Upadesa Saram, Class 1


Starting his teaching on Upadesha Saram, Swami Paramarthananda said it is another work of Bhagavan Ramana MahaRishi. It is a smaller work consisting of 30 verses. Upadesha Sahasri was another scripture written by Adi Shankaracharya, a large work consisting of 700 verses and 19 chapters.  Upadesha Saram is a comprehensive work presenting the entire Vedic teaching in a nutshell. It presents all Sadhana’s in a nut shell. Sad Darshanam another work of Ramana MahaRishi is primarily about Gyana Yoga while other yogas are only hinted at. Self-Enquiry is Gyana Yoga.

In this text all Sadhanani’s are dealt with while Gyana Yoga is the primary Sadhana. Most of us are not ready for Gyana Yoga. Gyana Yoga requires Gyana Yogyatha. Without preparation Gyana Yoga will fail. We will not only fail, but we will also lose faith in Gyana Yoga in this process.

Gyana Yogyatha Sadhanani are the stepping stones for Gyanam. Although they are a secondary spiritual Sadhana, they are required to make the primary sadhana work. They are very important even though they do notgive us moksha.

Any scripture dealing with Karma and Gyana is called comprehensive. Upadesha Saram is comprehensive. Swami Dayananda Saraswathi considered this the second most important book, first one being Tatva Bodha.  Tatva Bodha, Upadesha Saram and Gita’s Chapter 13 are considered the best texts for beginning Vedanta.

Like other works of Ramana MahaRishi, Upadesha Saram was written at the request of a devotee. Ramana himself was not inclined towards Vedantic writing. It was his devotee Murugesan who asked him to write this book. Murugesan was a Tamil scholar. He was writing a book based upon a story of the puranas. In this story, Shiva comes to the world as a Vedantic Guru or Rishi. The story goes that some ascetic householders attached to the Karma Kandi or Poorva Mimasa tradition were performing a Yaga. Poorva Mimamsi’s or Karma Kandi’s believed in rituals. They believed rituals would take them to heaven (Swarga). They also believed rituals, would give them the four Goals of Hindu Life: Kama, Artha, Dharma & Moksha .

Furthermore, they believed that rituals themselves gave the phalams and one need not believe in God. They believed Veda is eternal, world is eternal, and rituals themselves give us what we want without a God . They were non-believing Atheistic People. Due to some obstacle they were not able to come out of Karma Kanda. Lord Shiva wanted to help them and educate them.  So, Shiva staged a drama. Murugesan wanted to write about this.

The story goes, one day these Rishi’s decided to perform a Yaga. At that time Shiva called Vishnu and requested his help. They were friends. Shiva wanted Vishnu to come down as Mohini. He agreed to come down himself as an enchanting Brahmachari Bikshu. He suggested they ask the Rishi’s and Rishi’s wives respectively, for Bhiksha.  Mohini decided to go to the Yagashala. The Rishi’s saw Mohini and enchanted by her, followed her. But suddenly she disappeared. They realized something was wrong and they returned embarrassed. Upon return they noticed that their wives were not there.

At the same time Shiva as a Bhikshu had gone to the houses of Rishi’s and their wives seeing his enchanting form followed him. The Rishi’s ran back home and saw their wives following Shiva. In anger the Rishi’s attacked Shiva and used the mantra Abhicharaka Karmani to destroy him. Shiva, however, just stood and smirked at them. The Rishi’s understood that there was something wrong with their rituals. Then, in defeat, they surrendered to the Bhikshu. Now, Shiva coming into his form taught them the limitations of Karma. They were told they have to come to Atma Gyanam. This was taught to Karma Kandi Rishi’s in Darukavanam in Darukavana Upadesha. This was the story in
Puranas that Murugesan was writing about. He was at the stage of writing about Shiva’s Upadesha. He wanted Ramana MahaRishi to complete the Upadesha part. Murugesan was a great Bhakta of Ramana and he believed Ramana was Lord Shiva himself.  Acceding to his request Ramana MahaRishi composed Shiva Darukavanam Upadesha Sara. Upadesha means teaching while Sara means essence of.

In this teaching, Karma, proper handling of Karma, limits of Karma and beyond, are discussed. In Vedas too Karma Kanda is a Gyana Yogyata Sadhanam.  Ramana composed it originally in Tamil for Murugesan and called it Upadesha Undhiyan (a type of composition). Later Ramana himself recomposed it in Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam. So, he wrote the book in four languages. Ramana himself wrote all four.   This is the background for Upadesha Saram.

In this text Anushtup chanda metre is used. It is the smallest metre. It is sung in Punnagavarali Ragam. The Saram is in two parts.

Shlokas 1-13: Gyana Yogyatha Sadhanani. A variety of Karmas as per Karmakanda are described. They include:

  • Kayika Karma: Typical actions
  • Vachika Karma: Vocal actions
  • Manasa Karma: Upsasana action including Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali.

Shlokas 14- 30 is Vedanta Sara or Gyana Yoga.
Shloka #1:
In this shloka Ramana MahaRishi refutes Poorvamimasaka’s philosophy of ritualism. The misconception of Poorva Mimamsa is that Karma is without God. Sri Krishna says Karma without God will result in a huge bondage. Every stage of Karma must involve God. God is involved in karma in all stages. In initial stage, God receives all Karmas. Hence God is called Bhokta. Later God molds this Karma into a Karmaphalam. Bhagavan converts every Karma into phalam. This transformation has toconsider the many, many, laws governing the world that are involved in the conversion. Only someone who knows all laws can perform such a complex conversion.

Why do human efforts fail?  Because we are not able to consider alllaws that apply to our effort. This is the first factor.

The second mistake is that Karmi’s think Karma can give us an eternal Swarga. This is a misconception. Karma phalam is anithyam. Money is produced in time and lost in time. As the cause, so is the effect. The Veda read by Poorvamimasakas will not produce Moksha.

In shloka 1 Ramana negates these two ideas. In current world stress isa big problem. Meditation helps with stress. However, God is the only stress buster. Karma (godless) Produces Stress. Karma Yoga produces Shanthihi. Shloka #1 establishes God.

Note: At the end of the class Dr. Janaki Raman gave us a beautiful portrayal of Ramana MahaRishi’s life. He is a blessed man in that he has seen Ramana in person.

With Best Wishes,
Ram Ramaswamy