Monthly Archives: March 2013

What is Attaining?

In my previous article Higher and Lower, I talked about attaining the higher.  The key message was to recognize that the Lower will always be there but it can be marginalized by focusing on the Higher, thus striking a perfect harmony. (Higher cannot exist without the lower, but the lower can exist without the higher)

Here, I want to reflect upon the word ‘attaining’, an other commonly misunderstood term, in my opinion.

Based on the common definition, ‘to attain’ means ‘reach, get, accomplish, conquer. So, it is natural to assume that ‘attaining’ means to work towards something and achieve it. Attaining means putting some effort to get something that you don’t have. It implies, to get something that you currently lack and aspire for, and when you get it, we feel we attained it, and are proud  of it. Nothing wrong in it.

We carry the same notion when it comes to self development. So, we think we lack some thing, we need to work towards acquiring some thing that we don’t have at present. We think in getting from the Lower to the Higher, there is some thing that we need to develop. Therefore, we keep looking out, we keep searching, we keep asking ‘what else do I need to do?’

Our scriptures say, we search, because of our ignorance of the self, our lack of understanding the self, lack of knowledge of the self. In the journey of self development and spiritual progression, key is to recognize that we already have everything in us.

According to Zen, effort can help us in achieving only that which does not belong to us; so in order to become wealthy, we need to acquire wealth and therefore we need to put effort. If we have to go from Point A to Point B, in order to get to (acquire) point B, we have to put in effort. But what if we are at Point-A and we are told that there is no difference between Point-A and Point-B, there is nothing new to acquire,  that we can experience at Point-A, all that we were hoping to experience at Point-B? We probably still want to go to Point-B because we cannot connect to it, even on being told. Most of the time we don’t even know it.

When it comes to spiritual development, we search, because we don’t know that we already have it. This is the Ignorance that the Bhagavad Gita talks about. Zen says, that all efforts are meaningless, because whatever we wish to know has already been attained. If the soul is already within us, why should we go anywhere else to search for it? We are already divine, why should we do anything, why should we act?

So, ‘to attain’, here means to ‘Drop all activity and stop for a while’. Attainment, therefore, is directly tied to Renunciation. As we renounce, in parallel, we attain. Attaining here is simply just ‘being’ and not ‘doing’. ‘To attain’, perhaps is more of ‘undoing’ through renunciation. As we undo, we discover our inner self and attain the higher (shedding the ignorance).

Just like a candle which burns steadily; in a closed room, where there is no movement of air. Similarly, in non-action, consciousness becomes motionless. When all movement stops, the individual consciousness becomes one with the universal consciousness.

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Higher and Lower

Roots are natural for a plant, but the plant has to grow so that flowers may bloom. Roots are ugly, they dwell in darkness and spread in all directions. However, the plant, does not just stop with the roots. It pushes itself out of the soil to grow, to bloom, reaching out to the sky and dancing in the warmth of the sun, while the roots are down deep in darkness. Roots and flowers co-exist, but are in great harmony. The higher and lower co-exist, but are in perfect harmony.

Same is the case with all of us. If we are calm and contended in the lower, we can still exist in the dark as roots,  never getting to know that we have the ability to bloom. But if we push ourselves we can find the calm and contentment in the higher, in the flowers.

Interesting aspect of life is that the lower can exist without the higher, but the higher cannot exist without the lower. The pure energy within us that at birth helps us to stand up and walk, which later morphs into desire, anger, greed, hate, jealousy, likes and dislikes…., can remain in that form (as roots) or we have the ability to channel them to bloom into divine qualities (flowers) of:

(1) Fearlessness (2)  Purity of Heart (3) Perseverance (in the acquisition of wisdom) (4)  Charity (Dana, Tapas, Yagya) (5)  Self restraint (not self denial) (6) Attitude of service (7)  Self Discipline (8) Straightforwardness. (9) Harmlessness. (10) Truth-fullness (11) Freedom from anger (12) Renunciation (of selfish or ego inspired motives) (13) Tranquility. (14)  Disinclination toward fault finding (15) Kindness (16) Non-Covetousness (17)  Gentleness (18) Modesty (19) Steadfastness of purpose (20) Radiance of character (21) Forgiveness (22) Fortitude (23) Cleanliness (24) Absence of self-conceit (25) Absence of Malice

How do we get to that harmony? Careful exercise of choices, will put us  on a path of gradual internal transformation. This process of internal transformation is the true religion.

Religion that keeps us where we are,  is  meaningless and a waste of time. Any action, that enables internal transformation is true religion. Going to a place of worship, worshiping, performing special ceremonies and prayers hold no water, IF as a person, we are where we were yesterday, and where we were the day before. This is an important aspect to reflect upon.

We are all born with a mix of qualities, and if we don’t recognize the power that we possess, that of  CHOICE and INTELLECT, we will remain at the same place.  At birth, when we are first lying down on our back, and all we could do was to look at the ceiling, we did not remain like that. We made great efforts to turn around, we then made great efforts to hold our neck up, and look around, we then made great  efforts to sit up, then made great and bold effort to walk, and finally made efforts to run.

So, inherent in our nature, is the deep urge to try, the deep urge to push ourselves, the deep urge to explore, and the deep urge to attain the higher.

We can be calm and contented in the lower (like in the case of animals, who, remember have NO choice), OR  we can (through careful exercise of choice and intellect) propel ahead to attain the calm in the higher.  The scriptures say the calm of the lower is much different from the calm of the higher, the calm of the higher is far superior and divine.

We have the CHOICE. We have the INTELLECT to exercise the choice. We have the CHOICE to attain the DIVINE CALMNESS.

Understanding of the qualities emanating from the three Gunas – Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas gives us an ability to carefully examine, and exercise our choices. This careful exercising of choices, will put us  on a path of gradual internal transformation.

Reach out to the sky…dance in the warmth of the sun.  Promote the higher, restrain the lower. Live in the harmony of the higher and lower.

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No Thought, Thought, Thoughtlessness

Osho refers to Three levels of thought.  In some ways I think they map to the 3 gunas –  Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas nature of the individual. The Tri-guna appear prominently in the discourse of Krishna to Arjuna upon the battlefield of Kurukshetra, that is the backdrop for the Bhagavad Gita.

The first level, Osho says, is the state of No-Thought. This level is basically below the thinking capacity.  In my view, a highly Tamasic person or lower end of Rajasic person kind of falls into this category. At this an individual pretty much takes orders and acts on the order. He / She is ready to fight, ready to go to war. He/She is in a state of war. In the Gita, Duryodhana is this level. He is ready to go for war.

The second level, he says, is the state of Thought.  In my view, a highly Rajasic person or a lower end of Sattwic person perhaps would fall into this level. Osho says a person who thinks can waver, because thought implies wavering.  In the Gita, Arjuna is in this state/level and that is why he says ‘he wants to look. he wants to observe..understand..’ Person in such state will not be able to fight.

The third state, is the state of Thoughtlessness. In my view, a highly Sattwic person or person who has transcended the three Gunas would fall into this level. At this level, there are no thoughts. In the Gita, Krishna is in this state/level.

Thoughtlessness and No-Thought appear to be the same, but are fundamentally different. Thoughtless is a state where an individual realizes the futility of thought and transcends thought – goes beyond thought.

Thought helps to understand the futility of things, the futility of life, of love, of family, of wealth, of society, of war. Thought shows us how everything is futile, but eventually thought can show that thinking itself is futile.  At that point, one moves into a state of Thoughtlessness. Thoughtlessness appears very similar to thought, but it has completely different quality.

In a state of Thoughtlessness one becomes child-like. When a person becomes a saint, he becomes child-like. The saint’s eyes become again pure and innocent.

A man who is in a state of no-thought hides within himself the energy of thought. He can think, he is able to think. The man who lives in a state of thoughtlessness has gone beyond all thoughts,  and has reached a state of meditation, a state of Samadhi.

Implicit in this, is the message that action performed in a state of thought, when it is desire driven or outcome driven,  we end up associating the action with attributes – good or bad, happy or sad, sin or virtuous,  moral and immoral, right or wrong, gain or loss, etc.. In actuality it is the thought that has these qualities not the action itself. We tend to associate the quality with the action, but it is not the action but the thought which gives rise to these attributes.

The issue is not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad. The question is ‘Who are you?’ ‘What are you?’ ‘What is your state of mind?’  The emphasis is on thought not action. When we start looking at the outcome of an action i.e. as victory or defeat, gain or loss as different, that is when there is a problem. When we  look at victory/defeat, gain/loss, good/bad as equal or we are neutral to them, then we are focused on the purity of the thought and cause. This is a difficult concept and needs some deep reflection. The Indian scripture do not stop at just actions as something natural for humans, they go much further than the action, and focus on the mind and thought as being accountable and responsible.

Thus verse 38 of Chapter of 2 Bhaagavd Gita says ‘Even if you do not desire heaven, nor a kingdom, you should understand that happiness-unhappiness, gain-los and victory-defeat – all are equal. Only then can you be ready for war. With this attitude, which is the right attitude, you can go to war without incurring into sin.

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Yoga of Despair

As an extension to my earlier article ‘Nirguna Brahman‘ where I have tried explaining the concept of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the importance of knowledge to gain the right understanding and approach, I would now like to touch upon the aspect of religious person. This is an other dimension that begs for right understanding. This is very well explained in the teachings of Osho, where he tries to compare and contrast between Arjuna and Yudhishthira

Essentially, there are two types of religious persons: those who base their religion on borrowed knowledge, and then those who undergo an inner transformation, out of which religiousness is born.

The first are the ones who generally go to temples, mosques, churches and are generally contented and satisfied. They may read the scriptures and may be knowledgeable but it stops there. We all start on borrowed knowledge and there is nothing wrong in it. However, it should not stop there.

One has to then question and advance in search of a path. There needs to arise within that quest for the higher. Such people who experience that inner transformation, are restless and questioning at one level, while they are also establish in a new order of peace at an other level, and that is because, they start freeing themselves up from the  borrowed knowledge, and from traditions and customs.  The religiousness that is born out of inner transformation is centered around the ‘atman’.

People who are locked in borrowed knowledge and tradition, will struggle to operate on a firm ground. Their definitions may change based on a situation leading to compromises between morality and immorality, right and wrong. They will not face any inner conflict because they are fluid within and are easily changeable. This is a slippery slope that one needs to recognize. Rather be irreligious than religious in such cases. When you are irreligious, at-least you are not tainted by the borrowed knowledge, you are what you are, and if you are the questioning types, then sooner or later you will begin your search.

Osho calls the second person’s search for a path and religiousness born of inner transformation as  ‘Yoga of despair’. This longing for reunion, resulting from separation and the despair that drives to the reunion and eventual bliss, is the quality of the second person.

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St. Patrick’s Day

 Saint Patrick‘s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”) is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March. It is named after Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland.

Legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God.For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick’s Day. The shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life.

Ireland brings back memories of dedicated souls who left their homeland Ireland, and devoted their entire life for India. 

 Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born at Dungannon on October 28, 1867, Ireland. She grew up to be fine educator and she strongly believed in teaching children to do things, play and in and through it, learn. A keen reader and thinker, Margaret soon became an active member of the Sesame Club where famous writers liker Bernard Shaw and Thomas Huxley, were regular speakers. In 1895, the great Hindu yogi, Swami Vivekananda, went to London to preach Vedanta, and within a few months Margaret’s life unexpectedly changed its course and purpose.

Later Swami Vivekananda felt keenly that there was no chance for the welfare of the country unless the condition of women was improved just as he used to say, “It is not possible for a bird to fly on only 1 wing”. He paid great attention to the upliftment of women. One day he wrote to Margaret Elizabeth ‘Let me tell you frankly that I am now convinced that you have a great future in the work for India. What we wanted was not a man, but a woman, a real lioness, so work for the Indians, women especially.  Thus was the birth of a lady, whom we all know as Sister Nivedita.

For the next 15-20 years she devoted her life for the upliftment of the women and in the teaching of Vedanta till her very end. She was cremated in India under Hindu rites, and on her Samadhi is inscribed ‘Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her ALL to India’. Nivedita means ‘Dedicated’ a name given by Swami Vivekananda.

 

Annie Besant was born in 1847 in London into a middle-class family of Irish origin. She was proud of her heritage and supported the cause of Irish self-rule throughout her adult life. Her father died when she was five years old, leaving the family almost penniless.

In 1893, soon after becoming a member of the Theosophical Society she came to India for the first time. Along with her Theosophical activities, Besant continued to actively participate in political matters. She joined the Indian National Congress.

In 1914 World War I broke out, and Britain asked the support of its Empire in the fight against Germany. Echoing an Irish nationalist slogan, Besant declared, “England’s need is India’s opportunity”.

In 1916 Besant launched the Home Rule League along with Lokmanya Tilak, once again modeling demands for India on Irish nationalist practices. After the war she continued to campaign for Indian independence, and for the causes of Theosophy until her death in 1933, in Adyar, Madras.

 

Lets pay homage to these two great Irish women who gave everything of them for the cause of India.

 

Ref: Wiki – Annie Besant, St. Patricks. Sister Nivedita by Pravrajika Atmaprana, Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.

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Nirguna Brahman

The other day in a casual conversation, I said, the reason why Hindu Gods are depicted in various forms – with multiple hands, multiple heads, some with human body and animal head, some with multiple different armaments in different hands and some riding on wild animals, etc.;  is to drive the message across to the common person that the Ultimate Divine is without form, quality and attributes (Nirguna Brahman).

This caught peoples attention and they remarked that they never before thought along these lines, and this got me thinking that perhaps this could be a good starting point to help people shift their thinking, with regards to worship.

When one approaches Hinduism with the right understanding, then you see the overall as the medium created to convey the doctrines of a philosophy rooted in mystical experience.  There is real beauty & rich imagination that in turn has spawned hundreds and thousands of tales and epics of great dimensions.

When approached without the right knowledge,  it leads to blind faith, personal Gods (Ista Devata), and many a time results in distraction. When you walk into a temple, you see so many different Gods that you don’t know how to go about and where to focus. Place of worship is meant to unite the mind, heal the mind and calm the mind, and hence the right knowledge and understanding is important.

A Hindu with deep insight knows that all these gods and forms are creations of the mind, mythical images representing the many faces of reality.

This is the Hindu way of dealing with the limitation of the language in describing mystical experiences, and at the same time a fantastic way to enable an all-inclusive platform, recognizing that people will be at different levels of progression.

The Chinese and the Japanese mystics have found a different way of dealing with the language problem.

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The Mumbai Dabbawallas -No Takeaways only Giveaways

Sanaathan Dharma is the ancient and true name of what we know as Hinduism today. This is revealed in the most succinct and inspiring way in the timeless spiritual masterpiece,Bhagavad Gita‘.

We often hear people say ‘Hinduism is not a religion, but it is a way of life’. What does this mean? Is this true? People go to temples and perform rituals all year around as Hindus. So why is it not a religion?

When we read the ‘Gita’ we come to understand, why it is called the ‘way of life‘.  Sananthan Dharma, when we read the scriptures, we will realize is all about ‘way of life’ and ‘righteous living’. It is a universal philosophy that helps us to stay centered and aligned with our inner consciousness.

As human being, we are expected to be non-violent, non-hurting. This is ‘ahimsa’. From the time we wake up till the we go back to sleep, as we interact with people, we need to be in the state of  ‘ahimsa’ . Ahimsa is imperative for practitioners of Patañjali’s “classical” Yoga (Raja Yoga). It is one of the five Yamas (restraints), which make up the code of conduct, the first of the eight limbs of which this path consists.

As human being, we are expected to be Loving first.  Love unites. Love liberates. Love brings success. Love protects. Love gives happiness. Love inspires.

Truth comes next.  Truth that hurts is not important / not needed. We often come across the saying ‘Truth Hurts’. Vedanta says – Be Loving first, Truth comes next. Truth, not at the expense of hurting someone.

Prayer and Meditation. Prayer and chanting may be described as either talking or singing to God, meditation means listening for His answer.

No ill will towards anyone, inwardly contended, forgiving towards all, pure minded; prompt in action; unconcerned or unaffected by circumstances.

Being able to accept honor or dishonor with an even mind, accepting warm or cold, pleasure or pain and is same under praise or censure and is inwardly tranquil.

Being Thankful always, and be in a state of service. If someone asks for help, be Thankful for being given the opportunity (we expect the person seeking help to be Thankful).

Always be in a state of worship. Recognize that the people you are dealing with are divine, and that we are all connected in a cosmic dance (lila).

Kindness (different from compassion). In kindness there is no pride but in compassion there might be.

While these all appear so simple, living them every breath of our lives is not so easy, and this is the essence of Sanaathan Dharma.

Recently, someone reminded me of the Bombay Dabawallas, an illiterate group of 5000 workers who carry and deliver lunch boxes to about 200,000 people every single day.  They rank second in the world to be six-sigma certified for their operations. The CEO of the Dabawallas speaks of the qualities of his employees and what makes them to run a 6-sigma operation. It is very heartening to hear the qualities his illiterate 5000 people bring to the organization. Take a listen in this YouTube presentation at a management school – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZVTZivWwbg

The Bombay Dabawallas, the 5000 illiterate,  most definitely understand and truly follow Sanaathan Dharma. They don’t even know the value of six-sigma. Their focus is on the job, not on the rewards and recognition.

This is Hinduism. This is Sanaathan Dharma.  Hinduism is NOT just going to temples once in while, praying for a few minutes, and then NOT developing any of the above qualities. That is complete IGNORANCE.  Pick any one or two and live them every moment.

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Who are YOU?

One day, a young man named Naresh met a saint. The saint asked him who he was, and the youth answered, “I am Naresh.” “Who are you?” asked the saint again. Naresh, thinking perhaps the saint hand not heard him, said, “My name is Naresh.” “Yes, but who are you?” Naresh, puzzled, replied, “My father’s name is Ram Dutta. I live in Delhi. I’am an accountant.” “Yes, but who are you?” persisted the saint. The young man puzzled over this question. Was the saint hard on hearing?

“Well, if you don’t know,” said the saint with a smile, “maybe it’s good you came to me.” Naresh was thoroughly bewildered. Still he felt a certain peace in the saint’s presence, and returned to him many times – he did not really know why.

Gradually, however, he came to think, “Can I really define myself in such a limited way as to say that I’m an accountant?” He began to think, ‘I am not what I do. I am a young man with many interests, including that of visiting this saint.”

“Who are you?” the saint asked him again one day. By now, the older man seemed to the younger not only perfectly normal, but even wise. “I don’t know who I really am,” said Naresh. “That’s better!” exclaimed the saint. ” Now then, think, about it again, Who are you?”

Well, thought the young man. I have a name, a family, a domicile. But am I really any of those things? His body was still young, but he knew it would age in time.  Even now he was the same person inside that he’d been as a little child. The body had changed, but he had not. Therefore, he realized, he was not the body. He introspected further. His understanding had changed since he had met the saint, but he was still the same person, inside. His personality had changed, but something in his consciousness had remained the same. Slowly, he came to realize that he, himself, was a point of inner perception from which he merely observed these changes, but didn’t define himself in terms of  any of them.

That which changes, he realized, cannot be what I am. I am that something within that remains unchanged-that simply observes change. Thus, he came to identify himself more and more with is soul.

One day he said to the saint, “I know who I am, but there are no words with which to speak of it.” The saint hearing these words, only smiled. Later on, the saint said, “Now that words fail you, there is much that we can communicate!”

Wisdom begins with the knowledge that we are not this body or personality. We are the immortal soul.

Reproduced from ‘The essence of Bhagavad Gita’ as explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. (This is the core message of verse 13.2 of The Gita.)

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