Notes on Sandhya Vandanam Lectures of Swami Paramarthananda – 1
All traditional teachers stress the importance of the performance of one’s obligatory duties as a path to purify and refine oneself. Such efforts alone will make the seeker fit to enter the path of jnana, knowledge. The Sringeri Jagadgurus have been at the forefront preaching the importance of samanya dharma and the performance of one’s alloted duties to acquire the adhikaritva to pursue jnana marga. The famous jivanmukta and the 34th Pontiff Jagadguru Sri Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahaswamin was a shrotriya brahmanishtha. He Himself had studied under His Guru, the great Saint Sri Sri Satchitananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Barathi Mahaswamin, the 33rd Pontiff. His Holiness laid great emphasis on the daily performance of Sandhya Vandanam – the daily worship performed at dawn, noon and dusk. He used to say that Sandhya vandanam was in reality a non-dual worship! We have mantras like “brahmaivaaham asmi” appearing which in effect is the Mahavakya. The Gayatri mantra is again abheda dhyana as Swami Paramarthananda explains in his lectures on Sandhya vandanam.
The below are some notes from that lecture series on Sandhyavandanam.
The four stages of growth
In his introduction Swamiji starts off by talking about the four stages of an individual’s growth and how the shastras give a blue print for progressing steadily. The scriptures, understanding the nature of man, gives him a guided and an easy step by step process to slowly elevate himself and attain divinity. These steps are very succinctly brought out in the shloka below:
janmanA jAyate shudraH karmaNA dvija uchyate
veda pAThena viprasyAt brAhmaNo brahmavedanAt ||
When a person is born he is a shudraH. Who is a shudraH?
He is a prAkruta purushaH, one who lives according to his nature, who is under the grip of his rAga–dvesha, who is swayed by his animal instincts, In other words svacchandachaari shudraH, that is, one who acts as he pleases & one who is indisciplined is a shudraH. One must understand that all such people – svacchandachaaris – are shudras only. So even a so-called Brahmana, kShatriya or a vaishya can be shudras!
The scriptures also says kAmAchAraH, kAmavAdaH, kAmabhakshaH shudraH. That is, one who acts according to his base desires, one who speaks coarsely & unprintable words, and one who eats anything and everything is a shudraH. Such a person has no right to study the Vedas. He is a prAkruta purushaH, an unrefined person.
The Vedas allows a person to be like that for a while, until the Intellect is develops. After that one has to enter the 2nd stage, dvija.
Who is a dvija?
The above verse says, karmaNA dvija uchyate
A dvija has refined behavior, refined conduct and is disciplined. He is governed by knowledge of dharma adharma. He doesn’t do whatever he likes, he does whatever he is supposed to do. He doesn’t refrain from activities because he merely dislikes them but because they are wrong.
The Lord says in the Gita
tasmAt shAstram pramANam te kAryAkArya vyavasthitau…
Let the scriptures be the guide in what is karyam and what is akaryam.
Therefore the dvija is governed by vidhi-nishedha, do’s and don’t’s. However in the beginning he follows it mechanically, because of parents, scriptures or societal pressures. So at this stage the discipline is wavering and not full of conviction.
Therefore, the scriptures move him gently to the third stage…
veda pAthena viprah syaat. He has to study the Vedas and and understand what is shown in the scriptures under a teacher.
If it be asked, why cannot the order be reversed – study first and then act later? Disciplines are habits to be developed at an early stage where understanding is difficult due to lack of maturity and hence has to come later. This happens only when the intellect develops as one grows older.
Then the fourth stage is
brAhmaNo brahma vedanaat. He becomes a brahmaNa when he does brahmAbhyAsa or remains a Brahma niShtha. For, at this stage, even dharma adharma becomes a subtle bondage, and one must go beyond even these. However care must be taken to understand that this going beyond is only Internally. Outwardly he will follow dharma and eschew adharma always. Such a person is a brahmanah.
Thus these are the four stages of development of the individual.
What is Upanayana?
The change or shift from the 1st stage to the 2nd stage is symbolically done through a samskAra called upanayana! From a shudraH he becomes a dvija. Who is a dvija?
dvi-jaH that is dve janmani yasya saH dvijah One who is twice born is a dvija.
So what is this second birth? This birth is one in which the Mother is the Veda maata – the teachings and commandments – while the father is the AcharyaH. This is brought out beautifully in the shloka
mAturagreti jananam dvitiyam mounji bandhanAt
atrAsya mAta Gayatri pitA tu Acharya uchyate!
matur agreti janma the first birth is from the earthly mother
dvitiyam janma the second birth is through mounji bandhanaat referring to upanayanam ceremony
atrAsya mAta Gayatri there the mother is Gayathri, the Veda MAta
pitA tu AcharyaH the father is the AcharyaH who expounds the teaching
The Vedic lifestyle
Having entered the second stage the student in now introduced to the Vedic lifestyle through which he is refined and developed. What is this Vedic lifestyle?
It consists of three thing mainly: bhavanA, guNA and karma
bhavana means certain healthy attitudes. Examples like maatru devo bhava, pitr devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, athithi devo bhava are well known to everyone. The focus is in developing a healthy and reverential attitude to everyone and everything in life. This is seeing divinity everywhere!
guNah refers to certain values or virtues. The Yoga Sutras talk about yama, niyama like satyam, asteyam, aprigraham, brahmacharyam, shoucham, svadhyayah, Ishwara praNidhanam etc. These virtues help in refining the individual and integrating his personality.
Karma indicates certain actions that the student performs. There are 5 types of karma in the Vedic lifestyle. They are
nitya compulsory regular actions
naimttika compulsory but conditions like grahaNa karma during eclipse
kAmya to fulfill desires
nishiddha prohibited actions and
The student has to understand what is permitted and what is prohibited!
The upanayana ceremony gives the student the adhikaritvam to start performing his obligatory duties.
During the yajnopavita sankalpa while wearing the sacred thread, we have
shrouta smArta nitya karmAnuShThAna yOgyatA siddyartham, yaj~jOpavItadhAraNamahaM kariShyE
The sacred thread gives the wearer the sanction to perform his daily obligatory duties for spiritual growth! Under the nitya karma group of actions we have the famous sandhya vandanam!