In this concluding post of the series, Ganapati Muni’s commentary elucidates the forms of Skanda and Indra which bear the mantra’s sound-wave, Sabda Brahman, seeing them realised in his spiritual brother and mentor, Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala. See also the three preceding posts, and search “Puranas” on this blog for a racy account of the Skanda mythology.
Note: the god Skanda is also known as Kumara, Murugan (or Subrahmanya) and Krtikkai.
Third Chapter: The Vedic Mantra of Guha
by Ganapati Muni
We have commented upon the two Tantric Mantras of the master Ramana. Yet his Mantras are found even in the Veda. Amongst them, here is a clear cut Mantra of Bhagavan:
“Vrsa jajana vrsanam ranaya
tamu cinnari naryam sasuva.
Prayah senanir adha nrbhyo astinah
satva gavesanah sa dhrsruh.”
- The seer is Vasishtha. The Deity is Indra and the metre is Trishtubh.
- vrsa is “Rudra who is of the form of Sabda Brahman”. He is vrsa because “he pours down (varsati) the special knowledge”;
vrsanam “the God who showers down flames ranavya for battle”.
To wage war brings forth the meaning – vrsa jajana – (Rudra)
- Tamu – the way God, u, is indeclinable (without inflexions) – suggests the loftiness of the Name with which it is closely associated
- nari cit is the divine Force: cit is indeclinable, used to denote the indescribable.
If nari is derived from nara, men, then the word nari (feminine) means the Kundalini sakti hidden in man. (*)
- sasuva – “is produced”. In what way ? Naryam – “born amongst men” – are the leaders, or perfected beings.
FOOTNOTE - * Nari is feminine (nari-kundalini)
THIS IS THE TRANSLATION IN ESSENCE:
“Kundalini sakti in the body of perfected man produces for ‘battle’
Indra’s form within the fire of astra from Sabda Brahman.”
God, taking birth, “becomes the commander – senanih – of the armies of the Gods”.
The third and fourth lines of the verse conclude:
- adha nrbhvo asti – “and a helper to their leaders”
- inah (means) svami – “the Master”,
- satva “is the possessor of sat, of Truth”
- gavesanah “seeking out”
- sa “the acclaimed God”
- dhrsruh, “assailer of all foes.”
To read here that Indra is being referred to and not Subrahmanya (Skanda), presents no problem. The ‘ordinary’ name for the fire of astra is Indra, and Kumara (Skanda) is the special name.
In what way ordinary? or special? For instance, the common name for the sun is Light, but his special or personal name is Surya.
Indra denotes broadly, all ideas of multi-faceted strength.(18)
According to a thing’s true nature, each facet of it has separate specific or ‘special’ names. In the Veda and the Brahmana it is well-known that Indra is the god of strength. The fire of astra is a powerful and mighty concept, for which, combined with supreme Lordship, Indra’s name (as the ‘ordinary’) is appropriate. The commanding fire of astra is described specifically as Kumara. There exists another reason beyond all this, which we shall submit later.
FOOTNOTE: 18 Indra denotes the strong lord, as in Mahendra, Kavindra, Munindra, etc.
WHERE ‘ITIHASA’ IS APPROPRIATE
When the world was afflicted by powerful Asuras, the Gods begged and prayed to Brahma the Creative power for relief. Brahma replied the young Kumara (Skanda) born of Rudra from Gauri would destroy the Asuras. Later Kama the god of lust was sent by the Gods to incline ascetic Rudra towards the idea of progeny. Kama was burnt up (by one look from Rudra’s third eye). Thereupon, the young Gauri did tapas. Attracted to the severity of her tapas (spiritual effort) Rudra married her. Uniting with her, he ejected his seed upwards. The seed took shelter successively in the fire, in the water and in the stalk of sara grass, and finally became the young one, Kumara.
In other words: All human means were futile to conquer the Asura race (of demons) who devastated the world by the strength of their maya. Here we should take the Asura race as a specific, or special human type; in the world of men the Kingdom of Asuras became perpetual. (A problem cannot be solved with itself; the higher octave has to be called in.) The Gods gave astra, wisdom (*) to the seers, in order to destroy the Asuras. With the destruction of the Asuras, the Kingdom of the devotees of God became once more established on earth.
This story is related by Itihasa in a covert manner. When the jiva does tapas, firstly kama, desire, is burnt by the glory of tapas. We should not forget the fact, that the state of tapas is poised in the effulgence of Sabda Brahman. Though desire is burnt up in its gross form, it prevails in the seed form, and impels the Kundalini sakti, called Gauri (or Parvati), to perform tapas. About Kundalini being called Gauri, it is said in the Upanishad: “pita bhasatyanupama.” (19) Gauri’s form of Kundalini is fairly wellknown in the Tantra. By her tapas, the Sabda Brahman manifests.
The whole purport is that the form of the Supreme Vak (pronunciation, divine speech) becomes capable of experiencing. When Kundalini herself, reunited with Sabda Brahman, performs tapas, the sound vibration (energy) manifests. It impels the energised sound in the sky, and becomes the astra.
The seed of Sabda Brahman is cultured in the fire of muladhara (root) and the nectar of the head (sahasrara) – these are said to be its consecutive sojourns in Agni and in Ganga. (20)
The manifestation in the stalk of sara grass has been described in the Second Chapter.
We have to take the Asuras as belonging to all times, not as born in a particular period. Itihasa’s aim is to propound an all time truth.
FOOTNOTES: * - or Awareness 19 - Gauri, lit. "of golden yellow colour." The Narayana Upanishad says "Yellow, like an atom, she shines." 20 - In the subtle body, the centre at the base of the spine is muladhara and the centre at the top of the head is sahasrara. Muladhara is the seat of Fire, while sahasrara is the seat of the moon wherefrom the nectar flows. As Ganga is the celestial river, she symbolises the nectar in sahasrara while Agni is the element in muladhara. The seed of the Sabda Brahman passes from muladhara to sahasrara, and has its sojourn in both centres before it manifests. This is the meaning of the Puranic story that Skanda is born from Agni as well as from the Ganga.
WHO IS THE ASURA TARAKA?
Well, is it not to destroyTaraka that Skanda is born? Is Taraka a historical personage?
No. Yet, Tarakasura represents a truth. Taraka is death, one who (as the ferryman) takes across – tarati – all men. (20A) In both ways, Guha (in heart’s cave) conquers Death. By granting Self knowledge, he conquers death, the lack of awareness which causes samsara. By the strength of the astra, he conquers death, the desire of his foes. It is said in the Puranas that the Tripura Asuras are sons of this same Taraka. The Tripura Asuras are none other than the three bonds. (21) Their father is lack of awareness. That is, we fall from the Self into the body – into the idea (of being separate), of considering it as the self.
FOOTNOTE: 20A See also tara, goddess of time 21 The Three Bonds are the three pasas from which release is sought from Varuna by the Vedic Rishi. In the later Tantra, these take the form of the three granthi knots in the subtle body: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
COMMANDER OF ARMIES
How do the words commander of armies in the Mantra signify ‘commander of armies of the gods?’ Indra, the King of Gods, becomes in this context their commander. This is made clear in another Mantra:
“Indra asem neta brha spatir Let Indra be the leader. Let Brhaspati
dakshina yajnah pura etu somah go in front, Dakshina, the sacrifice, and Soma
Devasenanam abhibhanjatinam Let the Maruts march in the forefront
jayantinam maruto yatvagram.” of the army of the Gods that demolish and conquer
Rig Veda X.103.8
This Mantra is mentioned in the chapter on astra. Also, the word ina in the Mantra became later on in the common parlance the word svami, (22) Master.
“Vavrajasim anadatir adabdha He moved all round the seven mighty ones
divo yahvir avasana anagnah of Heaven; undevouring, inviolate.
Sana yatra yuvatayah, sa yonir neither were they clothed, nor were they naked;
Ekam garbham dadhire sapta vanih.” here, young and eternal in one native land
the seven Voices held in their womb the one Child
Rig Veda III.1.6. (Sri Aurobindo’s translation)
Sapta vanih are the Seven metres* in Sanskrit poetry. The birth of Agni as this Mantra is nothing other than the fire of astra. This is revealed in the hymn of Agni in the sense of burning: but not with the idea of physical fire.
FOOTNOTES: 22 - Svami is one of the principle names of Skanda. * - The seven metres represent also seven stars in the Pleiades constellation, the 'natural mothers' of the child Skanda. Gauri Siva's bride was the daughter of the Himalaya. She is also known as Parvati in the Puranic cycle. The river Ganga, lit by the seven stars and the moon,"poured down"/ descended through Siva's matted dreadlocks in their love-play. As stated earlier, neither the fire (Agni) nor the water (Ganga) could receive his seed. It finally came to rest in the stalk of the mantric sara grass. From the mythology we gain some idea of the elemental power of mantra. See previous post - Part Three.
Another version of this tale is Siva's seduction of the wives of seven Rishis (seers) in the forest. Entering the heart of the fire (Agni) to which the women came to warm themselves,Siva impregnated them through their hair follicles, causing chaos in the ashram. The seed could not be held by them, or by fire or by water, until it came to rest in the grass; then Gauri's breasts filled, and the world rejoiced, unknowing as yet where the divine child with six heads lay. Ganapati Muni saw in his spiritual brother Ramana Maharshi, the effulgence of Skanda the warrior of light who delivered us from Taraka. Ramana taught Self-enquiry which dismantles the mind and quests consciousness: the "I ... I". (J.A.)
COMMENTARY CONTINUED: ENQUIRY INTO THE PERSONALITY
Now we must say a word about the individualised Personality of the maya (23) form of Brahman with attributes, which is known as Subrahmanya.
We say that Indra alone is Guha’s form pertaining to the Gods. This is because Agni, the energy of sound-vibration is in the middle region; and Indra is the Lord of the middle region. This is proven in the Aranyaka when, referring to Indra, it closes with the words, Subrahmanyam, Subramanyam.
Indra’s Vedic fame as the War God, lends additional support.
What is Siva’s form among the Gods? It is Indra only. If it is said, that as father and son they are one and the same, this is correct. The only difference to note, is regarding the hidden Sabda Brahman and the manifest sound vibration. The relationship of father and son is mentioned to specify Siva and Subrahmanya (Skanda).
What is Ganapati’s form among the Gods? It is Indra only. If it is said, that as brothers Ganapati and Subrahmanya are one and the same, this is correct. The only difference to note, is that regarding the perfected mantra within, and the astra Agni impelled by it. The fraternal relationship demonstrates that first the mantra is born from Sabda Brahman; then the astra Agni. Through the concept of Ganapati, we explain Brihaspati and Brahmanaspati. (24)
What is lightning’s form pertaining to the Gods? It is Indra only. Here he has a unique quality. Indra is named as the deity of Lightning.
There are other great conceptual facets in the middle region, with Indra as their deity. They are not mentioned here, as we would have to go into a lot of detail.
FOOTNOTES: 23 Maya - form - the form that we measure out of the immeasurable 24 Ganapati, Brihaspati and Brahmanaspati - all three names denote the same Godhead in the Veda of the famous Rik "Gananam tva ganapatim lawamake ..." Brishaspati - Lord of the letters; Brahmanaspati - Lord of the Mantras. Brahma means both letter and mantra in the veda. Ganapati Lord of tantra, and these two names, denote the same Godhead.
THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THE DIFFERENT DESCENTS
By means of whichever portion of energy the Lord Indra descends into awareness, the descent bears that specific or personal Name.
Indra’s descent as a portion of the lightning bears his own name. His descent as a portion of Sabda Brahman is named Rudra. His descent as the force of Tantra is known by the name Ganapati, and his descent as a portion of sound vibration is called Skanda. Ganapati and Subrahmanya (Skanda) are brothers, and they are interdependent.
We have briefly interpreted the three great Mantras of the Master. We shall develop the conceptual truth of Skanda in our Devata mimamsa. (25)
FOOTNOTES 25 - Another of Vasishtha Ganapati Muni's works, where he unravels the significances of the Deities
Thus Ends the Third Chapter.
Thus ends the Commentary on the Mantras of the Master,
a work of Ganapati Vasishtha, son of Narasimha
and disciple of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi
The Closing Verse
“Munina srimukhe simhe dive suryendusangame
Suryoparagasamaye bhasyam etadudiritam.”
“In the month Sravana of the year Srimukha
on a new Moon day, at the time of Solar eclipse,
this Commentary was given out by the Muni.”
APPENDIX TO THE COMMENTARY
1). Subrahmanya is the one who is born of the auspicious Brahman, that is, Sabda Brahman.
2). By this we have explained the name Brahma garbha (from the womb of Brahma)
Vide Amara: “Subrahmanya brahma-garbha svami saravanodbhavah”.
3). Kumara, eternal child. He is born, finishes the work and again vanishes. Again manifests at the time of work. Therefore, he is called the eternal child. In the Veda, in the Hymn to Indra, is mentioned ‘arbhako na kumarakah‘26 . Also, ‘sadyo jajnano nirinati saturn’.27
4). By this we have explained the name sanat kumara – sanat always; kumara, young one.
5). Sanatsujatah also in the same way. sanat, always; sujatah, well born.
6). Sanandana samanah equal nandanah, son (giver of happiness) to Rudra along with Ganapati.
7). Sanakeh, eternal.
Thus these four names denote one and the same person. Perhaps because of their different manifestations, it appears they were mentioned as four (28) .
26 The youth like a little child 27 Born at once, he demolishes the foes. 28 The four disciples of Shiva as Dakshinamurti: Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata. Etymologically they have the same meaning and denote one and the same principle. (See also Sanatanadharma)
Here the Commentary and Appendix by the Muni ends.
We express our grateful thanks to Sri K.Natesan of Ramanasramam for making this rare manuscript available to us, and for his help with the text. Ganapati Muni’s Commentary on the Mantra of the Master, was recently published by Ramanasramam, along with the first translation into English of Kapali Sastri’s sanskrit Commentary on the Ramana Gita. Material from this has been utilised for the present work.
For the benefit of English readers, the language and presentation of the Guru Mantra Bhashya text have been slightly adjusted, and translations of Vedic Mantras, that were provided as footnotes, are now incorporated in the text, for easier reference..
J.A. Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK 2002
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