in the Mahabharatha and Sabari in the Ramayana,
personally seeking out their modest but affectionate hospitality. It
is the same quality too which made Krishna regard a handful of
par-boiled rice ("avval-arisi") his old-time but destitute friend,
Kuchela gifted Him, as if it were a feast for kings.

******** ********* *********
(to be continued)

continuing from Part 33 posted earlier)
--------------------------------------------------------------

Now what does this quality of 'saulabhyam' of God have to do with
'stuvan-nityam', the simple chanting of His names?

To answer the question we must learn to first appreciate that God�s
"saulabhyam" has an innocent, almost child-like quality about it.

When we hold an infant, of say 2 or 3 years age, in our arms, we do
not know what to say to it. We know that a child that is yet to learn
to speak, and can only lisp, drool and stammer, will understand
nothing we say to it. And yet because our heart overflows with an
inexpressible love for the infant, we seek to somehow desperately
communicate with it. What do we do then? We simply resort to cooing
sweet nothings into its ears... We begin caressing the child on its
cheeks... we playfully tickle it under its chubby arms... we rub our
noses into the child's own... and we whisper all sorts of nonsensical
terms of endearment into its ears... like "cuck-cuck-cooo!" for
example, or, "do-do-doo! goo-goo-gooo! pappudu-pappu!" etc. When we
do all that, the child, although incapable of speech, still
understands our "body" and "mind" language of love! And immediately
responds to us, isn't it? It then crawls across to us... it gurgles,
squeals and laughs, it coddles up to us, puts its tiny fingers into
our face and speaks to us with its own version of "goo-goo-s" and
"coo-coo-s"... in its own enchanting way --- halting, incoherent but
heart-stealing all the same...

The child and we --- we both thus have succeeded in finding a unique
way to tell each other, "I acknowledge your love and affection for
me... And I appreciate it so much! And here, let me tell you, again
and again, in my own way... how much I love and adore you!"

******** ********* *********

When a devotee performs 'stuva' to God by singing out the 1000
'divya-nAma-s' in the same easy way, with the same languid warmth of
the "laghu" attitude one adopts towards a little child... God, the
ultimate "siddhOpAyam"... He too then responds to the devotee in an
equally and reciprocally loving way...

The "stuthi" or "stuva" of God's names (i.e. the chant or singing of
God's names by way of worship) here involves really no great effort
of "dhyAna" or intense meditation on the part of the devotee. The
'divya-nAmAs' are not used as means of contemplation but simply as
means of showing endearment, of expressing a love of God that cannot
be expressed in any other suitable or adequate way� almost exactly as
we know of no other way to relate to an infant we love so much other
than by engaging it in tender �goo-goo�, �koo-koo� sort of
conversation!

Bhishma says that even if �stuvan-nityam� to God were to be performed
in the above 'laghu' manner by a true devotee he is sure to secure
permanent release from all �pain and miseries of existence��.
�janma-samsAra-bandhanAth�� or in other words� �sarva dUkhAtigO
bhavEth�.

******** ********** ********

One of the most outstanding examples, in the history of Vedantic
religion, of a devotee who exhibited complete mastery over the
technique of "laghu-bhakti-upAya", and who attained God thereby, was
the saint of Sri Villiputtur, Sri.Peria-AzhwAr, the father of AndAL,
known also as Vishnuchittan.

To Vishnuchittan, God was nothing if not a little infant -- an
utterly captivating toddler in the image of Krishna at Gokulam... and
he, the AzhwAr, he thought of himself as none but Yasodha herself,
the foster-mother of Krishna. This 'AzhwAr' spent the years of his
entire lifetime in quest of God exactly as a mother would do in
setting out into the deep woods in search of a child mischievously
bent upon playing hide-and-seek with her...

In order to do put into practice this attitude in life, the AzhwAr
resorted to a variety of forms of "laghu-upAya". He mentally
transported himself, now and then, away to the distant village of
Gokulam of the 'purAnic' past. Or else he would bring back Gokulam,
with all its denizens and situations, from the past into the present
at SriVilliputtur!

The AzhwAr�s days were spent imagining himself carrying out a host of
day-to-day maternal chores ("stuvan-nityam"!) for the sake of his
darling child, Krishna... The AzhwAr would perform a 'naming
ceremony' for the child, one day! On another, he would give the child
a bath ("neerAtam")! On yet another, he busied himself decking the
child's locks with flowers ("poochUdal"); or he would fuss about
putting the baby to sleep ("thAllattu"); or, he would worry over
villager's evil eyes being cast upon the child ("kApidal"); he would
even spend his days imagining suckling baby Krishna (�anjuvan ammum
taravE!) ... and so on and so forth...

The AzhwAr's genuine experiences of such a make-believe world,
wherein he became Yasodha of Gokulam and parenting little Krishna
became the mission of a lifetime, form the subject matter of more
than 400 Tamil verses of ecstatic mysticism. These verses
collectively known as "peria-azhwAr tirumOzhi" form part of the 4000
sacred verses called "divya-prabhandham" which are to this day a
monumental source of inspiration for anyone who decides to take to
the path of Bhakti.

It is only when we read and savor Vishnuchittan's rich poetry that we
begin to slowly understand what Bhishma, in the Vishnu-Sahasranamam,
might have really had in mind while telling Yudhishtara:

"lokAdhyaksham stuvan nityam sarva dUkhAtigO bhavEth"

"brahmanyam sarva dharmagnyam lOkAnAm kIrti vardhanam"

Periya-AzhwAr showed how motherhood could be raised to mysticism; and
how a mother's mere lullaby could be as effective a means of securing
God�s Grace as any lofty Vedantic philosophy. The easy, 'laghu'
variety of 'bhakti' this AzhwAr showed to the entire world has, and
will probably never have, another parallel in any other religion or
religious tradition of the world. In ample proof of the efficacy and
success of the path of �laghu-upAya� he pursued all his life,
Vishnuchittan sang gloriously of his emancipation from all the pains
and distresses of life�. �sarva dUkhAtigO bhavEth�:

�emmanA! en kula-deivamE! en uDaya kAvalanE!
nin-uLennAy petra nann-my ivv-ulaginil yAr peruvAr?
nammann pOlE vizhitthu amukkUm nAttil-ulla pAvam ellAm
summenAdhE kai-vittu Odi-tthurugaL pAynthanavE !�

(�senniyOngu� � 3)

�My Master! Lord of my clan! My Liege! I live in You and in Your
Bliss!
So I ask �Is there one such as me in this world who has known too
that bliss?�
Like a pall of Death did the miseries of this world hang upon me; but
now ---
Fled me all, they have without a trace.. and left me free with
nothing but Your bliss!�

******** ********* *********

(to be continued next week)

(continuing from Part 34 posted earlier)
---------------------------------------------------------------------

After answering Yudhistara's 4th question about "laghu-upAya",
Bhishma next turned his attention to its flip-side viz. the question
of "alaghu-upAya". Yudhishtara's 3rd question was: "kamarchantah
mAnavAssubham?" i.e. Which is the "alaghu-upAya", the strenuous but
more profound aspect of "bhakti" that secures for Man his ultimate
purpose, his "summum bonum"� or "subham"?

Bhishma's gave his answer in a single 'shlOkA', swift but
comprehensive:

"tamEva-Archayannithyam bhaktya purusha-mavya-yam
dhyAyan stuvan namasyanscha yajamAna stamEvacha" II

The key to the understanding of the above "shlOka" lies in 3
significant expressions which, when carefully studied, yield us
answers to the very important question regarding "alaghu-upAya":

(1) "yajamAna.."

(2) "purushamavya~yam.."

(3) "dhyAyan-stuvan-namasyancha"

In three apt phrases is captured the essence of Bhakti, a subject
which Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavath-gita, went to very great lengths
to explain to Yudhishtara's younger sibling, Arjuna. The lofty
message of the Bhagavath Gita contained in 3 long and separate
chapters, IX, X and XII, each dealing with several facets of the
'bhakti-upAya' in 'alaghu' form, was re-rendered, pithily but
faithfully, by Bhishma for Yudhishtara's benefit and edification.

Let us examine them one by one.

********** *********** ***********

"YAJAMANA":
-----------

The word "yajamAna" is very commonly understood (especially amongst
Tamil-speaking peoples) to mean "lord", "master", "leader",
"governor", "director", "regulator", "controller" etc.

Every intelligent being in this vast world, in one way or the other,
directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, follows a leader.
In the "lower" kingdoms of animal, insect, bird and marine creatures,
every herd, every brood, shoal or flock is seen to follow its
undisputed "yajamAna" --- a so-called "leader of the pack". Without
its "yajamAna" a herd of elephants is known to become very easy prey
for other predators of the wild; and, leader-less shoals of fish too
are known to completely lose all sense of direction in navigating the
vast wilderness of the great seas. Without a leader, a strong
"yajamAna" to lead and protect the herd, animal societies are
observed to perish more quickly than those with strong leadership.

In the "higher" world of humans too, if we examine it very closely,
we see that it is comprised fundamentally of two groups of members
--- those who are "leaders" and those who are "followers". At every
stage, and in every sphere of Man's life, almost without exception,
he is cast into situations wherein he is either expected to "lead" or
else to "follow" (On occasions, when he is rather undecided, he is
generally expected, if not forced, by the rest of the world to at
least "get out, or stay out of the way")...

Thus, for example, at home, to begin with, all across the world, and
in all societies, the father, or the husband, is the constitutional
"yajamAna" of the house (though he might need the permission of the
lady of the house to hold such pre-eminence). At school or
university, once again all over the world, students are generally
expected to be "followers" while their teachers, professors and
administrators are typically cast in the mould of "yajamAna-s".

Out of school/university, next, and out in the vast, real world of
governments, corporations, business and world-wide trade and
commerce, we see "leadership" assuming many different forms, shapes
and hues everywhere.... We see "yajamAna-s" of governments, heads of
state, called Presidents and Prime Ministers; "yajamAnA-s" of
corporations called CEOs, CFOs and Directors; military "yajamAna-s"
called Generals and Commanders; political "yajamAna-s" called
Senators, MLAs or "nEtA-s"; "yajamAna-s" in the business world called
Managers and Controllers... Why, there are "yajamAna-s" even in the
crime world, carrying nefarious titles such as "don", for example, in
the Italian Mafia, or "dAda" in the Bombay underworld of gang-lords�

All things considered, it is "yajamAna-s" we see everywhere who thus
make the world go around. It is hard to imagine a world functioning
without its numerous "yajamAna-s", big and small, good and evil, and
whether acknowledged or not... Without them, we seriously suspect,
Life itself would completely wind down and all earthly activity...
whether human, animal or otherwise sub-human... all perhaps would
indeed shut simply down.

********* *********** *********

(to be continued)

dAsan,
Sudarshan

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tiruvenkatam/message/1923

Further VS references:

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vsn/prolog.html

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vsn/further.html

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vsn/namas.html

http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sri_vishnu_sahasranam_translations.htm

http://home.comcast.net/~chinnamma/sahasra/