Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Beyond is Within – Part-V

Continuing to build upon Part-IV of this series, the questions then is – ‘Is this all theory or do we really experience the Kshetragya in our regular day-to-day life? Or do we need to attain Samadhi to get a glimpse of the atman? Can we ever get to that Oneness that is the thread connecting the beads?’

The sages say ABSOLUTELY. Our spiritual moments are those moments when we feel MOST INTENSELY ALIVE.

We experience it but we don’t know it.  Within the family, parents feel the joy or the pain of their child. Even when the child is far away and he/she reports back getting an ‘A’ in the exam, the parents though thousands of miles away, experience immense joy. This is because there is that oneness. This is because they don’t see the colors (naama, ruppa). 

Likewise, when there is a problem in the community or someone is in pain, the entire community rallies and the energy that comes together at that moment is not normal energy. People can go without food and sleep for days together. Why? At that moment, even though short and temporary, we cross the colors and connect with the common thread. When the crisis passes by, we fall back into the regular state and operate within the confines of the ‘Prakrthi’.

Similarly, expanding the example from a community to a nation, Gandhiji, Nelson Mandela, Vivekananda, were able to expand that Oneness beyond family, community to an entire nation and we know the energy and transformation that they were able to bring about. When we are able to expand the oneness, we don’t see differences, we don’t see individuals, we don’t see the beads in the necklace. All we see is the thread that runs commonly across all.

This is also what Christopher Reeve tries to convey in his last interview that I have shared in –  ‘Fulfill your Potential‘.

Understanding of the Gunas and the understanding of the Kshetra and Kshetragya will help us in

  • Converting the ONE-OFF random acts of Oneness to something more CONSISTENT and often
  • Expanding the oneness beyond just family.  As we expand this circle of ONENESS, so will the circle of LOVE expand, and so will the circle of HAPPINESS

These are the central nuggets of the Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita.

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This brings us to the end of ‘The Beyond is Within’.

Thank you.

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The Beyond is Within – Part-IV

Continuing to build upon Part-III of this series,

 

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One who understands the Spirit and the Body (Kshetragya and Kshetra respectively), and the functioning of the gunas within the Body, he/she can engage in the world fearlessly. He/She understands the zero sum game of the universe, which then helps them to shift focus to the higher,  and thus are able to go through life totally detached and unaffected.

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The Beyond is Within – Part-III

Continuing to build upon Part-II of this series,

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Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita, entirely focuses on these two aspects, the Soul (Purusa) and Matter (Prakrithi). In Chapter 13,  Prakrthi  at an individual level is referred to has ‘Kshetra’ (body) and the Soul/atman is referred to as ‘Kshetragya’.

The atman is the observer also referred to as the Knower (Kshetragya). The ‘Kshetra’ is synonymous to ‘Arjuna’ on the battlefield, whereas the ‘Kshetragya’ is synonymous to ‘Krishna’ on the battlefield, who is totally detached from the battle and takes no active part. Our soul is the observer, unaffected and remains inactive.

It is the EGO, that creates the illusion of the soul being attached to the body, thus resulting in the exertion of the ego on our awareness.

thank you.

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The Beyond is Within – Part-II

Continuing to build upon Part-1 of this series,

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The Beyond is Within – Part-I


Let us understand what Vedanta tells us about who we are. I try and present it more visually to get the message across and help raise the intellectual curiosity enough so that you could pursue further, on your own.


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Ignorance 101 – Physical Disoders

Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme involved in the production of melanin.  tanzania2

These are just ordinary people like all of us. Just that they look different because of the disorder, otherwise they are no different from those who have a fair skin and those who have a dark skin.  They are ordinary human beings with some extra-ordinary conditions.

Because of their skin condition, they cannot handle bright sunlight, and albinism is associated with a number of vision defects, such as photophobia, nystagmus and astigmatism. Lack of skin pigmentation makes for more susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers.

In some of the African countries, even TODAY, Albinos are hunted and killed for their body parts.  It is believed using them, or their body parts can provide cure to diseases.  It is believed using their flesh or body parts can bring in good fortune.

It is shocking to see that even in this day and age we still have such views and beliefs in society.

The scriptures go to painful lengths to explain how we spend our entire life entangled in such issues, when as human beings, we have the potential of so much more that no other species is capable of. No other species has the ability to discriminate (right versus wrong, good versus bad..), no other species has the ability to sacrifice, no other species has the ability to explore into the realms of the inner Self. Yet, we choose to focus on petty issues,  exploit the weak and fritter away all our time on this planet, when we are capable of achieving so much more.

Vedanta says we are a combination of Purusha (atman) and Prakriti (physical body), and the teachings help us to connect with the Atman within, that is untainted, pristine and same in all (be it  a white person or a black person or a brown person or an Albino).

Reference:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/11/21/165652046/portraits-of-albinism-letting-an-inner-light-shin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_disorder

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Ignorance 101 – Race and Geography

 

“ I have never seen anyone who gave me so distinct an impression of being ‘high-born’, said a lady who knew her slightly. It was however not the record which stretched over two thousand years, which gave dignity to Anandibhai’s mien, but the high-born consciousness, never absent, that in spirit was a the ‘child of God’ ”


Anandibai (meaning ‘joy of my heart’, a name given by her husband) Joshi, the first Hindu woman to obtain a medical degree in the Western hemisphere, was born Yamuna Joshi, in 1865 in Poona, India. Anandibai-Joshi Although she only lived till the age of 22, the example of Anandibai Joshi‘s life should provide inspiration to Indian women seeking education and, in particular, those who aspired to become physicians.

At age 9, Anandi married Gopal and at 14, she gave birth to their first and only child. The infant survived only 10 days, but in her grief Anandi turned her thoughts to what could have been done to save her child: she became convinced that if there had been a female doctor available, the child might have lived. This was the turning point as she then became determined to become a doctor.

Despite the fact that Hindu culture discouraged the education of women and could not even contemplate a woman as a professional, let alone a doctor, Gopal was broad-minded and supportive of his wife’s dream.

In 1880, he sent a letter to Royal Wilder, a well-known American missionary in India and publisher of Princeton’s Missionary Review, expressing his wife’s interest in attending medical school in the U.S. and inquiring about a suitable post there for himself. Wilder responded with a plea for their conversion to Christianity, and published the correspondence in the Review.

Shortly thereafter, however, a Mrs. Carpenter of Roselle, New Jersey picked up that edition of the Review, read Gopal’s letter, and was moved by the man’s earnest hopes for his wife. She immediately wrote to Gopal offering to host Anandi if she would come to the U.S. to study.

Although Mrs. Carpenter’s attentions were encouraging, Gopal knew he would not be able to leave his responsibilities in India. It was considered unsuitable for a married Hindu woman to travel alone, but Anandi was determined to go, and Gopal relented.

When Anandi’s decision became known within her community, however, the two of them found themselves at odds with their neighbors who were not in favor of her decision .

Thus, Anandi began her American medical education at the Women’s College of Pennsylvania, at the age of 19, and she was a model student, submitting a thesis on “Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindus” and graduating with her M.D. on March 11, 1886. Queen Victoria sent a congratulatory message, and with the news of her achievement, Anandi was offered a job as physician-in-charge of the female ward at Albert Edward Hospital in Kolhapur, India.

In the meantime, however, Anandi had contracted tuberculosis — perhaps worsened by a combination of cold weather and an unfamiliar diet — and her health was steadily declining. Her friends sent her to Colorado Springs for her health, but she returned without improvement. Nevertheless, she returned to India.

The journey back home took a further toll on Anandibai’s health as doctors on the ship refused to treat a brown woman. On reaching India, she stayed at her cousin’s place in Pune to receive treatment from a renowned Ayurvedic specialist who also refused to treat her as according to him, she had crossed the boundaries of society (travelled overseas).

She died on February 26, 1887, in her mother’s arms at her birthplace, and was mourned throughout India, celebrated for her courage and perseverance. Her ashes were sent to Mrs. Carpenter, who placed them in her family cemetery in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Today the Maharashtra government has a fellowship in her name for young women working on women’s health.

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Ignorance 101 – Our Caste System

All through our scriptures, the sages tell us that our ignorance is our biggest obstacle. Vedanta attributes a number of  our traits as emanating from our ignorance of the self, and repeatedly appeals to shed the ignorance.

I begin to wonder, if we are ignorant of an obvious thing like the caste system that is so glaring in the eyes and have not been able to correct it, when would we develop an understanding of the self, which in the relative scheme of things is far more difficult to learn or unlearn, than following the right model of the caste system.

How can a society turn a blind eye to a caste system that we Hindus have come to follow? We misused and continue to misuse and misinterpret the caste system to our convenience, and in the process are exploiting people and playing with their self esteem.

Is it not an insult to our seers who gave up everything, and shared their learnings  to help the future generations live a life of principles?  

Paramhansa Yogananda often said that the real “races” of man have nothing to do with the color of the skin, but it had everything to do with the state of consciousness.

He gives the examples of how Monks from different parts of the world would feel a greater kinship with one another than, possibly, with their own relatives. He says businessmen understand one another naturally and easily, even if they have to converse through translators. What people do, and even more so the kind of people they are, separates them into categories that cut across all barriers of language, nationality and skin colors.

‘Swabhava’ (one’s own inherent nature) is the word used to define the caste system. That the caste system is meant to depend on what each person is in himself and not on heredity/inheritance. They were defined in line with the Gunas (Bhagavad Gita verse 18.41). The scriptures provided a framework that ensured everyone in the society was included and and had a role to play. Whatever be that starting point the framework also provided one the ability to rise to the higher level of consciousness.  (verse 18.45 – Each one attentive to his own duty, men rise towards the highest success).

The Gita is loud and clear on the caste model. It is very important that we develop this understanding and practice it every moment of our lives.

Sometimes, we understand the consequences of an ill understood system only through examples, and what better example can we think of, then that of Dr. Ambedkar, who had to face the insults and hardships throughout his life, just because of his caste, and in-spite of great qualifications was unable to break through the caste barriers. Imagine a common person. Towards the end he was so disappointed with the impositions of the Hindu society, that on May 24, 1956, on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti, he declared in Bombay, that he would adopt Buddhism in October. On October 14, 1956 he embraced Buddhism along with many of his followers. On December 6, 1956, Baba Saheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar died peacefully in his sleep.

AmbedkarDr.Bhimrao Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891 in Madhya Pradesh and belonged to the “untouchable” Mahar Caste. His father and grandfather served in the British Army. In those days, the government ensured that all the army personnel and their children were educated and ran special schools for this purpose. This ensured good education for Bhimrao Ambedkar, which would have otherwise been denied to him by the virtue of his caste.

Bhimrao Ambedkar experienced caste discrimination right from the childhood.  At school, he had to sit on the floor in one corner in the classroom and teachers would not touch his notebooks. In spite of these hardships, Bhimrao continued his studies. In 1912, he graduated in Political Science and Economics from Bombay University and got a job in Baroda. In 1913,  Maharaja of Baroda awarded scholarship to Bhim Rao Ambedkar and sent him to America for further studies. Bhimrao reached New York in July 1913.

Back in India, he suffered the humiliating experience of not being served drinking water during official functions. At the officer’s club, he had to sit in a corner and keep his distance from the other members belonging to higher castes.

He also had difficulties in finding a rented house, as he was not allotted government bungalow. He stayed in an inn owned by Parsis (members of Zoroastrian religion). One morning, as he was getting ready to go to work, a dozen Parsis, all wielding sticks, rushed up to his room screaming that he had polluted the inn and insisted on his immediate departure. He begged them to let him stay for a week longer since he hoped to get his government bungalow by then. But they would not accommodate.  After spending much of the day in a public garden, Ambedkar, in utter frustration and disgust, left for Bombay by the 9 pm train.

In 1947, when India became independent, the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, invited Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who had been elected as a Member of the Constituent Assembly from Bengal, to join his Cabinet as a Law Minister. The Constituent Assembly entrusted the job of drafting the Constitution to a committee and Dr. Ambedkar was elected as Chairman of this Drafting Committee. In February 1948, Dr. Ambedkar presented the Draft Constitution before the people of India; it was adopted on November 26, 1949.

In October 1948, Dr. Ambedkar submitted the Hindu Code Bill to the Constituent Assembly in an attempt to codify the Hindu law. The Bill caused great divisions even in the Congress party. Consideration for the bill was postponed to September 1951. When the Bill was taken up it was truncated. A dejected Ambedkar relinquished his position as Law Minister.

 Achievements: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was elected as the chairman of the drafting committee that was constituted by the Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution for the independent India; he was the first Law Minister of India; conferred Bharat Ratna in 1990.

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