Saturday, October 25, 2014

Guru or Painkiller?

While the United States is known as the land of opportunities, India can be called the land of Swamijis. Every now and then a new Godman emerges out of nowhere, every state and city has its own quota of Swamijis of all kinds, helping people from all walks of life connect with the Divine.
God and Godmen become necessities of life when what life offers is not adequate. Life in its splendor can be colorful at times and cruel at others. People want to run towards what they like and run away from what they dislike. Sometimes they are stuck. Godmen help push the wheel forward. They help us connect with the Divine and clear our hurdles to reach our goals.

There are a few reasons why people head to the Swamiji. When they have a problem, or when they are venturing into an unknown, when they need more than what they can get, and mostly when they do not know how to go about a situation, and it appears that logic is functioning against them.  What the Swamiji does is ease the situation and help folks get past their troubles. This he does with a combination of tools, from divine talisman to rituals, to penance, to tactical and strategic advice. 
Rarely one comes across a Swamiji who tells us we are helpless, there is always help at hand. 

If one analyzes the workflow of consulting a Swamiji, one will become aware that it is similar to a painkiller. Pain happens, its part of life, to endure is wisdom. But we need to move on with our busy lives without a rest, and hence a painkiller becomes inevitable. The danger however lies in the fact that the solution is temporary, worse than that, it is no solution at all. Soon we realize the habit forming addictive nature of the process. A relationship is built with the painkiller. The Swamiji becomes part of family, to such extent that he knows more about our problems than ourselves. We stay comfortable with the notion that we have divine help. The cycle of consultations go on and pain gets converted into pleasure momentarily continually.

A rare and true Swamiji however is more than a pain killer. He gets to the root of the problem, and rather than providing a sugar coated pill for the symptom to subside, he provides the bitter medicine and perhaps a lengthy treatment for the cure of the disease. Self Knowledge is the treatment for the disease of suffering, and one who gives that to the seeker is Guru (literally, One who removes darkness). Self knowledge delivers us from all forms of pain and results in an ever joyful life.

So next time you prepare for a Swamiji visit, check if he is a painkiller or a Cure.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fourth State

There is a mythological story associated with the God Siva which gave him the title Tripurantaka. according to the story, Three indestructible mythical cities were built in the sky by demons and provided a safe haven for them. With this safe shelter to protect them they went about harassing the good folks of the worlds. Siva comes to the rescue of the gods and sages, by destroying the cities with on single arrow, at a particular moment when all three cities come into a linear alignment. It is notable that Siva destroys them in an almost effortless manner with a smile on his face. Also it is mentioned that he did so without taking any help from the gods.

There are plenty of retelling of this story, as well as famous sculptures of Shiva as Tripurantaka made and worshiped. Some say this story represents how Siva rescues one from suffering, some talk about the three demons and the cities as Pride, Anger and Delusion.While these maintain and divine and mystical character to the story, the true purport of it is not popular.

This is indeed a deep philosophical tale, associated with the individual and nothing to do with demons and gods. Every single person exists in one of three states at any given time. The three states are,
  • Waking
  • Sleeping (Dreaming)
  • Deep Sleep
When we are awake, we experience the world as it is, it contains the duality of pleasure and pain. Not everything goes our way. During dreams, we exist in an unreal world, experiencing duality at a fantasy level, with certain things that are not possible in our waking state. Upon waking up however, both the pleasure and pain from the dream are falsified. During deep sleep without a dream, we simply sleep, we do not experience anything. Since there is no experience of any kind, we are totally devoid of any suffering or pain, but there will be no pleasure as well. These are the three states of existence.

All three of them are not ideal, since each has either both pleasure and pain,  or none at all. Realizing the truth about the Self as the only reality, and all three states as part of the illusion, and accepting the Waking state as the only state where there can be a conscious experience, one goes about life rejecting the duality offered by it. This Fourth state is the state of Joy.

This realization is the destruction of Tripuram (three cities which is equivalent to the three states). For this to happen it does take a great alignment of sorts, and it does happen without effort or help from the gods.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why we love our childhood and how to recover it.

Universally we all love our childhood. Without analyzing much, if one ask themselves about the most happiest moments, it will invariably be from their childhood. No matter how old we become, how many experiences we have, the new connections that happen, places we travel, our childhood is always a period of our life to cherish. Take a deep breath and test yourself.

Psychologists even suggest that we look back deeper into our childhood, and pickup a thing or two from the past, in order to beat depression and to bring back a lost meaning in life. Such is the powerful association of happiness and childhood. 

A common explanation for this universal phenomenon is that as a child we have nothing to worry about, everything is taken care of, we do not have bills to pay, or taking care of others. A carefree state of mind results in a happy situation. This reasoning is largely true.

However, we do observe today people who are affluent as well as with folks around them, who need not really have to take care of things on  a day to day basis. We do see people whose needs are either small, or their affordability is high, so that without effort they are all taken care of. We see people who are well into their old age, taken care of by their children. It does happen. Even in these cases the elderly person longs for his or her childhood. The childhood always seems much more happy.

The deeper reason behind this joy of childhood lies in the fact, as a child we feel a Oneness with everything else in this world. A little ant, a house fly, a butterfly, a little toy soldier, our dad and mom, our grand parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends, all of them are part of us. Our sense of individuality has not yet matured strong enough to distinguish , differentiate and discriminate our self from the rest of the world. We live in a world where we are the only entity and everything else is a fascinating and fun part of our own self. we enjoy the world much deeper in this state. We live in a matrix of trust, and a nest where there is nobody existing outside of our self to hurt us.

Realizing the truth that we are indeed One with the rest of this Universe, will take us instantly back into the joyful state of Childhood. In a world, created by our own self for uninterrupted entertainment, there is no one else to hurt or harm, all is for our own Joy. Knowing this, not only explains childhood memories but helps us have that very joyful life this very moment, no matter how old we are.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

If music be the food of love, Play on

That famous English bard in Twelfth Night extols music as a great companion to Love. There are people who believe of such a relationship between Music and Enlightenment. There is the Bakthi movement with Bajans and singing, and chanting and rendering. There are people who seek to unite with the God through Dance. There are people who think by a control of eating one can get closer to Him. By constant visualization of the Forms of the Divine people believe they can reach their Divine goal.

If one observes in detail, it becomes clear that all of these are based on the senses. They are either indulgence in the senses or an abstinence from them. Senses are closer to the mind (with a lower case 'm'). The mind is the oscillating, happiness craving, vibrant aspect of us. and the mind is closely bound with the senses. 

All these acts of singing, music, dance, drama, and so on are to keep the mind in check. To coax and cajole the mind into dissolving into nothing. The mind is the hindrance to us enjoying our true infinite happy Self. The mind through its vibrant existence creates a world full of variations and makes us oscillate between pleasure and pain. Art, music, chanting of divine passages and other acts makes this mind dissolve in these and hence make us experience our true nature of Bliss. Also one should remember that some of these acts are physical from smoking incense sticks to sticks of insanity, from drinking divine water from holy rivers to distilled waters from wholly owned yards.

This tradition has been there since existence of time, and it takes new forms as time turns its wheels. New things to feed and indulge the senses with a hope of transcending the physical world. But by feeding the senses more and more, they are reinforcing their existence. The momentary bliss is mistaken for a future permanent offering. Little do the people realize that this momentary experience exists only as long as the indulgence exists. Indulgence in the senses in itself is a fine experience, but hoping them to take us to a higher existence is the fallacy.

All of these acts coaxes, cajoles and quietens the mind similar to a pain killer providing immediate but momentary relief. After a while, once the effect wears away, all the miseries of the world come gushing towards us.

Enlightenment, Mukti, Moksha, Awakening are things that have nothing to do with the mind! and are to do with the other aspect of our self, the Intellect. The logical and analytic faculty is however busy dealing with its intuitive counterpart the mind. Through music and singing and other similar acts if the mind can be dissolved, there is a chance for the intellect to contemplate on reality and get the knowledge. But the mind is too powerful and the effort has to be sustained, leaving little room for the intellect to realize the Truth. Even though all the music and dance and chanting appear divine, it is counterproductive in the process of reaching the Ultimate. It is Knowledge through the sustained listening and contemplating under an Enlightened Master that would result in enlightenment.

Until then one can enjoy the music for its own sake. After Enlightenment though, one can indulge in all the senses resulting in a joyful life

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kensho . Satori . Samadhi

As one progresses in the spiritual quest, one gets introduced to various ideas and concepts. In general the drive for spirituality arises from a desire to get into a certain state where the experiences are the way that one wants them to be. Typically the desire is a world without suffering, and one that is full of joy. In religious terms one may call that Heaven. A holiday resort promises us to give such an experience though momentarily. We escape from the irritants of life and taste a bit of tranquility. This tranquility, or Euphoria or other such enjoyable moments makes us crave for more of it. But the experiences that we get are always a combination of things. Never are they the way we want them to be.

Scriptures tell us that Samadhi is such a state where one lives in total joy devoid of suffering. A more common easily reachable state that we all experience is a deep sound sleep devoid of dreams. We always enjoy deep sleep, even though we would not be aware of it while we are sleeping. But after we come out of that deep sleep, the mind feels rested well and refreshed. The purposefulness of such a deep sleep is not the sleep itself, but the fact that it appears to help us in our waking state. We relish the fact that we had a nice sleep,  but we can only think about it while we are awake.

The wakeful state is the only state that we have access to. All other states do not exist in the Now. Samadhi is also similar to deep sleep, a state of silence. There are different kinds of samadhi. Nirvikalpa, Savikalpa, Sahaja etc.. and this state of silence is graded depending on if one is aware of the world while in this state, or to what extent one is aware etc. All experiences that take one away from the waking state, cannot be experienced. Its a contradiction. An experience that can not be experienced! what can that be? It cannot be anything. 

A craving of the mind for some deep mystical experiences, has resulted in a notion of some physical experience being associated with Samadhi.

Samadhi is a concept or an idea, that promises a state of joy. Understanding the truth about who you are and what the world is, is Knowledge. This Knowledge removes all suffering and results in Joy. Staying in this Knowledge as one goes about in life is Samadhi.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What is Attachment?

Neuroscientists now believe that attachment is such a primal need that there are networks of neurons in the brain dedicated to it, and the process of forming lasting bonds is powered in part by the hormone oxytocin.

We are attached with so many things. Places, People, Ideas, Events, Music, Experiences to name a few. As long as we are having access to these we do not generally acknowledge its presence or the experience, but as soon as we are not able to access it, the mind begins to do all kinds of things. We miss these things, we crave to get back the access, we become desperate at times, and a continued denial of access results in frustration, anger and all the negative emotions that leads to an unstable mind.

Most often people get overwhelmed by Nostalgia. The Good Old times torment everyone from time to time. Loosing the thing that we are attached to hurt us very badly. Is there a way out of this? or are we doomed to suffer the loss? A little investigation of the process of attachment helps.

Attachment is essentially attaching or adding something to our Self. When we buy a new mobile phone, we are essentially adding it to the notion of our self. It essentially has become a part of us. This is attachment. when the mobile phone falls down , we feel hurt because we feel its a part of us and hence the injury is translated as one's own injury. The more something hangs around with us, the more tightly bound it becomes. The more attached it gets. The more integrated it becomes with our Self. This explains the hurt and suffering one experiences upon the loss of the things that we are attached with.

Essentially, the objects of attachment has become part of an extended Self. Similar to the hand of a person, it has become an integral part. The degree of attachment simply relates to how much  easily replaceable the object is. If its a throwaway pen, then the degree of attachment is less. If it is a special edition artifact of some sort, then its more tightly bound, since a loss of it cannot be revoked. Also, the things we don't have a liking never get attached to us, since we never consider them as part of ourselves.

A little contemplation will confirm this behavior in all cases of our attachment with anything. Even ideas and thoughts can become attachments. So, the problem seems to be this wrong identification of these objects as part of our own self. Instead of making the impossible attempt of staying steady upon loss, if one were to understand and correct this mistaken identity, a loss can be handled better.

A deeper investigation reveals that even the body, the mind, the thoughts and ideas are not the Self. The Self is not connected with any of these. This mere thought is known as Detachment! Detachment does not mean renouncing anything physically. A steady knowledge of this absolute truth enables one to see everything as part of the illusion, and not assume false identity with them. This clarity and steadiness of the Truth liberates one from the suffering of loss of any kind and enables Joyful life.