I hope I will be allowed to make a second post on Verse 20. I have had a new line of thought, which I wanted to share.
Yama is the icon of change. This is the starting point of the understanding of this verse.
Yama signifies end of one aspect/phase so that a new aspect/phase may begin. This annihilation or conclusion applies to things, people, relationships, feelings, state of being, growth stages, ideas. So an idea of a thing as it is with me today can end and in its place can arise a new form of the same idea. Very similar to – from a state of ‘the cup is half empty’ to a newer state of ‘’in fact the cup is half full’. A change of mindset.
In a seeker’s life, change is usually as subtle as this. And it is indeed charming.
So Yama is the one who delivers change.
The fear of Yama arises from the fear of losing this body identity and that is legitimate as long as the reality for us remains the body and its appurtenances. But that He operates daily at different levels is ignored by us.
That being so, we attach ourselves to the littler joys of the material world, the secular world. We shudder with the change felt in the body, in the mind, in the intellect. When love changes to dislike, we get fearful. When someone we were so close to since childhood, so that she or he is a part of our very existence and unquestionably so, when such a person turns cold, there is fear over this change. When the same food which brought us joy, now causes allergic reaction, we are doubtful and worried. When the same legs that ran the 400 m at school and college and after, now sends shooting pains at the knee, there is fear.
These changes are a part of the jada that is the external casing of the soul. The packing material.
Point is, as long as we stay identified with this, we will remain fearful of change. As long as we remain body identified, mind identified, intellect identified, we will continue to protect them and idolise them. Even when we are scientifically shown that these are jada, we go ‘naaaaah’ and continue to protect them....whereas...
........ the great Sankara is simply saying, just move a little away from this, and look towards home. To the One from where you came...that is where you belong and need to find your way back to. An actor has to change from his costume and role to his regular gear and go back home to his family.
If we stay identified with our costume, and refuse to change, how will we go home?
Sri Sankara says, this acceptance, this shift to a different perspective of your source, requires that you move away from matter to spirit (of a thing). Gold being the same, it is variously seen as chain or ring or whatnot. If you (me, us, we, one) stay with the essence as gold, you will cease to be attached to its form. (from an investment standpoint). Likewise, if we see Brahman as the essence, the forms will be seen as mere appearances of Brahman.
So how do we get to the spirit of a thing, and thus move away from the form of a thing? For form is what changes, and form is what keeps us deluded. Death happens to it. The best shirt loses color, buttons break, collar goes weird, cuffs fray...what to do?
These are all forms of its death. And these changes worry us, so that the mind remains even more tightly in the realm of the material. Whereas Sri Sankara wants us to step aside and look at the beyond...
Sri Sankara says, get to the spirit behind a thing. Remove the labels. If you get to the spirit, the changes will be so pointless and meaningless that it won;t touch you. And you will see that this change is no change at all, for I am verily changeless...and out of the compassion of his heart, Sri Sankara gives us 3 medicines which will make this shift possible for us. I guess he felt that if they have reached me this far, (via the Bhaja Govindam text), they will have the tenacity to examine these 3 methods.
So get to the spirit and when we work at the spirit of every thought, action, person and thing, we live life spiritually.
But this is very difficult on its own, esp since we have led a huge life of being taught and trained in being things-driven, performance driven, security driven (save body, things, property, image, fame, name, and these days even body parts).
Sri Sankara says, to get there you have 3 means: a) Logic, which the Gita gives you, as it is the milk of the Upanishads. Distilled and extracted and brought to you in a beautiful ready-to-consume tetra-pack. You can (therefrom) realise that the life that you experience is the same in every other thing, that the One is in fact appearing as the many (eko’ham bahushyaam), that the mind needs to be taken away from its preoccupations of the objective world (which were given only for exhausting the silly vasana-s) ... towards Home which is the goal.
b) Consider, then adopt the supremacy of the Lord as the Divine Law Maker, Dispenser of Justice; Once you realise there is an unsurpassable law above you which you cannot control, you realise the frailty of the Ego... and this ego needs to be worked on and sublimated, offered in service of that same Law Maker. The symbolism is given by Lord as Murari eliminating Mura the demon. But going behind the symbolism, one must continue to dialogue with the Lord which is what will keep us ever growing, ever learning, ever vigilant of what He asks of us to do for HIM and for His world than for me and my world...Ego is all that keeps me tied to myself and my identification as a certain definition and tied to the narrow vision of the world as seen with my small eyes. Once the ego goes, the Home is so clearly visible.
c. Sipping of the Ganga – (I am going to do my best having spent more time trying to udnerstand Mother Ganga-- but remain on the fence yet) – the Ganga stands for the essence of spirituality. Various physical meanings and analogies are given by many. Essence is, Ganga is the symbolism of spirituality just as the national flag is of the country’s purity and essence. This symbolism is endorsed in various ways by various examples. If we stay with the ideal of the Ganga, then it represents all that we are seeking. But to get to this state of feeling, requires a lot of working with our own purity, devotion, surrender, acceptance etc... which is what finally throws open the essence of the Ganga to us (exactly why I struggle with understanding the Ganga).
Sipping the Ganga (jal), comes very close to the real sipping of the spiritual knowledge. But to sip too we must bear in our hearts that understanding and feeling that this water stands for all that I need to attain. That devotion really opens the door. An easy analogy would be the devotion many people feel when they touch the flag of their country versus many who do not feel anything but the fabric. So that inner sense of magnitude that the Ganges attains within you is proportionate to your sense of devotion too.
Sipping the Ganga with the devotion that it stands for eons of Knowledge passed on from the sages of yore, the river that continues to flow unabated since her descent several million years ago (see end of this note for age of the Ganga)...one stunning thought that goes with this is the fact of the waters rising at the feet of Lord Vishnu and travelling over the head of Lord Siva, thus breaking its gush to a thin stream, it waters the country with the knowledge of the Gods...Siva as Dakshinamurthy, continues to water the country with Knowledge and this is what nourishes us in every way.
So availing of any of these 3 methods will withdraw us faster from preoccupations of the material world, the means, and lead us to the end – the goal, the Home we belong to.
And we need to return because that is where we belong. Like a child who gets enamoured with the park and does not want to return home, and has to be told through reminding him that grandpa is waiting there, your toys are there, food is waiting for you there.... and so on.
So Murari or worship/japa is at the level of speech; Gita is for the level of the intellect; and the Ganga is for the level of the physical Body.
To my mind, she is the perennial mother, the only mother who will not fail you. Faith requires a dependant mother, and that She is.
This little story points to that and is touching too: (source Wikipedia)
A popular paen to the Ganga is the Ganga Lahiri composed by a seventeenth century poet Jagannatha who, legend has it, was turned out of his Hindu Brahmincaste for carrying on an affair with a Muslim woman. Having attempted futilely to be rehabilitated within the Hindu fold, the poet finally appeals to Ganga, the hope of the hopeless, and the comforter of last resort. Along with his beloved, Jagannatha sits at the top of the flight of steps leading to the water at the famous PanchgangaGhat in Varanasi. As he recites each verse of the poem, the water of the Ganges rises up one step, until in the end it envelops the lovers and carry them away.
"I come to you as a child to his mother," begins the Ganga Lahiri
I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.
I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.
I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.
I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.
I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.
Do with me whatever you will.
An aside on the age of the Ganga:
(according to the geosciences dept of IIT-Kanpur, “We conclude that the Ganga valley morphology in this part of the plains [ ie the part where they studied the river] is of considerable antiquity (probably extending back to at least 80, 000 years) and that the Ganga (or a similar large precursor river) has been near its present position since at least 30, 000 years, b ut has migrated southwards during the period 11, 000 to 6, 000 years, incising its southern valley margin. The areas south of the Ganga, e.g. IITK campus, appear to have been formed by smaller rivers and were not occupied by the Ganga river through this period. We also conclude that the variations in monsoonal strength has had pronounced effect on the Ganga river and future changes in climate, coupled with human-induced changes are likely to influence the river significantly.”
And the same research places the formation of the Ganga Valley as being 55 million years old – just the valley pls. The river itself must have gained her depth and bounce in the ensuing years. http://www.iitk.ac.in/infocell/iitk/newhtml/storyoftheweek51.htm)
Hari Om and thank you for your patience.