20.5 : SARVA-DHARMAAN PARITYAJYA - 5 TO 7
Section 5: Renunciation
Abandon all dharmas, says the carama-shloka. It is not ‘dharmas’ alone but ‘adharmas’ also. For, all through the Gita Actionlessness has been emphasized. And for the same reason it is the ‘doership’ of dharma and of adharma that has to be abandoned. That ‘I am the doer’ has to be renounced. The plea is for us to be the instrument of God’s Will. This is the greatest renunciation. This is the renunciation by which the inherent nature of the body, mind and intellect are disassociated from the centre of activity and thereby an identification with the divine takes place.
And the second thing it says, as we already discussed, is: Surrender to Me alone: Who is supposed to be surrendering to whom? When I say ‘I surrender’, the subject is ‘I’. But the only subject is the real ‘I’, the higher Self. Everything else is an object. So it all looks like saying: “I surrender to my Self”. The finite is surrendering to the Infinite. The lower self of ours – the kshhara-purushha - is finite. The lower self has to surrender to the Higher Self, which is the akshhara-purushha, the real ‘I”, the infinite Self. In other words it means only this. The ordinary self with all its ego, accumulated vAsanAs and faults, surrenders to the higher Self, which is the Lord Himself.
This is where the advaita enunciation of sharaNAgati effectively comes in the picture. ‘Renouncing all dharmas’ is the crucial phrase in the whole shloka. What are the dharmas? They are the ways in which we ought to think and act, according to the prescriptions of the shAstras. Whether a person follows the prescriptions are not, whether he is doing dharma or adharma, the sequence of each action is always more or less the same. He perceives through his five cognitive senses (jnAnendriyas) and in response thinks through his intellect, feels through his mind and acts through his five motor sensory organs (karmendriyas). In fact all the dharmas (righteous actions) and adharmas (unrighteous actions) that can be attributed to us are nothing but the way we perceive, feel, think and act. This is exactly what we are enjoined to renounce. The perceiver, the feeler, the thinker, the doer, -- none of these is we. Or, talking in the first person none of these is I, the real I, that is. This is the teaching of advaita. The real I is not the perceiver, or the feeler, or the thinker or the doer. The senses perceive, the mind feels, the intellect thinks, the jnAnendriyas and the karmendriyas respond and act. The final message of Krishna says: Renounce all this perceiving, feeling, thinking and doing. Surrender all that to Me, says He. Be your Being. Be what you are, in reality. Just be. Be Me. Be the Atman. mAm ekaM sharaNaM vraja. You are the Atman. Realise it and be It. That is the true surrender.
Section 6: “I am one with You”
Shankara’s Soundaryalahari is considered by all to be a great devotional stotra in praise of the Goddess. Whenever bhakti or devotion is the theme there is always the underlying duality in the form of the worshipper and the worshipped. In spite of this, Shloka No.22 therein illustrates that the peak of bhakti is oneness with the deity, a concept which is meaningful only in advaita. In essence the shloka says that the moment the devotee says ‘bhavani tvaM’ the Goddess considers it as a total surrender in the sense of renunciation of all the dharmas that individualise the devotee and thus She is already ready to grant him that oneness with Her.
We shall begin with the pun on the words ‘bhavAni tvaM’ in the shloka. As soon as the devotee utters the words ‘bhavAni tvaM’ as a beginning for his full sentence: ‘bhavAni tvaM dAse mayi vitara dRshhTim sakaruNAM’ (Oh Mother BhavAni, Please cast your glance which is coupled with Grace and Compassion on me, your servant) the Goddess is ready to grant him the highly merited sAyujyam (identity) with Her. What is so powerful in those two words ‘bhavAni tvaM’? This is where the poet has played with Sanskrit grammar. The word ‘bhavAni’ can be interpreted in two ways – one as a noun, and another as a verb. The verbal root is ‘bhava’. This itself gives the two meanings. When ‘bhava’ is a noun it is a name of Lord Shiva. In this context ‘bhavAni’ would mean ‘the consort of bhava’, that is, ambaa, meaning Mother Goddess. ‘bhava’ as a verb would mean ‘be’ or ‘become’. In this context, ‘bhavAni’ would mean ‘Let me become’ or ‘Let me be’. So ‘bhavAni tvaM’ would mean ‘May I become You’.
Mother Goddess is an ocean of compassion and grace. So when a devotee seeks the identity with Her by the two simple words ‘bhavAni tvaM’, She doesn’t wait for his further words; She simply grants the sAyujya-status ‘then and there’! But the irony of it is, he, the devotee, considers himself too low in the spiritual ladder to merit anything great and he has no conception of what honourable return from the Goddess awaits him. ‘Just a glance towards this poor me, Oh Mother!’ – this is all what he pleads for. Note that the poet uses the word ‘yah’, meaning, ‘whoever’. So the devotee does not have to be a great ‘sAdhu’. He could be any one. He may not even know that there is a status called ‘sAyujyam with the Goddess’! The couple of words ‘bhavAni tvaM’ has such an effect even on ordinary persons who recite it. The Almighty is the Lord. I am only a servant – This is the attitude of the devotee in the first line of the shloka. Of course it is an attitude of duality, not advaita. But even to such a person who only wants to be a servant of the Goddess, ambaa hands over in a platter the very advaitic oneness.
Take the case of Hanuman. He was always steeped in the concept “dAsohaM”, (‘dAsaH + ahaM’) meaning, “I am your servant”. ‘dAsa’ means servant. By the very fact that he was steeped in that concept of “dAsohaM” all his life, he reached the advaitic stage of “sohaM” (‘saH + ahaM’), which means, “I am He (That)”. What this shloka says is that ambaa transforms every one who comes to Her with the attitude of “dAsohaM”, to the apex stage of “sohaM”! It is a stage which is difficult for countless number of persons who struggle for the realisation of “aham brahmAsmi” and for even still more who ceaselessly meditate on the words “tat-tvaM-asi” of the guru. While many of them find it an inaccessible ideal, it is granted even to the ordinary person who sincerely comes to ambaa with the two words “bhavAni tvaM” though with something else in mind.
But ‘bhavAni-tvaM’ may also be considered as a single word. Then it means ‘the state of being bhavAni or parA-shakti’. The structure of the single word is something like ‘amaratvaM’ which means ‘the state of being immortal’ and like ‘kavi-tvaM’ which means ‘poetic talent’. So the moment the devotee says ‘bhavAni tvaM’ ambaa takes it as a request for ‘bhavAni-tvaM’ and She grants the ‘bhavAni-tvaM’ to him. In other words She gives Her own status, namely the status of sAyujya with Her to him.
Shloka #30 of Soundaryalahari goes even further than this into advaitic surrender. Here it is not the accidental utterance of words which mean identification with the Absolute. The content here is this: He (whoever it be) who always thinks of You (ambaa) as ‘I’, that is, he who meditates with a complete (advaitic) identification with ambaa, is himself offered the nIrAjanaM by the Fire of the Grand Dissolution. But one may now question: When we are told that BrahmA, Vishnu and all other divines disappear at the time of that mahA-pralaya, but Shiva alone remains, sporting with Her, how come, it talks as if the ‘tvAm-aham’ worshipper (that is, he who has identified himself with Mother Goddess) survives during the Great Dissolution and receives the nIrAjanaM of the mahA-pralaya?
Yes, it is alright, in the following sense. If he had been different from ambaa, he would have certainly been destroyed in the Dissolution. But he is in advaitic oneness with ambaa. He is the ‘tvAm-aham’ upAsaka. He is the ‘I am one with You’ entity. In other words He is one with the devi. If that is so, the question may again arise: ‘Then, why is he talked about as separate and as if he is separately receiving the nIrAjanaM of the Fire of Dissolution?’. The Kanchi Mahaswamigal, in explaining this, says: Let us note clearly that never can a jIvAtmA attain the identity of being the doer of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. To be in that kind of complete oneness with the saguNa-brahman in total advaitic identification is an impossibility. The peak of experience can only be the ‘feeling’ as if it is itself doing the activities of the saguNa-brahman. The feeling can be very deep and profound. But never can it become the original. In order to compensate for this gap in complete identification, one is graced by Ishvara with this apex-like experience of being witness to the divine deeds. In fact, one may venture to say, that the very purpose of being a saguNa brahman may well be to grant this experience to that single one in a million!
Section 7: Finale
Putting all these together, we get the idea. “I” and “Mine” are the two great evils in the mind. Instead of identifying ourselves with the “real I”, namely the akshhara-purushha within, we always confuse ‘I’ with the mind, body and its ramifications. This is ‘dehAtma-buddhi’. It is the feeling that this Self is the conglomeration of several things external to it like the BMI. It is this false dharma that has to be renounced. This is the last thing that the Jiva has to do. Surrendering to God does not mean that one’s effort does not give results or is not sufficient and therefore one has to surrender to the Almighty and take His help. Complete surrender is something like the rivulet mixing with the big river and finally becomes one with the ocean. All the independence of will of the Jiva becomes one with the sankalpa of Ishvara. There is nothing that is separately the Jiva’s own. The work of Ishvara is like the activity of the Ocean and the work of the Jiva is like that of the wave in the ocean. The wave is not something foreign to the ocean. So also all that the Jiva does is that of the Almighty. Once this stage is reached then what remains is the Subject and Subject alone. There is only one (ekaM) and no second. This is the complete surrender. That is when the second part of Shloka 66 (of B.G.) applies. He then not only takes you off the obligations of the consequences of your actions, even if it is ‘sinful’, but He also grants you that release (mokshha), by revealing to you his svarUpa. Recall
teshhAm-evAnukampArthaM aham-ajnAnajaM tamaH /
nAshayAmyAtma-bhAvastho jnAna-dIpena bhAsvatA // X – 11
Out of compassion for them, I, lodged in their Self, destroy the darkness born of ignorance, by the luminous lamp of knowledge. This One (ekaM), we know, is sat-cid-Ananda (Existence, Knowledge, Bliss – satyaM, jnAnaM, anantaM). Shri Aurobindo analyses the surrender to this sat-cid-Ananda in great detail.
In very brief language it is this: Surrender to the shakti of Supreme Existence (‘sat’). Both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of our finite existences are then destroyed; the bottled ‘kuNDalinI shakti’ is released as Infinite shakti. “asato mA sad-gamaya” (Lead me from the unreal to the real). This is the release of the Karma yogi.
Surrender to the shakti of Supreme Bliss (‘Ananda’, that is, Bliss personified). The dualities of life that come and go are then destroyed. We are released from the wrong tunings of ours to the drama of life and thus fine-tuned to the music of that Infinite Bliss. “mRtyor-mA amRtaM gamaya” (Lead me from Death to Immortality). This is the release of the Bhakti-yogi.
Surrender to the shakti of Supreme Knowledge (‘cit’). The VasanAs of both kinds, of ignorance as well as wisdom, are then destroyed. We are released from our wrong perceptions and the eyes are opened (‘jnAna-cakshhus’) for the Infinite Light to reveal itself. “tamaso mA jyotir-gamaya” (Lead me from darkness to Light). This is the release of the JnAna-yogi.
MadhusUdana Saraswati, the great propagator of advaita, of the 16th century, in his commentary GUDhArtha-dIpikA on the Gita, has this concluding comment on this carama-shloka: With the maturity of spiritual practice one may characterise the surrender to the Lord under three types. And he offers three beautiful quotes, one for each type:
The mild type: ‘tasyaivAhaM’ (tasya eva ahaM) – I belong to Him indeed. The wave belongs to the ocean; not the other way.
sAmudro hi tarangaH kvacana samudro na tArangaH.
The medium type: ‘mamaivAsau’ (mama eva asau) – He belongs to me, indeed. ‘Krishna’, says the Gopika whom the Lord simply warded off by His hand, ‘You may forcibly ward me off by your hand; but I will consider your prowess as great only if you can move away from my heart!’.
Hastam utkshipya yAto.asi balAt kRRishhNa kimadbhutaM /
hRRidayAd-yadi niryAsi pourushhaM gaNayAmi te //
The intense type: ‘sa evAhaM’ (saH eva ahaM) – I am He indeed. Yama, the deity of Death, says to his messengers of execution: “Those who, with regard to the Infinite One who has entered the heart, have the firm conviction ‘All this and myself are Vasudeva; that supreme Person, the supreme Lord, is one’ – go away from them leaving them at a distance”.
sakalamidamahaM ca vAsudevaH parama-pumAn parameshvaraH sa ekaH /
iti matiracalA bhavantyanante hRRidayagate vraja tAn vihAya dUrat //
Shri ShankaracArya concludes that this intense type of surrender is what is meant by ‘mAm-ekaM sharaNaM vraja’. If we are to realize our destinies we must stand naked and guileless before the Supreme. That is what ‘sarva-dharmAn parityajya’ means. Without this surrender even monasticism (of the sannyAsa Ashrama) does not lead to the yielding of its own fruit.