Archive for the ‘Tranquility’ Category

Talks with Ramana Maharishi

May 21, 2013

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.

The famous speech of Swami Vivekananda

January 17, 2011

Jatilo mundee lunchhitakesah, Kaashaayaambara Bahukritaveshah
Pasyannapi cha na pasyati moodho-Hyudaranimittam Bahukritaveshah

Just as cautioned by Sankaraacharya in Bhaja Govindam, plenty are those who adopt an ascetic form with matted locks, shaven head, dressed in saffron clothes, etc purely for a livelihood. They may appear to know the absolute but they truly don’t. These turn out to be disguises and deceptions for getting their own desires. (It is not so much the external appearances but rather the internal state that matters)

It reminds me a zen story which I heard long back which goes:

One day there was an earthquake, so hard that even many of the monks were terrified. Master took all monks to a safe place, the strongest part of the temple. After a while, the earthquake stopped and peace was back. Then, the master explained how he as a master has demonstrated how to avoid panic and stay cool even in the face of adversity. Yet, he admitted that situation was so grim he had to drink a large glass of water before he himself could regain poise. One of the monks smiled, and said: “That wasn’t water, Sir,  but a large glass of soya sauce.”

Quite relevant is words of Lord Krishna in Bhagavat Gita which goes as below:

Karmendriyaani Samyamya Yah-Aasthe Manasaa Smaran

Indriyaarthan Vimoodhaatma Middhyaachara Sah Uchyate

The one who claims/attempts to control his senses without control on the mind (which drive these senses), he is a fool who confuses himself and is only a pretender

In such context, it is hard to find a true leader, a true master, a true Guru

I came to know of Swami Vivekananda as I read out stories about him to my grandfather in childhood. He inspired me then, and he inspires me still. I read about his speech from The World’s Parliament of Religions 1893 and I am hearing it now.

I am glad that technology preserved it for us to hear it even after a century has gone by

Salute to a true Guru!

Practices of Bhakti Yoga

December 14, 2010

As mentioned earlier, Bhakti Yoga appeals to my heart. Also, I find certain specific practices of Bhakti Yoga helping me practise it more effectively. These practices are described in Puranas

I was introduced to some of these puranas in my pre-teens and early teens. It was customary for elders to read such religious books and devote their life entirely to Bhakti Yoga. But my maternal grand father was not able to read in his old age. I used to fill the void sometimes by reading it out for him.

In my view, these puranas encapsulate great philosophical wisdom, presented in the form of story telling. It also embeds, at specific points, certain practices which may be adopted in daily life. That is, it appeals as a simple story on one side. At the same time, it holds gems of philosophical wisdom, as well as specific practices which could be used to adopt these in daily life for a discerning reader.

Of these practices, I have found practices of Bhakti as particularly interesting and effective.

i) Sravana

This is listening stories, songs etc which enhance devotion and devotional experiences. I have personally found these to have a special effect on the mind, instilling confidence

ii) Kīrtana

This is singing in praise of God. It could be as an individual or a group. I have found this helping to break out of inhibitions and stay focused

iii) Smaraṇa

This is thinking about God.

I believe there is only one God, all powerful, ominipotent and all pervasive. I believe that, true to Advaita philosophy, God is within me and in oneness with me. Yet, I find it difficult to think about God without a specific form and characteristics. I think this is where concept of personal God comes in; some form which we can easily connect with

iv) Paada sevana

This is about rendering service. What service? Service of mankind; helping anyone who is in need and whom you can help. The spirit is, Naraseva is Naraayanaseva. That is, serving man is serving God

Many perceive Bhakti Yoga as devotion to the exclusion of everything else. In my view, it is not necessarily so. Prahlada, who is considered to be an epitome of Bhakti, is believed to have lived king, fulfilling his duties in its full earnestness. That is, Bhakti does not call for negation of Karma. Rather it just means devotion to God and a complete surrender to his will.

v) Archana

This is worshiping God. It is generally done with an image of God, or any symbol that represents God. It is done according to some pre-defined rituals

vi) Vandana

This is about paying homage to God. It is also done, in general, to a personal God yet it involve God beyond all confines. That is, God is perceived to be Avyakta (without any form or shape) yet at the same time Vyaktaroopa (with specific form and shape, depending on the personal God)

vii) Daasya

This is about submission in service of God.

Is there difference between Paadasevana and Daasya? In my view, the difference is in the mind. Paadasevana is only an act while Daasya is an attitude. In other words, Paadasevana is an act that is performed and ego might still exist when rendering service. But, in case of Daasya, one declares himself as servant of God and indicates conscious effort to

viii) Sakhya

This is about considering God as a friend.

In this case, one considers everyone is friend, God in everyone and, thus, God is a friend

ix) Aatmanivedana

This is a complete surrender of the self.

This is a stage of experiencing oneness with God whether distinction vanishes, and Bhakti is beyond definitions and relations.

I can perceive what this stage could be but, honestly, I have not reached a stage where I could practice this

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

Defining my world of philosophy – Thinking aloud

November 27, 2010

Many have asked me why do I think and write about these topics, which are generally referred to as ‘philosophy’.

Is it not sufficient just to live this life? Isn’t action more important than thought? May be true. Or, is thoughtful action better than mere action? Honestly, I do not know. Or, rather, I don’t care.

I have asked this question to myself, many times over. Why do I keep thinking about all these? Reply was ‘it is like asking a river why does it flow?’. Well, we could attribute flow of river to force of gravity. But then, why force of gravity? May be, because of gravitational field. Then, why gravitation field? At some point, we need to accept that it is so because ‘that is how it is’.

Why does a musician compose or sing a song? Why does poet write poems? Why does a painter paint? It is an urge, an irresistible urge from within. I write, not because I have all answers; probably, not even some of them yet.

I am not knower of truth but rather a seeker of truth. Of all I have read and heard what comes closest to my heart is Karma Siddhanta, as explained in Bhagavat Gita and Ashtavakra Gita, and notion of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ of vedanta philosophy. That is, I am part of the infinite, indivisible, indestructible spirit, and I am that.

As a child I used to watch the sky above, and wonder about vastness of sky above, multitudes of stars. As I grew up, I learned about vastness of universe of which I am a very trivial existence.

In my early days of scientific quest, adventures of mankind to get smarter than his world made me believe in eventual success of man over nature. But, as man is getting closer to annihilating himself, I started looking at the world within because the actual threat to him is from within

A world that begins and ends with me, a world of emotions, perceptions and inspirations, a world illuminated by an all pervasive, all-powerful spirit. I moved from the notion that ‘world is a stage, and all of us are actors’ to ‘I am the stage where the drama is being played’.

I am the ocean in which waves of emotions, perceptions and inspirations rise, move, clash, join and fall, with the winds of change. Yet, it is an peaceful existence of quiet confidence and strength deep within, unattached and infinite

Lessons from history

September 7, 2010

This is in response to a discussion in Google Buzz on ‘what in life will keep you happy and satisfied forever as an individual?‘.

Can any thing achievable make any one happy and satisfied for ever? I doubt. happiness and satisfaction as states of mind based on some possessions can be but momentary, given the fickle nature of mind. Anything achievable implies that it is not with you now and hence external to you. What is external to you must be lost either from possession or in value, or both, just as it is achieved. Therefore, any feeling attributed achievement of anything external to you cannot stay with you for ever.

I am reminded of the famous anecdote about Alexander the Great.. Story goes like: Alexander had set out to conquer the work; towards end of his life, it is said that he instructed his people to put my hands outside his coffin; that is, he is leaving behind all his acquisitions.

Let me clarify lest I get misinterpreted. I am not vouching on authenticity of the story but seems plausible. I am not denouncing worldly materialistic achievements either. I respect every human effort behind every accomplishments in the world. I respect the human spirit that make things happen. I salute the indomitable spirit of Alexander, the great Macedonian King. I believe, what he achieved (what is that? may be, I shall write on my perspective on that at some other time) was far greater than what he sought to.

My reading of history tells me that he hardly ruled over the vast area that he conquered, in a true sense. Whatever he has done, was it right or wrong? Was he successful or not? I am not venturing into all that because I do not think it is right. I believe, every individual must choose their life and no one else has any right to comment on it.

I do not subscribe to the theory that every thing is Maya (a great illusion) and one should strive to get out of it. Yes, I accept the illusion and I prefer to live it, enjoy it, rather than running away from it.

What I am trying to practice, and advocate, is a holistic perspective. When what you do, what you work for, what you achieve is in sync with the person that you are, life is a great experience. Follow the role models of Maryadapurushotham Ram, Playful Krishna, benevolent Christ, …. but seek within to know yourself, choose a life in accordance with that, work for betterment of self, those around you and the world at large; let your actions be guided, and powered, by the force within.

Happiness and satisfaction if you find within self, and in the moment NOW (not attributed to anything external), shall stay with you.

Bandhura Kaanchana Koottilaanenkilum Bandhanam Bandhanam Thanne Paaril (Cage is a cage even if cage is made of gold)

Believing in God rather than fearing God

August 31, 2010

As a person believing in God, I found it always curious that even many religious institution in the name of God promote fear of God!

I wonder, can God be vindictive? Can God be punishing? If He does, if He submits Himself to trivia like a man does, can He be considered superior to man?

I find Gandhi’s speech on God is resonating in my heart

God is purely benevolent, for me.

God is life; Even in the midst of death, life persists.
God is truth; Even in the midst of untruth, truth persists.
God is light; Even in the midst of darkness, light persists.
God is life, truth, light.

God, who merely satisfies the intellect, is no God.
God rules the heart and transform it
God expresses himself in every smallest act of His votary

God satisfies the intellect, rules the heart and transforms, expresses himself in every smallest act because He is but yourself, your inner consciousness, integral part of global consciousness

Knowing the unknowable

August 26, 2010

What is truly me does not change,
What changes is not me
What is truly mine is never lost
What was lost was never mine

I seek thee in me
I seek me in thee
Now I see, now I don’t
I know but I know not