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.


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 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
 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
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
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
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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Real Ecology -Swami Dayananda

 There are people who are highly concerned that humanity is in danger. They warn that if conditions continue like this, if people don’t care, the ozone hole will become so huge that people will have a radiation problem. For some, the whole concern is for the life of human beings and the suffering that they will have in the long run. Therefore, they say that in order to protect human life, we have to protect the environment, maintain the ecological balance—save the trees, save the rainforest and create green lungs everywhere.
While we agree with this, the Gita has a wider perspective that includes all forms of life. Why don’t all forms of life deserve protection? Why only human life? What is distinct about human beings and why do we place human worth above that of other creatures? What is the sanctity of human life? In which way are the lives of other creatures on this planet less sacred than human life?
In the third chapter of the Gita, we have:
devaan bhaavayataanena te devaah bhaavayantu vah
parasparam bhaavayantah shreyah paramavaapsyatha (BG 3.11)
Propitiate the deities with this (yajna). May those deities propitiate you. Propitiating one another, you shall gain The highest good (moksha). (BG 3.11)
The perspective offered by this verse is not even limited to life on this earth—its scope is cosmic. The Gita here is talking about an awareness of all the forces. In this vision, the natural forces of the universe are not separate from Ishvara, the Lord, for the universe is a manifestation of Ishvara, the Lord. We can look at this Lord from the standpoint of a given force. As such, any phenomenon, any force, is considered a devata, a deity. This entire jagat—the world of names and forms, including natural forces—is a manifestation of the Lord. It is not that Ishvara at a certain time created the jagat as separate from himself. Although we may refer to the jagat as a ‘creation’ from the standpoint of the Lord as a conscious, all-knowing being, this is not ‘creationism’. We may use the word ‘creation’, but we follow it by the word ‘manifestation.’ Why?
In the view of creationism, the creator is separate from his creation. Since the creator must have a place, where, then, does he reside? If he is a distinct entity, where will he be? He would have to be located in space. But space itself is a part of the whole space/time creation. Where was the creator when he created space? The creator cannot be in space and create space, for if he is in space, space has already been created. If he is inside space, who created space? It is also not possible for him to be outside space, spatially. The Lord cannot be an individual located outside space, because which is the space that is outside space? Both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ refer to space. The only real possibility is that space is not separate from the Lord.
Only if we conceive of space/time as absolute is the creationism model feasible. But modern physics, consistent with the vision of Vedanta, has shown that space/time is not absolute. It has been proven that space and time are collapsible and that they come to manifest along with the other things. If that is so, space is more a manifestation of whatever was the unmanifest cause. ‘Creation’ is the formful aspect of the unmanifest—nothing new has been ‘created’. Space and time and everything in space and time—the whole thing—is a manifestation of Ishvara. Therefore, space itself cannot be separate from the Lord.
If that is so, then an awareness on the part of human beings that they are not isolated entities and that the entire jagat is a manifestation of Ishvara, is in order. With this awareness, we can strike harmony with the world; without or against this awareness, we can constantly rub against our world. The truth of rubbing is the one who rubs, who creates disharmony, gets rubbed. You cannot rub against something without getting rubbed in the process. That is the truth. And we are rubbed all the time, because we keep rubbing against the order of things. We rub each other and we rub other life forms and matter. And then we say that the world is inimical to us, and want to save ourselves from the world.
Our foolishness is that we rub and then complain that the world rubs us. “Why me?” is a common expression. “Why me?” Everybody asks the same thing. Nobody is exempt from asking, “Why me?” “Why me?” In everybody’s life, there are innumerable occasions to ask, “Why me?” In the morning getting up you may ask, “Why me?” Although you may use different words, the equivalent forms are constantly being murmured. This is due to not being in harmony with what is. In order to be in harmony with the world, you have to change the whole picture. You must have a bigger picture. Without a bigger picture, small things become big things. With a bigger picture, small things become smaller. The bigger the picture is, the smaller is your problem. The big picture really resolves problems, and Vedanta gives you the biggest picture possible. In this discussion, however, I am not talking of the biggest picture—just a bigger picture. The amazing fact is that even the bigger picture is enough to free you from a lot of rubbing.
The Gita says that your awareness should not fall short of covering, of recognizing, Ishvara as the force because of which all life forms and matter are possible. The reverence for forms is a very, very important thing. Unfortunately, in many theologies, this reverence has been destroyed. Some theologies prohibited worship of any form made of hands or by nature, and located God somewhere far away from us. It was assumed that by doing so, they were updating tribal religion. In fact, in the process, theologies have lost their reverence for forms.
Such reverence, as expressed in the Gita and other works, is an essential part of Hindu culture. When, as a child, I kicked the ground, my mother would say, “Hey, don’t kick the ground. That is mother earth.” “What mother earth? It’s dirt”, I said. “No! It’s mother earth, prithivi maataa.” Then I would think, “Oh, this is mother, maataa.”
I come from an agricultural family. During a particular month, the water would flow in the river and the agricultural operation would begin. The first thing was to sow the seeds, the paddy seeds. Then, after a few days or a month, they would remove the seedlings and transplant them in the fields. This operation was done by all the villages. Before sowing, although each villager would sow on his own piece of land, all the villagers would come and do pujaa to a piece of land that belonged to the temple. They would do pujaa to the earth. Seeing this as children, we naturally developed a reverence for the earth. That shows a concern not for my life alone—but for the one that bears the life. Mother earth is not just something inert.
Inert is a point of view. For instance, when you dream, you dream mountains and you dream mountain lions. In the dream, the mountain lions are sentient and the mountains are inert. But you, the dreamer, are not inert, and the dream universe is nothing but you. It is you who are the dream characters and scenery. You are the creator and you are the manifestation of the dream world. So when the dream character thinks that the dream mountain is inert, it’s purely a point of view. You may say one—the dream mountain—is insentient, and the other—the dream mountain lion—is sentient. But really, both of them are not separate from you—the sentient you who is dreaming. It is the same with Ishvara, the Lord. Everything we see in ‘creation’—other beings, as well as what we consider ‘inert’ material—is not separate from the Lord. That is why we don’t take mother earth for granted. The same is true for the other natural elements. Water is called Varuna. The air that you breath in is Vaayu. Tvam eva pratyaksham brahmaasi. “You alone are the perceptible Brahman.” In fact, we don’t even need a form to evoke reverence. Vaayu, Air, is enough for us. Space is enough. Time is also revered by us.
Time is generally the one that people are afraid of, except when it is Fourth of July and you have a holiday. Otherwise, time is the one that frightens everyone. That is because time levels everybody. It is just with you, silent—a silent assassin. A silent destroyer, it changes the hair of all—the black haired-one, the blonde-haired one—into what we call gray. That, of course, is assuming that any hair is still there! Time is ubiquitous. It doesn’t spare anybody or anything. Empires crumble in its wake. But for Hindus, time is an object of worship. Is there another culture where death itself can be considered God? Death is not an ordinary thing. Hindus worship Mrityu—Dharmaraaja. So that we have no fear of death, we worship. Suppose you see Mr. Death coming? You have to acknowledge him with reverence, you do namaste. He may even spare you for some time, because he has to reciprocate your namaste. Because death is considered a natural part of the whole process, the fear of death goes away.
Similarly, every phenomenon, every force that is here, from the standpoint of Ishvara, the Lord, is not inert because it is a manifestation of that Lord. The awareness of forms being not separate from Ishvara makes you aware of your environment cosmically. Our environment doesn’t stop with the atmosphere. The ‘environment’ has an extending radius. To begin with, the environment is your neighborhood. Then, extend that to the county, the state, the country, the continent, the globe, the system, the galaxy and the universe—that’s our environment. It is not an ordinary one, really. It’s an amazing one, having so much to offer in terms of your own intellectual adventure—so much to offer. We make inroads into Ishvara’s mind when we explore and understand a particular subject matter. Therefore, we don’t consider any knowledge to be secular. It is all Ishvara’s knowledge.
To be in harmony with the environment, the Gita tells us to simply do what we have got to do every day, with a certain awareness. Let all the devataas, the deities, do their jobs. Let the sun shine. Let the air blow, and let it not get stuck in one place. Vaati iti vaayuh, “Air is that which moves.” We need all the natural forces. Let every one of them function. In fact, we don’t call them ‘forces’; we call them devataas, because we are not referring to some merely material force. ‘Force’ is Ishvara, the Lord, a singular noun that means all the forces together. All the forces are one force. Otherwise, they would be in conflict with one another. They form one singular force, which we call shakti. In Star Wars we heard, “May the Force be with you.” May shakti be with you, the shakti of the Lord. That’s the force.
If I am aware of the bigger picture, how can I ever do anything inimical to this planet and to any life form that is here? How can I eat an animal? It is very difficult. How can I harm anybody? How can I harm anything—even the minerals? In other words, how can I abuse them? I can use them, because we are all mutually dependent. I contribute, I consume. I am not merely a consumer—I am a contributor, too.
Sometimes the contribution is to create what I had to destroy. For instance, I am told in our Dharma Shaastra that if you must cut a tree, then you should plant some also. It is not an easy thing for a tree to grow to full height. It may take twenty years or thirty years—then in a few moments it is cut down. The tree has survived storms, cyclones, and more. When it was a small plant, in order to grow it had to survive the stray goat, the hungry cow, and the idiotic human being. Once it finally became a tree, someone may have cut it down with a chain saw. In earlier times, using a handsaw, it took some time to finish cutting down the tree. In the process, the person may wonder, “Should I cut this tree?” He may discover, “No, I should not” and go away. These days, however, it takes only a few minutes to fell a tree. So one does not have the time to reflect upon and change the action. If it is a whole day’s work, then you may be able to change your mind. Even if during one hour you don’t change, at least there is the possibility that in next hour you may, so that not much damage is done to that huge tree. Still it will survive. It may have survived twenty-five years to become this big tree. Some trees have even taken a hundred years, two hundred years, to grow. The coastal redwood trees in California have survived five hundred years or even a thousand years or more. Still the trees are there. And you go and cut them? It is an idiotic thing to do. But people do that. Sometimes you have to cut a tree. The Dharma Shaastra tells me that when I cut a tree, it is a paapa, a wrong action that has undesirable consequences. Therefore, it tells me I should plant ten trees somewhere. Sometimes you fell a tree because you want timber. Or, it is in a wrong place, according to you, because you have decided to put a house there. In fact, it is in the right place. It is standing there, poor thing, never knowing that you would come there. Had it known, it would have grown somewhere else. But the tree, unfortunately, cannot walk around. It is supposed to be so. If the trees and plants were to walk around, you couldn’t get your salad because when you went to pick the vegetables, they would all run away. You would find the spinach running away, all the mango trees running away. Already we have traffic problems. That’s why they are sthaavara, stationary. They have to be what they are. They have to provide you with food.
All food is vegetarian. You can have a non-vegetarian meal, but food is basically vegetarian. When I say that you can have a non-vegetarian meal, I am not giving a sanction for that. I don’t want to disturb you, that’s all. You can have a non-vegetarian meal but food is vegetarian, because if you eat a goat, a cow, or any animal, it has to first find food to give you food. To give itself as food, it has to find food. Where does it find food? In the same plants and trees alone. Oshadhibhyah annam, “From the plants comes food.” Therefore, food is vegetarian. You can have a non-vegetarian meal by making that cow eat the grass—the vegetarian food—and then eating the cow. That is not environmentally healthy, really. Eating the cow is neither healthy for you nor is it environmentally healthy. In fact, I would say it is wrong. It is wrong in the sense that I can live without eating the cow. When I can live without it, why disturb the cow? That is why the cow has been given four legs and the trees are not given legs—they are sthaavara, stationary. My food is outside, and it is vegetarian. “What is eaten is food,” adyate iti annam and “Food is from the plant kingdom,” oshadhibhyah annam. I’m sorry, but that is the truth. All the proteins, all the carbohydrates, have to come from vegetarian food. So, although you can have a non-vegetarian meal, all food is vegetarian because there is no other source. On this planet there is only one source of food, and that is vegetarian.
When I cut a tree, I have to plant ten trees. Thereby, I protect. I am asked to do that by the shaastra. Otherwise, it’s a paapa. There is also awareness, not only of the life forms, but even of the so-called ‘inert’ matter, such as minerals, that are here. All of these are not to be taken for granted. They are here; I am here. I am a consumer; I also contribute to their welfare. Even an acknowledgment of the devataas is expected of me. It’s not that the devatas won’t function without that reverence, but my awareness of their contribution makes the environment, the cosmic environment, different. That is so because I am not totally programmed. I am a person, endowed with choice. And I have to exercise my choice; I have no choice in exercising my choice. What choice do I have to not exercise my choice? I have no choice. Because I can choose, I have to be aware of the whole cosmic environment, and choose to do what is required in a given situation. You do what is proper, what is the least hurtful. When you must hurt, you do the least hurtful thing. And be aware of the forces, letting those forces, those devataas —Ishvara—bless you. You are aware of them, and you invoke their grace.
By being reverentially aware of all the life forms and minerals that are here, you can deal with the more topical environmental problems. This ‘cosmic awareness’ precludes your destroying anything. We protect as well as we can. And the forces will protect us. That’s how it is. You have to protect what is to be protected. What is to protect you, you should protect. You can’t lose that. If you have armour, you should maintain it properly. When you are fighting with bows and arrows, your armour can’t be full of holes. If you are a right-handed tennis player at Wimbledon, you have to protect your right hand properly because it blesses you. The whole thing is in your hand—all the monies you’ve earned are all in one hand. If you are a right-hander, it is only in one hand. If you are a double-hander, it is in two hands. And so, you have to protect those hands properly. The whole cosmos is an environment that protects us. We are beholden to protect it. And that environment also includes fellow human beings.
That’s why the goal of environmentalism cannot be merely to protect human beings as an end in itself. It is not sound to simply try to protect human beings while justifying their destruction of the other life forms and matter, on the basis that humans are a more complex life form. I don’t find that human life is more sacred than the life of a bird or a worm—that is also life. If you argue that it is only a simple form of life, I say that a simple life form is more sacred because it is in harmony with its environment. It is this complex life form that is a problem. A simple life form at least does not go about destroying everything else. Its behaviour is programmed.
The more complex the life form is, the more aware you have to be. As a human, you are a self-aware being; that is your distinction. Naturally, you have to be aware of everything else. If you are aware of everything else, then I would say human life is really something special. For unlike the cow, you have been given a tremendous freedom—the special capacity to choose your actions based on your awareness. This freedom stems from the very self that you are conscious of. It comes from there, because that self you are aware of is the plus you have. In that plus is your freedom. Although the self is there for a cow, too, it doesn’t seem to be totally aware of the self. If it were, it would have complexes like you have. This self that I am aware of gives me a freedom to choose to do or not to do.
You can choose to have a couple of months out of the year to hunt deer. For two months, during ‘deer hunting season’, you are free to hunt the deer. Why not also give the deer a chance to hunt you? Suppose the deer population decided, “Human beings are too numerous these days, and that is not good for us. I think for two months we will hunt them.” Then we are in the same boat. Then it’s fair, a free-for-all—survival of the fittest. I don’t agree with the justification that, “Swamiji, at this rate, the deer population will increase.” Let them increase. Why do you bother about that? Let them take care of it. We take on responsibilities that we are not supposed to assume. It is like someone losing sleep, worrying, “What should I do to make the sun rise in the morning?” If he considers this to be his problem, what can you do? We carry too many things that we need not. It is like a lady on the early morning train, which is empty, who is carrying a big basket of vegetables on her head. When she was asked, “Why are you carrying that on your head? Why don’t you put it down?” she replied, “I don’t want to load down the train.” We have too many loads like this. Think about all the loads you believe you are carrying, which you are not really carrying, which, in fact, somebody else is carrying. Yet we worry about what will happen tomorrow if we don’t carry these loads. What will happen tomorrow? Exactly what happened yesterday. Tomorrow the sun will rise. You are worried about the weather, so you check the forecast—what will the temperature be tomorrow? All right, now that you know the temperature, what are you going to do? Are you going to change it? If the forecast says that tomorrow will be 98 degrees, from now on, you worry about how hot it is going to be.
We create problems. We are funny people, really. We say we are evolutes of monkeys, but you should talk to the monkeys. I can imagine a conversation with a monkey, “You know, human beings are evolutes of you fellows.” The monkey said, “What?!! They are evolutes? If that is the case, we don’t want to evolve!” What kind of evolutes are we? If you have a bigger picture, however, then you can enjoy what the monkeys cannot. Otherwise, monkeys are better off. They don’t destroy the environment as we do. If we leave them alone, they just fall into their slots in the scheme of things. Every snail, every oyster, falls into its own slot. It doesn’t really transgress it, but rather, does exactly what is expected of it. We have to learn that so that we don’t rub against our environment and so that we avoid getting rubbed. That is real ecology.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recognizing the Self as is

When we want to recognize the truth of the self,  we need a mind, whose restlessness and clinging to its own stories, we can simply put aside for a while, so that we can recognize that we do have an existence independent of the mind-body-world.
In that quiet frame of mind, we can definitely confirm for ourselves that :-
1.      Whatever is perceived, like the world, the body, activities, sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, ignorance all are:-
a.      Subject to change – temporary, time-bound
b.      Dependent on their causes, and totally dependent upon ‘I’, the conscious being to make themselves known. Therefore they are subject to discontinuance. They come up to go in the presence of consciousness, the self
c.       Limited by simply being themselves, beside being limited in time
2.      The consciousness that shines as ‘I’ is self-evident, self-existent and INDEPENDENT of all that stands revealed in its ever-presence. We must confirm for ourselves, meaning recognize without the shadow of a doubt, that consciousness, the self, is self-evident, self-revealing and is ever-present in every cognition, in every emotion, in every feeling, in every sensation, in every activity and yet INDEPENDENT and therefore not changed or affected by the presence of these, even as light is unaffected by what is illumined in its presence. Consciousness illumines by its very presence and everything else is illumined. Perception simply takes place in the presence of self-existent, independent consciousness.
3.      Consciousness is the independent principle – and one must recognize as one’s own truth that the consciousness that is the self, is not limited by any object whatsoever, nor by space, nor by time

It is really all about recognition of consciousness-I as is – without superimposing anything, not even an idea on it. It is not really a new experience, because consciousness has always been present as the very self, in every experience. It is simply recognizing the same ever-present consciousness-I as it is, without mixing it up with what is illumined in its presence.

Once the independent nature of consciousness is truly recognized and owned up, the presence of one’s mind is not a disturbance or a problem. One’s existence as a body-mind is recognized for what it is – a dependent reality which cannot in reality disturb one’s self.  Perception still takes place, sensations do take place and one does enjoy an enlightened functional identity and so activities take place– and one recognizes that even though everything goes on as before, one is indeed free – totally free. What goes is one’s sense of reality in being a limited individual.  

Om Tat Sat

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Implied Meaning of Words

(adapted from Swami Shuddhabodhananda's book on Tattva-viveka Prakaranam of Panchadashi)

Vedanta is shabda-pramana – a means of knowledge in the form of words. It’s subject matter is to reveal the identity between the individual and Brahman.
The literal meaning of words cannot reveal the nature of Brahman. Why? The nature of Brahman or the self defies description through the direct meaning of any word or sentence. Brahman/ the self is free from all attributes. How can it is be on object of perception or words. Words can describe only those things which can fit into the categories of species (jati),  attributes (guna),  action (kriya), relation (sambandha).
Brahman the Self,  who is all-pervasive is free of all these categories. Therefore the Upanishads themselves declare Brahman as the one from whom words along with the mind returns without being able to objectify it.
However  the  Upanishads uses special means of communication within a known context to convey the nature of Brahman, using LAKSHANA VRITTI.
When a sentence is used as means of knowledge (pramana), its operation is effective, provided the meaning of the words therein and the sentence as a whole are properly understood.
The meaning of a given word or a sentence can be literal, implied or figurative depending on how it is employed. The inherent capacity of words to yield the appropriate meaning as per a context is called as VRTTI. It indicates the relation (sambandha) between the word (pada) and its meaning (padartha),  resulting in an understanding of the word (shabda-bodha).
Vrttis are of three types.
1.      Abhidha Vritti : It gives the literal meaning (vaacyartha)  of a word. It is also called mukhya vritti. For example, ‘this is a cup’ – the direct meaning of cup is immediately understood.
2.      Lakshana Vritti:  When the literal meaning of a word or a sentence does not fit in with the meaning then either the meaning must be wrong, or we have to look for the implied meaning. If the sentence is not wrong, there may be a possibility of conveying some meaning other than the direct one. This is called lakshana vrtti.  It gives the lakshyartha – the implied meaning. In this case some aspects of the word or words may have to be deleted, retained or added, depending on the context. We will see the three sub-division of this vritti.
In the case of the maha-vakya tat tvam asi,  this type of vritti is employed as the direct meaning does not make sense.
3.      Vyanjana Vritti:  This gives the figurative meaning. When the first two vrittis fail to convey the meaning, one can look into this.
The three sub-divisions of lakshana vritti are as follows.
Jahal-lakshana vrtti is the lakshana vritti which discards (jahati)  some aspect. Here the primary sense of a word is given up, yielding a different sense which is connected to the primary one in some way.

A familiar instance is gangaayaam ghoshah – “a village on the Ganga. A village on a flowing river is not possible. So we discard the meaning of a flowing river Ganga and interpret the word Ganga as the ‘bank of the Ganga’.Thus the implied meaning is that there is a village on the banks of the Ganga.

Here the original sense of a word used is not given up but it is supplemented by a relevant word.
Shono dhaavati’ – meaning “the red runs”. Now the red colour by itself cannot run; therefore it means “a red horse runs”.

In bhaagatyaaga-lakshana vritti or jaha-ajahal-lakshana vritti, words convey the implied sense by discarding the mutually contradictory aspects. “Soyam devaduttah”-  This is that Devadutta’ .

You were going to your office. On the way you met your friend who was talking to a bearded man in a suit. You friend introduces this man as “This is that Devadutta’. Immediately you recall who the person is – you remember the owner of the chai shop in Calcutta where you used to drink tea in your college days. That guy never had a beard, and used to be dressed in a dirty lungi and banian.  Later he also came to Dehradun and became a successful businessman, which you never knew about.

In this sentence, “that” represent Calcutta, the time twenty years ago and the person the chai-shop owner. “This” means the present time at Dehradun, and the  businessman. In point of fact, both these group of characteristics qualify the same person, Mr Devadutta. Yet there is an apparent contradiction because they differ from each other and cannot be the same. So to understand the statement what happens in your mind, before recognition takes place is that you have discarded the mutually opposite aspects, (the place and the looks) (bhaaga-tyaaga) and retained only the locus, who is the individual Mr. Devadutta.
Bhaaga-tyaaga  is an important means of communication provided the context is known. This lakshana vrtti is used to understand the maha-vakya “That You Are”.

Om Tat Sat