Monthly Archives: September 2012

REFLECT Within

Given our busy lives and the efforts we put in to get through the day, juggling multiple different things, making ends meet, meeting demands at work, demands at home & demands of the society, we all are stressed out.

The little time we have for relaxation, we try playing some games, watching a movie, watching TV, listening to music, going for walks, jogs, eating a healthy meal, going for yoga classes, all perhaps with a common objective to improve life style / quality of life and feel good / happy.

The questions that we have to reflect upon are:  1. Are the actions that we take to de-stress really helping? 2. Are these permanent? 3. Can we get to permanent / long lasting de-stress mode? 4. Are we addressing the root causes or only the symptoms?

It is also important to reflect upon what Swami Rama-Tirtha had to say. He said ‘if you are not happy as you are and where you are, then you will never be happy’. He also said, definition of rest is ‘intense work’.

Here is a story from his Lecture delivered on December 17, 1902, in the Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, U.S.A.

“ ‘…a small baby that had just learnt to crawl, to walk on all fours. The child saw its shadow and thought it to be something strange, something remarkable. The child wanted to catch hold of the head of the shadow; it began to crawl to the head of the shadow; and the shadow also crawled. The child moved and the shadow also moved. The child began to cry because he could not catch the head of the shadow. The child falls down, the shadow is with him; the child rises up and begins to hunt for the shadow. In the meantime, the mother taking mercy on the child made the child touch his own head, and lo! the head of this shadow was also caught. Catch hold of your own head and the shadow is also caught. Heaven and hell are within you. The source of power, joy and life is within you.’

The key is to recognize that we indulge in and promote the very traits that hurt us and are counterproductive (Selfishness, Greed, Separateness (Individuality, non-oneness), Anger, Mental Agitation, Bondage, Attachments, Desires focused on the fruit/immediate gratification, Fear, Anxiety) and on the other hand we sign-up for yoga and meditation looking for calmness, peace.  The solution is within.

  • Happiness is within, not outside.
  • Selfishness drives mental agitation & anger. Renunciation of selfish desires needs to be tackled immediately.
  • Attachments create bondage and bondage leads to mental agitation. Renunciation of attachments needs to be looked at immediately.
  •  Separateness promotes jealousy. Recognize Oneness.
  • The sense of being blessed with abundance is important. Incompleteness promotes greed.

When we recognize these and take steps to handle these then we are truly ready for yoga and meditation. These are pre-reqs to yoga and meditation and not expected outcomes. We want peace, happiness & calmness but we are in pursuit of things  that promote the opposite.  This is the ignorance that Vedanta asks all of us to realize. Overcoming this ignorance leads to wisdom.

Bhakti yoga (yoga of worship of other, treating others lovingly with compassion), Karma yoga (yoga of selfless service to others, those in need) and Jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge of the self, and then the knowledge of the Self) is the starting point and the foundation to build upon.

Following the paths of Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga and Jnana yoga, first helps us to drop all unwanted DESIRES. This state is called UPARATI.  It is a state of mind which is above and beyond all dualities such as joy and grief, liking and disliking, good and bad, praise and blame, which agitate and affect the common person. These universal experiences can be overcome or negated by means of spiritual exercises or intellectual inquiry.  Uparati can be achieved, if one is careful, while engaged in day-to- day living, to avoid entanglement with, and bondage to, differences and distinctions.

  • Uparati (Sanskrit) [from upa-ram to cease]: A cessation; In Vedantic philosophy a state where the yogi desists from sensual enjoyment or any worldly action, and there is an absence of desires which could be affected by exterior stimuli or influences.

 

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WORSHIP

One day Dinesh Sen pointed out to Sister Nivedita a verse on Shiva, as narrated in Shunyapurana. It ran like this:

‘Oh Lord Shiva, why do you live by begging? Begging is a very heinous profession. Some day you may get something while on another day you return with empty bowl. If only you till the ground and raise paddy, your hardship will be over.

Oh my Lord, how long will you live wrapped up in a clumsy tiger-skin, nearly naked? if you cultivate cotton and  spin yarn, you will get comfort of wearing woven clothes and be happy!’

Dinesh could not catch on the extra-ordinary thought in this whereas Nivedita went into raptures and kept saying ‘How wonderful! How wonderful!’

Dinesh was speechless looking at the profound delight in her eyes on reading something, which he thought was something rural and trivial.

Later she explained. She said: ‘Ordinary devotees or worshippers pray for help for their worshipped deities – Oh my Lord, be gracious and grant me wealth, name, fame, health…’ but in this verse the devotee, out of his love for the worshipped deity, completely forgot himself, the thoughts of his personal sorrows are totally lost in his mind. The sufferings of his worshipped deity have softened his mind, now his only concern is to see how to remove the suffering of his deity.’

Nivedita herself was very much the image of such an idea.

Bhakt Tukaram is an other such example when it comes to such pure worship. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tukaram

The scriptures ask us to be always in a worship mode throughout the day, be compassionate and feel for the others. Worship is not a point in time activity as it has become today (weekends, mornings) but is the way of life.

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PERSEVERANCE versus STUBBORNNESS

I have tried to compare and contrast Perseverance with Stubbornness as very often we mix up the two and interpret one as the other. If someone is Perseverant, we tend to think, he is so Stubborn, and on the other hand if someone is Stubborn, he/she tend to look at it as being Perseverant.

It is important to understand the two and examine ourselves when we are faced with situations – are we being stubborn or are we perseverant?

When you are examining facts and trying to solve hurdles through creative means to get to your end goal, you are being perseverant.

On the other hand, if you are refusing to re-examine the facts, refusing to revisit your first assumptions, then you are being stubborn.

When you are perseverant, you radiate positive energy, you tackle problems, you come up with creative solutions, you re-examine base assumptions, there is humbleness in the approach, there is respect for other’s views and there is calmness in the pursuit. You continue to pivot seeking ever new avenues to reach a worthwhile goal.

When you are stubborn, there is arrogance, there is anger, there is harshness, there is ignorance and the mind is all worked up to hold on to a position. All these stem from Selfishness.

Chapter 18 of Gita, talks of 26 noble qualities to enable the mind spiritually. Perseverance is one of them.

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RENUNCIATION

When we hear the word renunciation, our mind immediately interprets renunciation as ‘giving up something..’. May be giving up our possessions, may be giving up having fun or giving up wealth,  or giving up eating good food, or giving up travel and seeing places of interest, giving up sleep…This thought then leads to fear – fear of giving up, fear of losing…

We are in constant pursuit of desires and the fruits of the desire. There is nothing wrong in the pursuit of desires but the question is – Are the desires under the watch of the intellect? Under the watch of the intellect  – desires manifest as objectives, as specific goals. When desires are not under the control of the intellect, they manifests in different forms – Shadripu (Sanskrit: meaning the six enemies). The 6 manifestations are –

1. Lust (Sanskrit: Kama) 2. Greed (Sanskrit: Lobha) 3. Anger (Sanskrit: Krodha) 4. Pride (Sanskrit: Mada) 5. Attachment (Sanskrit: Moha) 6. Envy (Sanskrit: Matsarya)

It is important to understand that renunciation is about renouncing the Shadripu. When a desire is fulfilled, there is fear of losing it, we develop attachments, there is ego, there is greed and when a desire is not fulfilled there is anger, there is envy there is mental agitation.

Very often, we are so caught up in the fruits of action, the intellect is completely clouded and remains in the background, we lose sight of the goal, and often miss it.

The emphasis is on staying in the present, focusing on the goals, and doing the best; and not let the mind wander into the future/ fruits of the action.

Likewise, the sense organs are always transacting (from the time we wake up till we go to sleep) with the external world, and the mind is completely locked on to it. It is essential to get the intellect in place, so that it frees up the mind, and makes it available to you.

In my posts on ‘Perfect Action’ I have talked about the drivers for perfect action. You will notice that the common theme is to recognize the factors that  seem  to have taken so much control of our lives and our minds, and the harm it is causing us.

In pursuit of happiness, we are leaving behind things that give us true happiness and chasing things that only give temporary happiness (not recognizing the price we pay for it)

Renunciation of the Shadripus, enables calmness of mind, results in less consumption of energies, eases up our breathing, which in turn relaxes our mind, and gives us the ability to cleanse the mind periodically.

Swami Rama Tirtha says,  “Renunciation simply places you at your best, places you on your vantage ground. Renunciation simply enhances your powers, multiplies your energies, strengthens your force, and it takes away all your anxiety and fear. You become fearless and happy.”

According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, with every desire, we take the shape of the desire.

The question we have to ask ourselves is – Do we recognize that it is this desire that drives the mental unrest and agitation, that makes us turn to yoga for mental peace. It is important to recognize that taking yoga starts with the ‘yoga of giving up, yoga of renouncing, yoga of dropping desires’.

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Mind Cleansing

We wake up every morning, brush, wash our body, every day / every week we wash our cloths, we clean our houses, wash our dishes, clean the yard, etc.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, what about our inner self? What about our mind that is exposed to all kinds of events during the course of the day? It experiences happiness sometimes, it experiences irritation sometimes, it experiences sorrow sometimes, it experiences shock sometime. It is in a constant state of change. It picks up all kinds of things in the process.

Do we take the time to ‘Reset’ the mind?

Are we allowing it to be caught up in petty things driving selfishness, desires, mental agitation?

Remember, ‘an idle mind is a devil’s workshop’.

If you don’t take stock of the mind, and lock it on to a higher goal, it will languish around caught up in trivial things. The question then is, how often we need to cleanse the mind? We need to observe, keep a watch and keep cleansing the mind at every moment.

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The Bucket List

In the movie, ‘The Bucket List’, sitting near the pyramids in Egypt, Morgan Freeman asks Jack Nicholson the two questions, asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven –

1. Have you found joy in your life?

2. Has your life brought joy to others?

[Gita talks extensively about Selfless Service and Sacrifices in the form of Yagya, Tapas and Dana. Service to others brings  joy that is pure and divine.]

Traveling in the plane together, in a discussion on faith, Jack Nicholson, says, ‘I envy people who have faith, I just can’t get my head around it’. To which, Morgan responds ‘Maybe because your head’s in the way.

[For growing inwardly and to develop spiritually, faith is key. When we fall sick, we go to a doctor and we believe the doctor will cure us, and that comes purely out of  faith.  So is spiritual development.]

Fighting for his life, before undergoing the operation, Morgan Freeman writes the following to his friend Jack Nicholson: ‘You once said you’re not everyone. Well, that’s true, you’re certainly not everyone, but everyone is everyone. My pastor always says our lives are streams flowing into the same river….. Find the joy in your life, Edward. My dear friend, close your eyes and let the waters take you home.’

[As long as we look at each other at body and mind level, we will continue to see maximum differences.  When you go past the mind are able to engage the intellect, we begin to see oneness. When you focus on the waves, you see the separateness, and differences, but when you look beyond, you see the oneness of the ocean. Unity in Diversity.]

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Managing our 3Gs

For me, in reading the Bhagavad Gita, one of the fascinating learnings among the many,  has been about the three Gunas (3Gs) of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas that all of us are endowed with. We all have some proportion of the 3-gunas, and the guna that is dominating, determines our overall nature / personality.

The 3-gunas (3Gs) is something; the young adult must invest time and energies to understand.  As they embark on their journey to build their future, the 3-gunas, in my view, provides the individuals with a strong foundation, that is very much needed to navigate in the world.

It enables the individuals to develop a strong character and a strong intellect (Sincerity of Action, Purity of Heart and Clarity of Thought) that are vital to coming up with dynamic performance and consistent performance.

I want to lay special emphasis on the words – DYNAMIC and CONSISTENT. We all come up with superlative performance once in a while and we don’t know what triggered such a response (flash in the pan). The questions then is, why is it that the same person comes with a superb performance at one time and a mediocre response another time. What causes that inconsistency in performance?

How can we come up with superior response each and every time we act? The answer to this is in the three gunas.  The Bhagavad Gita  also outlines a framework to help curb Tamas, tame Rajas and promote Sattwa. Understanding and working diligently is key to the transformation of the self.

The emphasis is moving from Tamas -> Rajas -> Sattwa and finally transcending Sattwa -> Self Realization.

In my blog postings,  I touched up a number of key human traits like – Desire, Attachments, Fear, Calmness of mind, Humbleness, Tolerance, Agitation, Greed, Ignorance, Delusion, Separateness, Individuality, Oneness, etc.,  as these traits dominate our lives on a day-to-day basis where we land up dissipating lot of our energies. Strengthening the intellect is key.

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UPWARDS and INWARDS

In the famous story from the Mahabharata, Krishna once met with Yudhisthira and Duryodhana.

Krishna requests Yudhisthira,  to find a person lower than himself. Likewise, Krishna requests Duryodhana to find a person greater than himself.

Both Yudhisthira and Duryodhana accept Krishna’s request and set out to find someone in the kingdom who would best fit their criteria. After searching all day, both come back disappointed. Yudhisthira reports back to Krishna that he could not find anyone he considered lower than himself.  Duryodhana, on the other hand, reports back that he couldn’t find anyone he considered superior to himself.

So the question that we need to ask ourselves is how is it that two people who set out into the same world came back with completely diametrically opposite findings?

Our scriptures attribute this to the disillusion of our mind. The way we look at others is not truly out there but within our minds. The scriptures call on us to recognize that in what we see, what we perceive, the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance influence us. These modes mix and compete with one another to shape our state of mind, including how we feel about ourselves or others.

So the key message is rather than looking outwards look inwards, and look upwards where the intellect is in control over mind.

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Our CHOICES

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
 
The Bhagavad Gita makes a clarion call to each one of us to recognize the intellect, and the importance of a calm mind for the intellect to prevail. If the mind is too agitated, it clouds the intellect, and the mind then has complete grip on you. In such cases the mind dictates the choices. If the mind is in check, and the intellect is in the forefront, then the intellect drives the choices.The quality of the choices we make is a direct function of who within us in calling the shot. Is it the mind or is it the intellect? At any time, we should have the ability to bring the intellect center stage / to the foreground and listen to the intellect.
 
To strengthen the intellect, knowledge is key.

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NEED and GREED

Gandhiji notes, “There is enough in the world for everyone’s NEED; there is not enough for everyone’s GREED.

This is such a profound statement when you think of it, it ties back to human desires and the ‘paradigm of scarcity’ we live in. If we were to mentally create two buckets of NEED and GREED,  and with every desire that arises within us, honestly assess, and place them in the appropriate buckets, I think it will help in the way we transact with the world.

Paul Mellon, American philanthropist says ‘It was not wholesome to hang on to this ever-increasing pile of money, far greater than was needed.’

The great capitalists of the 19th century, particularly Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, pioneered American philanthropy. Carnegie said the same aggressive energy that had made a capitalist rich should be employed to return his profits to society. The man who died rich, died disgraced, Carnegie thundered.

http://www.economist.com/node/187235

There is no scarcity of love, respect, compassion, service and sacrifice – the resources of consciousness. Such is the timeless wisdom of the Upanishads.

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