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.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Jnani’s relationship with God

(adapted from a lecture by Sri Paramarthananda)

A jnani is a person who has attained Athma Jnanam, Self-knowledge. Through the Self-knowledge he has realised that his Real Self is none other than God itself, in its essential aspect as Athma.  Because a Jnani has realised his identity with God at the level of Athma he does not cease to be a bhaktha.  Rather he continues more ardently and single-pointedly his reverential love for God, bhakthi.  Lord Krishna in chapter 7 of Gita while speaking about different types of bhakthas says first in verse 17 “Jnani ever steadfast and having single-pointed devotion is the best (bhaktha)(Jnani nityayukta eka bhaktir vishishyate)”.  Then the Lord goes on to say “I am very much dear to the Jnani, and he too is dear to Me (Priyo hi jnaanino’tyarthamaham sa cha mama priyah)”.  In next verse also Lord Krishna reiterates this point emphatically as “I consider the Jnani as My very Self; for, with a steadfast mind, he is established in Me alone as the supreme goal (jnani twaatmaiva me matam; Aasthitah sa hi yuktaatmaa maamevaanuttamaam gatim)”.
The above revelations of the Lord imply an apparent contradiction in the relationship of Jnani with God.  As a bhaktha his devotion for God is based on bhedha sambandha, relationship with difference. But as one with Athma Jnanam, aware of his oneness with God, his relationship is one of no difference, abedha sambandha.  Though this identity at the level of Athma is true in the case of ajnani as well, ajnani bhaktha does not know this truth and feels that God is above him and totally different from him.  So an ajnani’s relationship with God is one of difference, bedha sambandha, only at all times.  In contrast Jnani’s relationship is one of abedha, non-difference, at one level i.e. Jnanam and one of bedha, difference, at another level i.e. bhakthi.

What seems to be an apparent contradiction is explained through an example in Vedanta sastra.  The example quoted is that of wave and ocean.  When one looks at them at the level of name and form, nama-rupa-drshtiya, they are very much different.  Wave is small and temporary and ocean is relatively huge and permanent. Further wave is only the effect while ocean is its cause.  But when we look at them in their essential nature both are the same as their underlying substance is water only. This is called swarupa drishti and at that level there is no difference.  So water and ocean have bedha sambandha at one level, nama-rupa drishtiya and abedha sambandha at another level, swarupa drshtiya.

In the case of a Jnani, he has the knowledge of his true nature and that of God and of the limitations of his upadhi, body, that has a form and name which he uses for interaction with the world, as an individual, and with God as a devotee.   So a Jnani is always aware of both; the difference, bedha sambandha, as an individual, nama-rupa drishtiya and his identity, abedha sambandha, as Athma, his Real Self, swarupa drishtiya.  So even while invoking bedha sambandha for conducting transactions with the world and for expressing and enjoying his devotion to God, he  is conscious of the abedha sambandha so that all his actions are performed with a sense of fulfilment and not out of want.   This awareness of abedha sambandha gives Jnani freedom from the sense of insecurity, helplessness, limitation and mortality. In short all Jnani’s transactions with the external world are with bhedha bhava which he extends to God as well to express his bhakthi and also gratitude to Guru parampara starting from Aadhi Guru.  But at no time he loses sight of abedha sambandha which is beautifully expressed in 10th anuvaka of sikshavalli of Taittreya Upanishad as the outburst of Trisanku on attainment of realisation thus:
“aham vriksasya reriva, kirtih pristham gireriva, urdhvapa-vitro vajiniva svamritam asmi, dravinam savarcasam, sumedha amritoksitah”
I am the mover of the tree (of the world).  My fame is high like the peak of a mountain.  My source is the pure (Brahman). I am the unstained essence of the Self, like the immortality that resides in the sun. I am bright with the wealth (of knowledge).  I am the shinning wisdom. I am immortal and imperishable

So the Jnani knows and enjoys both the relationships, bedha and abedha, with God, with a fulfilled mind full of peace and happiness.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Havelock island and Mundapahar beach

(Andaman trip – 3)

In the early morning of third day (18/1) we vacated the hotel in Port Blair and left for Havelock island, now called Swaraj Dweep, for a day’s stay.  Since we left before breakfast, the hotel authorities arranged for us packed sandwiches.  Since we were coming back to Port Blair next day we took with us
only hand luggage leaving the boxes in White Shell Travel office.  The ferry we took was Makruzz.  We had a
pleasant experience while trying to get our seats allotted.   As we were standing in the queue one of the staff took our booking sheet, got premium seats allotted and escorted us to the ferry.  No doubt we had a comfortable journey enjoying the view from premium top deck seats.  After 90 minutes journey we reached Havelock Island.   The travels’ representative met us at the jetty and took us to Radhakrishna resort.  This person was very unhelpful and grumpy, a total contrast to Anil.

Radhakrishna resort is one of the eco-friendly resorts in Havelock island.   With trees all around it has a relaxing ambience.  With only a visit to Radhanagar Beach on the agenda we made good use of the leisure enjoying the laid-back atmosphere in the resort.  Radhanagar Beach lies on the south coast of the island.  Rated as a Grade A beach of outstanding quality, this beach is also rated as one of the best beaches in Asia by TIME Magazine.  We visited this beach after a rest of two hours in the resort.  Since there was a good vegetarian restaurant in the Beach, we had our lunch there which was of a buffet type.  We had a pleasant surprise in the restaurant as we met there our relative in Bombay, Anandhi, who was also holidaying in Andamans with family and friends.  We spent a pleasant three hours chatting with them sitting in the cool shade in the Beach before getting back to more rest in the resort.  This Island has avoided much of the devastation of the 2004 earthquake and the Tsunami and there are no documented casualties also. This island is one of the three islands renamed on 30 December 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and this island was renamed as Swaraj Island (Swaraj Dweep).

The next morning after breakfast, we vacated our room in the resort and went to the pier to join the ferry Green Ocean for return journey to Port Blair. The return journey was a complete contrast to our onward journey as we had to wait in a queue for hours for boarding the ferry and we had seats in the lowermost deck completely shut off from outside world.  To add to our misery, the return cruise took a longer time i.e.135 minutes.  To our relief Anil was there in Port Blair pier waiting for us with our bags left in safe custody of White shell office.  He took us to our new hotel, Kavitha Regent.  This hotel also had no lift and rooms were in first floor.  But luckily the dining room was also in the first floor.  And the hotel was in the Aberdeen market area close to Annapurna and Kattabomman restaurants and there was also a Hanuman temple nearby.

After lunch and rest we went to Mundapahar beach, in Chidiyatapu, which is about 25 kms from Port Blair.  The beach is famous for viewing sunset.  But on that evening of our visit, the sky was cloudy and sun itself could not be seen.  But as the climate was cool and pleasant and there were also wooden benches on the beach sands and mangroves aplenty, we did not regret missing the sunset.  We also met here a tour group from Coimbatore with whom we spent a nice time.  There is a biological park nearby.  As it closes at 4’o clock, we couldn’t go there.  This park houses varieties of birds for which this place is famous. People also go for trekking in the forests close to the beach.  The beach is also noted for coral viewing and shell picking and is a much loved picnic spot for locals as well.  On returning to the hotel we went to the nearby temple to offer our thanks-giving prayers for a trip well-completed. Next morning Pinky Roy of Shell Travel sent us a gift of a framed photo of ourselves, with Anil.  With that photo and with pleasant memories of the trip, we left for Chennai, by Indigo flight.

74 Photos of  Andaman trip can be viewed in Flickr album “Andaman trip” @