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Introduction to Sadhana Panchakam
Sadhana Panchakam is composed by Adi Sankaracharya. Sankaracharya wrote commentaries on Gita,
Upanishads, Brahmasutras and has written many texts, hymns expounding on the teachings of Vedanta.
In Sadhana Panchakam (Sadhana - means/practice, Panchakam - set of 5 verses), Sankara provides 40
steps as a means/practice to achieve the end goal of Moksha. In these 5 verses, Sankara unfolds the
entire teaching of Vedanta. There are 5 verses in Sadhana Pancham, each verse having 4 lines and 2
steps in each line making it altogether 40 steps.
Each step is like steps in a ladder taking us progressively to attain the goal of Moksha. This set of 5
verses provides the means for the end goal of Moksha.
Verse-1
vedo nityamadhIyataaM taduditaM karma svanuShThIyataam
teneshasya vidhIyataamapachitiH kaamye matistyajyataam.
paapaughaH paridhuuyataaM bhavasukhe dosho.anusandhIyataam.
aatmechchhaa vyavasIyataaM nijagR^ihaattuurNaM vinirgamyataam
Thanks to Rohinikumar for leading the discussion on Verse-1. We discussed the first step - vedo
nityamadhiyataam (studying the Vedas daily)
Step-1: Studying the Vedas daily
What are Vedas?
The word veda is derived from the Sanskrit root vid which means "to know" and is generally translated as
"the treasure of knowledge" or "the source or means of knowledge". Hindu culture is essentially a Vedic
culture, called Vaidika Samskriti, since it is based on the authority of the Vedas. The Vedas are
techincally termed 'sruti', revealed knowledge. That they are revealed is an important point. They are not
the composition of a human being, arrived at through intellectual and logical reasoning, based on sense
perception. For this reason, the Vedas are said to be apauruseya - not of human origin - and are
considered revelations.
The scriptures say:"The Vedas are the breath of God". Just as our breath emanates naturally and
effortlessly from us as long as we are alive, the Vedas are considered to be the very breath of the Lord
Himself. This knowledge or Veda was revealed by the Lord to those great rishis who had purified, tuned
and made their minds single pointed through meditation.
What does Vedas teach?
The subject matter of the Vedas is classified into three parts:
1. Karma Kanda (ritualistic portion)
2. Upasana Kanda (worship portion)
3. Jnana Kanda (knowledge portion)
Vedas point out that the purpose of human life is to realize and to know the absolute Truth, the absolute
Reality and not just to live superficially in the world of appearances. In order to know this Truth the mind
must be prepared and purified, and so the first portion of the Vedas, the Karma kanda is meant for
acquiring this purity of mind.
What does reading/studying Vedas daily mean?
When we act and respond in this world to different situations and experiences, our actions and responses
tend not to be objective. They are often prejudiced, colored and conditioned by our personal likes and
dislikes, which are expressions of our vasanas (subtle impressions and inherent tendencies) gathered in
inummerable lifetimes. When we act, prompted by our vasanas, rather than guided by the knowledge of
what is right and wrong, we strengthen these likes and dislikes, which consititue the impurites of mind.
Vedas provides guidelines of how to conduct ourselves in daily life. Life is all about making choices.
When we are ignorant about the goal of life, we end up making inappropriate choices (or in other words
violate Dharma). Studying of Vedas provies us with the goal of life and means of achieving that goal. By
studying the knowledge revealed in Vedas, we can clarify our goal in life, follow the means to purify our
mind and achieve the goal.
Sadhana Panchakam
Verse-1
Vedo nityamadhIyataaM taduditaM karma svanuShThIyataam
teneshasya vidhIyataamapachitiH kaamye matistyajyataam.
paapaughaH paridhuuyataaM bhavasukhe dosho.anusandhIyataam.
aatmechchhaa vyavasIyataaM nijagR^ihaattuurNaM vinirgamyataam
Step 1 - May you study the Vedas daily
Step 2 - Perform the diligently duties ordained by the Vedas
We saw in Step 1, that Vedas teach the purpose of human life is to realize and to know
the absolute Truth, the absolute Reality and not just to live superficially in the world of
appearances. In order to know this Truth the mind must be prepared and purified, and so
the first portion of the Vedas, the Karma kanda is meant for acquiring this purity of
mind.
Karma Kanda prescribes 5 types of Karmas - Karmas that are to performed and Karmas
that are to be avoided. All these karmas (actions) are to be done in the spirit of offering,
spirit of duty.
1. Nitya Karma - Daily duties to be done. Nitya Karma is done in the form of 5
yagnas (also known as Panch Maha Yagna). Yagna means offering.
o Brahma Yagna - Prayers to Guru, Rishis, Vedic scriptures. We need to
show reverence and gratitude to our Vedas and Guru, because it is
because of them we grow. Prayers to Guru can be performed through
rituals like Pada Puja; studying the Vedas, reflecting on the teachings and
following the teachings in our life. Contribution in the form of preserving
their teachings and spreading the teachings.
o Deva Yagna - Any form of worship of God – Puja, Rituals, Visting
Temples etc. Devatas are Sun, Moon, Air, Space, water etc. who govern
our life.
o Pitru Yagna - Prayers to parents, forefathers and ancestors. Taking good
care of ones parents is a Yajna. Parents should be treated like GOD and
we should do service to them with the same attitude of service to God.
For the deceased parents and forefathers, one should perform rituals like
Tarpanam and Sradham.
o Manusya Yagna - Service to humanity is also an important Yajna.
Service through our work, charity, teaching etc.
o Bhuta Yagna - This is the service to Plants, Trees and animal kingdom
and ones environment. Nowadays, not harming the environment itself is
a great service. One can grow trees, Plants, feed cows , dogs, crows or
even provide/keep a bowl of water to thirsty birds. All these help in
ecological balance. By all means we should resist cutting trees and
reduce as much as possible polluting the atmosphere by exercising
control on our consumption of gas, electricity and various usage of
gadgets etc., in our personal life.
2. Naimittika Karma - Occassional duties like Marriage, Upanayanam (Thread
ceremony), Sraddha/Tarpanam (done once a year)
3. Kamya Karma – Reduce desire prompted actions. Desire prompted actions are
those that are done for personal fulfillment like accumulating excess wealth,
working for name and fame. Any egoistic activities that are done for selfish
reasons.
4. Nisiddha Karma – These are karmas that are to be avoided. All adharmic actions
are to be avoided. Any choices or actions that transgress universal values like
hurting others, cheating etc… are to be avoided.