Saturday, July 30, 2011

Of spiritual gurus and seekers: real and fake - part II

Shankara enumerates in ”Vivekachoodamani”, the kind of thirsty questions that would arise in the mind of a seeker of spiritual knowledge:

को  नाम  बन्धः  कथमेष आगतः  कथं  प्रतिष्टास्य  कथं  विमोक्षः |

कोसावनात्मा  परमः  क  आत्मा  तयोर्विवेकः  कथमेतदुच्यतां  || ४९  ||

Ko naam bandhah kathmesh aagathah katham pratishtaasya katham vimokshah |

Kosaavanaatmaa paramah ka atma tayorvivekah kathametaduchyataam || 49 ||

What is this bondage/misery? How has it come about? Is there a way out completely? Who is the Supreme Self? How do we discriminate between self and not-self?

These questions give us an inkling to the type of questions to be put forth to a spiritual guru and the spirit in which we approach the master. They arise from the seeker’s observations on life. They demand explanations for the sense of limitation, helplessness and confusion that one experiences from time to time. Or they may come about from a serious curiosity in knowing the truth behind all happenings of the world, within and without.

A genuine spiritual master living absorbed in the Self, does not shower a greater share of his grace upon people of his choice nor can he withhold his grace from some others. He lives in joyous perfection, cheer and bliss and it depends upon the seekers who approach him to take a greater or lesser share of it. He does not direct one’s attention to himself and expect absolute obedience or utter admiration. Instead he helps one to appreciate and admire the true inner self.

The guru living in perfection, gives out knowledge in terms of his own intimate experience and its up to the seekers to get as much benefit as they can. An ocean does not ban anyone from carrying water from it nor on the quantity. The limitations are the limitations of the containers we carry with us. Just as the sun doesn't decide to light up house to house or room to room but its the walls that restrict the entry of sunlight into the house.

Of spiritual gurus and seekers: real and fake - part I

”There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe,” says a Sufi Master. ”Don't confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. True mentors are as transparent as glass.” 

If a seeker demands cheap, easy, effortless methods for highest gains then he sure becomes an easy prey for these self appointed ‘Gurus’. These unscrupulous gurus offer grace and glory of  curative strength, failure-proof talismans, even ‘God’s own vermillion’ all for a reasonable rate, of course, to the unsuspecting, desperate seekers. For one who wants instant and immense gains without any investment then to become such an unscrupulous guru is seen as the easiest way.

This may also happen because many a person approaches a guru for every reason other than queries on spirituality. A spiritual guru is expected to have answers for financial, property, legal or marital issues. It is common sense that such issues need to be addressed by lawyers, counselors, financial advisers and so on, though a genuine guru may also offer advice on these. Even though one or all of these constitute our life experiences, one must approach a spiritual guru for better understanding of life and for spiritual evolution.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Are you in a relationship ?

There comes a time of reconciliation/agreement in the minds of spiritual aspirants, with the highest Reality, which we call Universal Truth, Nature or God.  A reconciliation that any and all prosperity or adversity, all good and all bad events in the world, happen due to the Will of the Lord.  This agreement with the Order of Nature or the Will of God comes about easily due to the influence of ‘Satsangh’ or in the company of Saints.

A similar idea is expressed in the Old Testament as, “God hath given, and God hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Guru Nanak says,"जो प्रभु कीनो सो भल मानो" All that is good to thee is good to me. He says it was on account of the Saints that he was able to have a continuous, unceasing vision of the Lord.

This vision of the Lord expresses through the Saints and this Love of God binds them together. Many Saints implore spiritual seekers to renounce those relationships that come in the way of God-devotion and engage in the only real relationship possible, which is with the Lord. 

Sant Tulsidas reiterates this point in his famous poem,जाके प्रिय न राम वैदेही, as a response to Mirabai's letter addressed to him. Mirabai had difficult situations in her family. She was troubled at home, her husband had died and her brother-in-law was giving her every imaginable trouble. She wrote to Tusidasji asking what she should do.  Tulsidasji gives certain illustrations to prove his point. He tells how for the sake of God, Bharata left his mother, Prahlad left his father, Vibhishana left his brother, the ‘vrajvanitas’/ Gopis left their husbands. In spite of the derelictions of duties they have earned praise and respect of the world.

Sant Tukaram too in his famous Abhanga expresses similar sentiments, ".... प्रह्लादे जनक विभीषणे बन्धु | राज्य माता निन्धु भरते केली || तुका म्हणे सर्व धर्म हरिचे पाय | आणीक उपाय दुखमूल ||"

Narsi Mehta in his poem (in Gujarati) says, "नारायणानु नाम जे लेता वारे तेने तजीये रे | मनसा वाचा कर्मणा करीने लक्ष्मी वरने भजिये रे || कुलने तजिये, कुटुम्बने तजिये, तजिये मा ने बाप रे | ....." He says it matters little whether it is the father or mother or anyone who stands in the way of God devotion, they should all be rejected.   

Thus the Saints urge seekers to shift our attention from being world (people) dependent to becoming God dependent. Instead of engaging/seeking permanency in the impermanence of the world, we must seek to develop Love for the Lord. Seek to be in a relationship with The One, who with attributes, form, etc or that, which without attributes, form, etc is The Eternal Truth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vedanta as means to know the Self

Any knowledge to take place must have three factors: the object to be known (prameya), the one who wants to know or the knower (pramata) and the valid means of knowledge (pramana). Knowledge itself is called prama.

Vedanta talks of the Self (Atman/Brahman) as ‘aprameya’ or unknowable, since it is not available as an object of knowledge. If the Self cannot be known thus what is the point in studying the scriptures then?

Just as we come to know through ‘pramanas’ of a lot of things that exist but which are so far unknown. Like a new disease, for example. Having discovered it we say the disease “is”. Then we hunt for its cause and then say the cause “is”. Then the treatment ‘”is”. The side effects “are”. So on and so forth.

The Self is not available as an object of knowledge but it is not totally unknown. “I am” and “I know I am” is self-evident, self established/svatah-siddhah. Everyone’s Self "is" and that is already established only then can study of Vedanta or an inquiry into the Self be undertaken. Vedanta cannot establish the Self nor can any Guru/God. Vedanta has the status of a ‘pramana’ because it removes the wrong notions about the Self.

The Shastras/scriptures bring into our recognition something that already is, maybe totally unknown to us before. It removes all the superimpositions/projections we build upon the Self in ignorance. The knowledge in the scriptures is nothing but removal of ignorance. If ignorance is not removed there is no knowledge at all. Ignorance and confusion centered on the Self is there and the scriptures have the capacity to remove them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jnanam bandhah - Knowledge binds

ज्ञानं बन्धः | (शिवसूत्र: १: २)
Jnanam bandhah:  (Knowledge binds) Shiva Sutras: 1: 2

This sutra has two readings. One is Jnanam bandhah and the other Ajnanam bandhah.

When we say ‘Jnanam bandhah’ it means knowledge is bondage.What kind of knowledge binds? The knowing that I am different from / other than the Universal Consciousness binds. In the path of Shaivism, nothing exists or does not exist that is separate from the Chitprakash (conscious self). So having differentiated knowledge is binding.

‘Ajnanam bandhah ‘is not knowing / ignorance is bondage. Not knowing 'what' can bind? Not knowing our own undifferentiated nature binds.

So ‘knowing’ our nature as individual consciousness and ‘not knowing’ our nature as universal consciousness both cause bondage. We are filled with differentiated knowledge (belief in individual independent existence) born out of ignorance and are thus bound in the wheel of repeated births and deaths. This ignorance of our oneness with the universal Self is the cause of the sprout of ‘Samsara’.

Similarly, Adi Shankara in his Tattva Bodhah says,

अविद्योपधिः सन् आत्मा जीव इत्युच्यते | मायोपाधि सन् ईश्वर इत्युच्यते |
एवम् उपाधिभेदात् जीवेश्वरभेददृष्टि यावत् पर्यन्तं तिष्टति
तावत् पर्यन्तं जन्ममरनादिरुपसंसारो न निवर्तते |
तस्मात्कारणात न जीवेश्वरयोर्भेदबुद्धिः स्वीकार्या ||

Avidya or ignorance binds the Jiva or individual. He identifies himself with his finite actions and thoughts and of his own free will binds himself. Thus engaging himself to seek what he already is and continues the cycle of birth and death. Knowing the individual self to be that infinite Existence-consciousness-bliss alone liberates from the cycle of transmigration. Hence Shankara urges us not to accept this ignorance–born difference between individual and universal and realize the essential oneness.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bhakti - Supreme Love Divine

Devarishi Narada declares his idea on devotion after stating the different opinions of various Sages in the 3rd section of the first chapter of Narada Bhakti Sutra thus: 

नारदस्तु तदर्पिताखिलचरत तद्विस्मरणे परंव्याकुलतेति |
According to Narada ‘total dedication of all actions at the altar of the Lord, and at all moments of forgetfulness of the Lord, excruciating pangs’ is Supreme Love-Divine. To surrender all activities unto the feet of the Lord, to remember Him at all times and to feel desperate when one notices even a few moments had gone by in forgetfulness of the Lord is Supreme Devotion says Sage Narada.

मोक्षकारणसामग्र्यां  भक्तिरेवगरीयसी 
स्वस्वरूपानुसन्धानं  भक्तिरित्याभिधीयते || (विवेकचूडामणि :३१ )

Among the instruments and conditions necessary for liberation bhakti alone is supreme. A constant attempt to live upto one’s own Real Nature is called single pointed devotion, says Adi Shankara in Vivekachudamani.

Love alone is the path and by love alone can we reach Love. A life without love is of no account.  Lets not ask ourself what kind of love we should seek, spiritual or material, eastern or western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions.  It is what it is, pure and simple.

We can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, temple or church. But if we are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for Him: in the heart of a true lover/devotee.

One of the devotees (gopies) in Brindavan told Uddhava, “We can practice yoga only where there is a sense of separation. Here to us there is nothing but total merger with our Shyamsunder (Dark beauty Krishna).”  This was the depth of perfect devotion that the Gopies had for their Lord Krishna. These loving Gopies were not sentimental lovers of Krishna as generally believed. They knew His Eternal nature as the ‘Sarvatman’, the Self in all. Thus in the giddiness of Love, the Gopies never once gave up a moment of their constant recognition of Krishna’s true nature as the ‘Supreme Self’.

The result of their faithful and deep devotion was that Lord Krishna, Himself, once confessed to them that He was indebted to them for the pure Love they showered on Him. He requested them to release Him of this huge indebtedness so that He may be saved from His obligations which he would not be able to clear even if He served them for eons. (Bhagavatam)

Truly when we step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

No Mind ! Never Mind !

यदा  न  लीयते  चित्तं  न  च  विक्षिप्यते  पुनः  |
अनिगनमानभासं  निष्पन्नं  ब्रह्मतत्तदा  || ( माण्डुक्य  कारिका -अद्वैत  प्रकरण -४६ )
When the mind is not lost in trance and not distracted in desire agitations again, is motionless and does not raise apparitions of thought, it verily becomes that Brahman.  (Mandukya Karika-Advaita Prakarna-46)

यथा दीपो निवातस्थो नेङ्गते सोपमा स्मृता |
योगिनो यतचित्तस्य युञ्जथो योगमात्मनः  || (भगवद गीता : ६ :१९ )

Just as a lamp placed in a windless place does not flicker” is a simile used to describe the Yogi of controlled mind, practicing yoga in the Self (absorbed in the Self with a steady mind). (Bhagavad Gita: 6:19)

“In short, man minus mind is God; God plus mind is man. Mind exists only in ashanti. Where there is shanti there is Godhood.  When the desire- agitations, thought vibrations and disquietude created by the endless chain of appearances that rise from the heap of ignorance in us, have ended, there can be no ashanti.  Where, thus, the mind is indeed no more a mind – when a man is bereft of his mind thus, that man experiences, then, the Selfhood.” Swami Chinmayananda (commentary on Mandukya Karika)

“A disturbed soul is a mind; a quiet mind is a soul. The ‘darshan’ of your soul happens only in the moments of total silence of your mind. In the total quietening of your mind you come face-to-face with the Truth. That quiet undivided mind reaches, merges, becomes one with the soul.” Master Nirguna Akshara (Hanuman the hero in you)

“So long as you do not kill the harmful and illusory association, the prostituting mind, there will be neither bliss nor good conduct. Only when the mind dies through discriminating enquiry, will it come to shine by itself as “Shivoham”-(I am Shiva).” Bhagawan Shri Ramana Maharishi (Padamalai- 458 & 704)

On a lighter note ..
“Mind it!” (Acharya Vasudha- about the mind)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Cosmic Being

सहस्रशीर्षा  पुरुषः  सहस्राक्ष  सहस्रपाद 
सभूमिं  विश्वथो  वृत्त्वा  अत्यतिष्तधशान्गुलं  || (पुरुष  सूक्तं  १ )

“He, the Cosmic Lord, the Purusha with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand legs, pervading  the entire Universe, still extends ten inches beyond.” (Purusha sooktham 1)

The universe is one being.  It is the single body of the One Self. He alone expresses through all. Therefore all legs of all creatures are His, just as all eyes and all heads are His only. A similar description is found in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13:13).

In our ignorance, prompted by our selfishness we disturb the harmonious movement of the Total and in this disharmony we find all sorrows of individuals, communities and nations. In our sense of separateness, as an individualized ego, we come to feel that the world is totally and intrinsically separate and different from us.

Once this Purusha-concept, the Cosmic Oneness is recognized even intellectually, our false sense of ego dissolves to some extent. A new vision begins to arise. A new peace discovered within. We walk out of our psychological confusions to a large extent. Students of “Purusha Sooktham” come to detect and intimately feel the divine aura surrounding everyone and everything around.

Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation.  Therefore, we must do no harm and practice compassion.  And must not gossip behind anyone's back! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and will come back to us in due time.  One man's pain will hurt us all.  One man's joy will make everyone smile.


Six students approach a Guru with their individual problems and doubts. They all knew that the great Rishi was fully capable of clearing their doubts and never doubted his perfection.

 “तानह  स  ऋषिरुवाच  भूय  एव  तपसा  ब्रह्मचर्येण  श्रद्धया  संवत्सरं  संवत्स्यथ  यथाकामं  प्रष्णान्प्रुच्छत  यदि  विज्ञास्यामः  सर्वं  ह  वो  वक्ष्याम  इति  !” 
To them the Rishi said, “stay here for a year with austerity, celibacy and faith; then you may ask as you please your question; and if I know them I will surely explain everything to you.” (Prashnopanishad 1:2)

The Upanishad here clearly indicates the necessity of attunement between the Guru and the student. It clearly indicates the importance of austerity, celibacy and faith. Celibacy should mean avoidance of excessive indulgence in the world not just sexual abstinence. Austerity redeems the personality of the seeker, while celibacy relieves his psychological debilities and faith sharpens his intensity in meditation. The Guru / Hindu scriptures insist on this practice as they want good and substantial results for the seeker. The practice helps in the finite words of the Guru / scriptures passing through the intellectual comprehension of the student finally leading to his spiritual experience.

After a year of such living with the Master, the teacher promises that he will try to answer all the doubts “if I know”. This is not a declaration of his own lack of confidence or hesitation but shows extreme modesty of the man of wisdom even in the presence of his own students. A true teacher is he who knows no egoism or vanity.