Practical Spirituality – Introduction
(Fair warning: This series of article was born after some pretty nasty incidents that were reported in the news over the last couple of months. This would be of the very direct and no-holds barred kind of series. By the way, all opinions expressed in the articles are mine and my own.)
I am sure everyone would have heard (and probably seen the video courtesy of Sun TV) of Nithyananda and Ranjitha. No, these are not some yesteryear cinema stars. These two are just the most recent ‘famous personalities’ to be brought to disrepute by a hidden video camera, showing them in, let’s just say, compromising positions.
Were you were truly shocked upon hearing this news? Not me.
Did you also see the news item where the infamous ‘Amma Bhagavan’ – the one who named himself as ‘Kalki’ – and his ‘ashramites’ are indulging in some pretty weird stuff under drug induced frenzy?
Were you were truly shocked upon hearing this news? Not me.
(I just saw a news item again few days back which showed Mr. Nithyananda doing some odd ritual… seems like he is undergoing some ‘deep’ penance. What a show!! I really pity his ‘followers’.)
Here he goes… What is the relevance of this sleaze news item to the topic? Ambi is in rambling mode again.
Hear me out, will you?
There is another ‘famous one’ who is very market savvy, and in the guise of teaching people to live, he has made a good living himself, trying to involve in politics now and then. I was at a store last week where I saw a CD of lectures by this person. It was something about contradictions in the Bhagavad Gita. I was kind of amused, actually. Here is a person, who is ‘revered’ by oh-so-many, models himself as a spiritual teacher and yet instead of trying to teach the essence of Bhagavad Gita, he is trying to show himself to be scholarly and giving lectures on a topic which I have no doubt would simply confuse the people more.
Then, there are the VERY famous ones who actually let their followers claim them to be God himself (or sometimes they get followers by making that claim). They make statements like ‘not an ounce of dirt moves without me knowing it’ and create a mystic aura around themselves, make politicians and socialites kneel in front of them and project themselves to be the savior of the masses. It does not matter if such ‘Gods’ are confined to a wheelchair to be able to move around. The sad part is I get justifications for such a position saying ‘oh, it’s just the body. Swamiji is just acting his role in this jada (gross) world’.
The list of such people is only growing every day.
These swamis are no better than some of the fake missionaries who hold huge prayer meetings on the beach or an auditorium claiming to heal cancer and lame legs. And the more I look in to such matters, the more I am convinced that ‘most’ of the people go to such ‘famous swamis’ only for instant gratification… be it wealth, cure from a disease, or generally showing off to the world that they are also ‘spiritual’. The highest and most dangerous form of such gratification comes when you are told “You are God”. But a disclaimer follows: “You haven’t realized that yet. But I have. So worship me.” How ridiculous is that!! Well, to be fair, these are just a small but growing lot of ‘gurus’ who take advantage of the growing lack of knowledge amongst people, on what real spiritual life is.
Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 12, Chapter 2, Verse 4:
A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.
Is this verse relevant here? Well, Canto 12 is titled as “The Age of Deterioration” and the chapter 2 is titled “The Symptoms of Kali Yuga”. Get the idea? In just 4 lines, this verse summarizes what we have been seeing for quite a while and what is getting more and more commonplace these days.
If someone wants to feed you poison, they will not give it for you to drink saying that it is poison. They will say it is nectar and by the time its true nature is revealed, the damage is done on you. It is even more dangerous if the person feeding you thinks the poison to be nectar. So, we need to be aware of what is conducive and what is not for spiritual well being. And for that, I have to do my fair duty in pointing out the poisons from the nectar, and justifying the distinctions. And this is exactly what I will try to address in this series.
I am aware that some people might get offended or feel irritated that I go against ‘established’ Gurus or some popular siddhantas. But that is just a small inconvenience compared to the satisfaction I gain by doing my part to disperse the knowledge which I have received by the mercy of my teachers.
The next article in this series will deal with very basic information on what is spirituality, what it does it take to actually understand spiritual science, what are the first steps that someone can take in getting on to the spiritual path. Of course, all of this will be from the perspective of the Vedic teachings.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Purpose of Life
Purpose of Life
So, here we are. Another year has passed as per the Gregorian calendar. Even as I started for home on Dec 31st evening from office, around 6:30PM, the grounds within the campus had been converted in to an ‘open-air’ ‘fun’ ‘party floor’. Laser lights, fog effects and ear-drum blasting music, alcoholic drinks… pretty much the trend these days, isn’t it? For one, I never understood the concept of ‘drunken fun’.
Drinking and driving don’t mix… how about drinking and dancing, like having something wriggling up the legs?? Surely, puking on the girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s) dress (whatever part of it is ‘cloth’) isn’t fun now really, is it?
Well, I have seen this happen for the last couple of years, and this is becoming a tradition these days. It is cool to go to a New Year party, hang out (whatever that means) with cool buddies, stress and flush the stomach out, get up with a headache in the morning, start the daily grind… in the second day of the year, waiting for the weekend, so one can celebrate the New Week!
I won’t be surprised if I hear a “Happy Week #23!”, or a “Wish you a very happy new week! Best wishes for your promotion dreams to come true! Hope you get a good hike (for the treat, of course)!” in another couple of years.
(Does anyone think how the pay hikes are made possible? Does anyone think how ‘inflation’ occurs? This is another exercise for the readers to put their thinking cap on!)
“What’s wrong in partying? People are just having some good time… just a night of fun, to unwind, to relax…”
“Come on dude, life’s meant to be enjoyed…”
Hmmm. Hold on. Enjoyed? Is that what ‘life’ as we live it meant to be really? To be enjoyed?
Let’s dwell on this a bit, alright?
There are four activities in this world that are common to ALL living entities: Eating, Sleeping, Mating and Defending. We humans, especially, are doing all of the above extraordinarily well, since the level of intelligence we are endowed with allows a greater range of control, but along with greater intelligence and facilities comes greater responsibility… a purpose to this life, and living.
So, what is the purpose of life?
We take birth. We die. In the time between these two events, we do so many things, believing that it improves our lives, increases our standard of living and gives us happiness. Good parents, nice food and robust health, a cozy home, high education, beautiful wife, chubby children, warm friends… these are all the aspirations of anyone who wants to lead a ‘happy’ life.
But what is the purpose of life? No one taught us that really, did they? We learn everything at school and college, about math, history, zoology, music, spacecrafts, and microbes… each one is an expert in one thing or other. But where are we taught “the purpose of life”?
Truth is we are discouraged from asking such a question! You will see blank stares, snickering laughs, frowns and everything in between to such a question from ‘normal’ day-to-day people. But what else can they do? They, after all, are also as much in the dark, aren’t they? What really happens is that each one is left to one’s own imagination to cook up a purpose to their living (which might include just living without a purpose too, ironically).
Add to this confusion the modern philosophers and pseudo-spiritualists who have now begun singing a tune to “Each one decides what’s best for oneself”… and you can now see the mess it has done. I don’t even have to explain it to this audience, I hope. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter if a perspective is right or wrong… it is of no consequence, as long as everyone agrees with everybody else.
But there is an obvious difference between the individual perceptions on the purpose of life and the objective purpose underlying life itself.
“What a load of BS! Life has no purpose, other than what we imagine…”
I have heard this countless times. Yes, if the modern evolution theory is to be considered (just for a fleeting moment) as true, the above statement probably becomes valid, since the theory is based on the assumption that life evolved from matter by random, purposeless mechanical/ chemical processes. But that ‘theory’ is just that. If one accepts the teachings of the Vedas by proper guidance and application, one can easily understand that ‘life force’ cannot arise from matter and must have a spiritual origin. And consequently, everything has a purpose and reason for occurring/ existing. Just because that purpose or reason is not readily apparent to our limited senses does not mean it does not or cannot exist.
In the human form of life, a spirit soul is given great intelligence and so many facilities. But it comes with a condition, as put forth by the very first sutra of the Vedanta Sutras, which essentially states the purpose of ‘Life’:
athato brahma jijnasa
"Now is the time to inquire about the Absolute Truth."
Many say self-realization is the final goal, that once you understand who you really are (which varies from ‘you are nothing, zero’ to ‘you are God’ depending on who you ask) you become realized and nothing more to do. There are different kinds of such philosophers and spiritualists… mayavadis, sunyavadis and so on. But, unfortunately for them, we can understand from the Bhagavad Gita that self realization is just the first step towards something more important. It is only the ignorance and neglect the modern generation has been having regarding the Vedas and Vedic scriptures that have allowed all kinds of bogus philosophies to crop up in the name of spirituality.
The first step in understanding the purpose of life is to know our actual nature. Once that realization dawns upon us, the next step is to enquire in to our relationship with the Absolute being, God, revealed as Krishna through the Bhagavad Gita. Once the understanding of the relationship is got, the last step is acting on such knowledge. Considering this along with the concept of the Supreme Lord Krishna being the owner of everything as explained in the previous article, everything that we have must be used in the service of the Absolute being, Krishna (including the efforts of the scientists and leaders). That fulfills the purpose of life.
Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 Chapter 2 Verse 10:
lābho jīveta yāvatā
nārtho yaś ceha karmabhiḥ
“Life’s desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s works.”
The human form of life is especially meant for this purpose. We are given the faculties to do what many other species cannot: Think about ourselves. Yet, we would readily accept a grossly ‘unscientific’ declaration “Life has no purpose” when we can keep yapping about goodness, charity, eradication of poverty and what not.
Srimad Bhagavatam, the top most purana, explains in great detail that Bhakti Yoga is the only recommended way in this Kali Yuga to gain such a level of understanding on ourselves, the Supreme Lord and the real purpose of life easily. I am aware that all this is the ‘theory’ part… and I haven’t gotten in to the ‘how to’ part till now, because I do not consider myself as an accomplished spiritualist… consider me like a patient who has been cured by a doctor and is recommending the doctor to other ‘patients’.
With this, I end the “Ancient Wisdom, Modern Relevance” series.
Ambi’s personal Note: I do not know how effective or useful my articles were. There were so many discussions, so many arguments. I am sure there are several readers who did not participate in the exchange of comments but were silent spectators, several people who liked the articles/ comments, and several who disliked those. Almost everything I have put forth in my articles, I had learned from Srila Prabhupada’s books and his disciples (and No, I am not a member of ISKCON).
I hope at least a few of the readers would take up studying the “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada with sincerity and benefit from it for eternity. If anything, this whole exercise was probably meant to be for my own purification. Thank you.
Article written by Ambi.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Caste System as it should have been
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Caste System as it should have been
In my last article, we had seen the basic essence of Lord Krishna’s instructions through Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Going forward, I will attempt to present the views from the perspective of Vedic teachings on some of the issues that we have been facing one millennium after another.
If someone writes articles about quantum mechanics, theory of relativity, chaos theory, Fourier transforms and so on, I bet that there will be almost close to ‘zero’ interaction on it. Whereas, there are couple of topics on which one can be assured of a deluge of comments from experts (no sarcasm here) who have had life as their laboratory and their own experiences as results of experiments. But no topic is as prone to sentimental ranting and fanatic following based on so many varied theories and ‘popular leaders’, like the topic of “Indian Caste System”.
Now I will attempt to present the caste system as described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. I request anyone reading this article to set aside your prejudices, read through the article fully and then decide for yourself if it makes sense.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 04, verse 13:
cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ
tasya kartāram api māḿ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.”
I might probably see, if I can, a few mouths drop open!
So, Bhagavad Gita endorses the caste system? Apparently, yes… but not in its current form. Unfortunately, this has the ultimate weapon for some pseudo-experts and proselytizers. The fault is not with Bhagavad Gita, but with us for our lack of understanding on the scriptures and our false ego which twists almost everything to suit our own needs.
Lord Krishna says he created the 4 divisions in the society… namely, Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Notice the words Guna and Karma highlighted in the verse? Krishna does not mention Janma (birth) in his description. This is the crux of the problem. A brahmana’s son cannot become a brahmana by default i.e. by birth. A Ksatritya’s son cannot remain as a Ksatriya by default and so on. Somewhere in time, this system started to degrade. The change was because of people’s own selfish goals, and addiction to power that came with the caste assignment. The problem started when ‘unqualified’ people started remaining in the same caste as they were born in. The original system was simply that you go to a Gurukula, spend a couple of years learning stuff and the Guru identifies the stream of skill that you are good at and then assigns you to that caste. But that got changed and nowadays, you see a boy born in a ‘brahmin’ family still being branded as ‘brahmin’ even if he has the worst character possible and is working as a laborer in the IT industry! (Don’t get me started on how IT is a boon and such. That’s for some other time.)
So, what differentiates the 4 divisions? That is also addressed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
BG 18.41: Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.
BG 18.42: Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness — these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.
BG 18.43: Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the kṣatriyas.
BG 18.44: Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaiśyas, and for the śūdras there is labor and service to others.
I think the verses are self explanatory.
There is one more area where pseudo-secularists raise a hue and cry. They quote Manu Smriti (or Manu Samhita) and make an appeal to pity for their cause by citing verses which talk about punishments to be given for people who deviate from their caste… like a Sudra speaking Vedas. In opposition, if a person without a qualified MBBS degree is found to be working a doctor, will the law enforcers remain silent? In the same way, a person who has been identified by his Guru to be NOT having any qualities or work tendencies to be a Brahmana or a Ksatriya or a Vaisya, becomes a sudra. So how does this person have any right to lecture on the Vedas? Looking from the perspective of how the caste system should have been, I see nothing wrong in the punishments.
I quote my teachers:
“In the Vedic setting, if it is ascertained that one has the nature of a sudra, they were given vocational education; literacy for the masses was not given great importance in Vedic society. However, as the sudras gave service to the other varnas, it was in turn the duty of brahmanas to systematically disseminate shastric knowledge to the general public. In fact, the temple in a Vedic community was to serve just this purpose – as a center of learning – where the mercantile and laborer classes would come and learn about religious principles through art, drama and regular discourses on scriptural teachings.”
Nowadays the word Sudra has taken a ‘derogatory’ tone… while it is simply equivalent to being called a ‘dancer’, ‘mechanic’ and so on. I am 100% against the concept of ‘untouchability’, which is again the perverted rendering of the Vedic system by the pseudo-brahmanas of recent times. And one should also be careful while dealing with ‘modern reformers’ who are quick to denounce the Vedas and have ‘converted’ to Buddhism and such… they are more dangerous than the pseudo-brahmanas because not only are they wrong in their understanding of the scriptures, they are also proud of it and do what they do as a sense of duty and right.
So, the next time someone lectures to you on the caste system and starts denouncing the Vedic scriptures, you remember that it was we people, not the scriptures, who are responsible for the current mess.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Perfection of Yoga
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Perfection of Yoga
In my last article, I had addressed the details on who can be a Guru and how to identify a bonafide spiritual master. In the article before that, we saw Lord Krishna addressing Arjuna’s despondent pleas. Instead of going through a chapter-wise discussion as I had planned earlier, I am taking a thematic approach on presenting the conclusions made by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna on various paths of Yoga as he explained in the Bhagavad Gita. This will reduce my effort significantly, thereby helping me to spend time on the discussions that might follow.
“Yoga” means “linking of our consciousness with the Supreme Absolute Truth”. When the linking process is predominantly through fruitive activities, it is called Karma Yoga. If it is done through empirical means, it is called Jnana Yoga. If it is done through unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord, it is called Bhakti Yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us of a “Yoga Ladder”, a series of steps made of yoga practices which ultimately lead to the Perfection of Yoga. Following this process, a conditioned soul can purify its existence gradually in this material world and reawaken its spiritual consciousness.
The first step in the ladder is called “Karma-Kanda”. This step has no spiritual objective. In this stage, a conditioned soul/ person, is introduced to regulated sense enjoyment, and to the Vedas which dictate the performance of sacrifices for the sake of results. This basically increases faith in the sastras.
Read BG 2.31, BG 3.11, BG 3.16.
Next is the step of “Karma Yoga”, which is performance of fruitive activities. The person begins to get frustrated with the sense enjoyment and shows inclinations of detachment. But he is still too attached to completely stop working for his own enjoyment.
When a person works for his own enjoyment but has a spiritual objective interlinked to the effort, the stage is called Sakama Karma. Continued practice of work in partial detachment to the results of fruitive activities leads to Nishkama Karma, work which is uncontaminated with material desires and has a pure spiritual objective.
Since any sense enjoyment leads to frustration in the end, a person gradually elevates himself through Karma Yoga to a stage where he begins to examine the ‘Jnana’ section of the Vedic literature. Here, as described by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 06, one gives up all societal obligations and sets on a pursuit in search of knowledge of the Brahman. This path of realization is not easy at all to follow, as correctly pointed out by Arjuna and Lord Krishna in the chapter 06 of Bhagavad Gita.
Read BG 5.2.
Beyond Jnana Yoga, once the Jnani achieves knowledge of the Supersoul, the Paramatma, and begins to lead a life of austerity and meditation on the Paramatma, he enters the stage of “Ashtanga Yoga”, an eight fold process as the name implies. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Prathyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the 8 steps.
Read BG 6.30, BG 6.31
At the pinnacle of this Yoga ladder is “Bhakti Yoga” or “Unalloyed, pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord”. This is best summarized by Lord Krishna himself:
BG 9.34: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
BG 18.65: Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
BG 18.66: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
And what does the Lord have to say about the other paths?
BG 6.46: A yogī is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogī.
Note: The ascetic is the ‘tapasvi’, the empiricist is the ‘jnani’ and the fruitive worker is the ‘karmi’.
BG 6.47: And of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me — he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.
So, you see, the Bhagavad Gita offers devotional service to Lord Krishna as the Perfection of Yoga, with pure devotional service being the goal. There are several stages of Bhakti too, but this is too premature a point in this series to get in to that. Bhakti Yoga is the path recommended for this age of quarrel, the Kali-Yuga. We do not reject the other paths, but making progress in them is extremely difficult, if not impossible, in this age. This was stated very clearly by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Although one passes through one level or another of the previous stages even while trying to take to the path of Bhakti, it is much easier and the effect seen on oneself as well as the progress gained towards liberation is permanent.
I have tried to summarize the entire siddhanta of Bhagavad Gita within 900 words above. Now, there are certain issues which I would like to clarify upon.
I have read several articles on Bhagavad Gita where the author has very elaborately discussed on the merits of Bhakti Yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita. Throughout the text, the author says “Krishna said this, Krishna said that”… and finally concludes “Krishna is instructing us to be surrender to the impersonal, all pervasive, inscrutable Brahman”. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says “Surrender unto me”, means surrender unto Krishna… not something within him. I am sure the Lord as well as Vyasadev knew enough Sanskrit to state exactly what they wanted to state. Sure, Lord Krishna talks about people who want to ‘mingle’ with the Brahman as their final goal… but he does NOT conclude it is the ultimate goal or is the easiest way. Here’s what he says on that issue:
BG 12.5: For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.
BG 12.6-7: But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā — for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
I have stressed upon one point so many times in the series till now and I am doing so again. The current trend seen among ‘spiritualists’ is basically to take the Bhagavad Gita, pick and interpret just a few specific verses completely out of context to suit their own philosophy, and present their own speculation in an (pseudo)authoritative manner. If one has to take reference from Bhagavad Gita, the conclusion arrived at MUST be the one presented by Lord Krishna and as it is accepted by Arjuna, as below.
BG 18.73: Arjuna said: My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.
Giving any other conclusion on the Bhagavad Gita, anything different from what is being said by Lord Krishna, is akin to cheating, no matter how popular or scholarly the person giving the different conclusion might be.
With this article, I would like say that enough foundation has been laid for any sincere seekers of Truth to go forward on their own. I hope the comments and the discussion in my previous articles as well as the ones that are to follow would add more fuel to their interest. If and when required, my help would always be available.
From here, I would like to get in to addressing issues that we face on a day to day basis and how the knowledge received through our ancient scriptures can help us even now. So, if the readers have any topics on which they would like me to elaborate with relevance to our current position in time, please feel free to add the suggestion as a comment.
The next article title from me would be “The Caste System – as it should have been”. I hope to complete it another week or so.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Guru
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Guru
In my last article, we saw how Lord Krishna began addressing Arjuna’s concerns. I also mentioned that we will see what was Arjuna’s response and Lord Krishna’s opinion of Karma yoga. Instead, I am going to get in to a topic that I consider as very important and it is the source of much controversy these days.
During the long exchange of comments with Mahesh Kalaal in my previous article, he asked “Who is Qualified? Who is Spiritual? Who is master?” His questions are the same ones that haunt every neophyte spiritualist. And in general there seems to be this idea that when it comes to spirituality, anything and everything goes and it is based on one’s convenience and whim.
These factors show up in some of the arguments many people against accepting a Spiritual Master. It seems like accepting someone as superior is anathema to their self-respect and, if I may add, self-importance.
In school, students do experiments in labs and write voluminous records on the results (remember, the same experiments year after year) under the guidance of a teacher. And they learn exactly the same thing without any doubt.
In spiritual science too, the same mood of experiment, analysis and results is allowed, under the supervision of a qualified master. Why years… everyday there are people who can attest to the fact of verifying what is being taught by one’s spiritual master.
Oh wait!! The teachers at the schools and colleges are ‘qualified’. They have a degree from a famous college and are easily identified. They are respected for their knowledge and are experts! We cannot be sure about a Spiritual master in that manner.
Do people send their children to a school only after looking at who are the teachers for different subjects? Do they actually look in to the qualification of each and every teacher? They simply trust the school administration… on basis of recommendations of people who have already sent their children to that school or based on news of how the school’s exam results are outstanding! What about the character of the teachers? Do they set positive role models for the children? How did their previous students fare in life or in studies? I don’t think anyone asks such questions. My point is that we are all so superficial in things in which we ought to be thorough.
In any case, people simply are made more aware of such modern things like degrees and such as they have been forced to fall in line with mainstream community, based on modern scientific development which is driven mostly by just 2 factors: economic opportunism and military expansionism. Just because majority of the people don’t know how to identify a qualified spiritual teacher, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or cannot be found.
One basic misunderstanding is that nowadays people expect a degree for anything and everything. There will be a day when even unclogging a drain or cleaning toilets will require a ‘degree’!
Spiritual science has a different set of measures to determine who is qualified or bonafide and who can be or cannot be spiritual master. So, next time you search for a bonafide Guru, keep in mind that he doesn’t give you a visiting card with 2 or 3 letter degrees behind his name.
So, we come to the question who is Guru? How can we identify a bonafide Guru?
1. He belongs to one a bonafide sampradayas sanctioned and starting with the Supreme Lord himself, and must have been authorized to act as a Spiritual Master (Refer dharmaḿ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaḿ – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.3.19 and the next two verses)
2. He never presents any invented, self-made teachings (which are then considered as influenced by the defects of a conditioned living entity), but always simply repeats what the scriptures and Supreme Lord say, without any modification or distortion.
3. He follows Sastra strictly and guides his followers on the path of liberation away from material attachment.
4. He does not claim himself to be God, nor does he claim anything and everything as God.
So, putting this in perspective of our previous discussions, let’s see what Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam have to on this topic (click on the links to read the actual texts).
BG 2.54: Arjuna said: O Kṛṣṇa, what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
BG 2.55: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.
BG 2.56: One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
BG 2.57: In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.
BG 2.58: One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness.
BG 14.21: Arjuna inquired: O my dear Lord, by which symptoms is one known who is transcendental to these three modes? What is his behavior? And how does he transcend the modes of nature?
BG 14.22-25: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O son of Pāṇḍu, he who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present or long for them when they disappear; who is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental, knowing that the modes alone are active; who is situated in the self and regards alike happiness and distress; who looks upon a lump of earth, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable; who is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honor and dishonor; who treats alike both friend and enemy; and who has renounced all material activities — such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature.
BG 14.26: One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.
SB 11.3.21: Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.
Do I see people staring in disbelief? Ok, shake your head couple of times, take a deep breath and relax. So, it is not a simple procedure to go in search of a spiritual master. If you are to ensure that a person has all the attributes as listed above, you basically need to be a bit knowledgeable yourself.
Instead of any further elaboration, I will close by quoting my teachers:
“Choosing a spiritual master is quite different from a mundane exercise of ‘choosing’ some physical article or a relationship in this material world based on the mind’s likes and dislikes. Going by personal appeal or by some superficial criteria such as popular acclaim or some other external traits, or making comparison — these are likely to be misleading. Rather, one must look for the symptoms of a self-realized soul manifesting in the person of such a spiritual master, in the light of scriptural directions as stated above.
In the course of this process, the most important criterion on the part of the aspiring disciple is to nurture and strengthen their own internal convictions, sincerity and commitment for spiritual life. If the disciple harbors ulterior motives for some temporary, material benefits, then one is likely to be misled in the search for a guru. Therefore one should progressively cultivate one’s own sincerity of purpose in seeking a bona fide spiritual master competent to guide one to ultimate spiritual perfection. (jijnasuh shreya uttamam SB 11.3.21).
When the disciple’s heart is ready and prepared in this way, Lord Krishna reciprocates with such sincerity and prayers by sending the bona fide spiritual master into the devotee’s life. It will become amply clear who one’s spiritual master is at that time and the earnest disciple will be able to readily recognize and thus proceed to solidify that relationship as described above.”
Article written by Ambi.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – śrī-bhagavān uvāca
Śrī-bhagavān uvāca means “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said”.
Bhagavān is how Lord Krishna is addressed by Srimad Bhagavad Gita. It means one who has the six opulences, namely Wealth, Strength, Fame, Beauty, Knowledge and Renunciation, unlimitedly. If you read the list carefully, you will see that almost all so-called celebrities of this world are known for having the opulences stated above, one or more at any time. But even they do not compare to Bhagavān, who is the Lord of everything that is and has all the opulence in unlimited quantity.
In my last article, we saw how Arjuna is overcome by grief and refuses to take up arms against his kinsmen. Being such a ‘nice person’, one would have thought that Lord Krishna, as God, would have been very happy and said “Arjuna, I am so proud of you! You are non-violent! That’s just great!”
Did he? NO. Krishna, in fact, scolds Arjuna in the strongest of words. Here it is, Bhagavad Gita Chapter 02, verse 2-3:
kutas tvā kaśmalam idaḿ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
klaibyaḿ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha
naitat tvayy upapadyate
O son of Pṛthā, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
I do not think that Krishna’s words need any explanation here.
Arjuna is shocked! He asks Krishna how can he encourage slaying men worthy of worship, being his teachers. He declares it’s better to live of begging than to live at the cost of these great souls. Then he accepts that he is confused with miserly weakness and that he is now Krishna’s disciple and then requests Krishna to dispel his grief. Then he says “Govinda, I shall not fight” and became silent.
What comes next is a very, very important section of Bhagavad Gita. The Supreme Lord begins his instruction to his surrendered devotee. Since his instructions carry the essence of the entire Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02 is termed as a summary of the contents of the Bhagavad Gita. This will be quite a long article if I were to address all the instructions, so I will summarize on the main topics that are being addressed.
Lord Krishna begins with the explanation of the soul or atma by reprimanding Arjuna and calling him unwise for speaking like a learned man (because he made so many emotional arguments) but grieving for things that don’t deserve grief and also that the wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead. The very next statement he makes to Arjuna on this topic is this:
na tv evāhaḿ jātu nāsaḿ
na tvaḿ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” – BG2.12
This statement is a damning rebuttal of the theory which states that all souls merge in to the brahma-jyoti, losing their identity, and also of the theory where individuality is said to be an effect of illusion or Maya. In a way, it also is a statement that refutes the theory of evolution, where life is proclaimed to come from matter and has no purpose or prior or future existence. The next statement explains the core principle of Transmigration of the Soul:
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraḿ yauvanaḿ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” – BG2.13
So, what are the characteristics of this spirit soul? In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, verses 16-25, this is described clearly. A spirit soul is eternal, indestructible, cannot be cut in to pieces, cannot be burnt by fire, cannot be moistened by water or withered by wind, immutable, invisible and inconceivable.
And so, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that he shouldn’t lament for the person who dies, since it’s only the body that is slain. After that, Krishna explains why Arjuna must fight, by telling how people would speak ill of Arjuna if he didn’t do his duty, and how the generals would think him to be weak. Krishna also begins talking about how Arjuna should do his duty for the sake of doing it, without considering the result. This, Lord Krishna says, would let Arjuna avoid sin.
He also conveys to Arjuna that what he has heard till now was only from the analytical point of view. So, Krishna begins explaining the same principles in terms of working without fruitive results. It is in this section he speaks the famous verse 47 in Chapter 02 (made popular, thanks to the Mahabharata serial on TV and countless pseudo-philosophers who claim this as the essence of Bhagavad Gita)
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te sańgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
The Acharyas explain that the Lord is talking about prescribed duties here, but we normally, wrongly, take this to mean that Krishna is talking about day to day mundane activities. So, one must do his prescribed duty, without attachment to success or failure. Allow me to deal in this a bit more. Lord Krishna does not say here that results are to be ignored or that we should carry out our duties carelessly. Since the Supreme Lord is the proprietor of everything, he owns the results too. We must understand that our self is just one of the five factors that influence action. This is from Chapter 18, verse 14.
adhiṣṭhānaḿ tathā kartā
karaṇaḿ ca pṛthag-vidham
vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā
daivaḿ caivātra pañcamam
“The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action.”
So, unless the results are dedicated to the Supreme Lord, Krishna, then that work causes bondage and suffering. How we should understand this is simply that as a spirit soul, we have to be engaged in activity. We have capacity for work and are intermediate causes, but material nature creates result and it is controlled by Lord Krishna. This is mentioned in Chapter 09, verse 10.
“This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.”
So, we don’t really have a claim over results which are actually created by something which is not under our control. If we align our freewill through actions based on the Lord’s instructions, it does not cause any bondage.
One other important point to be noted from Krishna’s response is how he explains the root cause of all problems. Let’s hear it from him directly, shall we?
Lord Krishna says in Chapter 02, verses 62-64:
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool. But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord.”
So, Lord Krishna declares that attachment and the lust that arises from it to be the real problem. The senses must be engaged in some real activity, and if they are not used in the service of the Supreme Lord, then they will be engaged in service of materialism. But for a person who is devoid of attachment or aversion and follows the regulative principles properly, he can achieve the highest state of becoming conscious of the Supreme Lord. Artificial renunciation won’t help when the desire to enjoy is still present in the mind and even the slightest agitation of the mind will pull down a person who is even on the verge of the ‘liberation’ often spoken about as the goal of life.
I will end this article with one of the verses which has influenced me in my personal life very much. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02, verse 66:
nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham
“One who is not connected with the Supreme [in Kṛṣṇa consciousness] can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?”
This relates directly to how I started writing this sequence of articles, on request from our very own Lakshmi Rajan. I started off by saying everyone wants to be happy, forever. And above is the clear solution to that! Without the mind being peaceful, there can be no happiness. And for the mind to be peaceful, one must be on the devotional platform.
So, how does Arjuna respond to Lord Krishna and what question he put forth to the Lord? What does Lord Krishna say about Karma Yoga? These I will address in the next article, which should be ready by early next week.
This completes the brief summary of Chapter 02 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. I have tried to compress the whole chapter of 72 verses in to less than 1800 words. So if I have missed out on any important aspects or given incomplete explanations, it is only due to my fault and oversight, for which I pray forgiveness and understanding from my teachers as well as the readers. Please do not hesitate to ask for any clarification as required and I will try to clarify to the best of my ability.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Introduction to Srimad Bhagavad Gita
What is happiness?
If you ask anyone, ‘what is happiness?’ I am sure that the answers that you would get from most people would be similar. Good health, nice family, enough money, time to enjoy the little pleasures of this world, love, peace… it is not hard to imagine what would make people happy. Everyone in this world aspires to be happy all the time. The only problem is what WE define and seek as happiness, once gotten, doesn’t last forever. A few hours or days at best, that’s all. And then the rigors of the material world seize and engage us.
We use so many tools to aid us in our search for happiness, good health and why, even immortality! As a result of that relentless endeavor, modern science has enabled us to do so many things seemingly better than before, compared to natural alternatives. Life has become so dynamic that many people started professing that ‘change’ is the only constant in this world.
All these attempts at improving our condition of life, all the progress that we made, ignore the four other constants that come by nature in material life: Birth, disease, old age and death. Whatever efforts we make to improve our lives, and to be happy, the four constants always manage to get the better of us. And with death, everything comes to a very efficient end.
An intelligent person begins to think as to why he is forced to suffer, when all he wants is to be happy. A natural progress of that thought process would lead to questions like where did I come from, what am I doing here, where I would go after death and culminates in asking the most fundamental question which forms the basis of Vedic philosophy:
‘Who am I?’
The Vedas and associated Vedic scriptures offer great insight in to life’s mysteries. These ancient treasure troves of wisdom and knowledge, being coeternal with God and infallible in their own right, direct us to change our attention from the temporary towards the permanent, from matter to spirit, from the body to the soul.
They teach us that our endeavors to be happy through gratifying our senses would lead to only misery. They also inform us about our original spiritual nature – that each of us are not the body but infinitesimal spiritual sparks, Spirit Souls, that are not of this material world and that the only way to have eternal happiness to revive our natural relationship with the Supreme Soul, God, of whom we are all part and parcel of, yet different.
The Vedic knowledge was primarily transmitted orally in the previous ages. In order to make the Vedic knowledge easily accessible to the people in the Kali Yuga (the present age), the great literary incarnation, Sage Vyasa, compiled the entire knowledge in to principally the 4 Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 18 Puranas and 2 Itihaasas (epics, namely Ramayana and Mahabharata).
Understanding the Vedas, which are compiled in exquisitely perfected Sanskrit, is a nightmare even for the most erudite scholar these days. Learning Sanskrit itself would take close to 12 years of study and then one has to study the various siddhantas (philosophies) and Bhashyas (commentaries) as expounded by the great Acharyas of the past, to grasp even the basics of complex texts like Vedanta Sutras.
Of the texts that form the Vedic scriptures, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which is found in Mahabharata, is the most important section. It is the essence of all Vedic knowledge. It is also called Gitopanishad, and is the consolidated description of the most intense, hair-raising dialogue between the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and his dearest friend, the warrior-archer, Arjuna. Running in to 700 verses over 18 chapters, it is described in much simpler Sanskrit, which leaves absolutely no room for interpretation and logical debating which is allowed by the Vedanta sutras.
This dialogue starts with questions asked by Arjuna, who is feeling very confused, dejected and sad on the eve of a great battle against his cousins, the Kauravas and their army. Arjuna is one of the ‘Mahajanas’, and being a friend to the Lord, he is above all ignorance. But the Acharyas explain that he was put in to this situation specifically to enquire about problems of life so that Sri Krishna himself can explain it for the benefit for future generations, namely, us.
(It is to be noted that this great dialogue was spoken on the eve of battle, in the middle of two armies standing ready to fight. It lends credence to the practicality of such a philosophy, much against a common belief that any spirituality or philosophical pursuit is meant for practice only in peaceful times or in a forest away from common day to day works.)
The spirit with which one should hear and accept the teachings of Srimad Bhagavad Gita is shown by Arjuna in the course of his discussion with Lord Krishna. When a physician gives a medicine, you take it only by following his directions. Similarly, the instructions given in Bhagavad Gita are to be taken only as Lord Krishna means it and not as per one’s own whim and wish. The perfect example for such a proper acceptance is shown by Arjuna himself. In the second chapter, verse 7, Arjuna surrenders:
pṛcchāmi tvāḿ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaḿ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te ‘haḿ śādhi māḿ tvāḿ prapannam
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.”
Here’s how Arjuna accepts Lord Krishna’s instructions, in chapter 10, verse 12 thru 14:
paraḿ brahma paraḿ dhāma
pavitraḿ paramaḿ bhavān
puruṣaḿ śāśvataḿ divyam
ādi-devam ajaḿ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaḿ caiva bravīṣi me
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala, and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”
sarvam etad ṛtaḿ manye
yan māḿ vadasi keśava
na hi te bhagavan vyaktiḿ
vidur devā na dānavāḥ
“O Kṛṣṇa, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality.”
So, to conclude, one must understand the teachings of Bhagavad Gita as Arjuna understood it. Only then, that understanding is considered perfect. Only when one hears it in a submissive mood, in devotion to the Supreme Lord, one can understand the teachings of Bhagavad Gita as understood by Arjuna, which is to say, correctly and perfectly.
What do Arjuna and Lord Krishna talk about? What subject matters does Bhagavad Gita address? How does one go about getting this knowledge perfectly? These I will address in the next article.
Yaksha Prasana – Q & A between Yaksha and Yudhishtra
Yaksha Prashna is an episode from Mahabharata . It is the dialogue between Yaksha and Yudhishtra . The pandava brothers one by one goes to fetch water from a pond . Out of Ego and maya , Ignoring the voice of a Yaksha ,warning them not to drink the water, each one of the brothers dies after drinking the water from the pond . The last one left was Yudhishtra , the most pious and ardent upholder of Dharma . Yaksha asks him a series of question and says , if he answers them correctly , he could get his brothers back to life. Many of us would have known this episode but very few of us knew the complete set of the dialogue .
The following is the translation of the Q & A originally in sanskrit sloka format . I thank by Sri K Balasubramanya Iyer who had written the book on this subject and enriching me with the knowledge.
- What is it that makes the sun rise up ?
- Who are his surrounding attendants ?
- Who makes the sun set ?
- In which is he firmly placed ?
1. The Veda (Brahma) makes the sun rise.
2. The Devas are his attendants.
3. Dharma makes the sun set , and
4. He is firmly grounded in truth.
(The first question what makes the sun rise up ? philosophically implies , what wakes up the Atma ( Soul ) ? The vedas or knowledge is what wakes the Atma from the darkness of ignorance. The sun is interpreted as the ‘ soul of man ‘ The devas are the Sama , dama etc and it is with the aid of this that the knowledge of the Atman can be obtained . By Dharma , it is meant Karma , upasanas that determines the path of the Atma )
- By what does a person become a Vedic scholar ?
- By what means does he attain the Great ?
- By what does a person acquire a second to him ?
- By what does means does a man become wise?
5. By Vedic culture a person becomes a Vedic scholar.
6. By tapas a person attains the Great.
7. By steadfastness a person acquires a second to him.
8. By service of elders a person becomes a wife.
- What is the divine nature of Brahmanas?
- What is their right conduct similar to that of the good?
- In what consists their ordinary human nature? And
- What is it in them that is similar to that of the bad?
9. The knowledge of the Vedas is their divine nature.
10. Their tapas is similar to that of the good.
11. Their mortality is the ordinary human nature.
12. Talking scandal is their conduct similar to that of the bad.
- What constitutes the divineness of Kshatriyas or warriors?
- What is their quality similar to that of goodness? ( i.e. what is their virtue? )
- What constitute their humanness?
- What is their quality similar to that of bad means?
13. Arrows and missiles constitute their excellence.
14. Yagnas or sacrifices are their good qualities.
15. Their humanness consists in fear.
16. Abandonment / failure to protect the distressed is their bad quality.
- What is the Sama which is beneficial for the sacrifice?
- What is the Yajus which is beneficial to yagna?
- Which among them is chosen for the yagna itself?
- What is that which the sacrifice cannot be without?
17. Prana or vital energy is the sama which is most helpful to the sacrifice.
18. Manas or mind is the Yagus which is most helpful to the sacrifice.
19. It is the Rik alone which chooses the yagna for itself.
20.It is the Rik alone which yagna or sacrifice cannot do without.
- What is the best among those that shower?
- What is the foremost among those put into the ground?
- What is the best among the four-footed animals?
- What is the best among those that are begotten?
21. The rain is the best among those that shower.
22. Seed is the foremost of those that are put into the ground.
23.Cows are the best among the four-footed animals.
24. The son is the foremost among those that are begotten.
- Who is that, enjoying the objects of senses, endowed with intellect, respected by the world and accepted by all beings , through breathing , does not live?
25. He who does not participate by offerings, the Devas, guests, dependants, pitris, and one’s own self , those five, though breathing do not live.
- Which is weightier than the earth itself?
- What is higher than the sky?
- What is swifter than the wind?
- What is more numerous than grass?
26. The mother is weightier than the Earth.
27. The father is higher than the Sky.
28. The mind is swifter than the Wind.
29. Thoughts are more numerous than grass.
- What is that which does not close its eyes while asleep?
- What is that which does not move after birth?
- What is that which is without heart?
- What is that which swells by its own force?
30. A fish does not close its eyes while asleep.
31. An egg does not move after birth.
32. A stone is without heart.
33. A river swells by the force of its current.
- Who is the friend of one who goes on a journey?
- Who is the friend of one who remains at home?
- Who is the friend of one who is afflicted by sickness?
- Who is the friend of one who is about to die?
34. The caravan is the friend of a person going on a Journey.
35. The wife is the friend of the person who remains at home.
36. The physician is the friend of the sick man.
37. Gifts constitute the friend of the person who is about to die.
- What is that which journeys alone?
- What is that which is born again?
- What is the remedy against snow or fog?
- What is the large receptacle?
38. The Sun journeys alone.
39. The Moon is reborn.
40. The Fire is the remedy for snow or fog.
41. The Earth is the large receptacle.
( The term Sun in this context reflects Atma or Soul. Yudhistra says that Surya , which as Jyotis or light , signifies Atma . For the Atma alone shines during the three stage of consciousness , namely , waking , dream and dreamless sleep
According to ancient scripts , Moon is equated with the mind. Due to avidya , the mind functions and projects the world once again. That is significance of saying moon is born again. This avidya produces sorrow.
The next question is : What is the remedy for this avidya which like the fog is the superimposing agency ? The answer is that agni is the remedy for snow or fog. All this four question and answers are similar to the four questions and their answers in the Taittreeya Samhita , 7th Kanda )
- What is the all-comprehensive virtue?
- What is the all-comprehensive thing to fame?
- What,in one word, leads to Heaven?
- In what is comprised all happiness?
42. Integrity is all-comprehensive virtue.
43. Dana or charity is the one comprehensive matter of fame.
44. Truth alone leads to Heaven.
45. Character comprises all happiness.
- What is the soul of a person?
- Which is the friend bestowed by divinity?
- What is it that aids to sustain him?
- What is his greatest resort?
46. The son is the man’s soul.
47. The wife is a friend bestowed by divinity.
48. Rain is the chief aid to life.
49. Charity is the great resort.
- What is the best among laudable things?
- What is the best among all assets?
- What is the best of all gains?
- What is the foremost happiness?
50. Integrity is the best among laudable things.
51. Learning is the best asset.
52. Health is the foremost among gains.
53. Contentment is the best happiness.
- What is the highest Dharma in the world?
- What is that Dharma which always bears fruit?
- What is that by controlling which people never grieve?
- With whom does an alliance never break?
54. The highest Dharma is kindness to all.
55. The Dharma ordained by the Vedas always bears fruit.
56. By controlling the mind , people never grieve.
57. Association with the good never breaks.
- By renouncing which thing does one become loveable?
- By renouncing which thing does one never suffer grief?
- By renouncing which thing does one become wealthy?
- By renouncing which thing does one become happy?
58. By renouncing pride one becomes lovable.
59. By renouncing anger one never experience grief.
60. By renouncing desire one becomes wealthy.
61. By renouncing avarice one becomes happy.
- What for does one make gifts to the Brahmins?
- What for does one make gifts to actors and dancers?
- What for does one give presents to servants?
- What for does one give to kings?
62. It is for Dharma that one gives to Brahmins.
63. It is for fame that one gives to actors and dancers.
64. It is for maintaining them that one gives to servants.
65. It is on account of fear that one gives to kings.
- By what is the world enveloped?
- On account of what is it that a thing does not shine?
- For what reason does one give up friends?
- For what reason is it that one does not go to heaven?
66. The word is enveloped by ignorance.
67. It is on account of darkness that things do not shine.
68. It is due to avarice that friends are abandoned.
69. On account of attachment one does not go to heaven.
- How will one be considered as dead?
- When will a Kingdom be considered as dead?
- When will a Sraddha be considered a dead?
- When will a sacrifice, Yagna be considered as dead?
70. A miser may be considered as dead.
71. A country without a government may be considered as dead.
72. A sraddha performed without men learned in the Vedas may be considered as dead.
73. A yagna ( sacrifice) without dakshina or remuneration to the ritviks may be considered as dead.
- What constitutes the way?
- What has been spoken of as water?
- What is food? And
- What is poison?
- Tell me what is the proper time for Sraddha?
74. The way is the good.
75. Akasa or space is spoken of as water.
76. The cow is mentioned as food.
77. Wants are poison
78. Meeting a man learned in Veda is the proper time for Sraddha.
( The word Dik in the Sloka containing this set of questions is interpreted as those who instruct. It really meant those who show the way. Supporting this is the sloka from Mahabharata Vanaparva , the sloka gives us the meaning : “ The Vedas are diverse . The smrithis are different . There is no sage whose view is not different from that of another. The principle of Dharma is concealed in the innermost recess. What the good have followed , is the way. ”
What is spoken of as water in the Vedas and Upanishads, treating about cosmogony or creation is really Akasa or space. . There are various reference for this in different Vedas and Upanishads. Philosophically , according to Vedic scriptures , Akasa denotes the Jiva.)
- What is spoken of as the characteristic of Tapas?
- What is known as Dama or Self-control?
- What is said to be the highest patience?
- What is well-known as Hree or shame?
79. Tapas consists in the observance of one’s own Dharma.
80. The control of the mind is Dama.
81. Patience is putting up with the dvandvas or the pairs of the opposites.
82. Shame is what restrains one from bad conduct.
- What is said to be the knowledge?
- What is the highest compassion?
- What is referred to as straightforwardness?
- Who is the foe invincible to man?
- What are the endless desires?
- What is said to be goodness? And
- what is said to be badness?
83. Knowledge is the perception of the Truth.
84. Compassion consists in desiring happiness to all.
85. Straightforwardness is equality of mind towards all.
86. Anger is the most invincible foe.
87. Covetousness is the endless desire.
88. Goodness is seeking the welfare of all beings.
89. Badness is absence of compassion.
- What is delusion?
- What is pride?
- What is to be understood by laziness?
- What has been spoken of as grief?
90. Delusion consists in not knowing Dharma.
91. Pride is self-consciousness.
92. Laziness consists in not doing Dharma.
93. Ajnana is spoken of as grief.
- What is the steadfastness spoken of by the Rishis?
- What is referred to as courage?
- What is the supreme bath?
- What is here said to be Dama or charity?
94. Not swerving from one’s own duties of swa-dharma is the steadfastness.
95. Courage is the control of the senses.
96. Bath is abandoning of the impurities of the mind.
97. Protecting all beings in charity.
- Which man should be regarded as learned?
- Who is said to be a nasthika ( atheist )?
- Who is a fool? What is a desire? What is envy?
98. One who knows Dharma is known as learned.
99. The atheist is called a fool.
100. Desire is the source of samsara or cycle of birth and death. Affliction of the heart is said to be envy.
- What is said to be ahankar or ego?
- What is known as conceit?
- What is said to be the supreme divine nature?
- What is back-biting or slandering?
101. The highest ignorance is ego.
102. The flying aloft of the flag of Dharma is conceit.
103. Divine nature is the result of daana or charity.
104. Talking evil of others is paisunya.
- Dharma,Artha and Kama are opposed to one another. How do these eternal antagonists co-exists in one place?
105. When a wife and virtue agree with each other and are in control , each of the other , then there is co-existence of the three , namely , Dharma , Arth and Kama.
- By whom is the ever-lasting hell attained?
106. He who voluntarily invites a poor Brahmin, who comes for help and then says ‘no’ to him goes to ever-lasting hell. He who ascribes falsehood to Vedas , Dharma sastras , to the Brahmins , to the Devas , and to the rites done to Pitras goes to everlasting hell. He who possesses wealth, yet is devoid of charity or enjoyment owing to avarice and afterwards says ‘no’ , attains everlasting hell.
- By what does Brahminhood result , is it by kula or ancestry , vrtta or conduct , swadhyaya or study of Vedas or sruta , hearing or culture?
107. It is not ancestry or study or learning of Veda or hearing or culture that is the cause of Brahminhood . Without doubt it is conduct that is the cause of Brahminhood. One’s conduct should always be well protected especially by a Brahmin. He who keeps his conduct pure never goes down. He , however , whose conduct is destroyed is himself destroyed. The teachers and pupils and all who merely study the sastras are to be regarded as fools. But he alone who possesses conduct is the man of real knowledge. Even je who has studied the four Vedas is to be regarded as inferior to the unlearned man if he is devoid of right conduct. He who performs the Agnihotra and has controlled his senses is alone said to be a Brahmin.
- Tell me what does one gain who speaks pleasant words?
- What does he gain that acts after due deliberation?
- What does he get that makes many friends and
- What does he attain who is devoted to Dharma?
108. He who uses pleasant words is liked by all.
109. He who acts with due deliberation succeeds very much.
110. He who has many friends lives happily.
111. He who is devoted to Dharma attains the liberation.
- Who is joyous?
- What is the wonder?
- What is the way and what is the news?
112. The man who cooks vegetables in his own house on the fifth or sixth part of the day, but who is not in need and who never goes out from his house is truly happy.
113. Day after day beings are entering the abode of Yama , yet those that remain believe that they will live for ever. What can be more wonderful than this ?
114. Ligic is uncertain. The Srutis are contradictory. There is not one Rishi whose opinion is authoritative. Truth about Dharma is hidden. That alone is the path which great men tread. In the frying pan of this illusory world time is cooking the beings in the fire of the Sun with fuel of days and nights and with the ladle constituted by months and seasons. This is news.
A study on Soul
A Study on Soul
SOUL – the life force / energy that keeps a body moving . Science has made so much of advancement but still the concept of the life force/energy is still a mystery or uncharted path for scientists. In this context, it is definitely worth proud of and worth admiring a fact that Vedas and Bhagavad Gita written thousands of years ago in our land offers a rich and valuable information and understanding on the concept of soul.
Reading Bhagavad Gita these days am awed by the enormous wealth of knowledge and insight this master piece provides. Here in this topic , I shall write about the understanding on soul that I gained from my spiritual quest of our Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. So far.
The size of the soul :
Svetasvatara Upanishad (5.9) says :
Satadha kalpitasya ca
Bhago Jivah Sa Vijneyah
Sa Canantyaya kalpate
Which translates as :
“When the upper point of hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul”
Another verse from the same Upanishad also mentions the size of the soul :
Jiavha suksma-svarupo yam
Sankhyarito hi cit-kanah
Which means :
“There are innumerable particles of spiritual atoms , which are measured as one ten thousandth of the upper portion of the hair.”
So we can conclude that according to Vedic scriptures of the vedic times , the individual particle of spiritual soul is a spiritual atom smaller than the material atoms.
This very small spiritual spark is the basic principle of the material body and the influence of this tiny spark is spread all over the body . This tiny atom is what gives the life force for our body. If this tiny spark is snuffed out of our body, it’s just a dead body.
Nature of the soul :
According the Bhagavad Gita : chapter 2.17
“ That which pervades the entire body , you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul”
The material body can be destroyed and it is perishable . The same is not the case with the soul. The soul can neither be destroyed . It is imperishable. The material body has to die at one point of time but soul is ever living.
According to Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.20
“ For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being , does not come into being , and will not come into being. He is unborn , eternal , ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain , when the body is slain. ”
According to Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.23
“ The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon , nor burned by fire , nor moistened by water , nor withered by the wind ”
According to Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.24
“ This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting , present everywhere , unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.”
According to Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.25 :
“ It is said that the soul is invisible , inconceivable and immutable.Knowing this , you should not grieve for the body. ”
So in a nutshell the nature of the soul is describes as : indestructible , imperishable , is unborn , eternal , ever-existing and primeval. The soul is unbreakable and insoluble . It can neither be burned nor dried. It is everlasting , present everywhere , unchangeable , immovable and eternally the same.
The point eternally the same is very important. It conveys a point that all living souls are of the same character but what differentiates one from other is through the cycle of karma and the influences of the individual on its course of births and rebirths. In this regard , it is very interesting to note that , Vedas ascribe two kinds of soul Jeevatma and Paramatma . Both this souls live within every living entity. The actions and reactions of the Jeevatma is what brings the different uniqueness and characterizations of the individual living entity. I will talk about Jeevatma and Paramatma and their significance in another topic.
To conclude with a verse from Bhagavad Gita chapter 2.29 :
“ Some look on the soul as amazing , some describe him as amazing , and some hear of him as amazing , while others , even after hearing about him , cannot understand him at all ”
This is exactly how one reacts when we talk about soul. The more we study indepth the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita , the more we get the understanding on the soul . I have just started my spiritual journey into Vedas and Bhagavad Gita will share the knowledge I gained in due course of time in my blog.