Monthly Archives: September 2013

Contemplative Prayer

The Rumi Museum in Konya, Turkey

The Rumi Museum in Konya, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great Sufi master Jalaluddin Rumi: ‘I, you, he, she, we – in the garden of mystic lovers, these are not true distinctions’ 

In the realization produced by spiritual devotion, everything begins to be seens as God’s glory and goodness. Praising God in song and prayer, meditating on God’s magnificence, and repeating God’s name, leads to a purifcation that can remove all barriers between lover and the Beloved, and the two become One.

According to spiritual adepts such as Rumi and the poet Kabir, the God we know through loving prayer is the same as the One we know through self-observation. In the Hindu scriptures, the God is referred to as Isvara and the One we know through self-observation is referred to as Purusha or Atman. Rumi writes ‘ For ages I knocked at God’s door, but when it opened, at last, I was knocking from the inside’.

Patañjali as an incarnation of Adi Sesha

Patañjali as an incarnation of Adi Sesha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my previous blog, I wrote about Japa and Mantra as a means to attaining one-pointedness of the mind, as explained in the Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali, and it is facinating to see the convergance between the Indian yogis and the Sufi saints. In verse 1.28 of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjani says ‘Its (‘OM’) repetition and the contemplation of its meaning should be performed, and in the next verse 1.29, he goes on say that in and through this chanting, comes the realization of the inner consciousness and freedom from all disturbances. 

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Japa and Mantra

 Japa  (Sankrit for chanting) is one of the techniques advocated in our scriptures to primarily help one develop the ability to focus the mind. One can pick any mantra for Japa, and the reasons behind the preferences could be any – preference for a

Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950)

Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

particular manifestation of God over the others – thus those who conceive Isvara (Supreme Being) as Vishnu / Narayana, the favored mantra is ‘OM namo Narayana’; for the Siva tradition, ‘OM namah Sivaya’; and for the Krishna traditions, ‘OM namo bhagavate Vasudevaya’ or the ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ ; or one pick up a mantra that they simply like the sound of or how it rhymes. Those who are into classical music can also use the ragas, talams; or one can take a simple mantra like ‘OM’.

With the help of the Japa and reflecting on its meaning or just focusing on the musical tones, one slowly starts to focus the mind – one pointed. In other words,  through  Japa we to get to the mind. The beauty is that once the mind gets to that state of one-pointed focus, then that in-turn enables the Japa to be now performed to perfection. So, the Japa needs focus, sincerity, commitment to start with, and then once the focus is attained, that focus, now helps to perform the same task (Japa) with Bhakti, devotion and perfection. This is the power of Japa when performed with the right attitude.

It helps to develop the one-pointedness of the mind, when the mind is stable, the intellect (buddhi) is strong, and it is able to function effectively. A healthy intellect then helps one to connect to the Spirit (atman) within. And finally, our scriptures say, when one is able to connect to the Spirit (atman), both the mind and the intellect, that enabled to get to the Spirit, now fade away. This is the highest state of bliss and true joy that one is capable of attaining and should try attaining.

The great rishis and yogis like Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and any others have said – ‘The ONLY mission of being born human – realizing the atman‘.

While it is good to know what a Japa is, it is equally important to know as to ‘What is not Japa?  Japa is not reciting something  just for name sake, Japa is not chanting something in anticipation of a return, japa is not doing something fancy, japa does not need any gadgets and devices, beads, dress code, or any fancy settings. Japa need not be loud; the goal is not to hit a fixed number every day or month or year; the goal is not keeping tracking of how many times in a day…the goal is to pursue with sincerity.

For one who is committed to it, one can feel it always playing in the heart, in the mind.  Enjoy the Japa. Teach your children. Start early.

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Uninterrupted Weeding

In my previous article, Yogi and Worldly Affairs, I had tried addressing some of the misgivings that most of us have about the Yogis or Saints or Monks, in regards to their knowledge of the worldly affairs and the practicality of their advise. Hopefully that was helpful.

In this session, I would like to address, how some of the spiritual leaders, in whom, hundreds and thousands of people put their trust and faith in, suddenly are found in the middle of a major scandal or controversy. Currently, in the news is the self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, and many years back, OSHO was in the news, and then few years back it was Satya Sai Baba. I am not here to make judgements about these men as I know very little of them, and I don’t think I am qualified to make any judgements.

The point I would like to focus on is, let us for a moment accept that these men were spiritually more evolved people, then the question is how can they commit such acts? An extension to this question is, if such evolved people can still get into such issues, then what about us who are in total ignorance of the self.  Extending this argument further,  Christ was stoned and crucified, there were all kinds of allegations framed against Buddha. Why? Why were they targeted, and yet their teachings have stood the test of times.

Again, I would like to reiterate, I am not making any judgements, I am not trying to draw any comparisons, but in and through these questions, I am wanting us to ask ourselves – Do I know myself? Do I judge people based on the sound bytes? Put in the same situation and circumstances, do we have a strong intellect that can discriminate and have control over our mind? Is there something our scriptures teach us?

Absolutely,  the Bhagavad Gita very categorically says, ‘desires’ or ‘samskaras’ don’t go away.  Verse 2.60 of the Gita says, ‘….even the wise man, devoted in self-control, may sometimes be swept away by the turbulent senses’.  It should not be misconstrued that the Gita approves this as something normal. The Gita is cautioning about the senses, and how even a highly learned individual can also become the victim of the senses. In verse 2.61, Gita stresses the need to gain mastery over the senses. The Gita does not stop there,  it then provides a road-map on how to develop a strong internal core.

Edwin Bryant, in his book ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ says, ‘as a gardener knows, maintaining a garden takes devotion and uninterrupted weeding and pest control for a prolonged period of time. In fact, these processes can never be interrupted, since within a remarkably short period of time, even the most devotedly cultivated garden, becomes overwhelmed by weeds and pests; if left unattended, all one’s hard work is easily undone. Likewise the minute a yogi relaxes his or her practices and vigilance, the weeds (dormant desires, samskaras) grow back. Like weeds, samskaras, are never actually eliminated or destroyed, they remain in a latent subconscious state and thus can become activated at any moment, unless constantly curtailed.’

Thank you.

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Yogi and Worldly Affairs

A number of us believe that Yogis/Monks who has withdrawn himself or herself from worldly life, are far from reality and thus have no experiences of what living in the world means in terms of relationships, interactions, conflicts, friction, egos, desires, emotions, attachments,  etc..  Their advice or guidance is often seen as  bookish, impractical and not contemporary.

I think it is important for us to understand first who a true Yogi is. Our scriptures say that one has to go through many births and rebirths before getting to the final state of self realization. During the course of these multiple births and rebirths, one accumulates good karma and bad karma depending on the types of action performed, and it is resultant karma that determines the direction of the individual. It is desire that breeds action. A good desire generates good thought and good action, and an evil desire produces evil thoughts  and evil actions. The karma counter keeps accumulating depending upon the type of desire.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, verse 6.41, says ‘A fallen (but sincere) yogi gains entry (after death) into the world of the virtuous. He/She may remain there for many years. Afterwards, he/she is reborn on earth into a good and prosperous home.’  Continuing verse 6.45 says ‘Diligently following his / her chosen path, and cleansing one of all sin (karmic debts), the yogi, after many births, attains perfection, and enters at last into the Supreme Beatitude.’

My point here is true Yogis having gone through life, and having gone through all the vicissitudes of life,  have spiritually evolved. Therefore, they have the ability to see many lifes back, and see many lifes into the future. It is with this accumulated wisdom that they take birth again,  only for the betterment and upliftment of the masses, and help make the world a better place.

While it is important to take time and understand a yogi, it is then also important to put faith into their advise.  Arjuna takes the advise of Krishna, he puts all his faith in Krishna.  We have had people like Gowtham Buddh, Ramana Maharishi, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Sarada Matta, and many others who attained sainthood.

We also see accomplished Yogis fall. I am sure a number of us have questions about yogis who fall from grace. Why? Are they really yogis? If they are, then how can they be involved in such issues? I will write next about it.

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