Monday, 31 December 2018

Purity in Life

(adapted from a lecture of Swami Paramarthananda)

Purity is referred to as soucham or Suddhi in Sanskrit. Purity, internal and external, is emphasised in our scriptures. For instance in Ashtanga yogasoucham is emphasized as one of the five disciplines of Niyama. along with santosha, svadyaya, tapas and Isvara pranidhanam.  Also it is mentioned in Bhagavad Gita as a DaiviSampath in Chapter 16 and also as a requirement for Jnanam in Chapter 13. All Vedic rituals start with aachamaneeyam, which is meant for internal purification. So Purity has been part of Vedic culture and is elaborately discussed at five different levels in our scriptures.  They are, in the increasing order of subtlety: 1) Desa suddhi, 2) Anna suddhi, 3) Deha suddhi, 4) Vak suddhi and 5) Manas suddhi.  

Desa suddhi:  Here the word ‘Desa’ refers to the place one lives i. When one keeps the environs and the house clean, the country also will be clean.  Today in India we have sadly fallen in this regard and the “Swatcch Bharat” campaign started by the Prime Minister Mr. Modi is an earnest step to restore it to its ancient glory in this regard.

Anna suddhi:  Chandogya Upanishad points out that the food we eat has three layers; sthula amsa, madhyama amsa and sukshuma amsa. Sthula amsa caters to taste that is purged as waste; madhyama amsa caters  to physical nourishment and the sukshma amsa caters to our sukshma sareera and thereby to our mind, our personality and character.  So we should take the food that contributes to our mental health as well by helping to build up a satvic personality that aids spiritual progress.  Scriptures not only mention about the type of food but also about the one who cooks the food and also one who serves, the source of food, from where it comes, and says all of them contribute to the sukshma amsa of the food one takes.  Since all these things cannot be controlled always, one should offer the food to the Lord physically or mentally before eating to purify it.  Further for Anna suddi one is advised to use cow’s ghee in one’s food.

Deha suddhi: Deha suddhi means cleanliness of the body.  This needs no elaboration as modern medical science places emphasis on personal hygiene and cleanliness.  An instance in this regard is the insistence on hand-washing before and after visiting a medical ward in the hospital.  Our sages in ancient times were carrying a kamandalu all the time for this purpose.  Taking castor oil regularly in olden days was to maintain deha suddhi by purging the toxic waste from the stomach.  Pranayama is considered as a wonderful practice for cleaning the inner physiological system of nadis.

Vak suddhi:  This is considered an important purity as words have immense influence in raising emotions, good and bad and so one should exercise control to avoid mechanical and impulsive talk and adopt quality control of words coming out of one's mouth.   Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (17-15) gives four quality parameters in this regard which are; anudvegakaram or verbal ahimsa, satyam, priya and hitam. We shall now see these four in a little more detail. Verbal ahimsa implies that your words do not cause hurt to anybody.  Satyam is speaking truth preferring silence to hurting truth. Priya means one’s manner of communication, the tone of communication, the facial expression during communication, the body language during the communication are all soft and gentle while communicating with words. Hitam means one’s talk is beneficial to others and to oneself.  If one adopts this yardstick, one will not indulge in gossip-mongering or slander-mongering.  The Vak shuddi is considered as extremely important for one’s own well-being as well as the well-being of the surrounding.

Manas Suddhi: This is the most important of the five and the basis of the other four and the most difficult to practice.  In chapter 17 of Bhagavad Gita healthy thoughts are given under daivi sampath and unhealthy thoughts are discussed as asuri sampath.  One key field in this respect is raga-dwesha and their management is an important part of Manas suddhi.  We should here clearly understand that raga-dwesha cannot be completely eliminated and they can only be controlled.  If not controlled we will be affected by emotional disturbance when our raga-dwesha is violated in a situation, as happening of external situations is not under our control.  When we let the emotional disturbance to stay in the mind without nipping it in bud it causes stress and emotional slavery which becomes serious as one’s physical health gets affected that in turn affects adversely the mental health.  The emotional disturbance can be handled through three methods.  The first one is Viveka.  Exercise discrimination to curb emotional disturbance at the early stage remembering the harmful effects of letting it deteriorate to emotional slavery. The second is Sankalpa, resolve to nip the emotional disturbance in the bud and repeat this resolve regularly until it becomes an ingrained habit.  Third is Prathipaksha Bhavana, nurturing positive thoughts in the mind to counter the stress and to prevent mind sinking into emotional dependence especially when thoughts of anger, fear, hate and worry invade the mind, by countering with positive opposite thoughts and avoiding fast hasty reaction.  Having sincere bhakthi and replacing world-dependance with God-dependance helps to develop this prathipaksha bhavana.  To be in satsangha and have some sat purushas as models helps in the practice of prathipaksha bhavana.    This way one can keep the raga-dwesha at non-toxic levels that will give one Manas suddhi.

One lives a pure life socially and personally when one practices with diligence these five suddhis i.e. Desa Suddhi, Anna suddhi, Deha suddhi, Vak suddhi and Manas suddhi. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Fate and Prayer

(Adapted from a lecture of Swami Paramatmananda)

We  have a saying in the scriptures:
harinapi  harenapi  brahmanapi  surairapi I
lalata  likhita  rekha  parimarshtum  nashakyate II
(Even Vishnu, Siva, Brahma and Gods cannot erase (or change) what is written on the forehead)
Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar echoes this idea in Thirukkural (38-10):
ஊழிற் பெருவலி யாவுள மற்றொன்று
சூழினும் தான் முந்துறும்
(Is there anything mightier than fate? It cannot be defeated by any means (It prevails over all efforts to conquer it))

But we have in our scriptures instances where through prayer fate has been overcome.  The classic instance is that of Markandeya who through special prayer to Lord Siva conquered death and lives even to this day as Chiranjeevi.  We have also the famous instance of Savithri outwitting Yama and securing a fresh lease of life for her husband, Sathiavan.  So we have a doubt whether fate can be changed through sincere prayer or cannot be changed through any amount of earnest prayer.  Swami Paramathmananda says that if one understand the true meaning of the term fate then one will discover the answer to the question, “Whether prayer can change the fate?” as “Yes and No” and not as “yes” only or as “No” only.  This will become clear when we understand the term ‘fate’ properly.

Fate is translated in Tamil as Vidhi (விதி), standing for the happening of events outside a person's control, regarded as the writing of Lord Brahmaji on the person’s forehead at the time of birth.  Even if this is true, Lord cannot write arbitrarily whatever he chooses to on the head of anyone for that will make him a partial Lord. In fact fate is a general term for Karmaphalam that influences the happenings in one’s life, both good and bad. Karma means action and action varies both qualitatively and quantitatively from individual to individual.  Karmaphalam means result of past actions and include the ones that which come from previous births as well known as prarabdham.  As karma varies, among individuals, karmaphalam also varies qualitatively and quantitatively. They are broadly classified into two groups; durbalaprarabdam or durbalavidhi and prabalaprarabdam or prabhalavidhiDurbalavidhi is the weaker karmaphalam based on a milder action and prabhalavidhi is the stonger karmaphalam based on powerful action.

Now we will revisit the question “Can fate be changed by prayer?”  In case of durbalavidhi we can say yes, as durbalavidhi can be weakened and altered to manageable proportions or even be eradicated by sincere prayer with devotion. But in the case of prabhalavidhi prayer will not mitigate or nullify the ordeal but gives one the mental fortitude and strength to go through with the difficulties that fate subjects one to, with mental resilience.  So in the case of prabhalavidhi the answer to the question “Can fate be changed by prayer?” is ‘No’ , a qualified No as prayer gives one the mental strength to absorb the shocks of adverse fate.

So prayers that form part of our religious tradition are useful in the case of both durbhalavidhi and prabhalavidhi.   As we cannot know whether any problem is due to durbalavidhi or prabhalavidhi, let us pray in addition as follows while praying for His Grace and help to tide over the problems presented by fate.
 “Please let me have the skill and effort to solve the problem if I can, and the strength and faith to bear with the problem cheerfully, if I cannot” 

Monday, 29 October 2018

பதஞ்சலியின் பத்து கட்டளைகள்

நம் எல்லோருக்கும் உடல் என்று ஒன்று இருப்பது போல் மனம் என்றும் ஒன்று இருக்கிறது.  அதை பார்க்காவிட்டாலும் உணர்கிறோம், உபயோகிக்கிறோம்.  அது ஒரு கரணம், அந்தக்கரணம் எனப்படும் கருவி.  கண், காது, மூக்கு, நாக்கு, சருமம், ஆகிய ஐந்து ஞானேந்திரியங்களின் கூட்டில் பிரமாணமாக, அறிவைக் கொடுக்கும் கருவியாக, இருக்கிறது. மற்றும் அது கர்த்தாவாக, செயலாற்றும் கருவியாகவும், போக்தாவாக, செயலை அனுபவிக்கும் கருவியாகவும், இருக்கிறது. கோபம், மோகம், போன்ற குணங்களின் அதிக்கத்தில் ஒருவர் செயலாற்றும் பொழுது அங்கு மனமே கர்த்தவாக இருக்கிறது, அறிவு அங்கு மனதிற்கு அடங்கிப்போகிறது. கவலை, வருத்தம், மகிழ்ச்சி இவற்றை அனுபவிக்கும்போது போக்தாவாக இருக்கிறது.  இப்படிப்பட்ட மனம், உடல் போன்று பருப்பொருள் (gross) அல்ல. அது ஒரு நுண்பொருள் (subtle). இந்த மனம் சாதாரணமாக மேல்மனம் (Conscious mind), ஆழ்மனம் (subconscious mind) என்ற இரண்டு நிலைகளில் இருந்து செயல்படுகிறது.  இது தவிர அதீத உணர்வு மனம் (supra-conscious mind) என்று ஒரு நிலை யோகிகளுக்கும் சித்தர்களுக்கும் சாத்தியமாகிறது.  அதை உபயோகித்து அவர்கள்  பிரபஞ்சமனத்துடன் (Universal mind) தங்கள் தியான சக்தியினால் தொடர்பு கொண்டு, அற்புதங்கள் நிகழ்த்துகிறார்கள்.

மேல்மனதை விழிப்புமனம் என்றும் சொல்லலாம். நாம் விழித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும்பொழுது  உலகத்துடன் உறவாடுவது இந்த மனமே.  ஆழ்மனம் மேல்மன நிகழ்வுகளை பதிவுகளாக உள்வாங்கிக்கொண்டு சேமித்து வைக்கிறது. இந்த பதிவுகளின் தாக்கம் வாசனைகளாக, சம்ஸ்க்காரங்களாக, மேல்மனச் செயல்பாடுகளை பாதிக்கிறது. ஆழ்மனம் உடலுடன் மரிப்பதில்லை, மாறாக சூக்சும உடலுடன் அடுத்த பிறவிக்கு பயணிக்கிறது என்று இந்துமத சாஸ்திரங்கள் சொல்கின்றன.. வாசனைகள் இருக்கும் வரை பிறப்பு இறப்பு சுழற்சியிலிருந்து உயிருக்கு விடுதலை இல்லை என்றும் சொல்கின்றன.

ஆசைகளால் மனிதனை ஸம்ஸாரத்தில் கட்டும் மனமே நற்பண்புகள் வளர்த்து அறிவின் துணை கொண்டு ஸம்ஸாரத்தளையிலிருந்து விடுபட, மோக்ஷம் பெற, சாதனமுமாகிறது. இது எப்படியென்றால் காற்று வீசி நகரும் மேகம் சூரியனை மறைக்கிறது. அதே காற்றுதான் மறைக்கும் மேகத்தை கலைத்து சூரியன் தெரியவும் செய்கிறது.  இந்த மனம் மனிதன் வசம் இருந்தால், அதாவது அவன் அறிவு காட்டும் வழியில், மனிதன் சென்றால். அவன் தேவனாக உயரலாம், மாறாக மனம் போகும் பாதையில் மனிதன் சென்றால், அவன் அசுரனாக வீழலாம். ஆக பண்படாத மனமே  பந்த காரணம்,  பண்பட்ட மனமோ மோக்ஷ சாதனம்.  மலங்களை நீக்கி மனதை பண்படுத்தி பந்த காரணத்தை மோக்ஷ சாதனமாக மாற்ற பதஞ்சலி முனிவர் தன் யோக சூத்திரம்” என்ற நூலிலே யமம், நியமம் என்ற தலைப்பிலே பத்து சாதனைகளைக்  கூறுகிறார்,  யமம் தவிர்க்கவேண்டிய வேண்டியவைகளையும் நியமம் கடைப்பிடிக்க வேண்டியவைகளையும் பட்டியலிடுகின்றன.  இவற்றை சுவாமி பரமார்த்தானந்தா “ஹிந்து மதத்தின் பத்து கட்டளைகள்” என்று கூறுவார்.  அந்த பத்து கட்டளைகளை வரிசைப்படுத்தி, சிறிது விரிவாகப் பார்ப்போம்.

முதல் ஐந்து, யமத்தில் அடங்கும். இவை தவிர்த்தலை கொண்டது.

ஹிம்சையைத் தவிர்த்தல். – அஹிம்சை. மனதாலோ வாக்காலோ உடலாலோ எந்த ஜீவராசியையும் எந்த விதத்திலும் எப்பொழுதும் துன்புறுத்தாமை அஹிம்சை. அடித்தல், உதைத்தல், சித்திரவதை செய்தல், கொல்லுதல் உடலால் ஹிம்சை செய்வது. சொற்களால் காயப்படுத்துவது வாக்கால் ஹிம்சை செய்வது. மௌனமாக சபிப்பது, மனதிற்க்குள் திட்டுவது, மனதால் ஹிம்சை செய்வது. கோபம், வெறுப்பு, பொறாமை, பழிவாங்கும் எண்ணம், போன்ற எதிர்மறை (negative) எண்ணங்களும், கவனக்குறைவும் ஹிம்சைக்கு காரணமாகின்றன.  ஆனால் மற்றவரின் நன்மைக்காக செய்யப்படும் தேவையான அளவு ஹிம்சை, ஹிம்சையில் அடங்காது.  உதாரணமாக நோயை குணப்படுத்த செய்யப்படும் அறுவை சிகிச்சை.
பொய் பேசாதிருத்தல் - சத்தியம்.  இதுவே வாய்மை எனப்படும். அஹிம்சையைப் போல் இதையும் பிறருக்கு நன்மை தருவது என்பதுடன் சேர்த்துப் பார்க்க வேண்டும்.
பொய்மையும் வாய்மை இடத்த, புரை தீர்த்த
நன்மை பயக்கும் எனின்.
என்ற வள்ளுவர் குறளை இங்கு நினைவு கூற வேண்டும்.  ஆக சத்தியத்தை மூன்று பிரிவாகச் சொல்லலாம்.
1)   யாதொரு தீமையும் விளையாது என்றால் உள்ளதை உள்ளபடி உரைத்தல்.
2)   துயரத்தையோ தீங்கையோ தரும் என்றால் மறைத்தல்.
3)   அதனால் நன்மை விளையும் என்றால் மாற்றிக்கூறல்.
பிறர் பொருளை அபகரிக்காமை – அஸ்தேயம்.  களவாமை.  பிறர் உழைப்பு, பிறர் அறிவு இவற்றிற்கு தகுந்த சன்மானம் (compensation) கொடுக்காமல் பயன்படுத்துவதும் (copyright infringement) ஒரு வகை திருட்டே.
சரீர ஒழுக்கம் – பிரம்மச்சரியம்.  இது ஆசிரமத்திற்கு ஆசிரமம் வேறுபடும். பிரம்மச்சரிய ஆசிரமத்தில் எளிய வாழ்வு, குரு சேவை, உணவுக் கட்டுப்பாடு, உடல் ஒழுக்கம் இவைகளையும் கிருஹஸ்த ஆசிரமத்தில் அதர்ம வழியில் சரீர இன்பம் துய்க்காமையையும், சன்னியாச ஆசிரமத்தில் சரீர இன்பம் முழுமையாக தவிர்த்தலையும்  பிரம்மச்சரியம் குறிக்கும்.
தேவைக்கு அதிகமாக சேர்த்துக் கொள்ளாமை - அபரிக்கிரஹம் –. லோப குணம், எதிர் காலத்தைப் பற்றிய பயம், இறைவன் கருணையில் நம்பிக்கையின்மை, பாதுகாப்பின்மை உணர்வு இவையே இதற்க்கு கரணமாகிறது. 

மேலே பார்த்த ஐந்தும் யமத்தில் அடங்கும்.  இவை ஒவ்வொன்றையும் ஒரு விரதம் என்றும், ஐந்தையும் சேர்த்து கடைப்பிடிப்பது மகாவிரதம் என்றும் சொல்லப்படுகிறது.  அடுத்து வரும் ஐந்தும் நியமத்தில் அடங்கும். இவை கடைப்பிடிக்க வேண்டிய பண்புகள்.

செளசம் – தூய்மை. இதுவே புறத்தூய்மை, அகத்தூய்மை என்று இரண்டாக பார்க்கப்படுகிறது. புறத்தூய்மை நம் உடலை, உடைமைகளை, சுற்றுப்புறத்தை தூய்மையாக வைத்துக் கொள்ளுதல். அகத்தூய்மை என்பது நம் மனதில் துர்க்குணங்களை தவிர்த்து நற்பண்புகளைப் பேணல். பகவத்கீதை பாஷையில் ஆசுரிசம்பத்து  தவிர்த்து தெய்வீசம்பத்து பேணவேண்டும். அகத்தூய்மைக்கு சத்சங்கம் ஒரு முக்கிய சாதனம்.

சந்தோஷம் – திருப்தி. திருப்தி இருந்தால் பொறாமை வராது, லோபம் இருக்காது. மற்றவருடன் ஒப்பிட்டு நோக்குதலே திருப்தியின்மைக்கு ஒரு காரணமாகிறது. போதுமென்ற மனமே பொன் செய்யும் மருந்து என்ற பழமொழியை எப்போதும் நினைவில் கொள்ள வேண்டும்.
தபம் -  காட்டிலே போய் புலன் அடக்கிச் செய்வது அல்ல, மன, உடல் கட்டுப்பட்டுக்காக விரும்பி சுகத்தை துறந்து கஷ்டத்தை ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளும் சாதனை.   தபம் என்றால் உருக்குதல். மனதை, உடலை உருக்கி மேம்படுத்தும் சாதனைகள் தபத்தில் அடங்கும். இதை சாத்வீகம், ராஜசம், தாமசம் என்று தரப்படுத்தலாம்.  உடலை துன்புறுத்தாத சாத்வீக சாதனையாக இதை செய்ய வேண்டும்.
ஸ்வாத்யாயம் – சாஸ்திரம் படித்தல், பாராயணம் செய்தல், திருக்குறள், திருவாசகம் போன்ற அறநூல்களைப் படித்தல், மனனம் செய்தல், மகாத்மாக்களின் வரலாறுகளைப் படித்தல், இவை ஸ்வாத்யாயத்தில் அடங்கும்.
ஈஸ்வவரபிரநிதானம் – எந்த ஒரு அனுபவத்தையும் எதிர்ப்பு இன்றி அதை இறைவனின் பிரசாதம் என்று முழுமனதோடு ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளல்.  இதை ஏற்பு பாவனை அல்லது சரணாகதி என்று சொல்லலாம். இது கர்மயோகம், பக்தியோகம் கலந்த சாதனை.

யமமும் நியமமும் பதஞ்சலி முனிவர் கூறும்  அஷ்டாங்கயோகத்தில் ஒரு அங்கம். அடுத்த அங்கமான பிரணாயாமம், யம நியமத்தால் நெறிப்படுத்தப்பட்ட மனதை அமைதிப்படுத்த ஒரு குறுக்கு வழியாகிறது. அமைதியான மனத்தையே தியானத்தில் ஈடுபடுத்த இயலும்.  இதை ஏன் இங்கு சொல்கிறேன் என்றால் முதுமையில் தவிர்க்க முடியாத உடல் தளர்ச்சி. மனதையும் பாதிக்கும். அப்பொழுது தியானப்பயிற்ச்சியினால் மனதை மகிழ்ச்சி நிலையிலே வைத்திருக்க முடியும்.  முயற்சி செய்வோம்.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Do's, Don'ts & Final Blessings

Bhaja Govindham 10

Verse 27
Geyam gita nama sahasram dhyeyam sripati rupamajasramI
Neyam sajjana sange cittam deyam dinajanaya ca vittam II
Study regularly the Bhagavad Gita; and chant the Lord’s thousand names (sahasranama); always meditate on the form of Lord Narayana (Ishta Devata); associate always with the company of good (and holy); Distribute your wealth to the poor and the needy
As simple and direct advice to spiritual seekers, the following five sadhanas are  prescribed for spiritual seekers in this verse:
1)    Study regularly with understanding  Bhagavad Gita
2)    Chant regularly the Sahasranama of one’s Ishta Devata
3)    Meditate regularly on the form of one’s Ishta Devata
4)    Associate always with Satsangh
5)    Share your wealth with the poor and needy
These will lead to purification of mind that will facilitate the assimilation of Sriptural teachings and attain Brahma Jnanam.
Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of all Upanishads.  If Upanishads can be compared to a cow, Gita is its milk affectionately drawn by the divine cowherd Sri Krishna.  This explains lucidly the paths of four Yogas; Karma, Bhakti, Upasana and Jnana that lead to God realization. So Gita teaches one a vision of life and also a way of life. So serious study of Gita not only tells one what the goal is, but also tells one of the path that leads to it.  The reciting of thousand names of one’s Ishta Devata like Lord Vishnu, has a purifying effect on the mind and at the same time, strengthens one’s resolve to reach the spiritual goal by invoking devotion that is there in the heart.  As the environment has an influencing effect on one, keeping the company of good and holy people helps one in the spiritual path by inspiring one to have good moral values and follow them scrupulously in life.  Wealth stands not only for monetary wealth but also wealth in terms of mind like one’s knowledge. The act of sharing one’s fortune and privileges with the poor and needy with concern and compassion helps in attaining the spiritual goal by tuning up his heart and mind in the spiritual path. Here in this verse five simple things are given which a spiritual seeker can easily do and get going on the spiritual path with strength.  With this verse Chathurdasa Manjarika stotram, the verses by disciples, ends. 

Verse 28
Sukhatah kriyate ramabhogah pascaddhanta sarire rogahI
yadyapi loke maranam saranam tadapi na muncati papacaranam.II
Very readily one indulges in sensual pleasures; afterwards come diseases of the body. In spite of the knowledge that this leads only to (untimely) death, man does not give up his sinful ways.
The last four verses 28 to 31 are sung by Sri Sankaracharya concluding this work and in this he brings out the essence of the advice; in the first two spelling out the enemies to spiritual progress and in the next two showing the sadhanas for spiritual progress.  In this verse he is warning about yielding control to senses and losing oneself in sense pleasures.  The lust for pleasure saps one’s energy and renders one incapable of leading a spiritual life. Indulgence in carnal pleasures brings about diseases that are debilitating and incurable.  Sensuality makes one do shameful, sinful things and leads to one’s moral downfall.  One cannot free oneself easily from the addiction to sense pleasures, even if one wants to, after giving free rein to senses for some time.  As Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says ““Sense pleasures are like itching eczema. There is pleasure in violently scratching it; but the disease gets aggravated thereby. By yielding to sense pleasures mind gets more entangled in them."

Verse 29
Arthamanartham bhavaya nityam nastitatah sukhalesah satyamI
putradapi dhana bhajam bhitih sarvatraisa vihita ritih. II
Bear in mind always that wealth could mean disaster. The truth is that one cannot derive even a little happiness from it. Rich persons fear even their sons; everywhere this is the way of wealth.
In this verse Acharya speaks of another subject, Artha, which one must keep under one’s control and not be under its control for his spiritual progress.  Artha means wealth and it also includes other things like power, possessions etc., that go with the wealth. Money brings about greed; it brings about anxiety, it brings about jealousy, and it brings about fear.  For preserving wealth is a great exercise breeding fear and anxiety and it does not create a sense of satisfaction breeding greed and jealousy.  Further there is always the pain and exertion involved in amassing wealth.  These always act as a barrier for one engaging in serious spiritual sadhana.  So Acharya is here warning serious sadhakas against money itself pointing out that even close family members will turn against one for getting hold of one’s money. He advises one to bear in mind constantly the negative aspects associated with wealth and also that it cannot buy mental peace, love and happiness and its purchasing power is limited to material possessions only that by themselves do not give peace, love and happiness.

Verse 30
Pranayamam pratyaharam nityanitya vivekavicaram I
japyasameta samadhividhanam kurvavadhanam mahadavadhanam II
Perform Pranayama and Pratyahara; discriminate between real and unreal and fix the mind on the Real; Make japa while meditating; perform all these with extreme care and steadfastness.
Earlier the practice of external sadhanas was advised. They are study of Bhagavad Gita, chanting of God’s thousand names, meditating on His form, staying in the company of good and holy people, sharing one’s wealth with the poor and needy, giving up the thirst for hoarding wealth.  Now in this verse the practice of internal sadhanas are advised.  They are:
1)    PranayamaPranayama is not control of breadth alone. It is the control of all our faculties, which implies exercising control over our sense enjoyments. So Pranayama here really means the control of all the sense organs of perception, and organs of action.
2)    Prathyahara – Prathyahara is the withdrawal of the senses. It is the conscious withdrawal of the mind from its external preoccupations and focusing it upon the Self
3)    Nitya anitya viveka vicharam - .Discrimination between the Nitya and anitya. Engaging the intellect in the deliberate discrimination between what is eternal and permanent and what is temporary and transient, to enable the mind to concentrate on the eternal and permanent
4)    Japa – Repeated chanting of a holy name, name of the Ishta devata or mantra connected with it. It purifies the mind and deepens devotion freeing the mind from its constant chatter.
5)    Samadhi – Abidance of mind in the Self. It enables absorption in meditation to experience the qualities emanating from one’s Self i.e. peace, love and bliss 
While advising the practice of internal sadhanas he also cautions that these cannot be achieved in a hurry and so advises them to engage in these sadhanas with care and that too great care (avadhanam mahadavadhanam)

Verse 31
Gurucaranambuja nirbhara bhaktah samsaradaciradbhava muktah I
sendriyamanasa niyamdevam draksyasi nija hrdayastham devam II
Oh! devotee of the lotus feet of the Guru! May you become liberated soon from the Samsara through the discipline of the sense organs and the mind and come to experience the Lord that dwells in your own heart.
In this last verse Sri Sankara blesses his beloved disciples and also all the serious spiritual seekers to attain their goal of Liberation and become Jivan Mukthas.  And for this he talks of one other requirement besides scriptural knowledge and God’s Grace.  That is the grace of the Guru who has guided him in his scriptural study.  Grace of Guru comes to one with devotion to Guru.   Devotion to Guru implies devotion to what Guru stands for as well.  Guru stands for Scriptural Knowledge, tradition and devotion to God.  Devotion involves love with respect and reverence and without devotion nothing can be achieved.  So through this Sri Sankara says in his final blessings“.  Besides Self-control and mind control have devotion for Guru; have devotion for scriptures; have devotion for the knowledge of Self; have devotion for tradition; have devotion for God,; and be blessed with Brahma Jnanam”  

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Vishnuthvam and Samathvam

Bhaja Govindham 9

Verse 24
Tvayi mayi canyatraiko vishnuh vyartham kupyasi mayyasahisnuh |
bhava samacittah sarvatra tvam vanchasyaciradyadi vishnutvam || 24 ||
In you, in me and everywhere there dwells only one, the All-pervading Reality, i.e., Vishnu. Being impatient, you are unnecessarily getting angry with me. If you want to attain soon the status of Vishnu, be equal-minded in all circumstances.

In this verse Vishnu stands for Brahman. The definition of the word Vishnu is vye vyesti iti viṣhnu, i.e. one who pervades is Vishnu. So, the derivative meaning of the word Vishnu is the one who is all pervasive which denotes the one Absolute Reality called Brahman.  In fact Brahman, the Absolute Reality, is only worshipped in different forms and names depending upon one’s own disposition and emotional makeup.  In the earlier verse we saw that on successful Self-enquiry with the help of scriptural study under the guidance of a Guru, one discovers one’s basic identity as well as others’ also as Brahman, the one Absolute Reality.  Brahman pervades not only all animate beings but also all inanimate things as well, being the cause of the world. Here we have a scenario in which a seeker student gets impatient with his spiritual progress and expresses it openly to Guru. Guru here reiterates the basic truth which is repeatedly emphasised in Advaita Vedanta that Brahman is one without second and being the cause of the world is the essence of all sentient beings and insentient things in the world just as gold is the essence of all ornaments.  Ornaments may vary in shape and differ in use but in their essence they are one only as gold.  In the same way all human beings differ in name and form but in their essence one, as their Real Self is Brahman.  So his getting angry with himself is no different from getting angry with the Guru as well.  So here Guru advises the sadhaka that besides his other sadhanas, he should also never lose his temper and maintain equanimity in all circumstances to achieve his spiritual goal of Brahma Jnanam, which is as given in Chandogya Upanishad (3-14-1) “‘sarvam khalvidam brahma’ (all of this is Brahman) i.e. all of this is  Viṣhṇu. So this Jnanam is called Vishnuthvam here.  While defining Jnanam for Arjuna in Gita Lord Krishna emphasises Samathvam as one of the components of Jnanam in 13-10: “nityam cha samacittatvam-iṣṭaniṣṭopapattisu “(constant equanimity of mind in both agreeable and disagreeable circumstances, (in short, in all circumstances)) .  Earlier while advising Arjuna to perform his duties established in Yoga, Lord describes Samathvam as Yoga (Gita 2-48) itself: “siddhya siddhyoh samo bhuthva samatvam yoga uchyate” (even-minded in success and failure; equanimity is verily yoga).  

Verse 25
Satrau mitre putre bandhau ma kuru yatnam vigrahasandhau I
sarvasminnapi pasyatmanam sarvatrotsrja bhedajnanam II
Do not waste your effort to win the love or to fight against friend or foe, children or relatives. See your own Self, Athma in all beings and give up the sense of division (difference).

The discussion on topics of Self-enquiry and Samathvam is continued in this verse.   In the earlier verses we saw the importance of Samathvam for successful Self-enquiry which leads to Athma Jnanam. When one attains Athma Jnanam one realizes the oneness of all beings as all beings are basically the one Absolute Reality only.  When one bases all one’s human relationships on this understanding the feeling of difference disappears.  When one’s tongue gets bitten, one does not get angry with one’s teeth because it is of the same body only.   But when somebody else causes discomfort, one gets offended because it is from a different body. It is the vision of difference in the world that causes all frictions and unpleasant situations.  But as soon as one begins to see the Unity in this apparent diversity, the feeling of difference disappears.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says “Beholding diversity is born of delusion; beholding unity is born of Enlightenment.”  With Enlightenment comes the feeling of oneness and then the distinction between people as relatives, friends, strangers and enemies goes.  And as a corollary hatred and quarrels and show of affection, that affect the mind and breeds agitations and tensions also go and one enjoys peace of mind.  Cultivating this vision of Oneness is advised in this verse while what happens when one does not get enlightened is narrated in the next verse.

Verse 26
Kamam krodham lobham moham tyaktva’tmanam pasyati so’hamI
atmajnana vihina mudhah te pachyante narakanigudhahII
Having given up lust, anger, greed and delusion, one experiences that he is indeed the Athma; Those who have no knowledge of Athma are fools and they suffer as in the hell.

We have seen in the earlier verses that on acquiring Athma Jnanam, one realizes that one’s Real Self is the Athma and the Athma is the same as the all-pervading Brahman, and this Jnanam was called Vishnuthvam.  In this verse Vishnuthvam is called So’ham, He am I (I am He), He standing for Brahman. We also saw that one engaging in Self-enquiry, acquiring the positive quality of Samathvam and blessed with Iswara’s Grace attains Athma Jnanam.  In this verse the negative qualities that one must eschew to qualify for Self-knowledge are listed.  They are kama, krodha, loba, and moha i.e.desire, anger, greed and delusion.   These along with pride and jealousy constitute the six fold vices that stand in the way of spiritual progress. All the human problems have their origin in one or more of these vices.  One who could not abandon these vices and has not gained Athma Jnanam is considered foolish and to suffer hell here itself swayed by these vices.  Lord Krishna conveys in Gita (16-21):
Trividham narakasyedam dwaaram naashanamatmanah; (Triple is the gate of this hell, destructive of the self)
Kaamah krodhastathaa lobhas tasmaadetat trayam tyajet. (lust, anger, and greed,—therefore, one should abandon these three.)

Monday, 15 October 2018

Samsara, Self-enquiry & Enlightenment

Bhaja Govindham - 8

Verse 21
punarapi jananam punarapi maraṇam punarapi janani jaṭare sayanam |
iha samsare bahudustare krpaya pare pahi murare || 21 ||
Undergoing the pangs of birth again and again, passing through the throes of death again and again, lying in the mother's womb over and over again, this process of Samsara is very hard to cross, save me Murāri (Lord Krishna as destroyer of Mura) through Your Infinite kindness.
This verse emphasises that our effort alone is not enough for successful spiritual pursuit.  It reveals the need for Iswara’s Grace as well besides one’s own spiritual efforts.  Personal effort and Iswara’s grace function like the two wings of the bird. Death is sure for what is born and as per Hindu philosophy rebirth is also sure for what is dead.  Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita (2-27); “Jaatasya hi dhruvo mrutyuh,  Dhruvam janma mrutasya cha” (Death is certain for the born and (re)birth  is certain for the dead.).  This cycle of birth and death is called Samsara.  Getting out of this cycle is Liberation, which is called Moksha. It is the unfulfilled desires and unexhausted karmas in any birth that fuels rebirth suitable to experience and exhaust them.  But in the new birth that takes place after ten months of confinement in mother’s womb, one out of ignorance and foolishness and caught in the web of Maya, creates new karmas and desires. As a child time is spent in play and sleep. As a youth one is lost in the attraction of opposite sex. And in the middle age it is preoccupation with money that takes up one’s time and attention.  As old age creeps in, physical inability and sickness sets in and one is lost in thoughts and regrets.  At no time one thinks seriously of Liberation and so one does not attempt sincerely to get out of Samsara, which is possible only if one engages sincerely in a sadhana, seeking Iswara’s Grace for attaining Liberation. In this verse strong emphasis is placed on the Yearning for Iswara’s Grace for it is with His Grace only that one even gets the thirst for Liberation, Iswara represented by Lord Krishna. 

Verse 22
rathya carpata viracita kanthah punyapuṇya vivarjita panthah I
yogi yoganiyojita citto ramate balonmattavadeva II
The yogi who wears but a quilt made of rags, who walks the path that is beyond punya and papa, whose mind is joined in perfect yoga with its goal, revels in God consciousness, and lives thereafter as a child or as a madman.
This verse talks about an enlightened Yogi who has voluntarily embraced poverty as he has found fulfillment within himself and is a non-demanding person.  He does not demand food, nor does he demand clothes or anything. Even the garment he wears to cover his body and protect it from heat and cold is only old pieces of discarded rags stitched together.  In short he is just happy with whatever comes his way.  Such a person is Yadrcchalabhasantustah in Lord Krishna’s words in Gita (4-22), who remains satisfied with whatever comes unasked.  Further he has no ego or sense of doer-ship.  Puṇya and papa are there only when there is an ego or a sense of doer-ship for any action. So he lives a life that is beyond both virtue and vice, punya and papa.  Without any feeling of self-consciousness he is childlike, free from all cares and anxieties. He has only the present reality before him. He neither regrets about the past nor worries about the future. He is happily immersed in the Superconscious state, which others may fail to comprehend.  Intoxicated with happiness from within and undisturbed by the happenings around him he appears like a mad man for a casual observer who cannot comprehend his mind brimming with Brahma Jnanam. Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra who is remembered today for his divine compositions in Carnatic music like “”Pibare Ramarasam—“, “Manasa sanchara re--“ “Kreedthi Vanamali—“ etc., was one such a Yogi who lived as an avaduta, discarding clothes as well, in his later years.

Verse 23
kastvam ko'ham kuta ayatah ka me janani ko me tatah |
iti paribhavaya sarvamasaram visvam tyaktva svapna vicaram ||
Who are you? Who am I? From where did I come? Who is my mother? Who is my father? Thus enquire, understanding that all these experiences of the world are worthless and imaginary like a dream and discard them.

In this verse a very important Vedantic Sadhana is discussed.  It is Self-enquiry, enquiry about oneself, as outlined in this verse.  This Self-enquiry helps one to absorb and assimilate the truth about oneself and the world.  When one is asking  oneself: Who am I?,  Who is my father?, Who is my mother?, it is not the name and other worldly details one is looking for.  For these questions are posed figuratively only to ponder over this body and other bodies as well as their relationship with this body before one’s birth.  When he makes the enquiry he comes to realize that this body and all other relationships come only after the birth of this body.  Then arises the question, from where did I come?.  When one makes such enquiries with the help of sastras under the guidance of a Guru, one comes to realize that there  is a different dimension to oneself besides the body and who one really is and of the one Absolute Reality behind this entire fleeting phenomenon. Until one discovers his Real identity as the one Absolute Reality, he is living in an imaginary world only, which is termed here as dream-world, assuming relationships and mistaking others also as body- mind personalities like oneself.   When one gets the Enlightenment that the basic identity of all is the same one Absolute Reality and that the relationships are based on this body-personality only, the distinction between “you” and “I” also goes and this mental relinquishment of relationships is called giving up the dream-world.  One cannot give up physically one’s relationships so long as one is in the body.  With this realization one will treat the waking world as another dream-world and carry on transactions with the world with detachment and dispassion, with the knowledge that all persons of the world are mere names and forms only and they are all one with him in essence, the essence being the Absolute Reality.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Saint & Starter

Bhaja Govindham 7

Verse 18
sura mandira taru mula nivasah sayya bhutalam ajinam vasah |
sarva parigraha bhoga tyagah kasya sukham na karoti viragah || 18 ||
He lives under a tree at the temple premises; his bed is the bare ground and dress is deerskin; he has given up all desires for worldly possessions and enjoyment of earthly pleasures; who won’t be happy, living with this kind of renunciation?

This verse is composed by Sri Nithyananda.  In this verse we have a picture of a true sanyasi, a man of dispassion who has given up all possessions. He lives at the root of a tree outside a temple; his bed is the lap of Mother Earth herself. His dress is only a simple deer skin.  He has renounced all pleasures both physically and mentally.  The life of utter simplicity described here, is not extremism or moderation. This is how great saints like Swami Tapovan Maharaj and Swami Sivananda lived after willingly renouncing their lucrative careers and choosing voluntarily to live the type of a simple life described here, accepting cheerfully all the hardships involved.  After describing the life of a true Vairagi, Acharya wonders why such a person should not be happy, for he has freed himself from the four things that causes mental preoccupation and worry.  They are possessions, obligations, relationships and transactions, which Swami Paramarthananda describes in his lectures as PORT.  His mind is unattached to the objects of the world.   He doesn’t crave for pleasures, and is free from fondness and fear; virtue and vice, attraction and aversion.  He is devoid of longing as he is freed from all desires.  As he has abandoned all the desires of the heart he is free from the delusion created by them.  He is not carried away with happiness or lost in worries.  He behaves with equanimity in happiness or sorrow, gain or loss, victory or defeat.  It is of such a person that Gita describes in 2-55 as one “satisfied in the Self by the Self” (atmanyeva atmana thushtaha).

Verse 19
yogarato va bhogarato va sangarato va sangavihinaḥ |
yasya brahmani ramate cittam nandati nandati nandatyeva ||
One may be immersed in Yoga or indulged in worldly pleasures; at times he may be in the company of others and at other times he may be alone.  But he alone whose mind delights in Brahman experiences bliss.

This verse is composed by Sri Aananda Giri.  He continues with the experience of the Yogi described in the previous verse. This Yogi has realized Brahman as his Real Self.  As Brahman is permanent pure Bliss, he is experiencing pure Bliss all the time as his mind is always absorbed in Brahman.  Whether such a yogi pursues Nivritti Marga (Yogarathaha) or Pravritti Marga(bhogarathaha), it does not matter. Whether he is in Grihastha asrama (sangarathaha) or Sanyasa asrama (sangavihinaha), it does not matter.  What matters is his mind is fixed in Brahman all the time.  Happiness is a state of mind and this permanent happiness cannot come from any external object, individually or collectively, as they themselves are not permanent.  So the happiness of mind in experiencing them has limited life and it binds one also in karma.  But the enjoyment of bliss in the realization of Brahman is permanent and free of karmic baggage.  Transcending the three gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), his mind is firmly established in a state of equilibrium.  The feeling of “I” and “mine” also disappears.  So with the mind focused on Brahman only, he is free of anguish and agitations and enjoys peace and tranquillity internally all the time.

Verse 20
bhagavad gita kincidadhita ganga jalalava kaṇikapita |
sakṛdapi yena murari samarca kriyate tasya yamena na carca || 
One who has understood at least a little of the Bhagavad Gita, or drank a drop of water from the holy Ganga, or at least once in his life worshipped the Lord Krishna, has no quarrel with Yama at the time of death.

In this verse three sadhanas are mentioned engaging in which with faith and sincerity, one can make a good start in the path of spiritual salvation. Significantly each of these sadhanas stand for a different path of Yoga, as given below:. 

1)    Study of Bhagavad Gita, that stands for study of spiritual literature – Jnana Yoga
2)    Drinking water from river Ganga, that stands for pilgrimage and bath in holy rivers – Karma Yoga
3)    Worship of Lord Krishna, that stands for regular puja and worship - Bhakthi Yoga
It is significant that Lord Krishna is spoken of as Murari; slayer of demon, Mura, who symbolises egoism. Egoism is a big obstacle for spiritual progress and subduing egoism is an important requirement for progress in the path of Self-realisation. “He has no quarrel with Yama” indicates that this sadhaka has no fear of death.
Acharya lovingly suggests in this verse to the spiritual aspirant who is looking for guidance on what spiritual sadhana to start and how to pursue the sadhana for his spiritual salvation, to start from doing  ‘something small’ and has shown areas from each yoga for his choice.  He is aware that once a person makes a start and begins to derive some benefit, he will be enthused to continue in the path with vigour and keenness.  After all it is from small beginnings that big things are developed.  So these steps singly or collectively, when pursued with a vision of the final goal of Liberation, can lead one to that goal.