Paramam yo Mahat

Parthasarathy Desikan

Kim japan muchyate jantu: janmasamsaarabandhanaat? wonders Yudhishthira and asks Bhishma this question which has haunted many many minds before him and would continue to so haunt for millennia after him. That is because of the unceasing simultaneous presence in existence of baddhas and muktas. Yudhishthira had already chosen one of several routes, namely of japa among various karmic pathways of seeking. Bhishma’s answer is therefore easy. He recommends the chanting of the thousand names of Hari who was present among them at the time as the Krishna avatar. Naamajapa, or chanting the name of one’s beloved deity, especially the one that occurs to the seeker as great beyond all comprehension, is one of nine processes of bhakti for self-realization through the Grace of one’s ishtadevata.

Yudhishthira and his brothers should not have needed to be told the exceptional nature of their relative and friend from the Yadava clan, but seeing him as just that, a friend who had been such a help in the war just concluded, was a disadvantage.

Just a few days earlier, Krishna had revealed his true nature and even his ananta rupa of cosmic dimensions and beyond, during his exposition of the Gita to Arjuna, but his lila would have taken care to remove the effect of that revelation even from Arjuna’s mind afterwards. Yudhishthira would have experienced nothing of that phenomenon.
Bhishma refers to the Purushottama with several mahat (great) adjectives.
Paramam yo mahat teja:, paramam yo mahat tapah |
Paramam yo mahat brahma paramam yah paraayaNam ||
He who is the supreme Effulgence, He who is the ultimate austere practice (as well as its realized result), He who is the supreme brahman (the superconsciousness), and He who is the ultimate refuge of all the seekers who keep seeking the Truth.

The first aspect is of the manifestation of paraa shakti, the supreme energy driving all action, including the life force of chetanas in all of creation at all times everywhere. The second is the driving force of all the seeking activity by chetanas, all the tapas and all the sadhana with the aim of self realization. The third is the most important qualifier of the Infinite, the supremely aware being, the Knower of the sum total of Jnana, its very origin, its very objective, Jnana itself,  The chetana who is driven by the paramam tapa:, when  he gets to be aware of paramam brahma or param brahma, can lose his individual identity and become Jnana itself, or simply delight in experiencing the bliss of the awareness. Arguably, there is no difference between the two experiences. The fourth description is a reference to the Infinite, Bhagavan being involved in the entire journey of the Chetana, from the first step. Without its Grace there is no progress for the pilgrim. It is the refuge, surrendering to which or being devoted to which can turn the ordinary chetana who is baddha and place him on the seeking path.

The third function of the Infinite in being Jnana as well as the route to Jnana can be found by seekers in the sadgurus or Masters whom they seem to chance upon during their journey. When the disciple gets to see the identity of his Sadguru with that of the divine objective of making her/him find herself/himself, in a non judgmental way, the obstacles in his path begin to disappear. Sadhana becomes faciitated and progress in selfawareness results. For a seeker who started off with some ishtadevata in mind, pretty soon his sadhana makes him see the devata in the sadguru. This has been reported again and again in the history of Sanatana Dharma. The shloka praising Guru finds he is Brahma, Vishnu or Maheswara and in fact the visible aspect of param brahma itself.

Gurur Brahmaa Gurur Vishnu: Gurur Devo Maheswarah |
Guru: saakshaat Param Brahma tasmai shri gurave nama: ||

Krishna the Param Brahma became a Guru and revealed the Gita to all of us by preaching it to Arjuna before the Kurukshetra war. Bhishma the great Sadhaka, becomes in the final phase of his Samsaaric journey, the sadguru to Yudhishthira showing Krishna’ s true Nature to the Pandava. Lest the Sanatanis of Bharatavarsha forget the true significance of the Mahabharata Epic and the Mahabharata war, millennia after its glorious enactment, Adi Sankara, the great exponent of nonduality advised his followers to do Govinda bhajana and to sing the Gita and the Sahasranama. Yet another brilliant advaiti of Bengal, Madhusudana Sarasvati took time off from his contemplation of nirgunabrahman  by visualizing the blue tejas that was jumping around on the banks of the Yamuna, saying that the Nirguna principle can be left for the enjoyment of sadhakas who were contolling their minds with penances and meditative practices. For him the little lad on the river bank gave enough enjoyment.

Bhakti or SharaNaagati to SaguNa divinities had always appealed as a blissful alternative to Sadhanas. Sadhanas are similarly an attractive alternative to minds who are unable to develop the kind of devotion or surrender of Radha and Gopis of the  BhagavatapuraaNa, or in  more recent times, the all consuming absolute bhakti shown to Shiva, Vishnu and Ma Parvati as well as other devatas by outstanding Bhagavatas of our great country.

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2 Replies to “Paramam yo Mahat”

  1. Dear Partha,

    As I was reading this post, something strange happened to me. I felt the force of your bhakti very strongly in my heart. This is a wonderful and illuminating post, and I thank you for posting it.



  2. Thanks for stating your lovely resonance here, dear Dwai. I often feel that the para principle itself is seeking out for all of us individually and collectively all the time as we strive in our individual efforts to realize it. Acharyas enable us to make progress.
    Regards. Partha.

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