Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Kosananda and Athmananda

(Reflected happiness & Original happiness)

(adapted from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda)

Each individual is constituted of three bodies, Sthula, Sukshma,  and Karana sareeras.  This division as three bodies is from matter angle; gross, subtle and causal that they are composed of.  These three bodies are also divided into five layers based on functional angle.  These layers are called KosasKosa means a sheath and it is as if they are the sheaths encasing the Athma.  It is said ‘as if’ because Athma is all-pervasive and it cannot be encased either by the three bodies or by the five kosas. The kosas are  Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya in the increasing order of subtlety.  Anandmaya kosa is the most subtle and pervasive and the innermost of sheaths and is called Anandamaya  because it is characterised by ananda or happiness.  This happiness is called Kosananda, as contrasted with Athmananda, the happiness and bliss that is AthmaAthmananda is the original happiness whose reflection in the mind is experienced as Kosananda.  All happiness can be classified as either of the two; Athmananda and Kosananda.  Of the two, Athmananda is the original happiness also called Bimbananda and Kosananda is the reflected happiness called Prathibimbananda.

Athmananda is Absolute Happiness and is everyone’s inherent and intrinsic nature, one’s real svarupa. It is not something acquired or dropped like the other attributes of the body/ mind, it is something which exists by itself as one’s Real Self, Athma, which is the Sat Chit Ananda, the very svarupa lakshana of Brahman, the Absolute One. This Athmananda is reflected in the individual’s mind as Kosananda.  What one thinks as happiness derived from an object is one’s own Kosananda only.  For if that object is the source of happiness, then happiness should be a part of its nature and this object should be a source of happiness to everyone in the world.  On the other hand, that object may evoke hatred, the contrary emotion, in certain other persons for different reasons altogether. So, happiness is not part of its nature and this object cannot be the source of happiness.  This can be illustrated through the example of a dog and the bone.  A dog trying to chew a bone hurts its jaw and the dog mistakes the blood oozing from its own jaw as coming from the bone and bites the bone still harder hurting itself more.

Kosananda that one feels at the proximity or even thought of a loved object is classified as priya.  This happiness deepens when the loved object comes under one’s possession and this state of happiness is called moda.  This happiness becomes more intense when one enjoys it and this climax of enjoyment in respect of the object is categorised as pramoda.  Kosananda whether it is priya, moda or pramodha is only inside oneself and not from outside and is only a limited expression of Athmananda, the original ananda, being its reflection in the mind.  Further Kosananda is experiential happiness which is subject to condition of the reflecting medium, mind.

Athmananda being the very experiencer is not an object of experience; rather it is one’s higher nature. Just like one cannot see one’s original face and can see it as a reflection only in the mirror,  Athmananda is not directly experienceable as an object.  But, it is there at all times as one’s own Athma svarupa, the Sat Chit Ananda Athma without the experience/ experiencer division.  So one does not have to get Athmananda since he is himself that at all times and one should only claim it as oneself attaining Atmajnanam. Taittreya Upanishad refers to it as ‘ananda Athma’ to emphasise that Athma and ananda are one only.

We saw earlier that Atmananda is original ananda and Kosananda is only reflection in one’s mind.  Being reflection, it is under the influence of the medium.  The more calm the mind is, better will be the reflection and the higher the level of ananda. The level of happiness experienced therefore will depend upon the level of the calmness of the mind and the extent to which the mind is satvic and turbulence-free.  So this happiness is transient, subject to gradations and hence anityam. Taittiriya Upanishad says that the ananda enjoyed by a manushya and Hiranyagarba (Brahmaji) – the lowest level of ananda and the highest level of ananda, all fall under the category of experiential ananda alone, though there may be varying degrees of the level of ananda.

Let us list the differences between Athmananda and Kosananda as follows;-
1)    Athmananda is the original happiness, Bimbananda and Kosananda is the reflected happiness, Prathibimbananda
2)    Athmananda is ungraded happiness, taratamya rahitah niratisaya ananda, and Kosananda is graded happiness, taratamya sahitah satisaya ananda
3)    Athmananda is permanent (nityah) and Kosananda is impermanent (anityah).
4)     Athmananda is experiential and Kosananda is non-experiential.
5)    Athmananda is jnana prapya, attained only through Jnanam that I am Athmananda and Kosananda is visaya prapya or vairagya prapya, attained through a mind that becomes calm and peaceful either on experiencing the desired object or by developing vairagya through viveka

This Athmananda was called Mokshananda in the blog “Vedic view of happiness” and Permanent happiness in the blog “Plan for Permanent happiness” and is the state of the Jnanis all the time.  Even Ajjnani jivas are in this state temporarily during  sushupthi, deep sleep, when there is no sense of ahankara, awareness of the body/mind or the world, a state as good as moksha.  But it lasts only as long as the deep sleep lasts and at the end of sushupthi the ajjnani individual is back into the world of samsara due to ajnanam and adhyasa which automatically come into play when the jiva is back in the waking state and the mind continues to entertain all types of worldly desires leading to athripti and apurnathvam.  But a Jnani through Athmajnanam overcomes these hurdles and remains in the state of Athmananda, a state of total bliss and fulfilment, in all the three avasthas, Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupthi i.e. waking, dream and deep sleep states.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Plan for Permanent Happiness

(adapted from the lecture of Swmi Paramarthananda)

“Happiness ever, Sorrow never” is the aim and ambition of every living person,  irrespective of their age, sex, religion and nationality. But this cannot be achieved through any worldly object or relationship. This is possible only through the realisation of one’s identity at the level of Athma with Brahman through Self-knowledge, Athmajnanaam.  Brahman is described as Sat, Chit, Anand i.e. pure Existence, pure Knowledge and pure Happiness. So attaining this Atmajnanam, one is liberated from the feeling of limitedness and no more for him, while living, the struggle for happiness.  At death his Self, Athma, merges with Brahman and he is released from the cycle of birth and death. So Athmajnanam is a liberating knowledge that confers Liberation from Samsara while living and liberates one from the cycle of birth and death at death. This Liberation is called Moksha and this only confers permanent happiness.

Vedas, the only source for Athmajnanam, also show the way how one can plan for Moksha, by generating in one an ardent desire for Moksha, Moksha iccha, to be followed by efforts for acquisition of Moksha yogyatha, qualification for Moksha.  Both iccha and yogyatha are essential as without iccha, one will not exert for yogyatha and without yogyatha, iccha alone will not bear fruit.  Veda prescribes two types of karma yoga to develop Moksha Iccha and Moksha Yogyatha.  When one develops both Iccha and Yogyatha, that person will  sincerely and seriously embark on the step of seeking Athmajnanam.  Veda then through jnana yoga guides the person to spiritual enlightenment and Liberation.

In the first stage of karma yoga the seeker is made to become aware of the value of Moksha and develop a serious and committed desire for Moksha, Moksha Iccha. For this the Vedas suggest a life style designed to help the seeker to refine his mind to gain samathvam i.e equanimity and to be free of other preoccupations. And if a person goes through such a karma yoga exercise, he will learn a very very important lesson, which the scriptures present   as “Sarvam Paravasam dhukkam, Sarvam atmavasam sukam”. Paravasam dhukkam means depending upon the external world emotionally brings sorrow as it is the cause of anxiety and frustration. The reason is two-fold. One, the conditions of the external world is constantly changing and so the world and the people and the relationship are all unpredictable. The second reason is the conditions of the world are not under one’s control.  No doubt, one has a free will to contribute to the universe, but one doesn’t have sufficient power to control. One has a contributing freewill; one doesn’t have a controlling freewill.   As a karma yogi one will soon discover that the world is unpredictable, uncontrollable and unsustainable and depending on that world for one’s peace, security and happiness is a great risk.  To avoid disappointment, frustration and even anxiety, the only way is, one should stop depending on the world.  One may live in the world, one may use the world, one may serve the world, one may experience the world, one can do everything except emotionally leaning on that. We have the example of the cardboard chair; the cardboard chair is beautifully made, well decorated; one can keep it in the showcase, but one cannot sit on that.  In the same way, world has got beauty, world has got variety, world has got novelty, but world doesn’t have stability. Therefore, one cannot lean on the world and if he does he will have regrets later.  So as karma yogi one learns to discover peace, security, and happiness in oneself rather than from the world.

Veda says “ getting Iccha for Moksha alone is not enough: one will have to develop the Yogyatha as well”  For that one requires karma yoga number two through which alone, can one get the Yogyatha.  In karma yoga number two the scriptures prescribe a life of service and contribution, a life of giving rather than taking.  Consumer to contributor conversion is a very important conversion and the Vedas themselves prescribe five levels of contribution known as “Pancha Maha Yajna” 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.  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)
Devan Bhavayathanenate Deva bhavayanthuvaha
Nurture the Devas with this sacrifice and may the Devas nurture you. Mutually nurturing each other you shall attain the highest good.
3)    Pitruyajna - offering tarpana, libations regularly 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.
This fivefold contribution is Karma Yōga number two. Along with this fivefold contribution, scriptures talk about developing healthy ethical values also which is also a part of Karma Yōga number two. One part is contribution, second part is developing ethical values.  In the 16th chapter of Gita Lord Krishna talks about the positive virtues and the negative mental traits under Daivi Sampath and Asuri Sampath.

So Samatvam is Karma yoga number one, Sat Karmani plus Sat Guna is Karma Yoga number two. If a person follows these two Karma yogas, then he becomes ready for entering Jnana yoga, for receiving the Self-knowledge. The two forms of Karma yoga are given in the Veda Purva Bhaga, the first part of the Vedas and, Jnana yoga for self knowledge is given in the Veda Anta Bhaga, the latter part of Vedas.

This essential teaching of Vedanta, Self knowledge, Swami Paramarthananda presents in the form of five capsules.  These together sum up the Self knowledge given by the Jnana Yoga part of the Vedās. The five capsules of Self knowledge are:
1) I’m of the nature of eternal and all pervading consciousness principle.
2) I’m the only source of permanent peace, security and happiness.
3) By my mere presence, I give life to the material body and through the body, I experience the material universe.
4) I’m never affected by any event that happens in the material universe and in the material body.
5) By forgetting my nature; I convert life into a struggle and by remembering my nature; I convert life into a sport (lila).

Therefore, the life plan as given by Vedas is as follows: - Follow Karma yoga one, develop Moksha Iccha; follow Karma yoga two, develop Moksha Yogyatha; follow Jnana yoga in the form of sastra vichara, comprising sravanam (study), mananam (reflection) and nitidyasanam (assimilation), attain Athmajnanam; and  with the absorbtion of the five capsules of Vedanta and rememberance of one’s true nature make the life a source of permanent happiness as Jivan Muktha.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Vedic view of happiness

(adapted from the lecture of Swmi Paramarthananda)    

All human beings without exception seek as their primary goal, happiness.  “Sukam  me  Sarvadha  Bhooyaath (May I enjoy happiness all the time)” is their constant wish and prayer.  But they have a problem.  The problem is that they do not know what exactly gives them lasting happiness.  They assume that certain things will give them lasting happiness but when they analyze their experiences they find that it is not so.  When one turns to scriptures for guidance, one learns Vedas divide happiness into three categories, based on the means by which the happiness is acquired by a person.  Those three types of happiness, are kama ananda, dharma ananda and mokṣa ananda.  Let us see them one by one.

Kama ananda / Kamananda - The word kama in this context means, all the sense objects in the world which are capable of giving one sense pleasures when one contacts them through one’s sense organs.  So here, the word kama means, not desire; but, the desired or desirable objects i.e. kamyate iti kamaḥ.  And the sense objects can give us ananda through sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, and gandha i.e. sound, touch, form, taste and smell.. That happiness is called kamananda. In simple English, all forms of sense pleasures will come under kamananda.  This kamananda, sense pleasures, are not entirely condemned by the Vedas; but, are advised in moderation. All legitimate, dharmic, sensory enjoyments are accepted by Vedas. Vedas even prescribes pujas to get those pleasures. There is a homa, called avahanti homa that is mentioned in anuvaka 4. sikshavalli of Taittriya upanishad which is performed for prosperity that brings clothes, cattle, food and drink forever and also for good Brahmacharis as disciples. Kamananda is the most popular ananda, all over the world.  In fact, when one talks about happiness, the world understands it only as kamananda!

Dharma ananda / Dharmananda -  This ananda and moksha ananda are introduced by Vedas only. Dharmanandaḥ means the happiness that a person can enjoy by following a dharmic way of life.  And, dharmic life means, a life style governed by dharma, a life style that is prescribed by Vedas.  Dharma means, Vedic instructions or Vedic teachings. Swami Paramarthananda presents the vaidika dharma in 3 categories; sadbhavana, sadguṇa, satkarmaṇi i.e. healthy attitudes, healthy values and noble actions or activities. These three put-together is called dharma. All the three limbs are equally important and complimentary.
Sadbhavana - Healthy attitudes. While talking about healthy attitudes Vedas repeatedly mention, that we should have a healthy attitude towards the very world in which we are living i.e. appreciate the universe; admire the universe; revere the universe. The entire universe should be seen as Visvarupa Iswara.   And Visvarupa bhakti is a part of dharmic life.  And therefore, our attitude towards the universe must be one of love and reverence. So, the first component of dharma is a healthy attitude of reverence to the entire universe of things and beings, as an expression of Iswara, as a manifestation of Iswara, and as a gift from Iswara
Sadguṇa - Healthy values.  We can see that all the healthy values are derived from one fundamental principle, ahimsa.  All the living beings, including human beings, have got two instinctive desires. Being instinctive, they are universal.. They are: 1) Sukam me Sarvadha Bhooyaath i.e. Let me be happy,always; 2) Dhukkam Maa Bhooth Kadhachana i.e. I should never have sorrow.   And therefore Vedas say, dharmic life is a life which is led by taking into account these two universal desires. So, when one’s life is based on these two basic desires of every living being, and  does not violate or contradict that, one’s life is in harmony with the universal craving i.e.Sukha bhava and Duḥkha abhava i.e. prescence of happiness and absence of unhappiness.  Vedas say; since nobody wants unhappiness, let your aim be not to give duḥkhaṃ or pain to others; even by thoughts or words or deeds never give sorrow.  In this context  Swamii Dayananda Saraswati’s words are relevant.  Swamiji says, 'all other values are nothing but an extension or derivative of ahimsa only' . When it is said, "satyaṃ vada", what is the message? By telling lies, by giving wrong information, one is hurting others; therefore, 'don’t tell lies'.  So "satyaṃ vada" means, ahimsa.  In the same way 'Don’t cheat others' means, ahiṃsa. Thus, all values are based on one fundamental seed value, which is ahimsa. Therefore dharma consists of ahimsa as the fundamental value.
Satkarmani – Noble actions.  Noble actions are that which fulfills the basic desires of all living beings.  Nobody wants sorrow. Therefore, what one does to alleviate or remove the pain of others is a noble karma.  Even though one cannot spend money, a few nice words or whatever help one can give to alleviate the pain of others, duhkha abhavarthaṃ, will do  Everybody wants happiness. So whatever help one can do to give or improve the comfort and joy of others comes under noble karma.  So whatever one does for para duhkha nivrtti or para sukha prapti, directly or indirectly, they are all satkarmani.

Thus, dharma consist of three principles: sadbhavana = visvarupa bhakti; satguṇaḥ = ahiṃsa; satkarmani = para upakara.  If these three one follows to the extent possible, that life is called a dharmic way of life. Vedas say, this dhārmic way of life itself will give immense joy; a joy derived by giving joy ! Because, in paropakara, one gives joy and through giving joy increases one’s joy.  A win-win situation in which both benefit.  This ananda is called dharmananda.  And Vedas say, dharmananda is quantitatively and qualitatively much superior to kamananda.  Materialistic society promotes kamananda and Vedic society promotes dharmananda.

Moksha ananda/ Mokshananda. - Just as In kamananda, kama is the means of ananda; in dharmananda, dharma is the means of ananda; in mokṣhananda, mokṣha is the means of ananda.  Mokṣha means, liberation or freedom or release.  This liberation is from self-ignorance and self-misconception that makes one think that one is a limited mortal, which gives rise to the thought that, to be happy one has to get happiness from the external world.  Moksha is attained through knowledge of one’s Self, Athma Jnanam. With Athma Jnanam one realizes one’s identity with Brahman, which is described as Sat,Chit Ananda, pure existence, pure knowledge and pure happiness. The ignorance and misconception about one’s Self makes one believe that for one’s happiness one has to depend on the external sources    Really speaking the external things are not giving one happiness; they are only bringing out the happiness which is already in one, as Athma.  So, Vedas say those happiness-giving-objects are nothing but a mirror to reveal one’s own happiness. They are only reflecting one’s inner happiness!  With mokshananda all the struggle for ananda will cease.  Lord Krishna speaks of such a person who has attained mokshananda thus:
Yastwaatmaratir eva syaad aatmatriptashcha maanavah;
Aatmanyeva cha santushtas tasya kaaryam na vidyate (Gita 3-17)
For that man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who is content in the Self alone, verily there is nothing to do.

That is Liberation; freedom from struggles to get happiness.  So we can take Vedic formula for happiness as “Enjoy kamananda but always with dharmananda, keeping mokshananda as the goal”

Monday, 25 March 2019

Sanyasa, a study


        (adapted from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda)   

In Vedic way of life one goes through four asramas in life, namely Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa, the last one being solely devoted to working for one’s liberation, Moksha.   The primary means of liberation is spiritual knowledge. Next to spiritual knowledge, Sanyasa or renunciation is almost as important as spiritual knowledge.  One enters the Brahmacharya asram early in life, mostly before seven, and takes to Grihastha asram after the studies are over, thus enabling one to take to Sanyasa asram with faculties in good condition.  Those who take to sanyasa asrama are classified in four groups as below:-
1)    Kuteechaka
2)    Bahudhaka
3)    Hamsa
4)    Paramahamsa

Kuteechaka Kuteechaka sanyasi is a Grihastha who takes to sanyasa but lives with the family.  He lives in a separate Kutiya or place apart from the house, but within the compound.  He takes his food from the house but does not involve or interfere in family matters.  He wears Yagnopaveedham and has stick and carries three thandas put together as one, each danda representing discipline at Kayika, Vachika and Manasa level.  He wears ochre robe.  He does not travel.  He does Puja and Vedanta study and parayanam

Bahudhaka Bahudhaka sanyasi is like Kuteechaka sanyasi but lives outside the family fold.  He does not travel much.  He takes food from the village on Biksha basis.  He is also Trithandi.  He also does Puja and Vedanta study and parayanam.

Hamsa -  He does not have Yajnopaveedam as well as shikha.  All his pujas are manasam,.  He spends his time in Sravanam, Mananam and Nitidyasanam.  He also does not travel much.  More committed to Jnanam and less and less to ritual

Paramahamsa – Paramahamsa sanyasi is a more advanced Hamsa Sanyasi and there are two types of Paramahamsa sanyasis.  
1     Amukya ParamahamsaVividisha Sanyasi
He carries one DandaEkadanda.  He does not travel much .  He does parayanam of Veda Bashyam, Upanishads and does japa on Mahavakhya.
2     Mukya Paramahamsa - Vidwat Sanyasi
Even the minimum discipline prescribed for Vividisha Sanyasi is not for him.  No puja , no rituals.  Only Nitidyasanam.  He gives up Danda and Kamandala as well and he wears minimum clothes if he chooses to.  He travels freely and is also known as Paramahamsa Parivrajaka SanyasiVidwat Sanyasa is the highest form of Sanyasa and the word Sanyasi generally refers to Vidwat Sanyasi only. For Vidwat Sanyasi owning up Brahmanhood comes naturally. He is the ideal model for Bramhan as he is asanghaha, relationship free; karma mukthaha, free of performance of duties; belongs to everyone and does not depend on external source for security.

Even though it is said Sanyasa is ideal for study and assimilation of Vedanta knowledge, one in Grahastha asrama,  with an attitude that all belong to Lord and Lord only and has mentally freed himself from all attachments and relationships and has an attitude of inner surrender, called Saranaagathi, is also an ideal student for Vedanta.   Such a person is called internal sanyasi, Aantara Sanyasi.  As per the Sastras it is said that to become an Aantara Sanyasi, one should renounce three things as follows:
1     Sarva Abhimana Parityagaha
2     Sarva Chinta Parityagaha
3     Sarva Vishesha Prarthana Parityagaha

Sarva Abhimana Parityagaha - The word Abhimana means the sense of ownership and controllership.  From the study of Vishwarupa Darshana in the Bhagavad Gita, one learns that Bhagawan is everything and the owner of everything. Bhagawan has temporarily given certain things for one’s spiritual growth and use.  Bhagawan can give anyone anything at any time and Bhagawan can also take away anything from anyone at any time, whether it is tangible things like people and property or intangible things like name, fame, honour, prestige, health etc.  So when one claims ownership of anything, he is only misappropriating Bhagawan’s property which is a serious spiritual offence, for which he suffers the punishment of imprisonment in Samsara jail.  And not only one renounces the sense of ownership, one also renounces the sense of controllership as well.  Everything and every event is controlled by Bhagavan according to the Laws of Karma.  One is only a contributor. One’s freewill is limited to the extent of making a choice to become a contributor only.  This mental renunciation of ownership and controllership of everything with the understanding that only Bhagwan is the owner and controller is Athma Nivedana Bhakthi, also called surrender.

Sarva Chinta Parityagaha - The word Chinta means anxiety or worry. If one analyzes, all the anxieties and worries are only centred on those things and beings where one has got Abhimana. Abhimana and worry are interconnected.  Greater the Abhimana, greater is the worry and vice-versa.  Therefore as Aantara Sanyasi, not only should one renounce all the Abhimana,, but  also should renounce one’s support for all forms of worry. One cannot avoid the arrival of worry, but as Aantara Sanyasi, one uses all one’s resources to disengage the mind from all forms of worry.

Sarva Vishesha Prarthana ParityagaVishesha Prarthana means all forms of special prayers, vows etc, which are meant for special purposes. If one studies the psychology of special prayer, one will note that one offers special prayers only with regard to the things and the people where one has Abhimana.  Just as worry is integrally connected to Abhimana, all special prayers are also integrally connected to Abhimana. Therefore, they reinforce each other. More the Abhimana, more will be the special prayers.  More the Abhimana, greater is the spiritual offence.  Greater the spiritual offence, Samsara is more perpetuated.

Further as Abhimana is the seed of raga and dwesha one free from Abhimana is free of raga and dwesha as well.  Lord Krishna calls such a person ‘nithya sanyasi’ in Gita 5-3
gneyah sa nitya sanyasi yona dweshti na kankshati
nirdwandwohi mahabaho sukham bandhat pramuchyate    (5 – 3)
He should be known as a perpetual Sanyasi who neither hates nor desires; for, free from the pairs of opposites, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he is easily set free from bondage!

But one taking to internal sanyasa should bear in mind a few points.  Since there is no formal Sanyasa and so no initiation, one adopting internal sanyasa should choose a day and take a formal Sankalpa on that day before his Ishta devata to renounce the three; Abhimana, Chinta and Visesha prarthana thereafter. He should remember this renunciation includes the three in respect of his own body mind complex also i.e, Deha Abhimana Parityagaha,  Deha Chinta Parityagaha,  Deha Vishesha Prārthana Parityāgaha.  He can continue his pujas and pilgrimages as before but they all must be undertaken on Nishkama basis, only as a thanks giving for all that he has received in life.  He can continue his Nithya karmas on a Nishkama basis with no guilty feeling as his Sankalpa is not in conflict with them. Further adherence to the Sankalpa will purify the mind and make it fit to absorb Vedantic studies.

So to conclude Sanyasa can be either internal or external.  Of these external Sanyasa with its emphasis on seclusion and spiritual studies is ideal for the pursuit of spiritual goal of Athma jnanam and liberation, while internal Sanyasa also provides a conducive infrastructure for spiritual pursuit, with its emphasis on Abimana Thyaga and forsaking of raga and dwesha. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Handling sorrow

(adapted from a lecture by Swami Paramarthananda)

There is a Sanskrit verse which runs as follows:
Sukam  me  Sarvadha  Bhooyaath
Dhukkam  Maa Bhooth Kadhachana
Ithi  Ichche  Sarva  Saamaanye
Te Jnaanadeva  Sidhyathaha
May I enjoy happiness all the time.  May I not face unhappiness at any time.  These two desires are common to all the human beings and they are fulfilled thru’ Jnanam.

These two desires, seeking happiness and avoiding unhappiness, are basic and universal and are common to all human beings.  The verse itself tells how this can be achieved.  It states that through Jnanam and Jnanam only one can reach this state of happiness and happiness only.  Before proceeding to discuss how Jnanam could help one to attain this state of ‘only happiness and no unhappiness’, let us try to understand how happiness and sorrow arises in one’s bosom. Happiness arises when one goes through any experience that one would like to go through. In other words happiness can be defined as going through a wanted experience.  On the contrary one experiences sorrow when going through an experience one wants to avoid.  So sorrow or unhappiness can be defined as going through an unwanted experience.

As one probes deeper one finds wanted experience need not always be pleasant ones.  They can also be painful experiences but they are definitely loved ones. One example to illustrate this statement is mountaineering.  Mountain climbing is full of pain and tension. It is highly risky as well. Human error like a misstep or an avalanche can cause death to the mountaineer. Notwithstanding all the hardships, pitfalls, and risks, mountaineers enjoy the suffering. It is a wanted experience and so becomes happiness. Another common example is motherhood for women.  Motherhood is a painful experience involving discomfort during pregnancy, intense pain in the form of delivery and numerous hardships later in bringing up a child.  Yet most women after marriage aspire to become mothers and enjoy the motherhood when it happens because it is a wanted experience and so brings happiness.

Similarly there can be experiences which in normal circumstances can be termed pleasant and cause happiness but in special circumstances can be viewed as unpleasant and cause sorrow.  When a self-employed person with self-respect suffers a setback in business and loses fortunes and has to be rescued by the in-laws to find his feet again he does not feel happy about regaining the fortunes but feels sorry about the way it is achieved and this experience brings him only sorrow.

In one’s life, one is all the time struggling to get wanted experiences (pleasant or painful) and avoid unwanted experiences (pleasant or painful).  But even though one puts in one’s best efforts, one finds that many a time unwanted experiences impinge upon one and wanted experiences elude him. If one without getting frustrated and sinking in despair analyses calmly, he will discover the truth that only the experience happens and labelling it as wanted or unwanted is done by one’s mind only.  As the labels are one’s creation only, they are within one’s control unlike the experiences themselves which depend on many factors over which one has little or no control. So if one through attitudinal change avoids wanted-unwanted classification, one can get rid of the mental misery and accompanying sorrow. 

This change in attitude that guides one to get rid of the labelling can be achieved through Jnanam, scriptural knowledge.  Scriptures point out that the entire universe is an orderly and harmonious whole implying everything happens perfectly according to universal laws. Nothing is odd or chaotic.  Everything in creation, from the tiny microbe to the giant sun, has an assigned role to play in this universe.  One can see this from the example of childbirth. When the baby is in the mother’s womb, it gets exactly the food it needs from the mother through a beautiful, naturally well-designed connection called the umbilical cord. After the baby emerges from the mother’s womb, the umbilical cord is snapped. The baby has delicate health to regular food, food that adults consume. At that time the mother secretes milk – at the right time and right temperature containing the right nutrition with all the antibodies the baby needs to fight the diseases. It is a biochemical marvel and this happens naturally without human intervention.

This reveals that the entire universe is orderly and well-designed by an omniscient and omnipotent Lord.  All experiences of all people at all times, without any exceptions, are also an integral part of the universe. So every experience in the world is perfectly in order as part of the wonderfully designed universe and one classifies an experience as unwanted only out of emotional immaturity or out of intellectual arrogance. So one should regard every experience that one goes through as a wanted experience only, needed for one’s spiritual nourishment and growth.  In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is an entire section (5. 11) called Vyahita Brahmanam advising one to look upon even diseases as sadhana or tapas (meaning a wanted experience).

Fasting (on Ekadasi) and remaining without sleep (on Sivaratri) are wanted experiences that one is happy to undergo.  But fasting due to lack of food on a train stranded in floods or lack of sleep due to a noisy neighbour are unwanted experiences that plunge one in misery.  The difference is just in perspective.  If one is a spiritual seeker with Jnanam, he will consider every experience as a wanted experience and let no experience upset his tranquillity. The benefit is that there are no regrets, no resistance, and no frustration. So if one changes one’s perspective to any experience one can be happy all the time, is the knowledge to be gained from the scriptures.  With this knowledge one will accept every experience as wanted for one’s growth, and be thankful and grateful to the Lord for the experiences with the prayer “Let me consider every experience as a wanted experience especially designed by the Lord for me just like mother’s milk designed for me when I was an infant and therefore I welcome all experiences whole heartedly and am thankful to You for all the experiences”.  This is the Jnanam required for one’s spiritual growth as well as for a happy life free of sorrow. 

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Anatomy of worry


(adapted from a lecture by Sri Paramarthananda)

Problems are common to all persons. The problems maybe short-term or long-term and may relate to health, money, career, business, relationships etc..  Problems also bring in their train mental worry, which itself is a big problem, as one cannot think and reason clearly with a worried mind which is always accompanied by a troubled intellect. Since in life problems come together or in succession the problem of worry seems to be eternal and continuous.  Even on those rare occasions when there is a spell of problem-free time one is driven by the worry as to how long that good spell will last!  Since constant worrying has a negative impact on mental and physical health, sometimes leading to psychosomatic disorders, this problem of worry is to be viewed seriously.  For that let us first try to understand its nature and how it operates.

Worry occurs in four stages; occupation, victimization, immobilisation, and dissipation.  We shall see them now in a little more detail.
1)    Occupation – Worry may be concerning the family, finances, health, friends etc. Whatever be the subject matter, it occupies one’s mind without volition on one’s part. Once it occupies the mind, one’s mind is hijacked by the subject matter of worry and one loses mental freedom or mastery of the mind.
2)    Victimization – Once the worry over a problem enters one mind, how long it stays there is not in one’s hands.  As it stays in the mind it goes on churning the mind producing unhealthy emotions such as fear, bitterness, self-pity, frustration, anger etc and victimizes one in the process. This victimization of mind leads to deterioration of mental health which in turn affects the physical health
3)     Immobilisation – Because of the disturbed and negative mind-set, one’s intellectual resources and capacity to solve the problem get immobilized.  Like a virus affected computer, the stored knowledge, secular and spiritual, cannot be retrieved and employed effectively to solve the problem on hand.  With intellect immobilized, the problem-solving capacity gets blunted.
4)    Dissipation – The disturbed mind and immobilised intellect stands not only in the way of one’s solving the problem on hand but also renders one not capable of engaging in any constructive work that requires deliberate thinking and mastery over the mind and intellect.  As a result one is confined to a mechanical life without being able to employ freewill.  This is living in absentia where one broods over the past and does not live in the present and life gets dissipated. 

To sum up, at the stage of occupation freedom is lost, at the stage of victimisation health is destroyed, at the stage of immobilisation solutions disappear and at the stage of dissipation life itself becomes meaningless.  One should be beware of the mental trap that considers worry as a manifestation of the sense of responsibility and thinks a person who does not worry is an irresponsible and non-caring person. There is a famous verse which says that between the funeral fire and worry, worry is more destructive as the former burns only a dead body whereas worry burns a living person. 

The scriptures urge us to work on the problem instead of worrying over it.  Working on the problem is something every responsible person should do.  We shall now see about working on a problem.  Like worry, working also comprises four stages: decision, crystallization, exploration, and preparation.
1)    Decision – Unlike in worrying where it occupies the mind when it chooses, now one decides when to think over a problem.  The time and duration of thinking one keeps under one’s control.  This way one is not vulnerable to the gate crashing of the problem in one’s mind on its volition.
2)    Crystallization - Keeping the intellect or the rational faculty in command, one condenses and crystallizes the problem into a few important points without being emotionally affected. This way the problem is not allowed to continuously churn the mind leading to emotional disturbances
3)    Exploration - At this stage one thinks of various solutions to the problem. This is solution oriented thinking as opposed to problem-oriented thinking which is worrying.  As against immobilisation of the intellect, it is put to proper use to look for and arrive at possible remedial measures. If we find it difficult to go through the stages of crystallization and exploration, it means we are worrying and we are being victimized by the problem.
4)    Preparation - When we go through the stage of exploration; we will be able to identify many alternatives or solutions to the problem. We have to choose one alternative and plan its implementation. Hopefully our implementation will succeed in solving the problem.

In the fourth and final stage, one starts dwelling on implementation of the possible solutions.  Until the implementation programme is successfully completed (which may take time), one should try to strengthen the mind by means of cogent and rational analysis and understanding of the relevant issues and by prayer to the Lord for strength of mind to accept the results of one's efforts and for developing a proper attitude by which one rises above the problem, making it appear insignificant in one's enlightened vision. This will make one turn one's attention to other constructive activities instead of being plagued by the problem which defies solution.  Sometimes the implementation of one’s strategy may not solve the problem. In such a case one must not lose hope but try again with alternative solution going through all the four stages once again. Until the problem is solved, one must try again and again summoning one’s inner strength to face the problem. 

At times a problem becomes unsolvable as in the case of a medical problem where the doctor says that one has to live with it. This is a choiceless situation. In such a case, preparation is strengthening the mind by wisdom, understanding and prayer to God for mental strength to rise above the problem, so that the problem does not trouble the mind.  The lives of many handicapped people who had conquered their handicaps mentally and had become great achievers is a big inspiration in this regard.  These people did not seek sympathy or brood over their problems but working with a strong will and focussed mind rose to great heights and serve as inspirational models to others.

Thus, one needs to conquer worry by strengthening one’s mind and retaining one’s ability in relation to decision making; crystallisation of problem, exploring and implementing possible solutions and preparation of the mind to face the ultimate results with a prayer to the Lord asking for strength and wisdom to solve those problems that are solvable and to accept and rise above the problems that are not solvable.  This way even if one is not able to solve the problem, one can live a happy and constructive life.