Philosophy

Song of self – Verse IV…

Song of self – Verse IV…

Dear readers,

First accept my sincere apologies for the long delay. Totally my fault and I am sure most of you have given up on me:(. I will be regular and win you all once again:)

Here is the 4 th verse and will soon be followed by the 5th and the last one…


 

 

Atma Shatagam—Adi Shankaracharya  788-820 BC

Na punyam na papam, na saukhyam na dukham

Na mantro na Teertham, na vedo na yagnaha |

Aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta

Chidananda roopah, shivoham shivoham |4|

न् पुण्यम न् पापं न् सौख्यं न् दु:खम

न् मंत्रों न् तीर्थं न् वेदा न् याग्ना:

आहम भोजनम न् भोज्यं न् भोक्ता

चिदानन्द रूपह शिवोहम शिवोहम ||४||

Meaning:

I have neither merit (virtue), nor demerit (vice). I am not attached to any righteousness or sinful deeds. I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have I happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure.  I have no need for pilgrimages; or any of the sacred scriptures, nor do I have to perform any special rituals or sacrifices.  The Vedas and Yagnas are of no concern to me, even the holy places. I am neither the meal nor the one who consumes or what is consumed.  I am none of the triad of the observer or the one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced.   I am the fortunate, joyful, Supreme Being who is the very emblem of truth, knowledge and eternal bliss. I myself am the spiritual joy of pure consciousness; Shiva- Shivoham Shivoham. I am indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, love and pure consciousness.

Further Elaboration:

This beautiful verse is taking us a step closer to knowing oneself. The Self remains unaffected by neither external senses nor the inner turmoil of emotions we create within for ourselves.  This verse tries to explore and nullify a few other entanglements which affect the self, distancing us or differentiating the self from the pervasive Self.  We are like the spider entangled in its own web. The spider spins the web from its own self and foolishly , or perhaps unwittingly (like us humans) keeps spreading the web and it remains in the center of the web the core of the web is the spider and the day it destroys itself, the web disappears.  The spider borrows no material from outside, it is all in the spider, the spider, the web around it , the world the spider has created for itself, all from within the spider, the web to the onlooker appears to be on the outside which is a mere illusion. Verily like this world, its sequential events that we are so entangled in; but if we pause and see, observe, be the observer, we realise the myth that all this apparent reality is.

A small narrative is reproduced here for further clarification: An ageing master grew tired of casino his apprentice’s complaints. One morning, he sent him to get some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” said the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”

“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man. At this the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly,

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

This again elucidates the extent to which we are governed by our mind and perception. Either we are like the spider caught in its own web spun out of its own self. Or we are like the apprentice who is unable to look at the larger perspective and dwell in our small world; the limited glass of water. For a realised person none of this matter, yet everything matters. He /she are neither bound by event nor does this realised person crave for freedom from such event.

Another perspective to fathom this better; the food we eat goes through the whole cycle, does it not? It is in the seed form, grows into a sapling, plant and tree and bears fruit again. We eat the fruit in the raw form and some digests; gives us the requisite energy, the faeces we pass is also the same fruit we consumed. This goes back to the nature, consumed by some other life forms and converted to energy yet again. This faeces returned to nature in a different form provides manure or life energy to the soil and in turn to the tree too. What or who is getting affected here and how? Everything finally seems to convert to energy, a life force depending on the need of the life form. This person, enjoying the food, is a part of the external universe and identifies with the gross universe, which is but a manifestation or the Maya in play. This Maya or mula prakiti is the cause of this universe. Whereas, the Atman or the prajna exists as the Hiranyagarbha and enjoys the subtle universe; and as Virat, enjoys the Gross universe. He is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. How can one know about the self without experiencing the self? Does a dead person know he/she is dead? It is the near and dear ones who mourn. Similarly, how aware is a new born? The family rejoices; the little one is in a state of bliss, in communion with the inner self!

Thus, a person who is permanently rooted in the Atman is neither bound by the subject nor by the object. He/she is beyond all dualities. He /she is the spiritual joy of pure consciousness; Shiva- Shivoham Shivoham.  He /she indeed becomes, that eternal knowing and bliss, love and pure consciousness.

The song of Self- Verse Three

Atma Shatagam—Adi Shankaracharya  788-820 BC

Na me dvesha  ragau na me lobha mohau

Mado naiva me naiva matsarya bhavah

Na dharmo na chartho  na kamo na mokshah

Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham (3)

न् में द्वेष रागौ न में लोभ मोहौ

मदों नैव में नैव मात्सर्य भाव:

न् धर्मो न् चार्थो न् कामो न मोक्ष:

चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||३||

Meaning:

I have no likes or dislikes; nor I have greed or delusion; I have no pride or arrogance, vanity; Nor am I jealous of anyone or in competition with anyone; I do not need the four main necessities of life namely: Dharma- the Law of Life, Artha- Wealth, Kama – Desires and Moksha – Liberation; I am the fortunate joyful, Supreme being who is the very emblem of truth, knowledge and eternal bliss. I myself am the spiritual joy of pure consciousness- Shiva; Shivoham, Shivoham.

Further Elaboration:

The Seer, in the second verse, was talking about the gross body, the external sheath. In this verse he tries to go a little deeper and addresses the emotions, the way the mind works and how humans get entangled by the webby mind.  A realised soul, atman is not only devoid of the gross body and its sheaths, the atman is also devoid of illusions and emotional webs. Lust, hatred, delusion, pride, jealousy and greed are the shad ripus; our internal enemies which lead us astray from knowing oneself.  They are also called arishadvargas; these feelings or emotions emanate from the mind, and affect the mind too.  A person who is under the influence of these is still in an illusionary state, follows the dictate of the mind and commits deeds, good and bad. Depending on the actions the result or karma is endured by the seeker. So joys and sorrows, or success and failure, or pain and pleasure follow each other. The true aspirant is yet to know that the gross body, in tandem with these internal enemies, is going through the life cycle. Whereas the atman, being a part of that One supreme being; thus is devoid of this duality. The atman is not affected by these internal enemies, or the external sheaths discussed earlier. The atman is beyond all these.  The supreme one has no obligation to be righteous, procuring wealth and or maintaining physical well-being, aspiring for Liberation; none of these bind the atman. A person under the influence of these internal enemies commits sins and as a result suffers pain; with an ever increasing bondage and clinging towards this samsara/world. But a jeeva mukta who has achieved Realization is free of these internal passions. A jnani always maintains the same sightedness or sama-dristhi towards everyone, everything and every event. The atman is free of this life and death cycle. Atman is one with the Supreme Being.

Exercising Dama- sense control and Sama- mind control we need to again and again bring the mind back to the Self or Atman.  When the world fails to tempt us in anyway, the mind begins to earnestly think of the Atman.  Once these temptations are lost on the mind, we move closer to the heart. The mind acknowledges and gets the power of discrimination. The world is but [ 5 ] Page 20The Rise of Pentaho Analytics along with Big data recovery Pentaho, headquartered in Orlando, has a team of BI veterans with an excellent track record. Maya, a projection of the Supreme one in the shape, form, colour, and size that is convenient to us humans.

A small analogy to illustrate the above verse: Our room is ours because of the identity and special attachments we add to it, décor of choice, our special corner, our own cosy specially chosen towels with colour and print of our choice, we inadvertently go about giving those four walls a special unique identity and think that is the whole world! Just imagine breaking those four walls; is it possible that a part of the other room could now be a part of your identity too?  Now, the adjacent room and your room have lost their differences or in other terms become one big room, right? And again, going a little further, if we are able to do away with the walls of the house altogether; then it is possible that we can feel one with the neighbour too? And this can go on, to breaking away the boundaries, physically and psychological.  What is it that is separating us? Are they not these walls we build, physically in the material world and mentally or emotionally for the inner world? We came from The One Supreme Being, God is one and we all are definitely carrying Him within us. We have, over the years developed layers and layers and further more layers; built a stronghold of emotions and samskaras, differentiated ourselves from Him, separated the self from the Self, who has ever been within us, a mute spectator, waiting patiently.  The wait is simply to be able to peel away these coatings, look deeper, and remove the coloured glasses and become one with the Self. The Self is all pervasive only when we are one with the Self, else it instantaneously becomes the self, with its differentiation and layers.

If one adds water to water, it remains the same, when one adds colour to water, does not imply that the water has lost its identity, it is the person who added the colour who sees it thus. How is water getting affected in all this? Similarly, the all-pervasive is the same; we have added layers and hidden Him inside, in the deepest recess of the heart. That is exactly what the great seer, Shri Ramchandra ji said, “God has hidden Himself inside you and exposed you, you hide yourself, and expose Him”. And then you will know, realise that you are, and were always one with Him.  And we sing with others; I myself am the spiritual joy of pure consciousness- Shiva; Shivoham, Shivoham.

 

 

The Song Of Self – Second Verse

The Song Of Self – Second Verse

Atma Shatagam—Adi Shankaracharya  788-820 BC

 

Na cha prana sangno , na vai pancha vayuhu

Na va sapta dhatur, na va pancha koshaha

Na vak paani padau, na chopastha payu

Chidananda roopah shivoham shivoham  ||(2)||

न् च प्राण सज्ञों , न वै पञ्चवायु:

न वा  सप्त धातुर , न वा पञ्चकोश्:

न वाक् पाणी पादौ न चोपस्था पायु:

चिदानंद रूपः शिवोहम शिवोहम ||२||

Meaning:

Neither can I be termed as air (the breath of life – mula prakriti) nor the five vital airs (panch prana) nor the seven material essences (that make up the gross body: namely- Rasa-lymph, Rakta- blood, Mamsa- Flesh, Meda- Fat, Asthi- bone, Majja – marrow and Sukra- Semen.) These seven elements make up the gross body, and atma is not this gross body. Nor am I the five sheaths- the layers of limitation that help to build the personality namely: food, air, mind, knowledge or wisdom and pleasure

 Nor can you say that I am the five instruments (organs of action) of elimination, namely – faculty of speech, nor the faculty of grasping (hands), nor the faculty of moving (legs), nor the faculty of procreation and nor that of excretion.

 I am indeed, that eternal knowing and love. I am Shiva (Auspiciousness, the silence) of the nature of pure Consciousness and Bliss. I myself am the spiritual joy of pure consciousness – Shiva; Shivoham, Shivoham. 

Further elaboration:  

We experience everything through and with our Gross body, our external self.  The minute we are born, out of the womb, our process of externalisation begins. Also, as we grow, the further enmeshed we get in this gross self, dowsing the inner self to a deep slumber.  The causal body is the storehouse of Karma, and the events get manifested on our gross body due to our Karmic cycle. Likewise, our atman or soul experiences the inner universe. The inner self or the jivatma is awakened in the sleep state unlike the causal body which functions in the waking state.

Thus, the saint sings and tries to explain that the atman is different or separate from the Gross body. Due to ignorance the man, jiva, identifies himself with the gross and the causal body, depending on sleep or wakeful state. Thus, we are enmeshed and engulfed in this exterior self; suffer and live, relive through these illusionary experiences.  Because the source we all are born out of is nameless, formless, devoid of attributes and plays no role in our joys or in our sufferings; Shankarcharya says, this true self is who we are, the name less, formless one, only pure consciousness and bliss; that is all we all truly are.

If anyone has seen Bruce Lee’s series “Longstreet” Episode 1.1 where he teaches his student “The way of intercepting fist” Bruce Lee talks of the importance of being like water. The closest description, explanation that can be related to this is what Bruce lee says, “Be Like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

 Being like water is probably the closest we can get to becoming Him, The Supreme Being.  Water is called by different names in different languages, yet it is the same. Water is called by different names in different languages, yet it is the same. Water mixed with anything becomes that thing or part of that thing, tea- coffee- milk- yet does not become that. It retains itself, its identity. It is attached or used to fill a purpose. Water takes the shape of the container, can be frozen to make ice; can be boiled to make steam or vapour, yet remains water. It takes the shape of the container in its own self continuing to remain formless, shapeless and tasteless too. It remains unique in its identity and is still the elixir of life.

Water seeps through cracks, finds its way, a raindrop falls, touches the ground, becomes a stream, flows to merge with the river, changing shape, colour, taste, along the way, always learning,  moving on, intent and focused on the real goal. Water flows ceaselessly till it does not merge and become one with the ocean. That raindrop finds its way to the ultimate because it is changing, moving on. If it refuses to flow, becomes rigid, it stagnates and stinks, useless and neglected.

Similarly, what is inside us is reflected on the outside. If we are unyielding and rigid, we perceive all else also with the same eye and become hard, unyielding.  If, we but for a moment, can close our eyes and really see, we will realise that change is the way of life. Learning is through change, wisdom is from learning to change and realisation comes with change. We are but a part of this surreal drama and the only truth is never changing. The rest is transient, comes and goes. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

This reminds me of a story. “A talented sculptor created a beautiful sculpture of God, the people praised him, and asked him how was he able to create such a beautiful thing. The sculptor said, “The sculpture was already there in the stone, I just removed the unessential parts.” Similarly, when we begin to meditate, contemplate, the unessential fades away and truth reveals itself. And we realize that we are indeed, that eternal knowing and love.

 

THE SONG OF SELF – FIRST VERSE

Atma Shatagam—Adi Shankaracharya  788-820 BC

 

“Mano bhudhya -hankara chittani naham

Na cha shrotra jihve ,na cha ghranna netre

Na cha vyoma bhumir na tejo na vayuhu

Chidananda roopah shivoham shivoham”

मनो बुध्य हंकार चित्तानि  नाहम,

न् चा श्रोत्र जिह्वे न् च घ्राण नेत्रे

न् चा व्योम भुमिर न् तेजो न वायु:

चिदानंद रूपह: शिवोहम शिवोहम

Meaning:

I am not mind nor intellect,thought  nor ego, or some form of the supreme being; I  neither have ears , nor tongue and I neither have nose (nostrils) nor eyes; I am not the sky , earth , light or the wind;  Nor the reflection of inner self.

I am beyond that, I am not ether, nor the earth nor the fire nor the wind; I am fortunate, joyful, and Supreme Being who is the very emblem of truth, knowledge and eternal bliss.

I am indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, I am the spiritual joy of pure consciousness – Shiva; I am love and pure consciousness.

Further elaboration:

When the world came into being, something must have existed before from which or through which the world happened, right?  It is the million dollar question we all ask; “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” If God did create this universe, then where was God before this universe got created and why the need to create this world at all? The popular belief is; only space existed and a stir was created, ‘Kshobh’; this stir brought the world into existence and with it space and time was occupied by creation, His creation.

The logical conclusion that we can draw here is that since we all are beings that came from the Kshobh, then we are a part of the initial stir, maybe a miniscule part, nevertheless a part of the Creator of the kshobh; the creator too by extension.  Thus, moving a little further with the same analogy, we being a part of the creator, we have it in us, each and every one of us, that potential to be Him, the Creator. So, if we are the creator ourselves or have the potential to become Him then we, our real core self, definitely is nameless and formless like the Creator.

This is exactly what Shankaracharya sung when he was merely eight years old!  He says that we are not the mind, intellect nor ego. The Self within us is He, the creator and the self, is so engrossed in the gloss on the outside that we miss mobile casino the Self and describe the self only. Thus, the Self, or the creator has become a mere spectator, probably like the ignition key in the car, when you start the car, once is all you need to click and turn. Then the driver and the machine take over. Similarly, God created the world and we human beings took over. He stepped aside. But the God within us is beneath all our human layers of differentiation and ego; as a mute observer.

Manduka Upnishad (III.I.I) has a small story about two birds sitting on a branch

“Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names,

Cling to the same tree.

Of these one eats the fruit of divergent tastes,

And the other looks on without eating.”

Meaning: The two birds are self and Self, the outer self and the inner Self. It is a beautiful allegory; where the Supreme Self is sitting on a tree, a witness, watching, not participating, and doing nothing in fact.  The small self or the outer self is eating fruit of divergent tastes and reacting, behaving according to the taste of the fruit just savoured; while the Self looks on.

The next verse in the same chapter, same Upanishad further says:

“On the same tree, the individual soul remains drowned (i.e. stuck), as it were;

And so it moans, being worried by its impotence.

When it sees the other, the adored Lord, and His glory,

Then it becomes liberated from sorrow.” (Manduka, III.I.2)            

 

Meaning: The tree is supposed to be the body or the human self and on the same tree the individual soul is supposed to be drowned, stuck, indulging in its divergent tastes mentioned in the prior verse.  Thus, very aptly put, it simply implies and explains what the Shankaracharya has sung in this verse.

I am that, your inner Self; and your self is so busy with the small things of life, it (the outer self) adamantly refuses to take time and look within, seek the answer to the profound question; “Who am I?”

When we do take time, and the occasion comes, to look at the higher Self within us that we adore His glory and come to believe that we can be liberated. And in due course with practice and sadhana we move towards our goal of Self- realisation.

Thus, the human being enshrines both the selves. The higher Self is the supreme Divinity, God, Lord and Creator, whatever we choose to call Him. The lower self is us, the mortal human being going on with the daily life, trying to give meaning and understanding to our true goal of life. And, one day it becomes imperative that we awaken to the inner Self, and realise the Supreme Being within us.

Thus, to conclude the first verse, once we are conscious and awakened to the inner Self, how can we be anything but that Supreme Being enmeshed and hidden Within? We are that Supreme Consciousness, pure love and Bliss and all else; the fire, water, ether; our senses, eyes, ears all fade into oblivion and lose significance. We suddenly realise we are not that, none of the above. We are indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, We are the spiritual joy of pure consciousness – Shiva; I am love and pure consciousness.

 

Who Am I? – Introduction

Who Am I? – Introduction

This probably is the most ubiquitous question which has bothered everyone.  All of us at some point, stage, age wonder about the self; our real purpose or goal of life. Why we are here and what we have been sent to accomplish or achieve? During our most depressing moments we strive for answers and lean towards introspection searching for meaning; trying to fathom the reason why events are happening the way they are and what is the logic behind all this.

Every human being is unique and every event in the person’s life occurs for a reason or purpose. It is for the individual to figure out the reason and unravel the mystery of who he/she is and his/her real goal of life.

As kids we are so self – absorbed and self – centric that nothing outside of the self we bother to acknowledge, probably the core reason why children are usually happy and so self – assured. All they seek is immediate fulfilment of needs and they are smiling, innocent and in blissful state.  As we grow we begin to get enmeshed with relationships, identity roles, emotional game plays and the more we spread our web the further tightened gets the grip of the web.  Without any realisation, we find ourselves caught in the vicious grip of life, pathways in every direction, leading everywhere, purpose less; mindless and unending. This begins gradually with teenage and hits us as midlife crisis when we find ourselves stuck, unable to move ahead, doing everything right, yet continuously hitting dead ends and experiencing failures or setbacks.

Every lamp has the same potential to burn and emanate light, but it needs some external being, source to illuminate it once. Every seed has the potential to become a fruit bearing tree but again, it needs ideal soil, fertiliser and the tender hand of a loving, wise gardener who will nurture the seed and see it grow to its full potential.  Every stream, rivulet flows ceaselessly moving ahead washing different shores and merging with different rivers; in an attempt to merge with the ocean and become one with it. Every egg hatches into a beautiful chick with proper care.  The beautiful butterfly goes through a long drawn incubation period, in the very unbecoming and ugly larva, caterpillar stage. We all have the potential to become one with the divine or returning to our original state provided we know who we are, why we are here, and how we need to live our life so as to realise our true goal of life.

It is a very striking point to note that when the universe began it was in such a pristine pure state; science and spirituality were one, Religion was one, and we all were one. Every householder was a saint, enlightened and achieving the real goal of life. With time ominously dark clouds started to appear, wisdom became a restricted property. Religion became Religions, and Science and spirituality parted ways. Science looked for reason and doubted everything, Spirituality became the mute spectator. We have uprooted our own culture and heritage in our greed for wealth and scientific advancement. What every householder knew then is an enigma to almost the whole nation now.

 Adi shankaracharya could answer with such simplicity and lucidity then, in 788 – 820 BC; at the mere age of 8; we, today, are yet to decipher and capture the essence of those verses.  This realised soul knew the reason, purpose, source of his existence and the role he had come to play in the short life that God had blessed him with. He sings the beautiful ATMA SHATAKAM, the song of self,  Or NIRVANA SHATAKAM , illustrating and trying to answer the  fundamental question- “who am I?”

Adi Shankaracharya, wandering in Himalayas, seeking his guru, was asked by a seer, “who are you?” The sage the boy was talking to was none other than Swami Govindacharya himself, the teacher Shankarcharaya was searching for.  How the student introduced himself to his Guru is beautifully portrayed in these enlightening verses.

Deep contemplation and repetition of these verses with bhava Or the right attitude , is said to lead to the absolute and bring self- realisation to the seeker.  That is why the name Nirvana Shatakam; Nirvana is the complete equanimity , peace, tranquillity, freedom and joy. Shatakam are the count of 6 verses , the length of this poem. Similarly, atma shatakam; atma is the true self. These are the 6 verses which help one realise their true self, and lead to self-realisation or nirvana.

These verses date back to 788 – 820 CE and speak of non- dualism in the Hindu philosophy and teachings. They form the basic core of Advaita philosophy and find a space in Mandukya upnishad also.

 

In the forthcoming articles, in this series, the writer makes a humble attempt to rewrite a verse at a time; making an attempt to explain and also understand the essence of this most enlightening verses by this unparalleled great seer.  Hopefully, the reader and the writer can take a small step forward on the path of freedom and self-realisation.

 

Devil – Angel ? Angel – Devil ?

Devil – Angel ? Angel – Devil ?

Throughout our growing up years, we have been taught to listen to the Angel within. Ignore what the Devil says and focus on what the Angel prays for us, because what the angel says is correct or virtuous for us. And throughout growing up years each one of us seems to wage this war, trying to listen to the Angel, or ignore the Devil’s voice and follow the dictate of the Angel. Personally, I was never able to figure out from the pictures of the Devil and Angel, as shown in books and comic strips, why the Angel always appeared sad, despondent, and miserable or near tears! And on the other hand the devil seemed to be enjoying, making merry, jubilant, and always very enthusiastic! The expression of the Angel, sombre and serious was forever a mystery and discouragement to me. And the Devil, with his cheeky, challenging, taunting smile with all the wickedness in the eyes always seemed tempting!

My parents tried to instil in me the importance of listening to the angel;  to obey the angel and it was arduous for me to resist the Devil, the angel always looked so defeated and lost and impoverished! On the other hand the Devil always had this gleeful, exultant smile showing all the tempting goodies and treasures forbidden by the angel! As a child it was impossible for me to listen to the pathetic whinging, whining angel and required a lot of determination, will power to ignore the tempting goody laden devil by the angel’s side. Probably, the key reason, why I was always so mischievous and up to pranks, was getting into messes and scrapes. All the lectures my parents gave fell on deaf ears the minute my eyes fell on the images of the sad angel and happy devil. If the devil was happy doing what it was, life is too short and precious to be sad and do forced good all the time. I preferred to do bad, play pranks, join hands with the devil and have fun!

It was very disheartening for me later, when the mistakes needed to be undone and I was reprimanded, punished or derided for my devilish behaviour. When I entered my college days and the choice of career came; I realised that the temptation or the advice the Devil gave was always positive! And whatever the angel said, poor soul, it did beseechingly pray that I make the correct choice; seemed negative to me! And my personality development classes, self- help books I used to read, always emphasised on positive affirmations, and here the angel perpetually seemed to beg, “Don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t eat that, don’t, don’t, don’t…” Not a single instruction seemed positive. On the other hand the devil always gave positive instructions, goading and challenging and urging the inner voice to, “ Do this, Go there, eat that Go on, jump, run, steal, all are positive” Never a single negative instruction. Spontaneously I would heed to the devil, after all it was asking me to  do , good or bad then made no sense and probably it would still have not made any sense, if I had not begun meditation and took my time to ponder, ruminate and mull over my actions, consequences and the voices in my head.

The thought that crystallised is; God created this world, which is about it. Then He decided to sit back and enjoy. God does not register duality nor does nature have duality in it. It is the way it is. It rains, if we want to get wet we soak ourselves and enjoy the rain, else we shield ourselves with an umbrella. Thus, we created the duality, till things were in His hands all was one. We took over, exercised our brains and duality began, the concept of good, bad, negative positive, Angel Devil and it goes on, confusing us, challenging us and forcing us to make choices which are contradictory always. The sun simply shines, that is what it does, if one does not want the sunshine, the concerned person does not venture into the sun! The sun simply shines, rain falls, and trees grow. We mould ourselves, do or not do, depending on what we want and don’t want.  And to make the run more enjoyable to Him and tough for us dumb nuts, God designed, so that the devil gives positive instructions, and the angel sadly always gives us a constant drone of negative instructions. When we meddled with His will, He decided to sit back and enjoy whilst we made fool of our selves juggling this devil angel , angel devil thought process for every decision , and choice to be made.

If only we all begin to meditate it would be easier on all of us, or definitely change the pictures of the Angel and devil, please. Teach the angel to smile and give positive instruction, tempt us to do the right and show the devil as a loser, struggling to make his voice heard. That role reversal and instruction change will hopefully give the mind only positive instruction which is good and beneficial too! The devil be damned and the Angels will dare, smile and win.

Bhajans – Singing for Him

Meaning:

The etymology of Bhajan has stemmed from the root word ‘Bhaj’– “to honour, adore.”  Thus, singing Bhajans is a form of active involvement of a devotee in the worship of the Divine. It is the Love, respect and adoration felt by the worshipper towards his/her own personal God. The kind of love expressed for Krishna in Meera Bhajans or the state in which Chaitanya Maha Prabhu sung for His Lord transporting every listener into His divine realm, enabling them to visualize their Lord, through the Bhajans. Singing Adoration, bhajana; in His name forcing him to listen and appear is the essence of a Bhajan.

History and Origin:

 Bhakti, as explained on the Wikipedia, is the technical term meaning ‘portion or share’. Bhajans are a way or means of showing ‘Bhakti’ or Devotion by the aspirant. Bhajans are that part of bhakti where the devotee rapturously sings praise of the Divine and expresses his/her true love, adoration, devotion to the Lord.

 Bhajans first found their mention and place in the Hindu Scriptures in the Sama Veda, the fourth Veda in the Hindu scriptures. They have been informally sung and practiced from the time Devotion or bhakti found vocal expression. They have established a distinctive place different from Sanskrit shloka and Hymns by virtue of their easy flow, simplicity and instant appeal to the common mass. A Bhajan is usually rendered in the colloquial dialect, simple tune accompanied by single musical instrument, touching the innermost chords of every devotee. The rendition is simple, straight from the heart and voices the inner feeling, love adoration of every true worshipper, encouraging the devotee to sing, imbibe and love the Lord through the Bhajans. The fixed tunes, repetition of words mesmerize the listener and help bring an inner transformation. Most Bhajans describe the God’s glories; are interlaced and beautifully woven with anecdotes and episodes from the Lord’s life.

Types of Bhajans:

A dive into the past will reveal the ubiquitous nature of Bhajans in every home and at the core of every ardent devotee’s heart. In the Haridas tradition Bhajans are more popularly known as Kirtans, the way they are addressed by musicians in Southern India. Nirguna bhakti, Vallabhapanthi, Madhura bhakti, Gorakhanathi is some still prevalent traditions of Bhajan singing. Each sect has their own distinctive styles and way of singing.

History reveals that Kirtans or Bhajans started primarily in southern India and spread to the Northern parts. The spearheads of this method of communion with god were Alvars, the Vaishnavites and Nayanars, download mobile Ben 10 game Shaivites in the late 5th century AD or the early 6th Century. The Alvars and the Nayanars eminent singers/saints lyrical, ecstatic, moving devotional compositions were eventually incorporated by the Ramanuja and Madhava philosophical systems.

This period was dominated by the Muslim rulers in the Northern part and only by the middle of the medieval period, somewhere between the 14th to the 17th century did singers/ philosophers/saints like Meera Bai, Kabir, Chaitanya MahaPrabhu, Tulsidas and Tukaram, to name a few, spearheaded the Bhakti movement in the North through their soul searing renditions and melodious compositions in the praise of the Lord. The pivotal message of these saints was to cast aside meaningless rituals and complexities of philosophy and simply immerse oneself in the true divine love for the Divine.

All the aforementioned saints attained salvation singing for Him and Him alone oblivious to all else. With their eyes closed and lost to all else, meditating on the lotus feet or form of the Lord invoking His appearance. They realized through Bhajans and attained Nirvana singing for him.

Even Islam has Sufi music, akin to our Bhajans. Sufi saints attain communion with Allah singing His praise. The central theme behind Sufism is meditation and finding the truth, similar to what Chaitanya Maha prabhu and Shankara, Madhavacharya and Ramanuja philosophy and preaching. Bhajans and Sufi music are thus, the song of the soul.

Because of the simplistic nature of the compositions all the assembled devotees would participate, lose self for a while and achieve that state of communion with the Divine singing along with the eminent saints. Bhajan Mandalis and gatherings became the best stress busters. Everyone came eagerly under one roof keeping aside their petty differences, background and cultural gaps; sat together and unhesitatingly participated in the singing. The lyrics, style, music of the Bhajans gives a feeling of being set free or in a state of bliss; something everyone one longs to experience on a more permanent basis.

Music itself is heavenly and devotional music; divine. Bhajans are thus a complete surrender, expression of love and adoration to Him, through music, the language of the heart. It is said that when Purandara Dasa was barred from visiting the temple he started singing and called out the Lord’s name, in sheer grief and forced Lord Vishnu to appear through the wall. This place is today known as Paduranga Vitthala sthala. .

Meera Bai’s love for Krishna and her utter faith in Him and expression of love and adoration in her every waking moment crystallises in her soulful compositions, and also the many times she forced Krishna to save her, and come to her aide.

All the saints of yore attained salvation through any one method or practice followed to the end with sincerity and faith and complete surrender. Ramakrishna Parmahamsa went into a state of Samadhi merging with Goddess kali singing her name. Meera bai attained Samadhi with her beloved Krishna’s chant on her lips. Till Bhajans don’t come straight from the heart they go unheard by the Lord. Such should be the power of these Bhajans, they should be sung for Him, with Him in the heart and the soul rending music must reach Him and force Him to listen, appear and change the heart of the singer. The essence of the Bhajans must change the heart of the devotee and help him/her merge, surrender to Him, through the Bhajans. Then alone can Bhajans be said to be a Bhajans, songs of the soul, sung for Him.

 

Check-checkmate

Check-checkmate

Udharet asmana atmanam na atmanam avasadayet I

Atma eva hi atmanah bandhuh atma eva ripu atmanah II sloka 5”

 

उद्धरेत  आस्माना आत्मानं न आत्मानं अवसादयेत्  ।

आत्मा एव हि आत्मनः बन्धुः आत्मा एव रिपुः  आत्मनः ।। श्लोक ५

Translation:

“Let a man raise himself by his own self; let him not debase himself. For he is himself his friend and foe.”

 

One is oneself responsible for one’s distinction or debasement. The contributions that others make in these respects are secondary. It is but usual that one complains that one’s enemy has done havoc to one. But no one can hurt without oneself contributing to it. It is possible for a sadhaka (aspirant) to avail himself of a wrong done to him by his enemy for self – purification. Because of misunderstanding and maladjustment man paves the way for self-debasement. And by doing so, he becomes his own enemy. On the other hand, by right understanding and right conduct he elevates himself and thereby becomes his own friend.  One is one’s own arch friend or arch foe. The person who understands this fact; learns an invaluable lesson for life. 

No one courts enmity; friendship alone is sought by all. But one needs to learn to be victorious over self, first.

 

This particular shloka from Bhagwad Geeta always conjures the image of a chess board in my mind. I never really connected to or understood this shloka in its real essence, though is used be repeated very often by my dad during our growing up years. It was one of his favourite shloka. Similarly, chess also was one game I preferred to stay away from, a game my dad excelled at and challenged all his progeny to learn and master.

In retrospect today I can make the connection between the Shloka and the crafty game; both are very individual and pass on the same message to the person playing the game of chess or to the person living the shloka. A game of chess is a very individually uplifting game and tells the player every time that he/she is the sole reason for upliftment or down fall.

The whole Game of chess vests and depends on the King, protecting the king and defeating the opponent King. The king himself has very restricted mobility, yet is the most cherished piece on the board,  the sole piece on which the life and death of the game depends, it is either check or check mate depending on the King. The human nature is also much the same; heart is the king; cocooned and nestled inside the deepest recess of the human anatomy. Surrounded and protected by a plethora of other organs, playing the visibly useful role. The heart only responds if the owner is willing to listen! Else it rhythmically beats and the person is alive only as long as the heart continues to beat, any other organ collapses; life continues. The heart stops, it is game over.

The second most powerful piece on the board is the Queen; the maker or the breaker of the game, she moves with ease deftness and dexterity all over the board. She commands and marshals the other forces and aligns them in a way that she protects the King and also leads the king towards victory, step by step, listening to the king and acting in accordance to the wishes of the king. Same is the mind, the upliftment of the person or the curse which brings the downfall of the person. Mind works the way the owner controls it, controlled by heart it never goes wrong or strays but independent and dominated by its own will and by the other acting forces, external and internal, the mind plays great havoc and in no time reduces the human being to cinders. The heart is a mute spectator watching life slip away, step by step, leading up to death and decay.

Only if the Queen is balanced and powerful can the king be protected and work well with the other forces in the kingdom; march ahead and defeat the opponent. Similarly, if the mind is in the right place, well balanced the person leads a successful life in control of all the other senses. The emotions, reactions, aspirations and ambitions are balanced and lead the individual towards a victorious content filled life winning against the enemies within. And, this person successfully defeats the opponents or contenders in the outside world also.

The rest of the pieces and powers on the chess board help the queen dually, give power to the queen and also save the king from the opponent forces. The queen in turn takes their help and smoothly marshals her forces and defeats the opponent bringing victory and cheer to the king. Likewise, if one has overcome ones vices and effectively reign in the cantering mind, then the silenced mind listens to the heart. Such a person ultimately walks the path of contentment and fulfilment, unconcerned by the adversaries and competition of the world. The mind thinks with clarity and is in competition with no one on the outside. It is at peace within and without.

Thus, the person is responsible for one’s own upliftment and one’s own downfall. Till we do not overcome our own vices and convert those to virtues the chances of winning over any outside agent become negligible. The competition is always from within and the victory begins first with the victory over self and then transcends to victory over others.

Game of Life

Game of Life

As kids, the most popular game at home was Snakes and Ladders. Most of the games used to be for two players or four; Chinese checkers was the only game for 6 people. Snakes and Ladders could be played by any number; we simply improvised with the chess pieces if the players exceeded four. Apart for this, the other reason why we played snakes and ladders was that we were always more than one inching our way to the top, neck to neck, and the others used to be way below, praying that a snake bite us and we slip down to join them! It was more a play of human emotions all the time and it was weird and different to see friends become enemies, pray for their loss and be happy when a third person won, instead of the contending winners. As we grew up, studies took precedence, most of the school friends went different ways and in our busy lifestyle Snakes and ladders was lost and forgotten.

Things took a different turn after my second one, our darling daughter came along. Contrary to her brother, she loves board games of all kinds and she insists that the whole family sit and play! And to our dismay she was not an avid television fan either. Even if we did put her in front of the idiot box, she would barely sit for 10 minutes, even her favourite shows, she wanted one of us to sit and watch with her and she would be explaining the story!! None of us could endure the story of Thomas the Engine, or Oswald or Cee-Bee Bees on a consistent level. Very soon we were taking turns sitting with her and gradually we all started dreading our turn! So a new game almost every week became the new escape route for us, and that is how snakes and Ladders got reintroduced into my life.

She and I used to play for hours and she would be happy winning always, and since I was her only opponent I used to allow her to win, it made her happy and I had a chance to sneak in a few other quick chores, multi-tasking was a feasible option for me only if she won! She used to play with her brother and dad at times and both of them also quickly devised a way to let her win. They soon escaped seeking umbrage of repeated loss or that they were no match against her expertise. She grew up never being able to accept defeat and also overconfident that this was her winning game, she was victorious always.

My daughter’s sand castle crumbled when she began playing with her granny. My mother in law is a very ‘play it fair’ always, kind of a person. She plays to win, be it her grandchild or anyone else, and unlike us she was their putting her life into the game. This became a kind of a tug of war for my daughter and a deja’vu scenario for me. The first time my daughter lost she took it sportingly and hid her shock well in front of her granny; she came and cried her heart out to me saying, “Granny cheats!! She is not a good person, she does not know that in snakes and Ladders I am the only winner, she won I don’t know how!”…it was a stream of epithets and wails, engulfed by abysmal sadness due to her first ever defeat! This instance set me thinking, and I knew I could not approach my mother – in-law and ask her to lose! After all it was a child, her favourite grandchild she was playing against. And even if I did convince and coax my mother in law, what after that? How is my daughter ever going to learn to accept defeat? Is she ever going to learn to lose or will she grow up with the illusion that winning is her birth right?

Somewhere along the line I had made a mistake; in my lethargy and escapist attitude I had passed on something which my daughter may have to suffer with for the rest of her life! I was unable to really pacify my little one that day, just hugged her and kept thinking what my next course of action should be. She obviously did not go back to playing snakes and ladders with her granny, not in that trip, and in a way I was glad. It gave me a respite and time to think.

We sat down to play after a short hiatus and this time I was conscious about many things, my alertness, honesty in playing the game, win or lose accept both with equanimity, her spirit and attitude to the game! Marshalling my defences and strengths we proceeded; and at every step I started talking to her, if a snake bite her she immediately looked at me askance that would I overlook like I used to, and it broke my heart not to. But I was smilingly firm and gave her a new story for every ladder and every snake! A ladder came when she was honest, able to compete, play fair, not feel jealous, and think that this is a game and every game is to learn, enjoy, win some, and lose some too! She lost to granny and she did not like it, and similarly I lose every time I will also feel sad and may never play with anyone again! And a snake bite was when she was getting angry, ready to cry because I was winning, she wanting an extra turn so she could win or even she teasing me if she was on 98 somewhere and I was miserably stuck at some stupid 10 or so, a snake if she could not cheer my previous win and so on and so forth.

It took time, few very patient, long drawn, exceedingly intense games before it finally dawned to her that she had to learn to play, enjoy the game, win or lose a game; any game had a lesson and was fun if the lesson was learnt.

She plays all games with the same ease and grit now, to win always, but willing to roll  a quarter over to the winning side and congratulate the opponent too! Snakes and Ladders had arrived with a bang in my house, teaching my daughter and I a game of life!:)

A pinch of Salt

A pinch of Salt

In this jet paced life when we finally find some time to sit and contemplate, look back, introspect, start to write our life’s journal we begin to relive the past. There, we all have some moments of regret, some filled with pride and joy; some achievements and some failures, a few events which we would change if we stepped back in time and a few we would like to be repeated often because they brought us so much joy and cheer.

Most of this generation in the age group of 35 to 45 is kind of burnt out. We have lived too much too soon, worked too hard too fast thought of nothing but money, career, aspirations to be fulfilled and more money for new dream houses, dream cars and voyages. We all began our career graph well, with lofty dreams of one house, one car or probably for those who were born with a silver spoon dreamt of a few more cars and a few more new businesses abroad; to flourish, grow and succeed has been the pivotal point for this age group. We seem to have been raised with that dream and it is embedded in us and we are incapacitated in a way that we are unable to think of anything else. But now, after crossing 35 years of age we realise we seem to  have lost focus, we are confused more than ever now because no we are raising our children and suddenly we are very aware of the verity that this dream we grew up with has many gaps and lacunae in it!! It is not bringing joy! It is taking us away from family, it is not helping us stay together, instead; it is only piling up frustrations, health concerns and a very bad ethical foundation for the progeny! We are in that conundrum now where the road travelled so far looks pointless and the road ahead is still foggy.

Our parents are sad that we drifted away from them, chasing our dreams. A beautiful family rich with values, bonding and emotional security is today reduced to a nuclear system full of paid helping hands and zero value addition. An emotional crisis seems to be brewing independently in every room of the house and we don’t know what to expect when we reach home, tired from a hard days, dissatisfying work and more challenges to be met tomorrow. Our children are not so happy either, we are never with them! We are always on the phone, we are travelling, and we are busy impressing strangers and trying to keep them appeased because they are giving us business, money and our job vests in their hands. We don’t have a day off because Sunday’s are forcibly dedicated to family chores and pending errands and before we can catch an extra forty winks it is a working day again.

We keep snapping at the kids for no reason and then at the spouse too. We are like that calm sea which is brewing a storm beneath the surface. This age is like that lull before the storm time and when the storm hits it leaves nothing to salvage, it takes it all in its wake of anger and destructive spate. We are unable to unwind, relax, sit back and simply be. Inevitably by the time we touch 45 years we are unable to do it anymore, on the brink of a break down, and if God does take mercy on us, we wind up on the bed with some ailment. Then we are forced to stay in one place, glued to the bed; forced to remain idle, do nothing and then we finally begin to think. Some introspection and most of us may have only one question, ‘Where exactly did we miss the bus?’ So rewinding and coming back to beginning, in this jet paced life when we finally find some time to sit and contemplate…

What we seem to have missed all long is the salt in the potpourri of our life! In this rushed hectic busiest of busy lives also the one thing most of us can’t do without, is salt, right? A sequence of dishes offered on platter every day, three times a day and the one common ingredient that the cook is checking, cross checking  and ensuring that it is in the right measure, not more not less, is – Salt. We can relish a sweet dish which has less sugar and we can forgo sugar altogether too with some effort, but giving up salt in food is probably unimaginable for most of us.

The introspective time we give to one self is like the salt in the potpourri of life’s events and challenges. Without taking time out for one self, ruminate, take a deep dive within and listen to the inner voice, we are living a life bereft of self -worth and awareness. To continue with the same analogy above, in case we think our dish is lacking a little salt we tend to sprinkle some and then eat, unwilling to compromise on the taste or excuse the cook thinking he/she was preoccupied. We comment on the lack of salt and wait till someone brings salt and alters the taste to suit the palete. Yet in the mixed masala life of ours we forget the most important person altogether. We focus on everything and everyone else apart for oneself.

The more this negligence the less the salt in one’s life, and the result is a bland non inspiring confused existence, forever seeking external help and impulsive decision making. Hopefully, we can take as much interest in our own self development and give ourselves the time due in a day. This pinch of salt is the defining difference in our lives, be it busy or relaxed. Don’t you think in this rushed inconsequential existence we all deserve our pinch of salt?