Saturday, 27 February 2016

Sareera thriam - Three bodies

Tattva Bodha-2

Each and every individual has three bodies; gross, subtle and causal i.e. sthula, sukshma and karana sareeras. Sthula sareera is visible to oneself as well as to others.  Sukshma sareera is not visible to onself but one is conscious of it and it is known to him but it is neither visible nor known to others. Karana sarrera is not known or visible either to oneself or to others. Now we shall see each one of them in detail.

Sthula sareera:  

It is made out of gross elements of Pancha bhuthas i.e. space, air, fire, water and earth.  This can be seen from a few instances. The body is sustained by food from the earth and also it needs minerals like sodium and pottassium in the body for survival.  The water in the body gives it the shape. The fire in the body keeps the body temperature at 98.4 F in all environs. The air in the body helps blood circulation and the space in the body allows intake of food and water. This is the general common cause for all bodies.  But there is a special cause, visesha karanam, which is unique for each individual body and varies from individual to individual, which is Purva janma karma. The physical body in human form is itself acquired as a result of Punya karmas in the past.

This body serves as a temporary abode for Jiva for all interactions with the outside world and is a counter for experiencing pleasure, pain etc. This is the one anatomically analysed and described. It can be broadly divided into head, trunk, hands and legs. It houses the golakams, the visible external part of the physical organs. This body is subject to shad vikaras, six modifications. They are:

  1. Asti (potential existence) - In the womb it exists as a foetus.
  2. Jayate (birth)  - After the gestation period it emerges to experience the outer world as child.
  3. Vardhte (grows) - It grows in height and weight for a time
  4. Viparinamate (matures) - After adolescence, it stops growing structurally and only undergoes minor structural modifications, functioning in its peak vitality.
  5. Apakshiyate (decays) - After middle age the joints weaken, limbs ache, hair whitens/falls, skin wrinkles and there is decline in all functions.
  6. Vinasyati (dies) - the decline culminates in death, when the body disintegrates into the constituent elements.
Sukshma Sareera:

The general common cause is the subtle elements of Pancha bhutas.  The special cause is Purva janma karma. While the sthula sareera houses the external and internal gross physiological systems, the sukshma sareera, is the counterpart that performs all physiological functions and operates the jnanendriyas and karmendriyas.  For instance for the ear the golakam is in the sthula sareera and the hearing power operates from sukshma sareera so much so the golakam will stand as an ornamental piece only if the hearing power does not operate.  The sthula sareera will die when the sukshma sareera leaves it. So while sthula sareera is called भोगायतनं ( bhogayatanam) i.e. abode of experiences, the sukshma sareera is called  भोगसधनम् (bhoga sadhanam) i.e. instruments for the experience.  Sukshma sareera is also subject to change but it enjoys a longer life than sthula sareera as sukshma sareera is dissolved only in pralaya or at the time of Videha Mukthi.
The constituents of sukshma sareera are nineteen in number.  They are the five jnanendriyas (organs of perception), five karmendriyas (organs of action), five pranas, and the four constituents of Anthakarana. These organs represent the invisible subtle part that is the energy behind the physical anatomical organs called golakams and they operate in their respective fields only. The five jnanendriyas are:

  1. Ear - the field of experience is reception of sound 
  2. Eye - the field of experience is perception of forms and colours 
  3. Tongue - the field of experience is cognition of taste
  4. Nose - the field of experience is cognition of smell
  5. Skin - the field of experience is cognition of touch 
The five karmendriyas are:
  1. Tongue/Mouth - function is speech
  2. Hands - function is to grasp things
  3. Legs - function is locomotion
  4. Anus/Excretory organ - function is elimination of waste products
  5. Genitals - function is pleasure/procreation
From the above it can be seen that jnanendriyas are input organs and karmendriyas are output organs.  Let me remind once again that what is referred to here is only the functioning capacity behind the organs and not these organs as seen from outside. Those organs die with sthula sareera while these interior powers survive with sukshma sareera but their new powers will depend upon the new body acquired through karma phala.
Prana means the life force and here it means the energy generating system for the manifold functions of the body. It is generally divided into five pranas   Tattva Bodha does not enumerate them but Swami Paramatmananda has enumerated the main five pranas in his talks on Tattva-Bodha.  They are:
  1. Prana - respiratory system
  2. Apana - evacuavatory system
  3. Vyana - circulatory system
  4. Samana - digestive system 
  5. Udhana - reversing system, which functions in emergency only, to throw out toxins in the internal system and at the time of death to enable sukshma sareera to pack up and part with the sthula sareera
Vedanta-sara of Sadananda lists five more pranas as enumerated by Sankhyas which are classified only as Upa-pranas by some Vedantins:
  1. Naga - vomiting
  2. Kurma - opening and shutting of eye-lids
  3. Krukala - hunger
  4. Devadutta - yawning
  5. Dhananjaya - General arogya of the body

Anthakaranam is not discussed at this stage in the text.  Here also only two constituents are mentioned.  While discussing  Srishti (creation) anthakaranam is fully discussed.     Anthakaranam, the inner equipment, is a continuous flow of thought modifications (vritti) and it is classified into four according to the different function it performs.  It is like the same person being called singer, when he sings and dancer when he dances. We shall see it in its four roles briefly.  It receives the sense perceptions, cognises them on the basis of previous experiences and commands the senses to respond. It does not contact the external world directly by itself and the senses also cannot function without the intervention of the anthakaranam.  The four classifications are:
  1.  Manas, the mind, the emotional, doubting faculty
  2.  Buddhi, the intellect, the rational, deciding faculty
  3. Chitham, the memory. the recollecting, reflecting faculty
  4. Ahamkara, the ego, the 'I' notion

Karana Sareera

Karana sareera, the causal body, is the seat of all vasanas and is also the seed of the other two bodies. Swami Sivananda describes it as  "The beginningless ignorance that is indescribable" The text defines it as
अनिर्वाच्य अनादि अविध्या रूपं शरीरद्वयस्य कारणमात्रम् सत्स्वरूपाऽज्ञानं निर्विकल्पकरूपं यदस्ति तत्कारणशरीरम् (anirvachya anadhi avidhya rupam sareera dwayasya karanamatram satsvarupa ajnanam nirvikalpakarupam yadasthi tat karana sareeram)
That which is inexplicable, beginning-less, in the form of ignorance, the sole cause of the two bodies, ignorant of one's own true nature, free from duality - is the causal body
It is beginningless and it survives pralayam also but it comes to an end in videha mukthi. As it has no parts it is nirvikalpaka rupam. Ignorance of a thing one can state whether it exists or not.  But pure ignorance itself one cannot.  So it is neither sat nor asat, and is inexplicable. In short causal body is the one in the form of ignorance, which is inexplicable, which is beginning-less, which veils the Real nature of Self, which is the cause of the other two bodies and which has no parts. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sadhana Chathushtayam - Four disciplines

Tattva Bodha-1

Tattva Bodha is an introductory text for the study of Vedanta that explains in simple prose style the technical terms of Vedanta. It is a preliminary text for the study of Prasthana thraya viz. Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita and Brahma Sutra.  Sri Sankara who has written commentaries for 10 key Upanishads and the other two of Prasthana thraya has also authored Tattva Bodha.  Tattva Bodha means Self-knowledge, knowledge of our Real nature.  Tattva Bodha opens with a prayer and after prayer comes the first topic “Sadhana Chathushtayam” the four means of practice to be cultivated by a serious student of Self-enquiry to facilitate the absorption of Athma Jnanam, knowledge of Self, at the time of Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. The four means include also six virtues for disciplining the mind and bringing it under one’s control. Even if one does not have total control over mind initially one should try to cultivate these virtues in full to claim Athma Jnanam as one’s own and become a Jivanmuktha. The four means are:
  1.     Viveka – Discrimination
  2.    Vairagya – Dispassion
  3.    Mumukhsutvam – Desire for Moksha,
  4.    Shad Sampath – six virtues for mind-discipline

Swami Paramarthananda refers to them as four D’s – Discrimination, Dispassion, Desire and Discipline.  Now we shall see them one by one in detail.

Viveka – Discrimination.  Viveka is qualified as Nithya Anithya vasthu viveka i.e. the differentiation between the Real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent.   The whole universe exists in space-time frame and anything subject to time cannot be permanent as it has an origin and exit.  Everything in the universe including universe itself is subject to change..  What is permanent is only the changeless substratum of the changing universe i.e. Brahman, which is beyond time and space. This firm knowledge of what is ephemeral and what is eternal is Viveka.

Vairagya – Dispassion.  From the above Viveka, follows Vairagya, dispassion for worldly objects and even for heavenly pleasures.  He does not hate them or run away from them; only he does not crave for them in their absence or get attached to them in their presence. The world and its objects need not be rejected as they have their own limited use.  No slavish addiction even to ethical pleasures is the end-aim of Vairagya.  No person, situation, object, relationship can be depended on for eternal happiness and security.  Dependence on them is like leaning on a cardboard chair.  A cardboard chair can be treasured in the showcase, admired as an ornamental piece but cannot be leaned upon.  This applies to other worldly pleasure as well as they can be enjoyed only so long as one’s punya allows. So the priority is only for attaining Brahman, the eternal one, and for things that will take him to his goal and all other things rank low in priority.  He has only disinterested detachment towards all the pleasures and objects of this world or the other.

Mumukshutvam – intense desire for Moksha. This desire for Moksha, Swami Tejomayananda classifies into four categories
1.     Very dull (ati manda) – “It is Okay if I get it this life, otherwise there is always next life” attitude.  This is not true mumukshutvam
2.     Dull (manda) – “I will start seeking liberation after discharging all my responsibilities” attitude.
3.     Middle (madhyama) – “I must get liberation soon.  The earlier the better” attitude
4.     Strong (theevra) – “I want liberation here and now” attitude.  This person’s intensity is comparable to the intensity of a drowning person for air.

It is the theevra mumukshuthvam  that enables one to reach the goal of Self-knowledge. To him all other qualities accrue easily

4. Shad Sampath – the six virtues. They are:
1.     Sama – Mind control. वृत्तयो मनः(vrrattayo manaha) – mind is thought forms says Ramana Maharishi in Upadesa Saar. So mind control amounts to thought control. The purity of the thoughts can be maintained by good practices like Dhyana, japa, satsang and prayer.  Mind cannot be allowed to have a freedom of its own and it has to follow the direction of the intellect.  This goes hand in hand with Vairagya and Dama, the sense-control.
2.     Dama – Sense control. The sense organs are gateways of the mind to the outer world.  So they determine what enters the mind.  Senses are extrovert by nature and run after their sense objects without any discrimination. It is only through sound intellect and good habits they can be kept on track under control.  Kathopanishad compares sense organs to horses, sensory objects to the path it traverses on, mind to reins and intellect to the charioteer.  Neither reins nor horses should be allowed to determine the direction of the chariot. Only the charioteer should.  Same way mind and Indriyas must be under the control of the intellect and the intellect properly developed through satsang,  and study of scriptures and moral and ethical literature.
3.     Uparama or Uparati – Withdrawl.  It is achieved  through reduction of extrovert activities and turning the mind away from sensual objects and from worldly longings. This comes naturally when one practices Sama and Dama with Viveka and Vairagya and attains inner tranquillity. This is described in Sthitha prajna lakshana in Gita thus:
यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वशः। Yadha samharate chayam kurmanganeeva  sarvasaha I
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता।।2.58।।Indriyani Indriyrbhyah tasya prajna prathisgtatha II
When, like the tortoise which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.
4..     Tithiksha – forbearance. The ability to bear without reacting, complaining, or blaming oneself or others for contrary experiences at the physical level like heat and cold, at the emotional level like joy and  sorrow , and at the intellectual level like praise and censure, whether conducive or non-conducive. Tithiksha is tolerance of conditions outside one’s control, natural social or physical without losing one’s cool. This gives one a tension-free calm mind that is suitable for reflection on scriptural teachings regarding Self, Athma.
5..     Sraddha – Faith or conviction. Non-critical acceptance of the words of Guru and scriptures.  Sraddha enables one to listen to the words of Guru and scriptures with an open, alert mind and work with determination towards the chosen goal to realize it.   The importance of Sraddha can be seen from these words of Lord Krishna in Gita:
श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। Sraddhavan labhate Jnanam tatparah sayatendriyaha I
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति।।4.39।।Jnanam labdhva param santhim achirenadhigacchathi II
The man with shraddha and devotion, who has subdued the senses, attains Jnanam; and having got this Jnanam he attains at once the Supreme peace.
6..     SamadhanaChitha Ekagratha, single-pointedness of mind. This is the ability to have the goal in one’s sights always and be constantly focussed in one’s efforts to reach it.  As a bowman has an eye only for the target so must be the concentration of efforts to attain the goal.

Controlling the mind and senses through Sama and Dama, withdrawing from worldly pursuits through Uparama, meeting internal and external challenges through Titiksha and pursuing the goal with Sraddha and Samadhana, a sadhaka attains with Vairagya the goal of Self-knowledge chosen through Viveka and strengthened by Mumukshutvam.  Thus the four fold qualification of Viveka, Vairagya, Mumukshutvam and Shad Sampath leads a sadhaka to Self- knowledge

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Golden Gift

(Abridged from my article published in the magazine 'Conservative' in January '62)

In my schooldays I had a favourite joke with  my friends.  I will ask them to name the longest word in English language.  The usual answer will be "antidisestablishmentarianism" or some times "floccinaucinihilipilification " or something similar to that.  Then I used to smile and say that the longest word in English language is a simple word that everyone is taught in the early years viz., the word "smiles".  For between the first letter and last letter is not there a mile? and then we used to have a good laugh.

I cannot think of these incidents now without a certain amount of pleasure and pride. For not only the word "smiles" helped me to outwit my friends in my school-days but the smiles in real life helped me a long-way to make my journey through life smooth and pleasant. Many a battle in life I would have lost - lost ungraciously and most miserably - had I not learnt to smile; smile at my misfortunes and fortunes alike.  Smile is not only an antidote to mental trouble but also a physical preservative and psychological restorative.  Shakespeare called the smile 'a sunshine' in his King Lear.  And smile has a good tonic effect on health as well.

The man who smiles cannot frown and much more cannot be easily frowned upon.  This I consider a capital virtue of smile.  For frowns not only distort and uglify the face but disturb also the peace of mind and also dislocate the streamlined functioning of the body system if indulged in too often. And it is easier to smile than frown.  For to smile you have to exert only five muscles while to frown you have to exert more than four times as much muscles.  And again a smile is infectious.  It not only makes you relaxed in a company but puts the others also at ease.

Take every successful person in life.  He/she will be one with a charming smile knowing the secret formula given by Thomas Moore "Give smiles to those who love you less". Queen Elizabeth I did it and against odds she triumphed to be the loved, adored and worshipped "Young Bess".  Mr. Cromwell ignored it and in spite of the good reforms he attempted and goodies he tried to deliver, he was exhumed from his grave and gibbeted.  Mr. Stalin failed in this and the desecration of his coffin and its present place of rest is of recent history. Mr. Eisenhower had a beautiful smile and albeit his flops and failures he is the idol of America even today.  We know how Mr. Khrushchev stampeded into the hearts of millions of Indians by his radiant smile and exuberant cheerfulness when he came to India in the company of Mr. Bulganin.

Chinese have put it neatly in their proverb 'A man without a smile must not open a shop".  For a man with a ready and willing smile not only sells his articles but also infuses confidence in the stock for sale and so increases his sales. And smile like mercy is also twice blessed.  It blesses the one who has and also the one who sees the one who has. The man with the charming smile becomes the darling of everybody.  He steals the show in any event by stealing the hearts of audiences. So, I think, Shakespeare said in Othello " The robbed that smiles steals from the thief."

But let me caution you also against a pitfall.  Never attempt an insincere smile.  It is easily found out and its effects are as bad as expressed ill-feeling, if not worse.  Sport on your face ever an honest-to-God smile, the smile that is the Golden Gift of God to make life worth living and worth loving.  To have it in earnest you should acquire the orientation of mind to view alike your own foibles and faults as well as others' with amusement and tolerance rather than  with derision and contempt. Vedantic way of life is a life of disinterested detachment.  To smile ever and happily one should have disinterested love for all and everything.  Not a long way from Vedanta way, anyway.

So a smile,a sincere honest-to-God smile begets joy, buries woes, smoothens the wrinkles of ill feeling in human relations and puts one on the path to be a true Vedantin.  Have it and you have the world with its immeasurable treasure of pleasures.   Have it not, the world loses little while you lose something precious.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Panchamahayajna - Five-fold duties

Traditional Vedic Karma is classified in five groups:
1)    Nitya Karma - daily duties
2)    Naimittika Karma – duties to be undertaken on special occasions
3)    Kamya Karma – Special rituals performed for the fulfilment of specific desires
4)    Nishidha Karma – Acts that are prohibited
5)    Prayachitha Karma – Acts in expiation of sinful actions of commission or omission

The daily obligatory duties Lord Krishna enjoins upon Arjuna with these words in Gita (3-8) - नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं (Niyatam kuru karma tvam) – You perform your ordained duty. Panchamahayajna is the ordained Nitya Karma for a householder.  Yajna literally means "sacrifice, worship, offering".  Panchamahayajna is the five regular sacrifices/offerings to be made by all Grahasthas, the householders, every day.  They are:
1)     Brahma yajna – This is also called Rishi Yajna. This involves daily study of the scriptures and regular sharing of the scriptural knowledge with others through teaching, writing and satsang.  This type of blog-writing also comes under this. By so doing one discharges the debt to Rishis who by preserving and passing on made this knowledge available to us.
2)     Deva yajna – This involves ritual worship and prayer of Devas including Homams and Nitya karmanushtanam like Sandhyavandanam. Lord Krishna refers to this yajna only, when he tells Arjuna in Gita (3-11)
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः। Devan Bhavayathanena te Deva bhavayanthu vaha
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ।।Parasparam bhavayanthah sreyah param avasyatha
Nurture the Devas with this sacrifice and may the Devas nurture you.  Mutually nurturing each other you shall attain the highest good.
3)     Pitru yajna - offering tarpana, libations regularly and on special occassions in respect and gratitude to all Pitrs and Pitr Devathas.   The word Pitrs primarily means the immediate ancestors i.e. father, mother etc.  In Srartha ceremony three generations like father, grandfather and the great grandfather etc., are remembered and pindas, cooked rice balls, are offered to them. 
4)     Manushya yajna — Caring for, looking after and feeding fellow humans. Food and clothes to the poor and needy and shelter to the homeless all come under Manushya yajna.  In short all social services and anna dhanam in functions and festivals besides feeding a guest will all come under Manushya yajna.
5)      Bhutha yajna — Caring for nature and all life. Not only feeding animals like cow, insects like ant and birds like crow but also caring for them as well as the plants and trees etc., in the environment come under Bhutha yajna.

The performance of the Panchamahayajna is conducive to the spiritual evolution or growth of a Grahastha.  The knowledge he gains by the study of scriptures enables him to lead a life conforming to Dharma with personal conviction. He also learns that he is not a separate entity or isolated creature but is a part of a great whole and the Panchamahayajna is only a means to discharge the debt to his ancestors, family, society and the Panchabhuthas that all contribute to his well being and growth. He also develops compassion and mercy that blossoms into cosmic love as he feels oneness with other beings. This can end his separateness and selfishness, making him realize that his happiness multiplies manifold as he makes others happy through service, help and an attitude of charity to the needy.

Grahastha is the pillar of social fabric as he provides support to the members of the other three Ashrams viz.Brahmacharya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. This aspect has been emphasised by the revered Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar in Thirukkural:
இல்வாழ்வான் என்பான் இயல்புடைய மூவர்க்கும் (Ilvaazhvaan Enpaan Iyalputaiya Moovarkkum
நல்லாற்றின் நின்ற துணை (Kural 41) (Nallaatrin Nindra Thunai)
A Grahastha is the one who supports strongly those in the other three Ashrams.
So society prospers when a Grahastha leads a dharmic life performing Panchamahayajna as individual moral fabric is strengthened and collective welfare is fostered.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Nidhidhyasanam - Vedantic meditation

Lord Krishna starts his reply to Arjuna’s question with this sloka, in the third chapter of Gita;

लोकेऽस्मिन्द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ। (Lokesmin dvividha nishta pura proktha mayanagha)
ज्ञानयोगेन सांख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम्।।3.3।। (
Jnanayogena sankhyanam karmayogena yoginam)

“In the world twofold path has been enunciated by me Jnana yoga for Sankhyas and Karma yoga for other yogis”

One of the reasons for the distinction made between Jnana yoga and all other yogas grouped under Karma yoga is the Jnanam that is secured through the sadhanas.  In case of Jnana yoga it is Aparoksha Jnanam (direct knowledge) and in case of others it is Paroksha Jnanam (indirect knowledge).  We shall briefly see the difference between the two. In Paroksha Jnanam there is an action involved to enjoy the benefit of Jnanam. For example one hears about rasagulla and its taste.  Unless he gets one rasagulla and tastes it, this knowledge of rasagulla is only academic knowledge or just information.  Only when he gets and tastes one. he has direct experience.  In the case of Aparoksha Jnanam which is knowledge about oneself the very act of imbibing the knowledge makes one have the experience and reap the benefit.   For instance in the case of Karna who was lamenting that he was not a kshatriya because he was Radheya, son of a charioteer, Kunti’s revelation to him that he is her first-born makes him realize he is Kaunteya, and so a kshatriya, without any other action needed from him except mere grasping of this fact. 

The Jnanam one gets in Jnana Yoga is of a similar nature, the knowledge about one’s Self, Athma Jnanam.  Proper understanding and abidance in this knowledge in all circumstances itself enables one to reap the benefit of this knowledge.  And so it qualifies as Aparoksha Jnanam. But there is a catch.  The knowledge of Jeeva Brahma Ikyam is of a mind-boggling nature and is in total contradiction of one’s experience through senses.  One knows one is a mortal and has number of limitations, while Brahman is immortal and free from all limitations and Athma Jnanam reveals that one is in essence none other than Brahman and only the upadhi of body-mind complex makes one look, feel and act different.  So great mental and intellectual effort is required first to absorb it, second to resolve all the doubts that may arise from this understanding and finally to make it make it one’s own but when once that is achieved this knowledge transforms one from a samsari to a Jeevanmuktha.  That is why Yajnavalkya tells his wife Maitreyi in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2-4-5)
आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि, (The Self, Maitreyi, should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon;). 

This process of hearing, reflecting and meditating together constitute the sadhanas of Jnana Yoga, which are technically termed as Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. We shall see briefly Sravanam and Mananam before going into Nidhidhyasanam. Sravanam is committed, consistent study of scriptures under a Guru for a length of time.  This is necessary so as not to misunderstand the words of scriptural text where in many places implied contextual meaning is to be taken and not literal meaning which will be misleading.  Mananam is resolving all the doubts in respect of the teaching either by reflection or by going back to the Guru and seeking clarification or through discussion with other students or through a combination of one or more of these methods. As mere academic understanding and mental conviction alone will not confer the benefits of the Athma Jnanam unless one is able to abide in it all the time unshaken by vasanas, one needs to meditate on this knowledge and make it one’s own.  Nidhidhyasanam is that meditation on this knowledge through which one gets firmly established in Athma Jnanam unassailed by doubts and unshaken by the outburst of residual vasanas at any time and lets one enjoy undisturbed the peace and bliss of Purnatvam.

The key knowledge gained during Sravanam and consolidated during Mananam is “Brahma Satyam, Jagan Mithya, Jeevo Brahmaiva na Parah”(Brahman alone is real, the world is Mitya, the individual Real Self is Brahman).  Brahman is Real, is easy to understand, remember and practice.  But to extend it to say Brahman alone is Real from which the other two flow is a difficult proposition.  Much more difficult is extending it to one’s individual Self.  So this knowledge that has already been gained in Sravanam and consolidated in Mananam is to be internalised and assimilated. Nidhidhyasanam is the process for this. So in Nidhidhyasanam no new knowledge is gained nor any new realization is attained, but one’s entrenched habitual body-mind identification as Self is removed and the residual vasanas are liquidated to enable constant abidance in Athma Jnanam.  Sri Sankara says in Viveka chudamani (verse 365) that Mananam is hundred times superior to Sravanam and Nidhidhyasanam hundred thousand times superior to Mananam.

Nidhidhyasanam, Vedantic meditation, is like what is referred to as Dhyana in Yoga Sutras. The mind is freed of thoughts of sense-objects and their enjoyments and there is only the chosen thought of meditation. This is a two stage process.  In the first stage there is the rejection of what is false. The sadhaka rejects the false identification with the "Sareeras" with the thought “I am not any of the Sareeras, Sthula, Sukshma or Karana”.  The second stage of Nidhidhyasanam is identifying one’s True Self with Suddha, Buddha, Nithya, Muktha Brahman. By staying continuously in this thought through meditation on one of the Mahavakhyas one becomes free of his habitual notions that hold sway over one’s   subconscious and blossoms into a Jeevanmuktha and stays in Divine bliss for ever as Bhaja Govindam says “यस्य ब्रह्मणि रमते चित्तं नन्दति नन्दति नन्दत्येव “(yasya Brahmani ramathe chitham, nandhati nandhati nandhatyeva) One whose mind is established in Brahman is always in bliss.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ten Commandments for a Sadhaka

By Sadhaka I refer to a spiritual seeker.  A spiritual seeker is one who is not merely satisfied with performing rituals but wants to know the  reality about Athma, one’s real Self, Anathma, the world that is experienced thru’ one’s senses and Paramathma, the Supreme force behind the Creation. To attain this spiritual knowledge not only a sharp intellect but a subtle mind is also required. In Kathopanishad it is stated:
नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन। (1-2-24) (Naayamathma pravachanena labhyo na medhaya na bahuna sruthena)
Athma cannot be obtained (i.e. knowledge of Athma cannot be got) through lectures, through scholarship or through listening a lot.

In the next Mantra the Upanishad goes on to say that mental discipline and adherence to a moral code can only make the mind subtle enough to grasp the reality about Athma. To achieve this mental discipline which involves adherence to a moral code and make it subtle a set of five do’s and five don’ts are given in the sutras 30 and 32 of Sadhana Padha of Patanjali Yoga Sutras, which are called as Yamas and Niyamas, Yama, the code of self-restraint and Niyama, the code of observance. These two together are clubbed and called the Ten commandments of Hinduism by Swami Paramarthananda. These ten I propose discussing as Ten Commandments for a Sadhaka as they are more relevant to the one who wants to go beyond the rituals and is interested in the deeper truths of Hinduism. Let me first list them.

Yamas & Niyamas
1.     Ahimsa – Avoidance of violence 
2.     Satyam – Avoidance of telling untruth
3.     Asteyam – Avoidance of stealing
4       Brahmacharyam – Avoidance of indecent and inappropriate attitude towards other sex.
5       Aparigraha - Avoidance of  luxury and pomp. 
6       Saucham – Cleanliness and orderliness. 
7       Santhoshaha – Contentment at the level of owning. 
8       Tapas – Regulating physical activity.
9       Swadyayaha – Scriptural study.
10   Iswara pranidhanam – Acceptance of every experience as God’s gift, without resistance. 

Now we shall see each one of them a little more in detail.

1.    Ahimsa – Ahimsa, non-violence, is avoidance of violence at all the three levels of body, speech and thought, i.e. physical, verbal and mental.  Physical violence is causing physical injury to another and includes self-injury as well.  The underlying cause for this is anger. The same is the cause for verbal violence through the use of hurtful language, which is a more common phenomenon. Two of the primary causes for anger are hurt-ego and thwarted desire. Mental violence is a more subtle form of violence which causes immeasurable damage to one’s own psyche, and this cannot be eschewed without achieving physical and verbal non-violence.  Ahimsa can also be interpreted positively as universal love and compassion without which anger cannot be restrained and violence eschewed.
2.     Satyam – Satyam, truthfulness, literally means that one does not utter deliberately a statement knowing it to be untrue and avoids making statements the truth of which he is not sure of. This is a verbal discipline whereby one maintains harmony between one’s thought and word.
3.     AsteyamAsteyam means non-stealing, not only in the gross sense but also in the subtle sense of avoiding unfair transactions, taking advantage of one’s status or other’s ignorance to derive an illegitimate benefit, depriving the other of his rightful due.
4.     BrahmacharyamBrahmacharyam which is commonly understood as celibacy literally means a lifestyle suited to seek the knowledge of Brahman i.e. celibacy in the case of a bachelor and total fidelity to one’s spouse in case of a married person. Swamiji sums it up as total avoidance of improper or inappropriate attitude towards the members of opposite sex.
5.     Aparigraha - Aparigraha means non-possession i.e. one does not possess more than one needs.  This means a simple life-style avoiding pomp and luxury and eschewing hoarding. This also implies that one does not get attached to one’s limited possessions.
6.     SauchamSaucham stands for purity and cleanliness.  This purity is to be achieved not only at the physical level by keeping oneself and the environments pure and clean but also at one’s mental level by eschewing unhealthy, negative thoughts and entertaining only positive, healthy thoughts.
7.     Santhoshaha Santhoshaha involves contentment. This is no bar to making efforts to increase one’s earnings, only one should not be dissatisfied with oneself or with anything else in life, especially with his possessions. As one’s earnings increase his aim must be not in hoarding or spending but in contributing more to society. This is made possible by developing an inner attitude of richness and compassion towards the poor and needy.
8.     Tapas – Tapas stands for austerity. Austerity is to be observed at all the three levels of body, mind and speech.  These three have been described as Sareeram Tapaha, Vaangmayam Tapaha and Manasam Tapaha by Lord Krishna in Gita ch.17 (verses 14, 15 & 16). The practice of austerity is further classified under three heads Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic in verses 17, 18 & 19 of the same chapter. Here Tapas stands for Satvic Tapas that covers all the three heads physical, verbal and mental.
9.     SwadyayahaSwadyayaha stands for regular study of scriptural books. It is also one of the Pancha Maha Yajnas that is prescribed for all householders under the name Brahma Yajna. One should study at least Gita, even if he cannot study other texts.
10. Iswara Pranidhanam – Iswara Pranidhanam means surrender to the Lord.  Surrender to the Lord does not mean one remains passive expecting the Lord to play one's part also but to play one’s role in life with energy and enthusiasm remembering the Lord all the time and accepting all the results of one’s actions as one’s Karma phala, without resistance or blame-transfer. 
The above ten are prescribed in Patanjali Yoga Sutras as means to remove the hindrances in the mind to the process of meditation for achieving Samadhi state. In the case of the spiritual seeker they help to make the mind subtle enough to engage in Vedantic meditation, Nitidyasanam, the final step in achieving Athma Jnanam.  To achieve these values one should first be convinced of their importance, and then make a resolve to achieve them one by one within a time frame, implement the resolution with alertness and introspection, taking corrective steps whenever there is slip up without engaging in blame-game or losing oneself in regrets.