Preceptors of Advaita
3 - PARASARA
N.SUBRAMANIA AIYAR (ANNA)
I bow down to that great Saint, Parasara, who composed the gem of a Purana (the Vishnu-purana) revealing therein faithfully the truths about soul, matter, God, their inter relationship, enjoyment of this world, freedom and the ways and means thereof.
--Stotra-ratnam by Yamunacharya
Vasishtha, the mind-born son of Brahma, begot Sakti. Saktibegot Parasara. Parasara begot Veda Vyasa. Vyasa begot Suka. And all of them were great seers and the earliest of the builders of the enduring edifice of Sanatana Dharma.
Parasara lived at the end of Dvapara-yuga, just before the Kali era set in. He was once crossing the Ganges in a boat plied by a fallen angel in the guise of a fisherwoman, by name Satyavati. Parasara fell in love with her and of their union was born a child of destiny. We are told that the birth of the child was mysterious, that he was no sooner conceived than he was born, ‘Sadyotpannah.’ He came to be known as Dvaipayana because he was born on an island. He was called Krishna because he was black. He earned the appellation of Veda Vyasa, as he became later on the Codifier of Vedic literature.
Perhaps the greatest glory of Parasara is that he gave Veda Vyasa to the world. A tree is known by its fruit. Speaking of Vyasa, Sri Aurobindo says, “A wide and searching mind, historian, statesman, orator, a deep and keen looker into ethics and conduct, a subtle and high aiming politician, theologian and philosopher, it is not for nothing that Hindu imagination makes the name of Vyasa loom so large in the history of Aryan thought and attributes to him work so important and manifold.”
Parasara is illustrious not only because he is the father of Veda Vyasa but on his own account as a Maharshi, as a law-giver and as a powerful writer. We owe to him the Parasara-smriti and the Vishnu-purana, called a gem among the Puranas.
The teachings of Parasara can be understood from a few quotations given below, culled from the Vishnu-purana:-
As the air blown through different holes of a flute produces different notes, the one Paramatman appears as many.
He who creates, sustains and destroys the worlds in the guise of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva is Bhagavan Janardana himself.
Whatever is seen is His manifestation but people who have no eyes to see the truth, see this manifestation as the universe.
The life of the world is His Kaustubha, Srivatsa is Prakriti, Buddhi is the mace; the Conch represents the Panchabhutas and the bow the Indriyas; the mind is the Chakra and the senses the arrows; the sword is Vidya and its sheath is Avidya. The Lord is Mayarupin. Though he has no form, he assumes a form and wears ornaments and weapons for the good of the creatures.
Word is Sri, meaning is Hari; Wisdom is Vishnu, Buddhi is Lakshmi; Dharma is Vishnu, Dharmic action is Lakshmi; Creator is Vishnu, Creation is Lakshmi; the earth is Sri and he who lifts the earth is Hari; joy is Vishnu and Gauri is Lakshmi; the Lord is the tree, the Mother is the creeper; the flag is Sri and the flagspot is Hari.
“I am Hari, all this is Janardana and apart from Him there is nothing, gross or subtle”-- He who realizes this will not be caught in the meshes of birth and death.
By performing sacrifices, one sacrifices to Him, by meditation one meditates on Him, by killing others one kills Him, for, Hari is all.
If one avoids calumny, envy, untruth, harsh words, He is pleased. If one extends the same love to others as to one’s self or to one’s own son, He is pleased.
The quintessence of Parasara’s philosophy of life is brought home to us in particular in his narration of the story of Prahlada. Through Prahlada, Parasara reveals his own heart.
Says Prahlada: Vishnu is not in my heart alone, he pervades the whole world. He is in me and in you and in every being and He stands revealed in all our actions. When He the dispeller of all fears is seated in my mind, how can fear find a place there? By the mere thought of Him, fear of birth, old age and death is immediately dissolved.
The best way of worshipping Him is the practice of equality and equanimity and to see Him equally everywhere and in all things.
Those who came to kill me, those who gave me poison, who threw me into fire, who set elephants to trample over me and serpents to bite me – to them also I have nothing but love. I cannot wish evil, do evil or talk evil, seeing the Lord is in everyone as in me. When the Lord is seated in the heart of every being, how can there be the distinction of friends and foes?
Unexpected good fortune, ruler ship and enjoyments come even to people who are unjust, unwise, foolish and cowardly. Therefore, one who desires the highest good should not crave for pleasures but should strive for holy things and the practice of equanimity.
The Lord is everywhere. I am He. From me has come everything, I am everything, in me is everything. I am the imperishable Pramatman called Brahma. I am the beginning and the end. I am the Parama Purusha
Realizing that he was not different from Vishnu, Prahlada forgot himself and he did not cognize anything else.
Coming down from that plane, he saw the world again and thought of himself as Prahlada. Then he sang the praise of Purushottama with a one-pointed mind. The Lord then appeared before him clad in golden silk. Prahlada uttered the following prayer: -- As I wander in the world taking numerous births, wherever I may be born, may I always have unswerving devotion of Thee. May I be attracted to you with that love which the foolish people have for the fleeting objects of the world?
This is the philosophy of Parasara.
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