Preceptors of Advaita

by T. M. P. Mahadevan | 1968 | 179,170 words | ISBN-13: 9788185208510

The Advaita tradition traces its inspiration to God Himself — as Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or as Sadā-Śiva. The supreme Lord revealed the wisdom of Advaita to Brahma, the Creator, who in turn imparted it to Vasiṣṭha....

3. Parāśara

PARASARA

by

N. Subramania Aiyar (Anna)
B.A., L.T.

I bow down to that great Saint, Parāśara, who composed the gem of a Purāṇa (the Viṣṇu-purāṇa) revealing therein faithfully the truths about soul, matter, God, their inter-relationship, enjoyment of this world, freedom and the ways and means thereof.

Stotra-ratnam by Yāmunāchārya

 

I

Vasiṣṭha, the mind-born son of Brahmā, begot Śakti. Śakti begot Parāśara. Parāśara begot Veda Vyāsa. Vyāsa begot Śuka. And all of them were great seers and the earliest of the builders of the enduring edifice of Sanātana Dharma.

Parāśara lived at the end of Dvāpara-yuga, just before the Kali era set in. He was once crossing the Ganges in a boat plied by a fallen angel in the guise of a fisherwoman, by name Satyavatī. Parāśara fell in love with her and of their union was born a child of destiny. We are told that the birth of the child was mysterious, that he was no sooner conceived than he was born, ‘Sadyotpannaḥ’. He came to be known as Dvaipāyana because he was born on an island. He was called Kṛṣṇa because he was black. He earned the appellation of Veda Vyāsa, as he became later on the Codifier of the Vedic literature.

Perhaps the greatest glory of Parāśara is that he gave Veda Vyāsa to the world. A tree is known by its fruit. Speaking of Vyāsa, Śrī Aurobindo says,

“A wide and searching mind, historian, statesman, orator, a deep and keen looker into ethics and conduct, a subtle and high aiming politician, theologian and philosopher, it is not for nothing that Hindu imagination makes the name of Vyāsa loom so large in the history of Aryan thought and attributes to him work so important and manifold.”

Parāśara is illustrious not only because he is the father of Veda Vyāsa but on his own account as a Mahaṛṣi, as a law-giver and as a powerful writer. We owe to him the Parāśara-smṛti and the Viṣṇu-purāṇa, called a gem among the Purāṇas.

 

II

The teachings of Parāśara can be understood from a few quotations given below, culled from the Viṣṇu-purāṇa:—

As the air blown through different holes of a flute produces different notes, the one Paramātman appears as many.

He who creates, sustains and destroys the worlds in the guise of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva is Bhagavān Janārdana himself.

Whatever is seen is His manifestation but people who have no eyes to see the truth, see this manifestation as the universe.

The life of the world is His Kaustubha, Śrīvatsa is Prakṛti, Buddhi is the mace; the Conch represents the Pañchabhūtas and the bow the Indṛyas; the mind is the Chakra and the senses the arrows; the sword is Vidyā and its sheath is Avidyā. The Lord is Māyārūpin. Though he has no form, he assumes a form and wears ornaments and weapons for the good of the creatures.

Word is Śrī, meaning is Hari;
Wisdom is Viṣṇu, Buddhi is Lakṣmī;
Dharma is Viṣṇu, Dharmic action is Lakṣmī;
Creator is Viṣṇu, Creation is Lakṣmī;
the earth is Śrī and he who lifts the earth is Hari;  
joy is Viṣṇu and Gaurī is Lakṣmī;
the Lord is the tree,
the Mother is the creeper;
the flag is Śrī and the flagpost is Hari.

“I am Hari, all this is Janārdana and apart from Him there is nothing, gross or subtle” — He who realizes this will not be caught in the meshes of birth and death.

By performing sacrifices, one sacrifices to Him, by meditation one meditates on Him, by killing others one kills Him, for, Hari is all.

If one avoids calumny, envy, untruth, harsh words, He is pleased. If one extends the same love to others as to one’s self or to one’s own son, He is pleased.

 

III

The quintessence of Parāśara’s philosophy of life is brought home to us in particular in his narration of the story of Prahlāda. Through Prahlāda, Parāśara reveals his own heart.

Says Prahlāda: Viṣṇu is not in my heart alone, he pervades the whole world. He is in me and in you and in every being and He stands revealed in all our actions. When He the dispeller of all fears is seated in my mind, how can fear find a place there? By the mere thought of Him, fear of birth, old age and death is immediately dissolved.

The best way of worshipping Him is the practice of equality and equanimity and to see Him equally everywhere and in all things.

Those who came to kill me, those who gave me poison, who threw me into fire, who set elephants to trample over me and serpents to bite me — to them also I have nothing but love. I cannot wish evil, do evil or talk evil, seeing the Lord is in everyone as in me. When the Lord is seated in the heart of every being, how can there be the distinction of friends or foes?

Unexpected good fortune, rulership and enjoyments come even to people who are unjust, unwise, foolish and cowardly. Therefore, one who desires the highest good should not crave for pleasures but should strive for holy things and the practice of equanimity.

The Lord is everywhere. I am He. From me has come everything, I am everything, in me is everything. I am the imperishable Paramātman called Brahma. I am the beginning and the end. I am the Parama Puruṣa.

Kealizing that he was not different from Viṣṇu, Prahlāda forgot himself and he did not cognize anything else.

Coming down from that plane, he saw the world again and thought of himself as Prahlāda. Then he sang the praise of Puru-shottama with a one-pointed mind. The Lord then appeared before him clad in golden silk, Prahlāda uttered the following prayer:-— As I wander in file world taking numerous births, wherever I may be born, may I always have unswerving devotion to Thee. May I be attracted to you with that love which the foolish people have for the fleeting objects of the world.

This is the philosophy of Parāśara.