Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Maneesha Panchakam - Chandala Verse 2

Hare Krishna Friends,

We will see the second verse uttered by the Chandala today.

pratyagvastuni nistaranga sahajaanandavabhodambudhou
viproyam shwapachoyam ityapi mahan koyam vibhedhabhramaha.
kim gangambuni bimbitembaramanou chandala veethipayaha
poore vaantaramasti kanchanaghati mrutkumbhayorvaambare.

Meaning: “In the ripple-less (changeless), naturally blissful ocean of the Self how can there be this great delusory distinction that one is a knower of Veda - Vipra (Brahmin) and one is a dog-eater? Is there any difference in the jewel of the sky (Sun) when it is reflected in the waters of Ganges or in the water present in the street of an outcaste? Is there any difference in the space as such, be in a golden pot or in a mud pot?

The all pervading, changeless Consciousness is one alone. It has no difference of caste and creed. Irrespective of whether it is the body of a Brahmin or of a low caste, it is this consciousness that makes this inert body sentient. That being the case, why give more than required importance to caste? This is what the Chandala asks the Acharya in the above shloka. Also, he supplements his argument with some examples.

In the above verse, the first line is called in Sanskrit as “Daarshtaantam” (the point that is explained with a Drishtaantam) and the second line is the “Drishtaantam” (Exemplification).

Let us look at the “Daarshtaantam” part first. The Chandala asks, in the inner-core Essence, the Self, where there are no ripples of thoughts, a shore less Bliss state, how can there be any distinction as ‘this is a Brahmin’ or that ‘this is a dog-eater’ (basically any caste distinction). If at all such a distinction is felt it can only be an illusion or a delusion.

Note: “sahajaananda” has been translated as naturally blissful. However, bliss may not be the apt word for Ananda. Bliss is an experience and Ananda is not an experience. There might not be any exact word for Ananda in English. Bliss appears to be the closest and is widely used.

Then the Chandala gives “Drishtaantams”. His examples are according to two accepted Vedantic theories namely the “Pratibimbavada” and “Avachedavada”. These are used to explain how the Infinite Consciousness comes to play as individualized limited ego. We will touch upon the theories (many of us might be aware of this) before looking at the example.

“The Light of Consciousness reflected in the pools of thought in the mind-intellect is the individualized sentient ego in each one of us”, and this is called the “theory of reflection” (Pratibimbavada). Other Rishis declare in the very Upanishads an equally efficient explanation, with their theory of “the Consciousness conditioned by, and therefore, expressing through the body, mind, intellect equipment” is the individualized ego. This is called “Conditioning theory” (Avachedavada).

Does it make any difference to the Sun in the sky whether it gets reflected in the pure holy waters of the Ganges or in the filthy stagnant waters present in the street of an outcaste (say a slum)? The one Consciousness reflects in all hearts. The reflections surely will be different according to the reflecting surfaces. If the thoughts in a bosom are impure and vulgar the individualized ego will also be dirty and filthy, as the reflection of the Sun in the cesspool of the slum. If the thoughts are serene and loving, the Consciousness reflected therein, as an individualized ego, will be bright and brilliant as the reflection of the Sun in the clean holy waters of the Ganges. The difference here is in the reflections, not in the one Sun that is reflected. In the individuality there are certainly endless differences (based on the dominance of Sattwa, Rajo or Tamo gunas). But how can there be any difference in the one Consciousness that shines through all hearts? This is Pratibimbavada.

Based upon the Avachedavada the Chandala asks, “Is there any difference in space whether it is in golden pot of it is in a mud pot”? The difference is only in the material, size, shape, color etc of the pots, but the space is one and the same within the pots and without the pots. Space can never be conditioned really by anything that exists in space. Similarly, the one Self is ever Immaculate, be it in a Brahmin or be it in a Sudra.

This does not however mean that caste division does not exist. At the “Vyavaharik” level it does exist. In the 4th Chapter 13th shloka of the Bhagavad Geetha the Lord says that “the four castes have been created by Me etc…” Similar idea is brought out in the Shruthi as well (Purushasuktam - braahmano asya mukhamaaseet…). However, the same scriptures declare (at the “Paramarthik” level) that the world itself is a “Mithya”. That being the case how can the castes be completely true? The castes are there only for “Vyvahara” and one need not give more than required importance for the same and develop radical attitude.

In the present day however even in Vyavaharik level the concept of caste doesn’t seem to exist. For instance, as per the shastras a person born in the Brahmin family should study the Vedas and teach the Vedas alone. But presently how many Brahmins are following this? Let it be an IT industry or leather firm or any other occupation, we can find Brahmins working there. This is equally true with all the other castes as well.

After reading the above statements, one might have the following doubt “Doesn’t the Advaita Acharya know the above facts uttered by the Chandala?” Well this suspicion is unwarranted as in the following five verses Sankara reveals the wisdom of the Vedas, as lived and experienced by him in his direct insight. We will see the first verse of the Acharya in the coming days.


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