Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Types: Listening - sravanam

We have been seeing a series of qualities that we are supposed to develop in order to progress in spirituality through Bhakti route.
Now onwards we will see the several types of bhakti that exist with exemplary stories.
The is no hard and fast rules as to how the form of Bhakti should be. It is something entirely between the person and his God. therefore it is natural that there are various way of expressing it.
The first is called sravanam which means listening. Not listening to any cinema songs or something like that!
It is listening to the Lord's praise and stories related to him. Through this we will come know His qualities and also how some people progressed spiritually by this methods. We can emulate them and we can also progress. Listening to anything about Him makes us want to see him; so we will be able to concentrate. This is remove the attractions on mundane things and helps us to go to the higher steps.

Oh do you mean we can listed to stories about Him and go to swarga or get moksha?

:-) it is not a joke! A person did indeed listen to stories about the Lord and obtain moksha.

Oh really? Let us listen to that story then.

Here it is!
The King Parikshit is a descendant of the Pandavas.
Once he went on a hunt. Once in the forest they are parted by chance and parikshit was left alone. After a few hours of hunting, he got thirsty. There was no one to fetch him water. So he went back the way he came and presently arrived at an ashram. The ashram belonged to a risi named sameeraka. Sameeraka was sitting under a banyan tree and was immersed in meditation. The King asked for water but the risi was in no state to hear him. Already hungry and thirsty the king got angry. A dead snake was lying around. The king lifted it with his sword and put it around the neck of the risi and then went on his way.
After some time sameraka's son came along. Seeing the snake around his father's shoulders he wa enraged. Though young he was a great thapasvi. He discerned what happened by his spiritual powers. When he realized what had happened he was even more enraged. Saying this is not how a king should behave he cursed that the king will die from snake bite within a week.
After a few minuted sameeraka came down from his meditative state and seeing his angry son nearby inquired what the matter was. Learning what had happened he chided his son for cursing the king like that. “ whether it is a garland or snake it is the same to me. Why curse the king for a matter like that? Now nothing can be done about it. By cursing you lost a lot of power from tapas. Go to the king and inform him that he has just seven days of life left.”
learning that he has just a week of life time left, the king was repentant. I acted in haste and that act doesn't behoove me. What can i do to wash my sins within a week? He decided to go to the banks of Ganges and fast to death. The news spread fast and several risis arrived at the banks. The king prostrated before them and requested them to show him a way to attain moksha. They said the great risi sukha will arrive shortly and will help you in this matter. The sage sukhaa soon arrived. After receiving him with all respects he did paatha pooja and requested hm to show the way. Sage sukhaa said the easiest way to attain moksha in a week is to listen to the Lord's story. Thus was born Srimad Bhagavatha.
In the ninth chapter sukhaa narrated the story of Krishna briefly. Parikshit said, "I am most disappointed to hear such a brief story. Even while you were telling us the story of Harishchandra, Dushyanta, the Kings of the Sun dynasty, the Kings of the Moon dynasty i was waiting for Krishana's story. All my relatives have sang praises of him. Tell me in detail for I think I live for a week only for that purpose”.
Sukhaa was most pleased with this attitude and so in the tenth chapter he happily narrated Krishna's story in great details. Having listened to this Parikshit attained mokshaa at the end of the seventh day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Now the topic under consideration is Dhanam.
That means giving to others. How much to give? It is not important. What is important is the attitude with which one gives. Suppose an organization is collecting money for the renovation of a temple. Or some such thing. a millionaire donating a thousand rupees is not very great. If a day to day wage earner donates even ten rupees that would be great.

When a real Bhakta sees God in everyone or everything naturally he wants to share what he has with others.
there was one Namadeva in Maharastra. He was an ardent devotee of Vitala. he has sung many songs on Him and they are called apangas. they are somewhat akin to Devaram and Thiruvasakam of Tamilnadu. He practically lived in penury through out his life!
One day someone tool pity on him and gave him a dry chapatti (flat bread like food item, popular in North India)and some butter. Namadeva cried, " Oh Vittala you have sent me too day's food!" Keeping it aside he started singing in His praise. Meanwhile a dog spying the chapati sneaked in and grabbing it started running away. The people around shouted at Namadeva "Hey, the dog is running away with your chapati!" Namadeva started chasing it. Of course the dog increased its speed. Namadeva ran after it crying, " Oh Vittala, you have not taken the butter. The chapati is dry and you can't consume it without this piece of butter. Please take it!" The people around naturally thought him to be mad!

Namadeva never had any steady work or income.if at all somehow some money is saved he will immediately spend it on feeding the devotees. His wife got vexed with his ways of life. She went to the temple and complained to vittala,: See what you have done! you are dragging him towards you. He hardly brings home any money. How am I supposed to run the household?" Taking pity, Vittala appeared in person before her and said," It is not me who dragging him towards me. He is the one dragging me towards him!"
the wife said, " I don't know any such philosophical thing. I am a simple woman. If no money comes home wee will have to starve!"
Vittal said, "Ok,Ok, when did I have money? Ask her" and He pointed to rukkumayi. The wife went to rukkumayi and made the same complaint and rukkumayi promised to look into the matter. Namadeva's wife felt happy and went home.
That night a cart appeared in front of Namadeva's house and a man and a woman got down from it. They told Namadeva's wife that Namadeva's Guru had sent something to them. They unloaded several sacks containing grins, vegetables and other groceries along with a bag of coins. The wife was astounded and ran in to tell his husband. by the time namadeva came out to inspect the goods Vittala and Rukkumayi were long gone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

continuing from the last post....

continuing from the last post....
Lord Krishna was ready to leave this world as the job came here for was accomplished. Well the gopis were so dear to him and he wanted to give them the option of what to do next. As you might know the gopis are devas who in Rama avatar could not interact with him directly and so took a form during Krishna avatar. Krishna sent for the gopis and told them, “ The job i came here for is complete and so i propose to leave for vaikunta. What do you propose to do?” In one voice they told him,” What are we going to do without you here? We too will come with you". “So be it” said Krishna. So off he went to the forest and as per the risis' curse the last iron piece of the mace was fitted as the arrow head by a hunter and he shot Krishna's feet thinking it was a deer. Krishna consoled the hunter saying what must be done has been done and the hunter's action was only a move in the game.
Krishna merged with Narayana in vaikunta.
The gopis also duly arrived at vaikunta. As soon as they came they looked for Krishna all over the place. They could not find him. After a few days Narayana sent for them and asked them “Are you all happy here? Is there anything that you lack?” the gopis said “ We feel it is Hell here”. Narayana was surprised and amused! “Why do you say so?” “ we don't find Krishna here! We are heart broken!”
"Well, I am Krishna! I took that avatar!"
The gopis would not accept that argument.
“ok, so what do you want?”
“Send us back to the earth! We can spend our time thinking of Krishna there!”
So they were sent back.
A few years back one ganapatigal very well known to me, had been to Brindavan. He hired a rickshaw to go around and see the place. After a few hours he thought there was nothing more to see and asked to be returned to the place of stay. The rikshawallah told him that he will take him to a special place and took him to a park. Spent some time here and come back, he advised. Ganapatigal went around the park and came back.
"What did you see?"
" Nothing special. This place is like a lot of other parks. Mmm .... there are a lot of monkeys here though!"
" Ok so go back observe the monkeys and come back."
Surprised ganapatigal went in and sat in a place and observed the monkeys. After some time he realised what was different.
Monkeys are known for their mischief. They cant not stay on one place for any length of time. They just cant keep quiet. They have to be active. They will be always running here and there and jumping about from branch to branch.
But here it was different. Most monkeys kept quiet and looked sad. Some will be crying and some circumnavigate a particular place. In short they were totally different.
Ganapatigal returned and told the rickshawallah what he saw. In reply the story written above was narrated. The rickshawallah ended it saying, “These monkeys are the gopis. They are longing for Krishna and thinking only of Him. That is why you see them behave differently."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anudharsa and true love.

Anudharsa is not to be excessively happy.
A little surprising? Yes! After all everyone wants to be happy always.
Yes. That is true but excess of anything is not good. More over a point to be kept in mind is to look at things dispassionately. The apparent happiness and apparent sadness must be taken equally.
duḥkheṣv anudvigna-manāḥ
sukheṣu vigata-spṛhaḥ
sthita-dhīr munir ucyate

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.
In short one who can control and command the desires will not get caught in too much of happiness. He will also attain atma gnana.

We get things related we adhere to. Attachment to things that are bound to get destroyed, takes us too towards destruction. In stead of that if we attach ourselves to the Brahman we will start traveling towards that. If one has to have attachment this one only is worth having! This only is the true love. Only this can lead us to experience the bliss that can not be perceived through our senses.

In bhakti yoga the sataka will be singing praises of the Lord only as long as he is conscious of his own body. Should he lose this sense he will go to a state that is not describable. This has entered the realms of Gnana yoga.

After all the classification we made regarding the various ways is only for our convenience to examine various aspects involved. There is always a cross over among the ways.
Where there is unqualified total love the realisation of oneself naturally occurs. Love and gnana at their highest state are one and the same.

“Srimad bhagavaatam says that the risis who are in atmic bliss having shed the shackles show love to God just for the sake of love, with no qualifications.”

in prahalada saritra it is said that when prahalada lost the sense of “I”, he did not see the universe. He only perceived a nameless shapeless being. When he got back his consciousness of self he saw the universe and the Lord with unlimited virtues.

Gopis of vrindaavan too were like that. With the Krishna conscious they had merged with him and did not feel they were separate. Only when the “self” consciousness returned they considered themselves as gopis and Krishna as one to be worshiped.

In short if one stand away from the brahman it will be bhakti and if you get merged it is gnana.
But then this itself cn lead to a false gnana!

Usually bhaktas desire to be separate from the Lord. Sri Ramakrishana says bhakta wants to taste the sugar candy of the Lord, he does not want to become the sugar candy himself by realising “aham brahmasmi”

Monday, December 20, 2010

The next one is the virtue called satva.
To be dull and sleepy most of the times is thamas.
Mmmm.. how to correct that? If one succeeds in inducing such a person to do dome work the rajasic aspect of the work will suppress thamas and it will get corrected.
To be always active... actually restless... and be up to some work or other is the rajasic quality. This also gives rise to the surfacing of emotions, be it joy or anger, and even this is not very good. This is to be corrected by inducing the person to be quiet and meditate or something like that.
That is, turn thamas into rajas and rajas into satva. A sativic mind is quiet and not given to agitation. Such a mind can focus on the God, fill one's heart with spiritual peace. Elevation to higher levels of spirituality results.

Dharma is what our forefathers, risis and sastras agreed as dharma. It is a s et of universal rules by which this whole universe moves. To taste sweet is sugar's dharma. To wet things is water's dharma. To burn is fire's dharma. Similarly our actions too have a predictable effect and having analysed them our forefathers simply compiled a set of do s and don't s. This is called dharma sastra. Traditionally anything against dharma has been frowned upon though being humans there has been constant attempts to cross the limits. Thus slowly it has got eroded. The saying “dharmō rakṣati rakṣitah” which occurs in the fifteenth verse of the eighth chapter of the Manu Smriti denotes that dharma always protects those who protect it.
What does it mean? Can be protect dharma? How can anyone protect a set of natural rules?
Her to protect means following dharma. You abide by rules and the rules protect you.
Next to consider is anavasta.
It gives a sataka a mature mindset. One can judge a person's spiritual progress with this! When the sataka can sees God in everything everywhere he will always be happy! How can be otherwise in the presence of God? He will have no desires and his heart will be content.
How can one achieve this?....
The answer is very simple but to get there is a bit difficult.
The answer is that our natural state is one of peace. It is we who have spoiled it by allowing the senses to prevail and hijack us with the emotions. The environment also aids this. If we can overcome the environment and control our sense we can find our natural state of peace.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The power of mind – the story of kanaka dasa

Let me tell you a little secret! Though the paths are classified differently it does not mean there is a strict compartmentalization. You enter the way of bhakti and you may well end up with gnana. You may be well into the karma route and your kundalini might raise up and you become a yogin. One cant predict!

Let us see the story of kanakadasa as a point of illustration.

There was a shepherd named kanakadasa in the state of Karnataka. He was an ardent devotee of Krishna. He was particularly attracted to the Krishna called Adhikeshava at Kaginele, (presently in Haveri district of Karnataka.) But as a shepherd his job took him to the pastures of the village. How cold he pray or do pooja while at work? But that was hardly a problem for him. He used to do it mentally! If you think that is easy try it! After seeing to it that the sheep are happily browsing he would start his mental pooja to Kaginele Krishna. After that he will sing songs on him and ..... in short be mentally with Him.

Now Vyasa raya was the prime minister of that country. (He was to become vyasathirtha later.) The king had highest regards for him. Vyasa raya was traveling along with his retinue. He was being carried in a planquin as per the custom and practice in vogue those days. Vysa raya being an erudite scholar, many scholars and vedic experts were present in the retinue.

On the way they encountered a field of Tulasi, the holy basil-herb, (ocymum sanctum). Vyasa raya was so happy to see that. His mind at once leapt to the Lord and he wanted to dedicate the entire field of Thulasi to Him. Mentally he bound a garland from the thulasi and mentally imagined the lord and put the garland on Him. To his surprise the garland would not settle on the image of the lord properly!

Vysaraya was perplexed! After all i was imagining it and why should the vision turn out to be like this. Well, let it be, he thought and went on to imagine another thulasi garland. To his surprise and dismay it met the same fate to hanging askew on the shoulders of the Lord.
He called halt to the procession. He called up the scholars and narrated to them the perplexing story. They too could not come up with any explanation. All they could do was scratch their heads and look at each other!

So the procession continued on its way. Presently a shepherd was seen running towards them calling out loudly “Oh sir, Oh sir!” While the guards stopped him vyasaraya looked out. The shepherd called out loud. “Oh Sir the garland does not settled well as there is a churning-staff in the Lord's hand and the garland is getting caught in it. Put the garland a little away and it will be alright.”

All were astounded. This shepherd dares call to the prime minister and give him instructions! Vyasaraya closed his eyes and creating another garland mentally put it on the Lords shoulders -this time a bit away- and of course it settle down fine there!

A surprised vyasarayaasked the shepherd how he knew about the problem and the solution while none of his retinue could understand it.

The shepherd replied “ Oh i was doing pooja when you tried to put the garland on His shoulders, that is how i knew of it.
The shepherd was none other than kanakadasa!

The mind could be as powerful as this!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Next on the list is ahimsa.
ahimsa has two parts. The first is not hurting others. The second is forgiving others who hurt us.

ஒறுத்தார்க்கு ஒரு நாளை இன்பம் பொறுத்தார்க்குப்
பொன்றும் துணையும் புகழ்
oṟuttārkku oru nāḷai iṉpam poṟuttārkkup
poṉṟum tuṇaiyum pukaḻ

says Thiruvalluvar!
Just having a goodwill to others is not ahimsa. One must also have tolerance and equanimity of mind.

That is the story of a sadhu who went to the river to have a bath. having compeleted it and having performed the rituals, he was coming out off the river. At that time he saw a scorpian caught in the river current and being carried away. The sadhu wanted to save it. So he lifted it out of the water. But the Scorpion immediately stung him. In reflex he dropped it. The Scorpion fell in the water and was being washed away the sadhu did not leave it at that. he tried again to lift it out of the water. Of course the Scorpion did not know that he was trying to help it. It stung him again. Undaunted he attempted again after a few attempts the goal was finally achieved.

A person was watching this episode from the bank of the river. He asked the sadhu why he would not stop after being stung by the Scorpion. It was ok for the first time, but after being repeatedly stung why he did not leave it alone.

The sadhu laughed and said it is his dharma to help those who are suffering and the dharma of the Scorpion is to sting anyone that it perceives as threat. If the Scorpion did not stop doing its dharma why he should stop doing his dharma.

Suppose somebody does us a very bad turn, we might get angry. With a lot of effort we might supress that anger. After that, though there is the temptation to punish the person we forgive him. Will this be ahimsa? Not really. The immediate reaction of anger negates that.

That is to say getting angry and suppressing the anger is not ahimsa. If your mind can be at peace while it is forgiving that deed, that would be ahimsa.
For one who follows ahimsa what he feels, what it thinks, what he says and what it does - are all in concurrence. And in spirituality this is very important.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Honesty and Love

While we have been seeing the qualities needed for a Sataka. In this list the next is arjava.
This means honesty. Quite a few words being more or less the same thing but they are subtle differences. Satya and Arjava seem to mean the same thing but Arjava means proper conduct. This proper conduct is easy to follow when we are not having any problem. It is only when we are facing adversity that the real test happens. To be straight forward even in such situations is what honesty is all about.
This considered a virtue.
We must show honesty in trusting god without any show.
We must show honesty in reciting his name.
We must show honesty in serving our elders our spiritual leaders.
If we follow honesty in our mundane life and spiritual life we can progress in sadana. I'm not saying this is easy but with trust in God we can achieve it.
If you are wondering about the "honesty in reciting his name", here is a small anecdote.
A sadhu used to recite "sivoham" always. that means "I am siva". Once he was traveling in the Himalayas and as you know it could get very cold there! He was meditating in a clearing and it suddenly got very cold. He tried his best to ignore the cold and keep his mind in the chanting. After a while he could not bear it any more. he changed the chanting to "dehooham" (I am the body) and ran to seek shelter.

The next is kriya. This is love for all creatures in this universe. Thiruvalluvar says

அன்பின் வழியது உயிர்நிலை அஃதிலார்க்
என்பு தோல் போர்த்த உடம்பு

aṉpiṉ vaḻiyatu uyirnilai aḵtilār
eṉpu tōl pōrtta uṭampu
meaning a person with out love is just a skeleton on which their skin cover has been put on.
Sri Shankara also says
maṉuṣyatvam mumukṣutvam mahā puruṣacamsrayam
turlapam tēvāṉukraha hētukam
in this maṉuṣyatvam means the quality of being human. In this context it is based on love.
Love does not arise out of any sort of infatuation. It comes with unselfish sacrifice and blemishless living. If there is any selfish motive in showing love to any one, there will always be a limit to that and also it is mixed with sorrow.
Vallalar says
 எத்துணையும் பேதமுறாது எவ்வுயிர்க்கும் தம்முயிர் போல் எண்ணியுள்ளே
ஒத்துரிமை உடையவராய் உவக்கின்றார் யாரவர் உளந்தான்
சுத்த சித்துருவாய் எம்பெருமான் நடம் புரியும் இடமென நான் தேர்ந்தேன் அந்த
வித்தகர்தம் அடிக்கு ஏவல் புரிந்திட என் சிந்தை மிக விழைந்ததாலோ

ettuṇaiyum pētamuṟātu evvuyirkkum tammuyir pōl eṇṇiyuḷḷē
otturimai uṭaiyavarāy uvakkiṉṟār yāravar uḷantāṉ
cutta citturuvāy emperumāṉ naṭam puriyum iṭameṉa nāṉ tērntēṉ anta
vittakartam aṭikku ēval purintiṭa eṉ cintai mika viḻaintatālō
He who does not see differences in any life form and would happily consider them as his own, His mind is where my Lord dances in his form of pure knowledge. My mind seeks to serve such a person.

A learnt Brahmana who is also humble, the cow, the elephant, the dog, the one who eats the dog all are equal in the eyes of a gnani.-  Bhagavat Gita 5-18.

Such a realisation comes to one when the love matures. One must be really lucky to serve a person who has matured so much.

If we develop our love it breaks the constraint of the smaller circle "me" ,  expanding to "us", later on the love encompasses all the living beings, and later still to even the non living things. Such an expansion of the attitude is very important for god realisation. One who is not able to feel the unselfish love cannot realise Go.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

control of anger, kriya, satya

Shall we go further? From anger comes delusion. The person who angry does not know any more whether his actions are correct or not. Therefore he commits a lot of deeds that are sinful, thinking they are all correct.

From delusion comes loss of memory; from loss of memory, the intellect is destroyed. When intellect is destroyed the person will be destroyed. This chain of events will destroy the person concerned.

krōtāt pavati sammōha:
sammōhāt smruti viprama:
smruti pramcāt putti nācō
putti nācāt praṇasyati

-Bhagavad gita 2:63

“From anger comes delusion, from delusion, the loss of memory; from loss of memory, the destruction of discrimination; from destruction of discrimination he perishes.”

The next one is kriya. One can call it good deeds. This comes from satva guna. This is also called kalyana. Shri Ramanuja says that if this is present purity with satya, straight forwardness, love, ahimsa and dharma will be present.
For this the body, mind and the words must always be pure. You should always say, what we think, and we should always do what we say.

This is what Ramalinga Vallalar said:
uḷḷoṉṟu vaittu puṟamoṉṟu pēcuvār uṟavu kalavāmai vēṇṭum

catyō nāsti parōtarma ....
The vedas say that there is no higher dharma than satya. If we have to go somewhere near realising the Bhramhan that is sat, chit and ananda our life must be in the way of Satya. This thirst for Satya, should not be affected by the worldly attractions. If our attention turns inward the spiritual streangth will be increased. If our attention turns outward our strength will be spent. Therefore it is logical that as long as the senses lead our way, to have a life in the path of satya is near impossible. A lot of sacrifice is needed for spiritual progress. We should all try to change our lifestyle in this way.