Archive for the ‘Karma Siddhanta’ Category

Vairagya Satakam, and detachment

April 2, 2012

In my philosophical pursuit, I came across Vairagya Satakam of Bhartrhari, which literally translates to mean ‘100 verses on detachment’. Personally, I find it to be a very powerful statement of disillusionment and detachment.

Detachment and disillusionment is something that always fascinated me right from my childhood. It is probably easier to practice in absolute renunciation as in Sanyasam but hard to practice in day to day life of Grihasta. Yet it is not impossible as story of Janaka, as explained in the context of Ashtavakra Gita indicates. Again, as I look around, I believe there are quite a few people who lived in the same spirit in recent times, and are living now as well.

An interesting verse from Vairaagya Satakam’ is:
Bhoge Rogabhayam Kule Chyutibhayam Vithe Nripaalaat Bhayam
Maane Dainyabhayam Bale Ripubhayam Roope Jaraayaat Bhayam
Saasthre Vaadibhayam Gune Khalabhayam Kaaye Krithaantaath Bhayam
Sarvam Vasthu Bhayaanvitham Bhuvinrinaam Vairaagyamevabhayam

It roughly to mean (in my knowledge):
When we indulge in pleasure, deep down we run a fear of missing it. When we belong to a socially respected group/family, we are afraid we might loose it sometimes. When we are rich, we are afraid of (too concerned about) money being apportioned by authorities. When we are a respected person, we are wary of situation which compromise respect. When we are powerful, we fear defeat (from someone more powerful or deceitful). When we are young and smart, we are afraid of aging. When we are scholar, we are afraid of being defeated in debates. When we are well off, then we are afraid of vandals (bad elements who are out destroy your peace), When you have good health, you are afraid of death. Fear is associated with everything and only detachment is the refuge.

This may sound too negative in the first reading. On a closer reading, it should be obvious that what is denounced not riches, knowledge, health, position etc but rather too much of attachment to these. Such attachments prevent you from enjoying the very moment now as well as the true joy. As a result, we end up in a self defeating a rat race.

It is clear in the lines:
Bhogaa Na Bhukthaa Vayameva Bhukthaah
Thapo Na Thaptham Vayameva Thampthaah
Kaalo Na Yaatho Vayameva Yathaah
Thrishnaa Na Jeerna Vayameva Jeernaah

That is:
We have not consumed worldly pleasures, they have consumed us (our life). We have not done any Tapas but we burned out ourselves. Time has not gone but we are gone. Desire has not been reduced but we are reduced.

Kasi Panchakam and Self Realization

March 31, 2012

Born and brought up in a somewhat conservative family, I had heard about Kasi even in my childhood.

Kasi is so much part of the tradition and culture that a ritual symbolic of pilgrimage to Kasi is part of Upanayana.

Yet it is common practice to talk ill of these pilgrim spots which is said to be spoiled by human filth. I have heard such talks even in the midst of pilgrimage to such places!

My ‘scientific’ mindset has been skeptical of purification of mind by the mere act of taking bath in a river. How can physical act of taking bath in a river, howsoever pure it is, cleanse the mind … leave alone the question of providing ‘moksha and liberation from cycles of rebirths

Philosopher in me was curious even as I tried to convince myself that there is something deeper, and I got a hint of that while reading ‘Kasi Panchakam’ composed by Sankaracharya…And, my quest continues…

My understanding of the message of key verse of’Kasi Panchakam’, which is written in admiration of Kasi, is as follows:

a) Verse 1
ManO Nivruthi ParamOpa Saanthi
Saa Theerthavaryaa Manikarnika Cha
Jnaanapravahaa Vimalaadigangaa
Saa Kasikaham Nijabodharoopa

Which roughly translates to mean (in my knowledge): (Self) withdrawal of mind leads to absolute peace. That space (within Self) is Manikarnika. Flow of knowledge is the pure and original Ganges. That Kasi is Self which is pure awareness.

My understanding is: True Kasi is within Self, and pilgrimage to Kasi is journey within Self. Withdrawal of mind leads to a blissful state which relieves you of all influence of great illusion. Divine knowledge/enlightenment that flows in that state is Ganges and self-aware existence of Self is Kasi. Cremation of body in Manikarnika represents destruction of Ahamkara, the illusion of subjective experience of mind that emerges out of identifying with body as self

b) Verse 2
Yasyaamidam Kalpithamindrajalam
Charaacharam Bathi ManOvilasam
Sachitsukhaikaa Parmatmaroopa
Saa Kasikaham Nijabodharoopa

Which roughly translates to mean (in my knowledge): The Self, which has imagined this illusion of world through mind, is of the same form (is the same as) Paramaatma. I am the Kasi which is that self-aware existence of Self.

My understanding is: Self which has imagined (through mind) the illusion that we experience is, in fact, that pure self-aware existence and I am that kasi.

c) Verse 3
Kaasyaam Ki Kaasathe Kaasee
Kasee Sarvaprakaasikaa
Saa Kasee Vidithaa Yena
Thenapraptaa Hi Kaasikaa

Which roughly translates to mean (in my knowledge): Kasi is illuminated in Kasi. Kasi illuminates everything else. Only those who have seen that Kasi can reach Kasi.

My understanding is: As discussed earlier, mind withdrawn leads to the blissful experience of self-awareness. This experience illuminates and brightens everything else (as great illusion withdraws). This experience can be realized only in that state, and only those who have realized that reach the true Kasi (realization of Self)
I have left out a couple of verses here which elaborates this further

Understanding Dharma

March 17, 2012

Dharma is a word that is quite often used in different contexts to mean different things. It is seen, quite often, to be taking definition of ‘duty’. Going through some spiritual/religious text recently, I came across an interesting interpretation of Dharma, reportedly from Bhavishya Purana

It reads as below:
Chathushpaadohi Dharmasya
Jnaanam Dhyaanam SamoDamah
Aathmajnaanam Savaijnaanam
Manasthirathvam Cha Samah

This roughly translates to mean:
Dharma has four parts: Jnaanam, Dhyanam, Samah and Damah. Jnanam is realization of Self (Aathmajnaanam). Dhyanam is spiritual contemplation on Self (Aadhyatmachinthanam), which helps in the process of Self realization (and its continued sustenance). Samah is control on, and stable balance of, mind (Manasthirathvam) and Damah is control on senses (Indriyanigraham)

Transcending the mind

October 20, 2011

In my experience so far, the hardest challenge in life is to transcend one’s own mind. Mind acts (or rather pretends) as a friend, interpreting every happenings, and everything around me. But I wonder how much can I trust my own mind. As I innocently indulge in that comfort of being served by my mind, it blocks my vision with perceptions, takes me through a roller coaster ride, and blocks me from living the moment Now. I think, it is the very epicenter of great illusion.

Can one transcend the mind? Occasional ‘aha’ moments, as well as state of extreme happiness and despair, points to existence of ‘mind’less existence. What is interesting is the serene charm in such situations.

Refreshing charm of ‘aha’ moments and state of extreme happiness must be obvious for many but is that true for state of extreme despair as well? I think so. As adage goes ‘necessity is the mother of discovery’, my experience is that such states too are good in that it brings forth new solutions. For instance, Gandhiji may have born but may not have such an influential life without colonial rule. Deep within what appears to be an unsurmountable problem lies the seed of a great new future.

In my understanding, it is this challenge of transcending the mind is essence of Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Each one helps you transcend mind differently, and choice of method depend on individual’s inclination.

I was caught between two conflicting views in my early attempts in understanding and following Karma Yoga. On one side is ‘worldly’ success which is achieved only through significant and focussed effort. Though one may argue that luck plays a role, nothing is ever achieved without any effort and no effort goes totally unrewarded. On other side is popular invocation to work without expecting results.

What I have learned over years is that true joy is not in achieving but in the process; not in the event of getting what you expect but rather in the act of doing. After all, any achievement is only an event and after that, it is history and one has to move on. I have come to conclude that it is about engaging oneself so much into action that mind has no role to play. Mind gradually disappears, leaving you in absolute unqualified peace.

My philosophical pursuit and my experiments with Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga seems to tell me that each of these Yogas are apparently different means to the same end. I said apparently because even the differentiation seems to be blurring.

Karma Yoga is about acknowledging inevitability of action (not futility of action, as it is often made out/appears to be), and performing action can be with full commitment and dedication. In its true form, such an action is not driven by achievement of a desired object, position or relation but the very joy of action. A scientist involved in a scientific research of his interest, a true musician participating in a concert, an artist working on his masterpiece, an athlete in action etc are not so much driven by achievement as much by the joy of action. In its purest form, one transcends mind and its reasoning, through Karma, and starts enjoying the very existence for its own sake.

In Jnana Yoga, one becomes aware of deceptive game of mind and, thus, tends to disconnect from mind. Generally, this happens through disillusionment brought in with hard experiences in life. Contemplations on hard experiences, one realizes that every object of desire, and every relation, tend to give pain just as it does happiness. That is, happiness (or sorrow) does not exist in objects, positions and relation outside of you but rather it is within yourself. With this realization, one would consciously stop listening to the mind, and gradually mind loses its influence.

Bhakti Yoga is about surrendering mind totally to a supreme power, so that it has no influence in daily existence, and living life in control of that supreme power just every other being in the world. Does such a power exist? I think, answer is irrelevant

Sankaracharya’s Eka Sloki

March 15, 2011

I chanced upon an Eka Sloki from Adi Sankaracharya, while listening to some lectures on Advaita/Vedantic philosophy. Sankaracharya has successfully encapsulated the essence of Vedantic philosophy in this single (eka) Sloka

Eka sloki goes like:
Kim Jyothistava Bhaanumaanahani Me Ratrau Pradeepadikam
Shyaadevam, Ravideepadarshanavidhau Kim Jyothiraakhyahi me
Chakshuhtasya Nimeelanaadisamaye Kim Dheehrdheeyo Darshane
Kim Tatraahamatho Bhavaanparamakam Jyothihtadasmi Prabho

It is presented as a dialogue between a teacher (Guru) and student (SIshya), in response to a question by the student on realization of self.

Dialogue translates as:
Guru: How do you see (What is that light/power which helps you see?)
Sishya: I see with the help of sunlight
Guru: How do you see in the night?
Sishya: I see with the help of a lamp
Guru: Let that be so. How do you see the light? How do you see (your visualizations) even before you open your eyes?
Sishya: It is with my intellect
Guru: What helps you see (know) that intellect?
Sishya: This is me (me as pure consciousness)
Guru: (Indeed) You are that supreme light
Sishya: I realize that I am

Disclaimer: Translation is limited by limitations of my own understanding, power of explanation and loss of meaning due to translation (for instance: words used like Jyothi translated as light and dhee translated intellect are compromises made for want of better choice

Though simple and profound, only a very few gets to truly understand vedantic philosophy. It is still harder to explain because it is not (to be) understood by intellect but rather experienced by being, and being aware of that experience.

As Lord Krishna has pointed out in Bhagavat Gita:
Ascharyavat Pasyati Kaschitenam Aascharyavatvatathi Tateva Chaanyah
Aascharyavatchaenamanyah Srunoti Sruthuaapienam Vednachaeva Kaschit
Some sees it and marvels
Some speaks about it in awe
Some listens to it and wonders
but hardly anyone knows it

I salute the master for this brilliant piece of gem.

Defining ‘success’

December 21, 2010

Success is a magic word. It is a word that inspires, motivates everyone into action. But then, what is success? Can success be defined? It is very abstract and generic level but takes on specific meaning in a context. Success is different for different people. It differs depending on the context. Then, does it make sense to define and discuss on a generic note? I think, Yes and I am discussing it here at a very generic level.

My intention is to bring out certain subtle points which often get overlooked. These points related to how everyone of us look at success. There are certain patterns, irrespective of context, and it helps to understand these patterns.

Success has two dimensions. One external and another internal.

Success from external perspective: External World around defines your success, and that of everyone else. This is often done in comparative than absolute terms. In this perspective, success is defined and measured in terms of certain key parameters. These key parameters are wealth, power, influence, and knowledge.

Wealth is usually considered as amount of money and other assets. These helps to acquire other necessities and luxuries of life.

Power indicates your potential on effecting changes in your own life and that of others. These changes may be positive or negative. That is, it may lead to a pleasant or unpleasant experiences for self and others, as the case may be

Influence, on the other hand, is how others can effect changes in your life. These changes also may be positive or negative, and may lead to a pleasant or unpleasant experiences for self as well as others.

Knowledge holds potential to generate wealth, power and influence. Other parameters are also inter-dependent but not to the level that of knowledge. Again, potential varies depending on the nature of knowledge itself. That is, certain knowledge helps better than others.

Success from internal perspective: Haven’t you seen people hailed as successful yet burning within? More often that not, it is the result of a rat race. Point to ponder is, how dear and important is the goal for you. It is a very personal question. It can be answered only the individual concerned, and it must be. True success, can be (and, must be) defined only from that perspective.

Traditionally, Purushardhas are used to measure success, from internal perspective. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha constitute Purushardhas.

Dharma is from philosophical, social and spiritual standpoint. It stands for righteousness and value based living. It is founded on love and compassion towards others. It is, sometimes, said that world has become too competitive to afford such a living. But my personal experience is that nothing can equal joy coming out of value based living. One does not have to forgo everything else for it. The key is to strike a balance.

Artha is from materialistic and financial perspective. It stands for wealth and related assets. Many philosophical and spiritual discussion slight importance of wealth. Yet the fact remains that it plays a major role in daily life. You need money to acquire knowledge as well as to help others. One needs to work for acquiring and retaining wealth. Yet, it is equally important to realise that money is not everything. That is, money, in itself, cannot buy everything in the world.

Kama is a word used synonymous to lust, especially, in sexual context. But, here, it has a larger meaning. It pertains to all from sensory desires. I have seen many philosophical and spiritual discussions deriding Kama. But its role in life of a common man mandates every serious discussion to accept its influence . It is often these desires that helps one to set goals and work towards it. The real problem is not desire itself but rather too much of attachment to it.

Moksha is a state beyond all these. It is spiritual bliss when one rises above all these.

While these are discussed here at a generic note, it would be meaning only if individuals relate it to their life, analyze and define their success, realign their goals and work towards them. These changes from individual to individual, context to context. That is, the same person may drastically change the relative importance of these over a period of time; say, in a span of ten years

Essence of Bhakti yoga

December 11, 2010

Karma yoga presents a way of practical living.

It might look apparently straight forward and simple. Yet adopting it is very hard in day to day life. In my experience, key challenges in living by Karma yoga is that setting the right goal, having the strong conviction, retaining the self-belief in hard times and working towards the goal set. It is easier said than done in the face of conflicts of interest that we deal with in everyday life.

In comparison, adoption of Bhakti yoga is much easier. Bhakti is sanskrit word standing for devotion, generally to a specific form of God. Spiritual practice of this devotion is Bhakti yoga. I think, it is best explained by famous words from Bhagavat Gita Sarvaan Dharmaan Parityajya Maam Ekam Saram Vraja. These words are spoken by Lord Krishna. It is a promise from God that you can forget everything else and just come to me. That surrender includes distinction between happiness and sorrow, love and hatred, … even right and wrong

Bhakti yoga, for me, is living with a total trust in God, and total surrender to the will of God.

Naranathu Branthan, and Karma Yoga

December 7, 2010

I had heard the story of Naranath Branthan, a legend from folklores of Kerala, during my childhood days.

Naranath Branthan was known to be a strange man who works hard entire day, everyday, pushing a big rock to the top of a hill. The rock was so hard, and the hill was too steep that even as he pushes the rock up, it slips down a few steps. Yet when he reaches the top eventually, he rolls it down laughing, he himself coming down with it at times

This story is somewhat similar to that of Sisyphus of Roman mythology. Key difference here is that action was not imposed as punishment as in the case of Sisyphus but rather an act of his own will.

This act looked ridiculous to onlookers, and they called him mad (Branthan), unaware of the message behind this apparently meaningless act. Popular interpretation of this strange behavior is that he is making fun of mundane human life wherein we work hard day long in the hope of a bright future, without being conscious of death which is ever too close. Though I have heard this interpretation quite many times, I could never reconcile to it. I consider it as a defeatist argument.

I believe in human spirit and human effort. I believe in compassion without which philosophy, and even life itself, is meaningless. I think the conventional interpretation misses a fundamental point. A point that life is vibrant spirit. A spirit of awareness. A spirit of pure consciousness. A consciousness full of benevolence and compassion.

Notice that, what Naranath Branthan has done is not to idle his time away or preach but rather act. He has taken up a goal which is hard to achieve, evertday, and work hard to achieve the goal no matter how formidable it looks. Once it is achieved, it is history and, therefore, leave it behind and move to the next goal.

The real problem in life is that we are dragged down by memories from the past and bogged down by fears about the future. What we need to renounce are these baggages, not actions, and live everyday with new life of its own. Live everyday setting new goals and working diligently towards it. A simple recipte for success in everyday life just as modern self-development books and programs suggest, right?

Death is an ever present reality; so what? What we see as truth is not, so what? Goals that we work for every day is transcient, so what? I think the whole point is not to unduly worry about, or be concerned about these, and to live the moment NOW in its full glory.

Live the moment with self-belief and conviction in what we stand for. All great achievers be it Sankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, etc have done just that

Essence of Karma yoga

December 6, 2010

I have heard many philosophers in India propagating the idea that our every day experience and world around is the great illusion, or Maya. I refuse to believe that the world is an illusion.

My view is, our experience of the world is largely dictated by perceptions of the mind. Often, mind acts as a veil, and therefore perceptions are taken as the truth.

For instance, we perceive that earth is flat as we walk on it. Yet we know that the truth is far away from it. In case of earth we know now the reality through advancement of science but in most other cases, mind deceives effectively.

The truth, and what we perceive as truth, may not be the same
. This act of deception of our own mind, I believe, is the great illusion.

There is no emotion now attached to perception of earth being flat. But remember, that Galileo Galilei (Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution), was convicted for challenging the prevalent geocentic view. With many of our everyday perceptions, there is emotion and a potential for explosion when the perception is challenged

My understanding of Karma, as I have explained in earlier blogs, is to escape from the trap of great illusion through spirited action, directed towards a goal; not to escape from having to act. Karma yoga is not an excuse for idling as some make it out to be

It is not possible for anyone to do nothing at all, and be alive. At the minimum, one needs to breathe. I believe, Karma yoga is beyond just that. It is somewhat like an active state of action without action

When you must anyway act, put your best effort. Nothing worthwhile in the world is ever achieved without such spirited action, and passion is critical for such action.

Karma yoga is about everyday life, where we setting a goal, and passionately working towards it. It is also about holding on to what we believe as right and living by it, yet at the same time appreciating that another person may have diametrically opposite view. Appreciation of a reality that day for me in India is night for some one on the other side of the globe.

Karma yoga, for me, is also about tolerance as much as it is about spirited action

Pilgrimage to Sabarimala, and Karma Yoga

December 4, 2010

I think I went to Sabarimala in 1991 for the first time, if I remember it right. I have been going almost every year since then, barring a couple of exceptions here and there.

It has always been a spiritual experience for me as much as it being religious practice. I have always found the pilgrimage to symbolize the essence of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Sanyasa Yoga; all combined into one, depending on the perspective through which I look at

I shall detail on how I see the pilgrimage as representing Karma Yoga in my point of view, in this blog post, taking up others some other time.

Pilgrimage to Sabarimala represents working towards a lofty goal, ultimate happiness and union with God. Happiness and well-being is not just for oneself but rather for everyone else as well.

Journey commences with a ritual called ‘Kettunira” in which coconut is filled with ghee. It is cleared of its water and it is filled instead with ghee. This coconut is now called ‘mudra’, which roughly translate to mean ‘symbol. This coconut is a symbol of myself, cleared of its routine digressions to stay focused on my goal.

From this moment onwards, my goal is only one, that is to reach the Ayyappan temple at the peak of Sabarimala

Journey is hard due to various factors. One of the factors that make journey hard is uphill climb, barefoot, with a bag containing mudra. Being used to living in the comforts of moden urban life, there are times when I felt I just cannot move on.

When I look around, I see many others as well some of whom are much worse off but still pulling on with undying spirit to reach the destination. I realize that life is not a rat race. It does not so matter how slow or fast I go, what is key is that I move on.

Journey is seldom alone. We travel as a team, helping each other. Achieving goal is better and easier when we are working as a team.

I believe, the recipe for success in everyday life too is likeminded people coming together and working as a team towards their common goal. We see ourselves in every one, and we see everyone in ourselves, and call each other Swami or Ayyappa, in the true spirit of Advaita philosophy.

As we climb the holy 18 steps to reach sannidhanam, we see the message Tat Tvam Asi (That Art Thou). That is, a realization that the God, and ultimate happiness, that we seek are within ourselves, not outside of us.

We submit the ghee in mudra to the God, in total surrender of ego, and burn the coconut shell symbolizing realization of the Self beyond confines of the body and related perceptions

Then, we commence our return journey.

Every goal, howsoever lofty that be, is part of history once it is achieved. One has to leave it behind, and continue the journey to set yet another goal and get going