The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3:  The Path of Action (Karma Yoga)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3:

The Path of Action (Karma Yoga)

Arjuna asked, “O Janardana (Krishna)! If you think that Knowledge of Brahman is superior to the Path of Action, then why do you engage me in this terrible action of fighting the war? (1)

My intellect gets confused with contradictory thoughts. Please tell one thing which definitely leads me to the Highest Goal. (2)

Shri Krishna said, “O Pure Minded Arjuna! I have described two kinds of paths in this world, namely “The Path of Knowledge” for the people who follow Sankhya Yoga and “The Path of Action” for the people who follow Karma Yoga. (3)

No one can attain ‘action-less-ness”, the highest state of Karma Yoga, by not performing any action. On the other hand, no one can attain the Highest Knowledge by simply renouncing all actions. (4)

Know for certain that even for a second, no person can remain without performing any action. All people are forced to perform actions by the three gunas created by the Prakriti (the Power of Brahman). (5)

A deluded person who forcefully controls his/her senses, but cherishes the sense-pleasures in the mind is called a hypocrite. (6)

But one who controls one’s senses through the mind, and by remaining unattached, engages the senses in the performance of actions, following the path of Karma Yoga, is indeed superior. (7)

Perform your responsibilities assigned by nature and as described in the scriptures. It is better to perform action than to remain inactive.  Even to keep one’s body alive one has to perform action. (8)

(Note: Each person is born in a particular space, time, and surrounding situation. According to these space-time-situations, one has allotted responsibilities.)

People get bound by their actions if they are not performed as an offering to God. Therefore, O Arjuna! Perform your responsibilities in a detached spirit and as an offering to God. (9)

The Creator Prajapati (Brahma) created human beings and the Yajna (sacrifices) in the beginning of the cycle and said, “May you multiply by these sacrifices. May these sacrifices be the ‘Cow of Plenty’ which fulfills your desires.” (10)

(Note: The Sanskrit word “Yajna” literally means a ritualistic worship described in the Vedas. In a broader sense, any action is “Yajna” if it is done as an offering to God or for one’s spiritual development. Such an action is also called ‘a sacrifice.’)

Prajapati continued, “With these ‘Yajnas’ you nourish the gods (the powers which control the environment) and may the gods nourish you. Thus, nourishing each other, you will obtain the Highest Good. The gods nourished by the ‘Yajnas’ will bestow on you the desired enjoyments. A person who enjoys worldly pleasures that were not given by the gods is a thief.” (11-12)

Good people, who eat the remnant of the “Yajnas” become free from their sins; but those wicked people who cook only for themselves without offering it as “Yajna” verily eat sin. (13)

(Note: Eating sins is like living a selfish life.)

From food all creatures are born. Food comes because of rain. From “Yajnas” comes rain. “Yajnas” (sacrifices) come from actions. Actions are prescribed in the Vedas and the Vedas arise from the Imperishable Brahman. Therefore, the all-pervading Brahman always resides in the “Yajnas” (sacrifices). (14-15)

Thus the wheel was set in motion. One who does not follow this, but takes delight in the selfish pleasures and commits sins lives in vain. (16)

But if one rejoices to be one with the Self (Atman), remains fully satisfied with the Self, and is content in the Self alone, such a person does not have any responsibility to perform.  Such a great soul has nothing left to accomplish in this universe for which he/she has to work, nor does he/she lose anything from any action which is not performed. Such a soul has no selfish motive in his/her relationship with others.  (17-18)

(Note: All the actions of such a great soul are unselfish and beneficial to humanity.)

Therefore, remain always detached and perform your responsibilities. By performing one’s responsibilities without any attachment one realizes the Ultimate Reality (Brahman).  (19)

(Note: Performing responsibility with detachment means to perform it as an offering to God (Brahman) or for to perform for one’s own spiritual (inner) development. First one starts as ‘Work and Worship,’ then it becomes ‘Work as Worship’ and ultimately it becomes ‘Work is Worship.’ To understand more about detachment, one has to study and practice Swami Vivekananda’s lectures on Karma Yoga.)

By performing actions alone in the detached spirit, King Janaka and otherwise people have attained the Supreme Knowledge (or Perfection). Further, you should perform your responsibility in this way even to set a good example in society. (20)

Whatever the great people do, people follow them.  Whatever standards they set in the world, others try to attain. (21)

O Arjuna! I have no responsibility in the world. There is nothing in these three worlds that I have not gained and nothing that remains to be gained. But, I continue to work. (22)

If I do not engage Myself continuously in action, then there will be great harm in society because people follow Me in everything. If I do not perform My responsibilities, then all people will do the same and they will be destroyed. They will either do whatever they want or choose not to perform their responsibilities at all and thus they will destroy themselves. Therefore, I would become the cause of their destruction. (23-24)

O Bharata (Arjuna)! The unattached and wise people, wishing the welfare of all, should perform their actions with the same zeal as ignorant people, who are attached to the world, perform their actions. (25)

An enlightened person should not disturb the mind-set of those who are attached to their actions.  But, he/she should perform actions with the proper spirit and help others to do the same. (26)

Actually, all people are forced to work by the three gunas of the Prakriti.  Only a deluded, egoistic person thinks that “I am performing all actions.” (27)

O Mighty Armed Arjuna! One who knows the truth about ‘the gunas and the actions’ and ‘the Atman being as a witness consciousness’ remains unattached to all actions, realizing that the gunas are forcing the senses to perform these actions. (28)

Those who are under the spell of the three gunas, remain attached to the actions which were forced on them by the gunas. A person who has full understanding of the activities of the three gunas should not disturb the minds of those who have little understanding about them. (29)

Keeping your mind focused on the Self (Atman), offer all actions to Me (Brahman). Thus, you will free your mind from worldly desires and selfishness. Then, perform your responsibility as a warrior to fight without being perturbed by grief. (30)

Those who follow this advice of Mine, having faith in Me and without any complaint, will be free from the bondage of their actions. (31)

Those who are skeptical about this teaching and do not follow it, know that these senseless people blinded to all wisdom are heading towards their own destruction. (32)

All people, including the knowledgeable ones, are working under the dictate of Prakriti. It is useless to try to do otherwise. (33)

Attachment and aversion are engraved in the senses towards their sense-objects. You should not be controlled by them. They are the enemies in the path to perfection (the Highest Knowledge). (34)

One’s own unpleasant responsibility, even if ill-performed, is better than the well-performed, pleasant-looking responsibility of another.  It is better to die performing one’s own responsibility. There is a great danger in performing other people’s responsibilities. (35)

Arjuna asked, “O Krishna! Under what compulsion do people unwillingly commit sin as if they are forced by it?” (36)

Shri Krishna said, “Know that desire and anger are all-devouring and they are the cause of all sin. They arise by the rajo-guna and are our enemy in this world. As smoke covers fire, dirt covers a mirror, and an amniotic sac covers the fetus, desire and anger cover knowledge of our true identity. (37-38)

(Note: Sri Ramakrishna said that one has to conquer lust and greed as they cover our true identity.)

O Arjuna! Know that this desire is like a fire which cannot be quenched by any amount of ghee or wood we put into it. The Ultimate Knowledge of a person is covered by his/her worldly desires. A person who is seeking the Supreme Knowledge should consider these worldly desires as an enemy. (39)

(Note: A person’s worldly desires (especially lust and greed) cannot be fulfilled no matter how many ways one tries to fulfill them. The more we try to fulfill our worldly desires, the more they  multiply and intensify like the fire with the ghee or the wood.)

The senses, the mind, and the intellect are the abode of worldly desires and through them they cover the supreme knowledge of a person that he/she is nothing but the Self (Atman). (40)

Therefore, O Arjuna! Control your senses and destroy the worldly desires which cover the supreme knowledge and the wisdom of a person. (41)

The senses are stronger than the worldly objects. The mind is superior to the senses. The intellect (discriminating power) is superior to the mind. The Self (Atman) is superior to the intellect. (42)

O Mighty Armed Arjuna! With your pure intellect realize the supremacy of the Self, and with it control your mind and destroy this worldly desire, the enemy which is most powerful and difficult to conquer. (43)

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Third Chapter, entitled “The Path of Action.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy and Rushil Desai for editing this post.)

 

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2:  The Path of Knowledge (Part II – Shlokas 39 – 72)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2: 

The Path of Knowledge (Part II – Shlokas 39 – 72)

Shri Krishna said, “O Partha (Arjuna) whatever I told you so far is from the ‘Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality’ point of view. Now, I will tell you from the Karma Yoga point of view. This will help you to perform your responsibility without being bound by its consequences. (39)

In this path of Karma Yoga (the path of action) no effort is ever lost and there is no ill consequence of any action. Even a small effort made in this path saves a person from the Great Fear (the cycle of birth and death). (40)

O Kurunandan (Arjuna)! In this path, a Karma Yogi possesses single-minded determination and purposefulness. The thoughts of the people who do not follow Karma Yoga and just work for their selfish reasons such as sense pleasures, worldly gain, and heaven are irresolute. Their thoughts go in all directions and never become conclusive. (41)

No resolute and unwavering thought is formed in the minds of those who:

(1) are deeply attached to pleasure and power,

(2) allow their discrimination to be stolen by the flowery words of the unwise,

(3) permit their souls to be ridden with desires,

(4) regard the attainment of heaven as the highest goal,

(5) think that the Vedas (the scriptures) promise rebirths as the reward of their actions and lay down specific rites for the attainment of pleasure and power, and

(6) take great delight in quoting the ritualistic parts of the scriptures which promise enjoyment in heaven as the fruit of sacrifices and worship, and declare that besides these, there is nothing more to attain from the scriptures. (42-44)

O Arjuna! The Vedas deal with the three Gunas; you must go beyond the three Gunas. Remain balanced in the pairs of opposites like joy and sorrow, praise and blame, etc. Establish yourself in Sattva. Do not desire any worldly thing which you do not have and do not try to preserve what you have. Remain steadily focused on your Self (Atman). (45)

When everything is flooded with water from all sides, one does not need a reservoir of water. Similarly, when a person realizes the Ultimate Reality (Brahman), he/she has attained the highest goal described in the Vedas and has no further need of the Vedas. (46)

(Note: Sri Ramakrishna said that if a relative asks you in a letter to bring a couple of things, once you acquire these things, the letter is no longer important.)

You are entitled to perform an action, but you have no control over its result. Let not the result of the action be your motive to work. You should not be inclined to be inactive either. (47)

(Note: A seeker of the highest truth works only for inner spiritual development and wishes to acquire knowledge and devotion by performing any action. He/she is not interested in worldly gain or loss.)

O Dhananjaya (Arjuna): Perform your responsibilities remaining unattached towards their results and keep your mind balanced in success and failure. Performing responsibilities with a balanced mind is called Yoga. (48)

The performance of those who work for worldly results is inferior to those who work for the highest knowledge. Therefore, acquire the attitude to work for the highest knowledge. The people who work for the worldly results are beggars. (49)

(Note: The highest knowledge or the goal of spiritual development is to realize that our true identity is Divine which is called the Self or Atman and that Brahman is the Ultimate Reality underlying the whole universe. Brahman relative to an individual is called Atman. The nature of Atman and Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute).)

A person with a balanced mind goes beyond the ideas of acquiring merits to go to heaven and the worries of sins to go to hell. Therefore, perform your responsibilities to acquire the highest knowledge, keeping your mind balanced. Skillfully performing all responsibilities to acquire the highest knowledge is called Yoga. (50)

Wise people, keeping their mind balanced, perform actions for the highest knowledge and thus renounce worldly results. They then become free from the bondage of the results of their actions. Ultimately, they attain the state which is beyond all evil. (51)

When your intellect gets rid of delusion, then you will be indifferent to the various ideologies you have heard and many yet to be heard. (52)

Your intellect has been confused by various ideologies you have heard. When your intellect is established firmly in the Self (Atman), then you will attain the goal of Yoga (Self-Realization). (53)

Characteristics of a person with steady intellect:

Arjuna asked, “O Keshava (Shri Krishna)! What are the characteristics of a person whose intellect has been steadily established in the Self? How does such a person speak and behave in the world? (54)

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! When a person has cast off all worldly desires from his/her mind and is completely satisfied to remain focused in the Self (Atman) alone, then that person is called a person of steady intellect. (55)

(Note: A person with a steady intellect has been fully convinced that the world cannot give him/her the infinite bliss, love, satisfaction, knowledge, immortality, fearlessness, and freedom which he/she can get from realizing one’s true identity (Atman). That is why such a person gives up all worldly desires.)

When a person does not get disturbed or depressed by the sufferings of the world, does not seek any longer-lasting happiness in the world, and has given up attachment, fear, and anger, such a person is said to be of a steady intellect or steady wisdom. (56)

One who is not attached to anyone and loves all equally, and does not get elated or agitated when good or evil things come, such a person is said to have a steady intellect. (57)

As a turtle withdraws its limbs when it is in danger, if a person completely withdraws one’s senses from worldly objects, then that person is said to have steady wisdom (or steady intellect). (58)

(Note: This means that one may work with one’s senses in the world, but should keep the mind focused on the Atman so that the mind does not get deviated by the sense-experiences.)

Many times people withdraw their senses from their objects, but their taste (desire) for sense-enjoyment does not go away. However, even the taste (desire) of sense-enjoyment drops away from a person who has realized the Highest Truth (Brahman). (59)

(Note: A person who has realized Brahman experiences infinite bliss within and all other sense-pleasures become so insignificant that they do not attract the person, just as the light of the moon becomes insignificant when the sun comes out.)

O Arjuna! The turbulent senses forcefully drag away even the mind of a wise person who is making efforts to realize the Ultimate Reality (Brahman). (60)

Therefore, a wise person should control all senses and focus his/her mind on Me (Brahman). A person attains steady wisdom (intellect) when all his/her senses are under control. (61)

How a person falls:

– By thinking about sense objects, one develops attachment to those objects.

– From attachment arises the desire to attain these objects.

– When obstacles come in the way of fulfilling these desires, then anger comes.

– Anger covers the mind with one thought and deludes a person.

– In the state of delusion, one forgets all the good things one has heard in the past.

– With such a loss of memory, one loses the sense of discrimination that enables him/her to distinguish right from wrong.

– When the power of discrimination is gone, then that person falls from righteousness. (62-63)

On the other hand, a person with self-control, moving among objects with his/her senses under restraint, and free from attachment and hate, attains serenity of mind. (64)

The serenity of the mind removes all sufferings of the world because the intellect of a person with a serene mind is easily focused on the Self (Atman). (65)

A person who does not have control over his/her senses cannot have a steady intellect. A person without a steady intellect cannot have the inclination to realize the Self (Atman). Without realizing the Self there is no peace of mind. How can a person be happy without peace of mind? (66)

Even one of the roving senses, if the mind yields to it, carries away the intellect (the discriminating power) as a storm carries away a boat in the river. (67)

Therefore O Mighty Armed (Arjuna)! A person has steady wisdom when his/her senses are completely restrained from their objects. (68)

In that which is night to all beings, a person with self-control is awake; where all beings are awake, a person with self-control (who is the seeker of the Ultimate Reality) sleeps. (69)

(Note:  This means that whereas most people are enthusiastic and active to acquire sense-pleasures, the seeker of the Ultimate Reality does not have much interest in such endeavors. On the other hand, a seeker of Self-Knowledge is very enthusiastic to make spiritual efforts, though people seeking sense-pleasures do not have much interest in those efforts.)

Those who are seeking sense-pleasures do not attain peace of mind. But, peace is attained by a person in whom all the desires enter and get absorbed without creating any disturbance in the mind just as an ocean being full to its brim with water remains clam and grounded even though many rivers dump their water into it. (70)

A person who lives completely free from worldly desires, without longing, devoid of the sense of “Me and Mine” and is egoless attains peace. (71)

O Arjuna! This is the state of a person who has attained the Self-Knowledge (the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality, Brahman). By attaining this state one never becomes deluded. Being established therein, even in the hour of death, one attains final liberation in Brahman. (72).

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Second Chapter, entitled “The Path of Knowledge.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy and Rushil Desai for editing this post.)

 

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2:  The Path of Knowledge (Part I – Shlokas 1 – 38)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2: 

The Path of Knowledge (Part I – Shlokas 1 – 38)

Sanjaya said, “Arjuna was overwhelmed with pity and despondency. His eyes were agitated and filled with tears. Lord Madhusudan (Shri Krishna) told the following things to Arjuna.” (1)

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! How come this delusion has covered your mind at this critical time? Neither this attitude is fitting for a noble person, nor does it give honor to a person, nor does it take one to heaven. (2)

O Partha (Arjuna)! Don’t be a coward! It does not befit you. Remove this low-level weakness from your heart and stand up! You are actually the scorcher of enemies.” (3)

Arjuna said, “O Madhusudan (Shri Krishna)! In war, how can I shoot arrows at the grandsire Bhishma and my teacher Drona? They are worthy of worship. (4)

I think it is better for me to live on alms than to kill these respectable teachers. By killing them, I will only enjoy in this world the wealth and objects of desires filled with their blood. (5)

We do not know which is better for us: to fight or not to fight. We do not know who will win at the end. And we do not wish to live by killing our cousins, the sons of Dhritarashtra, who are in the opposite army. (6)

My mind has been possessed by pity and I am really confused about my duty. Please tell me what is good for me in this situation. I take refuge at your feet. I am your student. Please guide me. (7)

Even if I become a king of a large prosperous kingdom without any enemy or obtain the lordship over the gods in heaven, I do not see a way to overcome the sorrow which burns up my senses.” (8)

Sanjaya said, “O King Dhritarashtra! Having said this, Arjuna, who is the scorcher of enemies, told Shri Krishna that “I will not fight.” and sat quietly. (9)

Then, Shri Krishna, in the middle of two armies, told the grief-stricken Arjuna the following things with a smile.” (10)

(Note: Shri Krishna is a great teacher and a guide. It is interesting to know how in various ways he explains to Arjuna why it is good for him to perform his duty. First, he explains from the philosophical (Atman) point of view. We also can learn from these teachings why we should continue to perform our responsibility in critical situations.)

Shri Krishna said, “You are grieving for the people who should not be grieved for. You talk like a wise person, but the wise do not grieve for the living or those who are not living. (11)

It is not true that these kings, you, or I were not living in the past nor not living in the future.  Wise people are always aware that the soul (Atman) of an individual gets another body after death just as an individual in one’s own body goes through stages like childhood, adulthood and old age. (12-13)

O Son of Kunti (Arjuna)! Because of the contact of the senses with their objects, one feels heat and cold and joy and sorrow. These dualities always come and go. They are temporary. O Bharata (Arjuna)! You have to endure them. (14)

O the Best among the Human Beings (Arjuna)! Knowing this cause of joy and sorrow, a wise person does not get disturbed. Thus, such a wise person, remaining calm in joy and sorrow, is fit to realize the immortality of the soul (Atman). (15)

The wise people who have realized the Ultimate Reality (the Highest Truth) have observed that ‘the unreal does not exist and the Real never perishes.’ (16)

The One (Brahman) which pervades the whole universe is Imperishable. No one can destroy this Imperishable. The bodies of human beings are perishable, but the Atman residing within is imperishable and incomprehensible. Therefore, O Bharata (Arjuna)! You must perform your duty as a soldier to fight. Both types of people, one who thinks that ‘I kill the Atman’ and the one who thinks that ‘The Atman is being killed,’ do not know that the Atman does not kill and does not get killed. (17-18-19)

This Atman was never born and It never dies. It is not that at some point the Atman is born and then It dies. This Atman is birth-less, eternal, and ancient. This Atman does not die when the body dies. (20)

O Partha (Arjuna)! If one knows that the Atman is imperishable, eternal, unborn, and immutable, how then can that person think that he/she slays or is the cause for another to slay? (21)

(Note: One should not misinterpret these teachings as a justification to kill anyone. That kind of interpretation is completely wrong and distorted. Shri Krishna had made all efforts to stop the war, but the Pandavas (and in particular Arjuna) were forced to fight for their survival and they had no other choice left. We always have to keep in mind this situation when we read these teachings. On the other hand, the deeper understanding that the Atman is imperishable may help us in carrying out our responsibility in various situations.)

As we get rid of worn-out clothes and put on new clothes, the Jivatma (the embodied Atman) gets rid of the old body and put on a new body. (22)

The Atman is Imperishable. Weapons cannot destroy the Atman, fire cannot burn It, water cannot drown It and the wind cannot blow It.  (23)

The Atman can neither be destroyed, nor be burnt, nor be drowned, and nor be blown. The Atman is eternal, all-pervading, immovable, unchangeable and ancient. This Atman is said to be Un-manifest, beyond comprehension, and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing Atman the way it has been described, you should not grieve.  (24-25)

(Note: Now in the next two shlokas, Shri Krishna talks from the layman’s point of view and then again goes back to the philosophy of the Ultimate Reality of the Atman.)

O Mighty Armed Arjuna! Even if you think that this Atman is born with the body and dies with it, you should not grieve, because whatever is born dies and whatever dies is born again, and you cannot do anything about it. (26-27)

All beings were un-manifested before their birth and again become un-manifested after death. They manifest only in the middle. In this situation, what is there to grieve about?  (28)

Some look on this Atman as a wonder; some speak of It as a wonder; some hear about It as a wonder; still others, though hearing, do not understand It at all. (29)

O Bharata (Arjuna)! The Atman which dwells in all bodies is Imperishable. Therefore, you should not grieve for any being. (30)

(Note: In the next six shlokas, Shri Krishna tells Arjuna why it is good for him to perform his responsibilities as a trained warrior from the practical point of view.)

You should not waver from your responsibility as a warrior on the battlefield knowing that the war is unpleasant. For a warrior, there is nothing better than to die fighting for a righteous cause. (31)

O Partha (Arjuna)! Only blessed warriors get such unsought war opening a gate to heaven. On the other hand, if you do not fight this righteous war, then you will incur sin by forsaking your responsibility and honor. (32-33)

If you do not fight, then for years people will talk about your infamy. For an honorable person, dishonor is more painful than death. The great warriors will think that you have run away from the battlefield due to fear.  Also those, who have high regard for you as a warrior, will look down upon you. (34-35)

Your enemies and ill-wishers will make degrading comments about your lack of strength and vigor to fight a war.  Nothing will be more painful than to listen to these remarks.  (36)

If you get killed fighting a war for the righteous cause, then you will go to heaven and if you win, then you will enjoy a large kingdom. Therefore, O Son of Kunti (Arjuna)! Arise and resolve to fight. (37)

Consider the pairs of opposites like pain and pleasure, benefit and loss, and victory or defeat as different stages of life. They are not different from the absolute point of view. Be ready to perform your duty as a warrior to fight. By doing this you will not incur any sin. (38)

End of Gita Chapter two Part I.

(Note: In the year of 1973, at my graduate school, City University of New York, I was talking to couple of classmates about India and Indian culture. In that conversation Bhagavad Gita came up as a topic of discussion. I remembered one classmate said, “Oh! Bhagavad Gita! Is that about an archer who did not want to fight a war and God (Krishna) told him to fight the war?” I just smiled and asked the classmate whether he knew about the reason for the war, the circumstances which led to the war, and the efforts made by Krishna to prevent the war? He did not know any of this.

I told him that Shri Krishna went to the opposite party (King Duryodhana’s court) as a peace-making messenger to prevent the war.  Duryoudhana walked out of the court, insulting Krishna. Even though Pandavas deserved half of the kingdom, Duryodhana said that Pandavas would have to fight even for a piece land that fits on the tip of a blade of grass. Shri Krishna went to Duryodhana’s father, who simply said that his son (Duryodhana) did not listen to him. Shri Krishna went to Bhishma and Drona to prevent the war. Bhishma and Drona both knew that this was an unrighteous war, but they had been bound by their obligations. Thus, Shri Krishna made all his efforts to prevent the war, but he failed. He came back with a heavy heart to tell Pandavas that they had no choice left but to go to war. Moreover, I told my classmate how despite the various ways in which Duryodhana and his cousins tried to kill the Pandavas, the Pandavas were able to survive. Duryodhana cheated the Pandavas and took away their kingdom, with the goal to destroy the righteous Pandavas; just see how much they had to suffer in their lives!  Arjuna was the Pandavas’ main hope to survive.

Another important point is that the teachings of Upanishads were given in Ashramas, which were like universities in wooded areas. All the Upanishads’ teachings were related to the fundamental questions of life, like, ‘What is the purpose of life (if there is any)?’, ‘What is my true identity?’, ‘What is my relationship with others?’, ‘What is the nature and the purpose of the universe?’, ‘What is the goal of a human life?’. The Upanishads give answers to all these questions. But, these answers are philosophical answers. How to practice these thoughts in our day-to-day life is very important. That is why Bhagavad Gita is most important. Shri Krishna told Arjuna how to apply the teachings of the Upanishads in the critical time of his life. With Arjuna, we can learn how to apply Bhagavad Gita’s teachings in the critical time of our life. What could be more critical in our life than Arjuna’s situation In the middle of the battle-field where he was forced to fight with his own relatives? Bhagavad Gita teach us very practical ideas such as, ‘How to live in the world keeping our mind balanced?’, ‘How to acquire the highest knowledge and unbroken bliss while living in the world?’, ‘What are the values we can practice in our life?’, ‘How to love all unselfishly?’ and many others.)

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy and Rushil Desai for editing this post.)

 

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1: The Path of Arjuna’s Grief

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1: 

The Path of Arjuna’s Grief

Dhritarashtra said, “O Sanjaya! My sons and the sons of Pandu have gathered in the sacred field of Kurukshetra in order to fight a war with each other. What did they do? (1)

Sanjaya said, “The King Duryodhana observed the formation of the Pandavas’ army. Then, he went to his army teacher Drona and said, “O Teacher! Behold the formation of the huge army of the sons of Pandu arrayed by your talented student Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Dhrupada. (2-3)

In this army, there are mighty archers and heroes, in battle equal to Bhima and Arjuna, Yuyudhana, Virata, and Dhrupada. Each one is a Maharathi, one who can single-handedly fight several archers simultaneously; the heroic Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, and the valiant king of Kashi; Purujit, Kuntibhoja, and Shaibya, all the best of men; the powerful Yudhamanyu, brave Uttamauja, Subhadra’s son Abhimanyu, and the five sons of Draupadi–all Maharathas indeed. (4-6)

O Great Brahmin! Please recognize the main warriors on our side. For your information, I will tell the names of the main leaders of our army. They are you, Bhishma, Karna, the ever-victorious in war Krupacharya, Ashwatthama, Vikarna, and Somadatta’s son Bhurishrava. (7-8)

(Note:  Addressing Drona as a Brahmin on the battlefield is an insult to Drona.)

There are many brave warriors who are ready to die for me. They are well equipped with various weapons and are clever in fighting. (9)

(Note:  See the ego of Duryodhana in saying that “they are ready to die for me.” He also told the truth –that these people were fighting for Duryodhana and not for a just cause.)

We have unlimited power because we are all protected by Bhishma, while the opposite army is limited in power as they are protected by Bhima. Therefore, all the leaders remaining in their own positions in your divisions definitely protect Bhishma alone from all the sides. (10-11)

(Note: Duryodhana could only mention seven names of the leaders of his army. Also, he chose only Bhima’s name from the opposite army, because he was afraid that Bhima could kill him in mace-battle.)

At that time, the oldest of the Kurus and mighty grandsire Bhishma roared like a lion and blew a conch to create joy in the heart of Duryodhana. (12)

(Note: I think Bhishma knew the ultimate outcome of the war and he wanted to finish the whole matter, so he made the first move.)

Then, together the conches blew, war-drums started beating, and other war-instruments like tabors and cow-horns blared forth. The sound of all these things created a terrible, stupendous sound. (13)

Then, Shri Krishna and Arjuna blew their divine conches from their magnificent chariot yoked by white horses. (14)

(Note:  From the Pandavas’ side, Shri Krishna blew the first conch.)

Shri Krishna blew the Panchjanya conch and Arjuna blew the Devadatta conch. Mighty Bhima, who does terrible deeds in the fight, blew the Paundra conch. King Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, blew the Anantavijaya conch, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosha conch and Manipushpaka conch respectively. (15-16)

O King Dhritarashtra! The great archer, the king of Kashi, the great warrior Shikhandi, Dhrishtadyumna, Virata, the unconquered Satyaki, King Dhrupada, five sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed Abhimanyu, the son of Subhadra, blew their conches from all the sides of the Pandava army. That terrible sound filled the sky and the earth and pierced the hearts of all the people of Dhritarashtra. (17-19)

Then, by seeing Dhritarashtra’s army ready to start the war, Arjuna lifted up his bow and asked Shri Krishna, “O Achyuta (Shri Krishna)! Please take my chariot in the middle of the two armies. I want to see who are the war-mongers gathered here in the opposite army and decide with whom I am going to fight.  I really want to know all the kings who are supporting the evil-minded Duryodhana and gathered here to fight for him.” (20-23)

(Note: See the spirit of mighty Arjuna.)

Sanjaya said, “O Dhritarashtra! Upon Arjuna’s request, Shri Krishna drove his chariot in the middle of the two armies and stopped it, facing Bhishma, Drona, and other kings. Then Shri Krishna said, “O Partha (Arjuna)! Behold all the Kurus assembled here.” (24-25)

Then, Arjuna saw arrayed in the armies (on both the sides) fathers and grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles and brothers, sons and grandsons, friends, fathers-in-laws and comrades. Looking at the relatives, Arjuna, the son of Kunti, was overcome with deep pity and said in a sorrowful voice:

Arjuna said, “O Krishna! By seeing my relatives gathered here to fight a war, all my senses are losing their power, my mouth is drying out, my body has tremors and I have goose-bumps all over. My Gandiva bow is slipping from my hand, my skin is burning, I am feeling dizzy, and I cannot stand on my feet. (26-30)

O Keshava (Krishna)! I see bad omens and I do not see any good in killing my relatives in the war. I do not desire victory, the kingdom, or happiness. What is the use of such a kingdom or the enjoyment or even to live after killing my relatives? (31-32)

Our teachers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, sons, grandsons, fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law, and other relatives, for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments, and happiness, are arrayed here in battle having staked their wealth and lives. (33-34)

O Madhusudan (Krishna)! I would not kill them even though they kill me. I would not kill them even if I were to acquire the three worlds, then what to talk about this little earth? (35)

O Janardana (Shri Krishna)! What joy can we have by killing the sons of Dhritarashtra? We incur only sins by killing these criminals. O Madhava (Shri Krishna)! Therefore, we should not kill our own cousins. By killing our own relatives, how can we be happy? (36-37)

Even though greed has overpowered their minds and they do not see the evil in destroying their own families and incurring sins in being hostile towards friends, should not we, who clearly see the evil in destroying our families, think about refraining from this sin? (38-39)

With the decay of the family, its long-established traditions and religious practices will perish. With that, unrighteousness will prevail in the family. O Krishna! With that unrighteousness, the women of the family will have unrestricted relationships and with that mixed-caste children will be born. The mixed-caste children will destroy the traditions of the families and ultimately lead families to hell. These children will not properly perform the religious rituals for their ancestors and then their ancestors will also go to hell. With these mixed-caste children, the long-time traditions and religious rituals of the family and the caste will be destroyed. O Krishna! We have heard that the people of such family and caste stay in hell for a long time. (40-44)

(Note: Arjuna’s reasoning is based on the traditional beliefs of his time. If there were people other than his relatives on the opposite side of the battlefield, Arjuna would not have any hesitation to fight with them.)

Oh! It is so sad that we are engaged in committing a great sin. Just for the greed of enjoyment of a kingdom, we are eager to kill our own relatives. (45)

I think it would be better if, in the battlefield, the sons of Dhritarashtra, with their weapons, killed me, unarmed and unresisting.” (46)

Sanjaya said, “By saying this, Arjuna, who was filled with grief, casting aside his bow and arrows, sat on the chariot seat.” (47)

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the First Chapter, entitled “The Path of Arjuna’s Grief.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy and Rushil Desai for editing this post.)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11:  The Path of the Vision of the Universal Form

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11:

The Path of the Vision of the Universal Form

Arjuna said, “Out of compassion for me, you have told me profound truths about the Self. These words have removed my delusion.

O Lotus-eyed Shri Krishna! I have heard from you in detail about the creation and dissolution of beings and also about Your Divine Manifestations.

O Lord! I completely believe what you have described about yourself.  But, O Supreme Purusha! I want to see these Divine Manifestations with my own eyes.

O Lord! O the Master of all Yogas! If you think that I am fit to see your Imperishable Universal Form, then please show me that divine form.”

Shri Krishna said, “O Partha (Arjuna)! Behold My hundreds and thousands of divine forms which consist of various colors and shapes.

Behold in Me. all the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, two Ashwinkumaras and the Marutas.  Also, behold various wondrous forms which were not seen before by anyone.

O Arjuna! Behold in Me the whole universe including movable and immovable beings and things, and also whatever you desire to see.

But, you will not be able to see My Divine Forms with your physical eyes, so I will give you ‘Divine Eyes’. With these ‘Divine Eyes’, behold My Supreme Yogic Power.”

Sanjaya said, “O King Dhrutarashtra! By saying thus, the Great Master of the Yogas, Lord Shri Krishna showed Arjuna His Supreme Divine Form.

Then, Arjuna saw the Infinite Form of Shri Krishna which had infinitely many faces and eyes, was wearing various celestial garments and garlands, was adorned with divine ointments and ornaments, and was holding various celestial arms. This Form was filled with various wonderful and wondrous sights and was facing in all directions.

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, then it would be like the splendor of that Mighty Being.

At that time, Arjuna saw the whole universe with its various aspects in that one Universal Form.

Then, overcome with wonder and with goosebumps, Arjuna saluted that Universal Form with folded hands and said the following:

Arjuna Said, “O Lord! I see in Thy body all the gods, all the beings, all the celestial serpents, all the Rishis, and the creator Brahma sitting on a lotus.

O Lord of the Universe! I see that Thou have infinitely many faces, eyes, hands, and bellies. I see that Thou are everywhere having infinitely many forms. I do not see the beginning, the middle, and the end of Thy Infinite Form.

I see Thou wearing a crown on head and holding a mace and a ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ (discus). I see Thou glowing like a mass of radiance on all sides. Thou are blazing like a burning fire and the sun and very difficult to look at. Thou are incomprehensible.

O Lord! Thou art the Supreme Imperishable Being that has to be realized. Thou art the sole support of the universe. Thou art the protector of the ‘Eternal Dharma’ (Righteousness in the universe).  In my opinion, Thou art the ‘Eternal Purusha.’

I see that Thou art without beginning, middle and an end, having infinitely many arms, and an embodiment of infinite strength. I see the sun and moon as Thine eyes and Thy face is like a blazing fire burning the whole universe with Thy radiance.

O Great Soul! The space between the heaven and the earth and all the directions are filled with Thee. I see that with Thy wonderful and terrible form the three worlds tremble with fear.

All the gods enter into Thy body and a few out of fear sing Thy glories with folded hands. The Great Rishis and the Siddhas, after saying ‘May there is peace!’ praise Thee with excellent hymns.

All the Rudras, Adityas, Vasus, Sadhyas, Viswas, Ashwin Kumars, Maruts, Ushmapas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Asuras, and the Siddhas behold Thee and are amazed.

O Mighty Armed Lord! By beholding Thy Infinite Form with many faces, eyes, arms, thighs, feet, bellies, and terrible tusks, all the people are terrified and so am I.

O Lord Vishnu! By seeing Thy blazing form which reaches the sky, which shines with many colors, having its mouth wide open and with bright shining big eyes, I am scared and I am losing my courage and peace.

Thy mouths and terrible tusks blaze like fire which is going to devour the whole universe. By seeing them I am disoriented and find no peace. O Lord! O Abode of the Universe! Please be gracious to us all.

I behold that all the sons of Dhrutarashtra with all their kings, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, and many prominent warriors of our side enter into Thy terrible mouth with big tusks. Many of them have been caught between Thy teeth with their heads being crushed to powder.

As the torrents of rivers gush to the ocean, all these warriors are gushing into Thy blazing mouth.  As the moths fly into the fire for their own destruction, so these beings are gushing into Thy mouth for their destruction. O Lord Vishnu! Devouring all the worlds through Thy fiercely flaming mouths Thou lick Thy lips from all sides.  Thy fiery rays fill the whole universe with their radiance and scorch it.

Please tell me, “Who art Thou? O the Supreme Lord! I salute to you. Be pleased with me. O Ancient Purusha! I want to know Thee.  I do not know Thy purpose.”

Shri Krishna said, “I am the mighty world-destroying Time.  I am engaged here to destroy these people. Even without you, the warriors in the opposite side will be destroyed.  Therefore, O Arjuna! Get up, fight, conquer the enemies, enjoy the flourishing kingdom and obtain fame.  Know that I have destroyed them already and you are just an instrument.

Know that I have already killed Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna and many other powerful warriors. You fight with them and become an instrument to kill them. Do not worry.  Go on and fight. You will be victorious over your enemies.”

Sanjaya said, “After listening to Shri Krishna’s words, Arjuna trembled. With folded hands in adoration, he saluted Shri Krishna. Overwhelmed with fear, he saluted Shri Krishna again and addressed Shri Krishna with a choked voice.

Arjuna said, “O Hrishikesh (Shri Krishna)! It is appropriate that the world rejoices and takes delight in singing your glories.  The fearful Rakshasas are fleeing away in terror and all the Siddhas salute Thee in adoration.

O Great Soul! Thou art the Primal Cause of even Brahma, the creator of the universe. Thou art the greatest among all.  There is no wonder that all these Siddhas are saluting you. O Supreme Lord! O Abode of the Universe! Thou art the Supreme Imperishable Brahman which is beyond the Manifest and the Un-manifest.

Thou art the Ancient God, the Eternal Purusha. Thou art the Supreme Abode of the universe. Thou art the Knower and That which has to be known. Thou art the Ultimate Goal of all. O Lord with Infinite Form! The universe is pervaded by Thee only.

Thou art the Wind, Yama, Fire, Varuna (Water), the Moon, and the creator of the universe,
Brahma. I salute to Thee a thousand times.  And I salute to you again and again.

O Mighty Lord with Infinite Power! Thou pervade the whole universe and therefore Thou art everything. I salute to you from the front, from behind, and from all sides.

Considering Thou as my friend and not knowing Thy greatness, I have rashly addressed you as “O Krishna” or “O Yadava” or “O Friend” out of love or from inadvertence. O Achyuta! I may have shown disrespect to Thee while playing, resting, eating, or sitting when we were alone or in front of other people. Please forgive me for all this disrespectful behavior.

Thou art the Father of the whole universe including the movable or the immovable beings and things. Thou art the Great Teacher and most respectable. O Almighty Lord! In the three worlds, there is no one even equal to Thee, then how someone could be superior to Thee?

Therefore, O Adorable Lord! I salute to Thee, prostrate my body at Thy feet, and pray to Thee to be pleased with me. O Lord! Please bear with me as a loving father does to his son, a close friend to his friend, and a loving husband to his wife.

By seeing Thy wonderful and terrible form that I have never before seen, I am very happy, but my mind has been distressed with fear. O Lord of the gods! O Abode of the Universe! Be pleased with me and show me Thy godly form.

I want to see Thy godly form wearing a crown and holding a conch, a discus, a mace and a lotus. O Lord with the Universal Form! O Thousand Armed Lord! Please reveal Thy four-armed godly form to me.”

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! By My grace, through My Yoga Power, I showed you My Supreme, Resplendent, Primeval, and Infinite Universal Form which no one has seen except you.

O Arjuna! In this human world, the Universal Form that you had seen is not possible for anyone to see by studying scriptures, by charity, by performing rituals, or by any austerity.

Do not be afraid or bewildered by seeing My terrible form.  Be fearless and be glad to behold My godly form.”

Sanjaya said, “After saying thus, Lord Vasudeva (Shri Krishna), the Great Soul, showed Arjuna his godly form. Then, he assumed his gracious form and appeased the terrified Arjuna.

Arjuna said, “O Janardana (Shri Krishna)! Now, by seeing Thy gracious human form, I have come back to my senses and have attained my normal state of my mind.”

Shri Krishna said, “My godly form that you have seen is very difficult to see. Even all the Devas (gods) always desire to see this form.

One cannot see this godly form (that you have seen) by studying the scriptures, by performing austerities, by charity, or by performing Yajnas.

O Arjuna! Only through one-pointed devotion to Me one can see this godly form, really understand It and become one with It.

O Arjuna! One who performs all actions for Me, looks at Me as the Supreme Goal of life, is My devotee, is unattached and hates none, attains Me.

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Eleventh Chapter, entitled “The Path of the Vision of the Universal Form.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Rushil Desai for editing this post.)

Celebrating Swami Vivekananda’s 155th Birthday

My Homage to Swami Vivekananda 

(The following blog is based upon my thoughts I shared with Vivekananda Vidyapith’s students, teachers, parents, and helpers during Youth Day Celebration Speech Competitions held on Saturday and Sunday, January 6th and 7th of 2018.)

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) lived only for 39 years, but his life and teachings will continue to inspire people as long as a single person on earth searches for the eternal truth. All over the world, we can see the positive and uplifting effect of Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings helping the humanity for its good. His teachings about strength, the divinity of the soul, oneness of existence, and harmony of religions have been appealing to more and more people. These teachings encourage them to search for their inner divinity and try to manifest it in their thoughts, speech, and actions, especially through their unselfish service to the society. His emphasis on serving the “Living God,” the sum total of all living beings, touches the hearts of even atheists.

We could see a fraction of this positive effect during the Vidyapith’s Youth Day Celebration Speech Competition. The temperature during last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were in single digit close to zero degrees Fahrenheit and the wind-chill was in negative degrees. But, the Vivdyapith’s students and helpers joyfully loaded and unloaded a truck in the cold with the things needed for the competition. Several other people worked unselfishly for countless hours to make this competition a great success. For all of them, it was a labor of love. Also, almost all the students from grades sixth through twelfth came for the competition and presented their excellent speeches. The students, teachers, and the helpers were inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings.

The following are few of my thoughts I shared with the Vidyapith’s students, teachers, and helpers:

“Swami Vivekananda is our beloved teacher, leader, and a role-model. He was a saint, a prophet, a yogi, a great teacher, an orator, a poet, a reformer, a humanitarian, a patriot, a world-leader, a visionary and many more.

He told about himself that, “He is a voice without a body.” His voice was and is the voice of the Vedanta – the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He also said that “As Buddha had a message for the east, he has a message for the west.”

There are many teachings of Swami Vivekananda which we have to learn and practice in our life. As students, one teaching we have to really learn is his definition of education. He said, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.” By ‘man’ he meant men and women. This perfection is the perfection of the Atman dwelling in each one of us. We have to realize this perfection and then try to manifest it in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

To me, the simple meaning of perfection is ‘Be happy with what we have and be always ready to improve our performance.’  With this simple rule, we will constantly improve our study, our work, and our performance in every field.

There is another aspect of education. In schools and colleges, we learn about the topics related to the physical and mental world. There, we do not learn about our true identity which is beyond our body and mind. For that, we have to learn to go deeper within ourselves and search for our true identity. Swami Vivekananda says that our true identity is divine. In order to search our true identity (or divinity dwelling within), Bhagavad Gita has described four paths, namely Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. We can do every day four simple spiritual practices which cover all these four yogas: (1) Spend few minutes doing prayer, Japa and meditation, (2) read couple of pages from inspiring books and seek holy company which encourages us in our search for our true identity, (3) practice values which help us realize this true identity (for example the values described in the 12th chapter of Bhagavad Gita shlokas 13-19), and (4) do unselfish service. If we do these four practices regularly and properly, then definitely we will go deeper within and realize our true identity which is divine.

Note that the goal of all the Vidyapith’s classes and all activities including this speech competition is to help us to learn about our true identity (the divinity dwelling within) and encourage us to realize it and manifest it in our thoughts, speech, and actions. But, we have to do our homework by practicing the above mentioned four practices. Just as we do homework after taking classes in schools and college and educate ourselves, similarly in this search also we have to do our homework.

What do we get by realizing our inner divinity? We see that each person irrespective of his/her color of skin, religion, culture, country, physical appearance or any external difference is divine. The basic life-force in all beings is the same. Once we realize that then we love all and be ready to help all. We do not hate anyone. We will get control on our lower nature including our anger, jealousy, greed, lust, ego, and other impurities. We become sincere, honest, and humble. This makes us a better person fit to live in the society.

When we realize this inner divinity, then we can understand Swami Vivekananda’s teachings of Vedanta, namely the divinity of the soul, oneness of existence, harmony of religions, and service to the ‘Living God’. With oneness of existence, we realize ‘unity in diversity’.  This is the best way to celebrate Swami Vivekananda’s birthday. May we all get inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings and make our life blessed.”

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10:  The Path of Divine Manifestations

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10:

The Path of Divine Manifestations

Shri Krishna Said, “O Arjuna! Because you are eager to listen to my words, I will tell you more profound thoughts which will be beneficial to you.

The devas and great sages do not know My Origin because I (as Brahman) am their ultimate cause.

One who knows Me in essence as Birthless, Beginningless, and the Lord of the Universe, becomes free from all sin (bondage).

From Me alone arise the following attributes and various states of mind in all beings: (1) intelligence (2) knowledge (3) ability not to get deluded (4) forgiveness (5) truth (6) control of the senses (7) control of the mind (8) joy and sorrow (9) birth and death (10) fear and fearlessness (11) non-violence (12) equanimity (13) contentment (14) austerity (15) charity, and (16) fame and infamy.

From My resolve, seven great Rishis and four Manus of ancient time were born, endowed with My Power. All beings are their progeny.

There is no doubt that one who knows in essence “My Divine Manifestations” and “My Yogic Power” will be firmly established in unwavering devotion.

Wise people truly understand that “I (Brahman) am the cause of the creation of the Universe and by Me alone the whole world functions.” That is why they worship Me with the fullness of their hearts.

Having filled their minds with My thoughts, surrendering their life unto Me, they talk among themselves about My glories and enlighten each other. Thus, they take delight and satisfaction in talking about Me.

I give Buddhi Yoga (a path of discrimination and renunciation) to those who are ever devoted to Me and who worship Me with love. Through this Buddhi Yoga, they realize Me.

Out of compassion, I, the one who resides in their hearts, remove the darkness of their ignorance by the light of a lamp of knowledge.”

Arjuna Said, “O Krishna! You are the Supreme Brahman, Supreme abode, and the Purest of the pure. All Rishis call You as the Supreme Self, Eternal, the Self-Effulgent, God of gods, the Birth-less, and the Omnipresent. The Devarshi Narada, Rishis Asit and Deval, and Maharshi Vyasa also have proclaimed You the same. You also said the same unto me.

Whatever You told me, I believe it to be true. Neither devas nor danavas know Your divine nature.

O the Creator and the Lord of all being, God of all gods, and the Supreme Purusha! Only You know Your own Divine Nature. Only You can fully describe Your Divine Manifestations whereby You pervade all the worlds and abide in them.

O Yogeshwar (Krishna)! How should I think of You to realize You? What are the various aspects or objects through which I can meditate on You? Please tell me in detail about Your Yogic Power and Divine Manifestations. My desire never gets fulfilled to listen to Your nectar-like words.”

Shri Krishna said, “My Divine Manifestations are infinite. So, I will tell you only a few of My major manifestations.

(1) I am the Atman dwelling in the hearts of all beings. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.

(2) I am Vishnu among Adityas.

(3) I am the Sun among the bright objects

(4) I am Marichi among the wind-gods

(5) I am the Moon among the Nakshatras.

(6) I am the Sama Veda among the Vedas.

(7) I am Vasava (Indra) among the Devas.

(8) I am the Mind among all the senses.

(9) I am the Consciousness among the beings.

(10) I am Shankar among the Rudras.

(11) I am Kuber among the Yakshas and Rakshashas.

(12) I am Agni among the eight Vasus.

(13) I am Sumeru among the mountains.

(14) I am Bruhaspati among the priests.

(15) I am Skanda among all the army generals.

(16) I am the Ocean among all the reservoirs.

(17) I am Bhrugu among all the great Rishis.

(18) I am the monosyllable Om among all the words.

(19) I am Japa Yajna among all the Yajnas.

(20) I am Himalaya among all the immovable objects.

(21) I am the Ashwatha tree among all the trees.

(22) I am Narada among all the Devarshis.

(23) I am Chitraratha among all the Gandharvas.

(24) I am Kapil Muni among all the Siddhas.

(25) I am the horse Uchchaishravasa among all horses. Uchchaishravasa was born with the nectar during the churning of the ocean.

(26) I am Gajendra among all elephants.

(27) I am the King among all human beings.

(28) I am the Vajra among all the weapons.

(29) I am the cow Kamadhuk among all the cows.

(30) I am Kandarpa, the Lord of Lust, which is the cause of progeny.

(31) I am Vasuki among all snakes.

(32) I am Shesh Naga among the Nagas (half-human and half-cobras).

(33) I am Varuna among the creatures dwelling in the water.

(34) I am Aryama among the Pitrus.

(35) I am Lord Yama among the controllers.

(36) I am Prahlada among the demons.

(37) I am the Time among the measures.

(38) I am the Lion among the animals.

(39) I am Garuda among the birds.

(40) I am the Wind among the purifiers.

(41) I am Lord Rama among the warriors.

(42) I am the Shark among the fishes.

(43) I am Ganga among the rivers.

(44) I am the beginning, the middle and the end of the universe.

(45) I am the Knowledge of the Self among all the branches of knowledge.

(46) I am the decision-making discussion among all the discussions.

(47) I am the Sanskrit Letter “A” among all the letters.

(48) I am the Sanskrit Sandhi “Dwanda” among all the Sanskrit Sandhis.

(49) I am the Infinite Time.

(50) I am the Nourisher of all and My faces are in all directions.

(51) I am all-seizing Death.

(52) I am the cause of everyone’s birth (another interpretation-I am the cause of prosperity).

(53) I am the seven known virtues, namely Fame, Prosperity, Speech, Memory, Intelligence, Tenacity, and Forgiveness.  (These are Sanskrit female-gender virtues.)

(54)  I am the Brihat-Saman among the Saman hymns.

(55) I am Gayatri among the meters.

(56) I am Margashirsha among the months.

(57) I am the Flowery Spring among the seasons.

(58) I am the Gambling of the cheats.

(59) I am the Vigor of vigorous people.

(60) I am the Victory of victorious people.

(61) I am the Effort of active people.

(62) I am the Goodness in good people.

(63) I am Vasudeva among the Yadavas.

(64) I am Arjuna among the Pandavas.

(65) I am Vyasa among the sages.

(66) I am Ushana among the seers.

(67) I am the rod of those who chastise.

(68) I am Statesmanship among the people who wish to win.

(69) I am the Silence among secrets.

(70) I am the Knowledge among the knowers.

(71) I am the seed of all beings.  No moving or un-moving being can exist without Me.

My Divine Manifestations are infinite. I just told you a few of them.

Know that whatever is glorious, or prosperous, or powerful, it is the manifestation of a fraction of My Divine Manifestation.

What more can I tell you – with a fraction of My Divine Power, I support this whole universe.

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Tenth Chapter, entitled “The Path of Divine Manifestations.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post.)

Laugh and Learn – 16

New Way of Fishing

The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

In cities like New York, all ideas fly. If anyone has some new idea to sell, there are customers to buy that idea.

On the bank of the Hudson River where fishing is allowed, a person put up a sign:

New Way of Fishing!

For $100 only, learn a faster way of fishing.

No need to spend money on rods and baits!

John was walking around the bank of the Hudson River. He saw a few people fishing. He thought that he should have brought his fishing rod. Then, he could have spent time fishing. He walked a little distance and saw this sign advertising a new way of fishing. He smiled and thought to himself, “Wow! My thought has power. I thought of fishing, I do not have any fishing rods, and here is a man telling me how to fish without a fishing rod. Let me learn something new and have a good time.”

John approached the man and asked him, “How can one fish without a fishing rod?” The man said, “In New York, everything has a cost. Give me $100 and I will show you how to fish without a fishing rod.” John was thinking whether he should spend $100 or not. He thought $100 is too much to learn this new way of fishing.

He walked away from the man. But, he was thinking, “Everything in New York is expensive. Compared to all other prices, $100 for a new idea is cheap. Maybe I will learn this new way and show off to my friends. Perhaps I can teach this trick to a few others and either get my money back or maybe earn more. It is good that I withdrew a couple of hundred dollars from the ATM a few hours ago.”

John came back to the guy. He gave him a $100 bill and asked him to teach him the new way of fishing.

The guy said, “See, you have to buy a powerful mirror like this.” He showed him the mirror. Then, he continued, “Reflect the rays of the sun from the mirror to the group of fish or an individual fish. The fish will be blinded by the rays of the sun and will stop moving. At that time, you can go and catch the fish. See, it is so easy. You do not need a rod or bait.”

John was puzzled. He was not sure whether he was learning a new way of fishing or if he was being tricked. He gathered courage and asked him, “How many fish have you caught so far with this new method?”

The guy said, “You are the fifth one!” 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Reflections: 

 Beware of the people who are trying to teach us short cuts or new ways to avoid the necessary work involved in achieving something important. There may be a few genuine cases in which short-cuts or new ways may help us. But, most of the time these are gimmicks.

Surely, we have to keep learning new ways. But, we should not get cheated by greedy or shrewd people who take advantage of the simple-minded. There is no substitute for hard work. I really like Thomas A. Edison’s famous quote, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to success is always to try just one more time.”

There are no shortcuts in the spiritual path. We have to follow the paths which have been described by the Saints and Sages who have realized the highest Truth. Swami Adiswarananda said that no one mimics the dirt (meaning creates fake dirt), but many people create fake gold because gold is expensive.  Thus, there are many people who have tried and are still trying to create shortcuts or new ways to realize the highest Truth since spirituality is the most important part of our lives. But, almost all of them try to drag spirituality either to sense pleasures or to social entertainment or to develop schemes to make money or to earn position and power. Genuine spiritual teachers will ask us to go through the unavoidable hardships (austerities) of spiritual practices and will never compromise the ultimate Truth.

Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita said, “Help thyself by thyself. You are your greatest friend and you are your enemy. One who has attained self-control is one’s own friend and one who lacks self-control is one’s own enemy.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.5 and 6.6)

Shri Krishna emphasizes on self-efforts and says, “With firm determination, lift up the mind systematically and steadily from the body-mind and its related world with the help of the intellect, and focus it on the Atman (one’s true identity). Then, do not think of anything else.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.25). He further said, “If the restless and unsteady mind runs towards the body-mind and the objects of the world, then bring it back from these objects and again focus it on to the Atman.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.26).

Thus, there is no short-cut in spiritual path. We can take help from outside, but ultimately we have to do the required spiritual practice to uplift our self from the lesser truth to the higher truth.

(Thanks to Pallavi Tatapudy for editing this post and Viraj Khetani for the illustration.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9: The Path of Sovereign Wisdom and Sovereign Mystery

The Essence of The Bhagavad Gita

Chapter 9: The Path of Sovereign Wisdom and Sovereign Mystery

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! You do not carp, so I will tell you this profound knowledge with its practical aspect of realization, by knowing which, you will be free of all the sorrows of life.

This is sovereign knowledge, sovereign mystery, and the supreme purifier. It is righteous, eternal, gives tangible results, and is easy to practice.

People who do not have faith in these teachings do not attain Me (Brahman) and they go through the cycle of birth and death in this world.

The whole world is pervaded by My un-manifested form (Brahman).  All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.

(Note: The whole world is projected on Brahman. In particular, all beings are projections of names and forms on Brahman.)

Actually, all beings do not dwell in Me (meaning they are just the projections of names and forms). However, behold My Divine Power (Maya) that I am the Creator (cause) and the Nourisher (support) of all beings, yet I do not dwell in them.

As the mighty wind—created from the sky, which moves everywhere within the sky, and still remains in the sky—all beings dwell in Me.

O Arjuna! At the end of a Kalpa (a period of 4.32 billion years), all beings merge into My Divine Power (Prakruti), and at the beginning of the next Kalpa, I create them with My Divine Power.

With My Divine Power I create all beings again and again. They are helpless because of their worldly desires and past actions.

Since I am the Witness Consciousness and unattached to their actions, their actions do not bind Me.

With My consent, My Divine Power creates the whole universe of living and non-living and makes it move around.

When I take human form, deluded people do not recognize Me as the Lord of the Universe and they disregard Me. Being that their intellect is covered by delusion, they remain engaged in useless hopes, actions, and knowledge. Thus, they remain possessed by demonic qualities.

On the other hand, the great souls, filled with divine qualities, know that I am Imperishable and the cause of the whole universe, and they constantly think of Me with focused mind.

(Note: For the demonic and divine qualities, read Chapter 16 of The Bhagavad Gita.)

These great souls remain firm in their vows to realize Me. They constantly sing My names and glories, make efforts to realize Me, remember Me, salute Me, and thus, worship Me with great devotion.

The followers of “Jnana Yoga”, worship Me as being one with them as Brahman. Some worship Me as being distinct from them, and others worship My Virata Form (Me as the whole universe) in various ways.

If you think of this whole universe as a “Yajna”, then know that I am the Vedi (in which fire of the Yajna is invoked), I am the fire in it, I am the mantras recited, I am the ingredients offered in the fire, and I am the whole worship of the Yajna.

Also, know that I am the father, the mother, the grandsire, and the sustainer of the universe.  I am the one that has to be known. I am the Purifier, the Omkar (one syllable Brahman), and I am three Vedas, namely the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Yajur Veda.

I am the nourisher, the goal of life, the Lord of the Universe, the Witness Consciousness, the abode, the refuge, and the true friend. I am the cause of creation and the dissolution of the universe, and I am its support. Know that I am the imperishable seed of the universe.

I shine through the sun, create clouds, and bring rain. I am the nectar (immortality) and I am death. I am the being and the non-being.

Those who are devoid of sins and who wish to attain heaven by worshipping Me, through the performance of the “Yajnas” described in the three Vedas, attain heaven by their own merits. In heaven they enjoy various worldly pleasures until their merits are exhausted. Then, they come back to the earth and start their lives all over again. Thus, people who perform rituals described in the Vedas to fulfill their worldly desires go back and forth between earth and heaven. (They do not get the benefits of spiritual life.)

On the other hand, to those devotees who are ever devoted to Me, thinking of Me only and worship Me without any selfish reasons, I provide them what they lack in their spiritual practices and preserve what they have attained. (Thus, God helps these devotees attain their goal of God Realization.)

Those devotees who worship other gods (for worldly pleasures) also worship Me (Brahman), but they do this unknowingly and improperly.

I (as Brahman) am the Recipient and the Lord of all the worships and sacrifices of the devotees. But, not knowing Me, in essence, they fall from their spiritual path and become slaves of their senses.

Those who worship gods (limited forms of Brahman) go to the gods. Those who worship their ancestors go to their ancestors. Those who worship spirits go to the spirits. Those who worship Me (Brahman) come to Me.

If a devotee, out of love, offers Me a leaf, flower, fruit, water, or any simple thing, I accept such an offering made by the pure in heart.

O Arjuna! Offer to me any action you perform (Karma), anything you intake (Food), anything you offer in your spiritual practice (Yajna), anything you give in charity (Dana), and whatever austerity (Tapa) you perform.

(Note: In Chapter 17 of The Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna describes three kinds of food, Yajna, Dana, and Tapa, and in Chapter 18, he describes three kinds of actions and performers.)

By offering everything to Me, you follow “Sanyasa Yoga” (The Yoga of Renunciation) and, thus, become free from the bondage of all the results of your actions, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. Then, being free from all bondages, you will come to Me (become one with Brahman).

I am the same towards all beings. I do not favor anyone and do not deny anyone. But, those who worship Me with love, they are in Me and I am in them.

Even a great sinner worships Me with one-pointed devotion (with repentance of sins and with a vow not to commit any sin again) must be regarded as a righteous person who has made the right resolve. Such a person (with devotion and the right resolve) soon becomes a righteous person and attains eternal peace within. O Kaunteya! Know that My devotee never perishes.

Taking refuge in Me, even women, Vaishyas, Shudras, and sinners attain the Supreme State.

(Note: This was the bold statement of Shri Krishna at the time when women, Vaishyas, Shudras were looked down upon compared to men, Brahmins and Kshatriyas.)

Definitely, when Brahmins or Kshatriyas, being free of sins, worship Me, they attain the Supreme State. Therefore, having attained this temporary human life filled with sufferings, worship Me with great devotion.

Focus your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, worship Me, offer everything to Me, and surrender to Me. Thus, keeping Me as the goal of your life and making efforts to realize Me, you will definitely attain Me (the Supreme State).

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Ninth Chapter, entitled “The Path of Sovereign Wisdom and Sovereign Mystery.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8: The Path to Imperishable Brahman

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8

The Path to Imperishable Brahman

Seven Questions from Arjuna:

Arjuna asked Shri Krishna the following seven questions:

(1) “What is Brahman?”

(2)  “What is Adhyatma (the individual soul)?”

(3) “What is Karma (actions)?”

(4) “What is Adhibhuta (something that is said to underlie all the elements)?”

(5) “What is Adhidaiva (something that is said to underlie all the gods)?”

(6) “Who is Adhiyajna (one who sustains all the sacrifices in the body) and how does it reside in the body?”

and

(7) “How does a self-controlled person realize You at the time of death?”

Shri Krishna answered these questions as follows:

(1) “The Imperishable is the Supreme Brahman.”

(2) “Swabhava (Brahman dwelling in a person which is covered by name and form of the person, known as Jiva) is called Adhyatma.”

(3)  “Karma (action) is the offering of the oblation (in a Yajna) which brings into existence all living beings and supports them.”

(4)  “Adhibhuta refers to all the objects which are perishable.”

(5) “Adhidaiva is the Purusha (the Cosmic Spirit) which underlies all the gods. It is also refers to as the “Hiranya-garbha”.

(6) “Adhiyajna” is Me, the All-Pervading Spirit which sustains all the sacrifices.”

(7) “A person who remembers Me (Atman or Brahman) at his/her last breath becomes one with Me. There is no doubt about this.”

“A person, whose mind is attached with whatever desire or an object or a being in life, at the time of death he/she remembers that desire or the object or the being, and ultimately he/she attains that desire or an object or the being in the next life.

Therefore, remember Me all the time, and fight (perform your responsibility; for Arjuna it was to fight in the battlefield). If you always focus your mind and intellect on Me, then without any doubt, you will become one with Me.

One who constantly practices focusing his/her mind on Me and not letting it wander around on other things, eventually becomes one with the Supreme Purusha (Brahman).

One, who during his/her lifetime, constantly thinks about Brahman (Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute) who is the Omniscient, Ancient, Controller of everything, most subtle, Nourisher of all, whose form is beyond comprehension, who shines like the sun, and who is beyond all darkness, and at the time of death with firm mind filled with devotion, with the power of Yoga, establishes his/her vital forces between his/her eyebrows and meditates on the Supreme Purusha (Brahman) becomes one with the Supreme Divine Purusha (Brahman).

I will tell you briefly about the Supreme State whom the well-versed in the Vedas called ‘the Imperishable’, which is attained by the Sages who are free from desires and have complete self-control, and to attain which seekers practice celibacy.

One who controls all the senses by the mind, confines the mind within the heart and draws the vital forces in the head, then remains established in the Atman through the practice of meditation and uttering the word “Om,” the one syllable symbol of Brahman, leaves the body thinking of Me (Brahman), attains the Supreme State.

I (Brahman) can be easily attained by the ever steadfast Yogi who constantly meditates on Me with a focused mind giving no thought of anything else.

The Great souls, having attained Me, have attained the Supreme State. They do not take rebirth into this temporary world which is filled with sorrows.

From an ordinary being to the creator of the universe, everything is subject to rebirth. But, one who attains Me (becomes one with Me) will not be born again.

Brahma is the creator of the universe. One who knows that Brahma’s day and night each last a thousand eons knows the essence of the Time.

(Note: A day of brahma is of 1000 Mahā-Yugas. Thus a day of Brahma, a Kalpa, is 4.32 billion years in duration. Two Kalpas constitute a day and night.)

In the beginning of Brahma’s day, the whole universe manifests from the un-manifested and at the end of the day (beginning of the night) it merges into the un-manifested.

The same multitude of beings is born by the law of nature in the beginning of the day of Brahma and merges into the un-manifested at the night of Brahma. Thus, this cycle goes on.

But beyond this un-manifested, there is yet another Un-manifested Eternal Being which does not perish when all beings perish.

This Un-manifested Eternal Being is called the Imperishable (The Supreme Purusha or Brahman). This Imperishable is called the Ultimate Goal of all beings. One who reaches that goal does not come back. That is My Supreme Abode.

The Supreme Purusha pervades the whole universe, and all beings reside in It. This Supreme Purusha can be realized through one-pointed devotion.

The Two Paths of re-birth and no re-birth:

Now, I will tell you the paths which decide whether or not the yogis are reborn

When the knowers of Brahman follow the path of light, fire, day, bright fortnight, and the northern path of the sun, then they become one with Brahman and are never reborn.

When the yogis follow the path of smoke, night, dark fortnight, and the southern path of the sun, then they reach to the light of the Moon and then returned to the earth to take re-births.

The Path of Light and The Path of Darkness are two eternal paths. Following the Path of Light the yogis are not reborn, while following the Path of Darkness yogis come back and are reborn.

The yogi who understands these two paths does not get deluded. Therefore, O Arjuna! Be steadfast in yoga all the time.

The yogi who really understands the essence of these teachings, surpasses the merits acquired by studying the Vedas, performing the Yajnas (rituals), practicing austerities or giving in charity, and he/she attains the Eternal Supreme Abode.

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Eighth Chapter, entitled “The Path to Imperishable Brahman.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sheela Krishnan for editing this post.)

 

Laugh and Learn – 15

“He Thinks: ‘I am God!’”

            The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

In most cultures, when a young girl finds a boy to marry, she introduces the boy to her parents and waits for their comments and/or consents. If the consents come immediately at the first meeting, then the girl is very happy. Sometimes, the consent of her parents comes after some time, during which the parents happily or unhappily have to change their traditional mindset about their son-in-law to make their daughter happy. Many times, parents do not agree to their daughter marrying the boy she likes and the daughter has to leave her parents’ house and marry the boy. In some such cases, the conflict brings tragic consequences.

A young girl, Riya, fell in love with a boy named Chirag in college. During their four years of undergraduate study, they grew closer. Both of them graduated from college. Riya graduated with a 4.0 GPA and Chirag barely made it to the required 2.5 GPA. Riya immediately got a job while Chirag had difficulty finding a job. A year passed. Riya and Chirag continued to meet each other often and were thinking to get married in proper time. After the completion of the second year of her job, Riya decided to introduce her boyfriend, Chirag, to her parents as she was sincerely thinking of marrying him. Riya told Chirag, “My parents are spiritually inclined. Be careful when you talk to them”.

One day, finding that her parents were in a good mood, Riya explained that she had to tell them something. Her parents immediately understood and asked, “Who is he?” Then, Riya told her parents how she met Chirag in college, how they became close to each other, and that she thinks that it is the proper time for them to meet him. Her parents were happy to meet Chirag. A day was set for Chirag to come to their house.

The day of the meeting came. Since morning, Riya was nervous, thinking of various possibilities that could happen during the meeting and how each possibility would affect her future life. She focused her mind on doing chores to kill time. The meeting time came. Riya and her parents were ready half an hour before the time Chirag was to arrive. He was 10 minutes late. For Riya, one minute was like an hour. Chirag was nervous. Riya introduced Chirag to her parents and vice a versa. After initial greetings, Riya offered some snacks and soft drinks to all. After some time, Riya’s mother suggested that her husband talk to Chirag personally in another room.

Riya’s father and Chirag went to a room. Chirag was even more nervous, but the father made him feel comfortable. After half an hour of talking, they both came out. Chirag had to go somewhere, and Riya decided to go with him.

After Riya and Chirag left, Riya’s mother said that Chirag looked handsome and it seemed that Riya and Chirag liked each other. Then, she asked her husband how the meeting was and what he thought of Chirag. Riya’s father smiled and said, “Chirag thinks that ‘I am God.’” Her mother asked, “Why does he think that way?” Riya’s father said that she should listen to Chirag’s answers to his questions:

Q: “Do you have a job?”

Chirag, “No, but, by God’s will, I will find a job.”

Q: “Do you have a place to live?”

Chirag, “No, not at present. I am living with my friend, but, by God’s will, I will find a place to live.”

Q: “Do you have a car?”

Chirag, “No, but I am sure God will provide me a car.”

Q: “Do you have a bank account?”

Chirag, “No, but when, by God’s will, I will get some money, I will open an account.”

Q: “What are your future plans?”

Chirag, “I don’t have any future plans, but whatever God suggest to me, I will do it.”

Riya’s father told his wife, “Do you see? He thinks that I am God and will provide all these things to him!” 🙂 🙂 🙂

Note:  Poor Chirag tried to please Riya’s spiritually-inclined parents by bringing God into every sentence. Let Riya’s parents decide whatever they want to do in this situation. The readers too can make their own decision as to what they would do in a similar situation. I am not interested in judging anyone or suggesting to anyone what they should do. I am only interested to reflect upon the following important topics which came to my mind from the story:

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Self-surrender:

In almost all religions, it is mentioned that one has to surrender to God. Even Buddha, who was considered a non-believer, taught his disciples, “Buddham Sharanam Gachhami…” This means, “Surrender to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.”

Thus, self-surrender is considered a most important and necessary step  for spiritual progress. Many people shirk at the idea of self-surrender on the spiritual path, yet there is no hesitation to surrender to plumbers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, or even to the pilots of aircrafts. Of course, in all fields, people have been cheated when they surrendered. But, there is no other way. If we doubt everything, we cannot live in the world. We need to have faith. We must check the qualifications of people, make educated choices, and have trust in the people who take care of the things related to our lives and sometimes of our lives themselves. After making the choice, we can keep our eyes open during the process and make the necessary adjustments.

We follow this process easily for worldly matters. However, in religion, people tend to blindly surrender without ever questioning anything. Thus, ills come out from such so-called religious teachers. I think people separate religion and spirituality based on whether people question keeping their minds open or not. In religion, people blindly follow their religious leaders and never question a single thing. Meanwhile, in spirituality, people follow the fundamental and important parts of religion and are not afraid of asking questions about anything they do not understand or agree with. They question because they want to understand exactly what teachers or the scriptures say so that they can make spiritual progress. Also, they do not want to do something harmful or inappropriate in the name of religion.

Self-surrender and self-efforts:

Still, on the spiritual path, misunderstandings happen. In the name of self-surrender, people surrender their efforts, but not the little self. Many times, after starting spiritual practices, people become lazy and less productive in their daily lives. Actually, spiritual practices should give us more strength to perform our responsibilities and make our lives more productive and meaningful.

To me, self-surrender to God means: (1) surrendering our ego to God (becoming humble and developing gratitude), (2) making God our goal (trying to practice all the virtues of God), and (3) performing all responsibilities as an offering to God (with full hearts and focused minds to acquire knowledge and devotion). Self-surrender helps us make self-efforts.

Grace:

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna said that the success of every action depends on five factors: (1) a field of actions, (2) tools to perform the actions, (3) knowledge to perform, (4) actual performance, and (5) divine grace. We have control of the first four parts of every action, but we cannot guarantee their success. A natural calamity, a health problem, or a problem from society may affect the results of our actions. That is why we seek the grace of God – to take care of the fifth factor. But, we must take care of the first four factors in order to seek the divine grace. Without fulfilling the four factors, seeking divine grace is meaningless.

Also, if we do not make self-efforts, then we cannot recognize the divine grace and its importance. Saints and sages say that the grace of God is always there. If we make efforts to fulfill the above-mentioned first four factors in any field (including spirituality), then we will see the divine grace and will understand the importance of the grace. God’s grace may come in the form of failure which may be for our own good in the long run.

(Thanks to Pallavi Tatapudy for editing this post and Viraj Khetani for providing the illustration.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 6: The Path of Self-Control

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 6

The Path of Self-Control

(This chapter is about the Yoga of Self-Control and the Yoga of Meditation.)

Shri Krishna said, “One who performs one’s responsibilities, renouncing their results, is a Sanyasi and a Yogi, and not the one who is inactive and has abandoned religious rituals.

Know that what is called “Sanyas” is nothing else but “Yoga.” One who has not renounced one’s worldly desires cannot be a Yogi.

To establish oneself in the Yoga of Meditation, practice of Karma Yoga is necessary; to remain established in the Yoga of Meditation, self-control and renunciation of worldly desires are required.

When one is not attached to sense-objects and actions and has renounced all thoughts and desires to acquire the pleasures of the body and mind, then one is said to be established in the Yoga of Meditation.

Help yourself to lift up yourself. Never let yourself go down. Our self is our friend as well as our enemy. One who has obtained control over one’s body and mind is one’s own friend and one who has not obtained such control is one’s own enemy.

The qualities of a Yogi established in Yoga are that (1) he/she has conquered one’s mind and senses, (2) he/she has attained serenity within, (3) his/her heart has been filled with the satisfaction of knowledge and realization, (4) he/she remains steadily absorbed in the Supreme Self, (5) he/she acts with a balanced mind in joy and sorrow, heat and cold, honor and insult, and other such opposite circumstances and (6) for such a person, gold is like dirt and stones (meaning his/her mind cannot be deviated because of money).

Also, such a Yogi, who has equal regard for friends and foes; for people related or unrelated; for those who love or hate; for people who are impartial or indifferent; and even for people who are righteous or sinners, is the best among the Yogis.

A Yogi who has attained control over his/her mind and senses, and who is free from all worldly desires and possessions, should go into solitude and constantly focus his/her mind on the Supreme Self.

In solitude, such a Yogi should find a clean place, and prepare a seat that is not too high or too low, and for comfort has layers of kusha grass, dear skin, and a cloth. Then, sitting on that seat, restraining the activities of one’s mind and senses, he/she should practice the Yoga of meditation to purify his/her mind.

Being established in celibacy, free from any fear, and keeping serenity within, the Yogi should sit in the meditation posture – sitting crossed-legged and keeping the spinal column, neck and head in a straight line – and without looking around, he/she should focus the mind on Me, considering Me as the supreme goal of life.

When a Yogi controls his/her mind and thus focuses it on Me (as Atman), then he/she attains the supreme peace within, which is abiding in the Atman. This peace culminates in Nirvana, freedom from all bondage.

One cannot be established in this Yoga of Meditation if he/she eats or sleeps too much or too little. One can be established in this yoga if one lives a moderate life by keeping moderation in one’s eating, sleeping, activities and entertainment. This Yoga of meditation removes all suffering in life.

Being free from all worldly desires and having obtained total control over one’s mind, when the Yogi’s mind steadily remains in the Atman, then the Yogi is said to be established in the Yoga of Meditation. The steadfastness of such a Yogi’s mind in the Atman has been compared to the steadiness of the flame of an oil lamp in a windless environment.

The Yoga of Meditation removes all the sorrows of life and through it,

(1) the Yogi’s mind rests in quietude after being restrained by the practice of concentration,

(2) the Yogi rejoices in his/her own Self (Atman), realizing the Atman within through the purified intellect, and becomes fully satisfied,

(3) one experiences Infinite Bliss, which can only be grasped by the pure intellect and not by the senses

(4) one remains established in the Ultimate Reality and never deviates from it,

(5) one attains a state of supreme gain and feels that there is nothing higher to achieve, and

(6) by being established in that state, not even the heaviest sorrow can throw off the Yogi’s focused state of mind.

This Yoga of Meditation has to be practiced with determination, enthusiasm, perseverance, and an unwavering mind.

Four steps to be established in the Yoga of Meditation:

(1) Renounce all worldly desires which arise from the mind.

(2) Use the mind to control all senses from running towards their sense-objects.

(3) With firm determination, lift up the mind systematically and steadily from the world with the help of the intellect, and focus it on the Atman. Then, do not think of anything else.

(4) If the restless and unsteady mind runs towards the objects of the world, then bring it back from these objects and again focus it on to the Atman.

The Yogi attains the Supreme Bliss when his/her mind has become completely tranquil and pure, from whom all the passions have been quieted down, and whose mind has become one with Atman (Brahman).

Thus, the Yogi with pure and ever focused mind on the Atman, experiences the Supreme Bliss that comes from the direct experience of the Atman (Brahman).

The Vision of the Yogi of the World:

The Yogi who had direct experience of the Atman (Brahman) within sees the divine Atman in all beings and all beings in the One Divine Atman (Brahman).  He/she has highest regards for all beings irrespective of their outer differences.

One who sees all beings in Me (Brahman) and Me (Brahman) in all beings abides in Me all the time. He/she never gets separated from Me and I never get separated from him/her.

The Yogi who is thus established in Oneness worships Me (Brahman) who resides in all beings. Through all his/her actions, he/she always lives in Me.

The Yogi, who sees his/her own divine Atman dwelling within as the same divine Atman of all beings in joy and sorrow, is considered to be the best Yogi.  Such a Yogi sees the joy and sorrow of all beings as his/her own joy and sorrow”

Arjuna’s Comments and Questions:

Arjuna said, “O Krishna! The Yoga you have described is the Yoga of equanimity. But, the mind is very restless, So, I do not see how long this mind can endure the equanimity.

The mind is restless, turbulent, powerful and stubborn. To control this mind is as difficult as controlling a tornado.”

Shri Krishna Said, “O Mighty Armed Arjuna! There is no doubt that the mind is restless and extremely difficult to control. But, through ‘abhyasa’ (constant practice to control the mind) and ‘vairagya’ (detachment) it can be brought under control.

I firmly believe that a person lacking self-control cannot attain this Yoga, while a person with self-control can attain this Yoga by making proper efforts.”

Arjuna Asked, “O Krishna! Suppose a person has faith in this Yoga, but due to his/her lack of self-control deviates from this Yoga and dies without attaining the final state of the Yoga, what happens to that person? Does this deluded person, fallen from both sides and being un-established in the path to realize Brahman, get destroyed like a fragmented cloud?

O Krishna! Please destroy this doubt completely from my mind since it is hard to find a person like you who can completely destroy such a doubt.”

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! One who does spiritual practices to realize Brahman does not perish in this life or in the next life.  A person who does spiritual practices to be good will never come to grief.

After death, a person fallen from the Yoga goes to the world where righteous people go after their deaths. Enjoying the results of his/her good actions in this world for a while, either he/she takes a birth in a pure and prosperous family or in a family of Yogis who are filled with wisdom. It is very difficult to obtain such a birth.

Being born in such family all the past impressions of the spiritual practices done in the previous lives come to the surface of the mind of this fallen Yogi. Then, naturally he/she continues his/her spiritual practices to go further to realize Brahman.

A Yogi who strives diligently becomes free from impurities of the mind, and with the good impressions of the spiritual practices of the previous births, he/she attains the Supreme State of the Yoga (Realization of Brahman or Perfection or the Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality).

Such a Yogi is superior to the people who practice only austerities, or who only study scriptures, or who only perform religious rituals. That is why, O Arjuna, become such a Yogi.

Among these Yogis, I consider that Yogi to be the best who, with his/her inner self merged in Me, worships Me with faith.”

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Sixth Chapter, entitled “The Path of Self-Control.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18: The Path to Liberation through Renunciation (Part III of III)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18

 The Path to Liberation through Renunciation

Part III of III (Shlokas 56 – 78)

Shri Krishna said, “One who has surrendered to Me, by My grace, attains the eternal supreme state that a Yogi or a Jnani attains, even if one has been engaged in performing worldly responsibilities.

O Arjuna! Mentally offer the results of all your actions to Me. Then, keep your mind balanced in all situations, and considering Me as the Supreme Goal of life, focus your mind on Me.

By focusing your mind on Me, you will easily overcome all your obstacles by My grace. If, following your ego, you do not listen to Me, then you will be heading towards your own destruction.

Due to your ego, if you decide, “I am not going to fight this war,” then it will be your unwise decision because your own nature will force you to fight this war to protect righteousness.

O Son of Kunti! As a result of your own past actions (of training to be a king) you will be forced to perform this very action which you do not want to perform because of your attachment to your relatives.

God (Brahman) is residing in the hearts of all, and by God’s power, Maya, people are made to function according to their past actions, as if they are mounted on a machine.

O Bharat! Surrender to God with your full heart. By the grace of God, you will attain supreme peace and the supreme state (through the performance of your responsibilities).

Thus, I have told you the most profound knowledge. Reflect upon it deeply and do whatever you think is right.

Because you are my most beloved, I will tell you, again, the most profound advice, which is of great benefit to you.

“Focus your mind on Me (Brahman), be My devotee, worship Me, and surrender to Me. By doing this, I am telling you with full certainty that you will attain to My supreme state.

Renounce all the results of your actions and take refuge in Me (Brahman) alone. Do not grieve. I will make you free of all your sins (unavoidable unpleasant consequences of your responsibilities performed).”

Sharing these teachings:

“Do not give these teachings to anyone who is either (1) not austere, (2) devoid of devotion, (3) not interested in listening, or (4) speaks ill of Me.

However, one who is endowed with supreme love for Me (Brahman) and shares these profound teachings to My devotees will become one with Me without any doubt, and there will be no other work that pleases me more than that. Such a devotee will be My most beloved.

It is my firm conviction that whosoever studies this divine dialogue between Arjuna and I will actually be worshipping Me with the yajna of Knowledge.

If a person who is endowed with faith and free of malice even listens to this divine dialogue, (s)he will be freed from all sins and will attain a state attained by those of meritorious actions.

Shri Krishna’s Last Questions:

“O Partha! Did you listen to my teachings with a focused mind? Did your delusion, created by your ignorance, get destroyed?”

Arjuna said, “O Achyuta (Krishna)! By your grace, my delusion has been destroyed and my right understanding has come back. All my doubts have vanished and I will completely follow your guidance.”

Sanjaya said, “Thus, I have heard the wonderful dialogue between Vasudeva (Shri Krishna) and the great soul, Arjuna. This dialogue brought goose bumps to me.

By the grace of Shri Vyasa, I heard these supreme and profound teachings of yoga directly from Shri Krishna.

O King (Dhrutarashtra)! I feel very much elated by remembering this wonderful and sacred dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna. Also, my heart fills up with great joy and wonder whenever I remember the divine form of Lord Shri Krishna.

I am fully convinced that wherever there is Shri Krishna, the Lord of all Yogas, and the great archer, Arjuna, holding the bow Gandiva, there is prosperity, victory, mighty power, and right conduct.”

Thus, in the Bhagavad Gita— the essence of the Upanishads, the science of Brahman, the scripture of Yoga, and the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna— ends the Eighteenth Chapter, entitled “The Path to Liberation through Renunciation.”

Om Tat Sat.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)

Laugh and Learn – 14

The Relativity of Troubles

The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

Martha was working in a company for many years. She found that in the last seven years, many senior employees were laid-off and the management was hiring young people who did not complain and worked more for less money. She had lost few of her friends.

Recently, a young lady named Jane was hired in the company. Martha thought that she might make a good friend. Martha talked to her about the company’s policy and people and the ways to survive in the company. Jane also started feeling comfortable in Martha’s company. Soon, they developed trust in each other and started exchanging their personal life.

Martha found one strange thing in Jane’s behavior. She found that Jane often takes out her cell phone from her purse, looks at a photo of someone for a while, mumbles something, and then puts the cell phone back into her purse.

Initially, Martha ignored that behavior. But, as their friendship became closer, one day Martha took the courage to ask Jane during their lunch: “Hi Jane! If you don’t mind, can I ask you one question?”

Jane said, “What is it?” Martha asked, “Often you take out your cell phone from your purse, and look a photo for a while and then you put your cell phone back into your purse. I wonder whose photo it is that you look at so often.” Jane smiled and said, “Oh! It is my husband’s photo.” Martha said, “I have never seen a wife loving her husband so much that she often needs to look at her husband’s photo. Wow! I must tell your husband about it.”

Jane was silent for a few seconds. Then, she smiled and said, “It is none of this. See, in this company, it is very difficult to work with people who are mean. There are many such people, especially the boss, who is the most difficult to work with. When I get too depressed and frustrated, I take out my husband’s photo and tell myself ‘What more trouble could I have than marrying this guy.’ After that every trouble looks very small and bearable to me and thus my life goes on.”

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Lessons I learned:

Swami Rama Tirtha’s Story:

I have heard this story of Swami Rama Tirtha.  This is a story from the time when Swami Rama Tirtha was a student. One day his mathematics teacher came to the class and drew a line on a blackboard. Then, he asked all the students to make that line smaller without touching the line. All the students were puzzled and could not find a solution. At that time, young Rama Tirtha got up from his chair, took a chalk in hand, and drew a longer line under the line drawn by the teacher. The teacher was extremely pleased and the students were thrilled.

Problems of Life:

Problems of life are relative. A person is not happy with his/her salary and complains about not having enough money to buy a better car, live in a bigger house or go to an expensive resort for a vacation. But, when he/she thinks about the people in the world who do not have a job, or enough food to eat, not to even mention having a car or a house, then he/she realizes that his/her problems are smaller.

This works on the other way around too. A person is happy with what he/she has such as their house, car, job, salary etc. But, sometimes seeing other people’s big houses, or expensive cars, or high salaries, makes the same person sad and not happy with what he/she has.

A Practical Suggestion:

If we are not happy with our material possessions, or physical comforts, or family problems, then we should think of those who have less possessions and comforts than us and who have more major problems in life to face than we do. Then, we should pray for them and wish the best for them. This way, our problems will become lesser in size and more bearable.

On the other hand, when we are happy with our knowledge or spiritual progress, we should think of the people who have acquired more knowledge than us and who have further advanced their spiritual life than us.  This way, our efforts for acquiring knowledge will increase and our urge for spiritual progress will be more intense.

A Story of Shiva Mahimna:  There is a story described in shloka 10 of the famous hymn Shiva Mahimna. This story actually describes the glory of Lord Shiva, but we can also learn an important lesson from it. This is my version of the story:

Once there was a dispute between Brahma, the creator of the universe and Vishnu, the preserver of the universe.  Each one claimed that he is superior to the other. Brahma said that if he does not create anything, then Vishnu does not have a job of preserving. Vishnu claimed that if he does not preserve the universe, then the universe would have died as soon as it was created, thus rendering the creation is useless. While they were arguing with each other, an infinite fire-pole appeared out of nowhere and filled everything with blinding light. Vishnu asked Brahma whether he had created this pole and Brahma said, “No.” Brahma asked Vishnu whether he had preserved this pole from outside his universe and Vishnu said, “No”. Both were baffled. They decided to check out the ends of the pole to find something about its origin. Brahma went towards the sky to find its end and Vishnu went down for the same. After a long time, they both were exhausted and returned without finding its end. Then, they prayed to the pole to reveal its identity to them. At that time, from the fire-pole Lord Shiva came smiling and said that the Ultimate Reality Brahman is infinite. Infinitely many universes arise from Brahman and merge into Brahman.  Each universe has its creator and its preserver. There is no need to boast about their finite work.

I learned a lesson that when we think of the infinite time span, the infinite universe that we live in, then our existence looks like a one little tiny spot and our span, of say, 100 years, is like a Nano- second or Mili-second. Now, what is the significance of our problems, how big they may be, in this short life whose existence is a very small dot in the infinite universe?  This is not a pessimist outlook, but rather, a realistic one. In the background of the vision of the infinity of space and time, many of our problems in life become less threatening and we can gather our inner strength and face these problems as vigorously as we can.  Even if we die fighting these problems, we do not worry, because in that infinite background even death is totally insignificant.

Progression of Wisdom:

Swami Adiswarananda mentioned three stages of wisdom as we make progress in acquiring wisdom.

First Stage of Realization:  (1) There is a problem.

When people are ignorant, they think that life is all good. They think that the goal of life is to get as much joy as possible from the body, mind, people, and the objects of the universe. Then, the reality of life starts revealing itself and the first sign of wisdom comes when we realize that “Life is not all good. There are unavoidable problems in life. We have to pay a high price for each pleasure of our life.”

Second Stage of Realization: (2) The cause of the problem is in me.

We find the problems in life, but then we blame the whole world for these problems.  When we introspect more, we find that we have a significant role in creating these problems. The causes of many problems lie in me. If I remove the cause of a problem by transforming my life for good, then the problem either disappears or becomes less painful.

Third Stage of Realization: (3) I am the problem:

When we advance further in our reflections of life and the teachings of the scriptures and saints, we find that our ego “I” causes all the problems. As I separate myself with my name and form (body and mind) from my true identity “Atman”, I make myself limited and more cut off from the reality of life.  This is the cause of all my problems. With this wisdom we try to search within our true identity. When we realize our true identity as Atman, whose nature is “Sat-Chit-Ananda” (Existence, Knowledge, Bliss Absolute), then we acquire infinite strength to face these little problems of life. We face these problems with a peaceful mind, and remain content in the opposite situations like joys and sorrows, honor and insult, praise and blame.

(Thanks to Abhishek Senjalia for editing this post and Sneha Shah for the illustration.)

 

Laugh and Learn – 13

Change!

The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

A Buddhist Monk came to New York as a visitor. He was excited to teach Buddhism to New Yorkers. Whomsoever he met, he started talking to them about the Buddhist philosophy and its applicability.

Walking around in New York, he was hungry. He saw a vendor selling bagels. There was a line of five to six people waiting to buy bagels. He waited also at the end of the line and started talking to the guy in front of him about the teachings of Buddha. He told the guy that a transformation in life has to come just like that which happened in the life of Buddha. The guy was getting a little annoyed, but he did not want to be rude. He continued listening to the Buddhist until his turn came to buy the bagel.

When the guy left, the Buddhist started talking about Buddhism to the vendor who was selling the bagels. The vendor cut off the conversation and asked, “What kind of bagel do you want and what do you want on it?” The Buddhist started telling the vendor that he was not a narrow minded person and he respected all religions. He learns and gathers good thoughts from all. Again, the vendor ignored this sidetrack of conversation and asked, “What kind of bagel do you want and what do you want on it?”

The Buddhist gave a $20 bill to the vendor and told him, “I don’t want to be a narrow minded person. So, give me an ‘everything bagel’ and put everything on it.”

The vendor gave him an ‘everything bagel with butter, cream cheese and mustard’ on it. Then he went to take care of the other customers. The Buddhist waited for a while and soon realized that the vendor was taking care of the other customers one by one.

The Buddhist finally asked him, “What about my change?”

The vendor continued to prepare a bagel for the next customer and said, “Change comes from within!” 🙂


What I learned:

Not to talk about spirituality to everyone:

After giving him the profound message of Practical Vedanta, the essence of the Upanishads, and the science of four yogas, Shri Krishna at the end of Bhagavad Gita told Arjuna, “Do not tell this teaching to anyone who is (1) not austere, (2) without devotion, (3) not interested in listening to this message, and (4) he who speaks ill of Me.” (Gita 18.67)

Shri Krishna is teaching us not to talk about spirituality or God to the above mentioned people. It is futile to talk to them. A beginner in the path of spirituality may lose faith by talking to such people. Their negative influence may wipe out the developing beginner’s faith.

Sri Ramakrishna said that occasionally out of two friends, while one was enjoying listening to his talks about God and spiritual practices, the other friend would became restless after a while. The other friend would whisper into the ears of his friend and ask, “How long are you going to be here?” The interested friend would get annoyed of this distraction. Then, Sri Ramakrishan used to tell the restless friend to go out and visit the temple and the garden.

The great Sanskrit Poet Kalidas prayed to God that he would accept any punishment for his ill-performed actions, but not a punishment where he would have to recite poetry in front of people who are not interested in poetry. He actually said it three times: “Maa likha, maa likha, maa likha.” “Please do not write, please do not write, and please do not write in my destity.”

The same is with talking about spirituality and God to the people who are not interested.

On the other hand, Shri Krishna said, “One who is endowed with supreme love for Me (God or Brahman) shares this profound teachings (of Bhagavad Gita) to My devotees will definitely without any doubt becomes one with Me.” (Gita 18.68)

Sharing uplifting and positive thoughts is good, but it should be only with the people who understand and appreciate them.

Swami Vivekananda’s Thoughts on Changing the World:

The following are Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on the world and the idea of changing it. These thoughts reflect deep insights of the world and our responsibilities to the world. We can learn great lessons from these thoughts.

“This world is like a dog’s curly tail, and people have been striving to straighten it out for hundreds of years; but when they let it go, it curls up again. How could it be otherwise? When we know that this world is like a dog’s curly tail and will never be straightening, we shall not become fanatic (to change it).”

“There is God in this universe. It is not true that this universe is drifting and stands in need of help from you and me. God is ever present therein; He is undying and eternally active and infinitely watchful. When the whole universe sleeps He sleeps not; He is working incessantly; all the changes in the world are caused by Him.”

“We have to bear in mind that we are all debtors to the world and that the world does not owe us anything. It is a great privilege for all of us to be allowed to do anything for the world. In helping the world we really help ourselves.”

“The world is a grand moral gymnasium wherein we all have to take exercises so that we become stronger and stronger spiritually.”

Swami Vivekananda’s Thoughts on the Characteristics of a Reformer:

“If you want to be a true reformer, you must possess three things:

(1) The first is to feel. Do you really feel for your brothers? Do you really feel that there is so much misery in the world, so much ignorance and superstition? Do you really feel that all men are your brothers? Does this idea permeate your whole being? Does it run in your blood? Does it tingle in your veins? Does it course through every nerve and filament of your body? Are you full of that idea of sympathy? If you are, that is only the first step.

(2) Next, you must ask yourself if you have found any remedy.  The old ideas may be all superstitions, but in and around these masses of superstition are nuggets of truth. Have you discovered means by which to keep that truth alone, without any of the dross? If you have done that, that is only the second step; one thing more is necessary.

(3) What is your motive? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed for gold, by thirst for fame or power? Are you really sure that you can stand up for your ideals and work on, even if the whole world wants to crush you down? Are you sure that you know what you want and will perform your duty, and your duty alone, even if your life is at stake? Are you sure that you will persevere so long as life endures, so long as one pulsation is left in the heart?

Then you are a real reformer, you are a teacher, a master, a blessing to mankind.”

Mahatma Gandhi’s Thoughts on Change:

Henri Edberg is a writer who lives on the east coast of Sweden. He is passionate about happiness and personal development. He writes about it in his “The Positive Blog.” He has written an article “Gandhi’s 10 Rules for Changing the World.” He wrote on the following 10 quotations of Mahatma Gandhi (Henry Edberg gave the titles):

(1)  Change yourself:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

(2) You are in control:

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

(3) Forgive and let it go:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“The eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”

(4) Without actions you aren’t going anywhere:

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

(5) Take care of this moment:

“I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”

(6) Everyone is human:

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess and retrack my steps.”

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

(7) Persist:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

(8) See the good in people and help them:

“I look only to good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”

“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

(9) Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

(10) Continue to grow and evolve:

“Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

(Thanks to Abhishek Senjalia for editing the post and Viraj Khetani for the illustration.)

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18 (Part II of III, Shlokas 29 – 55) The Path to Liberation through Renunciation

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18 (Part II of III, Shlokas 29 – 55)

 The Path to Liberation through Renunciation

Shri Krishna said, “I will tell you in detail three kinds of intellect and fortitude, which are divided by the three gunas.

The Three Kinds of Intellect:

The first type of intellect is called the Sattvika (superior) Intellect. This is the kind of intellect that knows clearly the difference between the path of householders and the path of Sanyasins (people who renounce everything to realize God). The Sattvika Intellect knows which actions are their responsibilities to perform and which are not, whom to fear and whom not to, and the difference between things that lead to slavery versus those that lead to freedom.

The type of intellect that creates confusion between righteousness and unrighteousness, and what is or is not a responsibility is called the Rajasika (mediocre) Intellect.

The lowest form of intellect that has a reverse understanding of everything due to ignorance is called the Tamasika (inferior) Intellect. A person with Tamasika Intellect sees righteous as unrighteous and unrighteous as righteous.

The Three Kinds of Fortitude:

The fortitude by which a person gathers one’s mind and directs it along with the vital forces and the senses, single-pointedly towards the Self (Atman), is called the Sattvika (supreme) fortitude.

The fortitude by which a person with worldly desires passionately works for sense-pleasures and money, and performs religious rituals for worldly comforts or heaven, is called the Rajasika (mediocre) fortitude.

The fortitude by which a person with undeveloped intellect does not give up sleep, fear, grief, despondency, and arrogance, is called the Tamasika (inferior) fortitude.

The Three Kinds of Happiness:

The first kind of happiness is that which is felt within, as a result of spiritual practices done to realize God and being aware of one’s own true identity (Atman). This kind of happiness removes all the sorrows of life. It is called the Sattvika (superior) happiness. Initially, the spiritual practices which lead one to this type of happiness may be painful, but after overcoming the initial period of difficulties, one will begin to feel more and more happiness and bliss.

The kind of happiness that results of the union of the senses and the objects of the senses is referred to as Rajasika (mediocre) happiness.  Initially, this happiness feels like nectar, but eventually results in pain, worries, and slavery.

The third kind of happiness is a result of things like excessive sleep, laziness, and negligence. It is called Tamasika (inferior) happiness. It deludes the mind in the beginning and also at the end.

The Power of the Three Gunas:

There is nothing, neither a person nor an object, born on this earth or anywhere in the universe that is beyond the dominance of the three gunas.

Classification of People’s Duties According to Their Natural Tendencies (dominance of the gunas/traits in them):

The duties of various categories of people, including Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, have been divided according to the characteristics they have developed due to their natural tendencies.

The Duties of Brahmins (Spiritual Teachers):

The duties of Brahmins are (1) to have control over their senses and mind, (2) to perform austerities, (3) to maintain internal and external purity, (4) to forgive people, (5) to keep their mind simple (devoid of crookedness), (6) to have firm faith in the scriptures and God, (7) to study scriptures to realize God, (8) to make efforts to realize God, and (9) to have direct experience of God.

The Duties of Kshatriyas (Soldiers):

The duties of Kshatriyas are the following: (1) to develop and show heroism, high spirit, firmness, and skill to solve problems, (2) to never run away from a battlefield (3) to be charitable in nature, and (4) to take up responsibility for the people they protect.

The Duties of the Vaishyas (Business People):

The duties of Vaishyas are said to be (1) honestly doing business and (2) protection and sustenance of farming, animals, and the environment.

The Duty of Shudras (Laborers):

The duty of Shudras determined due to their natural tendencies is to provide services to all.

How One Can Attain Supreme Knowledge by Performing One’s Duties:

If one sincerely performs one’s duties or responsibilities as a householder, then one attains the same Supreme Knowledge that a yogi attains by renouncing the world.

Let me tell you how one can attain such Supreme Knowledge simply by performing one’s responsibilities.

When a person becomes aware, through the performance of his/her responsibilities, that (s)he is worshiping the Creator of the universe, by whom the whole universe is pervaded, then (s)he will attain Supreme Knowledge.

Poorly performing one’s own responsibilities is better than well-performed someone else’s responsibilities. If one performs one’s own responsibilities, then one will not feel guilt.

(Note: Think of it as though each person is a point in the universe that is made out of space-time-causation. Each one has one’s own responsibilities, according to the placement of the point. The physical universe is functioning because the five elements (space, wind, fire, water, and earth), the sun, the moon, and plants, etc. perform their individual responsibilities. Similarly, if each human being performs his/her responsibilities, the entire human society can function smoothly. When people do not perform their responsibilities, then conflicts and chaos arise in families or in the greater society. (Regardless of our willful compliance, we have to remember that, sooner or later, we will be forced to perform our responsibilities anyway, per nature’s laws and forces greater than us.)

As every fire generates smoke, so does every action have unpleasant consequences associated with it. Therefore, one should not quit ones responsibilities foreseeing their unpleasant consequences.

If one is fully detached (realizing that everything belongs to God), has full self-control, and desires only to realize the Ultimate Reality or Truth, that person, by renouncing the results of his/her actions, attains the highest state of supreme calmness and peace, even while he/she remains intensely active in the world. This is a state of freedom from all bondages created by consequences of actions performed.

Inner Calmness and Peace Lead to the Realization of Brahman (the Ultimate Truth or Reality):

O Arjuna! I will tell you briefly how a person, who has attained inner calmness and peace within, by properly performing one’s responsibilities, realizes Brahman, the Supreme Knowledge, which the Jnani attains through renunciation of all actions.

When a person develops the following characteristics through properly performing actions, then (s)he becomes worthy of being one with Brahman (the highest state that a human being can attain).

(1) pure intellect (which clearly discriminates between right and wrong), (2) sattvika fortitude, (3) control of mind and senses, (4) free of distraction from worldly objects that attract the senses, (5) beyond attachments and hatred, (6) love for solitude that helps one to focus one’s mind on God and reflect upon the purpose of life, (7) keep the intake of the senses minimum whether that be intake of food by mouth, or through any other senses (8) control of speech and body, (9) continuous engagement in meditation, (10) being established in renunciation, (11) removal of ego, power, pride, lust, anger, and possessions, (12) have replaced “Me and mine” by “Thee and thine”, and (13) a peaceful nature.

Such a person, being one with Brahman, is very happy within, does not grieve for loss, does not desire anything in the world, and sees all as manifestations of Brahman, attains supreme love for God.

Having attained this supreme love for God, (s)he knows Me (God with form and God without form) in totality, and then becomes one with Me.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18: The Path to Liberation through Renunciation (Part I of III)

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18

 The Path to Liberation through Renunciation

Part I of III (Shlokas 1 – 28)

(This is the last chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. In this chapter, Arjuna asks a question that is crucial for him to make the final decision for his future action. This question connects with his state of mind, which he described in the first chapter. In this chapter, Shri Krishna tells Arjuna the essence of his teachings and his final command.)

Arjuna asks, “O Hrishikesha! O Mahabaho! O Keshinishudana! (Names of Shri Krishna) I want to know the clear difference between “Tyaga” and “Sanyasa”.

Shri Krishna answers, “Sages say that the renunciation of all actions that are motivated by fulfilling worldly desires is called “Sanyas,” while wise people say that giving up attachment to the results of all actions is called “Tyaga”.

One group of philosophers says that every action is harmful to a spiritual seeker; therefore, every action has to be renounced. Another group of philosophers says that, Yajna (Offering), Dana (Charity), and Tapa (Austerity) should not be given up.

O Arjuna! I will tell you my firm convictions about Yajna, Dana, Tapa, and Tyaga.

Yajna, Dana, and Tapa should not be given up. They should be performed. Yajna, Dana, and Tapa purify a human being. However, they should be performed with a sense of responsibility, without being attached to them, and by renouncing their results.

[Note: Renouncing attachment means remembering that everything belongs to God who is the creator, the nourisher, and the dissolver of the whole universe. Keeping this fact in mind, the renouncer makes constant changes in attitude (which consists of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions), gradually progressing from “Me and Mine” to “Thee and Thine,” until “Me and Mine” are completely replaced by “Thee and Thine.” Finally, only a slight non-harmful ego remains in a person for the purposes of serving humanity. This is a state of true knowledge of the Ultimate Reality.

By renouncing the results of one’s actions means performing all responsibilities as work given by God. Through this, one develops awareness of the presence of God and love for God. By renouncing, one considers every responsibility being performed as worship of God or an offering to God. One accepts the worldly part of the results as a “Prasad from God” or “Grace of God,” which may be either pleasant or unpleasant.]

The Three Kinds of Tyaga

Tyaga is of three kinds.

One should not renounce one’s own responsibilities. For those who renounce their responsibilities out of ignorance or delusion, their renunciation is considered a “Tamasika Tyaga” (an inferior renunciation).

Renunciation where one gives up one’s responsibilities because of fear of trouble to one’s body, thinking that all actions are painful is called a “Rajasika Tyaga” (a mediocre renunciation).

However, a “Sattvika Tyaga” (a superior or proper renunciation) is one where a person is convinced that he/she must perform his/her responsibilities and performs them while renouncing all attachments to them and offering their results to God.

A True Tyagi (Renouncer)

A true renouncer never hates an unpleasant responsibility and never gets elated by a pleasant responsibility. It means that he/she remains completely focused and performs every responsibility (pleasant or unpleasant) sincerely and to the best of his/her ability.

Such a person is established in a Satvik (pure and divine) state of mind, has matured intellect, and has destroyed all the doubts in his/her mind.

As long as one has a body, one cannot renounce all actions because one has to perform actions to maintain his/her body. Therefore, a “true tyagi” is the one who renounces the results of all actions.

Every action has three kinds of results: favorable, unfavorable, or mixed. One who has renounced the results of all actions does not get affected by these results, but results definitely affect the people who have not renounced them.

We Do Not Have Control over the Results of Actions

In the Samkhya Philosophy, five causes have been described for the accomplishment of any action. These are (1) the field of an action, (2) the performer, (3) tools to perform the action, (4) performance of the action, and (5) divine fate.

With regard to an individual, we can consider the following five causes for accomplishment of any action: (1) the body, (2) the doer, (3) the senses, (4) various actions, and (5) fate, over which the person has no control. These are the five causes of accomplishing any good or bad action performed by an individual with his/her body, mind, or speech.

This is a fact. However, due to undeveloped intellect and a deluded mind, a person thinks that the Atman is the performer of the actions. Such a person does not understand that the Atman is beyond the body and mind and is simply a witness-consciousness. (As light is not affected by the actions being performed in the light, similarly Atman is not affected by the actions performed by the body and mind.)

If a person has no “doer-ship” and has a delusion-free intellect, even when he/she has to perform a responsibility like a soldier who fights and kills enemies, he/she will not be considered a criminal.

The knower, the knowledge, and the object of knowledge create the motivation for actions, while the performer, the tools to perform, and the action are the three-fold basis of actions.

Now, I will tell you the three kinds of knowledge, action, and the performer of an action, as they have been described in the Samkhya philosophy.

The Three Kinds of Knowledge

The knowledge, by which a person can see One, Imperishable, and Undivided Atman in all beings which look divided by their external differences, is called Sattvika Knowledge (superior or perfect knowledge).

The knowledge by which a person sees more and more differences among all beings is called Rajasika Knowledge (mediocre knowledge).

The knowledge by which one thinks that only a part is a whole truth (like the body is the whole personality of a being), the knowledge which is illogical, not grounded on truth, and trifle, is called Tamasika Knowledge (inferior knowledge).

The Three Kinds of Actions

An action that is a person’s true responsibility, has been performed without any attachment, selfish motive, or hatred, and performed as an offering to or worship of God, is called a Sattvika Action (superior or perfect action).

An action that has been performed to fulfill one’s worldly desire, to boost one’s ego, and performed with much undue efforts, is called a Rajasika Action (mediocre action).

An action that is undertaken through delusion and performed without thinking about one’s ability, the consequences, loss, or injury, is called a Tamasika Action (an inferior action).

The Three Kinds of Performers

A Sattvika Performer (a superior or an ideal performer) is one who (1) is free from attachment, (2) does not brag about him/herself, (3) is filled with fortitude and enthusiasm, and (4) is unaffected by success or failure.

A Rajasika Performer (a mediocre performer) is one who is (1) passionately attached to the action, (2) mostly interested in the result and not in the performance, (3) greedy, (4) violent (5) impure, and (6) swings between joys and sorrows because of the favorable or unfavorable results.

A Tamasika Performer (an inferior performer) is one who is (1) unsteady, (2) untrained for action, (3) arrogant, (4) deceitful, (5) malicious, (6) despondent, (7) lazy, and (8) a procrastinator.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)

 

Laugh and Learn – 12

Wait a minute!

The following post is based on a story I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

A devotee wanted money from God. So, he started praying to God. After a few years of sincere and intense spiritual austerities, God thought to reveal Himself to him.

One day the devotee profusely cried for God. Seeing the devotee’s agony, God granted the devotee a vision of Him. The devotee was overjoyed with this vision.

Then, God asked him, “What do you want?”

The devotee said, “I just want one cent from you.”

God said, “Why just one cent?”

The devotee replied, “God’s one cent is like millions of dollars.”

God wanted to uplift this devotee from his limited wants and make him aware of the higher importance of God-vision, so God said, “Wait a minute!”

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Reflections:

Time and Space are Relative:

Moving clocks are slower than stationary ones.  Distances (the space is in-between two points) and the durations are observer-dependent.  Do you believe this? Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity proves it.

Let us not go into deeper science and think in terms of common experiences. Four to eight lower-middle class people living and adjusting in one bedroom apartment of big cities like New York, Mumbai, London and others feel that they have enough space.  When a family of four moves to a 3-4 bedroom house with one acre land initially feels that they have enough space. But, when they filled up the house with furniture and needed or not-needed things, then the same house looks small.

We all know that time is relative. When we are waiting for people whom we love, then one minute feels like one hour. But, when we are having fun, then one hour passes like one minute.

Time in Bhagavad Gita:

Shri Krishna says, “Those people who know that the day of Brahma (the Creator) is thousand eons long and the night of Brahma is thousand eons long, know the day and night. At the approach of the day of Brahma, all manifested objects come forth from the un-manifested (Brahman, or Consciousness, or Energy) and at the approach of the night of Brahma, all the manifested objects merge into the un-manifested.” (8.17-18)

Evolution and Involution:

When we wake up our universe begins. As soon as we wake up all the thoughts of our activities and all of our relationships with people come to the surface of our mind. It stays with us for the whole day. When night comes and we go into deep sleep, all our thoughts and relationships go deeper into our minds in very subtle (encrypted) form.

It is the same with the whole universe. The Bhagavad Gita, as a part of Vedanta, says that the whole universe emerges from one thing called Brahman (in scientific terms we can call this Consciousness or Energy), which is called an evolution. It is similar to how a tree comes out from a seed. Then, after some time (which may be billions of years) everything merges back into Brahman (Consciousness or Energy). Science also talks about black holes.  These black holes give us an idea of the process of involution, or the merging of manifested objects into un-manifested. It is like the whole tree merging into a tiny seed.

Time is Maya:

Vedanta says that there is only One Ultimate Existence, called Brahman.  From the Brahman the whole universe came. Thus, everything in the universe is nothing but Brahman. But, we do not see it. We see the separate existence of individuals and objects. Vedanta says that these differences have been created by space, time, name and form.

If a wave of an ocean thinks that it has its own separate existence and that the ocean does not exist, that would be ludicrous.  If a gold ornament, like a necklace, thinks that it is different from the gold and that gold does not exist, that would be ludicrous. If a clay figure of a man or a woman or an elephant thinks that it is separate from the clay and that clay does not exist, that would be ludicrous. Similarly, if a human individual thinks he/she is different from Brahman, and Brahman does not exist, that is ludicrous. But, we all think that we have separate individual existence, and we have nothing common and we live in delusion.  As a result, based upon our selfish motives, we love some, hate some, and go up and down in joys and sorrows.

What deludes us? Vedanta tells us that it is Maya, the power of Brahman, which deludes us. This Maya is space, time, name and form.  Brahman is Maya-pati, the Lord of Maya, meaning is beyond Maya. Thus, Brahman is beyond space, time, name and form.

Story of Krishna and Narada:

Swami Vivekananda told a story from mythology in his lecture “Maya and Freedom,” delivered in London, October 22, 1896.

Narada asked Shri Krishna, “O Lord! Show me your Maya.” Shri Krishna said that he had to come with him in a trip to forests.  Both walked and walked into deep forests. The sun was scorching. Shri Krishna said, “O Narada! I am thirsty. Can you please look around and see if there is any water nearby. I have no energy to walk.” Narada said, “Yes my Lord! I will look for water and bring it to you.”

At a little distance, Narada found a small village. He stopped at a house, knocked at the door and loudly asked if there was anyone in the home. A beautiful young girl opened the door.  Narada was overwhelmed by her beauty and started conversing with her. He asked her name, about her parents, and asked if she is married. The girl also showed interest in Narada and she called her parents. The parents were very happy to see Narada and they accepted his proposal to marry their daughter to him. Narada and the girl got married. They had two children. The girl’s parents died and Narada inherited their home and property. Thus, twelve years passed.

Then a big storm came. Due to high wind and several days of heavy rain all over, one night, the nearby river rose until it overflowed and flooded the whole village. The current of the river was very strong. Houses fell, men and animals were swept away and drowned and everything was floating in the rush of the stream. Narada’s house fell. He had to escape. He held his wife with one hand, a child in his other hand and put one child on his shoulders. He was trying to swim to survive. But, the strong current took away the child from his hand. When he was trying to save that child, the other child flipped over and was swept away. When he tried to save that child, he lost his grip on his wife’s hand and she too was torn away by the current. After being dragged by the current of the river for a distance, he was thrown onto land. Narada wept and wailed in bitter lamentation.

Then, he heard a gentle voice, “O Narada! Where is the water? You have gone away for half an hour to get water.” Narada exclaimed, “Half an hour! Twelve years passed through my mind in half an hour!”

After telling this story, Swami Vivekananda said, “And this is Maya!”

If we are not careful, then years pass like hours without gaining any accomplishment or knowledge which could bring true satisfaction in life.

So, we should think, reflect, do spiritual practice and serve humanity (the Living God) unselfishly.

Maya created by Human Beings:

Brahman creates Maya, but human beings also create Maya. It is Maya of money and greed. Because of greed our life becomes a money-making machine, and it will not leave any time to enjoy the money acquired.  We have to make sure that we enjoy money and money does not enjoy us.

Knowledge and Devotion:

God is our father and mother. We should have faith that if we sincerely pray to God and perform our responsibilities, then God will take care of us. We have to pray to God for knowledge and devotion which will fulfill all our desires.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post and Viraj Khetani for the illustration.)

Meditation and the Transformation of the Character

Meditation and the Transformation of the Character

            Swami Adiswarananda, Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York (1973 – 2007), had written several books related to Vedanta. His books are like mathematics and physics books. Every word and sentence of his books is thoughtfully selected, and one can see logical development of his ideas.

Currently, I enjoy reading his book, “Meditation and Its Practices.” It is a definitive guide to techniques and traditions of meditation in Yoga and Vedanta.

In this book, meditation has been looked at from several points of view, and it contains innumerable quotations from several standard books of meditation, Vedanta, and Yoga.

Personally, on many occasions, I was fortunate to see Swami Adiswarananda absorbed in meditation and felt uplifted by the spiritual environment created by these absorptions. Several times, I have heard him give talks after deep meditation, and I could feel that his words were coming from his direct communion with the Self, filled with convincing power and destroying all doubts.

The quoted paragraphs are excerpts from his book “Meditation and Its Practices.” I found these paragraphs to be very helpful for me to understand meditation and thoughts related to it. The titles and in-between thoughts are mine.

The importance of Meditation:

“Meditation is a subject of universal interest. It is practiced by spiritual seekers of all traditions, in some form or another, for serenity, peace, and blessedness.

The Vedic seers tell us that the causes of suffering are five, and they are:

(1)  Ignorance that makes us out of touch with Ultimate Reality

(2)  Ego that creates the world of dreams and desires

(3)  Attachments to things and beings of that dream world

(4)  Aversion toward things and beings we do not like and

(5)  Clinging to life and not moving forward.

The only way to overcome the maladies of life is to establish contact with the Ultimate Reality, and the only way to make contact with It is through meditation.

Meditation liberates us from the bondage of the mind and body, and lifts us up into the vast expanse of the Infinite Self.

Meditation awakens the dormant powers of the mind.”

The Steps Leading to Meditation:

             “The step leading to meditation is uninterrupted spiritual concentration of the mind on the Self. Such concentration does not develop by itself. It has to be practiced consciously and regularly, and requires overcoming the drags of perverted habits, attachments, and desires. For this reason, meditation is a twofold practice. It is focusing the mind on the ideal, while at the same time, practicing self-control.”

Meditation and Integrated Personality

“An average person’s spiritual goal and spiritual efforts are not well integrated because his thinking, feeling, willing, and acting do not support but instead oppose each other. Most often, his spiritual goal is subordinated to his material and worldly goals.

In his efforts, he does not follow moderation but swings from indulgence to asceticism, pessimism to optimism. Integration of personality is the alignment of all one’s thoughts, words, deeds, and aspirations to spiritual aspiration.

An integrated life, according to Yoga and Vedanta, is a grand symphony of many reflexes, impulses, desires, emotions, thoughts, and purposes. As the millions of cells of the human body must be well harmonized to produce a balanced physique, so must the multiple centers of our personality also be well integrated to make the symphony a reality.  The more we get a glimpse of our real Self in meditation, the more we are able to achieve this harmony.”

What is Integrated Personality?

“Meditation enables us to discover the rhythm of integrated living, which is marked by withdrawal from and response to the everyday world. Mere withdrawal without response is meaningless, while mere response without withdrawal is disastrous.

The more active we are, the more we are required to be meditative. The more the musical instruments in an orchestra are played, the more they need tuning. Meditation is to the mind what sleep is to the body. Meditation is the inbreathing of life, while activity represents its outbreathing. Meditation, like a gyroscope, helps the aspirant maintain his poise and balance amid the turbulence of life. Sincerely pursued, meditation becomes the aspirant’s second nature and follows him like his shadow in every action and thought, enabling him to function as two voices singing in counterpoint.”

 Meditation is more than the Concentration of the Mind:

“In the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta, meditation is a mental process by which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation.

Communion with our true Self, according to the Mahabharata, is the most efficacious form of meditation, comparable to bathing in a sacred river: ‘the river of Atman is filled with the water of self-control; truth is its current, righteous conduct its banks and compassion its waves…. Bathe in its sacred water; ordinary water does not purify the inmost soul.’ Meditation is thus the greatest purifier of the mind.”

Meditation is a constant awareness of our true identity (Atman) or the Ultimate Reality (Brahman). If one is a devotee and worships a chosen form of God (Ishta), then the constant remembrance of this form leads to meditation. Thus, japa, lovingly repeating God’s name or a mantra related to the beloved form of God, leads to an absorption into that form. This is meditation for a devotee. Finally, when this beloved form of God merges with the Ultimate Reality (Brahman), the devotee attains the highest communion with Brahman.

Swami Adiswarananda says, “Through meditation, our individual self, communes with the cosmic Self, as represented by our Chosen Ideal. These moments of communion lift us out of all egocentric involvements and infuse us with a quantum of inner serenity that heals the wounds of our mind, filling it with new strength to face the challenges of life. This inner serenity brings in its wake a stabilizing effect on our everyday life and makes it more efficient, creative, and purposeful. Our daily contact and communion with the external world of countless diversities temporarily overwhelms our knowledge of the unity of existence. As a result, our perception of diversities becomes exaggerated and heightened, and we lose the distinction between the Reality that is permanent and eternal and the realities that are impermanent or relatively permanent. Proficiency in meditation restores our true vision of reality.”

Being Calm and Serene is not Enough:

Only remaining calm or serene does not mean anything. We have to see what is the goal of the person who is calm and serene.

Swami Chetanananda told a story from the Ramayana. When Mother Sita was kidnapped, Lord Rama was crying profusely. At this time, he saw a crane standing calmly with complete serenity in a lake.  Lord Rama told his brother Lakshmana, “See how this crane is calm and serene, while I am crying because of the separation of Sita.” At that time, a fish jumped up from the water of the lake and told Rama, “O Lord Rama! This crane has killed my wife and my children and now is meditating to kill me. It looks serene, but not with good intention!”

Meditation brings Transformation of Character:

Vedanta does not like any ambiguity, and it is not only a theory. Vedanta is very practical. The goal of Vedanta— “Self-Realization” or “Communion with the Ultimate Reality” — is not imaginary. The Bhagavad Gita and other Vedantic books clearly state the tangible characteristics of a person who has achieved Communion with the Ultimate Reality.  One who practices Vedanta and makes sincere efforts to achieve its goal becomes a decent human being.  Such a person’s thoughts, speech, and actions become blessings to society. Actually, society continues to survive due to the presence and inspirations of such people. Without them, people do not see a reason  to become unselfish and do any amount of harm to fellow beings, even if destructive, to fulfill their selfishness.

The Bhagavad Gita describes the sets of characteristics of “A Person with Steady Intellect (Gita 2.55-72), “My Beloved Devotee” (Gita 12.13-19), and “A Person Who Has Gone beyond the Three Gunas” (Gita 14.22-27) separately.  These characteristics help us know how a person practicing Vedanta becomes a decent human being and a blessing to society.

Meditation is a very personal thing. It is hard to find out whether a person is making progress in his/her meditation or has become stagnant, or if the person is becoming duller and more inactive than before. Many times during meditation, sleep or inertia takes over the meditator’s mind without him/her being aware of it. Experts in meditation say that if we want to measure the progress of the mind of a person who is practicing meditation, we must  observe how that person does work in day-to-day life, how that person behaves with other people in various situations, and how the person expresses his/her thoughts in speech. In the following list, Swami Adiswarananda clearly expresses the characteristics of a person who is making progress in meditation and/or has attained the goal of meditation – Communion with the Ultimate Reality. It is an excellent guideline to measure progress in our meditation.

“The sure sign of an individual’s inner integration is his behavioral transformation.

(1)        Such a person is always sincere, honest, and straightforward in thought, word, and action. Because he is honest with himself, he is honest with others. His honest intentions are always reflected in his conduct and behavior.

(2)        Truthful in all circumstances, he not only desists from lying in any form but does not exaggerate, misrepresent, manipulate, or distort facts to suit his own convenience and self-interest.

(3)        Free from all sense of guilt, he enjoys peace of mind.

(4)        What he really is and what he appears to be are always the same, and so he is never  secretive.

(5)        He never broods over the past nor dreams about the future. He acts in the living present; being of clean conscience, he does not procrastinate or vacillate in his decisions or actions.

(6)        Positive in his outlook, he is always ready to learn and grow in wisdom.

(7)        He accepts the trials and tribulations of life as they come and does not blame anyone or anything for them. Grounded in self-awareness, he is neither aggressive nor defensive in   dealing with others.

(8)        He is spontaneous, efficient, and creative.

(9)        Moderation is his motto, discrimination is his guideline, and Self-Knowledge is his goal.”

(Thanks to Nishank Mehta for editing this post.)