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The Essence of Puranas – Agni Purana -3

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The Essence of Puranas – Agni Purana

16    ‘Gayatri Mantra’ and ‘Sandhya Vidhi’

‘Gayatri Mantra’ is a very powerful and Sacred Prayer integrating the Inner Soul and the Super Force.Of the several veins in a human body, ten of them are supposed to be important providing life, viz.Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijihva, Prutha, Yasha, Alambusha, Huhu and Shankhini.Mainly these veins are responsible for creating ‘Prana Vayu’ (The breath of Life). Apart from Prana Vayu, there are nine other forms of life’s breathing, viz. Vyana, Apana, Samana, Udana, Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta, and Dhananjaya. Actually, five forms of Life’s breathing are stated to be more important, viz. Prana (Principal Energy), Apana ( Internal Energy), Samana (Balancing Energy),  Vyana (Central Energy) and Udana (External Energy).Goddess Gayatri is thus stated to have five faces representing and five portions of the Mantra, viz. Om ( the Central Face), Bhur bhuvassuvaha (the second face), tat savitur varenyam (the third face), Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi (the fourth face) and Dhi-yo-yona prachodayat (the fifth face). The Lords of Universe-Tri Murthis- named Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer), and Shiva (Liquidator), having three attributes viz. Satvika (Creation or Existence), Rajasica ( Preservation) and Tamasika ( Destruction or Extinction) are all absorbed in prayers to Devi Gayatri  Now the integration of the Super Force and the inner soul of Human Beings are effected via the Three Murthies and the most suited conduit to do so is by chanting the Gayatri Mantra.

    The Literal and word- by-word meaning of Gayatri Manthra is: Om : ( All Mighty God) – Buhr ( Embodiment of Vital Energy)-Bhuvaha ( Destroyer of Suffering)-Swaha (Embodiment of Happiness)- Tat ( That God) -Savithur ( Bright like Sun)-Varenyam         ( The Supreme)- Bhargo ( Destroyer of Sins)- Devasya (Divine Force)-Dhimahi (May Receive)-Dhiyo (Intellect)-Yo ( Who)-Na ( Our)- Prachodayat ( Let inspire in right direction). The meaning in sum is: Oh God, You Are the Creator of Life, Destroyer of Sorrow, Bestower of Happiness and the Creator of Universe.May we receive Your Supreme Light to demolish our sins and guide us in our intellect in the right direction. 

 [NOTE: Scientific explanations have been offered by modern Scientists about the Gayatri Mantra. According to Astro Physics and Astronomy, a sound is produced due to the fast movement of Earth, Planets and Galaxy or the Milky Way, called Akshay Ganga, having some 100,000 million Stars. The Galaxy, the Moon and the Earth – all revolving around the Sun-each moving on their own axis-at a mind boggling velocity speed of 20,000 miles per second, produce the Sound and Sages (Rishies) had named the  Super Sound as OM.The sum of the Gayatri Mantra sums up as follows: The Earth ( Bhur), the Planets ( Bhuhava) and the Galaxy ( Swah) are rotating on their own axis at a great velocity as the Great sound OM is made, which is the Formless Entity. The total kinetic energy generated by the movement totals or balances the total energy consumption of Cosmos and this is named as Pranava or the body energy (mass of galaxies multiplied by velocity and further multiplied by two: Mass x Velocity x 2). That entity (God), who manifests in the form of Supreme Radiance (The Sun or Savitur) is worthy of bowing or respected (Varenyam). We should meditate (dheemahi) upon the light (bhargo) of that Entity (devasya) and also do the chanting of OM. May He (Yo) guide in the right direction (prachodayat) our (nah) intellect (dhiyo)!] Agni Purana assures that the incantation of Gayatri Mantra seven times a day, of course by fully   understanding the full meaning of the Mantra, as it would vanish sins; once the number of the invocation is multiplied, good results would be muliplied too.The simplest and the easiest possibility of reciting Gayatri Mantra at any time or place is a great boon to mankind, as it improves concentration, mental focus, feeling of wellness and a lot of peace. In fact, whenever a human being gets disturbed by difficult situations of mundane life, it is most likely that even strong feelings of anger, envy, fatigue, defeat, helplessness, confusion and many other emotions of mind or physique are diluted and overcome. Quite apart from the spiritual import, the Mantra acts like an instant tonic of purely mundane activities.          

 Sandhya Vidhi : After invoking Gayatri by pronouncing OM, a devotee is to touch the ‘sikha’ or     tuft on the back portion of head is expected to be; perform ‘Achamana’ (sip spoonful water thrice) and touch hridaya (heart), naabhi (navel), and both the shoulders. Then perform Viniyoga by uttering the following: Omkaarasya Brahma Rishih Gayatri Chhandoragni Devataa Shuklo varnah Sarva karmaa –rambhey viniyogah/ (Commencing with Omkaara, the Viniyoga/ introduction states: Brahma is Rishi, Gayatri is the Chhandas or the form of Prosody, Agni / Paramatma is the targetted Deity). Devi Gayatri’s dhyaana or meditation is done by the Mantra: Shuklaa chaagni mukhi Divya Katyaana sa gotrajaa, Thailokyavaranaa Divya Prithirvyaadhaara samyutaa/ Aksha sutra dhara Devi Pammaasana gataa Shubha / Devi’s Aavaahana or welcome / invocation is followed  with this Mantra: Om Tejosi Mahosi Balamasi Bhraajosi Devaanaam dhaamanaamaasi, Vishwamasi Vishvaayuh Sarvamasi Sarvaayuh Om Abhi Bhuh/ This Mantra would be followed by: Aagaccha Varadey Devi japey mey sannidhow bhava, Gaayantam traayasey yasmaad Gayathrii twam tatah smrutaa/ (The Rishis of all ‘Vyahritis’ is Prajapati himself; He is always existent in the Ekaakshara Swarupa of OM in Vyashti or singular and Samishti (Plural) Forms. Saptavyaahriteenam Vishwamitra Jamadagni Bharadwaja Gautamaatri vasishtha Kashyapa Rishayey Gayarushnikanushthubbruhati Pinga Trishthub jajadyaschhandaadaagi vaayavaadityaBrihaspati varunendri Vishva devataa anaadishta praayaschattey praanaamaayamey vinogoyah/ (The Sapta Vyahritis  are: the Sapta Rishis viz. Viswamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Gautama, Atri, Vasishtha,and Kashyapa; the Sapta Devatas are: Agni, Vayu, Surya, Brihaspati, Varuna, Indra and Vishwa Deva; Sapta Chhandah viz. Gayarti, Ushnik, Aushthup, Brihati, Pinga, Trishthup, and Jagati). Following this, Three Ruchas are rendered as follows:

  Om aapo hi shtha mayo bhuvah, Om taana urjey dathaatana, Om Maheranaaya Chakshasey, Om yo vah Shivatamo rasah, Om Tasya bhajayateha nah, Om ushiteeriva Maatarah, Om Tasmaa aram  gamaava vah, Yasya Khayayah jinvitha, Om Aapo janaayatha cha nah/  After the above  Richas, further Richas be rendered as follows: Om Drupadaadiva mumuchaanah Savitrah snaato malaadva, Putam Pavitrenovaajya maapah shuddhantu mainasah/ Thus rendering the aforesaid Ruchas, the Mantra : Hiranya Varnaah Shuchaya etc. be uttered and simultaneously water drops be sprinkled on the devotee’s head eight times, so that he would be freed from all the sins committed till date. Now the Aghamarshana Mantra is rendered thrice: Om Rutascha Satyanchaabheedbhaatthapaso dhyayajaayat, tato raatra jaayata, tatah Samudro arnavah, Samudraadarnavaadadhi Samvatsaro ajaayata, ahoraatrani vidadhadravischasya mishato vashee, Suryaachandramasou Dhaataa yathaa purvamakalpayat, Divascha Prithivischaantariksamayo swah / Thereafter,  three Marjana Mantras  be rendered for which Sindhudwipa isRishi, Gayatri is Chhanda and Varuna is Devata and the Mantraas are: Apohishta mayo bhuvah ta na oorje dadhatana, maheranaaya chakshase yo vah sivatamorasah/ Tasya bhajayateha nah Usateeriva Matarah, Tasma aranga mamavah/ yasyakshayaya jinvatha, Apo janayata cha nah Om Bhurbhuvassusah/ Now, the Gayatri Siro Mantra is to be recited for which Prajapati is Rishi, Chhanda rahita Yajur mantrah, viz. Aapo jyoti rasomritam Brahma Bhurbhuvahsswarom/ Pranayama leads to ‘Vayu’, Vayu creates Agni, Agni creates Jala (Varuna) and that is why the ‘Shuddha Jala’ is taken now as ‘Achamana’with the Mantra: Antascharasi bhuteshu Guhaayaam Viswa murthishu,Tapo yagno vashatkaara aapo jyotee rasomrutam. [While these are the basic Mantras, appropriate variations be observed, for Pratahkaaleena, Maadhyahnnika and Suryastamaya timings].

17    Sansrit Literature and Grammar

Agni Purana has dealt in detail with the Literature and Grammar of Sanskrit, the language of Gods. The alphabet has sixty four ‘Varnas’including twenty four vowels (Swar Varnas). There are three Tones (swaras) in which the letters of the alphabet are uttered. The vovels are pronounced in three tones viz. Udatta, Anudatta and Svaritha. The Letters are pronounced from the throat, tongue, chest, teeth, nose, lips, head and palate.The language is either in the form of Gadya (prose) or Poetry or misra (mixture). Prose has three types viz. ‘churnaka’ plain without compound sentences, ‘Utkalika’ full of compounded sentences and ‘Vrattagandhi’ (complex sentences with the combinations of the earlier type). Poetry has to have a poetic sense, rules of poem writing, knowledge of ‘Chandass’ ( meter- framing)  and keen arareness of rhetoric (alankaras) and a spread of ‘Nava Rasas’( nine sentiments) viz. Hasya ( comical), Sringar ( romantic), Shanta            ( serenity), Karuna (Kindness), Veera (valour), Bhayankara ( frightening), roudra (awe- inspiring), Adbhuta ( exraordinary) and Bhibhatsa ( offensive). Good literature is also enriched by various ‘kalas’(arts or skills))- some sixty of them-including dance, designing, music, painting, instrumentals, architecture, singing, acting, and so on. [Note: In fact, the specialised disciplines of date are innumerable and highly specialised in nature. Many of these are ramifications of Art and Literature as also modern off shoots of technological progress and each specialisation has its own distinct grammar.]

Agni Purana describes Sanskrit Grammar in great details :‘Sandhis’ (word conjunctions) and ‘Samasas’(qualified words or group of words); ‘vachanas’(numbers like ‘eka’or single vachana, ‘bahu’ or multiple vachanas) and genders ( male, female or neutral) or ‘karakas’ (cases) and ‘vibhaktis’( case- endings).There are six ‘karakas’, viz. Karthri        ( Nominative Case), Karma (objective case), Karana ( instrumental case), Sampradana           ( Dative case), Apadana or source of something (ablative case), when there is a relation of a possession is involved, then the person who has the possession is the ‘Karaka’ in the sixth case.In the final case, the Karaka is adhikarana ( locative case).The vibhakties are to be added to the respective counterpart cases of ‘Karakas’, to arrive at the appropriate Karakas (Cases) and vibhakties ( case endings).Thus the details of Sanskrit Literature and Grammar as covered in Agni Purana are fairly exhaustive and extensive.

18    Rudiments of Yoga Practice

The major objective of ‘Yoga’ (art of controlling the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of life) is a powerful tool provided to a person with which to align the Self with the Super Force. The pre-requisites are righteousness, truthfulness, celibacy, control of senses and emotions, devotion to the Super Force, and tendency against material possessions. Yoga Abhyas ( Practice of Yoga) commences with proper posture in a clean surrounding, seated on a piece of cloth on ground, with head and neck set straight up and concentrating motionless on the tip of one’s own nose.The posture should ideally be in a ‘Padmasana’ mode, ie. the right foot resting on left thigh and vice versa, and left hand palm pointed upwards resting on right thigh and right hand palm closing the left palm. ‘Prana Vayu’( the breath of life) has to be controlled by a finger placed on either of the nostrils, alternately exhaling and inhaling fully. The process of controlling the breath by exhaling is known as ‘Rechaka’ and by inhaling is ‘pooraka’, while the intermediate phase is known as ‘Kumbha.’ The process of controlling breathing is ‘Pranayama’, which ought to be done fast and strongly with  heavy doses continously with no breaks  The process of Pranayama needs to be accompanied by ‘Dhyana’ or meditation (preferably by reciting Gayatri Mantra in the three successive phase of Rechaka, Pooraka and Kumbha.) Indeed, this practice of Yoga even for a little while initially is a great achivement, and such doses of intermittent phases might happen as often as possible to make the practice a reality.The ultimate of Pranayama and Dhyana is to attain the status of ‘Samadhi’ or the complete alignment of Atman (The Inner Self) and Paramatman (The Super Soul). [Note: Sage Patanjali’s Raja Yoga defined ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ ( The Eight Limbed Yoga) viz.Yama ( The five abstention):non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non- possessiveness ; Niyama (The Five Observances): Purity, contentment, austerity, study and Surrender to God; Asana  ( Seated position for Meditation); Pranayama ( Lengthening of ‘Prana’, the Life Force, or Vital Energy); Pratyahara ( Abstraction) or withdrawal of sense-organs from external objects; Dharana (Meditation) : intense contemplation of the nature of Objects of meditation; and Samadhi ( Liberation or merger with the object of meditation] While the ideal achievement might fall short of human endeavour through Yoga, there are  several Yoga practices, which ought to induce beneficial results to set right  human limbs and  lead to well-being of the Inner Self as well.]

19    ‘Dhanurveda’ (The Science of Archery and Weaponry) and Rules of Battle

‘Dhanurveda’ or the knowledge of Archery and Weaponry is an important aspect covered in Agni Purana. Mainly five categories of weaponry are stated to have been used in the days of yore, viz. ‘Yantramukta’ launched from Yantra (machinery/ engines), including arrows released from bows; ‘Pani Mukta’ or thrown by hands, like stones or spears; ‘mukta sandharita’ ie. flung or withdrawn by hands; the weapons like swords invariably used by hands; and ‘amukta’ used by brute force such as duels/wrestling. The use of bow and arrows is an art by itself: the bow (‘dhanush’) with a tightly fitted strong string, making an arch form and the arrow drawn back as far as possible to be released while chanting a prayer to the respective Gods like ‘Agni’ (Fire), ‘Vayu’ (Wind), ‘Indra’ (Chief of Devas), ‘Varuna’ (God of Rain), Serpent (‘Naga’) etc. appropriate to an occasion. The opponent would naturally retalliate and the initiator should have the knowledge to anticipate an opposite action and the fight keeps going depending the tolerance and attacking power of an archer.In addition to the set of bows and arrows, a warrior is also equipped with an arrow-hive to store the arrows to be hung behind in the back, armoury protecting the chest, neck, hands, legs, feet, groins, back and of course the head, a belt to accommodate a sword, a dagger,  a noose, a mace, an iron chain, and most of all a shield. The charioteer, the horses and a strong chariot are to be suitably equipped too.The art of handling each item of defence and offence to one’s own advantage is an integral part of ‘Dhanurveda’ training and skill management, which alone is the answer for the success of the battle discipline.Agni Purana prescribes the Rules of ‘Dharma Yuddha’ or a Battle for Justice. Once a battle is decided mutually, there should be a lead time for the preliminaries,- a week’s time- to offer prayers to ‘Ganesha’ viz. the very First God to worship and the ‘Trimurthies’ ( Triumverate) viz. Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Eswar, the Destroyer; to ‘Dikpalas’ ( the Gods of Four Directions); ‘Rudras’the Gods of  Killings; the ‘Nava Grahas’(Gods of Planets) as also of  Stars; and Aswini Devatas and Rivers. The Army assembles at the eastern point of the Capital City before the departure and at the start off of the March should be rejoiced by Victory Slogans and reverberation of musical instruments. There would not be a recall or a faltering step once the march is flagged off. After covering a good distance of a couple of miles, there might be a brief stop over for rest/ regrouping/ prayers. The King (Chief) should not intervene in the battle directly till the very end.But, he should be behind at a distance to keep up the morale of the Army. There should be formations of an elephant each in the center, defended  by four chariots of four horses each, each horse defended by four infantrymen, who should be in the forefront, defended behind by archers and horses and behind them be ‘Yantramuktas’ or mehanically propelled explosives. The attacking men should have the pride of place- be it in the infantry, or on horses or chariots or ‘Yantramuktas’ and comparatively less courageous and defensive forces should be in the rear.A person killed in a war deserves ‘Veera Swarga’, equivalent to performing ‘Yagnas’ and a soldier who runs away or shows his back or wantonly avoids confrontation would be considered not only as a criminal in the eyes of Law but as a sinner or murderer of a Brahmin in the eyes of God. At the same time, the defeated soldiers are to be let back honourably by the victorious side with grace.It would be a sin to maltreat the defeated soldiers, slay the persons unarmed, perpetrate revenge of any kind to the citizens of the defeated kingdom, especially the spectators, scribes, women and children and take advantage of any kind to the defenceless.

20    Kingship Duties and Rama Rajya

A King is expected to be an earthly version of God, responsible for creating happiness and welfare, preserving security and prosperity and punishing the evil and disobedient. He is expected to set examples, without favour or fear.He should be above suspicion or indiscipline, promote competition and justice, encourage diligence and duty. His Coronation is a multi-splendered spectacle with elaborate Rituals ans Sacrifices, fun and fanfare, feasts and festivities and gifts and gratitudes to poor and unpriveleged. On taking over the Kingship, he makes a series of appointments and postings of Priminister and  Ministers, Top Officials and Advisers and a whole lot of Workforce at various levels.A Military General has to be a Kshatriya or Brahmin, a Treasurer has to have keen knowledge of Jewels, a Charioteer should be an expert of horses& elephants as also an outstanding ability of conducting chariots with alacrity on the battle fields, Doctors of experience and proven merit, and likewise persons of outstanding ability in each and every discipline and tested loyalty to the King and the Court. Each official of any level has to be well behaved, honest, diligent and above all types of temptations.There has to a completely decentralised system of Governance, within a well- set and publicly announced framework of Rules and there could never be an exception unless with the approval of the King who makes the Law or its Interpretation.There has to be a strong and widespread network of espionage and surveillance to the grass root levels to protect the interests of the Kingdom, the King, Officials and law-abiding citizens. Criminals are severely punished and Loyalists are assured of peaceful existence.The course of Law is not only just and swift but also should look to be convincing, transparent and unambiguous. The fiscal and monetary policy of the Government should also be uniform, impartial and well defined.Taxes are fixed as per the Sacred Texts and the process of tax collection has to be smooth, timely and automatic.Defaulters or protesters have to get opporunities to approach the Concerned Officials.Property Rights are also to be well defined, especially in respect of the poor, women, children, orphans and disabled and regular courts of civil and criminal cases are to be dealt with within approved time frames.There are various techniques used to let the offenders make confessions, the most significant ones being, ‘Sama’( persuasion), ‘Dana’ ( Gifting), ‘Bheda’( divide interests), ‘Danda’( punish), ‘Maya’(Decieve or create make- believe situation),’upeksha’ ( ingore) and ‘mayajal’( jugglery). Punishments accorded to offenders not only punitive but more than that they serve as examples to ensure that others perpetrate similar offences. For example, a thief who steals Gold or Jewellery has his hands cut.A Brahman who provides wrong or misleading witness would be banished from the Kingdom. In case anybody kills cows, horses, elephants or camels would be summarily executed. Cases of abduction of a woman, or of poisoning, arson too attract execution. Disloyalty by a woman to husband or vice versa have their facial parts cut, torn by dogs and paraded in public.

 Rama Rajya: The perception, as to how a King should govern his Kingdom and the Subjects, was illustrated by Lord Rama to Laxmana.Agni Purana has described Rama’s Percepts of an Ideal King: A King has to create wealth, increase it, protect it, and donate it. He should be humble-the humility arising out of victory, essentially after defeating the human senses of revenge, anger and retribution.He should be strong, magnanimous and forgiving, kind and protective. His support to the inferior and the needy is as significant as to punish and uproot the wicked and harmful. The human vices of greed, lust, dishonesty are but the reflections of a sick mind, which has no conviction or courage or helpfulness to the needy. Rama also advised considerable patience to deal with the timid, haughty and hurtful as these are indeed the traits of a villian. Once there is no ray of remorse and there is no trace of recovery from the pent-up senses of ego, impoliteness and audacity, then the time to end the culprit has arrived

21    Property Rights

According to Agni Purana, the property of a dead father has to be shared by sons and his widow in equal shares. Unlike in the Modern Law, daughters have no share, but the sons of unmarried daughters have to jointly share the expenses of the marriages to the extent of one-fourth of each son’s inheritance (including the carry forward debts made by the dead person in respect of the daughters already married). If the dead person has no issues, the person who enjoys the inheritance would also bear the duty of repaying debts made by the dead man. But, the widow would not have to share the burden of debts from her share of property. A woman is not responsible for debts incurred by husband or son, and so is the case of a man’s responsibility to his wife’s or son’s debts, unless they make a joint loan deed. Incase of disputes in general, if the witness provided is proved false, the punishment to the false witness would attract eight times the punishment given to the false claimant. If a Brahman gives the false witness or false claim, the punishment is banishment from the Kingdom. Whenever there is no written contract of a loan, excepting in the presence of witness, the latter has to swear by fire or water. In case of fire, the witness keeps seven dry leaves on his head and a red hot metal piece in his palm; if the hot metal on his palm does not hurt, then the claim as supported by the witness is true! In case of an oath by water, the witness would not drown if the claimant is right!

22    ‘Atma Gyan’ (Awareness of Super Force) and the example of Jada Bharata

While the Physical Body is ephemeral, the Inner Soul or ‘Atma’ is an integral part of ‘Paramatma’or the Super Force,the Inner Soul’s existence is however subject to the survival of physical  life.The Body is made of the Five Elements, Viz. ‘Prithivi’ (Earth), ‘Apas’(Water), ‘Tejas’(Fire), ‘Vayu’(Air), and ‘Akash’(Sky) and the individual Soul merges back into the Elements of ‘Pancha Bhoota’,which are the handmaids of ‘Paramatma’; In other words, the smaller light confluences with the Enormous Light.  The Super Force is Unknown (‘Avyaktam’); Permanent (‘Sasvatam’); All Pervading (Omni-Present); It has no beginning or end (‘Anantam’); It is not spent out but ever- springing (‘Avyayam’). Knowledge of this Truth of Life is ‘Brahma Gyan’. The process of alignment of the Inner Soul to ‘Paramatma’ or in other words the pursuit of the Truth is performed by several ways and means but the most effecective routes to yield concrete relults are  five major methods as recommended by Sages:  to perform ‘Yagnas’, which is the hardest yet a quick mode; to observe ‘Tapas’ ( serious meditation) and adopt an ascetic Life; detach from material happiness or follow the descipline of ‘Vairagya’; to be an ascetic or the scooll of ‘Sanyasa’; and  the path of ‘Jnana Yoga’ or the Ultimate Path of Self- Realisation.

In the context of the ‘Nyasa’ ( Pursuit of Truth or of ‘Paramatma’), Agni Purana has illustrated ‘Jada Bharata’ as having attained maturity in the knowledge of ‘The Grand Alignment’, and he had devoted his lifetime in Meditation at a place known as ‘Shalagrama’. But he was highly fond of a deer as it was a ‘Jyatismara’ (which had the knoweldge its earlier birth). After the deer died, Bharata also died later and was reborn as a ‘jyatismara’ human. While travelling from place to place, Bharata came across the King of the Place, named ‘Souribha’ being carried in a palanquin by some of his persons, who caught hold of Bharata too and made him carry the palanquin for some time. The King admonished Bharata that he was not carrying the palanquin properly. Bharata replied to the King that it was just an illusion, as neither the King was not being carried nor Bharata was carrying the palanquin. He said that the King, the Palanquin and he himself were non existent as all these entities are one and the same! On realisation that the person concerned was indeed a philosopher, the King sought to know as to who was he. The reply was: ‘Are you referring to my Atman or your Atman or the all pervasive Paramatman?’ ‘Who am I’ is   a very complicated query, replied Bharat. The King asked Bharat again, ‘Whatever form in which you are, who you are?’ Bharat’s reply was that the palanquin being carried was made of wood and the wood came from trees and the trees were in forests; and would it be alright to say that the palnquin was  made of the forest!As the King had no reply, he bcame an instant disciple of Bharata. The latter narrated the story of Ribhu and Nidhgha. The former was the Guru and the latter the disciple. After the formal teaching was over, Nidhgha left his Guru to seek his livelihood in a city. A few years, the Guru visited the disciple and Nidhgha became wealthy by then. The disciple gave lots of food and fruits and enquired whether the Guru was satisfied. The latter replied that he ate but was not hungry. The Guru visited the disciple after a long lapse of time once again and the disciple shifted his residence away in the outskirts, since he did not like the King. Apparently, Nidgha got envious of the King. He did not even like the King visiting the outskirts when the Guru was there.The Guru asked Nidhgha to identify the King. The latter described the King seated on an elephant. The Guru replied to the disciple that he was not able to identify either the elephant or the King or even the crowd of persons as all the objects were just similar to each other in their essential forms, viz. there were no forms at all, as there was only one Form unseen,unfelt, unheard, and unidentified! And that is ‘Paramatma’! The story of Ribhu and Nidgha was assimilated by King Souribha as also the secrets of the Knowldege of Brahma Gyan. The Knowledge is as complicated as is simple: existence of the Entire Universe is an illusion and the most effective form of learning is the capacity to sift the Illusion and The Reality!

23    The spirit of Bhagavad Gita

At the opening of Maha Bharata Battle, Arjuna was bewildered that in the opposite camp were such illustrious personalities including grand fathers, uncles, cousin brothers and innumerable relatives and that he could possibly not fight with them as it was indeed criminal by any standard of Dharma (Virtue), Nyaaya (Justice) and his own innner conscience. Arjuna was neither timid nor an escapist and being an invincible arrowsman he was indeed sure of demolishng the enemy, but that grievous sense of remorse of having to brutally kill his own kith and kin had been bottled up for long had suddenly erupted and pushed him out of the chariot and Bhagavan Krishna had to come to deliver his historic Bhagavad ‘Gita Pravachana’ even the first arrow sound of Arjuna’s famed ‘Gandiva’ was heard. It was that historic melting point of Maha Bharata Battle that Bhagavan had to call a ‘spade as a spade’: Arjuna! If indeed a person is stated to be dead physically, the conclusion can never be that his ‘Atma’ or inner being is dead as well! Hence physical existence has little relevance and crying for a physically dead person is futile, since he or she is bound to reappear into life sooner or later. Atma has no birth, no death and is indestructible. Hence crying for a physically ‘departed soul’ should never be resorted to.Jyatasya hi dhruvo Mrityhuh dhravam Janma mritasya cha, Tasmaadapari -haaryaarthey na twam shochitu maharhasi/ (That which is born would have to die and that which is dead is reborn again; this is the Law of Nature. None could break this Law and hence why think about so seriously then!)   Dhyayato vishayaan pumsaha sangasteyshoopajaayatey, Sangaat -sanjaayatey kaama krodhopijaayatey/ Krodhaatbhavati sammohah sammohaat smriti vibhramah, Smritir bhramso buddhi naashaat pranasyati/ (As persons who haveVishaya chinta’ or desire for matters tend to get frustrated, the frustration leads to anger; from anger emerges obsession and mania which lead to indiscretion and lack of thinking capacity which leads to ‘sarva naasha’ or total collapse. This is why ‘Satsang’ or companionship of the Virtuous persons would diminish desires and excessive fixations; it is that state of ‘Sthitapragna’or self-control that one should aspire for.As all the human beings sleep off in the nights, the Yogis are awake; similarly the desires of life which are highly temporary are discarded by Yogis for whom ‘Tripti’ or self-contenment is the Principle and attainment of Bhagavan is the singular target. A person who could distinguish the variations of ‘Gunas’ viz. Satvika, Rajasika and Tamasika as well the resultant Karma-Vibhagas or the permutations of actions has little attractions of the Illusive Entity that life is all about. Arjuna! If you sail off by the boat of ‘Jnaana’ or Enlightened Awareness, you should be able to cross the deep waters of sins. The ‘Agni’ of ‘Jnaana’ destroys all kinds of common place actions; however since a few actions are perforce taken as existing in the mundane world are to be executed like drops on a lotus leaf with a sense of high detachment. Once that sense of objectivity is developed, you could vision others in yourself as you would have liked them to vision you.Arjuna! It is almost impossible for you to break the illusion that the

peculiar mix of the three Gunas have created; this is possible only if you take my ‘Sharan’ or unqualified shelter. Four kinds of human beings approach me, Shri Krishna affirmed, viz. Jijnaaus or those who seek him; or ‘Aarthaas’or utterly helpless; or ‘Arthaartis’ or those who desparately seek fulfillment of their intense desires; or pure ‘Jnaanis’. Of these, Jnaanis would realise the lasting nature of Parama Tatwa Brahma , as all the human beings are however subject to the impulses of ‘Adhi bhoutika’ (pertaining to one’s body), ‘Adhyatmika’ (pertaining to one’s own consciousness), and Adhi Daivika (pertaining to the Divine acts) natures. It is beyond these impulses that a human being is driven normally, but Jnaanis overcome the impulses and target the Supreme Energy only. As a person reaches the point of facing death, which ever feelings flash on the mental screen are the decisive forces and hence keep on practising Omkara so that Bhagavan would be the final destiny.

This human body is a ‘Kshetra’and the awareness of the ‘Kshetragna’ is what Jnaana all about. This ‘Kshetra’ is the amalgam of ‘Pancha Mahabhutas’or the the Five Entities of Prithivyaapas tejo Vaauraakaashas, the ‘Ahamkaara’ / Self-Worth, ‘Buddhi’, ‘Avyakta’(the Incomprehensible / Mula Prakriti),  Ten Indriyas, one’s own Mind; the Acts of Five Indriyas or human limbs; desirse, hatred, happiness, unhappiness; the gross body, consciousness,  Chetana ( liveliness) and dhriti (endurance).This is the ‘Vikara sahita Kshetra’ or the Body with all the above characteristics. Bhgavan Krishna then defined Jnaana as inclusive of ‘Ahimaana shunyata’ (lack of Self-Image), ‘Daambhika Abhava’ (lack of boastfulness), ‘Ahimsa’ (non-Violence), ‘Kshama’ (tolerance), ‘Saralata’ (softness), Guruseva (Service to Teachers), Baahyaantara Shuddhi (External and Internal Cleanliness), ‘Antahkarana Sthirata’ (stability of innner consciousness), ‘Sharira Manendriya Nigrah’ (Control of Body, mind and internal organs), ‘Anahankaara’ (lack of ego), equanimity of feelings at birth, death and disease, ‘Putrastreegrihaabhimana’or lack of extreme attachments of family and home ( lack of interest in luxuries and comforts), lack of interest in births-deaths and diseases), composure and self-control on failures and successes, and singularity of approach to the Eternal. Bhagavan declared that the rest of feelings were of the expressions of Materialisation or ‘Agnana’ or ignorance.                                                                                                                         

Then Bhagavan Shri Krishna explained to Arjuna the meaning of ‘Jneya Tatva’ or popularly known as Para Brahma, which is neither ‘Sat’(Truth) nor ‘Asat’(Non-existent) and is ‘Vilakshana’or featureless. That Supreme is the hands and legs of everybody, their eyes and ears, their head and face. That Supreme is all-pervasive; being limbless has all the vision, speech, hearing, etc; is a ‘Nirguna’ but has the Knowledge of all Gunas; is the Form of Moveable and Immoveable objects; has no dimensions, weight, distance and time; is indivisible, invisible, incomprehensible; is the Creative Shakti, the Preserving Shakting and the Destroying Shakti; that Shakti is Surya, Chandra, Dikpalalas, Stars, Pancha Bhutas, Dikpalakas, Devas, Danavas, Gandharvas, or each and every formulation of the known and the unknown. It is that ‘Paramatma’ who is not seen, heard, touched, felt except through inner vision, inner hearing and inner feeling. That Paramatma is indeed recognisable by several ‘Sukshma Buddhis’, ‘Dhyaanis’, ‘Sankhya Yogis’, ‘Karma Yogis’. Yadaahi nendriyaartheshu na karmaswanushajjatey, Sarva Samkalpa  Sanyaasi yogaaruudhasta -dostadochyatey ( A Sadhaka ought to discard comforts and desire for worldly actions, as also the responsibilities of life then only becomes a true Yogi.) To become a true Yogi, one has to be a ‘Gunaateeta’or Nirguna. But to be able to reach the extreme stage in life, one has to perfect one’s own life. Apparently Lord Shri Krishna preached Arjuna to discover the path to Moksha Sanyasa the hard way by firstly performing his duty as a Kshatriya: Shreyaan Swadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat, Swadharmey nidhanam shreyah Para dharmo bhayaapahah (Even if one finds his own duty unattractive and futile, and even if one could take up the duties of other ‘Varnas’/Castes, still one ought to execute one’s own natural duty, since abandoning it as frightening as death itself!). Also, Bhagavan cautiouned Arjuna: Karmanyevaadhi kaarastey maa phaleshu kadaachana, Maa Karma phalaheturbhuuh maa tey sangostwa karmani/ (Arjuna! Your freedom is restricted to perform your duty only.You cannot however intervene with the achievement of your actions. At the same time however you cannot help performing your duty any way!). Thus the Essence of Bhagavad Gita is to free Arjuna from his apprehensions to fight in the Maha Bharata Battle and merely do his duty; Lord Krishna however painted the greater picture by immortalising Gita, the path of Nirvana through various steps viz. Sankhya Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnaana Yoga, Karma Sanyasa Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Jnana Vijnaana Yoga, Ahshara Parabhrahma Yoga, Rajavidyaarajaguhya Yoga, Vibhti Yoga, Vishwarupa Sandarshana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Kshetra Kshetrajna Yoga, Guna Traya Vibhaga Yoga, Purushottama Praapti Yoga, Daivaasura sampad -Vibhaga Yoga, Shradhhatraya Vibhaga Yoga and finally Moksha Sanyasa Yoga).

24    Yama Dharma Raja and ‘Yama Gita’

Subsequent to death, body forms are given the nomenclature of ‘ativahikas’, as is described in Agni Purana.The followers of Lord ‘Yama’ (God of Death), known as ‘Yama dhootas’ or Yama’s servants take the ‘ativahikas’ to the Abode of Yama. The Great Accountant of Lord Yama, named ‘Chitragupta’presents the facts of good deeds or misdeeds- ‘Punya’ and ‘Papa’- of each ‘ativahika’ and a decision is taken whether, or how, or for how long the penalty or otherwise needs to be enforced and indeed there are no exceptions, no clarifications, no consultations, and no loopholes in the Law.The judgments are instantaneous and action packed. Lord Yama of Death is also the Lord of Dharma (Justice). The cycle of death, birth and rebirth is certain, instant and unending.   Agni Purana also narrates the details of Hell ( Naraka Lok); the number of hells is stated to be twenty-eight, each comprising many subsidiaries, depending on the type or duration or the extent of the sin.The sinners are boiled in oil,or whipped, or pierced with spears or eaten up by fire balls, or eaten up by birds, or tortured by machines and so on, depending on the sins.If one kills a cow, the person goes to ‘Mahavicha’Naraka; if a Brahman is killed, the destination would be a Burning Naraka, named ‘Amakumbha’; killing of women,children and the old persons would attract ‘Rourava’ Naraka; an arsonist is sent to ‘Maha Rourava’; a thief goes to ‘Tamisra’ (pierced by spears and swords) or ‘Mahatamisra’( bitten by snakes and insects) depending on the extent of the deed; killing father or mother takes one to ‘Asipatravana’ (cut into pieces by swords again and again) or ‘karambhavaluka’   ( made to stand deep  into burning sands for long duration); a tyrant is crushed like an oil seed in ‘Thailanpaka’; a person who is hypocrital is packed up to ‘Mahapata’ and like wise sinners such as killers of animals, tree cutters, critisisers of Vedas or teachers, those who provide false witnesses and so on are all punished as per the Regulations of the Narakas.Rebirths are also ordained, at the time of reverting the ‘ativahikas’  to mortal life, again on the basis of the ‘sanchitas’ ( as stored in the earlier births) or ‘Prarabdhaas’( accounts maintained in the previous birth alone). Retribution is also  as per norms in the rebirths: a killer of Brahmana is reborn as a deer, dog, pig or camel or becomes a victim of tuberculosis; a drunkard is reborn as a donkey or if reborn as a human again, would have deformed teeth of a dog; a thief of gold becomes a worm or an insect; a stealer of food becomes dumb; a stealer of foodgrains as a rat; a stealer of animals as a goat; a stealer of fruits as a monkey; stealer of meat as vulture; of milk as a cow and so on.

 ‘Yama Gita’ is an interesting chapter in Agni Purana. It describes the Story of ‘Nachiketa’, the faithful son of King ‘Vajashrava’. The King performed a Sacred Sacrifice against all his possessions. Nachiketa kept on enquiring of his father as to whom all the possessions were given to against the expenses for the Sacred Sacrifice or the Yagna’. The King did not wish to reply to the immature enquiry of his son. But, when Nachiketa insisted on knowing, the father said out of disgust that along with all his possessions, he gave away his son Nachiketa too to Lord Yama. Believing this, Nachiketa travelled all the way to Lord Yama’s Abode by virtue of his severe and sincere meditation and the Lord was not agreeable to accept him since his life was intact on Earth. But, despite Lord Yama’s persuasion, Nachiketa woud not change his mind. As a result, Lord Yama provided the Discourse known to posterity as the Yama Gita.Yama Dharma Raja wondered as to why human beings get enamoured with extremely temporary wishes and become victims of insignificant comforts like ‘Aasan’ (seat), Shayya (bed), Vaahan (carriage), Paridhaan (Vastras/clothing), and Griha (homes). Sage Kapila said: ‘Bhogaasakti’or desire for luxuries ought to be replaced by ‘Atma Tatva Chintana’ or the analysis of the Soul. King Janaka opined that human beings were always subjected to the onslaught of ‘Adhyatmika, Adhidaivika and Adhibhoutika’ tribulations and still they did not take lessons from them but strangely enough crave for momentary pleasure instead of seeking permanent bliss of Paramatma! Sanakaadi Maharshis affirmed that after all whatever desires that human beings might have, could be fulfilled instantly with the help of Tapasya but to attain the path of Avinaashi Brahma should be the lasting source of delight and that was what they should try to secure instead of frivolties! Naasti

Vishnu samam dhyeyam tapo naanshanaat param,

naasyaataarogya samam dhanyam naasti Gangaaamaa sarit,

na sosti baandhavah kaschid Vishnum muktwa Jagadgurum

(There is nothing more worthy that is  worshippable than Vishnu, no better Tapasya than fasting, nothing more valuable than ‘Arogya’ or good health and no superior river than Ganga and finally there is no other closer ‘bandhava’or relative than Vishnu.Those who die while in introspection about Vishnu that he exists and guides our actions from above, in front, in the Indriyas, in the heart and the face are sure to identify with Vishnu).

Nobody could ever restrict Para Brahma by a name or identify by  a Samsthana or an Estalishment or by a Rupa! Some worship him as Vishnu or Shiva, Brahma, Indra, Surya, or Para Brahma or Maya or Shakti! From Brahma to a worm, the entire Srishti is Paramatma. Atma (Soul) has no features, no characteristics, no age, no home, no dimensions, no body and least of all an identity.But is perceivable by Dharma against Adharma, jnaana against ignorance and ‘bhakti’or devoton against ‘rakti’(desire). That Supreme Power is visible by the means of Puja, Dhyana, Japa, Aaradhana, Homa, Daana, Tarpana, Abhisheka, Snaana, Tirtha, Vrata, Kirtana, Yagna, Yoga, Veda, Shastra, Purana, Satkarma, Seva, Nigraha and Sacrifice. If humam body is likened to a Ratha (Chariot), Atma is the Rathi (or the Driven), Buddhi or Inner Consiousness is the Sarathi (Charioteer), ‘Manas’ is the ‘lagaam’ or the Checkmate, ‘Indriyas’ or the horses, ‘Vishya Maarg’ or the road to doom or Nirvana as the case that might be and Bhokta is the ‘Atma’ or the Conscience. If the foolish Sarathi does not hold the mind and Indriayas tightly then the horses tend to run towards ‘Samsara’ which is broad and readily attractive and not to the narrow path of ‘Parama pada’. It is the discretion of the Sarathi to checkmate the horse-like temptations of a make-believe rosy path; if the horses are driven by ‘Buddhi’ by its own self, then the latter is directed to Maha Tatwa which in turn would point out to Mula Prakriti which finally nables to realise the Parama Purusha.Thus, the Essence of Dharma Raja’s Discourse was that human beings were indeed fully aware that they should not commit sins; strangely enough however-and  despite the awareness that such  wicked acts would attract heavy penalties- they continue to perform sins with full consiousness. Sages have been dinning in the ears of humanity that the notorious the Six Enemies of Humanity,viz. Desire (‘Kama’), Anger (Krodha), Greed (‘Lobha’), Infatuation ( ‘Moha’), Arrogance ( ‘Mada’),  and Jealousy (‘Matsarya) should be refrained from at any cost, but the ways of human life are entirely contrary to the morals preached conveniently and nonchalantly, without fear or qualms of consciousness. ‘Yama Gita’ further exhorts that a human life, which is far more precious than all other forms of non-human species, should not be  frittered away without cashing the opportunity as it seldom realises the need for aligning the Inner Soul with the Super force. Thus the final goal or Life’s real achievement is the union with the Supreme and the greatest possibility is to invest the physical existence to achieve the Finality

25    ‘Phala Shruti’

The Holy Agni Purana provides a glimpse of the content and course of ‘Brahma Gyan’ or the Awareness of the Self and Super Energy. The portrayal of the track leading to this Goal is through traditional Vedic prescriptions based on Rituals, Sacrifices, Abstinence, Meditation, Temple Visits, practice of Yoga and Gayatri. Agni Purana seeks to offer solace, happiness, security, peace of mind, discipline, self-confidence, success, and a perfect guide to achieving goals of Spititual and Meaningful Existence.Mere possession of the Purana is stated to frighten away the Evil spirits, enemies or thieves and encourage frequent visits of Devas and ‘Satpurushas’( Godmen). There would not be health problems or unresolved issues. The family life would be full of contenment and compositeness. Reciting chapters or even discourses by the Learned would even substitute visits to holy places, or providing alms and performance of ‘Vratas’or ‘Pujas’. In short, Agni Purana is a provider of ‘Iham’ and ‘Param’.

Swasti Prajaabhyah paripaalayantaam Nyayamargeyna Maheem Mahesha,

Gobrahmane   - bhyah Shubhamastu nityam Lokaassamasta sukhino bhavantu/

(Mahesha! (May the Nation be administered on the path of Justice; may the Virtuous Brahmanas and cows be happy and auspicious always, may the entire Universe by happy and contented).                        

Kaaley varshatu Parjanyah Prithvi sasya shalini

Deshoayam Kshut Kshobha rahito Brahmanaassantu nirbhayah/

Aputro Putranassantu Putranassantu Poutrinah,

Adhanah Sadhanaassatu Jeevantu sharadam shataah/

(May there by timely and adequate rains to turn the lands evergreen with good crops; may not the Nation ever suffer from hunger and poverty; may Brahmanas live fearlessly; may all beget good sons and grandsons, and may the Poor become rich and may all live for hundred years with contentment.)


Om Tat Sat

End of Agni Purana

(My humble salutations to  the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswamy ji and also my humble greatulness to  Brahmasree Sreeman V D N Rao ji  for the collection)


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