CONTEXT OF THE VAASISHTAM DISCOURSE
सुतीक्ष्णो ब्राह्मणः कश्चित्संशयाकृष्टमानसोऽगस्तेराश्रमं गत्वा मुनिं पप्रच्छ सादरं भगवन्धर्मतत्वज्ञ्न
सर्वशास्त्रविनिश्चित संशयोऽस्ति महानेकस्त्वमेतं कृपया वद मोक्षस्य कारणं कर्म ज्ञानं वा मोक्षसाधनमुभयं वा विनिश्चित्य एकं कथय कारणम् ।
Some Brahmin named Suteekshna, troubled by some doubt in his mind, once went to the hermitage of Muni Agastya and asked humbly “Hey Bhagavan! You know the real essence of Dharma. You know the ascertained conclusion of all the Shastras. I have one great doubt; please answer this for me with compassion. Practicing which method shall one attain liberation, Karma or Jnaana, or both? With proper ascertainment tell me why that is chosen as the means of liberation.”
(What should a Brahmin who is bound to the rites and sacrifices as his ascertained duties do in such a case? If one wants to have liberation alone as his goal of life, should he renounce the duties of life and seek to a life of contemplation only? Is duty a hindrance to the attainment of liberation?)
[BRAAHMANA is a person who studies or knows Brahman.
ब्रह्म वेदं शुद्धं चैतन्यं वा वेत्ति अधीते । जन्मनः ब्रह्मणो ज्नेयः संस्कारेर्द्विज उच्यते विद्यया याति विप्रत्वं त्रिभिः श्रोत्रिय उच्यते ।
[AASHRAMA means the hermitage, a place of complete rest.
AGASTYA is a Sage so-called because he crossed over the ‘Aga’ the (Vindhya) Mountain which blocked the entire sky and stopped the movement of the Sun.
MUNI is a person who has no desires, who is unaffected by pains and pleasures, who is free of attraction, anxiety and anger, and who is of a stabilized intellect.
BHAGAVAN is a mode of address offered to a highly venerable person who possesses the wealth of Knowledge supreme.
DHARMA is that which supports the world.
TAATVAM is the inner essence.
SHAASTRAM is the scriptural text which contains commands, instructions of knowledge, sacred precepts etc.
MOKSHA is the state of freedom that is mentioned as the final goal for all individuals stuck in the framework of time and space.
SAADHANA is the practice chosen to attain the prescribed goal.
KARMA in the ancient language means the rites prescribed by the Vedas for the attainment of heaven etc.
JNAANA refers to the Knowledge portions of the Vedas, which advise renunciation of actions.]
अगस्तिरुवाचोभाभ्यामेव पक्षाभ्यां यथा खे पक्षिणां गतिस्तथैव ज्ञानकर्मभ्यां जायते परमं पदम् ।केवलात्कर्मणो ज्ञानान्नहि मोक्षोsभिजायते किन्तूभाभ्यां भवेन्मोक्षः साधनं तूभयं विदुः ।
Agastya spoke: A bird needs both the wings when flying in the sky; likewise, the Supreme state of Brahman arises by Jnaana and Karma both. Either just by Jnaana or just by Karma, liberation cannot be attained; but both together lead towards liberation; both are the means thereof.
(By renouncing either one, liberation is not possible; both are to be simultaneously practiced.)
[KHAM is the hollowness empty of all objects – refers to Brahman-state, sky, space, emptiness, etc.
PARAMAM PADAM is the state beyond the mundane existence.]
अस्मिन्नर्थे पुरावृत्तिमितिहासं वदामि ते। कारुण्याख्यः पुरा कश्चित्ब्राह्मणोऽधीतवेदकोऽग्निवेश्यस्य पुत्रोऽभूद्वेद-
वेदाङ्गपारगः। गुरोरधीतविद्यः सन्नाजगाम गृहंप्रति तस्थावकर्मकृत्तूष्णीं संशयानो गृहे तदा । अग्निवेश्यो विलोक्याथ पुत्रं कर्मविवर्जितम्प्राह एतद्वचो निन्द्यं गुरुः पुत्रं हिताय च । किमेतत्पुत्र कुरुषे पालनं न स्वकर्मणः अकर्मनिरतः सिद्धिं कथं प्राप्स्यसि तद्वद । कर्मणोऽस्मान्निवृत्तेः किं कारणं तन्निवेद्यताम् ।
In this context I will relate to you a past incident that happened long back. There was once a Brahmin named Kaarunya, son of Agniveshya. He was well versed in the Vedas and other scriptures. He finished his education (in the GuruKula) and returned home. However, he abstained from all rites prescribed for his station of life with some doubt lingering in his mind. Agniveshya observed his son abstaining from the performance of all the prescribed rites; chided him and spoke these words of advice as a teacher, with his son’s welfare in the mind. “Son, what has happened to you? Why are you not performing your regular duties? If you abstain from all these works, how will you attain the final goal of life, tell me? For what reason you have abstained from work, explain it to me.”
[ITIHAASA is the incident that has happened in the past; इति ह आस- so it has been; also known as history
VEDA refers to the Knowledge texts that form the basis of all other knowledge forms prevailing in the world; and is derived from the root-sound ‘Vid’ – to know. Vedas are not in written form; but only in the sound form and are known as SHABDAS also.
VEDAANGAS are the auxiliary texts which aid in the pronunciation and interpretation of Vedas.
GURU is a term referring to any elder person like a father or teacher who has the authority to advice.
PUTRA is the son who saves the father from the hells named ‘nna and mna’
SIDDHI is the final achievement, complete accomplishment.]
कारुण्योवाच यावज्जीवमग्निहोत्रं नित्यं संध्यामुपासयेत्प्रवृत्तिरूपो धर्मोऽयं श्रुत्या स्मृत्या चोदितः । न धनेन भवेन्मोक्षः कर्मणा प्रजया न वा त्यागमात्रेण किंत्वेके यतयोऽश्नन्ति चामृतमिति श्रुत्योर्द्वयोर्मध्ये किं कर्तव्यं मया गुरो इति संदिग्धतां गत्वा तूष्णीम्भूतोऽस्मि कर्मणि ।
Kaarunya spoke: Shrutis and Smritis advise a man to perform Fire-rites and Sandhyaa-worship all throughout his life which is a duty that is connected to the worldly life (Pravrtti). (In that case I have to live as a householder, marry, beget children, and earn wealth for them.) (Again they say that) Moksha cannot be attained through wealth, or duties or progeny; but through renunciation alone do those noble ones strive to attain that one goal of ‘Immortality’ (Amrtam). Since Shrutis instruct both the paths (of Pravrtti and Nivritti/ performance of duties and renunciation of duties), what should I do hey father? Caught in this dilemma, I have abstained from all the duties.
[SHRUTI refers to Vedas, the revelations. SMRITI refers to the texts containing the traditional rules to be followed.
AMRTAM refers to the nectar-state of immortal bliss.]
अगस्तिरुवाचेत्युक्त्वा तात विप्रोऽसौ कारुण्यो मौनमागतः। तथाविधं सुतं दृष्ट्वा पुनः प्राह गुरुः सुतम् । शृणु पुत्र कथामेकां तदर्थं हृदयेऽखिलं मत्तोऽवधार्य पुत्र त्वं यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु ।
Agastya spoke: Having spoken thus, the Brahmin named Kaarunya remained silent. His father understood his doubt, and spoke to his son like this: “Listen, my son, to this one story (of MahaaRaamaayanam) which explains everything that you want to know. Understand my son, the essence of what I tell you, and later you can decide your own course of life.