THE JOY OF LIVING

Every one has the power to become a flower of love, we are just seeds and we have to help the seed to become a flower. Very few succeed actually as most are not committed and alert. The future is an illusion and the past a history. To be alive and grateful to the present is wise contentment. There can be either a negative or a positive contentment. The real is present.

When you look at someone dear to you, just look at the present in total with no comparison and you will see divine energy dancing ‘here and now’. Happiness is within us, declares the Gita. In the state of deep sleep, all of us are happy. Where does it come from? It comes from within. Look within and discover the joy of happiness—meditation makes you come in touch with happiness.

Growth oriented thinking allows us to grow. Thinking in a new way will open life in a new perspective. The sensual mind, which solely depends on the senses, perceives life in a limited way. One cannot receive the spirit of truth that is beyond the senses if one’s life is only based on the sensual mind. All the enlightened masters teach us to think in a new way so as to discover who we are and our relationship with the world outside.

The “I” in us is based on a sensuous mind filled with unnecessary thoughts, emotions, disappointments and expectations. In this noisy state, we hardly hear the real call of the soul inviting us to experience the world beyond. The sensuous mind transcends in deep meditation. Thus the sacred soul in us surfaces. It reflects who we are. We are the music of silence. In such a silence we can celebrate life and death, success and failure. The ego in us wants only success and life. Death is also a part of life.

Life is like a university. Those who love to learn to help one another graduate with distinction. To learn involves openness. Openness is an enlightened framework. One has to reframe all experiences with a quality of openness. Almighty can do anything for you, if you can give Him a chance, if you can give him openness. Being closed is like a cage where you are locked up. Openness is the key to enlightenment. Openness gives you serenity, as you are not hijacked by worry. Serenity opens the door for infinite possibility.

Tradition is like the footprints of truth. It is just wrapping. It is an outer layer. It is just only an indicator and not the indicated. But every tradition claims it has truth; it is like the shadow claiming the very object reflected as real.. One has to look into it to find out the truth of life. In order to discover the truth one should be open. Only in the space of openness one discovers truth. Truth is beyond likes and dislikes beyond tradition, beyond dogmas and beliefs. Such a truth blesses a person beyond concepts. One should be like a traveler open to see and explore into “what is” and not “what should be”. Also one should be like a tourist, who, while in Toronto, is thinking of Vancouver. There is no end to foolishness if one does not realize the truth.

If today’s humanity is going to survive the many threats against it, we need authentic preceptors and free thought Gurus exposing light and love into this dimension by uncovering the light and love inherent in all of us. Humanity is not a sinful species, but a community poised to be liberated through genuine compassion. Humanity is a community whose heart can stand in the brilliance of integrity.

People are able to let go of the beliefs that stand between them and their direct experience. Humanity is not its beliefs. We don’t need faith based moderates and appeasers arguing for the continuance of dimming our light and love, pretending that their avoidance and form-based conceptions, including morality, belief and moderation, are compassion.

The motivation of comparison to liberate sentient beings proceeds from an uncovered heart-mind. Until the heart is open, that is, free from beliefs, there can be no true compassion. Only through emptiness can compassion be understood. Transcending the effects of duality, all struggle ceases. The still nowness of life reveals the light within heart-mind. Embracing the reality beyond duality, the origin of ecstasy, where fear –filled pasts and hope-laden futures never existed, is the supreme goal. Transcending attachment of the objective world liberates us from the illusion of polarized choice. Without fear, there can be no hope. Without hope, there can be no fear.

Awakening spiritual understanding cannot occur in the past or in anticipation of the future. Enlightenment is a clear realization beyond the conceptual construct of any oneness. The oneness of duality is an electro-dynamic reality of compression and expression, expression and compression.

By secular enlightenment, I mean a fearless compassion for the liberation of all, so that all can rise to higher levels of bliss than is currently possible in the repressive, disempowering, disconnected society of today.

There are lot of terminologies like self-realisation, transformation of self and all connected with self. Students may wonder what are these and what do they denote Let us see what is this “transformation”.

 Mere philosophy and intellectual knowledge cannot stand in time of need, if one does not know how to use the essentials of that philosophy in one’s daily life. Applying theoretical knowledge and living with it in daily life for a genuine and everlasting transformation, one must practice a systematic method of is called practice.

Practice requires discipline. Discipline should not be rigidly imposed, but students should learn to commit themselves and accept discipline as essential for self-growth. Imposing rigidity and following it is not helpful at all.

On the way to self-transformation, self-discipline is indispensable to both those who live in the world and those who renounce the world and resort to monasteries. Even those who renounce their homes and duties still carry with them the deep-rooted samskaras sown in earlier lives. It takes a long time to become free of those samskaras.

Becoming a swami or monk is not so important. What is important is to accept a self-disciplined life. There needs to be a bridge between life within and without. Discipline is the foundation of that bridge. People should not be tempted by mere techniques, but should learn to cultivate discipline within themselves.

People have formed a habit of leaning on others. They always want others to help and tell them what to do and what not to do. This is a bad habit. You are a human being; you should take charge of yourself. If you become too dependant on a therapist, a preacher, or a healer, then what’s the difference between you and an animal? It means you are allowing your life to be governed by your trainer. By becoming dependent on such therapies and therapists, your power of self-motivation and self-guidance will never be allowed to unfold. The scriptures, the treasure house of the sages’ experiences, clearly state that self-help alone helps. For such self-help we need a sound method of self-training.

Among all the methods for training and therapies, the highest of all is self-training in which one remains conscious of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. When you work with yourself you will notice that whenever you calm down your conscious mind, bubbles of thoughts will suddenly come up from the unconscious mind.

In learning to control the mind and its modifications, it is essential to go through the process of self-observation, self-analysis, and meditation. Learning to control the mind, and careful study of the relationship between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, take a long time. Many times you may think that you have conquered your thoughts and your mind is under your control. After a few days, some unknown bubble arises from the unconscious and disturbs your conscious mind, thus changing your attitudes and behavior.

The process of transformation requires regularity and vigilance. Without regularity it is not possible to transcend one’s habit patterns or transform one’s personality. Patience helps one maintain regularity, whereas self-analysis and observation help one remain vigilant.

At times you may find yourself disappointed and depressed, but if you are determined and committed to self-training and self-transformation, you will certainly find help in one way or another. Do not worry about success, failure is a part of success. However, not to make an effort is wrong.

Take a look at the greatest marvels of human ingenuity and creativity and one will often find a seer’s unconditional love as the dynamic force behind man’s incredible feats. From the sacred temples of India to the great Sufi poetry of Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī and to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, connections and relationships with self realized masters spurred these achievements and many of those in found in-between.

Places of samadhi of self-realized masters have become the epicentres for glorious temples, mosques, and churches. Unconditional love has inspired mausoleums like the Taj Mahal. The grief of parting with his spiritual mentor and guru, spurned the most popular poetry of the modern times of Rumi. A correspondence with an Indian guru helped Albert Einstein articulate concepts already declared in revelations by great rishis about the nature of the universe. Like these, countless examples emerge of the silent and invisible grace of self realized masters making the ordinary human’s life become richer by pushing him/her towards the only goal of self-realization.

The illustrious seers from around the world from time immemorial explored and mastered all subjects. By connecting with the Supreme Intelligence and with complete detachment from narrow identities of the small self, these seers objectively, in the absolute sense, investigated many “ologies”. Developing systems of exercise, music, medicine, mathematics, art, dance, cuisine, and even sex, the seers made sure that every avenue ultimately pointed to the Self within. Everything was meant to show that is the goal of human existence to seek that which is eternal and unchanging, the common denominator of the Universe, the Self. The seers hoped that by doing so, all of humankind can enjoy creation.

With many faiths and religions, it may be very difficult to find these contributions of seers as those who came after them veiled the true nature of the very religion or faith they now practice. However with Sanatana Dharma, it is so evident the absolute and unconditional love the seers had for humankind. Every rung of the spiritual ladder, from the very bottom to the unbounded top, is catered with so much encouragement and affirmation to meet the goal of self- realization. Bhagawan Vyasa, the saint that all Hindus should be giving first benedictions to, created the rich philosophical mythologies of the Mahabharatha and the Bhagavad Gita. Meant to make deep philosophical truths more accessible for the ordinary human, these mythologies were taken in the literal sense and has manifested as the blind ritualism of today’s Hinduism. Regardless of the current reality, Bhagawan Vyasa showered his grace in actually being the first to record the revelations from time immemorial of all the great seers and rishis into the meticulously organized systems of Vedas as discussed earlier. Many traditions continued to be passed down orally i.e. Ayurveda, Hatha yoga, laughing yoga, tantric yoga, Bharatha Natyam, and much more. In eastern Asia, self-realized masters created martial arts that were meant to tame the body and mind and help unleash the spirit.

 Mythologies of Sanatana Dharma

Puranas

The Puranas generally deal with primary creation or cosmology, secondary creation or dissolution and renovation of worlds, including chronology, the genealogy of the Gods, patriarchs, reign of the different Manus (called manwantaras) and the history of the solar and human dynasties and their descendents.

There are innumerable characters in the Puranas and none can be taken specifically as a hero or a heroine.

There are eighteen Mahapuranas divided into three categories of six each:

Brahma Puranas: Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma vaivarta, Markandeya, Bharishmya and Vamana

Vaishnava Puranas: Vishnu, Naradiya, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma, and Varaha

Saiva Puranas: Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Vayu, Skanda, and Agni

  In addition to these 18 puranas, there are 46 upapuranas (so in all 64) out of which 18 are considered important. They are under, known after their authors:

Sanatkumar

Narasimha

Naradiya

Siva

Durvasa

Kapila

Vamana

Ousasana

Varuna

Kalika

Bhargava

Nandi

Soura

Samba

Maheswara

Parasara

Ganesa

Vasishta

 

The Ithihasas

These are historical anecdotes centering around a hero and a heroine whose lives and deeds serves as inspiration for humanity, for realizing the four Purusharthas namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.Iti-has-asa” literally means “It so happens” and “It so will continue to happen”. So these can be taken as permanent histories of human life and endeavour.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two Itihasas in that chronological order.

Ramayana

Ramayana, which means “the goings of Rama” is the smaller of the two great epics of India and is anterior to the other more voluminous one, the Mahabharatha.

Through the generations, this book has exercised tremendous influence on the life of the Hindu and his culture. Herein describes Rama, the ideal hero, brother, king, son, husband, warrior, an embodiment of Dharma. In Laksmana and Bharata, we have the ideal brothers and in Sita, the noblest flower of Indian womanhood, devoted to her Lord in thought, word and deed. There can be no better text book of morals to be placed in the hands of youth to inspire them to higher and nobler planes of character and conduct.

Perhaps it will be news even to the vast majority of Hindus that the 24, 000 stanzas of Ramayana are amplifications of the 24 letters of the “Gayatri” and that after every thousand stanzas, the next stanza in Ramayana starts with the next letter of Gayatri in that order.

The names of the characters conceal in themselves meaning of metaphysical import which would us stand aghast in wonder and amazement. It would require a separate volume to deal with that.

The Mahabharata

This is the greater of the two great epics of India and in volume is more than eight times the size of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey put together. In philosophical content, this is unparalleled in any other language or literature of the world.

This grand book of knowledge contains more than one hundred thousand stanzas in original- hence it is called “Satasahas-Ri”– in eighteen chapters, called Parvas, and is the monument work of the great sage Krishna Dwaipayana Badarayana Vyasa, commonly known as Veda Vyasa. He was the person who first collected and codified the Vedas. The central theme of the book is “Yato Dharma-Stato Jaya”- “where there is Dharma, there is victory”- unfolding ‘through’ the story of an intertwine war fought towards end of Dwapara Yoga, between two sets of first cousins of the same royal family.

The ultimate triumph of good over evil is the underlying theme of the Epic and again the story is only a vehicle to convey eternal philosophical truths of the highest order.

The book is full of lofty instructions on all aspects of human life and endeavour and is an inspiring saga of all that is great and noble in human trait, in striking contrast to the despicable depth to which man can go in greed and Adhramam and the glory that was India of the past.

The guiding spirit throughout the epic is the divine figure of Lord Krishna who brings home unto Him the pure and virtuous and exterminates evil and the evil doers. The Great Bhagavad Gita or the Lord’s celestial song occurs in this great book.

It will be interesting to know that the two great epics of India centre round two great women the world has produced namely Sita of Ramayana and Gandhari of the Mahabharata. These two characters are the crystallization of thousands of years of Indian culture and tradition and eloquently reveal what glorious status women occupied in the India of the past.

Temple Structure 

 The origin of the word temple can be traced to word the “templum” which were used by Roman soothsayers indicating a section of the sky and also a piece of the ground to gaze and mark divine signs for foretelling the future. Eventually, temple referred to a building constructed at the site. A Hindu temple refers to in Sanskrit language to Devaalaya consisting of two words namely Deva (God) andAlaya (House).

In Vedic Hindu view, an individual’s body is referred as a temple with the indweller as God. The Vedic seers (Rishis) having realized God within themselves gave designs and functions of temples in scriptures (agama shastras) of Vedic Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma). Its purpose is to enable a devotee to use a physical temple and the ritualistic worship as a reminder to the spiritual journey to be carried out within oneself. In addition, it also serves as a place for celebrations of Hindu religious festivals.

A Vedic Hindu temple’s architecture is a divine and yogic representation of a human being as shown in the figure (ref: Agama kosha by S.K. Ramachndra Rao). The feet represent the spire (rajagopura). The hands represent the walkway (prakaara) encompassing all around the temple. The main hall (mandapa) represents the abdomen. The entrance porch (antaraala) represents the heart. The sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha) represents the head. The deity is consecrated with religious rites in the sanctum sanctorum. There is proportionality between the size of the deity in the sanctum sanctorum and the sizes of the temple construction details.

The ritualistic worship (pooja) of consecrated deities (vigrahas) is carried out by priests on behalf of devotees to remind them of the inward yogic process of approaching the indwelling God. The various steps in a pooja offered to the deity with prayers and mantras (in Sanskrit) include steps such as washing feet and giving sacred bath using milk and water. Then with screen closed the deity is decoratively dressed with special cloths, flowers and ornaments. After the decoration the screen is opened to devotees to signify removal of veil of illusions so that devotees can see the beautifully decorated God. Then fruits and food are offered and incense sticks and lamps are waved to the deity. During the waving of lamp by a priest, devotees need to see with eyes open the radiating face of the fully decorated deity so that its memory will provide the spiritual joy. Then the priests distribute the sacred water (teertha) and sacred food (prasada) that devotees drink and eat for spiritual blessings. Thus the entire ritualistic worship can also be seen as expressing love, devotion and respect to one’s guest of honor. The joyful resonance between the external and internal worship provides the bliss.

The elaborate worship of consecrated deity along with sacred rituals with Vedic mantras and the materials used in rituals such as water, milk, flower, incense, sandal paste, bells, conch-shell etc is to help devotees to focus their mind on the Supreme Being. The Vedic seers have recommended the temple and rituals so that devotees through sensory experiences can spiritually experience the bliss of God. It is inspiring to remember the words of my Sadguru Sriranga, a seer-yogi, “The worship of deities and rituals in a temple should be carried out with child-like loving mind by the devotees as little children play with joy using their toys as medium.

Vedic Hinduism or Santana Dharma is based on the Vedas and Vedic literature. Solutions and approaches to all levels of inquiry into the nature of soul, universe and God are provided in Vedic Hinduism. Rituals, Music, Dance, Yoga, Meditation, Vedanta etc express its many facets. The celebrations of Vedic Hindu festivals bring out the various aspects namely religious, cultural, educational and social. A devotee focusing on the meaning of the Vedic mantras and ritualistic procedures will gain the spiritual knowledge. One focusing on the prayers and feelings in rituals will experience joy of devotion.One focusing on service in a temple will experience the joy of selfless service.

A temple plays an important role in providing a sacred place and means for spiritual development of a seeker.

A Hindu temple (Devaalaya) has not only religious purpose but also spiritual, cultural, educational and social objectives. It provides a place for devotees to focus and develop their spiritual insight. A Hindu temple in essence can be recognized in three forms. The first is oneself with God within. The second one is a dedicated room (with altar and deities) in a home. The third one is the Hindu temple in which devotees participate collectively that reflects the pluralistic nature of Vedic Hinduism or Santana Dharma. Thus a devotee needs to integrate all the three forms of temples to develop the spiritual insight and enjoy the peace and bliss.

WHAT IS SPIRITUAL LIFE?

 One objective of the sadhana [spiritual practices] of all believers in God is to be somewhat godlike. As God’s universe, which is both his garment and Self-expression, is not a dreary desert, the life and externals of a godlike person need not always be the imitation of a desert.

As bare deserts are, however, a phase of God’s creation, asceticism may be a phase of God-seeking and Self-realization, but not the whole of it. Genuine asceticism for finding one’s own soul and for the good of humanity is worthy of reverence.

Equally worthy of reverence, if not more, is the treading of the fuller and more difficult path of sadhana of those who are in the world, but remain above it. The lotus is often used as a symbol in Indian culture and mythology because the lotus grows in the mud, yet remains above, untouched and unaffected by the mud and water.

You can live in the world and yet be spiritual. It is not necessary for you to renounce the world. Wherever you are, stay there. Simply follow two formulas. One formula is for living in the external world:

All the things of the world that are given to me are given to me by the Lord. They are meant for me and I have the right to use them, but I don’t have the right to possess them, for they are not mine.

All things will become means in life if you have this attitude, instead of, “This is mine, this is mine.” You are afraid of losing what you have; you are afraid it will decay and go to decomposition. You should learn to use the things of the world without being possessive. As St. Bernard said, “Love the Lord alone. Use the things of the world as your means.”

In addition, you should do your actions selflessly, lovingly, and skillfully. Nothing more than that is needed just the one formula for the external world. What to do for the inner self?

God is everywhere. The Lord is in me; I am his shrine. As a shrine is kept neat and clean, I will try my best to keep my body, breath, and mind pure and orderly.

For a person of wisdom who knows the Truth, internal and external are one and the same. Inner freedom is born of self-sacrifice, self-purification, and self-control. This freedom releases the spirit and gives it wings to soar to the boundless sphere of the unfathomable levels of being.

Freedom is truth. Why then do we live in a cage with no sky beyond it—in a closed world of hard facts? We are like seeds with hard outer coverings, crying from within for liberation. Millions of people die like seeds that have lost the urge for generation.

The resources for living and being successful on the earth that are offered by Mother Earth for her children are immense, but those who are not aware of the real and limitless resources lying dormant within human life are deprived, and this self-deprivation is the cause of suffering.

Shall there be a day when the consciousness of the large multitude will be illumined? Only then will human beings and society understand the profound meaning of the Reality that offers us love and emancipation.

The joys received through prayer, meditation, and contemplation are the highest of all joys. I am one living witness who confirms that the highest of joys cannot be given by the world. All the joys in the world give you but a taste. That taste can never be satisfied. A momentary joy is called vishaya ananda. It is ananda (bliss), but it lasts only for a short time.

Sages say there is another ananda—paramananda—that is something higher, something everlasting, something that can never be snatched, and that is liberating and emancipating.

What is unique in the human being is the awareness of consciousness. The burning desire to attain immortality, the perfect, and the eternal, makes the human being superior to all other creatures.

Sadhana is prescribed for the attainment of a happy life on the earth, in heaven thereafter, and at length, liberation. Spiritual practices lead the aspirant toward divinity or inner experiences that further help to attain the final goal of life.

Entire life is sadhana.

You ask, “Is it possible for me to know God? Is it possible for me to be a spiritual person? Is it possible for me to do this?”

Patanjali, the codifier of yoga science, says, “O aspirant, learn to practice until the last breath of your life.”

Let the heavens shower all the blessings upon you, so that you can grow and unfold yourself, and accomplish the purpose of life. My prayers are always with you.

Why Spiritual Practice?

Sadhana [spiritual practice] is important. It will give you a comprehensive knowledge of life with all its currents and crosscurrents.

It is amazing to observe that most of the people enveloped in sloth and lethargy are not aware that life on this earth is but a brief moment, and that moment should be utilized to purify the way of the soul. Those who do not do their duties and yet expect the best in life, are fools who live in a fool’s paradise.

In life’s primitive paradise, fools aspire to live for a long time. They live perpetually on charity. They are beggars who are burdens to society and even to themselves. These beggars are envious of one another and habitually suspicious of each other, like dogs living upon their master’s favors, showing their teeth, growling, barking, and trying to chew up one another. Their very existence is described as a struggle. Their paradise lacks peace, equilibrium, and tranquility.

I worked hard in my life and attained something that gives me solace. I found out that life is mingled with sorrow and joy; both of these feelings should not be allowed to disturb the course of life.

A human being is not imperfect, but incomplete. Man’s essential nature is a limitless horizon. The call to inner Truth is present in him with all profundity, but his analytical logic is shallow.

Peace cannot be attained through mere speculative philosophy or logic. I am willing to believe that philosophy is useful for the comprehension of the Ultimate Reality, but I do not admit that philosophy alone can lead us to the ultimate goal. However great the philosophy may be, it must be supplemented by faith, emotion, and strict discipline of the functions of the will.

A sadhaka has to go through a series of internal experiences. When a sadhaka’s convictions are filtered by the systematic and organized way of sadhana, the mind becomes penetrating and one-pointed.

An aspirant must control the dissipation of the mind. Conquest over the senses and the mind helps one to attain freedom from the charms and temptations of the world. Free from worldly distractions, nothing remains in the mind but the longing to know God.

Once such an exclusive longing awakens, one becomes absorbed in contemplating and meditating on God. Through constant contemplation and meditation, one begins having glimpses of the Truth, and these experiences strengthen his faith. Growing internally, that exclusive faith becomes the source of inner strength, enabling the aspirant to move along the path until perfection is achieved.

The first detachment achieved by the aspirant is physical, inspiring him to develop the power of instinctive love and knowledge that helps him to relate with the world and nature. Nature has her own laws and helps all creatures to receive her blessings and grace in many ways.

The human mind is complex with all its typical moods, manners, and weapons. The purpose of sadhana is to be free from the magic wonders of the mind and remain free all the time.

Freedom is a divine gift lent to mortals. A seeker of Truth should first have freedom from all time-honored taboos. Mental freedom is an accepted fact and is definitely higher than physical freedom. Free spirit is godly and alone can claim kinship with God.

The potential to realize the Truth is present in every person. In some it remains dormant, while in others it is awakened. The more one directs one’s awareness toward the Divine Force, the more one realizes the emptiness of the objects of the world. That realization helps one to withdraw one’s mind from the external world, and to compose oneself for inner exploration.

All sadhanas, all practices, are meant to purify and strengthen the mind that disturbs your being and prevents you from being aware of the Reality that is within you.

To be spiritual means to be aware of the Reality all the time, to be aware of the Absolute Truth all the time, and to be aware of the Lord within you all the time.

A Renunciate

Often people ask questions like, “What is a swami?” or “Why did you become a swami?” In areas such as Rishikesh or Haridwar, India, along the Ganges, it is not a question that needs to arise. Many swamis are there, and all you have to do is say, “Behold, those are swamis!” However, in geographical areas where there are few swamis wandering around, these are more curious questions.

The word swami means master; it means striving for the mastery over one’s smaller self and habit patterns, so that the eternal Self within may come shining through. The act of becoming a swami is not so much an acting of becoming, of adding on, of allegiance, as it is an act of setting aside, of renunciation. A swami is a monk, one who has set aside all of the limited, worldly pursuits, so as to devote full time effort to the direct experience of the highest spiritual realization, and to the service of others along those lines. Renunciation is not anti-world, in any sense of the world being a bad place. Rather, it is a matter of priorities about how one will spend his or her time, the twenty-four hours in a day, and the seven days in a week. Traditionally renunciation is the fourth of four stages of life, although one who feels the call might renounce and become a swami at any stage of life.

While there are many swami lineages, with a wide range of beliefs, perspectives, and loyalties, a swami of the Himalayan tradition will at some point no longer claim allegiance to any particular group or religion, seeing all as the outpouring of the one, indivisible reality, truth, or God, which goes by many names to different people of different cultures, including the word Brahman, the Absolute Reality. Though most would likely have self-identified as Hindu, other individual practitioners in the Himalayan tradition have personal roots in virtually all of the world’s most known cultures and religions. During childhood the decisions about religion were left by parents for my own later choice. My renunciation as a swami has been one of setting aside any sense of exclusive identity so as to embrace the whole.

The true samnyasi (renunciate or ascetic) does not identify with any form of division or multiplicity. The Sanskrit word samnyasi comes from samnyasyati, meaning he renounces. Sam means together, ni means down, and asyati means he throws. He or she throws down any personal identity whatsoever, including not only those related to physical objects, but also to nationality, religion, work or family identities. If there is the external appearance of any identities such as these, it is only in the perception of, and for the benefit of others whom the samnyasi may serve. Even the name used by the samnyasi or swami is primarily for the convenience of others.

The goal of the samnyasi or swami is “atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha” which means one who strives “for the realization and liberation of the Self and for the benefit of the world.”

There are deeper, heartfelt aspects of these questions “What is a swami?” or “Why did you become a swami?”. One of the most inspiring and validating writings I have encountered is a short paper written by Pandit Usharbudh Arya, entitled “What is Renunciation?” This remains in my heart the clearest written description of what it really means to be a swami. It captures not only an accurate definition, but also a description of the ideal aimed for, and the spirit of the inner longing for one drawn to this path. It well answers the questions, “What is a swami?” and “Why did you become a swami?” The entire text of the paper is below.

Swami Rama has also written a succinct and clear description of the path of renunciation in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Here, he describes seven important points about the path of the swamis. That text is also included below, and has been entitled “The Basis of Renunciation.”

If you are not familiar with swamis or other monks, and are a sincere seeker, it is very important to know and keep in mind that the path of Self-Realization is not exclusive to the renunciates. The two paths of renunciation and action in the world are equally valid and fruitful for aspirants who are devoutly committed to the practices of contemplation and meditation.

What is Renunciation?

Renunciation is the final forgetting of “I” and “mine”. It is that mode of thought and experience in which the entire creation becomes as oneself. One who has taken vows of renunciation, and thereby become a swami, considers himself a member of every family on earth, with their physical and spiritual welfare as his prime concern. He is as concerned for them as the novices in the practice of love, leading a limited worldly life, are concerned with their own families. A renunciate claims an intimate relationship with all, attached to none. “Attached to none” means that he claims nothing from them, desires and seeks nothing from anyone, needs no emotional support from anyone but gives the support and encouragement to all. Like the rising sun, wearing orange/saffron robes, he must dispense light to every nook and cranny of the world. Wherever the evening catches him is his home whether under someone’s roof or under God’s own sky. Free and ever moving like the breeze he gives life-breath to all. Ever-flowing like a river, he quenches, cleanses and irrigates all. Like a fire he purifies all. Like a light he illuminates all. Like the sky, he remains untouched, clear, calm, giving his space to everyone; he invites every being to find rest, solace, succor and consolation within his field of being that emanates from him.

A candidate for swamihood walks into the holy river Ganges, and doffs all clothing. S/he is given fresh robes by the guru for convention’s sake. Mentally s/he must be as Adam or Eve before the fall, and totally genderless, for s/he is no longer a physical body in his personal self-identification. Yet s/he must continue to bestow the best of care on the physical vehicle so that s/he may serve others all the better. As s/he owns nothing one’s own (svam), s/he is called a swami, the master of it all, for s/he has become a gentle master over his own will.

In taking the vows of swamihood one declares “a-bhyam” to all living beings: I am a threat to none, a danger to none; may no living being henceforth fear me. In a great fire-offering he names each and all his organs, sense-faculties, pranas, mental states and functions, and as he pours a libation of ghee (clarified butter) into the fire, as though offering his own faculties to the universal fire, he declares regarding each of them, “No more mine”; “free of all dust I had gathered heretofore, I am now sinless; I am light.

Thereafter, if he owns anything it is only formally in his name, as a convenience for his universal mission of service and love for which he grants and distributes of himself freely, unstintingly. He must avoid all honor and recognition, unless that too would enhance his service to the world. He must do, speak, think, wear, eat whatever would help those whom he serves.

One may renounce at any stage of life whenever his universal love crosses the boundaries of limitation. Renunciation is not, definitely not, an abandoning of any duties. Those who have any claims on him first renounce their claims on him and grant him their happy permission to let go. Theirs is no less an act of renunciation, more difficult, because they have yet to struggle with the world. He renounces because his karma with them has been fulfilled; all he leaves behind is their happy thoughts about him. There are cases in history where someone became a swami by speaking a lie that he had no relatives or that he had obtained their happy permission. After it was found out to be untrue, such people were expelled from the monastic order and told to fulfill their worldly duties.

In some cases a renunciate’s guru may order that he continue to perform some residual duties to his erstwhile family, for example, continuing to finance a child’s education. The great Shankara returned to his dying mother and performed her last rites. Why should not a renunciate do these duties which he would ordinarily perform for any member of his universal family, without claims or attachments and free of any weak emotions. He refers to his pre-renunciation family as purvashram: “relations from my previous ashram”. [previous stage of life]

The act of renunciation is therefore not an escape, not a divorce. Just as someone taking the vows as a Catholic nun, and changing her name, is not denouncing her parents, only enhancing the scope of her love, so it is with someone becoming a swami from out of married life. The spouse of such a one considers him/herself wedded but claiming nothing from the swami, for his personage is now sacred, beyond flesh and beyond the reach of touch. The parents, spouse, children who have let go of their child, spouse and parent are to be admired for their renunciation so that someone may save the entire world freely.

In the Indian Law the act of sanyasa, or becoming a swami, is regarded as civil death. For example, any property acquired after becoming a swami passes to one’s disciples following the swami’s death, and not to the children of one’s body in the previous ashram [stage of life].

That human beings are in unfinished product. A swami is the finished product, ideally speaking; or aspiring to become a finished product soon, in this very life; this is the ultimate in human evolution. He has no specific name (except for others’ convenience so they may refer to him), no birthplace, no caste, no social grouping, no religion, no countries. He is a citizen of all earth, everyone’s closest relative to whom anyone may confide anything. He is the kind shower when someone is suffering a drought of love.

In the life of a spiritual seeker or teacher there comes a moment when a decision can no longer be postponed. One passes through emotions like those of a bride: sadness at separation from past love, looking forward to a future of a different expansion of love, enhancing oneself. All weak emotion is to be watched and conquered–not by suppressing it but by merging the little love into the greater one. One simply knows, at a certain time in life, that the pressing details of one’s business from the worldly life will never be finished–while billions are dying without light. He ties up as many loose ends as possible, and walks out carrying a torch into the night. At that moment of decision, no consideration is weighty enough to tie his feet. The call to walk (to become a pari-vrajaka) has come:

for the benefit of the many, bahu-jana-hitaya

for the comfort of the many, baha-jana-sukhaya,

as the Buddha said when exhorted and sent out his first batch of monks. At that moment one’s own physical discomforts, mental sadness, and such, becomes as unimportant as a mother’s need to get a full night’s sleep is ignored when her infant is suffering from a burning fever.

Such a moment is a moment of dying; dying to one’s erstwhile limited self. The renunciate performs that ceremony to himself which is normally performed by relatives following the funeral of someone physically dead. Story of a man in a certain city in India. Every astrologer in the city predicted that he would die on a certain morning. The evening before the predicted date for this man’s death a Swamiji arrived in the city and the man went to see him. This dialogue followed:

He: Swamiji, every astrologer in the city predicts that I am to die tomorrow.

Swamiji: Do you want to live on?

He: Indeed, I do.

Swamiji: Then renounce the worldly life and become a swami tomorrow morning; die to your previous world.

He: Oh, but what will my wife say?

Swamiji: What will she say if you died in the morning?

The gentleman went home, got his wife’s permission, became a swami, and lived on.

On the day one is meant to become a swami, if one decides not to renounce but to continue to cling on, the physical death is bound to grab him by the hair, for his work for “the previous ashram” is already done.

Intense sadhana (undertaking concentrated spiritual observances); the realization of universal love; the satisfaction derived from seeing the others’ ignorance and consequent suffering have been reduced; and the unbounded grace of one’s guru; these help a novice renunciate to walk on firmly and not to falter.

As to the renunciate’s well-being, besides the guru’s grace, the whole world takes care of him ever so lovingly. Those above him bless him, those below him are ever so grateful. How wonderful is the life of a renunciate, the life of an all-embracing, incorruptible sky.

The Basis of Renunciation

The goal of the renunciate is to fathom one after another of the various stages of consciousness that lead to the innermost One. The following principles are the basis of the path of renunciation:

The renunciate directs all his energy toward the attainment of the goal of life, Self-realization.

He does not waste time and energy pursuing desires based on self-interest.

The renunciate’s journey is inward; it is neither action nor inaction nor retreat. It consists of performing actions mentally and directing the mind and its modifications inward rather than toward the external world.

Non-attachment is attained spontaneously because the renunciate is not involved with objects; they have all been consciously renounced.

With pure reason all the samskaras are burned in the fire of knowledge.

There remains only one desire: the desire for Self-realization. That desire does not motivate one to do actions in the external world but becomes a means to build determination, will power, and one-pointedness. Therefore such desire is an essential means rather than an obstacle in the path of sadhana.

In the path of renunciation, Self-realization alone is the goal, and any action that does not become a means is firmly rejected and renounced. There is no half-here and half-there; total dedication and devotion are essential limbs for renunciation.

This path of the rare few is the highest of all. It is difficult but not impossible. Those who are fully prepared should walk this path of fire and light. They should not listen to the suggestions of those who are not capable of following the path of renunciation.

Those who are not prepared to become renunciates should not think they cannot realize the Self. That which is important to understand and attain is the state of non-attachment, without which treading either path–renunciation or action–is meaningless.

 

 

 

While the westerner who did not know branded Indians as a nation of primitive and uncivilized people, the more enlightened ones among them started investigations into what subsequently came to be known as “Indology”, the study of the history of the culture and civilization of this ancient race of people. As a result of this, more and more startling things have come to light and today they stand in wonder and amazement at the remarkable achievements and discoveries recorded by the forefathers of the people who they once considered primitive and uncivilized.

It is obvious that both the scientist and the philosopher are in quest for the truth. While the field of the scientist is the objective world around him, the philosopher had selected for his field of investigation the subjective world inside him.

Generations of wise men in India, just like others else where in later times first started analyzing the objects of the senses, the outer world, to gain more and more knowledge about Nature and her laws and did make great discoveries which changed the course of their lives.

This knowledge was handed down to posterity augmented by fresh acquisitions of every succeeding generation, until some of them, sometime, somewhere, began to realize that the scientific field could not give them lasting peace and happiness which in their wisdom was the only thing worth striving for.

The mysteries of life or the ultimate aim of life itself will not unfold itself if we go further away from life itself which was exactly what the scientists were doing.

To get at the truth, life itself had to be analyzed and that could be done only by looking inward into life itself and knowing man’s real nature.

The result is the profound philosophy of Vedanta to which more and more men and women from all parts of the world are flocking today for light, solace and fulfillment. So in India, philosophy is not a hobby or an escape, but an intense search for truth after having found from experience that mundane achievements only complicate our lives and take us further from our real God.

In fact, the Rishis of yore in India did not make any distinction between science being on the one side and religion and philosophy on the other. The sciences are the Upa-vedas and the Vedangas, and the philosophies are the Veda-upangas, all culminating in the Vedanta- the end of the Vedas.

The common man’s conception about Sanskrit literature is that it is only full of stories about gods and goddesses, their lives, intrigues and jealousies, poetry, religious rituals and hymns, mythology, some advice about conduct in society and a narration on the effect of punya and papa ( meritorious actions and sins) in our life herein after.

It is only the precious few who know that our ancient sages and scholars had covered a vast range of sciences like algebra, trigonometry, geometry, astronomy, calculus, neurology, chemistry, medicine, economics, music, architecture and even sexology.

When we take a glimpse into the antiquity of Indian civilization- which is Vedic civilization- we find that there are historical as well as ethnological grounds to suspect the fact that the ancient Egyptians were originally migrants from India.

Colonel Olcott, the eminent Egyptologist and Indologist says “We have a right more than suspect that India, 8000 years ago sent a colony of emigrants who carried their arts and high civilization into what is known to us as Egypt.”

Modern research scholars are of that opinion that the first treatise containing astronomical data “Vedic Jyothisha” was complied on or about 1350 B.C.E. whereas we find a lot of precious astronomical information and data in the Rig Veda which has now been accepted to be much anterior to that date.

A comparison of sidereal and synodic periods of the different planets as derived from “Surya Siddhanta” on one hand and as derived by modern scientific methods on the other reveals that in most cases they reconcile upto the second or third decimal places.

Scholars like Sylvan Bailley and Dupuis say that Hindu zodiac is the earliest known to man and that the first calendar was made in India in about 12,000 B.C.E ( refer to Bailley’s Historie d’Astronomie Ancienne p. 483 as well as the proceedings of the society of Biblical archeology- December 1901- part 1)

Emmeline M. Plunket in the great work “Ancient Calendars and Constellations” –page 152 says that there were very advanced Hindu astronomers in 6000 B.C.E.

Modern scientists have discovered that there are innumerable galaxies in the universe, some of them hundreds of time brighter than our own. Those who wonder at this information are invited to take a look into our ancient books Yoga Vasishta and Atharvana Maha Narayanopanishad wherein they will find that these things are described with special reference even to the arrangement of galaxies in the cosmic space.

According to Hindu concept of time, on Mahayuga (Kruta, Treta, Dwapara and Kaliyuga put together) is 12,000 times 360 or 4,320,000 years.

People used to believe that this was the result of the imagination of our ancestors running wild. But eminent modern astronomers have now started realizing the basis on which the Hindus of old had fixed these periods. It has now been found out that the duration of Mahayuga namely 4,320,000 years has been based on a particular motion of the earth. It has to be remembered that the earth has different motions, for example:
The daily rotation at over 1,000 miles per hour in 24 hours
The annual revolution at about 66,000 miles per hour in 365.246 days around the sun and;
The motion consequent to the gravitational pull of the giant star Hercules at about 12 miles per second.
As well as the time taken by all the planets to come in a vertical line of mean conjunction with the first degree of Aries since they last occupied similar positions in the same vertical line of mean conjunction at a place 76 degrees east long of Greenwich as they had the basis for the calculation that all the planets occupied the same position at the commencement of each Mahayuga.

Therefore this period was fixed by arriving aver of the number of days taken by each planet to make one complete revolution around the zodiac as well as the motion of the earth referred above, which could be seen to be 4,320,000 years approximately. This fourth motion of the earth has been discovered to be a slow rotation in addition to the rotation causing the days and the nights, completed once in 31,850 years around an axis the poles of the daily rotation (Refer to Maj. Eln. A.W. Drayson FRAS in “Experiences of a Woolwich Professor-1884).

The effects of sunspots on electro-magnetic waves are the resultant disturbances that go to prove that the Hindus were absolutely correct in their astro-physics at about 3,000 B.C.E. if not earlier (refer to Wallis Budge- “Students Ancient History” pg. 189, 360-366).

The Mahabharata mentions that the Vedas contain an account of the dimensions of the earth, sun, moon, planets, certain stars, and constellations and the duration of the four yugas based on systematic astronomical calculations. Heat, liquid, electricity, magnetism, ether and sound are clearly defined (refer to Max Mueller: “The Sacred Books of the East- Volume I).

Our ancestors had discovered that planetary rays affect metals and gems. Quite a number of westerners and even our own Hindus used to dismiss this as Hindu superstition until Mrs. Kolisko in 1936 showed by lantern slides the effect of solar eclipse on gold, silver, and other metals. Needless to say, scientists and astronomers changed their opinions about the scientific knowledge of our forefathers.

Today western astronomers say that the middle stare of the tail of the Great Bear (Sapta Rishis) is a double or a binary Garga and Varaha Mihira had said that Vasishta is always attended by a Sukshmatara (Telescopic star) and Arundhati his spouse. Garga records that during the reign of Yudhishtira, the Sapta Rishis were in the constellations of Magha (Regulus). These clearly show that the Hindus knew of the stellar secrets a few thousand of years before Galileo.

Dirghatamas, one of the great savants of the times, devoted a period of about 50 years of his life to study the movements of the earth, the sun, and the moon and to him goes the credit of having discovered that a year of twelve months of thirty days each leaves a gap of twenty one days in four years. Bhaskaracharya, the celebrated Hindu astronomer and mathematician who is said to have lived around 1,100 A.D. had gone deep into the subject as would be clear from a reference to his famous work “Siddhanta Siromani”.

In the fields of arthimetic, algebra geometry and trigonometry, great names like Apastamba, Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Sreedhana and Padmarabha stand out in all glory. Medhatidhi was the first to extend the numerals to billions. Numerals are of Indian origin and the idea of the numerals is said to have basically come from the Vedas.

It is seen that the fact that the square on the hypotenuse of the right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides, was known in India, long before the birth of Pythagoras to whom that theorem is now attributed ( Refer to Aryabhatiya and Sulba Sutras).

In ancient Hindu mathematical treatises, we come across equivalents for debtor, creditor, simple, simultaneous and quadratic equations. “In the whole history of mathematics, there has been no more revolutionary step than the one which the Hindus made when they invented the sign “0” for the empty column of the counting frame.” (Refer to Lancelot Hogben: “Mathematics for the Millions page 47)

The advancement the Hindus had made in medical science has been marvelous. The Hindus call it “Ayurveda”, meaning “the science of life” or “the science of longevity”. When we speak of Ayurveda we pay out silent tribute to three great names: Charaka, Susruta, and Vakbhata. Vakbhatacharya was also a great bacteriologist in addition as would be clear from his definition of a bacteria- “Sookshmat Watcheke Bhavanti Adrusya Keetah.” The Samhitas of the Vedas mention ailments affecting the eyes and the ears, heart, lungs, head and stomach.

Medicinal use of herbs, minerals, and certain animal products were well known. Different types of germs and worms that cause or spread disease are mentioned in the Artharva Veda. Expert diagnosis by simply feeling the pulse of the patient was very common thing among Ayurvedic physicians of those days. It is seem that Charaka and Susruta had perfected 115 different types of surgical instruments and had conducted 13 different type of major operations. It is seen that what we call today “plastic surgery” was well known in those days, especially in military hospitals.

The most remarkable thing mentioned about them is that they developed a method by which in complicated cases of labour pains, they could extract the child from the mother’s womb without touching either the mother or the child with their hands or with any instrument.

Modern science is beginning to realize that caesarian or forceps delivery is not without 115 deleterious effects on the mother and the child respectively.

Sage Bharadivaja in 700 B.C.E. presided over the first “medicinal plants symposium” in the world, and that an account of this symposium is available in the Charaka Samhita.

The science of alchemy, the philosopher’s stone which is supposed to have the property of converting the baser metals into gold had all along remained an elusive substance to the Egyptians and the Italian alchemists who had worked at it for generations. There are Hindu Bhairages living in India even today who easily do this with the help of some herbs. Likewise science always said that mercury is a liquid metal at normal temperature whereas in India there are a set of people among the Hindus who keep mercury on solid state at normal temperature and claim certain talismanic properties for the same. This knowledge unfortunately is kept as a closely guarded secret by those who possess it. They say it is not their ‘Dharma’ to commercialize that knowledge. The purpose here is only to show that this knowledge has existed in India since long among the Hindus.

Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria (A.D. 20-168) said that the earth was stationary and that the heavenly bodies moved around it. Every body’s worship fully believed this until Nicholas Coppernicus (A.D. 1473-1543) came on to the scene, overturned the geocentric theory and replaced it with his Helio-centric theory, the sun in the centre.

About a thousand years before the birth of Coppernicus, there lived a man in India called Aryabhatta (Born 476 A.D. at Pataliputra) the celebrated Indian astronomer and mathematician who is his work “Aryabhatiya” has described the position of earth in the galaxy, the cause of eclipse, quadratic equations, sine and cosine and various rules in algebra and trigonometry.

Sir Issac Newton (1624-1727 A.D.) and his laws of motion and gravitation are well known. But a very few, even our own people have heard the great name of our Bhaskaracharya (1114 A.D.) who lived about 500 years before the birth of Newton. His word “Siddhanta Siromani” describes the mutual attraction among bodies of cosmic space which enables them to maintain their respective positions.

The credit for having discovered the link between cause and effect goes to the sage Kanaada, the propounder of the ‘Vaiseshika Darsana’. And what is scientific study, if it is not the search for a cause or a number of causes leading to a particular phenomenon?

The first teachers who brought Yoga to the West came with the profound teachings of Vedanta as their greatest treasure to share with the world. They presented Vedanta as the philosophy of Self-realization and Yoga as the methodology by which to achieve it. Such great masters. began with Swami Vivekananda at the end of the nineteenth century and continued with Swami Rama Tirtha, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the many disciples of Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh. They called their teaching Yoga-Vedanta, which they viewed as a complete science of spiritual growth

However, in the course of time asana or yoga postures gained more popularity in the physically-minded West, and the Vedantic aspect of the teachings fell to the sidelines, particularly over the last twenty years. The result is that today few American Yoga teachers know what Vedanta is or can explain it to others. If they have an interest in meditation they generally look to Zen or Vipassana, not knowing that meditation is the very foundation of classical Yoga and its related traditions.

Even students of related disciplines like Ayurveda or Vedic astrology may know little about Vedanta, the path of self-knowledge that is the spiritual support and goal of these systems. Meanwhile, those who study the great Vedantic gurus of modern India, like Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta Maharaj, generally look at the particular teacher as the source of the teachings, and they may fail to understand the tradition that they are part of. In this way, the heart teachings of India’s great sages have become progressively lost even to those who claim to follow their teachings in the West.

The great sages of modern India were all Vedantins. Most notable is Ramana Maharshi, who emphasized the non-dualistic form of Vedanta and lived a life of direct Self-realization. Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, Anandamayi Ma, Nityananda, Neem Karoli Baba, and Swami Chinmayananda to mention but a few, were Vedantins, using the Vedantic terminology of Self-realization and God-realization. Vedantic traditions remain strong throughout India today, including many great teachers—for example, the different Shankaracharyas, who have never come to the West and are almost unknown here.

Current major teachers from India like Ma Amritanandamayi (Ammachi) and Satya Sai Baba similarly use the language of Vedanta and its emphasis on the Self. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation follows a Vedantic view of consciousness and cosmic evolution. Swami Rama, the founder of the Himalayan Institute, was another important Vedantic teacher in America. The main Hatha Yoga teachers in recent times, like Krishnamacharya of Madras or B.K.S. Iyengar, follow Vedantic teachings for the higher aspects of Yoga. Devotional approaches like the Hare Krishna movement reflect Vedantic devotional teachings. Without an understanding of Vedanta, therefore, it is difficult to understand these great teachers or their words to us.

Vedanta is a simple philosophy. It says that our true Self, what it calls the Atman, is God. “I am God” (aham brahmasmi) is the supreme truth. The same consciousness that resides at the core of our being pervades the entire universe. To know ourselves is to know God and to become one with all. Vedanta is a philosophy of Self-realization, and its practice is a way of Self-realization through yoga and meditation.

Vedanta has a theistic side, recognizing a cosmic creator (Ishvara) who rules over the universe through the law of karma. God is the supreme teacher, the highest guru from whom all true teachings arise by the power of the divine word. Vedantic theism takes many forms such as the worship of Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess. In fact, it can accommodate almost any form of theism that accepts karma and rebirth.

But in non-dualistic (Advaita) Vedanta, the Creator is not the ultimate reality. The ultimate reality is the Absolute, called Brahman, which transcends time, space and causation, standing above any personal creator. Our individual Self or soul (Atman) is one with the Absolute or Brahman, which is the supreme Self (Paramatman). The soul is not merely a part of the Creator but is one with the ground of Being-Consciousness-Bliss from which even the Creator arises.

Because of its emphasis on the Self and its recognition of many forms of theism, Vedanta lies behind the tolerance and syncretic tendency that exists in the Hindu religion. Because Hindus see religion as a vehicle for Self-knowledge they can accept many different sages, holy books and spiritual paths both inside their traditions and outside of them. Hinduism has always defined itself as Sanatana Dharma, “the universal or eternal dharma”, which encompasses all dharmas and all possible spiritual paths. Many systems of Vedanta exist as well, with various philosophical differences among them covering all major views of God and consciousness. Vedanta, therefore, is not a closed but an open system that honors the Self in all beings and does not reduce it to any particular formula, personality or dogma.

Vedanta is the oldest and most enduring spiritual teaching in India. It is fully emergent in the Upanishads and synthesized in the Bhagavad Gita. But it has ancient antecedents in Vedic literature, which recent archaeological finds now date to 3500 BCE, when the ancient Indus-Saraswati culture flourished throughout North India. The main terms and practices of Vedanta exist already in the cryptic mantras of the ancient Vedas that go back to the dawn of recorded history.

Reflecting the inner truth of the ancient Vedas, Vedanta is perhaps the oldest and most enduring spiritual teaching in the world. Spirituality, after all, is a pursuit of self-knowledge, not merely religious ritual or philosophy. Vedanta is the most characteristic philosophy of India and pervades most of the teachings of the land. Even modern movements like Sikh Dharma reflect the Vedantic idea that the individual soul is one with God.

Vedanta literally means “the end of the Vedas” but more appropriately it refers to the essence of the Vedas. From the standpoint of great yogis like Sri Aurobindo, the Vedas present the truth of Vedanta in a poetic-mantric language, while Vedanta presents Vedic mantric knowledge in the form of a rational philosophy. The wisdom hidden in the mantras of the ancient Rishis shines forth in the clear insight approaches of Vedanta.

Vedanta in the form of the early Upanishads preceded Buddhism by some centuries in India, perhaps by over a thousand years. Vedanta and Buddhism have much in common as ways of spiritual knowledge born of the Indic tradition. Many scholars see Buddhism as a modification of Vedanta, while others see it as a revolt against Vedanta. Vedanta eventually absorbed Buddhism in India, which by the seventh century had ceased to be a major religion in the country. Vedantic teachers accepted the figure of the Buddha as an incarnation (avatara) of Lord Vishnu, like Rama and Krishna, but rejected portions of Buddhist philosophy, particularly its denial of the existence of a creator.

Vedanta and Buddhism share ideas of karma, rebirth, and release from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). They have similar practices of mantra and meditation. They follow the same ethical disciplines of non-violence (ahimsa) and vegetarianism, and both religious systems have well-developed monastic orders. Relative to their views of truth, the Mahayana form of Buddhism and Advaita (non-dualistic) Vedanta have a similar emphasis on the Absolute and regard the phenomenal world as maya or illusion.

Like Zen Buddhism, non-dualistic Vedanta emphasizes the Self or Self-nature as the supreme Reality. It honors that Self in the world of nature; thus its great Swamis retire into the forests for a life of meditation. Vedantic teachers laud the great beauty of nature, revealed through mountains such as the Himalaya, as reflections of our true being beyond the illusions of the world.

Dhyana, the Sanskrit term for meditation used by Hindus and Buddhists alike, first arises in Vedic literature. The Upanishads say, “By the Yoga of meditation (Dhyana Yoga) the sages saw the Divine Self-power, hidden in its own qualities” (Shvetasvatara Upanishad I.2). Another Upanishad states, “Meditate on Om as the Self” (Katha Upanishad II.5), showing the technique of mantra meditation.

Perhaps the most eloquent explication of meditation occurs in the Chandogya, one of the oldest Upanishads. “Meditation (Dhyana) indeed is greater than the mind. The earth as it were meditates. The atmosphere as it were meditates. Heaven as it were meditates. The waters as it were meditate. The mountains as it were meditate. Both men and gods as it were meditate. He who worships God (Brahman) as meditation, as far as meditation extends, so far does he gain the power to act as he wills” (Chandogya Upanishad VII.7).

According to Vedanta, liberation can be achieved only through spiritual knowledge, which requires meditation. Other factors, such as good works or rituals, are merely aids in the process. But such liberating knowledge is not any ordinary or conceptual knowledge. It is direct insight into one’s own nature of pure consciousness.

Vedanta’s main approach is threefold: hearing the teaching with a receptive mind (shravana), deep thinking about it (manana), and meditating on it consistently (nididhyasana) until full realization dawns, which is a state of samadhi or transcendent awareness. Such hearing is not simply noting the words of the teachings; it involves a deep inner listening with an open mind and heart. Such thinking requires full concentration and a firm intent to understand oneself. Such meditation is a repeated practice of self-examination and self-remembrance throughout the day as one’s primary mental state.

Vedanta is a yoga of knowledge or a path of meditation. But it recognizes that other yogic paths are helpful, if not indispensable adjuncts, particularly the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga), which takes us directly to the Divine presence in the heart. Vedanta employs all the limbs of classical yoga from asana to samadhi, using all methods of the yogas of knowledge, devotion, service and technique, depending upon the needs of the student.

Generally Vedanta does not prescribe any particular form of meditation en masse or give the same technique to everyone. Emphasizing the Self, it recommends different methods relative to the level and temperament of each person and according to his or her unique nature and life circumstances. For this reason Vedantic meditation is hard to characterize and defies any stereotype. There is no standard formula for it. However, there are a number of common approaches, particularly the practice of Self-inquiry. Yet Self-inquiry is also applied on an individual basis, in which its methods can vary greatly from one person to another.

Vedantic meditation is not only diverse but generally private, emphasizing individual practice more than group practice. Its model is the wandering sadhu in solitary retreat, rather than the monk in a big monastery. However, meditation sessions do occur as part of the satsangs or gatherings that are common in the tradition. These may extend over a period of days or weeks. Yet those participating in such sessions may practice different forms of meditation, based upon the specific instructions of their teachers.

Buddhist meditation aims to return to the natural state of the mind, which is regarded as the enlightened state. This occurs through negating the self or ego and awakening the Buddha-mind (Bodhichitta). Vedanta, on the other hand, is based on a clear distinction between the mind (manas), which is regarded as a product of ignorance or maya, and the Self (Atman), which transcends the mind. The Vedantic way is to dissolve the mind into the Self which is our true nature beyond the mind and its conditioning.

This Vedantic emphasis on the Self is perhaps its main characteristic, as well as its main difference from Buddhism. While Vedanta approaches pure awareness as the Self or Atman, Buddhism prefers the term anatman or non-self. This Vedantic emphasis on the Self finds an echo in Western mystical traditions like Gnosticism, which influenced early Christianity, and Islamic Sufism; all refer to God as the Self or the supreme I-am. This Western tradition of the Self dates at least back to the Biblical revelation of God as I-am-that-I-am to Moses, but it was generally obscured by a greater emphasis on monotheism as the highest truth. We also find such utterances of the Divine I am in pagan traditions, like those of the Celts, Greeks and Egyptians, which have many factors in common with Hinduism.

Vedanta’s theism, honoring the Divine Father and Mother, is another point of difference from Buddhism, which does not recognize the existence of any Creator apart from karma. Vedantic theism has some connections with the theistic traditions of the West, though it is more diverse and gives a greater place to the Goddess.

With its theistic side Vedanta recognizes surrender to the Divine as a primary method of spiritual practice along with Self-inquiry. By surrender to the Divine within our hearts we can go beyond all our difficulties and limitations. Yet surrender, though easy to conceive, is also a difficult process because it requires giving up the ego and all of our fears and desires that go with it. To facilitate this way of surrender is added chanting of Divine names and other devotional forms of worship. These can also be practiced along with knowledge-oriented techniques like Self-inquiry.

In the Vedanta we approach the Creator as a means of discovering our true Self, in which both the soul and God are one. Union with God is part of the process of Self-realization. The Deity worshipped is ultimately the same as oneself and we must come to see it in all beings. Until we see the Divine beloved within our own heart, our devotion has not yet reached its highest goal.

Vedanta postulates certain ultimate principles of the Absolute, God, the Soul, and Nature. It recognizes the supreme reality as Being, Consciousness, and Bliss (called Satchidananda), which is eternal and infinite. In this regard Vedanta follows an idealistic philosophy much like the Greek philosophies of Plato, Plotinus or Parmenides. Part of Vedantic meditation is contemplating these higher principles— for example meditating, on the formless Absolute and its laws (dharmas) behind the world of nature.

Meditation on the oneness of all is another important Vedantic approach. Vedanta sees pure unity or oneness as the supreme principle in existence. It recognizes a single law or dharma governing the entire universe. Whatever we do to others we do to ourselves because there is really only one Self in all. This is also the basis of Vedantic ethics that emphasize non-violence and compassion, treating others not like our self but as our Self.

Vedantic meditation aims at returning us to this original state of unity, in which all beings abide in the Self within the heart. While Vedanta like Buddhism does recognize the Void, stating the Self is like space, it holds that the Self pervades even the Void and witnesses it. For this reason Vedanta seldom regards the Void as the ultimate principle and emphasizes the unity of Pure Being more than voidness.

Vedanta does not neglect the psychological side, either. Like most Indian spiritual systems, its purpose is to show us how to permanently overcome all suffering. Vedantic meditation involves meditating upon suffering and removing its cause. Vedanta regards ignorance of our true Self as the cause of all our life problems. Because we don’t know our true Self, which is pure awareness beyond the body and mind, we must suffer, seeking to find happiness in the shifting external world. By returning to our true Self we can transcend psychological suffering and detach ourselves from any possible physical suffering as well. The pain of body and mind do not belong to the Self that is beyond time and space.

Vedanta has a profound understanding of the different layers and functions of the mind, from what we call the unconscious to the highest superconsciousness, for which it has a precise terminology. It recognizes the role of samskaras, the tendencies created in previous births, as causing our present condition and its difficulties as well as rewards. Vedanta sees fear and desire as the main roots of the mind that get us caught in the cycle of rebirth. It regards the ego or the false I, the I identified with the body, as the basis of these problems. Another part of Vedantic meditation is clearing our minds of the afflictions and karmic residues that block the practice of meditation. This involves affirming our true Self, which is the master of the Universe beyond all fear and desire, birth and death.

Vedanta recommends regular meditation for everyone, particularly during the hour or two before dawn, which it calls Brahma Muhurta or the hour of God. Sunrise and sunset are other important times for meditation because at these transitional periods in nature, energy can be more easily transformed. The times of the new, full and half moons are also excellent, as are the solstice and equinoctial points. Meditation is part of the very rhythm of life and nature and its ongoing transformations.

Very important for meditation is the period immediately before sleep in order to clear the day’s karma from the mind. Vedanta regards the deep sleep state as the doorway to the Self, our natural daily return to God. Its practices develop our awareness through waking and dream to deep sleep and beyond. Deep sleep is the knot of ignorance; when it is removed through meditation, we can discover our true nature and eternal peace. Maintaining awareness through dream and deep sleep is an important and ancient Vedantic approach.

Vedanta is perhaps the world’s oldest continuous meditation tradition. Like our eternal soul, it witnesses all the changes of time and history. It takes on new forms and inspires new teachers in every generation. Such an ancient and diverse meditation tradition is of great importance for all those who wish to understand what meditation really is and how best to practice it.

The Many Benefits of Meditation

The hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced world almost makes you want to cry out, “Where can I find some peace and quiet?”

Meditation has become a very popular answer to the need for balance in today’s fast-moving society. Meditation was designed primarily for spiritual development, rather than mental or physical benefits. However, by nourishing the spiritual self, its benefits are then reflected throughout the human mind and body.

Spiritual benefits:

Human beings function on spiritual, mental, emotional and physical levels, with each level impressing the next. Your soul impresses your mind and helps you to choose your beliefs about reality. These beliefs then channel your thoughts into patterns which fit into that view of reality. Your thoughts feed into your emotions, and your emotions affect the well-being of your physical form.

It makes sense, therefore, to see that the root of the human tree, your spiritual self, is given the best possible nourishment.

Through meditation you contact the most real part of you. This part is the spiritual source which existed before your physical body was formed. Through contact with that reality, the essence of your soul, you become more identified with that inner you. Your inner self is who you really are. Then, you begin to realize more of your potential because you are able to identify what that potential is.

Your soul is the fountain of wisdom within you. It has access to all information in the universe because it is consciously connected to the entire universe. Your soul is your personal connection to Infinite Being.

Through contacting your inner self, you become more aware of your greatest inner joy. When you follow that innermost joy, you consciously resonate with your soul and manifest your true potential in life. This inner resonance enhances your intuition, making you more capable of choosing the best options in life. This increases the synchronicity in your life as you have then achieved a natural flow which is more in harmony with the universe around you.

Mental benefits:

Living in the now is a spiritual practice and a habit which requires mental attention. By focusing on the now, you bring inner issues under control. Your belief system says that you cannot change the past, and that you can only change the future by acting in the present. It is therefore the “now” which holds the key to effective action. When past-related regrets or future-related worries are brought into the now, they can be experienced, examined for what they are, and then acted upon.

Meditation is well-known for producing increased mental clarity. Greater concentration and creativity are produced, as well as greater memory. The expression of creativity is one of the great natural joys in life, one which appears more and more as you follow your true path through life.

Emotional benefits:

The more you contact your inner self, the more you understand who you really are. This brings forth a balanced sense of self-esteem, one which relies upon your true self rather than the judgments of others.

Inner strength is awakened. This is a calm and self-assured strength, one which helps you face stress and anxiety with renewed energy and poise.
With stress under control, your capacity for happiness is naturally expanded.

Physical benefits:

Meditation provides a deep form of rest that works wonders for the human nervous system. This increases the human capacity for managing stressful situations and provides a sense of increased energy for handling all aspects of daily living.

Meditation brings the body, mind, emotions and spirit into harmony. Disease is a word meaning “dis-ease,” literally a form of discord which reflects from the emotions onto the physical body. Extensive research projects have produced valid claims for meditation helping control many ailments, including hypertension, anxiety and panic attacks.

With as many benefits as these, it is little wonder that meditation has become such a popular tool in helping people cope with today’s fast-paced world.

The Yoga-Meditation technique is designed for the ultimate in spiritual results, yet it reflects its benefits throughout your entire system, nourishing your mental, emotional and physical bodies.

Make meditation your daily haven of spirituality in today’s noisy world. In no time at all, your morning meditation session will become the highlight of your day.

BRAHMAN

Sanatana Dharmic thought refers to the Supreme Consciousness as Brahman. Brahman is designated as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, translated to BEING-CONSCIOUSNESS-BLISS.

Being (sat) refers to the underlying unity of the universe in its existential substratum. The Supreme Consciousness is pure unqualified being, that transcends illusory energy (maya) and truly exists. Consciousness (cit) acknowledges the principle of awareness which informs being and acts as an unchanging witness of the universal being. This self-conscious enlightenment of the universe is an illuminating experience. Bliss (ananda) is the result of the illuminating experience. It is a state of joyous, ecstatic, and unmatched majesty.

Affirmation of these attributes does not come from mere speculation but through direct experience. However, it can also be said that Brahman is not sat-chit-ananda. As a transcendental, infinite being, Brahman flouts any and all descriptions and characterizations. This is where the significance of the negation, mentioned earlier in chapter one as neti, neti, comes into play. Neti, neti is not ultimately denial of all things but an assertion that Brahman cannot be confined into the language and syntax of mankind. Humanity will fall short because our faculties are limited. Brahman is unthinkable and can only be known through experience.

Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness, is not a person. Personhood is defined as being capable of intentional action. Brahman does not act as there is no motive for Brahman to act. Brahman simply exists: eternally peaceful, utterly secure, requiring and longing nothing. Humans are driven by desires, aversions and are constantly insecure; always victim to uncertainty and frustration. Brahman will do nothing to save humanity from despondent conditions because absolutely everything needed to change ones circumstances has been given. Brahman does not love because Brahman is love. Brahman has no interest in worldly suffering because humanity can save themselves. For Brahman there is no good or evil because those are just names and forms of mankind’s narrow identities. Humans have all the tools to become Brahman and all we need to do is to merge our narrow personhood with the Supreme Consciousness.

Atma and Brahman, One in the Same

Individuality arises by identification of the self, through ignorance with the elements; with the disappearance of consciousness of the many… it disappears. Where there is consciousness of Brahman, individuality is no more.

-Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

By peeling away every projected sheath, one discovers his/her soul or atma. That atma is only his or her because it is contained in the vessel of ones individuality. But with each sheath taken away, a composite part of ones in individuality or personhood is eliminated. With all sheaths gone, what is left is the Supreme Consciousness and that is the same for all of creation.

Since everything, animate and inanimate, is ultimately a projection of the Supreme Consciousness, what is there to know about Brahman as itself? As an entity that simply is, Brahman is declared as one that neither acts nor changes. Creation is a just an expression of Brahman’s being. A metaphor from the Mundaka Upanishad states “As plants grew from the soil and hair from the body of man, so springs the universe from the eternal Brahman.” This statement does a good job in illustrating that our existence was not a deliberate, desired or will decision of Brahman. It shows that creation is not independent from Brahman but that we are forever connected to the Supreme Source.  Realizing oneness with the Supreme Consciousness is all that is needed to move beyond a relative existence to the Absolute is-ness.

Is-ness is the highest perfection that can be attained. Distinction from Brahman is not perfection. Anything distinct from Him would make Him less perfect. A reality that is solely the Supreme Consciousness is perfect and as Brahman has no motive to act or create, no real distinctions are ever formed.

Common Perception of God

Supreme Consciousness or Brahman or God is a principle force for how many live their lives but how is God perceived? Is He a large mystical being living among white angels in the clouds, in his white robe and long beard? Or is God a being with multiple arms holding celestial weapons? There are endless characterizations of the Supreme Consciousness but how does limiting one self to a one dimensional identity of God become self-defeating? Sanatana Dharmic thought on the nature of the Supreme Consciousness has been presented but lets contrast it with how God is used a means for other goals rather than being an end.

All the religions of the world have been promising the vision of God, mental peace, salvation, and many kinds of temptations to their followers, but so far nothing has come to fruition. The more involved one get into divisive religious activities, the more likely one is to become dissatisfied. Frustrated expectations of God and religion always take their toll. Many preachers claim that if their teachings and traditions are followed without question, believers will find salvation. But after they return from their place of worship, they are frequently more strained, frustrated, and worried about their problems than are “non-believers.”

For seekers of the Ultimate truth, blind faith does not suffice. Belief in God with our emotional maturity and peace of mind, the two prerequisites for enlightenment, does not take a person very far in the search for truth and reality. On the path of enlightenment, it is necessary to have control over the senses and mind, but it is not necessary to have belief in God. Enlightenment is a state of liberation and freedom from the ignorance that causes suffering. Achieving this enlightenment is the prime necessity of every life. There is no necessity to attain mere belief in God, but it is necessary to have profound knowledge of the truth which lies behind the concept of the word God.

Superimposition of ignorance and limitations on God, causes tremendous suffering for those who choose to accept those distorted fantasies without thorough analysis. The definition of God needs to transcend convention and stand for something greater than one’s own limited existence. If the Ultimate Truth is defined as God, then there is no difficulty. The Ultimate Truth can be practiced with mind, action, and speech, and once the truth is known with mind, action, and speech, knowledge is complete. But having faith in the fantasies of the religionists or any other person for that matter, creates limited boundaries for the human intellect and leads to a religious atmosphere in which the poor followers must suffer until the last breath of their lives.

Though religious doctrines tempt the human mind with promises of the vision of God, it does not define the concept of God and give a way for one to verify that definition. The way religious books present God is injurious to human growth, for one who believes in God without understanding and experiencing what God really is, closes the door to further knowledge and learning and cannot experience the inner dimensions of life. Such false assurance are strongly discouraged in the Upanishads, which warn, “neti, neti—not this, not this.” The student is made aware of the need to understand the reality and is encouraged to search for truth within. The Upanishads inspire one first to know oneself and then to know the Self of all. Upanishadic literature makes one aware that every being embodied in a physical sheath is a moving shrine of Supreme Consciousness. It also provides methods for entering the inner shrine, wherein shines the infinite light of knowledge, peace, and happiness.

Religions often prescribe prayer as a way to connect with God. However all it really does is satisfy the need for desires to be heard and comfort people in spite for their frustrations. Many people who are not acquainted with the basic principles of Vedantic philosophy think that there are prayers in the Upanishadic literature. For example: “Lead me from the unreal to the Real; lead me from darkness to Light; lead me from mortality to Immortality” may beto be a prayer. However, it is actually an expression of the aspirant’s spiritual endeavor that reminds him/her of the Goal. It is a way of maintaining constant awareness of Supreme Consciousness. It is not asking God or any supernatural being to help one or to lead one to the higher states. The idea is not to know God as a distinct being, but to know that consciousness pervades all beings including myself. One is not actually attaining something but uncovering something that is already there. This Upanishadic verse is not a prayer asking for anything but a way of strengthening constant awareness of Supreme Consciousness which is the goal of the Upanishads.

Dualism is the first round experience of a contemplative mind. Many religions propagate dualistic concepts, such as good vs. evil, God vs. Devil, God and humans, etc… These concepts are illogical when they are analyzed with clarity of mind and pure reason. In the course of study, a student first experiences dualism—the reality that he exists and the Supreme Consciousness also exists. Then a state comes when he/she experiences “Tat-vam-asi” translated as “Thou art That””. These two fields of experience appear to be different, but they are essentially one and the same. These are the progressive states that aspirants experiences, but as far as the Supreme Consciousness  is concerned, there is only one without second.

The philosophy of the Upanishads asserts that the ultimate goal is to be free from all pain and misery whatsoever. This state of freedom from anxieties, misery, and ignorance is called enlightenment. It is the union of the individual with Universal Consciousness. Preachers of religion say that one has to have faith in the sayings of the scriptures and in the way they are preached. But in Upanishadic philosophy; the mind is released from all religious prejudices so then one can think and reason freely. The Upanishads declare that even the best of intellects is incapable of fathoming the unfathomable, and that learning the scriptures is not the ultimate way of realization. On the path of enlightenment, even the lust for learning must eventually be abandoned.

In some of the Upanishads, the word Īśa or Īśvara, which is roughly translated as God, appears. But the concept of God as preached by religion is not found in the Upanishads. In the Upanishads, the word Īśvara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, God is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; God is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one’s individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. The great sages of the Upanishads avoid the confusions related to conceptions of God and encourage students to be honest and sincere in their quests for Self-realization. Upanishadic philosophy provides various methods for unfolding higher levels of truth and helps students to be able to unravel the mysteries of the individual and the universe.

Knowledge of Brahmavidyā, the direct experience of Supreme Consciousness, is the common theme of all Upanishadic literature. “I am Brahman; the whole universe is Brahman; Thou art That”—such statements are the foundations for all its theories, principles, and practices. All philosophical and psychological discussions are meant to make students aware of their true nature—Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness. For a realized one, there is perennial joy in the universe, but for the ignorant there is only misery everywhere. The moment a student realizes his essential nature, the darkness of ignorance is dispelled, but before that the individual mind travels to the groove of self-created misery and thus projects the belief that there is misery everywhere. In reality, this universe is like a great poem of joy, a beautiful song, and a unique work of art. The moment one unfolds and realizes one’s human capacity and ability, one becomes aware that, “Thou art that—Brahman.”

Here lies the difference between a Self-realized person and a religious person. The religious person does not know and yet believes in God, but the realized person is directly aware of the Supreme Consciousness and the Ultimate Reality of life and the universe. First, he knows the truth, and then he believes it. If God is the Ultimate Truth hidden behind many forms and names, then it should be realized, and, for realizing the Truth with mind, action, and speech, one needs to practice truth rather than being a hypocrite and a fanatic. It is not necessary to believe in God to attain self-enlightenment, but it is very necessary to know the various levels of consciousness and finally to realize the ultimate source. The manifest aspect and the unmanifested aspect of consciousness (Brahman) should be realized, for that alone can enlighten aspirants.

Vedic Trinity of Original Creation

The principle of Original Creation employs three aspects of Original Consciousness. It is stated as:

 Creation = Thought + Feeling + Motion

Motion is the key aspect of Original Consciousness which brought the dance of Thought and Feeling into play, making all else in the universe possible. Infinite Being is the underlying state of all consciousness which projected itself into this Trinity of Original Creation.

Study of ancient Vedic philosophy, found that what Vedantins call Brahman is exactly the original consciousness that is referred to as Infinite Being. Study the Vedic definitions of the Trinity which created the universe.

The Vedic Trinity consists of the principles called Brahma (that’s Brahma without an ‘n’ on the end), Vishnu and Shiva. While these three principles have deity-like names, Vedantins are well aware that they represent principles of original consciousness and not person-like deities. However, in order to describe the many characteristics of these facets of original consciousness, they are given names and then extensive and poetic descriptions of their many attributes.

Basically, the traditional attributes of the Vedic Trinity are summarized as being represented by the principles of Creation, Preservation and Destruction.

PROJECTION AND VEILING

The universal ideal for the uninitiated may seem like a remote, unattainable state of being. How can it be possible for such perfection to exist in all of us when our day to day existence shows us otherwise? The answer lies in the incomplete way humanity experiences and perceives the universe.

Firstly, it is important to know that the physical world is a projection of the Supreme Consciousness. Humans are entities of the physical world and are also projections of the Supreme Consciousness. Humans are, however, not simply the body but a combination of four unique faculties with specific functions. The interplay of the four faculties in relation to the Supreme Consciousness reveals why the universal ideal seems elusive to the ordinary person.

Sanatana Dharmic thought on the projection of consciousness is illustrated in figure 2.1. From the wide infinite base of the Supreme Consciousness, the faculty of intelligence is projected outward. From intelligence comes the faculty of the ego. The mind emerges next from the ego and finally from the mind, the senses are projected.

Moving Outward, Away From The Supreme Consciousness

 

At every projected level we move farther away from the true reality, the Supreme Consciousness. As shown in figure 2.1, with each projection the next faculty becomes narrower and narrower, finally culminating with limited sense perception. This process is referred to as Adhyasa. Adhyasa is superimposition of the innermost Reality as awareness is projected outward. With each step outward, we forget who we really are. The ignorance or veiling of our true identity with each projection is a process called Avidya. The combination of both Adhyasa and Avidya, finally emerges as the physical world, with layer after layer, superimposed on the true Reality. To us, we recognize only our human sheath as real and living. The dynamic life force that sustains our existence is veiled as shown in figure 2.1 with each layer and “ignored” because of our awareness has gone afar.

Each sheath can be looked at individually to paint a better picture of the many forces acting on our existence:

The Supreme Consciousness: The all-pervading, infinite, unchanging, Supreme Intelligence that sustains the entire universe. The true Reality that simply exists, absolutely secure, eternally blissful and serene.

Intelligence, Buddhi: Without any identity, this level is simply pure knowing. It holds the power of discrimination and the ability to recognize the all-pervading Spirit. However, once veiling is activated the intellect “forgets” the Supreme Consciousness and begins to develop an identity of the ego structure.

Ego, Ahamkara: This projection creates the illusion of “I am”. This initial declaration sets up for the acceptance of many false identities that will come through pleasurable and painful experiences. The intellect becomes so absorbed in the “I am” declaration; its rationality now functions to fulfill the desires of this false identity. The ego in its purest form is simply the “I” thought. It is considered a true thought to say “I am. I exist”. It labels the Self but it is not necessary as one can exist without this thought. “I” does not need to be declared in order to be. However, the veiling of the ego’s pure intention distorts it function and now the ego believes it has desires.  The next projection will work to affirm the “I am” declaration by providing the mechanism to fulfill its desires.

Mind, Manas: The mind has forgotten the Supreme Consciousness, the pure intellect and the pure ego and now works to serve the desires of the perverted ego. Through false mental constructs, the mind further strengthens the “I am” thought and falls victim to painful and pleasurable experiences. It is divisive as dualities are given importance. Good vs. evil, pain vs. pleasure, light vs. dark, etc… are pronounced and made to seem real. The mind seeks that which fulfills the desires of the ego and experience is no longer in totality but limited and narrow.

Senses, Indriyas: The culmination of multiple layers ends with sensory perception and action. The senses become physical expressions of false mental processes that seek to fulfill an unreal “I” identity. The result is “me” acting out in a physical world.

It is clear to see that each subtle layer is veiled and it pure nature is misguided causing another projection to be created. The powerful effect of Adhyasa and Avidya buries the universal ideal and puts forth an incredible challenge of receding back to the pure source.

The Journey Back

A systematic approach can be taken to reverse the effects of each projection. Understanding each level is crucial in attaining the final goal of actualizing the universal ideal. The inward journey back to the Supreme Consciousness is untying the knots created at each subtle level. Adhyasa and Avidya complicates the process through pseudo- experiences of purity and joy but that can be overcome through meticulous and stead-fast awareness. There are many practices and disciplines for each level but ultimately they involve stopping any further projections (Adhyasa) and allowing the veils of ignorance (Avidya) to recede back to original source.

The motives and thoughts behind the reversal of Adhyasa and Avidya are further discussed as follows:

The Physical World: Since the human form is a constituent of the physical world, the body must be disciplined and put under control. The body should be taken care of and put in healthy parameters. The actions of the body should follow codes of conduct that reflect the universal ideal. Harmony with the physical world is the goal. Frustrations and conflicts with the external world keeps the subtle levels drawn outward and does not provide the clarity needed to take the next step inward.

Senses, Indriyas: The reversal stage for the senses now focuses on the body in relation to its own sense of self rather than in the context of the whole physical world. Self-training practices allows the senses to be observed and understood in totality. Realization soon follows that the senses are inadequate and are mere projections of something deeper.

Mind, Manas: Once the senses have no influence on the field of experience of the individual, the breath is used as a reference point. The smoothness of breath eventually allows for transcendence of that sub-stage and brings forth the workings of the mind. The mind is understood in its totality by being a mere observer. This observation reveals that the mind, like the level before, as a superimposition and the veil disappears.

Ego, Ahmakara: The projection of the ego is a significant stage in the journey back. The “I am” declaration is experienced in the purest form. The realization that this declaration is not necessary for existence follows. Before coming to this conclusion, the process may seem ambiguous as distinction between the mind and the ego has not been fully achieved. It is important to see the difference and move forward completely from level before.

Intelligence, Buddhi: Isolating the intellect in its complete form is the next stage. This subtle level provides tremendous satisfaction if known in its entirety. However, it is not the be all and end all. The realization that it too is a projection is be the final step in this simple yet difficult journey back.

The Supreme Consciousness: Oneness is attained when the individual is completely absorbed back into the source. He or she is self-realized. Not one sense of duality is felt and all identities cease to exist. The goal is achieved, the universal ideal is manifested.

The entire process may have been summarized in a page but it fails to highlight the many inherent obstacles that will be faced along the way. There will be many pseudo-realizations that trick aspirant to believe that he or she has attained the final goal. However, vigilant awareness is key in not allowing outward projections to be reconstructed. The created should not interfere with the creator.

The Law of Karma

           Thus far, the universal ideal has been introduced; its remoteness to mankind has been explained through the processes of projections and veiling and finally, how the universal ideal can be actualized through the reversal of these outward projections and veiling. The discussion has been up till now has been oversimplified. There are other factors that complicate our attempts to return to the Supreme Consciousness. It is not enough that one has the desire to realize his or her true identity.

Like natural laws that govern the physical world, there are laws that transcend the phenomenal world and govern the whole entire universe. The greatest of these is the law of karma, also known as the law of causation. This law or principle of causality holds that for every motive, thought and action, there is an equal reaction. In other words, karma is reflection. Anything that emanates from one’s sense of being produces an effect in the universe which then needs to be justified.  Many have studied Newton’s Laws of Motion and have come across his idea that “For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.” However, this law transcends just mechanical motion but affects the workings of the universe at all planes and levels.

Said simply, reflectance is a property of the universe. Therefore, life reflects what one project. This principle of reflectance or karma states that life reflects your beliefs, emotions, and actions. The stronger these are, the more apparent it becomes that life is a mirror of whatever you project.

Whatever is reflected sooner or later is manifested in ones life. One has the free will to change what is manifested by changing motives, thoughts, and actions. The mirroring effect is not instantaneous but the new reality is held like a pressure within the aura of your body’s magnetic field (Refer to The Astral Body). One then can walk around in life, surrounded by this magnetic potential, your “karmic pattern”, as it influences your circumstances to adapt into a form where the new reality will be able to manifest and operate. One will begin to notice that his/her surroundings become conducive to make the desired changes.

The nature of the law of karma is that it is automatic. There is no judge or person that suffocates you for your imaginary sins. Karma is not fate. One has the power to initiate change. As the doer, he/she is only person who can take the first step to create the desired reaction.

If joy is sought, the mirror of life will sparkle back with joy. It can only happen once the person decides for that to happen. There are inherent circumstances that will be faced regardless of what one feels towards them, but how one reacts to these circumstances is the decisive factor in creating a life that is favored. The circumstances themselves are intrinsically neutral. Humans are the ones that assign negative and positive attributes to these situations and scenarios. How one responds to these challenges is where the value lies. Responding to the circumstances with thorough understanding and rationality, one can change the impressions of what’s faced by them.

The Astral Body

             It is quite evident that humans come from many different walks of life. From diverse socio-economic situations, cultures, values, to political and educational distinctions, people are not all given the same opportunities. If the universe is run by a law of causation that acts to justify everything, even down to every thought, how can life seem so cruel for some and reassuring for others? The answer lies in the workings of the astral body.

The astral body is the spiritual, etheric body which subtly exists alongside the physical body. It acts as a vehicle for the atma, or soul (Refer to the Nature of the Supreme Consciousness for in depth discussion of atma). As the vehicle for higher consciousness, the all motives, thoughts and actions are reflected and imprinted on this astral body. Since each person is a small projection of the Supreme Consciousness, which is their individual soul, any motive, thought or action committed is reflected back to the atma contained in the astral body. In other words, the astral body is a blue print of karmic imprints and unfulfilled desires which act collectively to produce circumstances to reflect the reactionary responses of karma and also to fulfill desires.

The astral body can be broken down further by looking at it constituent parts. The mind, intellect, ego and the illuminating aspect, the conditioned consciousness (citta) are exclusively made up of thoughts. These thoughts exhibit functional differences. The four components of the subtle astral body are merely functional designations, not separate organs. Organs have both structure and function; however, these four have no structure, just function only.

Known as Antahkarana, these four-fold inner instruments or structure-less organs are explained as follows:

Mind: When a stimulus from the external world enters a person through the organs of perception, it causes a disturbance in thought. Thought in this condition of disturbance is called the mind. It is understood as just a bundle of thoughts. Constant and alert vigilance over these thoughts and the resultant actions is necessary to transcend the karmic imprints generated through these thoughts.

Intellect: Once the disturbance created in the mind has settle, a decision is generated. The decisions produced here are the thoughts of the intellect.

Ego: A disturbance and a decision are related to each other only if they belong to a single individual. When both of them reside in a person he/she is aware of the disturbance and the decision are his/hers. The awareness of that an individual possesses a given thought, such as a decision, is yet another thought, and its functional name is ego. The ego exists in reference to the past. A sense of ego develops in us on a foundation built of memories of certain facts of life already experienced.

Conditioned Consciousness (citta): This is the illuminating aspect in our thought that makes us aware of the other function. Through this function we become aware of our mind and intellect and know that any thought we entertain is our own pure consciousness unconditioned by any type of human equipment. However when pure consciousness functions through mind, intellect, and the ego, it becomes as though conditioned by these types of equipment. This is citta or memory bank. When the conditioning is eliminated, the conditioned consciousness merges back into pure consciousness.

Another way to visualize the functions of the inner organs is to see consciousness conditioned into a thought bed consisting of 4 types of thoughts. Thought as emotion is related to the mind. Thoughts as ideas or decisions are of the intellect. Finally, “I” and “me” -identifying thoughts are from the ego. Registered memories are the thoughts of the conditioned consciousness. Collectively, these varying types of thoughts are responsible for our present actions and past karmic imprints. By eliminating these four, one overcomes future imprints and thereby becoming self-realized.

Maya, Illusion

Collectively, the projections and the accompanying sheaths create maya, illusion. The entanglement of karma, false physical, mental, and intellectual realities veils the Supreme Consciousness. To know what is real is to know the Supreme Consciousness. Therefore, everything else is only relative to the real and is an illusion.

Maya exists as a veiling agent, at all gross and subtle levels. When the “I”, “me” or “mine” declaration is present, maya is active. Maya imposes its limitations on the Supreme Reality. All desires, fears, identities, personhoods, dreams, fantasies, and attachments are linked with maya. Everything from memories, perceptions, cognition to logic is grounded in maya. The physical world is fundamentally governed by maya. Laws of nature, though intricate, complex and orderly, are still subject to maya. Maya’s power is to make the physical world or creation to seem real and keep awareness projected outward.

Nature also referred to as prakriti, is made up of the interplay of three tendencies known as sattva, rajas, tamas (Refer to Flow Chart 2.2 Maya). These qualities exist in all projections, animate and inanimate, in different degrees and combinations. The three gunas:

sattva- purity

rajas- passion

tamas- inertia

can be said to be the very substance of maya. This trinity has rajas and tamas with opposing characteristics, while sattva balances the two. Rajas can be understood as energy, which is responsible for the primal flow of activity. It is rajas that allows the universe to move. Tamas is inertia, lethargy, dullness, and ignorance. Sattva is typified as harmony and purity or dynamic balance. It produces spiritual virtues such as tranquility, self-control and contentment.

The Supreme Consciousness is independent of maya and the three gunas. It is diametrically opposite the ever changing prakriti or nature. However, maya is always subject to the Supreme Consciousness. It can never be independent to it.

Maya, as a creative force, should not be looked upon harshly and blamed for one’s ignorance of the Supreme Reality. Though, maya creates false identities, the needed faculties to return to the source has also been created. To the pierce the veil of all illusion, diligence and constant awareness is needed. It is a choice to exercise that awareness. If one chooses otherwise, there is no one to blame but oneself for choosing to remain in the darkness of ignorance.

With self- realization, maya is no longer a force that needs to be battled against. The wisdom of oneness of Reality shows that maya is merely a reflection of the Supreme Consciousness. This creative power is a celebration of the majesty of the Changeless.

The universal ideal is all about actualizing the divinity within you. There is no one prescribed way but a multitude of them. However, in the end, they all point for you to go inward.

 

All beliefs, on which religions stem from, in their diverse names and forms, are simply manifestations of one Supreme Reality. It is hard to understand that fact of underlying unity when all that mankind sees is religion being quarrelsome, divisive and dogmatic. Intellectuals from time immemorial have looked at religion as infringing on their right of free and open thinking. Historically, this cannot be disputed. Religious authorities have always used censorship through indoctrination of their specific teachings as a means of control over the masses. A famous example of such censorship is that of the physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher Galileo Galilei. His support of the heliocentric view of the world was considered heresy in 1633 by the Vatican. The Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to recant his ideas and was put under house arrest. The world now knows that Galileo Galilei was right in his scientific ideas and is a perfect example of how religion can contradict reality.

 

Contradictions in religion are the result of mankind’s ignorance and inability to articulate the Supreme Truth. Religions simply touch upon that Supreme Truth without ever immersing itself into it and try to manifest that small encounter into ritualistic thought and actions. If religion was to go back to its pure source, the Supreme Consciousness, there would be no contradictions or mistakes. There would not even be the need to defend religion. Religion would no longer be religion in the conventional sense, it would become philosophy. It is only in philosophy that the free thinking process itself becomes conducive for eliminating any division in the matters of the spirit. Philosophy integrates through affirmation of the universal ideal of all-pervading divinity. It is the result of the uninhibited intellect, which is the closest faculty to the Supreme Consciousness (refer to The Total Field of Human Experience for more details). The doubting, analytical, and logical tendencies of the intellect, that so many religions try to suppress, is in actuality the very thing that needs to blossom in order to turn inward to realize the universal ideal.

 

This process of turning inwards maybe new to many but it has existed beyond the reach of memory, record and tradition. Those early seekers may not have had religion in today’s sense to be discontented with but understood that the constant flux of the physical world itself did not provide with absolute certainty joy and peace of mind. The world was seen as impermanent through the neti, neti, process. This process is simply translated as “not this, not this”, and is known as the process of negation. The early seekers used negation and concluded neti for the whole physical world. For them, there simply had to be an unchanging base from which a continually changing existence can be projected from. Since that permanence could not be found externally in the physical and material world, the early seekers turned inward. By turning inwards these seekers became subjective scientists. While the discoveries of the laws of nature remained in the hands of objective scientists, the subjective scientists began to probe the inner world of the spirit.

 

Through meditations by subjective scientists, the universal common denominator, the Supreme Consciousness, was revealed. That Supreme Consciousness, whose essence will be discussed in Chapter 3- The Nature of God, was understood as all pervading by the seers, “those that see”. With the Supreme Consciousness being all-pervading, the subjective scientists discovered the universal ideal: If the divine Supreme Consciousness permeates the universe, it permeates me and therefore I am the divine Supreme Consciousness.

 

It is from this declaration that the everlasting life principle of Sanatana Dharma radiates. Generally translated, Sanatana Dharma means “eternal essence”. This principle is beautifully expressed by Rene Guenon, father of the 20th century school of perennial philosophy:

“It dharma is, so to speak, the essential nature of a being, comprising the sum of its particular qualities or characteristics, and determining, by virtue of the tendencies or dispositions it implies, the manner in which this being will conduct itself, either in a general way or in relation to each particular circumstance. The same idea may be applied, not only to a single being, but also to an organized collectivity, to a species, to all the beings included in a cosmic cycle or state of existence, or even to the whole order of the Universe; it then, at one level or another, signifies conformity with the essential nature of beings… (from Guenon’s “Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines”).”

 

In other words, all constituents of creation, whether looked at individually or as a whole have a divine essence that can be actualized through self-realization. Sanatana Dharma exists independent of what humans can perceive of it. Rejection or denial of the eternal life principle does not affect its presence and nor will it impose itself. It simply exists. Those who attain the highest through communion with the Supreme Consciousness have developed systems of philosophy on the eternal life principle. However, the gist can be understood through this general creed of Sanatana Dharma as follows:

I believe in the Supreme Consciousness, the Supreme Reality, the unity behind all diversity, the changeless Truth behind all appearances, at once imminent and transcendent in all the divine essence which permeates the universe.

I believe that the Supreme Consciousness manifests Itself as the creative and preserving power of the whole universe and unto Itself it returns. In short, the entire world of phenomenon rises, exists, dissolves and again re-rises in Itself.

I believe that this Supreme Consciousness assumes forms from time to time to bring the erring humanity back to the correct path. This form may be perceptible or imperceptible.

I believe that man is not this gross material body, nor yet the finer organ called mind or the intellect but is really something greater and more real than the apparent individual.

I believe that the soul is essentially divine and by nature, pure and perfect infinite in power and free. It was never created, nor will it ever die, but will pass from body to body on its journey to realization and perfection.

I believe in the Law of Karma– the law of causality in the spiritual world. I am the creator of my own destiny, that my present condition is due to my past thoughts, words, deeds, and conduct. My future state will depend directly on my past and present actions and thoughts.

I believe that the Srutis (Vedas) and the Smritis (Upanishads), the Sastras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras contain the eternal truths.

The subjective scientists as mentioned earlier did create an intricate systemization of the profound wisdom generated through their intense meditations upon the Supreme Consciousness. The sacred wisdom was divided into two broad categories, the Srutis and the Smritis. The Srutis are considered to be “Consciousness-revealed” and the Smritis are considered as “man-realized”- or better “recapitulated by man” on what he/she has already heard from the Srutis ,“that which is heard”. The Srutis deal with eternal principles and hold good for all time, while the Smritis deal with the practical application of those eternal principles according to changing times. In fact there is a Srutis content and a Smritis content in every religion. In Sanatana Dharma thought the world Sruti stands for Vedas.

 

The four Vedas Rig, Yajurs, Sama and Atharva form the Srutis. The word Veda comes from the root “vid”- to know. The Vedas is literally the book of knowledge- knowledge of the changeless and Supreme Reality.

 

The principle characteristics of each of the four Vedas and what they deal with in general are given below (Refer to  Flow Chart 1.1: Classification  of Vedic Wisdom):

Rig Veda– The Rig Veda mainly consists of hymns of praise and is believed to be the most precious collection of knowledge of the Aryans of the day. It is believed to be the “oldest book” known to man.

Yajur Veda– The Yajur Veda generally deals with the sacrificial formulae and contains the special instructions and directions for the carrying out of rituals and ceremonies.

Sama Veda– This is the most voluminous of the four Vedas. It deals with the melodies and contains the songs to be chanted at the sacrifices with their correct modulations and intonations. It is a purely liturgical collection.

Atharva Veda– This mainly deals with magic formulae and the tantras and other forms of esoteric knowledge. It deals with yantra, tantra and mantra. Yantra which is the machine namely the human body, mantra the formulae and tantra the technique of applying the formulae in the machine to get the maximum results.

 

Each of the four Vedas stated above, consists of three sections namely:

The Samhitas or the mantra portion- hymns in praise of the supreme lord and the presiding deities.

The Brahmanas or the ritualistic portion- the practical application of the mantras in the rituals and directions for the conduct of rituals and;

The Aranyakaas of the contemplative portion.

The first two form what is called the “the karma kanda” and the third us known as “the jnana kanda” of the Vedas.

 

The Upanishads generally form the end of the Aranyakaas– there are few exceptions to this rule also, as there are a few Upanishads which occur even in the Samhita portion of the Vedas– and hence the philosophy obtaining therein is generally called Vedanta-meaning the “end of the Vedas”. The word Vedanta can be explained in three ways:

Veda anta: the end of the Vedas, which can mean either the concluding portion of the Vedas or the end or the goal pointed out by the Vedas.

Vedaan tam: meaning the essence of the Vedas.

The philosophical truths revealed and established by and in the Vedas- especially in the concluding portions- the Upanishads.

 

While it is indisputable that the Upanishads contain the essence of the Vedic teachings, they are the foundation of which most of the later philosophies and religions of the east rest upon. There is no important form of Sanatana Dharmic thought- heterodox Buddhism included- which is not rooted in the Upanishads.

 

The word “Upanishad” is constituted of three syllables- Upa-ni-sad which together mean “near-below-sit”. This must denote the flow of knowledge from the higher to the lower level- from guru (teacher) to the disciples. The respectful attitude of the disciple who “sits, below, near” is implied in the title.

 

The Upanishads are computed at one thousand one hundred and seventy nine in number as shown below:

21 –Rig Veda

108- Yajur Veda

1000- Sama Veda

50- Atharva Veda

———————

1179 Total

 

Tradition considers 108 of these as important and authoritative as mentioned in Mukthi Upanishad belonging to the Yajur Veda.

 

Of these eleven are considered to be the principal Upanishads and Archarya Sankara had written his commentaries on them.

 

The Upavedas form a class of writings subordinate to the Vedas. They are four in number, one attached to each Veda. They are:

Ayurveda: The science of health and longevity and consequently of medicine, attached to the Rig Veda. There are some who maintain this science is attached to Atharva Veda.

Dhanurveda: Military science attached to Yajur Veda.

Gandharvaveda: The art and science of music, attached to Sama Veda and;

Stapathya Sastra: The science of mechanics and constructions, attached to Atharva Veda.

 

A thorough study of these six branches of knowledge is considered essential for the understanding and assimilation of the techniques contained in the Vedas. (Refer to Flow Chart 1.2: Categories of Knowledge).

 

Next are the Veda Upangas or the six Darsaras. These are dealt with separately below, under philosophy (Refer to Flow Chart 1.1: Classification of Vedic Wisdom).

 

Next are the Smritis or the Dharma Sastras. Dharma Sastras are the works of individual sages, laying down the rules of conduct for a “Dharmic Life” (righteousness) to be observed by all during the entire span of life. Dharma Sastras of Manu is the most famous and authoritative and Manu Smriti forms the basis of Sanatana Dharmic law. While Manu Smriti is applicable to the entire Manwantara (a period of time reckoned on certain precise astronomical calculations-equivalent to 306,720,000 human terrestrial years) there are eighteen more Dharma Sastras written by different sages, said to be applicable to different periods of time written in the Manwantara.

 

The great seers and sages of the past in their profound wisdom knew very well that religion has to cater to every one, each in his or her level of mental and intellectual evolution from where he or she has to be picked up and put on the path leading to spiritual heights. So there are books written for classes as well as for the masses. While the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Dharma Sastra cater to advanced intellectuals. The Puranas and the Ithihasas (epics) are mainly directed to masses, who to begin with, need more of an emotional satisfaction from religion and philosophy, not that they do not contain anything for the intellectuals. They form harmonious food for the head and the heart at the same time, and as the seeker progresses he/she finds new and higher meanings in the same text which take them forward in their spiritual pursuits.

 

The Puranas and Ithihasas fall into this class of spiritual literature. While they prepare the seekers for an efficient, fruitful, ethical and dharmic life here, they show the way and lead them to the summum bonum of human birth and existence- identification and merging with the Great Beyond. They help to grow from Bhakti to Jhana and from there to Realization.

 

At this point, the basis from which Sanatana Dharmic ideology emerged has been introduced. Beginning with contemplation of the human experience, to then turning inward and realizing the universal ideal and finally culminating in the development of Sanatana Dharma, ones individual progress can be accelerated with the wisdom of learned masters. The next chapter discusses the multiple forces that make one’s worldly existence seem “real” and how to transcend the illusion.