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From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Wed Jun 30 1999 - 12:54:16 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

"samsArE kim sAram?", Sankara bhagavathpAdA was known to have asked. "What 
is the meaning of worldly existence?".

They say that he himself provided a pithy answer: "bahusah: abhi 
vichintyamAnam idam eva". Meaning, "You have asked the question. Keep asking 
it. And that is in itself the answer".

The question, as you see, is laconic; and the answer is rather ironic with a 
trace of derision too in it, we suspect. But it must appreciated that 
whatever they are, this Q&A of Sankara is not the stock-in-trade of some 
"mAyAvAdin" who is out to boggle the layman's mind. The message of Sankara's 
Question and Answer  (Q&A) is the message of an uncompromising Vedantin who 
appeals to us not to duck but to squarely face the difficult questions of 
existence… "Who am I? Why was I born? Where do I come from? Where am I 
going? How can I be free? How can I be fearless? Can I rid myself of desire 
and anger? Can I conquer my sinful self…?".

Sankara urges us to ceaselessly ask ourselves such questions at every phase 
in our lives even if we do not immediately find answers for them. If the 
answers are not found in this lifetime they will be found in the next one… 
and if not in the next, then in the following one… But never take any 
"vacation" off from your unending inquiry into the problems of existential 
condition (even if the "bhakti-list" does go off the I-net for a whole 
week!). Our indefatigable quest of the Truth about ourselves, the venerable 
"bhagavathpAdA" promises us, will one day surely and ultimately end in 

It is in the spirit of such diligent inquiry into man's plight in this 
temporal world that Sankara asks, "samsArE kim sAram?" and it is the same 
spirit too which pervades the poetic mood of the stanzas in the 
"lakshmi-nrsimha-karavalamba-stOtra" we have so far studied

In one verse Sankara asks "Is this "samsAra" a forest-fire ("jvAlA-valee)?". 
In another, as we saw, he asks "Is this "samsAra" a terrifying elephant 
("Bheekara-kareendra")? And so on … throughout the whole of the hymn…

In the last verse from the LNKS that we took up for discussion (before 
"bhakti" took off on a sudden and quick "vacation") the bhagavathpAdA had 
poetically asked if this "samsAra" was a "vrukshA" (a tree):

"samsAra-vruksha-maGhabeejam-anantha-karma shAKhAshatam…karaNa-patram 
       Aruh~ya dukhapalinam patha-taha…".

"An endless Fall's indeed my fate
>From the Tree of Life with sin as its seed
With greed its boughs and lust as leaves
With love as flower and woe its fruit."

When we were last discussing this verse a full week ago, we had said that 
Sankara's metaphor of  "samsAra-vrukshA" in it refers to the Vedas.  Many of 
you may have been baffled and shocked by the comparison. Given the context 
of the verse, you would have all indeed wondered how could the hallowed 
Vedas be the subject of the metaphoric "Tree of Life" whose "seed is sin", 
"greed its bough" and "woe its fruit"!

What profanity!

You may have all been even more perplexed when during the course of the 
discussions in the previous posts, the following verses from the "Gita" were 
also alluded to by way of support:

" sri bhagavAnUvAcha:

     "urdhva-moolam aDah:shAkham
         aswattham prAhur avyayam
       chandAmsi yasya parNani
         yas tam veda sa vedavit"  II     (Ch. 15 Verse 1)
(Thus spake Bhagavan Krishna: "There is a pipal tree and it has its roots 
going upward and its branches going down! It has the Vedic hymns for its 
leaves! He who knows this Tree knows the Vedas too!")

"Evam bahuviddha yagnyA vitatA brahmaNO mukhE  I
karmajAn viddhi tAn sarvAn evam gnyAtvA vimOksha-yasE"  II
(Ch.4 Verse 32)
(The Vedas prescribe and approve many "yagnyA-s". Knowing and performing 
them shalt thou be liberated!)

"sahayagnyA: prajA srushtavA purOvAcha prajApatihi I
    anEna prasavishyaDhvamEsha vO'astivashta-kAmaDhuk  II
(Ch.3 Verse 10)
(In the beginning of Creation the Lord created Man and He created Sacrifice 
too. Then He said to Man, "It is by sacrifice that you shall prosper; 
sacrifice shall be the cow of plenty that shall grant you all your wishes!")

"devAn bhAvayatAnEna tE devA bhAvayantu vah:
     parasparam bhAvayantaha shrEyaha param avApsyatha II
(Ch.3 verse 11)
(By this sacrifice please the gods and the gods in turn will support you. 
Thus nourishing one another may you both obtain the highest good.")

"ishtAnBhOgAnhi vO dEvA dAsyantE yagnyaBhAvitAha I
tyredatthAna-pradAyai-BhyO yO BhunktE stEna Eva sa  II
(Ch.3 verse 12)
(By the sacrifice offered by man will the gods be pleased and hence moved to 
reward him amply. But should man enjoy the bounty of the world without 
offering the gods their due, they regard him but as a thief!)

************      ***************      *************

After a week long "vacation" we are back to Square One in our understanding 
of this verse of the LNKS i.e. we understand nothing whatsoever of it!

We are as baffled by Sankara's "samsAra-vruksha" as we are of the many 
questions that plague us in our worldly existence, isn't it?

Yet and nonetheless must we resolve in the spirit of dogged inquiry which 
Sankara urges us all to examine the problems of worldly existence… ""samsArE 
kim sAram?" and "bahusah: abhi vichintyamAnam idam eva"… in that same dogged 
spirit must we resolve to continue our discussions on this and 2 more 
remaining verses of the LNKS and somehow seek some minimum understanding of 
their lofty content.

Onward thus we go to the next post... my dear fellow "visishtAvedAntin-s" !!

adiyEn dAsanu-dAsan,

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