Philosophy

Realisation Through Meditation

The final goal or desire of every spiritual aspirant is Liberation. Intense longing to be free from the bondage of delusion and ignorance by seeking self – knowledge is the ardent desire of every true seeker.

Verse #82 of Vivekachudami states thus:

Sanskrit verse:

मोक्षस्य कान्क्षा यदि वै तवास्ति

त्यजात्तिदूराद्विषयान्विषं यथा

पीयूषवत्तोषदयाक्षमार्जव-

प्रशान्तिदान्तीर्भज नित्यमादरात् ॥

 

English conversion:

mokShasya kaankShaa yadi vai tavaasti

tyajaattidUraadviShayaanviShaM yathaa

pIyUShavattoShadayaakShamArjava-

prashaanthidaantIrbhaja nityamaadaraat ||

 

Word meaning:

मोक्षस्य of liberation कान्क्षा desire यदि if वै indeed तव yours अस्ति exists/is

त्यज give upअत्तिदूरात् from a god distance विषयान् sense objects विषं poison यथा like

पीयूषवत् like nectar तोष contentment दया compassionक्षमा forgiveness आर्जवं straight forwardness

प्रशान्तिः calmness/serenity दान्तिः Self- control भज cultivate नित्यम् daily आदरात् religiously

The meaning is:

If indeed you have a craving for liberation, avoid sense-objects from a distance as if they were poison; and with respectful reverence, daily cultivate the nectarine virtues of contentment, compassion, forgiveness, straightforwardness, calmness, and self-control.

The first word or the beginning of the verse itself is with an ‘if’ questioning the true intent of the aspirant.  This makes it amply clear that the goal is very person dependent and the intensity to achieve the goal also varies accordingly. If one is content with life and the material possessions one is surrounded by then this short lived happiness linked with the wealth amassed will be good enough and the aspiration for anything further, deeper and long lasting happiness will never arise. For such a person self– realization or liberation will be a mere whim or a myth; unattainable in this life time. Thus, they will never venture on such a futile struggle nor believe in aiming for this so called goal of liberation. They will continue to pray, perform rituals and be content living the day to day life amidst the roller coaster ride of emotions, relations and ephemeral pains, pleasures of life. Hence, the operative word for self-realisation is ‘if’ the seeker so desires.  As a corollary we can also say the absence of the desire for self- realisation keeps the aspirant in the vicious circle of rituals and at the kinder garden level of spiritual path. God is a mere means to an end and incessant prayers are made and boons are sought unto death. In such a phase God becomes a means to achieving the worldly pleasures and possessions; this is not wrong at all, yet the true seeker needs to out-grow this phase and move above the kinder garden level.

The present state of the universe verily proves that most of us go through this phase only and are content living and leaving this worldly life desiring nothing more.  At times a seeker grows restless; fathoms that everything worldly either phases out or inevitably leads to pain. The inquisitive mind of such a person grows further longing to seek the permanent happiness or a state of constancy.  The true nature of everything external is that whatever comes has to depart; becomes clear to such inquisitive aspirant and the search for a permanent object leading to lasting happiness begins. The leaning towards God is now treating God as the End and He becomes the object of permanent happiness. It also becomes evident that at His feet alone can happiness be attained and that too if He so wills, by His grace alone can this happen.  This can be treated as the second phase or the under graduate school level on the spiritual path.

Gradually with time and better understanding the student learns to look beyond all this or look within for everything. The realisation that God is one, and God is in everyone begins to dawn. The Hindu philosophy says: ‘There is only God’. Look in any direction or look within, one sees God and God alone. Thus, the student now is eager to become one with Him or understanding the simple truth that God alone is, the aspirant has finally enrolled for the doctorate course on the spiritual adventure.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was once asked which stage were the best and what a seeker should aspire for to which he lucidly explained thus:  “The levels are accepted by the human mind according to the stages of development and its progress….. Finally, when the man reaches the ultimate limit of spiritual progress with the help of sadhana, he experiences the Nirguna nature of the Divine Mother and remains in oneness with Her. All the ideas, such as you and I, subject and object, bondage and liberation, vice and virtue, merit and demerit are then all merged in the One” (Tattvabodh: Insights into Vedanta)

Swami Vivekananda concludes the experiences of Sri Ramakrishna in this manner: “We have seen that it began with the Personal, the extra – cosmic god. It went from the external to the internal cosmic body, God immanent in the universe, and ended in identifying the soul itself with that God, and making one Soul, a unit of all these various manifestations in the universe. This is the last word of the Vedas. It begins with dualism, goes through a qualified monism and ends in perfect monism.”

Thus, self -realization remains the most cherished yet the most elusive real goal of human life. Look within and see Him who is inside; waiting with bated breath for the aspirant to open the doors of the heart and listen to the meek voice of the soul.   Meditation is one simple way which enables the seeker to silence the clamour on the outside and listen to oneself.  Meditation silences the outside noise, stills the mind; closes the physical eyes and opens the heart to merge with the One Divine who has been waiting patiently in the innermost recess of our heart.

Meditation is usually sought only by a seeker who has crossed the kinder garden phase explained above and so the glitter of the outside world holds little or no charm for such an aspirant who wishes to seriously practice meditation.  Having crossed the first stage the keenness to reach for the ultimate truth and realise oneself is strong and sadhana is taken up earnestly and zestfully.

Let us elucidate the advantages of constant practice of meditation and see how it inches the seeker closer to the real goal of self-realisation.  The most practical and common advantage seen with continued practice of meditation is better focus and increased concentration.  This is one key reason why meditation is being advocated in schools and colleges too nowadays. The end result of meditation for students is more focus, fewer distractions thus work less but work smart and come out with flying colours.  Continuous abhyaas or practice of meditation increases the alertness or awareness of the person.

Amongst the five sense organs, eyes play the maximum mischief and make the mind wander. The other senses seek the help of eyes and augment the sensation or the essence of the emotion attached to the sensory objects on the outside world. The fundamental change that happens with practising mediation is we close our eyes! So the outside world plays havoc only to the extent the imaginations runs riot, after that the mind is forced to look deep inside and seek what is within. With practice even the mind stills itself and begins to seek answers from the heart. The thoughts soon are like a wedding procession and the mind watches them go by, not following them or reacting to them. So they are forced to leave and fail to disturb the mind over a period of time.

Meditation done at the same time and same place daily attunes the mind and prepares it to still itself even before the online casino australia person actually sits for meditation. It is like preparing for prayer and ritualistic Puja, where the person gears up and prepares for puja. We bathe, pluck flowers, prepare the Prasad to offer to the Lord, pour oil, and place the wick to light the lamp and finally chant our daily prayers with a heart full of love and devotion. Similarly, same place and same time help the mind to prepare itself to connect with the heart, treat thoughts as uninvited guests and listen to what the heart or the Divine one within is trying to say.

Meditation practiced religiously clear the cobwebs of the mind and enables clearer thinking and discrimination. Mind is like the spider caught in its own web and the more it tries to escape the web of thoughts and confusions the more tightly it seems to get gripped in these malicious, detrimental thoughts and wishes. Meditation clears these cobwebs every day, the spidery mind is not given a chance to give strength to its web of thoughts and thinking becomes clear, practical and dispassionate over a period of time.

Meditation helps rein the cantering mind and forces it to still, observe and in a way learn to be the observer. This third party attitude imbibed over a period of time helps in becoming the seer of one self too.  The mind dispassionately sees and discriminates the right conduct and thinking of the very individual.  This develops ‘viveka’ or wisdom and the right path, action and words all begin to come naturally. Meditation begins like walking uphill through a dense fog and persistent abhyaas results in clearing the fog with the sun piercing through, spreading light enabling clear vision.

This whirlpool like mind twirls ceaselessly and drags it through unwanted mires and tendencies; glossing the heart with layers of grime and weeds entangled mercilessly. Meditation helps cut through these weeds, and still the raging ocean of thoughts and tendencies and the inner core of the heart become visible to the aspirant. The true nature can be seen and work towards change and betterment begins. Thus self- awareness starts and self-realization becomes the true goal of the seeker.

To become true individuals we practice meditation and the first step in this direction is approaching a Guru. Without mentioning the role and need for Guru the whole understanding of this spiritual quest will be incomplete. Self-Realization is impossible without the Blessings of a realized Guru. Swami Vivekananda sought umbrage under Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and never had to look elsewhere.  His guru steered him through the path that leads to enlightenment and merger with God. For self -Realisation one has to approach a Guru, because a Guru is the gateway to God. Saint Kabir himself was a realized soul at the tender age of 12, yet he needed the guidance and blessings of Guru Ramdas to finally merge with God. Self- realisation is like a Himalayan climb full of avalanches and pitfalls a slippery, sinuous and tedious uphill adventure.

Guru is the guide or Sherpa who leads you up to the summit and then let goes of your hand so that you can follow your heart and make your own road through the last leg of the journey. A Sherpa takes the mountaineer through lesser dangerous terrain, leading the way and also removing the hurdles and road blocks. When the summit comes within sight the Sherpa hands over the torch to the mountaineer and he/she has to reach the top alone. Similar is the role of a Guru in the life of a spiritual aspirant.  Every spiritual aspirant is like an unlit candle with the potential to exude light. The guru lights the candle of wisdom, dispels the darkness in the life of the aspirant, encouraging ‘viveka’ or discrimination.

During the initial stages or the formative years the guru holds the hand and leads the aspirant; spoon feeding the student. With time the seed is nurtured and as strong roots develop the tree is soon ready to stand strong on its own and also become a fruit bearing tree. Until such a time comes the presence of the Guru is imperative in the aspirant’s life.

To conclude, the willingness has to be the aspirant’s; the ardent desire to seek the inner truth and connect with oneself has to come from the aspirant. When the desire is true and strong the Guru appears automatically, lights the lamp of wisdom and leads the aspirant towards ‘viveka’ through meditation and inner search. Thus with time, diligent practice and Guru’s blessings Self – realisation becomes a verity within reach and attainable by the aspirant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Sahaj Marg- Miraculous Path

The biggest hurdle for me on joining Sahaj Marg was letting go of my beautiful and most cherished temple. I had literally created it, handpicked the small idols from different holy places I had visited over the years and almost everything in that temple had some story, memory, meaning attached to it. Even the small lamps that I used were from Kedarnath!

Apart for me amassing them with love and devotion, a few idols that came as a gift, came at very opportune or propitious moments and made their place in the temple permanent. To sum it up the temple was very miraculous and significant to me and I was loathe dismantling it or seeing it leave the house. Maybe that it is why it took me a year to give away without having any qualms or feelings of guilt, fear or shame.

The second, bigger block was the ‘miracles’ that most of my family members used to narrate to me, whenever they visited a temple or their family guru performed a Puja at their place. This bothered me much more than the temple really because in Sahaj Marg we do not have anything like ‘miracles’ and we are seriously advised NOT to look out for or seek miracles! Temple worship is treated a bit leniently in comparison to the new comer seeking miracles in Sahaj Marg, according to me.

I used to listen to my relatives with admiration and slight resentment; envy that I do not have such stories or experiences or miracles to gloat about.  My miniscule personal miracle after joining Sahaj Marg was the way “Whispers from the Brighter World” gave me answers or resolved doubts for me.  Anything that used to gnaw and tease me used to get clarified from ‘Whispers’. I at times used to get very teary, overwhelmingly emotional and rush to my husband (a cynic and a sceptic to the core!) and narrate ‘my miracle’; his non-committal comment was, “Okay, I thought you finally have joined something sensible, looks like I was mistaken. You still seem to be searching for things on the outside like the rest of them.”  Or if I was in defiant challenging mood and dared him to give a negative reply he would smile rather indulgently, shrug his shoulders and leave the place. The comment and his quick exit both used to pierce me right through, like a sharp dagger and all the bleeding finally stopped me from searching for a ‘miracle’ through whispers or any external source altogether.

I came to my next question; then what is so special or different or exclusive about Sahaj Marg? Why was I even practicing it for the last two years? And what exactly is a miracle for me that I want to gloat about to others? What did I accomplish in order to boast or call it a miracle?

Master has his own way of teaching us what we need to know, at the apt moment and in a very exacting way. I overheard my husband, who till them was a very reluctant participant, one day, “The amazing change in my wife over the last 2 years is almost miraculous to me! It is as if Sahaj Marg has waved a magic wand over her and she is a very new, different person! ”

So, there it was, the miracle, working for the last two years for others perception! My abhyas, Sahaj Marg had performed a miracle on me! Master keeps saying in almost all his speeches, “Look Within, it is all inside you and you alone!”

My husband saw the change in me and joined the mission willingly and encourages online casino others to do the same- my first miracle and the series has been never ending since then. But again these are external miracles on some else, I have changed to become a better person and improving every day, a miracle!

The last best thought that struck me came from a preceptor in Ghaziabad ashram, Sister Poonam Saxena. She was explaining the system to some new to be abhyasis and said, “Sahaj Marg is not about getting or gaining something. It is about changing and becoming something!” There it was; the miracle! A changed human being because of Sahaj Marg! Which system gives this reassurance and invites this self-enquiry? This system does.

Which Guru reposes so much confidence in another human being of no calibre and encourages him/her to become divinised or meet the Master? Sahaj Marg does exactly that, creating preceptors, giving them the responsibility to work for the Guru and in turn progress on their own spiritual path towards their real goal.

Which system never says ‘no’ to anything and yet manages to help the aspirant in saying “no” or letting go of everything that is unnecessary. The transition is so smooth one never realises that one has let go of anything at all! This wonderful mission enables this too. This mission allowed me, the stubborn egotistic me to change me and chiselled away at the jagged, chaffed ends and set me on the road to becoming a divinised being. If this is not miraculous, then what is?

I no longer despair when I listen to someone else’s miracles. I have my miracle within me, and all because of my miraculous Mission. Sahaj Marg, me in Sahaj Marg both are miracles and me living up to my Master’s expectations and becoming what He has envisioned for me, my last miracle.

Thank you Master for this miraculous Mission, your presence and blessings showered on all of us, and the miraculously effective simple method.

Prasadam – significance

Prasadam – significance

The Lord says in Bhagvad Gita, “Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam Yo Me Bhaktya Prayacchati; Tadaham Bhaktyupahritamasanami Prayatatmanah.

Meaning: “Whoever offers a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water with devotion, that I accept, offered as it is with a loving heart.”

Ever wonder why Prasadam invariably tastes delicious? Throughout the length and breadth of our country Prasad is made according to the cuisine of the state yet devotees from near and far, abroad too can be seen relishing the Prasadam; why so? We come back to the last line phrase of the above shloka; offered as it is with a loving heart. Prasad means that which gives peace. It is the sacred food offered first to the Lord and then shared amongst the devotees present in the temple at that time. The bhava or the attitude of the devotee offering Bhog or Prasada to the Lord makes all the difference. The attitude with which the Prasada is taken brings a change in the devotee.  The grace of the Lord descends through Prasada, brings peace and calm to the unsettled mind, resolving problems in a surprisingly simple way.

Prasad is also referred to as ‘Naivedya’; Naivedya means supplication or ‘a humble entreaty’ to the Lord offering the Naivedya and appealing for an acceptance of the same. Naivedya need not necessarily be food but is usually food which becomes Prasada and distributed to one and all. A beautiful meaning that comes to light is; we are offering our ignorance (avidya), the food symbolically represents our ignorant consciousness, which we place at the Lord’s feet for spiritual enlightenment. After HE charges or suffuses it with knowledge and breathes a new life into it, we share and partake of the same which in turn helps us become divine or move closer to divinity. When we share this Prasad we are actually sharing the divine knowledge; the Lord’s blessings thus gained with our fellow beings.

The faith of the devotee who is eating the Prasad is what makes it divine or any other edible thing. It was MiraBai’s faith alone which turned the poison to nectar; which she drank in complete remembrance of her Lord thinking of it as Prasad coming straight from her beloved Krishna.

Partaking of Prasada is considered to be a sacred act, irrespective of the quality or quantity of the Prasad. The fact that it is coming from Isvara, Lord himself changes the nature or attitude of the recipient of the Prasada. Prasada stands for Prasada buddhi, an attitude of graceful acceptance.

“Swami Tattvavidananda, in his book titled: ‘Heart is the Temple’ explains this beautifully thus: The serenity of the mind symbolised by the Prasada in the temple is eulogised by the Lord in the Bhagvad Gita as follows:

“Ragadvesaviyuktaistu visayanindriyaiscaran, atmavasyairvidheyatma prasadamadhigacchati.

Prasade sarvaduhkhanam hanirasyopajayate,  prasannacetaso hyasu buddhih paryavatisthate.” (2-64, 65)

One may interact with the objects of the world through the senses that are free from attachment and aversion, gaining mastery over them. One who has mastered the mind attains Prasada, the serenity and harmony, will be free from all sorrows. Such a person’s mind is readily absorbed (in Atman).

The Prasada buddhi helps us cultivate a mind that is equanimous in prosperity as well as in adversity out of recognition of the fact that whatever we receive, whether good or bad, is given to us by Isvara. Isvara is the Karma phala data, the giver of the results of our action. They are the outcome of Isvara’s karma niyati, the law regulating the results of the action. Isvara bestows the karma phala, the results of the action accordingly; we receive what we deserve. That is why Isvara is called as sarvagyana, the all-knowing. He does not favour one or discriminate against other. Therefore, we have to learn to treat both prosperity and adversity as Isvara’s Prasada.”

Thus, Prasada prepared, offered and partaken with the right attitude changes the person and the aspirant becomes the recipient of wonderful experiences. It is also said that Prasada should be taken exactly that little quantity which the aspirant can completely digest, and nothing leaves the body as excreta. If Prasad is also gulped and gobbled like any other food then most of it will be leaving our system before it has a chance to leave a lasting impression and good impact on us, and maximum benefit that can be derived is lost.

Prasada is panacea, if taken in the right measure with the right attitude. Prasad becomes the remedy for all ailments, emotional, spiritual and the aspirant feels light and unburdened after eating the Prasad. Prasad is the spiritual elixir, the alchemic preparation capable of bringing out one’s pure innocent self, revealing the true path to self- realization. Prasad is the Grace of the Lord Himself, a cure and an ideal sign telling the aspirant that the Lord has lifted the devotee, lifted the devotee up and going on the path of self- realization.  It is the embodiment of Shakti, energising the partaker and infusing him/her with energy and zest to walk the path of life with courage, and absolute devotion. The Lord manifests Himself in Prasada, but only to those who partake in true faith, with the correct attitude in the apt quantity. Thus, Prasadam should be taken with great faith.

The Hindus also believe that Prasadam is a mental state experienced by Gods and true seers; they bestow boons and are very spontaneously generous towards the devotee who offers Prasadam with the right attitude. It thus began with a mental state (as is mentioned in the Rig Veda)which the Lord ‘saw’ in the earnest devotee and with time changed to more materialistic forms of money, clothing, food items flowers etc. The essence nevertheless remains the same; the humble faithful offering of ‘avidya’ to the Lord to be able to peel away the ignorance and be able to walk the path of self- realisation. Prasadam teaches the aspirant acceptance, humility and tranquillity. It helps maintain equanimity in success and adverse situations of poverty and strife.

If HE let go

If HE let go

Ramayana is a very familiar scripture for every Hindu and we all have read it since our childhood, in the form of Amar Chitra Katha colored comic strip to the voluminous Ram Charitra Manas in Sanskrit and its English transliteration. I will narrate a small story which escaped me all these years even though I too have read The Ramayana many times before.

The whole army was building a bridge to cross the ocean, so that they could wage a war against Ravana and bring Seeta Devi back home to Lord Rama. Every single monkey and man would lift a small boulder to a huge rock and say aloud, ‘Jai Shree Ram!’ and throw the stone into the ocean. The stone would float and fall in place next to the previous stone and a bridge was gradually getting formed.

Lord Rama watched the proceedings for a while and with the thought of helping and speeding the process of completing the bridge he also picked a small pebble and threw it in to the ocean. To his dismay the stone simply sank into the depths of the ocean. He looked around furtively to check if anyone had seen and meekly picked another stone to give it another shot. He tried to throw the stone again and was received with the same result; the stone promptly disappeared into the depths of the ocean! This began to trouble him and he again looked around to see if anyone was watching.

Hanuman was watching the whole proceeding and smiling to himself seeing his Lord facing such a predicament. Lord Rama asked Hanuman, ‘Did you see what happened?’

Hanuman smiled and nodded.

Lord Rama, ‘How come? The rest of them are picking huge boulders and throwing them and they seem to float fall in place. Here I tried throwing this small pebble and it sinks, why Hanuman?’

Hanuman, ‘My Lord, We all are surviving or succeeding because you are with us. If you let go then what will be possible? Look at the army; each one is first saying your name and with that chant and faith that the rock will float, they throw it with all their might. You are there in each word, action and result too. Did you chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ when you threw the stone? No; then how can it float My Lord, it was fated to sink!’

Because the Lord is holding our little finger and leading us we survive and prosper. If He lets go, then what fate do we have in store? I do not think any one of us can conceive such a situation.

 

How much time do we have?

How much time do we have?

A saint, begging for alms, landed at the doorstep of a shop which looked very unkempt and asking for major repairs. Despite his poverty the poor shopkeeper warmly welcomed the saint and invited him to stay for the night at the shop keeper’s residence which was close by. The Saint looked at the shop’s condition and wondered what the shop keeper could offer him, after a bit of deliberation; decided to stay for the night.

The house was also in an equally bad shape and yet the shop keeper offered hot food, simple food freshly prepared, and treated the saint with great reverence; to the best of his abilities. The saint was pleased with the shop keeper’s hospitality and wanted to do something, help the shop keeper in some way. And the shopkeeper also wistfully wished for a boon from the saint so that he could say good bye to his bad days.

Thus the next morning just before leaving the saint thanked the host for his benevolence and said, ‘I am very pleased with your service and I really wish to do something fruitful for you. But I myself am so poor that I do not have anything to give you, so what do I offer you in return for your services?’

Shop keeper, ‘My service to you was of my own accord sir; I could do with a boon or two to be able to get rid of my poverty though.’

The saint pulled out a small gold coin from his rag bag and handing it over to the shop keeper said, ‘Okay, this is all I have. This is a magical coin. Any lead / iron substance brought in contact with this turns to Gold. I will come back after 3 months and retrieve my coin. Till then you use it and try to alleviate your poverty.’

The poor guy was overjoyed and profusely thanked the saint. He immediately set off to the largest iron foundry to test the gold coin and thus change his luck. He asked for the cost of a ton!

The price was Rs. 40/ton, the shop keeper felt the price to be beyond his reach and decided to come and check after a few days, maybe by then the price would have dipped. He came back a week later and to his dismay found that the price had further gone up and he again returned disappointed. This continued for a month and then second month also there was no change and the third month went by in the same pattern; the shop keeper was yet to use his magic coin.

On the completion of the appointed tenure the saint was again standing at the doorstep of the shop- keeper. But to his surprise he saw no betterment; rather a further dejected cloud was cast all over the shop. He walked down to the house to check the condition there and to his dismay the house also was further dilapidated and in need of urgent repairs. He began to worry thinking, ‘My magic coin failed to help the poor guy! Did it not work?’ and he called out to the shop keeper.

The shop keeper narrated the whole sequence of the last 3 months and thus his inability to use the coin or rather waiting for an opportune time to use the coin.

The saint put a hand to his head and said, ‘It is destiny that you were not able to use the coin dear. You had 3 months time to change your luck, life and build a fortune for yourself. You did not give it a chance and continued to wait for a better opportunity at an unknown future date. Time and tide wait for no man, you knew I would reclaim the coin in 3 months, yet you failed to put it to good use. Sadly, I will be unable to extend the period for you and I need my coin back’.

Needless to say what the shop keeper felt and it was too late for his realization. Time had slipped through his fingers like grains of sand and he was left in position worse than before.

Opportunity knocks only once in the life of man, the life of a human being itself is a rare gift from God. Human life is given only to those elevated souls who have a craving to realize their true goal and wish to go back to their original abode! One never knows when ‘Yama’ The Lord of Death will come and whisk away the soul from your body, that moment is a mystery to everyone. Today or the present is all we have to learn to live a balanced life and walk towards our true goal, be prepared, fearless when death does come knocking because life’s goal is accomplished and nothing is wanting still.

All the training and education we receive throughout our lives are to sharpen the mind and learn skills to earn more or progress financially. Unfortunately this is only one wing on which life is flying; the other wing is the spiritual wing which belongs to the soul, the seat of the Divine. Parmahamsa Ramakrishna used to say and Swami Vivekananda has often repeated, said “God gave us intelligence to fly high with both wings, to satisfy the goals of life, the material and the spiritual. Use the mind and see the Lord seated in your heart.”  It is a known fact that spiritually wealthy souls are wealthy materially too whereas wealthy souls are always craving for more wealth or die hankering, unhappy and poor.

The lamp we light

The lamp we light

All Hindus light the lamp in front of the deity, without which our prayers and worship remain incomplete. This is a ritual we have followed since time immemorial. We all do so with utmost devotion and dedication. The meaning of these rituals has never been asked or questioned either. Apart for the simple meaning our folks gave us, ‘you should not, and must not keep the prayer room in dark! A light must burn always.’  Which is explanation enough for us and we stick to it with complete faith. When we run out of oil or clarified butter we become creative and improvise with the small bed light. We are all following instructions and trying to be as true to them as possible. Most of us do not delve deep and try to understand or ascertain why we need to light the lamp in the first place and when we are lighting the lamp, then which lamp should it be? What significance does an oil lamp have and why the effect is nullified the minute we switch on the night light to replace the oil lamp? In the hustle-bustle of our work-home-work routine we barely manage to spare a few minutes to light the lamp every day without fail, that itself is like a big accomplishment for us.

Swami Tattvavidananda, here talks about the lamp, the oil lamp; its’ significance and meaning which clears the soot of our minds and lights up the lamp of understanding explaining ‘why only oil lamp’. ‘In the inner shrine of the temple, the darkness unremittingly tries to envelope the lamp, and the latter in return is struggling to dispel that darkness. Such struggle is constantly going on in the devotee’s heart too between the ignorance and the desire for the knowledge. This is the symbolism of the tiny lamp in a corner of the inner shrine.

The lamp in the shrine is necessarily an oil lamp. It cannot be substituted with an electric lamp, though of similar appearance, for every aspect of the oil lamp has significance. Typically, an oil lamp is lit inside the shrine. The word ‘sneha’ means the oil and also love and affection. When the aspirant settles into devotion to the Lord, he acquires equipoise of the mind. In the metaphor, that devotional state of mind serves as oil for the lamp of knowledge. Oil has two characteristics: it is very sticky, and it flow is continuous and unbroken. The devotee should acquire these two characteristics in the heart in his devotion to the Lord.’

‘The symbolism continues further. There is a varti, wick made up of cotton, that sustains the flame. It stands for proper value system in the devotee’s life, e.g. discipline in the eating habits and speech, right attitude towards others and so on.’ Even after years of worship and temple going, keeping a light burning in the temple room also change is not visible and some of us wonder why so. Our prayers are a distracted mutli -tasking duty juggling between the kitchen getting our kids ready for school and mentally worrying whether the maid is going to come or do we have to do the dishes also before leaving for work. Can we honestly remember a day when we can say that ‘yes, today we only prayed’. Without any other thought sneaking in we are barely able to light the lamp every day, praying is very farfetched.

Oil – lamp has a wide base serving as a receptacle. It holds all the oil required to fuel the flame, and also provides stability to the lamp. The mind filled with vairagya or dispassion is the base. To summarize, the seers have incorporated the entire teachings of the Upanishads and the Gita in the temple worship. Once we understand correctly the symbolism of temple worship, the temple emerges from a seat of worship to a seat of learning.’

The base, the oil, the wick and the eternally burning flame, all have their own meaning and significance and definitely cannot be replaced with anything else. The minute we start replacing anything, we are filtering or diluting the process and the essence diminishes accordingly. We on our own can put ourselves to a test and decide why after all these years of praying and temple visiting, we are yet to really get there, find peace or see a change in ourselves. One among the above steps, maybe more than one will be missing or adulterated, hence the result, or the lack of it. Maybe the change is yet to come because a few steps are wrong or bereft of the essence of worship.

Hindu religion is a highly evolved and scientifically structured religion. The Brahmins used to perform the Pooja and all the rituals because they were given this education since childhood. The Gurukul system was so prevalent and compulsory for every child because only by living with the guru, watching the guru, learning from the expert in person is the only way you can assure yourself that you have learnt it all correctly, the method, the meaning and its significance. How else can anyone replicate it and achieve the same heights that the guru attained? This may be the reason why today’s India is lacking in true realized souls, even though we have an ever increasing number of devotees and Temples. We need to be with the guru or listen to the guru with all our heart to really know, learn and imbibe. It is strange that we eagerly accept a teacher when we need to learn any subjects, like English, Math or Science but when it comes to learning about the most important thing, worship, for our personal betterment some like me think we know it all, or some of us conveniently assign the task to the temple priest and continue to light the lamp with whatever is available at home unmindful whether what we are doing is beneficial or simply a routine duty.

 

Khalil Gibran on children

Khalil Gibran on children

Khalil Gibran is my favorite poet and philosopher; this is what he writes about children:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

Your children are temporarily in your custody and you are their guardian and care taker. You have no ownership rights over them because they are owned by God and He has sent them to accomplish a goal or a purpose unique to them. Life called out for them and here they are, as your children in name and form but His children in verity. The animals and the birds seem to understand this philosophy much better than the intelligent human race. The lioness feeds the cub and simultaneously encourages the cub to fend for itself. The chicks are also urged to fly and gather twigs from a very young age. We humans keep missing this fine point somehow.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

He again says, they come from you; yes, you do give birth to them, yet they are from Him alone and not from you, which is what most parents mistakenly take claim for. The children stay with us as long as it is destined and not a single moment beyond that. They are with us but they do not belong to us; they are definitely not the personal property of parents.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

Again so true, did we, as children think like our parents? Did we not have different thoughts, dreams, aspirations and ambitions? Did we not wait for the day when we would be able to live ‘our’ life, the way we want to, without being told, what to do, what to eat, what to wear and a seamless stream of instructions? If that was generation gap then, should not the gap be more gaping and wider now? Times have changed very dramatically over the last 2 decades and with it a very tumultuous parent age has arrived. Love is scarce or showered as a return gift for something well done or withheld as punishment at times. The present day children are facing more insecure times, it is all the more important that we shower as much love as we can on them and give them the freedom of thought. Raise them such that they are free with discipline and love.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Almost every child achieves much more than what their parents did. They belong to the tomorrow and have to learn from today, whereas we belong to a yesterday, trying to adjust to today for a better tomorrow. We are yet to get a grip over the way times have changed, whereas they are already of this generation. They are planning and dreaming of a tomorrow which we may never see. Is it fair to drag them backwards in time, to our times and force them to think our way, do our way, live our way? We can be like the lamp post guiding and throwing light on the path, we cannot walk that path though. They have to walk their own path and discover their destiny.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

I initially never agreed with this line, why should the parents be like the children? My parents always wanted me to emulate either one of them and that is exactly what I have done. So why should my son (I need to remember, he is HIS son, not mine) not emulate his Dad or me? Why should we not ask him to try and become like his father or mother? The next line has the answer though; because, life has never gone backwards and time does not wait or depend on a yesterday. It is today and then tomorrow. I woke up to the fact that if I expect my son to become like his father or me, I would be asking him to move backwards, live in a yesterday. As a parent I should be asking him to look at his tomorrow, move on the road ahead and achieve his dreams. Is it fair on my part to ask him to live my unaccomplished dreams and achievements?

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The parents are the bows from which the children of God as living arrows are set forth in search of their destiny.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

The archer or God has already marked the path over which the arrow, the child, will fly. God simply wants that the Bow, parents, also to bend, yield, string themselves just so much so that the arrow, child, can reach its destined goal. It is the strength of the bow and the flexibility of the string which allows the archer to set forth the arrow swift and far.

Let you bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

So He loves also the bow that is stable.

One without the other is incomplete and God loves both equally. He has assigned us the job of taking care of His children and entrusted us with the big responsibility of raising them happily and with joy. Bend yield listen to the child and nourish them with love and joy, God does send forth His children through you and is happy to see them ascend, but He also loves the stable hand of the parent which joyfully raises its offspring.

As a child counselor by profession I am forced to read this poem to every parent because they all invariably expect me, the counselor, to change the mindset of the child. They look me at me very expectantly as if I can wave a magic wand and their errant child will start obeying them or start behaving the way they expect the child to behave.

Gratitude – towards ?

Gratitude – towards ?

One topic amongst the many enlightening talks that Sehra uncle, he comes every year from the States and spreads these pearls of Wisdom, gave was on Gratitude. All the topics are very thought provoking and introspective in nature, and uncle repeatedly encouraged us to listen, mull over and imbibe.

We used to serve snacks and tea during the little recess session that we used to have during those talks. And though the rendezvous always used be at my place any one of the sisters used to go and make tea and offer the light refreshments.  Invariably someone or the other would ask, ‘who made the tea? thank you so much, it is exactly the way I like it !’

Or ‘who made the cake? It is very delicious, thank you.’ one such question popping up was a sure shot. Uncle always used to smile, very differently, as if, I don’t know how to put it in exact words, but the smile used to convey something like, ‘I am surrounded by such simpletons! Or O’ O’ they have once begun thanking one another!’ And I always used to wonder why he used to put up that particular countenance every time we were exchanging thank you!

For almost three or four sessions uncle never voiced anything, the fourth session happened to be on gratitude. Who should we thank? Uncle asked.

We all had our own answers, ‘We thank God, of course.’ This was the common reply.

Then he asked, ‘When should we thank?’

Some of us replied, ‘when HE answers our prayers.’ Or ‘HE has helped us in some way.’ Or ‘HE has protected us, and kept us out of harm’s way.’  

So the next question was, ‘How should we thank?’

Again a few voices said, ‘mm, we pray to HIM and thank HIM, those who worship offer flowers and Prasad or offering as a thank you to GOD’

I think uncle was expecting something more than what some of us had just answered. He smiled and said, ‘Just now you said that you made tea today, yes? And everybody appreciated its taste and thanked you for offering such a refreshing drink. Just ask yourself once again, did you really make the tea all by yourself?’

We all were silent and knew there was more to this than meets the eye! Uncle continued, ‘What all goes into making this tea; Sugar, milk, tea leaves, water and the gas of course to make the tea, yes?’ We all nodded slowly, it was beginning to dawn on us ever so gently.

Uncle, ‘Now, amongst all these ingredients what did you exactly make? Contribute to in making them?’

We kept mum. We had barely thought of this in this dimension! The simplest task like making a tea also involves the effort of so many others! I never brought the milk, I had no role to play in the making of the tea leaves, nor did I have any say in the sugar that went into the tea! I simply put a few ingredients available to me and cooked it on the burner, (the existence of which is again because of someone else) and served! And here we were, lapping up all the Thank you! And gloating about our achievement in making a nice tea!

I mean, how blind or myopic are we! Why are we thanking so singularly? Should we not thank every single person who has contributed in making this tea? And do we thank them? No, we didn’t even acknowledge them till then. The magnitude of it all is a big eye opener and a blow to ones ego. Forget the human being helping each other; we never realize but every single thing in this universe works for us and helps us; the human beings. It is so over whelming and humbling at the same time. If we really want to say thank you, show our gratitude we will never know where to begin! We very courteously thank the cab driver and pay him too for taking us to our destination. He was doing his job and we are paying him for his services done, a thank you is good but we never thank our maid for doing her work well, do we? Why so? We blithely cut trees where we have been seeking shelter and whose fruit we have gorged during the season. We neither thanked the tree nor did we bat an eye lid when we cut it down. Why again?

If we really have to show our gratitude it should towards God who gave us all this, free of cost. We should thank nature for serving us, working for us incessantly without once complaining about the harm we humans have brought to it. We will fall short by a large measure if wish to show our gratitude and try and repay nature and God.

Repaying is very farfetched as of now, at least let us try keeping intact this beautiful world and stop destroying it with our insensitivity and greed; this will a small step towards repaying the immense debt we have upon us.

So, thank the Tea maker and thank God for providing us the Tea! 

God – Our Creator

God – Our Creator

My Master, spiritual Guru, always writes in his books and quotes in almost every alternate speech; what our Adi Guru Shri Lalaji Maharaj used to say ‘God has hidden Himself inside your hearts and exposed you. Hide yourselves and expose God.’ This one line sums it all up to say that God is within us. If we have to pray to God or seek God we have to imperatively begin to look within and not at the world that he created or at the different life forms in which he seems to appear in the world around us.

I am reading a very enlightening book titled ‘Inner Growth through Devotion’ By Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati. Everything is explained so simply and with such lucidity that it is very overwhelming and the truth kind of hits you. He talks about God, our creator, the paths to realizing our creator and the ways and means to achieve enlightenment. This is so like our philosophy in SRCM that I am compelled to share it with all of you. This is what is being reiterated by every true realized soul and yet we refuse to see the truth. Many of us still wage an inner war when we have to stand up to our philosophy and follow what our heart knows to be true. We fear opposition from our dearest ones and succumb to what they are following; leaving our creator within us, hidden in the dark corner of our heart. The longer we continue on this path, he further away we are from the truth.

Hinduism, today, thrives on idol worship and terms it as the ideal form of devotion to almighty. Every day we see a temple getting constructed or a ritual being performed in Hinduism. In doing so we tend to fall into the gradual habit of treating God as someone outside of self; a different person sitting somewhere else who may have to be kept happy or pleased at all points of time. If it is true devotion and we really feel immense love for the Idol , want to feed, bathe and tend to the Idol as one of the family , even then we are treating God as someone apart from oneself. But the key question is, is the creator someone else? Is the creator he or she? The Swami writes in his book, ‘According to the French philosopher Descartes, since the universe is structured so well, it must have a creator. It is said that he once visited the king in his newly constructed park. As the king showed him around, it occurred to Descartes that the entire universe was as beautifully structured as the park, and hence, should also have an architect.  We call this architect God. Thus, in this model God is external to the universe; He is in heaven.’  This is the theory which Hinduism also seems to follow, adapt and believe these days. The moment we say God, it immediately suggests a powerful gentleman sitting somewhere in heaven, who seems to be benevolent only towards some members of his flock.

Swamiji goes on to write, ‘The external God is entirely based on a belief system, which cannot become part of philosophy. That is why these religions are called faiths. Sri Krishna says in the Geeta, “This entire universe is pervaded by me (Like ornaments by gold) of unknown (and unknowable) nature.”’

This universe is the only place where life exists and life forms sustain. If God created this world then who created God? And like we humans reside on earth where does God reside? If we are worshipping outside of us; someone external, living elsewhere then how is it that, till date, no scientist has found the residential address of the Almighty?  The researchers seem to have come up with all kinds of theories and logistics but have come to a dead end when they have to answer this one question. So, is God intrinsic to the human being or extrinsic? The thought that has prevailed so far is the later assumption, which we can ascertain with certainty from the different faiths being followed world over. What surprises me though is how come we accept anything in the name of religion and faith? We rarely question this one particular field, whereas we question everything else and have a very firm stoic opinion too. How come our thinking faculties go dim in this particular aspect alone? 

This pertains to understanding about us, the God who created us and who we really are, yet we wish to believe in what has been passed on to us as part of mythology and refuse to remove the colored glasses or seek the truth. The fact that God is intrinsic has been explained by Swamiji thus, ‘Suppose, for instance, God were external to the world in the same way as the pot –maker is external to the pot. A question would then arise about the nature of the material used in this creation. Like the material needed to create a pot is given to the pot-maker. Where did Isvara / God get his material? We may have to say the material was available in heaven. One might then ask who created that heaven and that material. That would seem to require another creator. If he created heaven then where did God live before he created heaven? Therefore, the concept of an external God ‘creating’ this world is a mere belief contradicting reason.’ So, God has to be intrinsic to the universe; He must have created this universe out of Himself. Actually himself/ herself, gender is irrelevant here. God exists everywhere, in everything because this is all from him, through him, a part of him and his! It is clearly visible that this universe is an expression of God. It is like a spider that spins its web from its own self. The spider borrows no material from anywhere outside; it weaves the web from its own self. The web appears to be outside the spider but it is not so, in reality it is a part of the spider, never separate from the spider. Similarly God created his own self in the form of this universe and created this universe for us. He is in each and every one of us; we have kept him elsewhere and treat him to be outside of us. If we can see him as us, a part of us we are on our road to true inner growth and self realization. Till then the journey of self discovery would not have begun for us.

For us abhyasis our beloved Master has explained the same thing in so many simple ways with simpler illustrations. The 12 Maxims tell us how to conduct our lives ; they give us the path to walk on for self realization, for us to become one with Him, our creator.

Idol worship – good or?

Idol worship – good or?

The essence of worship or bhakti and its meaning is what I continue to see for the last 43 years all around me; my mother, when I was young, my in-laws after I got married, we were all devout people and performed Pooja everyday very religiously. SRCM, the meditation practice that I am following for the last four years, does not advocate Idol worship. In the beginning I used to be very skeptical about the SRCM philosophy, it questioned the very foundation on which Hindu religion is structured! And every Hindu performs ritualistic Pooja or rituals every day. This is what I have been sincerely doing, practicing for the last 35 odd years. It was very disconcerting to leave it all, give it the name of increased grossness and stop idol worship. I actually could not give up idol worship for almost an year after joining the Mission, call it fear of displeasing the Gods or deep rooted samskara, a diehard habit of lighting the lamp after bath, then eating food, anything, it was just too ingrained in me and I could not let go. So, I continued Idol worship and maintained my beautiful marble temple with the same love, affection and devotion.

A book I recently read, Temple the heart of worship, describes the method, the aim and the resultant effect of Idol worship very beautifully. Only if one can follow what is written in that book, holding on to that thought in our mind, with that emotion in our heart and pray to the Idol will our prayer be called a prayer and worship has the probability of bearing fruit. Every step has a significant meaning and a reason for performing that particular ritual. If we can worship exactly the way it is said in the scriptures and be able to recreate the essence every time we worship or pray, then alone can it be true idol worship.

 I quote the book, “All worship is meant to lead us to the Brahman. That is what is called Karma Yoga. The temple is a place to worship Isvara, or to perform rituals. Lord Krishna points out (Bhagvad Gita, 2-14) that Vedic rituals help a person who has a clear understanding about the ultimate goal in life, whereas those who do not have such an understanding get lost in the jungle of rituals. Therefore, the temple worship should create ‘jignyasa’ an intense desire for self – knowledge in the devotees.

We have to worship Isvara in a temple with the right attitude.  Even though there is difference in the upadhis, or titles, names, Isvara and Jiva are essentially the same; just as a stone is different from a mountain. Because of the false identification with the ‘upadhi’, the emerging individual may appear to be very insignificant vis-à-vis the universe and its creator.”

It is clear from the above that the most ancient and till date accepted, read and followed scripture, Bhagvad Gita, also says that devotion or worship has to be for self knowledge. The lord is inside, within all of us; through worship we need to delve deep inside and seek HIM there! The more we go to different temples, the more we try to see HIM in different forms on the outside, the more we are running away from HIM within. Whatever is within us, how can we possibly achieve it on the outside?

The author further writes, “The temple architecture is symbolically significant in all aspects. Space is the very first manifestation of Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic person. Every temple has four gates, representing the four directions.” This is the body of every temple, the exterior. But do the devotees flock from world over to see the architecture and go home happy with the thought that they met God? No, they wait for ‘Darshan’ a glimpse, ever so fleeting, of the lord, sitting in the heart, the sanctum sanctorum of the Temple. What is the life source of the temple? The heart, the inner most corners in the temple is where God resides!  That is what a true devotee wants to see. The author beautifully writes, “The Lord verily abides in the cave of the heart. Similarly, a figure symbolizing the Lord is installed in the cave – like Garbha Graha, the inner sanctum – sanctorum in the temple.” It is really no coincidence that even the biggest temples have a very small sanctum sanctorum. “It is just by sheer ignorance that one assumes or imagines that merit and sin accrue to Atman obtaining in the heart. Brahman can be cognized in the cave of the heart of every human being as his innermost reality.”  

To reiterate the same point, we are seeking on the outside and in a defined form what is inside and in a very subtle form. To take the analogy a little further, Even though the temple has four doors, the inner sanctum has only one door. We can take as many paths we wish to walk on the road to self realization, but to really reach HIM or merge with HIM there is only one way, through the heart with self knowledge.

I never knew that there was a reason for keeping the inner sanctum or the Lord’s abode so dark and dimly lit! The inner most corner of our Heart; the sanctum sanctorum is filled with darkness or ignorance. “The idea is that the spiritual aspirant may think of his ignorance, at least in the sacred presence of the Lord. The significance of burning the lamp round the clock is that the lamp of knowledge should ever shine in our heart.

The seers have incorporated the entire teachings of the Upanishads and the Gita in temple worship. When we visit any temple we should keep this vision in mind. Once we understand correctly the symbolism of temple worship, the temple emerges from a seat of worship to a seat of learning”

The small booklet has every single word that is thought provoking; every word has a reason and a meaning. I will also talk about the significance of an oil wick lamp, and why the now used electric lights hold no meaning. Also the meaning and essence of Prasad, the offering received after prayers in the temple.

But first let us try and ask ourselves whether we are actually worshipping the way it has been prescribed in the scriptures? If we are, then is there an increment in self- knowledge? Are we able to see the Idol sitting in front of us, within us after some time? If yes, then Idol worship is your path to self – knowledge. Does our prayer really move you to the very core of your heart? Are you changing after all these years of worship? Is the little lamp continuing to burn or is it getting snuffed and struggling to stay alive drowned with the soot of ignorance and ego? I have been visiting temples and a very diligent devotee for 35 years of my life.  Every shloka and Mantra was by heart to me. I could parrot them even in my sleep. Did I change? When I look back and assess, my honest answer is ‘no’. I never really knew or understood the essence of Idol worship. I prayed because I was supposed to and more often than not it was out of fear that I used to pray. I had never really lit the lamp of my heart. Self – knowledge was very far away. I realized that I had only grown up; I was yet to grow wise.

If we are really worshipping for years with the essence of worship, my perception is a change must be visible and the path to self knowledge must be illuminated by now. If either of these has not occurred then we are not even in the race and we really need to figure out if Idol worship is for us!  Knowing shloka and mantras may even contribute to adding to our ego, a chance to boast about our knowledge and awareness of the religious scriptures.  If no change has come till date then it is time we re-read the texts and try to understand the essence of worship once again. It is what you do, rather how you do whatever you do which is detrimental or beneficial for taking us closer to our real goal of life.