This month we feature an extraordinary book,The Ribhu Gita, theUpanishadic discourse of the guru, Sage Ribhu, to his disciple, Nidagha. Its publication is a landmark achievement in the domain of Hindu scripture, making a previously unaccessible and virtually unknown, yet priceless and pure, Hindu teaching available to the English-speaking world. Following the review is an interview with Master Nome, the spirit behind this profound edition.
THE RIBHU GITA,
First English Translation from the Original Sanskrit Indian Epic Sivarahasya.Translated by Dr. H. Ramamoorthy, assisted by Master Nome. First edition, 1995, hardbound, 335 pages, US$25.00. Available from Treasures of the Heart, 1834 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, California, 95060, USA. Phone: 1-800-465-0376 (US only), 408-458-9654, fax: 408-425-0407,
How rare! How precious! How utterly lofty! How far beyond the everyday consciousness of humanity, yet how close to our most intimate yearnings! Thanks to the recent publication by the Society of Abidance in Truth, SAT, the Saivas now have their Gita,too--the Ribhu Gita,an apparently "ancient text" which, like the other Gita,is an extract from a much longer epic, in this case the Sivarahasya.
The interesting thing about this Gitais its unswerving focus upon one teaching only, that of the Self, or Self-God. "Tat Tvam Asi,""You are That." This lofty knowing permeates virtually all Hindu teaching, but we know of no other text where it is focused upon so exclusively or exposed at such length. In all, some 2,200 sutrasare dedicated to this ultimate of truths.
The book consists of 44 chapters, each one of which considers the Self, or Brahman, from one point of view, or conversely, looks back upon consciousness from the point of view of the Self. The reader who is inclined to monism will be delighted. He may find some stanzas awakening new perception. For example, "You never had a witness," struck and forcefully impacted this reader.
It is important to note that the book does not rest with absolute monism, which would not allow any validity to the dualistic view. This is what makes this text truly great. After exposing in each chapter the world and all its inhabitants and happenings as totally unreal from the perspective of the highest Absolute, it concludes each chapter with practical advice in terms of duality, offering some of its most beautiful passages. The book systematically dismantles its own theology, one might say, after constructing it. In this it is consistent, showing that even theology and doctrine are relative, not absolutes.
It should be mentioned too that this book was the great Ramana Maharshi's "bible." He referred to it constantly, and taught and encouraged others to read it. It is a Moksha Mantrafrom beginning to end, with no intellectual diversions, no entertaining digressions. We must marvel at the Great Ones who so long ago sustained such a contemplation, the likes of which cannot be found elsewhere. Let us hold our hands together in homage to those realized beings who held Truth in the palm of their hand, who knew the Unknowable, and who left us this legacy of their revelation that jiva is, indeed, Siva.
Interview with Master Nome
Hinduism Today:Why did you choose to publish this book?
Master Nome:The book itself was highly recommended by my guru, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Reading the book and meditating upon its significance is of tremendous value for those who are practicing the path of jnana,or self-inquiry. The book also represents that fusion point where Saiva Siddhanta and Vedanta meet as one. For many, many years I had wanted to read the book myself, but it was not available in English. You know the old adage: "If you want the job done, do it yourself."
HT:How does it show the meeting of Vedanta and Siddhanta?
MN:By the sheer amount of deep devotion to Siva evident in the text, and at the same time showing Siva beyond all differentiation, beyond every human mental concept. For those who feel Brahman is some austere vacancy, the sheer spirit of the text lifts one beyond that. For those practicing the path of Siva knowledge, but not having heard of or not having given adequate meditation to who Siva is in the Supreme sense, it inculcates that knowledge.
HT:What do we know about theSivarahasya?
MN:It would have to be post-vedic. It may be counted as an epic, or a purana,perhaps. It covers everything, as much as I've seen of it, a vast array of knowledge about places of pilgrimage, some history--things one would find in a Purana.Then we find teachings one would associate with an Upanishad,which Ribhufigures in. I would be hesitant to classify the work, other than to say it is timeless and ancient.
When looking at the Tamil Ribhu Gita, we saw that it derived from a Sanskrit original within a voluminous work--the Sivarahasya.With much searching, we procured from India the cantos of the Sanskrit Sivarahasya,fifth and sixth primarily, that contained the Ribhu Gita.We decided to translate both books, Sanskrit and Tamil. This represents the first half of the publication.
HT:How did Ramana Maharshi use this book?
MN:Sri Ramana said this book confirmed, in scripture, exactly what he had realized in silence. When devotees would come, he would frequently give the book to them and say, "Read this." One woman devotee said, "I can't understand a word of it." He said, "Just read it. Keep reading it. Again and again. It is a sadhanaitself."
HT:How should a person use it?
MN:For one who steeps himself in it, each verse becomes blissful. I recommend that a person read it extremely slowly, verse by verse, or preferably line by line, even word by word. The text should be approached with reverence. It was designed for someone who has deep devotion, humility, who's not attached to things of the world, who has that burning desire for liberation and wants a treatise that reminds him of the guru's instruction about the nature of Ultimate Truth. That's the function the text really serves, in a bombastic way, again and again and again. One has to understand it with the right life and right meditation.
[Then, speaking softly] We regard it as a great...I don't think "honor" is the right word--just to have participated in preserving something like this. I am very happy that I've been able to do this for the sake of my guru, because of his emphasis on this scripture.
JNANESWARI, Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita,by Sri Jnanadeva, translated from Marathi by Ramchandra Keshav Bhagwat, fourth edition, 1989. 689 pages, hb., US$25.95, in India rs180. Lotus Light Publications, P.O. Box 325, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin 53181, USA. Phone: 414-889-8561, fax: 414-889-8591. INDIA: Samata Books, 10, Congress Building, 573 Mount Road, Madras 600 006, India.
This is one of the great classics of Hindu thought and a mine of spiritual knowledge and experience. It is one of the most important commentaries on the Gita--perhaps the most significant after that of Sri Shankaracharya--by the great saint and yogi Sri Jnanadeva, who lived in the thirteenth century. It is also one of the greatest books of Maharashtra, where Jnanadeva lived, and one of the oldest books in the Marathi language.
Jnanadeva's commentary is thorough and detailed. It reflects profound yogic knowledge and tremendous insight into all aspects of life. Though Jnandeva only lived to the age of twenty, he achieved the supreme goal of Self Realization. He was both a natha yogiand a Krishna bhakta.He completed his Jnaneswariat the mere age of fifteen. This volume includes the Sanskrit of the Gita.The English translation of the commentary is well done, and includes helpful introductory material.
Review by David Frawley
VEDIC ASTROLOGY: Ashtaka Varga, Made Simple for the Western Astrologer,by R.G. Krishnan, 1994. 123 pages, pb., US$20.00. Jyotish R. G. Krishnan, 900 Frances Way #375, Richardson, TX 75081-6406. Phone/fax: 214-783-1242.
This book is a technical treatise which elucidates in clear, well-written English the hitherto mystifying aspect (no pun intended) of Vedicastrology--Ashtaka Varga.The Ashtaka Vargasystem assesses the effects of transiting planets from the Moon sign and from seven other planets. Those who are not already familiar with Vedicastrological concepts and practice may still be mystified by this book. But for practicing astrologers, or for those with a good foundation of knowledge in this field, this book will prove essential to understanding this arcane topic and will reveal a deeper realm of Vedicastrology.
AYURVEDA, A way of life,by Dr. Vinod Verma, 1995. 278 pages, pb.,US$14.95. Samuel Weiser, Inc., Box 612, York Beach, Maine, 03910-0612, USA. Phone: 207-363-4393, fax: 207-383-5799.
Ayurveda: A Way of Lifeis an easy-to-understand, comprehensive guide for assimilating the fundamentals of Ayurveda--India's ancient life-science and system of holistic health care--into our modern, daily lives. This book is uniquely important because the constitutional types--and their combinations--are clearly explained, so readers can create their own balance. You will learn how to reduce stress, restore health and maintain vitality. The book includes recipes for home-curing basic discomforts, easy relaxation exercises and yoga postures and provides precious help to anyone who wants to stay healthy, happy and in tune with themselves and the rhythm of the cosmos.
A SURVEY OF HINDUISM,by Klaus K. Klostermaier, second edition, 1994. 715 pages, pb., US$19.95. State University of New York Press, c/o CUP Services, 750 Cascadilla Street, Ithaca, New York, 14851, USA. Phone: 607-277-2211, fax (US): 1-800-688-2877.
Countering academic presentations about Hinduism that can be insensitive or misinformed, Klostermaier provides a fresh, new view of Hinduism in this book. Surveyis a large book, examining the philosophies and sects of Hinduism, the Hindu social system, the position of women and much more. It contains passages from the Vedas, Gitaand other scriptures, addressing the Hinduism of South India as well as the North. Notably, Klostermaier's work is probably the first academic publication to seriously challenge the Aryan invasion theory, and to offer a chronology that accepts the antiquity of Vediccivilization in India. Klostermaier presents Hinduism as a living religion with important global relevance. He states, "It would not be surprising to find Hinduism the dominant religion of the twenty-first century." If all Western scholars followed the example of Klostermaier, Hinduism would be much better understood in the world today.
Review by David Frawley
AYURVEDIC COOKING FOR WESTERNERS, Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles,by Amadea Morningstar, 1995. 395 pages, pb., US$19.95. Lotus Light Publications, P.O. Box 325, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin 53181, USA. Phone: 414-889-8561, fax: 414-889-8591.
Ayurvedaapplied to Indian cooking is virtually assumed. But for the Western chef, applying Ayurvedato daily dishes may serve a dilemma. Who knows how the standard Western dishes, like mashed potatoes, will affect the doshas? Now we can all know. Step into Amadea's kitchen and learn how to cook fresh, easy recipes for healthy folks, as well as for those with illnesses, including allergies and candida. While she emphasizes the many modern health problems associated with non-vegetarianism, she falls short of advocating a vegetarian diet--perhaps in the next edition.
FROM INDIA TO AMERICA, A Brief History of Immigration; Problems of Discrimination, Admission and Assimilation,edited by S. Chandrasekhar, second edition, 1986. 108 pages, pb.,US$10.00. Population Review, 8976 Cliffridge Avenue, La Jolla, California, 92037, USA.
This first book on a crucial subject provides a fascinating account of Indian immigration and the survival struggles of a forgotten population in the US. The author is to be congratulated for this marvelous undertaking and for his fairness and accuracy in the presentation. He has described the challenges of the Indian population against the backdrop of other Asian immigrants. The book is a collection of ten articles, each portraying a different aspect of the disarray of Indian immigration, the problems of discrimination and assimilation in a new land and culture. The book has increased importance with regard to the current trend in the US government to tighten up immigration policies.
MORE BOOKS NOT TO MISS:
A Pilgrim Guide to Some Holy Places in Dakshina Kannada and Around,by Swami Jyotirmayananda, 1995. 48 pages, pb., price: "Constant remembrance of God by taking His Name before and after visiting the temples and holy places mentioned herein." Anandashram, Anandashram P.O., Kanhangad, District Kasaragod, Kerala (North), 671 531, India.
A small but immensely valuable book briefly covering 19 pilgrimage sites and also including practical pages, such as a Map;Suggested Reading; Glossary; Table of Distancesand Where to Stay.A tiny treasure!
Living in India,written by Anne Singh, illustrated by Aline Riquier.Elephants: Big, Strong and Wise,written by Pierre Pfeffer, illustrated by Rene Mettler. Both books: 1988, 37 pages, hb., US$5.95. Young Discovery Library, P.O. Box 229, Ossining, New York, 10562. Phone: 914-945-0600, fax: 945-0875.
Young Discovery Libraryis an international series--a "pocketbook encyclopedia for children"--with plans for 120 titles. Each title is an information-packed education on the subject covered. Beautifully and lovingly illustrated, the text is accurate, interesting and very readable. Perfect for kids; you'll learn something, too!
Sri Aurobindo, the Story of His Life,second edition, 1990, 95 pages, pb., rs12.00. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, South India.
A unique, poetic account of the life Sri Aurobindo, one of India's great modern-day renaissance spiritual leaders.