Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sadhana of Witnessing


Vedanta points out that what shine here as ‘I’ is pure consciousness ... who is independent, timeless (indestructible) and purna (whole) – who is ever the one who illumines, enlivens, empowers the body and mind, who is indeed never the illumined.
There is a rule given by Vedanta – the subject ‘I’, the conscious being who experiences life, is distinct from every object of experience even though no object of experience is ever separate from  consciousness, the one who experiences. One can understand this in several ways. No object of experience can reveal its presence without the presence of a conscious being who cognizes it. Again the very being of the object of experiences, its ‘isness’ is not separate from the ‘isness’  or existence of the conscious being who cognizes it. It is one Being-consciousness who manifests as the conscious-experiencer as well as the experienced object.
This rule that the conscious-experiencer is distinct from, independent of the experienced object is easy enough to understand  ... I see the wall... I experience the wall ... so wall is an object of my experience of seeing ... I am different from the wall. Easy enough.
What about I see the body,  I experience the body, I experience the mind in its various forms of thoughts, feelings, doubts, memories, ego  .... when it comes to the body and mind that I am endowed with I am not able to say that I am distinct from them. In my understanding the body is me, the mind is me.
Here is where we need more knowledge. What is difference between consciousness-I and every object of experience which includes this body and this mind.
Vedanta points out that consciousness that shines as ‘I’ is not the body-mind, nor is it a part of the  body-mind, not a property of the body-mind, nor is it a product of the body-mind. It is self-existing and self-revealing – in fact it is the only self-existing, self-revealing INDEPENDENT, CHANGLESS REALITY (satya), ever-free of energy and matter which are its apparent every-changing manifestations. Consciousness is oneself- so it can never be an object of experience. Consciousness is ever the subject and never the object. Consciousness is oneself- so it can never be an object of experience
 Consciousness illuminates, reveals everything else – we find that not even the brilliant sun can reveal its presence in the absence of a conscious being to cognize it. No object of experience can reveal itself – therefore objects of experience are considered as basically inert as they do not have the capacity to reveal themselves. Thus every object of experience is a DEPENDENT, CHANGING  REALITY (mithya). And  consciousness, the independent absolute reality is basis of, the content of the dependent changing reality of energy and matter.
Consciousness  is indestructible, free of time – it ever was, it ever is, it ever will-be. Whereas objects of experience are all within the purview of time – they arise to go. They manifest and again resolve back into the unmanifest again.
Consciousness is all-pervading – it is here, there and everywhere. Whereas objects of experience have limitations in pervasiveness.
Consciousness-I is to be recognized as it is. Recognising Consciousness-I to be as it is is to have true knowledge of ‘I’ and this knowledge liberates one from the sorrow of taking oneself to be the mortal body-mind.
A very useful sadhana which helps us to recognize that  what shine here as “I”is self-evident, self-revealing, immediate consciousness which is indeed distinct from whatever is experienced in its presence, is the sadhana, the discipline of ‘witnessing’ one’s thoughts. This discipline trains us to separate  self-evident consciousness-I from thought and recognize that I am indeed independent of thoughts/ mind. We can extend it to witnessing actions also – which will not be considered in this article.
Witnessing means one observes one’s thoughts without involvement. We can also put it as ‘observing’ without attachment. So I am the one who observes the thoughts that arise in my mind, and the thoughts are what are observed. I am the drshta, the observer of thoughts, the self-evident conscious being, the atma and the thoughts are drshya, the observed, which is dependent on me for being observed.
Our Shastra gives us a thorough understanding of thoughts by guiding us to observe our thoughts, gain more understanding about them by labelling them, and then letting them go.  So we start by observing individual thoughts as they arise, we label them and let go of any holding onto them – or subscribing to them by allowing them to create a story. This allows us over a period of time, to discover, that the conscious that I am is the invariable, in whose presence thoughts are illumined, and even though I am intimately present when thought is there, I am unaffected by the thought.
When we observe we can find out:-
1.      In which state is my mind currently – is it
a.      disturbed/troubled (kshipta)
b.       dull/heavy (mudha)
c.       Distracted, partly focussed (vikshipta)
d.     One-pointed, focussed (ekagra)
e.      Disciplined, mastered (niruddha)

2.      Is this thought
a.      coloured or afflicted (klishtha)
b.       not colored or not afflicted (aklishtha)

3.      Is this thought
a.      Useful to our growth
b.      Not useful to growth

4.      Which qualities or gunas are dominant with this thought
a.      Sattva – noble, knowledgeable, light
b.      Rajas – active, ambitious, moving
c.       Tamas -  inert, stable, stagnant
5.      If the thought is coloured, which colourings are dominant?
a.      Forgetting of one’s truth, veiling (avidya)
b.      Claiming ‘I’-ness – (asmita)
c.       Being attracted to or drawn towards (raga)
d.     Having aversion for, or wanting to avoid (dvesha)
e.      Fear of death, loss, anxiety –(abhinivesha)
6.      Which type of thought is this?
a.      Clear, correct, valid knowledge – pramana
b.      Unclear, contradictory, misunderstood – viparyaya
c.       Conceptualizing, fantasy –vikalpa
d.     Sleepy, focussed on anatma  -nidra
e.      Memory, recalling –smriti
7.      How strong is this colouring? You can grade it as low, medium, high
8.      How do I know this is true?
a.      Through perception (pratyaksha)
b.      Through reasoning /logic (Tarka)
c.       Through scriptures (pramana or Agama)

Having labelled the thought, I can ask myself is this thought pattern who I am, or am I the conscious being who illumines the thought, who is the one who has the thought, who is distinct from the thought.

I discover that like light, in whose all-pervading presence all things are illumined, and yet light is untouched by what it illumines, I too am the self-evident conscious being, in whose all-presence, different thought arise  and resolve, and yet I am untouched by the thought.

Om Tat Sat.




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Monday, May 22, 2017

Breathing and Wholeness

This morning, as usual I was into certain breathing exercises. I am fairly regular with them. They cleanse one’s energy field, fill one with great vitality. They also are practice for the capacity for focussing by simply staying  with the breath and letting one’s auto-nervous system relax.
Inhaling – there is awareness of in-breath
Exhaling – there is awareness of out-breath.
I simply stay with the breath. It’s wonderful. The body is still. Yes I have the capacity to move, yet I simply suspend that capacity and keep the body still. The mind calms down as I stay with my breath and notice that there is awareness of in-breath and out-breath.
Soon there is awareness of body being still, the breath being smooth and the mind being quiet.
I am a simple awareful being – a simple conscious being, witness to the stillness in the body, the smoothness of breath and the quietness of the mind. Now it is easy for me to acknowledge this fact that the awareness that I am, the consciousness that I am, is whole, is peace.
At this moment of understanding there is total fulfilment in my self - there is nothing to gain. I am not looking for anything new to happen. There is no resistance to anything whatsoever – I simply am. This ‘am-ness’ is purna. There is no need for words – yes the capacity to form words and understand is there – yet I do not have to form any words. This is a wordless being .... and the Being is whole.
Am I going to lose this wholeness when the mind come’s back, when resistance to facts comes back?
No – I cannot lose this wholeness that is the Self, ever – even when there loss of peace of mind.
Why? Because what shine’s here as Self  is the Being who is independent of the mind, the breath, the body. Certainly the mind, the breath, the body are not independent of me, the self-evident, self-revealing consciousness – yet I am independent of the mind, the breath, the body.
 In ignorance, I totally identify with the body, the breath, the mind and in ignorance and ignorance alone, my wholeness seems to depend on the quietness of the mind, the smoothness of the breath and the stillness of the body. Oh what a miserable wholeness I must be then, totally dependent on the condition of the mind, the breath and the body.
When I recognize the self to be independent of the body, breath and mind, the wholeness of the self is not dependent on their condition. This is real freedom.
In wholeness there is no ‘becoming’. One does not ‘become’ whole because of certain conditions. If that were so, one’s wholeness could not be whole – because it will be lost when the conditions change. The truth must be that what shines here as self-revealing, self-evident Consciousness-I  is whole – here and now, no matter what the condition of the body, the breath or the mind.
Dear Lord, may we all revel in that knowledge of wholeness, which apparently manifests as all that is here. I am whole, You are Whole. All That Is  is Whole.

Om Tat Sat

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Immanence of God - by Swami Chidananda


Radiant Divinities! Blessed sadhaks and seekers! Spiritual aspirants aspiring to follow the spiritual life, aspiring to progress upon the spiritual path, aspiring to attain success in your spiritual sadhana and aspiring to achieve the great, glorious, spiritual goal of divine perfection and liberation! To all of you I recommend the awareness of the spiritual presence of Gurudev.
During the day everything is illumined by the sun. When the sun sets the darkness may be illumined by the moon. If there is no moon the darkness will still be illumined by the stars in the sky. And if it is a cloudy night in the middle of the rainy season, and even the light of the stars are denied to us, then it is fire that illumines—like that akhanda dipam (oil lamp burning silently there behind the glass door.
The current may be cut off, that lamp may go out, and we may be in dense darkness—you cannot see your hand in front of your face—yet, you know that you are there. By what light is your presence known? You are aware of yourself and the presence of people and things around you, even though they are not visible. What is it that knows their invisible presence? That is the Light of Consciousness. And that Light of Consciousness is the presence of God within.
Silently that Light is observing everything that is going on here. It not only observes our physical bodies, but what is going on in our hearts and minds. It also knows what we do not know. It knows what is lying in our subconscious minds, to which even our conscious active minds have no access (except only occasionally during dream). And it is this silent Light of Consciousness that observes all the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep.
For the individual consciousness as well as the universal consciousness, the innermost self-essence is consciousness, awareness, knowledge that I am.Philosophy uses the same identical term for both—atma-tattva. The universal consciousness they call paramatma or visvatma and the individual they call jivatma. Atma is the same to both because it means self-awareness. And this self-awareness is both in the aspect of the universal source of all being and the source of your own present limited, separatist self-consciousness. It is the source of both, and the relationship between the two is of the utmost importance.
Eko devah sarvabhuteshu gudhah sarvavyapi sarvabhutantaratma, karmadhyakshah sarvabhutadhivasah (God, Who is one only, is hidden in all beings. He pervades all and He is the inner soul of all beings. He presides over all actions and He dwells in all beings). Three times the indwelling presence of God has been brought out in this single verse—sarvabhuteshu gudhah (hidden in all beings), sarvabhutantaratma (inner self of all beings), sarvabhutadhivasah (immanent in all beings). Sarvavyapi (all-pervading) only once, but the indwelling presence thrice within a single verse. Here also: saman sarveshu bhuteshu tishthantam paramesvaram (the Supreme Lord is equally present in all beings). Again, twice that I am within all creatures: ahamatma gudakesa sarvabhutasayasthitah, aham adischa madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha (I am the Self, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings).
This is something very, very important. Sarvabhutahridayastha (present in the heart of all beings) has been raised to that supreme height because of this fact—He indwells all creatures. Vasanat vasudevasya vasitam bhuvanatrayam, sarvabhutanivaso’si vasudeva namostu te—Thou indwellest all beings, O Lord. Therefore I bow to you in all. And Gurudev said: “Let us behold Thee in all these names and forms. Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms.” He did not say in all these men. Rather, he said in all these names and forms, whatever the name might be, whatever the form might be—not necessarily a human name and form, but whatever living beings God has created.
These are all powerful inducements to the three cardinal virtues that lead to liberation: ahimsa, satyam and brahmacharya (non-injury, truth and purity). If you are aware of the indwelling presence of God in all creatures, ahimsa is inevitable. If you are aware that He dwells within you, and He is satyasvarupa (essence of truth), asatya (untruth) to you is impossible and satya becomes imperative. If you are aware that He is within all creatures and within yourself, then our relationships have to be of the same quality as the indwelling presence in both us and in others—that is divine. And God is supreme purity—nitya suddha, amala, vimala, niranjana. Therefore man’s relationship to all fellow beings will also become pervaded by a supreme divine quality of purity. And samyama (self-control) and brahmacharya will become automatically realised if man keeps himself in the awareness of the presence of the silent Light of God within himself and all creatures.
Therefore, the relationship of each being to that indwelling Light of God is of the very essence. If that relationship is always borne in mind and kept in our heart, then our relationship with all other things automatically becomes right, proper, ideal and as it ought to be. Even the good that we do we will do because the Spirit of God indwells all creatures.
To be aware of this and therefore not to harm or do anything bad to any creature is a very essential part of our sadhana and spiritual life; otherwise, you will be offending God Whom you are trying to realise. If you are hostile towards nature, you are hostile to God, because God is immanent in nature and indwells all. And to be hostile and thus relate yourself destructively to any creature would be to destroy the sensitive ecological balance that has been created by the Master Mind, the Great Intelligence, which is no other than God Himself. Everything will be upset if any species of creature is harmed beyond limit. Our relationship with the environment, nature, with all creatures, with all other fellow human beings and ultimately our relationship with ourselves will become perfect if the relationship of ourselves and all beings to that indwelling Light of God is ever borne in mind.
Thus you see the four-fold relationship of awareness of man: awareness of the immanence of God in nature, awareness of the presence of God in all creatures, awareness of the presence of the Light of God in all fellow human beings and awareness of the ideal way to relate oneself to oneself—make oneself an instrument of God, make oneself a channel for the manifestation and expression of God’s divinity and God’s purity. This becomes sahaja (natural) to one who lives in the awareness of God’s indwelling presence in the form of the inner Light of lights beyond all darkness, which is in all hearts. And to be in awareness of this is to set right immediately your relationship to yourself. You can never stoop to harbour anything that is undivine or unspiritual either in your feelings or sentiments, nor in the thoughts of your mind or intellectual process.
Thus it is that immanence is key to divinity. Awareness of God’s presence within and without, in all beings, in all creatures, in all nature becomes the key, the secret of living in the awareness of the Yoga of the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga of the first verse of the Isopanishad. What more can I say? Be aware, be aware of God, aware of your relationship to Him, and make your life sublime and divine and attain the supreme, grand goal of all spiritual aspiration, of all spiritual life, of all spiritual sadhana, of all spiritual living, the grand goal of God-consciousness and divine perfection and liberation.
May God help you in your sincere endeavour to attain this supreme state here and now in this very body, in this very life! This is my prayer at the feet of Gurudev’s presence, at the Feet of God Who is within and without. Gurudev’s grace and God’s grace be upon you always and give you sure victory in this great quest!
(This article has been reproduced from the book, "Ponder These Truths" by Swami Chidananda)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

As a sadhaka, handling a negative emotion


Nobody likes to have a negative emotion like hurt, anger, guilt, jealousy, the sense of rejection, loneliness, etc. Often it’s just a vague sense of discomfort or uneasiness which one cannot pin-point. So our first instinct is to try to escape it through some displacement activity – for instance we may find ourselves picking up the phone to talk to someone, or going out for a movie or walk, or simply talking with friends. Some may head to the bar for a drink, yet others may light up a cigarette. Yet others may do puja – the idea is we simply divert ourselves to escape feeling the feelings that are there in that moment.
In other words, we want to escape our present moment of feeling lousy and so we try to create a new better present moment through doing something or the other. We can say that in way we have abandoned an aspect of our psychological self, we have rejected an aspect of our psychological self. In a sense we have fractured our psychological self.
Our psychological self needs to be whole– integrating all aspects of our psychological self in a deep self-acceptance. Am I able to deeply accept myself at each moment of my existence, as I am?
What does it take to accept oneself as one is at each moment in time, and simply allow oneself to feel the feelings that arise, without judgement, with compassion and yet not be impelled to act upon them, if they prompt actions that are against one’s chosen universal values of honesty, commitment, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, etc?
One needs a great deal of understanding of the fact that whatever is, is in Order..in Ishvara’s Order.  The laws of cause and effect, which includes in its fold the laws of psychology, pervades the Universe – so every moment in time, is in Order, just the way it is. The Universe is ruled by the laws of cause and effect – laws which I did not create – they are simply there, rendering whatever is as it is.  If it could be different it would be different, but it not. It is the way it is – it is in Order. Naturally my feelings at every moment in time, whatever they are,  are within that Order – they are in Order – they are. They are acceptable simply because they are in Order. So compassionately,  one allows oneself to feel them.
What one discovers is that one is greater than the feeling, because the feeling passes and one is still there. Be there for the feeling compassionately, not because you want to feel better, but simply because you want to be there for your psychological self, giving it the attention that is needed.  
And the advantage of accepting them and allowing oneself to feel feelings however uncomfortable they may be, is that one becomes more integrated  in one’s psychological being. That integration leads to a great sense of peace born of self-acceptance. In that self-acceptance is also the space to look at the situation in which those feelings were triggered, in a new light. One has the space to revise one’s thought processes which led to the uncomfortable feelings.
In the event that one’s feelings are more than one can handle, one can take a break from feeling them, by resorting to any action in keeping with the universal values. However one compassionately notes what one is doing, so that it is not an unconscious or mechanical escape, rather the action is one’s conscious deliberate choice for the time being.
Another important thing to note is that feeling one’s feelings  does not mean that one may act upon them through one’s habitual responses. One’s responses to situations are to be guided not by one’s feelings. Rather they are to be based by one’s well-thought over and chosen universal values.
Thus as a sadhaka who has moksha as the chosen goal, one handles one’s negative emotions with deep compassion and a great deal of understanding. One allows oneself to feel one’s feelings and yet develops to space to not act upon them. Rather one acts in keeping with one’s well-chosen universal values.
Look at the table below
Negative Emotion
The process – Be compassionate and non-judgemental
Values and Response
Hurt
 Admit it, Feel it, It will pass, understand the unmet need behind the feeling, look at the thought process behind the feelings, revise if required
Values are respect, discipline and eventually forgiveness
Express appropriately
Anger
Admit it, Practice the Pause, Feel it, understand the unmet need behind the feeling,  look at the thought process behind the feelings, revise
Values are Respect, Discipline, Forgiveness
Express appropriately
Guilt
Admit it, allow the feeling, understand the value transgressed in order to meet a need, look at the thought process behind the transgression, revise
Value is self-forgivess
Make amends
Fear/Anxiety
Admit it, allow the feeling, understand the attachment behind the feelings, look at the thought process and go through what if the worst possible scenario, revise
Value is courage, prayerfulness
Auto-suggestion,  go ahead with whatever you need to do after doing a reality check on the fear or anxiety


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Freedom That Is The Self



What shines here as ‘I’ is self-revealing, self-effulgent consciousness who is independent of all that is observed or perceived in its presence.
For understanding the self-evident nature of Consciousness that shines here in this body-mind complex as ‘I’, all you have to do is unload from one’s understanding,  all that is observable, as well as all that is changing and taken to be “I”. That means one would unload the notions of being a body-mind complex from one’s understanding of “I” because the body-mind is observed and observable. What about the deep impressions that are in the mind, which are not available for immediate observation? Well the deep impressions, whatever they may be are observable, as and when they surface into one’s conscious mind. Since they qualify to be observable, they too are not inherent in consciousness.
What is left after this unloading, which is really unloading of one’s sense of self-identity in the body-mind complex, is just  self-evident consciousness.
Is arriving at, ascertaining for oneself the nature of “I” being self-evident consciousness equivalent to enlightenment? NO. There are some teachers who claim this is equal to enlightenment – that is false – it is cheating gullible troubled beings, who need some respite from the agitations caused by their mistaken self-identity. That respite is only temporary as many of them do discover.
Ascertaining for oneself that who I am is self-evident self-effulgent consciousness, that is indeed INDEPENDENT of the body-mind complex is the first step. Without understanding the purport of the Upanishad statement tat tvam asi – You (the self-evident consciousness) are That (absolute reality that  apparently manifests as the ever-changing universe)  how are you going to ascertain for yourself that the self-evident consciousness is indeed independent, changeless and  infinite and therefore absolutely free?
Freedom is recognizing the “I” to be the self-evident consciousness that is independent of everything illumined in its presence and therefore to be always free of whatever you had considered yourself to be bound by. Therefore self-evident consciousness that shines as “I” is always free of
  • ·         Samskara (deep impressions) even when they are present in the mind
  • ·         Results of action -Punya and paapa
  • ·         Restlessness and agitations of the mind

The freedom is total.

Perhaps it is only on understanding one’s freedom that one understands how free the human free-will is.  All vyvahara continues as before – and yet now one is free enough to choose out of one’s love and joy, what to associate with and what not to.