Monthly Archives: August 2013

Abhyasa, Vairagyam and overcoming the Gunas – Part-1

In Bhoga to Yoyga, we learnt about the vrtttis, 5 changing vrttis, the two broad types that vrttis fall into, and the dominating gunas within each of the two types. So, the key is, understanding of the gunas, and then working on cultivating Sattva over Rajas and Tamas.

When we focus on promoting Sattva over Rajas and Tamas, are we in a way saying that we need to develop the ability to stablilize the vrttis i.e. to the aklista vrttis? If so, does it mean then that, if we are able to cultivate aklista vrttis, that will automatically lead us to a point when the mind is not constantly changing states across the 5 vrttis but perhaps will stay in the 1st vrtti – Pramana (knowledge)? Perhaps so. When Rajas and Tamas are promoted or are not kept in check, the energy flows towards the senses, leading into the external world (samsara), whereas with the promotion of Sattva, the mind flows away from sense objects, and flows into the realms of self realization.

Our scriptures say that, for one to establish in Yoga, one should have the ability to control the changing state of of the mind. So, how easy is it to control the changing states of mind? It is not going to happen on its own. Effort, ‘yatna’ is needed. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna says ‘the mind is harder to control than the wind’.

The three main qualities to develop are 1. Practice ‘Abhyasa’ 2. Dispassion / Renunciation from craving for sense objects ‘Vairagyam’ and 3. Overcoming the Gunas itself as the final step.

2-qual

I will write about each of the three in brief in my next to kindle your interest so that you could explore further.

Know within to know beyond.
Thanks

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Culture

My blog on ‘The story you never wanted to hear’ generated some powerful, passionate and animated discussion. It was interesting to see the divide, while everyone felt bad reading about Michaela Cross’s experiences, some also strongly felt that, when traveling to a different country, one has to be cognizant of the local country culture and constraints.

Very often, we refer to culture, and am not sure what one means by culture – it it dress code? is it not moving around the country without a male support? Is this culture? So, we agreed that:

1. We have systemic failures at multiple levels – central, state, local. There is no doubt about it.
2. We probably need some sweeping reforms in our election process in terms of who can stand for elections, etc..No doubt about it.
3. People have to develop their faith back in the system and come back into the electrol process. No doubt about it.

Hopefully we will have many more of such discussions, but it was important to bring the discussion to a logical closure, lest people left with their own interpretations and inhibitions.

I also wanted to make sure people had a balanced perspective, and were not brushing things aside under the name of culture. Reforms will probably take a few generations / may be not in our/my life time. As with every reform and transformation there is always a mix of good and bad, there is nothing to be disheartened about. India (at-least my view) is going through a phase. A time will come when this be past, may be 200-300 years from now.

To understand and appreciate this, we have to go back in history. Right from 900 AD (perhaps earlier too) till 1947, we have been under constant foreign invasion (that is about 1000 years), and compare that to the 60+ years of independence. In these last 60+ years, it is only last 15-20 years when we have seen increased incomes, greater circulation of money, power play, etc..With money comes greed, corruption, ego, clinging for life, higher levels of ignorance and hatred. You have to see in this relative perspective.

The point that I want us to reflect upon is, and this is the bit if each one of us can do, that in itself, is progress. We don’t have to worry about the rest. The totality will take care of itself. The part we have to do is – develop ourselves internally, develop internal renunciation. This applies to each one of us regardless of our age. This has nothing to do with age, gender, culture. Culture is what we define, often put to misuse:

What is that culture that advocated Sati?
What is that culture that advocated untouch-ability?
What is that culture that promoted caste system that is so deep rooted that we can’t get it out oof our system?
What is that culture that promotes honor killing?
What is that culture that advocates female infanticide?
What is that culture that under the name of religion, is always doing business with God?
What is that culture that under the name of God and religion is out to harm/kill someone from another community/caste/religion/faith?
What is that culture that advocates a dowry system?
What is that culture that treats a girl’s father / parents as piece of dirt, just because they have a daughter, whose marriage they would like to perform?

These are hard questions we have ask ourselves. In and through these questions, if we make an attempt to find answers, we will discover ourselves. Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I focus on today? What should I be actually focusing on? What is culture? What is religion? …When we develop the right understanding, we will then be able to pass it on to our children. What we lost centuries back, if we don’t make a beginning now, our grand children will say the same what we are saying today..i.e. ’our forefather’s did not follow/pass on..’…

Invest in our scriptures. Read the Bhagavad Gita. Read Bhaja Govindam. Make a beginning. Invest in yourself. Our scriptures say there are ONLY 2 reasons for our existence as human – 1. realizing the self and 2. serve the nation, serve for a higher cause.

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The Story You Never Wanted to Hear

130821074050-michaela-cross-irpt-turning-away-vertical-galleryOne of the recent articles, published by an American Student, of her experiences of India – http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/world/american-student-india-sexual-harassment-irpt/?hpt=hp_t1, brings to the forefront again, the spiritual degradation that Indian and Indians are going through. The URL speaks to the trauma that this poor girl had to go through, needs no further explanation.

This year, is the year of the Swami, Swami Vivekananda, marking his 150 birth anniversary. World over, Ratha Yathras are being organized to take his message to the masses. But the little good that a few are trying hard to inject into the society, appear to be eclipsed totally by larger evil – rampant corruption, poor governance, honor killings, rape, dowry harassment, mafia and scandals.

I often think of the verse in the Bhagavad Gita (4.7 and 8)- paritranaya sadhunam, vinasaya cha duskrtam, dharma-samsthapanarthaya, sambhavami yuge yuge (Sanskrit), meaning ‘In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.’

Let us remember the teachings of Swami’ji. He said that, men and women are like the two wings of a bird. A nation needs both, to soar high. . Recognizing the need to strengthen women’s position in the society, He appealed to Sister Nivedita, who without batting an eyelid, gave herself up completely for the cause of the Swami.

A lady from a foreign country, who had no business with India, yet she devoted her entire life for India. How many of us know her and how many of us remember her and how many of us pay homage to her?

Our scriptures, teach us so many wonderful aspects of life. They prepare us for the future. No other culture offers such powerful guidance, in so well defined frameworks. These were written, as I understand some 4000+ years back, YET we are in a state of total ignorance.  Take time and invest in understanding Sanatana Dharma.

Every Indian should be thinking, reflecting, contemplating and spreading the message of the Vedanta that Swamiji was so passionate about. Every Indian should take time to watch the movie on Swami Vivekananda – The Light: Swami Vivekananda, directed by Tutu Sinha. – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/movies/The-Light-Swami-Vivekananda-Official-trailer/videoshow/21528343.cms

150-Swamiji

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Bhoga to Yoga

bhoga-to-yogaBhoga is Sanskrit word which means ‘full of sense enjoyments’. In the current age, Senses are in overdrive mode, and we are totally at the mercy of the senses. This constant outward pull, leaves us with very little time for introspection and reflection. The pleasures and pains from the senses are temporary and in the end leave us tired, causing mental unrest, agitation, and always seeking out for the next high. Some, look for some form of relief, not fully comprehending what is it that they are looking for, and it is in this state, most turn towards Yoga & Meditation, in the hope to find peace in some form. Again, unsure of what the end state is or what that state of peace is.

While turning towards Yoga is directionally correct, often what is missed out is the prior preparation that is needed to enter Yoga – the calming of the mind.

To practice Yoga in its true form, it is important to develop a calm mind, and to develop a calm mind, one needs to delve into the mind as explained by our mystics.

Our scriptures say there are 5 kinds of changing state of mind. The sages emphatically say that any state of mind, has to fall within one of the 5 states. These 5 states of the mind are called ‘vrttis’.

While some of these changing states are positive, uplifting, and promote inward focus, the other states are negative, bound outwards and downwards. The vrttis that are positive are called ‘aklista’ and the vrttis that are not conducive, negative bound are called ‘klista’. So, there are ‘Klista vrttis’ and then there are ‘aklista vrttis’.

The ‘klistas’ (negative vrttis/states of mind) are caused again by 5 ‘kleshas’ – EGO, IGNORANCE, ATTACHMENT, HATERED and CLINGING to LIFE. These the scriptures say, are the biggest obstacles to YOGA.. Trapped within these 5 kleshas, we, forever remain in the state of BHOGA.

Likewise ‘Aklista vrttis’, are borne out of discrimination. These vrttis are more contemplative by nature, and are focused on a higher goal, on nobler causes and therefore the mind is not disturbed or neither does it have interest in the mundane.

What drives these two different types of vritts which are so diametrically opposite? Can a person have both, or anyone? If a person has both, then what triggers one or the other? These are the fundamental questions one should try and find answers for.

Our scriptures say, that the Rajasic and Tamasic nature within each of us promote the Kleshas vrittis/Klistas, and the Sattvic nature within each of us promote aklista vrttis.

We are all a combination of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, albeit of varying proportions. The key is to promote Sattva and curb Rajas and Tamas. This requires close analysis of the `self, and working on cultivating Sattva

We need to examine our thoughts and start placing the thoughts in the vrttis / Akista-Klista grid. Even if we have one uplifting thought among the many Klistas, that is a good start in itself. We need to continue to develop the Akilsta, and curb the Klists. This requires a good understanding of the 5 vrttis / states of mind that trigger these thoughts, I will write about the 5 vrttis next, but suffice to say that developing the right vrttis that can be accomplished by developing Sattva, is key to developing a calm mind, that is conducive for Yoga.

Also read High and Lower and the 3 Gunas

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Fasting

We often come across the phrase ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, which means that except for worshipping God, the next most important thing in life, is to be clean.

It is interesting to see that in Islam, the festival of Ramzan involves fasting and through fasting focusing on internal purification. The act of fasting is also to train one in self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity. Charity, called “Zakat” in Arabic, it is also obligatory as one of the Five Pillars of Islam to contribute a minimal fixed percentage of the person’s savings to the poor. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others. It is mandatory to calculate the wealth on every lunar year, and a percentage is to be given as charity, as instructed in the holy Quran, and detailed by the prophet Muhammad. Muslims worldwide choose the month of fasting to calculate their wealth, and give their charity.

Apart from this, a special charity named “Fitra” should also have been given before the day of Ramzan by every Muslim. It is instructed to give to needy and the poor, to further make it possible to have everybody be able to enjoy the day of Ramzan.

Similarly, in Christianity, is the Lenten season. During these 40 days of fasting period, people generally abstain from certain food or physical pleasures. The aim of Lent is to provide people with purified mind and heart, by weaning one from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer. The Lenten season is observed by Christians and it lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter eve, for 40 days. On the first day (ash Wednesday) of the Lenten season, many solemnly mark their foreheads with ash which is used as the reminder of human mortality as stated in the bible “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

The Hindu scriptures approach fasting from an aspect of cleanliness. The Hindu scriptures talk of two types of Cleanliness ‘Soucha (sanskrit)’ – External Cleanliness and Internal Cleanliness.

Scriptures say that external cleanliness – keeping the body clean, keeping the surroundings clean, also enables to keep the mind off clutter. Complementing this, is staying away from intoxicating drinks and meat, as these are considered to agitate the mind. An agitated mind cannot think, promotes division and differences.

There are multiple facets of internal cleanliness that are presented by our seers.

Austerity – Tapas is one such facet of internal cleanliness. Tapas / austerity is to be able to tolerate hunger and thirst, hot, cold, happiness and sadness & avoiding frivolous talk.

Benevolence – exuding a friendly attitude towards all.

Contentment, Santosa – Essentially translates to recognizing difference between NEED and ACCUMULATION.

Svadhyaya, Study, – is about study of the scriptures.

All these different facets are collectively called ‘Niyamas’. Mastering External Cleanliness and Internal Cleanliness (Niyamas), leads to developing a calmer mind, an essential pre-requisite for Yoga.

The fascinating common thread across these religions, is the emphasis on self discipline, letting go of lower desires by locking to a higher goal, and recognizing the duality of life.Thank you.

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Cleanliness – Soucha

In the West, we often come across the phrase ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, which means that except for worshipping God, the most important thing in life is to be clean.

In the Hindu / Indian scriptures too, there is a lot of importance to cleanliness. In fact, the Hindu scriptures talk of two types of Cleanliness ‘Soucha (sanskrit)’ – External Cleanliness and Internal Cleanliness.

External cleanliness is something we all think we know, but what is imporntant to understand that our scriptures say that external cleanliness, keeping the body clean and keeping the surroundings clean also helps internally, in terms of the clutter in mind. The mind is calmer. Complementing this further by staying away from intoxicating drinks and meat, is also counted as external cleanliness as these are considered to agigate the mind. An agitated mind cannot think, promotes division and differences.

Developing internal cleanliness is more difficult but something one should strive for. There are multiple facets of internal cleanliness that are presented by our seers. Austerity – Tapas is one such facet of internal cleanliness. Tapas / austerity is to be able to tolerate hunger and thirst, hot, cold, happiness and sadness, avoiding frivolous talk.

It is interesting to see that in Islam, the festival of Ramzan involves fasting and through fasting focusing on internal purification, being thankful for what one has and feeling for those who don’t have and what they may be going through. Similarly, in Christianity, is the Lenten season. The aim of lent is to provide people with purified mind and heart, by weaning one from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer.

The other facet of internal cleanliness, that the scriptures talk about is Benevolence – exuding a friendly attitude towards all.

Contentment, Santosa, is an other facet of internal cleanliness. Essentially translates to recognizing difference between NEED and ACCUMULATION. As the Gita says, desire is the real enemy of the human being, as it never satified and burns like fire. True happiness (Santosa) comes from contentment.
Svadhyaya, Study, is an other facet of internal cleanliness. Svadhyaya is about study of the scriptures.

All these different facets in our scriptures are collectively called ‘Niyamas’. Mastering External Cleanliness and Internal Cleanliness (Niyamas), lead to developing a calmer mind, an essential pre-requisite for Yoga.

Did we ever think that Cleanliness has so deep a relationship with Yoga?

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