Why do we need a Guru ?
There are so many who want to be spiritual but doesn’t want to have a guru. If one is religious, he can simply pray God with belief in Him. Our parents & great grand parents have been doing this for years & making their heir to follow them.
When some one changes his path & takes into spirituality, he needs a Guru. A Guru is a guide who shows you the direction of God. He comes from outside & then enters within you.
There is always a question if one should have only one guru. As for me I had come across so many gurus & they made me progress in the right path. My first Guru was Sathya Sai Baba, who kindled me to do meditation. I read many of his books which slowly inspired me into spirituality.
The first meditation I started with was Transcendental meditation somewhere in 1980.Some lady masters came to our town & initiated with a mantra & I started doing it regularly. There was a break for some years as I didn’t attend any classes for a follow up. Due to the longingness for meditation, I started again with the T.M.The only change I found within me was that I was not unnecessarily tensed & when something comes as a shock the heart beats just once & will be back to the normal.
Next came the Guru Venugopala swamy, who was introduced by my husbands elder brother. He came to our house & initiated with a kalasa in my pooja room. Then I stated doing that meditation. His book cleared the doubt about what is thought. Still I had so many things I want to make it clear.
This quest for self realization took me to Vethathiri Maharishi, founder of Simplified Kundalini Yoga. A disciple of him who had finished his masters course was taking classes in my aunt’s house….My cousin sister who attended the class called me to join. I first refused telling that I was doing a meditation & as for attending the class I told her that one cannot initiate taking the Kundalini Sakthi to Agna chakra as I had read so many books on it. She persuaded me telling that the teachings they teach are quite different from others.
Finally I made up my mind & went with her. It was in 1990.On the 1st day itself I was very much impressed & inspired to get initiated. Then I regularly attended the classes which were conducted once a week. Slowly I started progressing in my meditation due to the introspection class. This class helped me to analyze my unwanted thoughts. I did my Masters course & started taking class. I gained a lot of confidence which I lacked before. My doubts were all cleared & I had a very clear picture of who is God & how is he omnipotent, omnipresent & omniscient. This is just an understanding, not realizing. I had also certain unforgettable experience in meditation which helped me to progress.
In the mean time I had so many problems in life which I faced it rather boldly & came out of it smoothly. I had the courage as I knew God is within me guiding me & protecting me all the time. Then came the Isha Yoga classes in our town. I wanted to do Pranayama as I thought that too would push me to a higher level & I attended the pranayama class in 2001. Then in 2004 I attended the Bhava Spandana Program at Velliangiri. I experienced another dimension of myself & I finally took Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev as my Guru.
This is my history of my spiritual path with so many gurus. Though there were many they led me in the right direction. It’s like I travelled with them in a car, bus , train & some times in a jet. Without a Guru one will be like a lost child in the midst of a forest not knowing which direction to follow. So there is a need for a right Guru. All my gurus took me for a short while dropped me in a different direction for me to travel more speedily. My travel hasn’t come to an end, but I know I’m nearing my destination.
Idol worship in Hinduism – Playing with GOD
In spite of my bad memory , some events of my childhood are still very vivid to me and here am going to share one of those flash back .
One of my favourite pass time of my childhood is “ Playing with GOD” . I will spend hours absorbed playing with Him. Thinking back , God has been my biggest pal ! I had shared a most friendly relation with Him , had fought with Him , smiled with Him , talked to Him , got angry with Him but never feared Him .
In our puja room , we had a small idol of Lord Vishnu in Ananda sayanam posture. ( Lord Vishnu reclining on Snake Ananta ) . During holidays , I would be playing with God , I see in this small idol. I would spend hours doing abhishek .. bath the idol , do abhishek with water , milk , honey , panchamirtham , sandal , vibuthi etc .. Then decorate with flowers and do aarthi and finally distribute the prasad to people at home. I would be at peace with myself doing this. Did I thought that Idol is God ? No. Later during course of life , my playing with God stopped . Life took its owns turns and twists and after a long period , I again have this inner feeling to play with God. I no more have the idol I used to play with when I was child. So am looking forward to the Idol that I could play with . I can visualize the idol and one day , hope to find Him and keep Him part of my life again .
Talking about playing with God , the concept of Idol worship is largely misunderstood. Non Hindus Condemn Idol worship as superstitious belief and a pagan belief . I have come across many forums and articles where they decry Idol worship and rubbishes the practice as silly and unworthy and to be condemned.
I feel sorry for all those who condemn Idol worship. One has to be a Hindu to understand what a Hindu feels about Idol worship. I am quiet at ease with the concept of Idol worship and I would like to convey my thoughts on Idol worship.
To begin with , I would like to quote a line from a Tamil song
கல்லை மட்டும் கண்டால் கடவுள் தெரியாது
When translated it means :
“ When you see a stone alone , you will not find God ”
Let me put it also in another perspective
“ When you see God , you will not find stone ”
This two lines sums up the Idol worship for me.
As a Hindu , when I pray before an Idol , I very well know God is not the Idol . I don’t expect the Idol to arise , awake and do miracles for me. Bottom of my heart , I know it is a stone . Interestingly , I worship .. so does millions of other Hindus .. Why ?
The answer lies in a simple fact and practice that can be confusing for non-Hindus to comprehend.
My core belief can be summed as follows :
Hindus do not believe that there is only one God. Hindus believe that God is One, i.e. a unity inclusive of all things, manifest and unmanifest. This is quite different from saying there is only one God. To say that there is only one God is to reduce God to a single unit, to the lowest common denominator. This is what monotheists do. For them God is a unit, not a Unity.
Hindus are not monotheists, and Hindus are not polytheists. Hindus are panentheists, i.e. they believe that God is in all things and that all things are in God: God is everything, God is in everything, and everything is in God only. They believe the whole of creation is the body (actually, the manifestation) of God Who is the One Infinite-Eternal-Existence, and cannot be separated from God
The foundation of my spiritual belief is moulded on the above mentioned definition. My faith in Idol worship also evolves from the same. When I pray an Idol , I feel God in the stone. I don’t think the Idol is God rather I see God in the idol. There is a difference in both. God is everywhere , I am at ease to see God in everything around me and seeing the God in the Idol makes the spiritual life easy. Its like teaching a Kid “ A for Apple ”
Easy to feed faith :
Depending on how deep one dwelves into The Concept of God it can be both simple as well as difficult to comprehend. For ordinary men , Identifying God in an Idol helps in building a bridge between God and oneself easily. Vedas does not mention Idol worship. Vedic scriptures identified the power of Supreme God with nature. It advocates feeling , seeing , identifying the power of God with everything in nature. The invocations we find in the Vedic slokas are basically to find the power of Supreme God with and within nature and oneself. Later as the various yugas (ages of mankind) progressed , the human mind failed to grasp the concept of omnipresent God and the later rishis advocated the concept of Idols to help common man identify with God easily . The Idols are mere tools to identify with God. idols are symbolic representation of various manifestations of God. Though the concept got corrupted down the ages along with various superstitious beliefs.
Easy to concentrate :
For Hindus God, as is, is beyond any attributes of form, color, shapes … That is, God does not have any specific form or name. In this state God is referred to as nirguNa brahman (attributeless god). However God takes forms as perceived by humans and this perceived form is called saguNa brahman (god with (good) attributes). These forms could range from calm to fierce to yogic (1). Each form has its significance. For example when one is depressed and sees the form of God Strong and Powerful, the seeker feels the moral boost that God would definitely be the support for the right thing. Similarly when in an auspicious ceremony would like the God to be the calm provider of boons. In a spiritually elevated state, the choice would be the yogic form of God. The forms provide a basis for the Hindu worshipper to easily pursue the otherwise incomprehensible Supreme. So Hinduism supports both form as well as formless worship of the God. Whether one worships in saguNa or nirguNa way, it is ultimately the same God
The Idol worship or worshiping saguNa brahman way aids in concentration of mind. It helps a human mind to focus one’s mind with the Brahmam ( Supreme God) Human mind is easily prone to be distracted and diverted and so perceiving a God through Idols helps in the concentration of mind to God. It is the first and easy step in the spiritual walk.
Silent communication :
In the beginning of this post when I narrated my childhood pastime of “Playing with God” , In true essence it was actually a silent communication with God. I was on my own , undistracted for hours , silently in communication with God. The immense satisfaction , pleasure , solace , positivity it gave can only be felt and not explained in words. Though outwardly , it seems a one way communication with God , down my heat I could feel the two way communication , otherwise I would have not played with God like that for countless times and still have the urge now to restart the communication. In H
indu temples and puja rooms of faithful Hindu household , one could witness the silent communication of the Human and God before Idols. The communication is not between the mere idol and Human but the Soul and Super Soul perceived through the Idol.
As one elevates in his spiritual quest , One may see the God within Himself. The body becomes the Idol – Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahman . Its the highest elevation of the spiritual plane where one sees God within himself and no longer requires an Idol to feel the God. The concentration goes within Oneness and realization of God goes deep into one’s own Soul .
Will talk about my understanding of Jeevatma ( soul) and Paramatma ( Super soul) in another post soon.
Aham Brahmasmi !
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.