Pradama Prasnaof Taitriya Upanishad: SIKSHAVALLI
Homage to Guru:
Before we start any vedic or mantra chanting, it is necessary that we pay homage to our Guru and secure His blessings to start and successfully complete the chanting / Japam etc.,
Those who have not yet identified a Guru can chant the following sloka instead and think of the Supreme Almighty as the very Guru:
"Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwarah
Gurus sakshat para Brahma thasmai sri Gurave Namah"
Introduction to the Shanti Mantra:
Devas place obstacles in men's way to Brahmavidya - the mantra for removal of such obstacles is the Shanti Mantra. Devas are put to much pain when men realise the identity of the self and Brahman and it is quite contrary to the wishes of the Devas that men should acquire Brahmavidya, so Devas put obstacles in the way of men who wish to acquire Brahmavidya. The great sage Pathanjali has defined a few of the Obstacles: "disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, sloth, worldly-mindedness, misconception, missing the point and unsteadiness are the causes of the mind's distraction and they are the obstacles".
I. Shanti Mantra:
(Anuvaga 1 of Sikshavalli)
The uttering of the word "Shanti" three times is intended to ward off the troubles that occur on the path to Wisdom. The three kinds of troubles being:
- Adhyatmika: Bodily causes like fever, pain in the head and so on
- Adhidaivika: Troubles from Devas etc.,
- Adhibhauthika: Troubles from Yakshas, Rakshasas etc.,
It is for the cessation of these three troubles that we utter the word "Shanti" thrice. Also in the shanti mantra, we praise specifically each of the Devas like Brahma, Vayu, Varuna, Indra etc, and secure their blessings for uninterrupted chanting.
II. Study of Phonetics: ('Siksha')
(Anuvaga 2 of Sikshavalli)
Why should one be careful in reciting mantras? There are mantras to be recited in a high pitched tone, short, long etc., and also there are differences in the intensity of effort, pronunciation of sound in the middle tone and conjunction of several sounds etc., on various mantras. These are variously called in sanskrit as: varnam, swaram, matra(i),bhalam, chandas etc.,
Hence, carelessness will lead to evil. The mantras when wrongly used, conveys not the intended idea and meaning. That speech or prayer will ruin the worshipper.
III. Brahma Varchasa:
(Anuvaga 3 of Sikshavalli)
The vedic study is to direct the mind towards certain contemplations which is calculated to secure fruits of this and the future world.
Brahma Varchasa is the luster that accrues from a study of the Veda. This mantra is intended to accrue fame and luster to the student (sishya) as well as to the master (guru). The sacred teaching about conjunction is declared in five objects namely: - in the worlds, in the lights, in knowledge, in progeny and in the self. (progeny: Sons, grandsons etc.,)
As to the worlds: Earth is the first form, next Heaven, the Interspace - the junction and Air the medium. (3.1)
As to the lights: Fire is the first form, Sun the second, Water - the junction and lightning the medium.(3.2)
As to knowledge: Guru is the first, Sishya the second, Knowledge - the junction and instruction the medium.(3.2,3)
As to progeny: Mother is the first, Father the second, Progeny - the junction and procreation the medium.(3.3)
As to Self: Lower jaw is the first form, Upper jaw the second, speech - the junction and tongue the medium.(3.4)
Prayers for Health and Wealth:
(Anuvaga 4 of Sikshavalli)
One who wishes to acquire retentive power recites this mantra. This obtains Medha and Sri. (Intelligence and Fortune). "Be sweetest my tongue. With ears much may I hear - as becoming be competent for Athma Jnana" - These mantras are repeated by one who wishes to improve the retentive power of memory. (4.1)
The mantras with which the seeker of fortune should offer oblations:- "Bring in to me an ever increasing amount of clothes and kinds of food and drink, doing this long, do you then bring to me fortune woolly along with cattle? May devotees of Brahman come to me from every side. Variously come to me. Well-equipped devotees may come to me. Self-controlled devotees may come to me. Peaceful devotees may come to me." - swaha. (4.2)
Prayer for fame: - "I may become famous among people. I may become superior to the wealthiest." (4.3)
Prayer for union with the Divine: - "O God! Enter me in to you (your sheath of Brahman). Having entered in to you, may I not be other than yourself. O Lord, do you also enter in to me. Let us be one alone in the Self. In you alone (as in a river of a thousand branches), I wash all acts of sins." (4.3)
Prayer for many disciples: - "As water runs to the lowest level, as months in to the year, so unto me devotees of Brahman may come (swaha). You shine forth to me. Do you come unto me. Do you make me one with Yourself as the metallic head of an arrow becomes one with the body it pierces into." (4.3)
Contemplation of the Vyahritis:
(Anuvaga 5 of Sikshavalli)
Brahman is otherwise termed as Hiranya garbha.
Contemplation as the worlds: Three other subordinate devatas are also contemplated in this verse viz., - Bhuh, Bhuvah and Suvah. The fourth one is Mahah. This is discovered by a Rishi son of "Maahachamasya" and thus the contemplation of the Rishi forms an integral part of the upasana. It is described that Mahah (the Sun) is Brahman. It is the Atman as well and the other gods are its limbs. (It is contemplated that Bhuh is this world; Bhuvah - the mid region; Suvah -the other world; Mahah - the Sun) (5.1)
Contemplation as the Gods: By the Sun indeed all worlds excel. The contemplation in this verse being that:- Bhuh is verily the Agni (fire); Bhuvah - Vayu (air); Suvah - Aditya (the sun); Mahah - Chandramas (the moon) and it is by chandramas that all luminaries excel. (5.2)
Contemplation as the Vedas: Bhuh verily as the riks; Bhuvah - the samans; Suvah - the yajuses; Mahah - the Brahman. By Brahman indeed all the vedas excel. Brahman, in this context, is the syllable 'OM'. (5.3)
Contemplation as life breaths: Bhuh as the upward life breath; Bhuvah - the downward life breath; Suvah - the pervading life; Mahah - the food. By food indeed all lives excel. (5.3)
Thus, the Vyahritis become four-fold, each four-fold being in four forms. He who contemplates them knows Brahman. To him all Devas offer tribute.
Contemplation of Brahman:
(Anuvaga 6 of Sikshavalli)
In the bright space within the heart He is, that Soul who is formed of thought, undying full of light. In the mid region of the throat's two pillars, that which hangs down like a nipple, that is the birth place of Indra, where the hair ends splits up dividing the two regions of the skull. (6.1)
In Agni as Bhuh he rests, in Vayu as Bhuvah, in Aditya as Suvah, in Brahman as Mahah. He attains self lordship. He attains to the lord of manas, the lord of speech (vak), the lord of sight (chakshu), the lord of hearing (srodra), the lord of intelligence (vgnyana). Then he becomes as the Brahman whose body is the bright space, whose nature is love, whose delight is life, whose manas is bliss, who is replete with peace, who is immortal. (6.2)
In other words, the contemplator becomes a svaraj, i.e., an independent lord due to contemplation of the Divine Being. To him all gods will offer tribute in subordination to him.
Contemplation of Brahman in the invisible:
(Anuvaga 7 of Sikshavalli)
Contemplation of Hiranyagarbha: Earth is the mid region, heaven the main quarters and the intermediate quarters are Agni, Vayu, Aditya and Chandramas and the Nakshatras. Waters, plants, trees, the bright space (Aakasa) and the Athman (Soul) thus far among the external beings.
Contemplation as to the Self: Prana, vyana, apana, udana, samana ; the eye, the ears, the manas, speech, touch, skin, flesh, muscle, bone, marrow;
Prana - in the heart; Apana - in the anus; Samana - in the navel; Udana - in the region of throat; Vyana - traverses the whole body.
Pankta verily, is this all: by Pankta indeed does one the pankta strengthen. (Yajna is a pankta)
Contemplation of Pranava:
(Anuvaga 8 of Sikshavalli)
OM is Brahman. OM is this all. OM is verily compliance and on uttering "O recite", they begin to recite. With OM they begin samans. OM SOM - with this they tell the prayers. OM - Thus does the adhvaryu convey acceptance. OM - thus assents the Brahma (priest). OM - thus one permits the offering of an oblation to fire. OM - thus says the Brahmana who is about to recite - "May I obtain Brahman" - thus wishing Brahman verily does he obtain. (Adhvaryu - the priest who performs the acts enjoined in the Yajurveda)
A Brahmana utters OM and OM alone and by that syllable OM, he attains Brahman.
All undertakings which start with the syllable OM become fruitful, therefore one should contemplate the syllable OM as Brahman.
(Anuvaga 9 of Sikshavalli)
This Anuvaga describes the duties of a Upasaka towards the following as well as the need for study and teaching:
The right: - the learning of one's own veda and pravachana - which means either adhyapana - the teaching of it (or) Brahma Yajna - a daily solemn recitation of it;
truth: - truth speaking;
penance: - tapas or bodily mortification;
restraint: - Dama-calmness of the organs of external sensation; Tranquility (Sama) - calmness of manas, the internal organ;
While practising these, fires should be consecrated and oblations offered to them;
guests should be honoured;
the human - that is - social duties (such as marriages) should be discharged as occasions arise;
off spring should be begotten by having intercourse with wife in season at periods favorable for conception;
the race should be propagated through children's children, by getting the sons married.
Definition of Penance: He who thus knowing studies the vedas even when it rains and lightens, when it roars and thunders, when the wind is blowing even on the new moon day, he only practices penance; study, indeed is penance. Standing or walking sitting or lying down, he shall not fail to recite the Veda; then he is a man of penance, he is pure, who thus knowing recites the Veda.
A mantra to be repeated:
(Anuvaga 10 of Sikshavalli)
The mover of the tree I am. My fame is like the mountain's peak. The high one making (one) pure. I am the very immortal one as He is in the Sun. I am the lustrous wealth. I am of high Wisdom, immortal, undecaying. - Thus runs Sage Trisanku's teaching of Wisdom.
The tree of Samsara being cut as under, the fame becomes like unto a mountain's peak; it rises, as the mountain's peak is high. The fame concerning his liberation rises very high and spreads in the region of Devas; so that even Devas cannot thwart his wishes; not even Devas have power to prevent his becoming Brahman.
According to Sage Trisanku, the recitation of this mantra constitutes the austerity of vedic recitation known as Brahma Yajna, which one should practice after learning the Veda from a teacher.
(Anuvaga 11 of Sikshavalli)
Having taught the Veda, the teacher then exhorts the pupil; speak the truth (satyam vada); follow dharma (dharmam chara); from study swerve thou not. Having offered dear wealth to the teacher cut thou not the progeny's line. From the true it will not do to swerve, nor from Dharma nor from welfare. Neither will it do to swerve from well being, nor from study and teaching, nor from duties to Devas and Pitris. (11.1)
Treat your mother as a God. (maatru devo bhava)
Treat your father as a God. (pithru devo bhava)
Treat your teacher as a God. (acharya devo bhava)
Treat the guests also as God. (adhiti devo bhava)
What works are free from fault, they should be resorted to, not others. What are good works of ours, they should be done, not others. (11.2)
Whatever Brahmanas are better than ourselves, in their sitting it will not do for you to breathe. With reverence should gifts be made, never with irreverence should a gift be made, with liberality should gifts be made, with modesty should gifts be made, with fear should a gift be given, in friendliness should a gift be given. (11.3)
If to you a doubt as to a deed or a doubt as to conduct, should occur as the Brahmanas there who are thoughtful, zealous, well versed, not hard (at heart), desirous of Dharma - would act in such matters, so there shall you act. Now as to the accused: - " as the Brahmanas there who are thoughtful, zealous, well versed, not hard (at heart), desirous of Dharma - would act in such matters" - This is the direction; this is the advise; this the secret of Vedas; this the command; thus shall devotion be and thus verily all this shall you observe. (11.4)
(Anuvaga 12 of Sikshavalli)
OM: May Mitra be propitious to us and Varuna propitious be; may Aryaman propitious be to us; propitious be Indra and Brihaspathi to us; to us propitious may Vishnu of vast extent be. Bow to Brahma, Bow to you Vayu ! You are indeed Brahman perceptible. You indeed have I declared Brahman perceptible. The right have I declared; and I have declared the truth. That has protected me and that has protected the teacher; yes that has protected me; that has protected the teacher.
OM SHANTI : SHANTI : SHANTHI :
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