Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Experience - 2 (Satsang with H.H Swami Dayananda Saraswati)

Q:       But we keep hearing that there are teachers who, through touch, can cause all things to fall into place so that you realize the Truth. Could it be that through experiences you can get enough glimpses of the vision of Truth so that you then won’t have to go through the heavy intellectual resistance to accepting that vision? Does it boil down to clearing the intellect?

Swamiji:        No. The Truth of oneself is not an intellectual conclusion, nor is it something to be ‘reached’ by experiences. The Guru is not an elevator who touches you and you go ‘up to Brahman.Brahman is you -- not a place to be reached. It is not through an experience that you become Truth. There is nothing to become. There is nothing to transform. You are the Truth that you are seeking. The teaching of Vedanta is simply a means of knowledge (pramana), and an instrument that shows you what you are. 

What you are is not an intellectual conclusion. An intellectual conclusion is an inferential conclusion about something that is not available for immediate perception but about which there are data available from which logical conclusions can be reached. You need not be inferred because you are right here with yourself; you are immediately present. You are available to be known, not to be inferred. You fail to know yourself only due to ignorance, not due to lack of availability. Knowledge, not inference, and not experience, destroys that ignorance.

Vedanta directly teaches what you are. The use of logic is for the removal of doubts to give clarity to your vision. We use certain reasoning methods (yukti) to remove the blocks you may have that interfere with your clear vision. These blocks are always rational and can be removed by reason. We use your experiences also. We help you assimilate your experiences in terms of knowledge. In fact, we help you see that you have always had the experience of yourself. You don’t require a new experience to see yourself. There is no source of the vision of fullness (ananda) that you call happiness, except yourself.

Whenever, at any time, you pick up a resolving moment of happiness, you experience your essential self. Vishayananda means happiness gained through a desirable object—something in which there is a ‘kick’ for you and for a moment that ‘kick’ swallows up all the other wants of the wanting mind. That fullness (ananda) that, happiness (sukha) is but yourself, really. Through some gain, through some sensation, through a profound appreciation of beauty, a certain mental condition occurs in which, for the moment, you are just with yourself—you do not want a change in anything whatsoever. In the quiet clarity of a mind that wants no change, you pick up yourself as a moment of happiness. You do not recognize that happiness as yourself and instead attribute it to an object or a situation experienced.

Desiring happiness all the time, you continually seek it through all your actions. You know that you want happiness again. The very fact that you want happiness shows that you know it. Nobody desires something that is unknown. What you do not know is that you are happiness; you cannot help but seek it because it is your very nature and you cannot settle for anything else or anything less. You do know that there are moments of fullness which are moments of happiness. You do not require some strange, new experience to know that.

Even if you gain some new experience that reveals happiness to you, it makes no difference. Whether the experiences you have are usual or unusual, they still have to be assimilated in terms of knowledge. Experience itself does not give knowledge. It is only experience. It come and goes. Shruti, the scriptures, particularly the Upanishads, provide the basis for the knowledge that the moments of happiness I experience reflect my real nature, which is limitless fullness. (Shruti, is the means of knowledge, for what one cannot account for through perception-based data.)

Not only that experience does not give me the knowledge of the nature of fullness, but also experience does not give me the vision of the whole. Slipping into myself does not give me knowledge of the whole—knowledge of the Truth of me, of the world and of the creator. It is the knowledge of the whole that frees me just as I am. For that knowledge I need to know, very well, what is apparently real (mithyƋ), and what is limitless reality (satyam). It is not enough just to be myself—I have to account for this world or things will not fall into place. If I do not discover the nature of the world as well as the nature of myself, the world will overwhelm me and I will have to escape the world.

Vedanta has been presented as an experience. This has been a wrong presentation. Vedanta is knowledge, not a happening. A teacher unfolds the knowledge of oneself until it is clear. Doubts and vagueness are eliminated by logic bringing clarity of vision.

Vedanta is immediacy of knowledge. When that immediacy of knowledge is presented as experience, confusion follows. This confusion has arisen, at least in part, because of a word in Sanskrit, ‘anubhava’, which has been translated in English simply as ‘experience’. Such a translation causes the expectation of a ‘happening,’ not a ‘seeing.’ I would rather translate ‘anubhavaas ‘immediate knowledge’. For the qualified student that which comes after teaching is knowledge in keeping with the teaching, and that is anubhava
excerpts from Talks and Essay Volume 1

On Experience- 1 (Satsang with H.H Swami Dayananda Saraswati )

Q:       Some teachers say that the rational mind cannot comprehend the Truth of Self because the mind is stuck in its pattern of thinking; they say that only intense experiences will shake these patterns loose. Would Swamiji please comment?

Swamiji:        How can experience shake a thinking pattern? A logical pattern cannot be shaken by anything. You know from being taught that the earth goes around the sun. Does your everyday experience of a rising sun shake that thinking? How can wrong thinking – firmly entrenched notions – be shaken by mere experience? You think you are the physical body. Yet every night in a dream experience, while the body is stretched out on the mattress with a pillow under its head, a ‘you’ unconnected to the body works and eats and plays, is happy and sad. That dream experience does not shake your conclusion that you are the body. A teacher may use your dream experience as an aid to help you discover, through knowledge, that you are not the body, but the experience itself does not do the job on the wrong thinking. Only right thinking that comes from knowledge, from seeing, not from experiencing, can shake wrong thinking. Techniques which incapacitate thinking do not really work for seeing yourself. You can arrest thinking for a while but you cannot shake off wrong thinking. When thinking returns, the wrong thinking will repeat itself.

Q:       Why, then, do we hear so much about techniques?

Swamiji:        There is some benefit in working for quietude – a quiet mind is a useful mind, ready to learn – ready to see. To work for such a mind is understandable. There are techniques and practices that are helpful. Certain breathing practices (pranayama), physical exercises (yoga), certain diet are all fine if their purpose is understood. A relatively contemplative lifestyle and assimilated ethical values are also important. All these constitute preparation of the mind for knowledge. It is the same in any branch of knowledge. The mind must have proper preparation for learning. It must be ready to be taught the particular subject. Learning to read comes before study of literature.

excerpts from Talks and Essays Volume 1

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

About H. H Swami Pranavananda of Gudivada - by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati

H.H Swami Pranavananda of Gudivada played a very important role in Pujya Swami Dayananda’s  life. He resolved many of the doubts which Pujya Swamiji had, by pointing out that the Vedas are a pramana ,a means for knowledge for knowing the truth of the self. Pujya Swamiji recognized all the implications of this fact, and this was  to have a profound impact on Swamiji. Swamiji realized that self-knowledge is not some profound incommunicable experiences, the domain of some mystics who had some profound insights. Swamiji recognized that self-knowledge is communicable through Vedanta, the ancient tradition of teaching – there was a clear methodology involved and this knowledge could be unfolded with precision and could be understood by those who had the required inner readiness for it.

In May 1969, H. H Swami Pranavanandaji passed away. In the June 1969 issue of Tyagi, Pujya Swamiji honored him writing :-

“ His Holiness Swami Pranavananda of Gudivada attained mahasAmadhi on 15th May 1969. He was in his seventies.  

At the insistence of Sri Swamiji, I lived with Sri Swami Pranavananda in his ashram for a few months in 1961-62, and from then on I was in contact with him.

In teaching atma vidya, there is a tradition in our country. If that is not known to a teacher, he can never impart the knowledge of the sruti to a seeker. Just as the eyes are a pramana for all perceptions of forms, sruti through a living teacher becomes the pramana for self-knowledge. And therefore the method of teaching is important. If there is no traditional method in teaching this vidya, there is no necessity for a Guru; one can read the books with some prelimnary general qualifications necessary to read and understand.
Very few know the importance of this method, let alone the method. Because of this omission, the entire vidya proves to be meaningless inasmuch as it becomes objective. The teacher through the traditional method of the sruti puts the student in actual experience, as the former teaches, in a peculair way that is tradition, the nature of the Self, the ‘I’. Swami Pranavananda was one such master teacher. His deft handling of the scripture frame pradoxes used to, as even the Zen Master’ Koans, disentangle the student’s reason from its relative concepts and thereby brings in the sudden recognition or Satori.
I discovered in his classes this main aspect of our traditional teaching. When I met him a couple of months ago, he was laid up in bed. But he was clear in his thinking and happy as usual. He knew that there was no cure for the disease he was suffering from. As I took leave of him after a two day stay in the ashram, I requested him to give me a message to the seekers. He dictated immediately in Telugu to one of the inmates of the ashram a few lines, indeed the essence of our scriptures. I translate the same the same hereunder:
‘The disease that has come upon this body is too serious for any cure, it will disappear only at the cost of this body. Therefore the medicines or doctors are not to blame if they fail to be effective. Due to this helplessness, my mind is in no way afflicted. I consider that it is all for the good.

Freedom is the nature of the Self, the ‘I’, and the Self is identical with Brahman which is non-dual. Therefore, the Self as even Brahman is free from all mode of duality, such as sajatiya, vijatiya and svagata.
In the last verse of the Bhagavad-Gita, it is said that brahmi sthiti is the lot of this life and therefore death cannot travel with the prana.

Karma and upasana are pursued by the people only because of their identification with the body, dehatma buddhi. The body which is not the Self, the ‘I’ is taken for the Self and it is because of this reason there is pursuit of Karma and Upasana. Therefore this pursuit cannot be held as moksa.
Suppose a person by name Rama is asleep, if he is called by someone,  ‘Rama’, he wakes up. Similarly with profound words of the sruti if the master reveals to the student the identity of the Self with the Absolute, the student wakes up to discover his identity with Brahman.

Therefore moksa is only through the teaching of the Master and Sruti. It is this that is meant by Sankara in his famous verse ‘brahma satyam jagan mithya jivo brahiva naparah’. Brahman the Absolute is Reality; the world is apparent; jiva  the knower is not different from Brahman, the Absolute. This, and this alone is the message of Adi Sankara. All others take after this teaching. Therefore they have no original content.
‘That Thou Art’ is the profound statement of truth revealed to Svetaketu as we find in the Sama Veda. The ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ mahavakya known as upadesha vakya is the foremost among all other staements in the sruti. All other statements are centered on this alone.

Karma and upasana are performed retaining the ahankara. This enjoyment of fruits of action is only when the ‘I’ is taken for ego. And liberation and bondage also, while they belong to the ego, appear as though they are belonging to the ‘I’.

This lack of discrimination, which is something natural to the intellect that is extrovert, will not easily go unless one listens for a good length of time from the Master, the scriptures, and reflects and contemplates over what he has heard.

Therefore living with the Master, gurukulavasa, is imperative. It is because of this only, sanyasasrama is in vogue. This is the essence of all the Shastras. Keep this always in your heart. The notion that the world is real has got to be dispelled. This is practice, contemplation.’

The Swami dictated all this in his usual clarity of expression. He was clear that there was no death for a sadhu, nor I feel he ever died.”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

'Forgiveness and Reconciliation' - Swami Dayananda Saraswati (address at the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit.)

On August 28th through 31st of the year 2000, two thousand of the world's preeminent religious and spiritual leaders representing the many faith traditions, gathered at the United Nations, Geneva for a Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

On 29th August 2000 Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in the capacity of leader of the Hindu delegation, speaks on the given topic of  ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation’.  The speech is transcribed below with a few minor changes.

‘Respected Chairperson, friends,

 Salutations to all of you. We have listened to a lot of learned people. One thing nobody had mentioned was about the wonderful work done by a team of scholars from Harvard. In this very important document there was a mention that the various religious leaders have to look into their own theologies to find out whether the theologies themselves have caused conflicts.

It is one thing to forgive what has happened. Who am I to forgive for the cultures that got wiped out in Egypt, in Greece, in Africa, in South America? Who am I to forgive whom? I can’t forgive, because I am not in a position to forgive.  Not that I don’t want to forgive. I have no powers to forgive. I need to be forgiven, being a part of humanity that mindlessly destroyed the cultures, live cultures. What was the culture which made all those pyramids? What was the religion that moved the people to create such wondrous monuments of human endeavor human ingenuity, human genius? 

And we have the great legacy of people who have destroyed those live cultures. in Greece we have monuments. If any Egyptian government were to supposing , pull down a pyramid to put up a housing complex, I don’t think United Nations Organisation, the humanity, will allow that to happen. It is no longer the property of Egypt. It is an ancient monument of human genius. And it belongs to all of us.
We have to day live cultures. Let us not make monuments of these. Let us listen to those scholars who had really put their heads into this. One pertinent suggestion was – look into your theology ; see whether you have something which disturbs people, which moves people to disturb, which has destroyed cultures.
I want to have religious freedom. You must have that freedom. Everybody has a right to be free, well you should let me. Otherwise I can’t be free. Or I have to resist you. Here starts violence.We are free. We don’t need to stand on each other’s toes. If you don’t let me be free, and I am constrained to fight you, I cease to be a human being. I become a living being. I become a living organism which has got this natural instinctual urge to survive. All my human values disappear. And therefore I say, look into the theology.

Your practice of freedom of religion definitely is only to live you religion. You cannot destroy any other religion. You have no right. It is violence against other religious sentiments. It is violence against cultures, violence against religions and this violence has been going on for centuries and it continues to go on.
Therefore after ten years, when we meet, this subject should not be there, this subject of  reconciliation and forgiveness. We forgive ourselves. OK. Whom do I have to forgive? We forgive ourselves for our follies, for our mistakes.

But one thing – to err is human, to keep committing the same error, I don’t know what it is. I know that it is not angelic. Thank you very much. Om”

A standing ovations greets the speech. 

Vedanta Being A Means of Knowledge

Pujya Swamiji emphasises again and again that for liberation one should have a clear recognition of the self being Brahman (purna, whole). This recognition constitutes self-knowledge and for self-knowledge you require a means of knowledge – a pramana. And Vedanta is the pramana for self-knowledge.
This is very important to understand because in the spiritual world there is a lot of confusion about what is liberation and what is the means for liberation.

The self cannot be other than whole – why? Because it is what you want to be. In every moment of life, one is seeking to see oneself as whole, as complete, as totally satisfied. This wanting to total satisfaction is natural to us. And because it is natural, it must be our nature. It’s like the natural state of water is to be at room temperature. If your heat it, it wants to come back to room temperature, because that is its natural state. The very seeking for satisfaction shows us that satisfaction is indeed our very self.

 The Catch 22 is that we don’t know that the self is tripta – totally fulfilled. Meaning there is ignorance of the self being whole, complete. The self is taken to be a samsaari – and this is not true.
Pujya Swamiji points out that you can use reasoning to negate what is not true. The self is not the body-mind-sense complex – because the body-mind-sense complex is an object of knowledge for the self – whereas the self is the self-evident, ever-present consciousness. This much one might arrive at by logic.
But that the self is jagat kaaranam brahman  whose svarupaa  is limitless consciousness that is indestructible, changless and ever-present (satyam, jnanam, anantam)– this part only the means of knowledge – the pramana has to tell.

The self is self-evident. ‘I am’. I know that I exist. I do not require a means of knowledge to prove my existence. My existence is self-established. That I am a conscious being is also self—established.
But there is a confusion that this conscious being is subject to the limitations of time, space and object. That confusion is resolved by the words of Vedanta. These words have the capacity to reveal, by first negating the error of what one takes oneself to be and then revealing the truth.
Satyam means asti – ‘is - existence’. For us ‘is’ is understood in terms of time. For us ‘is’ is subject to becoming ‘was’!! That ‘is’ is not subject to time, is the truth of the self. Thus we have to negate in our understanding whatever is subject to time and what remains is the witness consciousness – for this there is a methodology.

Limitations are superimposed on the ‘I’ due to ignorance. Retaining the meaning of ‘is’, because I am … I am existent … so retaining the meaning of ‘is’, the limitations superimposed on ‘I’ are negated. The self being self-evident becomes the very meaning of ‘is’ (satyam), the very meaning of consciousness (jnanam) and the very meaning of limitlessness (anantam). I am the meaning of satyam, jnanam, anantam Brahman.
Satisfaction (ananda) is not an object. The meaning of ananda is the person; satisfaction is the person. That is the truth of you.

Thus Pujya Swamiji, handling words, negating what is to be negated, allows you to be the meaning of the meaning of the Sruti vakya – satyam, jnanam, anantam.  You are purnam. Every word is the negation of a conclusion.
Om Tat Sat

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The value of compassion being the foremost qualification for moksha

The value of compassion being the foremost qualification for moksha

Pujya Swamiji, my Guru, Swami Dayananda,  puts a great emphasis on the value for compassion for every seeker. For the seeker it is a value to be deliberately brought into one’s own life with reference towards oneself and others. For a person with nishtha in self-knowledge it is spontaneous.

Why does Pujya Swamiji put such an emphasis on the value of compassion?

When there is no compassion, one is judgemental and non-accommodative, with little understanding or acceptance of people and situations as they are. One holds on to one’s righteousness and ones anger, one becomes bitter, cranky, frustrated – one becomes very constricted. All this constitutes mala -  impurity of heart. With this constriction of heart, how is it is possible to understand that what Vedanta is saying is that ‘I am THE whole’. ‘I am the whole’ means I am everything. But with so much constriction of heart one cannot accept life as it is and so one denies oneself one’s wholeness, and there is no fulfillment.
When there is a value for compassion one takes the effort to  understand that everybody and every situation in life comes from a certain background and so everything really speaking is as it should be – in Order – Ishvara’s Order. Thus there is a readiness to understand, accept and accommodate people and situations even if they are not exactly pleasant! Living with compassion makes for samatvam – an eveness of mind, an expansion of the heart.

What I understood was that in Swamiji’s vision the person is whole. He never dismisses anybody as a criminal. He sees them as a person who has some areas of the psyche given to difficult and even offensive behaviour patterns. He does not hesitate to tell his disciples if something is wrong and it comes to his notice. At the same time, he takes the care to understand with compassion and gives them any number of chances to grow. That is Swamiji. His heart is so vast it is difficult to understand him if one’s heart is constricted. I wanted to understand Swamiji and so I chose to grow. Choosing to grow meant choosing to grow in compassion and giving freedom to people to be what they are.  

Not internalizing was another big lesson I learned. Swamiji in one of his talks said “I am responsible for my actions, my behavior, and my feelings but I am not responsible for the behavior and feelings of others.”  I have found in my life that most people internalize the problems of other people – and blame themselves when the problem is truly not theirs. I learned to be confident about myself and refuse to pick up others judgmental projections about me. Pujya Swamiji in his meditations also will take great care to make us understand how important it is to keep people outside and not in our head! That way we give people the freedom to be what they are and think whatever they want about us!

Om Tat Sat