nAmasmaraNam dhanyopAyam

Eight Steps to Perfection

1. shAktAbhiSheka
2. pUrNAbhiSheka
3. krama-dIkShAbhiSheka
4. sAmrAjyAbhiSheka
5. mahAsAmrAjyAbhiSheka
6. yoga-dIkShAbhiSheka
7. virAja-grahaNAbhiSheka
8. mahAsAmrAjya-medhAbhiSheka

Flavors of Advaita - 1

- by Dennis Waite

The truth of advaita can only ever be one. The very meaning of the word advaita tells us that the purport of any teaching must be the same. Any difference lies solely in the way that this message is transmitted. And any method is valid if it leads to the truth, as pointed out in the siddhAnta-bindu of shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI:

Whatever are the means by which the inner-Self is realized by men, those should be regarded as flawless, and they are endless.

I would like to differentiate five methods of teaching advaita, for the sake of clarity: advaita vedAnta, neo-vedAnta, Direct Path advaita, Neo-advaita and Psuedo-advaita. There is a distinct danger of confusion between the terms Neo-vedAnta and Neo-advaita since these are often used interchangeably.

There is also the danger that these teachings will be seen as some sort of progression, with neo-advaita as the latest, streamlined version of an outmoded, archaic traditional system. If they are seen as equivalent, the neo-advaita is certain to seem more attractive to many Westerners, claiming as it does that no effort is needed and that you (can) have it now. Finally as Greg Goode says, “it often seems that neo-advaita presents its own hard line stance as the type of advaita for those tough and clear enough to take their Whiskey straight, no chasers”.

None of these views is correct, as the reader will hopefully now appreciate. Greg goes on to say:

Every path has its way of presenting itself as an alternative. A traditional way to look at the differences among paths might be in terms of the energy or guNa balances, none more correct or privileged than the others.

Traditional: more inclusive and active, for those who resonate with karma and jnAna yoga, or who have a balance of rajas and sattva, with less tamas.

Direct: more intellectual and less active, for those who resonate with jnAna yoga, or who have lots of sattva, some tamas and less rajas.

Neo: more emotional and less active, for those who resonate with bhakti yoga, or those who have lots of sattva and tamas, and less rajas.

Traditional Advaita

This is regarded as that defined by shankara in his bhAShyas on the upaniShads, the bhagavad gItA and the brahmasUtras (together called the prasthAna traya). Shankara formalized the traditional method around the 8th century AD, according to most modern authorities. Swami sacchidAnandendra, in his very scholarly works, believes that shankara’s essential method depends upon the technique called adhyAropa - apavAda or false attribution followed by subsequent denial. Thus for example, it provisionally teaches such things as the five sheaths of being or the three stages of consciousness. Later however, once the implications have been taken on board, it acknowledges that all such ideas are only part of the superimposition that we make upon the non-dual reality in our ignorance. It describes the two aspects of vyavahAra and paramArtha and recognizes the interim validity, indeed necessity, of talking about people and objects, concepts and practices - even though none of these really exist.

The traditional approach is defined by scriptures, which are claimed to be the ultimate source of the truth. All traditional teachers refer, and invariably defer to them. Traditional advaita recognizes various paths that seekers may follow to help them on their way to enlightenment. Amongst these are the way of action (karma yoga), the way of devotion (bhakti yoga) and the way of knowledge (jnAna yoga).


It refers particularly to advaita as taught by Swami vivekAnanda and his followers. It is argued that Traditonal advaita was, in a sense, watered down and adapted so as to be more palatable to the western temperament, when vivekAnanda brought the message of Ramakrishna to the West in 1893. It aimed to be a philosophy in the sense that it was understood in the West, perhaps equated with a sort of Absolute Idealism, rather than shruti - the unauthored message contained in the scriptures.

The stance of Traditional vedAnta is that the teacher unfolds the scriptures so that the student (eventually) gains immediate apprehension of the Truth. In this sense, the shruti are the direct pramANa. There is the sense that Neo-vedAnta, instead, treats the subject as a philosophy that is studied and then the student goes out into the world, applies the knowledge gained and eventually realizes the Truth. The scriptures are then only indirect or even incidental.

Some traditionalists argue that key elements of Advaita have been lost in this process, which now concentrates almost exclusively on jnAna yoga rather than bhakti or karma. For example, Bithika Mukherjee says that in particular the principle of renunciation and the concept of Ananda or bliss have been ignored at the expense of the more intellectual aspects which themselves belong in the realm of mAyA. This might have resulted, she suggests, because traditional adherents were anxious to refute possible accusations that advaita was in some way mystical and also lacked ethical foundation.

James Swartz suggests that another consequence of vivekAnanda’s teaching was that Westerners began to look, through the teachings of advaita, for an enlightenment experience, a concept that does not occur in the pure Traditional Advaita but rather from the various yoga-s that derived from patanjali’s method. Whereas yoga used to be treated as a spiritual practice and preparation, it now became in danger of being pursued as an end in itself.

Before yoga sullied the pure teachings of vedAnta, enlightenment was considered to be the removal of ignorance about the nature of the Self. But with the ascendency of the yoga teachings, enlightenment came to be considered a permanent experience of the Self in contrast to the mundane experiences of everyday life, which obviously can’t be if this is a non-dual reality as the upaniShads claim. It cannot be a permanent experience, first because there is no such thing as a permanent experience and second, it cannot be an experience in a non-dual reality because the subject-object distinction necessary for experience is missing in a non-dual reality. If this is true, then the quest for a permanent enlightenment experience is pointless and what is needed, as traditional vedAnta says, is the knowledge of reality since the craving for experience, including the experience of the Self, is mAyA, the consequence of seeing oneself a doer who is separate from reality.

The reason why vivekAnanda is considered a neo-vedAntin by the traditionalists is because of the way he taught vedAnta. He taught it as a philosophy, as an intellectual discipline. His lectures were lectures. Lecture is not the method of teaching in traditional vedAnta although many who call themselves traditionalists lecture because they are not enlightened or did not learn how to wield the means of knowledge. vedAnta is a pramANa, a means of knowledge. It does not talk about the Self. When you talk about the Self, you inspire bhakti and a desire to know or experience it (yoga). When you teach It directly you reveal it. If it is considered that neo-vedAnta believes that the Self can become enlightened or experience enlightenment, then the views expressed contradict Traditional vedAnta.

It should also be noted that others deny that vivekAnanda is in any way not traditional. Certainly many of his lectures are clearly advaita in the traditional sense. It is possible that some later disciples have emphasized the yoga element of his teaching to the detriment of the advaita.

contd ...

Tranquility and Insight - 3

[Most Buddhist texts reject the different states of samAdhi including the nirvikalpa of the pAtanjala yoga and related darshanas as trance states of absorption and not mapping to true enlightenment. dhyAna, yoga, japa, prANAyAma, maNDala visualizations etc. are utilized as means to attain a state of tranquility but these states of absorption or a state of oneness is rejected by the mAdhyamikas as the state of true freedom or enlightenment. In fact, these states of yogic absorptions are, after a point, considered to a hinderance. The states of tranquility or samAdhi are to be utilized for the purpose of gaining insight, which alone liberates one from samsAra. Like the famous mAdhyamaka rule goes: samsAra is nirvANa, and it is all about perception. The following discussion is helpful is distinguishing Tranquility from Insight - HR]

Identification of the True Nature of Tranquility and Insight

Sandhinirmochana-sUtra states:

He who lives in solitude, settling the mind in inward purity, meditates on aspects of reality previously realized. Such a sentient being continuously draws his mind inward. By so achieving a state of tranquility and the ability to attain that state as many times as possible, one attains the perfect ease of body and mind. This is said to be - dwelling in tranquility.

The same text says:

Having achieved such ease, one should settle in this state, abandoning all thought forms, and then proceed to analyze the focus of contemplative absorption. “Insight” is the process of investigating the totality of contemplative absorption with a view to discerning properly and perfectly the reality of knowledge. It is achieved through the exercise of discrimination, observation, examination, endurance and yearning.

In simple words:

Tranquility is one-pointed concentration.
Insight is analytical comprehension.

sUtrAlamkAra states:

The mind settled in its purity
Is in a tranquil state.
Analysis of this state
Is Insight.

Vasubandhu comments on this verse thus: The mind resting in harmony through meditational absorption is in tranquility. Analysis of this state causes insight. Without meditational absorption, there cannot be tranquility and insight. Such is the description of the two states.

In general, tranquility is achieved by fixing the mind upon any object so as to maintain it without distraction. Insight is characterized as wisdom that analyses the reality of knowledge. Tranquility is achieved by focussing the mind on an object and maintaining it in that state until finally it is channelled into one stream of attention and evenness. Insight is attained through a general and detailed examination of reality and the systematic application of intellectual discrimination.

Focussing the mind on its ineffable essence and on images of reality, one maintains an awareness free from judgements and distractions. With a delight in all mental mages, one focuses the mind on the mark of inner absorption, maintains it, and channels it into a stream of attention and quietude. These methods produce a state of tranquility free from judgements and distractions. When one appreciates all images of meditation, which range from fixing the mind upon the marks of inward meditational trance and sustaining an absorption to intensely consolidating it into one stream and achieving meditational trance, this is called Tranquility.

Insight, on the other hand, is attained when a meditator, having achieved tranquility, now contemplates the various aspects of the mind and analyzes properly and perfectly its conditioned and unconditioned realities.

Concerning the mental images of tranquility and insight, tranquility is non-conceptual. It simply focuses on any given object without duality. Insight is the sublime perception that examines the nature of the mind.

Tranquility is a non-conceptual perception of phenomena that discerns neither their extent nor their exact nature. Insight is a conceptual perception of phenomena that discerns their extent and exact nature.

Tranquility is so called because, having pacified distractions, one focusses always on an inward image joyfully, naturally, and without interruptions while maintaining perfect ease of mind. Insight is that which examines the nature of that tranquil state so long as it remains.

There are three aspects of Insight:

1. That which originates from conceptual judgement: it originates from the analysis of a perceived image of contemplative absorption.
2. That which is attained through perfect inquiry: it arises from the intellectual investigation of the unknown aspects of the mind.
3. That which is achieved through analytical examination: it arises from perfect analysis of the mental aspects of reality, which the intellect has understood in all its subtleties.

Insight differentiates systematically and fully all things with respect to their apparent and true nature. It also examines fully and perfectly duality and non-duality. This investigation remedies harmful and dualistic tendencies. Not only does insight deliver one from the wrong course, but it also directs the mind to focus on the right path.

Insight is said to consist of four stages:

1. That which differentiates all aspects of reality.
2. That which differentiates absolute reality.
3. The examination of the concept of duality.
4. The understanding of that duality.

The mind must rest in tranquility during all this.

How does one differentiate the reality of all phenomena?

1. A crystal-clear analysis, keen intellectual perception or a purifying mental image that eliminates distortions.
2. Differentiation of the nature of reality as it is.
3. A complete intellectual examination that must occur when the mind clings to duality.
4. Perfect examination that results when one perceives reality perfectly.

Insight may be determined through six methods of investigating the nature of the mind:

1. Reality
2. Substance
3. Characteristics
4. Spatial dimensions
5. Time
6. Dialectical process

Most doctrinal treatises related to the sUtras that the tranquility should be attained first and insight afterward:

Mastery of the preceding principle results
In the realization of the succeeding principles.
The former is inferior and coarse,
The latter superior and subtle.

Knowing that insight arises from tranquility
And clears the defilements of the mind,
One should first achieve tranquility.

contd ...


Sangitakalanidhi Padmavibhushan Smt. D K Pattammal patti is undoubtedly our most adored personality of Carnatic Music, closely followed by Sangitakalanidhi Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. We have had the privilege of being acquainted with both these great personalities and Patti has always succeeded in touching our hearts with her Simplicity, Devotion and Dedication to Her art. She has seldom failed to evoke tears of joy, be it through her music or words. She may also be regarded as our Guru in a sense as she taught us the Kriti shrIguruguha tAraya Ashu mAm in less than thirty minutes. The last words she told us were these, along with her characteristic child-like smile: "We both are doing the same! You access nAda through japa and I through samgIta. And both of us have the highest regards for shrI dIkshitar. It's so nice". Patti's music is a sure way to establish one's contact with the Divine.

Malkauns Meets Hindola

padmanAbha shatakam


या ते पादसरोजधूळिरनिशं ब्रह्मादिभिर्निःस्पृहैः
भक्त्या सन्नतकन्धरैः सकुतुकं संधार्यमाणा हरे |
या विश्वं प्रपुनाति जालमचिरात् संशोषयत्यम्भसा
सा मां हीनगुणं पुनातु नितरां श्रीपद्मनाभान्वहम् ||

तस्मात् छिन्दि मदीय मोहमखिलं संसारबन्धावहं
भक्तिं त्वत्पदयोर्दिश स्थिरतरां सर्वापदुन्मूलिनीम् |
वाणीं त्वत्पदवर्णने पटुतमां विद्वज्जनाह्लादिनीं
देहि त्वत्पदसेवकाय ननु मे कारुण्यवारान्निधे ||

इन्द्रद्युम्ननृपः करीन्द्रजननं प्राप्तोऽथ शापेन वै
नक्राक्रान्तपदो विमोचनपटुः नाभूत्सहस्रं समाः |
भूयस्त्वामयमर्चयन् सरसिजैः शुण्डोद्धृतैः सादरं
सारूप्यं समवाप देव भवतो नक्रोऽपि गन्धर्वताम् ||

पापः कश्चिदजामिलाख्य धरणीदेवोऽवसत्सन्ततं
स्वैरिण्या सह काममोहितमतिः त्वां विस्मरन् मुक्तिदम् |
अन्ते चाह्वयदीश भीतहृदयो नारायणेत्यात्मजं
नीतः सोऽपि भवद्भटैस्तवपदं संरुद्ध्य याम्यान् भटान् ||

सदा प्रसक्तां विषयेष्वशान्तां
मतिं मदीयां जगदेकबन्धो |
तवैव कारुण्यवशादिदानीं
सन्मार्गगां प्रेरय वासुदेव ||

नृणां भवत्पादनिषेवणं तु
महौषधं संसृतिरोगहारि |
तदेव मे पङ्कजनाभ भूयात्
त्वन्मायया मोहितमानसस्य ||

यदीह भक्तिस्तव पादपद्मे
स्थिरा जनानामखिलार्तिहन्त्री |
तदा भवेन्मुक्तिरहो करस्था
धर्मार्थकामा किमु वर्णनीयाः ||

चिन्मयाम्बुनिधिवीचिरूप सनकादिचिन्त्य विमलाकृते
जातिकर्मगुणभेदहीन सकलादिमूल जगतां गुरो |
ब्रह्मशङ्करमुखैरमेय विपुलानुभाव करुणानिधे
भावयामि हृदये भवन्तमिह पद्मनाभ परिपाहि माम् ||

Chidambaram Subrahmanya Dikshitar


shrImAtre namaH

As I sat in immense pain suffering from toothache, the attempt to immerse myself in vedanA-sati as directed by the tathAgata turned futile. The ever favorite practice of being aware of the Awareness as taught by bhagavAn ramaNa refused to become accessible and the mind sought refuge at the lotus feet of our kuladevatA, the six-faced son of parAmbA. ‘lopAmudrA’ Smt. prakAshAmbA had always told us how great Masters such as Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar, father of Brahmasri chidAnandanAtha and others had freed themselves of afflictions through the grace of shrI devasenApati. My own grandfather had been a naiShthika upAsaka of Lord sUryanArayANa and a knower of the secrets of Aditya Tantra. However, after coming under the loving and protective care of Smt. prakAshAmbA, Aditya and agni were replaced by the upAsana of ShaDAnana and he was always the last refuge when in physical distress. The mind, still immature and easily bothered by something as insignificant as pain, appealed to the great Lord to grant relief from pain, reciting the manu of shatrusaMhAra mUrti. Within about 14 minutes, the grace of the Lord was felt as an immense hot wave of energy sweeping through the body. In a matter of minutes, it was hard to believe there ever was any pain in the tooth.

To offer thanks to the brother of our beloved hastimukha, we performed AvaraNa pUjA for both saguNa and nirguNa mUrti-s and concluded the ritual with vaTu-pUjA. A gentleman who arrived at that point mentioned that his ancestor was the great Chidambaram Subrahmanya Dikshitar and that brought back a chain of memories.

Chidambaram Subrahmanya Dikshitar, nearly forgotten today, was one of the greatest upAsaka-s of Subrahmanya in the early part of this century. Though his ancestors were from Chidambaram, his own family had a tiff with the head dIkshitar of Periya Kovil at Chidambaram and had moved to Kumbhakonam. Dikshitar was a postmaster by profession and taught Veda and prasthAnatraya bhAShya in his spare time. He was married to Smt. Tripurasundari and had two sons and a daughter. Greatly devoted to Lord chitsabhApati and bhagavatI shivakAmasundaryambA, Dikshitar visited Chidambaram often. During one such visit, he had the good fortune of meeting Pacchamalai Swamigal, an avadhUta from Kanyakumari who was visiting Chidambaram. Swamigal, known as Ramakrishna Bhagavatar in his pUrvAshrama, was a great upAsaka of subrahmaNya and was respected as the very incarnation of Sage Agastya. Swamigal found great potential in Dikshitar and initiated him into the secrets of kaumAra tantra, where maNi and auShadha were as important as mantra. Dikshitar successfully completed the purashcharaNa of mUla ShaDakShara mantra of guha (which is less known compared to subrahmaNya, kumAra or sharavaNa mantras) in Tiruttani and had a grand vision of the Lord. He is known to have cured innumerable people of various diseases by the power of his mantra siddhi. During this time, he also came in contact with Brahmasri Chidanandantha and was initiated into Srividya by ‘Sir’. Sri Chidanandatha in turn used the treasure trove of kaumAra material in the possession of Dikshitar (which was the lifelong collection of his Guru Sri Pacchamalai Swamigal), condensed it with his own knowledge of kaumAra vidhi transmitted by Paramahamsa Sri Guhanandanatha and designed saparyA vidhis for both saguNa and nirguNa forms of the Lord. Sir also included the nAmAvaLis composed by his paramaguru shrI AtmAnandanAtha which bring out the true essence of subrahmaNya tattva.

Dikshitar himself authored a more comprehensive worked named subrahmaNya pUjA kalpa which, along with mantra, AvaraNa krama, prayogas etc., includes six different trishatI stotras of the Lord. I first came across a copy of this book while looking for a clean version of the shatrusamhAra trishatI. shrI yogAnandanAtha (Sri Kunchita Padayyar), a shiShya of Chidanandantha, was a great astrologer and an upAsaka of Sri Ucchishta Ganapati; he had published a prayoga of shatrusamhAra trishatI which was reasonably clean but still with errors. Having gone through nearly forty different copies and manuscripts of the trishatI, Dikshitar’s version which also had a Tamil commentary was truly the Lord’s gift for me. Both Sri Chidanandanatha and Dikshitar rely on Agastya Samhita as the chief source of mantras and AvaraNa kramas. Though Dikshitar describes the vidhi for tANDava subrahmaNya, the chief form of ShaDAnana worshipped in the AmnAya krama of bimbAmbikA sampradAya, the mantra and vidhis are significantly different. Though the index of the work lists chapters devoted to auShadha and kAyAkalpa, the copy in my possession are missing these chapters. Dikshitar attaches much more importance to mUla mantra trishatI of sharavaNa than the popular shatrusamhAra trishatI in this work. He also refers to a sahasranAma from skandayAmaLa (chitrakUTa-kumAra sahasranAma) which I have so far failed to locate.

Dikshitar was a prolific writer and is said to have authored at least fifty works on Srividya and worship of Brahmanya. It is unfortunate that Dikshitar and his works are forgotten today. akShara shuddhi in his works is remarkable and worthy of emulation.

सुब्रह्मण्यकराम्बुजप्रविलसत् ज्योतिर्मयं सुस्थितम् |
ज्ञानस्योत्तरशक्तिसंयुतमहं वेलायुधं भावये ||

shAkta siddhAnta – 13

The viewpoint of the dualistic Agamas may now be summed up. Here the divine essence or shiva is conceived as inalienably associated with a shakti or Power which is purely divine and identical with it. The Essence and Power, both of the nature of chit or pure consciousness, constitute the two aspects of one and the same divine principle. Shiva is a transcendent unity. Shakti too is really one, though it appears as jnAna and kriyA according to the character of the data on which it functions. It is the will (icChA) of shiva and is essentially one with Him. Bindu is the eternal material principle outside shakti, and the three principles are usually described as the three jewels (ratna) of shaivism and its holy Trinity. In creation (in pure creation directly and in impure creation indirectly), Shiva’s place is that of an agent, shakti’s is that of an instrument and bindu serves as the material stuff. Shakti being immaterial never suffers any modification during action but bindu does. The modification of bindu, which follows from a disturbance of its equilibrium (kShobha) under the stress of divine shakti at the end of cosmic night (praLaya) gives rise to the five kalA-s which appear as it were like five concentric circles with greater and greater expansion. These kalA-s which precede further progressive modifications called tattvas and bhuvanas bear the names of nivR^itti (outermost), pratiShThA, vidyA, shanti and shAntyatIta (inmost). This represents one line of evolution of bindu, as that of the objective order (artha). The other line is represented by the evolution of sound or shabda. In this aspect we find nAda, bindu and varNa as the threefold expression of bindu arranged in an order of increasing externality.

Bindu is synonymous in this system with mahAmAyA and kuNDalinI. It is pure matter-energy and is to be distinguished from mAyA and prakR^iti, which are impure. In fact shaiva Agamas of all schools which recognize the thirty-six tattvas distinguish mAyA from prakR^iti. They are identified in the shvetAshvatara upaniShad: mAyAM tu prakR^itiM vidyAnmAyinaM tu maheshvaram. In the Agamas generally, mAyA is eternal but prakR^iti is not so. For prakR^iti is evolved from kalA which itself is an evolute from mAyA. But in some places in the tantras they are definitely conceived. prakR^iti stands for the material principle in a general way and mAyA is one of the vikalpas under this category. Bindu this is the matrix of pure creation, i.e. of shabda and artha, so that it is to be looked upon as of a dual nature. The pauShkara Agama says: shabdavastUbhayAtmA.asau bindurnAnyatarAtmakaH.

The order of shabda creation out of the disturbed mahAmAyA is thus given:

1. mahAmAyA
2. nAda
3. bindu
4. sAdAkhya
5. Isha
6. vidyA

In this scheme mahAmAyA stands for para-bindu in its undisturbed condition and nAda represents the same bindu when the chit shakti has acted upon it. As the action of shakti upon bindu is in a sense constant, it may be assumed that mahAmAyA and nAda are really two aspects (logically successive but in actual fact simultaneous) of the same principle, nAda representing the disturbed part of mahAmAyA. If mahAmAyA is kuNDalinI in its essence, nAda is the same kuNDalinI in its awakened and active state. mahAmAyA as such has no relation with puruSha but as nAda or kuNDalinI it resides in every puruSha, normal and super-normal.

contd ...