Arsha Vidya Pitham, Saylorsburg, PA

Tributes by Swamini Svatmavidyananda

At the very outset, one feels like saying “What are we going to do now?” It is never easy to experience the loss of anyone, what to talk of a shining sun like Pujya Swamiji. However, Pujya Swamiji is not lost – there is no coming or going.

I’m reminded of the verse in the Bhagavad Gītā where Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, for that which is born, death is certain, and for that which has come to an end, birth is certain. When we talk of certainty, it means we are talking about a law. What dies is meant to die. We are not talking about the “I” the ātman, but about the perishable body, mind, and senses. This is the law of the universe. Whenever we are confronted with a loss of this magnitude, we are forced to return to the truth of the Śāstra. The Śāstrasays that while the body-mind-complex is very much finite and subject to end, there is no birth and no death, because the “I” is just using the body as a casing. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that the body is like a cloth, an old torn t-shirt, that no one mourns for. In fact, one can’t wait to go shopping to get a new one because this one is not serving the purpose any longer!
When the person departs from the body we don’t say there is just the physical body. The physical body is left behind for everyone to see, but there is also the sūkṣma śarīra, the subtle body comprising of the mind, all the rāga-dveṣās, subtle elements, etc. We don’t see it when prāṇa departs, but it is there. There is also a causal body, which is self-ignorance, which finances the travel of the subtle body in this and other worlds — the ignorance of not knowing oneself as limitless make one an inter terrestrial and weary traveler.

When the mahā-samādhi of a mahātmā takes place, the body is left behind for everybody to see. This gross body disintegrates and joins the gross elements. However, the subtle body of the jñānī, joins the subtle elements because there is no one to finance the trip, the causal body, the cause because of which the body is incarnated, is not there for the mahātmā. It is destroyed through the study and assimilation of the knowledge of Vedānta, which teaches that one is whole and limitless. Therefore, the financier of the trip — the causal body — is not there.

So how do we communicate with Pujya Swamiji now? That which was there for us to communicate with was “Bhagavān plus” — Bhagavān plus the body, plus the mind, plus the senses, plus the humor, plus the kindness — an infinitely compassionate plus, with a wonderful voice and an incredible mind. What is there after mahā-samādhi? There is a graduation that has to take place. In every loss, there is a gain. I can take the leap and now I communicate with Bhagavān. Pujya Swamiji is a mūrti of Bhagavān, upāsya-mūrti — a beloved incarnation. One may now sense a physical distance, but there is no distance from the standpoint of the heart, from the standpoint of oneself. This is one of the gains. It’s like learning a new language. Let us say that suddenly someone you adored, revered, and communicated with daily has moved to another country. Pujya Swamiji has moved to another realm of being where the language of communication is prayer.

Homage In Saylorsburg

This is what Pujya Swamiji talked about all his life, how to relate to Bhagavān. The most beautiful thing about assimilating this teaching is that now we have Swamiji himself to relate to. Even though he’s not physically here he continues to urge us to see this Bhagavān as something to relate to. In this way, the loss is sublimated into an enacted relationship with Pujya Swamiji — a personal relationship, which is what Swamiji gave everybody when he was alive. So now we can continue to feel alienated and abandoned, with chips on our shoulders, or we can see how to put into practice the teachings and use them to bridge the gaps that we have in our relationship with Bhagavān. Pujya Swamiji is one form of Bhagavān that we can fully relate to; we have seen him, we know him, and we adore him. Difficult as it is to deal with Pujya Swamiji’s departure from this world, we cannot overlook the blessing of being able to assimilate the teachings in a deeper way and grow in our niṣṭhā.

Simultaneously, one also has to take care of the grief that is there. Grief has to be processed. One can write it out, talk it out, paint it out. One can learn how to pray it out. Prayer is the language of communication, where there is no fear of being rejected. Bhagavān is not going to say “no,” just like Pujya Swamiji could never say “no.”

The first gain is that one is learning to relate to Bhagavān, and in the process, one is also assimilating the teachings. Another point to consider is spiritual growth. Because of being prayerful in this way, one is growing spiritually. One can grow into becoming more accommodative, less reactive, more compassionate and more secure. Pujya Swamiji was a very big crutch, and now that is it is gone – one has to grow into being a crutch-less person. We have been dealt an opportunity to let go of the crutches and to forge within ourselves that security and identity that we seek.

Yet another potential gain is a special way of being close to Swamiji by being close to the śāstra. I would suggest that everyone who can teach should catch some people and sit them down and teach them. To all seekers and students, I would say, catch hold of the teacher — you can catch hold of any teacher in the lineage because they will all be teaching the same thing that Pujya Swamiji taught –perhaps not in the same way, but it will definitely be the same thing.

In every loss there is gain — this is one of the many paradoxes of Vedānta. We have to grow to be the Pujya Swamiji that we wish to see. The seeds are already there, the path has been already been shown to us by Pujya Swamiji. In the life of any saint, you see that it has not been a picnic. You see that lives of saints are often fraught with early difficulties. The saintly person has “īśvarized” the pain and has outgrown its power over his or her life. The saint has become bigger than the problems he or she faces. This is what we clearly see and admire in Pujya Swamiji’s life. When we embrace difficulties, we see them as opportunities for growth and the way reveals itself. How fortunate are we to have had the glorious privilege of having a great mahātmā such as Pujya Swamiji, who is a constant source of inspiration, as our guru.

Om tat sat

Lord Daksinamurti

In the vision of the Veda, this creation is a manifestation of the Lord. Being the cause, he is all knowledge, especially spiritual knowledge. We have a name for that Lord Daksinamurti.

The Lord presented in this form as Dakṣiṇāmūrti is the one who has eight aspects. The first five aspects are thefive elements. In the Veda the world is presented in the form of five elements—ākāśa, space,which includes time; vāyu, air; agni, fire; āpa, water; and pṛthivī, earth.

In this Vedic model of the universe, the five elements are non-separate from the Lord. In fact, these five elements constitute the Lord’s form, which is this universe.

The next two aspects are represented by the sun and the moon.

When, as an individual, I look at this world, what stands out in the sky are the sun and moon.

The moon represents all planets other than earth, and the sun represents allluminous bodies.

The eighth aspect is me, the jīva—the one who is looking at the world.

These eight aspects are to be understood as one whole. This is the Lord.

When we look at the form of Dakṣiṇāmūrti, we can see representations of the five elements. Space, ākāśa, is represented by a ḍamaru, a drum, in his right hand. In order to show space in a sculpture, it needs to be enclosed.

Empty space is enclosed in the ḍamaru, enabling it to issue sound, or śabda.

Next, vāyu, air, is represented by Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s hair with the bandana, the band, holding his hair in place against the wind. Bandana is a Sanskrit word which comes from the root band, to bind.

In his left hand, you will see a torch, which represents agni, fire.

Āpa, water, is shown by the Gaṅga, in the form of a Goddess, which you can see on Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s head.

Pṛthivī, the earth, is represented by the whole idol.

Then there are people, the jīvas, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Sanatsujāta, who are the disciples of Dakṣiṇāmūrti, sitting at the base of sculpture.

The sun and moon are also shown in this form of the Lord.

On the left side of Dakṣiṇāmūrti you will find a crescent moon, and on his right side there is a circle, representing the sun—a whole circle.

So we see five elements, two planets and the jīva constituting the aṣṭa-mūrti-bhṛt, the Lord of these eight factors that are the whole.

You can worship Dakṣiṇāmūrti as the Lord, the one who is aṣṭa-mūrti-bhṛt, or you can invoke him as a teacher, because he also is in the form of a teacher.

His very sitting posture, āsana, is the teacher’s āsana. What does he teach? Look at his hand gesture. That shows wha the teaches. His index finger, the one we use to point at others, represents the ahaṅkāra, the ego.

The other three fingers represent your body, deha, mind, antaḥkaraņa and sense organs, prāņa.

They also may be seen as the three bodies, śarīras, the gross, subtle, and causal. This is what the jīva mistakes himself to be. The aṅguṣṭha, the thumb, represents the Lord, the puruṣa. It is away from the rest of the fingers of the hand, yet at the same time, the fingers have no strength without it.

In this gesture, mūdra, in Dakṣiṇāmūrti’s right hand, the thumb joins the other fingers to form a circle, teaching that the jīva, who takes himself to be the body, mind and senses, is the whole. The circular hand gesture visually states the entire upadeśa, teaching: tat tvam asi, “You are That.” Just as a circle has no beginning or end, you are the whole. That is the final word about you. Nobody can improve upon that vision; no culture can improve upon it.

Even in heaven, it cannot be improved upon, for the whole includes heaven. Therefore, you have the final word here, because you are everything. It is better that you know it. That teaching is contained in the Veda, represented by the palm leaves in the left hand of Dakṣiṇāmūrti. And to understand this, you require a mind that has assimilated certain values and attitudes and has developed a capacity to think in a proper and sustained way.

This can be acquired by various spiritual disciplines represented here by a japa-māla, The fact that the Lord himself is a teacher, a guru, means that any teacher is looked upon as a source of knowledge. And the teacher himself should look upon Īśvara, the Lord, as the source of knowledge. Since the Lord himself is a teacher, the first guru, there is a tradition of teaching, so there is no individual ego involved in teaching.

Dakṣiṇāmūrti is seated upon a bull, which stands for tamas, the quality of māyā that accounts for ignorance. This is the entire creative power of the world and Dakṣiṇāmūrti controls this māyā; Then, there are bound to be obstacles in your pursuit of this knowledge. Dakṣiṇāmūrti controls all possible obstacles.

Underneath his foot, under his control, is a fellow called Apasmara—the one who throws obstacles in your life. This tells us that although there will be obstacles, with the grace of the Lord, you can keep them under check and not allow them to overpower you. There is no obstacle-free life, but obstacles need not really throw you off course; you keep them under control.

Thus, the whole form of Dakṣiṇāmūrti invokes the Lord who is the source of all knowledge, the source of everything, the one who is the whole, and who teaches you that you are the whole. He is Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the one who is in the form of a teacher, guru-mūrti.

We invoke his blessing so that all of you discover that source in yourself. If this self-discovery is your pursuit, your whole life becomes worthwhile. This project of self-discovery should be the project of everyone. That is the Vedic vision of human destiny

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam was founded in 1986 by Pujya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati. In Swamiji’s own words,

“When I accepted the request of many people I know to start a gurukulam, I had a vision of how it should be. I visualized the gurukulam as a place where spiritual seekers can reside and learn through Vedanta courses. . . And I wanted the gurukulam to offer educational programs for children in values, attitudes, and forms of prayer and worship. When I look back now, I see all these aspects of my vision taking shape or already accomplished. With the facility now fully functional, . . . I envision its further unfoldment to serve more and more people.”

Ārṣa (arsha) means belonging to the ṛṣis or seers; vidyā means knowledge. Guru means teacher and kulam is a family.  In traditional Indian studies, even today, a student resides in the home of this teacher for the period of study. Thus, gurukulam has come to mean a place of learning. Arsha Vidya Gurukulam is a place of learning the knowledge of the ṛṣis.

The traditional study of Vedanta and auxiliary disciplines are offered at the Gurukulam. Vedanta mean end (anta) of the Veda, the sourcebook for spiritual knowledge.  Though preserved in the Veda, this wisdom is relevant to people in all cultures, at all times. The vision that Vedanta unfolds is that the reality of the self, the world, and God is one non-dual consciousness that both transcends and is the essence of everything. Knowing this, one is free from all struggle based on a sense of inadequacy.

The vision and method of its unfoldment has been carefully preserved through the ages, so that what is taught today at the Gurukulam is identical to what was revealed by the ṛṣis in the Vedas.