A Commentary on Śhankarāchārya’s “Prayer at Dawn” (Prātaḥ-smaraṇa-stotra).
[This is a transcription of a talk and meditation given at The Meditation Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on April 10, 1980. It was previously published in the August 2018 edition of the AHYMSIN Newsletter.]
प्रातः स्मरामि हृदिसंस्फुरदात्मतत्त्वम्
prātaḥ smarāmi hṛdi saṁsphurad-ātma-tattvaṁ
sac-chit-sukhaṁ parama-haṁsa-gatiṁ turīyam,
yat svapna-jāgara-suṣhuptim avaiti nityam
तद् ब्रह्मनिष्कलमहम् न च भूत-संघः॥
tad brahma niṣhkalam ahaṁ na cha bhūta-saṅghaḥ
“At dawn do I meditate on That which shines in the heart as the Self, the Truth, That which is Existence, Consciousness and Bliss, That which is the goal of the great sages, That which is the transcendent fourth reality. I am that eternal Brahman which is blemishless and knows the three states of waking, dream and sleep, and not the aggregate of elements.” - Swami Veda Bharati
“At dawn I remember the true Self, shining in the heart, the fourth state, turīya, existence – consciousness – supreme joy, the goal of the supreme sages, That which eternally pervades the three (other states), waking, dream and deep sleep. I am That eternal Brahman, (and) not this aggregate of elements.” – Stephen Parker (Stoma)
prātaḥ = at this morning hour
smarāmi = I bring my mind to, I remember
ātma-tattvaṁ = the essential Truth, the Reality, which is Ātman (the Self)
saṁsphurad = harmoniously flashing
hṛdi = in the heart, that Reality which is the total . . .
sac = Existence, the very attribute called Existence, not merely the objects which exist and cease to exist, but the nature of Existence itself,
chit = Consciousness, not consciousness of objects, not consciousness of this or that, but the very principle, the very force which is called Consciousness,
sukhaṁ = pleasure, in this case the Ānanda, the antonym to which does not exist, the Self, the complete Joy, the Bliss!
parama-haṁsa-gatiṁ = the gati, the way of, and the goal reached by the parama-haṁsas, renunciates who have become completely purified. Only the renunciates who have become completely purified, only the renunciates and swamis who have been totally celibate in life ever reach the title called parama-haṁsa, the supreme swan-like beings.
turīyam = the fourth state . . .
yat = that which
nityam = always, constantly
avaiti = goes through, permeates, pervades the lower three:
svapna = dream
jāgara = wakefulness
suṣhuptim = deep sleep
Here is the first [state], the dream, then wakefulness – because in Vedanta that which we call wakefulness is also a kind of dream. That fourth state [turīya], which permeates dream, wakefulness and sleep, that nityam, that eternal being.
tad brahma niṣhkalam ahaṁ = I am That [Brahman, that being without parts & divisions],
na cha = and not
bhūta-saṅghaḥ = the aggregate of bhutas [elements]: earth, water, fire, air & space, with which I have falsely identified myself.
Whenever you are passing through a transition, the transition is never from one changeable state to another changeable state. The transition from one breath to the next breath is not direct. The transition from moment to moment is not from the moment to the moment. Between each breath the suṣhumna comes through. There is a micro-moment of absolute balance. If you can find that micro-moment, your “left and right” will cease, your dualities and dichotomies [dvandas] will vanish. In that micro-moment between the moments there is no moment – which is eternity –between each breath, between each exhalation and between each inhalation you touch the eternity that your suṣhumna stream also touches. The moments do not pass from one succeeding moment to the next succeeding moment. Like iḍā and pingalā (the left and right nostril breaths) arising as the ebb and flow from one single stream of the evenly balanced suṣhumna, each moment arises directly from infinity, directly from eternity.
It is not that the continuity of the motion of particles is a continuity of that particle, [but rather that] the particle itself, at that moment, arises from eternity. So in each change, from moment to moment, from breath to breath, come in touch with that reality which is Ātman, the Self.
But, since your mind has falsely identified with the conscious mind alone, those frequencies are not fine enough. You do not realize that between each moment, between each breath, you touch the incorruptible stream of infinity of the cosmic consciousness. So, at least celebrate transitions that you are aware of – the major, gross transitions, [such] as the one from sleep into dream. Yet you are not aware of that transition, so at least celebrate the transition from sleep to wakefulness. Celebrate the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Also celebrate it by touching that place which both ends of that transition touch, from which wakefulness and deep sleep both arise, that in which the fourth [state of consciousness, turīya] in which these three are based and which permeates these three states of consciousness eternally, always. For remember that even this wakefulness is a cosmic dream, that even in this wakefulness you are asleep to that reality whose stream is yet touching you. So at least in these moments of transition, celebrate the touch of that stream. Touch that stream at the moments of transition.
The three prātaḥ-smaraṇa-stotra (verses), of which only one is recited here on these Thursday mornings, ought to be recited mentally immediately upon waking, before opening your eyes. Right there in your bed, you turn over [from your back] onto your stomach and practice baka mudra – which can be taught to you here [at The Meditation Center]. Then turn over only your back, sit up without opening your eyes and mentally recite these three verses, whether in Sanskrit or in English. Then let your mantram arise in your mind for a moment.
Pay homage to the long line of gurus by whose grace a state of meditation may permeate your so-called waking day throughout your activities in the same way as the suṣhumna stream is touching both your iḍā and pingalā activities, the same way as the unbroken (nishkala) incalculable stream of infinity touches each moment that arises from it as a bubble. It is not that one bubble gives birth to the next bubble. Even though there may be a string of bubbles, each bubble arises from that stream.
So, then having paid homage to the long line of gurus, having come in touch with your own divine presence, pay homage to the forces of nature in the universe and grateful to them. [Also] pay homage to those from whom your whole body, your very existence in this incarnation has come into being – your forefathers, your ancestors, your departed elders, your living elders.
Then open your eyes and go about the activities of the day. You may not even need a formal meditation. At some stage in your life, for [because] that acknowledgement of your divine nature, that “I am Brahman,” non-verbally, will remain as the base of your consciousness.
It is the unreality of this world of dreams and so-called wakefulness and the constant lethargy of the mind – the sleep – that we need to abandon [in order] to move to the reality of the knowledge of our true being. It from the darkness of the wakefulness, dream and sleep that we need to move to the eternal light of our own true internal nature. It is from the false notion, false identification of mortality of the Brahman by false association, superimposition of external nature – from that we need to move to the eradication of this superimposition, from that darkness, to the eternal light.
Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from mortality to immortality
Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!
Withdraw from your false identification . . . to your divine nature, to our divine presence. Who am I? Where am I when I truly am? Let your words cease . . . only a seeking for that Self you have lost. Let only a seeking for that Self remain. Abandon the bondage of your body. Let all your limbs, your muscles and nerves, relax . . . .
Relax your forehead. Relax your eyebrows and eyes. Relax your jaw. Relax your shoulders. Relax your upper arms and lower arms. Relax your hands, fingers and fingertips. Relax your shoulders. Relax your chest. Relax your cardiac center, and gently exhale and inhale, slowly and smoothly . . . . Relax your stomach, navel and abdomen. Relax your thighs, feet and toes, and breathe as though the breath is flowing through your whole body from top to toes, and toe to top. Relax your leg muscles. Relax your abdomen, stomach, chest and shoulders. Relax all the way down to your fingertips. Relax your hands. Relax your lower arms and upper arms. Relax your shoulders. Relax your jaw. Relax your forehead.
Relax the seat of your mind. Go to that core of your mind which touches the will of pure consciousness . . . . Who sends forth your breathing? Whose will moves your prana to fill your whole body with life? Who gives sensations to your vital senses? Whose volition sends forth the process of mentation in the mind? Dwell close to that one.
“I am That.” Again and again, non-verbally affirm, confirm to yourself this true consciousness, this true being, . . . and from there observe the volition of the Ātman sending forth the command to breathe, . . . and observe the continuity of that command in the unceasing flow of your breath.
Now the same very command of the Self moves your stomach and the diaphragm so that the breath may flow, now the same volition sends forth the mentation of the mantram which may arise however many times in your breath. Observe the flow of your breath and the presence of your mantram . . . .
No break in your breathing. But more important than that, let your entire awareness keep touching the stream of infinity that flows through you, from whose hidden bosom the momentary bubble of your personality arises and appears from moment to moment. Only dwelling in the knowledge of the Self, you no longer breathe from your outer personality. You no longer are the agent of the repetition of your mantra in your outer personality. Simple observe the vibration of infinity within you sending forth this movement, and dwell in that observation – observing how the mind mentates the mantram . . . .
If you truly dwell in your Self-nature, all the other stirrings of the mind shall cease. When the stirrings of the mind will cease, the body will become absolutely still, effortlessly – because the stirrings of the mind are introduced externally through the senses from the experiences of the objects of the world. When the stillness is introduced into the mind from within, when stillness meets the stirrings, it is not that the stirrings disturb the stillness. When the stillness – the dynamic self-aware stillness of the internal reality of your infinite nature – stills the stirrings of the mind, aspire to that silence. Dwell in that silence. Let your mantram lead to that silence where the externalized stirrings do not disturb the stillness; rather the stillness overcomes the stir of the mind. In that stillness observe the presence of the mantram and your breathing.
Like a child who ventures away but again and again returns to the mother’s bosom, let your mind return, after the stirrings, again and again to that stillness. . . .
Like a lover who goes out for the affairs of the day but each moment longs to return to see the face of the beloved, even amidst the stirrings throughout the day, and even now, aspire to return to the face of your stillness.
Like a weary traveler who has sweated much and longs for a cool dip in a reservoir, let your weary mind again and again return to the cool purifying reservoir of your stillness, and dwell in that with your mantram . . . .
God Bless You