28.1.4: SURYA NAMASKARA PRASHNA FROM KRISHNA YAJURVEDA
As an expression of the divine power there is nothing to beat the Sun. Ever since the Vedic times the Sun (Surya) has been worshipped adored and revered. It is true that the invisible rays of the Sun can kill bacteria and give life to the plant world. But the Sun was revered not just for these – because man recognized these very much later –but because the Sun was and is the only visible symbol of the Infinite power, majesty and glory of the Unseen Almighty. Of the 101 branches (ShAkhAs) of the Yajur Veda only two are extant now. Of these two the Taittiriya ShAkhA has a chapter (= prashna) which has 32 anuvAkas divided into 132 sub-paragraphs (panchAshats), each of which has ten sentences except when it occurs at the end of the anuvAka. The entire matter is a compendium of information on the Sun as was ‘seen’ by the Vedic Seers. It has been the tradition among brahmins educated in the Vedas to recite this chapter and make a full prostration to the Sun towards the East at the end of each panchAshat, particularly every Sunday (the day of the Sun) morning. The ritual is alled Surya-namaskara. That is why this chapter of the Vedas is called Surya-namaskara prashna. The mantras of this chapter have great spiritual significance. The benefits of physical exercise that one derives from the performance of this ritual are only incidental. Their real benefit is esoteric in terms of spiritual evolution. One so firmly believes in these benefits, both physical and spiritual, that one does this ritual even by proxi – if one is incapable of doing it either because of ill-health or incapacity or because of the lack of training in the scriptural text – that is, one engages a professional pundit to do it for him!
In this context it must be noted that what we are worshipping is not the physical Sun before us. The external manifestation is only secondary, the Absolute Supreme which is behind is primary. The Kenopanishad makes this very clear in no uncertain terms. “Whatever cannot be seen by the eyes, but by which the eyes see, that is brahman – not the one that you physically see and worship”: (Kenopanishad: I – 6):
यच्चक्षुषा न पश्यति येन चक्षूंषि पश्यति तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते॥
[A parallel from Psalms 94 – 9: Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?]
So behind the physical Sun there is the sUrya-devatA, the Sun-God. It is not visible to the physical eyes. That is what we are supposed to be worshipping. “He who inhabits the Sun but is within it, whom the Sun does not know, whose body is the Sun and who controls the Sun from within, is the Inner Controller, your own immortal Self” says the Brihadaranyakopanishad. (III – 7-9) In fact if we understand this principle of Hindu worship well we will discover that no amount of scientific advance and breakthrough can ever upset the esoteric philosophical foundation of the religion called Sanatana Dharma. Whatever object we worship whether it is the waters or the fire or the wind or the Earth, or even the Sun, there is always an abstraction into a divine element behind the physical element or object and that abstraction is the object of our worship. Man may land on the moon and inhabit it. But that cannot deny the status of the Moon-God to the Moon and its status as the seat of the pitr’s (the ancestral souls ) which is part of the Hindu culture, religion and tradition. Why go so far? The Earth is always worshipped as BhUmA-devi. We stand, sit and sleep on the Earth and we do all sorts of contaminations on it. This does not preclude a Hindu scientist praying to the BhUmA-devi every morning when he gets up from bed and invoking her pardon and forgiveness for his day’s activities to start, with all the pollutions of the Earth that they involve. Thus it should be clear that the religion of Hinduism is not Nature Worship. Behind every form and object of Nature there is the Ultimate Supreme which is the One Reality present everywhere and at all times.
We shall now come to the text of the Surya-namaskara prashna. We shall not be presenting a word-by-word rendering of the meanings of the full text. As is said of ‘women’ in the erotic literature of Sanskrit, translations which are faithful may not be beautiful and translations which are beautiful may not be faithful! We shall only see some flashes of the originals here and there. The very first prayer says: ‘With our ears may we hear what is good, with our eyes may we behold thy righteousness …’. भद्रं कर्णेभिः श्रुणुयाम देवाः। भद्रं पश्येमाक्षभिर्यजत्राः॥
Note the plural (shown in italics) on the part of the reciting individual used here. Recall that the Gayatri also uses the same plural. भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि । धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् This is a characteristic of most of the Vedic prayers. The one who chants the prayers is mostly a brahmin but his prayer is for the entire world. After this prayer the chapter starts with a prayer for the divine elements embedded in the waters. “By these mantras I shall make these waters extremely powerful’. Note that only by the Sun’srays the watersand the food and the medicinal herbs that grow ou of these waters become fruitful. “By my doing this may all good come to us, and may the Goddess Saraswati bebeneficient to all of us’. After these and such othr prayers the text gets into business.
First there is a whole paragraph (= anuvAka) which constitutes a treatise on the concept of Time. We shall give the English meaning first and then quote the text:
‘The visible universe including the solar system along with the Sun is known to us by four means of knowledge: memory, direct perception, historical records and inference. This is how we get to know about the region and functioning of the Sun. The Sun sends its rays. These rays spread all over the universe. By the speciality of the falling of these rays of the Sun, Time flows like a river –endlessly, as it were. And it goes on and on. It never turns back. Has any one ever heard of Time turning upon itself? (In otherwords, can we go back in Time?). We measure the passage of time by calling them days, months and years. It keeps trickling by minute units as well as large chunks of such measure. But all this is only in the phenomenal world. The passage of time is only for the empirical world of the visible universe. There is something absolute beyond all this. That is not visible to us……. There is no world there; no Sun, no animals …….
स्मृतिः प्रत्यक्ष-मैतिह्यम्। अनुमानश्चतुष्टयम्। एतैरादित्यमण्डलम्। सर्वैरेव विधास्यते।
सूर्यो मरीचिमादत्ते। सर्वस्माद्-भुवनादधि। तस्याः पाकविशेषेण। स्मृतं कालविशेषणम्।
नदीव प्रभवात् काचित्। अक्षय्यात्स्यन्दते यथा॥
तान्नद्योऽभिसमायन्ति। सोरुस्सती न निवर्तते। एवं नाना समुत्थानाः। कालाः संवत्सरम् श्रिताः।
अणुशश्च महशश्च। सर्वे समवयन्त्रितम्। स तैस्सर्वैस्समाविष्टः। ऊरुस्सन्न निवर्तते।
अधिसम्वत्सरं विद्यात्। तदेव लक्शणे॥
अणुभिश्च महद्भिश्च। समारूढः प्रदृश्यते। संवत्सरः प्रत्यक्षेण। नाधिसत्वः प्रदृश्यते। ………..
नात्र भुवनं न पूषा न पशवः………….
smRRitiH pratyakshha-maitihyam . anumAnashcatushhTayam . etairAdityamaNDalam . sarvaireva vidhAsyate . sUryo marIcimAdatte . sarvasmAd-bhuvanAdadhi . tasyAH pAkavisheshheNa . smRRitaM kAlavisheshhaNam . nadIva prabhavAt kAcit . akshhayyAtsyandate yathA ..
tAnnadyo.abhisamAyanti . sorussatI na nivartate . evaM nAnA samutthAnAH . kAlAH saMvatsaram shritAH .aNushashca mahashashca . sarve samavayantritam .
sa taissarvaissamAvishhTaH . Urussanna nivartate .
adhisamvatsaraM vidyAt . tadeva lakshaNe .
aNubhishca mahadbhishca . samArUDhaH pradRRishyate . saMvatsaraH pratyakshheNa. nAdhisatvaH pradRRishyate ...........
nAtra bhuvanaM, na pUshhA, na pashavaH ...
This is the real nature of the Absolute behind the Sun. The implication of Time is only for us to finish our duties on time. “idaM puNyaM kurushveti, taM AharaNaM dadyAt ..” ((End of 7th panchAsat). We are not supposed to worry about what is behind Time. We should simply do our duties. There is something absolute behind Time and the Vedas are so kind to tell us that even if we do not understand it, it does not matter.
The above is all in the 2nd anuvAka. In the 14th anuvAka, these units of time are systematically used to impress the ephemeral nature of man’s life. When the Sun rises its rise symbolizes the passing away of one night in the life of human beings and in this sense the Sun’s rise is like taking away a slice of life-span from everybody. When the Sun sets it has taken away one day from the life of each one of us. When the days pass by, when the months and years pass by, this is what is recurrently happening to us. Every movement of the Sun across the sky implies this passing away of our lives. This continual reduction in the remaining part of our lives is something that the scriptures never fail to point out, because even after all this, we tend to forget this, especially in crucial moments of self-consiousness, anger jealousy or passion. This 14th anuvAka has a number of perorations (see below) on this, starting with the rise of the sun, the setting of the sun, then the fortnights, the months and the years.
योऽसौ तपन्नुदेति। स सर्वेषां भूतानां प्राणानादयोदेति। मा मे प्रजाया मा पशूनां। मा मम प्राणानादायोदगाः।असौ योऽस्तमेति। स सर्वेषां भूतानां प्राणानादायास्तमेति।……असौ य आपूर्यति………. असौ योऽपक्षीयति ……..इमे मासाश्चार्धमासाश्च……… इम ऋतवः………अयं सम्वत्सरः ……… इदमहः ……. इयं रात्रिः……
yo.asau tapannudeti. sa sarveshhAM bhUtAnAM prANAnAdayodeti . mA me prajAyA mA pashUnAM . mA mama prANAnAdAyodagAH . asau yo.astameti . sa sarveshhAM bhUtAnAM prANAnAdAyAstameti. ........asau ya ApUryati ........ asau yo.apakshhIyati ........ ime mAsAshcArdhamAsAshca ........ ima RRitavaH ............ayaM samvatsaraH ........ idamahaH ..... iyaM rAtriH ........
We go back to the third anuvAka now where there is a memorable piece about shraddhA (=Faith with conviction and Devotion).
साकं जानानाँ सप्तथमाहुरेकजम्। षडुद्यमा ऋषयो देवजा इति। तेषामिष्टानि विहितानि धामशः॥
स्थात्रे रेजन्ते विकृतानि रूपशः। कोनुमर्या अमिथितः। सखासखायमब्रवीत्। जहाको अस्मदीषते। यस्तित्याज सखिविदँ सखायम्। न तस्य वाच्यपिभागो अस्ति।यदिँ शृणोत्यलकँ शृणोति॥
sAkaM jAnAnA.N saptathamAhurekajam . shhaDudyamA RRishhayo devajA iti . teshhAmishhTAni vihitAni dhAmashaH .. sthAtre rejante vikRRitAni rUpashaH . konumaryA amithitaH . sakhAsakhAyamabravIt . jahAko asmadIshhate . yastityAja sakhivida.N sakhAyam . na tasya vAcyapibhAgo asti .yadi.N shRRiNotyalaka.N shRRiNoti
The context is about faith in the Vedas. Faith is not just intellectual acceptance but it is a response in the heart. Continuous intellectual study sometimes only results in vanity, false satisfaction and indigested information. It has been rightly said that the greatest weakness of man is intellectual doubt. The Vedas are our best friend. It tells us what is best for us. We should not mistrust our best friend. The text goes on thus: “The sages have proclaimed that of the seven rays issuing from the Sun one of them was the first that issued and the other six issued from the first one; each has a property of its own as designed and created by the Supreme. Oh humans (= maryAH)! Is there a friend who mistrusts a friend from whom he has derived only good? Whoever discards such a good friend in mistrust and doubt, for him there is no right to read and hear the scriptures any more; even if we hears them, he listens in vain”:
Incidentally we should note in this passage the use of the word ‘IM’ for the Vedas. The Vedas ae said to personify God. The syllable ‘IM’ stands for the Absolute Brahman with form and attributes – to be contrasted with Brahman without attributes (= nirguNa brahman), whose symbol is the well-known ‘AUM’, also called the praNava. The symbol for saguNa brahman is ‘IM’, referred to in the scriptures as ‘SHAKTI-PRANAVA’, meaning, the PraNava of the Goddess or the Power of the Almighty. It is to the Shakti Pranava one surrenders iin toto -- cf. tAM padminImIM sharaNamahaM prapadye. It is not possible to surrender to AUM because the nirguNa brahman indicated by AUM will not admit any duality in action, speech or thought.
In the seventh anuvAka, there are some revealing insights about the Sun. In fact modern solar energy studies must include a research into this portion of this chapter. First it names seven suns! Does it mean that these are the seven colours of the solar spectrum? It does not say so. But throughout this chapter which is itself a treatise on the Sun, and throughout the entire body of scriptures, whenever the Sun-God is mentioned the number seven goes along with it either in the form of seven horses in His chariot or these seven Suns. The seven Suns are named:
आरोगो भ्राजः पठरः पतङ्गः। स्वर्णरो ज्योतिषीमान् विभासः। ते अस्मै सर्वे दिवमातपन्ति।
ऊर्जं दुहाणा अनपस्फुरन्त इति। कश्यपोऽष्टमः। स महामेरुन्न जहाति।तस्यैषा भवति।
यत्ते शिल्पं कश्यपरोचनावत्। इन्द्रियावत्-पुष्कलं चित्रभानु। यस्मिन्सूर्या अर्पितास्सप्तसाकम्॥
Arogo bhrAjaH paTharaH pata~NgaH . svarNaro jyotishhImAn vibhAsaH. te asmai sarve divamAtapanti . UrjaM duhANA anapasphuranta iti . kashyapo.ashhTamaH . sa mahAmerunna jahaati .tasyaishhA bhavati .yatte shilpaM kashyaparocanAvat . indriyAvat-pushhkalaM citrabhAnu . yasminsUryA arpitAssaptasAkam ..
aaroga, braaja, paThara, patanga, svarNara, jyotiSImaan, vibhaasa. 'These heat the entire space', goes the text above, 'in such a way that no damage is done but they enrich everything with the downpour of the strength-giving rain', etc. Commentators of the modern kind usually brush these aside by saying that perhaps these represent the seven colours of the solar spectrum and the matter stays there as if there is nothing more to it! But then the scripture goes on to say -- and here comes the surprise: 'There is an eighth Sun, kaSyapa, by name. He never leaves the mahaa-meru' cf. 'kaSyapo'shTamah; sa mahaa-merum na jahaati'. Then the mantra goes on: 'Oh Kasyapa, By the skill that you have in enriching the power of our senses, in the life-giving dalliant rays of yours which bestow nutrition on us, by that skill -- in which the seven Suns are linked to You -- may we be blessed to be in the highest peak of our efficiency'
Why seven? Then the text goes on to mention the various speculations about what it has itself just declared.
प्राणो जीवानीन्द्रिय-जीवानि। सप्त शीर्षण्याः प्राणाः। सूर्या इत्याचार्याः। अपश्यमहमेतान्सप्तसूर्यानिति। पञ्चकर्णो वात्स्यायनः। सप्तकर्णश्च प्लाक्षिः।आनुश्रविक एव नौ कश्यप इति। उभौ वेदयिते। न हि शेकुमिव महामेरुं गन्तुं। अपश्यमहमेतत् सूर्यमण्डलं परिवर्तमानं। गार्ग्यः प्राणत्रातः। गच्छन्त महामेरुम्। एकं चाजहतम्।
prANo jIvAnIndriya-jIvAni . sapta shIrshhaNyAH prANAH . sUryA ityAcAryAH . apashyamahametAnsaptasUryAniti . pa~ncakarNo vAtsyAyanaH. saptakarNashca plAkshhiH .Anushravika eva nau kashyapa iti. ubhau vedayite. na hi shekumiva mahAmeruM gantuM . apashyamahametat sUryamaNDalaM parivartamAnaM . gArgyaH prANatrAtaH . gacchhanta mahAmerum . ekaM cAjahatam .
` 'Some say', the text goes on, 'these seven suns are the vital airs that dwell in the face; others say that they are the five senses of perception, plus the mind and the intellect.' Incidentally the seven points of entry into the body which are in the face -- namely the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils and the mouth -- are the holes which allow the seven adhyaatma-praaNas, that is, the vital airs classified as pertaining to the soul within. The five elemental fundamentals -- earth, water, fire, air and space -- together with the two principles called mahat and ahamkaara, are the seven adhibhautika praaNas, that is, the vital airs belonging to the physical plane. The seven Suns, named above, are the adhi-daivata-praaNas, that is, the vital airs pertaining to the celestial plane. And continues the text above, “Even Pancakarna, son of Vatsa and Saptakarna, son of Plaksha who have seen all the seven Suns could not go and see the eighth Sun. …”
Then comes the passage narrating the claims of great sages about their experience of the seven Suns and the eighth Sun. Two sages by name panca-karNa, son of vatsa; and sapta-karna, son of plaksha claim to have seen the seven Suns; but, say the two, they have not been able to go to the mahaa-meru and see the eighth Sun. But everybody strongly recommends, says the text, that man should strive to go to the mahaa-meru and see that One-ness of Divinity, called kaSyapa. It becomes clear that they are referring to the Supreme Reality here which is the substratum of all the seven Suns. 'tasya bhaasaa sarvam idam vibhati, say the scriptures in another place, referring thereby to the Transcendental Absolute. So these seven Suns themselves derive their strength and dalliance from the eighth Sun, namely kaSyapa. The seven Suns originated from kaSyapa, says the text: kaSyapaad-uditaas-sUryaah. The very name kaSyapa is extolled and its meaning derived by going into its etymology. kaSyapah paSyako bhavati is a statement occurring in the eighth anuvAka. It means kaSyapa is the One that Sees -- meaning, He sees rightly. The next sentence in the text explains this: yat sarvam pari-paSyati-iti saukshmyaat meaning, 'because it sees everything in all its subtlety'. The root word for seeing is driS. When conjugated, this becomes paSyati . There is another esoteric significance here. The word kaSyapa has three syllables: ka , Sya , and pa - in that order. Reverse the order of these three syllables. We get pa, Sya , and ka . They make up, in that order, the word paSyaka - which means, One Who Sees. That is why, kaSyapah paSyako bhavati ! bhavati means ' becomes'. kaSyapa happens to be paSyaka . The existence of this eighth Sun in the form of the Ultimate Supreme (Who sees, as things are to be seen) is given only in the scriptures .
What is this eighth Sun? What is its implication to our sensory scientific knowledge? Who will do research on this? Who can? Should India wait until some foreign Professor from Cambridge or Harvard or Stanford puts his or her mind to it and writes a monograph? Are not Indian scholars the best persons to study them? Such a study cannot be done by a person who cares only for occidental Science or by a person who is ignorant of occidental Science. The Saraswati of the East, which represents Pure Science, and Lakshmi of the West which revels in Applied Science should have to come together! One wonders whether all this would have implications for the intricacies and nuances of Solar Energy. This is not to dethrone Science from its high pedestal. The tremendous achievements of Science can in no way be belittled. In fact in one sense Science has indirectly helped Spirituality to grow, by solving the food problem, by feeding the starving millions,by discovering miraculous-like cures for man’s suffering from disease, by releasing time for the working men and women, by motivating the eradication of superstition,by providing rapid means of communication and transport, by making accessible to mankind massive and effective shortcuts in the means of idea-propagation, by widening the horizon of man’s understanding of the universe and by several other advances in Technology. Science has been one of the agents also for spiritual aspirants from every nook and corner of the world to find time and energy to come together and spread the message of Spirituality. But the limitations of Science, as a means of knowledge, in revealing the universe, have however to be accepted. By its only instrument of knowledge, namely, sense-perception (supported by various scientific gadgetry) and the inferences made from this ‘direct’ perception, it can reveal only the non-infinite side of the universe. The infinite side of the universe, has to be a fullness that, by its very definition and nature, has to be revealed, if at all, only by the scriptures. Without the scriptures telling us that
There is fullness here, there is fullness there,
From fullness arises fullness,
And if you take the fullness from the full, it is still full,
we have no way of inferring such a grand truth about the Absolute through our sense-perception. The instrument of knowledge for Spirituality, on the other hand, is scriptural revelation. Can the ear corroborate or contradict the color seen by the eye? Can the eye corroborate or contradict the decibel value of the noise heard by the ear? So also Science has no way of corroborating or contradicting the spiritual truths revealed by the Vedas nor are the Vedas the right place to look for a corroboration or contradiction of the truths held by Science in the field of matter.
At this point it is necessary to note that there is a section of opinion which mistakenly holds the view that the Vedas contain everything including certain scientific facts or theories which were discovered or invented only in the last one or two centuries. Thus this kind of enthusiast looks for references, even remotely, to, say, soaps and safety-matches, laser-printing and machine-fast calculation, open-heart surgery and what-have-you, in the Vedas. Researches made in this direction yield some trivial satisfaction to the enthusiasts who hold on to some straws. Then one makes much of such findings to proclaim that the Vedas contain everything that we know of today. This is misguided loyalty. If the Vedas are divinely revealed scriptures, which is what Sanatana Dharma holds, then man cannot insult the Omniscience of God by presuming He would waste the Vedas on man in teaching what He knows man will learn in due time by himself through his rationale and intellect! The scriptures are intended for the spiritual uplift of man and that is their only purpose. They point out to him what is beyond the intellect. This purpose would not be served by any other means of knowledge. If incidentally the Vedas also bring some knowledge about mundane matters like a geometrical theorem through their sulva-sUtras or a miracle cure for some yet unknown disease through their mantras or a host of vedic short-cuts for mechanical and arithmetical calculation, -- well, these are only incidental; they do not imply that all of modern Science was in the knowledge of the ancients!
Causes of Death
The eighth anuvAka contains, among other things, a discussion on the concept of Death (= mRRityu). Death is a consequence of time-flow. Nobody can escape death. So the Sun is the ultimate supreme cause of inescapable death.But there are other minor causes of death, namely, the loss of life-giving air – which can be countered by breathing exercises like pranayama and the like; the fire of consumption within the stomach, called jATarAgni, for which there are medicinal cures; and thirdly the Moon, which is the deity for food and herbs, and such death is due to lack of food, and wrong medication – which again can be countered. Thus it turns out that the Sun, by which we mean the flow of Time (= kAla) is the greatest and supreme cause of Death and this we can never escape.
All this comes out as a question-answer discussion among we-don’t-know-whom. And then the question arises about the after-life of sinners and do-good-ers.Let us have the text first, here:
अनाभोगाः परं मृत्युम्। पापास्सम्यन्ति सर्वदा। आभोगास्त्वेव संयन्ति। यत्र पुण्यकृतो जनाः।
ततो मध्यममायन्ति। चतुमग्निं च संप्रति। पृच्छामि त्वा पापकृतः। यत्र यात यते यमः।
त्वन्नस्तद्ब्रह्मन् प्रब्रूहि। यदि वेत्था सतो गृहान्।
anAbhogAH paraM mRRityum . pApAssamyanti sarvadA . AbhogAstveva saMyanti . yatra puNyakRRito janAH . tato madhyamamAyanti . catumagniM ca saMprati . pRRicchhAmi tvA pApakRRitaH . yatra yAta yate yamaH . tvannastadbrahman prabrUhi . yadi vetthA sato gRRihAn .
The sinners always proceed towards lower levels of (non-human) birth and experience nothing good. The do-good-ers on the other hand reach those places where live people (like the divines) who have acquired spiritual merit (=puNya). The intermediate people (who have done both good and bad) come back to his human birth by one of the means of death mentioned earlier. But a question arises, namely, where does yama take the sinners?
कश्यपादुदिताः सूर्याः। पापान्निर्घ्नन्ति सर्वदा। रोदस्योरन्तर्देशेषु। तत्र न्यस्यन्ते वासवैः।
तेऽशरीराः प्रपद्यन्ते। यथाऽपुण्यस्य कर्मणः। अपाण्यपादकेशासः।तत्रतेऽयोनिजा जनाः।
मृत्वा पुनर्मृत्युमापद्यन्ते। अद्यमानाः स्वकर्मभिः।
kashyapAduditAH sUryAH . pApAnnirghnanti sarvadA . rodasyorantardesheshhu . tatra nyasyante vAsavaiH . te.asharIrAH prapadyante. yathA.apuNyasya karmaNaH . apANyapAdakeshAsaH .tatrate.ayonijA janAH .
mRRitvA punarmRRityumApadyante. adyamAnAH svakarmabhiH .
There ar Suns who originate from the eighth Sun Kasyaapa; they are the ones who take the sinners to those worlds which are neither divine nor the human world. That is where the sinners experience through bodies given to their souls all punishments proportionate to their sin. They are born again in that same world until their sins are exhausted through sufferings. In other words, they are consumed by their own sins.
The anuvAka ends with a standard prayer, which is famous by its occurrence as the last words of Shukla Yajur Veda and therefore also as the last words of Ishavasyopanishad :
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान् विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान्
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहराणं एनो भूयिष्टान्ते नम-उक्तिम् विधेम
agne naya supathA rAye asmAn vishvAni deva vayunAni vidvAn /
yuyodhyasmajjuharANaM eno bhUyishhTAnte nama-uktim vidhema
Oh Agni, show us the right path. Lead us to eternal freedom. Thou who knowest all. Preserve us from the deceitful attraction of sin. To thee we offer our salutations with devotion, again and yet again.
Let us now enjoy some flashes from the eleventh anuvAka. The great mantra of the Sun is the most powerful purifier of all but it is not possible to obtain it except by intense tapas (= askesis). Tapas is the process by which irrespective of what happens to the physical and mental body one concentrates on some particular goal, usually spiritual, works for it and does not stop until that is obtained. The root word ‘tap’ means to torture or to heat. Tapas therefore indicates heat, particularly the heat energy generated by ritual activity and personal mortification of the body, through fasting, sexual abstinence, or any other severe self-discipline. The word tapas, similar to namas, vacaas, and manas is derived from the root tap literally meaning to give heat and light. Primarily therefore tapas implies an activity of mind or body which demands keen concentration of thought or an ffort requiring unusual and continuous physical srain and heat. Tapas is praised often in the scripturesas the highest and best means for securing what is hard of attainment in this world and the next. Even voluntary poverty is a form of tapas. In fact, every form of pursuit of self-contrrol is tapas, says Maha-NArAyaNopanishad. This eleventh anuvAka has two immortal statements regarding tapas.
अतप्ततनूर्नतदामो अश्नुते। शृतास इद्वहन्तस्तत्समाशत
‘ataptatanUr na tad amo ashnute’ meaning “By means of a body which has not gone through a torture of the necessary effort in the form of tapas, one is like a food (AmaH) which is not ripe and so would not obtain the cherished goal. It is not every human system that can hold, sustain and enjoy the potent and often violent ecstasy of that divine delight., he who is raw and his body not heated does not taste or enjoy that. ‘shRRitAsa id vahantas tat samAsata’ meaning, only those who have been baked in the fire bear and entirely enjoy that. The wine of the divine Life poured into the system is a strong, overflooding and violent ecstasy; it cannot be held in the system un-prepared for it by strong endurance of the utmost fires of life and suffering and experience.
One should recall here the equally immortal Kural (#266) by Tiruvalluvar:
Tavam cheyvaar tam karumam cheyvar matrallAr
Avam cheyvar AsaiyuTpaTTu
Meaning, Doing one’s duty with a persistent religious zeal is doing tapas; others are prey to desires and their life is vain.
The thought that not doing tapas in some form or other is a life spent in vain is also echoed in the Gita; He who does not follow the Cosmic Law but is totally subservient to his senses lives in vain; his life is just a sinful life, says the Gita III – 16: “aghAyurindriyArAmo moghaM pArtha sa jIvati”.
Names, only in name
Tha Ultimate status which one looks for and works for, by tapas, is described eloquently in the scriptures. Here in the context of the Surya, the same is talked about in the language relevant to the physical Sun. The Sun hides the stars in the daytime. It is as if it is withdrawing all these rays – which are the ones which are making the stars invisible – at night time. And then the stars become visible. So alo we human beings give undue importance to the names given to us, which pertain only to this body of flesh and bones. This name is so much linked to this body that it becomes meaningless when Real Enlightenment dawns. The names which are caused by association with the body become meaningless in reality and they are names only in name. nAma nAmaiva nAma me . This is a famous line in this anuvAka. nAma means Name.
After this the Surya namaskara chapter goes into technical detail. Particularly throughout the last one-third part it elaborates a ritual called Aruna-ketuka-yajna. And finally it ends with a universal proclamationsaying that those who read and recite this Surya Namaskara Prashna and who compensate their teachers of this chapter with cows, cash, silk, or whatever they can – will be considered most meritorious in the world -- तपस्वी पुण्यो भवति तपस्वी पुण्यो भवति (tapasvI puNyo bhavati, tapasvI puNyo bhavati). The repetition at the end of a recital, as usual in the Hindu tradition, is for emphasis and is an indication of the finale.
In sum, the Surya Namaskara Prashna, in addition to being a treatise on the Sun, proves to us by its philosophical and esoteric implications that Hindu religion is not just a system of beliefs nor just a formalized effort to wheedle a little pity out of God by offering Him pleading self-condemning prayers and propitiatory rites. Instead the rituals which are so characteristic of Sanatana Dharma, each one of them, is a constant reminder to us of the One-ness of God and His omnipresence. The act of reminding and remembering is itself a part of the total process of approach to that Absolute Divinity.