Monthly Archives: November 2012

NATURE of RIGHT ACTION – Part-III

Summarizing from ‘Nature of Right Action – Part-I and Part-II’,  when we operate out of attachments, when we operate out of desires and when we operate with our egos, The Gita tells us the following:

a. Beware that actions borne out of such conditions are SELFISH

b. Beware that when we operate under the influence of desire, attachments, and ego, these are like prisms in the ray of light that cause distortions.

c. Beware that these prisms become such a source of noise in our system that even after putting maximum efforts we still produce mediocre results. We often wonder ‘why am I not getting the recognition in-spite of a great effort?’,  and often it is due to the spent energy in the prisms.

d. Beware the prisms cloud the intellect completely.  This is often the case when the Mind (Body, Mind and Intellect)  takes over completely and all our actions are under the influence of the mind. When we operate under the influence of the mind, we come up with inconsistent performances/actions. Our actions are also spotty, fleeting, superficial and tentative like the mind.

e. Therefore, beware that we are always under the influence of two dimensions – 1. The Body, the Mind and the Intellect and 2. The 3 Gunas.

Hence, it is important to understand the nature of the actions that manifest at a Body, Mind and Intellect level – when we operate out of Tamas, when we operate out of Rajas and when we operate out of Sattwa.

What kind of  an action does an intellect under the influence of Tamas come up with? What kind of  an action does an intellect under the influence of Sattwa come up with? What kind of  an action does a mind under the influence of Rajas come up with?

You  may want to also look at ‘The Matrix of the 3 Gunas‘.

We now have the ability to observe our actions. When we understand this, we are now fully equipped to plot our actions, recognize the source of the action and recognize the nature of our actions. Once we are able to honestly peg ourselves,  all it takes after that is to keep slowly turning the two dials – Intellect Dial and the Sattwa Dial.

Connecting again back to the key points in Part-II

In other words, when we are operating with the Intellect and are in Sattwa or trending towards Sattwa, we then come up with the following:

1. We begin to perform actions as obligatory duty

2. We stop worrying about the fruits of right action (desires)

3. We shed attachments to both successes and failures from actions (our job ends at performing the right action). Therefore, we maintain an even keel (learn to embrace joys and sorrows as we start seeing them as the nature of life)

4. Once we shed attachments, there is then no fear, there is no anger, there is no mental agitation, there is no unrest

Verse 2.53 of the Gita says ‘ When your discrimination is no longer tossed about by opinions, but abides unshaken in soul-bliss, then you will attain the final union’.  

Verse 2.64 of the Gita says ‘ The person of perfect self control is able to act in the world totally unaffected by it. Inwardly free from attractions and repulsion, the individual attains unshakable inner calmness’

In my next on this – NATURE of RIGHT ACTION – Part-IV,  we will  see what the sages had to say when one gets that union with the self  (this union is what is the true nature of yoga). The interesting point to reflect upon is the convergence of right action and yoga.

 

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NATURE of RIGHT ACTION – Part-II

Building on from Part-I, where we looked at the importance of a Calm Mind and Union with the Self to come up with Right Action, the key question next is – how do we get there?

In my blog on ‘Introspection‘, I wrote about Matter and Spirit and the 3 Gunas, and these I think, are the foundation building blocks in our journey to Right Action.

All throughout, Chapter-2 of the Bhagavad Gita (versus 40 through 72), the emphasis is on Wisdom.  The call for action is to a. operate with the Intellect (which enables discrimination) over Mind and Body and b. of the 3 Gunas that all of us have – to cultivate Sattwa, tame the Rajas and eradicate the Tamas. When we focus on these two dimensions and examine ourselves at every moment on these two calibrations, the Gita says, we will always come up with Right Action, which will produce a superb performance. The Gita, says, ‘once you start operating in this mode, results are par-for-the-course, don’t even think about it. Our actions thereafter can only produce great results’.

In other words, when we are operating with the Intellect and are in Sattwa or trending towards Sattwa, we then come up with the following:

1. We begin to perform actions as obligatory duty

2. We stop worrying about the fruits of right action (desires)

3. We shed attachments to both successes and failures from actions (our job ends at performing the right action). Therefore, we maintain an even keel (learn to embrace joys and sorrows as we start seeing them as the nature of life)

4. Once we shed attachments, there is then no fear, there is no anger, there is no mental agitation, there is no unrest

5.  As we get our arms around 1,2,3 and 4 above, we have the Intellect that is  in-charge, that can then take control of our senses. (In other words, lack of sense control, will again breed attachments and desires/cravings, which in turn will result in anger and cloud the power of discrimination. Again from the loss of discrimination, we have lost the power of right understanding).

Verse 2.67 of the Gita says ‘ As a boat moving on water may be swept off its course by a gale, so discrimination may be swept from its path by the vagaries of sensory influence.

One who has gained a good understanding of the above and begins to practice sincerely, starts settling in WISDOM and harnesses a CALM MIND.

The Gita says, having followed the above (pre-reqs), it is only then that we are ready for Bhakti yoga (selfless devotion to the Higher), Karma yoga (selfless service for others) and Gnana yoga (turn attention inwards towards gaining knowledge of the Self). In other words, we are trying yoga, without taking care of the pre-reqs and therefore our actions are flawed and the outcomes are flawed.

With this as the basis,  in my next, I will share some thoughts on Meditation/Yoga.

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NATURE of RIGHT ACTION – Part-I

Chapter-2 of the Bhagavad Gita, versus 40 through 72, cover in great detail, the nature of right action. We get to understand our current actions, the nature of our actions, the ramifications and thus the chapter provides a good framework for us to reflect upon and take corrective actions wherever needed.  I wanted to summarize my learnings that I found to be absolutely fascinating.

According to the Gita, one of the key underlying aspects to right action is a CALM MIND.  A calm mind produces superior action. On the contrary an agitated mind produces inferior action. We all experience this in our day to day lives. There are times when we come up great action and then the ‘same we’ at other times come up with poor action.  We ourselves don’t understand how we come up with two such different responses. The key is a calm mind.

As we now understand, the universe is a mix of the 3 Gunas, and the Gita tells us that our actions are always under the influence of the three gunas.  When the actions are under the influence of the three gunas, depending upon the mix of the 3 gunas, there will always be an element of ego (the degree may vary but we are never free of it), and the ego has the urge to keep on defining itself as a separate, individual reality. This separateness then shifts the focus from becoming to possessing. It is the EGO alone that possesses things.

When we shed ego, we shed this aspect of possessing.  When we shed this thought of possessing (emanating from the ego),  we then become ONE with the spirit; that means we are in UNION with the Self; this union with the inner Self, is what YOGA or MEDITATION is. 

The Gita says, our duty is to free ourselves from the 3 gunas (transcend the 3 gunas), as well as the dualities of Nature (pairs of opposites) and the way to achieving this to to remain calm in the Self, free from the thought of either acceptance or possession.

When we remain calm in the Self, we perform actions out of duty (not out of attachments emanating from the ego). We will stay focused on performing the action and not worry about the fruits of the action or inaction. A lark keeps singing without ever trying to impress or gain anything. A cloud in the process of giving us rain,  gives itself up, and doe snot expect anything in return, the sun shines providing us with life supporting light but never expecting anything in return, just performs its duty day after day.

This poem from ‘IN WOODS OF GOD – REALIZATION’ by SWAMI RAMA TIRTHA sums it all.

The beauty of Vedanta is that it is not prescriptive. It is suggestive based on the accumulation of the vast experiences of the sages. The emphasis is always on listening (shravana), reflecting & learning (manana), and then trying, experiencing and discovering (nididhyAsana), and not just accept something a a gospel.

In my next, I will further expand on the nature of action.

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Taking Things for GRANTED

Most of us  take life for granted. There is a sense of entitlement. In the movie, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, Graham (Wilkinson) was asked what he liked about India and he said, “I learn a lot about life.  People here realize that life is a privilege and not an entitlement.  I like the lights, colors, and smiles.  It teaches me something.”

As I am sitting now and writing this blog, it is quite possible in the morning I may not be there. I may not open my eyes. The Vedanta, reminds us of  the impermanence again and again.  It compares our life and its precarious nature, to that of a dew drop on a lotus leaf. A dew drop on the lotus leaf can fall down at any time, all that is needed is perhaps a gentle breeze. Similarly life is unpredictable. At any age, however healthy or strong you may be, there is no security against death. It takes away anyone, at any time.

So, the key message is nothing is permanent and hence one should not look for permanence in non-permanent.  We realize that sorrow, happiness,  health, attachments  and the longings all are transient.  When we understand this not just at a superficial level but truly imbibe it, one will be able to rise above these and live in the present and experience a hassle-free life, one full of cheer and joy.

Again, the important aspect I want to stress upon is that the message is not that one should not plan for the future. The message is about the SPIRIT in which we live. We over burden ourselves so much with the PAST and the FUTURE that we forget to live in the PRESENT, when  all that we are GUARANTEED is the PRESENT.

When you can truly know that the only moment available is ‘now’, you will truly rejoice this moment, truly move this moment and contribute goodness to the moment.  This is so beautifully depicted in one of the Indian Hindi Movie ‘Anand’ (made in 1971). It is about a cancer patient who knows he has no time left but spends each and every moment of his life spreading happiness all around, and you see the pure joy in this person till the very end. He touches so many hearts in so many different ways.

In Bhaja Govindam, verse 4, this is the key message of Adi Shankaracharya.  Develop the spiritual quotient to get to that state of detachment. In attachment you lose, in detachment you gain (this is the truth but we believe in the opposite and this lack of understanding is the source of all problems). Live every moment to the fullest. When you understand this, you see life passing by as a motion picture.

Invest in spiritual growth and make life worthwhile. We seem to think the study of the scriptures is for retirees, but the truth couldn’t be farther from that. Every one of us must set aside a little time for spiritual study everyday, think about it and strive to put it into practice.

Life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.  Nothing is too late to be life changing.

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Why Vedanta for the YOUNG is so important?

People of all ages should study the Vedanta but one can realize the real benefits and lead life in the truest sense when one is exposed to the knowledge of the Vedanta early on. We need to also then consciously make every attempt to assimilate and amalgamate the teachings into our day to day routine.

Like Smt. Jaya Row says, to make a good yogurt, you need to just add little yogurt to a luke warm milk. Likewise, when one gets some exposure to the world, and at that point he/she is exposed to a little bit of the spiritual knowledge,  he/she is all set for their lifetime.

Adi Shankaracharya in Bhaja Govindam (Bhaja – Seek, Govindam – the Lord), verse 20 says – Bhagavad-Gita Kinchida’dhita …(the one who has studied Bhagavad-Gita even a little…)

When one starts too late in life, of-course the positive aspect of it is the turn towards spirituality and if the teachings resonate with the way one had conducted their life thus far, that would be a big plus. At the same time,  it may be overwhelming too when one begins to realize the amount of unlearning one has to go through to discover or find the Self within. It may appear re-winding years and years, and one can’t help wonder, how it would be if one were to turn the clock back and re-live those years based on the knowledge of the Vedanta.

The process of transformation is slow and painful. Sri Vivekananda, studied and practiced the Vedanta for over 12+ years.  Kabir in one of his Dohas (two-line verses) says,

(Hindi)  – Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kutch Hoye; Mali Seenche So Ghara, Ritu Aaye Phal Hoye

Translation

Slowly slowly O mind, everything in its own pace happens; A gardner may water a hundred buckets, but the fruit arrives only in its season.

Therefore, the understanding should be constantly reflected upon as this constant reflection leads to that awakening & discovering of the Self.

See also: See also Four stages of life I and II.

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Arise Arjuna

The Bhagavad Gita helps us understand the functioning of this world. It is a dynamic prescription for the youth of today as it helps in the internal development and attaining excellence of our the inner self before / as we embark on this journey of life. I see parents making extra efforts just to get their young ones exposed to the Bhagavad Gita, and when I look at their children, I feel they are so blessed to have them as parents.

In most cases,  we go through the motions of life wondering why some things are the way they are, and often justifying the cause / issues to be somewhere out there, and expecting someone out there to solve.

The Bhagavad Gita, emphasizes on inner revelation, that is so important to develop true wisdom.  The teachings of the Gita are universal. Whatever the needs of any particular time or people, this great scripture addresses them all from the highest point of view.  The teachings of the Gita are not specifically Hindu. It is all-embracing. It shows people how their worldly experiences can help them in the end, spiritually.

So, the questions then are – why have people shunned the The Gita? Why  is it considered as a book for the old and bereaved?

The answers perhaps lies in its history.    The belief is that the rich spiritual heritage was lost in due course, due to the multiple foreign invasions and influences. Invasions resulted in destruction of several temples, robbing the riches from the temples,  and forced conversions from Hinduism to other religions. Fear was instilled among people. People gave up the spiritual life and discipline and went after the material pursuits, that on the contrary appeared easy to obtain.

As a result, over centuries, people have come up with the help of the little spiritual guidance they received from their parents, and whatever else they could glean from the society. With every generation, there is the natural dilution and loss in translation of the spiritual wisdom, and as a result we are where we are today, – a society that is tentative when it comes to understanding the true self, incapable of discriminating between right and wrong, a society that indulges in personal power and sense pleasures, a society that lacks inner equilibrium, and thus have digressed completely from the true goal of life: union with God (the other irony is we are frantically pursuing yoga). So on one hand we are doing everything that weakens our core and then we sign-up for yoga to buy peace not recognizing that it is a patch-up / detours, and not something permanent. We have lost it completely. This is also the message of Bhagavad Gita chapter 2, verse 44.

We see this lack of inner knowledge and inner strength manifest all around, and the wold appears in a state of crisis. With the advancement of technology and connectivity, we see this crisis now at a global scale.

It is time, people start defending the Truth,  understand the spiritual values of humanity, seeing the unity. Gravity functions the same for all people regardless of age, gender, religion or culture. The rains do not fall according to political or religious boundaries nor does the wind stop on borders.  The Sun when it shines does not decide between rich and poor. The fruits, a tree produces, does not produce a sweet fruit for some and a not-so-sweet fruit for others based on their standing in the society. Fire is not wet and water is not dry for some people.

Just as there is one science based on the unity of the physical laws for all human beings,  so also there must be one religion based on the unity of the spiritual laws for all creatures.

Vedanta is such a spiritual science of the highest order. It aims at connecting us with the universal Truth. Swami Vivekananda spoke of a Universal Religion way back in 1893 at the Parliament of religions, in Chicago – http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/_includes/FCKcontent/file/Vivekananda.pdf

Wise is he who, when the chance comes to seek God, seizes it with both hands.

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Our Country – Our Religion

Nagendra Nath Gupta who had the privilege to meet and to know Swami Vivekananda shares the following in the ‘Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda’:

“Swami Vivekananda was brilliant, illuminating, arresting, while the range of his knowledge was exceptionally wide. His country occupied a great deal of his thoughts and his conversation. His deep spiritual experiences were the bedrock of his faith, but his patriotism was as deep as his religion.

His thoughts ranged over every phase of the future of India, and he gave all that was in him to his country and to the world. For his countrymen he has left priceless heritage of virility, abounding vitality, and invincible strength of will.

Sister Christine, writes, ‘Blessed is the country in which he was born, blessed are they who lived on this earth at the same time, and blessed, thrice blessed are the few who sat at his feet.’

Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Japan had filled him with admiration for the patriotism of the Japanese nation. ‘Their country is their religion, he would declare. The national cry is ‘Dai Nippon, Banzai! – Live long, great Japan’. The country is before and above everything else. No sacrifice is too great for maintaining the honour and integrity of the country.’

The question that comes to my mind on the celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s actual 150th birth anniversary year (January 2013—January 2014), is  ‘Where are we today? Is our country our religion OR have we made a country out of very religion? Have his teachings fallen on to deaf years? Why has it become so difficult for people from within a country to get to the Oneness of the Swami? This is because of our lack of understanding of ourselves. This is because of our lack of spiritual development. Vedanta says it is our ignorance and we spend our whole life under this veil of ignorance.

http://www.sv150.info/

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Self Control and Meditation

Self-control is the very core of the Vedantic discipline; without it no progress is possible in spiritual life, nor can one meet with success in meditation.  By means of self-control one is able to steer the mind from temporary transient aspects of the world to contemplation and understanding of the Truth.  Any attempt to meditate without self-control is futile. It is important to however understand that self-control is not self-denial (as very often we confuse the two).

Self-control is essentially to do with the strengthening of the Intellect (Body, Mind and Intellect) and bringing Intellect to the fore over mind and body so that it has control over the sense organs.

In the Upanishads (Katha) this is very well explained using the example of  chariot, master, the charioteer, the reins and the horses. The chariot is the equivalent to our body, the master seaated inside the chariot, is the Self  (Atman). The charioteer is the Intellect, the reins represent the Mind, which should be in the hands of able charioteer (Intellect) and the horses represent the Senses. If the Intellect is weak, the Mind (reins) is let loose and the Senses (horses) play havoc.

Paraphrasing Chapter-2 of Bhagavad Gita:

Sections 2.62, 2.63 –  Dwelling mentally on the sense objects breeds attachment to them. From attachment arises craving.  From craving springs anger. Anger produces delusion. Delusion causes forgetfulness (of the Self) and decay of the power of discrimination, and loss of discrimination ensues the annihilation of all right understanding. 

Section 2.64 – The man of perfect self-control is able to act in the world unaffected by it. Inwardly free from attraction and repulsion, he has attained unshakable inner calmness.

The key message here is to  strengthen the charioteer, and not weaken the reins or the horses through self denial or abstinence. This strengthening of the Intellect is the very core of self-control.

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Awaken the Love within

The other day I was thinking about the word ‘Love’. There are so many stories written on ‘Love’, and there are so many movies on ‘Love’, but still every time there is a good book on the subject of ‘Love’ or a good movie depicting ‘Love’ that is moving, touching & inspiring, it draws people across all age groups, and there is something for everyone in it.

Vedanta says we human being in the true sense are full of Love.  Love for our dear ones,  Love for the self,  Love of nature,  Love of animals,  Love of knowledge,  Love of the Higher, Love of devotion,  Love for others, Love for a cause and Love for the Nation.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6 (verse 47), Krishna says. ‘He who, full of faith and love becomes fully absorbed in Me, I regard as best attuned to My path of perfection.’

This is so well explained by Sister Nivedita, of a devotee’s love for God, see ‘Worship’.

The other day, I watched a movie, and in one of the scenes, the actress says ‘These days there is a lot of confusion around ‘Love”. I found that very interesting. Why should there be so much confusion about love. Something, which is so much in abundance in us, something on which so much has been written and presented, yet still why so much confusion?

I think the confusion stems from what we have become as a society. We have lost the understanding of pure Love.  Today’s Love is filled with attachments, expectations, desires and therefore very conditional. There is disappointment when the expectations, desires and conditions are unmet.  When there is attachment, there is fear.

The notion of the individual self, the notion of ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Mine’ further muddies the water. We cannot see uniformity beyond a limited circle. The size of that ‘circle of  oneness’  only appears to be shrinking by the day.  Yet, we fail to recognize that these are very much against our grain, that of being a repository of of Love. Where is it lost then? What are we not able to be loving persons in the society? We have become a very confused lot.

Love comes to you when you give.

Love comes to you when you share.

Circle of Love expands when you are able to see oneness.

Love expands when you are selfless or unselfish.

Love is pure when it without attachments.

Love is divine when there is detachment.

After Mother Teresa won the Nobel Price, she told the story of a leper who had rung the doorbell of the mother’s house. It was a leper shivering with cold. Mother asks him if he needed anything from her. She wanted to offer him food and a blanket to protect himself from the bitter cold of Calcutta. He replied in the negative. He showed Mother his begging bowl. He told Mother in Bengali: “Mother, people were talking that you had received some prize. This morning I decided that whatever I get through begging today, I would hand over to you this evening. That is why I am here.” Mother found in the begging bowl 75 paise (2 pence). The gift was small but the tiny gift revealed to Mother the largeness of a human heart. It was beautiful. Even today the 75 paise is on her table.

Mother goes on to say that love begins at home and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.

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The Fourfold Requirements (Purushartha)

In my article ‘Introspection‘ I shared with you my understanding of matter and spirit, the composition of body –  mind and intellect within matter as defined in the Vedanta. I also mentioned about the classification of the 3 Gunas – Satwa, Rajas and Tamas and the various manifestations of these three Gunas at the body, mind and intellect levels. Please refer to Matrix of the 3 Gunas and Qualities and Managing our 3Gs

Depending upon the dominating guna within us, at any point of time, many desires of different types, of different qualities and different intensities propel us to act. That is why the same person at one point comes up with a stellar action, and at an other time comes up with an abysmal action.  We ourselves don’t understand the seesaw nature in the quality of our actions, and we are not able to therefore establish consistency in the performance of our actions. The questions in front of us are:

a. How can we come up with stellar action each and every time (and not a flash in the pan)?

I have tried answering this under Perfect Action.  We understand the role of the Body, Mind and Intellect within matter (Prakrithi). We recognize the importance of ensuring that all actions get the clearance from the intellect, and therefore the need to strengthen the intellect. We also understand that for the intellect to be strengthened, knowledge/Gnana is key.

See Knowledge and Devotion.  Extending from the first question is the second question, and that is

b. How do I get there (inward refinement of the self)? What tools do I have to manage transition towards inward refinement?

The term ‘Purushartha’ consists of two words, Purusha and Artha. ‘Purusha’ means person or self. ‘Artha’ means aim or goal of human life.

The 4 ideals are the springs of our actions and are known as ‘Dharma’, ‘Artha’, ‘Kama’ and ‘Moksha’. These help us in shifting from instinct based actions to intellect based actions. The Vedic seers provided us with these 4 ideals, which serve the ends of human pursuit (Purushartha).

The 1st ideal is Dharma.  Dharma, is righteousness, integrity and honor. It is the law of inner growth and the basis of a person’s actions. It is in line with human’s spiritual evolution and following Dharma, one is bound to come up with superior performance.  In Mahabharata, Dharma is stated as that which upholds the society. The way I see Dharma aligning with the Intellect is through knowledge/Gnana.

The 2nd ideal is Artha.  Artha means wealth. Pursuit of wealth is considered one of the strong desires reinforced by societal pressures (recognition, fame as they are the yardstick today of individuals performance in life). Vedanta, often misunderstood, does not discourage wealth acquisition. It encourages possessions, but discourages possessiveness.  It encourages acquisition but also stresses the need for charity/Dana.  Also, the Vedic seers, caution us about reckless pursuit of wealth, where the pursuit turns into greed and destruction.  Artha has to function within the realms of Dharma. Again, if Dharma is the IntellectArtha is the Mind (logically speaking) and as Intellect is needed to keep the Mind in check, so also Dharma needs to be the anchor for Artha.

The 3rd ideal is Kama. Extending the same from the 1st two ideals, Kama equates to the Body.  Kama essentially stands for pleasure of the senses.  Kama is considered to be a strong ideal that needs to be carefully managed.  Again, if Dharma is the IntellectKama is the Body (logically speaking) and as Intellect is needed to keep the Body in check, so also Dharma needs to be the anchor for Kama.

The 4th ideal is Mokha. Moksa is commonly understood as liberation. To draw parallels, Moksha to me equates with the Spirit (in the Body, Mind, Intellect and Spirit paradigm).  It is a state one gets to when he/she is able to transcend the three gunas.  According to the Vedic seers, Artha, Kama and Dharma ideals belong to the material world and the happiness derived from them are therefore temporary and transient.  Permanent and everlasting happiness (bliss) can be realized only in the realms of the Spirit.

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