Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Siva-Sankalpa Sukta

शिव सङ्कल्प सूक्त

The Divine Essence that goes far away,
from the waking, and likewise from the sleeping,
and that one far-traveling Light of lights,
On that - the
Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell. (1)

That by which wise men, skillful in rituals,
and steady in assemblies, perform their tasks,
that peerless Spirit that lies in all creatures,
On that - the Auspicious Will of the
Divine - may my mind dwell. (2)

That which is deep knowledge, intellect, memory,
that which is the deathless Flame in living beings,
without which nothing whatever is done,
On that - the
Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell. (3)

That immortal Essence by which all
the past and present world is comprehended,
by which the ritual spreads with the seven priests,
On that
- the Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell. (4)

That in which the Rik, the Sāman, the Yajus are held firm,
like spokes in the nave of a chariot-wheel,
in which all thoughts of living beings lie interwoven,
On that
- the Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell. (5)

That which guides men like a good charioteer
who controls fleet-footed horses with the reins,
that which abides in the heart, most swift and active,
On that
- the Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell. (6)

Śukla Yajurveda XXXIV.1-6.
Translated by: R. L. Kashyap

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Background


The Śiva-Sankalpa Sūkta is a hymn (sūkta) of but six verses that comes to us from the Śukla Yajurveda, but originally found in the Rigveda. It is called the Śiva-Sankalpa Sūkta because each of the verses ends with the phrase tan me manah śivasankalpam astu meaning "on that - the Auspicious Will of the Divine (Śiva-Sankalpa) - may my mind dwell." It is a very gentle yet profound prayer that is said to calm the mind, and upon repeated chanting allows one to see the Divinity within. The profundity of the hallowed verses of this hymn has earned it the honor of being called an Upanishad.

Meaning

From even the briefest of overviews of the above hymn, it is clear that the verses speak of Divine Consciousness, that very consciousness which is immanent in creation, and enlivens all beings within it. It is that universal Divine Consciousness, or Śiva-Consciousness, which is perceived within each one of us as the individual consciousness or Ātman. The Śiva-Sūtra of Sage Vasugupta says: the Ātman is but Consciousness (Śiva-Sūtra I.1). The Śiva-Sankalpa Sūkta echoes the same doctrine - that Consciousness itself is the Ātman or the Self, both within and without.

In the above hymn we find the idea of the Consciousness going "far away" when sleeping and returning when awake (verse 1). This refers to the Consciousness only as applied to the physical body, and not Consciousness in its totality. It is, therefore, a perception only that Consciousness should come and go. Truly, Consciousness is neither transient nor limited, but all-pervasive and vibrates in every molecule of existence. For the realized being, Consciousness is no longer applied to the individual body alone, but to all existence. But, for the sake of the entity who perceives himself as an individual, it is spoken of as the Spirit within all creatures (verse 2).

When Consciousness associates itself with the organs of knowledge and action, it enables us to perform mundane tasks and elaborate rituals, to comprehend the past and present, and go about our daily lives in a skillful manner (verse 2). It is that Consciousness which gives us the ability to breathe, to think, to be mobile, etc. Without it, nothing whatever can be done. It is the “deathless Flame” that illuminates knowledge, memory and the intellect (verse 3). In the Śiva-Sūtra also we find the very same idea: ordinary knowledge consists of associations (Śiva-Sūtra I.2). Associations of what? – the associations of the Consciousness with various sensory faculties; associations of the Consciousness with the various sheaths or kośas.

Within each of us is that Consciousness, which is ordinarily understood as an individual soul or Ātman. It dwells within the center of oneself, within the heart, and enlivens the vital airs, the senses, the mind and the intellect. It is the same Consciousness which allows us both to experience the outer world, as well as open doors to deeper and deeper levels of the inner worlds. In the language of Yoga, this is called the rising of the Kundalinī Śakti (serpentine energy) higher and higher through the seven chakras. Using the Vedic analogy, the hymn alludes to rising of the Kundalinī Śakti in calling it the ritual that spreads with the seven priests (verse 4). The ritual is nothing but Kundalinī yoga, and the seven priests are the seven chakras.

Furthermore, the hymn informs us that the very same Divine Consciousness onto which all thoughts, all experiences, all beings, all things are interwoven together, also holds together the Vedas (verse 5). This particular verse gives us much insight into how the Vedas are to be viewed. The entire Vedic canon is an expression of the experience of the Divine Consciousness of various Seers (Rishis). The Seers of the Vedas were firmly established in that Divine Consciousness and saw the hymns as they are composed. Therefore, the Seers are called Mantra Drshtas (Seers of the Mantras). The Vedic hymns are not a mere expression of worldliness or appreciation of nature, per se, but rather an expression of the universal Divine Consciousness seen manifest in the powers of nature. The Vedic hymns are paeans to Divine immanence. That Śiva was experienced by the Seers, not just as transcendent Absolute, but also as the immanent Śakti within existence, within nature and the forces of nature. All of creation is a reflection within the Divine Consciousness and nothing more.

Internally, the same Consciousness also guides us through all of phenomenal and spiritual life. The body is a veritable chariot with the intellect its charioteer, the senses its horses and its reins the mind (verse 6) [Also see Katha Upanishad I.3.3-4]. All of this is enlivened by Consciousness alone. If we allow the senses to take over, they will certainly let the chariot astray. Rather, those established in that Self-Consciousness allow the charioteer, the higher intellect, to control and guide the senses with the reins of the mind*. Only when the higher intellect is allowed is guide the mind and senses through the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) established by the Yoga system can one walk on the path to realization. Only then will the mind dwell fully in the Auspicious Will of the Divine.

On that - the Auspicious Will of the Divine - may my mind dwell!

|| Aum Namah Shivaya ||

[*] Note that this symbolism is most overtly used in the setting of the Bhagavad-Gita.

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

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sankalpa

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