This is part two of the adventures in Advaita Vedanta... will you travel with me a while?

Thursday Thought

Hari OM

Part of saadhana, as enjoined by the Saadhana Panchakam's very first line, is,
वेदो नित्यमधीयताम् 
Vedo-nityam-adhiiyataam-—Let the scriptures be studied daily.
This is not merely a Sanskrit injunction. Most faiths of the world will have similar words in adjunct texts intended to guide the spiritual seeker. I am sure all who read here will know of someone, close or merely acquainted, who does indeed read daily of the sacred writings.

Now the question arises - are you the one who reads daily? By this, as this is a portal of spiritual growth, it is meant of words that are from the spiritual and sacred library.  Not literature or escapism. Works of direct spiritual value. If not the scriptures themselves, then at least related items (this blog would be an example, albeit something of a weak one, but at least a start!)

One of the famous anecdotes of Swami Chinmayananda is that once when lamented to by an ardent devotee that they had gone through the Bhagavad Gita countless numbers of times and that they felt it had made no difference to their life, his rejoinder was, "Ah, but how many times have you let the Gita go through you?!" The point is that we are not merely to cast our eyes over the words, but let the words enter us, swim in us, let our minds churn upon what has been read and, finally, have the learning drawn from those words settle within us and build our character and stamina for more. Each time we take up scripture to read, have we prepared ourselves mentally and physically? It is good to have a certain space where one can settle for such reading that is conducive not just to bodily comfort but also to the environment's calmness and stillness of mind. The best state in which to draw in the essence contained within and around the words. If we only read out of a sense of 'gotta do this' hurriedly, rotely, we are much less likely to inculcate any lessons and experience growth as a result. We must be fully 'present' to gain the most.

Taking time, settling well and unencumbered, take up your text and let it enter you...

Whispering Wednesday

Hari OM

Sifting through some 'to be read' articles, I found one word catching my eye in a few of them. "Clarity." Each of those articles was independent and had no relationship as such, beyond being of interest to this eclectic mind of mine. However, subjects such as archaeology, physiology, health, politics, and so on all require a level of openness of thought and a degree of informed understanding for the subject under discussion to become clear. Those who are researching and investigating at the academic level and then writing such articles also require skill in making specialist matters comprehensible for their readers. 

The word clarity itself was used within the articles to finesse certain points being made. 

Further pondering on it, though, I came to recognize that 'clarity' might have different levels of reach. What would be clear and bright to one person on a given point might, to another, be as obscured as any rain-splattered pane.

We can have much interest in a subject. Still, if we lack the background or are simply unfamiliar with how a particular writer presents, we may find ourselves anything from a little lost to outright drowning! It is good to have a wide range of interests and to feed those channels for our intellectual expansion. However, as we become ever more immersed or intrigued by a particular line of interest, it becomes necessary to do more than simply read the articles which elucidate various researches and how they affect our lives. To gain a fuller benefit, we must start to study the subject more seriously - become students and not simply casual readers. This does not necessarily mean returning to formal study (although if we are really caught with the fire of interest, this may occur - the world is full of folk who change course in life!) There are lots of hobby classes and membership groups where we can further our appreciation of any given topic and thus build on our level of understanding.

Which is where I realised why 'clarity' was ringing its clarion call to me! We sometimes conflate clarity with understanding. However, they are distinct. For clarity, it is beholden of the writer/presenter to communicate with as little technical clutter as possible (barring, of course, a full and pertinent peer interaction - but I am talking here of things published/spoken for general consumption). For understanding, it is beholden upon the reader/student of the subject matter to have a level of knowledge that matches the item being read (or heard).

That said, if the articles/discourses to which we are paying attention are of a specialised nature - such as Advaita Vedanta, for example - it must also be taken that the presenter wishes to add to the receiver's knowledge. That is to say, that the point of having created the article is to educate at least at some level. The receiver, in their turn, is surely expecting to have something added to their own expansion. To learn something.

Even if that is one word that takes them off into philosophical musings such as this word did for yours truly!

Part of the purpose of this saadhana blog is to present Advaita Vedanta in practice. To provide inspiration to think a little more deeply, breathe a little more deeply, and self-search a little more deeply. In doing this, there will be things that a casual reader is quite likely to miss, misread, or misinterpret. It is necessary that I trust my ability to convey each article as concisely and with as much clarity as possible. I cannot take responsibility for how each thing is read and what level of understanding each reader brings when they visit.

Here, although there is a specific topic of focus, the writing is for an unseen, widespread audience of indeterminate age range and background. To some degree, it becomes necessary to write as if each thing were an introductory level item. To another, there has to be assumed a level of appreciation that permits some technical usage, some intermediary and even occasional advanced concepts. All one can do to ensure clarity is to write from the heart, with as obvious an understanding of the subject as one's own advanced level would suggest, and offer up a prayer that those reading receive something - be it what they thought they were looking for - or even something they weren't!

Of course, another aspect of clarity - or, more correctly, clarification - is feedback. Exchanging ideas, discussion. Comments asking questions or opening up debate are always positive in this regard, for it makes the writer aware of what has been understood and what has not, where doubts lie or differences of view. 

So never be afraid, dear readers, to leave your thoughts, ask your questions, place your doubts as you work towards clarity in saadhana and Advaita!

Textual Tuesday

Hari OM

Today's Shanti mantra is one that could be used all day every day everywhere!!! So beautiful is this prayer for nature and peace. The chhandas link is true to chant, short and clear.

 द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Dyauh Shaantir-Antarikssam Shaantih
Prthivii Shaantir-Aapah Shaantir-Ossadhayah Shaantih |
Vanaspatayah Shaantir-Vishve-Devaah Shaantir-Brahma Shaantih
Sarvam Shaantih Shaantireva Shaantih Saa Maa Shaantir-Edhi |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.
May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.
May peace flow over the whole universe.
May peace be in the Supreme Being Brahman.
And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.
Aum peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!

Meditative Monday

Hari OM

आसन - Aasana

Those who seek to undertake meditation at even a halfway dedicated level will, at some time or another, have heard the term aasana - or if the speaker is from Northern Indian backgrounds, swallowing the final a for aasan. The word is Sanskrit in origin and therefore ought to be pronounced fully - aahh-sun-uh. 

Semantics, though, do not help us in actual practice, and neither, in the end, do the discussions on what is the best form of seat to take

The word actually has a variety of meanings that bear no relationship to meditation itself. For example, it might be used to refer to the withers of an elephant or to mean stopping, or encamping, or the part of the vehicle where the driver sits... and one meaning is described, somewhat enigmatically, as " Sitting in peculiar posture according to the custom of devotees." 

The latter may have more to do with physical yogic practices wherein, as Gurudev used to say, folk tie themselves into pretzels. Two meanings that are closer to the purpose of taking posture for a meditation session, though, are 'abiding' and 'dwelling.'

For this is what the meditator is seeking to do to find a place within themselves to abide (or dwell) to restore inner order. Over centuries, the great masters of this art have determined that there is an optimum sitting position that can yield maximum benefit from such sessions and, let me reassure you, there is value in the lead they give on this matter. 

Before getting into too much of the technical, we must first find that we have formed a regular habit. That we have physically managed to abide (or dwell) in our given position. Not just the mind can fidget and frisk away at us when we are trying to be still. Remaining in one position itself takes practice - and determination. If we would meditate, we must first be prepared to commit to it on all levels. In taking our aasana, we must remember...

Saturday Satsang

Hari Om

Through this letter to a devotee’s daughter, Gurudev drives home a serious point wrapped in humour:

Even the horse you ride on gets mad and runs wild into the forests to shake you off!! Yet you returned riding on the animal. Careful. The ridden will always try to get rid of the rider!! Hold on and bring it under your control! 

That is life.

Thursday Thoughts

Hari OM

It occurred to me earlier this week that I needed to up my saadhana game. It is one thing to live a solitary life, it is quite another to live an isolated life. Recent times have taken their toll, isolating us all in one way or another. To overcome the negative effects that such a forced situation can bring upon the psyche, the majority of us have sought solace in so many different ways, but all of them involving attempts to still feel like we belong... to someone or somewhere. We joined choirs, baking groups, exercise groups, all sharing and caring and supporting with guidelines and examples.

What has that to do with my personal saadhana? Well, one of the things that happened (although this was also in part due to my being in full-care roll for aged father) was that morning disciplines in particular suffered. Prayers were mumbled whilst trying to juggle making breakfast or assist father to rise and ablute. Due to exhaustion from attending cares, those morning and evening chants became rote and remote. There was, due to the weight of responsibility, a lack of flexibility in me to make use of any time I did manage to get to myself - and there were moments here and there...

So when I wrote the meditation post this week I was reminding myself as much as anyone. This is my saadhana blog after all! As hard-pressed as I was leading up to my father's passing, I had lost my Vedantic focus and, therefore, the benefit of uplift normally derived from it. 

This has been getting restored, just as I have been resettling myself in my own home again. Yet, there is still so much room for improvement. 

So, my dears, know that this teacher still is learning. This is the nature of the beast. We give it any leeway or slackness and it will take a long time to return to our control. Imposing self-discipline can be difficult, but the beauty of the Vedantic way is that there are guidelines such as the saadhana chatushtaya and various examples laid out upon which we can anchor our practice. We are never actually alone. Solitary, yes, but isolated, no. 

Whispering Wednesday

Hari OM

The other day I pulled out a little book of aphorisms, and a word jumped out at me.


It was in the context of "...what is the key to happiness? Be ready to accept that sadness comes..." Which required a little pondering. Did it mean that sadness was an inherent part of happiness? Was happiness dependent upon knowing sadness? 

Could it be that accepting the ebb and flow of that which keeps us cheerful in balance with that which makes us tearful results in a level that might be referred to as contentment and that this is the happiness we so desire?

Sometimes, defining what makes us sad can be as numinous as that which makes us happy. Although, it might be easier to list many things we don't like and equate these to sadness. Not liking something is not the same thing, but it gives us something to criticise because we are not prepared to dig within ourselves to properly understand our mood. Criticism, anger, and jealousy all play their part in keeping us in a negative mood, which presents us with sadness. 

On the other hand, we equate happiness with having things and people around us that lift our spirits - usually based upon the amount of focus things and folk lend to our ego.

For as long as we live in a world where we perceive plurality and place upon that the responsibility for our happiness, we must learn to deal with the inevitable disappointments such externalisation brings.

The Sanskrit word for acceptance (forbearance, fortitude) is "titiksha." To best employ this trait, we need to first have a good idea of what is worth our trouble and what is best left alone. That requires that the first two steps in the 'saadhana chatushtaya' are rehearsed. Viveka - discrimination, and vairaagya - withdrawal/self-control. These lead to the third step, samaadhi-shatka-sampatti (sixfold values), of which titiksha is one. As we build our personalities using these guidelines, contentment settles almost by itself. Acceptance comes readily.

Acceptance can serve in so much of life. From the small things of having to adapt to a different food product from the one we went to buy - accept what is available and pine not for the lack of another - all the way through to the big things which are likely to involve life decisions such as where we live. Has there been a flood? Complaining doesn't help the repair and continuation of living. Accept it happened, be disappointed, yes, but now get on with it. 

Acceptance does not mean one should become a doormat. It does, however, mean not getting into unnecessary battles or worrying ourselves quite literally into sickness. On the contrary, it is one of our great strengths if we cultivate it well.

Textual Tuesday

Hari OM

In reviewing Shanti mantras for my own benefit, sharing them here with you is surely positive saadhana! Today's offering is one mostly chanted by those who are keenly studying shastra and wishing to stay focused thereon. The link to the chant is an excellent one; proper training in the gurukula method.

 वाङ् मे मनसि प्रतिष्ठिता ।
मनो मे वाचि प्रतिष्ठितम् ।
आविराविर्म एधि ।
वेदस्य  आणीस्थः ।
श्रुतं मे मा प्रहासीः
अनेनाधीतेनाहोरात्रान्सन्दधामि ।
ऋतं वदिष्यामि ।
सत्यं वदिष्यामि ।
तन्मामवतु ।
तद्वक्तारमवतु ।
अवतु माम् ।
अवतु वक्तारामवतु वक्तारम् ॥
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Vaanga Me Manasi Pratisstthitaa |
Mano Me Vaaci Pratisstthitam |
Aavira-Avir-Ma Edhi |
Vedasya Ma Aanniisthah |
Shrutam Me Maa Prahaasiih
Anena-Adhiitena-Ahoraatraan-San-Dadhaami |
Rtam Vadissyaami |
Satyam Vadissyaami |
Tan[d]-Maam-Avatu |
Tad-Vaktaaram-Avatu |
Avatu Maam |
Avatu Vaktaaram ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Om, Let My Speech be Established in My Mind,
Let My Mind be Established in My Speech,
Let the Knowledge of the Self-Manifest Atman Grow in Me,
Let My Mind and Speech be the Support to Experience the Knowledge of the Vedas,
Let what is Heard by Me (from the Vedas) be Not a mere Appearance …
but what is Gained by Studying Day and Night be Retained.
I Speak about the Divine Truth,
I Speak about the Absolute Truth,
May That Protect Me,
May That Protect the Preceptor,
May that Protect Me,
May that Protect the Preceptor, May that Protect the Preceptor,
Om Peace! Peace! Peace!

Meditative Monday

Hari OM

Meditation is only as beneficial to us for as much as it is practiced. If we seek to learn a language, picking up the books and using the lingo but once a week is unlikely to yield the best results. If we wish to become proficient in a musical instrument, keeping it in the cupboard until only the day of the lesson does not serve that purpose. 

So it is with meditation. We must practice daily. It does not have to be long, but it must be daily. Only regular usage can familiarise us and bring any level of proficiency. 

We don't all want to be translators or concert pianists... but to appreciate writings in a certain way or the music we hear, again that regularity is what atunes us. The same applies to meditation. 

Then there come the excuses. 

Could not make time today.

Have not the space to sit.

Don't know how to begin...

Five minutes of any day can be found for reading the newspaper, but not for meditation. Space is made for all sorts of junk in our homes, yet not a square metre or a chair available is there for meditation. Despite reading and listening and asking how over and over, still this question arises. 

The biggest excuse of all - I simply can't control my mind.

Well, that is the point, my dears! The key purpose of meditational practice is to do precisely that. To make this excuse is to admit that you really have no intention of applying yourselves to the possibility of being free of the raging mind for even five minutes a day... 

Go away now and write down all the reasons you can't/don't/won't meditate. Then sit down for five minutes - anywhere you like - and give serious thought to the reasons that arose. 

Now write down your 'meditations upon the excuses against meditation.' 

There. You have begun.

Saturday Satsang

Hari OM

Deep within us is a region unaffected by the tumultuous uproar of our daily lives. It remains ever a calm seat of poise and serenity, just like the depth of an ocean. Many great men in the world recognised this region and named it differently.

With whatever name one may call it, all those who have discovered its existence have unanimously declared that diving into its peace and calm invigorates one’s tired mind and soothes tense nerves.

To plunge into the deeper layers of one’s mental make-up is to take leave of all the anxieties and fears of daily life, at least for the time being. To eradicate these disturbing elements from one’s mental atmosphere, one has to practise a great deal of self-control in life.

The unruly thoughts which multiply endlessly should be securely harnessed and the mind trained to glide over to more pleasant thoughts which bring harmony and peace. To achieve this, a sense of detachment from worldly objects is essential, and this must, of necessity, presuppose a re-evaluation of the world and its objects. To this re-evaluation, one should turn all one’s attention when faced with problems, crucial or casual. Problems arise when we fail to view situations from the right perspective.

When we become clouded with ignorance and delusory misconceptions, balance and discrimination disappear from our minds, leaving behind selfishness, lust and anger. This is because we live so much on the superficial level that our inner depth of peace and serenity become alien to us.

Identifying with the ever-changing waves, we have forgotten the real nature of the ocean. Constantly living in the storms of the mind, we are foreigners to our own spiritual tranquillity.

Thursday Thoughts

Hari OM

There was cause to be reminded recently...

It wasn't anything of life-changing purport. Simply a matter of a certain occurrence in the neighbourhood. For a day and a night, I swithered as to what might be done to change the conditions around what was happening. 

Of course, the realisation dawned that the effect upon me was peripheral to what was happening for the neighbour - someone who lives near and yet we know each other not, neither even have had more than a passing glance. It was not a matter that required greater intervention for safety or wellbeing. It was simply a matter of my environment being invaded by a noise unfamiliar and - frankly - unnerving.

The fault was with me for not having appropriate titiksha! Observation told me the situation was likely to be a temporary one. I only needed to wear the headphones or distract myself with something else, rather than let this change bother me as much as it did. 

And it, too, did pass...

Whispering Wednesday

Hari OM

It came to me in the night, the whisper this week. 


Really? Why on earth would school be whispered? I was trying to sleep, but now this word entered before the trip to Nod, delaying departure somewhat.  Not for too long, though, for the basic reason made itself known without too much effort. When we attempt to make any advancement in life, we have, for all intents and purposes, to put ourselves back into a learning - and, therefore, school - situation.  

Source; Google Images
This is obvious when it comes to any skill or technique, be it a recipe for our next meal beyond our current knowledge and skill or the maintenance of a vehicle or other mechanical item. These days it is possible to learn so much even just by watching others on the internet. Need a new fancy stitch to knit or crochet? Want to know about best practice for keeping houseplants? Want to try out a dance move but need step by step instruction? You name it, there is almost certainly a place or person to which you can turn for guidance, placing yourself in the role of student to learn from the 'one who knows.' We can, all of us, learn to paint by numbers - although even then, we still have to apply ourselves. We have to make efforts to get involved and commit to completion.

We may also check around for varying points of view and see if there are different approaches to the same matter. Where there is a wild difference between those approaches, we may think twice about following through. Where there is clear consistency, albeit with individual tweaks, we are more likely to trust what is being 'taught' and give deeper value to what we are learning. 

As adults, we can be prone to thinking that we know our way and no longer require to learn. This would be a mistake. 

Long past, I decided that life itself is school and that there would be something in each and every day to be discovered, learned and digested. (Sometimes to be rejected, but only after due consideration.) That decision to accept the teachings which came my way, regardless of how small or apparently insignificant, has served well. Whether it be a new word, or a new context for the usage of a word, or all the way through to an actual return to school as I did for gurukula, it has also meant that this life has been lived with very few things occurring to look back and regret. 

To make oneself open to learning - even of opposing views or hard to hear things about oneself - is the best way to expand the personality, become fully self-aware and build authenticity into existence. It is the way to become truly 'adult'... rather than remaining caught in the old patterns held over from childhood and being forever insecure and unsure. 

Inherent to schooling, to gain the best from it is to have an inquisitive nature, a questioning mind, and an assertive intellect. To have all these and waste them by always eating the 'same food' would be to waste ourselves. Would that not be a crying shame?

Textual Tuesday

Hari OM

Shanti mantras are all chanted with a view to centring first the chanter, then the pacifying the environment around them, and if in a group, settling all into a place of peace and community. Then, within each prayer there is a specific focus - or, one might say, target - in order that benefit can be spread in that direction. This prayer now is one which could be said every day and without reserve as many times as one could possibly offer it. You can listen to the chhandas here.

 सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु
मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् ।
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

May all become happy
May none fall ill |
May all see auspiciousness everywhere
May none ever feel sorrow |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meditative Monday

Hari OM

Meditation of the transcendental practice form is demanding. It requires dedication. It is important, when taking asana, to be clear about the level of meditation that one wishes to attain in that particular moment of practice...

What? Did you think that it must all the time be aimed for the transcendent?

Well, perhaps, if one is a serious and eager seeker. However, most of us are fitting meditational practice into busy, worldly lives. To gain even a few minutes of genuine stillness and peace - not necessarily separated from awareness of our physical existence - is a blessing indeed. The more we achieve these moments, the closer true Transcendentalism comes, anyway. So it does not have to be the absolute aim in a given day's seat, although it is good to know that it's there to head for when we are ready and able. Just like we don't all necessarily want to go to the capital city, but it's good to know that we can when we want to...

Regardless, any decent meditative activity requires that we understand ourselves and our motivations. Balancing all things in life even when not in a meditative pose can help maintain the benefits gained from the times that we are. This is why Gurudev's quote is important.

Saturday Satsang

Hari Om

Today, satsang with Yamini-amma...


Let us first be clear about the origin of the word itself. 

Taken from Online Etymology

Immediately we see that even the word can be debated as to origin! One might be inclined to go with the first of the ancients quoted here, Cicero, and accept that the concept is to re-read. Read and read again is one of the main tenets of most philosophy (and definitely of Advaita). This is the way to properly delve, for we will (or at least ought to) glean something new or different from each reading to help build the greater picture of meaning. That the later ancients then considered an adjustment to "bind fast" indicates the tendency of human nature to build in the controlling aspects of a thing.

It must be remembered that each religion has many practices, but few manifest from the baseline philosophy upon which each doctrine is based. The religions of this world arise from each society's geographical and cultural demands as much as anything. They are man-made constructs resulting from attempts to explain our existence but quite often adopt certain elements of pre-existing pagan practice... drawing people in by keeping things familiar. Doctrines developed by which to shepherd the flocks, and this says more about human nature than it does about philosophy.

In other words, the need for doctrine (and by association, indoctrination) was nothing to do with spiritual enhancement but everything to do with guiding a society along a particular cultural or behavioural path.

The earliest burgeoning of this was not to do with a god or gods or even 'spirit', but everything to do with maintaining law and cohesiveness of life that would balance the community. Thus arose the Ten Commandments and the Chatur VedaaH. What was acceptable behaviour and etiquette in society and what was not. 

Gradually, doctrines within a spiritual construct grew stronger, and the edicts and injunctions ever more onerous as tracts of scriptures were taken out of context and expanded upon. Then, doctrine becomes dogma. It is the dogmatic aspect of religious activity that brings down upon religion much of the criticism and vitriol that can be found circulating.

Thus we must distinguish between living a religious life and a spiritual one. This is oft-debated in the modern age as more and more become disillusioned, disheartened and distant from the traditional faith systems.

To be spiritual does not necessarily mean that one must belong or identify with any particular church/mosque/temple, as can be seen from Swami Chinmayananda's rejoinder to a devotee (sidebar). Spirituality has nothing to do with any building or intellectual structure. However, spirituality can be religious insofar as the learning of any philosophy to the depth that it becomes valuable and meaningful requires us to read and re-read and read yet again. Also that we act upon the principles of that philosophy, giving it life and purpose. Giving ourselves a purpose in life. 

This, after all, is one of the basic needs of the human condition, that there be purpose. Another, and perhaps more fundamental in its way, is happiness. So it could be noted that having purpose provides satisfaction, contentment... happiness. 

Neither does this sense of purpose have to be grand or of enormous public potential (though if it turns to this, how wonderful!) No. The majority of us wish only to navigate our way from birth to death with a sense of having achieved our own small purpose and, perhaps, to have left a legacy through our work or family. That is all. It's really not that big a thing, yet so many seek to create a  mammoth out of it.

The other aspect of organised religion that is tending to be torn down is that of the priest. The fallibility, the human-ness of religious leaders - their feet of clay to use another term - has resulted in a wholesale rejection in some quarters. To be blunt, in all faith backgrounds, some are nothing but hypocrites. What is more, they hide behind their relevant clothes for behaviours that are most definitely on the 'do not' side of the spiritual ledger. Entire philosophies are rejected due to the failings of some who would purport to uphold the values. It is understandable, for we are taught to trust these individuals and the faith structure to which they belong. 

However, to trash the whole for the part that is damaged is an error. For example, do you condemn all cooking pots just because one of them got burnt? Of course not. The need to cook means that pots are required, and the other pots in the cupboard have integrity and solidity. 

Philosophies hold their validity. Apparent failures in them come from misinterpretation or deliberate twisting of them.

Not all priests - teachers, gurus - are faulty. Indeed, most are genuine and seek to practice the philosophy's principles as much as the layperson. Moreover, they have the advantage of immersing themselves fully in the subject matter and can offer deeper insight and stronger guidance on the subject matter.

We all have the ability to read or hear something and know whether a kernel of truth lies within that item. Thus when we hear from the true greats of philosophy, be that eastern, western, or the great unknown, we also can see the common thread from all those traditions. That the human critter wishes only for a happy life; that the purpose of our existence is to work for sufficient satisfaction to gain that happiness. More often than not, such happiness has nothing to do with the materialistic hedonism that currently prevails.

Consequently, many are refinding their spiritual side through connection with nature (forest bathing, hill walking, wild swimming...) and practical outreach - look at the number of groups gathered online during all our lockdowns that may never have occurred had there not been this impetus!

By our very nature as intellectual beings, we need to express spiritually - whether that be with or without a sense of deity. Whether or not we choose to take up such spirituality in a regular expression of some practice determines whether or not we are religious. Even sportsmen and women are religious in their practice! The important thing is having a single focus, a sense of a goal to be attained, and then be prepared to work it, work it, work it...

Thursday Thoughts

Hari OM

Yesterday, I wrote of the moral imperative of working towards Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - a universal family situation. In a recent article on my other blog, I had a discussion that continued via email with a blogpal on the matter of 'no man is an island' and her difference of reading of the quote I had given. It was a reworded reference to the original John Donne poem in which the writer says, "I feel we are all islands in a common sea."

The simple fact is that each of us is currently an individual component. Yes, we all belong and are connected to each other by many commonalities and are interdependent for much that is about our physical survival. However, the jiva self, that part of us that identifies as an individual, is self-aware and seeks to connect in whatever way it can, is absolutely an 'island' until such time as it returns to the Totality of Self in OM. It searches for the reunion. However, for the majority, the understanding of that ultimate goal is lost or completely unknown to them. 

The human critter is profoundly spiritual, even when it intellectually denies and vilifies such a concept. Every human being (with a few exceptions one supposes, for exceptions are there to make the rule, is it not?) lives by a philosophy of one type or other. To do that is to address the spirit. If they reject the established philosophies (such as Advaita Vedanta, for example), they will fall to working via one of the many ideologies that permit them to follow their impulses and desires. 

For that is the key driver in all of us. Desire. If we do not have a clear idea of the ultimate desire - to return to the Totality of Existence - then space is left for all our vasana-driven lusts and urges to rise and push us forward.

Sometimes that can be very positive, for even in the absence of 'religion' we tend as a species to have an idea of what is positive and negative in social terms. 

It is also, though, what is behind the "I"ness movement that even turns up in the titles of various tech equipment... We live now in a general societal norm that seems to prize the egotistical and individualistic "look at me" nature that places personal needs before the needs of those around us. Blame is sometimes laid on social media for self-obsession, but it might also be noted that social media arose and flourishes because of that very selfishness that is inherent in the group personality. 

Now, in a pandemic world, we have seen both the best and worst of these traits appear not just at a personal level, but at the national and international level. There are world governments that symbolise selfishness in the extreme. 

We have a long way to go, as a species, before we truly merge as one...

Whispering Wednesday

Hari OM

In last week's article on the subject of books, towards the end, I used the word 'imperative' concerning the importance of feeding our mental selves positively and with material that would raise our vibrant selves, not drag us to the gutter.

As I sat awaiting the whisper for today's post, that word echoed once more, and so I pondered as to why. Bearing in mind that all these posts are an expansion of my own saadhana, they are written in the manner they are as hints and pointers - that anyone reading here might draw inspiration from them. Or at least be stimulated to think a little deeper. The first purpose of the imperative for me, then, is that I provide this outreach, as engendered by my own acharya's injunction, "don't forget to teach, amma!"

Then again, we live in times where we all need to assess our role in life and whether or not we have obligations not just to ourselves but to the community at large. Do we have a moral imperative? This could be in our political stance, or on matters of health and wellbeing - or indeed, in any sphere of sociological undertaking.

These are 'interesting times' which the old adage would say curse us. We are in a constant state of adaptation. This is part of the human condition, but most of us have become settled and complacent, considering permanency where none truly existed. There is an ambivalence that has affected the entire world, which has permitted the rise of neoliberalism and, in some cases, hints of fascism. Even when we know that change is required and that such a change can only come about by deciding and acting towards creating that change, so many of us are also in a state of fear. We become paralysed because there may be no visible or viable alternative to which we can turn. We become hung upon our own hook of indecision. Can we find in ourselves that moral fibre to drive the imperative of working towards the change we wish to see?

It is so easy to condemn spiritual pursuits as being outdated and pointless in life - but I put it to you that the very foundation of principles that drive the moral imperative - and, indeed, boost morale (to take a twist on it) - are derived from the philosophies of self-analysis and personal development. All modern reinventions which have arisen simply cannot improve upon the ancient teachings of what it is to be the best human beings we can be. That these teachings (and I talk here not just of the Vedic shruti, but also those of Judaism, Islam and Christianity...) in their turn got twisted out of shape and used erroneously is a fault of the base creature that is Mankind, ever lustful for control and power.

When we turn to the great books of any philosophy to enrich ourselves (as stated last week), our immediate imperative is to not reinterpret what we read. Not to twist it to our own ends and seek justification for staying exactly as we are, rather than making the alterations to ourselves that will build our personality higher and nobler. 

We live in a world that desperately needs those who have higher ideals and universal understanding, international interest whilst appreciating local purpose, to rise and speak out and be counted. Certainly, that can come with an element of personal risk - to our ego selves, if not our physical selves. But what revolution ever succeeded without there being a level of sacrifice?

The social revolution required in the world now is one of the basic humanitarian values and addressing of simple needs. It has always been thus - yet here we still are. Can the world shake itself and see more clearly how wrong it has been, and bring about a true and meaningful union in keeping with the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam?

Textual Tuesday

Hari OM

Last week you were introduced to the Asato Shanto mantra. Today, Sarveshaam mantra, which is quite often chanted together with the Asato, being akin in ethos and sharing the same chhandas. This is the sound-byte... though note that at the end, one additional pada has been given, but translation is provided on that video.

 सर्वेशां स्वस्तिर्भवतु ।
सर्वेशां शान्तिर्भवतु ।
सर्वेशां पुर्णंभवतु ।
सर्वेशां मङ्गलंभवतु ।
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Sarveshaam Svastir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Shaantir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Purnnam-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Manggalam-Bhavatu |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

May there be Well-Being in All,
May there be Peace in All,
May there be Fulfilment in All,
May there be Auspiciousness in All,
Om Peace! Peace! Peace!

Meditative Monday

Hari OM

Role of Solitude.

To work towards a transformation through meditation, it is necessary first to appreciate solitude. Only in true aloneness is it possible to become a proper self-observer. Solitude is not idleness; here, you can watch, examine and assess as you process. It is important to note that solitude, true silence, implies non-verbalisation… even the quiet internal kind. If you are chattering with yourself, you are indulging in 'company' of past, possible future and so on. 

The mind, addicted to words, symbols and verbalizations, is comfortable only when exposed to the chattering of another or its own chattering. If the mind is removed from the company of people, it begins to talk to itself. Soon, tired of even this inward chatter, it becomes bored and starts to complain. It prompts and pricks the individual to look for the chatter which is missing... If you are alone and the mind reacts "oh, I feel lonely", don't run away to some distraction. Eat your loneliness and drink it and digest it! Stop running away from yourself. Sitting alone and getting beyond loneliness into a true acceptance of solitude permits the essential, original you to make an appearance. The person that you, perhaps, never even knew was there.

Create an opportunity, and if you find you cannot bear the austerity of solitude and silence, or the departure from the orbit of thought, time and space, then go back and live comfortably the way the world has been lived till now, accepting that for what it is. Otherwise, follow other paths, which enrich and strengthen the mind and develop your mental powers.

It is a multi-stage process in which there will be mental rebellions, fears, despairs, questions and doubts. Observe and keep observing, with the intellect, the detached self. It is a non-reactional attentiveness. It does not condemn neither approve any action or any perceived weakness. A sense of exhaustion may arise, for letting go is an almost physical process. All sorts of strange and peculiar things can arise as we attempt to move beyond our conditioned state. Let them rise and pass your consciousness, acknowledging their presence but nothing more.

Do not force things; give time for absorption. Be kind to the Self as it seeks to reveal careful, though, not to become complacent or forget that you’re a participant in your own process. On the frontiers of the unknown, many an enquirer stays put or gets stuck; there is no desire to return to the old way of living, but incomplete process results in frustration at not living in the entirety of ego-lessness; there is a suspension, a limbo state, which bears no fruit for the personality.

Solitude, silence, non-action is a very positive and tremendously creative state. It has its own energy that is qualitatively different from the energy of ego-consciousness. Meditation, an exploration into silence, is a psychic adventure. Your time in solitude, your period of self-education, prepares you to be an adventurer into the unknown.

Saturday Satsang

Hari OM

It was in the late ‘70s. The Powai ashram in Mumbai wore a festive look because Gurudev was visiting. The halls and walls of the ashram were vibrant with festoons, garlands and devotees milling around in the Jagadeeshwara temple for his darshan and satsang.

Gurudev entered the temple and after pranam-ing the Lord, went round the sanctum for a pradakshina. While doing so, he saw a devotee standing in front of a donation box (hundi), counting his coins.

Gurudev went up to him and whispered into his ears, “If you count what you are giving Him, He too may count all that He is giving you!”

The devotee immediately offered all the coins in his palms into the hundi, even as Gurudev chuckled.

What the devotee says: “Through that single and simple example, Gurudev drove home the very essence of worship—that the Lord is the true giver and owner of all things that we think belong to us. He is the source of all our riches and so we should give Him back wholeheartedly!”

Thursday Thoughts

Hari OM

In conversation with a friend in recent times, regarding art and science of a discipline, she commented that for that particular thing (archaeology) she also considered there was a large dose of speculation involved.

There are many who say the same with regard to matters spiritual and, indeed, philosophical. Often it is said with a slightly derogatory tone - or even, not that slight!

Hard numbers, physical representations, reproducible experiments are seen as part of the scientific method, as well as logical elimination of things that do not drive the knowledge building forward. Most of those subjects that are deemed as 'science' have their subjective part - the part wherein a thought has to arise as to a possibility of something (the speculation) before it can then be tried in various ways to build first the hypothesis, then perhaps a theory and ultimately, something will occur to prove it all and it becomes confirmed knowledge (or disproves and thus the elimination continues).

There are some sciences where numbers drive everything. Mathematics has something mystical and magical about it - but even that had to be developed from speculation way back in the 'archaeological' times! 

To deride something because it cannot be broken down into numerical units and manipulated or represented numerically is to see only one leg of the elephant. Speculation is not a fault. It is a starting point... as long as the one doing the speculation does not get stuck only at that point.

Then, as in Advaita, there must follow robust investigations and the application of logical arguments. All philosophies worth their bargaining salt will stand up to scientific scrutiny. This is especially true when discussing matters Vedantically. Particularly when it is understood that many of the Sanskrit texts discuss matters which would now be termed 'quantum'!

If we at all feel put upon or threatened by finger-pointers and 'scientific egos', we need to have armed ourselves with as much of the knowledge and experience as we can of our philosophy in order to demonstrate our stance. We also have to remember that we are at different points around the elephant and it is quite possible that there will be those who simply cannot get past their point or accept their blindness. Agree to differ and move along.

Whispering Wednesday

Hari Om

Sometimes, when the whispering is not loud or spontaneous, I will lift a book and let it fall open at a page then allow my eye to fall upon a word. I do not reject it but accept it is the word for rumination at this time. Today that word, amazingly, is पुस्तिका (pustikaa), book. 

I say 'amazingly' because only last Thursday and then again on Monday, books have already been mentioned. Why then is it again being 'whispered' to me?

Last week, the book in question was a notebook (tippupustikaa). A collection of blank pages for us to fill up with our own scribblings. This is important because it permits a surrender, a flow of consciousness, a connection with the act of touching our thoughts to the paper through the medium of our choice - pencil, pen, brush... If we attempt to control the process, we will often find ourselves hindered and less productive. By letting the process flow without too much interference from our ego-selves, we can be as surprised as anyone at what comes forth. The results will give us something to ponder about ourselves and deepen our inner connection. 

[Note to self; Writing blogs as sadhana is a bit like this!]

When it comes to books that are already printed, well, the scope is almost interminable. The places we can travel from the comfort of our chair. The vistas on offer through images. The tactile quality which cannot be had from a computer give another context to the contents of the book. In delving the pages of even a highly technical text we cannot help but have a little something left within us to bring forth a pearl. Grist to our milling mind. 

What we drink in through our eyes will, in some form, be what we will produce on the blank page. All input becomes part of our inner landscape and if we seek to express that landscape in some manner, the truth of the effects cannot be escaped. 

Therefore, it is imperative that what we feed ourselves intellectually, is of a quality and substance that will improve us, raise us, build who we are. Then, we may at some point, be able to pass that on - even if it is simply a notebook filled with Shanti and Love for someone long in the future to uncover and wonder over.