Fire cannot burn It,– Bhagavad Gita (2:23)
Water cannot wet It,
Wind cannot dry It,
Weapons cannot shatter It.
It cannot die.
Akshaya Tritiya (26th April, this year) is the day the LivingWise Project was born, three years ago. It was an unplanned auspiciousness that this day was chosen. Akshaya Tritiya is the day we celebrate the abundance and unending-ness of life’s bounty manifesting as material and spiritual wealth, beauty, wisdom and love. Akshayais a Sanskrit word meaning ‘unending’ or ‘indestructible’. On this day, the Pandavas of the Mahabharata received the Akshaya Patra (upon propitiating Lord Surya), a vessel that never ran out of food.
The festival is associated with material wealth and prosperity when people buy gold and start business ventures, but that is perhaps a reflection of what we appear to value most in our society today. In our search for unending prosperity though, we often forget that the body through which it would be enjoyed is itself not eternal or immortal.
The themes of ‘indestructibility’ and ‘immortality’ seem important to consider on this Akshaya Tithi. As sage Yājñavalkya’s wife Maitreyi asks him in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, when he offers her his wealth as he prepares to retire to the forest,
“Sire, you want to offer me all your wealth. May I ask you one question: Can I become immortal through wealth? With all the treasures that you are now prepared to offer to me, can I become immortal?”
With the asking of this wise question, the great sage revealed the secrets of immortality or realisation of the Self. His statements are like bombs that explode through the delusion covering the ordinary human mind:
“Nobody loves anything for its own sake.”
“For the sake of the Self, everything is dear”
(source: Lessons on the Upanishads by Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society)
Yājñavalkya did not say, it is wrong to seek wealth, seek instead knowledge or service or some such thing. That kind of moralistic teaching was not held as the highest by society at large (only in more recent centuries has this been the case in India, a notion imported from the invaders and foreign occupiers). The sages however were not trying to preach about what is right and wrong, good and bad. Their message was aimed at pulling the mind out of the mortal realm altogether. Yājñavalkya strikes at the root of all human seeking itself, saying that whatever it is you run after, thinking you love that thing, it is not because of what you perceive the object to be that you love it, but because it is the Self that you love.
From Sri Shankaracharya’s commentary on Yājñavalkya’s words:
“It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one’s own sake that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of wealth, my dear, that it is loved, but for one’s own sake that it is loved. It is not for the sake of the Brāhmaṇa, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the Kṣatriya, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the worlds, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of the gods, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of the beings, my -dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of all, my dear, that all is loved, but for one’s own sake that it is loved. The Self, my dear Maitreyī, should be realised—should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. By the realisation of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known.
More modern-day sages like Sri Ramana Maharshi have also explained about desire: Suppose we really desire something thinking it will make us happy. Then in the state of its absence, we feel we are unhappy. When we attain the object of our desire, it is not that happiness was inherent in that object (if that were the case, having it would make every person happy and there is no such thing ever that is universally perceived to be desirable all the time) but that the seeking for it vanished in the having of it and our original state of happiness was present, undisturbed. Happiness is not inherent in any one object because if it was, humanity would have figured out by now, what that object was.
Swami Krishnananda gives a good exposition on the mechanics of what it means to ‘love’ a thing and how it is only the confusion caused by the subject-object split in consciousness that makes it believe that there is some object outside of itself that it loves. The subject-object perception is something I’d like to explore in future writings as I’ve been quite excited to see how close quantum physics also seems to be coming to realising the subjectivity of the perceiver in making measurements in the world.
As the sages have questioned: You want so many things, but who is the “wanter”? You see so many things but the “seer” you do not know.
(see also, Pointings from the Kena Upanishad)
Some beautiful statements from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as quoted by Swami Krishnananda:
Yatra tv asya sarvam atmaivabhut, tat kena kam jighret, tat kena kam pasyet, tatra kena kam manvita, tat kena kam vijaniyat? Vijnataram are kena vijaniyad (Brihad. 2.4.14):
“Who will know the knower?
Who will think of the thinker?
Who will understand the understander?
Who will be conscious of consciousness?”
yad vai tan na pasyati, pasyan vai tan na pasyati; na hi drastur drister viparilopo vidyate (Brihad. 4.3.23):
“There is no gulf between the seer and the seen.”
Salila eko drastadvaito bhavati, esa brahma-lokah, samrad iti. Hainam anuhasasa yajnavalkya (Brihad. 4.3.32):
“This is the sole seer, the sea of consciousness.”
Significance of Akshaya Tritya
The day of Akshaya Tritiya holds much significance in Indian culture. (see Akshaya Tithi – The Indestructible Day by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati)
Whatever action one performs on this day is believed to multiply greatly in its effect. It is considered to be the day that Treta Yuga commenced (hence it is also called “Yugaditithi”). The doors of Badrinath, considered one of the most important abodes of Lord Vishnu in north India, open around this time too.
This day of Akshaya Tritiya is also considered to be the day that Lord Parshurama (the sixth avatar of Vishnu, also known as a ‘Chiranjeevi’ or immortal being) descended to Earth. In addition, this day marks the birth anniversary of the 12th century saint from Karnataka Sri Basavanna or Basaveshwara. In our “modern” terminology we refer to him as a social reformer and someone who “advocated” fraternity and equality of man. It saddens me a little when Indians believe that their saints were preaching dogmas of equality – our education systems have taught us to think in this way, sadly. We miss the whole beauty of the great and profound realisation of these saints and sages – the realisation of universal consciousness (of which promoting brotherhood among communities was a ‘side-effect’). This was one of the reasons I felt to start the LivingWise Project (coincidentally on this auspicious day that is also referred to as “Ishwara Tithi” in recognition of the Eternal principle). To bring to light the real wisdom that is not a ‘prescription’ but a living Spirit…kept alive through living beings in every age. Undying. Indestructible. Akshaya.Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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To your point on parallels to quantum physics: The Tao Of Physics talk about the same in beautiful detail. If you haven’t read it, then I’d recommend the same.
Thanks, that sounds interesting, will check it out for sure.