Thursday, November 30, 2006

Brief account of Gaudapadacharya and Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya - 01

Hare Krishna Friends,

As mentioned previously, we will start today with a brief chronicle of the Paramaguru and Guru of Adi Sankara. Today is the holy day of Ekadashi/ Gita Jayanthi (some celebrate it as Guruvayoor Ekadashi). Let us constantly remember Jagadguru Lord Krishna.

The following has been collected from the book “Adi Sankara – His Life and Times” compiled by Sri. T.M.P.Mahadevan. The book covers the series of lectures by Kanchi Mahasvami on Adi Sankara.

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When Lord Nataraja (Shiva) was dancing, Patanjali and Vyaghrapada were standing on either side and enjoying the dance. In pictures and sculptures of Lord Nataraja we may see the figures of these two sages standing on either side. The lower half of the body of Vyaghrapada is that of tiger and the lower half of the body of Patanjali is that of the serpent.

Patanjali is an incarnation of Adi Shesha. He wrote the great commentary on grammar. As he was the son of Atri, he is called Atreya. His mother’s name was Ghonika; therefore is he also known as Ghonikaputra. He wrote three treatises.

A sutra (aphorism) on Yoga.
Commentary on grammar
A manual called Charaka, a work on Ayurveda (medicine), which is an Upaveda (an auxiliary to the Veda). This work has also the name Atreya Samhita.

Thus Patanjali wrote treatises on three sciences which concern the mind, speech and body. The Yoga-sutra is the work conducive to the mind. It explains the method by means of which the mind may be controlled and purified. The commentary on grammar is helpful for speech. With its help we learn to speak without any flaws. The medical treatise Charaka will be found instrumental to maintain bodily health. He is thus the author of three works which are useful for purifying the three instruments, namely, the mind, speech and body.

The commentary which he wrote on grammar is known as Maha-Bhashya (Great Commentary). There is a saying to the effect “Only Adi Shesha who is endowed with a thousand tongues should explain the Maha-Bhashya.” Adi Shesha can explain anything. Having come to know that he (Patanjali) had written a commentary on grammar, many students went to him for receiving lessons. The number of students was one thousand. Patanjali was in the hall of thousand pillars at Chidambaram (a place in Tamil Nadu where there is the famous shrine of Nataraja).

He resolved to give his teaching quickly to the one thousand students. Thinking that he could not remove the doubts raised by all the students with one mouth he assumed his original form as Adi Shesha endowed with a thousand heads. Even the sight of Adi Shesha or the contact with his breath would reduce people to ashes. Therefore staying behind a screen he began to teach. What could be done to prevent any student going out of the hall while teaching was on? In order to prevent this from happening he gave this order: “If anyone goes out without my permission he will become a Brahma-raksas”. Brahma-raksas is a being similar to a ghost. Those who have studied the Vedas well and die prematurely remains as ghosts endowed with the memory of the Veda. They are called Brahma-raksas.

After stating this, Patanjali who was Adi Shesha began teaching them with one thousand mouths from behind the screen. He had also enjoined that the students should not look in, lifting the screen. A doubt came to one of the students. “How does the teacher, being one, instruct so many of us at the same time?” He then lifted the screen and looked in. The sight of Adi Shesha and the poisonous air that emanated from him reduced all the students to ashes. The number of those who were thus destroyed was nine hundred and ninety nine. Only one student had gone out at that time. He was a little dull-witted and was not able to understand well what Adi Shesha was teaching. Therefore he thought he could go out for a while and return later. And he went out.

Coming to know that nine-hundred and ninety nine disciples had died, Adi Shesha assumed again the form of Patanjali and appeared sorrowful because of the tragedy that had happened. At that time the student who had gone out re-entered. He came in with trepidation wondering as to what would happen to him since he had transgressed the teacher’s injunction. Patanjali who saw him coming became a little happy although this student was dull-witted. Patanjali felt happy because he had survived. There was no time thereafter for Patanjali to complete his teaching. Therefore he thought that he would bestow his grace on this sole-surviving student. Addressing him he said: “May you get to know all that I know. Because you went out without permission you have necessarily assumed the form of a Brahma-Raksas. Yet there is a means of salvation for you from this predicament. When you come to impart the instruction you have received from me to a student who is fit to receive it, you will be released from this curse.” All these details are given in a beautiful manner by Ramabhadra Dikshita, the author of works like Janakiparinaya, who lived two hundred years ago. The student to whom Patanjali bestowed his grace was Gaudapada, the one who belonged to the Gauda country.

The region which is to the north of Vindhya Mountains is The Gauda Country. The region which is to the south is the Dravida country. Among the Gaudas there are five sections. They are referred to as Pancha-Gaudas. Similarly, there are five sections of Dravidas. The Brahmins who have gone from the south to Kashi are known as Dravida-Brahmins. In the history books that are written now there is a distinction made between Aryas and Dravidas. Because of this there arise disputes. The distinction that was made of old is the one between Gaudas and Dravidas.

As a result of his teacher’s curse, the student who escaped death became a Brahma-raksas. He began to fly in the air. A Brahma-raksas would eat up every day a Brahmin learned in the Veda. Having assumed a form, it would drag those who are skilled in reciting the Veda to a distance, and after putting them several questions which they could not answer, it would beat them to death. Gauda who had become a Brahma-raksas went to the banks of the river Narmada and sat on an old fig tree which was there. That place is in between the five Gauda countries and the five Dravida countries. Those who went from South India to the North or from North India to the South had to pass through this place. Gauda would ask the scholars traveling via that place a question in grammar and they would blink being unable to answer. In those times there was no Maha-bhashya for grammar. Immediately the Brahma-raksas would beat them up and eat them.

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We will continue the next day.



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