Warning: This blog is written in self introspection and in a philosophic frame of mind.
I walked into the Conference room with my laptop, charger, notebook, pencil balanced in one hand and a cup of coffee in another. It definitely takes some years of practice to accomplish this, in the process of which I have dropped the laptop, the notebook or the coffee in different combinations. This time I was lucky as I placed everything successfully without an incident on a vacant spot in the table and looked around. I recognized most of the folks in the room and exchanged some pleasantries about the weather and traffic.
It was a training session for the next 3 days. The trainer made us write our names in placards in front of us. I wrote my first name leaving the surname which was like 5 syllables and too much of a challenge for non-Indians. As is usual with these kind of sessions, he wanted us to start with a round of introductions, with a description of ourselves, our job, our location and expectations of the course. The person at the end of the table started and seemingly he was proud of his job as an Enterprise Architect and spent sometime describing his skills at it. There were atleast 7 people before it would be my turn.
I thought about it. I wanted to make my introduction interesting. Something out of ordinary. Who am I? Well, I am a Program Manager – boring! I am a mother of a teenager – interesting but not relevant! I am an artist of sorts – showing off! I am a woman – quite obvious! I like blogging – sheesh! I was getting nowhere when the third person had already taken on the introductions.
Out of no-where, I remembered a lecture on Hastamalaka-stotram by Adi Shankara I had attended some years back. That lecture was a revelation of sorts as I had already started reading up on Advaita(non-duality) and wanted a simpler text to follow. The story goes like this – when Adi Sankara was informed by the father of a seemingly dull boy to help his son – the Great Saint called the 12 year old boy and asked him who he was. In fact, Adi Sankara’s questions are framed as `Who are you? Whose child are you? Whither are you bound? What is your name? Whence have you come? Oh Child! I should like to hear your reply to these questions.’ (Kind of something the trainer was asking us!!) The boy gave his introduction in 12 verses which contained the entire advaita philosophy. Adi Sankara recognized his immense wisdom and took the boy as his disciple. The boy became known as Hastamalaka – because self-knowledge was for him like the Amalaka placed on the Hasta (as clear as a gooseberry in the hand!) and the 12 verses (which I will quote below in a translation) became known as the Hastamalaka-stotram.
While it may seem like a conundrum, the simplicity of the Truth is so beautiful! Who am I? Who are you? When I think about introducing myself, I limit myself to this body, to the experiences I have had in this body, to the expectations of my surroundings. But I am much beyond the body. I am that! This is my belief – but yet to experience and revel. I believe that I am only using the body to gain that self knowledge but I am not the body itself! Ofcourse how much ever I read Nisargatta Maharaj or Bhagwan Ramana’s works on the same, I am still caught in this Maya or Illusion.
Is this awareness a beginning?
I looked up. It was my turn and I spoke about Program management and my role in the Transformation projects etc etc. The amalaka had slipped from this Hasta maybe to return later 🙂
Hastamalaka Stotram (a translation – source – Internet. You can get the publication from Chinmaya Mission or similar such bookstores for further contemplation)
1. `Who are you? Whose child are you? Whither are you bound? What is your name? Whence have you come? Oh Child! I should like to hear your reply to these questions.’ Thus spoke Sri Shankaracharya to the boy, and Hastamalaka replied as follows.
2. I am neither man, God, yaksha, brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmachari, householder, forest-dweller, nor sannyasi; but I am pure awareness alone.
3. Just as the sun causes all worldly movements, so do I — the ever-present, conscious Self — cause the mind to be active and the senses to function. Again, just as the ether is all-pervading, yet devoid of any specific qualities, so am I free from all qualities.
4. I am the conscious Self, ever-present and associated with everything in the same manner as heat is always associated with fire. I am that eternal, undifferentiated, unshaken Consciousness, on account of which the insentient mind and senses function, each in its own manner.
5. I am that conscious Self of whom the ego is not independent as the image in a mirror is not independent of the object reflected.
6. I am the unqualified, conscious Self, existing even after the extinction of buddhi, just as the object remains ever the same even after the removal of the reflecting mirror.
7. I am eternal Consciousness, dissociated from the mind and senses. I am the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye, ear of the ear and so on. I am not cognizable by the mind and senses.
8. I am the eternal, single, conscious Self, reflected in various intellects, just as the sun is reflected on the surface of various sheets of water.
9. I am the single, conscious Self, illumining all intellects, just as the sun simultaneously illumines all eyes so that they perceive objects.
10. Only those eyes that are helped by the sun are capable of seeing objects, not others. The source from which the sun derives its power is myself.
11. Just as the reflection of the sun on agitated waters seems to break up, but remains perfect on a calm surface, so also am I, the conscious Self, unrecognizable in agitated intellects though I clearly shine in those which are calm.
12. Just as a fool thinks that the sun is entirely lost when it is hidden by dense clouds, so do people think that the ever-free Self is bound.
13. Just as the ether is all-pervading and unaffected by contact, so also does the ever-conscious Self pervade everything without being affected in anyway. I am that Self.
14. Just as a transparent crystal takes on the lines of its background, but is in no way changed thereby, and just as the unchanging moon on being reflected on undulating surfaces appears agitated, so is it with you, the all-pervading God.