Wake up the note! the song that had its birth Far off, where worldly taint could never reach, In mountain caves and glades of forest deep, Whose calm no sigh for lust or wealth or fame Could ever dare to break; where rolled the stream Of knowledge, truth, and bliss that follows both. Sing high that note, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Strike off thy fetters! Bonds that bind thee down, Of shining gold, or darker, baser ore; Love, hate—good, bad—and all the dual throng, Know, slave is slave, caressed or whipped, not free; For fetters, though of gold, are not less strong to bind; Then off with them, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Let darkness go; the will-o’-the-wisp that leads With blinking light to pile more gloom on gloom. This thirst for life, for ever quench; it drags From birth to death, and death to birth, the soul. He conquers all who conquers self. Know this And never yield, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” “Who sows must reap,” they say, “and cause must bring The sure effect; good, good; bad, bad; and none Escape the law. But whoso wears a form Must wear the chain.” Too true; but far beyond Both name and form is Atman, ever free. Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om! ” They know not truth who dream such vacant dreams As father, mother, children, wife, and friend. The sexless Self! whose father He? whose child? Whose friend, whose foe is He who is but One? The Self is all in all, none else exists; And thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” There is but One—The Free—The Knower—Self! Without a name, without a form or stain. In Him is Maya dreaming all this dream. The witness, He appears as nature, soul. Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Where seekest thou? That freedom, friend, this world Nor that can give. In books and temples vain Thy search. Thine only is the hand that holds The rope that drags thee on. Then cease lament, Let go thy hold, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Say, “Peace to all: From me no danger be To aught that lives. In those that dwell on high. In those that lowly creep, I am the Self in all! All life both here and there, do I renounce, All heavens and earths and hells, all hopes and fears.” Thus cut thy bonds, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Heed then no more how body lives or goes, Its task is done. Let Karma float it down; Let one put garlands on, another kick This frame; say naught. No praise or blame can be Where praiser praised, and blamer blamed are one. Thus be thou calm, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Truth never comes where lust and fame and greed Of gain reside. No man who thinks of woman As his wife can ever perfect be; Nor he who owns the least of things, nor he Whom anger chains, can ever pass thro’ Maya’s gates. So, give these up, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Have thou no home. What home can hold thee, friend? The sky thy roof, the grass thy bed; and food What chance may bring, well cooked or ill, judge not. No food or drink can taint that noble Self Which knows Itself. Like rolling river free Thou ever be, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Few only know the truth. The rest will hate And laugh at thee, great one; but pay no heed. Go thou, the free, from place to place, and help Them out of darkness, Maya’s veil. Without The fear of pain or search for pleasure, go Beyond them both, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Thus, day by day, till Karma’s powers spent Release the soul for ever. No more is birth, Nor I, nor thou, nor God, nor man. The “I” Has All become, the All is “I” and Bliss. Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say— “Om Tat Sat, Om!” Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda
(Addressed to government officers and published in the Yoga Vedanta Forest Weekly of Feb. 2, 1950.) “In the beginning, there was knowledge, but there was no knowledge of another. Then came the knowledge of another, but not the knowledge of the many. Thereafter came the knowledge of the many, but not judgment of the one by the other. Then, finally, came judgment and evaluation of one by the other, and here we are, what we are.” Thus goes an ancient Master’s saying. These gradations of experience may be regarded as the process of what we call creation. In these few sentences, creation is explained. Though it is stated so simply in a few lines, the implications of these processes are so variegated and involved that everything conceivable can be said to be included in every phase of it, in this gradational coming down of that which is, which was, and shall be, into what is seen now at the present moment. The freedom of man, the salvation of the soul, is supposed to be a traversing of the very same path through which God may be said to have descended into the form of man, and all that the world consists of. The return of man to God is the movement in a reverse order, from the direction that creation took when the One deigned to appear as this vast involvement. The word ‘Samsara’ is significant suggesting entanglement and an immense difficulty felt in disentangling oneself from the involvement. It is not an ordinary type of impasse that we are finding ourselves in these days. It is almost an unthinkable and ununderstandable abyss into which we have come down; and, here, in this condition of involvement in the way mentioned, there is not merely a physical or social involvement, but there is the worst of things that has happened, the involvement of what we consider ourselves to be in our essentiality, namely, our own consciousness, our own understanding, our intelligence, and the product of our educational career. In essence, anything that is worthwhile in us, meaningful and significant in our lives, is so involved. There is a submerging of human individuality into this oceanic abyss of involvement and there takes place a tentative awakening of itself by coming to the surface of this ocean occasionally when we seem to know a little bit of the processes of the world. Our understanding of whatever is meaningful in life is conditioned by the dip that consciousness has taken in this ocean of involvement. We have already sunk into a mysterious kind of the waters of Lethe, as they call it in Greek mythology, the waters of death, or the things into which we have dived, and got up into a consciousness of there being a kind of life in this world. Do you know that this world is called the world of death, Mrityuloka? It is never called the world of life. Though we are all alive, it is never called a life of any standing meaning at all. You will be wondering how this world is a world of death. Why do we call it Martyaloka or Mrityuloka? Because even the life we are living is a form of death only. It is not actually life that we are living. It is an unending preparation towards a catabolic activity in which the psycho-physical organism is engaged, and from moment to moment we are dying. In this instance I may cite an occasion that arose many many years back, when emperor Aja lost his queen, and he beat his breast, hit his head on the ground, cried before his great Master, Guru Vasishtha, “I have lost the very meaning of my life; I have lost symphony, rhythm and meaning. I have nothing with me. I have lost everything.” This was the expression of king Aja before Vasishtha, the omniscient seer. And what was the reply of Vasishtha to this cry of the king, that he had lost his dear and near, his only value in life? Kalidasa, in his Raghuvamsa, in his own poetic style, tells us what this reply was: “Maranam prakritih saririnam vikritir jivitam uchyate budhaih.” This was the simple, open answer of Vasishtha to the king who was wailing over the joy he lost and the sorrow that had descended upon his head. What is the meaning of this half-verse? Anything that is embodied is nothing but an embodiment of death only, because anything that is complex has to get decomposed into its original components. As a building is made up of its own ingredients known as building material, anything that is born, – it may be human or anything else, anything that is composed of elements which precede it in the process of creation, has to revert to that out of which it has been made. The building has to return to the condition of bricks one day or the other; it will be only the original that it was. It cannot be the Taj Mahal or anything that attracts your vision of grandeur, because this grandeur of human perception, the beauty of things and the value of life itself, is the tentative presentation before our blinded eyes of a shape or a form taken by causative factors which are precedent to things and to our coming into this world, whatever be our importance in life. Vasishtha held that death, thus, is what is natural to things; it is life that is unnatural! The birth of an individual into this world is actually a birth into the waters of death. No one can escape this possibility. And the meaning behind this drama of coming and going is to be sought in the few sentences I uttered in the very beginning – that in a gradational coming down of the Ultimate Reality into the present condition of life in the world, there is a final involvement. No one can know how one is involved in this world. Whatever be your understanding and knowledge of things, you cannot know how you are involved. We have a poor, schoolboy’s understanding of our involvement here. A person may have debts to pay; he will say, “I have some involvement.” He has a family, and he is in an involvement. He has to work hard in an office; and he will say, “I have an involvement.” These are little involvements of a totally extraneous nature. But there is a real involvement which is the source of our bondage, properly speaking. Working in an office, maintaining a family, or paying a debt, is not so serious an involvement, because you may discharge these obligations in some way. But there are certain obligations in our life with which we are born. “Sahayajnah prajah srishtva purovacha prajapatih, Anena Prasavishyadhvam esha vo’stvishtakamadhuk,” says the Lord in the Bhagavadgita. We are born ‘together with’ an obligation. ‘Sahayajna’ means “togetherness of birth with an obligation in the form of a sacrifice.” The ‘togetherness’ of coming into this world with a sacrifice or a necessity to sacrifice is called ‘Sahayajnatva’. Now, this becomes a necessity on our part, merely because of the fact of our involvement in an ununderstandable, mysterious impasse. We can never be happy permanently in this world, whatever be our efforts to be happy, for the simple reason that we cannot diagnose our own illness. May be, there are means of this diagnosis. But one cannot be one’s own doctor; in a similar manner, we cannot know what our problems are, though we attribute our difficulties to events that take place outside. There is no ‘outside’ in this world, The meaning of involvement is the abolition of anything as external or internal. There is no thread in the cloth which can be called external to the other threads, because they are intertwined in such a way that everything is involved in everything else. So, one cannot be called the ‘other’; the ‘otherness’ that we perceive is an error, and the cause of this error in perception in the form of a conviction of there being something outside us is the reason also for the involvement. It was said that there was the perception of the many. But we cannot have merely the knowledge of the many and remain quiet without any dealings with the many, because the very knowledge of the many implies a necessity felt at the same time to relate oneself to the many. I cannot simply know that you are sitting there, I have to feel a sense of relation to that which I see. This is the beginning of involvement. And, the freedom of the soul, our final salvation, we may say, consists in our disentangling ourselves gradually from the network of this involvement, which is a hard task, indeed. Sometimes Samsara is compared to a quagmire. A quagmire is a kind of marshy area where, if you keep your foot, you will go in. And if you try to lift your sunk foot with the help of the other foot planted on it, you will see the other foot goes in. And so both feet go in, and you can be sunk neck deep. And you do not know what will happen to you. This state of affairs is called the quagmire-involvement, and our life is something like that. Often, by ancient masters, life is compared to involvement in a quagmire. When you try to free your foot, you will see that the other foot has gone in; and when you lift the other, this one has gone still deeper, so that you do not know where you are. It is an unthinkable misery, unadulterated sorrow. Where is the salvation, and where is the remedy? The remedy is not in further involvements. Often we try to cure one disease by introducing another disease into the body; this is not a real curative method. You cannot pay your debts by borrowing from some other person, though many a time we do this thing and feel that debts are paid. But we have paid the debt by creating another debt, paying perhaps compound interest and making matters worse. Our search for joy in life is at the same time an accumulation of sorrow from another side. This we forget in our involvements. So, at least from the point of view of man’s present way of involvement and thinking we can say that he cannot attain real freedom. But it is not true that the expectation is absolutely impossible. There is a necessity to go to facts as they are, and not merely opinionate about things and hold judgments on objects in any manner whatsoever, because every judgment is a characterisation of that which you see with your eyes, and, as I mentioned, this characterisation is always infected with a defect caused by your having sunk into the mire of an involvement which is called birth. The withdrawal of conscious operation objectively in terms of what we see with our eyes, judging things from the point of view of the senses, would be the beginning of the development of wisdom in our lives. Then, to speak in the language of Buddhist psychology, we move from what they call Kama-loka to Rupa-loka. The world we are living in is called Kama-loka, because it is the world of involvement by desires, positive as well as negative. A positive desire is the clinging to something, and a negative desire is aversion to something. And we have a twofold attitude towards things in the world. Whatever be that attitude, like or dislike, it is Kama only, and inasmuch as there is nothing visible in this world except these two types of involvement, they consider this world as Kama-loka. You cannot see a person as he or she is in himself or herself. A person, a thing, or an object, whatever it is, is to us what it means to us in terms of an involvement, and minus the involvement, we cannot know what it is. I cannot know what you are except in relation to me. This relation is the undoing of all things. Whenever we understand things or cogitate on any person or thing, we always do this cogitation work in terms of what sort of relation that thing has with us. Independently, we do not consider a person as a tree in the jungle. We do not bother what the tree is about; let it be there! It is not my son, it is not my brother. Whatever happens to it is not my concern. But it is a great concern of mine in relation to that with which I am related. This concern is the bondage of the soul. Why should you be concerned? That is the externalisation of your relationship. This is overcome by what you call detachment in its true spirit, not detachment in the ordinary ritualistic manner. Detachment does not mean moving from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas, or from one country to another. It is the disentanglement from the involvement of consciousness in this act of judging in terms of what it means to ‘me’ positively or negatively. Then you will reach the next world, called Rupa-loka, where the world may be seen by us, as it is. The beauty of the painting will no more be there; you will see only a canvas and ink spread in a particular pattern. To give an example of how you move from Kama-loka to Rupa-loka; from the beauty that is seen in a painting, you move to the substance out of which the painting is made. The arrangement of the ink on the canvas in terms of a spatio-temporal context, again involved in our way of looking at things at a particular distance also – all these factors considered – becomes the cause of our knowing things as beautiful, or otherwise. So, when this Kama is no more there, we begin to see Rupa, or the forms of things as they are. Are you not something independently in yourself other than what you are to others? You know very well you are something to yourself. Whatever be the opinion others may hold about you, minus all these opinions, you are something, and that is the pure principle of existence, sometimes called Isvarasrishti, apart from Jivasrishti. The ideas of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and the notions of ‘my belonging to somebody’ or ‘something belonging to me’ or ‘not belonging to me’, etc., are known as Jivasrishti, or the involvements mentioned – the abyss, Samsara, this quagmire. But if I can know you as you know yourself, and I know me as I am to myself, and each one stands by himself or itself as a pure subject unrelated to the objects, relation is abolished, because, really, there is a basic unity of things where the pure subject which is the universe stands supreme in its integrated completeness, which is the universal perception we are waiting for finally, you may say, the vision of God. And when God knows Himself, not as an object of vision by somebody – That is the origin of things, That which is, the Almighty God Supreme, call Him Narayana, call Him the Father in Heaven, the Unimpeachable, Ununderstandable, Non-Externalisable, Pure Being, All-Being, the Bhuma, the Infinite, the Vaishvanara of the Upainshads, the Viratsvarupa of the Bhagavadgita. That is our Goal. And we can have an iota of satisfaction and joy in this world only to the extent of our approximation to this reverse movement of ours in the direction of Truth. But if you try to be happy here by adding more untruths to the already existing ones, purchasing more illnesses to the existing ones already in the body, and piling up sorrows over sorrows, over those which are already there, then the fate of man is booked, for what it is. May this be a heralding moment to us to find time to brood over these truths of our real state of affairs in this world, what we really are, also what anyone is really in himself or herself, what any thing is in itself, in the eyes of that which alone can see things clearly without the spectacles of likes or dislikes. Such is the mighty Goal before us, into whose facts we are awakened by great masters like Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. Their blessings we seek, and the Grace of the Almighty we invoke upon the whole of humanity at this auspicious hour of mutual communion. May we, then, sing the song of the ancient mystic in a slightly different strain: “In the beginning there was the One, and there was not the many; Then there was the many, but not the consciousness of the many; Then there was the consciousness of the many; but not judgment of ‘the other’; Then there was the judgment of ‘the other’, and, lo, mortal sorrow became the name of all life.” With deep gratitude to Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society
Achieving but a moment of awareness is a constant struggle. Think of a child who sits on the back of a moving wagon watching the cracks in the road recede into the distance. Moments in time, like those swiftly passing cracks, lose their distinction as they happen. Each experience disappears into the distance, and finding a comprehensible view seems all but impossible. But once in a great while, we’re able to glimpse some truth in a moment, and hold it in our gaze long enough to be conscious of what it must be like to stop – and truly witness the Reality always present underneath life’s persistent blur. Even then, a moment is just long enough for us to be shocked into humility, without creating a perceptual crisis that would completely disrupt our lives. And for most of us, that is about as far as our egos will permit us to stop. Oh, that vague fear! We pack up our mind and flee to a television set or a nice restaurant, anything to regain consciousness of momentum. After all, jumping off that wagon altogether – well, that’s for saints and Buddhas, right? So, we tell ourselves. Perhaps Voltaire was on to something when he said that God is a comedian who’s performing in front of an audience that’s afraid to laugh. And that might explain why so many of us are drawn to the tradition of Sri Ramakrishna, and why we keep coming back, again and again, to places like this. For this is a tradition of ecstasy, of “profound, boisterous laughter” where one can’t turn a page of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna without finding Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) cracking a joke. He knew that there was no room in this world for fear. “Why should you be frightened? Hold fast to God. What if the world is like a forest of thorns? Put on shoes and walk on the thorns. Whom should you fear?” This is a tradition of Divine Mother Kali, the Queen of All Moments, who dances on Lord Shiva amidst the blood, fire and corpses of the cremation ground, clenching in Her fist that flailing, fearing ego – and She is always laughing. To look upon Her is to understand that there is nothing to fear. Yet some cringe in front of Her image, or else they walk away, shaking their heads in misapprehension. If they only knew! And for that matter, if we only knew. For this is a tradition of knowledge, and by knowledge I don’t mean the ability to recite scriptures from memory but the ability to personally experience their meaning – to have the life of Sri Ramakrishna rise up from the pages of the Gospel and open up in our own hearts and our own lives. Knowledge is surrender, the same absolute surrender taught to us by Lord Chaitanya: Ah, how I long for the day when, in chanting Thy Name, the tears will spill down from my eyes, and my throat will refuse to utter its prayers, choking and stammering with ecstasy… To us tired travelers, these are hopeful words. But Sri Ramakrishna experienced this every moment, with every breath of his life. And the simple fact that he did – that gives us all the assurance we need. “Have faith,” he says. “Mother Kali will do everything for you.” We come here to puja to be children, Ma’s children, and to give our weary minds and wandering eyes some much-needed refreshment. As Holy Mother says, God is one’s very own. It is the eternal relationship. One realizes Him in proportion to the intensity of one’s feeling for Him. Don’t be afraid. Always remember that somebody is protecting you. We continue to strive, knowing that when we’re ready, we will have finished “with doubt and fear,” all those moments will melt into eternity. With deep gratitude to Swami Ambikananda Saraswati & cyberdhuni.org Original article
A Short Account of His Life and Teachings On February 18, 1836, was born in India a God-man, who has come to be known as Sri Ramakrishna — a name which spontaneously evokes in the minds of millions of Hindus heart-full adoration and love. Above the din and confusion of modern life we hear the clarion call of Sri Ramakrishna directing our attention to the deeper verities of existence. The life of Sri Ramakrishna, though devoid of spectacular events, is filled with spiritual romance of the rarest type. The fifty one years of his mortal existence give us vivid stories of religion in practice. During these years he constantly lived on the exalted plane of God-consciousness. The natural tendency of his mind was to soar above the phenomena of the world. It seems to the reader of his biography that he brought down his mind with utmost difficulty to the ordinary level in order to talk with men and women. His sayings are not those of a learned man, but pages from the Book of Life, written with the fluid of his own experiences and realisations. His utterances have upon them the badge of authority. Sri Ramakrishna was born of poor parents living in a wayside village of Bengal (named Kamarpukur in the Hoogly district). His father was full of piety and never deviated from the path of truth. He was dispossessed of his ancestral house and property as he refused to bear false witness to the advantage of his landlord. He observed all the strict disciplines of the life of a Brahmin, devoting most of the time to prayers and meditation as enjoined by his religion. He was content to lead a life of utter simplicity, practically depending upon God for his daily food and other necessities of life. The mother was full of womanly grace and her heart overflowed with the sweet milk of kindness for her neighbours. Many a time she would turn over her own meal to the poor and needy and thus starve for the whole day. She was always respected by the villagers for the crystal sincerity of her character and the total absence of guile and other sordid traits of worldly nature. Sri Ramakrishna, like other lads of his age, was full of fun and life, mischievous and charming, with a feminine grace he preserved to the end of his life. He was adored and petted by the young girls and women of the village. They found in him a kindred and understanding spirit. It was a dream of his childhood, as he told later on, to be reborn as a little Brahmin widow, a lover of Krishna, who would visit her in her house. Sri Ramakrishna showed, during the years of his childhood, a precocious understanding of the deeper mysteries of the spiritual realm. He manifested supreme indifference to the education imparted in the school. It did not proceed beyond the most rudimentary stage. He used to say, later on, that books are fetters which impede the free expression of the soul. But even at the early age he possessed great wisdom. One day during that period of his life, he gave in a learned assembly of the Pundits a simple solution to an intricate problem of theology which had been puzzling the brains of those astute bookworms. This profound wisdom uttered in simple words, and coming directly from his soul characterised all his later sayings. The soul is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom, but in the commonalty it is covered by a thick pall of ignorance created by our so-called experiences of life. But simple and artless saints, like a Christ or a Ramakrishna, always have had access to this perennial fountainhead of knowledge. Sri Ramakrishna took special delight in studying and hearing about the great heroes and heroines of the Hindu religious epics. Stories of saints and association with them always set his imagination on fire and created an exalted state of mind. He often played truant from school. The simple village had an extensive mango grove where he would repair with his schoolmates and enact dramas, selecting episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The boy, with his clear skin, beautiful flowing locks, charming voice and independent spirit, would always play the leading parts. He also showed efficiency in clay modelling. At the age of nine Sri Ramakrishna lost his father. This event, which cast a gloom over the whole family, made the boy more thoughtful and serious. Now and then he was found strolling alone in the mango groove or the cremation ground. His serious nature, though hidden under the thin film of boyish merriment, perhaps got a glimpse of the transitory nature of human life. After that he became more attached to his mother and every day spent some time with her assisting her in the household work and daily worship in the family chapel. He thought it his duty to lessen the burden of his mother’s grief and to infuse into her melancholy life whatever joy and consolation he could. Instinctively he shrank from objects and ideas that might prove obstacles to his future spiritual progress. His first spiritual ecstasy was the outcome of his innate artistic nature. Observing the flight of a flock of cranes with their snow-white wings shining against the background of the sky covered with dark rain-clouds, he lost physical consciousness and said afterwards that he had felt, in that state, an ineffable peace. More than once, during the period of boyhood, he experienced the bliss of spiritual ecstasy evoked by the contemplation of divine ideas. At the age of seventeen, Sri Ramakrishna came to Calcutta, then the metropolitan city of India, where his elder brother conducted a Sanskrit academy. To the earnest request of his brother to continue his studies in keeping with the tradition of the Brahminical ancestry, the boy made the spirited and significant reply, “Brother, what shall I do with a mere bread-winning education? I shall rather acquire that wisdom which will illumine my heart and in getting which one is satisfied forever.” In his vivid imagination he saw the scholars of Calcutta, devoid of wisdom, scrambling for recognition and power. Regarding the merely intellectual Pundits, without a higher idealism, he would say, later on, “They are like vultures who soar high on the wings of their undisciplined intellect, having their attention fixed, all the time, on the carrion of name, fame and wealth.” The life of Sri Ramakrishna took a new turn when he was engaged as a priest in a temple where the Deity is worshipped as the Divine Mother of the Universe under the name of Kali. Seated before the graceful basalt image, he would often ask himself, “Is this image filled with the indwelling presence of God? Or is it mere stone, devoid of life and spirit, worshipped by countless devotees from time immemorial?” Now and then a kind of scepticism would creep into his soul and fill his mind with intense agony. But his inborn intuition revealed to him the evanescent nature of the objects of sense-enjoyment and the presence of a deeper reality behind the phenomena. He conceived of God as our Eternal Mother who is ever ready to grant us the priceless boon of divine wisdom if we only turn our gaze from the shadowy objects of this world. For a few days he worshipped the Deity following the rituals and ceremonies of his ancestors. But his was a soul not to be satisfied with a mere mechanical observance of religion. He craved for the vision of God. Soon, before the onrush of his fervour, formalities of religion were swept away. Henceforth his worship consisted of the passionate cry and prayer of a child pained at the separation from his beloved Mother. For hours he would sing the songs composed by seers of God. Tears, then, would flow continuously from his eyes. He would weep and pray, “O Mother! Where art Thou? Reveal Thyself to me. Many devotees before me obtained Thy grace. Am I a wretch that Thou dost not come to me? Pleasure, wealth, friends, enjoyments—I do not want any of these, I only desire to see Thee, Mother.” He spent day and night in such agonising prayer. Words of a worldly nature would singe, as it were, his ears. Often people would be amazed to see him rolling on the ground and rubbing his face against the sand with the piteous wail, “Another day is spent in vain, Mother, for I have not seen Thee! Another day of this short life has passed and I have not realised the Truth!” In another mood, he would sit before the Deity and say to Her, “Art Thou true, Mother, or is it all a fiction of the mind—mere poetry without any reality? If Thou dost exist, why can I not see Thee? Is religion then a phantasy, a mere castle in the air?” Scarcely would these words pass his lips when in a flash he would recollect the lives of saints who had actually seen God in this life. “She can’t be a mere freak of human imagination,” the young worshipper would think, “there are people who have actually seen Her. Then why can’t I see Her? Life is passing away. One day is gone followed by another, never to return. Every day I am drawing much nearer to death. But where is my Mother? The scriptures say that there is only one thing to be sought in this life and that is God. Without Him life is unbearable, a mockery. When God is realised, life has a meaning, it is a pleasure, a veritable garden of ease. Therefore, in pursuit of God, sincere devotees renounce the world and sacrifice their lives. What is this life worth if I am to drag on a miserable existence from day to day without tapping the eternal source of Immortality and Bliss?” Thoughts like these would only increase his longing and make him redouble his efforts to realise God. As a consequence, he was blessed with the realisation of God. Regarding this God-vision he said, later on, to Swami Vivekananda, “Yes, my child, I have seen God, only more intensely than I see you. I have talked to God and more intensely than I am talking to you.” Sri Ramakrishna used to emphasise that if an aspirant shows the same attachment to God as the miser feels for his hoarded treasure, the devoted wife for her beloved husband and the helpless child for its affectionate mother, God is sure to reveal Himself to such a fervent soul in three days. A tremendous statement for these modern times! Yes, he has seen God! Not as an extra-cosmic Being, not as the personification of moral law, but as the very substratum of our being, the indwelling presence in all, in whom all human and moral relationships reach their culmination. His vision of God was not a remote entity of theology or the vague dream of a poet, but the irresistible content of his inner experience. Is it not a great inspiration to know that a man of our own times could assert that he had seen God, when humanity as a whole seems to be moving away from the deeper aspect of life? The first impression even a casual reader of the life and gospel of Sri Ramakrishna gets is that God is not, after all, an unrealisable object living behind the clouds, but our dearest and nearest possession, in whom we live, move, and have our being. There is truly such a thing as God-realisation in this life. Sri Ramakrishna’s first vision of God, as we have just seen, was the result of his passionate prayer and fervent desire. He did not follow any particular ritual or ceremony laid down by the scriptures. Thus he showed that the realisation of God is perfectly possible through earnestness alone even if one be not affiliated with any church or religious organisation. Later on, the desire arose in his mind to follow different paths of Hinduism through the rituals prescribed by various teachers for the vision of God. And it may be remarked here that whenever he followed any particular method of discipline, he poured his entire heart into it. He was a great scientist in the realm of spirituality. He followed to the very letter the disciplines and austerities laid down by his religion. Like all true scientists, he knew that the success of an experiment depends upon the scrupulous observance of its laws. He did not spare himself at all in that direction. Purity became the very breath of his life. Nothing could persuade him to deviate, even by a hair’s breadth, from the path of truth in thought, deed and word. To learn humility he would go to the house of a pariah, at dead of night, and clean the dirty places with his long hair. He knew that the two great impediments of spiritual life were lust and gold. He looked upon all women as the manifestation of the Blessed Mother of the Universe and his body would writhe in pain if he touched a coin, even in sleep. As a result of deep discrimination, he could not see any difference between gold and clay, and found them both equally worthless for the realisation of Truth. Absolutely trustful of the Divine Providence, who hears even the footfall of an ant, he lived from moment to moment depending upon God and without worrying as to what he should eat and drink the next day. His life became a perfect example of resignation and of self-surrender to a higher Power who ever cares for our needs. His entire physical and nervous system became attuned to such a high state of consciousness that any contact with objects or thoughts of a worldly nature would give him a strong reaction of pain and suffering. His zeal for the vision of God, which ate him up day by day, beggars all description. While practising spiritual disciplines he forgot food and drink as necessities of life, and sleep, he left out altogether. He had only one burning passion, the vision of God. With such a mind he practised different rituals and ceremonies as laid down by Hinduism for spiritual unfoldment. There also he came to the realisation that different paths lead to the same goal. The friends and relatives of Sri Ramakrishna, unable to realise the meaning of his God-intoxicated state, thought that he had fallen a victim to lunacy. In human society one who does not share the insanity of his neighbours is stigmatised as insane. So they thought that marriage with a suitable girl would help him to get back his normal state of mind. To this suggestion Sri Ramakrishna gave his willing consent, seeing in it also the hand of Providence. When later on, the wife, a pure maiden of sixteen, came to her husband at the Temple of Dakshineswar where Sri Ramakrishna practised his austerities; the saint knelt down before her and said, “The Divine Mother has shown me that every woman is Her manifestation. Therefore I look upon all women as the images of the Divine Mother. I also think of you as such. But I am at your disposal. If you like, you can drag me down to the worldly plane.” This girl, during her childhood, used to pray to God, saying, “O God, make my character as white and fragrant as yonder tube rose. There is a stain even on the moon, but make my life stainless.” In the twinkling of an eye, she understood the state of her husband’s mind and said with humility that she had no desire to drag him down from the spiritual heights; all that she wanted was the privilege of living near him as his attendant and disciple. When asked about instruction, Sri Ramakrishna said, “God is everybody’s beloved, just as the moon is dear to every child. Everyone has an equal right to pray to Him. Out of His grace He manifests Himself to all who call upon Him. You, too, will see Him if you but pray to Him.” Henceforth the two souls lived together in the temple-garden as the sharers of many divine visions. Not for a moment would either of them think of any worldly relationship. One night the wife, since adored as the Holy Mother by the numerous devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, asked him while massaging his body, “How do you look upon me?” Sri Ramakrishna replied without a moment’s hesitation, “The Mother who is worshipped in the Temple is the mother who has given birth to this body and is now living in the temple-garden, and she again is massaging my feet at this moment. Verily I always look upon you as the visible representation of the Blissful Mother.” Thus, Sri Ramakrishna showed by his own life that the mind of a man dwelling in God becomes totally free from all sex-relationship. The same mind which feels a physical urge during the lower state sees the vision of the Divine at the higher level. Lust is not inherent in an object; it is only an idea of the impure mind. Hitherto Sri Ramakrishna’s vision of God was limited to a Personal Deity whom he worshipped alternately as the compassionate Mother or the all-loving Father. In this conception God has human attributes which, according to the religious philosophy of India, is a lower conception of Truth. There is a transcendental aspect of God which defies all human definitions. It is beyond names and forms but is termed Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute. Realising this, the aspirant transcends the world of multiplicity and merges himself in the Unity of Awareness. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to realise that aspect of the Divine as well. It is a strange phenomenon of his spiritual life that whenever he wanted to pursue a particular spiritual path, a suitable teacher, of his own accord, would come to Dakshineswar. Thus there came to him a monk by the name of Totapuri. This teacher had renounced the world at an early age, did not believe in any worldly relationship, had no earthly possessions, would not stay at one place for more than three days for fear of creating a new attachment and had realised the highest Truth which the philosophers describe as unknown and unknowable for ordinary minds. Through the help of this teacher Sri Ramakrishna realised in three days the Truth which is beyond names and forms and which the Vedas designate as Brahman the Absolute. In this realisation Sri Ramakrishna found the identity of soul and God. Subsequently he practised the instructions of Christianity and Islam and arrived at the same conclusion. Thus he demonstrated by his own life and inner experience the Truth of his forefathers as laid down in the Vedas: “Reality is One: Sages call It by various names.” Sri Ramakrishna also used to say in his own simple and inimitable way: “Different opinions are but different paths, and the goal is one and the same.” Rituals and ceremonies, found in all great ancient religions, are external but necessary steps of spiritual growth. They are indispensable for most aspirants during the lower stages of evolution. Like the husks protecting the kernel and falling off when the seed germinates, the rituals and ceremonies also protect the aspirants during the earlier stages and drop off when the Divine Love awakens in their heart. Having attained the goal of human birth, namely the realisation of Truth, Sri Ramakrishna became eager to share with all this vision of joy and peace. All religious experiences ultimately end in mysticism. But this inspired prophet of the nineteenth century was unlike the mystics who generally go by that name. He did not enter into a cave or lead the life of a recluse, to enjoy, for himself, the bliss of his meditation. He realised that he had become an instrument in the hand of God to help his fellow human beings. Thus he wanted one and all to partake of the joy of his realisation. Many a time he prayed thus to the Divine Mother, “Do not make me, O Mother, a cross-grained, pain-hugging recluse. I want to enjoy the world seeing in it Thy manifestation.” Drawn by the aroma of his transfigured existence, people began to flock to him from far and near. Men and women, young and old, scientists and agnostics, Christians and Sikhs— people irrespective of their race, creed, caste, or religious affiliation—came to him and felt themselves spiritually uplifted according to their inner evolution. Yet, Sri Ramakrishna was no preacher of the ordinary type. He did not move from the little village of Dakshineswar, did not mount upon a public platform to preach his message and did not advertise himself in the Press. He used to say that the bees come of their own accord in search of honey when the flower is in full bloom. Among those who came to the saint was a young man who subsequently became world-famous as Swami Vivekananda. Narendranath, as he was then known, represented the spirit of modern times; sceptical, inquisitive, demanding evidence for everything and yet alert and eager to learn Truth. Sri Ramakrishna was the embodiment of the spirit of his ancient religion, self-assured, serene and at peace with himself as the result of his experience of divine Wisdom. He stood at the confluence of these two streams of thought, the ancient and the modern. In answer to the first question of this young man, “Have you seen God?” he gave the emphatic reply that he had seen Him. Though resisting him at every point, ultimately Narendranath became his disciple. Sri Ramakrishna, with the infinite love of a mother and the infinite patience of a teacher, initiated him step by step, into the deepest mysteries of spiritual life. It may be noted here that the teacher did not impose upon the student any blind faith nor demand from him enforced allegiance. Sri Ramakrishna, through his superior intellect, satisfied the demands of his disciple’s inquisitive mind. Under the direction of his teacher, Swami Vivekananda became the leader of a group of young men who, later on, took the vow of dedicating their lives to the realisation of Truth and service to humanity. For a quarter of a century this God-man preached his gospel of God-life. Never did he refuse anyone the solace of his instructions, if the seeker was earnest about them. He said, “Where will you find God except in man? Man is the highest manifestation of the Divine. I will give up twenty thousand such bodies to help one man. It is glorious to help even one man.” During that period of his spiritual ministration, never did a word of condemnation escape from his blessed lips. He was incapable of seeing evil in others. His whole personality was transfused with love and compassion. Bowing before even the fallen woman, whom society looks down upon as a sinner, he would say, “Thou art also the manifestation of the Divine Mother. In one form thou art standing in the street and in another form thou art worshipped in the temple. I salute Thee.” As a result of his constant teaching, he was attacked with cancer of the throat. Even when it became almost impossible for him to swallow liquid food, he could not send away any eager enquirer without some words of solace. One day, during this period, a Yogi remarked that he could easily cure himself through his Yoga powers, by concentrating on the throat. Quick came the reply, “How can my mind, which has been given to God, be directed again to this cage of flesh and blood?” Swami Vivekananda begged him to pray to God for the cure of his ailment. Such a prayer for his own physical body was an impossibility for Sri Ramakrishna. But at the earnest importunity of his disciple, he relented. After a while he said to Swami Vivekananda, “Yes, at your request I prayed to the Mother, ‘O Mother, on account of pain, I cannot eat anything through this mouth. Please relieve my pain if it be Thy pleasure.’ She showed you all to me and said, ‘Why, are you not eating through all these mouths?'” This is a demonstration of how the realisation of God frees the soul from the limitations of the body. At last, on the 16th of August, 1886, Sri Ramakrishna, uttering the sacred name of his beloved God, entered into a state of spiritual ecstasy from which his mind never came back to the mortal plane of existence… Thus there lived, in our age, a man who saw God face to face. Having realised the fountain of Divine Love, he radiated love for all without any national or geographical limits. Every particle of his being was filled with God-consciousness. Though living in this world, he seemed to be a man of the other world. The man in him was completely transformed into God. Of such, the Vedas declare: “He who realises Truth becomes one with Truth. By the vision of the Divine, man himself becomes Divine.” The life and teachings of this God-man have a tremendous significance for the people of modern times. Living during the transitional period of the nineteenth century when science was most arrogant, and practising austerities in a suburb of Calcutta, the most materialistic city of India, Sri Ramakrishna demonstrated that ideal spiritual life is always possible and that it is not the monopoly of any particular age. The revelation of God takes place at all times and the wind of Divine Mercy never ceases to blow. Who could live, who could breathe if God did not form the very core of our existence? Disciplines laid down by religion can be practised even today if we have the requisite earnestness; and the vision of Truth, revealed to man in olden times, cannot be denied to us now if we are eager for it. On account of its transcendental experience, the life of Sri Ramakrishna is a great challenge to the narrow outlook of our generation. The reader of his life finds undeniable assurance that the highest vision of God is accessible to all as it has been given to him, one of our own times. His life and realisation are not clouded in the haze of mystery and tradition, but have been well sifted in the light of modern reason. The essence of the scientific method consists of experimentation, observation and verification. The science of religion, called Yoga by the Hindus, is based upon this method. Sri Ramakrishna, as a great Yogi, experimented with the spiritual laws without accepting them in blind faith. He observed his own reactions and then came to certain conclusions. The Hindus challenged others also to verify these by their own experimentations and observation. Religion is not occultism or so-called mysticism, but a higher way of life. God, Sri Ramakrishna has taught us, is not the monopoly of any religion or creed, but the common property of all; He is the loving Father of mankind. He is not only an extra-cosmic Being, but He permeates the entire universe as intelligence and consciousness. He is present everywhere from the blade of grass to Brahma as the inmost essence of all. He is the Life and Substratum of all entities, from the atom to the highest Prophet. The same infinite expanse of water forms the basis of the froth, bubbles and mountain-high waves. The difference between man and man, and between other animate and inanimate objects, lies in the degree of divine manifestation. When God is involved, He is the grain of sand, and when He is fully evolved, He is Jesus Christ. Through our strivings and our struggles we are approaching the Central Truth. Art, Science, and Religion are but different expressions of Truth. But one can understand it only when one has realised the Unity of Existence. Has God any form? Or is He formless? God is both with and without form and yet transcends both. He alone can say what else He is. God with form and God without form are like ice and water. When water freezes into ice it has form. When the same ice is melted into water, all form is lost. God with form and without form arc not two different beings. He who is with form is also without form. To a devotee, the worshipper of a Personal God, He manifests Himself in various forms. Just think of a shoreless ocean — an infinite expanse of water — no land visible in any direction! Only here and there are visible blocks of ice formed by the intense cold, similarly under the intensifying influence of the deep devotion of His worshipper, the Infinite reduces Himself, as it were, into the Finite and appears before him as a Being with form. Again, as on the appearance of the sun the ice melts away, so with the awakening of knowledge, God with form melts away into the Formless. The water of the ocean, when viewed from a distance, appears to have a dark-blue colour, but becomes colourless when taken in the hand; in the same way God is also associated with a definite colour and complexion from a distance, but He is the attribute-less Truth when the devotee merges in Him. Religion does not consist of dogmas and creeds. It is Realisation. It is being and becoming. No one can ever put any finality upon God’s nature. It is beyond the conception of our relative mind. We grasp only a limited aspect of God according to our mental development. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that everything in the world—the word of saints, the statements of the scriptures—has been polluted like food thrown from the mouth; but God alone is unpolluted as no human tongue has been able to describe fully what He is. His nature can be known only in the silent depth of our heart. Again, Sri Ramakrishna said that once a doll, made of salt, wanted to measure the depth of the ocean; but no sooner did it touch the water than it melted in the ocean. How could it tell about the depth? Similarly, neither the mind nor words can express the real nature of God when the aspirant has merged in Him. A text of the Vedas says: “The words come back with the mind vainly trying to express what Truth is.” What is the relation of God to man? This is the moot question of religion. Sri Ramakrishna said in a simple way that when we consider ourselves as physical beings, then God is the Master and the Father and we are His servants or children. When we look upon ourselves as embodied souls, then God is the Universal Soul and we are Its emanations. Like fire and its sparks, God and man possess the same attributes and qualities. But when we think of ourselves as Spirit, then we are identical with God—the one and the same Spirit, birthless, deathless, causeless, and infinite. Prof. Max Muller wrote that Sri Ramakrishna’s simple words and illustrations have such a force of directness and irresistibility because his mind was unspoiled by any academic education. They were the outcome of his direct experience. The four cardinal points of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings are the Oneness of Existence, Divinity of Man, Unity of God, and the Harmony of Religions. The entire universe is one— not only as a stretch of matter or idea but also as Indivisible Spirit. The multiplicity of names and forms, created by our ignorance, vanishes at the dawn of Divine Knowledge. The cherished treasures of human progress, such as love, understanding, unselfishness and other ethical principles, can be explained only from the standpoint of this Unity. Otherwise there is no room for fellow-feeling in a world of multiplicity, governed by lifeless natural laws. This Unity comprehends all objects, animate and inanimate, as well as men and angels. Man is divine by nature. Either as created in the image of God, or as His spark or as one with Him, the essential nature of man can never lose this perfection. There is no such thing as sin which can change the quality of the soul. The wicked action of a man may impose a veil upon his divine nature but can never destroy it. God exists in us as potentiality and possibility. An action is called good or moral that helps us to re-discover this hidden Divinity. And an action is immoral or bad which conjures up before us the appearance of manifoldness. The experiences we gather at the physical, mental or aesthetic level do not belong to our real soul. They may be called, at best, a mixture of Truth and falsehood. Through this inscrutable ignorance we behave as if we were corporeal beings. We have hypnotised ourselves into thinking that we are imperfect and limited and that we exist in time and space, subject to the law of causation. The aim of religion is to dehypnotise ourselves and make us aware of our divine heritage. God is one and indivisible. The different gods of religion and mythology are but different aspects of the Absolute as comprehended by finite human minds. Father in Heaven, just and moral Governor, Eternal Spirit, Nirvana or the extinction of desires, Light, Law, etc., are but different facets of the one Godhead. He is all these and infinitely more than the human mind can think. The God that is defined as the goal of different religions is only the highest reading of the Absolute by the finite human mind and expressed through imperfect human language. The greatest contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world, torn by theological quarrels, is the Harmony of Religions. Each great ancient religion has three steps, namely, ritual, mythology and philosophy. The first two are the externals of religion, and philosophy is its basis. There can never be any uniformity in rituals and mythologies. These are the abstract ideas of philosophy made concrete for the grasp of ordinary minds. They are to be given up when the soul, through it purity and discipline, is able to comprehend the essence of religion. Religious quarrels arise when we insist that the externals of religion are to be kept forever. As Swami Vivekananda used to say, a man must be born in a church but he must not die in a church. There never has been my religion or your religion, my national religion or your national religion, but there is only one Eternal Religion of which different religions are but different manifestations to suit different temperaments. It is not the case that this religion or that religion is true in this or that respect, but the fact is that all religions are efficacious in all respects as suited to diverse conditions of our mind. If one religion proves false then all religions fall to the ground. Men quarrel about religions because they emphasise personalities, words and explanations and never go to the fountainhead. We are quarrelling about the empty baskets while the contents have slipped into the ditch. Different religions are but different forces in the economy of God. They are necessary to maintain the equilibrium of the world and enhance the richness of creation. They are not antagonistic but complementary. Like the different photographs of a building taken from different angles, different religions also give us the picture of one Truth from different standpoints. Various religions are but flowers of different colours which we should tie with the cord of love into a beautiful bouquet and offer at the altar of Truth. By the test of the survival of the fittest the great ancient religions of the world do justify their existence and usefulness. Therefore, Sri Ramakrishna’s attitude towards other religions is not that of toleration which implies viewing faiths other than one’s own as if they were inferior. His ideal is that of acceptance. To him all religions are the revelation of God in His diverse aspects to satisfy the manifold demands of human minds. One day a young disciple criticised before him the questionable methods of a religious sect. Sri Ramakrishna said, “That is also a pathway to reach God. To enter a house there are many doors. There are front doors, side-doors and there is also a backdoor. But you need not go in by that door.” As a result of his spiritual experiences he came to the conclusion that there are not only many mansions in the Father’s House, but there are also many doors leading thereto. What is the utility of religious experiences in our daily and practical life? If man were only an animal with eating, drinking and sleeping propensities; satisfied with a little display of reason and the solution of some intellectual problems, then perhaps, there would be no meaning in his excursion into the realm of Spirit. But the infinite nature of the human soul can never be happy with the finite experiences of life. Through the travail of our finite experience and knowledge we are trying to reach the Infinite. The whole life of man is the play of the Infinite in the finite. Therefore any experience of life devoid of the touch of the Divine is barren and futile. The drab and grey of life can be illumined by the sunrise glow of divine experience. It invests life with a new meaning and dignity. What does it avail a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? Nothing else matters if the touch of God is felt in our daily activities. And what else does matter if we do not feel that indwelling Presence in our everyday action? Man without the touch of the Divine roams aimlessly in the blind alleys of the world. Therefore Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “Do whatever you please with the knowledge of God in your pocket.” Mind uninspired by Divine Wisdom is like milk that gets easily mixed up with the water of the world. But if by churning, one transforms milk into butter, then it floats on the water. In the same way we are to purify the mind by divine knowledge; and then if it dwells in the world, it will not be polluted by worldliness. And again, as our saints used to say, as long as we spin around holding fast to a post, there is no danger of our falling to the ground. In the same way, if we work in the world with our mind steadfastly devoted to God, there is no risk of losing ourselves in confusion. “Be like a wet nurse,” Sri Ramakrishna said, “who takes care of her master’s children as her own, but in her heart of hearts knows that she has no claim upon them; so think also that you are but the trustees and guardians of your people, but the real Master is God Himself”. We are all instruments in the hands of God who has assigned to us our respective duties for the discipline of our heart. Religious life does not mean the shirking of duties or avoidance of responsibilities. The same Truth manifests Itself as our inner vision and the external manifold. As such there is no intrinsic difference between the sacerdotal and the secular. Everything is sacred. There is no difference between the temple and the farm-yard. The cloister and the laboratory, the temple and the studio, the cell and the marketplace are equally fit places of worship. To accept life after transcending its limitations is the last divine sacrifice. To labour is to pray. To have and hold is as stern a trust as to quit and avoid. Life itself is Religion, True to this ideal of its patron Saint, the Ramakrishna Mission has the twin methods of discipline, namely ‘work’ and ‘worship’; or rather its members say that ‘work is worship’. One day when young Swami Vivekananda begged his Master to grant him the boon of a spiritual ecstasy in which the disciple could keep his mind above for four or five days together, coming down occasionally to the physical plane for a few minutes to eat some morsels of food, Sri Ramakrishna answered reproachfully “Why are you so anxious to see God with your eyes closed? Can’t you see Him with your eyes open? Worship God through suffering humanity.” Great Prophets like Sri Ramakrishna are born now and then to demonstrate the eternal truths of Religion. There may be nothing new in what he preached and taught. Without him Hindu religion would have been equally valid today as it has been for the past thousands of years. The spiritual texts, without him, would have carried equal weight with students who care for them. But in Sri Ramakrishna we have the revealer and modern interpreter of the spiritual truths about which our minds may be in doubt for want of actual demonstration. Like the giant American hickory tree, he stands raising his head above the storms of doubt and scepticism. He has laid emphasis on these aspects of religion which we can grasp and follow in our modern daily life, Above all, he is a figure in history and his life is not obscured by doubtful myths. He stands as the justification of not only the Hindu faith but of the life of the Spirit in general. His realisations furnish us with the master-key by which we can unlock every door in the mansion of Spirit. His teachings act like a powerful searchlight by which we can see through the mummeries and externals of religion and discern its innermost essence. This Prophet of the nineteenth century did not found any cult nor did he show a new oath to salvation. When under the relentless sledge-hammer blows of modern thought our cherished ideals of the time-honoured ancient faiths began to crumble, Sri Ramakrishna, by his own life, has demonstrated the validity and truth of the Prophets and Saviours of the past and thus restored the falling edifice of Religion upon a new and more secure foundation. An address delivered by Swami Nikhilananda at New York on the occasion of Sri Ramakrishna Centenary in 1936. Our gratitude to Swami Nikhilananda
Violence is the most extreme form of egoism while love is its anti-thesis. Human suffering seems rooted in the identification with our separative, egoistic consciousness and the consequent desire to be more than this small self of ours we see ourselves to be. This puts us in conflict with our environment, including our fellow humans. All religions and spiritual paths show us various methods of relieving ourselves from this suffering, to live more blissful and fulfilling lives in harmony with our environment and others. Most religions posit the existence of a God or a Supreme Being or Consciousness who can be our guide, helper, friend or liberator, while some like Jainism and Buddhism show a path to realize a consciousness which is liberated from this suffering. In either case, the cause of our suffering is the ignorance of who we really are. We suffer because we identify ourselves with our narrow selves, the ego personality we have developed in this lifetime colored by our achievements, monetary and vocational, our familial and communal bondages etc. The more we can disengage from these identifications, the greater the potential we have to unveil and realize who we really are beneath these coverings, who we were before birth and what will be left of us after we shed this body, in other words, who we eternally are. This Self-realization is the goal of religious and spiritual paths and really the goal of all conscious existence. While we can get a glimpse of this Self-realization intellectually, to have a permanent and progressive realization much work is needed, over a lifetime or more usually, over lifetimes. The habit of identifying with our small personality is rooted in our natures and the operation of the world around us is also based on an assumption of innumerable personalities in conflict with each other. We try to establish harmony by coming together in families, communities or nations. And then, there are conflicts within families, communities and nations. We seem to be programmed to fight and the world is set as a stage to fight the battle of life. Ambition, strife and conflict are the bane of existence and the fear of not achieving sometimes eats into our very being. There seems to be violence, within and without. Our very mind is able to only function by understanding facts it separates from the whole for it cannot see everything at once. It then tries to organize the facts and synthesize a “knowledge” out of them. This knowledge is ignorant of the wholesome true knowledge, akin to an intuition born of realms above the divisive operations of the mind. Similarly, an intellectual understanding of spiritual truths is not of much use if our daily battle of life is based on an egoistic consciousness, rooted in our narrow personality. To achieve Self-realization, we will need to be vigilant of the basis and quality of the consciousness that drives us to act in our daily interactions with others. Self-aggrandizement, monetary or intellectual, may serve us well in the world but may be an obstacle in our Self-realization. All depends on the consciousness we remain seated in. The first step is to be conscious of our narrowness and egoism, for, in this regard, ignorance can mimic bliss for long, perhaps for many lifetimes. The desireless compassion of Buddha, the self-evading love of Christ, the non-violence of the Jain aspirant and the Brahma-nirvanic realization of oneness of the Hindu Vedanti, all point essentially to the same practice of losing our small selves in the realization of the Self as one, not only with all other conscious beings, but one with all existence, past, present and future. To achieve this realization, we will need to fight the battle of life from a new basis of a peace and strength within, based on this faith in our oneness with all, our permanence and immortality, such that every act, nay, every thought, arises out of this faith. The narrow, egoistic aims of our individual selves have to lose themselves in the wideness of this realization which gives us a living faith and guidance. When we see others as souls and can relate to them as part of the same Divine plan of which our souls are also a part of, love in oneness is experienced as opposed to violence born of differences perceived by our egoistic minds and hearts. A quiet mind and heart, an aspiration in pursuit of our inmost and highest self as a portion of the Divine and a surrender to this Divine power are the means to this realization. But for the experience to become permanent and dynamic, and form a basis of action in life, a thousand strands and segments of our egoistic personality, established over time in our mind, heart and body, have to be repeatedly offered to the Divine power for purification and transformation. This is a long and arduous process in most cases, only possible by a sincere effort supported by the Divine Grace, two that go together.
Mother Has Revealed Everything To Me I wept before the Mother and prayed, “O Mother, please tell me, please reveal to me what the yogis have realized through yoga and the jnanis through discrimination.” And the Mother has revealed everything to me. She reveals everything if the devotee cries to Her with a yearning heart. She has shown me everything that is in the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Puranas, and the Tantra. The Divine Mother revealed to me in the Kali temple that it was She who had become everything. She showed me that everything was full of Consciousness. The image was Consciousness, the water was Consciousness, the altar was Consciousness, the water vessels were Consciousness, the doorsill was Consciousness, the marble floor was Consciousness — all was Consciousness. I found everything inside the room soaked, as it were, in Bliss — the Bliss of Satchidananda. I saw a wicked man in front of the Kali temple, but in him also I saw the Power of the Divine Mother vibrating. That was why I fed a cat with the food that was to be offered to the Divine Mother. I clearly perceived that the Divine Mother Herself had become everything — even the cat. The manager of the temple garden wrote to Mathur Babu saying that I was feeding the cat with the offering intended for the Divine Mother. But Mathur Babu had the insight into the state of my mind. He wrote back to the manager: “Let him do whatever he likes. You must not say anything to him.” To my Divine Mother, I prayed only for pure love. I offered flowers at Her Lotus Feet and prayed to Her: “Mother, here is Thy virtue, here it Thy vice. Take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy knowledge, here is Thy ignorance, take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy purity, here is Thy impurity. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy dharma, here is Thy adharma. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee.” Is Kali Really Black? You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of all color. The water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the water in your hand, and you will see that it has no color at all. Similarly, the sky looks blue from a distance. But look at the atmosphere near you; it has no color. The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form. If you move away from the Divine Mother, you will find Her blue, like the grass-flower. Is Shyama male or female? A man once saw the image of the Divine Mother wearing a sacred thread. He said to the worshipper: “What? You have put the sacred thread around the Mother’s neck!” The worshipper said: “Brother, I see that you have truly known the Mother. But I have not yet been able to find out whether She is male or female; that is why I have put the sacred thread on Her image.” Brahman and Shakti That which is Shyama is also Brahman. That which has form, again, is without form. That which has attributes, again, has no attributes. Brahman is Shakti; Shakti is Brahman. They are not two. These are only two aspects, male and female, of the same Reality, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Purusha and Prakriti: Whatever you perceive in the universe is the outcome of this union. Take the image of Shiva and Kali. Kali stands on the bosom of Shiva; Shiva lies on the ground like a corpse. Prakriti performs all Her activities in conjunction with Purusha. Thus She creates, preserves, and destroys. That is also the meaning of the conjoined images of Radha and Krishna. On account of that union, again, the images are slightly inclined toward each other. To denote this union, Sri Krishna wears a pearl in His nose, Radha a blue stone in Hers. Radha has a fair complexion, bright as the pearl. Sri Krishna’s is blue. For this reason Radha wears the blue stone. Further, Krishna’s apparel is yellow, and Radha’s blue. Who is the best devotee of God? It is he who sees, after the realization of Brahman, that God alone has become all living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. One must discriminate at first, saying, “Not this, not this,” and reach the roof. After that one realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof, namely, brick, lime, and brick-dust. The devotee realizes that it is Brahman alone that has become all these — the living beings, the universe, and so on. That which is Brahman is verily Shakti. I address That, again, as the Mother. I call It Brahman when It is inactive, and Shakti when It creates, preserves and destroys. It is like water, sometimes still and sometimes covered with waves. That which is the Real is also called Brahman. It has another name: Kala, Time. There is a saying, “O brother, how many things come into being in Time and disappear in Time!” That which sports with Kala is called Kali. She is the Primal Energy. Kala and Kali, Brahman and Shakti, are indivisible. He who is Brahman is the Adyashakti, the Primal Energy. When inactive He is called Brahman, the Purusha; He is called Shakti, or Prakriti, when engaged in creation, preservation, and destruction. These are the two aspects of Reality: Purusha and Prakriti. He who is the Purusha is also Prakriti. Both are the embodiment of Bliss. If you are aware of the Male Principle, you cannot ignore the Female Principle. He who is aware of the father must also think of the mother. He who knows darkness also knows light. He who knows night also knows day. He who knows happiness also knows misery. You understand this, don’t you? My Mother! Who is my Mother? Ah, She is the Mother of the Universe. It is She who creates and preserves the world, who always protects Her children, and who grants whatever they desire: dharma, artha, kama, moksha. A true son cannot live away from his mother. The mother knows everything. The child only eats, drinks, and makes merry; he doesn’t worry himself about the things of the world. How Mother Plays The jnanis, who adhere to the non-dualistic philosophy of Vedanta, say that the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Shakti, the Divine Power. If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this very Shakti is unsubstantial, like a dream. But though you reason all your life, unless you are established in samadhi, you cannot go beyond the jurisdiction of Shakti. Even when you say, “I am meditating”, or “I am contemplating”, still you are moving in the realm of Shakti, within Its power. Thus Brahman and Shakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. You cannot think of fire without its power to burn, nor can you think of the power to burn without fire. You cannot conceive of the sun’s rays without the sun, nor can you conceive of the sun without its rays. What is milk like? Oh, you say, it is something white. You cannot think of the milk without the whiteness, and again, you cannot think of the whiteness without the milk. Thus one cannot think of Brahman without Shakti, or of Shakti without Brahman. One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or of the Relative without the Absolute. The Primordial Power is ever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kali. Kali is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kali. It is one and the same Reality. When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call it Kali or Shakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form. It is like water, called in different languages by different names, such as “jal”, “pani”, and so forth. There are three of four ghats on a lake. The Hindus, who drink water at one place, call it “jal”. The Mussalmans at another place call it “pani”. And the English at a third place call it “water”. All three denote one and the same thing, the difference being in the name only. In the same way, some address the Reality as “Allah”, some as “God”, some as “Brahman”, some as “Kali”, and others by such names as “Rama”, “Jesus”, “Durga”, “Hari”. Oh, She plays in different ways. It is She alone who is known as Maha-Kali, Nitya-Kali, Shmashana-Kali, Raksha-Kali, and Shyama-Kali. Maha-Kali and Nitya-Kali are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, and when darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was one with Maha-Kala, the Absolute. Shyama-Kali has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in the Hindu households. She is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of fear. People worship Raksha-Kali, the Protectress, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Shmashana-Kali is the embodiment of the power of destruction. She resides in the cremation ground, surrounded by corpses, jackals, and terrible female spirits. From Her mouth flows a stream of blood, form Her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around Her waist is a girdle made of human hands. After the destruction of the universe, at the end of a great cycle, the Divine Mother garners the seeds for the next creation. She is like the elderly mistress of the house, who has a hotchpotch-pot in which she keeps different articles for household use. Oh, yes! Housewives have pots like that, where they keep “sea-foam”, blue pills, small bundles of seeds of cucumber, pumpkin, and gourd, and so on. They take them out when they want them. In the same way, after the destruction of the universe, the Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman, gathers together the seeds for the next creation. After the creation the Primal Power dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it. In the Vedas, creation is likened to the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it. Bondage and liberation are both of Her making. By Her Maya, worldly people become entangled in “lust and greed” and again, through Her grace they attain their liberation. She is called the Savior, and the Remover of the bondage that binds one to the world. The divine Mother is always playful and sportive. This universe is Her play. She is self-willed and must always have Her own way. She is full of bliss. She gives freedom to one out of a hundred thousand. Shakti Must Be Propitiated The mind can disentangle itself from worldliness if, through Her grace, She makes it turn toward Herself. Only then does it become devoted to the Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother. God has created the world in play, as it were. This is called Mahamaya, the Great Illusion. Therefore one must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realization of God is possible only when those shackles are severed. One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God’s grace. God Himself is Mahamaya, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation, and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can go into the inner chamber only when She lets us pass through the door. Living outside, we see only outer objects, but not that Eternal Being, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Therefore it is stated in the Puranas that deities like Brahma praised Mahamaya for destruction of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Shakti alone is the root of the universe. That Primal Energy has two aspects: vidya and avidya. Avidya deludes. Avidya conjures up “lust and greed”, which casts the spell. Vidya begets devotion, kindness, wisdom, and love, which lead one to God. This avidya must be propitiated, and that is the purpose of the rites of Shakti worship. The devotee assumes various attitudes toward Shakti in order to propitiate Her: the attitude of a handmaid, a “hero”, or a child. The worship of Shakti is extremely difficult. It is no joke. I passed two years as the handmaid and companion of the Divine Mother. But my natural attitude has always been that of a child toward its mother. I regard the breasts of any woman as those of my own mother. Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Shakti. Pray to the Divine Mother With a Longing Heart Pray to the Divine Mother with a longing heart. Her vision dries up all craving for the world and completely destroys all attachment to lust and greed. It happens instantly if you think of Her as your own mother. She is by no means a godmother. She is your own mother. With a yearning heart persist in your demands on Her. The child holds to the skirt of its mother and begs a penny of her to buy a kite. Perhaps the mother is gossiping with her friends. At first, she refuses to give the penny and says to the child: “No, you can’t have it. Your daddy has asked me not to give you money. When he comes home I’ll ask him about it. You will get into trouble if you play with a kite now.” The child begins to cry and will not give up his demand. Then the mother says to her friends: “Excuse me a moment. Let me pacify this child.” Immediately she unlocks the cash box with a click and throws the child a penny. You too must force your demands on the Divine Mother. She will come to you without fail. I once said the same thing to some Sikhs when they visited the temple. We were conversing in front of the Kali temple. They said, “God is compassionate.” “Why compassionate?” I asked. “Why, revered sir, He constantly looks after us, gives us righteousness and wealth, and provides us with our food.” “Suppose,” I said, “a man has children. Who will look after them and provide them with food — their father or a man from another village?” God is our very own. We can exert force on him. With one’s people one can even go so far as to say, “You rascal! Won’t you give it to me?” One must have for God the yearning of a child. The child sees nothing but confusion when his mother is away. You may try to cajole him by putting sweetmeat in his hand, but he will not be fooled. He only says, “No, I want to go to my mother.” One must feel such yearning for God. Ah, what yearning! How restless a child feels for his mother! Nothing can make him forget his mother. He to whom the enjoyment of worldly happiness appears tasteless, he who takes no delight in anything of the world — money, name, creature comforts, sense pleasure — becomes sincerely grief-stricken for the vision of the Mother. And to him alone the Mother comes running, leaving all Her other duties. Ah, that restlessness is the whole thing. Whatever path you follow — whether you are a Hindu, a Mussalman, a Christian, a Shakta, a Vaishnava, or a Brahmo — the vital point is restlessness. God is our Inner Guide. It doesn’t matter if you take a wrong path — only you must be restless for Him. He Himself will put you on the right path. Besides there are errors in all paths. Everyone thinks his watch is right; but as a matter of fact, no watch is absolutely right. But that doesn’t hamper one’s work. If a man is restless for God, he gains the company of sadhus and as far as possible corrects his own watch with the sadhus’ help. That which is Brahman is verily Shakti. I address That, again, as the Mother. I call It Brahman when It is inactive, and Shakti when It creates, preserves and destroys. It is like water, sometimes still and sometimes covered with waves. The Incarnation of God is a part of the lila of Shakti. The purpose of the Divine Incarnation is to teach man ecstatic love for God. The Incarnation is like the udder of the cow; the only place milk is to be got. God incarnates Himself as man. There is great accumulation of divinity in an Incarnation, like the accumulation of fish in a deep hollow in a lake. Brahman alone is addressed as the Mother. This is because a mother is an object of great love. One is able to realize God just through love. Ecstasy of feeling, devotion, love, and faith — these are the means. This attitude of regarding God as Mother is the last word in sadhana. “O God, Thou art my Mother and I am Thy child” — this is the last word in spirituality. As recorded by M. in Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita Excerpts from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated by Swami Nikhilananda. Read More 1 The original Bengali expression Sri Ramakrishna uses in “Kamini Kanchan”, a metaphor best rendered in English as lust and greed.
A Glimpse The Saktas worship the Universal Energy as Mother; it is the sweetest name they know. The mother is the highest ideal of womanhood in India. Mother is the first manifestation of power and is considered a higher idea than father. The name of mother brings the idea of shakti, Divine energy and omnipotence. The baby believes its mother to be all-powerful, able to do anything. The Divine Mother is the Kundalini sleeping in us; without worshipping Her, we can never know ourselves. All merciful, all-powerful, omnipresent — these are attributes of the Divine Mother. She is the sum total of the energy in the Universe. Every manifestation of power in the universe is Mother. She is Life, She is Intelligence, She is Love. She is in the universe, yet separate from it. She is a person, and can be seen and known — as Sri Ramakrishna saw and knew Her. Established in the idea of Mother, we can do anything. She quickly answers prayers. She can show Herself to us in any form at any moment. The Divine Mother can have form (rupa) and name (nama), or name without form; and as we worship Her in these various aspects, we can rise to Pure Being, having neither form nor name. The sum-total of all the cells in an organism is one person. Each soul is like one cell, and the sum of them is God. And beyond that is the Absolute. The sea calm is the Absolute; the same sea in waves is the Divine Mother. She is time, space and causation. Mother is the same as Brahman and has two natures; the conditioned and the unconditioned. As the former, She is God, nature and soul. As the latter, she is unknown and unknowable. Out of the Unconditioned came the trinity, God, nature and soul — the triangle of existence. A bit of Mother, a drop, was Krishna; another was Buddha; another was Christ. The worship of even one spark of Mother in our earthly mother leads to greatness. Worship Her if you want love and wisdom. Only Knowledge and Devotion One day the idea struck me that God listened to Sri Ramakrishna’s prayers. So why should I not ask him to pray for me for the removal of my pecuniary wants, a favor the Master would never deny me. I hurried to Dakshineswar and insisted on his making an appeal on behalf of my starving family. He said, “My boy, I can’t make such demands. But why don’t you go and ask the Mother yourself? All your sufferings are due to your disregard of Her.” I said, “I do not know the Mother; you speak to Her on my behalf. You must.” He replied tenderly, “My dear boy, I have done so again and again. But you do not accept Her, so She does not grant my prayer. All right, it is Tuesday-go to the Kali Temple tonight, prostrate yourself before the Mother and ask Her any boon you like. It shall be granted; She is Knowledge Absolute, the Inscrutable Power of Brahman and by Her mere will She has given birth to this world. Everything is in Her power to give.” I believed every word and eagerly waited for the night. About nine o’clock, the Master commanded me to go to the temple. As I went I was filled with a divine intoxication. My feet were unsteady. My heart was leaping in anticipation of the joy of beholding the living Goddess and hearing Her words. I was full of the idea. Reaching the temple, as I cast my eyes upon the image, I actually found that the Divine Mother was living and conscious, full of divine love and beauty. I was caught in a surging wave of devotion and love. In an ecstasy of joy I prostrated myself again before the Mother and prayed, “Mother, give me discrimination! Give me renunciation; give me knowledge and devotion; grant that I may have an uninterrupted vision of Thee!” A serene peace reigned in my soul. The world was forgotten. Only the Divine Mother shone within my heart. As soon as I returned, Sri Ramakrishna asked me if I had prayed to the Mother for the removal of my worldly wants. I was startled at this question and said, “No sir, I forgot all about it. But is there any remedy now?” “Go again,” said he, “and tell Her about your wants.” I again set out for the temple, but at the sight of the Mother forgot my mission, bowed to Her repeatedly and prayed only for knowledge and devotion. The Master asked if I had done it the second time. I told him what had happened. He said, “How thoughtless! Couldn’t you restrain yourself enough to say those few worlds? Well, try once more and make that prayer to Her. Quick!” I went for the third time, but on entering the temple a terrible shame overpowered me. I thought, “What a trifle have I come to pray to the Mother for! It is like asking a gracious king for a few vegetables! What a fool I am!” In shame and remorse I bowed to Her respectfully and said, “Mother, I want nothing but knowledge and devotion!” Coming out of the temple I understood that all this was done to Sri Ramakrishna’s will. Otherwise how could I fail in my object three times? I came to him and said, “Sir, it is you who have cast a charm over my mind and made me forgetful. Now please grant me the boon that my people at home may no longer suffer the pinch of poverty!” He said, “Such a prayer never comes from my lips. I asked you to pray for yourself, but you couldn’t do it. It appears that you are not destined to enjoy worldly happiness. Well, I can’t help it.” But I wouldn’t let him go. I insisted on his granting that prayer. At last he said, “All right, your people at home will never be in want of plain food and clothing”. Excerpted from The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples & Inspired Talks, My Master and Other Writings. Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda
The Sanskrit word Dharma (which is spelled Dhamma in the Pāli language) originally meant “the law of nature” or “the truth.” In today’s India, unfortunately, the word has lost its original meaning, and is mistakenly used to refer to “sect” or “sectarianism.” Using this theme as an introduction, in this discourse, Goenkaji explains that Vipassana meditation teaches how to live a life of pure Dharma—a life full of peace, harmony and goodwill for others. What is Dharma? In the last 1500 to 2000 years, to its great misfortune, India lost the true meaning of the word ‘dharma.’ How indeed could one live according to its tenets when its very meaning was lost! To make matters worse many types of support, one could say crutches, were added to it. Various communities created their own respective dharma; hence there came about Buddhist dharma, Jain dharma, Hindu dharma, Christian dharma and so on. These sectarian terms were the crutches attached to Dharma, though it does not need any support. It gives support. But when these crutches arise, they take precedence and become prominent, while Dharma recedes into the background, unseen. To our great misfortune this is what happened. In ancient India, Dharma meant that which is imbibed, lived by – dhāretīti dhammam. That which arises on the surface of mind at a given moment was considered the dharma of the mind. What does the mind imbibe but its own nature, its own characteristics, that is its ‘dharma’. Dharma meant the characteristics, the nature of a particular element. Dharma, in the language of those days, was also called rit, meaning the law of nature. For instance, the nature or characteristic of fire is to burn and burn whoever comes in contact with it. The nature or characteristic of ice is to be cool and cool whoever comes in contact with it. Dharma As Nature’s Law We also say that it is nature’s law that all beings face death, illness and old age. The law of nature, in other words, was Dharma. Let us examine what the nature of the mind is. Whatever has arisen at this moment in my mind: anger, animosity, jealousy or arrogance for example. These are negativities that may arise from time to time, and as such have been called the nature of the mind, that is, the law, the Dharma of the mind. The great researchers of yore – the Rishis, Sages, Saints, Gurus, Arahants, Buddhas searched long and hard to find what was Dharma, or the nature of the mind. Any defilement, any negativity of anger, jealousy, or arrogance, when it arises, it results in tremendous heat and agitation within. This is its nature. It is inevitable. If anger has arisen within, then another part of nature, agitation, will follow as an inevitable result every single time. These defilements always arise coupled with agitation. This was called sahajat – meaning together; this misery arises along with its own consequence, its own effect every time. Let us understand this better – when burning coals are put in a container, these will burn the container before heating up the external environment. Anyone who comes near it will feel the heat. Similarly, if one keeps ice in a vessel, it will first cool the vessel before cooling the external environment. This is the unchangeable law of nature. Just like fire, when a person is angry, he first becomes the victim of his own anger before spreading vibrations of agitation and heat in the environment. All those who come in contact with this person feel the agitation. This is the expression or nature of a mind dwelling in ignorance manifesting itself. As soon as one distances oneself from the burning coals, the heat will subside. The Sages of yore, as mentioned earlier, realized the profound truth that when any defilement like jealousy, anger, arrogance etc. arise then it will inevitably burn them. If they put burning coals in their mental vessels, then the result can’t be anything but heat and agitation. At such times they behaved this way in ignorance not realizing the immutable law of the nature; since no one in their rightful mind would want to generate burning agitation for themselves. A child in his ignorance does not know that fire burns and puts his hand on burning coals. Startled, he pulls his hand back. Curious, he again puts his hand on fire then pulls it back when it burns. This may be repeated a few times, until he finally realizes that this is fire, it burns and should never be touched. A child understands. But what do we do? We keep filling ourselves with more and more burning coals, burning ourselves and others. Sheer ignorance! When anger, jealousy, aversion, arrogance or some such defilement arises, it keeps multiplying within filling us with thoughts of the event or the person who was instrumental in its occurrence. We justify it to ourselves by saying, ‘Such and such happened which angered me, so it was not my fault. It is only natural that I became angry’. Natural indeed! You are angry with someone or some event which obstructed you from reaching your desired goal. Maybe, but the fact also is that you are burning yourself. You have not seen the heat within. The mind is only looking outwards. On the other hand, if instead of burning coals, cool ice is put in the vessel then it will result in soothing, calming coolness since ice will also follow its own nature to cool. The attributes of mind that carry cooling properties are loving-kindness, compassion, and joy in another’s happiness. All good habits have the integral nature of imparting cooling calmness to one’s self as well as to others around one. The science or technique of looking within was called Vipassana in ancient India. Though one needs to be aware of external reality, to observe within was rightly considered vital for one’s mental development; to watch the reactions that arise within due to certain events is one of the most important aspects of consciousness. The day we can truly see this truth, is when we start to understand pure Dharma without any crutches. ‘Whenever I generate defilements in my mind, it inevitably results in agitation’; one begins to understand this absolute truth. After repeatedly watching this phenomena a few times, one also learns to watch this reality objectively. Which means initially one observes the event or events that take place outside and sees those events as the cause of his anger, jealousy, animosity etc. As he matures on the path, he disengages himself from events and focuses attention on what happens within when he gets angry. He begins to see that in such situations he burns with agitation and unhappiness. As he continues to watch within and understand this fundamental reality of Dharma, his nature and behaviour starts changing. He grows deeper into Dharma. He also learns that getting muddied with defilements is not Dharma. He also sees that awakening wholesome qualities like compassion, loving-kindness and joy in others’ joy is Dharma as he experiences serenity and peace upon generating such qualities. Dhāretīti dhammam – Dharma is that which is lived and imbibed. When one knows it at an experiential level the person becomes truly Dharmic. One knows well that if one lives with fire one will certainly burn and conversely, if one lives with ice, one will remain cool. Nothing can alter this phenomenon. This is rit, the universal law that governs all without exception; it does not differentiate between people belonging to different sects and communities, be they Hindu, Muslim or from any other community. The day we recognize this universal aspect of Dharma, that day humankind will make a quantum leap in human evolution. If one forgets this universal truth and persists in putting undue attention on external rites and rituals, then the work of self-evolution slows down, or indeed one moves further away from Dharma. Various sects and communities have their own rites and rituals, their way of dressing, their life philosophy and respective social customs which govern their lives. There is nothing wrong with that, but these social rituals and conventions are not Dharma! Investing all his time in rites and rituals, one may fool himself thinking that he is very Dharmic; but when he probes deeper within then he may see the reality of how far he has moved away from Dharma, from wisdom and knowledge–generating defilements, growing agitated, harming himself and disturbing others’ peace. Dharma is, as said earlier, universal, and has but one yardstick to check whether one is growing on the path; that is to see whether defilements are decreasing. This is the simple and only yardstick to measure Dharma by. Then whichever caste, sect or class one may belong to becomes immaterial once one understands the true and universal nature of Dharma. With deep gratitude to Shri S N Goenka To read more on Vipassana
The Noble Path consists in a training in the following eight stages: (1) Correct seeing. To see things as they are, that is to say, a pure, accurate vision, the best vision…. The first point then is to see correctly, and to see correctly is to see that pain is associated with ordinary life, that all things are impermanent and that there is no continuity in the personal consciousness. (2) Correct intention or desire. But the same word “desire” should not have been used, because we have just been told that we should not have desire. It is rather “correct aspiration”. The word “desire” should be replaced by “aspiration”. “To be freed from attachments and to have kind thoughts for everything that exists.” To be constantly in a state of kindness. To wish the best for all, always. (3) Correct speech that hurts none. Never speak uselessly and scrupulously avoid all malevolent speech. (4) Correct behaviour—peaceful, honest. From all points of view, not only materially, but morally, mentally. Mental honesty is one of the most difficult things to achieve. (5) Correct way of living. Not to cause harm or danger to any creature. This is relatively easy to understand. There are people who carry this principle to the extreme, against all commonsense. Those who put a handkerchief to their mouths, for example, so as not to swallow germs, who have the path in front of them swept so as not to step on an insect. This seems to me a little excessive, because the whole of life as it is at present is made up of destruction. But if you understand the text correctly, it means that one must avoid all possibility of doing harm, one must not deliberately endanger any creature. You can include here all living creatures and if you extend this care and this kindness to everything that lives in the universe, it will be very favourable to your inner growth. (6) Correct effort. Do not make useless efforts for useless things, rather keep all the energy of your effort to conquer ignorance and free yourself from falsehood. That you can never do too much. (7) The seventh principle comes to confirm the sixth: correct vigilance. You must have an active and vigilant mind. Do not live in a half-somnolence, half-unconsciousness—usually in life you let yourself go, come what may! This is what everyone does. Now and then you wake up and you realise that you have wasted your time; then you make a big effort only to fall back again, a minute later, into indolence. It would be better to have something less vehement but more constant. (8) And finally, correct contemplation. Egoless thought concentrated on the essence of things, on the inmost truth and on the goal to be attained. How often there is a kind of emptiness in the course of life, an unoccupied moment, a few minutes, sometimes more. And what do you do? Immediately you try to distract yourself, and you invent some foolishness or other to pass your time. That is a common fact. All men, from the youngest to the oldest, spend most of their time in trying not to be bored. Their pet aversion is boredom and the way to escape from boredom is to act foolishly. Well, there is a better way than that—to remember. When you have a little time, whether it is one hour or a few minutes, tell yourself, “At last, I have some time to concentrate, to collect myself, to relive the purpose of my life, to offer myself to the True and the Eternal.” If you took care to do this each time you are not harassed by outer circumstances, you would find out that you were advancing very quickly on the path. Instead of wasting your time in chattering, in doing useless things, reading things that lower the consciousness—to choose only the best cases, I am not speaking of other imbecilities which are much more serious —instead of trying to make yourself giddy, to make time, that is already so short, still shorter only to realise at the end of your life that you have lost three-quarters of your chance—then you want to put in double time, but that does not work—it is better to be moderate, balanced, patient, quiet, but never to lose an opportunity that is given to you, that is to say, to utilise for the true purpose the unoccupied moment before you. When you have nothing to do, you become restless, you run about, you meet friends, you take a walk, to speak only of the best; I am not referring to things that are obviously not to be done. Instead of that, sit down quietly before the sky, before the sea or under trees, whatever is possible (here you have all of them) and try to realise one of these things—to understand why you live, to learn how you must live, to ponder over what you want to do and what should be done, what is the best way of escaping from the ignorance and falsehood and pain in which you live. From the Words of the Mother With deep gratitude to The Mother
If there is one word that encompasses the mystique of Hinduism, the Indic philosophy, the Indian civilization and its approach to the Universe, it is dharma. A term so often misunderstood even by its most fervent adherents, that it now seems equated with religion. Perhaps an exploration into its nature and roots might be in order. For the word dharma, if correctly understood might give us new insights into who we are and what might be the nature of our journey on earth. Dharma derives its root from the Sanskrit root word, dhri, which means to hold, to bear, to support. Dharyati iti dharma, as an ancient shloka says. What is it that this so-called dharma is supporting? Dharma may be considered as the core, the karana, the causeless cause, the invisible scaffolding that holds any entity together. Realizing this truth of the entity or structure gives us its raison d’etre, its cause for being, its meaning, its purpose, etc. Unique to the Indic world-view is the understanding that as one grows inwardly and spiritually so does one’s understanding of one’s dharma. In a progressive revelation dharma appears self-evident and obvious in an intuitive understanding, that is not just mental, yet not infra-intellectual. For example, the entire Gita is an unveiling to Arjuna of his dharma through the eighteen chapters of instructions by Sri Krishna. If one might say that the Gita is a manual of the progressive unveiling of one’s dharma, one would not be incorrect. But, if I might attempt to reduce this to simple formula, knowing one’s true nature reveals one’s dharma. And the whole journey of India’s spirituality is in finding one’s swabhava or true nature. And the entire set of ethical, moral, social, cultural and religious responsibilities that one endeavors to fulfil is based upon this identification. If I see myself as a social or family man as Arjuna did, then I might see it as my dharma to eschew violence and preserve the kula or community or vansha, family or tribe. Which is how Arjuna does see himself at the beginning of the Gita. But if he sees himself as a Kshatriya, a preserver of truth and uprightness, rectitude and righteousness in the society, then his role changes. This is what Sri Krishna reminds him of, to take his despondency and confusion right away. But this is not the end of the journey. To see oneself as just a role prescribed for one by the society, no matter how noble, too is a conditioned journey and there is no self-exploration or learning involved in such prescribed responsibilities for the individual in this day and age. To see oneself as a student, or grihastha, vaanprashtha or sannyasi: all these are impositions until one is truly free by realizing that one’s dharma constantly transcends one’s bracketed and prescribed responsibilities if one grows in consciousness. Thus, one might adapt various dharmas based on one’s identification. Either with one’s ego, one’s social role, family roles, community assignments, national responsibilities, etc. but at some point one starts noticing that one is oneself formed of various constituents. Whether it is by a preliminary reading of Sankhya or yogic enquiry or through gyana yoga or bhakti yoga, one realizes that one is not who one thought oneself to be, and layers within layers of one’s existence come out that were not so obvious in the past. As one’s true nature is revealed, what happens to the dharma that one had taken as one’s gospel? It necessarily has to change, evolve, adapt, grow, in sync with one’s new insights and understanding. One example of possible question and answer sessions that might be entertained about dharma. We might call it a digital and modernized analog of an Upanishadic dialogue: Q: What is the dharma of a flashlight, my child?A: To give light, I suppose. Q: Why is giving light its dharma?A: Because that is its nature. That is what it is supposed to do. Q: What if the flashlight also had a computer attached to it, along with a calculator and a camera? What would you think its dharma would be?A: Well, its dharma would be to give light, and calculate and take pictures and compute, I suppose. Q: Each depending on the component’s nature, right?A: Yes! Q: What if I added more features to the flashlight, e.g., e mail service, telephone, browsing services, videos, online chats, etc.A: I suppose more dharmas would be added to its repertoire. Q: So then what is its main dharma if you have so many features?A: Difficult to say! Q: What if I told you that you are now holding a smart phone? What is the dharma of the flashlight now?A: Ah! Its dharma is to be a smartphone. Q: Whichever way you define the dharma of a smartphone now, so will it be now? The point was to give you a new perspective on things you take for granted. Or this so-called you that you take as granted by defining your features and nature.A: Dharma then would be nature, ability, aptitude, responsibility, role, etc. Q: Until you identify with them too. But you may discard them at will. When you are ready and transcend to a higher dharma. Perhaps you could call it a greater digital ecosystem. So you think you are a flashlight until you realize you are a smartphone with multiple features, abilities, qualities, possibilities, modules, apps. Then, what are you? In Sankhya, one of the first realizations is that one is the Purusha, the pure consciousness. Thus, one’s dharma arises from that identification, everything focused on living the truth of Purusha. In other yogas, one may realize that one is the jeevatma, the embodied soul, and centering oneself in the jeevatma, one’s dharma then becomes living from that center. And yet, as one’s dharma enlarges, it may not necessarily mean the entire and sudden abandonment of the past but a gradual enlarging. Dharma may not be abandoned without a deeper and higher understanding and insight and a consistent and comprehensive replacement of the less comprehensive truth with the more comprehensive. For as the nature of things becomes obvious to one, one’s own dharma progressively becomes clear to oneself. This cannot be rushed and any attempt to upstage the way of one’s being might be attended with peril if one does not show enough patience to go right through to the end of the exploration of dharma. To identify with the divine, to realize unity with the divine in all manifestations, to reach brahmanirvana, this becomes the highest dharma of the yogi who believes in integral realization, as the Gita explains. Whether as a Vedanti or a Tantric, understanding dharma has been the secret thread through our explorations in Sanatana Dharma. This exploration was fearless, unfettered, though often guided by a mentor or Guru, based solely on Sat and no other prejudices. Dharma is not a religion, a code of conduct prescribed by a prophet, with a book that needs to be adhered to, in a church, with a clear program of reward or punishment afterlife. Dharma has many definitions. It has been variously called as the cosmic law and order, way of living, duties, laws, conduct, virtues, etc. But the truest definition is from the center of one’s own heart, what one knows oneself as, in the light of one’s own consciousness and truth. And that realization makes dharma a revelation to oneself, as knowledge, pramana, and directly perceived, pratyaksha. What is sanatana dharma then? That which is eternal, universal, that upholds the universe, which can never be destroyed. The final dharma then is to find the core that holds the individual and the universal, the causal and the acausal, the momentary and the timeless, the form and formless together, in one seamless unity. That is who we are in truth, that is our true nature, our swabhava, and our swadharma flowing out of our swabhava. Fulfilling that to fullest, living that in entirety, experiencing the Truth and Existence of the Self and the Universe, is thus our truest dharma. Living in unity with That, the Ineffable, the Unknown, that is yet Real and Present, is our highest calling, achievement, possibility and duty. Yuga Dharma Another aspect of dharma is yuga dharma, the dharma of the age, the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist. We can see this beautifully depicted in the lineage of the dasha avatars, each yuga avatar bearing the dharma of the globe and incarnating the manifestation of Truth in a radically new and progressively unfolding spiritual shift. Dharma evolves too as the earth evolves. We see that Parshurama’s dharma is transformed, negated, even pushed back by Sri Rama when he takes over the new avatar. Sri Rama resists Parashurama’s when he tries to impose his old standards and eventually Parashurama relents when he realizes his work and time is over. Similarly, Sri Rama’s dharma of establishing a rule of Sattvic righteousness, mental harmony and rule, order, harmony, the Ram Rajya, is transcended by Sri Krishna when he brings down the light of an even higher plane than that of the mind. Sri Krishna expands Sattva into the light of a higher Truth, harmonizing the truth of Sri Rama in a vaster and more dynamic Truth that encompasses the ideal of Sri Rama. Sri Krishna thus continues the manifestation of the higher Truth, and pushes back on those who are yet stuck in the world of kula-ahankar (pride of the clan) and Kshatriya pratigya (vows of the Kshatriya), without realizing that the dharma of those standards too has been surpassed. Thus, Bheeshma, in following his vow which is of an old order, is no longer being a loyal protector of the rashtra (nation) or his Kshatriya dharma and has become adharmik. Similarly, Drona, despite his adherence and loyalty to the throne, failed to see that his dharma was also to create a future lineage that would help in sustaining the rajya or kingdom in accordance to the dharma of the age. Dhritarashtra, of course, being blind to everything except the love of his own son, is the biggest adharmik and loser. For not only does he lose the kingdom of the earth for himself but also for all his sons, leading to their destruction, while also losing the kingdom of the new rajya that we may call Sri Krishna Rajya. But even as yuga dharma changes, what does not change is the requirement of the nara to have complete devotion to Narayana, to surrender to the Divine completely and to fulfil his part by opening his being entirely to the new teaching. We see this is what Hanuman does and later what Arjuna does. And this leads to the success of the yuga avatar in fulfilling his mission. In our own modern times, we see the foolishness of personages like Gandhi in insisting on old ideals of sattvic harmony while the world had moved on to a new dharma requiring a new set of standards. How many countless lives were lost due to his sattvic ahankara and stubborn ignorance that insisted on being right always. It has taken us decades to recover from him and his side-effects and the damages would have been near-fatal were there not other greater spiritual personalities in India to neutralize his pernicious influence.
Mahasarasvati is perfection in action, at the most granular level. The extreme detail and microscopic accuracy with which the atom is held together. With which quantum interactions occur in the Universe. With which the cells of our bodies function. And how each cell synergizes with other cells, in minuscule countless interactions each moment, to ensure that our entire body is functioning as one coherent system. Each cell working in the tissue and the organ system, and each organ system combining with other organ systems, for example, the circulatory system working closely with the respiratory, nervous and endocrine systems. Could our best systems reach such intricacy, attention to detail and perfection in living entities across the globe in millions of species? The best Chief Operating Officer at a Fortune 500 company would like to emulate this action. Our body is completely autonomous as a fully functional ecosystem where each tissue covers for the other. The skin keeps the inside tissue safe. The skeleton holds the internal organs and limbs together and gives them a dynamic scaffolding. The red cells carry oxygen from the lungs to each cell, each moment. The white cells swallow and destroy all invaders. The platelets plug and seal any breaks in the lining of the arteries or membranes or skin. The heart pumps the red blood and white blood cells and platelets through an intricate network of arteries through the corpus. And the muscles contract and relax to ensure that the lungs get the oxygen they need to pass on to red blood cells. The mouth chews and swallows. The food pipe takes it to the stomach. The stomach breaks it down with acid. The liver produces bile to digest it; the pancreas releases enzymes into the intestine. The small intestine absorbs the broken-down nutrients. The colon draws water. The rectum holds and evacuates. And the liver as factory cleans the blood and processes all the nutrients absorbed. And the kidneys excrete the waste. And the eyes see. And ears hear. The tongue tastes with the help of the nervous system. And we can go on and on describing the fabulous arrangement and management of this fully independent active living entity, that is you and I. This is the perfection of Mahasarasvati. And we have not even scratched the surface of this Mahasystem. There are systems within systems, ecosystems within ecosystems, each interlinked, interdependent, enhancing the other, in a vast supersystem. And we barely begin to glimpse the minutiae with which she works when we study the infinite knowledge the cosmos provides. At every level, every scale, every detail. She is here, working out with immeasurable patience, with the surgical precision of a surgeon, with the plier of a mechanic building a satellite, with the brush of a painter creating works of great art, with the pen of a student elaborating what he has learnt with years of labor. Those who love detail and particular attention adore her and emulate the perfection that she sets up in everything she does. Pure, sacred, noble, the patient Mother that smiles over our difficulties and addresses the smallest need of the devotee. The smallest bindu in this vast universe does not escape her, even an electron in her elaborate consistency and method. Never looking down upon our littleness, she inspires us to create great cities and supercomputers and aircrafts and nanotechnology and mastery of the arts and humanities and sciences. To her we turn as we seek to achieve mastery over our subjects, and eventually ourselves, as students, as technicians, as professionals, as yogis. To ensure that whatever we do does not fail and abides. To make our smallest attempt a worship to her infinite being. To know that when we work on the smallest dot with her Force, we transform the Universe.
Our homage to the Divine Mother for this Navaratri But there are many planes of her creation, many steps of the Divine Shakti. At the summit of this manifestation of which we are a part there are worlds of infinite existence, consciousness, force and bliss over which the Mother stands as the unveiled eternal Power. All beings there live and move in an ineffable completeness and unalterable oneness, because she carries them safe in her arms for ever. Nearer to us are the worlds of a perfect supramental creation in which the Mother is the supramental Mahashakti, a Power of divine omniscient Will and omnipotent Knowledge always apparent in its unfailing works and spontaneously perfect in every process. There all movements are the steps of the Truth; there all beings are souls and powers and bodies of the divine Light; there all experiences are seas and floods and waves of an intense and absolute Ananda. But here where we dwell are the worlds of the Ignorance, worlds of mind and life and body separated in consciousness from their source, of which this earth is a significant centre and its evolution a crucial process. This too with all its obscurity and struggle and imperfection is upheld by the Universal Mother; this too is impelled and guided to its secret aim by the Mahashakti. The Mother as the Mahashakti of this triple world of the Ignorance stands in an intermediate plane between the supramental Light, the Truth life, the Truth creation which has to be brought down here and this mounting and descending hierarchy of planes of consciousness that like a double ladder lapse into the nescience of Matter and climb back again through the flowering of life and soul and mind into the infinity of the Spirit. Determining all that shall be in this universe and in the terrestrial evolution by what she sees and feels and pours from her, she stands there above the Gods and all her Powers and Personalities are put out in front of her for the action and she sends down emanations of them into these lower worlds to intervene, to govern, to battle and conquer, to lead and turn their cycles, to direct the total and the individual lines of their forces. These Emanations are the many divine forms and personalities in which men have worshipped her under different names throughout the ages. But also she prepares and shapes through these Powers and their emanations the minds and bodies of her Vibhutis, even as she prepares and shapes minds and bodies for the Vibhutis of the Ishwara, that she may manifest in the physical world and in the disguise of the human consciousness some ray of her power and quality and presence. All the scenes of the earth-play have been like a drama arranged and planned and staged by her with the cosmic Gods for her assistants and herself as a veiled actor. The Mother not only governs all from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. Impersonally, all things here, even the movements of the Ignorance, are herself in veiled power and her creations in diminished substance, her Nature-body and Nature-force, and they exist because, moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme to work out something that was there in the possibilities of the Infinite, she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance. But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother. Four great Aspects of the Mother, four of her leading Powers and Personalities have stood in front in her guidance of this universe and in her dealings with the terrestrial play. One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil benignity and inexhaustible compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all-ruling greatness. Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior mood, her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force. A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her “deep secret of beauty and harmony and fine rhythm, her intricate and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and captivating grace. The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledge and careful flawless work and quiet and exact perfection in all things. Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, Perfection are their several attributes and it is these powers that they bring with them into the world, manifest in a human disguise in their Vibhutis and shall found in the divine degree of their ascension in those who can open their earthly nature to the direct and living influence of the Mother. To the four we give the four great names, Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
Our homage to the Divine Mother for this Navaratri Imperial MAHESHWARI is seated in the wideness above the thinking mind and will and sublimates and greatens them into wisdom and largeness or floods with a splendour beyond them. For she is the mighty and wise One who opens us to the supramental infinities and the cosmic vastness, to the grandeur of the supreme Light, to a treasure-house of miraculous knowledge, to the measureless movement of the Mother’s eternal forces. Tranquil is she and wonderful, great and calm for ever. Nothing can move her because all wisdom is in her; nothing is hidden from her that she chooses to know; she comprehends all things and all beings and their nature and what moves them and the law of the world and its times and how all was and is and must be. A strength is in her that meets everything and masters and none can prevail in the end against her vast intangible wisdom and high tranquil power. Equal, patient and unalterable in her will she deals with men according to their nature and with things and happenings according to their force and the truth that is in them. Partiality she has none, but she follows the decrees of the Supreme and some she raises up and some she casts down or puts away from her into the darkness. To the wise she gives a greater and more luminous wisdom; those that have vision she admits to her counsels; on the hostile she imposes the consequence of their hostility; the ignorant and foolish she leads according to their blindness. In each man she answers and handles the different elements of his nature according to their need and their urge and the return they call for, puts on them the required pressure or leaves them to their cherished liberty to prosper in the ways of the Ignorance or to perish. For she is above all, bound by nothing, attached to nothing in the universe. Yet has she more than any other the heart of the universal Mother. For her compassion is endless and inexhaustible; all are to her eyes her children and portions of the One, even the Asura and Rakshasa and Pisacha and those that are revolted and hostile. Even her rejections are only a postponement, even her punishments are a grace. But her compassion does not blind her wisdom or turn her action from the course decreed; for the Truth of things is her one concern, knowledge her centre of power and to build our soul and our nature into the divine Truth her mission and her labour. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
Our homage to the Divine Mother for this Navaratri MAHAKALI is of another nature. Not wideness but height, not wisdom but force and strength are her peculiar power. There is in her an overwhelming intensity, a mighty passion of force to achieve, a divine violence rushing to shatter every limit and obstacle. All her divinity leaps out in a splendour of tempestuous action; she is there for swiftness, for the immediately effective process, the rapid and direct stroke, the frontal assault that carries everything before it. Terrible is her face to the Asura, dangerous and ruthless her mood against the haters of the Divine; for she is the Warrior of the Worlds who never shrinks from the battle. Intolerant of imperfection, she deals roughly with all in man that is unwilling and she is severe to all that is obstinately ignorant and obscure; her wrath is immediate and dire against treachery and falsehood and malignity, ill-will is smitten at once by her scourge. Indifference, negligence and sloth in the divine work she cannot bear and she smites awake at once with sharp pain, if need be, the untimely slumberer and the loiterer. The impulses that are swift and straight and frank, the movements that are unreserved and absolute, the aspiration that mounts in flame are the motion of Mahakali. Her spirit is tameless, her vision and will are high and far-reaching like the flight of an eagle, her feet are rapid on the upward way and her hands are outstretched to strike and to succour. For she too is the Mother and her love is as intense as her wrath and she has a deep and passionate kindness. When she is allowed to intervene in her strength, then in one moment are broken like things without consistence the obstacles that immobilise or the enemies that assail the seeker. If her anger is dreadful to the hostile and the vehemence of her pressure painful to the weak and timid, she is loved and worshipped by the great, the strong and the noble; for they feel that her blows beat what is rebellious in their material “into strength and perfect truth, hammer straight what is wry and perverse and expel what is impure or defective. But for her what is done in a day might have taken centuries; without her Ananda might be wide and grave or soft and sweet and beautiful but would lose the flaming joy of its most absolute intensities. To knowledge she gives a conquering might, brings to beauty and harmony a high and mounting movement and imparts to the slow and difficult labour after perfection an impetus that multiplies the power and shortens the long way. Nothing can satisfy her that falls short of the supreme ecstasies, the highest heights, the noblest aims, the largest vistas. Therefore with her is the victorious force of the Divine and it is by grace of her fire and passion and speed if the great achievement can be done now rather than hereafter. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
Our homage to the Divine Mother for this Navaratri Wisdom and Force are not the only manifestations of the supreme Mother; there is a subtler mystery of her nature and without it Wisdom and Force would be incomplete things and without it perfection would not be perfect. Above them is the miracle of eternal beauty, an unseizable secret of divine harmonies, the compelling magic of an irresistible universal charm and attraction that draws and holds things and forces and beings together and obliges them to meet and unite that a hidden Ananda may play from behind the veil and make of them its rhythms and its figures. This is the power of MAHALAKSHMI and there is no aspect of the Divine Shakti more attractive to the heart of embodied beings. Maheshwari can appear too calm and great and distant for the littleness of earthly nature to approach or contain her, Mahakali too swift and formidable for its weakness to bear; but all turn with joy and longing to Mahalakshmi. For she throws the spell of the intoxicating sweetness of the Divine: to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel; grace and charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and wherever she fixes her wonderful gaze or lets fall the loveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss. Magnetic is the touch of her hands and their occult and delicate influence refines mind and life and body and where she presses her feet course miraculous streams of an entrancing Ananda. And yet it is not easy to meet the demand of this enchanting Power or to keep her presence. Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi. Where there is affinity to the rhythms of the secret world-bliss and response to the call of the All-Beautiful and concord and unity and the glad flow of many lives turned towards the Divine, in that atmosphere she consents to abide. But all that is ugly and mean and base, all that is poor and sordid and squalid, all that is brutal and coarse repels her advent. Where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come; where they are mixed and disfigured with baser things, she turns soon to depart or cares little to pour her riches. If she finds herself in men’s hearts surrounded with selfishness and hatred and jealousy and malignance and envy and strife, if treachery and greed and ingratitude are mixed in the sacred chalice, if grossness of passion and unrefined desire degrade devotion, in such hearts the gracious and beautiful Goddess will not linger. A divine disgust seizes upon her and she withdraws, for she is not one who insists or strives; or, veiling her face, she waits for this bitter and poisonous devil’s stuff to be rejected and disappear before she will found anew her happy influence. Ascetic bareness and harshness are not pleasing to her nor the suppression of the heart’s deeper emotions and the rigid repression of the soul’s and the life’s parts of beauty. For it is through love and beauty that she lays on men the yoke of the Divine. Life is turned in her supreme creations into a rich work of celestial art and all existence into a poem of sacred delight; the world’s riches are brought together and concerted for a supreme order and even the simplest and commonest things are made wonderful by her intuition of unity and the breath of her spirit. Admitted to the heart she lifts wisdom to pinnacles of wonder and reveals to it the mystic secrets of the ecstasy that surpasses all knowledge, meets devotion with the passionate attraction of the Divine, teaches to strength and force the rhythm that keeps the might of their acts harmonious and in measure and casts on perfection the charm that makes it endure for ever. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
Our homage to the Divine Mother for this Navaratri MAHASARASWATI is the Mother’s Power of Work and her spirit of perfection and order. The youngest of the Four, she is the most skilful in executive faculty and the nearest to physical Nature. Maheshwari lays down the large lines of “the world-forces, Mahakali drives their energy and impetus, Mahalakshmi discovers their rhythms and measures, but Mahasaraswati presides over their detail of organisation and execution, relation of parts and effective combination of forces and unfailing exactitude of result and fulfilment. The science and craft and technique of things are Mahasaraswati’s province. Always she holds in her nature and can give to those whom she has chosen the intimate and precise knowledge, the subtlety and patience, the accuracy of intuitive mind and conscious hand and discerning eye of the perfect worker. This Power is the strong, the tireless, the careful and efficient builder, organiser, administrator, technician, artisan and classifier of the worlds. When she takes up the transformation and new-building of the nature, her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless. For the will in her works is scrupulous, unsleeping, indefatigable; leaning over us she notes and touches every little detail, finds out every minute defect, gap, twist or incompleteness, considers and weighs accurately all that has been done and all that remains still to be done hereafter. Nothing is too small or apparently trivial for her attention; nothing however impalpable or disguised or latent can escape her. Moulding and remoulding she labours each part till it has attained its true form, is put in its exact place in the whole and fulfils its precise purpose. In her constant and diligent arrangement and rearrangement of things her eye is on all needs at once and the way to meet them and her intuition knows what is to be chosen and what rejected and successfully determines the right instrument, the right time, the right conditions and the right process. Carelessness and negligence and indolence she abhors; all scamped and hasty and shuffling work, all clumsiness and à peu près and misfire, all false adaptation and misuse of instruments and faculties and leaving of things undone or half done is offensive and foreign to her temper. When her work is finished, nothing has been forgotten, no part has been misplaced or omitted or left in a faulty condition; all is solid, accurate, complete, admirable. Nothing short of a perfect perfection satisfies her and she is ready to face an eternity of toil if that is needed for the fullness of her creation. Therefore of all the Mother’s powers she is the most long-suffering with man and his thousand imperfections. Kind, smiling, close and helpful, not easily turned away or discouraged, insistent even after repeated failure, her hand sustains our every step on condition that we are single in our will and straightforward and sincere; for a double mind she will not tolerate and her revealing irony is merciless to drama and histrionics and self-deceit and pretence. A mother to our wants, a friend in our difficulties, a persistent and tranquil counsellor and mentor, chasing away with her radiant smile the clouds of gloom and fretfulness and depression, reminding always of the ever-present help, pointing to the eternal sunshine, she is firm, quiet and persevering in the deep and continuous urge that drives us towards the integrality of the higher nature. All the work of the other Powers leans on her for its completeness; for she assures the material foundation, elaborates the stuff of detail and erects and rivets the armour of the structure. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
Essential points of the Buddhist teachings The Buddha refused to have any dealings with those things which don’t lead to the extinction of Dukkha. Take the question of whether or not there is rebirth. What is reborn? How is it reborn? What is its kammic (karmic) inheritance? [kamma (karma) is volitional action by means of body, speech or mind.] These questions are not aimed at the extinction of Dukkha. That being so, they are not Buddhist teaching and they are not connected with it. They do not lie in the sphere of Buddhism. Also, one who asks about such matters has no choice but to indiscriminately believe the answer he is given, because the one who answers is not going to be able to produce any proofs, he’s just going to speak according to his memory and feeling. The listener can’t see for himself and so has to blindly believe the other’s words. Little by little the matter strays from Dhamma (Dharma) until it’s something else altogether, unconnected with the extinction of Dukkha. Now, if one doesn’t raise those sort of problems, one can ask instead, “Is there Dukkha?” and “How can Dukkha be extinguished?” To these questions the Buddha agreed to answer, and the listener can see the truth of every word of his answer without having to blindly believe them, see more and more clearly until he understands. And if one understands to the extent of being able to extinguish Dukkha, then that is the ultimate understanding. One knows that, even at this moment, there is no person living; one sees without a doubt that there is no self or anything belonging to a self. There is just a feeling of “I” and “mine” arising due to the foolishness whereby one is deluded by the beguiling nature of sense—experience. Therefore, there being no one born here, there is no one who dies and is reborn. So, the whole question of rebirth is utterly foolish and nothing to do with Buddhism at all. The Buddhist teachings aim to inform us that there is no self and nothing belonging to a self, there is only the false understanding of the ignorant mind. There is merely body and mind, which are nothing but natural processes. They function like a mechanism that can process and transform data. If they do so by the wrong method, it gives rise to foolishness and delusion, so that one feels that there is a self and things which belong to a self. If they do so by the correct method, those feelings do not arise; there is the primal truth-discerning awareness (satipanna), the fundamental true knowing and clear seeing that there is no self and nothing belonging to a self. The matter of “I” and “mine” is the single essential point of the Buddhist teachings. It is the one thing which must be completely purged. It follows that here lies the knowing, understanding, and practice of all the Buddhist teachings without exception. So please pay full attention. In regards to the foundations or root principles of Dhamma, there aren’t a great deal. The Buddha said that there was a single handful. A sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya makes this clear. While walking through the forest, the Buddha picked up a handful of fallen leaves and asked the monks who were present, which was the greater amount — the leaves in his hand or all the leave in the forest. They all said that the leaves in the forest were much more, so much that it was beyond comparison. Even now, try to imagine the scene and see the truth of this, how much more they are. The Buddha then said that, similarly, those things which he had realized and which he knew were a great amount, equal to all the leaves in the forest — but that which was necessary to know, those things which should be taught and practiced, were equal to the number of leaves in his hand. So from this it can be taken that, compared to all the myriad things that are to be found in the world, the root principles to be practiced to completely extinguish Dukkha amount to a single handful. We should appreciate that this “single handful” is not a huge amount, it’s not something beyond our capabilities to reach and understand. This is the first important point that we must grasp if we want to lay the foundations for a correct understanding of the Buddhist teachings. Here we reach the phrase, “the Buddhist Teachings”. Please understand the phrase correctly. These days, that which is labeled as the “Buddhist Teachings” is a very nebulous thing — that is to say it is extensive without much definition. In the Buddha’s time, a different word was used, the word “dhamma” (Dharma); it referred specifically to the dhamma which extinguishes Dukkha. The dhamma of the Buddha was called Samana Gotama’s dhamma. If it was the dhamma of another sect — say that of Nigantha Nataputta (contemporary of the Buddha and founder of the Jain religion) — it would be called Nigantha Nataputta’s dhamma. One who liked a particular dhamma would try to study it until he understood it and then practiced accordingly. It was called dhamma and that is what it was, real pure dhamma without any of the numerous things which have come to be associated with it in later times. Now we call those appendages “Buddhist Teachings”. Due to our carelessness the “Buddhist Teachings” have become so nebulous that they include within them many things foreign to them. The real Buddhist Teachings alone are already abundant — as many as all the leaves in the forest — but that which has to be studied and practiced is merely a handful, and that’s already plenty. But nowadays we go and include those things which are associated with the teachings, such as the history of the religion and an expanded psychology. Take Abhidhamma (the third of the three “baskets” of the Buddhist scriptures. Compiled after the Buddha’s death, they are a complete analysis of mind and matter into their constituent parts), some parts of it have become psychology, some parts philosophy, it’s continually expanding to fulfill the requirement of those disciplines. And there are many more offshoots, so that things which are associated with the Teachings have become exceedingly numerous. They have all been swept in together under one term, so that there have become to be a large number of “Buddhist Teachings”. If we don’t know how to take hold of the essential points, then it will seem that there’s a great amount and we won’t be able to choose between them. It will be like going into a shop selling a great variety of goods, and being completely at a loss what to take. So we will just follow our common sense — a bit of this, a bit of that, as we see fit. And mostly we will take those things which agree with defilements (kilesa) rather than let ourselves be guided by truth — discerning awareness. Spiritual life becomes a matter of rites and rituals, of making merit by rote or to ensure against some fear or other. There is no contact with the real Buddhist Teachings. Let us know how to separate the Buddhist Teachings from those things which have merely come to be associated with them and included under the same name. Even in the Teachings themselves, we must still know how to distinguish the root principles, the essential points, and it is of these things that I have resolved to talk. The spiritual disease of our time is the disease whose germ lies in the feeling of “we” and “ours”, “I” and “mine” that is regularly present in the mind. The germ that is already in the mind develops first into the feeling of “I” and “mine” and “then, acting through the influence of self-centeredness, becomes greed, hate and delusion, causing upset for both oneself and others. These are the symptoms of the spiritual disease that lies within us. To remember it easily, it may be called the disease of “I” and “mine.” Every one of us has the disease of “I’ and “mine”, and we absorb more germs every time we see a form, smell an odor, touch a tangible object, tastes a flavor, or think in the manner of an ignorant person. In other words, there is a reception of the germ, those things surrounding us that are infected and cause the disease, every time there is sense contact. We must recognize that the germ is clinging (upadana) and that it is of two kinds: clinging to an “I” and clinging to “mine”. Clinging to “I” and feeling that “I” is an entity, that I am like this or like that, that I am the equal of any man. Anything of this sort is called “I”. “Mine” is taking that as belonging to me, that which I love, that which I like. Even that which we hate, we consider to be “my” enemy. This is called “mine.” In Pali, “I” is atta and mine is attaniya: or, if one uses the terms in the general use of Indian philosophy, ahamkara meaning to have the feeling of “I” (stemming from the word aham, “I”), and mamamakara, meaning to have the feeling of “mine” (stemming from the word mam, which means “mine.”) The feelings of ahamkara and mamamkara are so very dangerous that they are called the spiritual disease, and every branch of philosophy or dhamma in the Buddha’s time wanted to wipe them out. Even though they were followers of other teachings, they all had the same aim of wiping out ahamkara and mamamkara. The difference lay in that when they eradicated those feelings, they called what remained the True Self, the Pure Atman, the Desired. As for our Buddhist Teaching, it refused to use those names because it did not want to give rise to any new clinging to a self or things belonging to a self. It was just left a perfect emptiness, which was called Nibbana, as in the phrase, “Nibbanam paramam sunnam” — “Nibbana is supreme emptiness” — that is to say, absolutely empty of “I” and empty of “mine” in every respect, without remainder. That is Nibbana, the end of spiritual disease. This matter of “I” and “mine” is very hard to see. If you don’t really concentrate, you won’t be able to understand that it is the force behind Dukkha, the force behind spiritual disease. That which is called “atta” or “self” corresponds to the latin word “ego”. If the feeling of self-consciousness arises, we call it egoism because once the feeling of “I” arises it naturally and inevitably gives rise to the feeling “mine”. Therefore, the feeling of self and the feeling of things belonging to self, taken together is egoism. Ego can be said to be natural to living beings and, moreover, to be their center. If the word “ego” is translated into English, it must be rendered as soul, a word corresponding to the Greek “kentricon” which in English means center. Ego and kentricon being the same thing, the soul (atta) can be regarded as the center of living beings, as their necessary nucleus, and therefore is something that the ordinary person cannot rid themselves of or refrain from. So it follows that all unenlightened people must experience this feeling of egoism arising continually. Although it’s true that it doesn’t express itself all the time, it manifests whenever one sees a form, hears a sound, smells an odor, touches a tactile object or has a thought arising in the mind. On every occasion that the feeling of “I” and “mine” arises, we can take it to be the disease fully developed, regardless of whether it’s dependent upon seeing a form, hearing a sound, smelling an odor, or whatever. When at the moment of contact, the feeling “I” and “mine” arises, it is the disease fully developed. The feeling of selfishness has strongly arisen. At this point we no longer call it egoism but selfishness, because it is an agitated egoism that leads one into low, false ways, into a state of thinking only of oneself without consideration for others, so that everything one does is selfish. One is completely ruled by greed, hatred and delusion. The disease expresses itself as selfishness and then harms both oneself and others. It is the greatest danger to the world. That the world is currently so troubled and in such turmoil is due to nothing other than the selfishness of each person, of each of the factions forming into competing groups. That they are fighting each other without desire to fight, but through compulsion, is because they can’t control this thing; they can’t withstand its force, and so the disease takes root. That the world has taken in this “germ” which has then caused the disease, is because no one is aware of that which can resist the disease, namely, the heart of the Buddhist Teachings. I would like you to understand this phrase, “the heart of the Buddhist Teachings”. Whenever we ask what the heart of the Buddhist teachings is, there are so many contending replies that it’s like a sea of mouths — everyone’s got an answer! But whether they are correct or not is another matter, for people just answer according to what they have remembered or what they have worked out for themselves. Please, look and see for yourselves how it is these days. Who truly knows the heart of the Buddhist teachings? Who has truly reached it? Whenever we ask what the heart of the Buddhist Teachings is, someone will probably say the Four Noble Truths (Dukkha, its cause, its extinction, and the path leading to its extinction) others will say aniccam—dukkham—anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness), other may recite the verse: “Sabba papassa akaranamKusalassupasampadaSacitta pariyodapanamEtam Buddhasasanam”.or – “Refraining from doing evil,doing only good,and purifying the mind,that is the heart of the Buddhist Teachings.” That’s correct, but only very slightly so because it is still something repeated by rote; it’s not something that has truly been seen for oneself. As to what is the heart of Buddhist Teachings, I would like to suggest the short saying, “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to”. There is a section in the Majjhima Nikaya where someone approached the Buddha and asked him whether he could summarize his teachings in one phrase and, if he could, what it would be. The Buddha replied that he could: “Sabba dhamma nalam abhinivesaya”. “Sabbe dhamm” means “all things”, “nalam” means “should not be”, “abhinivesaya” means “to be clung to”. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to. Then the Buddha emphasized this point by saying that whoever had heard this core phrase had heard all the Teachings, who ever put it into practice had practiced all the Teachings, and whoever had received the fruits of practicing this point had received all of the fruits of the Buddhist Teachings. Now, if anyone realizes the truth of this point that there is not a single thing to be clung to, it means that there is no “germ” to cause the disease of greed, hatred and delusion, or of wrong actions of any kind, whether of body, speech or mind. So, whatever forms, sounds, odors, flavors, tangible objects and mental phenomena crowd in, the antibody “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to” will resist the disease. The “germ” will not enter, or, if it is allowed to do so, it will be only in order to be completely destroyed. The “germ” will not spread and cause the disease because of the antibody continually destroying it. There will be absolute and perpetual immunity. This then is the heart of the Buddhist Teachings, of all Dhamma. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to — ‘Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya.’ A person who realizes this truth is like someone who has an antibody that can resist and destroy disease. It is impossible for him or her to suffer from the spiritual disease. But, for the ordinary person who doesn’t know the heart of the Buddhist teachings, it’s just the opposite, like someone who hasn’t the slightest immunity. You probably understand by now the meaning of the “spiritual disease” and who the doctor is that heals it. But it’s only when we see that we ourselves have the disease that we become really serious about healing ourselves, and in the right way, too. Before we know, we just enjoy ourselves as we please. It’s like someone unaware that they have some serious illness, such as cancer or TB, just indulging in pleasure-seeking without bothering to seek treatment until it’s too late, and then dying of their disease. We won’t be that foolish. We will follow the Buddha’s instruction, “Don’t be heedless. Be well-filled with heedfulness.” Being heedful people, we should take a look at the way in which we are suffering from the spiritual disease and examine the “germ” that is its cause. If you do this correctly and unremittingly, you will certainly receive in this life the best thing a human being can receive.” We must look more closely into the point that clinging is the “germ”, as well as the way that it spreads and develops into the disease. If you’ve observed even to a small degree, you will have seen that it’s this clinging to “I” or “mine” that is the chief of all the defilements. We can divide the defilements up into lobha, dosa and moha (or raga, krodha and moha) or group them into sixteen or as many catagories as we want — in the end they are all greed, hatred and delusion. But these three, too, can be collected into one — the feeling of “I” and “mine”. The feeling of “I” and “mine” is the inner nucleus which gives birth to greed, hatred and delusion. When it emerges as greed, as desire and craving, it attracts the sense-object that has come into contact. If at another moment it repels the object, then it’s hate or dosha. On those occasions when it’s stupefied and doesn’t know what it wants, hovering around the object, unsure whether to attract or repel, that is moha. Defilement behaves in one of these ways towards sense-objects, i.e. forms, sounds, odors, flavors, tangible objects, mental phenomena, depending on what form the objects takes — whether it is clearly apprehensible’ or hidden, and whether it encourages attraction, repulsion, or confusion. But, though they differ, all three are defilements because they have their roots in the inner feeling of “I” and “mine”. Therefore, it can be said that the feeling of “I” and “mine” is the chief of all defilements and the root cause of all Dukkha, of all disease. Having not fully appreciated the Buddha’s teaching regarding Dukkha, we have misunderstood it. We have taken it to mean that birth, old age, and so on are themselves Dukkha, but in fact those are just its characteristic vehicles. The Buddha summarized his teachings as, “Sankhittena panucupadanakkhandadukkha” which translates as, “In short, Dukkha is the five clung to “khandas” (the five ‘groups’ or ‘aggregates’ of existence: form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness). This means that anything which clings or is clung to as “I” or “mine” is Dukkha. Anything which has no clinging to “I” and “mine” has no Dukkha. Therefore, birth, old age, sickness, death or whatever, if they are not clung to as “I” or “mine” has no Dukkha. Therefore, birth, old age, sickness, death and whatever, if they are not clung to as “I” or “mine” cannot be Dukkha. Only when they are clung to as “I” or “mine” are they Dukkha. The body and mind are the same. It’s not that Dukkha is inherent in body and mind. It is only when there is clinging to “I” and “mine” that they are Dukkha. With the pure and undefiled mind, that of the arahant (one freed from all greed, aversion and delusion), there is no Dukkha at all. We must see that this “I” and “mine” is the root cause of all forms of Dukkha. Whenever there is clinging, then there is the darkness of ignorance. There is no clarity because the mind is not empty; it is shaken up, frothing and foaming with the feeling of “I” and “mine”. In direct contrast, the mind that is free of clinging to “I” and “mine” is serene, filled full of truth-discerning awareness. So, we must firmly grasp the fact that there are two kinds of feeling: that of “I” and “mine”, and that of truth-discerning awareness, and that they are totally antagonistic. If one enters the mind, the other springs out. Only one can be present at a time. If the mind is brimful of “I” and “mine”, truth-discerning awareness cannot enter: if there is truth-discerning awareness, the “I” and “mine” disappears, freedom from “I” and “mine” is truth-discerning awareness. Thus if one speaks intelligently — which is to say, concisely, although it is somewhat frightening, one says along with Huang Po, along with the Zen sect, that Emptiness is the Dhamma, Emptiness is the Buddha and Emptiness is the Primal Mind. Confusion, the absence of Emptiness, is not the Buddha, is not the Dhamma, and not the Primal Mind. There are these two opposing feelings that arise. Once we have understood them, we will understand all Dhamma easily. Right now, you who are sitting here listening are empty, you are not confecting the feeling “I” and “mine”. You are listening, and you have truth-discerning awareness; the feeling “I” and “mine” cannot enter. But if on another occasion something impinges and gives rise to the feeling of “I” and “mine”, the emptiness or truth-discerning awareness you feel here will disappear. If we are empty of egoism, there is no consciousness of “I” and “mine”. We have truth-discerning awareness that can extinguish Dukkha and is the cure for the spiritual disease. At that moment the disease cannot be born, and the disease that has already arisen will disappear as if picked up and thrown away. At that moment, the mind will be completely filled with Dhamma. This accords with the remark that emptiness is the Buddha, because in that moment of being empty of “I” and “mine”, there will be present every desirable virtue of the whole Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures) To put it simply, there will be perfect satisampajanna (mindfulness and self-awareness); perfect hiri (sense of shame); perfect ottappa (fear of evil); perfect khanti (patience and endurance); and perfect soracca (gentleness). There will be perfect katannukatavedi (gratitude) and perfect honesty right up to yathabhutananadassa (the knowledge and vision according to reality) that is the cause for the attainment of Nibbana. I’ve come down to the basics, saying that there must be satisampajanna, hiri, ottappa, khanti, soracca, and katannukata vedi, because these things are also Dhamma, they too can be a refuge for the world. Even hiri and otappa alone, the aversion and shame towards doing evil and the fear of doing evil, with just these the world would be tranquil with lasting peace. Every one of the many methods for wiping out the disease of “I” and “mine” works. It depends on how you wish to practice. One of the many ways is to constantly contemplate “I” and “mine” as maya, an illusion or hallucination. This will enable you to see the feeling of self, a seemingly solid entity that we are familiar with as “I” and “mine”, is in fact a mere illusion. This is achieved by contemplating self in terms of Paticcasamuppada (the process of dependent origination). To explain the Paticcasamuppada theoretically or technically takes a long time. It could take one or two months for just this single matter, because in the field of theory it’s been expounded more and more as a subject of psychology and philosophy until it has reached a state of excessive complexity. But in the field of practice, the Paticcasamuppada is, as the Buddha said, just a handful. When there is contact with forms, sounds, odors, flavors, or whatever at one of the sense doors, that contact is called, in Pali, phassa. This phassa develops into vedana (feeling). Vedana develops into tanha (craving). Tanha develops into upadana (clinging). Upadana develops into bhava (becoming). Bhava develops into jati, which is “birth”, and following on from birth there is the suffering of old age, sickness and death, which are Dukkha. Please see that as soon as there is contact with a sense object there is phassa, and that the subsequent development of phassa into vedana, tanha and so on is called Paticcasamuppada i.e. the process by which various things, existing in dependence on one thing, condition the arising of another thing, which in turn conditions the development of a further thing, and so on. This process or state is called Paticcasamuppada. It is dependent arising with no self or “me” found, merely dependence followed by arising. [Phassa, contact, sense experience: the meeting and working together of inner sense media + outer sense media + sense-consciousness, e.g. eye + form + eye consciousness. There are six kinds of phassa corresponding to the six senses.] [Vedana, feeling, sensation: the mental reaction to or coloring of sense experiences (phassa). There are three kinds of vedana: pleasant, nice, agreeable feeling; unpleasant, disagreeable, painful feeling; and neither painful or pleasant, indeterminate feeling. Vedana is not ’emotion” If vedana arises through ignorance or lack of truth-discerning awareness in the moment, it will condition craving as it then next arises.] The way of making use of it is not to allow dependent arising to take place; cutting it off right at the moment of sense-contact, not allowing the development of vedana, not allowing feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction to arise. When there is no production of vedana, then there is no birth of the craving and clinging that is the “I” and “mine”. The “I” and “mine” lie right there at the birth of the craving and clinging; illusion lies right there. If at the moment of sense-contact, when there is nothing but phassa, it is stopped just there, there is no way for “I” and “mine” to arise in truth-discerning awareness. Another method: For the average person, it is extremely difficult to prevent phassa from developing into vedana. As soon as there is sense-contact, the feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction always follow immediately. It doesn’t stop at phassa because there has never been any training in Dhamma. But, when vedana has already developed, when there are already feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, stop it right there. Let feeling remain as merely feeling and let it pass away. Don’t allow the reaction to go on and become tanha, wanting this and that in response to the satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Because, if there is satisfaction, then there will be desire, craving, indulgence, possessiveness, envy etc. in consequence. Once there is dissatisfaction, then there is the desire to beat to death, to devastate, and kill. If there are these sorts of desires on the mind, it means that vedana has already developed into tanha. If so, then you must suffer the spiritual disease of Dukkha and nobody can help. All the gods together cannot help. The Buddha said that even he could not help. He has no power over the laws of nature, he is merely one who reveals them so that others can practice in accordance with them. If one practices wrongly one must have Dukkha. If one practices correctly, one has no Dukkha. Thus it is said that if vedana has developed into tanha then nobody can help. As soon as any form of craving has arisen then nobody can help and there will inevitably be Dukkha. In that turbulent wanting that arises in the mind, see how to distinguish the feeling of the desirer “I”, of the self that wants this or wants that, wants to do it like this or like that, or who has acted in this way or that way, or has received the results of those actions. That one who desires is “I”; wanting things, it grasps them as “mine” in one way or another — as “my” status, “my” property, “my” victory, “my” ideas and opinions — and in all of those feelings the “I” is present. The feeling of “I” and “mine” is called upadana, and arises from tanha. tanha develops into upadana. If the Paticcasamuppada has progressed as far as tanha and upadana, the germ that enters through the ear, eye, nose, tongue or body has matured to the extent that it can express itself as the symptoms of the disease, because upadana is followed by bhava. Bhava means “having and being”. The having and being of what? The having and being of “I” and “mine”. Kammabhava is the action that conditions the arising of “I” and “mine”. If it is simply “bhava”, it means the condition of “I” and “mine” full-blown, the disease full-blown. In our practice we must stop it right at the point of preventing phassa from developing into vedana, or if we fail there, by preventing vedana from developing into tanha. After that, it’s hopeless. We try to have Dhamma right there at the meeting of eye and forms, ear and sounds, of tongue and flavors, etc. by continually training in the point that nothing whatsoever should be clung to. With ordinary people, once phassa takes place, then vedana arises followed by tanha, upadana, bhava and jati. This is a path that is so well worn that it is extremely easy to follow. But we don’t take that path. As soon as there is sense-contact, we turn around and take the form of truth-discerning awareness. We don’t take the path of “I” and “mine” or, even if we do follow it as far as vedana, we will turn back there to the path of truth-discerning awareness. We don’t just float along with the stream of “I” and “mine”. In this way, there is never any dukkha. If we can do it well, and follow the correct method perfectly, we can realize Arahantship. If we wish to go by the Buddha’s words, there is an easy principle that the Buddha taught to a disciple called Bahiya. “O Bahiya, whenever you see a form, let there be just the seeing; whenever you hear a sound, let there be just the hearing; when you smell an odor, let there be just the smelling, when you taste a flavor, let there be just the tasting; when you experience a physical sensation, let it merely be sensation; and when a thought arises, let it be just a natural phenomenon (feeling) arising in the mind. When it’s like this there will be no self, no “I”. When there is no self, there will be no moving about here and there, and no stopping anywhere. And that is the end of Dukkha. That is Nibbana.” Whenever it’s like that, then it is Nibbana. If it is lasting, then it is lasting Nibbana; if it is temporary, then it’s temporary Nibbana. In other words, it is just one principle. With deep gratitude to the Venerable Ajahn BuddhadasaFrom: “Heart—Wood From The Bo Tree”, Suan Mok, Thailand, 1984 1In Sanskrit, pratitya samatpunna — Ed.
The Witnessing Self This world that we perceive, experience and live in is made up entirely of thought, or thought constructs. Even the personality we believe ourselves to be is a thought construct. A thought construct is a mental formation or fabrication that has no existence outside of the mind. The world of our daily experience is made up of thought constructs. Consider the fact that the thought of an object precedes the recognition of the object. Without the thought of the object, there would be no recognition. Likewise, the thought of a relation precedes and determines the relation. “My wife”, “my husband” or “my mother”, as much as “my home”, “my country” or “my job” are thoughts that we use for reference, for recognition and for psychological security. We do not realize it so much, but there is tremendous security and comfort in recognizing, in being able to place objects, people and relations in neatly defined psychological cubbyholes. This is the comfort of the known. In direct contrast, the unknown threatens; we are afraid of the unknown, of that which does not or cannot fit into our neat cubbyholes. Let’s reflect on the truth of the common statement we make to ourselves: “I love my wife” (or husband, mother, father, brother, friend, job, nation et al.) What does it really mean? There are three terms involved in this statement: I and its derivative my, love, and wife. If observed closely, all three will be seen as mere thought: “wife” doesn’t really exist as a real entity; it is a thought that signifies a certain “relationship”, a certain association in temporal experience. In fact, this is true of all relationships: a relationship is real only in memory, only in terms of past experience and its projection into the future: and all that is thought-construct. The I, the personal self, too is a succession of images, impressions, memories: thought-constructs of past experience, past associations and relations, people, places and things, events and memories of events — all these strung together like so many beads of a necklace on a thread of continuity that we refer to as “self”. If we look carefully, we shall see that this “thread of continuity” is a witnessing consciousness that remains outside the whole field of experience and has no “personality”, no sense of being someone with certain defined qualities and character: it is simply an observing consciousness — detached, aloof, equal to all that happens or does not happen. The “personal self” that we know and identify with, is, therefore, a succession of thoughts in a causal sequence that we identify as our personal life narrative. It is this narrative that evokes in the mental-emotional consciousness such a powerful and persistent sense of being someone, an individual amongst other individuals. As long as we are concentrated and identified with the succession of thoughts in our personal narrative, the beads strung on the necklace, we are caught up in the illusions of individuality and personality; it is only when we take our gaze off the beads and start concentrating on the invisible but ever-present thread, that we begin to discern the witnessing consciousness behind the whole play of experience and the narrative in time. We begin to see that the narrative is something entirely outside of us, like a play scripting itself out on the world-stage and generating characters continuously out of its own narrative. We also begin to see that the narrative and the characters are fictional in a fundamental sense: in the sense that they do not abide, they do not persist beyond a few temporal frames; and even in the few temporal frames they do persist, they keep changing and moving in a continuous flux. The world and self are both impermanent. In the Upanishadic sense, reality, or Sat, is that which abides, is eternal; and conversely, asat, unreality, is that which does not abide, which changes and passes. Thus, we see two “selves”: One, the character generated by the temporal narrative of experiences; the persona, the psychological self, the construct of thought. The other self is the witness, the observer, the spectator of the narrative: the one that is aware of change but does not change with the changing scenario of the play of experience; the one that is aware of all flow and flux of experience but itself does not move with the flow. This is the unchanging and abiding witness that watches the play but does not get involved in it. This “witnessing self” is the opening of the passage to the true Self.
If you travel from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin – Kanyakumari – and ask all the Hindus, “Tell me what is Hinduism,” they cannot tell you. They will say, “We are Hindus.” “But tell me what is Hinduism?” That they cannot answer because they are floating on the surface of outer religious performance and ritual, and the in-depth significance of it has not gone into their minds. You will find this problem everywhere. You will find it perhaps in every religion. He is a Muslim; he is a Christian; he is a Hindu; he is a Buddhist. If you ask him, “What essentially is the essence of your religion?” he will scratch his head twenty times, and he will not answer anything. He cannot give a reply. They will never be able to answer that question because they have not given time to think properly. Ask a man who is a Hindu, “How do you know that you’re a Hindu? Prove it.” Let him prove that he is a Hindu. He will look up and say, “What is the matter?” It is very difficult to prove. What proof have you got that you are a Hindu? You cannot answer this question by any amount of scratching the head. He will say, “I know that I am a Hindu.” “But how do you know? You have not put a label on your face that you are a Hindu.” If you say, “I believe in the Vedas,” does it mean that whoever believes in the Vedas is a Hindu? There are great German scholars who believe in the value of the Vedas. Do you call them Hindus? So, that definition is not good. “I pray to Narayana.” Then, whoever prays to Narayana becomes a Hindu? There are Muslim saints who worship Lord Krishna, and yet they are not Hindus, so that definition is also not good. You will find it is such a comprehensive interrelated complex that any straitjacketed answer will not be sufficient. It is called a straitjacket answer – stereotyped. It is not possible to answer like that. It is a highly involved thing. In Hinduism you will find the essentials of every other religion also, in some measure and at some level. There are levels of Hinduism; it is not one compact thing. At one level, you will find the idea of Christianity is correct. At another level, you will find even Islam is correct. At another level, you will say Zoroastrianism is correct. At another level, you will find Judaism is correct. At another level, Taoism is correct. It all depends upon the layers of religion; and all these levels, Hinduism accepts. The only thing is, it will not consider any level as final. This is why it is a very comprehensive religion and, therefore, you cannot even call it by the name Hinduism. It has no name at all. They call it Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma means eternal religion. Hinduism is only a post-European concept. Europeans have given that name. We do not call ourselves by that name. ‘Hindu’ comes from the word ‘Sindhu’. When Greeks and Persians came to India some years before Christ – Alexander and Jerious, and other Persian kings and Greek invaders came – they crossed the Sindhu, and they wanted to know who these people staying in this country are. They did not know their name. They said that river is called Sindhu, and all those people who are on the other side are Sindhus. In Persian, ‘s’ is pronounced as ‘h’, so ‘Sindh’ becomes ‘Hind’, so they pronounce it as ‘Hindu’; and in Greek it has become ‘Ind’. The word ‘India’ has come from the word ‘Sindhu’ only. ‘Sindh’ becomes ‘Hind’, ‘Hind’ becomes ‘Ind’. So the words ‘Hindu’ and ‘India’ have both been created by these historical conditions, historical circumstances. Really, this is Bharatvarsh. We call it Bharatvarsh. Even now they say ‘Bharat’. It is not India. ‘India’ is a historical exigency. Similarly, the word ‘Hinduism’ – there is no such thing as that. It is Sanatana Dharma – eternal religion. It is eternal religion because it accepts every level of religious thought. It does not reject any level, but it does not consider any level as final. That is the whole point. With deep gratitude to Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society
Sankhya And Vedanta You must remember that according to Sankhya philosophy, nature is the cause of all these manifestations which we call thought, intellect, reason, love, hatred, touch, taste, and matter. Everything is from nature. This nature consists of three sorts of elements, called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These are not qualities, but elements, the materials out of which the whole universe is evolved. In the beginning of a cycle these remain in equilibrium; and when creation comes, they begin to combine and recombine and manifest as the universe. The first manifestation is what the Sankhya calls the Mahat or Intelligence, and out of that comes consciousness. According to Sankhya, this is an element (Tattva). And out of consciousness are evolved Manas or mind, the organs of the senses, and the Tanmâtras (particles of sound, touch, etc.). All the fine particles are evolved from consciousness, and out of these fine particles come the gross elements which we call matter. The Tanmâtras cannot be perceived; but when they become gross particles, we can feel and sense them. The Chitta, in its threefold function of intelligence, consciousness, and mind, works and manufactures the forces called Prâna. You must at once get rid of the idea that Prâna is breath. Breath is one effect of Prâna. By Prâna are meant the nervous forces governing and moving the whole body, which also manifest themselves as thought. The foremost and most obvious manifestation of Prâna is the breathing motion. Prâna acts upon air, and not air upon it. Controlling the breathing motion is prânâyâma. Pranayama is practised to get mastery over this motion; the end is not merely to control the breath or to make the lungs strong. That is Delsarte, not Pranayama. These Prânas are the vital forces which manipulate the whole body, while they in their turn are manipulated by other organs in the body, which are called mind or internal organs. So far so good. The psychology is very clear and most precise; and yet it is the oldest rational thought in the world! Wherever there is any philosophy or rational thought, it owes something or other to Kapila. Pythagoras learnt it in India, and taught it in Greece. Later on Plato got an inkling of it; and still later the Gnostics carried the thought to Alexandria, and from there it came to Europe. So wherever there is any attempt at psychology or philosophy, the great father of it is this man, Kapila. So far we see that his psychology is wonderful; but we shall have to differ with him on some points, as we go on. We find that the basic principle on which Kapila works, is evolution. He makes one thing evolve out of another, because his very definition of causation is “the cause reproduced in another form,” and because the whole universe, so far as we see it, is progressive and evolving. We see clay; in another form, we call it a pitcher. Clay was the cause and the pitcher the effect. Beyond this we cannot have any idea of causation. Thus this whole universe is evolved out of a material, out of Prakriti or nature. Therefore, the universe cannot be essentially different from its cause. According to Kapila, from undifferentiated nature to thought or intellect, not one of them is what he calls the “Enjoyer” or “Enlightener”. Just as is a lump of clay, so is a lump of mind. By itself the mind has no light; but can see it reasons. Therefore there must be some one behind it, whose light is percolating through Mahat and consciousness, and subsequent modifications, and this is what Kapila calls the Purusha, the Self of the Vedantin. According to Kapila, the Purusha is a simple entity, not a compound; he is immaterial, the only one who is immaterial, and all these various manifestations are material. I see a black-board. First, the external instruments will bring that sensation to the nerve-centre, to the Indriya according to Kapila; from the centre it will go to the mind and make an impression; the mind will present it to the Buddhi, but Buddhi cannot act; the action comes, as it were, from the Purusha behind. These, so to speak, are all his servants, bringing the sensations to him, and he, as it were, gives the orders, reacts, is the enjoyer, the perceiver, the real One, the King on his throne, the Self of man, who is immaterial. Because he is immaterial, it necessarily follows that he must be infinite, he cannot have any limitation whatever. Each one of the Purushas is omnipresent; each one of us is omnipresent, but we can act only through the Linga Sharira, the fine body. The mind, the self-consciousness, the organs, and the vital forces compose the fine body or sheath, what in Christian philosophy is called the spiritual body of man. It is this body that gets salvation, or punishment, or heaven, that incarnates and reincarnates, because we see from the very beginning that the going and the coming of the Purusha or soul are impossible. Motion means going or coming, and what goes or comes from one place to another cannot be omnipresent. Thus far we see from Kapila’s psychology that the soul is infinite, and that the soul is the only thing which is not composed of nature. He is the only one that is outside of nature, but he has got bound by nature, apparently. Nature is around him, and he has identified himself with it. He thinks, “I am the Linga Sharira”, “I am the gross matter, the gross body”, and as such he enjoys pleasure and pain, but they do not really belong to him, they belong to this Linga Sharira or the fine body. The meditative state is called always the highest state by the Yogi, when it is neither a passive nor an active state; in it you approach nearest to the Purusha. The soul has neither pleasure nor pain; it is the witness of everything, the eternal witness of all work, but it takes no fruits from any work. As the sun is the cause of sight of every eye, but is not itself affected by any defects in the eye or as when a crystal has red or blue flowers placed before it, the crystal looks red or blue, and yet it is neither; so, the soul is neither passive nor active, it is beyond both. The nearest way of expressing this state of the soul is that it is meditation. This is Sankhya philosophy. Next, Sankhya says, that the manifestation of nature is for the soul; all combinations are for some third person. The combinations which you call nature, these constant changes are going on for the enjoyment of the soul, for its liberation, that it may gain all this experience from the lowest to the highest. When it has gained it, the soul finds it was never in nature, that it was entirely separate, that it is indestructible, that it cannot go and come; that going to heaven and being born again were in nature, and not in the soul. Thus the soul becomes free. All nature is working for the enjoyment and experience of the soul. It is getting this experience in order to reach the goal, and that goal is freedom. But the souls are many according to the Sankhya philosophy. There is an infinite number of souls. The other conclusion of Kapila is that there is no God as the Creator of the universe. Nature is quite sufficient by itself to account for everything. God is not necessary, says the Sankhya. The Vedanta says that the Soul is in its nature Existence absolute, Knowledge absolute, Bliss absolute. But these are not qualities of the Soul: they are one, not three, the essence of the Soul; and it agrees with the Sankhya in thinking that intelligence belongs to nature, inasmuch as it comes through nature. The Vedanta also shows that what is called intelligence is a compound. For instance, let us examine our perceptions. I see a black-board. How does the knowledge come? What the German philosophers call “the thing-in-itself” of the blackboard is unknown, I can never know it. Let us call it x. The black-board x acts on my mind, and the mind reacts. The mind is like a lake. Throw a stone in a lake and a reactionary wave comes towards the stone; this wave is not like the stone at all, it is a wave. The black-board x is like a stone which strikes the mind and the mind throws up a wave towards it, and this wave is what we call the black-board. I see you. You as reality are unknown and unknowable. You are x and you act upon my mind, and the mind throws a wave in the direction from which the impact comes, and that wave is what I call Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so. There are two elements in the perception, one coming from outside and the other from inside, and the combination of these two, x+ mind, is our external universe. All knowledge is by reaction. In the case of a whale it has been determined by calculation how long after its tail is struck, its mind reacts and the whale feels the pain. Similar is the case with internal perception. The real self within me is also unknown and unknowable. Let us call it y. When I know myself as so-and-so, it is y+ the mind. That y strikes a blow on the mind. So our whole world is x+ mind (external), and y + mind (internal), x and y standing for the thing-in-itself behind the external and the internal worlds respectively. According to Vedanta, the three fundamental factors of consciousness are, I exist, I know, and I am blessed. The idea that I have no want, that I am restful, peaceful, that nothing can disturb me, which comes from time to time, is the central fact of our being, the basic principle of our life; and when it becomes limited, and becomes a compound, it manifests itself as existence phenomenal, knowledge phenomenal, and love. Every man exists, and every man must know, and every man is mad for love. He cannot help loving. Through all existence, from the lowest to the highest, all must love. The y, the internal thing-in-itself, which, combining with mind, manufactures existence, knowledge, and love, is called by the Vedantists Existence absolute, Knowledge absolute, Bliss absolute. That real existence is limitless, unmixed, uncombined, knows no change, is the free soul; when it gets mixed up, muddled up, as it were, with the mind, it becomes what we call individual existence. It is plant life, animal life, human life, just as universal space is cut off in a room, in a jar, and so on. And that real knowledge is not what we know, not intuition, nor reason, nor instinct. When that degenerates and is confused, we call it intuition; when it degenerates more, we call it reason; and when it degenerates still more, we call it instinct. That knowledge itself is Vijnâna, neither intuition, nor reason nor instinct. The nearest expression for it is all-knowingness. There is no limit to it, no combination in it. That bliss, when it gets clouded over, we call love, attraction for gross bodies or fine bodies, or for ideas. This is only a distorted manifestation of that blessedness. Absolute Existence, absolute Knowledge, and absolute Blessedness are not qualities of the soul, but the essence; there is no difference between them and the soul. And the three are one; we see the one thing in three different aspects. They are beyond all relative knowledge. That eternal knowledge of the Self percolating through the brain of man becomes his intuition, reason, and so on. Its manifestation varies according to the medium through which it shines. As soul, there is no difference between man and the lowest animal, only the latter’s brain is less developed and the manifestation through it which we call instinct is very dull. In a man the brain is much finer, so the manifestation is much clearer, and in the highest man it becomes entirely clear. So with existence; the existence which we know, the limited sphere of existence, is simply a reflection of that real existence which is the nature of the soul. So with bliss; that which we call love or attraction is but the rejection of the eternal blessedness of the Self. With manifestation comes limitation, but the unmanifested, the essential nature of the soul, is unlimited; to that blessedness there is no limit. But in love there is limitation. I love you one day, I hate you the next. My love increases one day and decreases the next, because it is only a manifestation. The first point we will contend with Kapila is his idea of God. Just as the series of modifications of Prakriti, beginning with the individual intellect and ending with the individual body, require a Purusha behind, as the ruler and governor, so, in the Cosmos, the universal intellect, the universal egoism, the universal mind, all universal fine and gross materials, must have a ruler and governor. How will the cosmic series become complete without the universal Purusha behind them all as the ruler and governor? If you deny a universal Purusha behind the cosmic series, we deny your Purusha behind the individual series. If it be true that behind the series of graded, evolved individual manifestations, there stands One that is beyond them all, the Purusha who is not composed of matter, the very same logic will apply to the case of universal manifestations. This Universal Self which is beyond the universal modifications of Prakriti is what is called Ishwara, the Supreme Ruler, God. Now comes the more important point of difference. Can there be more than one Purusha? The Purusha, we have seen, is omnipresent and infinite. The omnipresent, the infinite, cannot be two. If there are two infinites A and B, the infinite A would limit the infinite B, because the infinite B is not the infinite A, and the infinite A is not the infinite B. Difference in identity means exclusion, and exclusion means limitation. Therefore, A and B, limiting each other, cease to be infinites. Hence, there can be but one infinite, that is, one Purusha. Now we will take up our x and y and show they are one. We have shown how what we call the external world is x + mind, and the internal world y + mind; x and y are both quantities unknown and unknowable. All difference is due to time, space, and causation. These are the constituent elements of the mind. No mentality is possible without them. You can never think without time, you can never imagine anything without space, and you can never have anything without causation. These are the forms of the mind. Take them away, and the mind itself does not exist. All difference is, therefore, due to the mind. According to Vedanta, it is the mind, its forms, that have limited x and y apparently and made them appear as external and internal worlds. But x and y, being both beyond the mind, are without difference and hence one. We cannot attribute any quality to them, because qualities are born of the mind. That which is qualityless must be one; x is without qualities, it only takes qualities of the mind; so does y; therefore these x and y are one. The whole universe is one. There is only one Self in the universe, only One Existence, and that One Existence, when it passes through the forms of time, space, and causation, is called by different names, Buddhi, fine matter, gross matter, all mental and physical forms. Everything in the universe is that One, appearing in various forms. When a little part of it comes, as it were, into this network of time, space, and causation, it takes forms; take off the network, and it is all one. Therefore in the Advaita philosophy, the whole universe is all one in the Self which is called Brahman. That Self when it appears behind the universe is called God. The same Self when it appears behind this little universe, the body, is the soul. This very soul, therefore, is the Self in man. There is only one Purusha, the Brahman of the Vedanta; God and man, analyzed, are one in It. The universe is you yourself, the unbroken you; you are throughout the universe. “In all hands you work, through all mouths you eat, through all nostrils you breathe, through all minds you think.” The whole universe is you; the universe is your body; you are the universe both formed and unformed. You are the soul of the universe and its body also. You are God, you are the angels, you are man, you are animals, you are the plants, you are the minerals, you are everything; the manifestation of everything is you. Whatever exists is you. You are the Infinite. The Infinite cannot be divided. It can have no parts, for each part would be infinite, and then the part would be identical with the whole, which is absurd. Therefore the idea that you are Mr. So-and-so can never be true; it is a daydream. Know this and be free. This is the Advaita conclusion. “I am neither the body, nor the organs, nor am I the mind; I am Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss absolute; I am He.” This is true knowledge; all reason and intellect, and everything else is ignorance. Where is knowledge for me, for I am knowledge itself! Where is life for me, for I am life itself! I am sure I live, for I am life, the One Being, and nothing exists except through me, and in me, and as me. I am manifested through the elements, but I am the free One. Who seeks freedom? Nobody. If you think that you are bound, you remain bound; you make your own bondage. If you know that you are free, you are free this moment. This is knowledge, knowledge of freedom. Freedom is the goal of all nature. With deep gratitude to Swami Vivekananda
Glimpses of Sanatan Dharma According to physics, atoms are the smallest stable existing physical units. There is a governing principle behind the creation and existence of an atom. That principle includes conditions which will give rise to an atom, the material that the atom is made up of, the forces that keep the atom stable, and the structure and behaviour of the atom. If two atoms come together to interact, it is this principle that governs their interaction. If electricity flows through the collection of copper atoms, it is a manifestation of the same principle. When we investigate the atom, we see this principle at work, a principle that has been in existence since the first atom was formed. As we go deeper into the atom, at a certain scale a new principle emerges: the quantum. At this point, the principle of the atom does not apply directly any more. Upon further investigation we realise it is the quantum principle which gives rise to atomic principle, which then gives rise to the molecular principle, which, in turn, gives rise to all the stars and galaxies. This principle can also be referred to as a law of atomic manifestation and existence. According to Sanatan Dharma, the eternal spiritual tradition, the universe is a manifestation of the will of an eternally existing consciousness. This consciousness, known as the Purusha in the Sankhya tradition, and its power of manifestation, known as Shakti, gave birth to the universe, made possible all the details that emerged within the universe and the same consciousness now maintains the universe and all its evolutionary movements. In Indian thought, this is also the idea of Parapurusha and Parashakti, the Supreme Being and its manifest power, and they can also be called the fundamental principle or the law, or Dharma, of the universe. Dharma in Sanskrit means the principle or the law that binds and upholds. In Sanatan Dharma, the principle that governs the creation and behaviour of an entity like an atom, the principle that holds it together, is referred to and revered as the God of its existence or devata in Sanskrit. So the atoms are connected to the devata of atom, molecules to the devata of molecule, plants to the devata of vegetation and animals to the devata of animals, and so on. The individual atoms, molecules, plants, trees, animals, birds, insects, reptiles etc. all come together to form the collective entity called the forest, and this takes place under another higher order principle of another higher order devata called the forest devata. In the formation of a forest, all other devatas agree to work in collaboration as a team under the forest devata. Or, in other words, we can say all the principles behind the existence of individual entities agree to collaborate in a certain way to give rise to a forest. This principle is revered by many ancient cultures as the God of Forest. However, what must be noted here is that the idea of devata is not exactly equivalent to the idea of god in English — devata is an embodied principle and integrating force behind the existence of any entity. This way of seeing and understanding reality is what led the ancient Indian Rishis and Yogis to discover a god or devata behind every entity or process. Hence, the galaxy of Gods (devatas) known to the Indian mind from a stone god to snake god to the sun god to the nation as god. If we replace the idea of god (as in the western culture) with the idea of devata, we will at once see that far from Sanatan Dharma being a superstitious or primitive religion, it is an advanced science, a vidya. On deeper reflection, one can also see that no individual entity exists by itself: what exists are multiple layers of processes occurring within a single entity. So an atom does not exist as an entity by itself, it exists as a process occurring in a sea of universal energy, just like a wave in the sea has no independent permanent existence but is a process that appears as a separate entity. And the process which gives rise to the wave is the Dharma and devata of all waves. Our modern physical science reveals quite a similar worldview. It has discovered principles and laws governing various entities and processes and is still working towards more accurate and deeper understanding. The difference between the modern scientific view and the Sanatan Dharma view is that the Sanatan mind had discovered the consciousness behind every principle that operated in the cosmos through introspection and inner experience. The starting point of its enquiry was the principle of consciousness behind existence and the operation of this consciousness in one’s own self. This same process expanded to include all existence, from the atomic to the universal. The Sanatan mind saw the one consciousness as a Mother principle behind the entire cycle of creation. Each independent principle that constitutes the universe, from the quantum onwards, is a portion of the universal consciousness and functions within the overall design, intelligence and constraints of the Mother principle. For modern science, the phenomenon of consciousness only begins to emerge in plants, grows in animals and is recognized in its fullness only in humans as conscious entities. A conscious entity broadly means one which can interact intelligently with its environment via cognition, intelligent processing and response or action. Also, a conscious entity is a living entity, it is born, grows and has a will for survival, reproduces and dies. A conscious entity also possesses the ability to modify its own design as a response to environmental needs through adaptation and evolution. The material aspects of the universe don’t qualify as “conscious” for mainstream modern science. But for a Sanatan mind, the same Mother consciousness is present and functioning everywhere. It has given rise to many basic laws or processes, which in turn have given rise to movements, gati, and forms, akara, of which the universe is a collective operation. Some processes of the universe are more conscious and some are less, but everything is conscious, and everything evolves along a scale of possibility, from the creation and expansion of matter to human life. In the human, consciousness has developed to a level where entirely new possibilities have emerged; humans can evolve in many dimensions, mental, vital, social, scientific and technological, at a much faster pace. They can use the material and knowledge available in nature to accelerate their own evolution. This is what differentiates the human consciousness from other forms of consciousnesses that existed before: that in humans the consciousness is not fixed or static, it can grow within each individual and hence it can grow within the context of a social group of individuals. So the human individuals and human societies have the capacity to evolve and grow at an accelerated pace. And that is the reason animals still live in the same habitats and in same ways while humans have evolved in diverse and different ways enriching their individual and social lives beyond measure. With the Yogic development of consciousness, humans can become aware of subtle principles and worlds behind the physical, they can discover and even connect to various devatas or god-principles as they connect to other conscious beings and learn from them. The knowledge thus gained can be used to modify the working of the subtle principles in the physical workings of nature. For example, ancient yogis could cause rain or light oil lamps just by producing certain type of vibrations through their music and singing. This knowledge and experience of an all pervading consciousness and the visible universe as a manifestation of that consciousness gave a much vaster, deeper and greater understanding to the Sanatan Rishis and Yogins. This “yogic” knowledge has been used to setting up complex social, physical and mental frameworks for an evolutionary society.
The Mystic Path of Increasing Joy What is austerity? Most people think of austerity as adopting some discipline that is uncomfortable for the body for a spiritual purpose. In the name of religion and devotion, people all over the world practice austerities. You have heard of nuns and monks beating themselves with whips. In the Himalayas, you will see some people seated in the Ganges River at three o’clock in the morning trying to endure the icy cold water. Then there are people who gaze without winking for hours and hours and people who fast for a long time. Some people take up the vow of not speaking (mauna) when they are teenagers and do not speak a word until they are advanced in years! Many observers are amazed by these practices and consider them something quite extraordinary. People say, “How great a saint this person is; he has been practicing austerity for such a long time.” But from an advanced point of view, these external things should not delude you. Real austerity has a Divine purpose. Austerity is a mystical process that enables you to purify your mind and brings you closer to God—that is real austerity. Austerity must make your body and mind fit for a higher purpose. If, instead, austerity makes your body crippled and your mind stunted, that austerity has no meaning—although it may be quite dazzling to the masses. Austerity Makes You the Master of Yourself Practicing austerity implies adopting a life of healthy discipline. Learn to wake up at a certain time, perform your duties without being sluggish, and develop promptness and punctuality. All these are austerities. In the beginning, an austerity may seem bitter. Your ego may complain terribly. But gradually as you persist, you begin to enjoy it. For example, when you first begin rising in the morning at four o’clock for mediation and yoga exercises, you may have difficulty adjusting to your new pattern for awhile because you are not accustomed to it. If anyone awakens you to help you keep your vow, you may get angry with that person. But as you begin to pursue this new discipline, you begin to enjoy it. Now you expect people to wake you up, and if they do not wake you up, you become angry with them! When you begin to enjoy a disciplined life, it is no longer discipline. Austerity should not fill you with a sense of pathos. You should not feel that you are renouncing something, or practicing something painfully difficult. Rather, austerity should be considered a divine luxury for an aspirant because it allows you to be a master of yourself, not a slave. When you lack austerity, you become a slave. A slave may be given all types of rewards, and have wonderful robes and ornaments, yet he still lives a life of dependence. Similarly, though you may have a lot of things, if you lack austerity and discipline in your personality, you remain dependent on the circumstances in the world around you for your happiness. This process of austerity enables you to become a master of yourself. In the Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of three types of austerity: satwic, rajasic, and tamasic. Tamasic austerity is a gross form of austerity that is characterized by inflicting pain on oneself or on others. Suppose, for example, a person feels intense hatred towards another. Somewhere he reads that a particular mantra will destroy the enemy, and that if he were to repeat that mantra while standing in the cold Ganges for hours at a stretch the mantra will be quickly effective. So, early in the morning he enters into the Ganges and stands there repeating the mantra. People observing him think he is a wonderful ascetic, but all the while his mind is building up terrible negativity: “Now the mantra is going to gain power, and when the mantra is effective I will throw off my enemy and crush him!” That is tamasic austerity. Rajasic austerity is characterized by show, ostentatiousness. A person who is hypocritical may externally show himself practicing great austerity, but internally, in his private life, there is no real practice of self-restraint. For example, a person on the spiritual path may assert, whenever he is in the company of others, “I do not like any sweets; I am rigid in my diet.” But when he is alone he runs to his home, opens the refrigerator and starts eating ice cream and cake. That is rajasic austerity. Rajasic austerity is done for receiving honor and admiration, even though there may not be any basis for it, and it is selfish in nature. Satwic austerity is the austerity that an aspirant must understand and practice. In the seventeenth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna gives a comprehensive outline of such austerity, indicating that it is of three types—physical, vocal and mental. You practice austerity with your body, with your speech and with your mind. THE THREE ASPECTS OF SATWIC AUSTERITY:PHYSICAL AUSTERITY One aspect of physical austerity implies serving saintly personalities, spiritual preceptors, and men of wisdom. Such people have a mission designed to help humanity, so as you serve and adore them, your personality also is utilized for serving humanity. Your body becomes a disciplined tool for serving a greater cause, and you learn the art of using your energy for the good of others. Thus through satsanga (good association), as well as obedience to Guru and a spirit of selfless service, one practices this aspect of satwic physical austerity. The next aspect of physical austerity is arjawa or simplicity. Arjawa implies allowing your body to be simple. Through your body, you should exude simplicity, not ostentatiousness. Do not put on airs as you interact with people. Rather, an aspirant who desires Liberation must discipline his body, his manner, his movements so that he is ever ready to bow down in humility before the Self in all. When there is conceit within your mind, it reflects in your very bones. When you keep your head held high for every reason, naturally calcification develops in the spine. But when there is flexibility and adaptability in your personality, it allows the prana to flow into the body more freely. In the beginning, when you bow down before a Deity or before great personalities, your mind may not be ready for it; but as you physically begin to bow down your mind becomes inclined to do so. Your mental state reflects in your body; in turn your physical state influences the mind. Therefore you begin your austerity with the physical body and it affects the mind. There is an interesting story that gives insight into this quality of simplicity. There was once a great saint whose fame was spreading everywhere. Living at the same time was a learned scholar who was also devoted to scriptures and was quite well known, but who was not as advanced as the saint. The scholar developed a sense of jealousy towards the saint, and in his heart he began to wonder, “Could I ever be considered important by this saint? Could the saint ever touch my feet? Everyone bows down to me, but if the saint were to bow down to me, that would be something great. But how can that happen? It is impossible. Overwhelmed with this obsession, the scholar made a plan. Feigning great honor and devotion, he approached the saint and invited him to his home for dinner. Cheerfully the saint agreed. On the day that the saint was to arrive, the scholar set his scheme into motion. At the entrance to his home there was a low and narrow door that caused people to duck their head down as they entered. From the top of the door, he hung his sandals by a string, so that as the saint entered and ducked down, his head would strike against the sandals and he would fall down at the feet of the scholar! When the saint arrived, his head did strike against the sandals, just as the scholar, in his attempt to belittle the great man, had planned. However, the saint clasped the sandals to his head, and he said: “How kind you are. I have pain in my back so it is difficult for me to bow down. But now you made it easy. I could touch your feet with my head.” Hearing that, the scholar was amazed. Instead of being hit hard by the insult, the saint simply revealed his powerful humility and simplicity. He radiated the fragrance of true arjawa (simplicity and purity of nature). Of course the scholar, deeply touched by the saint’s humility, fell at the feet of the saint and resolved to follow the path of true saintliness. Another aspect of physical austerity is ahimsa—non-violence towards others. If, in a certain situation you are provoked and there is an urge to express your anger physically, do not do so. Still another aspect of physical austerity is shaucham or purity. Develop the habit of healthy living. Promote cleanliness in your clothes and surroundings, cleanliness in your body and a deeper cleanliness in your pranas by taking recourse to the right type of food and exercise to keep the body free of toxic substances. VOCAL AUSTERITY The next aspect of austerity is vocal austerity or discipline of speech. This is of greater importance than physical austerity because speech plays a tremendous role in human life. Through words you can prosper, and through the misuse of words you can degrade yourself. One great source of prosperity and progress is mastery over speech. Lord Krishna teaches that austerity of speech consists in not speaking words that cause agitation in others. Do not misuse the great gift of speech by making other people upset or angry. It also consists in telling the truth. Your words should communicate that which is true and not false. When you speak the truth, however, it should be to help others. If you are going to hurt others by speaking the truth, it is better not to speak. There is a saying: “Satyam Vada Priyam Vada, Na vada Satyam Apriyam” It means, “Speak the truth, but speak that which is gentle. Do not speak the truth that hurts others.” If your words hurt others, you simply create reactions and bitterness. You may recall the incident in the Mahabharata in which Draupadi laughed at Duryodhana. As he was touring a palace that had been recently built, he noticed that things had been constructed in such a way that where there was ground, it looked like shimmering water, and where there was water, it looked like the ground. As a result, he became confused. What seemed to be a wall would turn out to be thin air, and what seemed to be nothing but empty space would turn out to be a hard wall. Thus, he banged himself against those “transparent” walls as he walked around. He would even lift his garment thinking that the ground below was really water. Draupadi was watching all this in an amused way, and finally she broke out laughing, saying, “Look at the son of the blind man.” The words “son of the blind man” were true. He was indeed the son of a blind man, King Dhritarashtra. Nevertheless, Draupadi’s intention was simply to hurt his feelings. He was so hurt that he made up his mind to revenge himself on Draupadi—and that brought about the Mahabharata war, in which thousands upon thousands of people were killed. There were many other causes for the war, but Draupadi’s misuse of speech was one of the triggering points. So, one must be extremely cautious when speaking because speech is a powerful gift from God. The blessings of speech are immense. Only when you watch people who do not have the gift of speech and compare yourself to them can you realize what a wonderful gift you have. Through the discipline of speech you can sing the praises of God and help other people. You can also learn scriptures such as the Upanishads and Vedas, which were written to be recited. In brief it is important for you to note the importance of not using words that are intentionally meant to hurt other people’s feelings. This is the main point to remember when practicing austerity of speech. MENTAL AUSTERITY Lord Krishna says, “Manah Prasadah (cheerfulness and serenity), Saumyatyam (gentleness), Maunam (silence), Atmavinigraha (control of senses), and Bhava Samshudhi (elevated feeling of the heart)—these are called the austerity of the mind.” (Gita 17:16) Manah Prasadah In order for you to control your speech, your mind must first be controlled. Therefore, a set of practices has been enjoined to bring this about. The first aspect of austerity of the mind is manah prasadah—allowing the mind to be joyous. People who have been accustomed to think of austerity as something crude will be surprised. “How can austerity be joyous?” they might ask. In Yoga philosophy, austerity is not supposed to give you pain, but discipline you so that the spirit flows in a healthy, unobstructed way through your personality. Thus, the effort to maintain cheerfulness of the mind is a dynamic aspect of austerity. Many people have developed the habit of allowing their minds to become negative. You can often tell such people by the way they droop their heads. You must watch your own mind very carefully. Try to develop the philosophy that the world is an expression of the Divine creation. There is intelligence and a guiding purpose behind the world; you have nothing to worry about. There should be no room for grief, dejection, and sorrow in your life. Always think of the positive things that you have acquired and accomplished. By thinking of the blessing God has given you, you will have so many reasons for being cheerful. More than anything else, understand that the Divine Hand is sustaining your personality at every moment. The awareness that divinity is with you can fill your mind with joy. By adopting this philosophy of loving God at all times, you allow your mind to be serene and joyous. Do not develop negative thoughts. When they do arise, simply be a witness to them. When you keep your mind in a negative state, you will be steadily generating negative impressions, and your mind will be forced to stay negative by the weight of the impressions. Due to the weight of the impressions of sadness and sorrow, you will not be happy even when you find yourself in a wonderful situation—a situation you have been craving for a long time. This is so because your experiences of joy and sorrow are intimately related to the impressions of your unconscious. Therefore, an important part of austerity is not to let your mind be negative. Hold your head high, and let your mind be joyful. Saumyatwam The next aspect of austerity is saumyatwam (gentleness). When you confront a situation that provokes your mind into becoming agitated or inactive, simply look at it without building up ill will towards anyone. Let your mind stay gentle, composed, and detached. You will discover a spiritual strength within yourself. Otherwise, by reacting to external situations, you allow your mind to become agitated. An agitated mind creates negative impressions in your unconscious. Gradually a habit builds up. Your mind constantly reacts to things no matter how they are. If you are looking for absolute perfection according to the concepts of your ego, you will never find it; there will always be something to irritate your mind. If you are vulnerable to negative influences, or if you are already predisposed to react to something negative, then all you need is just a pretext. A leaf might fall on your head, and it would be enough to put you into a state of agitation, figuratively speaking. Saumyatwam implies that the mind becomes serene, calm, and unaffected—just like the face of Buddha. When you watch a movie, you are always aware of the fact that all the happenings on the screen are mere appearances. Therefore, though you feel sorrow at the tragic developments, you are not deeply affected in your heart. Similarly, be a spectator to your mind and its changes, and know that faith in God will ultimately make you truly gentle. Mauna The next practice relating to the mind is mauna (silence). If you watch your mind, you will notice that a great many thoughts enter it constantly. After a while, it is as if a lively discussion is going on deep in your mind. The world may be quiet around you, yet your mind might be as noisy as a marketplace. This should not be. When you are engaged in various actions, watch your mind. Do not entertain conflicting thoughts and do not allow the mind to be agitated. Rather try to relax your mind. You should be like a swan as it enters the lake and sports with the waters, but the moment the sport is over the swan shakes off the water particles. Much in the same manner, perform your duties well in the world, but the moment you retire, shake off all your tensions and worry and relax in the arms of God, in the arms of Divinity within. The thoughts of the mind should be as still as a lake without waves. You can do this by turning your mind to God and practicing japa (repetition of Divine Name). Mentally repeat the Name as you allow the feeling of Divine Presence to develop. Gradually your mind will become calm. Calming the mind is a constant project for an aspirant. Bhava Samshuddhi The next austerity of the mind is bhava samshuddhi. Bhava means feeling. All human experiences are based upon the feelings that you have. When you see a dear relative, a certain feeling develops. Within society, the feelings that exist between different people play a great role. The same human being that gives you great joy today can give you great sorrow tomorrow if the feeling changes. Therefore, you must learn to watch your feelings and observe the types of feelings you hold within your heart. Develop the quality of grasping what is positive in others so that your feeling is always magnanimous. Do not draw to yourself the negative qualities of others. If you have built up a bitter mind, each time you see the faces of people you will find, “Oh, here is a crooked nose.” “There the ear is twisted.” In other words, you will feel that everyone has a particular type of error, and you will conclude, “This world is filled with useless people. What is going to happen to the world?” You must understand how much you are hurting yourself when your mind continuously focuses on the negative in others. As time goes by you realize how much negativity you have stored in your unconscious. Why not change your attitude so that you go on filtering that which is the best? Look at any person and realize that God is shining through his eyes, and that the Divine prana (life-force) is pulsating through him. All people make mistakes. However, despite those mistakes there is always something in everyone that you can admire. If, at the moment, you can perceive no such admirable quality in the other person, then just keep your mind detached. But do not go on looking for defects and keeping your mind filled with negative feelings. In trying to remove the impurities of your personality, hold before you the ideal of these three types of austerity. In a provocative situation, people tend to commit three errors: physical involvement, bitter words and ill will. In the plan of yogic austerity, first learn to restrain the body, no matter how agitated you may be. Then strive to control the speech, and finally you will succeed in controlling the ill will of your mind. For example, the root of ahimsa or nonviolence lies in your mind. In your mind itself there should not arise any thought of injuring others. But when you are trying to control your mind, and trying to remove an impurity, you begin with your physical body. If, in a certain situation you are provoked and there is an urge to express your anger physically, do not do so. At this stage, when you are not yet evolved enough to attack the mental root of your impurity, let the anger be confined to your mind. Restrain your body, because if you do not do so, you will become involved in many complications. Then the second thing you should restrain is your speech. When you restrain the body, your speech may take over and compensate for physical restraint! Although, relatively speaking, it is better that you are just speaking and not physically doing any harm, you must learn to restrain your speech as well as your body. Even though your thoughts may continue to run wild, if you are able to restrain the body and the speech, you are in a better position to attack your thoughts. If you are truly practicing austerity of the body, speech and mind, the impurities of your personality will be destroyed. The potentiality of your spirit will shine forth just as gold shines when it is melted. And that is the purpose of austerity—to purify the unconscious, which will then enable you to enter into higher levels of spiritual experience. Whoever practices this plan of austerity becomes a blessing for himself and for humanity. All that is good, beautiful and divine is possible through austerity alone. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
The term Jain is derived from the Sanskrit root Ji, which means to conquer, and a Jain, therefore, is one who strives to conquer his senses and passions to liberate his soul. Jainism, or the Jain Dharma, is one of the most ancient religions in the world and owes its origin to an eternal lineage of realized beings or Tirthankaras, the last of whom was Mahavira (599-527 BC). The Jains believe that there have been 24 Tirthankaras in each era of the human cycle, Mahavira being the last one of the current cycle of time. Jainism has developed as one of the two main Sramana traditions that the Indian subcontinent has given to the world, the other being Buddhism. The sramana, or striver, renounces the world of action of the householder or royalty, or belief in any past scripture such as the Vedas, to find his own Truth by going forth, pravrajya, from home and becoming a wandering mendicant. The austerity, tapas, involved in gathering equanimity and concentration in the midst of external and internal risks and hardships of such a life would be the source of knowledge and realization of the niggantha monk (niggantha means one who is free from bonds) of the Jain tradition as they are called in the Vedas and the Puranas. While the life and teachings of Mahavira are available in some detail from several sources, the Kalpa Sutra, ascribed to Badrabahu of the 4th century also describes the life of the 22nd and 23rd Tirthankars, Neminath and Parsvanath, as well as of the first, Rishabnath. The intermediary twenty Tirthankaras are named and fitted into the vast timeframe in the Kalpa Sutra. Each of them has been associated with a particular emblem and other characteristics, empowering them as guides for inspiring the Jains to realize their own soul and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Each Tirthankara not only achieved enlightenment (kevala jnana) but is also believed to have started a community of ascetic and lay followers, forming a tirtha or spiritual ford for human beings to cross over the ocean of rebirth. Each Tirthankara, is born in a royal Kshatriya family, renounces his family and kingdom, undergoes years of penance before attaining enlightenment. Then, after years of preaching and conversion, they attain liberation or moksha in a state of meditation, shedding their physical bodies. Their liberated soul rises to the highest levels of consciousness, the Siddha Ksetra, where they abide eternally in supreme bliss. The Jains believe in the divinity of each soul, and that each human being can attain the same state of bliss and omniscience by following the example and the path shown by the Tirthankaras. The Doctrine Jains believe in the eternal existence of soul and matter as independent entities with no role of a creator. All substances or dravya in the universe have been eternally present and there is no need of a first cause to explain their existence. All dravya is characterized by permanence, but is subject to modification or paryaya. Thus, the soul has innate attributes of infinite perception, knowledge, power and bliss but because of modification by karma, seen discretely as karmic particles or matter, is bound to the earth by birth and death. The goal of the Jain aspirant is, by self-effort alone, to purify the soul of karmic matter, to regain its original status of perfect knowledge, power and bliss, and attain moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. A couple of points should be highlighted in the above description. Firstly, the eternal permanence of both soul and matter is accepted with their modifications as being the cause of apparent impermanence. And hence, there is no God as first cause or creator of the universe in Jain metaphysics. Secondly, although Jainism believes in the Divinity of the soul, it believes that each soul is independent in its effort towards liberation and cannot be helped by another soul or even by a Divine being or God, as in other religions. Hence, there are an infinite number of souls embodied in living beings and each has a potential to realize its purity by its own self-effort. The self-realized, pure soul that has liberated itself of all its karmic matter is alone the Paramatma or God in Jainism. The twenty four Tirthankaras are revered for showing the aspirant, by example, the purity and manifest attributes of the soul and the potential for their own liberation. In Jainism there is no role of a God who can bestow Grace or help the individual soul in worldly or spiritual matters other than an inspiration by example. The association of subtle karma particles, karma skandhas, with the soul causing its bondage as opposed to the abstract concept of karma in other systems of Indian faith and philosophy is unique to Jainism. This is in concert with its faith in Jiva (soul) and Ajiva (non-soul) entities as constituting all existence. The soul in all embodied living beings has been held in bondage by the modification caused by the influx, or asrava, of karmic particles under the influence of attachment (raga) and aversion (dvesha). A deluded world-view, vowlessness or indulgence, an attitude of laxity or carelessness and certain negative passions are states of consciousness which allow karmic particles to be attracted to us or, metaphorically speaking, flow into the soul under the influence of vibrations produced by activities of the mind, body or speech. Passions such as anger, pride, deceit and greed play an important role in producing the assimilation and binding (bandha) of the karma particles to the soul, producing a long-term bondage. This bondage allows the soul to carry its karmic load even after it has shed its body at the time of death. The opposites of these passions are qualities of forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness and contentment, qualities that are celebrated in the Jain way of life. There are eight kinds of karma, with 148 subdivisions: jnanavaraniya or knowledge obscuring; darshanavaraniya or conation or intuition obscuring; mohaniya or deluding, antaraya or obstructing the actions, good or bad, vedaniya, producing feelings of pleasure or pain, ayu, determining human, animal, hellish or celestial nature of existence, nama, giving attributes of the embodied existence, gotra, producing racial or social status. The first four are ghati karmas as they modify the essential attributes of the soul and the last four are aghati as they do not do so and only determine the physical manifestation of the embodied being or its environment. The crux of Jain ideology lies in its belief that each individual is responsible for its own karma, and the only way to salvation is to stop the inflow of new karma and to rid the soul of karmic matter by its own self-effort. As one delves deeper into Jain philosophy and metaphysics one is awed by the discrete, precise, nearly mathematical logic and reasoning in its approach. Not much is left to abstraction or ambiguity. Stopping the inflow of new karmic matter into the soul is called samvara. Methods are enumerated and described, including austerity of mind, speech and body, the development of moral virtues, the reflection or anupreksha on the essential truths of the Jain faith and metaphysics, the conquering of various hardships, physical, emotional or psychological and the initiation and purification involved in joining the Jain ascetic order. Ten moral virtues, or Dashalakshana, are celebrated by Jains during the annual ten day festival by the same name, each quality being reflected upon and emulated on each of the days. These virtues are: forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness, freedom from greed, truthfulness, self-restraint, austerity, renunciation, detachment and continence. The removal, dissociation or falling away of bound karmic matter from the soul is called nirjara. This can occur by experiencing the fruits of past karma at their destined time when they are ripe with equanimity, called savipaka nirjara. The peaceful experiencing of past karma with fortitude and equanimity is essential to prevent the generation of new karmic matter by getting disturbed or generating negative thoughts or passions internally or externally and thus generating an endless, vicious cycle. The other method, avipaka nirjara, involves austerity by self-effort to cause the dissociation of karmic matter from the soul before the destined time to bear the results of past karma, or before the ripening of the fruits of karma. The latter may make it easier to bear the results of the former, or metaphorically the fruit of past karma may be made ripe before its time by the heat of austerity. The elimination of all karma particles from the soul allows it to be liberated and pure in its inherent attributes of a perfect enlightened world-view, perfect knowledge, perfect intuition, infinite energy and bliss. This requires the complete elimination of all the four ghati karmas — deluding, knowledge-covering, intuition-covering and obstructive, which also prevents the generation of new karmic bondage. This leaves the four non-ghati karmas to be eliminated, which happens with time when the lifespan karma is exhausted at its appointed time and moksha takes place. The Arihant is the enlightened but not fully liberated being, free of the four ghati karmas, who continues to live in the world, teaching and leading by example as the Tirthankars are known to do before they attain the Siddha or final liberated state at moksha. The liberated soul spontaneously rises upwards and resides eternally at the top of the universe or cosmic space. The Path To be on this path to liberation or mokshmarga, one has to have the right belief, the right knowledge as well as the right conduct, samyagdarshana, samyaggyana and samyagcharitra. One has to be possessed of all three, also called the triratna or the three jewels of the Jain path. The right belief is to have the enlightened world-view or faith in the seven essential tattvas or categories of truth, which are: Jiva – soul or sentinent entitiesAjiva – non-sentinent entitiesAsrava – the inflow of karmic particles to the soulBandha – the binding of karmic particles to the soulSamvara – the stopping of the inflow of karmic particlesNirjara – the falling away of karmic particlesMoksha – the liberation from worldly (karmic) bondage The ajiva entities are further classified into pudgala or matter, dharma, the principle of motion, adharma, the principle of rest, akasa or space and kala or time. Of these kala is non-spatial and only pudgala is corporeal. The belief in the above truths is a prerequisite for acquiring right knowledge and practicing the right conduct. The right conduct itself is characterized essentially by the five vows or mahavratas taken by the Jain ascetic or anuvratas taken by the lay-person or shravaka which were given by Mahavira himself: Non-violence – AhimsaTruthfulness – SatyaNon- stealing – AsteyaNon-possessiveness – AparigrahaChastity in thought, word and deed – Brahmacharya The belief in, and the practice of, non-violence against other sentient beings is not only the most important of these vows, but may be said to summarize the whole of Jain religion, as suggested by the saying, ahimsa paramo dharma. If non-violence is clearly understood as a psychological virtue, the other vows tend to follow as corollaries of it, as not to cause harm knowingly to other sentient beings. Here violence, injury, killing or an attitude of causing harm intentionally is to be avoided and care taken by all means at our disposal to prevent unintentional harm, not only to fellow humans, but to all living beings, even the smallest, called nigodas, or one-sensed micro-organisms. The faith in the correct world-view of the universe composed of soul and non-soul entities, and the recognition of every other soul as one’s own, equally capable of sensing pleasure and pain, spontaneously promotes a non-violent attitude towards all sentient beings. Jainism also believes in the equality and freedom of all human beings, and Mahavira preached against the caste system, saying that none is high or low based on birth and all are equally capable of uplifting themselves spiritually. Though non-violence as a basic tenet of the Jain path was promoted by all previous Tirthankaras, Mahavira is credited for instilling it in the Indian psyche and propagating vegetarianism at a time when animal sacrifice was widely practiced as a Vedic ritual and when meat-eating was popular. Indeed, the principle of non-violence and the practice of vegetarianism may be the most significant contribution of Jainism to the world, even among the non-Jains. Gandhi’s non-violent, civil disobedience against British rule in India was inspired by Jainism, and Martin Luther King’s similar approach in the struggle for the blacks in the US was in turn inspired by Gandhi. Both non-violence and vegetarianism have potentially a lot more to offer to the world in handling its problems today. In its classification of sentient beings, Jainism includes plants and micro-organisms as one-sensed, possessed of the sense of touch only, worms as an example of two-sensed, possessed of touch and taste, ants as three-sensed, with touch, taste and smell, flies as four-sensed and demons, gods, animals and humans as five-sensed. Since nigodas, or microorganisms, were recognized to be present in the earth, water, air and fire-bodies and since plants are sentient too, Jainism preaches respect for all of the environment and can be said to be the most environmentally friendly religion today. Cultivation of livestock and animals as food for meat-eaters is also recognized today as one of the most environmentally damaging human activities, producing one of the largest share of green-house gases and climate change. On a deeper level, Jainism recognizes that attachment and aversion, or raga and dvesha, and the identification of oneself with one’s ego complex born of these is the root cause of the subtle violence towards others and the creator of karmic bondage. Hence, its vows of not betraying the truth for personal gain, non-stealing and non-possessiveness as well as chastity can be understood in this context. Anekakantavada While non-violence may be the most important principle of Jainism in practice, philosophically, its enunciation of anekantavada, or non-absolutism, and sydavada, or relativity, shed a rare floodlight on logical discourse which is not only unique and logically unbeatable, but also promotes world peace by leaving no room for dogmatism. For example, non-absolutism sees no contradiction between the Vedantic ideal of a permanent reality and the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. The ancient Jain text, Tattvartha Sutra states, “Origin, cessation and persistence constitute existence.” In other words, the substance which constitutes existence is permanent, but the substance has modes, which appear and disappear and are impermanent. Both, permanence and impermanence are required in a reality which is non-absolute. To elaborate further, the existence of a substance in a certain form may change over time and space. Hence what exists in a certain form may not exist in that same form in a different time and place. Also, since it may have several forms at different times and places and its observer may have different standpoints, it may be inexpressible. Hence, there may be seven attributes that may be predicated of a reality: ExistenceNon-existenceInexpressibilityExistence and non-existenceExistence and inexpressibilityNon-existence and inexpressibilityExistence, non-existence and inexpressibility Hence, truth grasped by an observer will be different based on the variables involved, both in the status of the observed as well as the standpoint of the observer. It is relative or non-absolute. This approach towards reality generates humility, non-dogmatism and a potential for a more comprehensive understanding of reality by allowing different standpoints, and is in a way, a manifestation of non-violence in philosophic thought. In summary, Jainism as one of the most ancient religions should be recognized as a profound spiritual path for the realization and liberation of one’s soul, and as a scientifically and logically sound belief system for promoting peace in the world as well as a healthy, sustainable environment. 1Tirthankara, from the Prakrit, tirtha, meaning a passage, path, crossing or ford that helps one cross the sea of endless cycle of births and deaths. Tirthankara, therefore, refers to the person who establishes such a tirtha or makes such a tirtha known to the people. Literally, a ford maker. 2The Kalpa-sūtra is a text in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures and one of the best-known, most fundamental Jain holy texts. Written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit, it is partly in prose and partly in verse — 3 Siddhakṣetra (सिद्धक्षेत्र) situated at the symbolic forehead of the creations where all the jīvās having attained nirvana reside in a state of peace and eternal happiness. Outside the symbolic figure of this creation nothing but aloka or ākāśa (sky) exists. Source: Shodhganga
This you have always to remember that because a little social custom is going to be changed you are not going to lose your religion, not at all. Remember these customs have already been changed. There was a time in this very India when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; you read in the Vedas how, when a Sannyasin, a king, or a great man came into a house, the best bullock was killed; how in time it was found that as we were an agricultural race, killing the best bulls meant annihilation of the race. Therefore the practice was stopped, and a voice was raised against the killing of cows. Sometimes we find existing then what we now consider the most horrible customs. In course of time other laws had to be made. These in turn will have to go, and other Smritis will come. This is one fact we have to learn that the Vedas being eternal will be one and the same throughout all ages, but the Smritis will have an end. As time rolls on, more and more of the Smritis will go, sages will come, and they will change and direct society into better channels, into duties and into paths which accord with the necessity of the age, and without which it is impossible that society can live. Thus we have to guide our course, avoiding these two dangers; and I hope that every one of us here will have breadth enough, and at the same time faith enough, to understand what that means, which I suppose is the inclusion of everything, and not the exclusion. I want the intensity of the fanatic plus the extensity of the materialist. Deep as the ocean, broad as the infinite skies, that is the sort of heart we want. Let us be as progressive as any nation that ever existed, and at the same time as faithful and conservative towards our traditions as Hindus alone know how to be. In plain words, we have first to learn the distinction between the essentials and the non-essentials in everything. The essentials are eternal, the non-essentials have value only for a certain time; and if after a time they are not replaced by something essential, they are positively dangerous. I do not mean that you should stand up and revile all your old customs and institutions. Certainly not; you must not revile even the most evil one of them. Revile none. Even those customs that are now appearing to be positive evils, have been positively life-giving in times past; and if we have to remove these, we must not do so with curses, but with blessings and gratitude for the glorious work these customs have done for the preservation of our race. And we must also remember that the leaders of our societies have never been either generals or kings, but Rishis. And who are the Rishis? The Rishi as he is called in the Upanishads is not an ordinary man, but a Mantra-drashta. He is a man who sees religion, to whom religion is not merely book-learning, not argumentation, nor speculation, nor much talking, but actual realisation, a coming face to face with truths which transcend the senses. This is Rishihood, and that Rishihood does not belong to any age, or time, or even to sects or caste. Vatsyayana says, truth must be realised; and we have to remember that you, and I, and every one of us will be called upon to become Rishis; and we must have faith in ourselves; we must become world-movers, for everything is in us. We must see Religion face to face, experience it, and thus solve our doubts about it; and then standing up in the glorious light of Rishihood each one of us will be a giant; and every word falling from our lips will carry behind it that infinite sanction of security; and before us evil will vanish by itself without the necessity of cursing any one, without the necessity of abusing any one, without the necessity of fighting any one in the world. May the Lord help us, each one of us here, to realise the Rishihood for our own salvation and for that of others! This mass of writing called the Vedas is not the utterance of persons. Its date has never been fixed, can never be fixed, and, according to us, the Vedas are eternal. There is one salient point which I want you to remember, that all the other religions of the world claim their authority as being delivered by a Personal God or a number of personal beings, angels, or special messengers of God, unto certain persons ; while the claim of the Hindus is that the Vedas do not owe their authority to anybody, they are themselves the authority, being eternal — the knowledge of God. They were never written, never created, they have existed throughout time ; just as creation is infinite and eternal, without beginning and without end, so is the knowledge of God without beginning and without end. And this knowledge is what is meant by the Vedas ( Vid, to know). The mass of knowledge called the Vedanta was discovered by personages called Rishis, and the Rishi is defined as a Mantra-drashta, a seer of thought; not that the thought was his own. Whenever you hear that a certain passage of the Vedas came from a certain Rishi, never think that he wrote it or created it out of his mind; he was the seer of the thought which already existed; it existed in the universe eternally. This sage was the discoverer; the Rishis were spiritual discoverers. Men found out ages ago that the soul is not bound or limited by the senses, no, not even by consciousness. We have to understand that this consciousness is only the name of one link in the infinite chain. Being is not identical with consciousness, but consciousness is only one part of Being. Beyond consciousness is where the bold search. Consciousness is bound by the senses. Beyond that, beyond the senses, men must go in order to arrive at truths of the spiritual world, and there are even now persons who succeed in going beyond the bounds of the senses. These are called Rishis, because they come face to face with spiritual truths. The proof, therefore, of the Vedas is just the same as the proof of this table before me, Pratyaksha, direct perception. This I see with the senses, and the truths of spirituality we also see in a superconscious state of the human soul. This Rishi-state is not limited by time or place, by sex or race. Vatsyayana boldly declares that this Rishihood is the common property of the descendants of the sage, of the Aryan, of the non-Aryan, of even the Mlechchha. This is the sageship of the Vedas, and constantly we ought to remember this ideal of religion in India, which I wish other nations of the world would also remember and learn, so that there may be less fight and less quarrel. Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming. Ay, my friends, until each one of you has become a Rishi and come face to face with spiritual facts, religious life has not begun for you. Until the superconscious opens for you, religion is mere talk, it is nothing but preparation. You are talking second-hand, third-hand, and here applies that beautiful saying of Buddha when he had a discussion with some Brahmins. They came discussing about the nature of Brahman, and the great sage asked, “Have you seen Brahman?” “No”, said the Brahmin; “Or your father?” “No, neither has he”; “Or your grandfather?” “I don’t think even he saw Him.” “My friend, how can you discuss about a person whom your father and grandfather never saw, and try to put each other down?” That is what the whole world is doing. Let us say in the language of the Vedanta, “This Atman is not to be reached by too much talk, no, not even by the highest intellect, no, not even by the study of the Vedas themselves.” When you have known God, your whole appearance will be changed. You will be a blessing to mankind; none will be able to resist the Rishi. This is the Rishihood, the ideal in our religion. The rest, all these talks and reasonings and philosophies and dualisms and monisms, and even the Vedas themselves are but preparations, secondary things. The other is primary. The Vedas, grammar, astronomy, etc., all these are secondary; that is supreme knowledge which makes us realise the Unchangeable One. Those who realised are the sages whom we find in the Vedas; and we understand how this Rishi is the name of a type, of a class, which every one of us, as true Hindus, is expected to become at some period of our life, and becoming which, to the Hindu, means salvation. Not belief in doctrines, not going to thousands of temples, nor bathing in all the rivers in the world, but becoming the Rishi, the Mantra-drashta — that is freedom, that is salvation. But the truth came to the Rishis of India — the Mantra-drashtas, the seers of thought — and will come to all Rishis in the future, not to talkers, not to book-swallowers, not to scholars, not to philologists, but to seers of thought. The Self is not to be reached by too much talking, not even by the highest intellects, not even by the study of the scriptures. The scriptures themselves say so. Do you find in any other scripture such a bold assertion as that — not even by the study of the Vedas will you reach the Atman? You must open your heart. Religion is not going to church, or putting marks on the forehead, or dressing in a peculiar fashion; you may paint yourselves in all the colours of the rainbow, but if the heart has not been opened, if you have not realised God, it is all vain. There are, therefore, many stages, and we need not quarrel about them even if there have been quarrels among the ancient commentators, whom all of us ought to revere; for there is no limitation to knowledge, there is no omniscience exclusively the property of any one in ancient or modern times. If there have been sages and Rishis in the past, be sure that there will be many now. If there have been Vyasas and Valmikis and Shankaracharyas in ancient times, why may not each one of you become a Shankaracharya? This is another point of our religion that you must always remember, that in all other scriptures inspiration is quoted as their authority, but this inspiration is limited to a very few persons, and through them the truth came to the masses, and we have all to obey them. Truth came to Jesus of Nazareth, and we must all obey him. We must, therefore, remember that our religion lays down distinctly and clearly that every one who wants salvation must pass through the stage of Rishihood— must become a Mantra-drashta, must see God. That is salvation; that is the law laid down by our scriptures. Then it becomes easy to look into the scripture with our own eyes, understand the meaning for ourselves, to analyse just what we want, and to understand the truth for ourselves. This is what has to be done. At the same time we must pay all reverence to the ancient sages for their work. They were great, these ancients, but we want to be greater. They did great work in the past, but we must do greater work than they. They had hundreds of Rishis in ancient India. We will have millions — we are going to have, and the sooner every one of you believes in this, the better for India and the better for the world. Whatever you believe, that you will be. If you believe yourselves to be sages, sages you will be tomorrow. There is nothing to obstruct you. For if there is one common doctrine that runs through all our apparently fighting and contradictory sects, it is that all glory, power, and purity are within the soul already. Our scriptures declare again and again that even the knowledge of the external senses is not religion. That is religion which makes us realise the Unchangeable One, and that is the religion for every one. He who realises transcendental truth, he who realises the Atman in his own nature, he who comes face to face with God, sees God alone in everything, has become a Rishi. And there is no religious life for you until you have become a Rishi. Then alone religion begins for you, now is only the preparation. Then religion dawns upon you, now you are only undergoing intellectual gymnastics and physical tortures. So, be you all Rishis and sages; that is the secret. More or less we shall all be Rishis. What is meant by a Rishi? The pure one. Be pure first, and you will have power. Simply saying, “I am a Rishi”, will not do ; but when you are a Rishi you will find that others obey you instinctively. Something mysterious emanates from you, which makes them follow you, makes them hear you, makes them unconsciously, even against their will, carry out your plans. That is Rishihood. Do not be in a hurry, do not go out to imitate anybody else. This is another great lesson we have to remember; imitation is not civilisation. I may deck myself out in a Raja’s dress, but will that make me a Raja? An ass in a lion’s skin never makes a lion. Imitation, cowardly imitation, never makes for progress. It is verily the sign of awful degradation in a man. Ay, when a man has begun to hate himself, then the last blow has come. When a man has begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race, yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu, I am proud that I am one of your unworthy servants. I am proud that I am a countryman of yours, you the descendants of the sages, you the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors, instead of being ashamed of them. And do not imitate, do not imitate! Whenever you are under the thumb of others, you lose your own independence. If you are working, even in spiritual things, at the dictation of others, slowly you lose all faculty, even of thought. Bring out through your own exertions what you have, but do not imitate, yet take what is good from others. We have to learn from others. You put the seed in the ground, and give it plenty of earth, and air, and water to feed upon; when the seed grows into the plant and into a gigantic tree, does it become the earth, does it become the air, or does it become the water? It becomes the mighty plant, the mighty tree, after its own nature, having absorbed everything that was given to it. Let that be your position. Who are these Rishis? Vatsyayana says, “He who has attained through proper means the direct realisation of Dharma, he alone can be a Rishi even if he is a Mlechchha by birth.” Strive after that Rishihood, stop not till you have attained the goal, and the whole world will of itself bow at your feet! Be a Rishi — that is the secret of power. In the remote past, our country made gigantic advances in spiritual ideas. Let us, today, bring before our mind’s eye that ancient history. But the one great danger in meditating over long-past greatness is that we cease to exert ourselves for new things, and content ourselves with vegetating upon that bygone ancestral glory and priding ourselves upon it. We should guard against that. In ancient times there were, no doubt, many Rishis and Maharshis who came face to face with Truth. But if this recalling of our ancient greatness is to be of real benefit, we too must become Rishis like them. Ay, not only that, but it is my firm conviction that we shall be even greater Rishis than any that our history presents to us. In the past, signal were our attainments — I glory in them, and I feel proud in thinking of them. I am not even in despair at seeing the present degradation, and I am full of hope in picturing to my mind what is to come in the future. Why? Because I know the seed undergoes a complete transformation, ay, the seed as seed is seemingly destroyed before it develops into a tree. In the same way, in the midst of our present degradation lies, only dormant for a time, the potentiality of the future greatness of our religion, ready to spring up again, perhaps more mighty and glorious than ever before. You must not merely learn what the Rishis taught. Those Rishis are gone, and their opinions are also gone with them. You must be Rishis yourselves. You are also men as much as the greatest men that were ever born — even our Incarnations… From the Complete Works Of Swami Vivekananda: The Rishi Tradition
ओमित्येतदक्षरमिद्ँ सर्वं तस्योपव्याख्यानं भूतं भवद्भविष्यदिति सर्वमोङ्कार एव। यच्चान्यत्त्रिकालातीतं तदप्योङ्कार एव ।। OM is this imperishable Word, OM is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM. (From the Mandukya Upanishad) Om is the quintessential signature of the Hindu dharma. No sacred task, no holy sacrifice or yajna, no worship, prayer or invocation can begin without Om. Om is the first invocation and the last benediction. All mantras and hymns, all prayers and salutations to the Divine end on the note of Om. The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, called Om the signature of the Lord, and the supreme invocation. Whether one recites Om quietly within oneself or sings it in a group, it has the same beneficial effect of spreading the vibrations of peace and calm, of concentrating the mind and heart in the deepest or highest consciousness. Om is the sound that rises ever upward, from the lower chakras to the higher, from the lower prakriti to the higher, from our earth plane, the so-called mrityuloka or the plane of death, to the highest Anandaloka or the plane of Divine bliss. Om is the ascending path of Light from death to immortality, from unconsciousness to Truth Consciousness. It is believed in the Sanatan Dharma that the right understanding of Om can open the passage to the highest Yoga. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, OM is the symbol and the thing symbolized. It is the symbol, aksharam, the syllable in which all sound of speech is brought back to its wide, pure indeterminate state; it is the symbolised, aksharam, the changeless, undiminishing, unincreasing, unappearing, undying Reality which shows itself to experience in all the change, increase, diminution, appearance, departure which in a particular sum and harmony of them we call the world. Describing Om intellectually is a daunting task, for Om is not a subject for academic study but a theme for meditative contemplation and inner concentration. Analyzing Om intellectually is like dissecting a poem into structure and semantics to find out how it is composed instead of plunging mind and heart into it and letting it express itself through you. Analogies apart, that is what Om does: if you give yourself wholly to it, immerse your mind and heart in it, it comes alive in you, it reveals and expresses itself through your consciousness, making your consciousness its own manifest field. This is the transcendental power of Om: it is not just a particular sound, syllable or mantra with a certain mystical significance but it is the very root and basis of all sound, it is literally the mother of all mantras, the consciousness matrix out of which the whole universe arises as seed vibration, or beej-spanda, of the Divine. When the Supreme Inconceivable Brahman, in its absolute singularity, wished to become the Many, that inconceivable divine Wish, which was also simultaneously the divine Will, became the seed of this entire universe, and that seed was Sound. Not a sound but Sound itself, nada. Nada was the first sound to arise out of the infinite potentiality that was before the beginning of Cosmos. That infinite potentiality, without beginning or end, out of which all universes arise like so many waves out of an infinite sea, is known as bindu. Bindu, in Sanskrit, means a point or a dot. Bindu, in mystical Hindu Dharma, represents the dimensionless point of infinitely massed consciousness as pure potentiality. It is this that is the origin of all manifestation and creation. Think of this bindu as a mathematician would think of a point, a position without dimensions. As infinitely massed consciousness and infinite potentiality of existence, bindu is therefore absolute (non-relative) position, sthiti, and as infinite, it is without dimension, ananta aparimanit. Whatever exists in dimensions is finite, and constitutes srishti or manifestation, and whatever is without dimension necessarily transcends srishti or manifestation. Bindu, therefore, transcends manifestation while containing it all within itself, not in any space or time but in its own sthiti and is known by the sages as the symbol of the adishakti, the Divine Mother or the Divine Womb. Om is the primal cosmic vibration through which the nada, eternally absorbed in bindu, arises out of it and becomes Chit-shakti or the consciousness-force pervading the Cosmos. Om is nada and bindu in conjunction or Yoga out of which all consciousness and Cosmos manifest. In the Shiva Purana, nada is identified as Shiva himself, incarnate as sound that becomes Cosmos, and bindu is identified as Shakti, incarnate as the infinite creative potentiality out of which arises Cosmos. This whole universe then is Shiva, as nada, manifesting out of Shakti, as bindu; and Shakti, as bindu, sustaining Shiva, as nada, through all this visible and tangible universe. While the Shivalinga symbolizes this mystery in the visible universe, the Omkar, or the mystic form of Om, symbolizes this mystery in the invisible and subtle universe. As the Omkar devolves from its supreme transcendental heights into our material world and consciousness, so it can evolve from our material world and consciousness back into its transcendental heights. Thus, the Omkar is known as the supreme path of ascension to the highest of realizations. By following the upward pathway led by the Omkar, the seeker can attain to the truths of all the worlds and planes of being. The syllable Om itself is composed of three seed syllables (or letters as phonemes) A, U and M. A (अ), U (उ) and M (म), pronounced together gives rise to the sound of OM or AUM, and it is this three-syllabled sound that the Yogi intones and meditates upon. There are layers of occult and mystical meanings involved with each of these three syllables, as with the integrated sound of Aum. In Sri Aurobindo’s words: the syllable A (अ) represents the external manifestation or consciousness realized in the actual and the concrete, seen by the human consciousness as the waking state. The syllable U (उ) represents the internal manifestation, the intermediate consciousness realised in the inner potentialities and intermediate states between the inmost supramental and the external, seen by the human consciousness as the subliminal and associated with the dream state. The syllable M (म) represents the inmost seed or condensed consciousness, (the inmost supramental, glimpsed by the human consciousness as something superconscient, omniscient and omnipotent, and associated with the state of dreamless Sleep or full Trance.) The integrated sound of AUM (ओम or आऊम) represents Turīya, the Fourth; the pure Spirit beyond these three, the Atman consciousness.. This AUM is the transcendent sound of infinite wavelength. The idea of infinite wavelength is difficult to grasp; but if one can imagine infinite wavelength, one will intuit how an entire universe, which is ultimately energy combinations, can be contained in a single sound or vibration. AUM, as this single infinite vibration, is the portal to the superconscious, non-dual state. It is at this point, at this mystic threshold, that AUM merges into the anahata, the sound of Silence, and the known universe is reabsorbed into the transcendental Silence of the Divine. To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s description of Om: OM is the symbol of the triple Brahman, the outward-looking, the inward or subtle and the superconscient causal Purusha. Each letter A, U, M indicates one of these three in ascending order and the syllable as a whole brings out the fourth state, Turiya, which rises to the Absolute. OM is the initiating syllable pronounced at the outset as a benedictory prelude and sanction to all act of sacrifice, all act of giving and all act of askesis; it is a reminder that our work should be made an expression of the triple Divine in our inner being and turned towards him in the idea and motive. Om is thus the vehicle of the highest meditations. By meditating on each of the letters of AUM, the Yogi can access and master the planes associated with each of the letters — the waking, the subtle, the atmic or the inmost; and by meditating on the integrated sound of AUM, the Yogi can enter the integral Turiya state that not only transcends but subsumes the other three. The Mandukya Upanishad opens with the declaration that Om is the eternal, imperishable word. All other words, being descriptors of transient subjects and objects of the universe, perish; but Om being the descriptor of the Eternal, is itself eternal and imperishable. The Hindus regard Om as the very name of God. Let’s reflect briefly on Om as the name of the Divine. In Hindu philosophy, manifestation consists of two aspects: nama (name) and rupa (form). Nama, or name, represents the psychological nature and qualities of a being and rupa, form, represents the visible, physical attributes. Namarupa, therefore, is the mind-body of all beings in existence. The process of naming is essential for a complete mental cognition of reality, as the senses, cognizing only form, are unable by themselves to form a complete picture of reality. The mind grasps or realizes (makes real to itself) a thing or being only by perceiving the form in conjunction with the name, thus associating form with identifiable attributes. Naming, therefore, gives the consciousness the power to recall and invoke the entity that is named and perceived. Thus, the name has enormous power. One can perceive form but not be able to relate to the form without recalling and invoking the name associated with the form. A relationship is established and maintained only through namarupa — name and form. But in terms of consciousness, relationship doesn’t need the form, name alone is sufficient; the name can recall the form perfectly to mind even without the form being present. Form is impermanent and perishable since it depends on physical presence in space and time; but name, as a construct or reality of consciousness, is imperishable and timeless. Thus, there are traditions in Hinduism that are based solely on the nama of the Divine and dispense with rupa. This is particularly true for non-dualists who accept only the formless aspect of God, for the formless Divine can only be invoked and recalled through the nama or the power of the nama. Anyone in love can readily testify to this power of the nama: you only need to recall the name of your beloved to be immediately in touch with him or her in your consciousness, even to the exclusion of the entire world. Om, then, is the name of the Divine: Brahman or Ishvara are only descriptions of the attributes of the Divine — Brahman is that which infinitely expands, the ever-perfect and the auspicious; Ishvara is one’s highest or inmost status of being, one’s own divinity or godhead. But Om is the name itself, the name that has the power to immediately recall and invoke the Divine. Meditating, therefore, on Om as the name of the Divine is held to be the most direct way to the realization of the Divine. The name leads to that which is named: the symbol leads to the symbolized. If Om is the living and direct symbol of the Divine, then the Divine, as the symbolized, is present in the name as its inmost vibrations. The Yoga is to bring the inmost vibrations to the surface consciousness and make those vibrations the natural vibrations of one’s mind, life and body. Om is thus not only the way but also the destination concealed in the way. To chant Om is to immediately connect in consciousness with all that Om represents, symbolizes, conceals. Meditating on Om is immersing one’s outer and inner consciousness in the inmost, the soul-consciousness. Om is the surest and perhaps the quickest way to penetrate the multiple layers of the outer being and the outer universe and drill ever deeper into the inner and inmost layers of self and cosmic existence, it is indeed to return to one’s existential and spiritual source in Brahman, in the Supreme Truth. As mantra, Om is supreme, it is the beej-mantra, the seed-mantra of all other mantras. Indeed, all mantras known to Yogis through the ages arise out of this one beej-mantra. Sri Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita, om ity ekaksharam brahma, the single syllable Om is the supreme God, and then goes on to establish his own identity with it: pranavah sarva vedeshu, within all the Vedas, I am the AUM; giram asmi ekam aksaram, of vibrations I am the transcendental AUM. For those who know who Sri Krishna is, and what he represents, these three statements read together are the signature and seal of the Divine on Om. Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth century, and the avatar of the Supramental Divine, said of Om: OM is the mantra, the expressive sound-symbol of the Brahman Consciousness in its four domains from the Turiya to the external or material plane. The function of a mantra is to create vibrations in the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolizes and is supposed indeed to carry within itself. The mantra OM should therefore lead towards the opening of the consciousness to the sight and feeling of the One Consciousness in all material things, in the inner being and in the supraphysical worlds, in the causal plane above now superconscient to us and, finally, the supreme liberated transcendence above all cosmic existence. In the words of that other saint and avatar of the last century, Sri Ramakrishna: Some sages ask what will you gain by merely hearing this sound of Om? You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal. Om is also known as pranav. As Rishi Patanjali stated: Pranav is the designator, vachak, of Ishvara, the Supreme Self. By the japa or constant repetition of pranav with profound bhava or devotion, all obstacles in life and sadhana will disappear and the consciousness will turn inward. The Shivapurana describes Om as an excellent boat to cross the ocean of samsara or worldly existence, playing on an interesting etymology of the word pranav — the root pra from prakriti or manifestation, and navam varam, meaning, excellent boat. In the words of the Mother of Pondicherry Ashram: With the help of OM one can realize the Divine. OM has a transforming power. OM represents the Divine. You will recall this O……..M, O…..M, that’s all. O…..M. It must be manifested. If anything goes wrong, repeat OM, all will go well. 1Ōmityeta dakṣharamidam sarvam, tasyo pavyākhyanam, bhūtam bhavatbhaviṣhy aditi sarvam omkāra eva; yaccānyat trikālātītam tadapy omkāra eva. 2Excerpted from Sri Aurobindo’s notes on the Chhandogya Upanishads
The Guru is a unique symbol and understanding of Indian spirituality. In no other culture is a seemingly-ordinary human being held with such reverence and devotion. The Guru is one who leads the student from darkness to light. Such is the literal meaning of the world. But what kind of light? It is not a physical or mental or emotional or pranic learning that the Teacher imparts but a spiritual transformation that yet encompasses all these in one sweep and curve. The Guru is the representative of the Divine on earth, nay, he or she is exalted as the Divine itself manifesting in form and name, as the vyakta roopa of the ineffable and eternal. In a famous doha, Kabir says that if given a choice between God and the Guru, he would bow before the Guru first for without the Guru he can never find God. There is a poetic truth in this verse but one might add that the Guru is God itself come here to guide and teach, to mentor and assist in one’s inner journey and explorations. And yet, there is no Guru but the Divine seated within. That is the final Guru, the true one, who once discovered is a sempiternal assurance of one’s spiritual destiny and fulfilment. It is in one’s heart that the true Teacher resides, the outer name and form of the Guru only the impetus and the assistance one needs to realize that the Divine is always within oneself, as oneself, in an evolution one calls yoga. Even so, the Guru in human form is seen as the reflection of one’s own higher self, as a mirror in the sky of one’s best and the true potential latent in each of us. It is the Guru that sustains us through all difficulties, who guides us and leads us through darkness and establishes in us the living certainty that one is in essence always pure, sacred, untouched and unharmed. The Guru imparts insights and understanding not just with verbal instructions but by his or her presence. Verily, sitting at the auspicious feet of the Master, one is enlightened without effort, if one learns how to just sit and imbibe spontaneously and with immediacy. Such is the import of the Sanskrit word ‘Upanishad’, one of the highest expressions of Vedanta in Indian spirituality. It is also true that the age of Guruvada might be over in modern times at least in the traditional sense. The ritualistic bending of one’s knee or bowing to the man in ochre is passé. Now the mind does not surrender so easily and needs more refined and nuanced understandings. Rare is the Guru who gives absolute freedom to the disciple and student to discover his or her own self, yet pours his quiet love and benediction upon them without expecting any return. There have been Gurus who have not only influenced a collection of disciples or a population but an age. Such Gurus capture the essence and the spirit of the times in their being and message. These are the jagat Gurus, the Teachers of teachers, who come at every significant cycle of human evolution and guide it with their vast and subtle influence. As one grows in yoga, love and adoration for the Guru grows spontaneously. This love is the secret for one’s future growth, the seed of one’s own divinity and the mentor and guide for all endeavors to come. To be one’s own light, atma deepo bhava, is an ancient dictum given us by the wisest of teachers; yet, this inner light is the same as the light of the being we call the Guru. The Guru can pour his or her energy into the disciple if necessary in a process called Shakti Paata; yet, the greatest imparting of strength and intensity to the disciple is not in terms of power but in terms of Truth and Consciousness and Bliss. This is the secret of the Guru: the Divine within and without, the formless taking a human form, the one who is our own self and nature calling us back to ourselves. To the Teacher the highest honor and the highest station with the clear awareness that there is no Self other than the Guru; nor is there a Guru other than the Self.
Who is Shiva? Is he a puranic god, member of the trinity, who destroys even as Brahma creates and Vishnu preserves? Or is he the first yogi, who sat on top of Kailasa, smeared with ash, snakes round his neck, hair matted, lost in the reveries of dhatura and bhaang? Or is he the lingam seen in ubiquitous temples in India with a yoni reflective of some pagan symbolism? To my understanding, Shiva is our highest possibility. Hinduism has always maintained that not only is it possible to experience and live the Divine, Divinity is our inherent nature. That Shiva is pure consciousness, without any attributes, other than absolute stillness upholding intensest activity, the ineffable, the formless and the all-pervasive. In one definition, Shiva means nothing. This is a beautiful understanding. For the God who has no attributes, who is beyond thoughts and concepts, is everything because nothing. Similar to the Shoonya of the Buddha, Shiva is thus timeless, spaceless and causeless and is the origin and summit of the Universe. Hinduism teaches us that he is also the origin and summit of each of us, individually, and that it behooves us to discover our highest potential and be it, manifest it and become its living expression. Hinduism also explains that there are various levels of manifestation, starting from the grossest to the subtlest to the causal. And Shiva is represented in various ways by various adorers. But, eventually, Shiva is an experience and a reality, a revelation and the Truth of existence. How shall we reach him? He has taught us countless ways, including Sankhya and Vedanta, Buddhism and yoga, bhakti and advaita. But, above all, to understand that he is beyond any quality we try to describe him with is an auspicious beginning. And Shiva also means an auspicious start. The two beeja sounds of Shiva are Shi and Va according to the Shiv Rahasya. Shi means stillness and that in whom all things rest. Va implies movement and creation. He is the nothing from whom the Universe springs. He is the utmost and the untainted in us. He is hidden, though clearly visible to the loving eye. He is that without whom this cosmos may exist not even for a moment. The stillness of the mind in dhyana. The quiet love in our hearts without desire. The greatest teachers such as the Buddha, Sankaracharya and Vivekanada are his emanations. All we need to do is peel the blinds of our eyes and he is everywhere and everything. Hinduism exalts the formless and the transcendent. But it does not reject form and the immanent. For what is form if not a manifestation of the formless? What is that which is clear and vast as the sky but is also not the minutest and smallest grain? It is he who I am. And just this realization is enough to tear off all the veils of ignorance from the eyes of the seeker. One of the highest realizations of Vedanta is Shivoham, that Shiva am I. It is only appropriate that he who is nothing, is also the dance of the cosmos as Nataraja, and the fourth state of awareness beyond waking, sleep and dream, known as turiya. And his oneness with Shakti gives us one of the profoundest symbols of male and female complementarity in the ardha-nareeshvara. And it is fitting too that Sankaracharya’s famous Nirvana Shatkam ends with this stanza, “Aham nirvikalpo nirakar roopo … Chidananda roopah Shivoham Shivoham.” Free of duality, form of the formless … The form of consciousness and bliss, that Shiva am I, that Shiva am I.
Every individual soul is sustained by Divine presence, which is Sat-Chit-Ananda—Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute. The thrill of experiencing the grandeur of this Divine presence is beyond imagination, yet such experience is the goal of your existence. As an individual personality you are like a wave, but if you dive deeper and deeper into your being you will discover that you are the Ocean itself. As you gradually move towards that realization through the practice of meditation and enquiry, you experience the manifestation of Sat-Chit-Ananda in your personality day by day. Sat—Existence Absolute Sat (Existence Absolute) manifests as indomitable will. Through the power of Sat you move on undeterred along the spiritual path, in spite of adversity, in spite of difficult situations. You see the manifestation of Sat in the universal desire to survive, despite all obstacles. No one wishes to become non-existent; everyone wants to live forever. This feeling arises because essentially you are pure existence, not the physical body. Identified with Sat, you are immortal and eternal. It is only when you believe yourself to be the physical body that you feel confined to a short duration of life in this world of time and space. From the worldly perspective, no matter how much you may achieve, all your attainments are but a trifle. After all, in the vastness of this universe, what is the physical existence of one human being? Everyone has an inner sense of perpetual existence. This innate sense is a manifestation of Sat, and unconsciously one is always trying to realize that Sat aspect within. Chit—Knowledge Absolute The manifestation of Chit (Knowledge Absolute) is experienced in the form of an inner grasp of the subtle truths of the Self. It is also experienced when your intellect becomes bright and sharp about matters of this relative world and guides you correctly in the projects you undertake. No matter how dull a person may be, he or she still has the urge to know more and more. No one will accept being called a dull-wit, since essentially we are all Knowledge. It is for the revelation of that innate Knowledge that we all strive. Ananda—Bliss Absolute Everyone is always striving for happiness without realizing that true happiness is his very essence. You experience the manifestation of Ananda (Bliss Absolute) as inner joy begins to unfold more and more with increasing purity of heart. Such joy radiates to all living beings around you, and creates an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Sat Chit Ananda Is Always There! At every moment, Sat-Chit-Ananda surges like the ocean. It towers over you like the sky. You cannot get away from Sat-Chit-Ananda, for you are always rooted in God. Yet it requires a sensitive mind to understand that point. Think of the intricate body that you possess. Think of the mysterious way in which the senses function. Think of the mystery of the mind as it operates through the brain and nervous system, and think of the mystery of the intellect. Then ask yourself, “Who is organizing all this? Who has created it all? Who is behind it all?” The Upanishads ask, “Who is the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye?” If, through enquiry, you were to develop a profound awareness of that Reality underlying your personality, you would be awed. When you are in deep sleep, who is caring for you? Think back to when you were a child with little in the way of worldly wisdom. Who cared for you then? Between death and rebirth, what travel agency allows you to know which way to go? How do you gravitate to the exact type of parents and the environment in which your talents and abilities can unfold? How are you led to the situations that are best suited for your evolution? Ponder over the mystery behind all this. Sat-Chit-Ananda is your essential nature. Sat-Chit-Ananda towers over you and interpenetrates your existence. But due to ignorance, you are unaware of this. Thus the task before every aspirant is to remove ignorance so that the all-pervading presence of the Self is realized. Channelizing Divine Energy During the rainy season, lightning sometimes crashes with such intensity that it lights up the entire sky in just one moment. If all that energy could be channelized, a whole city could be illumined for an entire year. Similarly, immense Divine energy—the energy of Sat-Chit-Ananda—exists everywhere and in everything. It is there in every individual, waiting to be channelized. But how does one channelize that energy? How does one draw from the inner source that immutability of Sat, that all-knowingness of Chit, and that immense joy of Ananda? Consider all the troubles and tensions people face because they lack the awareness of Sat-Chit-Ananda. God created the intricate process of the human body so people could use the body to become Divine, yet what the ego does with it is quite to the contrary. Eyes could shower nectar, yet they often shower fumes. Tongues could give flowers, jewels and diamonds, yet they often give forth frogs and toads. The mind that could encompass the joy of eternity becomes instead a storehouse of garbage. However, the energy of Sat-Chit-Ananda is so immense that even a little touch of it can totally change your life. Learning to draw upon that immense Divine energy in your daily life is accomplished through sadhana or spiritual discipline. Through sadhana, you can bring about a total transformation in your personality. Therefore, each and every moment of your life try to receive the touch of the Divine within you. Touching the Feet of the Lord In the Ramayana, Lord Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Sita were banished from the kingdom because of a conspiracy by Rama’s stepmother. When they attempted to cross the river by boat to get to the forest, the boatman said to Rama, “I will not have you enter my boat unless you let me wash your feet—for your feet have a special power. When you allowed your feet to touch Ahalya, the saint’s wife who had become frozen into a statue, the statue came to life. If my boat were to become alive like Ahalya, I would lose my business.” Rama then looked at Sita and Lakshmana, smiled, and put his feet forward for the boatman to wash. As the boatman did so, his boat turned to gold. There is an interesting popular story about the ancient events that led to this episode in the Ramayana: Once, in the heavenly world of Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu lay resting upon the thousand-headed Shesha serpent, with Lakshmi Devi, the Goddess of Prosperity, fanning Him. Just then, in the milky ocean, a little turtle swam towards Lord Vishnu with the idea of touching his feet. But when the turtle came closer, Lakshmi Devi brushed it aside with her fan, smacking it’s nose. When the turtle ignored her and continued to come, Shesha breathed venom on it—and so the turtle could not touch the feet of Lord Vishnu. According to the story, as the ages passed, the spirit of that turtle became the boatman carrying travellers across the river; Sheshanaga, the serpent, became Lakshmana, the brother of Rama; Lord Vishnu incarnated as Rama; and Lakshmi Devi became Sita. The profound meaning behind this story is that in the ocean of the world process, every soul is moving like a turtle, wanting to touch that Sat-Chit-Ananda within—wanting to touch Lord Vishnu, Who is there sleeping within one’s very heart. There are obstructions though. Whenever you become deluded by the vanity of wealth, Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity) is smacking your nose so you cannot move onward. The glittering material values of the world devour the mind. One becomes obsessed with material objects, with winning the lottery, and with other illusions that just serve to keep the mind agitated. Each time this happens, Lakshmi is sidetracking you from your deeper goal. If, in spite of such obstructions, you begin practicing concentration and meditation, and, as a result, attain a certain degree of willpower over the temptations of wealth, then another obstruction comes to frustrate your spiritual movement: egoistic pride and vanity develop. You succumb to the temptation of psychic powers or other types of fame and glory. This is because Sheshanaga, the gigantic serpent who symbolizes the cosmic mind and all psychic powers, is breathing venom upon you. However, when you spiritually advance to an even greater extent, you become a boatman—a servant of God, helping people in misery to cross the waters of the world process. Although you once were a turtle, through Yoga you have become transformed into a bhakta or devotee of God; and as such, even though the world may present you with obstacles, you approach God resolutely and cling to his feet! And the moment you touch the Divine Self, your mind—symbolized by the boat—becomes full of sattwa or purity. Thus you are transformed. Touching the feet of God implies that you are drawing from the vast resource of Sat-Chit-Ananda within your personality. Touched by the Divine within you, every action becomes karma yoga or selfless service; every feeling becomes an elevated sentiment of bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; every reflective process becomes an aspect of jnana yoga, the path -of wisdom; and every form of concentration in your mind becomes a ray of raja yoga. Thus, touched by the Divine within you, you become an integral yogi—and this attainment should be the goal of every individual. Promote Relaxed Simplicity in Your Life Always remember that it is possible for you to draw inexhaustible energy from your inner source—the Divine within you, that Sat-Chit-Ananda whose majesty is beyond normal imagination. To do so, however, your mind must not be cluttered. You must live a life of simplicity that is conducive to relaxing the mind. Otherwise you will always be stressed and tense. Attaining true success in life implies that you have allowed your mind to relax. It is important to understand that when you are tense and unhappy, your dealings with others become abrupt and you tend to make mountains out of molehills. When you are happy, however, it becomes easy for you to convert mountains into molehills. Happiness overcomes many problems. To promote such a relaxed simplicity in your life, you must take recourse to satsanga (good association), develop faith in God within you, do japa (repetition of mantra), and meditate daily. In order for inner transformation to occur in your personality, you must incorporate the important aspects of the different yogas into your daily life. See God in Others Another point to consider in the process of reducing stress is your relationship with others. Understand that God abides in all living beings and acts through them. It is recognizing the Divine in people that enables you to really communicate with them. Every individual is like a house that is closed. In order to get into that house you have to get through the door; you cannot go through the wall. The implication here is that when trying to work with someone, don’t address the negative aspect within that person or you will only build a wall and inhibit communication. Don’t say to someone, “You’re a dull-wit, but I can make you wise.” No matter how much wisdom you may have, if you take that approach, immediately a wall is put up. On the other hand, if you take a positive approach and tell that person that he or she is very bright and could be even brighter, then the door will be opened. So, develop the awareness that God is within all people. Be careful never to think that God is in you—but the devil lies in others! The Divine dwells in every individual personality. In order to be a yogi, you must learn how to live with diverse personalities in the world in such a way that you maintain sensitivity in your communications and enhance your good karmas by compassionate and intelligent interactions with others. Harmonize Your Life Accordingly, plan your life in a harmonized way. Do not go to extremes. Remember, moderation is the key to success. For example, do not think that because meditation is valuable you should do it for six hours a day. Everything that is important should be brought into your daily life, but slowly and a little at a time. Actually, it is practicing with a sustained movement over a long period of time that brings success. That sustained movement creates a habit that consequently becomes part of your personality. If you are harmonized, in a joyous way you become a greater yogi. If you are not harmonized, then even though you may do intense austerity, you remain a lesser yogi. Never Lose Sight of your Goal Wherever you are, the goal of your life is to attain Self-realization. That is not just the privilege of those who live in the mountains or in caves. The entire world has been fashioned by God specifically to lead you to Self-realization; it doesn’t matter where you are. Thus, reflect on Sat-Chit-Ananda, the immensity of energy within you, and learn to channelize that energy in a harmonized way. As you do so, dharma megha (the cloud of virtue) gathers in your unconscious, and the lightning of intuition flashes. Hence ignorance is destroyed and your personality is allowed to become a receptacle of cosmic energy. This channelization of the power of Sat-Chit-Ananda has been happening all throughout your life in degrees, but when you become highly advanced—when you become a sage—then cosmic energy flows through you in the most dynamic way. No scientist can easily explain what made Jesus, Buddha, or any great saint so great. What allows them to be loved, to be worshipped and to become a source of inspiration for thousands of years? It is the power of cosmic energy, the power of the Divine within. And that power must be adored by you until you too attain Liberation, and Divine energy flows through your personality without any impediment. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
The Significance of the Purusha Sukta The Purusha Sukta of the Vedas is not only a powerful hymn of the insight of the great Seer, Rishi Narayana, on the Cosmic Divine Being as envisaged through the multitudinous variety of creation, but also a shortcut provided to the seeker of Reality for entering into the state of Superconsciousness. The Sukta is charged with a fivefold force potent enough to rouse God-experience in the seeker. Firstly, the Seer (Rishi) of the Sukta is Narayana, the greatest of sages ever known, who is rightly proclaimed in the Bhagavata as the only person whose mind cannot be disturbed by desire and, as the Mahabharata says, whose power not even all the gods can ever imagine. Such is the Rishi to whom the Sukta was revealed and who gave expression to it as the hymn on the Supreme Purusha. Secondly, the mantras of the Sukta are composed in a particular metre (chandas) which makes its own contribution by the generating of a special spiritual force during the recitation of the hymn. Thirdly, the intonation (svara) with which the mantras are recited adds to the production of the correct meaning intended to be conveyed through the mantras, and any error in the intonation may produce a different effect altogether. Fourthly, the Deity (devata) addressed in the hymn is not any externalized or projected form as a content in space and time, but is the Universal Being which transcends space and time and is the indivisible supra-essential essence of experience. Fifthly, the Sukta suggests, apart from the universalized concept of the Purusha, an inwardness of this experience, thus distinguishing it from perception of any object. The Sukta begins with the affirmation that all the heads, all the eyes, and all the feet in creation are of the Purusha. Herein is implied the astonishing truth that we do not see many things, bodies, objects, persons, forms, or colors, or hear sounds, but rather only the limbs of the One Purusha. And, just as when we behold the hand, leg, ear or nose of a person as various parts we do not think that we are seeing many things but only a single person in front of us, and we develop no separate attitude whatsoever in regard to the various parts of the person’s body —because here our attitude is one of a single whole of consciousness beholding one complete person irrespective of the limbs or the parts of which the person may be the composite — in the same manner, we are to behold creation not as a conglomeration of discrete persons and things with which we have to develop a different attitude or conduct, but as a single Universal Person who gloriously shines before us and gazes at us through all the eyes, nods before us through all the heads, smiles through all the lips and speaks through all the tongues. This is the Purusha of the Purusha Sukta. This is the God sung in the hymn by Rishi Narayana. This is not the god of any religion, and this is not one among many gods. This is the only God who can possibly be anywhere, at any time. Our thought, when it is extended and trained in the manner required to see the universe before us, receives a stirring shock, because this very thought lays the axe at the root of all desires, for no desire is possible when all creation is but one Purusha. This illusion and this ignorance in which the human mind is moving when it desires anything in the world — whether it is a physical object or a mental condition, or a social situation — is immediately dispelled by the simple but most revolutionary idea which the Sukta deals to the mind with one stroke. We behold the One Being (ekam sat) before us, not a manifoldness or a variety to be desired or avoided. But a greater shock is yet to be, for the Sukta implies to any intelligent thinker that he himself is one of the heads or limbs of the Purusha. This condition where even to think would be to think as the Purusha thinks — for no other way of thinking is even possible, and it would be to think through all persons and things in creation simultaneously — would indeed not be human thinking or living. Just as we do not think merely with one cell of our brain but think with the entire brain, any single thinker forming but a part of the Purusha’s Universal Thinking Centre, ‘a Centre which is everywhere with circumference nowhere’, cannot afford to think as is usually attempted by what are called jivas, or individual fictitious centres of thinking. There is no other way — na anyah pantha vidyate. This is Supramental thinking. This is Divine Meditation. This is the yajna which, as the Sukta says, the Devas performed in the beginning of time. The Purusha-Sukta is not merely this much. It is something more to the seeker. The above description should not lead us to the erroneous notion that God can be seen with the eyes — as we see a cow, for instance — though it is true that all things are the Purusha. It is to be remembered that the Purusha is not the ‘seen’ but the ‘seer’. The point is simple to understand. When everything is the Purusha, where can there be an object to be seen? The apparently ‘seen’ objects are also the heads of the ‘seeing’ Purusha. There is, thus, only the seer seeing himself without a seen. Here, again, the seer’s seeing of himself is not to be taken in the sense of a perception in space and time, for that would again be creating an object where it is not. It is the seer seeing himself not through eyes, but in Consciousness. It is the absorption of all objectification in a Universal Being-ness. With deep gratitude to Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society Purusha Sukta, the Hymn सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् । स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥1॥ पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यम् । उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति ॥2॥ एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः । पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥3॥ त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पूरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत्पुनः । ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि ॥4॥ तस्माद्विराळजायत विराजो अधि पूरुषः । स जातो अत्यरिच्यत पश्चाद्भूमिमथो पुरः ॥5॥ यत्पुरुषेण हविषा देवा यज्ञमतन्वत । वसन्तो अस्यासीदाज्यं ग्रीष्म इध्मः शरद्धविः ॥6॥ तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन्पुरुषं जातमग्रतः । तेन देवा अयजन्त साध्या ऋषयश्च ये ॥7॥ तस्माद्यज्ञात्सर्वहुतः सम्भृतं पृषदाज्यम् । पशून्ताँश्चक्रे वायव्यानारण्यान् ग्राम्याश्च ये ॥8॥ तस्माद्यज्ञात्सर्वहुत ऋचः सामानि जज्ञिरे । छन्दांसि जज्ञिरे तस्माद्यजुस्तस्मादजायत ॥9॥ तस्मादश्वा अजायन्त ये के चोभयादतः । गावोः ह जज्ञिरे तस्मात् तस्माज्जाता अजावयः ॥10॥ यत्पुरुषं व्यदधुः कतिधा व्यकल्पयन् । मुखं किमस्य कौ बाहू का ऊरू पादा उच्येते ॥11॥ ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृतः । ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत ॥12॥ चन्द्रमा मनसो जातश्चक्षोः सूर्यो अजायत । मुखादिन्द्रश्चाग्निश्च प्राणाद्वायुरजायत ॥13॥ नाभ्या आसीदन्तरिक्षं शीर्ष्णो द्यौः समवर्तत । पद्भ्यां भूमिर्दिशः श्रोत्रात्तथा लोकाँ अकल्पयन् ॥14॥ सप्तास्यासन् परिधयस्त्रिः सप्त समिधः कृताः । देवा यद्यज्ञं तन्वाना अबध्नन्पुरुषं पशुम् ॥15॥ यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजन्त देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन् । ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त यत्र पूर्वे साध्याः सन्ति देवाः ॥16॥ For transliteration and meaning An Interpretation of Selected Verses [We offer a preliminary and somewhat tentative interpretation of a selection of the verses (1 to 7 & 16) from the Sukta here. The reader should follow this up with a more detailed study if interested. There are multiple interpretations of this hymn from multiple sources — Ed.] सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ।स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥1॥ The Purusha of a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet (Sahasra, or thousand, is not a literal figure here but symbol of many, numerable, countless; all heads and eyes and feet, all beings, are Purusha only) who pervades all this universe and extends infinitely into the ten directions (symbolized by the ten fingers) and still exceeds all measure. पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यम् ।उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति ॥2॥ Purusha is all this that is, all that has existed and all that shall ever exist; Purusha is also the God of Immortality (amrit signifies immortality and liberation from birth and death) and thus, when utterly consumed (as food is consumed) by this Purusha, one attains to immortality. एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः ।पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥३॥ Whatever is seen and known here is the glory and greatness of Purusha; and beyond the known and seen is also Purusha. Whatever is manifest in this universe is but one fourth portion of Purusha, three fourths of Purusha remains unmanifest in its changeless, immortal transcendence. त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पूरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत्पुनः ।ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि ॥4॥ Three fourth of Purusha (or tripad, three feet) remains ever in transcendence, raised high above all manifestation and the one fourth portion (one pada, feet) of Purusha manifests (out of Purusha) recurrently as the universe. तस्माद्विराळजायत विराजो अधि पूरुषः ।स जातो अत्यरिच्यत पश्चाद्भूमिमथो पुरः ॥5॥ From that original, primal Purusha arose this whole universe and in that primal Purusha rests all this. This Purusha is the support of all that is manifest, the Purusha is the substratum. From this Resplendent Purusha arose the godhead that then created this earth (bhumi, that which bears) and thenceforth, all other forms. यत्पुरुषेण हविषा देवा यज्ञमतन्वत ।वसन्तो अस्यासीदाज्यं ग्रीष्म इध्मः शरद्धविः ॥6॥ With the Purusha as the Sacrificial Fire, the Deva, the Resplendent One, as the Sacrificer, this vast Sacrifice (yajna) of Creation continues. The seasons arose out of that Sacrifice: Spring arose as ghee (clarified butter), summer as fuel and autumn as the offerings for the sacrifice. तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन्पुरुषं जातमग्रतः ।तेन देवा अयजन्त साध्या ऋषयश्च ये ॥7॥ The First Divine Men were created as the Holy Water sprinkled with the Kusa (used in ritual sacrifices) Grass in that Yajna, the Sacrifice symbolic of Creation. The First Divine Men were the Sadhya Devas (perfected beings) and the Rishis (the illumined seers), who were created by the great Resplendent One, the Vast (Virat) who performed the Yajna. (The Rishis, like the Saptarshis or the seven illumined seers, were manifested directly out of Purusha). — यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजन्त देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन् ।ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त यत्र पूर्वे साध्याः सन्ति देवाः ॥16 ॥ The Devas performed the outer Yajna by meditating on the real Yajna within, by contemplating the Purusha shining behind all existence; and thus they first obtained the Dharma directly from the oneness of the Purusha. By meditating on Chidakasha (the Blissful Spiritual Space behind all beings, which, in essence, is the Purusha), during those earlier times, the Spiritual Aspirants themselves became the Radiant One, Purusha.
Who is Hanuman? In Ramayana he is depicted as a vanara who helps Rama defeat Ravana and win Sita again. Often shown with the face of an ape in usual depictions with other monkeys. But if one were to go deeper into the true import of Sri Rama and his avatar, one might gain a new understanding of Hanuman. If we understand the avatar as a descent of Godhead to aid the earth at a crucial moment in its evolutionary spiral, to give an impetus to a shift in its universal consciousness, then Sri Rama is an avatar of Satvik or righteous mind. The lineage of avatars as described in Hinduism uncannily reflects the evolutionary ascent of life on earth. Darwin would have been proud had he known of them. Beginning from the Fish to the Tortoise to the Boar to the Narsimha (half lion half man) to the small man (Vamana) to the Kinetic and Rajasic man and then to the Satvik man is the journey of the avatars to Sri Rama. Rama is here to establish a baseline of social and human standards. Only after he has created this standard called Ram Rajya can Sri Krishna or the Buddha follow after. Rama is not transcending the mind to a new global consciousness like Sri Krishna or reaching nirvana like the Buddha. He has to prepare the conditions on earth so that the avatars to follow will have a ground ready and open to their influence. And to aid Rama in this venture is Hanuman, ‘the evolutionary man’, as the Mother from Pondicherry called him. Two things stand out about Hanuman: his utter devotion and surrender to the Divine and the fact that he has forgotten who he is. Hanuman is the Nara to the Narayana that Sri Rama is. Without Hanuman, Rama is unable to fulfil his mission on earth. He needs Hanuman as his partner, his general, his servant, his adorer and his guard. And Hanuman is the incarnation of the adoration free of desire, the psychic love that surrenders completely to the Lord, demanding nothing but the feet of the Beloved and the Ishtadeva. This aradhana gives him the immortality and superhuman strength that is at the service of Narayana as Sri Rama. In the heart of Hanuman reside Sita and Rama eternally, and this gives him access to the siddhis spontaneously needed for the work. To me, if we can live with the same love for the Divine, with the same intensity and purity, we will embody the strength and purity that Hanuman is. The second unique revelation about Hanuman’s story is that he has lapsed into self-forgetfulness, lost all his powers because he no longer remembers who he is. And yet, he recovers all his energy and Shakti, the moment the realization of his true nature hits him. Now he can fly at the speed of thought, lift vast mountains, and change his size at will. He is now the ideal yogi who has mastered the eight unique siddhis that would aid him in his service of Rama. Awakened to himself, he completes the equation between the human and the Divine. So too can we. Our fall is not ordained as permanent; nor is it irredeemable. Hanuman is a representative not just of the ape-man but any worshipper, any lover of God, no matter what his species or tribe might be. Hanuman resides in the human heart, as our own flame of still indestructible love for the Divine. He is us. We only need to discover perhaps our own inner Hanuman, and then live him to the utmost. That is the one crucial element needed that may fulfill the mission of the avatars on earth once again.
The Symbol & the Essence This dialogue between a Seer and three of his disciples takes place in an ashram of old. The Seer, or Rishi, guides the young disciples into the mystery of Ganesha. The Seer is addressed as Āchārya, or Revered Teacher, by the disciples. The names of the disciples live on in Upanishadic lore but the Seer, amongst those few illustrious Sages who embodied the highest spiritual Truth, remains unknown, having long passed beyond name and form. It was the dusk before the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. The sun was an orange glow upon the horizon. Except for a soft breeze rustling through the trees, nothing seemed to move in the ashram. The young disciples of the Rishi were all relaxing under the banyan tree while the Rishi, their illustrious acharya, seemed to be in quiet contemplation. In the distance, they could hear the bells of the cows, perhaps still grazing. Aruni, one of the youngest disciples of the Master, folded his hands and cleared his throat. He called his acharya softly, not wanting to disturb the quietude of the evening. “Sir?” The acharya opened his eyes and smiled at Aruni — “Yes, Aruni?” “Is Ganesha real or a spiritual fable?” “Aruni, what is real anyway?” “I mean, is he really God?” “And what is God?” asked the Rishi with a twinkle in his eye. Aruni kept quiet; he knew better than to take that bait. The Rishi waited for some time, the mischievous twinkle still in his eyes. He often loved to tease his young disciples with obvious questions that couldn’t be answered, and his disciples seemed quite used to it. “God,” continued the Rishi in his soft, mellifluous voice, “is the omnipresence in which this entire universe floats, my child. This omnipresence is all-pervasive, eternal. So what or who is not God?” The disciples nodded in understanding. Somehow, whenever their teacher would say something about God, they would feel a quiet vastness come upon them. They had all noticed this on several occasions. “Ganesha is the portal, the opening, to this omnipresence, my child,“ continued the Rishi, “he is not a being, earthly or divine, but an opening into which we can all enter, endlessly! There is no end to Ganesha.” “The elephant-god…?”, Upamanyu, Aruni’s friend, a few years older, said a bit hesitatingly, looking at the Rishi. “Elephant-god, indeed,” the Rishi smiled, “he’s neither elephant nor god!” The young students seemed curious now. The Rishi kept quiet for a while. The sound of the cowbells grew fainter as the sky grew darker. After a few minutes passed in silence, the Rishi spoke again: “Ganesha is known to us as achintya, avyakta and ananta. You know what those words mean?” “Achintya is that which cannot be thought of; beyond thought.” Said Upamanyu. “Avyakta,” said Aruni, “is the unmanifest, the unexpressed. And ananta is endless, eternal.” “Yes, indeed,” said the Rishi, “and thus, he has no form, no attribute, no existence as you and I know it!” “No existence?” asked Varun, the oldest student of the Rishi, and a philosopher already. “That which is not in form is avyakta, Varun; therefore, non-existent to our human consciousness. It goes deeper,” said the Rishi, “Ganesha is known as the very form of Parabrahman, the supreme. Parabrahman rupa!” “Parabrahman,” said Aruni, “is, of course, formless. So how can the formless have a form, Sir?” “If you understand that, Aruni,” said the Rishi,” you will understand Ganesha and why he is represented in an elephant form.” “Sir,” said Aruni at once, “I am most eager to know. Pray, tell us!” “The Formless is not really formless. Know that first. The human consciousness can only comprehend the material or the psychological form: the rupa that appears externally to us or the rupa that arises in our minds and imaginations. There is a form beyond these visible forms, beyond the vyakta, which is avyakta to mind and senses but quite vyakta to the inner consciousness. This is what is known as Svarupa.” “Can one ever know the Svarupa, Acharya?” asked Aruni. “Yes, my son, one can know the Svarupa by becoming that. Our ancestors called this knowledge by identity — you become that which you know, just as you know that which you become.” Then the Rishi quietly intoned, more to himself than to his students — “Ajam nirvikalpam nirakaramekam… Ganesha is unborn, unchanging and formless…. and for those who have the spiritual vision, the eye of Yoga, Ganesha is known directly as the consciousness of the omnipresence. He is the divine energy, the shakti, that moves the universe and he is the vortex into which this whole universe will dissolve… thus is he said to be born of Shiva and Parvati, the Lord and His Shakti.” The atmosphere seemed charged with electricity, vidyut, as the Rishi sat still after his mystic intonation; his eyes were closed and he seemed elsewhere, as if immersed in Ganesha in some inaccessible dimension of being. The three young disciples all waited, almost in trance themselves. After what seemed an eternity, the Master continued, “None can know Ganesha without the Divine Will and Grace, for to know Ganesha, the first born of the Divine Couple, is to know the Divine itself. He who meditates on Ganesha and attains to him verily attains to Shiva and His Shakti. “I shall now reveal to you how Ganesha, created out of the very substance of the Divine Shakti, symbolized by Parvati, descends into creation. Hear carefully and reflect on these words of mine — for behind these words I speak, there is concealed the pure energy of Truth, and it is that energy that you must take into yourself, for indeed, by that energy, and not by your intellects or previous knowledge, will you come to the truth of Ganesha.” Thus speaking, the Rishi paused and allowed the words to sink into his young disciples. Each of the students felt the vidyut enter their subtle bodies through the words of the Master. Each knew well that their Master sometimes spoke not from the mind but from a plane of consciousness where what was directly seen was directly expressed, without intervention of thought or even speech. “Ganesha is also known as Ganapati — the Lord of the Ganas,” the Master continued, “Gana means groupings or clusters. This whole universe is made up of groupings, clusters. The atom that makes all matter is itself a cluster of subatomic particles; when you penetrate to the smallest scale of this universe where space and time all but disappear, you will see that there are only invisible vortices of energy which are themselves clusters of subtle energy-fields. As you ascend the scale, you will see the clusters enlarging, from energy-fields to subatomic particles, from subatomic particles to molecules, molecules to gases and gases to stars, and stars to galaxies. Look at the universe and you will see clusters everywhere. All space and time are clusters, some visible and most, invisible. Even your bodies are clusters of cells, tissues, organs. All life forms on earth are clusters, from the humble clusters of microbes and bacteria to the clusters of the higher animals and humans; and then there are clusters of people, tribes, villages, cities and nations. “Within ourselves, at the psychological plane, our organs of perception and organs of action, the jnanendriyas and karmendriyas, are also clusters or ganas. The mind controls the senses. The buddhi, the discriminative intellect, controls the mind. Thus, the ten senses, the mind and the intellect together add up to twelve and these together are known as the inner ganas.” “At every level of existence,” the Master continued, “there are clusters: this is how creation or cosmic manifestation is differentiated and organized. And Ganapati Ganesha is the Lord of all clusters: do you see the truth of this? Ganesha is the force that keeps all these multiple clusters together, he is the dharma, the binding force, of all clusters, and without him the universe as we know it will simply fall apart, disintegrate.” The Rishi’s words were so lucid that the young disciples almost saw what they were hearing; through a power known only to these masters of consciousness, the spoken word, vak, was converted to direct seeing, drishti. The heard became the seen. Thus indeed the masters of consciousness are knowns as seers, drashtas. “Master, is it possible to attain to the direct knowledge of Ganesha?” asked Upamanyu intensely. The Rishi smiled widely at his disciple, apparently happy with the force behind the question. “Yes, my child,” answered the Rishi, “all things are possible when one concentrates all of one’s force of being in one’s will and aspiration. Tapas  is your force of being and sankalpa is your will and aspiration. When Tapas is concentrated in the sankalpa, then whatever is held in the mind is realized in spirit. This is the secret of Yoga, my son!” The purpose of the brief explanation was immediately achieved: the disciples at once felt a slow and concentrated movement of energy ascending their spine, from the lower chakras upward towards the ajna-chakra, the centre between the eyebrows. The minds of all the three disciples at once became still and focused. “Tomorrow is Ganesha Chaturthi,” the Master continued evenly, looking intently at his disciples, as if gauging each one’s inner readiness, “and you can take the first decisive step towards Ganesha tomorrow itself. My own Guru used to say that the best time to initiate a sadhana is the very moment the aspiration for it arises in one’s buddhi.” Again, the master allowed the words to sink deep into the minds of his disciples, as if carefully preparing the grounds for the sadhana, sowing the seeds with the utmost attention and care. Truly, boundless is the grace of the Guru! “Understand, my children,” said the Rishi, “the meaning of Chaturthi. You are familiar with the jagruti or the waking state of your being, and the svapna or the dream state, and even sushupti or the deep sleep state. These states you all know by daily experience, and I have trained you in becoming deeply aware of these states and their transitions. But there is a fourth state that you have not experienced yet, a state that does not reveal itself so long as one’s inner consciousness is not fully ripened by sadhana.” As the silence deepened in their minds, the Master continued: “Chaturthi is the state beyond the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, the fourth state. This is the inner significance of Chaturthi, my children. To attain to the Chaturthi is the aspiration of our Yoga, to be always in that fourth state, the state of turiya , as our ancestors used to call it.” The Master paused again. By now it was dark and the whole ashram seemed enveloped in a dense silence. It almost seemed that the three disciples were now aglow with an ethereal wisdom that was streaming from the half-opened eyes of the Rishi. Outwardly, as inwardly, all was still. “Only when the mind in us becomes thoughtless and the whole consciousness becomes sthira  do we enter the state of turiya. This is the sadhana for the Chaturthi — make your mind utterly still, thoughtless, turned only to the Light of the Supreme, the jyotir-parasya. That Light alone will lead you beyond the veils of Maya’s maharatri  to the eternal Dawn of Truth. To reach this kind of inner silence, to make the mind free of thought, one needs to fast. This is the symbolic fasting for Chaturthi. Upavasa is not merely abstaining from food for the day but establishing yourself above the play of desire and duality, at least, and symbolically, for a day. Hear the word carefully — upavasa breaks into upa which means near, like in the upa of the Upanishad, and vasa derives from vasati, to live or abide in. Therefore, one doing the upavasa withdraws from the external world and all its distractions, inner and outer, and abides in consciousness near the one who he does the upavasa for. So I say to you, my children, keep the Chaturthi upavasa for Ganesha with the full understanding of upavasa. It matters little whether you eat food or you do not; what matters is the ‘food’ or anna, that you feed into your mind and senses. When you fast, you fast your mind and senses, and that fasting is a purification, a cleansing and a preparing for a divine consciousness. Thus all upavasa is suddhikaran or purification. To do upavasa for Ganesha is to abide in the nearness of Ganesha, to be near Ganesha in mind and heart. This is the true significance of Ganesha Chaturthi, my children!” The Master became silent and still, and the Master’s silence seemed to overflow the boundaries of his physical presence and gently inundate the innermost beings of his disciples. The disciples, fortunate beyond measure to be in the living presence of a Rishi, seemed to drink in the silence and the grace, and become one with their Master in some small but awakened portion of their consciousnesses. After several minutes of this inner yoga with their Master, Aruni opened his eyes and asked again: “What of Ganesha’s birth, O Master? There seems to be a deep mystery in that which we can only begin to intuit. For how can the formless and the unmanifest be born?” The Master smiled and spoke after a pause — “You have asked wisely, my child. The eternal has neither birth nor death, neither coming nor passing, neither rising nor falling, for the eternal is also the unmoving, the changeless and the causeless. So what of Ganesha’s birth? It is said of old that he was created out of the dirt accumulated on the body of the Supreme Mother, Parvati. And because the Mother, feeling lonely, wanted a child as her companion. Obviously, the Divine Mother would not feel lonely: the loneliness is the poet-seer’s way of conveying the sense of the eternal ekanta, the absolute aloneness of non-duality. Remember that Parvati, being the wife and consort of Shiva, the Supreme, would be living in inner oneness with Shiva, for that is how the Divine’s Shakti resides in the Divine. Therefore, the Great Mother’s loneliness would really be the expression of the Divine Will for self-manifesting, the One becoming the Many. That is how Shiva himself would manifest Cosmos out of Shakti. So Ganesha is literally the first creation, the first born, who becomes this manifestation. It is not that Ganesha manifests Cosmos: the Cosmos is Ganesha in manifestation. This is what needs to be understood, my child. Then you will know how and why Ganesha is Ganapati and Ganesha himself is all-pervasive omnipresence, and why he is the portal to the Great Omnipresence itself. Knowing this, meditate on Ganesha this Chaturthi.” The disciples received the words of the Master with deep joy, as if the words themselves were opening some deeper source of ananda in them, as if understanding itself was the divine rasa. “Was he actually beheaded?” Asked Varun, thinking of the old story of Ganesha’s birth where Shiva, because he couldn’t recognize Ganesha as his own son, beheads him with his trishul for obstructing his way to Parvati. The Master addressed his disciples again: “There is a mystery here to be understood. Let us explore. What does the head represent, Varun?” “The mind, the intellect, Acharya,” Varun replied. “Yes, indeed, Varun” said the teacher, “the head represents manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara. This head is the root of all our problems, symbolically speaking. So beheading Ganesha was symbolic of the destruction of the root of all problems, the destruction of the personal manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara. And remember the trishul with which Shiva beheads Ganesha… Shiva’s trishul that represents the three gunas of nature.” “Yes Master,” said Aruni, “I can see it clearly. This is beautiful poetry, Sire!” “What indeed is poetry but the inspired expression of Truth itself?” Asked the Rishi, “the poet, kavi, is the seer, the drashta. All our knowledge and wisdom have come to us through our seer-poets, those who saw in their divine visions the Supreme Truth and could bring down some of that Truth into their consciousnesses and convert that to shabd and vak, sound and speech. Mark the fact that it is Ganesha who is invoked by the greatest seer-poets of our tradition before they begin any of their great poetic utterances!” “Indeed, Sire!” said Upamanyu, “Why is this so?” “Isn’t that because,” said Aruni to Upamanyu, “Ganesha is the portal, the entry, to the omnipresence and the omniscience of the Divine?” “And,” added Varun, “why Ganesha is the first to be invoked, before all other divinities?” “Yes, true,” said the Master, “that is so. Ganesha is the opening, the gateway, and without invoking him, one is left to struggle against all the forces and beings that oppose our work and sadhana. But by invoking Ganesha, one cuts through all the opposition and hostility, all the difficulties, outer and inner. It is as if Ganesha’s grace and power opens all the paths of karma and Yoga and removes all the difficulties and obstacles. Thus is Ganesha also known as Avighna and Siddhidata, the remover of obstacles and the bestower of success and attainments.” “So what happens after the beheading, Master? How come the elephant’s head?” Asked Varun again. “This is particularly enigmatic,” said the Master, “why an elephant’s head? Besides the obvious symbolism, an elephant head being symbolic of strength and power, wisdom and knowledge, it is a deliberate poetic device of the seer to show that the severed head representing manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara cannot be replaced with another head because it is the pattern that must be broken, the very template that must be shattered. Therefore, an elephant’s head — totally illogical, totally extraordinary and totally provocative. This is the deep and the compelling import: the head must go, and go permanently; no replacement, no substitute. The symbolic significance may be there but that is not to be taken too seriously. Take it as poetic alankar.” “Then,” remarked Varun pensively, “the rest of the elephant-body would be similar alankar, a certain symbolic suggestion but not to be taken too seriously?” “Indeed,” replied the Sage, “for the symbolism would appeal to certain minds and temperaments to focus the devotion on certain divine attributes of the godhead. The single tusk, for instance, that would signify one-pointed concentration, or the broken tusk that would signify the capacity to eliminate the unnecessary; the large ears that would signify deep and universal listening, the small mouth that would signify austerity of speech, and the huge stomach that would signify the ability to take in and hold everything within oneself; the ankusa or the axe that he carries in his hands signifies spiritual awakening because of its ability to cut off all the knots of bondage and ignorance, and the paasa or the rope signifies control, as any deep spiritual awakening needs deep control as tremendous energies are released during the process of awakening. “But beyond the symbolism is the deeper spiritual truth that the formless just cannot be represented in form; the best poetic or artistic representations may convey the spiritual truth but will, in time, degenerate into mere formalism and ritualism. Those who do not have the subtle understanding will eventually cling to the form and forget the essence, the truth. “Keep then this truth, this essence, in your hearts: Ganesha is within us, the indwelling portal to the Supreme; we just have to invoke his presence within us and enter into it…” There was deep silence now, within and without, as the understanding opened within like a lotus in the consciousness. The darkness outside deepened as the understanding within blossomed. The Rishi began to intone again, softly and deeply, as if drawing out the sounds from some fathomless depth of consciousness within himself: Om namaste Ganapataye Tvameva pratyaksam tattvam asi Tvameva kevalam karta asiTvameva kevalam dharta asiTvameva kevalam harta asiTvameva sarvam khalvidam brahma asi Tvam saksad atma asi nityam  O Ganapati, You alone are the manifest Truth and Essence of all, You alone are the sole doer, You alone the sole sustainer, In You alone does this universe dissolve in the end,You alone are the infinite omnipresent Brahman,You alone are the eternally manifest Atman. Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha Read in Hindi 1Tapasteja, literally the teja or force / intensity of tapas, askesis or concentrated spiritual effort. 2Turiya, simply understood as the fourth state, is what Sri Ramana used to call the state of ‘wakeful sleep’. Some Yogins equate the state of samadhi with Turiya. 3Sthira means unmoving, stable, in equilibrium. 4Literally, the great or vast night, symbolic of the darkness cast by the veils of Maya. 5त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं तत्त्वमसि । त्वमेव केवलं कर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव केवलं धर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव केवलं हर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्मासि ।त्वं साक्षादात्माऽसि नित्यम् ॥ — Ganapati Atharvashirsha, V.2
Om, The Imperishable Word ओमित्येतदक्षरमिद्ँ सर्वं तस्योपव्याख्यानं भूतं भवद्भविष्यदिति सर्वमोङ्कार एव। यच्चान्यत्त्रिकालातीतं तदप्योङ्कार एव ।। OM is this imperishable Word, OM is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM. (From the Mandukya Upanishad) Om is the quintessential signature of the Hindu dharma. No sacred task, no holy sacrifice or yajna, no worship, prayer or invocation can begin without Om. Om is the first invocation and the last benediction. All mantras and hymns, all prayers and salutations to the Divine end on the note of Om. The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, called Om the signature of the Lord, and the supreme invocation. Whether one recites Om quietly within oneself or sings it in a group, it has the same beneficial effect of spreading the vibrations of peace and calm, of concentrating the mind and heart in the deepest or highest consciousness. Om is the sound that rises ever upward, from the lower chakras to the higher, from the lower prakriti to the higher, from our earth plane, the so-called mrityuloka or the plane of death, to the highest Anandaloka or the plane of Divine bliss. Om is the ascending path of Light from death to immortality, from unconsciousness to Truth Consciousness. It is believed in the Sanatan Dharma that the right understanding of Om can open the passage to the highest Yoga. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, OM is the symbol and the thing symbolized. It is the symbol, aksharam, the syllable in which all sound of speech is brought back to its wide, pure indeterminate state; it is the symbolised, aksharam, the changeless, undiminishing, unincreasing, unappearing, undying Reality which shows itself to experience in all the change, increase, diminution, appearance, departure which in a particular sum and harmony of them we call the world. Describing Om intellectually is a daunting task, for Om is not a subject for academic study but a theme for meditative contemplation and inner concentration. Analyzing Om intellectually is like dissecting a poem into structure and semantics to find out how it is composed instead of plunging mind and heart into it and letting it express itself through you. Analogies apart, that is what Om does: if you give yourself wholly to it, immerse your mind and heart in it, it comes alive in you, it reveals and expresses itself through your consciousness, making your consciousness its own manifest field. This is the transcendental power of Om: it is not just a particular sound, syllable or mantra with a certain mystical significance but it is the very root and basis of all sound, it is literally the mother of all mantras, the consciousness matrix out of which the whole universe arises as seed vibration, or beej-spanda, of the Divine. When the Supreme Inconceivable Brahman, in its absolute singularity, wished to become the Many, that inconceivable divine Wish, which was also simultaneously the divine Will, became the seed of this entire universe, and that seed was Sound. Not a sound but Sound itself, nada. Nada was the first sound to arise out of the infinite potentiality that was before the beginning of Cosmos. That infinite potentiality, without beginning or end, out of which all universes arise like so many waves out of an infinite sea, is known as bindu. Bindu, in Sanskrit, means a point or a dot. Bindu, in mystical Hindu Dharma, represents the dimensionless point of infinitely massed consciousness as pure potentiality. It is this that is the origin of all manifestation and creation. Think of this bindu as a mathematician would think of a point, a position without dimensions. As infinitely massed consciousness and infinite potentiality of existence, bindu is therefore absolute (non-relative) position, sthiti, and as infinite, it is without dimension, ananta aparimanit. Whatever exists in dimensions is finite, and constitutes srishti or manifestation, and whatever is without dimension necessarily transcends srishti or manifestation. Bindu, therefore, transcends manifestation while containing it all within itself, not in any space or time but in its own sthiti and is known by the sages as the symbol of the adishakti, the Divine Mother or the Divine Womb. Om is the primal cosmic vibration through which the nada, eternally absorbed in bindu, arises out of it and becomes Chit-shakti or the consciousness-force pervading the Cosmos. Om is nada and bindu in conjunction or Yoga out of which all consciousness and Cosmos manifest. In the Shiva Purana, nada is identified as Shiva himself, incarnate as sound that becomes Cosmos, and bindu is identified as Shakti, incarnate as the infinite creative potentiality out of which arises Cosmos. This whole universe then is Shiva, as nada, manifesting out of Shakti, as bindu; and Shakti, as bindu, sustaining Shiva, as nada, through all this visible and tangible universe. While the Shivalinga symbolizes this mystery in the visible universe, the Omkar, or the mystic form of Om, symbolizes this mystery in the invisible and subtle universe. As the Omkar devolves from its supreme transcendental heights into our material world and consciousness, so it can evolve from our material world and consciousness back into its transcendental heights. Thus, the Omkar is known as the supreme path of ascension to the highest of realizations. By following the upward pathway led by the Omkar, the seeker can attain to the truths of all the worlds and planes of being. The syllable Om itself is composed of three seed syllables (or letters as phonemes) A, U and M. A (अ), U (उ) and M (म), pronounced together gives rise to the sound of OM or AUM, and it is this three-syllabled sound that the Yogi intones and meditates upon. There are layers of occult and mystical meanings involved with each of these three syllables, as with the integrated sound of Aum. In Sri Aurobindo’s words: the syllable A (अ) represents the external manifestation or consciousness realized in the actual and the concrete, seen by the human consciousness as the waking state. The syllable U (उ) represents the internal manifestation, the intermediate consciousness realised in the inner potentialities and intermediate states between the inmost supramental and the external, seen by the human consciousness as the subliminal and associated with the dream state. The syllable M (म) represents the inmost seed or condensed consciousness (the inmost supramental, glimpsed by the human consciousness as something superconscient, omniscient and omnipotent, and associated with the state of dreamless Sleep or full Trance.) The integrated sound of AUM (ओम or आऊम) represents Turīya, the Fourth; the pure Spirit beyond these three, the Atman consciousness.. This AUM is the transcendent sound of infinite wavelength. The idea of infinite wavelength is difficult to grasp; but if one can imagine infinite wavelength, one will intuit how an entire universe, which is ultimately energy combinations, can be contained in a single sound or vibration. AUM, as this single infinite vibration, is the portal to the superconscious, non-dual state. It is at this point, at this mystic threshold, that AUM merges into the anahata, the sound of Silence, and the known universe is reabsorbed into the transcendental Silence of the Divine. To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s description of Om: OM is the symbol of the triple Brahman, the outward-looking, the inward or subtle and the superconscient causal Purusha. Each letter A, U, M indicates one of these three in ascending order and the syllable as a whole brings out the fourth state, Turiya, which rises to the Absolute. OM is the initiating syllable pronounced at the outset as a benedictory prelude and sanction to all act of sacrifice, all act of giving and all act of askesis; it is a reminder that our work should be made an expression of the triple Divine in our inner being and turned towards him in the idea and motive. Om is thus the vehicle of the highest meditations. By meditating on each of the letters of AUM, the Yogi can access and master the planes associated with each of the letters — the waking, the subtle, the atmic or the inmost; and by meditating on the integrated sound of AUM, the Yogi can enter the integral Turiya state that not only transcends but subsumes the other three. The Mandukya Upanishad opens with the declaration that Om is the eternal, imperishable word. All other words, being descriptors of transient subjects and objects of the universe, perish; but Om being the descriptor of the Eternal, is itself eternal and imperishable. The Hindus regard Om as the very name of God. Let’s reflect briefly on Om as the name of the Divine. In Hindu philosophy, manifestation consists of two aspects: nama (name) and rupa (form). Nama, or name, represents the psychological nature and qualities of a being and rupa, form, represents the visible, physical attributes. Namarupa, therefore, is the mind-body of all beings in existence. The process of naming is essential for a complete mental cognition of reality, as the senses, cognizing only form, are unable by themselves to form a complete picture of reality. The mind grasps or realizes (makes real to itself) a thing or being only by perceiving the form in conjunction with the name, thus associating form with identifiable attributes. Naming, therefore, gives the consciousness the power to recall and invoke the entity that is named and perceived. Thus, the name has enormous power. One can perceive form but not be able to relate to the form without recalling and invoking the name associated with the form. A relationship is established and maintained only through namarupa — name and form. But in terms of consciousness, relationship doesn’t need the form, name alone is sufficient; the name can recall the form perfectly to mind even without the form being present. Form is impermanent and perishable since it depends on physical presence in space and time; but name, as a construct or reality of consciousness, is imperishable and timeless. Thus, there are traditions in Hinduism that are based solely on the nama of the Divine and dispense with rupa. This is particularly true for non-dualists who accept only the formless aspect of God, for the formless Divine can only be invoked and recalled through the nama or the power of the nama. Anyone in love can readily testify to this power of the nama: you only need to recall the name of your beloved to be immediately in touch with him or her in your consciousness, even to the exclusion of the entire world. Om, then, is the name of the Divine: Brahman or Ishvara are only descriptions of the attributes of the Divine — Brahman is that which infinitely expands, the ever-perfect and the auspicious; Ishvara is one’s highest or inmost status of being, one’s own divinity or godhead. But Om is the name itself, the name that has the power to immediately recall and invoke the Divine. Meditating, therefore, on Om as the name of the Divine is held to be the most direct way to the realization of the Divine. The name leads to that which is named: the symbol leads to the symbolized. If Om is the living and direct symbol of the Divine, then the Divine, as the symbolized, is present in the name as its inmost vibrations. The Yoga is to bring the inmost vibrations to the surface consciousness and make those vibrations the natural vibrations of one’s mind, life and body. Om is thus not only the way but also the destination concealed in the way. To chant Om is to immediately connect in consciousness with all that Om represents, symbolizes, conceals. Meditating on Om is immersing one’s outer and inner consciousness in the inmost, the soul-consciousness. Om is the surest and perhaps the quickest way to penetrate the multiple layers of the outer being and the outer universe and drill ever deeper into the inner and inmost layers of self and cosmic existence, it is indeed to return to one’s existential and spiritual source in Brahman, in the Supreme Truth. As mantra, Om is supreme, it is the beej-mantra, the seed-mantra of all other mantras. Indeed, all mantras known to Yogis through the ages arise out of this one beej-mantra. Sri Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita, om ity ekaksharam brahma, the single syllable Om is the supreme God, and then goes on to establish his own identity with it: pranavah sarva vedeshu, within all the Vedas, I am the AUM; giram asmi ekam aksaram, of vibrations I am the transcendental AUM. For those who know who Sri Krishna is, and what he represents, these three statements read together are the signature and seal of the Divine on Om. Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth century, and the avatar of the Supramental Divine, said of Om: OM is the mantra, the expressive sound-symbol of the Brahman Consciousness in its four domains from the Turiya to the external or material plane. The function of a mantra is to create vibrations in the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolizes and is supposed indeed to carry within itself. The mantra OM should therefore lead towards the opening of the consciousness to the sight and feeling of the One Consciousness in all material things, in the inner being and in the supraphysical worlds, in the causal plane above now superconscient to us and, finally, the supreme liberated transcendence above all cosmic existence. In the words of that other saint and avatar of the last century, Sri Ramakrishna: Some sages ask what will you gain by merely hearing this sound of Om? You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal. Om is also known as pranav. As Rishi Patanjali stated: Pranav is the designator, vachak, of Ishvara, the Supreme Self. By the japa or constant repetition of pranav with profound bhava or devotion, all obstacles in life and sadhana will disappear and the consciousness will turn inward. The Shivapurana describes Om as an excellent boat to cross the ocean of samsara or worldly existence, playing on an interesting etymology of the word pranav — the root pra from prakriti or manifestation, and navam varam, meaning, excellent boat. In the words of the Mother of Pondicherry Ashram: With the help of OM one can realize the Divine. OM has a transforming power. OM represents the Divine. You will recall this O……..M, O…..M, that’s all. O…..M. It must be manifested. If anything goes wrong, repeat OM, all will go well. 1Ōmityeta dakṣharamidam sarvam, tasyo pavyākhyanam, bhūtam bhavatbhaviṣhy aditi sarvam omkāra eva; yaccānyat trikālātītam tadapy omkāra eva. 2Excerpted from Sri Aurobindo’s notes on the Chhandogya Upanishads
The Divine Mother या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातृरुपेण संस्थिता।नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥ To that Divine Goddess Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of the Mother,Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations again and again. The Divine as the Eternal Feminine, as the Mother, is perhaps the profoundest and the most powerful of the mysteries concealed at the heart of Sanatan Dharma. The Hindu reveres and invokes the Divine as the Transcendent Brahman, as the Indescribable Supreme Being, Purushottam, as the beloved Sri Krishna, or the inscrutable Shiva, the eternal Self of all that lives and moves in this universe; but he also adores and invokes the Divine as the Mother, as the primordial Consciousness-Force, Chit-Shakti, and the supreme creative principle that manifests all being, and sustains and nurtures it even as a human mother sustains and nourishes the life of her child. And even as a mother bears her child in herself, so does the Divine as the Mother bear us all in Her cosmic womb, the sacred matrix, till we are spiritually ready for our full manifestation. Indeed, our whole life in the cosmos is an occult evolutionary preparation in the cosmic womb of the Divine Mother. Few indeed can entirely grasp the supreme mystery of the sacred Feminine. Sri Aurobindo describes this sacred Feminine in his mantric epic, Savitri: The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,A power of silence in the depths of God.She is the Force, the inevitable Word,The magnet of our difficult ascent. The sacred and eternal Feminine, the Divine Mother, is the root of this entire universe, the very force that weaves it into the fabric of spacetime; the One who dwells equally in the heart of the atom and in the inmost self of man, the One who spins the Cosmos around the invisible axis of Her divine being, and the One who lies coiled and involved in the heart of matter as the Supreme Light of Truth, jyoti-parasya. Often the first contact of the devotee with the Divine Mother is through Love and Light, for She is the foremost and perfect embodiment of both: as Love, She is the source and the consummation, the fount of all that manifests as Existence, Consciousness and Delight of the Divine; it is out of Her Love that all this exists, that all this has its being in space, time and consciousness. She is the eternal Love that manifests as the Self of the Vedantin, as the God or Ishvara of the Yogin, and as Shiva or Narayan of the meditator and the devotee. As Self, She is the inmost psychic being, the living portion of the Supreme indwelling in all living beings, the sacred Agni in our inmost hearts; as Agni, the evolutionary Flame, She consumes all our darkness, our ignorance and obscurities, and leads us with a supreme compassion towards our own highest Truth. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, She is the magnet of our difficult ascent. All forms in this universe are variations of Her infinite becoming, She alone is the whole of this creation, and, indeed, of creations without end. At the head of all manifestation, on the mystic edge of that primordial event-horizon out of which arises all being, She is the Adi-Parashakti: the originating Supreme Consciousness-Force of the Divine. Without the Mother as Adi-Parashakti, Brahman Itself would be incapable of manifestation and Its first movement of Will to become would simply fall back, impotent, into the silence of the Unmanifest. All this that we regard and experience as World and Cosmos, Vishwa-Brahmanda, albeit in minuscule measure, are planes and parts of Her infinite being and becoming. She becomes all; all that we are and ever shall be, all that we know and ever shall know, are only forms and formulations of Her infinite creative capacity — She alone is the Divine Creatrix, the Power or Shakti of Divine Creation. Thus is She known as Mahashakti — the supreme Force of Creation. But do not regard Her as only Force, for She is Force of the Divine Consciousness, She is the animating consciousness-force that manifests Shiva, and without Her, Shiva would remain inert and unmanifest, lifeless as shava, a corpse. Shiva, the transcendent Divine, offers his cosmic heart to Her as Her sacred base for manifestation, and She assumes the cosmic form of Mahakali preparing and moulding the universe for Shiva’s Truth; without the Mother’s benign presence, Shiva’s Truth would instantly vaporize the universe. She is then the Shakti upholding even Shiva, the consciousness-force bearing Shiva’s pillar of infinite Light. As Narayani, She is the creative consciousness-force emanating from Narayan through all the planes of cosmic existence, weaving spacetime consciousness for Narayan to make Himself manifest in all His infinite becoming. Narayan’s vishwarupa, or cosmic Form, is but the Mother’s supramental vision made manifest in the eternal spirals of evolutionary Time. As Narayani, She sustains universes in Her consciousness as portion of Her own infinite being. Without Her as the embodiment of Love, this universe as we know it would fall apart, cease to exist. It is out of Her Love that She keeps the universe cohesive and coherent from the quantum to the cosmic levels; from the tiniest spark of life in the single cell to the vast consciousness of the mighty Gods — She alone is the Force that binds and wields. When the physicists contend with the powerful forces within the atomic nucleus and stand back amazed at the sheer potency of the very small, they are but countering just a minuscule fraction of the Mother’s immense Power and mystic Love. When the astronomers look upon the incredible cosmic vastnesses, into the farthest reaches of space and time, and stand bewildered by those appalling immensities, they are but catching just the faintest tantalizing glimpses of the Mother’s inscrutable power of creative formation, or Maya. As the possessor and wielder of Maya, the divine creative power of infinite formation, She is known as Mahamaya. As Mahamaya, She sustains, at multiple levels, from the invisible to the supracosmic, the grand appearance of the Universe. For the Universe is not really a thing out there but a manifestation of one of Her formations that She holds in Her consciousness. Mark the fact that it is one of Her formations. There are numberless formations and universes that the Divine Mahamaya weaves out of Her infinite creativity, and these are not all out there but truly deep within, as one discovers on entering the inner layers of Her manifestation: layers subtler than subtlest thought, so subtle that these appear almost void to our ordinary gross consciousness. Thus, it is said that the Mother as Mahamaya holds all conscious life in Her inscrutable spell of Maya, and none — not even the great gods and sages — can escape Her field of Maya without Her grace, will and consent. She is known to Her ardent devotees as the One who grants all capacities and powers of consciousness, sarvasiddhidayini. It is by Her divine Love that She liberates the soul from the illusion of the false ego; it is by Her Love that She liberates the mind from the illusions of the false existence, mithya and avidya. She is, therefore, also the One who grants all liberation and freedom, sarvamuktidayini. For all souls caught in the snares of cosmic and egoic illusion, her Love is the Light of hope. For not only is She Love, She is also the source of divine Light, She Herself is the Light of the Supreme, jyoti-parasya, that Yogins through the ages have invoked and revered, the Light without which there would indeed be no Yoga or Sanatan Dharma. The Divine Mother is indeed the heart of the Dharma. Whoever, wherever, gives himself to Dharma, gives himself to the Divine Mother. When one stands for Dharma in this universe of perplexing duality and confusion (for all evil is but confusion and duality) and protects Dharma, he is protected directly by the power of the Divine Mother. Dharmo rakshati, rakshitaha is equally a mantra for invoking the protection of the Divine Mother. There are those who feel, perhaps rightly so in the confusions of everyday life, that the Sanatan Dharma is in grave danger, under threat by hostile forces; but they forget too easily perhaps the deeper truth that the Sanatan Dharma is the manifest field of the Divine Mother’s Yogic work upon earth, and earth herself may be destroyed but the luminous seeds of Sanatan Dharma will survive, concealed eternally in the Mother’s bosom, awaiting its time of revival and rejuvenation in the endless spirals of evolutionary Time. The ones who have known even an infinitesimal portion of the Divine Mother’s consciousness also know that the Mother is vaster than this earth of ours, and a million earths, nay — a million universes, can arise and dissolve in the infinite consciousness that She is. Who indeed can know the Mother in his or her small, time-bound consciousness? For the Mother exceeds space and time, exceeds consciousness too, exceeds all manifestation. In the wink of an eye, She can create a universe, and in the space of that same infinitesimal fraction of time, She can dissolve it all. The Mother is the creative Word of the Divine. When the sage says “in the beginning was the Word…”, he is pointing to the mystical truth of the Divine Feminine as the Word of creation. The Word, the Divine Logos, is also the mystic-syllabled Om out of which arises all manifestation. The ancient sages realized this Om as the Divine Mother’s first seed of Light sprouting as the universe. This was the mystic beginning, pure unmanifest and undifferentiated consciousness manifesting as the Mystic Sound or vibration of the three-syllabled A-U-M. AUM is also the gateway to the understanding of the Divine Mother, for each of the syllables represents a plane of the Divine Mother’s manifestation and can lead the Yogin to not only knowledge of these planes but direct experience, anubhava, of these planes. In a deeper mystical sense then, the Mother is Brahman’s power of Creation, the Supreme Creative Word. Thus it is declared by the sages of old that following the mystical revelatory pathway of Om, one can penetrate the Mother’s Maya and enter into the higher regions of Her Lila and Ananda. It is only by that that the soul comes to the Truth of ananda or divine Delight behind Mother’s formidable Maya. But Maya is not just illusion, it is also the creative power that makes cosmic manifestation possible. Without Maya’s luminous veils between the mind of man and the utter Truth of the Divine, personal existence in the Cosmos would become impossible, for the mind would then be entirely and utterly consumed by the Inconceivable as a spaceship approaching too close to the Sun might be consumed by the heat of the Sun. The Divine Mother, as the Light of the Supreme, holds the Sun in Her consciousness and regulates its Light and heat, tapas, so that life in the Ignorance may not dissolve too early in the evolution of the Spirit: for the whole purpose of our human manifestation is to evolve to the Mother’s Supreme Light, and it is only by Her force of Maya that She regulates the pace of our evolutionary journey — neither too rapidly out of rajasic impatience, nor too tardily out of tamasic inertia. To do this effectively, the Mother divides Herself infinitely, becomes a portion of Herself in each of us, and guides us intimately, through our own struggles and tribulations, surely and steadily towards the Truth consciousness. That portion of Herself in each of us is the psychic being, the chaitya-purusha of the Vedas. Sanatan Hindu Dharma will soon discover the reality of the psychic being; it is the discovery of the psychic being that will give to Sanatan Dharma its much needed rejuvenating life-force. And beyond Sanatan Dharma itself, the discovery of the psychic being as the pivot of future spiritual life, will be the next necessary evolutionary step for all humanity. It is the Mother as the psychic being that will save humanity from its self-destructive habits and tendencies. Assuredly, the next age will be the age of the Sacred Feminine. The Sacred Feminine will balance the forces of nature and restore evolutionary equilibrium. Our earth life is out of balance: too much of the masculine, too little of the feminine. This is the root of all our present day civilizational challenges and crises. The aggression of monopolistic and monotheistic religions based on the pernicious idea of one God and one religion for all humanity, for instance, is the defining feature of masculinity out of sync with its femininity; the aggressive nationalist politics of most nations, the hegemonic tendencies of authoritarian ideological governments are also characteristics of the masculine out of sync with the feminine. The exploitative and opportunistic economics of the modern world is also a characteristic feature of an overtly masculine thinking out of sync with the feminine. The continued destruction of natural environments and the almost irreversible climate change are also indications of that same masculinity out of sync with femininity. Our civilization needs desperately the healing touch of the Divine Mother. No religion that admits the Sacred Feminine can remain aggressive and violent. The Sacred Feminine is characterized by openness, humility, compassion and gentleness, and the spirit of universal nurture and universal acceptance — for these are the attributes of the Divine Mother, these are the virtues of the Feminine, sacred or mundane. The discovery of the psychic being as the Mother’s portion in all human beings will be that necessary personal shift, and one would hope and pray, eventually a terrestrial shift, towards the Feminine. It is the Divine Mother as the Sacred Feminine that will bear earth life towards its next evolutionary status. This is a crucial point: that each of us who understands the truth of this evolutionary shift from the masculine to the feminine must actively embody and live that truth. We must ourselves progressively become psychic beings bearing the force and light of the Feminine in ourselves. We must ourselves turn to the Sacred Feminine, or else we will be out of sync with the spirit of the new age. To understand this better, let us not confuse the Sacred Feminine with being a man or woman. Each of us, man or woman, possesses the Masculine as well as the Feminine equally in our depths of being. Neither is superior, both are equal and equally needed for the manifestation and the evolution of the manifestation. The perfect equilibrium between the Masculine and the Feminine, between Purusha and Prakriti, between Ishvara and Shakti, is the creative basis of the Sanatan Dharma and of human evolution. Eventually, as the excess of the Masculine in our civilization is corrected and balance is restored, a dynamic equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine will be the higher evolutionary norm. But the way to that will be through a present and immediate shift of our energies and consciousnesses towards the Feminine. In other words, we have come collectively, as a species, to the threshold of the Feminine: the Divine Mother needs to be restored to the centre of human life and spirituality; our spiritual life and religions must become a terrestrial invocation of the Sacred Feminine. We must now turn to the Mother, consciously and joyfully. The Mother is not only the Divine’s Truth and Consciousness but also its Love and Delight — She is the anandamayee, the embodiment of Ananda, as much as She is the chaitanyamayee, the embodiment of Consciousness, and satyamayee, the embodiment of Truth. 1yādevī sarvabhūteṣū mātṛrūpeṇa saṃsthitānamastasyai, namastasyai,namastasyai namonamaḥ 2Book 3, Canto 2 of Savitri by Sri Aurobindo 3As used by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the context of Integral Yoga.
Sri Krishna and Shiva: Deeper into the Mystery One is there, Self of self, Soul of Space, Fount of Time,Heart of hearts, Mind of minds, He alone sits, sublime. Oh, no void Absolute self-absorbed, splendid, mute, Hands that clasp hold and red lips that kiss blow the flute. All He loves, all He moves, all are His, all are He! (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem Krishna) If Shiva is the austere, inconceivable presence of the Supreme, the vast impersonality of the Divine, Sri Krishna is the Divine Personality supporting the eternal play of existence as Vishnu, the archetypal sustainer and nurturer, and himself entering into it as friend, lover, intimate guide and Guru. To invoke Shiva to descend to the earth plane to support or aid evolution is a near impossibility, but Sri Krishna is a constant presence amidst the world-play as the incarnate Divine and the World Teacher, the avatar and the jagat guru, leading humanity towards its highest consciousness. It is his assurance to the human soul that he would be born upon earth, age after age, whenever the burden of unconsciousness would threaten to disrupt the evolutionary balance of the universe. If Shiva is the archetypal ascetic, the ash-smeared adiyogi with matted locks and serpents, Sri Krishna is the cowherd with the alluring flute, playmate of the gopis, king, statesman and warrior who understands the intricacies of the world as much as he understands the profoundest mysteries of the universe, is as much at home with politics as he is with metaphysics, can fight and destroy as skillfully as he can play the flute and dance. If Shiva is the Silence of the Infinite, the shunya in which floats all existence, Sri Krishna is the music of the spheres, he is the manifest Cosmos brimming with life and energy, the radiant godhead of ananda, the supreme bliss of existence and consciousness. If Shiva is non-duality, the absolute Alone, Sri Krishna is the delight of the One playing amidst the infinite Many, the Lord of Love and the rasa of the Divine’s all-becoming. The sages declare that this whole existence is Sri Krishna’s blissful play, Krishnalila. Of him indeed the Upanishads say — raso vai sa, verily, he Himself is Delight . Hindu dharma has two faces: one, Shiva, the ascetic, the tapasvi, seated on Kailash, symbolic of the supreme peaks of Yogic consciousness; and the other Krishna, the delightful,the anandmaya, the one sporting with the gopis in a Raaslila symbolic of the eternal play of the Divine and the human, the play of the spirit in matter, the play of love drawing the soul ever closer to the incomparable delight of union with the Divine. Shiva is the consciousness-source of existence and Krishna is the delight-source: we arise out of consciousness and delight and we return unto consciousness and delight. This is the mystery at the heart of Sanatan dharma. Whichever route we take, through consciousness or delight, it is the same consummation we reach: for consciousness is delight, delight is consciousness. Religions that regard human life as sinful or deluded cannot comprehend this mystery. The God of such religions is outside of the universe, a benign or an authoritative being presiding over human destiny. The God of Sanatan dharma is neither within nor without; in a deeper sense, neither transcendent nor immanent: God is the universe, it is the whole of existence. Transcendence and immanence are mere statuses relative to human consciousness, not absolute truths. The Truth is manifestation. God or the Supreme Reality is this very universe. God or that Supreme Reality does not create this universe — it becomes this universe out of its all-consciousness and all-delight. We say Shiva is that all-consciousness and Krishna is that all-delight out of which arises this universe — all beings and things are manifestations of Shiva, of Krishna. But these too are human expressions limited by human consciousness. The truth, as our sages and seers declared trenchantly, is absolute oneness — Shiva is Krishna and Krishna is Shiva: separating the two is like separating fire from its heat. As the Yajur Veda declares categorically: शिवाय विष्णु रूपाय शिव रूपाय विष्णवे | शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुं विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः | यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः |  Shiva is the manifest form of Vishnu, another name for Sri Krishna; Vishnu is the manifest form of Shiva. Vishnu dwells in Shiva’s heart as Shiva dwells in Vishnu’s. Wherever one finds Vishnu, one will find Shiva; and wherever one finds Shiva, one will find Vishnu. Realizing the one is realizing the other. Thus all existence is consciousness and all consciousness is delight — this must be understood. Consciousness and delight are not attributes of existence but the very substance of existence: existence is consciousness, and existence is delight. This triune reality of the Sanatan dharma is known as satchitananda: Sat is existence itself, Chit is consciousness and ananda is delight, bliss. To be, therefore, is to be conscious, and to be conscious is to be in delight, in the bliss of being. The moment one understands this triune reality, one understands too the purpose and meaning of existence and consciousness — to grow in consciousness towards the perfect bliss and delight of existence. In fact, it is not even so much a question of one’s growing in consciousness; it is more a matter of understanding that consciousness grows by its very nature towards more being and more delight. This is what is known as brahmagati — the movement of Brahman into its own vastness. Brahman is the vastness, brihat, and ever-expands into itself. Thus the supreme consummation of the Sanatan dharma is to become one with the Truth, satyam, which is also the Vast, brihat. Shiva then is the expansion of consciousness into its own vastness; Krishna is the deepening of consciousness into its own infinite depths. Together, for one who can fathom this mystery of mysteries, they lead the human soul to its perfect fulfillment in ananda — the bliss of the Divine. But this is not the whole of the rasamaya anubhava: there is a still intenser bliss, or rasa, of knowing that Shiva, seated in the mind’s pinnacle, opens the consciousness to the eternal light of Truth; and Krishna, seated in the inmost heart, opens the consciousness to the eternal delight of the Divine. The true devotee of the Sanatan dharma is therefore neither a Shaivite following Shiva as the one godhead, nor a Vaishnavite following Sri Krishna as the one godhead; she is a Yogi in whose consciousness the two become integrally one. It may be enough for some seekers to aspire for Shiva’s perfect non-duality and purity within themselves, and some seekers may be content aspiring for Krishna’s perfect delight and bliss; but for the complete Yogi who aspires to realize the very heart of the Sanatan dharma, neither is sufficient: she aspires for purnata, completeness, which is realizing Shiva’s fierce purity in Krishna’s delight, and Krishna’s bliss and delight in Shiva’s fierce purity. Can one even begin to conceive of such a realization? For this is a Yoga of a different dimension: austerity, asceticism and vast impersonality merge blissfully into love and delight of the Divine; non-duality revels in the variegated opulence of multiplicity and multiplicity resolves back, moment to moment, into an indescribably profound unity. Everything comes together, all diverse streams converge, and the Yogi dissolves into the perfect ananda, only a thumb-sized portion of her inmost consciousness and being remains to partake of the timeless anandmaya Purusha, the Being of Bliss. This is the experience of the supreme, the most excellent, rasa of all existence — paramam rasanubhuti. It is this paramam rasanubhuti that is at heart of the Sanatan dharma. All other experiences and realizations, all other processes and attainments, are only preparations for this supreme rasa, for it is in this rasanubhuti that existence is finally justified and validated in the profoundest possible way. All existence arises out of ananda and into ananda subsides. Sorrow, pain and suffering, birth and death, delusion and ignorance, falsehood and evil, are all steps along the way, processes of an infinite evolution of consciousness that even the vastest human mind would fail to grasp. This consummation of the Sanatan dharma is a state of perfect and permanent absence of sorrow and disturbance; our ancient sages called this the anamayam padam — the sorrowless state. This is the brahmanirvana that Sri Krishna holds as the highest good in the Bhagavad Gita. This nirvana is not an extinguishing or extinction — it is the consummation and fulfillment of the jiva, the human soul, in perfect union with the Divine. The one who understands this, understands too that this universe and our human existence in it is not just Maya and mithya, it’s not just delusion and ignorance, it’s not just pain and suffering, it’s not the meaningless extinction in death, nor an eternity of heavenly reward or hellish retribution, nor even an ever-circling round of karmic processes from lifetime to lifetime. It is none of all this. Existence is a vast field of lila, of divine delight and play; human life is a journey of consciousness from one peak of light and delight to another, ever higher, ever more fulfilling. It is not evil or falsehood that stands opposed to the godhead: it is our own spiritual ignorance and unconsciousness. It is an obvious thing: the antithesis of consciousness is unconsciousness, not evil. If anything, evil and falsehood, that so bewilder the human mind and heart, exist only to serve the spiritual purpose of awakening the human soul to its higher light and truth. This is the truth of Sri Krishna: that all is His play, do not be bewildered, do not be dismayed by appearances; look deeper, look with more love and understanding, and you will see Sri Krishna and you will see Shiva, and you will see your own highest and deepest self, your atman, and you will know that there are no divisions or differences. To realize one’s own existence as the Divine’s play of consciousness and delight is the crowning glory of the devotee and yogi. As Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, comparing the Divine with honey, I do not wish to become the honey; I want to taste and savor the honey. This savoring of the divine honey is the soul of the Sanatan dharma. Why else would one consent to be born as mortal on earth? 1 रसो वै सः — From the Taittiriya Upanishad; Sri Aurobindo’s rendering. 2 Shivaaya Vishnu Roopaaya, Shiva Roopaaya Vishanave; Shivasya Hrudayam Vishnur, Vishnuscha Hrudayam Shivaha; Yatha Shivamayo Vishnuhu, Yevam Vishnu Mayaha Shivaha
The Guru is one who personally leads you from the darkness of ignorance and unconsciousness to the undying light of Truth and Immortality. The Guru is the mother who nourishes the spirit even as the biological mother nourishes the body; the Guru is the father who disciplines, teaches, instructs; he is the friend and guide who walks beside you, pace to pace, without judgment or expectation. But more than all that, the Guru is the living embodiment and representative of the Divine. The Guru is the true anchor of the Hindu dharma, not the priest, not the preacher, nor even the scripture. It is the Guru who is the source of all light and knowledge, the unfailing hand that steadies the difficult climb, the rock upon which you can stand, secure and safe. The Guru, in the Hindu tradition, is regarded as equal to God, acharya devo bhava. Acharya — one who teaches and transforms — is another word used commonly for the Guru. Guru Purnima is celebrated annually on the first full moon (purnima) after the summer solstice in the Hindu month of Asadha, corresponding usually to June or July of the English calendar. This period marks the beginning of the monsoon season in India. This is the time when India’s traditional peripatetic monks would rest because of almost incessant rains and take a break from their continuous wanderings. These monks would settle down at a place, an ashram usually, and devote the coming three months or so to spiritual discussions, practices and contemplation. Guru purnima is the day that would mark the beginning of such an auspicious spiritual period, a period dedicated to serious studies and intense meditative practices. There is a symbolic meaning too: Guru purnima also marks the arrival of the rains in India, when the hot and parched land is drenched in the rains and all life springs back to vitality and activity after the oppressive heat of the Indian summer. This reflects so perfectly the inner condition or the bhava of the disciple too, yearning for the “rainfall” of Divine Grace and Knowledge: As the disciple prays to the the Guru: Like this desiccated earth receiving rain, May I, athirst for Knowledge, as parched as this land,Be flooded with the deluge of Thy Grace. The Guru’s Grace and power is believed to increase a thousandfold on the day of Guru Purnima. This is because so many realized sages and masters, through the generations, have poured freely their energies and consciousnesses into the subtle atmosphere of the earth for the spiritual welfare of all humanity. It is well known that the benedictions of a realized sage has the unfailing power of actualization across time and space — such is the power of Truth. And thus, all sincere aspirants for Truth and self-realization await this day to renew their faith in the Guru, to revive their commitment, to consecrate themselves yet again to this upward ascent to the Supreme, an ascent that would become almost impossible to accomplish without the living aid of the Guru. Guru Purnima has a profound significance for all spiritual seekers and devotees of the Hindu dharma. This is a spiritually charged day, and the beginning of a spiritually charged period, a period that opens tremendous spiritual possibilities for evolution and transformation for all those who are even a little open to the higher consciousness. Such a period should not go waste. The disciple only has to concentrate herself on her deepest, her inmost aspiration and leave the rest of the labor to the Guru. A little opening during this period can lead to tremendous results. And the Guru’s assurance is repeated, year after year, through all the planes of consciousness: one small step towards me, and I shall come to thee in leaps… According to Hindu itihasa, Guru Purnima is widely believed to be the day when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, was born to Sage Parashara and Devi Satyavati, the daughter of the fisherman chieftan, Dusharaj. The Srimad Bhagvatam states that “in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of Satyavati through the sage Parashara, who then divided the akhanda or the integrated Veda into several branches and sub-branches for easier dissemination.” Thus this day is also known as Vyasa Purnima, Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa being regarded as one of the archetypal Gurus of the Hindu Sanatan tradition. Another popular legend, perhaps going further back into the mists of time, tells us that the first Guru, the Guru of Gurus, Shiva, also known as Dakshinamurthy, one who faces the south, gave the first teaching of the Supreme Self to humanity. This is the reason that Shiva is regarded as the first, the archetypal, Guru, the adiguru. It is on this day, millennia ago, that Shiva the adiyogi assumed the mantle of the Guru, becoming the adiguru, the first Guru of the Yogic tradition. The legend goes somewhat like this: A long time ago, four wise men, seeking for deeper answers to their existential queries, were wandering from place to place looking for someone who could give them the key to the understanding they needed. Amongst these, the first wanted to find the secret to immutable bliss, permanent liberation from suffering — the dukkha that dukkha is. The second wanted the secret of prosperity and wellbeing — how to be permanently free of scarcity and insecurity. The third of these men wanted to understand the meaning and significance of life — is there a permanent significance and value of human life? The fourth was a man of knowledge and wisdom, but felt incomplete as his wisdom still did not have the transforming touch of the Supreme Truth that can come only through the living Guru. He did not know how to get to that. So these four seekers came to an old banyan tree in a remote village and found there a young man sitting quite still, with a beatific smile on his face. Looking upon his face, they all had the same thought simultaneously: that this young person would give them the key. So they sat down before him, quietly, and waited for him to open his eyes. The mysterious young man opened his eyes after what seemed an eternity, and looked at the four of them. His smile became more radiant, his eyes looked as if into the very depths of their hearts. But he said nothing. He just made a strange gesture, a mudra. And, as if by some occult transmission, the four wise men understood, got their answers, their enlightenment. The first understood the root of all human suffering; the second understood the root of all fear and scarcity; the third understood the true value and significance of human existence; and the fourth realized sannidhya: the proximity to the living Source, the deep inner contact with the Guru. This indeed was the first transmission of Yogic Knowledge from Guru to the disciple, the shishya. This was the birth of the Guru-Shishya parampara of the Hindu Sanatan dharma, the very underpinnings of our Dharma. This parampara or the tradition of transmission of Knowledge from Guru to disciple continues to this day. This transmission may happen through the spoken or the written word, shabd, through inner inspiration and insight, prerna, or through silence, mauna. It is this parampara that is the backbone of the spiritual Dharma. Adi Shankaracharya composed a beautiful verse to mark this first transmission of Knowledge from the first Guru to the first disciples: मौनव्याख्या प्रकटित परब्रह्मतत्त्वं युवानं वर्षिष्ठांते वसद् ऋषिगणैः आवृतं ब्रह्मनिष्ठैः । आचार्येन्द्रं करकलित चिन्मुद्रमानंदमूर्तिं स्वात्मारामं मुदितवदनं दक्षिणामूर्तिमीडे ॥ Roughly translated, this means: Praise and salutation to that Dakshinamurthy (who faces the south),Who explains the true nature of the supreme Brahman,Through his perfect silence,Who is young in looks,Surrounded by disciples who are old Sages,Whose minds are fixed on Brahman,Who is the greatest of teachers,Who shows the Chinmudhra by his hand,Who is personification of happiness,In the state of bliss within himself. Guru Purnima is also celebrated by the Buddhists and the Jains. The Buddhists mark this auspicious day in honor of the Buddha’s first sermon on this day at Sarnath. The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath, five weeks after his enlightenment, to find his five former companions, the pancavargika. He had foreseen that these former companions of his would be ready to receive the Dharma from him. When the Buddha found his former companions, he taught them the Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra. This transmission enlightened the companions, and they perhaps became the first monks of the Buddha dharma. This marked the establishment of the Buddha’s Sangha, on the full-moon day of Asadha. The Buddha then spent his first rainy season after his enlightenment at Sarnath. The Jains celebrate Guru Purnima to commemorate the 24th Tirthankara Mahavira accepting his first disciple, Indrabhuti Gautam. From that Guru Purnima day on, the Mahavira became the Guru. The Occult Significance So how does the disciple use the force and auspiciousness of this day? The commonly accepted practice is to worship the Guru. This is significant in its own place. But worship is only the first step. Worship must deepen into inner living contact and intimacy: sannidhya. To be in spiritual proximity of the Guru, in his living presence, is the essence of the Guru-Shishya relationship. It does not matter if the Guru is physically near or far; it does not even matter whether the Guru is still in the physical body or not. Sannidhya transcends time and space, birth and death; the Guru who has realized the Self is immortal, eternal and can manifest as easily in the supraphysical planes as on the physical. But the disciple must know how to give himself to the Guru inwardly, integrally, for only then can the Guru manifest in the disciple’s consciousness. Entire self-giving is the secret, the master key. The work of the Guru is a tapas of the consciousness. What the Guru transmits in words or gestures is only a mere fraction of what can be transmitted through sannidhya. The whole weight of the teaching comes through the Guru’s silence: it is through the silence of the Guru that the Truth is transmitted in all its force and purity. The disciple must therefore prepare her mind and heart to receive the Guru’s silence, and this can best be done only if the disciple himself is in a state of deep receptive silence. Guru Purnima then would be a day for inner silence, a day for invocation, consecration and concentration. Concentration builds up in the disciple tapas-teja, the force of askesis, without which nothing of the Guru’s Light or Force can be received or assimilated. The true transmission, we must remember, is of spiritual force and not mental knowledge or understanding. Mental knowledge and understanding enlighten but spiritual force transforms, transmutes the old substance into the gold of the Divine. Consecration is as important as concentration. Consecration is the act of giving oneself integrally to the Guru, and by giving oneself, making oneself worthy of receiving the Guru’s grace and force. This is the true meaning of consecration — to make sacred, to prepare oneself for the Divine in mind, heart and body. For the Guru or God can only manifest if the receptacle is pure and whole. Once the consecration is made, and the concentration firmly established, the disciple is ready for invocation — of calling the Guru’s spiritual presence into his inmost being. This calling is exactly what the word implies — a call to come, to manifest, to assume complete control, to become the inner Master, the Lord of one’s whole being, antar Ishvara, the inner Divine. The Mother of Pondicherry Ashram gave us the most prefect mantra for such an invocation: Om namo Bhagavate… Come, manifest, make me the Divine. In the Mother’s own words: The first word, Om , represents the supreme invocation, the invocation to the Supreme. The second word, namo, represents total self-giving, perfect surrender. The third word, bhagavate, represents the aspiration, what the manifestation must become — Divine. This is the eternal call of the human soul for the Supreme Self, of the atman for the paramatman, of the human disciple for the Divine. It is the Guru who is the mediator between the human and the Divine, between the atman and the paramatman — the bridge between the mortal and the Eternal. The disciple must remember that there is no difference between the Guru and God. The Guru stands in the middle ground between the invisible and the visible, the unmanifest and the manifest, the high peaks of Self-realization and the base camp of our human aspiration, our human sadhana. Without the Guru, our ascent would be enormously difficult and may take years of sadhana; with the Guru, we can fly, and compress in a few years the sadhana of a lifetime. Such is the power of the Guru. गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः । गुरु साक्षात् परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥ The Guru is Brahma, the creator; Guru is Vishnu, the Preserver; the Guru is Maheshwara, the destroyer. The Guru himself is the living Supreme Brahman; my obeisance to that divine Guru. This year, 2020, the Guru Purnima occurs on July 5th. Purnima Tithi Begins – 11:33 AM on Jul 04, 2020Purnima Tithi Ends – 10:13 AM on Jul 05, 2020 Read in Hindi 1 Mouna vyakhya prakatitha, paraBrahman thathwam yuvanam, Varshishtha anthevasad rishiganai, Ravrutham brahman nishtai, Acharyendram kara kalihtha chin, Mudram ananda roopam, Swathmaramam mudhitha vadanam, Dakshinamurthim eede.
Shiva, The Great God On the white summit of eternity A single Soul of bare infinities, Guarded he keeps by a fire-screen of peace His mystic loneliness of nude ecstasy. (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem, Shiva) Shiva, in Hindu dharma, is perhaps the most evocative of mystical and Yogic representations of the Supreme Consciousness. Shiva, in fact, is the Supreme Consciousness, the eternal existent, Sat, and the eternal consciousness, Chit, out of which this whole manifestation arises and into which it finally resolves. Yogis regard Shiva as the absolute nothingness out of which all existence arises. Shiva, as Void, is the supracosmic womb of all being, the primordial seed of the universes; it is in Shiva that Shakti, as infinite potential for prakriti, rests; for Shiva is unmanifest, avyaktam, till Shakti awakens and moves, manifesting prakriti. Prakriti is all that is made manifest as Cosmos, world and self, what one could loosely call ‘creation’ or srishti. Shiva is the divine Darkness out of which Light, the progenitor of prakriti, is born. Shiva’s divine Darkness contains all Light, and therefore all creation, in potential. Shiva is like the blackhole, infinitely dense and packed with energy and matter but itself invisible as no light escapes the blackhole because of its infinite gravity. From the outside, if there could be any outside to Shiva, Shiva would appear void, empty, nothing. Yet within, in its own absolute interiority, Shiva is everything and everyone; all possibilities of existence teems within Shiva, all space and time lies coiled within him like an elemental serpent still to awake. Shiva holds in his absolute stillness the infinite expansion of universes, the waves upon waves of brahmagati . This darkness of Shiva is not absence but infinite concentration of light in pure consciousness which is the sthiti of Shiva as avyakta or unmanifest. To know Shiva as the divine Dark is to transcend the universe of ordinary light and duality; Shiva’s divine Dark is the formless non-duality that can only be known when the physical eyes are closed in nirvikalpa samadhi, the immutable, unmodified state of the Yogin, and the third, the occult eye, opens, the self-luminous eye that needs no external source of light: the eye of Shiva in which the seer and the seen, the subject and object, are one. Shiva is the dimensionless consciousness which holds within itself infinite dimensions of life and existence. It is in this timeless and fathomless trance of Shiva that the first divine spark of becoming is lit: that first divine desire to become the Many. Out of this desire arises Shakti, Shiva’s creative consciousness-force that tears Shiva’s singularity into the primordial duality of Ishvara and Ishvari. Thus, out of Shiva’s consciousness womb arises the Divine Mother, the infinite matrix of all manifestation, the source of all being and becoming. But through all this separation and disruption, Shiva and Shakti remain non-dual, one within the other in a supreme transcendental mystery: Shakti is Shiva manifest when Shiva opens his eyes and turns his gaze outward, and Shiva is Shakti held within in seed when Shiva closes his eyes and turns his gaze inward. The Yogin who possesses the truth-vision sees Shakti as Shiva in movement, and Shiva as Shakti coiled up in eternal quiescence. As Shakti, the Eternal Feminine and the Divine Mother, Shiva becomes the universe, he does not merely project it out of his creative consciousness, he becomes it. Thus the Yogin knows that all that is manifest, all that exists, all that can be seen, known, felt and touched is Shiva himself as his Shakti; and even that which is conscious in himself as himself, that which he is in essence, in tattva, is Shiva. Shivoham therefore becomes the first and primary mantra of Yoga: I am Shiva. And as this mantra penetrates and fills the consciousness of the Yogin, all differences and dualities fall away and Shiva alone stands revealed as Self, world and Cosmos. Yet, though Shiva permeates all existence, none can know Shiva, for Shiva himself is the knower and the seer of all, the witness of all that is. The supreme attainment of the Yogin is the realization of oneness with Shiva. Shiva is the perfect non-duality and so in him all dualities and divisions of the knower and the known dissolve. To know Shiva is not possible because there is no knower or knowledge outside of Shiva. Thus is Shiva known as Void, as nothingness: not because he is truly void but because he is beyond the reach of all dualistic human consciousness and all human faculties of knowledge. Like the blackhole, Shiva is invisible and inaccessible, and so shunya or void to our human consciousness. But it is this shunya of Shiva that is the background and substratum of all being, for when all is demolished in the timeless spirals of the universes, it is this void that remains, immutable and unfathomable; when all the light in which existence manifests is withdrawn or extinguished, all that remains is the divine Dark of Shiva. To enter Shiva’s divine Dark is to enter the heart of the supreme mystery, for it is in that divine Dark that one knows oneself in the starkness of being, as the pure and the one — shivoham, shivoham. It is in the inmost cave of the mystic heart that one becomes Shiva in a supreme ecstasy of spiritual union, when Shakti, as Prakriti, the eternal feminine, returns to Shiva, the Supreme Purusha, and resolves herself in him. This is not some distant onetime supracosmic event but an intimate yogic experience that repeats itself endlessly, through all humanity, wherever and whenever a human soul realizes its oneness with Shiva and dissolves into his unfathomable vastness. Dissolution in Shiva is the highest nirvana, the utter liberation, purna moksha. Most Hindus regard Shiva as the destroyer, the God of pralaya or cosmic dissolution. But Shiva does not destroy, there is no necessity of destruction in the Divine’s scheme — Shiva dissolves and absorbs his own manifestation back within himself once the cosmic evolutionary afflatus is exhausted, much like a spider withdrawing its web back into itself; the many return to the One, multiplicity collapses back upon non-duality or singularity. In withdrawing existence back into himself, Shiva does not destroy, he transforms. Pralaya is a misunderstood idea: it is not the final destruction of the universe, it is the dissolution of the false universe and the false self in the Truth of Shiva. Thus the Yogin knows Shiva as the God of transformation and not destruction. In Shiva’s auspicious presence, death itself ceases to be an individual pralaya and turns into a spiritual metamorphosis for the realized Yogin. Shiva’s play of manifestation and withdrawal of manifestation, oneness and multiplicity, projection and dissolution, does not happen only over yugas or aeonic spans of time but through the individual human consciousness in human time. Transformation of consciousness is the natural outcome of all Yoga, and as the Adiyogi, the first, the archetypal Yogin, Shiva presides over all transformation of consciousness: it is Shiva that leads human evolution, through the ages and through human lifetimes. Shiva, therefore, is also known as Yogeshvara, the Lord of Yoga. The ancient sages who had known Shiva intimately in their consciousnesses had said that whosoever surrenders to Shiva sincerely and entirely is led by Shiva himself, the adiyogi and yogeshvara, to the supreme heights of self-realization in a single lifetime. Shiva’s compassion and generosity to whoever invokes him sincerely and persistently is legendary. Shiva is also known to mystics as Swayambhu, self-manifested. He manifests all existence out of himself but he himself has no source, no origin. This is a profound mystery. If existence itself arises in Shiva, Shiva must be beyond existence; and that which is beyond existence cannot exist. This that is beyond existence itself, the sages tell us, is the pure Existent, Sat. Sat, as pure Existent is the source and truth, tattva, of all existence — out of which all existence arises and flows. Therefore the pure Existent is self-manifest, arising out of itself, uncaused and timeless, a mystery beyond all dimensions of being and consciousness, shunya arising out of shunya because that which is not in causality is beyond materiality, a formlessness so incomprehensible that it appears to be nothingness, shunya. The Yogin learns to rest with such mysteries and not try solving them; the way to Shiva’s inmost mysteries is through profound passiveness and surrender where the mind and heart fall into deep silence and the gaze turns inward, for it is within that Shiva resides. To meditate on Shiva as Swayambhu is one of the most powerful ways of transcending the dualities of consciousness and entering the silence of the soul. As Ardhanarishvara, the God who is half woman, Shiva symbolizes deeper ontological non-duality: the perfect blend and balance of the creative force of Ishvara, seen as the masculine, and the sustaining and nurturing force of Ishvari, seen as the feminine. As the non-dual divine consciousness-force, Chit-Shakti, Shiva, as ardhanarishvara, represents the non-separability of the masculine and the feminine. The masculine-feminine duality is the primary polarity of our human universe. To meditate on Shiva as ardhanarishvara is a powerful way of transcending this primary polarity of our existence and restoring the original dynamic equilibrium of meditation and action, chaos and order, evolution and assimilation, the outer push and the inner pull. Whoever transcends these primary polarities comes closer to the repose of a perfect identification with Shiva as the Formless, nirakara. Worshipping Shiva, in the Sanatan tradition, is an act of consciousness, an inner consecration and offering of body, mind and heart, a constant invocation of his mystical and spiritual aspects through an elaborate system of external symbols and mantras. Shiva can be easily propitiated if one understands his deepest and perhaps best-kept secret, that he is the indweller, the one who is seated within; the one who searches for Shiva in the universe of form and name is sure to be confounded, and the one who can renounce form and name and invoke Shiva within is the one who will be granted the boon of higher consciousness. Thus many smear ash on their bodies, metaphorically or actually, renounce homes and families, become mendicants and ascetics, even practice harsh austerities but come no closer to Shiva’s inmost mysteries, for Shiva eludes them like the horizon. But those who understand that Shiva is the inwardness of being are the ones who unravel his mysteries in their hearts and souls. They are the ones who understand that Shiva’s asceticism is not physical but psychological; Shiva’s tapasya is the tapasya of Truth and purity. Shiva’s devotee must descend into the dark caves of the heart and there find the eternal Light. Shiva is commonly depicted as an ascetic with ashes of corpses smeared on his body. This is a stark symbol of Shiva, the adiyogi as a tapasvi. Tapasya, from the word tapa, heat, is the fire that burns delusion and ignorance. The form of the ascetic represents the inner detachment of the tapasvi who lives in the mortal world, amongst all its attractions and distractions, but constantly aware of its impermanence; the ash (vibhuti or bhasma) of corpses (shava in Sanskrit) symbolize impermanence, death and dissolution — ash being the final residue of the mortal body. Thus, holding always in one’s mind and heart, in constant inner remembrance, the ascetic smeared in the ashes of corpses, the Yogin can rapidly transcend her identification with the body and the material world and attain to the detachment and freedom of Shiva in her own consciousness. The archetypal yogin and tapasvi, Adiyogi Shiva, is also the Mahadeva who is known as Neelkantha, the God with the blue neck, the blue symbolizing the effect of the poison that Shiva takes within his own body as an act of supreme compassion, to protect the universe from the effects of evil. The symbol goes back to primordial times when the ocean of existence is being churned in a great battle between the Devas and the Asuras. This great churning, mahamanthan, releases destructive toxins in the atmosphere that threatens to destroy all life. Shiva, out of his divine compassion, to save and protect existence, drinks the poison, but the Divine Shakti that eternally dwells in Shiva stops the poison from entering the body and the poison remains in Shiva’s throat, turning his neck blue. This is profound and powerful symbolism: the churning is the eternal evolutionary process in the human universe that releases forces of good and evil, forces that strengthen evolution of consciousness and forces that oppose it. Shiva takes in the poison that symbolizes the evil or anti-evolutionary forces and holds it in his throat: he does not consume it nor does he expel it, he instead holds it in abeyance and transforms its effect to permanent good. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, invoking him as Neelkantha, the Yogin can transcend the duality of good and evil, of devas and asuras, and collaborate in this timeless cosmic battle to transform all forces of evil and destruction to the ultimate good of life in the universe. This indeed is the ultimate aim of the Mahadeva: to transform everything, every form and force in Cosmos, to ultimate Good. Shiva is also depicted with his hair coiled in matted locks and adorned with the crescent moon. This further adds to the rich tapestry of symbology woven around Shiva. According to mythology, Shiva stopped the descent of the Ganga from the heavens and broke her fall on earth by absorbing Ganga in his hair and reducing her torrent to a trickle. There is obvious Yogic symbolism in this: Ganga is not the river but the symbol of a higher consciousness descending to a fragile earth plane in a torrent that would have flooded the earth. The matted hair symbolizes the higher crown or chakra that alone could contain the descent without cracking. Releasing the flow of Ganga in trickles is symbolic of how the Yogi, in complete control of Prakriti, releases the higher consciousness, chakra by chakra, into the mind, heart and body. Meditating on this aspect, the devotee can open her own mind, heart and body to the descent of the higher consciousness through Shiva. Shiva is also known as Trayambakam, the three-eyed (traya, three) God. The two eyes of Shiva represent the ordinary dualistic perception, the sense-universe, the right eye representing the sun or the solar influence, the left eye representing the moon, or the lunar influence; the third eye, which opens when the other two close, represents fire, agni, which is the Yogic or spiritual vision, direct perception of Truth which ‘burns away’ all dualities. This third eye, when open, brings the direct perception by destroying the mind’s powerful identification with duality. This is the reason it is said that the third eye can destroy when focused on the outer world: what it destroys is the delusion of duality. By meditating on this aspect, the devotee can ascend to the non-dual direct perception of Shiva. The crescent moon that Shiva bears on his head symbolizes time and the measure of time; in the Vedantic sense, the measurement of time, or any measurement, is an attribute of Maya. In wearing the crescent moon on his head, Shiva represents complete control over time and the Maya of time. Shiva is eternal, beyond time, and thus he wears the crescent moon as symbol of time itself as ornament which can be taken off at will. The serpent around Shiva’s neck, Vasuki of mythology, represents the vital force of the ego and the deep-seated fear of death. Ego and the fear of death are deeply related, intertwined. The serpent around Shiva’s neck symbolizes complete victory over both, ego and fear of death. Shiva wears the serpent as an ornament which is itself symbolic of mastery. Some devotees regard the serpent as symbolic of the eternal cycles of time, kala. By wearing it thrice around his neck, Shiva represents complete control of kala, time. Time represents mortality. So control of kala is control of mortality. In a deeper sense, ego, time and mortality, and the fear of death are all entwined. By meditating on this aspect of Shiva, by bearing Shiva’s representative form in the consciousness, the Yogin can transcend ego and conquer all fear of mortality and death. Remember that the mrityunjaya mantra, the occult key to conquering the forces of death and decay, was given as beej or seed mantra by Shiva. The trishula or trident that Shiva carries as a weapon represents the triune reality of Shiva as the one who manifests the universe out of himself, preserves it in his consciousness and finally absorbs it back into himself. To some Yogis, the trishula represents the perfect equilibrium of the three Gunas of nature — sattva, rajas and tamas. Through sattva, Shiva manifests Cosmos, through rajas, he sustains or preserves Cosmos and through tamas, he reabsorbs Cosmos into his divine Darkness. Some others regard the trishula as the triune powers or faculties of the human consciousness: Volition, ichha, knowledge, jnana, and action, kriya. With this triune power in hand, anything in the world may be accomplished. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, concentrating on Shiva with this trishula, the Yogi can master the three gunas in her own nature, master the powers of her consciousness and work towards accomplising the highest good, even as Shiva himself. Shiva also carries the damaru, a drum, in one of his hands in a symbolic gesture or mudra called damaru-hasta. This is yet another profound mystic symbol. The damaru or the drum represents the Shabda Brahman or the primordial sound of Aum. When the damaru is played with the right concentration and in the right inner state, it produces the sound of Om, rising to Nada, the primeval cosmic vibration of A-U-M. The Yogin meditating on Shiva with the damaru can enter that consciousness-space where she can merge her being with the Nada and bring something of that divine vibration into her own psychic being. One of the most prevalent symbols associated with Shiva is the Linga. With the linga, the devotee comes to the purest and most powerful of all symbols of sanatan Hindu dharma. The linga is the symbol of the Infinite, Formless Shiva. It is also the most ancient of symbols, going back to times when the now accepted representations of Shiva in image or idol did not exist. The word linga itself means symbol or mark. Swami Vivekananda once described the linga as the symbol of the eternal Brahman. In certain mythological references, we find that Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailash, which is itself a symbol of the highest consciousness transcending Cosmos, is represented by the linga as the centre of the universe, the central axis around which the Cosmos revolves. The linga is not just a block of stone but a mark of the great avyaktam, the Unmanifest, and simultaneously, it is the most profound mark of the vyakta, the manifestation; a symbol of the perfect equilibrium of the masculine and feminine, of the visible and the invisible. It stands silent, lone, absolute, evoking in the devotee a silence beyond all descriptions of thought and speech. One who meditates on the linga, understanding its profound Yogic and occult significance, can transcend all duality of manifestation and taste the rarest bliss of the Unmanifest in the Manifest. Through concentration on the linga, one can merge one’s consciousness in that pillar of Shiva’s pure light, the jyotir-linga. The legend goes that Shiva once appeared as a pillar of Light, jyotir-linga, to Brahma and Vishnu, the other two mahadevas of sanatan Hindu dharma, and asked them to find the extreme ends of the pillar. Neither of the great Gods could find the end — and how could they? Infinity has no dimension, no end. Shiva’s linga is the symbol of the unknowable in the known, the unmanifest in the manifest. To meditate on the linga is to meditate directly on the supreme mystery of Shiva. However, even after all these descriptions and interpretations, one is aware that one has only scratched the surface of a fathomless mystery. Shiva cannot be known, understood or explained by the human mind, however vast be the knowledge or profound the understanding of the mind. Our attempts to describe Shiva are like a child’s attempts to describe deep space. The deeper one delves, the more one realizes the vastness and profundity of Shiva’s mystery: Shiva is neither God nor Person. Shiva never was, never will be. He is and he is not. All forms are his but he is formless. He is nearer than the nearest, more intimate than our own breath, yet he is everywhere and everything. Where indeed to find such a one? For Shiva is dark and void to those who look for him outwardly, in forms and symbols; for those who can penetrate the symbolism of the symbols and the formlessness of forms, he reveals a bit of himself, just the first glimpses, to lead the soul farther and deeper. But to those who are willing to give themselves inwardly to him, as moth to flame, knowing that he is all there is, he gives of himself, freely and with overwhelming generosity. Shiva’s Grace is the Grace of the Divine Mother. To invoke him is to invoke her. He is the one ever-present, indwelling and luminous in our consciousnesses, as Ishvara and Ishvari. Om Namah Shivaya, Salutations to Shiva, the Luminous One 1Perhaps the first appearance of the Ardhanarishvara was in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as the archetypal creature which was of the same dimension as a man and woman closely embracing, which then fell apart into two aspects out of which were born man and woman.
The Symbol & the Symbolized If Brahman, the Divine, saturates this whole Cosmos, sarvam brahmamayam jagat, then what of the objects within the Cosmos? What of the infinite life forms that populate the Cosmos? Hindu darshan categorically, through its several mahavakyas, states that Brahman pervades this universe from the subtlest to the grossest, from the atomic to the galactic, from the single cell to the body of mammoths, from the first quivers of nervous energy in matter to the cosmic consciousness of the maharishi — all is Brahman, there is no other, neha nanasti kinchan. Therefore, to the Hindu who understands, there is nothing in the whole universe that is not the Divine, not God. Every object and every living being in the universe is sacred, the whole of existence is Divine and the entire universe is the temple of the Divine, and life itself the offering and the sacrifice to the Divine. This is indeed the high and vast truth that the forefathers of Sanatan Hindu dharma brought to earth, not for a particular sect or society but for all humankind. As our Vedic forefathers declared millennia ago: as long as men shall live, so shall the Dharma; for verily, the Dharma is the eternal guide and protector. For the Hindu who understands the deeper truths of her own dharma, there is no necessity for a separate religion — for her life itself is religion, life itself is dharma. The living of life in the spirit of consecration and sacrifice is indeed the highest good: this is the Vedic secret that is brought so perfectly to fruition in the Bhagavad Gita through the idea of all life and works being a constant sacrifice, Yajna, to the Supreme Self, Purushottam. Life as sacrifice to the Supreme Self is the key idea of Sanatan dharma. What is the Self? This is perhaps the one idea of the Upanishads that causes most confusion to the uninitiated, for the self in English denotes a psychological entity, (myself, yourself etc.), always associated with a person or a personality. But the Self of the Upanishads, the atman, has nothing to do with personality, it does not represent a particular entity; it is impersonal, universal, eternal. Sanatan dharma does not hold a supreme God amongst other gods as the ultimate; the ultimate and supreme Truth, param Satyam, of sanatan Hindu dharma is being itself. This being itself is known as Brahman or Sat, pure undifferentiated being whose original status is unmanifest, avyakta. Brahman, as pure undifferentiated being, then differentiates and manifests, becomes vyakta, as existence or astitva. The Self, or atman, is the consciousness that knows Brahman, the Divine being, as astitva, existence. Therefore, for the Self, all existence is divine, all is Brahman. For the mind however, which is but a portion of the Self, existence is broken up into myriad forms and attributes and does not appear as the one Brahman. Thus it remains bewildered by appearances of multiplicity till it awakens to the Self within. Astitva is like a boundless ocean in which we all have our individual existences, and nothing literally exists or can exist outside of this ocean, for anything outside of existence would be non-existent. This boundless ocean of astitva is all Brahman just as an earthly ocean is all water; and just as a fish in the earthly ocean may not know the whole ocean or the water at all, the human immersed in the astitva-ocean may not know Brahman at all. Yet, Brahman, being astitva itself, is manifest in all objects, forms and forces. One does not need to look for Brahman anywhere: Brahman is all there is. Looking for Brahman would be like the fish in the ocean looking for water. Grasping this truth of the mahavakya that all is Brahman, and Brahman is this astitva, it is possible to realize oneself as astitva, and astitva itself as Brahman. In fact, to know and realize all existence or being as Self is the summum bonum of Hindu sanatan dharma — aham brahmasmi, I, as Self, am Brahman, the Divine. But realizing Self as Brahman is the first of a threefold realization: having realized Self as Brahman, one realizes all selves, all beings, as Brahman, for if Self is Brahman in one being, then it follows that everything and everyone that possesses Self is equally Brahman; and that the Self is the same in everything and everyone, it is one but manifests multiply in infinite forms and variations. Therefore, the Hindu who knows and understands the truth of his dharma, regards all forms and forces and movements, sarvarupa-sarvagati, as the One Divine, the One Brahman, and bows in reverence to all, big or small, significant or insignificant, high or low. To the Hindu who understands, this whole Cosmos, in all its myriad forms and movements, is the Divine and nothing and none is excluded, from the microbe and virus to the bird and beast, from the primitive savage to the human, from the first self-awakened human to the great gods and goddesses, all are equally manifestations of the One Self. This profound mystical realization is the practical basis of Hindu sanatan religion — either all is the Divine or none; the Hindu regards even the asuras and rakshasas, those opposed to Light and Truth, as forms, however seemingly distorted, of the Self. For the sanatan Hindu, there is no such thing as implacable evil, no such thing as irredeemable hostility to the Divine, no such thing as original sin. In fact, even the Vedantic concept of sin is impurity of consciousness — duality is the only impurity, say the sages of old: where one sees the other, hears the other, knows the other, is impurity; where one sees the Self, hears the Self, knows the Self, is purity. The true knower of the Hindu sanatan dharma does not, therefore, regard even images and idols as lifeless objects — each idol, each totem, is representative of an aspect of the infinite formless Brahman. Brahman, though saturating and informing the entire universe, itself is formless and can only be apprehended, however approximately, in living forms or forms created by the living. Thus the Sanatani Hindu regards all forms as sacred representatives of the One Divine. When the Hindu devotee erects an idol of a god or goddess, she first infuses life-force into it, as prescribed by tradition, before the image or the idol assumes ‘divinity’ and can be worshipped. This infusion of life force, through an occult Yogic process, is known as prana-pratistha, literally, establishing the life-force. Once this is done, the idol or the image assumes an aspect of divinity and becomes like a live wire connecting the aspiring human consciousness to the Divine, or to that aspect of the Divine that the external form represents. Those spiritually or intuitively open can sense and feel the divine presence in these forms. The Mother says, all this (idol worship) is based on the old idea that whatever the image – which we disdainfully call an ‘idol’ – whatever the external form of the deity may be, the presence of the thing represented is always there. And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence. The presence of the Divine, invoked or latent, in all forms, then, is the key. If the presence can imbue even one form anywhere on earth, it can imbue all forms. Thus, whether a block of stone or granite or an entire mountain, a carved wooden statue or tree, a lake or river, sun or moon, a photograph or an object of daily use, in everything one can sense the divine presence and force if one is open in heart and spirit. The animating force is not in the object of adoration but in the consciousness of the one who adores. Sri Aurobindo once visited a temple in Karnali, on the banks of the Narmada, near the end of his stay in Baroda (1904–06). At that time, he was quite an atheist. As he shared in one of his evening talks: Once I visited Ganganath (Chandod) after Brahmananda’s death when Keshwananda was there. With my Europeanized mind I had no faith in image-worship and I hardly believed in the presence of God. I went to Kernali where there are several temples. There is one of Kali and when I looked at the image I saw the living presence there. For the first time, I believed in the presence of God. Regarding the same experience, he wrote to Dilip Roy: … you stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what? A sculpture, a gracious piece of architecture, but in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the World-Mother. The presence of the Divine can be felt and touched anywhere, in a piece of stone or a single leaf, if the consciousness is open, wide and receptive. The modern intellectual mind does not grasp this, not half as well as the savage mind instinctively used to, because it lives in concrete structures of thoughts and prejudices. Most regard idol worship as superstitious and primitive, unmindful of the fact that almost all modern day consumerist society is engaged, in one way or another, with idol worship and idolatry. Almost all of our movie industry, fashion, advertising and politics will collapse if all idolatry were to be eliminated. The idol worship of the Sanatani Hindu is, however, far more advanced and sophisticated than the idolatry of the 21st century consumerist homo-commercialis. For the Hindu, the idol is the symbol, and the symbol is that which is symbolized. This is a deep truth of Hindu mysticism — this whole universe symbolizes the infinite, formless Divine; all things and beings are symbols; and each symbol is a little bit of that which is symbolized. Therefore, when Ramakrishna stood before the clay idol of Kali, he did not see mere religious symbolism: he saw and experienced the Divine Mother herself in that symbol; the symbol for him was the symbolized, the image of the Mother for him was the Mother. That which is symbolized is always the Real and the symbol is always the external representation of the Real. It is through the symbol that the Real enters the external. When the Real is forgotten or recedes from consciousness, the symbol loses its spiritual significance and is reduced to a mere ritualistic object. The problem, then, with all symbols is when the inner gets disconnected from the outer, the Real is no longer expressed in the external, the symbol is no longer the symbolized. This disconnect applies to several other aspects of Hindu dharma besides idol worship. The mystical significance and beauty of temples, the profound symbolic significance of sacrifices and offerings, the tremendous significance of the Devas and the Asuras, the spiritual significance and power of mantras are all aspects of Hinduism that need to be restored to their inner truths, reconnected with their spiritual and mystical source, and revived in a post-modern form and formulation. We shall delve into these in the coming weeks.
The mahavakya of the Shikshavalli says, Dharmam Char: ‘Follow Dharma’ or ‘Keep moving on the path of Dharma’. Since the verb determines the movement and quality of the subject, so the word ‘char’ needs our attention first. ‘Char’ means ‘keep moving on’ or ‘move along’. Let me contextualize this a bit. India speaks through subtle symbols. One of the significant Indic symbols is the chakra. Chakra is a ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’. The character of the wheel is movement. Life is nothing but a series of movements, continuous, in different forms. It is the opposite of stasis. The wheel symbolizes the perpetuity of movement, the character of life. It came to be associated with time and life as the kala chakra, time-cycle and jivan chakra, life cycle. This wheel found its way into the Indian intellectual and cultural psyche through various schools of Indian thought and manifested in multiple tangible emblematic forms as in the chakra in the Sun temple of Konarka which, after Independence, found its way into the Indian flag and the Ashok Chakra. The mahavakya celebrates the primacy of movement in the cosmos that Aitareya Brahmana elaborates through the narrative of Harishchandra and his son Rohit. In the narrative, Indra explains to the wandering Rohit the importance of motion with the metaphors of the bees, birds and the Sun — Charanbai madhu vindati charantsvadu mudambaram Suryasya pasya sreemanam yo na tandrayate charan (Charaiveti, Aitareya Brahmana, 7.15) Loosely translated, this means that the honey bee, by its motion, collects honey, and birds enjoy tasty fruits by constant movement. The sun is revered, by virtue of its constant shining movement; therefore, one should be constantly in motion. ‘Keep moving, keep moving on!’ Every being in the cosmos follows the principle of moving on. So should human beings. By moving on, one gathers new experiences and every new experience adds to consciousness and one moves on from finite to infinite, and becomes a little less incomplete. Now the question is — if one has to keep moving on, what should one be doing while on the move? Moving on aimlessly without knowing what is to be done would be futile. So the sage qualifies that movement should be oriented to Dharma. Of the four purusharthas — inherent values of the universe or goals and obligations of human life — Dharma is the first. Artha, Kama and Moksha are the other three. Dharma, however, does not mean religion. There is a deeper meaning — dharayate iti ya sa dharmah: Whatever is worth ‘upholding’ or ‘worth doing’ in any given situation for an individual or a community, is dharma. Can Dharma be practiced in isolation? The answer is no. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; dharma must be lived, practiced. While acquiring material well-being, artha, and fulfilling one’s desires, kama, one must remain oriented to dharma, mindful of dharma and practicing dharma. The pursuit of dharma does not entail renunciation of the world, nor does it mean that one cannot follow it while leading the life of the householder (grahastha) and engaging in worldly work. Janaka followed dharma while being a king, and the Vyadha in the Mahabharata was a humble hunter. In simple terms, it means that artha and kama, unattended by dharma, become anartha and dushkama — the antithesis of artha and kama. However, if artha and kama are pursued in alignment with dharma, the fourth purushartha, Moksha, is inevitable. Moksha, freedom from the cause of suffering (of one’s own and of others), is the natural consequence of adherence to dharma while pursuing the other two goals of human life. Moksha is not a faraway metaphysical goal but a state of being that is attained here, and here alone, in this life and in this world. If one wishes to follow the path of dharma, one needs to know and understand dharma. But would it not be a very complicated process to know dharma before practicing it? Yes, if one takes the philosophical or intellectual route; and no, if one takes the route of loka or wisdom. Taking recourse to the shastra mode, the academic or intellectual mode, could be abstract, unpleasant and even cumbersome. Knowledge without understanding and experience is never a source of happiness. Wisdom helps in discovering the path of life to be chosen, as stated in the answer that Yudhishthara gave to Yaksha: Shruti vibhinna smratyopi bhinnah Neko muniyasya vachah parmanam Dharmasya tatvam nihitim guhayam, Mahajano yen gatah sah panthah. (The Mahabharata, ‘Vana Parva’, 3.13.315) The essence of dharma is hidden. So what is to be done? There are two ways: either one can find the path of dharma with one’s experience and observation or just follow the path of the great souls or wise men. The former is a longwinded, time consuming and cumbersome process while the latter is simple and straight. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; it needs to be practiced and lived. Every individual and every particle in the cosmos has its own dharma. But some, or many, would deviate from dharma. Then what would correct and balance out the deviation? Right dharmic action by those who adhere to their own dharma, swadharma, even when others do not. That is why the Gita asks us to follow our own swadharma — Swadharme nidhanam shreyah pardharmo bhayavaha. (Geeta , Chapter 3, shloka 32) Major philosophical schools and cultural texts like the epics, the puranas and the folk narratives of India explained various aspects of dharma by using drishtanta as a mode of construction and dissemination of knowledge. The Ramayana was enunciation of dharma as an ideal that was practiced by Rama, and the Mahabharata about the dharma in real life. With the shift in social behavior from the ideal (in the Ramayana) to the realistic (in the Mahabharata), the latter is a subtler study of dharma, as it tries to shed light on it from different standpoints by bringing in diverse characters, and sometimes even the same characters in different situations in multiple ways in various narratives. Dharma is not absolute but contingent. Dharma is determined by the three conditions of desha, space or location, kala, time and karma, action. As these conditions change, dharma may also accordingly change. That is why it is not absolute or fixed but contingent and variable. But it is variable with qualification, as the following narrative suggests: Yudhishthara, who was also known as dharmaraj or an apostle of Dharma, did not have a monopoly on the understanding of dharma, even he was perplexed. Bhishma Pitamah illustrated the complexity of dharma to Yudhishthara with the narrative of Vishwamitra in the ‘Shanti Parva’ of the Mahabharata. In a certain rather long and extreme drought, the Sage Vishwamitra, starving for days, reached a Chandala (untouchable, of a lower caste) hunter’s hut in search of food. He saw a fresh piece of thigh of a dog. Vishwamitra wanted to have the dog meat but the Chandala pleaded that by doing so the sage would desecrate the dharma of both of them and it would lead to the committing of a sin. The sage Vishwamitra stated that dharma can be observed only if he were alive, and life is preferable to death. Hence, whatever sustains life — right or wrong — was acceptable to him. Vishwamitra rejected all arguments of the Chandala by stating that the highest dharma is to save life at any cost, for life is higher than any other principle. He would be able to seek dharma by leading his life in a pious and righteous manner. The Chandala ultimately agreed to part with the meat. But the sage did not eat it alone. He, in consonance with the tradition, divided it in different portions for the gods, the ancestors and all living beings. Lo and behold! It began to rain, and the period of drought was over. This narrative astonished Yudhishthara, for according to him, how can one be a sage and a pious soul after committing the most despicable act and defiling the dharma? Bhishma resolves his dilemma by saying that the dharma cannot be determined in absolute terms. Also, it cannot be defined by the feeble minded. Its awareness can be developed by following the scripture and the essence of the scriptures. In other words, the epic states that even Yudhishthara, who is supposed to be an incarnation of dharma, is not able to fathom the depths and manifestations of dharma. Further, it underscores a point that life is the highest value, as it is an indispensable instrument for observance of dharma. In this sense, life is superior to dharma. Life is dynamic, ever in flow, and the truth of life must have a practical value, truth as value or rit. Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanasa describes dharma in terms of dharma-ratha, a chariot of dharma. During the war between Rama and Ravana, after the death of Kumbhakarna and son Meghanada, Ravana comes to the battle field riding a Yuddha-ratha (war chariot), well protected by armour, and equipped with sophisticated weapons, while Rama is barefoot without chariot or armour. Seeing this Vibhishana gets distressed, and asks Rama how he was going to win over Ravana. Rama tells him that the ratha (chariot) that helps in winning the war in life is not the one that is owned by Ravana but the dharma-ratha, the chariot of dharma. Rama describes the the Dharmaratha (the chariot of dharma or righteousness) to Vibhishan, thus: Its wheels (chakra) of the chariot are valour (shaurya) and fortitude (dheeraj). Steadfastness in truth and good character are its flag and banner respectively. The horses of that chariot are strength (bala), discrimination (viveka), self-control or restraint (dama) and care for others (parahita). Its reins are made of the ropes of forgiveness (kshama), compassion (krpa) and equanimity (samata). Devotion to God is the intelligent charioteer. Dispassion (virati) is the shield, and contentment (santosh) is the sword. Charity (dana) is the axe, intellect (buddhi) is the potent missile (shakti) and knowledge of the self (vijnana) is the relentless bow. He further adds that a pure and steady (amala achala) mind (mana) is like a quiver, while tranquility, calm (shama) and the various forms of abstinence (yama) and religious observances (niyama) are a sheaf of arrows. Worship and homage to the Brahmins and one’s own Guru is an impenetrable armor. There is no other efficacious equipment or weapon other than the dharma-ratha that is needed for victory, and a person possessing this strong chariot of dharma can conquer even the most mighty and invincible foe, attachment to the world. Tulsi’s illustration of the dharma-ratha shows the engagement of the Indian mind with the mahavakya dharmam char in different ages through the metaphor of the chariot that represents cyclicality, continuity and movement. So one must keep moving on the path of righteousness. Last but not the least, in the Indian tradition, as mortal beings have to follow the path of human dharma (manav dharma) so too the gods have to follow their dharma, (deva-dharma). Even in human form, they need to subscribe to their own dharma in every incarnation. In brief, every human being has to know one’s dharma (swadharma), and keep following it in accordance to desh, kala, and karma. [This article was given by the late Sri Avadhesh Kumar Singh for publishing in Satyameva as his first contribution to the work of Satyameva. We are now reprinting this article with deep gratitude to him — Ed]
The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Mystery of the Self We are now ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of Hindu dharma. Once the Veda secret in the heart has awakened and leads forth the disciple, the path becomes safer and quicker, for the Veda in the heart is an infallible guide, it is the voice of the Divine seated in our hearts as the inner guide and Guru. In the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most lucid and comprehensive of all shastras of Hindu Dharma, Sri Krishna, the Divine Teacher, says to Arjuna, the disciple — Ishvarah sarva bhutanam hriddeshe’rjuna tishthati — O, Arjuna: the Divine is seated in the heart of all living beings. This one simple statement is the master key to the myriad mysteries of Hindu Dharma. Ishvara, as the Divine Teacher and Guide, is seated in the heart of every living being — this is a mahavakya: a statement of profound and seminal importance which can have the effect of potent mantra if taken to heart and followed through to its natural conclusion (more on mahavakya a little later). One who can base his whole consciousness on this single truth will need no other teaching or teacher, for the Divine in the heart will become for him the source of unfailing and unwavering trust, faith and motivation. Knowing that the Divine is in one’s own inmost self, where else would one need to go? Grasping this one thread, the seeker can walk through all possible psychological and metaphysical mazes unerringly on his way to the realization of the Self or God. The first step on the path to realization is to turn one’s attention inward from the external world and its objects and plunge within, into one’s inmost being, the heart or the hridaye, and there find the presence of Ishvara as one’s own most intimate self, the atman. When Sri Krishna declares that Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings, he is referring not to the physical heart, nor even to the heart centre in the body, but to the heart which is symbolic of the centre of one’s consciousness — the hridaye guhayam or the cave of the heart in Hindu Vedic mysticism; this cave of the heart is the centre of one’s consciousness. The inner plunge of the mystic is the act of withdrawing one’s attention from the objects and subjects of the world and concentrating it on the centre of one’s consciousness. This is the first practice of dhyana in mystical Hinduism. The cave of the heart, hridaye guhayam, the secret centre of one’s consciousness, is the altar of the Divine, this is where Ishvara is seated as one’s own inmost being, the self or the atman. The discovery of the atman, the inmost Divine, is the first indispensable spiritual realization of Hindu dharma; one may safely say that the true pilgrimage of sanatan Hindu dharma begins only with this all-consuming discovery of Ishvara as one’s most intimate self. As one approaches the atman, one begins to receive the first glimpses of the supreme mystery of the Divine, one begins to experience Ishvara not only as the centre of one’s own consciousness but the selfsame centre of all consciousnesses in all forms. This is a mula anubhava, essential realization, of the seeker of sanatan dharma, that the same Ishvara resides in all living beings as atman, and the atman is the same everywhere. The rigid boundaries of one’s egoistic consciousness then begin to melt, and for the first time, one begins to experience oneness in all creation; the world is no longer experienced in terms of differences and contradictions but increasingly in terms of one unbroken existence, everything and everyone made of the same spiritual substance and possessing the same psychic essence. This new way of seeing and relating to the universe arises from anubhava, inner experience, and can therefore be tremendously powerful and transformative. It is on the basis of such spiritual realizations of oneness that Hindu dharma declares the truth of human unity in such trenchant syllables — vasudhaiva kutumbakam: the whole world is but one single family. The experience of the atman is a fundamental movement in one’s progress towards the realization of the Divine. The realization of atman, the Divine in the heart, becomes the practical basis for the higher realizations of Hindu dharma. For once the Divine is known in the centre of one’s consciousness, the Divine in revealed in all objects and beings — as if the whole universe becomes divine, and all sense of division, isolation and fear falls away permanently from the consciousness of the seeker. The seeker then becomes a devotee, and all mental seeking and knowledge are swiftly replaced by spiritual wisdom or prajna. Prajna (a term used to denote higher or deeper wisdom in both Hindu and Buddhist psychology) is the opening of a higher order, supra-intellectual faculty which grasps truth intuitively, without having to work its way through processing of information and logical reasoning. The Dharma, at this point, transcends the reasoning buddhi in its ascent towards the supreme Truth and finds for itself a higher vehicle and expression in the prajna. Through the higher workings of prajna, the devotee now comes to the threshold of the next fundamental realization of the Sanatan Dharma: that the atman is indeed Ishvara, the Divine, and in finding the atman, one finds Ishvara. The Divine in Hindu Dharma What is the nature and attributes of Ishvara, God or the Divine in Hindu darshan and dharma? The first Upanishadic pronouncement on the nature of the Supreme God of Hinduism is that the Supreme God — param Ishvara — is unknowable by mind and indescribable by human thought or speech, it is anirvacniya, that which cannot be thought or spoken of. Param Ishvara is Truth itself, Sat, and can only be known by becoming one in consciousness with Sat, what the sages call knowledge through identity. The human seeker or devotee can indeed identify with that param Ishvara only because that param Ishvara already dwells in the consciousness of living beings. Having stated that Ishvara can only be known inwardly through identification in consciousness, the Upanishadic seers then attempt to describe Ishvara through a series of mahavakyas, defining pronouncements or maxims of Hindu darshan (literally, maha, great; vakya, pronouncement or statement). These mahavakyas are aphoristic pronouncements with profound mantric power — if rightly analyzed, meditated upon and assimilated, each of these mahavakyas can take the disciple to the essential truths and realizations of the deeper Hindu Dharma. Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings is one such mahavakya which opens the gateway to the profoundest mysteries of the Dharma. Having realized the truth of the mahavakya in one’s inner experience, the devotee moves on to the realization that not only is Ishvara seated in the heart as one’s atman, as Supreme Brahman, It (He or She in a more personal sense) pervades and fills the whole manifested universe. Not only this, the deeper truth is even more compelling — that this manifested universe with all its infinite variations of form is nothing but Brahman. Sarvam khalvidam brahma, this Upanishadic mahavakya, takes us right to the heart of the Dharma. From the Chandogya Upanishad, sarvam khalvidam brahman literally means that all this — all that is manifest and unmanifest, all that is known, not-known and not-knowable — is equally Brahman, the Divine. Gleaned from across the span of the Upanishads, one can attempt at least a working approximation of Brahman: Brahman (from the root brh, expand) is unlimited, without dimension or boundary, infinite and eternal: akshayam, sarvam, anantam, nityam. Brahman, as the all-transcendent, parabrahman, is beyond all manifestation, and as atman and Ishvara, is immanent in all manifestation. That which the human mind cannot know, nor the senses apprehend, is Brahman, jnanatita, sarva-indriyatita; Brahman is that which cannot be described in any human language, cannot be brought into thought or speech, anirvacniya. Brahman as the Supreme Self, purushottama, is the Knower of all that is and can be known, the Seer of all that is and can be seen; the consciousness of all that is conscious and can be made conscious. Brahman, as param Ishvara, is the Supreme Godhead, the source and end of all that is, was and ever shall be; the all-pervasive, sarvavyapi, that which saturates the Universe, sarvam brahmamayam jagat; that which is the substratum of all being and becoming, mula adhara, the background of all experience, is Brahman; Brahman is the very fabric of space and time; the all-Perfect, purnam, the perfect peace and knowledge: shantam, jnanam. Not only does Brahman pervade all as the Vast, the brihat, it even penetrates into the minuscule, the subtlest — into the smallest particle of matter and pulsation of energy, into the very cells and nuclei of life, even into the subtlest movements of consciousness, right down to our subtlest thoughts and intentions, all is pervaded and informed by Brahman. If Brahman were to withdraw, even for the most infinitesimal fraction of a second, all this that we know as the manifest universe would simply vanish into nothingness. But even after having attempted such a description of Brahman in such superlatives, it still eludes human understanding, remains unexplained and unknowable, for if Brahman is all there is, if there’s none or nothing outside of Brahman, then who is there to know Brahman? Brahman, being the all-consciousness and all-existence, is the only Knower, so how shall the Knower be known? Several Hindu sages have declared this point as the final cul-de-sac: none can go further with the existing mental machinery and the weight of mental knowledge. All knowledge, all thinking and reasoning must now be abandoned. This is the culmination of the Vedas as we know it — vedanta. Vedantic Hinduism Tat twam asi Even before we can fully comprehend this stupendous idea of Brahman, the all-pervading Infinite Consciousness surrounding, possessing and filling us like some invisible ocean, we come to another equally awesome idea that this Infinite Sea of Consciousness, this Brahman, is what we, in our essence, actually are. Tat twam asi — a resounding Upanishadic mahavakya states unequivocally that the human (twam, you), in her inmost atmic truth of being, is Brahman, the Divine (tat, That; asi, are). At first, most would baulk at such a pronouncement: for who amongst us can hold the thought of being Brahman for even a few seconds without the mind crashing? The human mind pushes outward, the truths it seeks are always outside, somewhere high up in some remote heaven. Men can have faith easily in a remote God in the high heavens but to believe (and live) the truth that one is God oneself in one’s inmost depths is somehow too farfetched. Yet, this is the profound truth of Hindu dharma: that the Vast and Infinite Brahman is the same atman within the cave of the heart. This atman, says another profound Upanishadic mahavakya, is that Brahman: ayam atma brahman. But to know oneself as Brahman one must first enter those sublime depths of being where the atman shines through in all its radiance, one must leave behind all the dross of the human world, all its din and tumult, and learn to live, more and more, in a silence unbroken even by thought. In that silence, that inner chamber of the temple to Brahman, one experiences the inner alchemy as one’s knowledge of the mind, jnana, ripens into sraddha, the creative force of faith that can bring into reality whatever one holds in one’s mind and heart with sincerity and unwavering perseverance; sraddha is a psychic force for realization, and with sraddha, all things become possible. Sri Krishna explains sraddha to Arjuna in these words: The faith of each man takes the shape given to it by his stuff of being, O Bharata. This Purusha, this soul in man, is, as it were, made of sraddha, a faith, a will to be a belief in itself and existence, and whatever is that will, faith or constituting belief in him, he is that and that is he. Sraddha then is the creative force that transforms knowledge into faith, devotion and surrender to that which one seeks to become. The completion or purnata of Hindu dharma happens naturally when jnana or knowledge (the mind’s knowing) transforms through sraddha into bhakti, love and devotion, and flows out spontaneously into karma, action as inner sacrifice to the Divine. These three, jnana, bhakti and karma, are the three pillars of Sanatan Hindu dharma. Through these three streams, the devotee realizes her identity with the Supreme Being, Brahman as Purushottama. Anubhava, the Unfolding of the Experience In small measures, in ever so subtle and simple ways, the devotee realizes that there is no object of knowledge out there, there is only the Knower and the knowing; and there too, there is no duality, for the knowing is only Self-knowing. She begins to understand, ever more practically, that the world or universe she believed to be outside of herself is not outside at all: it is all one’s own reflection. There is no outside or inside: there are only reflections. The so-called world “out there” is a mirror of consciousness, and all one sees and experiences there is Self. In a more fundamental sense, the so-called objective world is only a mode of Self-knowing. The devotee then truly begins to see, his vision passes beyond the gross into the subtle reality of things and beings, and he develops a new way of seeing, what our seers called sukshma drishti, the subtle vision. It’s not that the world becomes subtle, the world remans what it is; it is one’s perception that begins to discern the subtle in the gross, the spirit in matter, the true in the mithya. This subtle perception, sukshma drishti, sees beyond the appearance of multiplicity and sees the One Self everywhere, in all, from oneself spreading outward through all of the known universe. The best description of this perception comes, perhaps, from Sri Ramakrishna who once said, do you know what I see now? I see that it is God Himself who has become all this. It seems to me that men and other beings are made of leather, and that it is He Himself who, dwelling inside these leather cases, moves the hands, the feet, the heads. I had a similar vision once before when I saw houses, gardens, roads, men, cattle — all made of One substance; it was as if they were all made of wax. This subtle seeing begins of course with oneself: It is one’s own personal self that is the first veil or mask to fall away and reveal the true Face. It is only when we see our own personal form as a veil at once concealing and revealing the Self, regard our very act of perception as the conscious gaze of the Self seeing through “our” physical senses and knowing through our minds, that we begin to see through all outer faces and façades, and glimpse the one same Self gazing outward through all physical forms and embodiments. It is like seeing in a different light: the face of the other becomes transparent and we begin to see the Self behind the face, and not really “behind” in a physical sense but we see the outer physical face as a mere superimposition on the true Face which is more of a countenance, an expression, and not a physical shape at all. The outer physical face, the form or rupa, is still there but the True Face is so clear in the background that we no longer pay attention to the outer face. The outer face is a façade, a mask, which becomes increasingly transparent to the growing inner vision of the One in all forms. This is what Hindu darshan calls the advaita bhava, the sense of non-duality in multiplicity. It is this bhava that is the practical basis for living the Hindu dharma. When the Hindu therefore says ahimsa paramo dharma, non-violence is the supreme dharma, he does not mean it as a moral injunction or an intellectual idea: he means it practically and concretely: since he sees the one Divine in all forms, how can he not be non-violent? The Hindu does not seek to propagate non-violence as an ideal: he seeks to eliminate the last tendency of violence, from the grossest, the most physical to the subtlest psychological, from all parts of his being; in other words, he seeks to embody ahimsa. Likewise, when he speaks of truthfulness and sincerity, it is not from the moralistic or intellectual standpoint at all; in these too he seeks to embody truth not because he has an intellectual conception of it but because he lives it in anubhava: these are facts of integral experience to be lived. Thus, to know Brahman as this universe, in all its details, and to know the self as Brahman, and to know all other forms as the same Brahman, is the threefold dharma of the Hindu. This is the dharma that was given the name Sanatan by the ancient seers and sages. This Sanatan Dharma, known today as Hindu dharma or Hinduism, is the actualization of the Divine in humanity’s mind, life and body. The Sanatan Dharma knows no outsider, no alien; none can be permanently hostile to the Dharma for in all, even in that which appears antithetical to Dharma, adharmik, there dwells the same Divine, the same Truth. Therefore the Hindu, standing firm on the realizations of Sanatan Dharma, can say that Truth or Dharma will finally prevail — satyameva jayate. Those who choose to walk the path of the Dharma, not merely profess to be religious, those who can free themselves of the gravitational pull of their egoistic consciousnesses and give themselves in mind, heart and body to the demands of the Dharma, those who can walk boldly the Upanishadic path, ascending peak upon peak of human consciousness in their relentless quest for Truth, Light, Bliss are the ones who will emerge victorious in this timeless battle of Dharma against the forces of adharma. These indeed are the children of Immortality, amritasya putra, who alone have the spiritual right to carry forth the Sanatan Dharma from age to age. 1ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति। भ्रामयन्सर्वभूतानि यन्त्रारूढानि मायया।।— Bhagavad Gita, 18.61 2From the Maha Upanishad — अयं बन्धुरयंनेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् / उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् — The distinction this person is mine, and this one is not is made only by those who live in Ignorance and duality. For those of ‘noble conduct’, who have realized the Supreme Truth and have transcended the multiplicity of the world, the whole world is one family. 3सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत। श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्धः स एव सः।। Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 3. The rendering of this verse in English quoted above is Sri Aurobindo’s.
The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Veda Secret in the Heart There is a practice of Hinduism, similar to most other religions, that leads the mind outward, towards an external God, through external forms of worship, sacrifice and offerings. Sri Aurobindo once referred to this as the Hinduism that takes its stand on the kitchen. This is the outer shell of mystical Hinduism and needed for a certain class of followers who still live largely in a material and externalized consciousness. Mystical Hinduism, the Hinduism that seeks God in the soul, turns the mind inward and through layers of ever-deepening introspection and reflection leads to meditativeness, dhyana, and spiritual realization and knowledge, jnana. There are two distinctive steps through which mystical Hinduism leads the follower to dhyana and jnana: Study and contemplation of Shastra Practice of Yoga The study of the shastras is not merely an intellectual or academic pursuit but a thorough and systematic intellectual and psychological training of the mind of the seeker to receive and assimilate the higher knowledge of darshan and Dharma. This training proceeds from listening and reading, through discussion and debate, to rigorous contemplation and self-reflection. The training culminates in deep concentration and identification with the subject or object of study. This extensive training of the mind through the study and assimilation of the shastras opens the seeker’s mind to the depths and heights of Hindu darshan (closest English word, philosophy) and prepares her for living the Dharma. Note that the seeker is not brought to the Dharma without a thorough preparation in darshan. Darshan paves the way for the true flowering of Dharma. Darshan, though translated as philosophy, is not to be understood only as a pursuit of intellectual knowledge or abstract reasoning but intellectual formulations of spiritual experiences and realizations. The word darshan itself means seeing (from the root dṛś, to see), and is therefore concerned with what one can directly experience, realize, see and know. The most learned and wisest of Hindu sages are regarded as seers, drashtas (from the same root dṛś), and not thinkers. In spite of a plethora of metaphysical interpretations and commentaries that exist in Hindu darshan, the unremitting focus remains on what can be known and realized in direct experience, anubhava. The theoretician and the scholar bows to the one with anubhava; this is the inviolable protocol. That which cannot be experienced and realized is not worth knowing. The overarching purpose of darshan and shastra in Hindu Dharma is to bring the seeker to the realization of the highest Truth knowing which all else in known. This is the ultimate knowing, the param Satyam (param, from para, means supreme or transcendental; Satyam is Truth) or the Supreme Truth. This knowledge of the Supreme Truth is known as paramarthika jnana in Hinduism. The closest English translation of paramarthika jnana would be knowledge of absolute Truth. Though paramarthika jnana or the knowledge of absolute Truth is the ultimate concern of the shastras, it is not the only one. The shastras lead the seeker through the lower strata of knowledge to the higher — through the knowledge of the world and the universe (vyavharika jnana) and the knowledge of one’s own mind and its workings (pratibhasik jnana) to the absolute. Thus, the shastras provide an integral knowledge because Truth is integral in Hindu Dharma — the absolute Truth does not exclude the truths of world and self. The source of the integral knowledge of the shastras were the numberless sages and seers of Hindu Dharma, each of whom had scaled the heights of spiritual realization and had identified themselves with the highest Truth. None of them claimed to “know” the truths or the Truth through reading or hearsay: each of them stood on the solid ground of personal experience and realization; their knowledge was not derived but directly apprehended and lived. Because the shastras were given or revealed directly by those mighty sages of old, the Hindu Dharma and darshan are nurtured still by their timeless spirit and life force; the prana that runs through the shastras and the darshan can still awaken and transform any mind or soul that may approach the Dharma with faith, humility and surrender. Shastra to Darshan Shastra is the first line of transmission from the Seer or the Rishi to the aspirant, and is relevant only insofar as it can carry the living truth of the Seer’s realization to the seeker’s mind and soul; for shastra to reach darshan, it must be able to connect to the seeker’s inmost being and awaken there a soul resonance, as of a living guide. No written scripture, obviously, can do this. The written scripture, the external shastra, must open the seeker to another and deeper level of itself, a revealed or inner shastra, the Veda secret in the heart. The outer shastra can only lead effectively to a point, beyond which it necessarily becomes intellectual. This is the point where the seeker exhausts the need for scriptural guidance and is ripe in spirit for a living intervention of a Guru. It is at this point, by the touch of the Guru, or by the increasing pressure and intensity of the aspiration, the inner shastra begins to unfold, reveal itself through gradual or rapid movements. The outer shastra, then, ploughs the mental terrain, as it were, sowing the seeds of insight, intuition and realization. The Vedas and the Upanishads are perhaps the finest examples of the outer shastra ploughing and preparing the mind to receive the higher illumination. The Vedas are the oldest extant scriptures of the Hindu Dharma while the Upanishads, only some of which survive, are generally regarded as the Vedanta, culmination and fruition of the Vedas (anta meaning end or culmination). Both, the Vedas and the Upanishads, are mantric in quality — their intent is not to inform but to invoke and evoke. The Truth cannot be taught or learnt since it is inherent in the human consciousness, seeded in its depths, waiting to be called out to surface. This calling out — evoking and invoking — are the essential functions of the Shastra. All the philosophical explanations and debates are secondary, and meant mainly to reinforce the evocation and the invocation. Mantra is that which evokes and invokes. The word is a sound expressive of the idea. In the supra-physical plane when an idea has to be realised, one can by repeating the word-expression of it, produce vibrations which prepare the mind for the realisation of the idea. That is the principle of the Mantra, says Sri Aurobindo. The key to reading the shastra is therefore in grasping the mantric nature of the shastra — not to read it as mere scripture for intellectual or moral edification but to approach it as a dynamic meditation for invoking the Spirit or the Truth within oneself, as if actually reading the words seated in the proximity of the Master, imbibing from the Master not only the import of the word but the living vibrations of the spirit. It is only then that the shastra transforms from written or spoken word, Vak or Logos, to revelation, shruti or apokalupsis. Once the seeker begins to resonate with the shruti (that which is heard and revealed to the inner ear) concealed in the shastra, she is ready for transition from darshan to Yoga, from seeing to becoming, identifying. Darshan to Yoga Yoga is union and identification with the object of one’s seeking. The culmination of all Truth-seeking is in union and identification with Truth, becoming of Truth-consciousness, no longer subject to falsehood or ignorance. The shastra to be true to its spirit and intent must bring the seeker to Yoga through anubhava (direct perception and experience). The first step towards this is the invocation and evocation of the spirit of the shastra in the seeker; then, as the spirit of the shastra comes alive in the seeker, the progressive awakening of the shastra within, the Truth seeded in the depths of the consciousness, what Sri Aurobindo calls the Veda secret in the heart. Sri Aurobindo, describing the shastra of the Integral Yoga writes — the supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. The lotus of the eternal knowledge and the eternal perfection is a bud closed and folded up within us. It opens swiftly or gradually, petal by petal, through successive realizations, once the mind of man begins to turn towards the Eternal. The eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being is the culmination of all shastras: the rising from deep within of the eternal Truth in the wordless silence of intuition and inner revelation, transcending word and awaking through the vibrations of pure mantra the soul or psychic in the seeker. Thus the seeker comes through the written word of the shastra to the eternal Truth of his or her being. This is the Vedanta. Only when the seeker has thus come to her truth of being, has become a faithful disciple of the self-revealing Veda in her heart, and when all other external supports of religion have dropped off, that she realizes the Dharma within and truly becomes an embodiment of Dharma, sakshat dharma. One no longer needs to ‘practice’ dharma, then: one is dharma and one is the shastra. These are not metaphors — when I say one becomes the Dharma or the shastra, that is precisely what it means: one has become identified in consciousness with the Truth of the Dharma and the shastra, one has become a living and conscious instrument, nimitta, of the Dharma. As nimitta (nimittamātra, the mere agent or instrument), it is the wisdom and will of the Dharma that manifests through the consciousness of the instrument and the personal will is either eliminated or made entirely subservient to the higher will and wisdom. Do bear in mind that Dharma is synonymous with Ishvara, the Divine and realizing Dharma within oneself is the same as realizing Ishvara, the indwelling Divine, within oneself: there is no duality between the two. One realizes the essence of Dharma and Shastra within oneself and becomes one with them. This is indeed a siddhi (fulfillment) for the disciple of the Dharma, an attainment of his Yoga. In the mystical and yogic sense, Dharma then is the manifestation of Ishvara in life and action, and Shastra is the knowledge body of Ishvara. Ishvara can manifest only through a fruition of the two in the disciple’s consciousness and not through the worship of external form and sacrifice to external authority. It is because of these deeper spiritual truths that it can be said of Hindu shastras that no shastra is fixed or final, and of its preceptors and prophets that no human preceptor or prophet can be infallible or final. Truth, Dharma or Shastra must finally grow and manifest in the awakened human consciousness, and as consciousness is timeless, its manifestation must be timeless too. Because the Dharma cannot be limited to time, place or person, because its fruition happens in timeless consciousness, the ancients referred to the dharma as eternal — sanatan dharma. The whole purpose of Dharma is to prepare human consciousness to receive and manifest the Supreme Truth; to become, over time, Truth-consciousness itself. Only when human consciousness becomes Truth consciousness will the work of Dharma be done and human beings will surpass Dharma and ascend into a purer and wider supramental being where Dharma will become natural and spontaneous, like breathing. But that is still a distant and high peak hidden in the mist and clouds of time. 1There are two Hinduisms; one which takes its stand on the kitchen and seeks its Paradise by cleaning the body; another which seeks God, not through the cooking pot and the social convention, but in the soul. (Sri Aurobindo: The Harmony of Virtue) 2Read More: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Mantra
The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Infinite Beyond Hindu dharma has a deep mystical core that rises like sap into the various branchings of the dharma. Without understanding the mystical core, we lose the true Hinduism and end up with the external chaff of rituals and rules. The mystical core, the very heart, of Hinduism is the Vedantic idea of Brahman, the One Supreme Truth that manifests as Cosmos, as matter, life and consciousness. All is Brahman, sarvam brahmeti, is the ruling mantra of Hindu dharma’s mystic core. If we were to peel off all the layers of what is popularly known as Hindu religion, and reduce all its varied and divergent philosophies and practices to one fundamental idea, what we would have is Brahman. The word brahman in Sanskrit simply implies expansion (root: bṛh, to expand; therefore, that which expands). Brahman is not to be confused with Brahmin, a caste nomenclature. The English equivalent for Brahman would be the Divine, the Supreme. Thus, when the Hindu says that all is the Divine, he is stating what all other religions state: that the Divine is omnipresent, and all is the Divine. But the Hindu dharma goes a step beyond with this and states further that there is nothing else but the Divine, neha nanasti kinchan. Nothing else, in fact, is needed: idam purnam, this is perfect and complete. This one central idea of the Hindu dharma pervades all of Hinduism, all of its philosophical and metaphysical streams, its darshan, its scriptures, its processes and practices, its gods and goddesses, its art and architecture, its culture and literature, even its social customs and rituals. This ‘idea’ of Brahman is, however, not intellectual; Brahman is not metaphysical speculation or even intuitive reasoning — it is a Truth directly experienced and lived by innumerable sages and prophets, the Maharishis and Yogis, of Hindu tradition, those who have been, through the generations, the forerunners and exemplars of the Hindu dharma. None amongst them, not even those regarded as the greatest, the most advanced, have even once claimed that their realizations were absolute and final and could not be attempted by any other. On the contrary, each of them went to tremendous lengths, as preceptors and guides, to explain the path, the discipline, the methodology to attain to such realizations. These paths, disciplines and methodologies are the Yogas of Hindu dharma. Yoga (from the root yuj, meaning to join) literally implies union, union with the Divine, with the Supreme Truth. This is yet another driving idea, idee-force, of Hinduism: that all humans have the spiritual right or adhikara, to attain to the highest and deepest realizations of the Hindu dharma; none is excluded, none is unworthy. The only precondition for realization is the psychological preparedness of the seeker, his or her sincerity, willingness to follow the path, for the Yogas are exacting and all-consuming. Consider further that if Brahman is the sole existence, and there is none else, if all that is manifest (and not yet manifest) is that Brahman, then the seeker, the devotee too is Brahman. Not only that, each living being, every life form, every animate and inanimate object in the universe, is Brahman. The logic is inescapable: everything and everyone is that Brahman; and if so, then where and how does one search for Brahman? Who, in fact, searches, and who is the sought? Is it not all the same? This is where the seeker comes to the mystic core: the realization that Brahman cannot be sought nor found, as long as one functions out of human mind and consciousness. The human mind and consciousness is still rooted in the falsehood, and glimpses Truth only through several filters of falsehood. The Hindu sages called this condition Ignorance, avidya (root word is vid, to know). Human beings are not born in sin and are not automatons in the hands of an all-powerful God. The only ontological issue is spiritual ignorance, or more precisely, ignorance of one’s spiritual source. According to Hindu dharma, since all is Brahman, the source of the universe, and of all humans in it, is also Brahman. Not knowing that one arises from Brahman (and one will subside in Brahman) is the root, the ontological, Ignorance. And this ignorance, avidya, can be overcome by deep and sustained self-enquiry into the nature of being and becoming and delving into the depths of one’s own consciousness. The depths, or heart, of one’s consciousness conceals the Truth of not only self but the universe. This heart of consciousness is known as the Atman in Hindu dharma. Next to Brahman, atman is the only other central idea and idee-force of Hinduism, because the atman is that faculty within us that bridges the Ignorance and the Truth. To know one’s atman is the first supreme attainment of Hindu dharma; and to know the atman as Brahman, one in identity, is the other supreme attainment of Hindu dharma. Attaining these two supreme realizations is indeed the first fruition of Hindu dharma in its devotee or disciple. But it is still ‘first fruition’ because even these supreme realizations are not the end of the path; as Sri Aurobindo says, these are in fact the beginning of the higher ascent to Truth. One may consider these two supreme attainments as the base camp for the ascent to the Everest of Supreme Truth. Such is the vast and mighty sweep of Hindu dharma and darshan. And such indeed is its simple premise, so trenchantly formulated through the centuries, that there is no end-point of the evolution of consciousness, no final judgment day; there is only a continual going beyond, because Truth is infinite, like Brahman. As one nears the Everest, the Everest recedes. Anyone who has ever managed to scale such heights of spiritual realization has always come to the one question that Hindu dharma or darshan has no answer to: Is there an end, a final consummation of it all? Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth Century, one who undoubtedly scaled the supreme heights of Vedic realization, said from his timeless vantage point that there was still an infinite beyond. The ancient Vedic Rishis, when confronted by the same mystery, resolved it in a simpler way: that it was anirvachaniya — that which transcends thought and speech.
Is Swami Vivekananda important? To some, he is an apostle of Sanatana Dharma, a stalwart for the ‘Eternal Philosophy’ who led the Indian renaissance from centuries of hibernation. To others, mainly from the Left, he is a right-wing Hindu reactionary who attempted to disguise India’s backwardness and Brahminism with unscientific spirituality. It is possible that his celebrated address at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893 did not have the effect that has been claimed by his apologists. For in those days, one did not go ‘viral’, nor had a marketing strategy for social media or Twitter handles with a huge following and likes. But it is definitely true that he had a greater impact on the Indian psyche and our self-confidence and belief in our own culture and darshana. His own letter about the event mentions that there were more than ‘five to seven thousand in the audience’. That seems to be a significant number. If we look at his tireless efforts in reaching out to the West, it does appear that he was able to create an awareness about the Indic civilization and values in Europe and the US. To me, it seems like the beginnings at the Gangotri, where drop by single drop, a glacier melts to gather eventually into the vast Ganges that nourishes almost 500 million people in its plains today. We were thirsting for any kind of relevance or recognition, relegated to the dust-heaps of history by the white sahibs. He stood up to them. Spoke in their own language with authority and conviction. Agreed that they had something great about their civilization but we had something greater. More importantly, he stood up for Sanatan Dharma, without compromising on its core principles. Fearlessly. Evoking our own truths and greatness. If one looks at him objectively, he does not seem to be a reactionary. After all, he was hardest on our own laziness and superciliousness, our own institutions such as casteism, gender bias, ritualism and social structures and our own refusal to grow and learn. He broke our taboos and, we are told, even asked an aspiring youth to play football and eat meat so that he could be strong and manly. So that we would stand for ourselves by discovering who we are. Whenever I think of Swami Vivekananda, I see the image of a lion roaring in the jungle. But this was a lion who also worked hard and wrote, travelled, lectured, taught, mentored. He met tremendous resistance, more from our own pundits and fossilized leaders. And yet, he was tireless in his efforts to awaken us. This, to me, is his biggest contribution to India. When I was growing up, I did not study him much. I was more influenced by Sri Aurobindo, J Krishnamurthy and Maharishi Ramana. Even now, I find him hard to read and it is true that I am inspired more by his vision than his writings. He had a dream that was at once ancient and modern, eternal and radically new. He was a true Indian in outlook, world-view and thought, and yet, he was global and truly inclusive. In reading about him in a new book by Makarand R Paranjape, I realize how much we owe to him. There is so much we did not know about the Swami and are still learning. For example, his meeting with Nikola Tesla, the great scientist, and their discussions about prana and akasa which Tesla quoted years later marveling at the Indian understanding of the cosmos. Or Swamiji’s meeting with Jamsetji Tata and their initiative to establish an institute of science in India. Makarand has shared some new insights about India’s first spiritual-activist with well-researched documentation. We need more such scholarly works about our great leaders and teachers in this world of alt-news and fake feeds. Makarand, an educator, poet, essayist and litterateur, has explored the character of Swami Vivekananda with sympathy, objectivity and careful review of information about the foremost exponent of Hinduism. It is critical that we understand the true depths of Sanatan Dharma, free of fundamentalism, and yet not devoid of intensity and clarity, by studying Swamiji. For today, the very significance of our dharma and truth is being questioned and challenged once again. It seems to me that even though Swami Vivekananda is gone and not fully appreciated even now, his dream about a great and advanced India continues. We are part of the unfolding of that dream, whether we realize it or not. Perhaps in this manner, Swami Vivekananda has created what we are today. To aspire for purity and wideness and heights like him, to live a life burning with that vision, would be our greatest homage to our first modern Rishi. Who spoke in English, held discussions with Western women and men, smoked and travelled in liners and was thoroughly modern in outlook. And yet, so ancient at the same time, that he defied his age and time. It seems to me sometimes that we are still catching up to Swamiji’s grand vision. As only subliminal characters in a dream who have yet to wake up. To discover the trail he blazed literally, in a short life and a shorter public career.
Hinduism. . . gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Santana Dharma . . . Sri Aurobindo, India’s Rebirth Hinduism and the Future Can a religion evolve over time, revise its fundamentals, and respond creatively to new conditions and demands? Or is religion to be forever bound to its initial conditions, forever repeating revelations and beliefs of its founder or founders? If humanity evolves in consciousness over time, should religions not evolve as well? Do religions have an evolutionary relevance for humanity? The answers to all these very important questions will depend largely on how a religion has originated and evolved over time so far; and how its followers have been able, or allowed, to use the religion in their own personal spiritual quests and journeys. For the purposes of our analysis, we will be classifying religions as either static or dynamic. A static religion is one that is organized around a central and more or less fixed belief system originating directly from its founder or founders; a dynamic religion is one that is mystical / spiritual and does not adhere to a particular belief system or values. A dynamic religion is therefore evolutionary while static religions are conservative. But this is not always entirely true. In reality, things are more nuanced. No religion is either wholly dynamic or wholly static: all religions have some evolutionary elements and possibilities and some conservative elements and practices. What makes a religion dynamic is how the evolutionary and the conservative are balanced in application and practice, what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized over time. Responsiveness and adaptability would be significant markers of a dynamic, evolutionary religion, whereas rigidity and strict adherence would be markers of a static and conservative religion. In the initial sections of this article, we shall explore the Hindu dharma to see what its evolutionary possibilities are and whether it can remain spiritually relevant for a 21st Century humanity. Hinduism and Evolution: Can a religion evolve over time? If a religion is bound to a particular sacrosanct tradition or infallible theology, a particular prophet, messiah or scripture, then obviously it cannot. For a religion to evolve, it must also necessarily be able to outgrow several of its traditional beliefs and practices. There can be no real growth without a certain outgrowing of forms and formulations no longer relevant or meaningful to those who follow the religion. For a religion to evolve, it must keep the spirit of enquiry as its principal value and experiential spiritual knowledge as its core. Hinduism is arguably the one religion that has the potential of evolving into newer forms and bodies of experience and knowledge more suited to a humanity of the 21st Century. And it can do so precisely because Hinduism has grown as a religion only by a constant revision and evolution over ~5000 years of its existence. Hinduism, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, has always been a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. This is how Hinduism, as a vast and varied body of spiritual knowledge, has grown over the years: by continuously enlarging itself, emphasizing an uncompromising spirit of enquiry instead of strict adherence to belief, and insisting on Truth instead of dogma. Direct spiritual experience has always been valued more in Hinduism than dogmatic beliefs and scriptural references. Shruti (what is revealed and heard) and sakshatkara (direct seeing and knowing) have always been profoundly important in the Hindu tradition and preferred over any other source or authority. It must however be noted here that shruti, direct intuitive and spiritual revelation, is a dynamic ongoing process. What is revealed to one Rishi (seer, sage or prophet) can be superseded by what is revealed to another, at a later time or even contemporaneously. The Hindu dharma has always unambiguously stated that no one seer or prophet can have the final or last word. Consciousness is a dynamic and ever-evolving process and there can be no single end-product of such a process. No seer or prophet can be the final word, but every seer and prophet of Hindu dharma is a necessary link, a stepping stone, to the Supreme Truth. Each seer and prophet is a facilitator, a teacher and guide, and each has his or her place in the Hindu scheme of things. It is true that the Hindu dharma has its scriptures, but it is not bound to any of its scriptures, it considers no scripture infallible as it considers no teacher or seer infallible. Fallibility, in fact, is a basic assumption of the Hindu dharma. As long as one lives in relative ignorance, and as long as one has not become completely identified and one with the Supreme Truth Consciousness, one will always be fallible. The only “infallible authority” the Hindu dharma acknowledges and reveres is the Divine Truth within, the Inner Teacher and Guru, the Indwelling Divine or Ishvara. This is important to understand: the final spiritual authority is the Truth within, Sat, accessible by anyone willing to devote his or her energies sincerely to this endeavor. It makes no difference to the Truth whether the seeker is low caste or high caste, atheist or believer, born into Hinduism or born into some other faith — Truth is Truth, and all human beings have equal access to it regardless of time or place. If this be the central tenet of the Hindu dharma, then it implies that the source of the dharma is living and dynamic and cannot be fossilized within a historic structure or tradition. This has enormous implications. For one, no true disciple of the Hindu dharma can quote scripture or teacher to block debate, dissent and revision; however exalted and advanced a teacher or Guru may be, the final arbiter is always the Inmost. This is the reason why, at a Vedanta conference in Madras, during a debate on a certain scriptural point, when a pundit objected to Vivekananda making an assertion because it was not sanctioned by authority, Vivekananda could retort, “But I, Vivekananda, say so!” This is also the reason why Sri Aurobindo, one of the foremost exponents and exemplars of Hinduism, one who is widely regarded as a Maharishi in the Hindu tradition, could take Hinduism beyond its scriptural and traditional boundaries and extend its scope far beyond even what was attained and declared by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, inarguably one of the most revered texts for Hindus anywhere in the world. As expected, the traditional orthodox interpreters and followers of the Hindu dharma could not stomach Sri Aurobindo’s bold innovations and criticized him openly for claiming that his Yoga was “beyond” all that was hitherto attained by all of the past Hindu Gurus and avatars. Not only that, Sri Aurobindo also indicated, more than once, that the Hindu tradition of avatars (Divine Incarnations) was not a finished thing, there was no concept of the last avatar in Hinduism. As long as there shall be an evolutionary need for avatars, so long shall avatars be born upon earth. Hinduism then contains the possibilities of further evolution — it has evolved so far through its foremost practitioners through the ages, and shall continue to do so, regardless of what the traditionalists feel. Whether the orthodox Hindu (Hinduism permits and absorbs within itself both the orthodox and the heretic, the traditionalist and the modernist) likes it or not, Hinduism is a dynamic and creative religion, not a static one. This is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and most other world religions. Hinduism is dynamic and creative primarily because it is a spiritual and mystical religion at the core. A spiritual religion, by definition, must follow the soul, the spirit in man; it cannot be the other way round where the spirit follows or is constrained to follow the religion. A religion that claims precedence over the spirit becomes external and non-spiritual; and a non-spiritual religion will inevitably become subservient to external authority (of the scripture, priest and the church) and will not allow the freedom of spiritual quest and expression to its followers. Any individual spirituality outside the theological or ecclesiastical confines of the religion will be regarded as heretical or blasphemous. A spiritual or mystical religion, on the other hand, cannot have any theological or ecclesiastical confines as that would be a contradiction in terms. The soul in its quest for Truth will soar beyond all outer forms and formulations, as the Truth it seeks is infinitely beyond anything that even the vastest and wisest mind can conceive. Thus, as the consciousness evolves, so must the religion. As the Vedas and the Vedanta reveal: Truth is vast, brihat, encompassing and transcending all space and time, and cannot thus be contained in any one timeframe, however cosmic that timeframe may be. Not only is it vast or brihat, it is universal and supra-cosmic, encompassing and transcending the entire cosmos, and thus cannot be contained by any one human sect, society, nation or religion. To claim that a particular community, faith or nation possesses this Truth would be like a sea wave claiming that it possesses the entire sea. Hinduism is a spiritual and mystical religion because the source of Hindu thought and dharma is the eternal, living Truth of the soul or the spirit; and it is mystical because its entire body of knowledge and practice derives from direct and intuitive spiritual and yogic experience. Thus, being spiritual and mystical at the core, Hinduism can, and indeed must, evolve into a religion in alignment with the needs and demands of a future humanity. It must not only be progressive but radical in accelerating the pace of human evolution. If this does not happen, Hinduism too, like most other world religions, will soon become obsolete and irrelevant, and die out in a few generations. To stay dynamic and relevant, Hinduism must remain true to its core and spirit, and be open to change and revision, be willing to outgrow many of its past formulations and abandon many of its old dogmas, practices and beliefs. Hinduism will need to preserve and revivify its Sanatan core, its deep and vast Vedic and Vedantic knowledge; and it will need to reach out into an equally vast evolutionary future, the seeds of which it hides in its heart as its supreme and final mystery — rahasyam uttamam. Read in Hindi
Hindu Dharma Has a Scientific Temper There have been many attempts to define the Hindu Dharma, or more appropriately, Sanātana Dharma throughout the modern era. Most notably, the Supreme Court defined it as a way of life, and not as a set of beliefs. The attitude of Hindus towards the spiritual has always been one of seeking and inquiry, rather than any certainty of dogma. Yet, there are certain science beliefs that are unique to Hinduism. Let us call these beliefs as ‘Scientific Beliefs of Hinduism’, because these are open to inquiry and change. These can be broadly classified into six categories, and Hinduism can be compared with the other religions on these parameters: Attitude to ScienceTime conceptsLogic concepts EpistemologyCosmology Eschatology Let us first look at each of these separately, and then take a holistic look. 1. Attitude to Science: Science is a methodology. In modern era, Science for the lay people has also become a subject being taught and learnt on the basis of authority. Students do not really know whether the earth revolves on its axis, except on the authority of scientists who really have the means to conduct experiments and prove them. Science as a methodology can be defined as an empirical method which accepts a physical phenomenon as True on the basis of it being universal — true across time and space; verifiable — demonstrable to all; and repeatable — that which will repeat in similar circumstances. To that we add refutability or falsifiability, i.e. one is free to try and refute that physical phenomenon. Sanātana Dharma’s scientific attitude to the Universe is not just applicable to the physical world, but also to the spiritual world. It is best exemplified by the famous Nāsadiya Sukta of Ṛgveda (10.129) (Translation of AL Basham): Then even nothingness was not, nor existence, There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it. What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping? Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed? (1) Then there was neither death nor immortality nor was there then the torch of night and day. The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There was that One then, and there was no other. (2) At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness. All this was only unillumined cosmic water. That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing, arose at last, born of the power of heat. (3) In the beginning desire descended on it – that was the primal seed, born of the mind. The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is kin to that which is not. (4) And they have stretched their cord across the void, and know what was above, and what below. Seminal powers made fertile mighty forces. Below was strength, and over it was impulse. (5) But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen? (6) Whence all creation had its origin, the creator, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows — or maybe even he does not know. (7) This kind of open inquiry about the origin of Cosmos is unknown in the Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Abrahamic religions do not allow any questioning and inquiry, and treat the Word of their scriptures beyond refutation. Sanātana Hinduism, on the other hand, allows not only open inquiry, but as the subsequent developments of Hinduism show, even open debate and refutation. Every branch of orthodox Hinduism allowed this open inquiry, and allowed debate within various sects. Buddha’s debates with the orthodox Sanātana Brahmins are the best example of this approach. Buddha was every inch a Hindu, but he differed from the orthodox view on the question of existence of the Ātman (loosely translated as the eternal soul). Hindus and the followers of Buddha debated the question for over a millennia till Hinduism won a final victory led by the Ādi Shankar. To refute the concept of the Ātman, people even carried out physical experiments, without any consequences to their physical well being. Payāsi Sutta has a description of a person about to die being enclosed in a vessel, being weighed, observations of ātman escaping the vessel being taken; weight being taken immediately after death; and a final pronouncement of the absence of the ātman on weight being found the same. All across the Upanishads, this spirit of inquiry, debate and refutation is present in full measure. Vedanta philosophy speculates on duality, Oneness, qualified Oneness, and the sages have derived advaita, dvaita, vishishtadvaita, and bhakti from the same material. People like Charvāka refuted the existence of Ātman on the basis of direct observation epistemology, yet he was honoured with the title of a Rishi. Patanjali’s Yōga Sutra provides a basis for physical verification of the existence of the Supreme. Kapila Muni’s Saṃkhya philosophy provides a cosmological basis, whereas Vaisheshika of Kaṇāda dwells on the physical cause and effect. Bhagvadgita encapsulates all the philosophies into one whole, and even that great book provides Arjuna with a glimpse of many paths. Krishṇa exhorts Arjuna in the end to choose any of the paths that he had described –yathechchhasi tathā kuru. Thus it is clear from this evidence that the concept of Creation, as well as that of the Ātman in the Hindu pantheon is physical, subject to personal verification, and refutable. This is a purely scientific approach to the mysteries of Universe. While Ātman in Hinduism is a refutable physical concept, and is, therefore, scientific; on the other hand, the ‘soul’ of the Abrahamic religions is an irrefutable metaphysical concept, hence unscientific. To illustrate this point further — Creation, soul, and God are all based on the revealed Book, not subject to verification or debate (any such act is termed as heresy), and an irrefutable Truth on the authority of God, Yahveh, or Allah. This is a purely unscientific approach. So this is the first major fundamental difference between Hinduism and Western religions. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) To Part 2
India is an ancient civilization. In fact, it is the only civilization that has survived unbroken, and essentially unchanged, for nearly five thousand years. Much more than a nation, as understood in our modern geopolitical sense, India is a civilization arisen from a wide and profound quest for the deepest truths of human existence. Most civilizations in history have centered their existence around economic growth and geopolitical expansion. The Indian civilization has always been centered around the human quest for Truth, Knowledge and Immortality — satyam, jnanam, amritam. No other civilization we know of has pursued such a quest for Knowledge and Immortality with such relentless zeal. The Indian psyche, in its most essential sense, has been historically preoccupied with the philosophical and spiritual quest for Truth. In the early formative years of the Indian civilization and what may be called the Indian spiritual philosophy (darshan), the Indian mind had intuitively grasped that all existence is one indivisible continuous reality manifesting in all form and movement — the seed of the great philosophical system of Advaita Vedanta. Vedanta continues to this day an unbroken and unmodified psycho-spiritual tradition of self-enquiry and self-realization. The sciences, the mathematics, the arts, the poetry and literature, the mythology and the several religions that spread across the spectrum of Indian civilization all blossomed, in one way or another, from the seed of advaita Vedanta. Vedanta is also the base for Sanatan Dharma, the eternal Law of being, which is the core of what is widely known as the Hindu religion. Sanatan is eternal and universal — not subject to time, circumstances and change, nor limited to a particular geography, society or ideology; and dharma is the binding Law, the principle of being, without which a thing or a being would cease to exist as an independent or autonomous entity. Sanatan Dharma is not religion in the popular sense of the word. It is not a philosophical or ethical system to be “practiced”, though several philosophical and ethical systems have arisen from Sanatan Dharma. In itself and in its purity, Sanatan Dharma is the quest for the perfect Truth of being, Satyam, and its perfect manifestation and expression in living, Ritam. Satyam and Ritam therefore constitute the true basis and practice of Sanatan Dharma. And it must be noted that Satyam and Ritam are not philosophical, cultural or ethical concepts but truths to be realized and lived in the most mundane and practical sense. The realization of Satyam, Truth of being, and Ritam, Truth in becoming, are the twin foundations of Sanatan Dharma and Sanatan life. Without these, there can be no Sanatan Dharma or Sanatan life. This is a fundamental condition. Therefore, the realization of Truth (of being and in becoming) is the primary business of Sanatan Dharma, and all that can be thought and said of Sanatan Dharma must be in accordance with this, and must always refer back to this. In this sense, Sanatan Dharma cannot possibly belong to a particular culture or community. It is in this sense that Sanatan Dharma may be regarded as the base of Hinduism but not Hinduism itself. And equally, in this sense, Sanatan Dharma may be regarded as the true basis of any human religion. If we were to translate the original language in which Sanatan Dharma was first articulated into the English language, for instance, we would find no trace of any religious or cultural narrative in Sanatan Dharma at all. The phrase Sanatan Dharma itself would translate into Eternal Law or Principle. Taken out of its traditional Sanskritic settings, Sanatan Dharma could be perfectly expressed in completely secular and scientific language and understood in any human context. Sanatan thought is free of the idea of a single or only God or a single and definitive Scripture. In fact, there is not even the idea of God as the primary or ultimate being. Being itself is primary and ultimate and does not need a “God” to complete it. If one searches for a name of a Supreme God in Sanatan philosophy, one will find none. What one will find is the Sanskrit phrase Sat-Chit-Anand (usually written as a single word Satchidananda or Sacchidananda) as the ultimate description of Reality. Sat means Existence, Truth, or Reality; Chit refers to consciousness; Ananda means bliss, or the bliss of perfect fulfillment. This ‘perfect fulfillment’, is the flowering of the realization of oneself as Satchidananda, and is the peak realization of Sanatan Dharma, out of which all life and living, all values and rules, all relations and standards of conduct arise naturally and seamlessly. There is therefore no divine reality or truth out there, outside of oneself. All truth and reality, human or divine, is within. There are no heavens beyond: the within is the only heaven. There is no one scripture or teaching that tells one how to come to this fulfillment. There are many ways to come to it and none of the ways can be prescribed or described. Each one who wishes to come to this realization must find his or her own way. There is no priestly class or specific group of people appointed to lead the seeker towards this realization. There are facilitators, teachers, guides for sure, but the realization itself is accessible to any one who really wants it. With or without teachers and guides. This is the beauty of what we describe as the Sanatan dharma. धार्यते इति धर्मThat which upholds is Dharma
Towards An Indic Resurgence Based on Sanatan Dharma The political and cultural narratives in India are changing — the signs and indications are everywhere. While the leftist-liberal narratives struggle to retain relevance in an emerging new India, the resurgent Indic sentiments are rapidly gaining in strength and spread. The Modi years will be remembered as a watershed in India’s struggle for national identity  But, however positive and reassuring the signs may be, there is still a long way to go; we are just about turning the corner. It is now that all who represent the Indic/Indian nationalist worldview need to come together, gather their energies and resources, and get to work. We need a focused plan of action and quick, effective execution. The Philosophical Framework No social or political movement can succeed without philosophical underpinnings. No cultural or political narrative can be built and sustained without a fundamental worldview, values and principles. In other words, a darshan and a dharma. The philosophical framework for India was, and will always be, Sanatan Dharma. In Sri Aurobindo’s categorical words — When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great… It is for the dharma and by the dharma that India exists. I say that it is the Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatan Dharma, with it it moves and with it it grows. When the Sanatan Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatan Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatan Dharma it would perish. The Sanatan Dharma, that is nationalism. India’s struggle for national identity is, in a fundamental sense, India’s struggle for Hindu dharma, her sovereign law of being. India must recover that essential Hindu character, her Hindutva , and stand unapologetically as a Hindu Rashtra to fulfill her true role amongst the nations of the world. Without her Hindutva, she will remain weak and vulnerable. Hindutva is a much misunderstood and maligned term in today’s political landscape. This needs to be corrected. Hindutva is the essence of being Hindu. And that essence cannot be understood unless one understands the philosophical basis and rationale of Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma. The idea of the Hindu Rashtra, based on the foundations of Sanatan Dharma, does not in any way violate the idea of secularism, as the Leftist-Liberals mistakenly believe and propagate. This mistaken and pernicious belief arises from the simple fact that they neither understand Hinduism or the Sanatan Dharma, nor do they care to. Sanatan Dharma, which is the philosophical and spiritual basis of Hinduism, is secular by its very nature. All belief systems, faiths, philosophies and schools of thought are included in the universal sweep of the Sanatan Dharma. Nothing that is human is outside the scope of Sanatan Dharma. Even the asura and his evil find a rightful place in the cosmic scheme of things. The immediate question for us is how to bring Sanatan Dharma back to the national centre stage without creating an imbalance of political forces. If we were to keep politics entirely out of the play, a Hindu Rashtra based on Sanatan Dharma would not be a challenge at all. It is politics that has polarized India and not culture or religion; and therefore we need to de-polarize India by de-politicizing Dharma. The one sure way of de-politicizing dharma is to strengthen dharma. It is by strengthening dharma that India will stand tall and firm as a truly secular nation where all religions and cultures will be regarded equally as the play of the One Divine. It is by strengthening dharma that juvenile notions of intolerant Gods, infallible scriptures, chosen prophets and peoples can be demolished. Falsehoods or half-truths in any form, even in their varied religious garbs, cannot be destroyed by battle or resistance; they can be destroyed by simply reducing them to complete irrelevance. This is what dharma does: as it grows in strength, it reduces falsehood or half-truths to irrelevance. One doesn’t need to snatch a stuffed toy out of a child’s hands: one allows the child to discover something more real and the stuffed toy simply becomes irrelevant. Therefore the need to strengthen dharma. There is no other option. Preaching dharma will not get us anywhere. Dharma must be lived for it to become an effective force. Knowledge of dharma must be transformed into dharma embodied and lived. There is no worshipping or following of dharma: there is only the living of dharma. Dharma is not faith: it is lived knowledge, it is Truth in action, ritam. It is to this that India must awaken.Then alone can she aspire to be a rashtra standing firm on the rock of dharma. What would be the immediate action points to bring back Sanatan Dharma to the national centre stage, to make it India’s driving narrative? The first and most indispensable step would be to live the dharma in our minds, hearts and bodies. Without this, nothing else is possible. The great teachers of dharma used to call this sadhana – a concentrated personal discipline transforming knowledge into life. Individual after individual needs to do this. As the numbers grow, the dharma will grow in the subtle atmosphere of the nation; it will grow quietly and surely into a groundswell, sweeping aside all opposition and dissolving all obstacles. To do this, we will need to take three giant strides: Recover the dharma out of the past and bring it alive in the present so that it can actively shape the future; Dedicate the rest of our lives to the living of this dharma that we systematically recover and make powerfully active in our lives again; Create external structures and support systems to live the dharma collectively — i.e. socially, culturally, intellectually and spiritually. Recovering The Dharma In Swami Vivekananda’s words: Children of India, I am here to speak to you today about some practical things, and my object in reminding you about the glories of the past is simply this. Many times have I been told that looking into the past only degenerates and leads to nothing, and that we should look to the future. That is true. But out of the past is built the future. Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was. Our ancestors were great. We must first recall that. We must learn the elements of our being, the blood that courses in our veins; we must have faith in that blood and what it did in the past; and out of that faith and consciousness of past greatness, we must build an India yet greater than what she has been. Juxtaposing this with Sri Aurobindo’s words: …why should not India then be the first power in the world? Who else has the undisputed right to extend spiritual sway over the world? This was Swami Vivekananda’s plan of campaign. India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism. This only can put an end to all self-depreciation and generate a burning desire to recover the lost ground. And we have a crystal clear plan of action for each of us who aspires to recover and live the dharma within ourselves — recover the depths and the heights that we have lost over the generations, assimilate more deeply our past, our heritage and our culture, and bring it to life in the present, and make of it a force to mould our future. This will happen when we, as Indians, begin to awaken in our own depths the force and light of the knowledge and tapasya that lives timelessly in the soul of our nation as the Sanatan Dharma. This will demand tremendous and sustained personal commitment and effort. Dissemination The next step of the action plan will be dissemination of the dharma, simplifying, explaining and communicating the Sanatan Dharma to all those who are prepared in mind and spirit for the dharma. The Sanatan Dharma is widely regarded as too esoteric, philosophical or mystical to be understood or followed by the masses. This may well be true as Sanatan Dharma is undoubtedly profound and subtle. For this reason, the dharma has historically remained confined to a cultural and intellectual elite, leading to an unfortunate over-Brahmanization through the ages, which in turn led to the reformative reaction of Buddha-dharma. This we need to correct immediately and vigorously. First of all, we will need to create a think tank, a nucleus of high calibre intellectuals and practitioners (sadhaks) of the dharma who can be its best exemplars and mentors. The selection will have to be done diligently, without any political or cultural prejudice. People with unquestionable judgment and character must be brought together. There will be no easy way to do this. However challenging this might prove to be, no compromise should be allowed. The highest standards and probity will need to be maintained. To this nucleus or think tank will fall the task of explaining and disseminating Sanatan Dharma without diluting or distorting it. This group must understand not only the philosophy of the dharma but the practical psychology of implementing it, allowing neither populism nor elitism. The dharma must be seen as a comprehensively pragmatic and practical way of living. Instruments of Dissemination Literature in various formats for popularizing the basics of the Sanatan Dharma. Workshops based on Sanatan themes and ideas for the young, from high school to university; seminars and workshops for young professionals and teachers. Specific workshops for teachers on how to convey Sanatan Dharma to students in various contexts. Teachers will be critical in this task. An intensive course may easily be devised for teachers who are willing to undertake this work. Multimedia formats like cinema, television, online platforms and YouTube channels to be extensively used for dissemination and communication of the dharma. There are several very creative people already working on this, and they must be brought together on one platform. Social media will have to be used extensively and intensively; focused and disciplined dissemination through social media will be critical to delivery. If we must target the young, we must master the idiom of the social media. However, those who will manage the social media must be diligently selected, trained and supported. Webinars, quick chats, focused interviews and Ted-X kind of focused talks must be continuously streamed across the nation. Information Technology will have to be used extensively; the world is right now in the process of moving even more decisively into IT. We will need to innovate and devise new and stimulating ways of “getting the message across”. We must bear in mind these very important points while we prepare our strategy for action: The youth will be critical to our work. India is a young country, with 50% of its population under the age of 35. Youth need direction, orientation, guidance. They are particularly vulnerable and impressionable and can be influenced by any narrative convincing enough. The Sanatan narrative must get through to them. We don’t have all the time in the world. We have to get through to the young, but we have to do this within a definite timeframe which will have to be rigorously adhered to. When it comes to the youth, we will need the “right packaging”. It is important to get the idiom right. The youth respond to “young” language, they will not respond to philosophical or academic language; they will not respond to the preacher or the professor. They will respond to smart young people who talk their language and address their issues. Can we “package” the truths and concepts of Sanatan Dharma in contemporary post-modern language shorn of heavy ideology and entirely free of ritualism? The term “Sanatan Dharma” itself may need to be replaced by something more contemporary and relevant. This will need careful thinking before the movement is carried into the public domain. The word “Dharma”, however effective for us, carries old cultural and religious connotations for the youth and we have to be ready to acknowledge that. Several of our own intellectual and cultural identities and attachments may need to be sacrificed. The terminology is not important here, communication is. Can the basic terminology of the Dharma be made more scientific and contemporary so that we can evoke a vital response from the young? Consider how Buddhism has become so popular in the West, and among the young — some of the Buddhist teachers have been able to effectively package their dharma in crisp, sharply defined and evocative language that appeals as much to the modern intellect as to the emotions. What we will need to evoke is the higher intelligence, the buddhi, as well as the vital (pranamaya, the energetic-emotional being). The vital without the buddhi can very easily lead to aggressiveness and lumpenization; the buddhi without the vital can as easily lead to intellectualization and ineffectual ivory-towerism. We have experienced both these extremes in contemporary India and must be careful to avoid both. A University for Sanatan Dharma, A Prototype For the most effective strengthening and spread of Sanatan Dharma, the most important instrument will need to be education – ongoing research and study in Sanatan Dharma and human consciousness, and continuous development of thought and knowledge. Establishing a University should be the first priority once the process of dissemination is underway. This University, a prototype of dharmic , education, will be a modern-day equivalent of the Upanishadic gurukula, and must be world class, second to none in terms of faculty, students, and content. Establishing a full-scale brick and mortar university obviously takes time; but we must bear in mind that education is shifting rapidly towards digitization. The gurukula-Univeristy of the future, even when situated in physical space, will offer mostly online courses. This will be even more of a trend post-Covid-19. Only some intensive courses that would need the presence of the Masters will need to be given in physical spaces. Sri Aurobindo, while describing the work that must be done for a renewal of India’s civilizational spirit, stated : The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness is India’s first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity. There are three components that he emphasizes here : The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness; The flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge; An original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society. These components must also be the curricular framework for the University – the recovery of India’s spiritual knowledge and experience and their flowing out in various forms, and their application in the modern world. There is no university in the world today that comes anywhere close to this ideal. In terms of building an India of the future, there can be no better framework. Based on this framework, the University will have a clearly defined agenda: To promote world class research in Sanatan Dharma, human consciousness and evolutionary spirituality and Yoga in contemporary contexts, national and international; To provide an environment and platform for the study and dissemination of Sanatan Dharma worldwide, which must include websites, social media, multimedia and cinema, online and print publications; To become a national and global hub for Sanatan Dharma and evolutionary spirituality and Yoga; To create a research and study centre for integral healthcare based on Yoga and Ayurveda, besides being a centre for providing such healthcare to the public; To establish schools for study and research in various disciplines like management and leadership, economics, science, integral and Indic psychology, environment and ecology, history and politics based on a dharmic and consciousness worldview. Besides courses, most of which would be running online, there will have to be allied activities that will reinforce the basic agenda of the University: Wide scale organization of off-site camps, boot camps, seminars and workshops for the youth, across schools and universities, wherever people are open and willing. Creating a stimulating, challenging and robust program for direct intervention amongst the youth. This program needs to be evolved and implemented by enlightened thinkers and very effective communicators. Scholars, philosophers, social and religious thinkers, scientists, business and corporate representatives need to be included in this endeavor so that the program that evolves is rich, varied, multi-disciplinary and versatile. The University will need to maintain close and sustained coordination with schools and other universities to ensure buy-in for this program. Such a program cannot be competitive, it needs must be collaborative. In parallel with the program for the youth, there will need to be an equally challenging and robust program to disseminate the dharma amongst professionals, scientists, corporate executives, business leaders and media across the nation. This will need to be super reach-out program, involving various facilitators and learners across the national spectrum. The University will need to reach out to several possible stakeholders: writers, philosophers, thinkers and social influencers, religious teachers and mentors, political activists and leaders and media personnel who can influence large sections of society. We will need to gather on one platform all possible influencers and champions of the dharmic cause. In reaching out to a wider population, we will inevitably meet several people already entrenched in their beliefs and ideologies, often even opposed or hostile to Sanatan thought. We must not turn away from them for none can be left out. There must always be space for debate and dialogue. A truly secular and democratic society must be tolerant of dissent and debate, must be respectful of all world views, all thoughts and beliefs, and must allow disagreement. Rigidity of belief and thought, intolerance and supremacist attitudes can have no place or relevance in a dharmic society. Dharmic discourse and narrative must be free of political and cultural prejudice. Dharma may inspire and lead politics but can never serve politics or political ends. Generating Wealth Force Dharma and artha are the two of the four purusharthas enjoined by Sanatan Dharma. To support dharma, we will need artha, wealth. We will need to gather all like-minded and like-spirited individuals and create a wealth force to sustain dharma. This can and must be done. The Instruments of the Wealth Force Dharmansha can be a powerful instrument for creating the wealth force. Dharmansh implies a regular contribution of a percentage of one’s income and wealth for the work of dharma. Even if each of us were to contribute one to five percent of our income to the dharmic work, we would gather sufficient funds to move ahead with the work. Such a thing is regularly done by the Muslims and the Christians. The Christians call this tithe, the contribution of a tenth of one’s income for religious works. Business and corporate leaders aligned to the dharma can create a powerful network of financial resources and talents and create a corpus for funding the work of dharma. They can also create multiple business opportunities through such a networking and generate wealth for all businesses involved in this network. This network can then contribute directly to the work of dharma. This would be similar to the Islamic halal economy that generates trillions of dollars for Islam. Crowd sourcing could be yet another instrument to generate wealth. There would be enough individuals and groups to contribute to a movement for dharma. All that would be needed is a clear direction and a transparent plan of action. The power of a committed crowd can be extraordinary. We only need to reach out and communicate. Reiteration of Salient Points: The message of Sanatan Dharma must get across to the young if we wish to win this battle of civilization. But we must ensure that our agenda is not hijacked by aggressive and reductionist “preachers” who are only too happy reducing Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism to rituals and rules. Sanatan Dharma represents a highly integrated and integral way of being which is at once subtle and complex: it cannot be allowed to be reduced to a set of simplistic rules and rituals and made into another orthodox religion. The moment Sanatan Dharma is reduced to orthodox practiced religion or rituals, it will be brought into the same space as other world religions. This we must not allow. Sanatan dharma is life itself, it is integral and evolutionary, and must be seen and known as such. Hinduism and Sanatan Dharma involve very profound symbolism. We must be able to explain the symbolism without oversimplifying or demystifying it. This will require careful intellectual navigation. One important reason why the intellectual elite has been wary of Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism is the sheer difficulty in explaining complex and profound spiritual and mystical symbolism to the masses. Simplification should not mean dumbing down. This work for Sanatan Dharma is vast and profound, and cannot be done by any one individual or group; everyone must come together in a vast Yajna, a Sacrifice to the Dharma. Everyone is necessary, and all must put forth their highest and best. This work must be collaborative and unitive — the stakes are high and time is running out. What Sanatan Dharma Is Not Sanatan Dharma is not a religion; it has no established clergy, no central authority, no final arbiter in interpretation or application of the Dharma; no single scripture, no theology. “Dharma” does not mean religion; the word is derived from the Sanskrit root, dhri, which means to hold or bind (to stabilize, sustain). Dharma therefore refers to anything that holds or binds together (cohere), stabilizes and sustains; it is widely accepted as a principle of coherence without which a thing or being would collapse into chaos. This makes it subtle and quite beyond the range of the religious mind. It has nothing to do with rites and rituals. Whatever rituals do exist in the day to day living of Sanatan Dharma is highly symbolic in nature. For instance, in the practice of Yajna (ritual sacrifice), the yajna or the sacrifice itself is symbolic and metaphorical, so is the Agni or fire, so are the oblations and the ingredients, so indeed is the priest. It is not a set of mandatory or prescribed rules for ethical and religious behavior. Dharma posits no absolute right or wrong, everything is relative and contextual. The sense of right and wrong must arise only from one’s inmost being or must be guided by one’s higher intelligence, the buddhi. Therefore, in the Sanatan tradition, the most important practice is to awaken and rigorously cultivate one’s inmost being (atma) and one’s highest intelligence (buddhi) of which spiritual discrimination (viveka) is an essential part. Sanatan Dharma does not tell you what to eat or not to eat, what to wear or not to wear, how to live and how to behave. It is not a set of do’s and don’ts. For the Sanatan Dharma, the only thing of spiritual, social and moral significance is the development of one’s consciousness. Height and depth of consciousness is incomparably more significant than a set of moral and social rules and laws. Sanatan Dharma is not the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads, nor the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, nor even the Puranas; these texts do not define or limit the dharma. However, these texts align the buddhi to the dharma, make the dharma more accessible to the mind and vital behaviour of humanity. A deep understanding of the Vedas, the Gita and the Upanishads, for example, can be of immense importance to one who wishes to live the dharmic life, but they are not the only sources or guides. The ultimate source of the dharma, and the only infallible guide, is the eternal Wisdom within one’s inmost being, the secret Veda indwelling in every conscious being . This is the only grand scripture and temple of the Sanatan Dharma. Therefore the finding of the atma is the only fundamental and indispensable practice of Sanatan Dharma — all else is of secondary or peripheral interest. Read in Hindi 1The “Modi years” (2014—to date) is not just a political marker but a socio-cultural one. In a historic context, India’s political and social course correction from pseudo-secularism and liberalism to pro-rightist nationalism will be attributed to Prime Minister Modi’s personal initiative in driving the BJP agenda to its rapid and decisive conclusion. The process, as I write this, is still on. 2The essence of being Hindu 3Dharan (धारण), dharti (धरति), dhairya (धैर्य) are all words derived from the same root ‘dhri’ ध्रि 4Sri Aurobindo: “As the supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every man, so its supreme Guide and Teacher is the inner Guide, the World Teacher, jagad-guru, secret within us. (The Synthesis of Yoga) The author believes that Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga is arguably the most definitive and systematic expression of the Sanatan Dharma known to human beings.