A Verse by Shri Shankara
With a commentary by Hari Prasad Shastri
That Brahman (the Absolute) who, though unborn, yet applying the Yoga of His divine power has taken birth; who has inactivity and motionlessness as his chief characteristics and yet who makes Himself appear endowed with motion and action; who is One-without-a-second, and who, to those labouring under the cosmic illusion, appears as many; who has adopted various perceptible attributes; who removes the fears and terrors of those who have taken refuge in Him—that Brahman, I salute and adore.
In this verse the great Teacher, Shankara, expresses the spirit of devotion-knowledge. Though Brahman is ultimately transcendent and free from all attributes and differences, that Brahman is to be adored as the ultimate cause of the whole realm of appearances, and hence worthy of worship. To those convinced of the reality of the plurality of names and forms, it is the indwelling Brahman, pervading all, that is the source of beauty and attraction. He is also the abode of compassion, the saving power who removes the darkness of nescience from the heart of His devotees.
The verse expresses adoration. Adoration is different from prayer; no favour is asked for in it, but the whole mental equipment of the devotee is offered at His Feet. The phrase ‘I salute and adore’ implies an obeisance inspired by wonder, reverence and love. In fact, it is not only possible to love the Absolute, but it is natural and spontaneous, to seekers of inner freedom and Self-knowledge.
Let this verse be a subject for calm meditation. The mind rests when there is wonder, and feels reverent towards what is imagined as surpassing its highest flight of reason. When the mind sees, both in the world and in itself, the August presence of the Lord who is anxious to free it from the bonds of nescience, then the mind cannot but think: ‘That Brahman, I adore and salute.’
In this way, the great force of our emotion is freed from its tendency to run into blind infatuation, and is transformed into something higher by the process of adoration and salutation to the Lord.