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Taitreya Upanishad, Class 20

Greetings All,

Chapter # 1, Anuvakaha # 11, Shloka # 1 through 4:

Summarizing last class Swamiji said Anuvakaha 11 summarizes the dharma shastras covering topics of values, ethics, puja and developing a proper attitude. Our teachings are scriptures oriented, not person oriented. In person oriented it tends to become a cult while in scripture oriented it becomes a tradition. Until I understand scriptures, the Guru is important, but once I have access to the scriptures, the Guru is supposed to recede to the background. Our scriptures and traditions don’t allow creation of a cult. The Vedic Acharya says, I have taught you now on give more validity to scriptures. At all times scriptures alone rule and nothing else does.

Whenever you have great people available make use of their presence to learn. Make them talk more to learn from them.

Chapter # 1, Anuvakaha # 11, Shloka # 5:

Gifts should be given with faith; they should never be given without faith; they should be given in plenty; with modesty and with sympathy. Let there also be agreement in opinion (or friendly feelings) when gifts are offered.

Our scriptures talk of numerous disciplines and sadhanas. They have also condensed them for us into three basic sadhanas as well. The three fundamental sadhanas are:

  1. Yagya
  2. Dana
  3. Tapaha

These are three fundamental religious disciplines. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the Gita’s Chapter # 18, both mention these sadhanas.

Yagya: It is leading a life style of worship or leading a prayerful life. From the moment one gets up in the morning until one goes to sleep every activity performed is converted into worship.

Tapaha: Moderation in everything is important. Golden means has to be adopted. Don’t let any activity get out of hand. You must be able to say “no” to anything, at any time. Moderation is just one meaning of Tapaha.

Danam: It is sharing with others. Make your life one of taking as well as giving. When both are practiced, only then the cycle of universe continues. There should not be any stagnation. Thus, the water cycle is: Ocean>cloud> river>ocean. Everything is life is cyclic. If we refuse this, then stagnation occurs and it affects negatively. In health as well energy taken in must equal energy put out else health problems occur.  Superficially Danam appears like a loss. Scriptures, however, say whatever you give alone comes back. Hatred comes back. Love comes back. So, give good and things in plenty. Danam is highlighted in this shloka. Panch Maha Yagya also requires charity.

How to perform Danam?

1) Give with Shradha or with faith. Nothing given is a loss. It always comes back to me. I may lose materially but I gain spiritually. It comes through inner growth or through Chitta shudhi. This faith must be strong.

2) Ashradhaya Adeyam: Do not give without faith. When you give without faith you tend to see only the loss. Don’t give with heartburns. Even if you don’t have faith, give. Faithless giving is better than not giving at all. One hopes this giving will lead to faithful giving.

3) Shriya Deyam: Give in abundance. Depending upon your capacity give proportionately.

4) Hriya Deyam: Don’t look down upon the receiver. Arrogantly given danam becomes Rajas and or Tamas Danam. Gita, in chapter 17 discusses this topic. During giving, have the feeling that you have the good fortune to be able to help others.

5) Bhiya Danam: Give with concern to the receiver. Whatever you give must help others. One must have empathy. Identify with problem of receiver and give.

Here another shastric meaning comes in. Danam is considered a compulsory duty by shastras. You have to share with others without expecting anything back. It can even be kind words or even service to others. Live like the trees. They give more than they receive. That is why everybody wants trees. However, nobody wants more humans around as they only take. Giving is not a kamya karma; it is considered a nitya karma, like giving tax. If you don’t do your Vedic duties you can get Pratyavaya Papam. So to fulfill your daily karmas, give.

Samvida Deyam: Giving must be performed with understanding of Desha (place), Kala (time) and Patram (recipient must be a deserving person). You need not give to persons without right credentials. One can find appropriate institutions and give through them as well.

Keep in mind that Danam is not money alone, it includes seva, kindness etc. as well.

Shlokas # 6, 7 and 8:

Shloka # 6:

Now, if there should arise any doubt regarding your acts or any uncertainty in respect of your conduct in life, you should act in those matters exactly as those Brahmanas who are present there, who are thoughtful, religious (experienced), not set on by others, not cruel (i.e. gentle) and are devoted to dharma.

Previously we saw scriptures are the primary source of dharma and adharma (do’s and don’t’s). But Vedas do not discuss all possible situations in life. They are already very voluminous. So, Vedas do provide guidelines for us. We should be able to interpret them according to scriptures and according to situations. Therefore interpretation is important. With time, society and life styles change and they have to be taken into consideration. Vedas are very flexible in this regard. Citing an example Swamiji says Vedas are like the constitution of a country that can be applied to many situations that a country faces.

To interpret the Vedas, it must be performed in the right spirit as well. So, who will interpret the scriptures? Interpreters require a fine intellect to perform this task. Interpreters should have qualifications. Suppose one has a doubt about a religious practice or ritual, how to address this? This is called Vrata chikitsa. Vratam means conduct.

Vedas say, go to those people who are Guna Brahmanas. They must be able to interpret. The rules of interpretation are documented in Mimasa shastra. Once an interpretation is done, the verdict must be accepted. One who does not accept such a verdict is called a Nastika.

The qualifications of a Samarshinaha (independent interpreter) are:

  • Yukta: One who lives a life of Daharma.
  • Ayukta: One who is impartial and independent person. He must not benefit from verdict.
  • Aluksha: One who is considerate and empathic. He must benefit society.
  • Dharma and Kama: He must not be interested in money, wealth etc.

Therefore, a Brahmin was supposed to lead a life of poverty totally immersed in scriptures. Such a life of voluntary poverty meant such a person was not afraid of anything.

Such people alone should interpret. And, if their verdict for some reason compromises with Shastras, one has to accept it. Citing story of Shankaracharya, once while he was travelling with his disciples he was offered alcohol to drink. He drank it. His disciples were disdainful of his action. Soon after, he came across a black smith who was melting metal. Shankara drank some of the molten metal as well astonishing his disciples. His message to his disciples was, I could do all this as nothing affects me. Until you can reach this stage you still have to follow scriptures.

When mahatmas violate dharma, we should keep in mind that they also follow dharma most of the time at a very high level.

Take Away:

  1. Yagya, Dana and Tapaha are the three sadhanas that are considered the essence of Vedic religion.
  2. While giving or making a Danam one must keep following in mind:
  3. Do it with shradha;
  4. Give generously;
  5. Do not look down upon the person receiving the danam.

With Best Wishes,

Ram Ramaswamy