Laugh and Learn – 13


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!”



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.)


Laugh and Learn – 11

“Is there anyone else?”

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

This is not a funny story, but it is thought-provoking and we can learn a lot from it.

Mark was an adventurous person from childhood. Whenever he had time, he used to go hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, diving in the deep ocean, surfing, and other such activities.

Mark also liked to visit newer places and oceans. He had explored many outdoor parks, mountain ranges, oceans, and places to bungee jump and hike. However, he never wanted to walk or travel on the same path, dive deep in the same ocean, or bungee jump from the same location. He always looked for more difficult, challenging, and adventurous activities to partake in. A few times, he was in difficult situations and about to die. Yet, somehow, he survived each time with some help. That did not stop him from looking for more adventurous activities, but rather encouraged him to do so.

Once, Mark found a beautiful place which had both the advantages of the ocean and the mountains. It was one of his dream places. He was excited. He rented a nice place near the foot of the mountain and decided to explore every possible trail of the mountain. After a few days of exciting hiking, it rained for a couple of days. He walked around the city and waited for the rain to stop. As soon as the rain stopped, he woke up early in the morning and began trekking on one of the most difficult and longest mountain trails. He enjoyed the complete silence that prevailed. The trees looked like great Yogis meditating in quietude. Then, the birds woke up and added their melodious chirping. The sun was coming out in the distant horizon. From a little distance, he started to see a glimpse of the ocean. It seemed that he had reached a very high altitude.

At one point, he saw a red ribbon and a red sign that said, “Danger. Do not cross the line.” Mark did not understand the purpose of the line or sign. He saw nice land leading towards the ocean. His adventurous soul urged him to go and check out the “danger” over there. He thought of himself as a good mountain climber and skillful walker, so he thought he was capable of checking out the trail as long as it was good. His plan was to return back after. He crossed the red ribbon and carefully walked further. His heart began pumping faster in anticipation of danger. He thought that the adventurous moment he was looking for was upon him! As he went ahead, he could see the beautiful blue ocean and its waves. It was one of the most scenic places he had ever come across. He came almost to the edge of the mountain and noticed a steep cliff that went down several feet. The waves of the ocean were striking against the cliff, creating a roar which was pleasant yet terror-inciting.

The whole scene was beautiful. Mark thought to himself, “Why was there a ‘Danger’ sign on the way?” He thought of returning. But, another thought came to his mind to go a couple of steps further to have a much better view of the ocean and then return back.

Mark walked one step further and the wet ground started to slip under his feet. He tried to stop himself, but to no avail. As he slipped down the edge of the mountain, the gravitational force continued to increase. He turned around and tried to hold on to anything that could stop him from sliding down into the ocean. He grabbed grass, but it was torn and could not stop him from falling.

Finally, Mark found a twig of a small plant growing on the stiff edge. He held on to this twig for dear life. Now, he found that the twig was the only source of support he had. Below, the ocean was roaring. On the side of the mountain, there was no other support. There were flat stones on the mountain without any holes to rest his feet.

He knew that if the twig broke, his life would end. He screamed loudly a few times, “Is there anyone who can help me?” He heard his own voice echoing back.

Then, Mark looked up in the sky. He thought of God and loudly cried, “Oh God! You are my only savior at this time. Please save me.” After desperately repeating this a couple of times, it seemed that he heard the voice of God. The voice said, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I am your God. You let go the twig and I will hold you in my two arms.”

Mark was happy to hear God’s voice, but he questioned how he could let go of the twig. He was puzzled. Then, Mark loudly screamed, “Is there anyone else?”


Lessons Learned from the Story:

I don’t know what I would do in this situation; whether I would have complete faith in God and let go of the twig or wait until God sends someone to pull me out of that situation. Many people have been saved miraculously in various situations, such as falling from a building, tumbling off a mountain, or escaping calamities, like earthquakes, floods, fire, and war.

Complete Surrender and Free Will:

All religions talk about having complete faith in God. Shri Krishna says, “Take refuge in Me alone” (Gita 18.66).

Ultimately, we must realize that our limited identity consists of a limited body and mind. We have some local freedom to do things, but we are limited in the large scale.

Since will comes from a limited body and mind, a human free will is wishful thinking. Only the Ultimate Reality Brahman has free will. With that will, Brahman creates, preserves, and dissolves the universe. When our will merges with Brahman’s will, we feel the power of free will.

Thinking of God as the Universal Mother, Sri Ramakrishna often used to sing the following song:

“O Mother! All is done after Thine’s own sweet will;

Thou art in truth self-willed, Redeemer of mankind!
Thou workest Thine own work; people only call it theirs.

Thou it is that holdest the elephant in the mire;
Thou that helpest the lame person scale the loftiest hill.

On some, Thou dost bestow the Bliss of Brahman.
Yet, on others, Thou dost hurl into this world of delusion.

I am a mere machine and Thou art the Operator of the machine;
I am the house, and Thou art the Indweller;
I am the chariot, and Thou art the Charioteer;
I move alone as Thou, O Mother, movest me.”

For a devotee, this is the ultimate knowledge and the state of God realization. After having this realization, we must continue to work. But, then we do not work for selfish motives and limited worldly pleasures. After attaining the realization of God, we work unselfishly for the good of all and as worship to the Divine Mother.

For a Vedantist, the highest realization is that “Brahman has become everything.” But, at that time, there is no mind left even to feel that Truth. At that time, there is only silence. When, slight body consciousness comes, then the memory of the Truth lingers in the mind and the aforementioned state of the devotee occupies the devotee’s mind.

(Thanks to Pallavi Tatapudy for editing this post and Sneha Shah for the illustration.)


The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7: The Path of Knowledge with Realization

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7

The Path of Knowledge with Realization

Shri Krishna said, “O Arjuna! I will tell you how, with your mind attached to Me (Brahman or God), taking refuge in Me, and being constantly engaged in spiritual practices to realize Me, you will know Me completely without any doubt.

I will tell you in complete detail the knowledge that leads to the direct experience of Me. After attaining this knowledge, you will have nothing that remains to be known.

Among thousands of people, one may strive for perfection. Among the people who strive for perfection, one may really know Me completely.

Prakruti (The Power of Brahman):

Know that My (Brahman’s or Purusha’s) Power (Prakruti) is of two kinds: Gross and Subtle.

The Gross Power is an Eight-Fold Power (Ashtadha Prakruti) made out of (1) Earth, (2) Water, (3) Fire, (4) Wind, (5) Space, (6) Mind, (7) Intellect, and (8) Ego.

The Subtle Power is the Indwelling Consciousness by which the whole universe is sustained.

Know that these two Powers (Prakrutis) are the cause of the existence of all beings and thus I (God, the manifested Brahman) am the cause of the creation and the dissolution of the whole universe.

Brahman is everything:

Besides Me (Brahman), there is no other cause of the universe. The whole universe is strung on Me as gems on the thread of a necklace.

The Subtle and the Gross manifestations of the Brahman:

O Arjuna! I am:

(1) the taste of water,

(2) the light of the sun and the moon,

(3) the Pranav (Om) in all the Vedas,

(4) the sound in space,

(5) the strength in all beings,

(6) the divine fragrance in the earth,

(7) the brilliance in fire,

(8) the life in all beings,

(9) the austerity in ascetics,

(10) the eternal seed cause of all beings,

(11) the intellect of all intellectuals,

(12) the heroism of heroic people,

(13) the power of people who are devoid of desires and attachment, and

(14) the legitimate desire in all beings.

Know that whatever states have been created by the three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas – have been created by Me alone. I am not in them, but they are in Me.

Mayathe deluding power of Brahman:

The whole universe is deluded by the states created by the three gunas. That is why they do not know Me (the Imperishable Brahman); I am beyond the three gunas.

It is very difficult to overcome the delusion created by Maya (My divine power called Prakruti) which consists of the three gunas. Only those who take refuge in Me can cross over this delusion.

Deluded people whose knowledge has been destroyed by Maya, who are possessed by demonic nature, who are engaged in evil activities and thus have become the lowest among human beings, do not worship Me.

Four kinds of worshippers:

On the other hand, four kinds of virtuous people worship Me: (1) “Arta,” who are in distress, (2) “Jignyasu,” who are seeking knowledge, (3) “Artharthi,” who are seeking pleasures and (4) “Jnani,” wise people.

Among these four kinds, the “Jnani” who are constantly making efforts to realize Me and have one-pointed devotion for Me are the best. I am the most beloved of the “Jnani” and they are My most beloved.

All four kinds of people are noble. But, a “Jnani” is like my own form because he/she, with the mind focused on Me, remains established in Me as the Supreme Goal.

After many births, a “Jnani,” realizing the truth that ‘Everything is Vasudeva (Brahman),’ worships Me. Such a “Jnani” is truly a great soul. It is very rare to find such a great soul.

Worship for Worldly Desires:

People whose discrimination has been destroyed by their worldly desires worship various deities (the limited aspects of Brahman) following various vows and rituals constrained by their desirous nature.

Whatever may be the form of the deity that a devotee likes to worship with faith, I (Brahman) give the devotee unwavering faith to that form. The devotee then worships that form with faith, and his/her desires are fulfilled by that form. Actually, I (Brahman) fulfill his/her desires through that form.

However, these people are short-sighted because the joy of the fulfillment of their worldly desires is short-lived. Those who worship various deities realize those deities (the finite aspects of Brahman), but those who worship Me (Brahman) ultimately attain Me (realize Brahman).

Foolish people do not know that My true nature is Imperishable and Transcendent. That is why they think that I, the Un-manifest, am endowed with a manifest form.

Due to the veil of My Maya (My Divine Power), I do not reveal Myself to all. People deluded by My Maya do not know Me as birthless and imperishable.

I know all the beings that were in the past, who are in the present and who will be in the future. But, no one knows Me.

Desires and Aversion:

All beings get deluded by the pairs of opposites (like favorable and unfavorable, pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, and others) which are created by desires and aversion.

But people whose virtuous actions have removed the impurity of their mind worship Me with firm conviction.

Who Knows Me?

Those who take refuge in Me and make efforts to free themselves from the fear and suffering of old age and death will know (1) Brahman, (2) everything about the individual soul and (3) the actions they must perform to know both.

People who know ‘Adhibhuta’ (One that underlies all elements), ‘Adhidaiva’ (One that underlies all the gods), and ‘Adhiyajna’ (One that sustains all the sacrifices) even at the time of their death, being steadfast in Me, know Me. (More elaborate explanations of these terms and the meaning of this sentence has been given in Chapter 8 of the Gita.)

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5: The Path of Renunciation

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5

The Path of Renunciation

Arjuna Asked Shri Krishna, “On one hand you talk about renouncing all worldly actions and adopting the path of knowledge, and on the other hand you praise Karma Yoga, the path to achieving the Supreme Knowledge through performing actions. Please tell me which path is really beneficial to me.”

Shri Krishna said, “Renunciation of all worldly actions and Karma Yoga are both beneficial in attaining the Supreme Knowledge. But, Karma Yoga is definitely preferable for most people than the path of renunciation of all worldly actions.

A True Sanyasi:

Know that a person who desires nothing and hates nothing is a true Sanyasi (a person who has renounced everything). A Karma Yogi, through properly performing actions in the world, goes beyond the pairs of opposites, like attachment and hatred, joy and sorrows, honor and insult, praise and blame, and becomes completely free from all bondages. Thus, s/he becomes a true Sanyasi.

The Path of Knowledge and Karma Yoga lead to the same goal:

Only people with immature and undeveloped intellect think that the path of knowledge and the path of actions are different. If one is established in one path s/he attains the goal of both paths because both the paths lead to the same goal.

Without practicing Karma Yoga, it is difficult for many people to renounce all actions or the doer-ship of all actions.  A Karma Yogi, by performing one’s responsibilities in an unselfish manner, easily realizes Brahman; s/he attains the Supreme Knowledge or the Ultimate Freedom.

How a Karma Yogi attains the Supreme Knowledge:

A Karma Yogi, through performance of unselfish actions purifies one’s mind, gets control over his/her mind and senses, and realizes that Self, his/her true identity, is same Self in all people. As a result, a Karma Yogi does not get deluded or get bound by performing actions.

Such a Karma Yogi realizes that the Self is the support of the body and the mind, and only in the presence of the Self do the body and the mind function. Just as people do various activities in light, which itself is inactive, so too is the Self inactive, but the body and the mind function due to the Self.

A Karma Yogi feels that as Self “I am doing nothing” even though the body and the mind perform activities like seeing, listening, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, talking, emitting, seizing, and opening or closing eyes.

A Karma Yogi working through body, mind, and intellect in a detached spirit, and offering all the results to Brahman (1) purifies oneself, (2) does not get affected by the unpleasant results of the actions just as a lotus leaf is unaffected by the water, (3) attains inner peace within due to the awareness of the Self, and (4) lives happily in the world being established in the Self.

Due to his/her worldly desires, a person who is not a Karma Yogi gets bounded by a chain of results leading to actions, and actions leading to results, and so forth

Brahman as Witness Consciousness:

The Ultimate Reality (Brahman) as a witness consciousness neither creates the doer-ship of action, nor the actions, nor the connection of the action and its results. All the actions are performed by the body-mind complex.

The Brahman as a witness consciousness does not take anyone’s sin or merit. But, the knowledge of this Ultimate Reality has been covered by ignorance. This is why people become deluded and think erroneously.

The Supreme Knowledge of Brahman shines like the sun in the hearts of those who have destroyed this ignorance of ‘I – being a separate identity with a body and mind’. Such people keep their mind and intellect focused on Brahman and makes all efforts to be aware of Brahman. Having completely removed their ignorance, they destroy all their bondages and become free.

The Knowledge of Oneness:

People with the Supreme Knowledge realizes that the same Brahman has become a wise person endowed with knowledge, an ignorant person, and an animal like a cow, or an elephant, or a dog. By remaining established in this Oneness, people with the Supreme Knowledge have conquered the whole world in this life and have attained the Ultimate Freedom.

People with Supreme Knowledge know that the worldly joy and sorrow are limited and therefore they neither get elated by worldly joy nor depressed by sorrow. Attaining this steady wisdom, removing all the delusions, and realizing Brahman, they remain established in Brahman, the highest state that a human being can attain.

Wise people know that the joy obtained by the contact of the senses and the sense-objects are limited and ultimately bring suffering. So, they work only to obtain the Supreme Knowledge and not for worldly joy.

A person who can control before death the powerful urges that arise due to lust, desire, and anger is a true Yogi, and s/he lives happily in the world.

Freedom in Brahman:

Those people who have (1) removed their impurities from their minds, (2) destroyed their doubts about the Ultimate Reality with knowledge, (3) controlled their mind and senses, (4) removed obstacles like lust, desire, anger, jealousy and others, (5) been engaged in selfless service to all, (6) focused their minds on the Self within, (7) realized the Self, enjoy inner bliss, and derive the Ultimate Knowledge which comes from the Self-awareness, become one with Brahman and  attain freedom in Brahman. They are free from all bondages of the world and go beyond the Laws of Nature when their minds are one with Brahman.

Who is always free?

A contemplative person who (1) is devoid of desire, fear, and anger, (2) has achieved control over one’s mind and senses, (3) does not let the sense-pleasures enter in the mind, (4) has intense desire for Self-realization, (5) keeps the eyes focused on the goal of Self-realization, and (6) has obtained a total control on one’s breathing by fully focusing the mind on the Self is always free.

Who attains peace of mind?

A Yogi who realizes Me (an Incarnation of Brahman) as the receiver and dispenser of all spiritual practices, sacrifices, and austerities, the Lord of the universe and a loving friend of all beings, attains everlasting peace.

(Thanks to Sheela Krishnan for editing this post.)

Laugh and Learn – 10

How to live for 100 years?

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 New York City, many exciting things happen. New York City provides opportunities to all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, one has to read all of the newspapers and magazines published in New York City.

One day the following advertisement appeared in a New York City newspaper:

Do you want to live for 100 years?


 Attend this one-on-one meeting with a world-renowned doctor

For a very nominal fees

 In a few minutes, you will learn simple ways to live longer.

No medicine. No gimmicks. No nonsenses.

A very successful and a sure way!


**Very limited offer! Many time slots have already been taken.

Only a few slots left!

To reserve your time slot, call (111) 333 – 5555.

Frank Miller lived in New Jersey and every day he commuted to New York for work. While reading a newspaper on the bus, his eyes caught the above advertisement. He started debating whether he should try to make an appointment with this doctor.

Frank had tried all kinds of ways to lose weight, but to no avail. He had tried various kinds of diets, pills, exercises (which he did not like much), Yoga, and other things, and nothing had worked for him. After many attempts, he lost a little weight. However, just as in the ocean a wave is followed by a wave, his weight came back with vengeance and he gained more weight than before. He grew frustrated. His wife had told him that if he does not take care of his weight then he will die early. A couple of his friends at work had collapsed and died at young ages from heart attacks. Outwardly, he would joke about his weight, but he was really worried internally. He decided to set up an appointment with the doctor and thought it would not hurt him to make one more attempt.

Frank called the doctor’s office and found out that he could get a one-hour appointment on Monday next week during his lunch break. He had to pay a non-refundable fee of $100 in advance. Well, with some hesitation, he paid the fee and planned to go to see the doctor on Monday next week.

Monday came and Frank went to the doctor’s office on time. The secretary welcomed him with a big business smile and gave him a pad of paper and a pen to write with. After a few minutes, he was called in. The doctor welcomed him with a warm handshake.

After taking their seats, the doctor started telling Frank about the successful stories of people living longer after following his advice. Then, the doctor told Frank to write down the following on his pad:

From today on,

– No Pizza

– No coke or any soft drink

– Absolutely no alcohol

– No smoking

– No meat

– No dairy products

– No cheese in any form

– No sugar in coffee or tea

– No cookies or crackers

– No chocolate

– No salt in the food

– No late night movies or entertainment

– No greasy food


Abruptly Frank got up in the middle of this dictation and started to leave.

The doctor said, “Frank! Why are you leaving? Don’t you want to live for 100 years?”

Frank said, “What for?” 🙂 🙂


A few thoughts on longevity:

There is a birthday wish in Sanskrit which says

It means that “you live for 100 springs” or 100 years. We all want to live longer, but it is not in our hands. There is a popular saying that “Birth, marriage, and death happen in their own time. We have no control over them.”

In this context, a thought definitely comes to our minds – “What is important, a quantity of life or a quality of life?” Shri Shankaracharya died at the age of 32, Sri Ramakrishna at 49, and Swami Vivekananda at 39. They did not live for 100 years, but they left a positive and deeper impact on humanity. Millions of people were inspired by their lives and teachings and they will continue to inspire for eternity.

One’s life is blessed if one realizes the inner divinity lying within and serves humanity unselfishly. Then, it does not matter whether life was short or long.

Many great personalities had worn out their bodies by working for the good of humanity. Swami Vivekananda said that it is better to wear out than to rust out.

There is a big industry which produces products and ways to help people live longer and healthier. Originally, Yoga was meant for the spiritual upliftment, but now it has become a way of exercise.

For a Yogi who wants spiritual upliftment, the Bhagavad Gita emphasizes the way of moderation. In chapter six of the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna says, “Yoga is not for the person who eats too much or eats too little. It is not for the person who sleeps too much or too little. Yoga puts an end to the sorrows of a person who is moderate in his/her eating, entertainment, work, and sleep.” (Gita 6. 16 and 6. 17).

(Thanks to Pallavi Tatapudy for editing this post and Sneha Shah for the illustration.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17: Three Kinds of Faith

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17

Three Kinds of Faith

Arjuna asked, “O Krishna, Those who disregard the scriptures but worship gods with faith; what is the state of their minds?  Is it Sattvika, Rajasika, or Tamasika?

Shri Krishna said that each individual is endowed with faith.  The faiths generated by the mind-set of human beings are of three kinds: Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika. As is the faith, so is the person.

Three kinds of worship:

Satvika people worship gods and goddesses, rajasika people worship angles and demons, while tamasika people worship ghosts and spirits.

The demonic minded people are filled with pretension and ego and they are motivated by worldly desires and attachment. They perform severe austerities disregarding the scriptural injunctions only to torture their bodies and the Self (Atman) lying within them.

Shri Krishna then described three kinds of aahaara (food), yajna (offering or worship), tapa (austerities) and daana (charity).

Three kinds of food:

Sattvika people like food that improves health and increases appetite, joy, strength, and longevity. Such food is also tasty, not very dry, cooked with balanced spices, nutritious, and pleasing to the heart.

The food rajasika people prefer is extremely bitter, sour, salty, dry, hot in temperature and with the spices that burn the tongue and the body.  Such food causes pain, worries and disease.

Tamasika people like food that is ill-cooked, tasteless, putrid, stale, left-over, and filthy.

Three kinds of Yajna (offering/religious ritual/spiritual practice): Sattvika yajna is one which is performed following the guidelines of scriptures and saints, without any motive of material gain, and with a firm conviction that “I must do this for my spiritual development.”

Rajasika yajna is performed with a clear motive of material gain and just to project oneself as a spiritual person.

Tamasika yajna is performed whimsically without following any guidelines.  Such yajna is performed without faith and without honoring any guide or a guest.

Three kinds of austerities: There are three kinds of austerities, namely, physical, verbal and mental.  Each of these austerities is of three types: sattvika, rajasika, and tamasika.

Physical austerities include worshipping gods & goddesses, honoring spiritual seekers, Guru, and wise people, and practicing purity, simplicity, celibacy and non-violence.

Verbal austerities include study of the scriptures, repeating the name of God, not hurting anyone with speech, and speaking truth sensibly. The truth spoken must be pleasant and beneficial to others.

Mental austerities include the practice of silence, self-control, and serenity, keeping the mind free of agitations and impurities.

Each of these austerities is sattvika if it is performed with supreme faith and for spiritual development only, not for any worldly gain.

The rajasika way of performing austerity is to gain honor, attain higher status, receive reverence from people in the society, and is filled with hypocrisy.  The result of such austerity is uncertain and short-lived.

When a person whimsically and out of stupidity picks up a few ideas and practices them as austerity to torture their own body and mind and simply to harm others, then it is called tamsika austerity.

Three kinds of charity:

                When charity is done with a sense of responsibility and with clear understanding of the noble purpose of the receiver (an individual or an organization), given at a proper time and with proper respect, it is called sattvika charity.

Rajasika charity is done in order to receive a worldly favor and for material gain, and given after inflicting much pain to the receiver.

Charity done whimsically by giving to an unworthy person or an organization, at improper place and time, and given with insults and disrespect is called tamasika charity.

Om, Tat, and Sat:

Om, Tat and Sat are three epithets of Brahman.  By that were created formerly the Brahmanas, the Vedas, and the yajnas. Therefore, the followers of the Vedas always begin all yajnas (offerings/religious rituals/spiritual practices), tapa (austerities), and charity enjoined by the scriptures with the utterance of “Om”.

People seeking liberation, uttering the word “Tat”, perform yajna, tapa, and charity only for spiritual development. Keeping in mind that “Tat” means ‘everything belongs to Brahman,’ they do not seek any worldly gain from the yajna, tapa, and charity.

The word “Sat” is used whenever one refers to the Ultimate Reality or something good or noble. The word “Sat” is also used for an auspicious action. The Sanskrit words like Sabhava, (noble feelings) Sat-jana (a good or noble person), Sat-karma (a noble action) use Sat to indicate good or noble.

Steadfastness in sattvika yajna, tapa, and charity is called “Sat.”  Also, when spiritual practices, austerities, or charity are performed only for spiritual development and by offering their worldly results to God, then they are called “Sat.”

When yajna (spiritual practices), tapa (austerities), and charity are done without any faith, then they are called “Asat,” opposite to “Sat.”   The Asat actions are not beneficial in this life or the next.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 16: Classification of Divine and Demonic Qualities

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 16

Classification of Divine and Demonic Qualities

The difference between divine and demonic:

Each person is potentially divine and the goal of human life is to manifest that divinity in one’s life.

A person is called divine, when this divinity shines through his/her thoughts, speech and actions. When that divinity gets blocked and non-divine qualities manifest, that same person is called a demonic person.

The qualities which help us manifest this inner divinity are called the divine qualities. These divine qualities free us from all our limitations and bondages. On the other hand, the qualities, which block our divinity, create confusion and ignorance are called the demonic qualities.  These demonic qualities, in turn, lead us toward a miserable life and to our destruction.  Such demonic qualities make us slaves of our weaknesses. In this chapter Shri Krishna clearly defines divine and demonic qualities.

The divine qualities:

The following are the divine qualities or virtues.  These virtues are inter-connected.  If a person practices one of these qualities with proper understanding, then the other qualities follow.

(1) fearlessness, (2) purity of mind, (3) being established in the True Knowledge of the Self and an ability to focus mind on the Self, (4) charity, (5) control on one’s senses, (6) sacrifice or unselfish service (7) study of the scriptures and habit of reflecting upon their teachings in order to practice them, (8) austerities – bearing the pain caused due to spiritual practices (9) being simple minded (lack of crookedness), (10) not to hurt anyone through thought, speech and action, (11) being truthful, (12) devoid of anger, (13) renunciation – ability to renounce what comes in the way of spiritual development (14) peaceful nature, (15) not to think or talk about ills of others, (16) compassion towards all beings, (17) not being greedy, (18) having gentle nature (not being rude), (19) modesty; feeling shame in doing unrighteous things, (20) not restless (21) possessing an aura of divinity (22) forgiveness, (23) ability to hold on to spiritual practices until realization of one’s divinity, (24) purity – external and internal, (25) having no animosity towards anyone and (26) not craving for special honor or respect.

The demonic qualities:

The following are the demonic qualities which conceal the divinity of a person and lead one to ignorance and destruction:

(1) Pretension, (2) Arrogance, (3) Being egotistic, (4) Lack of control on anger, (5) Rudeness, (6) Ignorance, (7) Being confused between “what should be done,” and “what should not be done,” (8) Lacking purity (9) Being unrighteous (10) Being untruthful

(11)  People with demonic qualities think that the world is devoid of truth, has no moral basis, is without God, and it is a creation of combination of male and female element having no other cause except fulfillment of lust. Having such views these lost souls with little understanding and fierce actions rise as the enemies of the world for its destruction.

(12) Being filled with hypocrisy, pride, and arrogance, and giving themselves up to insatiable desires they hold false views through delusion and act with impure resolve.

(13) Living with infinite worries which last till their deaths, and thinking that ‘acquiring pleasures of body and mind is the only goal of life,’ they crave for sense-pleasures.

(14) Being slaves of thousands of hopes of worldly desires and filled with lust and anger, they are busy to collect money for sense pleasures through unethical means.

(15) People with demonic qualities think that, “Today I have gained one thing and later on I will fulfil another longing. This much money I have collected and in future I will collect more. I have killed this enemy and I will kill more in future.  I am the Lord of the Universe.  I enjoy the world.  I am endowed with all the cleverness. I am powerful and I am happy.  I am rich and I am from ‘high family.’  There is no one equal to me.  I give in charity, perform religious rituals, and I will enjoy the world.”  Thus, being deluded by ignorance, caught in the net of ‘attachment’, with messed-up minds, and craving for sense pleasures they fall into a hell, meaning live very low-level human lives.

(16)  Considering them as great, drunken by the wealth and worldly respect these arrogant people perform religious rituals whimsically for their worldly pleasures.  They do not properly follow scriptural injunctions.

(17) Minds being filled with ego, pride of their physical strength, arrogance, worldly desires, anger and jealousy they torture Me (the Self) which lies in themselves and others.

To these demonic minded people, who are cruel, filled with hatred and living low-level human lives, I (meaning the Law of Nature) throw them again and again into an environment which sinks them into lower and lower levels of life without realizing their inner divinity.

Three Doors:

O Arjuna!  Know that the three doors to hell (or to low-level of life) are unethical sense pleasures, anger and greed which bring self-destruction.  Therefore, you should renounce these three doors to hell.

Those who save themselves from these three doors and who engage in their spiritual development, attain the highest state in their lives, meaning acquire the supreme Knowledge, Infinite Bliss and Awareness of their inner Divinity.

Follow the Guidelines of the Scriptures:

Those who disregard the teachings of the scriptures and of Saints and Sages and live whimsically following their own worldly desires, they neither attain any success, nor happiness and nor any higher state in life.

Therefore, you must learn the teachings of the scriptures and of Saints and Sages, make these teachings your guidelines to decide ‘what to do and what not to do’ and then perform actions.


The Law of Nature is such that sooner or later each being will realize its true identity, which is divine and is called by Vedanta as Atman. Divine qualities help a person to realize one’s divinity lying within.

The divine and demonic qualities are in the mind. If the weaknesses take over the mind, then a divine person can turn into a demonic person. Similarly, if a person’s mind realizes the harm and miseries that demonic qualities bring and he/she makes efforts to acquire divine qualities, then he/she becomes divine. We have an example of the highway man Valio or Ratnakar who was robbing and killing people for a living. However, when he was brought to senses by Sage Narada, he realized that he was doing hideous things.  He then plunged into spiritual practices to realize the divinity within and became Sage Valmiki who wrote the great epic Ramayana.

When a person’s mind is dominated by the divine qualities, he/she will attract people with divine qualities whose company will help strengthen his/her divine qualities. Similarly, when a person’s mind is dominated by the demonic qualities, he/she will attract people with demonic qualities whose company will drag him/her into more demonic qualities. But, in this case, at one point by the sufferings and the fear of complete annihilation, a demonic mind wakes up and starts journey towards one’s true divine nature.

(Thanks to Nina Sivadasan-Nair for editing this post.)


Laugh and Learn – 9

“Grandma Knows How to Cook”

The following post is based on two stories I had heard from Swami Adiswarananda who was the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

John was a young boy of seven years old. His mother Jane was raising him with the utmost love and care. As part of this, she made sure that John learned all of the Christian family traditions. John’s father Jack was not as keen on these traditions as his mother. He was more interested in seeing John succeed in his studies and develop an interest in sports.

John’s maternal grandparents lived far away.  He could not go there often, but Jane made sure that she and John visited her parents at least twice a year. John loved his grandparents’ house. He felt lots of freedom there.

Every time they visited, Jane’s mother would remind Jane to make sure that John learns all of the Christian traditions. And whenever Jane found an opportunity, she would show her mother that she was raising John in that tradition.

This year’s summer break had finally come.  Jane had told John earlier that year that they would go to grandma’s house for a week. John was eagerly waiting for those days to come. Now that it was finally here, he was jumping with joy.

After about 10 hours of driving, both John and Jane reached grandma’s house. As soon as Jane parked the car in the driveway, John ran and rang the door-bell a number of times.  Grandma knew who it was.  Since grandpa had passed away, she was the only one in the house to open the door. Grandma remembered grandpa and a couple of tear-drops came up on the corner of her eyes.  But, thinking about John, her heart was filled with joy overcoming all of the sorrowful memories.  She was always excited to see little John and had actually spent the whole day cooking all of John’s favorite dishes and awaiting his arrival.

Grandma opened the door and John jumped to give her a big hug, almost knocking her over.  Jane quickly exclaimed, “John, be careful! Don’t knock your grandma down.”  Overcome with joy, John started telling grandma everything about the trip over, including where they took breaks, what they ate, etc. Jane was almost not in the picture.

As John’s story came to a close, Jane asked her mother how she was doing and inquired about her health and living alone. Meanwhile, John looked around and found all the gifts his grandma had brought for him. He was excited and gave a big hug to his grandma for buying all the things he liked.

John then went into kitchen. To his surprise, John found that grandma had made all the goodies that he liked.

“Oh Grandma! I am hungry,” said John.

“But John, we had meals just couple of hours ago. Are you really hungry?” Jane questioned.

“I am really hungry.”

Jane told John to wash his hands. As he did so, John found that his grandma had already placed his meal into a very special dish. John ran to the dining table, sat down, and started eating. Jane was starting to become annoyed by John’s behavior.

“John, before you eat, what do you say?” she asked.

John continued eating and finally responded, “We say grace before the meal.”

“Then, why did you forget to say your grace?”

John continued to eat and said, “But Ma, grandma knows how to cook!” 🙂 🙂

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Another Story:

 “Please bless the food”

A priest came home in the evening exhausted by the whole day’s work. He was hungry. He washed his hands and sat on the dining chair. His wife brought out some leftovers from the refrigerator, warmed them up in the microwave, and placed them on the dining table.

She sat on the other side of the table with folded hands and head bowed down. She was waiting for her husband to say “Grace.” However, after couple of minutes of silence she looked up to her husband. He was sitting staring at the food expressionless.

His wife then said, “Please bless the food.” The priest said with sad voice, “I have already blessed this food three times.” 🙂 🙂

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Thoughts about blessing food

 Harvest-related festivals and blessing food:

In India and all over the world, we can find that there are festivals at the time of harvest. We find in many countries and languages harvest-related songs and dances. The significance of this theme is the recognition of the people that Mother Nature or God almighty provides us with food, without which we cannot survive.

As with these festivals, in our everyday routine, we should realize that we are lucky to have food on the table. Many do not immediately connect having food with God or Mother Nature, but all over the world there are prayers to bless the food and thank God for providing food.

Advantages of blessing food or praying before meals:

There are many advantages to doing prayer before taking meals or blessing the food.  I can list a few advantages:

  1. Because of prayer, people wait for each other and they eat together. If there is no prayer, whoever gets food first will start eating right away and will not think about other people or the servers. Sometimes when this happens, the servers who had cooked the food may not have anything left to eat.
  1. Prayer reminds us of Mother Nature, or the God Almighty, who is providing us the food.
  1. Prayer also reminds us that God has created the body and the digestive system in order for us to digest our food and turn it into energy. With this energy, we must perform our responsibilities and do good work for the benefit of all.
  1. With prayer, we become aware that so many people have worked for our food. For example, not only the farmers but also the people who transport the food, those who sell the food, those who buy the food, those who cook the food and those who serve the food. We appreciate the efforts of all of these people and in turn show our humility.
  1. Blessing the food gives us an opportunity to think of people who do not have food, friends, and family.
  1. Psychologically, prayer or blessing the food quiets the mind before eating. If we eat our meals with peaceful minds, the food can be easily digested. Eating while rushing and running will not help us to digest the food fully. In rush, we sometimes eat more and sometimes less. Neither is good. Calming the mind down before eating helps us to develop control and restraint with our eating.

Various prayers blessing the food:

In the Hindu religion there are several prayers:

  1. In the Ramakrishna Mission and other places, people recite the following shloka from Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, shloka 24):

While reciting this shloka, one thinks that eating a meal is like performing a Hindu ritual called a “yajna.” In a yajna, one offers ghee and other ingredients of worship into a sacred fire.

The shloka is:

The meaning of the shloka BG 4.24 is:

“In a ‘Yajna’, one who sees that the Brahman is the fire, the oblation, the offering, the person who offers, and who sees thus Brahman in action ultimately becomes one with Brahman.”

(Brahman is the Ultimate Reality of a being or of the universe. One can think of Brahman as the formless God who has become the whole universe.)

Why we recite this shloka:

The food is considered as an offering in the fire of stomach. Thus, eating a meal becomes like a spiritual practice that reminds us how ultimately everything becomes one with Brahman. In this way, during each meal, one connects oneself with the Ultimate Reality.

  1. Many places people recite the chapter 15 of Bhagavad Gita. I think the reason is that the following two shlokas 13th and 14th of Chapter 15 are directly related to the food:

Meaning BG 15.13

Lord Sri Krishna said, “I reside in the earth and with My power I sustain all the beings. I become the moon and nourish all the vegetation.”

Meaning BG 15.14:

Lord Sri Krishna said, “I reside in the stomach of all beings as fire (Vaishwanara) and with the help of inhalation and exhalation I digest the four kinds of foods.”

Note: The four kinds of food are: (1) food that is chewed, like bread, etc. (2) food that is swallowed, like milk, etc. (3) food that is licked, like ice cream and (4) food that is sucked in the mouth, like the way many people suck on the pulp of a mango through a hole they create on the top of a mango.

The following are a few more prayers for blessing food:

Children’s Prayer:

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands, we are fed.
Let us thank him for our bread.

Humorous Prayers:

“Good food, good sweets, good Lord, let’s eat.”

“Lord, bless this bunch as they munch their lunch.”

A Few more Christian Prayers:

“Without Thy sunshine and Thy rain
We could not have the golden grain;
Without Thy love we’d not be fed;
We thank Thee for our daily bread. Amen.”

“Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to thy service, and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.”

“Our Dear Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for this food. Feed our souls on the bread of life and help us to do our part in kind words and loving deeds. We ask in Jesus’s name.”

“Heavenly Father, bless this food and bless our friends and family who’ve come to dine with us today.”

“God, many hands made this meal possible. Farmers grew it. Truckers drove it. Grocers sold it. We prepared it. Bless all those hands, and help us always remember our dependence on you. Amen.”

(Thanks to Ronak Parikh for editing this post and Sneha Shah for two illustrations.)


The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15: The Supreme Self

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15

The Supreme Self

The Universe as a Tree:

Shri Krishna said, “The universe is like the Imperishable ‘Ashwattha’ tree hanging upside down. Its roots are above in the sky (in the Ultimate Reality, the Supreme Self or Brahman), the branches are below, and the leaves are the scriptures.  One who knows the universe as described above is the knower of the Ultimate Reality.

The branches of this tree spread above, below, and all around.  They are nourished by the three gunas; sattva, rajas and tamas.  Its buds are the sense objects.  In this human world, the cause-effect chains form the tap roots which give rise to ego, attachment, and desires.

What to make of the tree?

One cannot comprehend its true form here. It has no beginning, no end and its present state is uncertain. This tree has been deeply rooted into ego, attachment, and desires. In order to acquire the Supreme Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality, one has to cut down this tree with the powerful weapon of detachment.

Then, one has to search for the Ultimate Reality, the knowledge of which prevents one from becoming deluded again.  One should pray, “I surrender to you, the Ancient Supreme Self, from which streamed forth the whole universe.”

Who attains the Supreme Self?

Those highly evolved people, who have gotten rid of their false pride and delusion, conquered their minds and senses, are ever devoted to the goal of attaining the Supreme Self, are devoid of worldly desires, and do not get disturbed by the pairs of opposites like pain & pleasure and others, attain the Immortal Supreme Self.

This Supreme Self is self-illumined.  Neither the sun, nor the moon, nor fire illumines It. The one who reaches the Abode of the Suprereme Self does not get deluded again.

The Parts of the Supreme Self:

An eternal part of Me (the Supreme Self), called the Atman, attracts the mind and the senses and becomes a being called Jivatma.

As wind takes fragrance from a flower to another place, this Jivatma takes the mind and the senses from one body to another.

This Jivatma, presiding over the senses like the ear, the eye, the organs of touch, taste, and smell, and the mind, enjoys the objects of the senses.

The people with deeper insight realize that the Jivatma endowed with three gunas resides in a body, enjoys the sense-objects, and leaves the body.  People with undeveloped intellect cannot realize this fact.

Yogis who have purified their minds through proper spiritual practices and self-control realize this Atman.  But, people with impure minds and lack of self-control cannot realize this Atman even if they make efforts.

The Power and the Nature of the Supreme Self:

Know that the effulgent light of the sun which illumines the whole world, and the light of the moon and the fire is My (Supreme Self’s) light.

Pervading the earth, I, the Supreme Self, hold all beings and I nourish all vegetation through My light of the moon.

I, the Supreme Self, digest all the four kinds of food (food which is chewed, swallowed, leaked, and sucked) being the fire inside the stomach which is kept alive by the wind of inhalation and exhalation.

I reside in the hearts of all, and through Me alone they have memory, knowledge, and destruction of their doubts.  I am the creator and the knower of the Vedas, and through  the Vedas I am the One to be known.

The Supreme Self:

There are two kinds of selves in the world, the Perishable and the Imperishable.  All the embodied beings of the world are Perishable, while the Unchanging Self within all beings (the Atman) is the Imperishable.

However, there is yet another Self which is beyond the Perishable and the Imperishable.  It is known in the Vedas and the world as the Supreme Self.  It pervades and sustains the whole universe.

Since I am the Supreme, beyond the perishable and the imperishable, I am known in the Vedas as the Supreme Self.  One who knows Me as the Supreme Self has known everything to be known and he/she worships Me with all his/her heart.

O Arjuna!  Thus, I have told you the profound Truth by knowing which one becomes the Knower of the Truth and the blessed soul.”

(Thanks to Sheela Krishnan for editing this post.)

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14:The Classification of the Three Gunas

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14

The Classification of the Three Gunas

The Supreme Knowledge:

Shri Krishna said, “I will again tell you the supreme knowledge, by knowing which sages have attained the highest state a human being can attain.

My power (Prakruti) has created all the matter in the universe and I (as Purusha or Brahman) infuse Consciousness in the matter. That is how all beings come to life.

Prakruti is made out of three gunas, sattva, rajas, and tamas. These three gunas bind the Consciousness (Atman) to the matter (body and mind).

How the Atman is being tied to the Body and the Mind:

Sattva is pure, without modification, and illumined. Sattva ties the Atman to the body and mind through attachment to knowledge and happiness.

Rajas is created by the desires to please the body and mind with worldly pleasures and attachment to worldly objects. It ties the Atman to the body and mind to perform actions to fulfill these worldly desires and keep the attachment to worldly objects.

Tamas is created through ignorance. It deludes all people. Tamas ties the Atman to the body and the mind with inertia, laziness, sleep, and destructive activities.

Rising of each guna:

Each guna rises by dominating the other two gunas.

When the sattva guna rises, there is full awareness of the Atman in the body and mind. When the rajas rises, then greed, desires and activities to fulfill worldly pleasures, and restlessness prevails in the person. When tamas rises, the body and mind are filled with inertia, laziness, delusion and destructive activities.

Results of each guna:

When the sattva guna dominates, a person performs good actions, and the results of these good actions are happiness and an awareness of the Atman (one’s true identity). The results of actions performed under the domination of rajas are suffering and greed. The results of actions performed under the domination of tamas are ignorance and delusion.

The Consciousness of the people in whom sattva dominates most of the time remains in the higher state, which brings knowledge, happiness, and inner peace. The Consciousness of the people in whom rajas dominates most of the time remains in mediocre state which brings suffering, confusion, and attachment to the worldly pleasures and objects. The Consciousness of the people in whom tamas dominates most of the time remains in the lower state which brings ignorance, delusion, inertia, and destruction.

When a person dies living a sattvika-oriented life, he/she takes birth in the family of sattvika people. When a person dies living a rajasika-oriented life, he/she takes birth into a family of rajasika people. When a person dies living a tamasika-oriented life, he/she takes birth as an inert material or a lower species.

How to attain the highest knowledge?

When a person realizes that the body and mind are dominated by the three gunas and he/she, as Atman, is just the Witness Consciousness being unaffected by the three gunas, then the person attains the highest (supreme) knowledge.”

How a person with the highest knowledge behaves in the world?

Arjuna asked, “O Lord Krishna! How can a person go beyond the three gunas and realize that he/she is an Atman, a Witness Consciousness? What are the characteristics of such a person? How does that person behave in the world?

Shri Krishna said, “A person who has gone beyond the three gunas and realized that his/her true identity is the Atman (the Witness Consciousness) will not hate when any guna rises in him/her and does not crave for any guna when it subsides. Such a person remains calm within and observes like an outsider how his/her body and mind function due to the gunas. Such a person realizes that his/her body and mind are constantly changing, but as Atman he/she remains the same.

(The nature of Atman is Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute. This means that a person as Atman is the eternal Life Force, has all the Awareness or Knowledge, and has a nature that is Infinite Bliss.)

Realizing that his/her true nature is Atman, a person goes beyond the three gunas. The following are a few characteristics of such a person. Such a person (1) remains calm while going through the joyful and sorrowful situations of life, (2) sees no existential difference between dirt, stone and gold, (3) does not become elated when favorable things happen and does not become depressed when unfavorable things happen, (4) always remains fully aware and knowledgeable about all things occurring and keeps complete control on oneself, (5) knows that the praise and blame, honor and insult are temporary and they come together as two sides of a coin, (6) is unbiased towards friends and foes, and (7) does not engage in any selfish (related only to the temporary pleasures of the body and mind) activity.

With the above mentioned characteristics, when a person has an unswerving intense love for Me (meaning has intense passion to realize one’s true identity as Brahman or Atman and makes proper effort for this), goes beyond the three gunas, and becomes one with the Atman (or Brahman).

Remember I (Brahman or Atman) am the abode of Immortality, the True Righteousness, and the Infinite Bliss.”



  1. If we know the characteristics of the three gunas, then we will be aware of the rising of each guna in us and we can understand the cause of our thoughts and behavior. We can also understand the cause of other people’s thoughts and behaviors and treat them the best way we can. This understanding of gunas definitely helps us to know ourselves better and improves our relationship with others.
  2. All three gunas are needed to live a life. Sattva is needed for knowledge, happiness and peace of mind. Rajas is needed to maintain the body and keeping the mind alert. Tamas is needed to rest the body and mind.  These three gunas should be in proper proportions.  In order to attain the supreme knowledge we have to control tamas to its proper proportion by raising rajas and similarly to keep rajas in proper proportion we have to raise sattva. Finally, we have to go beyond the three gunas.
  3. Sri Ramakrishna told an excellent parable that gives a clear picture of these gunas. A person was going through a deep forest. Three robbers came and robbed him and beat him. One robber said, “Let’s kill him, so he cannot tell the police about us.” The second robber said, “There is no need to kill him. Let’s tie him to a tree and leave him to die on his own fate.” They tied him to a tree and left.  The third robber who was quiet and did not initially do anything, came back. He said, “Oh! You have suffered so much and you are in pain. Let me untie you and relieve you from this pain.” He untied the traveler and said, “I know the way out from this forest. Follow me.” The third robber took the traveler out from the forest. But, the robber stayed at the border of the forest and pointed the traveler a path to his home. The traveler said, “You are a very nice person. Please come with me to my home.  My family will like to see you.” The third robber said, “No. I cannot come out of this forest. I am also a robber.”

 The three robbers are three gunas, sattva, rajas, and tamas. The robber who was             ready to kill is tamas, the robber which tied the person is rajas, and the robber who       relieved the person and showed him the path leading towards his home is sattva.          Home is our own true identity Atman which is our divine self. In order to realize                 Atman we have to go beyond the three gunas. Sattva is closer to Atman. But, we             should not even have awareness that ‘I am sattvika.’ When we go beyond the three         gunas, we become free from all bondages. Such a person truly lives a life as a master     of oneself and not as a slave.

  1. A person who has gone beyond the three gunas is called a Gunatita. A Gunatita person is not inactive. To the contrary, such a person is intensely active to unselfishly serve all beings seeing the same Atman in all. In the presence of such a person, we feel an unspeakable bliss, peace of mind, a clear understanding of the purpose of life, and derive inspiration to realize Atman and be free from all bondages.

(Thanks to Rushil Desai for editing this post.)











The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13: The classification of the field and the knower of the field

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13: 

The Classification of the Field and the Knower of the Field

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita

In this chapter, Shri Krishna, with his deep insight, has classified the material and the non-material part of beings and of the universe.

Shri Krishna explains the following: (1) what is the field, (2) who is the knower of the field, (3) the spiritual practices to attain the knowledge of the field, (4) what has to be known, and (5) the view of the Sankhya Philosophy.

Sri Krishna said that according to him, the knowledge of ‘the field and the knower of the field’ is the Supreme Knowledge.

The Field (Body & Universe)

Shri Krishna said that he would briefly describe the field which has been described by the Rishis (the Seers of the Ultimate Truth) and the Upanishads, and which has been logically established by the Brahma Sutras.

The field is made of the following parts:

(1) Five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.

(2) Ten Senses: Five senses to comprehend the universe, which are represented in the body as ears (hearing), skin (touch), eyes (vision), tongue (taste), and nose (smell), and five senses of action, namely mouth for speech, hands, legs, sense of generation and sense of evacuation.

(3) Five objects of the senses: This includes sound, the objects we know by touch, all forms we perceive through the eyes, all kinds of tastes, and all kinds of smells.

Note:  The items in (1), (2), and (3) are connected and there is an underlying order. In the creation of the universe, first Space was created. Sounds need space. So, to perceive the sound the sense of hearing was created. Then, Air was created.  To perceive air, the sense of touch (i.e. the skin) was created. Air has a sound and touch. Then, Fire was created. Fire has a form. To perceive the form, the sense of sight (i.e. the eyes) was created. Fire also has a sound and it can be perceived through touch. Then, Water was created. Water has a taste. Hence the sense of taste (i.e. the tongue) was created. Water also has a sound, it can be felt by touch, and has a form.  Finally, the Earth was created. It has a smell. For this the sense of smell (i.e. the nose) was created. Earth also has a sound, can be perceived through touch, has a form, and has a taste.

We perceive ourselves and the universe with these senses.

(4) Mind: Our senses perceive when the mind is connected with them.

(5) Intellect: The intellect, which is the analytical part of the mind, classifies all that we have perceived through our mind and senses.

(6) Desire and hatred: Somehow every mind has likes and dislikes. It desires what it likes and hates what it dislikes.

(7) Joy and sorrow: We are happy when we get what we like and sad when we get what we dislike.

(8) Fortitude: The mind makes resolves to obtain what it likes. The stronger our desire for something, the more intense will be our determination to get it.

(9) Physical Body: Our body or the universe is a structure which is needed to hold all of these things.

(10) Consciousness: Nothing is perceived or functions without the consciousness.

(11) The soul: As long as there is a soul in the body, there is consciousness. This soul is un-manifested, meaning it cannot be perceived through our senses.

All these constitute our body. Also, these things constitute the universe. The knowledge of this field is the Supreme Knowledge.

Knower of the Field: Shri Krishna says that the Almighty God (the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe residing within us) is the knower of the field.

What is Knowledge?

How do we know if we have that Supreme Knowledge? What are the characteristics of a person who has acquired this Supreme Knowledge? Another way of looking the following is to find out what kind of virtues we acquire or practice to have the supreme knowledge.

(1) Humility (2) Modesty (3) Non-violence: not to hurt anyone with thought, speech, or action (4) Forgiving nature (5) Simple mindedness (6) Giving respect and rendering service to all from whom one has learned something (7) Purity: maintaining internal and external purity (8) Whose mind and intellect are steady (9) Has control of one’s senses and mind (10) Understands that the pleasures of the senses are limited and they are followed by suffering (11) Not egotistic (12) Understands that life has few joys, but it has the unavoidable suffering of birth, disease, old age, and death (13) Understands that family members and wealth have been given by God, and he/she is simply a caretaker of the loved ones and the wealth. (14) Keep the mind balanced in favorable and unfavorable circumstance (15) Realizing that the goal of human life is to realize the God lying within (inner divinity of the Self) and loves God intently (16) Loves to be in solitude to reflect upon the meaning of life and the importance of realizing God (17) Avoids gossip (18) Always keeps focused on and makes efforts to achieve one’s own spiritual development and (19) Understands the essence of the scriptures.

Shri Krishna says that anything other than the virtues described above is a sign of ignorance.

What has to be known?

Shri Krishna says, “I will tell you what has to be known, by knowing which one attains immortality.”

(1) It is the Supreme Brahman which is without beginning and is beyond being and non-being.

(2) It works through all hands, walks through all feet, sees through all eyes, listens through all ears and thinks through all heads. Its existence envelops all.

(3) It shines through the functions of all senses, but It is devoid of senses.

(4) It is unattached, but It nourishes all. It is beyond all three gunas, but It enjoys the gunas. It is inside and outside of all beings. It is movable and also immovable. It is far as well as near. It is Indivisible, but appears as divided in beings. It is subtle. Therefore, It is difficult to comprehend.

(5) This Supreme Brahman is the Light of all lights. It is the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe.

(6) It is Knowledge, the object of Knowledge, and attainable through Knowledge. It resides in the hearts of all.

One who knows the field, the knowledge, and the object of knowledge becomes one with Brahman.

View of Sankhya Philosophy:

Know that the Purusha (the Consciousness) and the Prakruti (the matter, the divine power of Purusha) are without beginning and all the modifications and gunas are created by Prakruti.

Know that the Prakruti is the cause of the creation of the body and the sense organs while the Purusha is the cause of the experience of happiness and suffering.

Purusha embodied in Prakruti (as the Jiva who thinks: “I have a body and mind”) experiences the results of actions initiated by the three gunas. As a consequence of the results of these actions, the Jiva takes birth in favorable or unfavorable environments.

Actually, the Jiva without the consciousness of the body and the mind is the Supreme Purusha, the Pure Consciousness or the Absolute Existence which is called Paramatma, the Supreme Self. It is the Brahman, the Nourisher of all. It is the witness consciousness. By Its will, everything happens. It is the cause of all our experiences.

One who knows Purusha and Prakruti along with its three gunas as described above will not get deluded again in this life while performing his/her responsibilities.

How can people get such knowledge?

Some people acquire this knowledge through meditation on the Supreme Purusha residing within. Some acquire this knowledge through Pure Reasoning, while some acquire through unselfish service.

Some people acquire this knowledge through properly listening and following the teachings of the people who had acquired this knowledge.

Know that whatever has been created, whether living or non-living, is the combination of the Field (the Prakruti) and the Knower of the Field (the Purusha).

The Right View:

One who has realized the following has acquired the right understanding:

The Paramatma (the Supreme Self) is abiding alike in all beings and does not perish when the body perishes. Prakruti is the doer of all actions and not the Paramatma who resides in all.

Note:  It is like electricity, which does not do anything, but which allows a fan, heater, or cooker to perform its action when plugged in.

The Paramatma is imperishable, beginning-less, and devoid of the three gunas. That is why it resides in the body, but is not performing any actions and does not get affected by the actions of the body.  As the subtle space is everywhere, but is not affected by the things residing in the space, similarly the Paramatma is not affected by the functions of the body.

As one sun illumines the whole universe, the Paramatma illumines the field, the body, mind, intellect and the universe.

One who realizes that all various beings are in One Brahman (Paramatma, the Supreme Self) and that everything is created by the Brahman, becomes one with Brahman.

With the eye of wisdom, those who perceive the distinction between the field and the knower of the field and know how to be free from the Prakruti become one with the Paramatma, the Supreme Self.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post)






The Essence of Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: The Path of Devotion

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12:  The Path of Devotion

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita

 Arjun’s Question:

Arjuna asked Shri Krishna, “There are two kinds of devotees: those who sincerely make efforts to realize God with form and those who contemplate on the Imperishable and the Un-manifested formless God, called Brahman.  Among these two kinds of devotees, who are the better yogis?”

Shri Krishna’s Answer:

Shri Krishna replied, “Those who focus their minds on God with form with supreme faith and constantly make efforts to realize God are better yogis.  However, those who worship Infinite, Immovable, Imperishable, Un-manifested, Omnipresent, and incomprehensible Brahman with total self-control, and serve all beings with their whole heart, considering them as manifestations of Brahman, are also able to reach Me.

People, who cannot comprehend the Self as their true divine identity, which is beyond their body and mind, have greater difficulty in realizing the formless aspect of God.  On the other hand, I (God) immediately lift up the devotees from the ocean of this mortal world who constantly focus their mind on Me (God with form) and offer the results of their actions to Me.

Who Can Realize God?

Shri Krishna says, “If you focus your mind and intellect on Me, then, without a doubt, you will live in Me, meaning you will attain the highest state of divine awareness possible for a human being.”

Alternate Spiritual Practices:

(1) If you cannot focus your mind on Me, then make repeated efforts to focus it by refraining from having other thoughts.

(2) If you cannot make efforts to focus your mind, then perform all actions that help you think of Me, such as performing worship, taking the name of God, or similar practices.

(3) If you cannot perform such actions, then offer the results of all your actions to Me.  One instantly attains supreme peace by renouncing the results of all actions.”

The Characteristics of a Devotee Who is Most Beloved by God:

Shri Krishna then said that his most beloved devotee has the following characteristics.

“My most beloved devotee is one who: (1) hates none (2) is a friend to all (3) is compassionate towards all (4) has nothing of his own (meaning one who considers everything as belonging to God) (5) is egoless (6) remains balanced in pain and pleasure (7) is forgiving (8) is satisfied with whatever he/she gets, after making sincere efforts in any endeavor (9) is constantly engaged in spiritual development (10) has self-control (11) is determined to attain the highest knowledge (12) has given his/her mind and intellect to God, the innermost divine Self (13) does not get disturbed by others, nor becomes the cause of disturbance for others (14) is free from the disturbances created by excessive joy, jealousy, fear, and anxiety (15) has no meaningless expectations (16) is pure (17) is skillful and prompt (18) is unbiased (19) is free from worries  (20) will not get engaged in fruitless selfish activities (21) who does not deviate from a spiritual path in joyful moments (22) does not grieve (23) does not crave for worldly pleasures, as they are limited and are followed by suffering (24) has gone beyond auspicious and un-auspicious  (25) sees the same God in friends and foes (26) remains calm within, whether receiving honor or insults (27) does not deviate from his spiritual path in joys and sorrows or heat and cold—the opposite situations of favorable and unfavorable (28) is unattached, meaning attached to God, who is the Ultimate Reality, and attached to all things of the world through God (29) considers praise and blame to be two sides of a coin, or in other words, knows that both come together (30) is silent, speaks when needed, and is contemplative (31) is happy with whatever he/she has (32) is constantly connected with God and sees that God dwells everywhere (33) has steady intellect and (34) is filled with devotion.

Those who practice the above-mentioned nectar-like characteristics (Dharma) with supreme faith are most beloved by God.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)


Laugh and Learn – 8


This is an age of consultation and counseling.  We seek consulations and couseling for college applications, job search, marriage, divorce, raising children, financial growth, stress, sickness, anxieties, problems related to pats, gracefully aging and dying, and many other things. Many times we learn valuable lessons from funny stories.

The following incident was described in one of Swami Adiswarananda’s discourses.

There was a teacher who was looking for ways to make more money because he was not making enough by just teaching. He wished he would have been a businessman or in the corporate world, but he was not trained for it.

One day, he read an advertisement in a major newspaper of New York about a consulting firm that was offering its services to advise people on how to make more money with nominal fees.  He was very happy and was waiting for the day that the consultations would begin.

On that day, he got up early, got dressed up, and reached the consulting firm on Park Avenue in New York.  He was early, so he walked up and down on Park Avenue and started imagining himself as a rich man with a condo in Midtown Manhattan.   He looked at his watch and saw that it was 9:05 a.m.


He rushed to the consulting firm’s service door.  To his surprise, he was the only one there.  He expected that there was going to be a big crowd waiting to get in.

With little hesitance, he went inside. Another surprise! There was no secretary to receive him. There was not a single person there.  He looked around.  Then, he heard a voice: “Please register on the computer.”  He went to the computer and filled out the registration form.  The nominal fee was $100.  He paid $100 through his credit card and, as all people do, he clicked “I Accept” without looking at the terms and conditions.


Then, the computer said, “Proceed to the door on your right.”  He thought this must be a big sophisticated company.

He proceeded through the door and again, to his surprise, he found no one was there.  He looked up and saw two signs.


The signs read: “If you are earning $500,000 or more, enter through the right door, or if you are earning less than $500,000, enter through the left door.”

He mumbled, “I wish I was making $500,000 or more! I am here to make that kind of money.”  He entered through the left door.

Again, there was no one there, except two doors and two signs.

sneha-image_3of5-12102016He read the signs: “If you are earning between $250,000 and $500,000, then enter through the right door, or if you are making $250,000 or less, then enter through the left door.”

He was annoyed by this in-humane treatment and humiliation created by the divisions of people by their salaries.  Well, he was here to make more money, so he proceeded through the left door. Now, there was a greater surprise waiting for him.

As soon as he walked through a semi-dark passage, he found himself again on the Park Avenue Street!


Lesson Learned:

Consultation and counseling are good as long as they help us solve our problem. However, many times we unnecessarily run to seek help from outside.  I know someone who takes a handful of aspirins from his big bottle at the slightest headache.  Many times we run to take a heavy dose of medicine to cure our minor bodily discomforts. The body has a mechanism to cure itself, but we do not have the patience to let it do so.

Shri Krishna in the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says, “Rise yourself to a higher level of Consciousness by yourself. Do not lower yourself.  You are your greatest friend and you are your greatest enemy.” (6.5)

Shri Krishna explains further: “When one has self-control, then one is one’s own friend. When one has no self-control, then one becomes one’s own enemy.” (6.6)

What a wonderful message! Self-control and contentment are great virtues. They bring us success, joy, and satisfaction. In many situations, with patience, self-control, and satisfaction, we can avoid running around for external help. By helping ourselves, we build self-confidence and with that we will start finding solutions from within.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post and Sneha Shah for providing illustrations.)



Laugh and Learn – 7

The Wise Man’s Skull

The following post is based on a story I heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Minister of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.  This story is not funny, but it has an excellent message.

Let us go back in the past when in India walking was the only way of transportation.  People had to go from one village or town to another on foot, and most of the time, they had to go through forests.

At that time, the environment was not disturbed and one could breathe fresh air, but they had to go through the dangers of being killed by animals and sometimes by the highway men. When someone walked through the forests, the relatives of the person would not know for many days whether their family member was killed or reached the destination. If someone survived out of a group of people who were attacked, then only would their family receive the news about the killing.

This is how one group of people found out that in one particular forest there was a crazy giant. If anyone passed by the forest, he would stop the person and ask a question.  If the person did not give a satisfactory answer, then he would kill the person. So, people avoided that forest.

One day a wandering monk came to a town near that forest.  In the past, in India, wandering monks devoted their mind on God. They would not live at a place for more than three days.  Wherever they went, they would guide people to take the name of God and live a decent human life.  They helped people solve their personal problems and would try to remove their miseries.  In return, people would take care of their basic needs like food and shelter.  This monk helped many people of the town and he was ready to move on.  When people found out that the monk was planning to go through the forest where the crazy giant lived, they all requested him not to go through that forest as the giant had killed many people.  The monk said that he was completely dependent on God and was ready to take on the challenge of the crazy giant. The monk told people not to worry about him.  He started walking on the road going through the forest.  All people said “goodbye” to him with a heavy heart. They all prayed for him.

The fearless monk was walking through the thick forest.  The track was less travelled. So, he had a hard time finding the track, which would hopefully lead him to the next town.  Various kinds of birds were chirping.  Everything was green and beautiful.  He was enjoying the beauty of the nature.  He heard some wild animals. As the monk was completely dependent on God, he continued his journey without any fear, repeating God’s name.

After some time, the road broadened and on the sides of the road, he saw a few bodies of people who were killed savagely.  The monk remembered the story told by the people of a crazy guy living in this forest and killing people.

The monk continued and thought “Whatever is God’s wish is what will happen.” Within a few minutes he saw a huge, terrible-looking guy standing in the middle of the road laughing.


As the monk went closer to him, the crazy guy said, “Ah!  After a long time I found a victim.” And then he again laughed loudly.  Anyone else would have died by this laughter, but the monk was fearless.  The monk asked him why he was killing innocent people.  The crazy guy said, “Well! I want an answer to my question.  If a person cannot answer my question, he or she has to die. Your fate is not different from them.”

Again, he laughed for a long time.  The monk asked, “What is your question?”  The crazy guy said, “The question is very simple.  Here are three skulls of three people.  Can you tell me which skull is of a wise person?  If you cannot give me a satisfactory answer, then you will die.”

The monk was calm.  He smiled and went to the three skulls.  He took a small pebble and put into the ear-hole of one of the skulls and then he shook it.  The pebble came out from the other ear-hole.  Then, he took the second skull and did the same thing.  The pebble came out from the mouth-hole.  The crazy man sat on his knees and start watching the whole thing.  Finally, the monk put the pebble in the third skull’s ear-hole and shook it.  The pebble did not come out!  The monk smiled and handed the third skull in the hands of the crazy guy and said, “This is the wise man’s skull.”  The crazy guy said that he should explain why this was the wise man’s skull.

The monk said that the first man heard a good thing from his one ear, but it all went out from the other. The good things did not retain in the head. The second man heard good things, but these good things came out from his mouth.  After listening, he gave lectures to others and did not practice them himself.  But, the third person whatever good things he heard, he practiced them and assimilated them into his life.

The crazy guy bowed down to the monk.  He got up, laughed again and with a great speed ran away.  The monk had a sigh of relief and he continued his journey.

Lesson Learned:

I am sure you must have guessed the message after the monk examined the three skulls.

In our scriptures, the following three spiritual practices have been described for a seeker of the Highest Knowledge:

(1) Shravana:  The word means to listen to scriptures from a realized person or a person who is committed to realize the Atman (our True Divine Identity lying within) and who is sincerely making all attempts for the realization.  This person must have understood the essence of the scriptures.  Listening to scriptures from such a person is far better than reading the scriptures by ourselves because by listening we easily get the essence of the scriptures.  Shri Shankaracharya says that the scriptures are like deep forests and people easily get lost in them.  It means that there are various teachings in the scriptures, many of which look contradictory and many may not be applicable to our situations. Thus, listening to scriptures is a very important spiritual practice for a sincere seeker of Truth.

(2) Manana:  This word means reflecting upon what we had listened to and had read from the scriptures.  The real thing to hear from the scriptures is about our True Divine Identity lying within ourselves. This is also described as Atman in Vedanta philosophy.  This Atman is eternal.  That is why It is without birth and death.  It does not change.  Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says that weapons cannot cut the Atman, fire cannot burn It, wind cannot blow It away, and water cannot drown It. This Atman is the support of our existence and because of It our body and mind function.  Its nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute). When we go closer to It through reflections and meditation, we feel the divine bliss within, acquire the knowledge of our True identity, and become fearless by realizing Its eternal nature. By realizing Atman, we know our minds (and thereby, all other minds) in and out. We become free from all bondages which tie us with our little selves, consisting our body and mind. We have to reflect upon the nature of Atman and also reflect upon our imaginary identity of body and mind.  The body and mind are constantly changing. They have a beginning and an end. The constantly changing body and mind cannot be our True Identity.

Atman is a part of Brahman, which is the Ultimate Reality of the universe.  There is only one Existence which Vedanta describes as Brahman.  From Brahman the universe has come.  Brahman nourishes the universe and the universe dissolves in Brahman.  Also, what is in the universe is in an atom, just as a whole tree lies within a seed. Thus, Atman is nothing but Brahman.

(3)  Nididhyasana: This means we have to make efforts to realize this Atman within.  The realization of Atman is not an intellectual knowledge. We have to feel within that our true nature or identity is the Atman and our body-mind are like clothes that the Atman is wearing.  Once we realize Atman, we find that it is the same Atman residing in all beings, animals, and all the things of the universe.  With this awareness of unity, we love all and hate none. We always are ready to serve all with unselfish love, without expecting anything in return. We feel that the purpose of our life is fulfilled and all our doubts go away from our mind. Once we attain the Highest Knowledge, we feel that all the basic questions of life have found their answers. Sages and saints are great because they have attained this knowledge.

Thus, the message of the story is to listen to scriptures, reflect upon the essence of the scriptures, practice the essence of the scriptures, and realize our True Identity (Atman).

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing and Pamela C. Beniwal for providing an illustration.)

Laugh and Learn – 6

The Goat’s Goatee

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

Long before the radio and television were invented, the main principles of the Hindu culture were communicated throughout India by the holy people.  They would wander around telling the stories of the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and expound on scriptures like Bhagavatam and other puranas. Shrimad Bhagavatam is a great book filled with stories of holy people and the life of Shri Krishna, which help develop love for God.


In one village of India, one holy man was expounding on Shrimad Bhagavatam.  Usually, this is a seven-day program.  Every day the holy man reads and explains a few pages of Shrimad Bhagavatam.  Village people come and listen to these stories and, at the end, give money or food to the holy man.

One day, the holy man found that one woman was continuously crying while listening to the discourse.  The holy man thought that his explanation was really touching the heart of a devotee.  His heart was very much impressed by the devotion of the woman.  The holy man was greatly encouraged and he went much deeper into the explanation of the book.

After the discourse, he went to the woman and asked her which part of the book touched her heart.  The woman wiping her tears said, “It was not about the book that I was crying.  I had a goat.  It was such an adorable goat and I loved it dearly.  That goat passed away today.  I am sorry to say that when you were talking, your goatee constantly reminded me of my goat!”



Lesson for the expounders:  Never be over-impressed by the listeners’ reactions or responses. It is hard to find out what is going on in the minds of the listeners.

Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings to expounders are very clear and appropriate.

He said, “There is no harm in teaching others if the preacher has a commission from the Lord…When the lamp is lighted, the moths come in swarms.  They don’t have to be invited.  In the same way, the preacher who has a commission from God need not invite people to hear him. He doesn’t have to announce the time of his lectures. He possesses such irresistible attraction that people come to him of their own accord.” (from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna).

Lesson for the Listeners: When we are listening to discourses, we have to put aside all our unrelated thoughts and focus on the essence of the discourse; then only can we learn something from it.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing and Sneha Shah for providing an illustration.)