Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Strotra of Terminalia Chebula in the Hand

When Sankara, was traveling in the western parts of India and overcoming in debate the
expounders of the various schools of thought, he once came to a village known as Srivali (near Gokarna in modern Karnataka). When an inhabitant of the village named Prabhakara heard about his arrival he went to him with his thirteen year old son. He prostrated before Sankara and made his son also prostrate. He then explained that the boy had been dumb from his childhood, that he had no likes and dislikes, nor a sense of honour and dishonour,and that he was completely inactive. The Guru then raised the boy up and asked him as follows in a cheerful tone:

1. `Who are you? Whose child are you? Whither are you
bound? What is your name? Whence have you come? Oh
Child! I should like to hear your reply to these questions.'

Thus spoke Sri Shankaracharya to the boy, and Hastamalaka replied as follows.

2. I am neither man, God, yaksha, brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmachari, householder, forest-dweller, nor sannyasi; but I am pure awareness alone.

3. Just as the sun causes all worldly movements, so do I -- the ever-present, conscious Self -- cause the mind to be active and the senses to function. Again, just as the ether is all-pervading, yet devoid of any specific qualities, so am I free from all qualities.

4. I am the conscious Self, ever-present and associated with everything in the same manner as heat is always associated with fire. I am that eternal, undifferentiated,unshaken Consciousness, on account of which the insentient mind and senses function, each in its own manner.

5. I am that conscious Self of whom the ego is not independent as the image in a mirror is not independent of the object reflected.

6. I am the unqualified, conscious Self, existing even after the extinction of buddhi, just as the object remains ever the same even after the removal of the reflecting mirror.

7. I am eternal Consciousness, dissociated from the mind and senses. I am the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye, ear of the ear and so on. I am not cognizable by the mind and senses.

8. I am the eternal, single, conscious Self, reflected in various intellects, just as the sun is reflected on the surface ofvarious sheets of water.

9. I am the single, conscious Self, illumining all intellects, just as the sun simultaneously illumines all eyes sothat they perceive objects.

10. Only those eyes that are helped by the sun are capable of seeing objects, not others. The source from which the sun derives its power is myself.

11. Just as the reflection of the sun on agitated waters seems to break up, but remains perfect on a calm surface, so also am I, the conscious Self, unrecognizable in agitated intellects though I clearly shine in those which are calm.

12. Just as a fool thinks that the sun is entirely lost when it is hidden by dense clouds, so do people think that the ever-free Self is bound.

13. Just as the ether is all-pervading and unaffected by contact, so also does the ever-conscious Self pervade everything without being affected in anyway. I am that Self.

14. Just as a transparent crystal takes on the lines of its background, but is in no way changed thereby, and just as the unchanging moon on being reflected on undulating surfaces
appears agitated, so is it with you, the all-pervading God.

As this stotra reveals the Self as clearly as the amalaka fruit placed on the palm of the hand (hasta), it received the name Hastamalaka Strotra. Moreover, the boy, eminent in jnana , came to be praised by all people of this world as Hastamalaka.

The father of the boy was speechless with wonder at those words. But the Acharya said to him: `He has become your son because of his incomplete austerities. This is your good fortune. He will not be of any use to you in this world. Let him stay with me.' He bade him go back and, taking the boy with him, proceeded on his way. The disciples then asked him: `How did this boy attain the state of Brahman without hearing, etc.?' The Guru replied: `His mother left her twoyear old child in the care of a great and highly accomplished yogi who was practising austerities on the bank of the Yamuna while she went to bathe in the river with some women. The child toddled towards the water and was drowned. Out of his compassion for the disconsolate mother the sadhu forsook his body and entered that of the child. That is why this boyhas attained this high state.'


This is my response that I couldnt formulate upon a session I attended by a filmmaker on Indian Untouchability where he documents a large cross section of the population including the the current holder of the "paramacharya" where half articulated answers about the caste system didnt quite hit the nail for me. The usual stuff was dished out about how bad the current situation is (discrimination just went high tech in urban areas and still the same old sense in rural populace). There were arguments either side moving onto affirmative action, social justice and such. Whats more, quotes exclusively from ManuSmriti (which is quite an embarassment to all of us there) were leveraged to show what had befallen us. My post here is to simply prove a point that you can never talk about India or Hinduism or any of its culture in singular. It always has to be plural and then one wonders about the meaning of such expressions such as these (one way of interpreting that can be social equality or polytheism or any plural attribute claiming equality)

a = b = c = d = e =f = ....

As a mathematics student that tells me simply nothing unless the last part of equality is some "k" (or any other symbol you prefer) but the point is its gotta end in a constant or else it doesnt mean anything. I have myself convinced of that constant to be embedded in the above stotra and hence a nice point to mark it as one to remind myself later whenever such debates enter, this is where they kind of end...

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