When Adi Shankaracharya asked for directions to the house of Mandana Mishra, who was a highly learned scholar and ritualist, he was told the following…
“You will find a home at whose gates there are a number of caged parrots discussing abstract topics like — ‘Do the Vedas have self-validity or do they depend on some external authority for their validity? Are karmas capable of yielding their fruits directly, or do they require the intervention of God to do so? Is the world eternal, or is it a mere appearance?’ Where you find even parrots discussing such abstruse philosophical problems, you will know that you have reached Mandana’s place.”
Sankara found him, but their first meeting was not pleasant. Mandana initially hurled insults at Sankara, who calmly replied to every insult with wordplay. After a verbal duel, Mandana condescended to debate with Sankara.
Both agreed that Mandana’s wife Ubhaya Bharathi would be the arbiter for the debate, and that the vanquished would become a disciple of the victor and accept his school of thought. To be a Judge, one needs to be wiser than the contenders or at least at par with them. In India, even in those days, women were given such a high status. The debate spanned many days and ranged across many different subjects within the Vedas, and the arguments of both competitors were compelling and forceful, to the utter delight of the daily increasing audience.
After 15 days of lively deadlock, Ubhaya Bharati temporarily halted the debate and put a maalaa (garland) of fresh flowers around Sankara’s and Mandana’s necks. This mystified the audience no ends. Soft whisperings took over the hall and there was difference of conjectural opinion from ‘its just a women thing’ to ‘you can never discern the ways of women’ to ‘its her way of putting perfume’ to ‘she just wanted to garland her husband, but then didn’t want to appear partial’ to ‘there must be something deeper and mysterious hidden here’ and so on…
But as the debate resumed and continued over the next few hours, people started to notice a baffling phenomenon. The flowers from Mandana garland started to pale and droop and then drop one by one while that around Shankara’s were just as alive and radiant, may be even more. When Mandana’s garland had whithered away, Bharati declared Mandana as having lost the debate.
Bharati’s act was such a brilliant, subtly wise move to bind the debate in time and wean out the winner for 2 reasons. The garland would stay fresh longest for one who has a more powerful aura and who creates an environment of high prana around him. A second reason could be that a person may use the best of words but if it is not an experiential truth for him, or if there are any cravings or aversions, he will emanate heat around him which can expedite the wilting of the flowers (like Guruji says, “with craving and aversion, even the breath becomes subtly hotter”). That’s why it is also called feverishness or ‘jvarata’ and a person centered in the self will radiate the coolness of the being in his very presence.
For the Knowledge incarnate Sankara, the debate was but a play and it was ‘no sweat’ he emerged victorious with a fresher maalaa around him.
But Mandana’s wife, as the judge, would not accept a Brahmachari (an unmarried ascetic), as having complete wisdom since he did not have any knowledge about Kama Sastras (rules about sex). Sankara requested a day’s suspension on the debate. According to legend, through his Prana Vidya (knowledge of Prana), he then entered into the body of a king who had just died and as the revived king he gained the required knowledge in the art of love.
The next day, the debate recommenced and Mandana finally accepted defeat and became Sankaracharya’s disciple and assumed the name Suresvaracharya (also called Vartika Kara) and finds a mention in our Guru Pooja along with Padmapada, Trotaka and Hastamalaka as the four main disciples of Adi Shankaracharya.
Adi Shankaracharya re initiated India around 400 BC (?) into the Vedic lore and way of life. He re instated the then lost art of doing Poojas and Yagyas. He expounded the Advaita philosophy.
Though He was the one who gave much emphasis on Pooja, He also, in a series of brilliant verses totally rubbished Pooja too
In Pooja, first you “invoke” the Divine. Isn’t that illogical He asks? To invoke the Divinity which is omnipresent, available everywhere?! Then you offer a “seat”… a seat? for God? You think there is a seat big enough to accommodate God?!
Pooja is usually done by offering flowers to the Divine. He said what are you offering? Flowers? Are they even yours to offer? They are made by God and you are “offering” them to God? How ridiculous! Similarly with the fruits… you are giving something that doesn’t belong to you at all to the Divinity to whom everything anyways belongs!
Then you do the aarati… You are showing a small fire of camphor to the one who is Self illumined, Effulgent, Radiant? Whose Light is the light of the millions of stars in the Galaxy… you show that little camphor aarati to this Divinity?! What purpose exactly will that serve?
Before anyone could take apart what He had so painstakingly put together, He Himself very logically and systematically destroyed the entire act of doing any Pooja. This is why we say Guru Brahma (Guru is Creator), Guru Vishnu (and Sustainer), Guru devo Maheshwaraha (AND Destroyer)… What He makes, He can easily finish off! By doing this, He saved Himself the trouble of facing countless debates about Pooja
He called it Para Pooja… Beyond Pooja.
Yet, when a Pooja is done properly, it has a glorious, benevolent effect… as anyone who has ever been to a Rudra Pooja on the Ashram can testify to. Or for that matter to the Navaratri Celebrations here
But to get to Para Pooja, you do need to go through Pooja… You cannot say anyways it’s all silly, Adi Shankara Himself says so… I will not do it. That would be like saying anyways i have to get off from this bus in a few hours, so why should i get into it at all?!
And so, do Pooja, but also go beyond Pooja… get into Para Pooja … That is called meditation.
H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, our beloved Guruji has managed to bring that perfect balance between the Karma Kanda (Doing the Poojas), Dhyana (Meditation) and Bhakti (Devotion). There is just enough of everything and so perfectly proportioned… I am supremely lucky to be part of The Art of Living!
And so are you…
Adi Shankaracharya brought back the Vedic Lore to India by masterfully defeating in debate renowned Buddhist scholars of that time. He spread the Vedic way of life along the length and breath of India and established the four matths with the help of His four beloved disciples.
The five people sitting right in the middle of the Guru Parampara (The Holy Tradition of Masters, which is traced all the way back into the beginning of time to Lord Narayana) photograph are Adi Shankaracharya and His four (chief) disciples.
The four Disciples were:
Padmapada, literally meaning the one with the Lotus feet. Adi Shankara was traveling and they set up camp at a beautiful lake. Padmapada was foraging on the opposite bank of the lake, when suddenly the Guru called him… So intense was Padmapada’s love and devotion to His Guru, that he just ran across the lake on the water to where his Guru was… It is said that wherever Padmapada’s feet touched the water, a Lotus sprang up to support him. And hence he got the name Padmapada.
To be like Padmapada means to walk delicately, tread lightly on the planet. Be ever cheerful.
Hasta Malaka, was the guy who was extremely skillful in doing work. Literally it means the one who does stuff as easily as holding an amala (goose berry) in his hands. He had never said a word to his parents, and when he met Adi Shankara, the story goes, that he chanted out the Hasta Malaka Stotram, which in just a few verses talk about the subime Advaita philosophy. His parents were shocked to see how the Knowledge came from this little child who had never uttered a word since birth.
Adi Shankara explained that once when the child was very small, the mother had taken him to the river to bathe, somehow the child toppled into the water and drowned… a Rishi who happened to be there witnessed this, and his heart went out for the sadness the parents would feel, so he left his own body and entered the dead child’s body, bringing into the child all his years of meditation and all the Wisdom of the Knowledge He had… To be like Hasta Malaka is to be adept, so adept that any work given feels as if its as simple as holding an amala in your hands.
Vartikakara was the tape recorder. He could reproduce, exactly word for word what the Guru had said. Faithfully transferring the beautiful Knowledge of the Guru. Keeping it pristine and pure for the generations to come…
Trotakacharya was the dullard. He was least interested in Knowledge and Spirituality. But he loved the Guru and wanted to do everything he could for him. He was intensely in devotion and Seva of the Guru. However, He usually snored through the Guru’s discourses. Adi Shankara loved him even so…
One day all the disciples had gathered together to hear the Guru talk, and as usual Trotakacharya was washing the clothes, cooking food, fetching water or doing some mundane task… Adi Shankara refused to talk without him being there, much to the chagrin of the other disciples, who grumbled among each other about the futility of waiting for him… He anyways sleeps through all the discourses, why does the Guru wait for him to begin?!
Suddenly they heard him coming, whistling and singing a song… The song expounded the Knowledge in a deep and profound way and was being sung to one of the toughest meters… They all listened astounded, marveling at the beauty of the song … as the simple minded (?!) Trotakacharya made his way to the Guru’s feet…
Btw, The Art of Living tradition is of the Jyothir Matth and the Lineage of Trotakacharya.
With the advent of Buddhism in India, for many, many years, the Vedic lore of performing Poojas and Yagyas was lost. Buddhism said that all these rituals didn’t make any sense, and that all you need to do for Enlightenment was to meditate and drop everything else.
For many hundreds of years there was hardly any Pooja or Yagya in India where a huge amount of people had adopted the Buddhist way of life.
Then a couple who were childless for many years, prayed to the Lord and asked the boon of a child. The Lord appeared before them and gave them a choice between two children, a mediocre child who would have a long life or a brilliant short lived child. They chose the brilliant child. And He was born. His name, Adi Shankaracharya. Though “officially” He is supposed to have been born around 700 AD. Research done by Dr. B. K Hari (a far more India friendly person, of the Bharth Gyan fame… if you ever get a chance to listen to his lectures on the History of India and other stuff, drop everything and go! ) however places His birth sometime 400 to 700 BC! Guruji had also mentioned this that Adi Shankaracharya was born many years Before Christ… So that’s open (at least for some people) to debate
Adi Shankaracharya’s life is one miracle after another and makes for some very interesting reading. He re initiated India into the Vedic Lore and thanks to him, the lost Knowledge of the Vedas found new life. Through brilliant debate he defeated the most renowned of Buddhist scholars. Lord Buddha had said that there is Nothing. He meditated, went deep and found that there was Nothing. Adi Shankaracharya countered this with saying ok, you meditated and went deep and found nothing, right? Well, who was experiencing that Nothingness? That is the One. And so was born the Advaita philosophy: That there is only One.
He traveled the length and breath of India and with the help of His four beloved Disciples Padmapada, Hasta Malaka, Vartikakara and Trotakacharya established the four Matths, one each in each direction. Now known as the Shankaracharya Matths. Each mutt was assigned one Veda. The matths are Jyothir Matth at Badrinath in northern India with Atharva Veda, Sarada Matth at Sringeri in southern India with Yajur Veda, Govardhan Matth at Jaganath Puri in eastern India with Rig Veda and Kalika Matth at Dwarka in western India with Sama Veda.
The next post is all about the four disciples … watch out for it
An extremely simple, very tasty, Japanese soup…
A small broccoli washed and chopped into medium sized florets
1 medium Zucchini cut into medium sized slices
2 small carrots scraped and cut into chunks
A packet of oyster mushrooms, washed and cut into big pieces
Half a packet of button mushrooms, washed and cut into 4 pieces each
7-8 pieces of baby corn washed and slit into 2
Half a packet of spaghetti prepared according to the instructions on the packet (The angel hair or glass noodles are best)
a small piece of ginger grated
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons of good organic Miso paste
In a hard bottomed pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil (you can use any oil, i prefer olive oil). Add the ginger and garlic and cook until slightly browned. Add all the vegetables and the mushrooms. Stir it for a bit on high heat. Then add 2 cups of water or soup stock, so as to completely cover the veggies. Add salt. Put a lid on the pan and cook until veggies are soft and tender.Add the spaghetti and allow to simmer on very low heat. You may thicken the soup a little bit if you lie it that way by adding a spoonful of rice flour to hot water, dissolving that and adding this to the soup.
Put 3 table spoons of miso into a small bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the hot soup water to it, and dissolve the miso paste completely. Add this mixture to the soup. Check the taste and see if you need more miso.
This is one soup that doesn’t need bread or anything else to go with it. It tastes perfect just as it is
Do not re heat the soup once you have added the miso, it will spoil.
ps It can be challenging to buy Miso paste in India, though i have heard that you can get it in Mumbai and Delhi. I get mine from Singapore or Dubai
A farmer got in his truck and drove to a neighbouring farm and knocked at the farmhouse door.
A young boy, about nine, opened the door.
“Is your Dad home”? the farmer asked.
“Sorry mate, he isn’t” the boy replied. “He went into town.”
“Well,” said the farmer, “Is your mum here”?
“No, sir, she’s not here either. She went into town with Dad.”
“How about your brother, Greg? Is he here”?
“He went with Mum and Dad.”
The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one foot to theother and mumbling to himself.
“Is there anything I can do for ya”? the boy asked politely. “I know where all the tools are if you want to borrow one. Or maybe, I could take a message for Dad.”
“Well,” said the farmer uncomfortably, “I really wanted to talk to your Dad. It’s about your brother Greg getting my daughter pregnant.”
The boy considered for a moment.
“You’d have to talk to Dad about that,” he finally conceded.
“If it helps you any, I know that Dad charges $200 for the bull and $150 for the pig, but I really don’t know how much he gets for Greg.”
There is a very mysterious line in one of the ancient texts. Says that God is a Forest. Worship the Forest.
Now, why would God be a forest?
In a forest everything has it’s place. From the mightiest and most ferocious of the animals to the most innocuous little bugs. Every creature lives in balance and harmony with each other. Each takes what they need and only when they need. None take more than they need. So there is always plenty for all.
Inspite of such a huge diversity of creatures who inhabit a forest, it is so pristine. You will never find a mess in a forest. There is no municipal van that comes to clean up anyone’s dirt. To survive in a forest you need to be in tune with the rhythms of nature, be super aware and respectful of all the denizens.
And as a whole, the forest contributes to the welfare of the entire planet, spewing out tons of life giving oxygen into the atmosphere. The forest is also home to many herbs which can be used to cure all sorts of ailments by the one who knows its secrets.
The ancient texts recognized the Life enhancing benevolence of a forest and equated it to God. By inculcating the value of worship, they made sure that the ecosystems and bio diversity would be respected and wanton destruction of nature’s bounty be avoided. It is quite unfortunate that over the years respect for these teachings have been abandoned.
Our texts and heritage of tens of thousands of years ago, had already prescribed Environment friendly green living.
We need to really look into the life style choices that we are making every day and see how we can conserve the environment and save and restore our planet’s beauty to it’s former glory…
On a whim i picked up this book called Wings by Aprilynne Pike from the children’s section in crossword. (secret: I get most of the things i like to read from there ) …
It’s about Laurel a rather strange (by american standards at least) girl. She is vegan (i love books about heroines who are vegan), never feels cold, is 15 years old and still has not started to menstruate, etc … and her friend David, and the reason for her strangeness … quite a nice quick read with lots of magic and trolls and faeries … Won’t spoil the surprize for you, by telling you about her … but then don’t read the amazon review that the link points to coz, they tell…
The other book i picked up was 2 States by Chetan Bhagat. Five point someone was superb. The next 2 books were utterly forgettable. And the only reason why i picked this one up was it’s price. Just Rs 95. I am so glad i did. It’s quite a nice romp about how he got married to the girl of his dreams. He is a punjabi delhite. She is a tam bram iyer from Chennai. They want to get married with their parents blessings. Super hilarious situations written with quite a bit of tenderness and maturity. Also there are at least 3 places in the book where i found my eyes moist …
Having traveled to both places and taught extensively and knowing the vast differences in the culture, i could really appreciate the trouble they muct have gone through to bridge the gap… He does use the f**k word here and there … but i don’t blame him… i would have used it myself in those circumstances…
Only one small crib: Over and over, he equates “having fun” to eating non veg and boozing… Never did the Art of Living course, i guess.
Still it’s very nice
Please do read it…
There are so many, many people who have commented and written emails to me about wanting to contribute to our Youth Ashram… Thanks a lot
If you are from India, please make a cheque(s) or DD(s) out to WAYE. On the back write “for the Youth Ashram”. You could even send post dated cheques.
Post them to
c/o Art of Living International Ashram,
21st Km, Kanakpura Road,
We will send you 80G certificate which will give you some tax rebate.
For people outside of India, you can click this link to donate for the Youth Ashram. Unfortunately, we cannot give you any tax rebate certificates. Even People from India donating using this link will NOT get any tax rebate certificate.
Pretty soon, we should be having a link that will allow Indians to donate using a credit or a debit card, we are working in it But please don’t wait for it… Knowing how banks function here, it could take a lot of time.
Thanks a lot in Advance for the goodwill… We should have a website up about the Ashram in the near future, and everyone will be updated about whats happening there…
Our next session on the Mumbai Ashram is on Sunday 1st November from 6:30 am (thats morning ) to around noon. Everyone is invited!