Totaka ashtakam

Once Shankara waited for one of his disciples to start his talk. Other disciples told Shankara that he is not worth that wait, as he had never talked till then. The disciple arrived, singing with hand-clapping.  As totakacharya (as he was called later) sang about Shankara, other disciples realized his depth of knowledge and prostated before him.

When a person speaks less, it does not mean less knowledge. None knows in which person what knowledge resides. It’s always better to be humble, seeking, learning from all. Totaka ashtakam describes shankara’s characteristics which also fits to mahaperiyava.

Totaka-ashtakam translation sung in tamil, essence in english, with maha-periyava’s discourse

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2 Replies to “Totaka ashtakam”

  1. True, mahAperiyava was a class by himself but his successor was also a comparatively simple, peaceful and very learned person. Despite that, recall the trials and tribulations to which he was subjected? No one could have believed that anyone would stoop as low as the ‘authorities’ did in their treatment of him. The vicious vindictiveness can only be understood when one realises that their problem was the need to deprive him of his calm and peace, to feel ‘big’ by making him suffer (become ‘small’, helpless) for they did not have the calm and peace he exuded, did not have his influence over large numbers of people even though they had a lot of worldly power as a consequence of being ‘authority’, etc. Almost one can say, they felt something lacking and overcompensated.
    As you sum up, knowledge can come from all people. It presupposes that one looks for it, is willing to observe the disciplines that help the seeds take root. When knowledge gets equated with vidya or more correctly with literacy level/ money/ status those who don’t have the qualifier are treated as underlings especially when they are also, as someone said about the Kanchi Shankaracharya, “too spiritual”. for few realise that among Hindus, it is when the ‘spiritual knowledge’ is part of the fabric of the human being that the calm, peace, influence over others, etc, become defining qualities rather than time bound Machiavellian acts to take power over a situation/ person. As long as one is full of an ahamkara that considers literacy levels / money/ status are ultimate and has the consequent negative emotions that difference with the ‘other’ arouse, one is limited to demeaning and degrading the other for one thinks the Brahmin ‘spiritual’ knowledge and practices are a waste of time, the lazy man’s way out. Because the ‘other’ has something that one wants but does not think one needs to work for, one finds satisfaction in bringing down, even torturing the other to prove one’s own superiority.
    Clearly, people who prioritise learning and are convinced that one must learn from all are less likely to consider themselves superior to others than those who are convinced that they have all the knowledge especially when the latter actually priorities money/ status/ literacy levels, etc which by extension result in hierarchical in their interactions with and opinions of, others. Because they are hierarchical in their thinking – they are perpetually competing to be one up on the ‘other’ – they ascribe the same qualities to the former. Or, more usually, think they can bring down the other by using their brawn which could include defamation and false implications etc, as happened in the Kanchi Shankaracharya’s case. Again, Shankaracharya’s followers did not take to destroying public property or wailing or… Instead they too maintained calm, wore black bands and went to the courts. He did not have to call on them to do anything – they had to plead with him to allow them to take the legal route. The mental and emotional stillness exhibited by him and his followers further exacerbated the anger of those who didn’t have the qualities.
    Since everyone wants the calm, contentment, peace, easy interaction with others, the clarity of vision, etc it is often easier to play victim and claim the other feels superior. Usually ‘the other’ is just not interested in the constant one-upmanship, proneness to fights, constant blame games, emphasis on body/ monies/ status/ contacts, etc. But people who have all the answers cannot know this. Also, usually they have no interest in ‘the other’. For them only money/ status etc makes the world go round – never mind the means of acquisition, display, etc. And they are determined to make everyone else join them. So, remaining simple, peaceful people requires that those who want it display enough bark/ bite to defend what they value.

  2. It’s the same paramatma inside you, me, saints, shankaracharyas, his successors, people who accused him of wrong-doings or sexual harassment etc etc. It’s the same paramatma inside everything and everyone.

    If that is so why anger /mis-trust on some and belief/love on some..? Why do we see some as aggressors, perpetuators of injustice and others as noble and dharmic..?

    It’s because the mortal sheaths we have, we process information in different ways, come to different judgements and decisions. All mortal beings make decisions that are self-centered, judgements that could be adharmic and develop biased perspectives, that make them and those around them suffer their karma. None are exception to these.

    In these circumstances, the best way forward is to take the good, sustainable from everyone and everything and ignore the other parts. It’s tough to pass judgement on other’s actions irrespective of, if it is sankaracharya or sankara narayana.

    As mahA-periyavA answered once ‘kim samsaare saaram’..? (during the discourse on prasannotara malika), it is ‘introspection’.

    Introspection means not just thinking internally and brooding over the same facts and thoughts.
    Introspection means critically questioning our beliefs, thoughts , searching for truth in different perspectives and thoughts and keep improvising ourselves.

    Just loud thinking..??

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