Previous Surges

 

Surge One

Be New

  1. Be new. Pure awareness, free of thought, is ever new.
  2. Be fresh. Old judgments, arrived at through limited knowledge, are no more valid. Drop them.
  3. Be open. Let new outlooks emerge, and lighten your burden.
  4. Be watchful. Let your mind’s false beliefs surface. Let them get exposed and leave you.
  5. Be still. Once in a while, see something (a flower, a child’s face, the blue sky) with no interference of thought.
  6. Be good-humored. After all, it is all a big sad joke.
  7. Be unbiased. See things as they are.
  8. Be alone. Conquer loneliness. Enjoy space; give space.
  9. Be. Do not worry about ‘becoming’. Let it happen.

WISH YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Swami Chidananda

January 1, 2003

Surge Two (Advanced)

Basics of the Inquiry: Who am I?

  1. We are caught in the web of thoughts. The WAI inquiry takes us to the root cause of this web.
  2. Our joys and sorrows are centered in our memories. The WAI inquiry helps us go to the basis of memories.
  3. A self-image feeds memories, which in turn feed the self-image. The WAI inquiry hits at the self-image.
  4. The self-image (aham-vritti) is rooted in memories. The WAI inquiry thus shakes the foundations of memories.
  5. Memories and the self-image are a vicious circle. The WAI inquiry cuts this vicious circle.
  6. Changing people, places, positions or situations cannot lead to ending of sorrow. Sorrow ends in the silence of pure awareness.
  7. The self-image is the only obstacle to pure awareness. The WAI inquiry therefore questions the true credentials of the self-image.
  8. Millions of thoughts – good and bad – revolve around the self-image (aham-vritti, I-thought). WAI puts the axe to the base of the tree (of samsAra).
  9. To think that we can arrive at freedom is wrong. We need to question the reality of our bondage.
  10. Body and mind keep changing in time. The liberating insight has nothing to do with time, for it is not an activity (karma).
  11. See.

Swami Chidananda Monday, January 13, 2003

Surge Three (Advanced)

What Really Matters, and What Does Not.

  1. How we live really matters; what we preach does not.
  2. What we do matters; the image people have of us does not.
  3. Understanding life’s purpose matters; hordes of ideas from books do not.
  4. Constant awareness matters; success in self-discipline does not, when it consists of a set of rules that we borrow and impose on ourselves.
  5. Being awake in the present moment matters; the past, however glorious, does not.
  6. Teachings matter; the figure of the teacher does not.
  7. Quality of work matters; the quantity does not.
  8. Search for truth matters; attachment to a belief does not.
  9. Sensitivity to beauty and suffering matters; being scholarly does not.
  10. Inner transformation matters; external cultivation (of compartmentalized values) does not.
  11. An open mind matters; lofty opinions (with rigidity) do not.

Provoking thought matters; your accepting the above does not.

Swami Chidananda Monday, January 27, 2003

Surge Four (Advanced)

The Eye of the Storm

  1. In pure love and harmony, there is no 'me' separate from 'you' or 'them'.
  2. The wise have no ego. (Hard to comprehend, is it not?)
  3. Most of us are otherwise. We have this center in us, psychologically, that desires (for example) success.
  4. Have we understood this urge to have some position of authority, power or prestige?
  5. The rise of this center denies love, and makes us violent.
  6. Does the ego disappear by merely deciding to be selfless?
  7. Only unbiased attention can lead us to the roots of our ego.
  8. Mechanical steps cannot help.
  9. Can meditation be mechanical?
  10. Anything that has well-defined steps is mechanical.
  11. The 'Who am I?' inquiry requires tremendous attention.
  12. It is not steps (doing); it is a search (looking).

Swami Chidananda Monday, February 10, 2003

Surge Five (Advanced)

Blossoming Of Virtue

  1. All of us value a life of virtue and look down at bad conduct or vice.
  2. We have hundreds of ideas of how we should be.
  3. There is a gap between how we should be and how we are. Therefore there is conflict.
  4. Afraid of judgment by others, we hasten about some virtues. We build and protect an image of ours.
  5. There are two perils in this hasty character building.
  6. First, the values we seem to have are shallow. They are part of our behavior to the extent others can notice, and not further.
  7. Secondly, we neglect many other values that people around may not attach importance to.
  8. True values bring peace and energy. The first problem above is reflected in our not having peace or energy despite the (socalled) value.
  9. True virtue brings fearlessness. The pursuit of virtue for respectability does not free us from fear.
  10. Clever cultivation of values, however carefully done, does not lead to blossoming of virtue.
  11. True virtue blossoms when we see -- in its entirety -- the vulgarity of our living, when we suffer our inadequacy in quiet observation.

Swami Chidananda Monday, February 24, 2003

Surge Six (Advanced)

The Enlightened Ones

  1. They have no boundary to their sense of “I”.
  2. Great good happens around them.
  3. Their identity is submerged in the universal truth.
  4. They are awake. (The dream of worldly gain and loss has ended.)
  5. They are drawn to God like iron filings to a magnet.
  6. They have tremendous energy.
  7. The excitement of personal aspiration has subsided in them.
  8. Their bliss is not born of any comparison.
  9. Their primary vision remains changeless.
  10. Natural austerity (not forced in any manner) brings increased glow to their personality.
  11. They are unmoved by the play of (their own or others’) mind.
  12. They are in touch with silence amidst all noise.

Swami Chidananda Monday, March 10, 2003

Surge Seven (Advanced)

One Ego – Many Faces

  1. The ego is born in forms (roopa), stays in forms, and consumes forms.
  2. It drops one form, and without delay, takes another form.
  3. Its inner truth is without form!
  4. Its forms disappear upon inquiring, “Who am I?” (The essence – Pure Awareness without forms – remains).
  5. It is neither the body nor the Awareness. It is something ‘in between’.
  6. It assumes the ‘form’ of the body and pretends to ‘know’ as Awareness does.
  7. Its names are many: ego, knot, bondage, subtle body, mind, worldliness and individual soul.
  8. Its appearance breathes life into the appearances of ‘he, she, it and they’.
  9. Its advent makes ‘past, present and future’ (time divisions) look real.
  10. Its emergence brings a sense of reality to ‘here and there’ (space divisions).
  11. Its rise makes all our problems look real.
  12. Searching for it is the way to complete victory in life.

(Basis: Maharshi Ramana’s Saddarshanam: verse 27 for points 1 through 4; verse 26 for points 5, 6 and 7; verse 18 for point 9; verse 19 for point 10 and verse 28 for points 11 and 12.)

Swami Chidananda Monday, March 24, 2003 Surge Eight (Advanced)

What am I?

  1. Sri Ramana Maharshi highlighted the question – Who am I? The teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti prompt us to inquire – What am I? (Or what is I?)
  2. What makes the self? Is not the sense of ‘I’ just a construction of thoughts?
  3. In our fear, who (what) is afraid? In our pride, who (what) is proud? Who (what) is hurt, when we feel hurt? Is there a self other than fear, desire, doubt and envy?
  4. Is the self a physical entity or a mental affair? (Hardware or software?)
  5. Is the self a summation of our conditionings? Is it a product of memories?
  6. Why are some pleased, but others displeased, in the same situation? Are not all of us programmed differently? Are we mere programs?
  7. Considering the repetitive nature of our responses to situations, does it not seem that the self in us is almost a dumb machine?
  8. In creative moments, we break habitual patterns of thinking. Do we not feel then that ‘something else’ within us operated then? (Was the self in abeyance?)
  9. In saintly equanimity, is there no ‘me’ to feel the insult or relish the praise?
  10. In great objectivity, unbiased observation, where does the (little) self go?
  11. Can we understand the structure of the ego? Can such an attempt itself weaken the self?
  12. Can an intense observation of say, insecurity, lead to its disappearance?

Note: HOLDING ON TO ONE RIGHT QUESTION is more valuable than knowing many answers.

Swami Chidananda Monday, April 07, 2003

Surge Nine (Advanced)

Pure Energy

  1. Strength is life; weakness is death. – Swami Vivekananda
  2. One gains strength from within; wisdom makes one immortal. – Kenopanishad
  3. Energy is always here, but normally it is involved in pursuing thought and is expended in thinking. (J. Krishnamurti)
  4. When there are selfish thoughts, we are caught in a small domain.
  5. Your own responses occupy your attention and use up your energy; the real world becomes secondary. (J.K.)
  6. “Who I am, what I need to become and how my worth will grow etc.” are examples of thoughts that cloud pure perception.
  7. Drawn from memories, restructured through analysis and modified by many forms of indulgence and resistance, the ego in us prevents us from living in harmony with the world around.
  8. The ego, though an illusion, appears as a real wall.
  9. Personal and institutional boundaries are all false.
  10. We need to see that our fears and desires are a big humbug. It is seeing, not doing.
  11. When there is no division between you and the world around you, the energy flows freely. (J.K.)

Note: The three quotes from Jiddu Krishnamurti are from the book The Transparent Mind by Ingram Smith, published by Penguin India.

Swami Chidananda

Monday, April 24, 2003

Surge Ten (Advanced)

Dying

  1. Clinical death is when the body ceases to function. You and I will thus die surely one day.
  2. People asked Swami Chinmayanandaji, “What happens after death?” to which he replied, “I am more interested in what happens BEFORE death.”
  3. Spiritual masters tell us of a different death. When we know how to die, we know how to live.
  4. Normally we seek a continuity of our status, position and of our relation with our children, spouse etc.
  5. The ending of such seeking (of continuity) is a form of dying.
  6. Normally we live for a cause, for something very dear to our heart. We are afraid to let go of that cause – work, person or object. Living in fear is no living at all. Ending of fear is to live fully.
  7. When we truly let go of that cause, there is a dying. There is in it a great renewal.
  8. To live without a cause – strange, as it may seem – has the purest form of love in it.
  9. Violence in our heart comes to an end when we let go of our attachment.
  10. A very respected ideal, a much praised institution or a revered life-style may also be the content of our attachment (cause to live).
  11. In unbiased observation, personal seeking ends. The seeker, the seeking and the sought dissolve in a silent understanding.
  12. In such dying we are born again. Every day is a fresh leaf – green, bright and tender.

We salute Pujya Swami Chinmayanandaji whose birthday falls on this Thursday. Om Sri Chinmaya sadgurave namah

Swami Chidananda Monday, May 05, 2003 Surge Eleven (Advanced)

Brooding is Feeding the Ego

  1. Notice directly how your thoughts are drawn from (the trash can of) the past.
  2. Can you have thoughts without a single shadow of the past? Try.
  3. When you brood over the past, you breathe fresh life into both pride and hurt.
  4. Judgments – she was wrong; I was right etc – get reinforced in brooding.
  5. Blame is like a smoke that covers the flame of attention.
  6. Brighten the flame; drop gently all blaming – others or yourself.
  7. Do not suppress thoughts either.
  8. Intelligent living requires rising above habit. Moment by moment, pay attention to actuality.
  9. For example, be gently aware of your entire room – of its beauty and its disorder.
  10. Be aware of the whole of your thought structure – its pretty and ugly dimensions.
  11. Do not add fuel to any attachment or to any aversion.
  12. Just do it and see how, without your engineering it, the mind goes through a transformation.

Swami Chidananda Monday, May 13, 2003

Surge Twelve (Advanced)

Conserving Energy

  1. You cannot have the cake and eat it too. You cannot dissipate emotional energy in worldly matters and aspire to touch the infinite also.
  2. Speak what is necessary and appropriate.
  3. Avoid unnecessary talk including uncalled for humor.
  4. Mature control over speech is the entry point to yoga.
  5. Keep wealth that is necessary to function in life with dignity.
  6. Avoid pomp and put an end to greedy, mindless acquisition.
  7. Pursue genuine, heartfelt desires for realistic goals of life.
  8. Give up ill-conceived and improper desires.
  9. Have healthy activities.
  10. Leave aside activities that are born of restlessness, comparison and unhealthy competition.
  11. Honor a few decent friendships.
  12. Learn to enjoy being alone.

(Based on Viveka-choodamani verse 368: yogasya prathamam dvaram)

Swami Chidananda Monday, June 02, 2003 Surge Thirteen (Advanced)

Living in Creativity

  1. Creativity is something that ‘happens’ in a certain state of mind.
  2. When there is an inner silence – even amidst challenges possibly – certain flashes occur.
  3. We need to let go of all fear or anxiety to arrive at this state.
  4. Creativity cannot be a means to an end.
  5. Such concerns as to become famous or successful, to gain respectability or social esteem etc come in the way of inner silence.
  6. The pressure to earn a living and provide for our dependents also is opposed to living in true creativity.
  7. True creativity is when the ‘I, me and my’ are suspended.
  8. It takes place when the ‘tomorrow’ does not bother us.
  9. When comparison (with others) stops and the desire to be superior subsides, creativity is facilitated.
  10. Psychological time (the distance between ‘what I am’ and ‘what I should be’) disappears making way to creativity.
  11. A vast silence is the backdrop of the burst of new energy.
  12. True creativity transforms us into fine human beings. It is not limited to mere inventions of science or creations of literature.

Swami Chidananda Monday, June 16, 2003

Surge Fourteen (Advanced)

Spontaneity

Do we always have to act under pressure – outer or inner? Is there not a way of living where we do things while enjoying an inner silence? Would it not be true integration of the personality when there is no conflict between ‘what we want to do’ and ‘what we actually do’? We are afraid of freedom, it seems. We are afraid we may go astray unless we subject ourselves to some rules, laws or vows. In the name of discipline, we often create and sustain a gap between our heart’s cry and our actual daily activity.

The society is our own reflection. No wonder the social morality also causes a lot of artificiality in all of us. While on one hand we feel suffocated, we rationalize it on the other by saying there is no alternative. True enough, a behavior lacking moral restraint is no freedom. Swami Chinmayanandaji observed therefore, “Not to do what you want to do is freedom.” His reference obviously was to a perverted mind that is a slave to many compulsions and urges. The case is different when true sensitivity is awakened in us. When our perception of events and persons is no more clouded by the past, we handle the mind in a totally different way. The control that traditional religion everywhere prescribes is very satisfactory to the mediocre mind. A mind that explores the issue more deeply sees through the contradiction in the proposal. Who controls whom? The entity that controls and the one that is controlled are both centered in the same ego – interested fundamentally in its own gratification or glorification. Sri Ramana pointed out, “It is a case of the thief-turned-policeman looking for the thief!” If we go to the root of the issue and notice directly the forces at work in our thought processes, a breakthrough takes place. That is true meditation when personal insights pull down the walls in our psyche. We then arrive at an innocence (not dullness, please) and they mystery of living is resolved moment by moment. We walk through life with open arms. Swami Chidananda Monday, June 30, 2003 Surge Fifteen (Advanced)

True Service

The sign of attachment is psychological dependence. Outwardly we may be serving; inwardly we are helplessly dependent upon the work! While appearing to be giving, we actually are there to receive. We have many expectations from people. If not materially, we seek emotionally and are hurt if people do not show love, care or recognition to us. We are in the grip of an old habit of looking for praise, anticipating appreciation and approval. Criticism throws us off balance. Even the other person’s raised voice offends us. We need to watch our mind’s weaknesses in movement. In an intense perception of the erroneous way, we deal a blow to the habit. We are then born to a new way of seeing. The healthy outlook admits no hurt.

The best in us comes out when we forget our identity and are absorbed in the act of service. Action takes place without the actor finding a place in our thinking. Self-importance is a bunch of thoughts that are busy in self-evaluation. Do I have to be conscious that I am doing a good act while my hands make a gift to a beggar? I see the man suffering and help flows spontaneously. Of course I check on what I can afford. I may also look into issues like whether there will be misuse of my gift. These considerations are different from fancying how generous I am or how I am better than before. True service has a unique fragrance that is not the product of a plan, however clever. “The best worker does her job free of attachment, without self-importance. She keeps going with enthusiasm and remains unmoved in success and failure.” Geeta 18:26 Swami Chidananda Monday, July 14, 2003

Surge Sixteen (Advanced)

Showing

She said lovingly to me, “Look, how beautiful!” I beheld the rainbow and exclaimed, “Ah!” As we both watched, there was just the rainbow; neither she nor I were present. She did not carry a thought, “I showed it to him” or “I have good communication skills nowadays”. I did not have thoughts like, “She chose me of all to show this wondrous thing to” or “How grateful I should be to her.” There was just the celestial arch in seven hues and time stopped.

Are there divisions in self-knowledge? We say the teacher shows the truth to the student. Are the teacher, the truth and the student three different entities? The three-fold situation is the usual, ordinary case when a man draws the attention of another to an object. The extraordinary scenario of the spiritual insight is unique. It is not any object that needs to be shown. The teacher shows ‘absence of ego’. She has no ego; she is no ego. The student sees the falsity of the ego. His ego vanishes in the seeing; he remains a presence that is devoid of ego. The truth – the seen – is now one with the teacher and the student. The undivided presence defies all ideas of space and time. Seeing uncovers love and showing is its perfume. “They shall instruct you the highest knowledge. They see the truth and are wise. Bow before them, inquire with their help and work with them. You will know.” Geeta 4:34 We do humble pranams to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji – the one who showed to us great possibilities – on the occasion of his tenth anniversary of maha-samadhi, this Sunday, the 3rd of August. Swami Chidananda Monday, July 28, 2003 Surge Seventeen (Advanced)

Watch and Shed

Alert living is the essence of true religiosity. We watch our reactions to various events and, then and there, learn about the forces at work in our psyche. Unnecessary inhibitions, baseless fears and false presumptions come to light as we observe our own behavior in its entirety. No book can answer the question, “What am I?” better than our direct, on-the-spot self-inspection. There is in books the peril of concepts such as ‘what I ought to be’ or ‘like whom I should be’. Concepts take us away from reality. When our mind is stuck with ideas borrowed from some book, we lack the awareness required to notice our errors in daily interactions. Somebody was absorbed in a book on non-violence. When a mosquito troubled her repeatedly, she got very annoyed and tried to hit the insect with that very book. Our scholarship is often seen to shield many an actual vulgarity in us. Lack of peace is the price that the scholar pays for keeping contradictions unresolved in his bosom. More books could be of little help.

Let us put the holy book aside, and see with heightened sensitivity what we are actually doing. How do we treat people in our daily relationships? Are we avoiding certain persons or certain topics? Do we talk with our spouse or child with a certain amount of superficiality, not willing to scratch the surface and let actuality show up? Watching brings about startling discoveries. We see our cruelty, miserliness and manipulation in their nakedness. We shed them. A great relief follows, making life lighter. There is new energy. Knowledge from books has more merit than any blind practice. Meditation is subtler than any scholarship. Abandoning the concern for selfish gain is much greater than meditation. Shedding brings instant peace. . (Bhagavad Geeta 12:12) We do humble pranams to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji – the one who showed to us great possibilities – on the occasion of his tenth anniversary of maha-samadhi, this Sunday, the 3rd of August. Swami Chidananda Wednesday, August 20, 2003 Surge Eighteen (Advanced)

When Nothing Matters

When I am nothing, nothing can hurt me. When there are thoughts, “I am something”, many things can disturb me. So I put aside known descriptions of myself. I inquire, “Who am I?” I put aside all changes and meditate, “I just see”. To say, “I see” – you see – is great. Thoughts lay the tracks of time. I stand on the platform of timelessness and watch. Seeing is a quantum leap from doing. Love and beauty are on a higher (and totally different) plane than thought and deed. Thank God, I really am higher than time, thought and deed. Selfishness is a mischievous illusion created by thoughts (responses of memories). When it subsides, there is love. Time, which is death, is another illusion caused by thoughts. When it vanishes, there is beauty.

Swami Chidananda Monday, September 01, 2003

Surge Nineteen (Advanced)

Light of Understanding

The very way we see situations reflects our maturity or lack of it. We could perceive a scenario from the point of view of the prospect of profit or from the angle of view of possibility of service. Thoughts of gain and loss on one hand, and pleasure and pain on the other could cloud our grasp of a given state of affairs. To the extent we bring our personal gratification into the picture, we lose our objectivity. The man attached to the use of a hammer, it is said, sees every problem as having a nail to hit.

Right seeing can take place when “I, me and my” do not interfere in our perception. Neither the wounds of our past nor the glories of our bygone days have a role to play in our today’s experiencing. If they do, then we are in the shadow of the dark clouds of our ego. Sublime light marks our relationships when we participate in the unfolding events of life with the whole of our being. Memories limit us as thoughts of future (which are projections of memories) also do. Seeing, listening, touching, tasting and smelling are all intense when thoughts (of I, me and mine) stay out. Thoughts, however clever they may be, bring certain dimness into the moment’s experience. Kindness, compassion, care and love – and a host of virtues that we may think of – come out truly when we do not think them out or plan them. They are never conceived. They are not concepts. They are real. They are true life. Sattva is the medium for true life to shine forth. When rays of light stream forth from every pore of your body, know then that your understanding of life is mature and balanced. Geeta 14:11 Swami Chidananda Monday, September 15, 2003 Surge Twenty (Advanced)

Live Rightly. There is No Other Way

Live rightly. There is no other way to true happiness.

Be true to your conscience. Stop fooling yourself. That way you will not deceive anybody. You cannot hurt anyone when the flame of your inner voice is burning brightly, without the smoke of indulgent compromise. Nobody can cause fear in you when you have decisively abandoned all selfish seeking. Living rightly is living with intelligence. It is not just following mechanically any precept or formula, no matter how well conceived it is. Life defies any rigid formula or law, for its spirit of love and freedom longs to touch eternity and to feel infinity. All laws, clever verbalizations, are limited by time and context. What is right for you may not be so for another. What is right for you today may not be so for you tomorrow. That does not however mean that you take the law into your hands without rhyme or reason. Do not play with fire without understanding its ways. When you know fire and its ways thoroughly, it is your friend and your relation has dimensions not seen before. Eat rightly in quantity and quality. Let not your tongue – the little one that often demands a lot – hijack your whole body. Enjoy life and its rich variety of sounds and colors. Let not your soul be caught in the cage of pleasure for even a moment. Live rightly. Live long. Be ready to go any moment. If you eat excessively, you fall from the state of yoga; if you eat too less, you again slip from right living. Lying on bed for too long denies you the joy of the right consciousness; denying to yourself adequate rest also takes away the peace and strength of yoga. Geeta 6:16 (slightly adapted) Swami Chidananda Monday, September 29, 2003 Surge Twenty One (Advanced)

No Hurt, No Pride

We gain pleasant or unpleasant experiences as events take place in daily life. We brand external factors as good or bad and fail to see that internally, our outlook contributes significantly to the quality of our experiences. When we seek personal gratification, that seeking colors our perception. Also, we are elated if things go our way and are hurt if otherwise.

What happens when we do not seek anything for ourselves? Can the seeker – of pleasure, position or praise – go out of the scene, and can we meet life with an open mind? The open mind is certainly not a dull mind. It is very sensitive to beauty, to pain and to genuine needs of life. It is free from cravings born of residues from past experiences. Mechanical repetition of “I want such and such response from so and so” is absent. The mind is ready to welcome the new, the unknown. Such a mind does not stand in the way of truth. Like a tender blade of grass, it swings to the breeze of real life. The rigidity of pre-conceived notions about how things should be is absent here. When we work with such a mind, success and failure lose their grip over us. A graceful silence and a light, cheerful bosom mark our journey through life even as myriad events of many hues continue to appear on its canvas. No agitations come to her, who performs all her actions abandoning personal attachments. She offers her work to truth and lets truth have its way. She is like the lotus leaf, which does not get wet even when water is upon it. Geeta 5:10 Swami Chidananda Monday, October 20, 2003

Surge Twenty Two (Advanced)

Equal Vision

The world looks different when our ego – with its demands – ceases. When we have a sense of material poverty, a rich man attracts us and a poor man annoys us. We welcome the wealthy and regard the poor as a nuisance. We have plans to receive, collect and benefit from the affluent. Our mind cannot tolerate even the sight of the have-nots, for what can they give us? We hardly realize that our inadequacy and the resulting urges and aspirations are mainly a psychological phenomenon.

When there is a radical change in our mind, we see the millionaires and the middle class as not much different. We see them both as human beings, with pretty much the same suffering in their lives. Both of them have fleeting joys and lingering sorrows in their relationships. Envy and fear trouble them both. By the token of love in their hearts, both of them are mostly poor, for shallow is their living and they know not what true giving is. When we have nothing to lose or gain from them, the scholar does not cause envy in us and an illiterate does not make us feel superior. We know their difference; yet we look at them with an open mind, with an unruffled stillness in the depth of our hearts. Seeing all equally, seeking no self-gratification anywhere and fearing no damage to our image, we enjoy a harmonious relationship with the world around. The wise ones see all equally. A learned man of religion, full of humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an eater of dog’s meat are all the same for them. Geeta 5:18 Swami Chidananda 5 November 2003

Surge 23

(Advanced)

Awareness – An All-inclusive Immensity

Peaceful as well as agitated thoughts arise in us at different times.  So do dull modes of the mind.  If all kinds of thoughts and emotions are together called the mind, awareness contains the whole of the mind and it is yet untouched by its properties.  The thinker is also a thought.  We can be aware of all thoughts, including the thought called the thinker.

The thinker in us is a product of our memories, past conditionings.  As the thinker, so the thoughts.  The thinker typically is an accumulation of (memories of) pleasure and pain as gone through in the past.  Based on those experiences, likes and dislikes, desires and fears emanate from this thinker.

Neither thoughts nor the thinker is anything absolute.  Both of them are born in time; they change in time and they die too in time.  Awareness is the timeless dimension to our existence.  Spiritual maturity is characterized by our being aware of varieties of thoughts rising in us.  We do not think about ourselves, but are aware of ‘thoughts of ourselves’ as they arise.

Selfish concerns – hopes and fears – come up thanks to a momentum of the past.  Being aware of them without blaming or approving them, lends a healing touch to them.

Awareness is the greatest medicine.

In me (Awareness) arise countless thoughts, moods and modes – peaceful, aggressive and dull.  They come and go, I remain still.

(Geeta 7:12  )

Swami Chidananda

Monday, December 8, 2003

 
 
Surge 24  (Advanced)
 
Monday, February 2, 2004
 
Self-development or self-deconstruction?
 
 

The popular versions of spiritual teachings are put in the language of “development”, which goes well with our constant urge to acquire. Without questioning the sense of incompleteness in our bosom, we go on imagining that some acquisition will make us complete.

For long, our dreams are about getting more money, a bigger house etc. Then we carry this over to the so-called spiritual realm and fancy some virtue, merit (puNya) and respectability if not superhuman powers.

No wonder a lot of spirituality is sold in the world with the promise of improving one’s efficiency, power to influence people and ability to be in command ofsituations.

Unpalatable as it may look, the plain truth of truespirituality is that it is all about self-deconstruction. The rest of it is incidental. The clouds need to move away. No one needs to light up thesun; the sunshine lights up the meadows and rivers just like that. The purest activities are spontaneousand emerge from our hearts. They take place when the

self – with its pride and hurt – is done away with. It is an old conditioning with us to think in thelanguage of “we should do this” or “we should not dothat”. Actions arising from the ground of will are necessarily limited. They are the womb of sorrow. When

we are free from the self, right action happens most naturally.

“Out of purity and silence come words of power” said Swami Chinmayanandaji. What else can true purity beother than the absence of the self? What else can silence be other than the absence of conditionedthinking?

"One arrives at the experience of infinity when onegives up ego, aggressiveness and arrogance. It is about shedding desire, anger and personal possessions. One abandons all sense of ‘me and mine’ and discovers

profound, natural peace." Geeta 18:53

Swami Chidananda

Surrender to the mystery of life, the True Reality,

Surrender to the endeavor to make life blossom into a flower

Surrender to the majestic peace of the inner being

And surrender to the Atman of the Universe

(Manku-timma 945)

Surge Twenty Five (Advanced)

The State of No Division

The natural state of being has no divisions that are otherwise created by thoughts. When I look at a beautiful car, thoughts such as, “How beautiful this model is! Its color is truly marvelous!” do not cause any division. However, thoughts like – I am not its owner; Ramesh is – create the division of I, he etc. Also, thoughts like – I had such a good car once; now I do not possess it – also bring about the division of (psychological) time.

Can one perceive something without a set of thoughts describing oneself? The absence of the self is the essence of the undivided state. One cannot eliminate the self, of course, by deciding to not have it. The very entity that decides so is the self. The contradiction would be like a man shouting loudly, “I want to remain silent”. “How do we get rid of the ego?” is a popular question that is steeped in habit. The questioner does not suspect that if there is a “how” (a method) to this affair, there is then an entity that would execute that method. Who would then end that entity? There is a SEEING in which all ideas of (spiritual) practice are exposed as sustaining the self. The practices then quietly subside. The self that wishes to be free from ego (and get enlightened) disappears without being either the object of a query or being the subject (agent) of any practice. Do not therefore take any spiritual practice for its face value. Examine deeply the nature of thoughts – including those that are engaged in the so-called sadhana (spiritual practice). When you see the sad limitations of all thoughts, however noble they may be, the curtain will rise for the true vision. Swami Chidananda Monday, March 5, 2004

Surge Twenty Six (Advanced)

Self Transformation – A Paradox

We find there is a lot of interest among large numbers of people to "changefor the better". Whether you call the goal ‘improved efficiency’ or ‘effectiveness’ or nothing less than "enlightenment", we are eager to become something else than what we are now. Sometimes we have a vague picture of our goal and at other times certain well worded descriptions of the same.

In the process, we have no patience to observe and understand "what we are". Shutting our eyes to the mess our daily life is, we are dreaming of reachingsomewhere. Is it not necessary that we begin where we are? Of special interest here is the structure of the self – the seat of all our hopes, expectations, rearsand suffering.

If the self is cleared, is any "becoming" meaningful anymore? If the very entity that seeks success (or enlightenment) disappears quietly, will questions of future prospects remain valid? Will there not be fullenergy in the present if the future does not bother us?

Living in the present has become an attractive idea to many spiritual seekers. When it is an idea (concept, mental picture) and we desire to be in the present, it is a contradiction right away. Deciding "I shall focus on the present" maintains the division of what I am and what I shall do.True living in the present is where there is no "I"(to seek to live in the present).

Is it not strange that countless forms of spiritual aspiration – labeled noble desires – create and sustain a division, which is what we want toeliminate? We are stuck when spiritual growth is a goal in our thinking. There is transformation taking place quietly when we just live every moment with total awareness. Seek change, your dream continues; see without seeking, an awakening will happen.

Swami Chidananda

24 March 2004

Surge Twenty Seven (Advanced)

The Paradox of Self-control

Are you attached to certain notions of self-control? Has it become a mechanical affair with you to go through the cycle of error, guilt and the resolve to improve yourself? Has such repeated activity led you to judge yourself in a limited and rigid fashion? Has it also caused some limitation in you with regard to accepting others as they are?

No one can deny that there has to be order in our living. Life ought not to be such that everyone just does whatever he/she wants to do. Freedom should not turn into an abuse of liberty. Also, we need to be sensitive to the feelings of fellow beings. However, the intriguing aspect of self-control is that we dissipate our mental energy in the form of swinging from pride to shame, from feeling good to feeling guilty and from adoration (of another person) to anger (with him/her). Many a time, our understanding of the matter is shallow, and yet our reactions are emotionally strong. This leads to a lot of conflict within us and to interpersonal problems too. As we take a mature look at this issue, we come closer to realities of life. Instead of fretting and fuming about the so-called moral lapses of our own or of others, we examine our conditionings and recognize the areas where undue or unrealistic importance was given to some behavioral practice. Seeing these zones of self-created causes of excitement or depression, we gain much objectivity and a balanced view of things. In such a sane outlook, the indiscipline in us fades away on its own. Self-control is at its best when we change through proper understanding and not through fear of being judged as bad. There is a natural and spontaneous right doing where the desire for reward does not raise its head. Wanting to be considered as the right-doer, the role model for others etc. is indeed a vicious intruder in our true blossoming. We do not arrive at order when we try to control. Order just happens when we gain insights into the disorder our conditioned thinking has created. Spiritual seekers are fond of the topic of self-control as the human mind is heavily conditioned to think in terms of dos and don’ts (vidhi and nishedha). What we should do and what we should avoid are essential elements of the programming that our mind is subjected to. The specifics and the details vary from time to time in the same person’s life. Pride, shame, fear and guilt invariably follow our notions of righteous living along with the frustration at not being perfect. A man sat for meditation thinking he would just sit and watch thoughts. He told himself, “I shall completely avoid any specific plan and watch thoughts as they arise.” Very soon he was choosing and rejecting, “I should not have these (bad) thoughts; I should pursue those (good) thoughts.” Concepts of good and bad bring the pressure of wanting and avoiding. Can we see thoughts without any judgment hijacking us? No wonder the novice looks at even the highest wisdom as something that she ‘should’ gain. She is comfortable to think, “The Self may be ever-established (nitya-siddha); but I should remove the veil of ignorance and realize the Self.” For this achievement to happen, she is convinced that she needs proper self-control. What is the ‘I’ that controls – in this matter of self-control? The ‘I’ certainly has identified areas where control is important and feels attracted to certain objects. Is not such an ‘I’ itself a conditioned or programmed entity? We need to understand this ‘I’ before conferring on it the captaincy in the matter of self-control. Is it not the typical case of the thief-turned-policeman? Self-control has its shallowness of understanding; it creates its own duality. The very mature ones are not satisfied with its framework. This however does not mean that the deep thinkers okay licentiousness. They do not swing to the opposite extreme. Not falling into the trap of any idealism or other conceptual limitations, we examine our living. We gently notice the judgmental activity that our mind indulges in. Swami Chidananda Monday, April 17, 2004 Surge Twenty Eight (Advanced)

Being Cheerful

We are cheerful when our mind is not weighed down by (thoughts of) problems. A bird flies easily when we set it free from strings that have tied it down. Our mind has lightness if we make it free from unnecessary memories.

Some have sad thoughts of how they failed in some materialistic venture. Others have regrets at how they have failed morally. Either way, a self-judgment weighs one down. Weakened by such thoughts, we then perform poorly again. This poor performance makes our self-judgment go down further. What a vicious circle! We need to see how our mind has become a machine, highly repetitive in its ways. We may be educated, sophisticated, knowledgeable and smart in public eyes or our own self-evaluation. Actually we are programmed gadgets. We are caught in various fancies, some of which may be respectable in this confused society. Our whole life needs a radical overhaul. To set our own house in order is of great urgency. The illusion in which we are caught is nothing but the past, to put it summarily. Our mind, with all its limitations, arrives at a conclusion of how unworthy we are, based on memories of past events. We then moan about our shortcomings and failures. How valuable we are becomes an issue of importance to us, rather than how we can be valuable to people around us. A judgment of how much we failed is one side of the coin while the other side is hoards of thoughts on what we may become. No wonder the idea of self-improvement is attractive to large numbers of people. We are excited to think about what we would become. In the process, we are shackled more and more by thoughts. The dust that these thoughts raise dims the light of awareness of the present moment and of what we are. Please know that the mind (thoughts) itself is our bondage. The mind is largely, if not fully, workings of memories. Memories feed on memories and reinforce the self (ego). Only the bright flame of attention can undo this whole mischief. Just as the snake sheds its skin, we should shed our past – over and over again.-The Buddha Swami Chidananda Monday, May 17, 2004 Surge Twenty Nine (Advanced)

Love of Nature

“Man has lost touch with Nature,” lament wise people about our today’s industrialized society. We have moved even physical exercise indoors with varieties of sophisticated health maintenance equipment. Is it not pathetic in a sense to see somebody run on the treadmill (reading sometimes a newspaper also at the same time) when there is wonderful sunshine outside?

To say, “I must allot time to be with Nature” or “I should become a nature lover” is not quite the proper approach. Our relation with Nature should not become one more compartmentalized activity of life. We must eliminate the root cause of our unbalanced lifestyle. Can we not take note of the general evil that has besieged us? We live in a number of self-created artificialities and there is constantly pressure upon us to protect our positions (to which we are attached). Psychological prisons prevent us from walking to the lap of Nature. Our thinking patterns have made us bookish; some of us may see mountains and streams on the computer’s monitor (or TV) more often than actually in the real world. We need to examine, “Are we attached to the fanciful machines? Are we afraid of lagging behind in some sphere of work, knowledge or talent? Are our habits holding us captive? Why has our living become unnatural?” Negating the falsehood at the center of our living can facilitate outer change in many ways. Awareness of the vulgarity of our fears and attachments can bring in us a basic change, releasing fresh energy to live rightly. Pursuing fundamental questions like, “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?” paves the way to a certain radical change in us. Outer transformation then follows naturally. Vast space, a gentle breeze of fresh air, the warmth of the bright sun, the placid waters of the lakes, and the enchanting green meadows beckon us to our source – mother earth. Grand expressions of the five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) are eager to heal our physical and psychological wounds and give us new life everyday. What is that insensitivity in us that keeps us trapped between the four walls all the time? Act now and get out of the mechanical way of living. Move freely in this grand Creation. All outer cages are the result of inner entrapments. Break free of those limiting and weakening thoughts and you will see that order returns to your life just like that. Just as the snake sheds its skin, we should shed our past – over and over again.-The Buddha Swami Chidananda Monday, June 21, 2004 Surge Thirty (Advanced)

Meaning of Upanishad

The liberating wisdom, and not any book, is the primary meaning of the word Upanishad. We may read or teach books, chant mantras, and study many explanations of the mantras. Our actual life may be no different from that of any worldly man. Fear, envy and attachment may mark our relationships. Ambition may not leave our heart. The ego in us may be active in some new form. “My institution or country” is a clever disguise, for example, for the self. Is there then Upanishad in our life?

Shri Shankaracharya, while introducing the Kathopanishad, exhorts us to understand that the litmus test of our Vedanta is that the very seeds of the egoistic living be burnt. Upanishad means the ‘destruction’ of ignorance. Again, Upanishad means that wisdom which ‘leads’ us to the Infinite Truth. Being scholarly does not ensure freedom from negative self-judgments. Learned people are often seen to burn with envy at the sight of other scholars being better recognized or more rewarded. That is a sure sign of their remaining caught in the web of thoughts. The smoke of egoistic conclusions then covers the flame of awareness in them. They lack openness. They lack psychological simplicity. They are in the shade of, if not in the darkness of, aham-vrittis (thoughts describing one’s identity and worth). Time has them in its clutches. Eternity is just a concept for them. To call a book Upanishad is best justified in a secondary sense. The study of the book is to awaken in us the wisdom, which alone, once more, is the true meaning of Upanishad. Therefore the book has received much honor traditionally. The truly wise know the serious limitations of the book. Certain teachings leading to concentration of the mind, attainment of powers and to heavenly pleasures may also sometimes be referred to as Upanishad. This too is in a secondary sense. Upanishad does not bring about any achievement in the usual sense of the term. All achievements – as we usually conceive them – are in time and they perish. The insight that the ‘me’, which wishes to achieve, become somebody or regain some lost status etc. itself is false – is the key to liberation. Then we are out of time, though living in time. Swami Chidananda Monday, July 19, 2004

Surge Thirty One (Advanced)

Do Not Undervalue Old Age

First, read this Chinese story.

There is this old man who is too weak to work in the garden or help with household chores. He just sits on the porch, gazing out across the fields, while his son tills the soil and pulls up weeds. One day, the son looks up at the old man and thinks, “What good is he now that he is so old? All he does is eat up the food! I have a wife and children to think about. It is time for him to be done with life!” So he makes a large wooden box, places it on a wheelbarrow, rolls it up to the porch, and says to the old man, “Father, get in.” The father lies down in the box and the son puts the cover on, then wheels it toward the cliff. At the edge of the cliff, the son hears a knock from inside the box. “Yes, father?” the son asks. The father replies, “Why don’t you just throw me off the cliff and save the box? Your children are going to need it one day.” (The story is taken from the book Still Here by Ram Dass.) Old is gold. Old people in our society have wisdom while the young have energy. The old have quietude that comes from emptying the mind. The young have efficiency and their minds are filled with information. The elders have an understanding of what is truly important in life. The young are constantly busy with acquiring what is new. The aged have their eyes on what is lasting. The youths chase dreams of glitter and glamour. Today’s young will indeed be old tomorrow. Today’s old were young yesterday. Nobody stays young forever. To mock the old is surely an error. To respect them is a sign of one’s own maturity. Swami Chidananda Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Surge Thirty Two (Advanced)

Superconductivity and Karmayoga

Doing all one’s duties and yet remaining calm is easier said than done! The karmayogi just does that. He works but his mind has no unnecessary anxieties. In Physics we learn about superconductors, which carry current but do not have loss of energy in such forms as heat. The karmayogi’s case is like that. He participates in the transactions of the world as per his skills and capabilities. Thanks to his detachment from the gain and loss in all the works, he remains cheerful at all time. He greets every new day with a light, fresh mind.

In contrast to the superconductor, an ordinary conductor lets electric current to flow through it but gets heated up to varying extents. Technically, we say there is energy loss in transmission. Most of us work like regular conductors. We do reach certain performance levels but suffer much stress in daily life. We do not act fully and the best in us does not reach the field of work. An insulator does not allow current to pass through it at all. No wonder it does not get heated: electricity is not passing through it. A man who does not act at all, by taking no responsibilities, is like that. It is not a big deal. A prospective tenant asked the owner of a house, “Does the roof leak?” The house-owner replied, “Not at all, except when it rains.” The true test is when challenges stare you in your face. A superconductor lets energy flow through it but remains at the same temperature as before. A karmayogi learns through relationships without escaping from them. Winning sometimes and failing at other times, he does not cling to his image, good or bad. Thus is his detachment to the results of karma. In success, he does not form a good picture of himself; in failure, he does not allow a bad portrait of his to be made in his own mind. Remaining aware of all events, he stays objective and not image-conscious. He embraces neither the thought, “I am good” nor the one, “I am bad”. You will enjoy peace when you give your best to your field of work without attachment to success or failure. You will suffer unnecessary agitations when thoughts of results occupy your mind. Geeta 5:12 Swami Chidananda

Surge Thirty Three (Advanced)

Peace amidst Pressures

Modern living puts every one of us under varieties of pressures. The rich ones among us and the poor ones as well are torn apart by the forces of this cruel society and by the ways of this mad world. Even as we the adults have our own hard challenges in the professional and domestic spheres, our children are facing new problems, which are also indirectly affecting us. The ever-increasing competition, the explosion of information, changing lifestyles and the age-old generation gap are causing anxiety to the young ones. We find that our children are likely to adopt false values in this degenerating society and suffer as a result. Our own duty in such circumstances becomes quite unclear. Should we just encourage them in all that they do or should we advise them in a different direction?

The first step towards gaining peace amidst all this chaos is for us to gain clarity of thinking within ourselves. Do we want to live mechanically, just imitating the trends around us? Should we not examine our way of living? Do we want mere outer glitter and glamour? Should we not seek inner substance? Do we want to settle for some partial success in life with gaping wounds in other aspects of life? Should we not go for balance and beauty in the whole of life? Search for deeper values, respect for human dignity, value for clean environment and love of nature can be some of the facets of right living. Peace and strength can be ours when we are free from the unnecessary conflicts that arise from chasing illusions and subscribing to vain ideologies. Swami Chidananda November 8, 2004 Surge Thirty Four (Advanced)

The Still Center

You are in reality the still center and have nothing to lose or gain in any activity. You are aware; nay you are the awareness. Mere thoughts make you seem the victor or the loser. If thoughts do not filter your understanding, you will have no difficulty in seeing your own changeless nature.

Relativity is maya (the universal illusion). The rainbow, the rising sun and the moving moon are all examples of physical illusions. The sense of separate ‘I’ is the psychological illusion, which is at the root of your suffering. Let us call it the self. This self is the breeding ground of desire and fear, of hope and frustration. When you think you are depressed, the self is actually depressed. Therefore someone like Maharshi Ramana would ask you, “Find out who is suffering.” He would further prod you, “Who are you?” While knowledge is very useful in functional matters, emptiness is of value in psychological freedom. You ought to know how to drive your car. Here, you have to draw from memory. If your mind loses its knowledge, you cannot drive the vehicle. Now, in relating to people, your being fully attentive to the present moment is of more value than carrying judgments based on knowledge/memory/past. This does not mean you suppress some memory related to the other person. Such suppression cannot make you good or wise. You rather understand intelligently how all judgments have serious limitations. Seeing the truth of how prejudice colors every one of your judgments, you suspend judgments. All past knowledge not only is questionable with respect to the understanding of another person, but also is a hindrance to your own being impartial. Memories condition your own identity and you go about evaluating the other person with a particular sense of self-notion. Self-interest accompanies this self-notion. Can you see the other person with no self-interest? To be free of self-interest totally, you have to be free from memory! Use memory. Let not memory limit you. Let it not color your perception. Swami Chidananda Monday,December 06, 2004

Surge Thirty five(Advanced)

Uncovering Newness
As yet another New Year begins, and we have celebrations as usual, it is not easy, all the same, to free our hearts of the aches of the years gone by. We move in to the New but the shadow of the Old follows us. Imperfections are one problem, no doubt. Agitations over our shortcomings, brooding over the past mistakes and failures is a second problem. In other words, thinking about the past is the real problem and not the past itself. Peace and silence greet us the moment we stand apart and watch the mere, mechanical habit of the mind. See the difference: the mind thinks of the past and we are aware that the mind is thinking of the past. In the second case, we have already discovered a space within ourselves in which there is relief from the tyranny of memories. Let memories come; we are not to suppress them. However, let us not identify with them and ride over them to destinations that are more often gloomy than illumined. Let us move from shadow to light; from thoughts to the awareness of thoughts. We are NEW, standing as unbiased awareness; we are OLD when carried away by the gushing conclusions and judgments. We stand on "I am". There is, "what is". Thirdly, created by thoughts, there is, "what should be" or "what should have been". People who are busy in the third ring are most miserable. Those who hold a clear view of the second ring, "what is", are the practical people. If we stay firmly at the center, "I am", and notice the two rings of thoughts in a natural way, there comes about an inner transformation which is the quiet revolution of life. Take the lid off. You ARE ever new. Celebrate the NOW, which is all there is. Wishing you a happy 2005 (which is the NOW displaying itself in myriad colors), S Chidananda January 4, 2005

Surge Thirty Six(Advanced)

Integrity over Popularity

Taking integrity over popularity is surely the way to regain peace. Honest living bestows upon us serenity and lightness of heart. A simple refusal to either project ourselves as great or seek such an image in others’ eyes can spiral us upward towards the experience of harmony and bliss. This will be so despite many limitations and shortcomings in us.

A certain amount of (psychological) insecurity leads to making false promises or pretending. The lies then create more insecurity. The vicious circle soon becomes a veritable quicksand in which any effort then tends to make us sink more. The society – including friends and relatives – seem to put pressures upon us. We are afraid that, if we change, it will jeopardize the lives of those who depend on us. We also have the fear that those on whom we depend might reject us! Where is the way out? We ought to shed all fears and face the reality of life. Fear is death indeed. We hardly live, when fear becomes a long-term guest in our bosom. Fear saps our energy; it cripples us. Popularity is a hollow affair. It is of no true value indeed. It is a mirage that holds no water. To delight in it is stupidity and to seek it is a sure sign of ignorance. Popularity without true merit is as useless and harmful, as having people think we are very fit while we are actually sick and suffering. Our aim should be to live a true life of substance. We should be made of real stuff. Integrity is like good health: we enjoy it irrespective of whether people recognize it or not. Of course, living rightly should be neither just a wordy affair nor a matter of blaming others for the obstacles they put on our path. We would do better if we silently work on our own daily living. We have to relate with others with a lot of patience and perseverance. Hasty judgments and a tendency to shirk responsibility can leave us in mere concepts. Let alone victory, the battle has not begun then! Swami Chidananda Saturday, March 5, 2005

Surge Thirty Seven (Advanced)

The Real Work

The real work before man is to set his own house in order. He has been living in fear for too long. That has caused much artificiality in him. He has been afraid of being rejected by the society and he has all along put up a façade to please others. “Will they deny love to me? Will they stop respecting me? Will they talk lightly about me?” Afraid of losing the privileges that he has enjoyed, he dances to their tunes. He does not really know though what they want from him.

He does a lot of things with friends and relatives just to be in their good books. He would not do them if he were really free. What is worse is that many of such things are what he imagines to be their needs. Even his religion has become a whole lot of unnecessary rituals which ‘have to be done’ for otherwise even the dead ones would be displeased with him. His business practices also involve doing things that would please many powers that could jeopardize his status, if not livelihood. When will he live an original, simple life? When will he sing his own heart’s song? Does not a life of calculation, conformity or imitation necessarily bring much stress to him? It takes its toll on even his near and dear ones as they never find him at peace. Sometimes he forces them also to play his game. Amassing wealth has no meaning when his inner life has no sunshine. His achievements are all empty for his soul is not at rest. The contradiction between his true longings and his external priorities affect his health also and a number of psychosomatic ailments soon catch him. Sometimes he feels he has worked for some ideals in his life. Upon closer examination it becomes clear such dedicated work was also another subtle escape of the clever self. Working for a cause, for some great symbol and for a noble man is also very often the denial of truth. Whether we go about it fanatically or with care, these missions are divisive in their own ways and become another vested interest in no time. Man can never conceptualize right living. When he sees through falsities and lets them go, there is a silent victory. Others may or may not hear the faint melody of the original song. Swami Chidananda Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Surge Thirty Eight (Advanced):

Is Evil Outside Us?

What is evil? Harming others, causing sorrow to people or coming in the way of the good is evil. Since others and we are intimately connected, harming ourselves in any way is also evil. When we are not keeping well, it surely affects others. Forces that cause bad things to happen are evil; any wicked behavior is also called evil.

It is easy to see evil in the outside world. Selfishness is widespread and people generally have some personal interest in even the good that they do. Humanity is caught in an endless insecurity of sorts and all are looking out for more pleasure, comfort, wealth or fame. With some careful observation, we see that evil is inside us too. Some of us may prefer to call it imperfections. We have pretty much the same conditioning that others in this world have. We too are interested in building our own empire, strengthening the walls of our fort and fortifying our image. Sometimes, at best, we are kind to certain people but are insensitive to, if not hard on, certain others. We exploit some and are charitable to some others. Thus we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. To be truly good requires a revolution within us, a radical change. The man who says, “I want to be a good man” should see the trap in his thinking – there is an “I” which has to become something! He has to closely examine if this is not one more fulfillment of the self. We are not talking of becoming ‘relatively better’. One says, “I was very selfish in olden days,” and adds, “I am much better now.” This self-improvement is indeed a vast field where, despite very many changes, the basic problem can easily stay unexposed. Comparing ourselves with someone else and patting on our own back in appreciation can soothe our conscience and put off the fundamental query. Here and now, can we see evil – outside or inside – in all its fullness, without judging it? When we do not condemn or justify it, the complete watching can itself herald a basic revolution in our psyche. Stress Reduction: Healthier diet, proper physical exercise, meditation that arises from true appreciation of higher values and an original pursuit of truth in life can contribute to ever increasing inner strength in us. Then the same issues that were causing stress to us will fail to do so. Thinking ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and putting aside the self (selfishness) in us can open doors to real peace for us. Living a life of integrity, which means we keep our promises and avoid all gaps between word and deed, can eliminate certain root causes of psychological stress. If our efforts fail in spite of all good planning and execution, our only resort is humility where we gracefully and in dignity accept what life gives to us. Raising Children: Neither pampering them nor instilling unnecessary fear in them, we can provide to our children the right atmosphere to grow. They must be helped to understand life in a first hand manner. There must be no distortion caused in their psyche. True education is really much more than learning all these academic subjects like Science or Mathematics. It is the flowering of goodness in them. Spiritual Growth: Objects of pleasure tempt us and various sensations constantly try to hold us captives in their tight grips. In addition, there are the callings of sweet emotions, which are another vast realm indeed. True spirituality is right understanding of the physical and emotional worlds where we put things in their proper places and are not caught in any of them. Even as life brings to us pleasure and pain, or happiness and sorrow, we do not get stuck to any of them; rather, our main station is silence and love, simplicity and service. Swami Chidananda Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Surge Thirty Nine (Advanced)

Empathy – A Component of Emotional Intelligence

When we have empathy, we are aware of others’ feelings and thoughts. We are not seeing things from just our perspectives only. We are not in our own world. We are rather able to put aside preoccupations for a while, and stand in others’ shoes and watch.

We “tune in” to how others feel. We understand and appreciate those feelings. Empathy is more than sympathy. In the latter, we just say or do something that comforts the others. In the former, we touch them in such a way that they are almost surprised how we echoed their inside. We “emotionally read” others when we are empathetic. Empathy is NOT just being nice to the others. Very many times it may be the opposite. While we displease them, they all the same feel that we said something with which they in fact agree. Empathy is NOT necessarily agreeing with the others. Our personal views may be different. Yet we acknowledge their feelings and they realize that we accurately know what they are going through. We first listen to the others in such a way that we know the reality in their heart and head. When we voice THEIR feelings, and not just OUR concern, goodwill or best wishes, there is the fragrance of empathy. Let us open up our hearts; truly know what our near and dear ones (or coworkers) are going through. In such right knowledge, everything good is born. Then the gates of love and compassion open. “There is light in all the gates of the body. There is knowing. That is a state of purity. Sattva is then on the rise.”Geeta 14:11 Swami Chidananda July 6, 2005

Surge Forty (Advanced)

The Freedom of the Dry Leaf

The highly esteemed Astavakra Geeta compares the enlightened man (or woman) with a dry leaf (shushka-parna, verse 18:21). Having no desire of his own, without a personal agenda at all, he moves about in the world in utter freedom.

Fear drives us into activity many times and desire does so at other times. Talking of fear, some are afraid of gross things like physical punishment, financial loss or losing some facility or privilege. Others are afraid of not receiving attention, love or regard. We are afraid that our image in others’ eyes will suffer if we do not act in a particular way. Alas, many dynamic people among us are active out of sheer attachment to their image. The truly free are those whose actions are not prompted by fear. Leave alone clinging to an image, they do not have a self-image! This makes the matter a bit abstract obviously for we cannot generally think of living without a certain self-image. Yet, in true freedom, one lives in a different dimension altogether. The dry leaf has no force inside it that drives it. It just goes with the wind. Coming to desire, we have typically some imagination of a happy life. We believe happiness comes from certain objects, certain comforts and conveniences and certain ways of being received or talked to. We want them. How did we develop these beliefs? It is surely a set of conditionings. It is the work of memories of our past experiences. With our limited intelligence, we fondly cling to the memory of some objects or people while actually those objects or people may have changed a lot in the meantime. The truly free are those whose mind is purged of all the psychological memories. They live in the present and are open to new avenues of happiness. A new place, a new acquaintance and so on are welcome. There is no resistance or aversion to change. The dry leaf does not tell the wind not to take it in certain directions. Fear and desire are psychological factors that drive us from inside. These bind us; factors outside do not. The truly free are those who respond to situations with a fresh mind and go with the flow. Their yes and no arise from a pure evaluation of external factors and there is no personal prejudice, safeguard or agenda at all. Swami Chidananda Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Surge Forty One (Advanced)

Limitations of Positive Thinking

A confirmed hunchback kept saying to himself, “I am straight; I am all right” and lo, he became straight! Everybody hears of the power of positive thinking and the miracles that autosuggestion and other techniques achieve. We cannot deny that our own thoughts have terrific power in them to change things outside and inside us.

However, truly healthy living requires a holistic approach and positive thinking falls short of it. First let us see what negative thinking is. To undermine our abilities and say, “I cannot do it,” when actually we have the capacity, is indeed terrible. In such negative thinking there is understating of our gifts or, what is worse, an unfavorable (low, damaging) self-description while we are all right as a matter of fact. Such negative thinking holds us back from possible achievements and even harms us at times. Negative thinking sometimes can be about others too, making gross understatements (or even wrong, uncomplimentary judgments) of our friends, colleagues etc. Negative thinking is certainly bad and positive thinking easily scores over it. Coming back to positive thinking now, the problem with it many a time is that it overstates what we can do. So it is away from truth. And the miracle may not happen. Instead we may land in deep disappointment. Secondly, positive thinking takes a part (and not the whole) and focuses on it so much that lot of other things become unimportant. It thus breeds certain insensitivity in us. All activities centered in achievement have this problem. We get so excited about achieving something and becoming somebody that certain other aspects of life (and interests of others) take a back seat. Positive thinking is based on will and, despite all its glories, this will (called will power sometimes) denies awareness. When we decide on a goal (unless there is a sportive quality to it), we cannot keep an open mind any more. So in a manner of saying, “no thinking” is the best, where the call is for gentle awareness that frees us from the limitations of (any) thinking. It is not literally absence of thought, but is of the nature of ‘not being bound’ by the energy of mere thinking. Thinking springs from the realm of the known and we wish to open the doors (and all the windows too) to the unknown. Swami Chidananda September 15, 2005

Surge Forty Two (Advanced)

The Essence

The essence of all spirituality is being free from the self. Considering that this self is made of memories, some describe this state as living in the present. Some would call it a vision of oneness. The dividing factor, the self, is absent in it. Some others appreciate it as undivided awareness and say that is our essential divinity. Yet others prefer to highlight love, which again is natural when no personal concern raises its head. Personal concerns revolving around “I, me and my” are shackles indeed.

It is indeed a sweet puzzle that I realize my true nature when the ‘I’ in me ceases to be. The salt doll (the seeker), Sri Ramakrishna observed, realizes the depth of the ocean (God) when it dives and loses its own identity, dissolving in the salty waters. As long as the separate self remains, our search is a (never-ending) wild goose chase. When the self is not, who is to search for what? We know not from where our restlessness arises. The state of unrest expresses itself as some desire or the other. The fulfillment of the desire then holds the promise of rest, of true adequacy or of real completeness. In reality though, all satiation of desire is only temporary quiet and it is no better than a calm before the storm. Worse still, many an enjoyment of desire leaves behind such residues of memories, which, upon surfacing in the conscious realm, would disturb our serenity with more force than ever before. A complex and vast network of thoughts, memories, desires, hurt and hope holds us captives. We are held hostage by the machinations of our own mind. How strange! A very subtle dimension of this problematic situation is that the thinker is himself/herself a product of thoughts. The policeman going around the town in search of the thief is himself the thief (in police uniform)! Can we see the truth of this conundrum? If we do, we shall instantly see that all effort is a contradiction in terms as the entity (the self) that puts in the effort gets validated, if not strengthened, in the process. Be free of the self just like that, and not through some method, effort or analysis. Even asking how posits the self! Pure seeing alone, not thinking or doing, is the freedom. Swami Chidananda Monday, November 28, 2005

Surge Forty Three (Advanced)

Saying Goodbye to Past and Future

Much is said about living in the present but not many know that the essence of it is clearing the shadows of past and future. It is a matter of living in such alertness that disallows all irrelevant recall of bygone events. When you are intensely attentive, the self rises not. If it does, it stays not.

The self, the me, is the breeding ground of a whole lot of evils. The self is the desirer and from it arise desires. The self is the one that fears, and from it come forth fears. The self is the agent who owns pride and the problem of pride vanishes if no one owns it. Not only material possessions but also acquisition of merit is a preoccupation of the conditioned self. Religious or moral merit is what our mind hangs on, many a time. Such a seeking causes guilt or shame when the inner judgment is that we did something wrong. It is of interest to watch the mind in movement at such times. The act and the judgment are two things. The act is often innocent or natural. The judgment is a reflection of our current value system, the bundle of conditionings we are carrying at the moment. A third factor is how react to the inner judgment. Stage one - I did it. Stage two - it was wrong. Stage three - I should not have been wrong. In luminous attention, we see through the game that the mind is playing. Sri Ramana Maharshi talked of the thief-turned-policeman. The same fellow stole and later was searching for the thief. Who is this 'one entity' that acts as the thief first and as the policeman later? Who am I? Do not just swing from one role to another, in this play of the mind. Stand apart and take a look at the director of the play. What is her overall agenda? Look at the self as a whole. Do not divide it into parts - the good side of me, the bad side and so on. Awareness without a trace of ego is above all such divisions of the good and the bad. The past and future that tie us down are actually nothing but the resistance that our personal desire offers to a self-judgment within us. As thoughts rise (with their weight of judgment) about what I was or what I will be, lack of attention results in resisting these thoughts. Then we are stuck. Observe the thoughts quietly. They expose themselves in their totality and subside on their own. You then say goodbye to the past and the future. Swami Chidananda Monday, January 30, 2006

Surge Forty Four (Advanced)

Grace and Power of Truth

“Truth alone wins,” (Satyameva jayate) is the ancient statement of the Veda (Mundaka Upanishad, Atharva Veda). Equated with God, Truth has infinite intelligence and the human mind has limited intelligence. To lose faith in Truth is tantamount to losing belief in God.

The corrupt seem to win in this world and the good seem to be losing. This is not so from a larger angle of view. When we see life in greater depth and larger scope, we discover that our usual ideas of victory and defeat themselves are shallow and therefore defective. Leave others. Just think deeply and find out what corruption, deceit or lack of integrity would definitely do to our life. We might certainly grab some pleasure, position or power by our selfish, clever or dominating ways but pretty soon those achievements cease to have significance or value to us. What is more, our wrong ways leave behind such impressions on our psyche that we feel lonely, isolated. Hardly anyone of us has lived a totally virtuous life. We have made mistakes. If only we see our own inner unrest more clearly, we cannot fail to identify the damage that false values (that prompted those errors) have done to us. Examining life in its wholeness reveals the sad limitations of social position or economic stability. Deep inside we continue to remain insecure unless we let go of the self (our false ego) at the altar of truth. Superficially, making money is regarded success and not having enough wealth is considered failure. While money certainly has its usefulness, to equate success in life with being wealthy is most immature. So is the case with the value we attach to fame, popularity and possessing talent etc. Alas, even spiritual teachers are measured in this world by criteria like how popular they are and how many influential people are their students etc.! Many gurus, who have rich and famous disciples, are actually groping in darkness for total freedom. They have not touched that ground at all, where the ‘me’ dissolves in the indivisible one. At best they have talked eloquently about God. Life is short. Do not spend it away in the tinsel town. Do not judge yourself by those usual yardsticks like wealth and power. Do not conclude about others also hastily, merely looking at their external appearances. Your real journey is in the company of truth. Be loyal to it. Swami Chidananda Monday, April 23, 2006

Surge Forty Five (Advanced)

Wisdom: A Return to Childhood

Being clever or smart is not everything in life. Compared with those who are dull, slow or unskilled, the people with worldly wisdom may have a better time in this competitive society of ours. That does not however spare them from the inner problems of fear, envy, anxiety etc. A return to childlike innocence, by which we mean a total purity of heart, alone helps us live fully. Without it, we are unhappy even if the whole world is good to us! Our own mind imagines threats and dangers. It looks at certain people as enemies and certain others as all set to deceive us.

Wise people are said to be childlike (not childish). They do not keep any pride or hurt inside them. They do not bring forward things of the past to the present. If we praise or insult them, they may respond appropriately at the moment but there will be no residue in their bosom afterwards. The Vedanta work Viveka-Choodamani compares an enlightened person with a cracked pot. Try to fill the pot; you will not succeed. It leaks and is empty in no time. Smartness is like a little hill. Its peak is called cleverness. When we climb upon it, we surely get a certain pleasure and a sense of relief. Very soon however we feel lonely and lost. We climbed this hill from one side, which was called naivety. There was lack of aptitude to handle responsibilities. We were nervous when faced with challenges. We were afraid to meet with opposition. We were insecure. We depended on other people, wealth, status, qualification etc and criticism made us miserable. We looked at the peak of cleverness as the solution to all our problems. And we climbed the peak. Climbing down back to side one is neither possible nor right. We now need to climb down on the opposite side. This new side is simplicity. It is this psychological simplicity, born of great intelligence, that puts an end to all our anxiety. Here we have all the necessary knowledge to deal with life's situations with functional correctness. We have said goodbye to psychological complications like pride, false prestige, grudge etc. Deep inside us, there is now the emptiness of peace and light. There is the fullness of life on one hand, as we are not running away from life at all. There is, on the other, complete washing away of all negativity (therefore this emptiness). Swami Chidananda Monday, April 23, 2006

Surge Forty Six

INNER STRENGTH – A HOLISTIC VIEW

“Strength is life, weakness is death,” roared Swami Vivekananda, the lion of the Vedanta. True strength is obviously much more than physical robustness. We sometimes find a Gandhi or a Lal Bahadur Shastri who faces the influential and the mighty with calmness and dexterity and wins them over. Emotional stability and a clean heart that is free from conflicts and contradictions are necessary ingredients of inner strength. Physical wellbeing should never be neglected or undervalued for it is often the basic requirement for effective functioning.

Broadly speaking, we may consider the human personality as consisting of the three ‘equipment’ namely the body, the mind and the intellect (BMI). Many other aspects like speech (which includes communication skills) and relationship skills can be regarded as falling within these BMI. A program for total self-development should include exercises for the continual improvement of all the three facets of our being. The physical body needs to be kept fit; the emotional dimension needs constant enrichment and our reasoning requires continual sharpening, assisted by an expansion of knowledge and awareness.

Body, A Precious Gift:

Well-chosen exercises, nutritious diet and proper daily habits go a long way towards blessing us with excellent physical fitness. The old saying, “A sound mind in a sound body,” highlights the need for bodily vigor so that our mind too functions better. In today’s world, we have access to many kinds of exercises – from even distant parts of the world. Yoga, aerobics, tai chi, western workouts and a host of other systems are taught in cities around the globe. Someone however said to me once, “I watch a video of yoga frequently. That should keep me fit!” The video neither helps the viewer nor the TV. At another place, a chief executive confessed, “The only exercise that we do here in our company is ‘jumping to conclusions’!” We must opt for some set of exercises that keep all the physiological systems in good shape. Outdoor walking has its own value such as contact with Nature, while a number of indoor exercises – often with the help of machines, weights or other exercises – tone up the muscles or strengthen the bones, acting thereby as effective preventive measures against certain old age problems. The system of yoga, along with pranayama, has excellent benefits to both the body and the mind. As most people know, yoga is a vast and complete science that culminates in spiritual perfection.

While opinions differ on what is most nutritional, all agree on certain principles like it is good to avoid much spice and excess of oil. Moderation in quantity has been a golden rule in matters of food. Some forbid meat and some other experts even ask us to avoid milk and milk products. Many ask us to drink lots of water but some criticize such a view saying it would unduly tax our kidneys! Lay people are confused when they hear all these conflicting viewpoints. One’s body is accustomed to certain food habits and it is sometimes highly unadvisable to suddenly make a drastic change. We have to go cautiously about these issues and make choices with honesty and courage, not in an immature or fanciful way.

Emotions, Our Valued Asset

To be swayed by emotions can surely be a problem, but otherwise emotions are such a wealth within us that they are rightly called a source of human energy, information and influence. When we understand them well and handle them wisely, they can help us mend fences or move mountains. They touch our hearts and a rich life is necessarily one that is centered in the heart. To love and be loved is the greatest privilege of life, said Swami Chinmayananda, the popular teacher of the Vedanta (1916 – 1993).

To put in efforts towards understanding our own and others’ emotions leads to an enhancement of our Emotional Quotient (EQ). By broadening our outlook, we can discard false judgments, which leads to the rise of healthy emotions within us. Just to be aware of the factors that activate particular emotions that arise in us paves the way to a better handling of these forces at work. We need to train ourselves to be rightly assertive in the face of injustice or some unfair treatment meted out to us. This means that we rise above all passivity that is inaction and at the same time avoid aggressive behavior that could be harsh or violent. Even skills that we develop to handle stress fall under emotional maturity for a lot of stress is the result of certain negative emotions making situations look darker than what they actually are. Developing empathy is another aspect of emotional growth, where we “emotionally read” others and thus relate with them very accurately rather than in some imagined way.

Reading uplifting literature, contact with Nature, listening to soothing music etc. have an impact on our emotional personality. The rich literature in different languages has much to contribute towards the enrichment of our heart. For example, the Kannada poet (winner of the Jnan Pith award) Kuvempu sings, “Be free, O my spirit. Move on, walk on, and do not stop anywhere. Do not get confined anytime. Without any fixed home, go on with your infinite journey, enjoying your unbounded nature. (Original: o nanna chetana)” Such verses or passages are elevating. They are available aplenty in every language, be it Oriya or Telugu, Gujarati or Hindi.

Growing in our emotional maturity involves a lot of ways. The highest means, of course, is keen observation of our own (and others’) emotions. We learn directly what goes on behind the rise, the movement and the fall of an emotion when we watch it on the spot. However, this requires a high quality of attention which is marked by total absence of judgment, bias or reactions within us as we watch the emotion.

Intellect, Our Far-reaching Tool

Called buddhi in Sanskrit, our intellect helps us extend the horizons of our knowledge. Knowledge is power, they say. It surely is, in the domain of handling men, money and matters. As our civilization advanced, more and more sophisticated knowledge became available to us, which has resulted in tremendously enhancing the standard of living. Technology has joined hands with all other branches of knowledge like economics, medicine, political science and even sports. We can do thousands of things in much less time as compared with how things used to be at the time of our earlier generations. A number of inter-disciplinary subjects have become independent areas of study in the universities like nuclear medicine or chemical biology.

However, in the context of developing inner strength, the knowledge of human values is valuable. A better understanding of right and wrong and a clearer grasp of why we humans suffer are examples of such knowledge. Study of such literature as would help us know our duties and responsibilities better, manage our resources like time more wisely, handle problems like stress more ably etc. could be considered an expansion of knowledge that contributes to inner strength. Knowledge of leadership qualities, love and friendship, right communication skills and healthy relationships certainly makes us strong enough to survive the many setbacks that typically beset our life.

A program that thus enriches and strengthens the body, the mind and the intellect (BMI) contributes towards inner strength in a holistic way. We are then better prepared to live well, as this being with the whole brings us in touch with the center of our existence, the fountainhead of life.

Swami Chidananda

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Surge Forty Seven

Embracing True Spirituality

It is natural that we get excited by the prospect of living a spiritual life, a divine life. This generally happens when some guru influences us with an uplifting discourse or even her magnetic presence. It may take place sometimes after a certain long association with a master. Some powerful books too are behind many of us turning to spirituality in a big way. Many ideas or concepts of what it is to live the ‘higher life’ arise in our mind. We plan to exercise a great amount of our will power to live rightly from the next morning itself – doing things like prayers, yoga, meditation, study of scriptures etc. And of course, our grand plan includes giving up many bad things – bad habits, bad company etc. The very thought, “I am going to be a good man from tomorrow,” generates a great feeling. Typically we begin earnestly with implementing a few of our points and it does give to us some satisfaction.

Life however is vast and complex. Everything tends to become mechanical pretty soon. What is worse, our own mind changes. We change our practices for something new begins to appeal to us. Sometimes even a new guru! Obstacles come our way. Distractions happen very often. Sometimes we go off track so much that it is years before we get back on it. It is like taking a wrong exit and losing a lot of time before being on the freeway again. Our own mental impurities are such that, rather than minding our own spiritual practice, we get busy judging other seekers and evaluating them. Countless are the perils and traps on this so-called spiritual path.

What is true spirituality? Which is the right path? How do we know we are on the right track? While a hundred traditions have all packed spirituality in their own ways, with their symbols and concepts, the essence certainly has not much to do with the packaging. Many practices surely help seekers to gain inner development but spiritual maturity has the fragrance of letting go of rigid and idealistic ways of being. Jack Kornfield, a well-known author, touches on this and gives an interesting instance of a young woman who had struggled greatly in the early years of her (Buddhist) practice in the face of family difficulties and the fundamentalist church to which her parents had belonged. She wrote, “My parents hate me when I am a Buddhist, but they love me when I am a Buddha.”1

The strength and the gentleness that arise with spiritual maturity touch the hearts of others whereas a mere belief system divides people. The flexibility that we discover within us as we grow in maturity is not the result of lack of will power or self-discipline but a higher understanding where we are able to keep issues in perspective, think about them in a reasonable way without exaggerating their importance. “Everything in its right place” takes precedence over “a place for everything” in this broadminded way of seeing things. A rigid mind is unable to appreciate another song while the flexible mind, enjoying a silence within it, is open to new rhythms.

Lacking in ripeness, we turn spirituality and religion into what Alan Watts2 called “a grim duty”. Our sense of commitment to our chosen path may make us lose the natural inner kindness of our heart. Compassion takes a back seat and preconceived ideas of right and wrong dominate our thoughts and feelings. We need to introspect and detect these aberrations, and get back to our original, loving kindness. This requires great courage and honesty. Otherwise the fear of all our long practice going a waste would overcome us. The return to simplicity requires getting rid of any such fear.

It all boils down to giving up pride, hurt, likes and dislikes. We must dare to be ordinary. Life’s situations may demand that we play certain roles, to which the society attaches some authority and power. However, we had better know that we are just one of the billions of waves upon this sea of humanity. It is just not possible to make a judgment about our worth and then sit upon it. We never know where we are. The moment we think we have evolved, that very thought causes a stain on whatever spiritual luster there was within us a split second before.

Let us just be – doing things as they come, with all our heart. Let our flame of awareness not get dim by the smoke of thoughts that describe our path as right and that of others as faulty.

Swami Chidananda

Monday, September 25, 2006

End Notes:

1 Jack Kornfield: A Path with Heart, published by Bantam New Age 1993, page 309

2 Alan Watts: The Essential Alan Watts, published by Celestial Arts, 1977

   

Surge Forty Eight

THE SHINING EXAMPLE

An enlightened man is extremely rare to find in this world. When we do come to know about one and our lives are touched by him, the impact is tremendous. Just the dim awareness of his state of being gives our life a new direction. It awakens us from a very long, deep slumber and sets us on a path which we had neglected all along.

How much energy we waste on the countless and endless matters of the world! After all that, we find we have hardly reached anywhere. Then we see how different the case is, with a realized soul. He has nothing with him and yet seems to have everything. He too lives in the same world of constant change, of innumerable limitations, but nothing seems to matter to him. Though time passes for him too like it does for all of us, his state of being appears to have a timeless quality to it. He is cool, calm and collected even in a crisis. He is strong and stable like a rock. Even death seems to be a small affair for him.

Profound peace emanates from him. There is no conflict in his consciousness. He is naturally integrated and whole. There is no fragmentation of personality. This wholeness makes people refer to him as, ‘his holiness’. Childlike simplicity coexists with great, pure wisdom in him. Though he keeps away from the corridors of power of this world, enormous power resides in him which can totally transform even emperors. Abandoning any role in the petty struggles of people around him, he works in the subtle domain that tackles root causes of humanity’s problems.

Uncontaminated detachment is his wealth. When the urges for pleasure, possessions and power have ebbed out, the undying energy of the soul does not get dissipated any more in pursuit of illusions. The wise man’s dispassion manifests as limitless compassion for all living beings. Expecting nothing in return, of course, he renders help to people – sometimes without even their knowledge.

Established in the Self, he is free from the self. His conduct has the fragrance of universal love. His sweet nature makes him lovable by all. Absence of personal desires removes psychological boundaries between others and him. No wonder people feel one with him. Sometimes they get answers to their doubts in his mere presence. At other times he acts as a mirror for them to know themselves better.

Tormented by life’s unending troubles, we often feel frustrated. At such times, the shining example of a sage, who is also in flesh and blood like we are, brings new hope and fills with fresh courage. We bow down to these men of wisdom.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi, November 8, 2006

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(Inspiration: Verse  Number 40 of Ganapati Muni’s “Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana”)

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Surge Forty Nine

Ring In the New Year

Years pass and years come by. Do we change at all?

Do not lose hope; please know that you can radically change any moment, if you intensely desire to say goodbye your erroneous ways.

Earnestness of desire illumines your thoughts so brightly that you will have total clarity of perception. Otherwise this wanting to change is yet another trick of an impure mind; it is another state of contradiction.

Do not mistake superficial changes in your way of living for the true change that transforms the quality of your life. A well-chosen set of rules (or vows) has its place but could suffer from serious limitations too. Even as you get on with those terrific, new dos and don’ts, the real thief hides within you conveniently and comfortably. We find, in this world, very many people whose life is much regimented. They follow a lot of good rules apparently. We do not find them really selfless. They have surely done some good ground work but then stopped somewhere. The net result is that they are hardly different from all others. Their selfish movement is subtle and sophisticated. It gets institutional protection but it does not escape God’s eyes. When people rise to certain heights in organized religion, they get much acclaim from large numbers of followers or devotees. They know in their hearts how scared they are – as ever before, if not more.

I do not mean, however, that good habits do not help. Right food, proper speech and moderation in all the areas where you tend to go a little overboard can surely facilitate a greater self-awareness which is the key to basic change within you.

How do we then miss the key? Why does self-awareness slip through our fingers as though?

We have lost true sensitivity. Our dulled mind moves within a known ambit of words, symbols and concepts. We do not realize how stuck we are with the same patterns of thoughts, however impressive they may look to (other) ignorant people. We are not letting go of our own vested interests. Consciously or otherwise, we are in the grip of some ‘ism’. We would not accept even God if He were to come in some form other than what we have conceived and concluded.

Watch your fear silently and fully, as though you had never seen such a thing before. The fear has its structure and, what is more, the self (you) has its structure too. Both are operating like good old, well-oiled machines.

“What do we do?” is a wrong question. If there is intense looking, then the right (and new) action emerges out of that perception. As long as you do not know (you have not seen) your wrong position, any action plan has no meaning. When you clearly see the basic error, a hundred previous possibilities become irrelevant right away.

This (so called) New Year, breathe in and inhale just the pure, objective truth. Do not take in fancies and superimpositions. Breathe out and exhale all your unnecessary fear and pride. Let go of your hurt. Abandon all plans for revenge or teaching someone lessons. Live in calm alertness and it will have the right impact on everybody and every situation.

Wish you Happy New Year 2007!

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Surge Fifty

THE SENSE OF PURPOSE

I once asked the then Chairman and Managing Director of one of India ’s largest banks (Bank of India), “What is your tip on time-management?” Shri K V Krishnamurthy replied, “Be business-like in your meetings with all your visitors.” The language used sounds terse but the meaning essentially is spiritually sound. Saving time or any other form of valuable resource is possible when we stay with the sense of purpose. In the Mahabharata, Ekalavya symbolizes total commitment to purpose. Even when he was rejected by Dronacharya, the teacher of archery whom he had sought with all his heart, he did not lose heart. He practiced the difficult art all by himself in the forest and rose to great heights of mastery over it. He did not allow any distraction to weaken his learning activity.

In daily life, we need to be aware of how we waste our energies in myriad ways. If only we watch just our speech, we shall find that our tongue roams in unnecessary domains. What is worse, we say things that lead to spoiled relationships. If we exercise enough responsibility when we converse with people, there will be much more peace and harmony in our lives. Moderation in speech, observes Vimala Thakar, is a way to conserving mental energy. Of course, no suppression is meant here. The economy of speech is brought about rather through right understanding born of vigilance.

Disorder thrives on lack of care. There is a lot of chaos in the life of even the rich and the famous, of the eminent and in that of even the celebrities. Hardly anyone pauses to examine life. All are carried away by the powerful eruptions of their old, hidden,habitual tendencies. Much glory comes to them incidentally and thanks to a certain talent in a specific area, while the whole of life is vastly bigger than the area of their expertise. No wonder we very often find well-known personalities of the world confessing how lost and lonely they feel. Some of them go guru-hunting also, which may or may not help.

The purpose of life itself is hardly clear to anybody. A lot of things that we do in life are all the result of some inner unrest rather than of clarity of purpose. An elderly man once asked a youth, “Why did you marry?” and the young fellow said honestly, “What else to do?” When we look back at our years, we realize how often we had acted impulsively, without giving thought to the matter. Someone ruefully remarked, “Youth is a time to err and old age a time to repent.”

Some examples in history are inspiring where certain men staid focused on a chosen purpose to such an extent that an external force or event could not do much to distract them. The following instance is almost humorous too. During a fiery political speech at Ennis, Eamon De Valera (1882 – 1975), who would become Ireland ’s longtime president and prime minister, was arrested. Released after a year of imprisonment, he hastened back to Ennis, called a meeting and began, “As I was saying when I was interrupted…. “ However, the clarity of purpose and the commitment to it that we are considering here are of a higher order than a mere attachment to a cause.

Hope lies in the fact that great intelligence lies within every one of us, which is usually veiled by a maze of thoughts born of ignorance. In the act of careful self-observation, many unconstructive or unhelpful thoughts get exposed; they die away and then the clear stream of reason from within us can find its way. We must train ourselves to weed out such useless (or even harmful) movements of our mind and stay focused on things that are worthwhile. Listening carefully to our own conscience, and respecting universal values like truth and non-injury, we can bring our mind (and ourselves) back on right tracks and live in much peace, love and joy.

Rabindranath Tagore, in his Gitanjali1, prays to the Lord to help his country stay out of the ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’. He asks God to keep him in a little of fetters whereby he is bound by the Lord’s will, and the Lord’s purpose is carried out in his life. The poet clarifies that the fetters are no other than the chains of God’s love for the devotee. We thus see that there is a way of living where our purpose is well-aligned with the Almighty’s and where we put in our effort in gentle submission to His will.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Footnote 1: Gitanjali: Poems 34 and 35.

 

Surge Fifty One

Zero Worship

We find in this world a lot of hero worship everywhere but in advanced spirituality we go for zero worship.

The hero is someone who has some extraordinary talent. He has performed brilliantly in his chosen field of activity. He may, in some cases, have a lot of wealth or a high position.

The zero is the quiet sage in whom the ego has died. He has become empty within – in a very desirable sense. This emptiness is then the secret of his feeling light all the time, with no regrets of the past or no anxieties for the future. Indeed memories of the past and projections into the future are quite a burden all of us carry normally. Since there is no ‘me’ in this sage of the highest wisdom, there is nobody (psychologically) inside him to feel sad about some event of yesterday or get afraid about some possibility of tomorrow.

“Being Nobody, Going Nowhere” is one of the works of Ayya Khema (1923 – 1997), the renowned Buddhist nun who inspired a lot of people on to the path of meditation and mindfulness around the world and prepared many women teachers of Buddhism. The title itself has a profound message. The high plateau of spirituality, be it Vedanta or Buddhism, talks of the ending of the individual self.

An illumined saint is sometimes compared with the donut – sweet all around but hollow in the center. (The South-Indian delicacy vada also illustrates this equally well.) She has a personality that blesses all around her with words of grace and acts of service. Within her, however, she is very silent. Great dynamism works around a still center in the case of such an evolved soul. Noble qualities of head and heart abound in her personality and her own inner experience is, “I do not do anything” (Compare Geeta 5:8).

In a special chamber of his palace, the king of a country had called a meeting of all the prominent members of his court. All had come and taken seats except the king himself. As all were waiting for him, a fakir (a spiritual recluse looking like a beggar typically) entered the chamber to everybody’s surprise and shocked them by going straight to the chair meant for the king and sitting on it. The prime minister took it upon himself to ask the fakir, “Who are you?” but there was only a smile in reply. Puzzled, the prime minister asked, “Are you some king of another country?” The fakir replied, “I am above any king in the world.” To the next question, “Are you a very rich businessman somewhere?” the answer was, “I am above any businessman anywhere.” After many questions, he had to answer the query, “Are you God?” and even to that he said, “I am above God”. To such an answer, the prime minister reacted tauntingly, “Come on. There is nothing above God.” Then said the fakir, with a gentle nod, “Yes, I am that nothing.” Saying so, he left the chamber and went away, never to return again.

Humility born of self-knowledge makes one drop totally any idea about oneself – either as superior or as inferior to anyone else. In fact there is no sense of ‘any other’ in this state of wisdom. When they asked Shri Ramana Maharshi, “Will one serve others after one’s enlightenment?” the sage of Arunachala said, “After enlightenment, there are no others.” The Upanishads declare, “One sees all in oneself and oneself in all.”

To be this zero is no different from merging in the infinite truth.

Swami Chidananda, Varanasi

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Surge Fifty Two

The Most Excellent Advice

Over many years of my own spiritual studies, the one advice that has always remained very valuable to me is, "When one hand of yours is at work, hold God with the other; as soon as your work is over, hold Him with both your hands." Said by Shri Rãmakrishna, these words have a beauty beyond compare and a practical importance that none can afford to ignore.

God is satyam, shivam, sundaram – true, good and beautiful. What can be wiser for us to do than to hold Him tightly all the time? Sweet remembrance of Him through His name, form or qualities (nãma, roopa or guna) is at once such a purifying act that we can then ill afford to do anything wrong in our daily life. What is more, our mind will prompt us to do truly virtuous deeds when it is held in the pure state through an emotional bond with God. As we know well, our life has become unnecessarily complicated. We keep a lot of extra stuff with us, physically and mentally.

On top of it, we want more and more. A lot of our fights with other people are actually ‘much ado about nothing’. Our mind is utterly confused about what we actually want in life. As Swami Vivekananda quotes in one of his talks, "The mind is like a monkey, restless by nature. It drinks the wine of desire and, to add to its troubles, is bitten by the scorpion of jealousy. On top of it all, the ghost of ego enters into it. Imagine the mind’s state." False prestige, unnecessary sentiments and useless comparisons make our psychological field a veritable fish market of the small town with unbearable noise. In such an unenviable situation, loving remembrance of god anchors us in inner stability and helps us view the worldly matters with much objectivity and the least selfishness.

Selfishness is itself the basic ailment with the human mind. True remembrance of God cures us of this ailment. On a Sunday morning, in a small village, a man requested his wife to go to the neighbor’s house and borrow their hammer. The lady went but returned saying the neighbor’s house did not have any hammer. The man asked her to go the neighbor on the other side and she returned from there too, saying they were using it and therefore could not lend it. Then she went to a couple of other houses nearby and could not get a single hammer from anywhere. After all this, the man said with much anger and disappointment, "Look how selfish all these people are. Nobody is ready to part with their hammer for even a couple of hours. All right, let us then use our own hammer today."

Often we do not realize how selfish we are and we very cleverly identify how everybody around is self-centered. It pays to slow down and introspect. Taking the name of God can help us get a handle on our mind which tends to deceive us. If anybody somehow does not have much idea or feeling about God, she or he could substitute Truth (Existence – Awareness – sat – chit) for God. Truth, justice or order is to be thought of as lying behind and beneath all the apparent chaos and disorder in this world. Hold truth tightly always.

The practical importance of this advice is that it relates to our daily life where we have work to do, duty to discharge. Even the sannyãsis (monks) in the Himãlayas have a few things to do on a daily basis. Householders in villages, towns and cities of course have long lists of things to do. Even with a hundred jobs on hand, it should be possible to put a part of our mind on God (Truth). When we have tooth ache, a part of our attention is on the paining tooth, no matter what we are doing. When a little love of God has risen in us, we would have no difficulty in thinking of Him during all our exertions. Shri Rãmakrishna thus is giving us an advice that is quite doable. Actually there is no other way. Unless we follow his advice, we can have no peace. This is an open secret. Alas, the extrovert tendencies in us make us postpone such divine practices and suffer, unnecessarily.

This advice of the Sage of Dakshineshwar is an echo of Geetã (8:7) where Lord Krishna urges Arjuna, "Therefore, at all times, keep Me in your thoughts and do your duty." The Geetãchãrya defines a new yoga as though by coining a word here – abhyãsa yoga. To translate it literally, it is the spiritual discipline (yoga) of constant practice (abhyãsa). Normally when we work, our mind is partly in work and it partly runs towards a hundred other things that could be unrelated to the work on hand. The practice here involves withdrawal from those countless irrelevant topics and dwelling on the loving remembrance of God. A certain saint explained this with an agricultural analogy. He said we need to remove weeds and sow seeds as per the crop of our desire. Thoughts of work and thoughts of God can go together. Upon completion of work, let there be just thoughts of God.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi, Monday, June 18, 2007

Surge Fifty Three

Solve and Dissolve

In life, a lot of problems need to be solved. There are however a good number of problems that are to be dissolved. This second category is self-created and, in their case, we need to uproot the basic causes of the problems. These causes are hidden within us. Spiritual wisdom helps us get the problems not just solved but dissolved. Take an example: I have chronic back pain and there is a certain medicine which is a bit expensive. Further I have mental turmoil about my ill health. My problem is - how to get the medicines which I cannot afford? A friend, Ravi , supports me financially and he bears all the expenses of my medical bills. Ravi has solved my problem. Alternatively, let us say I have another friend, Lalita, who counsels me, teaches me some yoga exercises and gives me a new vision of life. I sincerely practice the exercises and begin to look at life differently. My back pain disappears and I experience much peace within me. Then we say the problem has DISSOLVED. In the first case, a friend procured the necessary medicines. In the second case, the friend made medicines unnecessary.

Material and psychological issues get typically mixed up in life. Most of us do not see the dividing line or how they are interrelated. When we see the external aspect of our problems, they seem to be all material. It is in the internal side that we can notice how our thinking, values and attitudes, have contributed a lot to life’s problems. To fulfill a desire is to solve a problem. To be free from the desire is to dissolve the problem. Science and technology strive to solve the problems of humanity all the time. They have achieved a lot also. So have other branches of knowledge like economics or political science. Spirituality, on the other hand, has highlighted the wonderful prospect of dissolving problems. Great saints have repeatedly pointed out to humanity that we only create a large number of problems because of our ignorance and wrong values like greed, ambition, jealousy or intolerance. Mental purification can prevent numerous problems from coming into being. Isn’t prevention better than cure?

A great teacher of meditation claims rightly that, if 2% of the population in a town meditates daily, there will be no crime in that town. To have a very efficient police department ‘solves’ the problem of crime but to have the minds of all the citizens purified ‘dissolves’ it. The spiritual approach seems to be too idealistic and many may brush it aside as impractical. Really, isn’t the materialistic approach also hard to achieve actually? Can we ever have a totally honest and fully efficient police force? The police too are human beings and are prone to many imperfections. We may thus give equal importance to both the solutions and work both externally and internally

There is an old story of an American businessman who lands on the shore of the Arabian Sea somewhere in Karnataka in India . A fisherman is relaxing on the sands at 12 noon. The American teases the villager, “Why have you stopped fishing so early? Come on, do some more work and earn more.” The village fisherman says, “What would I do with that extra money?” The westerner says,”You can buy a larger boat and do better fishing. Then you will earn ten times as much.” The simple man says again, “What will I do with that money?” The man from the city responds, “You can get very rich and employ people to do the fishing.” The villager questions, “If my employees do all the work, what will I do then?” The American clarifies, “You can then sit back and relax.” Very puzzled, the fisherman says, “Is it not what I am doing now anyway?”

While the story in now makes a case for laziness or lack of motivation, it all the same provokes thought. Are we caught in a wild goose chase when we pursue more wealth, power, comforts etc.? In the psychological domain also, we seek popularity, fame and name. We want everybody to agree with our views and opinions. We want all to appreciate how we look or how we dress. Any criticism embarrasses us. For strange reasons, or without reason, we feel insecure endlessly and want to become all right by acquiring wealth or fame. We gossip and talk ill of others with the hope of feeling better or more secure. Surely these are the clear symptoms of an inner ailment and we cannot solve these problems by collecting some objects outside. We need to dissolve these problems by looking inward and eliminating all contradictions in our thinking.

A man lost a silver coin and was frantically searching for it in the street light. Some of his neighbors also joined him in his search out of sympathy. After a while, one of his friends asked him, “Where exactly did you lose the coin?” The man said, “Inside my house.” “Then why are you searching for it outside?” The man’s reply was, “Because there is better light outside.”

The glitter and glamour of the world, alas, has every one of us fall a prey for it. As we become very clear about the impermanence of everything outside, we begin to look within. Prince Siddhartha was clear about this matter very early in life. He saw an old man, a sick person and a dead body. He was deeply struck by the sight of these three examples of impermanence and sorrow in the world. He then went on a journey, never to look back. His enlightenment was the culmination of his looking within. He examined, in the finest details, the ways of ego and desire. In his long meditations, he saw the movement of his mind as it created fear or hope. All his problems dissolved when the ego in him died. In its mystic death, the Buddha was born.

Swami Chidananda

Monday, July 30, 2007

Surge Fifty Four

The Soul's Journey of Evolution - 2

Light the Lamp within your Heart

The Festival of Lights - Diwali - is here again and it is time to celebrate. Originally Deepàvali (deepa = lights, avali = row), the word meant 'a row of lighted lamps' and it became Diwali as time passed. Signifying the conquest of the good over evil, this festive occasion marks the day of making a new beginning in our lives. We resolve again to give up our wrong ways and live with right values.

Lord Shri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura on this day long ago and then onwards the fourteenth day (chaturdashee) of the dark fortnight of the month àshvayuja is the NARAKA-CHATURDASHI. Celebrations take place the next day, the Happy Day of DIWALI. We worship Goddess Lakshmj on the day of Diwali. Along with loving remembrance of God, we wear new clothes, share delicious sweets and decorate homes and offices, especially with rows of lamps.

Can we light lamps within us too? Can we bring to our hearts the lamp of clear discrimination (viveka), the one of compassionate sensitivity (daya) and the one of right seeing (samyag-darshana)? It is indeed important to drive away the darkness within us in order to live happily and experience harmony.

Know that sattva (purity) is predominant in you, when there is light in all the gates of your body, says the Bhagavad-Geeta (14:11). Thus light represents purity and knowledge. Not mere bookish knowledge but such wisdom that enables us to see things with eyes of kindheartedness and impartiality is the mark of purity. Mere scholarship may not lead us to illumination. Ideas and concepts very often come in the way of clear perception. Thoughts help us at times but on many other occasions it is silence that makes true understanding possible.

For the light within to burn brightly, we need to submit silently to the silent voice within us. The ego's noise often tends to drown the whisper of our conscience.  By invoking the grace of the Lord, we need to subdue our own ego and make way for truth to speak through us. Naraka means hell and it is the misconceived ego alone that creates hell-like experiences for us and therefore we must invoke Shri Krishna to come and destroy this demon.

Shri Ramana Maharshi asks us to control our breath (prana) and verbal thinking (vak) as preparation for true self-inquiry to take place. Such exercises facilitate proper watching, which alone can bring about the inner transformation. It is no easy task. Alert and vigilant daily living paves the way for this arduous journey to inner perfection. The bright side of the matter is that, deep inside, we are the light of all lights. We have the unbelievable power within us to overpower the old, habit-driven egoistic tendencies in our mind (antaSkaraVa). The greatest battle is to be fought in the field within our heart. True Diwali is when all selfishness subsides and the lamp of love shines inside us.

WISH YOU A HAPPY DIWALI.

Swami Chidananda

(Varanasi)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Surge Fifty Five

Thoughts and Their Sad Limitations

Most people in the world go for the simple philosophy of ‘Be good; do good’. Noble thoughts, for them, are the means to such spirituality and they often boast of their understanding as being the most practical. They regard good thoughts as everything. In a manner of saying, they worship thoughts. For them, thoughts are the ultimate.

The truth is different though. True spirituality is the glimpse of what lies behind (or beyond) thoughts. “Mind alone is maya at play,” observed Swami Chinmayananda, who also defined the mind as nothing else but the flow of thoughts. Many mystics have gone to the extent of saying that we can never know the truth as long as there is the play of thoughts.

No doubt great people like Swami Vivekananda have extolled the power of thoughts. He remarked, “We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” There is the popular saying too, “As you think, so you become.” All these pass for basic spiritual education. Deeper literature makes us shift our attention in a totally new direction.

Thoughts flow from a thinker. This thinker, which becomes the ‘I’ in a lot of contexts, is a product of memories or conditionings. Accordingly, all the thoughts are the outcome of conditionings. Therefore they are not real; they project a world which is self-created. The thinker himself/herself is a bundle of thoughts. To see the truth of this is to get down into intense self-inquiry. “Who am I?” then gains tremendous significance in our eyes.

When we understand that we need to doubt (or question) the sense of ‘I and me’, which drives a number of thoughts, we no more concern ourselves with merely controlling thoughts. Just controlling the mind or channeling it in some desired direction loses all meaning because the self (for whose sake all this is done) is an impostor. If the ‘me’ presently is a product of the past, who am I really?

All sadhana (spiritual practice) comes under a cloud now. If we lose trust in a man, all he does becomes questionable. In the same way, when the ‘me’ is of dubious validity, the practices that this ‘me’ takes up lose their credibility. What do we do then?

The doors of the ‘great yoga of doing nothing’ now open. We do not decide not to do anything; we see that doing anything reinforces the self, therefore we cease to do anything. The energy saved through abandoning all those ego-prompted activities now acts on its own. This energy, when we stop doing the wrong things, brings about a deep inner change. This is not an activity of thought (or thinking) but is a flame; it is the flame of awareness that burns away both the thinker and the thoughts. Then takes place radical change of the human being.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday, January 14, 2008

Surge Fifty Six

Managing Hurt, the Highest Way

When a blade hurts us physically, there are medical means to heal the wound. Let us consider here psychological hurt, and see what can heal the injury.

This topic is of utmost importance. All spirituality is essentially about being free from hurt. When our mind is totally cleansed of all the scars of the past, that itself is moksha, liberation. The root cause of hurt and of its continuation is one and the same in the cases of other common psychological ailments such as fear, worry, greed and jealousy.

We say, “I am hurt.” The wise ask us, “Who is hurt? Who or what is that ‘I’ that is hurt?”

The entity that is hurt is a conception of I. Many thoughts, born of memory, build this concept. If I have enjoyed fame and name for years, there is a large bundle of memories of all that and I carry a ‘me’ that expects special regard and attention from others, who are common men (and women) in my eyes. When I do not receive any special consideration, it hurts me. Even in the case of a relationship between just two people, it is the attachment to memories that keeps certain expectations arising and, when they are not fulfilled, there is hurt. Go anywhere in the world, you will soon be caught in the net of expectations. Spiritual centers are no exception. You expect the so-called gurus to constantly pay attention to you; what is more tragic, some (unripe) gurus seek attention or continued admiration from a good number (if not all) of their followers.

A mind that expects nothing cannot be hurt. Such a mind is an empty but alert mind.

We cannot go far by merely deciding not to expect. Willpower is a charming aspect of mind’s capabilities, which actually is utterly incapable of blessing us with true freedom. Intelligence and willpower are poles apart when it comes to how they influence the human mind. The former is born of total seeing while the latter breeds on partial consideration. With willpower, we may win battles but are sure to lose the war. Its glories are short-lived and it puts no end at all to any human misery. Will power gives us energy in a chosen direction and helps us achieve tasks but we are back to square one very soon. Intelligence removes basic misconceptions and leads us to illumination.

We need to give up our hurried ways that often border on panic, and take a dispassionate look at how we think. What drives our thoughts? Does a certain self-image act as the basis of all our reactions to situations? Is this image closer to facts or is it sustained by fancies? Do ideas of ‘what we should be’ have a great power to shape our thoughts? Is the fact of ‘what we are’ on the back seat, helpless and hapless?

True intelligence is the ability to see through the games that our own thoughts play. It is about gaining basic understanding of how the machinery of thought functions within us. It is not a matter of generating great thoughts; it is rather made of insights into the structure of thought.

Self-observation, carried with intelligence, dismantles all the images in the mind. The walls of the hall then shine brightly without the clutter of too many framed pictures upon them. Such a mind comes upon silence. It has transparency. Old hurt leaves it and new hurt cannot then be.

Swami Chidananda

Monday, March 17, 2008

Surge Fifty Seven

Reach the Ruler Within

Life is full of conflicts for all humanity, with hardly any exception. “Oh, this dilemma is so difficult; what am I to do?” is the question in almost everybody’s heart; only the details of the problem vary.

Exploring various possible solutions to our difficult predicaments, we necessarily exercise our intellect and almost exhaust our logical abilities. This self-effort is something we must put in. Great people have indeed said that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

Spiritual masters do not undermine this self-effort (purushArtha). However, they advise us to look beyond also. They would not like us to be blind to ‘prospects beyond reason’. The kathopanishad (2.2.1) declares,

There is a city with eleven gates

Of which the ruler is the unborn Self.

Whose light forever shines.

They go beyond sorrow who meditate on the Self.

And are freed from the cycle of birth and death.

For this Self is supreme.1

Our own body is the city, and the metaphor here counts its eleven gates. (Two each of the eyes, the ears and the nostrils, combined with the mouth, the navel, the genitals, and the anus, make ten. The science of yoga mentions an eleventh gate, the brahma-randhra, found on our head, through which the life force leaves the body in the case of the illumined yogi.) Ordinarily we look out and perceive this world of names and forms (nAma-roopa). No wonder almost all our thoughts revolve around the external world. We seldom suspect that there could be a supreme truth within us.

The mystic work from the yajurveda beckons us to a hidden treasure. The Self (Atman) is our own true nature, kept away from our view by the mischievous thoughts. Memories spur thoughts, which in turn evoke more memories from the past or projections into the future. This whole domain of thinking, as per the wisdom of the Vedanta, has sad limitations. At best, battles are won here but the war is lost. To hope for lasting peace in this field is an exercise in vain; it is a wild goose chase.

To turn within and to meditate on the Self, which is of the nature of Pure Awareness is an entirely different proposition. We do not build a bridge to happiness here nor place a ladder to climb up; it is rather a quantum leap where we discover the substrate of all our experiences. This ground was, is and will be an endless repository of pure bliss. This shift is a transition from reason to ‘beyond reason’.  Please note it is not against reason.

The Ruler Within blesses us with a new vision. We then are clearly aware that the framework of space and time, in which all our sorrows occur, is actually a small affair. There is then the unbroken, intuitive understanding that we are the Self, unaffected by the worldly phenomena.

Swami Chidananda

Monday, June 09, 2008

1 The translation of this verse is by Eknath Easwaran, as found in his book “Selections from the World’s Most Sacred Literature,” published by Nilgiri Press in USA and by Jaico in India ; page 159

Surge Fifty Eight

Peace: Geeta’s Guidance

Very few in this world are able to live in peace and tranquility. Material discomforts are the cause of agitation in a lot of cases and disturbed human relationships are the cause of trouble in other. Many imagine that living in spiritual centers (ashrams) ensures peace. Others fancy Himalayan settings. Yet others dream of special time zones, such as free mornings, cooler or warmer months, and vacation periods etc, as the gateways of peace. While all such factors of place and time may marginally help, the real key to peace is more elusive than is available to ordinary reason.

Giving up all selfish desires is the way to peace, says the Geeta (2.71). When the self (ego) ends, we find peace wherever we go. Otherwise no external arrangements are to any avail. To give up (the self and) the selfish desires, we need to have the wisdom of the Self. We must know we are full, adequate and completely secure. It is spiritual ignorance that makes us cling to a hundred things in the world and seek security in them. The Vedanta wisdom helps us let go of all false clinging.

The Song Celestial again says (5.12) we can discover profound peace if we abandon our attachment to the fruits of action. This is actually not different from the earlier revelation. The advice is put in different words. The emphasis on ‘what we get’ in a relationship is the attachment to the fruit. Such stress is born of the activity of the self only. We imagine that our worth is linked to the material rewards or the praise by people. Such thoughts are once more the result of spiritual ignorance. We must realize that our dependence on factors like comfort, profit, recognition etc keeps us eternally bound. What is more, such dependence is merely a bad thinking habit. We can drop it. A powerful insight into the truth, often facilitated by satsanga (contact with a sage), makes us just drop it.

Meditation is said to open the doors of deep peace (6.15). As we gain a better understanding of meditation, we realize that Shri Krishna is not giving a different medicine to our ailment here. Seeing is the essence of meditation. Rather than riding on thoughts, pleasant or unpleasant, we stay as the light of awareness that sees the play of thoughts as they construct the self and its myriad projections. There is no ‘adding fuel to the fire’ in this right seeing, as we are merely the witness. The mischievous machinations of the mind have to die a natural death upon being watched quietly by us.

Peace is ours when we wake up from our complicated, dreamy way of living, characterized by false identifications with goals and groups.  When we rediscover the plain human being within us, the entire structure of seemingly endless fears and agitations collapses like a house of cards.

Swami Chidananda

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Surge Fifty Nine

REVELATION AND INQUIRY

Even within the fold of what goes by the name of path of knowledge, certain saints reveal the truth, having gained its perception in all clarity. The rest of us then have the opportunity to reflect upon it, gain right understanding of it and own it. These teachers primarily reveal and instruct. They help their students, in their secondary role, to inquire and think logically. Certain other saints raise questions and go on shaking the foundations of erroneous thinking of their students. To a large extent they avoid spelling out explicitly what the truth is. They concern themselves with exposing the false. And there again, their attempt is to help the students find out for themselves where the contradictions lie.

The path of devotion, of course, is highly centered in revelation. Faith and surrender are its key words. Here we are saying that even the wisdom traditions (jnana yoga) are of two kinds. The first kind does involve a good amount of faith and a bit of surrender. However these are supported and verified by reason and experience.

Continuing on the wisdom traditions, take for example, the revelation, “That Thou Art” (tat-tvam-asi) is a revelation. The Vedanta teachers say to the student, “You are pure existence-awareness (sat-chit).” The necessary clarifications, explanations and logical support are supplied in instruction sessions that precede or follow the revelation. Also, necessary changes in the way of living are also advised or prescribed. Avoiding excess of food or speech and ensuring honest transactions are examples of moral disciplines.

Teachers like J Krishnamurti (and some Zen masters, I believe) seem to go for “inquiry with hardly any revelation”. They abhor any pointers to the truth, saying such attempts would distract the student from the actualities of daily living. Truly enough, many seekers make philosophical studies another comfort zone for them to forget (avoid thinking about) the true challenges of life. The teachers of the second camp firmly suggest that we examine our life with an ‘on the spot’ alertness. In the elimination of all psychological escapes is the face of truth revealed.

Wherever we go, our worst enemy is within us. Our own clever mind is capable of turning any guidance into a compartment of comfort. We use (misuse) all the scriptures (and such literature that stands apart from scriptures) to our (gross or subtle) selfish advantage. Most important therefore is the need to be utterly honest and earnest. Then there is hope. Our ego may burn away in the flames of true wisdom1.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday Sep 29th, 2008

1 jnanagnih sarva-karmani bhasmasat kurute tatha. Geeta 4.37

Surge Sixty

Beauty and Power of Watching

Watching the whole of our psychological life, every moment, has great charm. While we talk, walk, eat or react, the inner eye can expose dimensions of our being, which may be hitherto unknown. This exposing leads to ending of the self.

“Alert and vigilant living itself is sadhana1 in its truest sense,” observed Swami Chinmayanandaji. When taken seriously, this can mean watching is the best of all sadhanas. Alertness is ‘watching’ and a hundred other sadhanas are ‘doing’. Watching (seeing, observing, inquiring) does not involve any doing. Doing may be on the planes of thought, word and deed. Attentive living involves awareness of thought, word and deed; it is itself not any of these three. Putting this teaching in rigorous terms, Krishnamurti once2 said, “Just be alert, and do nothing.”

What is the wisdom of observation? How does it have such high merit?

The Vedanta literature at many places praises ‘right seeing (samyag-darsana)’. Such seeing is different from bookish, verbal knowledge. It is wisdom (jnana) or inquiry (vicara), and it is the key to liberation. “Inquiry reveals the Reality and millions of actions (karma) are incapable of doing so,” declares Viveka-cudamani. Atma-bodha, another classic piece of Vedanta wisdom, argues logically, “Being not opposed to it, karma cannot eliminate ignorance (avidya). Right seeing (vidya) alone eliminates ignorance just as light alone can dispel darkness.”

Call it liberation, name it ‘radical transformation of the human psyche’ or just describe it as ‘ending of selfishness’, the quantum leap in human consciousness is through an insight. It is not through some activity, however well-conceived.  The person himself (or herself) gains a totally new understanding of life, about his (her) relationship with the world and with regard to his (her) very identity (or absence thereof).

Watching is our true nature, and is free of the sense of doership. In contrast, doing something necessarily involves a sense of doership (kartr-tva). The state of freedom is marked by absence of doership. So while our body or mind may be active or inactive, observation can go on.

Someone like Krishnamurti was not a Vedanta scholar. What made him denounce all action as a means to (true) change? He perhaps saw that the countless forms of sadhana that the various religions of the world propagated had certain sad limitations. Masses especially were divided by these religions and these divisions led even to a lot of bloodshed. Even learned individuals, practicing the sadhanas, were found to be unable to come out of their limited identities. He therefore talked of such themes like the limits of thought. Calling thought a response of memory, he pointed out how the past clouded every one of our perceptions. Can the mischief of thought come to an end by more of thinking?

Why do we not change despite much scholarship? We may know a description of sthita-prajna (a man of steady wisdom), as given in the second chapter of the Gita. We may have deeply appreciated the life and teachings of The Buddha. Following such inspiration, we may be practicing certain disciplines also on a regular basis. Yet various conflicts do not leave our bosom. Some of us get upset over the imperfections in others or in ourselves. “They should be like this, but they are not; I should have done that but I did not,” are the typical, generic descriptions of our daily life’s conflicts. Some others among us stay calm apparently, but have actually become insensitive or indifferent to things going wrong.

A cleansing of the subconscious mind is required in order that we may truly change. This is not brought about by practices, which are basically a repetition of a chosen action. We need to catch the thief red-handed and that is possible only through awareness at the moment.

The thought, “I am meditating regularly” can itself hold a person in its grip. The sense of individuality is then strengthened in yet another way. Watching eliminates such subtle thoughts and leaves us in the state of “I am”, uncontaminated by thoughts.

Thinking, doing, feeling and chanting put us in the balcony of the divided self. Watching alone sets us free in the open sky of undivided existence.

Notes:

1 sadhana is generally translated as spiritual practice.

2 To Asit Chandmal

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday, December 1, 2008

Surge Sixty One

One Good No

As you welcome the New Year 2009, resolve to say one good NO everyday. On this, please do not say No to me.

Find out what has wasted most of your time all through life. Say NO to it daily in the coming year. What has weakened you? What has spoiled your valued relationships? What has damaged your efficiency and effectiveness? What thought, word or deed has let you down consistently? Give it up.

In the Hindu tradition, you give up something very dear to you when you visit Kashi (today’s Varanasi or Banaras ). Please remember, the word Kashi means Light or Effulgence. When you visit the luminous true nature of your own, the Atman, you will naturally break the shackles that bound you all along. You give up the worst all-time bad habit of yours. You conquer time and stay in the timeless, shining Self.

What has been your constant error? Fearing something? Have you been afraid of ‘what others say’ even when your conscience is very clear about the right thing to say or do? Say NO to that fear on January 1, on January 2 and daily till December 31.

Was it some silly pursuit of pleasure, which came in the way of your duty? Was it the attachment to some comfort that prevented you from performing better? Was it some slavery to sense enjoyments that brought a foul smell to your relation with family, friends and associates, which otherwise had the perfume of true love? Let go of such an unnecessary clinging. Bask in the lovely sunshine of freedom in the New Year.

Did you waste your time and energy trying to please somebody who really did not deserve any of it? Did you give a lot of attention to certain people who anyhow never valued it? Enough is enough; now say NO.

Was it an ambition to become something, while you are actually very fine as you are? Caught in the clutches of that desire, you never found time to smell the roses that bloomed in your backyard. That great longing was no other than a false conditioning that you fell a prey to. Say NO to it now. Celebrate what you are and do not waste an iota of energy anymore on building castles in the air.

In the name of love of truth (that is what philosophy means), did you actually get caught in books and more books? Say NO to all those heaps of words. Live your life in true eagerness to understand directly (and not through some scholar’s descriptions) what life is all about. You have all the intelligence within you. Let not concepts bring smoke in those flames of ‘right seeing’ that are part of your true nature.

One good NO a day, keeps the guru away. (No disrespect meant; when you are full of light, the guru stands at a distance and smiles away.)

With lots of good wishes,

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

December 31, 2008

Surge Sixty Two

Thought Binds, Attention Liberates

By and large, human life is dominated by thought. In one sense, much praise is rightly heaped upon thought, as countless are its achievements beyond the shade of doubt. All the accomplishments of science and technology are thanks to thought and, further, there is some truth in the saying, “As you think, so you become.” However, the same power that put a man on the moon has caused endless wars and sorrowful starvation on the earth. We claim we have subdued Nature and made all the animals and birds on the planet subservient to us. The only cause of fear for us is – another man. Man has proved himself to be ungrateful, greedy and ever discontent, time and again. The culprit is, alas, man’s own thought, which is a process that is hard to understand and difficult to manage.

Desire is a form of thought. We may consider it a product of thought, when we regard thought in a much larger sense, as a process with many components that are woven in the form of a complex network. Then desire is just one of the many expressions of this multifaceted process. (To draw an analogy from mathematics and electronics, electromagnetic waves are analyzed with complex algebra with one of the components placed on the imaginary axis. The signal is expressed as x + iy. Both electric and magnetic forces travel together in space. This wave contains many kinds of information.) Thought carries many things – desires, resentments, beliefs, doubts and so on. So inscrutable are the ways of thought that the Vedanta1 exclaims, “There is no other ‘illusory power’ (maya, avidya) other than thought (mind).”

All our ‘becoming somebody’ in the society or in the world loses its significance when, at the end of it, we are psychologically pretty much the same as ever before. If I had envied the pretty pencil set that the other girl in my class had, during my school days, I now envy the magnificent mansion the other businesswoman possesses in a very posh locality of my city. A thousand people may admire me for all the success I have got in my field but I burn with envy so often (if not day and night) thinking of the grand house of Kanchanamala2. The so-called power of thought has outwardly taken me to heights of glory but I inwardly remain at the same place where I was at the age of eight.

Therefore the wise have asked, “Can we change?” Their interest is the radical transformation in human psyche and not any superficial glory. They see that the realm of thought is fraught with problems. They do not believe that thought is the answer to the troubles caused by thought. Thought is a trickster. J Krishnamurti says, “Thought gives rise to desire and then thought says – I must control desire.” Maharshi Ramana compared thought with the thief-turned-policeman who was apparently searching for the thief and he himself had been the thief.

There is in every one of us another higher power – attention. Meditation is staying attentive, and not savoring some delicious thoughts. We may borrow noble thoughts from great traditions and, dwelling upon them, experience peace. Such exercises however do not go to the root cause of our bondage. Awareness – silent observation – reveals freedom, when all the machinations of thought get exposed and subside on their own. Silence surpasses the glory of word and thought.

Swami Chidananda

March 18, 2009

Notes:

1 na hyastyavidya manaso’tirikta – Viveka-Chudamani, verse 171

2 a name, not uncommon among Indian women, that means ‘a lady with a gold necklace’

Surge Sixty Three

Is Our True Nature Divine?

“That Thou Art,” is one of the Great Statements1 of the Vedanta. It means every one of us is divine in our true nature. God and we are one, implies this revelation. We know God to be indestructible and full of love. The Vedic utterance here2 is meant to be an eye-opener for us, saying we too are full of love in the depth of our hearts. Usually we live in self-doubt if not in self-condemnation.

How are we divine? A simple way to explain this is – we have infinite capacity to love and we are undoubtedly lovable. Love here is in the truest sense of the term, and not in one of its narrow connotations as most movies, plays, novels or short stories present. Love is a state of being, where there is no selfishness or fear. In that state, we look at all people with a great sense of harmony. We have no intention to take anything from them, nor are we worried about losing anything to them. This state has no personal likes or dislikes3.

The ignorant work for happiness, but the wise do out of happiness, observed Swami Chinmayananda. This answers the popular question, “Why would a divine person do any work at all in this world?” Most people take some kind of discontent or dissatisfaction as a prerequisite to live in this society. They imagine that a man would drop dead if he were satisfied in all respects. They do not see anything other than desire or ambition as the driving force behind action. The truth however is different. Love moves mountains.

Almost everybody in the world suffers from some form of insecurity or the other. Today, in the face of the global economic depression, large numbers of people in the developed countries also are under stress. A study of the Vedanta can help them see through their own self-created misery. Such a study can throw light on the dividing line between biological insecurity and psychological insecurity. Spiritual wisdom eliminates the latter and then we see that, in 99 out of 100 cases, the former hardly exists.

“You are the Atma,” roars the Vedanta, “You have identified falsely with the personality made of the body and the mind.” Countless thoughts, following this false identification, continuously reinforce the foundation for all sorts of negative conclusions. We are then sorry for not having a big house, while our true need is just a little place with basic amenities. We are sad that somebody else is more recognized than we are, while we have received enough love and regard from a good number of people. We are depressed that we do not know enough philosophy (to talk over tea), while a lot of verbal knowledge seldom enriches our life.

It is neither by possessing things nor by avoiding them that we become happy.  Similarly neither company of people nor resisting them ensures happy living. Harmonious living is marked by not depending on things or people. When we are happy within us, we welcome them when they come and let them go when they leave4. This state is not arrived at by willing to be so. This becomes our natural state when we let go of all artificialities in our daily living.

When pretending ceases and we stop clinging to false prestige, we remain in our nature. The Vedanta calls this true nature of ours divine, “You are That.”

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday, March 30, 2009

End Notes:

1 The Great Statements are called maha-vakyas in Sanskrit.

2 It is found in the Sama-Veda, in one of its upanishads (Chandogya).

3 Compare with Geeta 12.15 and 12.17.

4 aagate svaagatam kuryaat, gacchantam na nivaarayet – an old saying.

Surge Sixty Four

Nonattachment and Right Seeing

Nonattachment (vairagya), alas, has become just a word for most people. They are attached to a lot of things in life; and they are attached to words too – worldly (laukika) and spiritual (vaidika). Knowledge and scholarship make them proud.

In a significant advice1 in the Viveka-Cudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination), Sri Sankaracarya connects nonattachment with right seeing (samyag-darsana). “A man, drowning in the ocean of samsara, must lift himself up, by himself, through (first) attaining nonattachment2 and (then) establishing himself in right seeing,” says the master of non-dual Vedanta.

In his commentary on this eminent work, Sri Candrasekhara Bharati says ‘right seeing’ is the direct means to liberation while ‘nonattachment’ is the main cause (or means) leading to right seeing.

The higher we go, the lesser becomes the difference between the means and the end. When we examine the nature of pure nonattachment, we can see that it is impossible to have it without right seeing. We therefore wonder if right seeing leads to real nonattachment. Which is then the means and which the end?

No wonder teachers like J Krishnamurti have described ‘attention’ (going well with right seeing) as the beginning and the end. They would dismiss the division of means and end, and appeal to their friends to just live in attention. Any attachment is a reflection of old conditionings and therefore is the shadow of our past. The self (ego) and its preferences are both created out of memories. Attention is abidance in the present; its flame burns the dead. Alert living is the mani-karnika ghat of Varanasi , where the corpses of thought are continuously consigned to the tongues of ‘the fire of awareness’.

Traditionally we have always heard that viveka (discrimination between real and unreal) leads to vairagya. Here again, true discrimination demands ‘seeing things properly.’ If we look at objects, letting some old habits take us over, viveka is just not possible. If, on the other hand, we behold the glitter and glamour of this world with a quiet mind, free from past tendencies, hardly anything can take us for a ride.

Sweets or cars, music or dance, woman or wine – we may relate with them all with no bias: then the wonder of wonders happens. The machinery of thinking slows down and grinds to a halt. Thinking (drawing from the past all the time) had all along colored our vision, making us attached to certain things and averse to certain other. When thoughts do not govern us anymore, the quiet mind has a unique intelligence. Then we have a liberating vision, with love and compassion in our bosom. We seek nothing; nobody needs to fear us anymore.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Friday, May 01, 2009

1 uddhared-atmanatmanam magnam samsara-varidhau

yogarudhatvam-asadya samyag-darsana-nisthaya – Verse 9

2 The verse actually says, “Having mounted the steed of yoga,” but it means, “Having attained a high degree of vairagya.” The justification can be found in Gita 6.4

Surge Sixty Five

NET-WORTH AND SELF-WORTH

People have shown a great ability to bounce back, when unexpected turns of events made them lose all their wealth and status. When Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of JPMorgan, was recently in India , he reminisced on his reaching heights of glory at Citigroup in the good old days and then being thrown out suddenly. He had to start from scratch. “My net-worth had gone totally but not my self-worth,” he said to reporters. There is something spiritual about such an outlook.

Maintaining high self-worth is a sign of good spiritual health. Time will tell, of course, if you had hypnotized yourself into it or you really had the strength born of the intuitive grasp of your own deeper dimension. When external assets vanish and when even the body and the mind get weak, the spirit can rise and show its powers. It will breathe new life into the mind first, and then restore the agility of the body. Before long, your material well-being also has to stage a comeback.

Are we saying people like Dimon are spiritual and we would place them on par with saints and sages? Of course not. This element of inner silence in the wake of a tragedy that empowers fresh thinking and involvement in a new venture (as he did with JPMorgan) is a sure sign of spiritual potential. With a few other requirements fulfilled, yes, such business icons can scale the heights of spiritual glory. Those requirements would be, among others, keen awareness of the limitations of all the worldly pursuits and love of the truth that shines behind the (gold lid of) word and thought. These are called vairagya and jnana by Adi Shankaracharya in his introductory remarks on the Bhagavad-Geeta, where he says these two qualities mark the nivritti-dharma (the discipline of renunciation). People like Dimon were destined to blaze a trail in pravrtti-dharma (the discipline of action in the world).

“Never say die,” is possible when you have an inkling of “who you are” deep down. The Vedanta repeatedly puts it in the words, “You are not the body, nor the mind; you are Pure Existence and Awareness.” Those who fully grasp this truth stride across this earth with no fear or worries. The purpose of studying the Upanishads is to awaken such Self-knowledge in us, and not merely make us scholars of philosophy. What prevents such an intuition is the loud noise of our own thoughts, which are – to make matters worse – the product of false conditionings. We are caught in the maze of memories, which not only play again and again bygone events before our mental eyes but also create an identity for us. This latter part (referred to as I-thought by Maharshi Ramana) is what mainly weakens our self-worth along with our net-worth.

Self-inquiry counters these memories and clears the smoke screen created by them. The thought, “Who am I?” removes a thousand thoughts of “Who I am” and, finally, itself disappears. The Pure Self is not a thought, while the ego is nothing but a bundle of thoughts.

Would you say, you never thought this way?

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Surge Sixty Six

STAY ALERT

Staying alert is the essence of spirituality. The man who is vigilant lives rightly while the scholar slips and falls. Organized religion gives false and temporary sense of security. Only a personal discovery of truth sets a man free. Much thinking cannot help you take right decisions but you will come out with right action when you can stay quiet and perceive the given situation without coming under the sway of likes and dislikes. Attachments and aversions are the undesirable gifts of the dead past. When you are alert, you are in the living present. The light of pure intelligence acts through you and you are not overpowered by the forces of old habit. You stand on the firm ground of freedom.

Fear and desire are the outcome of memories. When you remember some painful event, you fear its repetition. You do not want it to happen again. Similarly you desire the recurrence of some pleasant experience and want to go through it once more. So both these are rooted in memory. The fact meanwhile is that memories are very limited in their scope and they are unreal. A picture of an apple cannot satisfy your appetite as a real fruit can do. When you are carried away by fear and desire, you are, to a great extent, guided by the false and directed by the unreal. When you stand on guard, you are face to face with the true and the real.

An ancient text1 observes, “Lack of alertness is death.” The death that the scriptures warn you of is not the clinical death of the body, but the terrible situation where you are trapped in ego and egoistic tendencies. It is the psychological prison, worse than death, where you deny to yourself the beautiful freedom of your true nature, of the Self. More than harming anybody around you, you do a great disservice to yourself when thoughts that separate you from others rule the roost. Enslaved by pride or prejudice, you live in self-created insecurity and the consequent misery. You are caught in the maze of thoughts and the light of pure awareness barely gets in.

“The sense organs have likes and dislikes towards various sense objects. An intelligent person would not let them gain control over him,” says2 the Geeta (3.34). Though a translation like, “One should not come under their control,” is broadly acceptable, the meaning is better conveyed when you say, “If you are alert and intelligent, you would not let them rule you.” The language of “should and should not” has the smell of exercising will power; action proceeding from right understanding has a different fragrance. When you know there is fire in front of you, you do not exercise will power. Your perception does everything. There is no need to think, argue or weigh the pros and cons of touching the shooting flames. Alertness, right perception and seeing with a quiet mind are all about an operation above the plane of thought, memory and habit.

“Desire, anger and greed are three thieves that have made your body their home. They are all set to steal the jewel of wisdom from you. Therefore be alert; be on guard,” says3 Shri Shankaracharya in one of his compositions. What are these thieves but mechanical repetitions of old thought waves? Every one of us has enough common sense to recognize these as undesirable but the problem is – they become very powerful when they arise. We become helpless drivers of cars the headlights of which have suddenly turned off and the road before us is dark. Should it really be so? Is it possible that, to stretch the illustration a little further, we knew some defects were coming up with our front lights and we had ignored them for the last two weeks or so? In like manner, is it possible that we live our daily life with some amount of casualness, letting many influences frequently condition us, and then, at a testing moment, we are just unable to handle an emerging emotion?

No wonder Krishnamurti remarked, “Attention is the way to attention.” Not rituals, not reading and not repetition of sacred mantras is the way to this waking up. All of them can be seen to cause compartments in your life. They cause the division of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde4. You become a split personality: within you there are a good person and an evil person too. What is worse, you keep struggling with this division and you carry ideas (judgements) of who you are. Your life swings between the so-called good deeds and the so-called immoral acts. The pendulum goes from one extreme to the other. (In physics we learn: as the pendulum reaches zero kinetic energy and has stopped moving for a moment, it has gathered the maximum potential energy and is all set to move again.) You move from guilt and shame at one end to a repeat act at the other. At one end you have so many ideas of how you should be; and remorse over how you are not yet so. At the other end, you throw everything to the winds and let sheer habit take over.

Do not get carried away by judgements – good or bad. Be passively aware of how your mind works. Be intensely aware of your indulgence in both pleasure and pain. Small victories lead to big victories, they say. Be attentive to the tiny wave of pleasure that rises in you when you see your name or picture in a magazine or newspaper, with some importance attached to it. Watch the little disappointment within you also, when somebody forgot to mention your name in her speech. Being aware of all these crests and troughs of the emotional movement, you learn about yourself. In this learning there is the undoing of the ego.

It is well said in an old couplet5, “Do not do what should not be done even if your life is at risk. Please do only that which should be done, even at the cost of life.” Our society has always praised such righteous behaviour and has urged children especially to cultivate sterling values, follow some glorious role model and so on. The difficulty is as simple as this: without understanding what you are, your adoring ideas of what you should be will cause a lot of psychological complications. In seeing who (and what) you are, there is the elimination of falsehood. That alone clears the ground and facilitates true transformation.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday, July 27, 2009

Notes:

1 pramado vai mrityuh – Shri Sanat-kumara in Sanat-sujateeya.

2 tayor-na vasham-agacchet

3 tasmad jagrata jagrata

4 Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from the other.

5 akartavyam na kartavyam pranaih kantha-gatair-api

Surge Sixty Seven

STEP BEYOND THE NET

The great Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj observes, “We see the world through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. The real world is beyond the mind’s ken. To see the universe as it is, we must step beyond the net.”

He then adds, “Stepping beyond the net is not hard, for this net is full of holes!”

What are the holes? How do we find them? When we look at the net, we can find many contradictions. We do and undo at every step. We want peace and love but work hard to create pain and hatred. We want to live long but we overeat. We want true friendship but exploit everyone.

The net of our thoughts is thus full of holes, its contradictions. If we see them, they will go.

Therefore the urgency is not about reading all those books that we have collected at our home library. It is rather about being aware of the mechanical way our mind is working. Krishnamurti called it reading the book of life. The action is needed here and now; of what use is it to think, “Oh I must meditate tonight; I must go to the temple this weekend”? Meditate now – in the form of breaking the habit of imagining and by way of seeing things as they are. Go now to the temple in your own heart – where the light of pure awareness shines, unconditioned by memory.

Are we earnest at all about our own freedom? Or are we content with the praise, “He is a good slave?” When we have given primary importance to social respectability, we thereby put off indefinitely our own breaking free. This does not of course mean we must simply disregard the society and break its laws thoughtlessly. We need to see how we create artificial structures of power or glory and then suffer under their weight. We make somebody a celebrity and then envy her. We make someone else a (so-called) common man and turn indifferent to him. The extra attention we give to the celebrity and the attention we deny to the common man are both actually expressions of our lacking the quality of true attention. In such self-created hierarchy we lose our sensitivity; we live carelessly.

If we are earnest in self-inquiry, we would not live under the pressure of various notions. Fancy ideas of who is great and who ordinary create the false net of the mind. The idea of greatness makes me ‘want to become like that’. Similarly the idea of commonness makes me ‘not want to remain like that’. Either way, I am pursuing an image (or avoiding an image) and, in the process, am failing to know myself as I am. The challenge before us is to ask, “Who am I?” and not to get caught in the wild goose chase of becoming.

Caught in the net, we look out and chase a dream. Stepping out of the net, we wake up. Many dreams, no doubt, are lovely. Alas, all of them at the end are nothing. They are, as a play of Shakespeare is titled, Much Ado about Nothing. The Vedanta therefore gives the analogy of going after the mirage, mistaking it to be real water; or desiring the silver in the (sea shell called) mother of pearl. The Upanishads ask, “Are not all actions (karmas) a sign of ignorance? Are you not chasing one illusion after another through them?” The wise do not (with plan and scheme) do any karma. If at all, karmas take place spontaneously through them. Swami Chinmayananda therefore made a distinction: the unwise act for happiness; the wise act out of happiness. The happiness of the wise is from their intuitive awareness of their own fullness, no matter what.

Let us not think of long years of tapas on the slopes of the Himalayas; that is a grand future plan. What is the present plan? Let us live today with all vigilance, ensuring that no word slips from our mouth wrongly and no food enters our mouth unnecessarily. Let us, if necessary, reprimand somebody who is at fault but not utter one un-parliamentary word. Let us eat sweets (provided we are not diabetic) but not take one more piece than the appropriate quantity. Living now rightly may make the grandiose plans redundant.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Monday, August 10, 2009

Surge Sixty Eight

BURN THE INCENSE TO GET THE FRAGRANCE

Mere words take you nowhere; live them and then you know the great beauty of spiritual wisdom. Just as you have to burn incense sticks to get their fragrant fumes, you have to burn the words in the flame of actual living to feel their great power.

bhuktaye, na tu muktaye” said Shri Shankaracharya in his Viveka-Chudamani, which means, “Verbal scholarship can only give some amount of worldly enjoyment but not inner freedom”. Like singers, dancers and other performers, speakers on spiritual topics become heroes in this mad world. Masses see in these people larger-than-life figures; they almost become living gods in the eyes of their fans and admirers. They suffer privately from their human frailties. They can neither be comfortable in their role (as it is not natural or normal for them) nor can they easily extricate themselves from the artificial structures around them.

One in a hundred, however, walks out. She intensifies her efforts towards living the core teachings. She stands guard, for example, against her habitual tendencies to seek “reward, recognition, fame and name” in all that she does. That is phala-tyaga of the Bhagavad-Geeta. To let go of the urge for praise is more valuable than giving a hundred discourses on one of those Geeta shlokas that talk about such “renunciation of fruits of action”. She does not hesitate to cancel a public talk if some difficulty arises in the organizing of it but takes extra care not postpone her  inquiry or meditation. She saves energy by withdrawing from egotistic activities and invests it in actual, inner exploration. In speech, food and sleep, she avoids excess and gently trains her body and mind to come upon a natural state of harmony.

Plenty of opportunities to do real sadhana come to us in our privacy. No wonder Bernard Shaw remarked, “A man’s character is to be judged by what he does when he thinks nobody is watching him.” Real sadhana does not compartmentalize life into public and private domains. The earnest seeker has no dual policies for these two spheres. If he likes to read some magazines for half an hour, for example, he does so – irrespective of whether someone is watching him or not. His true values and understanding determine his behaviour; the fear of being judged or the desire to impress people does not. All this is possible if a certain inner cleansing has taken place. This cleansing takes place when we give space to ourselves, to watch and to learn. Much before the big question “Who am I?” could be asked, we must ask, “What am I doing? What do I fear? Why am I compromising?” Rather than going into a long, verbal analysis or commentary on our own behaviour, we must inquire with a silent mind. It is not in elaborate thinking but in simple, direct seeing that false fears flee. Contradictions disappear; integration of personality takes place.

Living the spiritual teachings thus is not about conforming to some precepts or formulas. The core of the great teachings seldom stresses on dos and don’ts. It rather asks us to find out what is right. The light within us guides us. The silent mind – free from personal likes and dislikes – is the springboard of right action. The best judgment arises from the non-judgmental state of mind.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Surge: Sixty nine

SILENCE AS VIRTUE

The talented also suffer in life. They have a good time for a while but then sooner or later they get quite attached to the skills that they possess and to the recognition that they receive. Before long they notice that the world has other things also to do than just stand and admire their show. It is not easy to accept this. They want to continue to impress people. They want to go on displaying their gifts and receive awards and accolades. They get miserable when people turn their attention to somebody else.

The ability to remain silent – in contrast to the outgoing urge to perform, impress and derive pleasure – is a great virtue. In this silence we listen and learn. We are able to appreciate others’ abilities. We accept gracefully many ups and downs of life when there is this inner silence that perceives without hasty reaction. We are then ready to give but we do not insist. We do not impose ourselves on anybody but are available to help and serve. People feel peace about us. Our presence itself is a gift to them without a word uttered.

When they asked him to describe most briefly the essential sadhana (spiritual practice), Shri Ramana Maharshi said, “Be Still.” This advice to keep quiet means much more than vocal silence. In its profound sense, it is a call for a spiritual seeker to be free from ego. When the ego is present, long verbal silence has little value; when the ego is absent, talking much also is benediction in every word of it. The crux of the matter is therefore not “to talk or not to talk” but “to be free from the sense of I, me and my”.

By deciding to be free from ego, no one succeeds in doing so. The will to be humble and the resolve to serve people generate the ego if not create more illusions. Teachers like Krishnamurti therefore laid emphasis upon alertness and awareness. Paying attention to the movement of the self, which means being intensely aware of the operation of the ego, could bring a basic change in the way we live. To notice the false becomes the essence of sadhana, and not any attempt to define and assert the truth. Let the clouds go; the sun shines forth unhindered.

There is the play of ego when we dominate over others and there is its play when we cooperate in a situation where others dominate over us. The exploiters and the exploited both contribute to exploitation typically. The former would like to cause fear while the latter are used to reel under fear. Those who cause fear in others are afraid within themselves too, for they believe that they are in danger unless they keep others under their thumbs. Strained psychology is involved in all these cases of human consciousness that fears outwardly or inwardly.

The plane of words has its sophistication, no doubt. The nonverbal domain is more complex. Even after we learn to speak well-chosen words, and embellish the art with gestures gentle and suave, clever self-interest could lurk behind all these and cause insecurity and suffering. Attention penetrates all these layers to expose the machinations of the ego. The self thrives in a state of inattention but cannot stand the heat of attention. The selfish structure withers away when there is the flame of attention burning brightly in our life, moment to moment.

Where do religions stand? Where can we place practices like studying of scriptures or prayers to Gods? Or, for that matter, is the practice of meditation relevant in the context of radical transformation through attention? The answer is not in the form of dos and don’ts. Driven by our conditionings, which are memories, we are into many practices; they are long-standing habits. By merely deciding to do them or not do them, we hardly change. Decisions and resolutions are superficial. It is only through understanding born of awareness again that practices drop off. Or they may get enriched, which means we may do certain things regularly (yoga for example) without the foul smell of ego, selfishness or seeking personal reward.

True silence fills our life with its fragrance, only when we observe the foolishly insecure ways of thought and there is ending of all insecurity in this observation.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi*

13th October 2009

Surge:  Seventy

WHAT GUIDES YOUR WORK? WILL OR LOVE?

Most of us do not realize that much of the conflicts that we suffer in our life are created by ourselves. There again, we do not suspect that certain attachment to goals, ideas or ideals is at the root of the problem. We conceive something as a good goal, a noble ideal or a respectable objective. We are convinced that we are not chasing some false value. Having decided that our agenda is unquestionably sound, we then get busy with mobilization of resources to achieve the set purpose. Among the many things we then need is “will power.” Call it just will. Here begins the game. In the name of will, we goad ourselves to work. If we work well one day, we compliment ourselves; if we do not, another day, we blame ourselves. Judgments such as, “I am not focused; I am lazy; I lack killer instinct; I wish I was more ambitious,” and so on disturb our mind frequently. Some notion of achievement drives our life. At times we consider it even the only way to survive. Burn out or get out, goes the slogan in such a state of affairs. We lose all our sensitivity to many other aspects of life such as caring for people, animals and nature. Life loses its holistic quality. Even when we seem to succeed, in terms of earning money or name, there is stress and discontent. When we pause at times, we wonder, “Do I love my work at all?” Caught apparently in a vicious circle, we are unable to change our way of living. “Do I do things out of helplessness? Would I do something very different if I were really free?” Most of us certainly imagine some other way of living, if we had a chance to reprogram our entire life. It seems that our responsibilities are tying us down. Not only our families but also the organizations where we work seem to have got us highly obliged to work for them. We sometimes envy monks or other unmarried people who, in our eyes, are free. The truth is different. Married or single, a human being feels bound purely because of his (her) own countless conditionings. Numerous ideas of how things should be cloud his thinking so much that he loses all his sharpness of perception with regard to how things are. He hardly understands his fears but lets them drive him. He does not watch the structure of his desires but allows them to steer him. He does not re-examine his ideals but suffers under their weight. His agitations about the past and his anxieties about the future make him blind to the present. So he errs, errs and errs again. Clean up. We must clean up our consciousness of so much junk that has accumulated. Thought – in all its varieties – carries many likes and dislikes. False prestige, vain pride, fears around our image and hopes of becoming some important person are just a few examples of this collected garbage. We have lost our simplicity. We need to slow down, take a fresh look at how our thought operates. We shall then discover that much of (if not all of) our fear is baseless and, equally so, a lot of our desires are unnecessary. It is not about labelling desire and fear as wrong; we just see that we can travel much more lightly without them. When it is not much cold, a sweater becomes unnecessary; without calling the sweater bad, we just take it off and walk away. So it is with many thoughts; they just drop off as we see them properly. Love then manifests. Not pressure – external or internal – but a quiet joy accompanies our work. In the morning, we may then exercise with much enjoyment and not with the fear, “Oh, if I do not exercise, I will pay a heavy price later.” Without using will, we keep our house in order and do a number of things purely out of right understanding. Will (will power), much praised in this confused world, has actually the smell of conflict and contradiction, “A part of me does not want to do this; another part of me prevails and so I do it.” In love, there is no such division. We do everything wholeheartedly –  eat, drink, sleep, exercise, meditate, work and earn. Love is the fragrance of total inner integration. Will has some charm but it is a soldier who wins battles but loses the war. Swami Chidananda Monday, November 9, 2009

Surge: Seventy one

DO NOT BE CRUEL

Do not be cruel to yourself. You may not be aware of the ways in which you have inflicted pain to your own self. And you continue to do so even now, in ignorance. I am not talking of physical violence. The context is psychological and, of course, it affects the body anyway. When you blame yourself unnecessarily or condemn yourself for no true fault of yours, there is cruelty to the self. Relax and be gentle to yourself. Ambition is the source of much of this kind of cruelty. Therefore you find in this world many millionaires who are neither happy nor let others stay at peace. They live in tension. They fret and fume when small things go wrong (in their opinion, and not really). They seem to be achievers and they are proud of the image they have created in the public eye. The truth however is that, for a little that they have indeed achieved, they have caused a lot of problems also in their surroundings. They are not true assets of this world. Do you curse yourself when do not perform well? If you do, that surely worsens the situation. It is healthier for you to (take a deep breath and) just examine how you could do better. Please do not heap negative judgments upon yourself. If you do, you will find yourself caught in a vicious circle. Because you think low of yourself, you will spoil the next performance; and because you performed poorly, you will think even more negatively of yourself. We come across an irony when people get depressed that they did not “meditate this morning”. They call themselves spiritual seekers and they are not aware of the burden that label is causing them. They say, “Oh, I again got up late and missed my meditation today. I have become terribly lazy.” If they know what meditation is, they would right away observe that very thought of guilt or shame at the present moment. To be in the now is the essence of meditation. So do not regret that you got out of bed late; rather, as there arises a habitual thought of regret, stay aware of that wave. Be in a learning mode and examine (by observing, and not by thinking) the way of your conditioned mind. You may not suspect how ideals might have caused injury to your psyche. Your fascination with an ideal may have blinded you to the actual, to the realities of your situation. You have a mental picture of Mahatma Gandhi and he becomes your ideal, the role model. You do not have a proper understanding of Gandhiji but all the same have created an image of him. For any variation with that image, you blame yourself and get sad over your imperfections. Upset over your failure to become as good as he was, you go through many related negative emotions. For example, you may get angry with your spouse who, you think, came in the way of your living the ideal life. You may find fault with the society as a whole, which does not appreciate your ways of seeing things. Heal yourself now. Not by pampering yourself or by indulging in some pleasure pursuit after throwing all ideals to the winds. Heal yourself by staying normal. The excitement of (the prospect of) becoming great or the depression over certain inability to achieve heights are both a play of the mind. What is most important is for you to understand what you are, without any judgment. “Who am I? What am I?” are thus important questions. Stay with such questions and let the frills go away from the mind. You will then find great love and sympathy for yourself. Through that, you will love all and sympathize with all too. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Thursday,  December 10, 2009

SURGE  72: Friday, January 22, 2010 SELF-INQUIRY, SILENCE AND POWER

The power of silence excels over that born of thought. All thought is limited but the ground of silence is limitless. All thought has the narrowness of conditionings but silence is free from the foul play of conditionings. When thought empowers us, there is something artificial about it; silence is natural and its fragrance therefore is wholesome. Thought is partial and silence impartial. The ego is made of thoughts (memories) and silence alone is free of ego. We need to understand silence and a silent mind alone can do it. Self-inquiry de-conditions us. It shows the falsehood of all thoughts – those projecting us as inferior and those presenting us as superior. Though this may defy the understanding of beginners, our true nature is simply not within the reach of any verbal description. The right answer to the fundamental question, “Who am I?” is silence.  This is similar to the mystery of this universe. The basic building block of it all – the atom – is not describable in definite terms. The subatomic particle, the electron, is an enigma by itself. They can neither say it is a particle nor confirm it is a wave. More new theories, like the string theory, keep coming up, to explain what it is ultimately. This ‘I’ is like that. Any answer to the question of our identity has temporary validity; it is dismissed later, or now itself, from another angle of view. Self-inquiry is practical: It applies to daily life, to every minute of our existence. In every transaction, even as we assume a position in relation to somebody, the question, “Who am I?” has a bearing on the position held. If you think you are the benefactor and somebody a beneficiary, the question WAI (Who am I?) can dilute the notions, if not eliminate them. Can a pen claim it wrote the poem, ignoring the poet? Can a decorative statue, seemingly holding the ceiling on its hands, claim to support the roof? Are not the pillars really the essential support? Do we benefit anybody at all really? Are not various circumstances and diverse factors practically forcing us to play the role of being of help to others? When we see the larger picture, our idea that we helped somebody gets weak and slowly disappears into thin air. WAI-FI in place of Wi-Fi: Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) is popular these days. Motels, restaurants, coffee houses, malls and libraries and so on boast of providing Wi-Fi, where you have internet access on your laptops just like that. You connect to their internet host through the wireless modem built into your laptop. Could we have WAI-FI zones as well? These are areas – parks, river banks, lakesides and so on – where an atmosphere conducive to meditation and self-inquiry is available. Wai-Fi means Who-am-i Fidelity, which means Self-Inquiry Friendly. Let people sit and introspect here. Let them re-examine ‘what they think of themselves’. Let them bring under close scrutiny all their notions of being good, bad, wise, unwise and otherwise. Let them put aside the habitual arguments of thought and, with fresh eyes, observe everything inside and outside. Let them see, without anything colouring their perception, their own thoughts and emotions; let them see trees, birds and other people, with absolutely no prejudice. Silence is the way to silence. When we do not react but look at something quietly, there is silence in our seeing. Such seeing can help us discover dimensions hitherto unseen. Upon seeing these new dimensions, our old likes and dislikes disappear. The absence of attachment and aversions (raga-dvesha) is silence, the gift that silent watching brings to us. The absence of any bias such as gender bias, regional bias etc gives to us the healthy space to think and act with grace and power. There is the coming together of intelligence and compassion here. The quiet, pure heart sees much more than otherwise; therefore it is intelligent. The pure heart has sympathy for one and all; therefore it is compassionate. The pure heart is the basis of the truth: Awareness Heals. May we devote this year 2010 for a better understanding of life through a deeper understanding of who we are. Swami Chidananda Varanasi

INSIGHTS

Surge 73

Shiva: Two Aspects

Shiva is auspiciousness. That is what everybody seeks. Also called shubha, mangala and kalyana, it signifies all is well. In this life of ours, the dark clouds of disappointment, despair and insecurity do not seem to leave us and we are constantly seeking the bright sunshine of happiness, cheer and fearlessness. Shiva represents just these most desirable conditions – outside and inside. So when we say Om Namah Shivaya, we are implicitly expressing our longing for order, harmony and total well-being.

Shiva destroys. He negates the false. He removes asat. Advanced Vedanta declares that this negation of the false is the only thing that needs to be done. “The true reward of wisdom is the complete ending of all illusion,” says Viveka-Choodamani1. When the misconceived snake no more appears, the beam of light has done its job. It goes without saying that the rope, which alone was there all along, becomes visible with no obstruction. When clouds go away, the sun shines forth without any need for something to be done for us to see the sun. The essence of wisdom is therefore to stay alert, notice the distortions in our perception and be free from the prejudice that causes distortion.

The third eye of Shiva is thus Clear Seeing (samyag-darshana). Lust, greed, insensitivity and indifference are products of certain conditionings; they are our delusion and they are not part of right seeing. They go away in right seeing. Using a metaphoric language, it is said Shiva’s third eye burns away Kamadeva, the god of passion. Seeing every situation rightly, without the coloured glasses of our likes and dislikes, surely puts an end to our selfish desires. What remains is pure love, symbolized by the coming together of Shiva and Parvati.

Scholarship does not help in living rightly. The unique skill of keeping an open mind does. No wonder the Geeta2 admits, “He alone is happy who does not come under the sway of desire and anger.” Scholars are sometimes seen to have as much desire and anger as anybody else, if not more. They are able to talk or write a lot on the state of freedom from desire and anger; but they are not free. This does not mean scholarship is evil. On the contrary, it is good in its own place and serves much purpose in keeping the society informed. The means to freedom is the ability to remain watchful, moment to moment.

The wise one sees how foolish it is to be jealous; giving up (negating) follows this seeing. She sees the meaninglessness of personal ambition – of the pleasure of visualizing herself as wealthy or mighty. She sees clearly how thought projects that pleasure and there is no actual happiness in being, let us say, the Chief Executive of a large organization. She sees that certain conditioned patterns are behind the urge to become the CEO. To pursue something projected by thought is different from pursuing a fact. Getting nearer to a picture of fire cannot give to us warmth; getting closer to fire can and will.

Pursuit of pleasure is a movement of thought, observed Krishnamurti. It is one thing to eat some good food and enjoy it when we are hungry. It is quite another to be driven by memories the next day when we pass by the same restaurant and make an unplanned diversion into the eating place, order the same dish as yesterday and so on. No wonder the food does not taste as good as it did yesterday. In such cases of being led by thought (memories, fancies, projections, images), we lose touch with the reality. We become insensitive to the true needs of our body. The natural intelligence of our body goes unheard. The body says, “I am not hungry; I am tired; I need rest.” Thought says, “This is time to eat; it is foolish to rest now.”

To see forms of psychological confusion within us is the nature of right perception in daily life. Then we have invoked Shiva. He destroys all distortions and restores to us our contact with truth. That is truth, well-being and beauty: satyam, shivam, sundaram.

Swami Chidananda

Shivaratri, February 12, 2010

Notes:

1 vidya-phalam syat, asato nivrittih – Viveka-choodamani, verse 423

2 shaknoteehaiva yah sodhum..Geeta, 5.23

Surge: 74

TRUE CHANGE: CHANGE IN CONSCIOUSNESS

Call it the expressions of unending selfishness or the result of deep insecurity, a human being manages ‘not to change’ deep inside, while adapting his public behaviour very cleverly. Desire and fear lurk in his consciousness but he learns to show himself as highly service-minded and not afraid of material loss or criticism of any kind. His public behaviour makes him not only acceptable in the society but quite good in his own opinion. However there are skeletons in the cupboard and he therefore lives in conflict and his daily life lacks true peace. Change in behaviour is not a big deal. You will achieve it with some intelligence. You succeed in conforming to the demands of family members, colleagues or the society in general. This business of getting social approval begins in school days when many a student gets the approving nod from his teachers. They say he is well-behaved. Words like obedient, loyal and disciplined are heaped upon the so-called good student. Less importance is given to the question if he is creative or if he is free from inner conflict. The poor boy may have suppressed many a curiosity or explorative urge in order to satisfy the expectations of the teachers and other elders. There is then no holistic growth for he is not learning in an atmosphere of freedom. The pressure of expectations makes him a second-hand personality. Change in consciousness is of very great value. Your intelligence has to penetrate very deep in order to bring about it. You then show care and love to people not just because that is expected from you but you see clearly how lack of care and love is injurious to yourself and others. You directly notice the foul smell of insensitivity and indifference even as they arise in you. If you are a scholar, a speaker or a writer then you have a lot of knowledge. It does not ensure however that you have changed. Information does not mean transformation. Through constant intellectual activity, you may gather a lot of knowledge. Through direct perception, your consciousness changes. Hidden fears and lurking desires leave you when the magical faculty of seeing (which is not thinking or analysis) exposes their illusory nature. You change in behaviour when thought operates. Change in consciousness takes place when attention works on thought. Thought is concerned with the self, which is its own creation. When you think, you cannot but keep the interest of the self as a priority. When you pay attention to how thought operates, there is no priority. There is only an effort towards understanding what is. This effort at understanding the movement of the self is distinct from the usual cerebral activity of reading books and forming concepts. We must see therefore the importance of silence. Sitting silently, we may take a look at the way our thought operates. Without interfering with rising memories, without encouraging or suppressing any of them either, we may learn a lot through alert watching. While clever thinking brings to our view many solutions to problems, this seeing takes a quantum leap and dissolves problems. Words have power, we have always heard. Thought has power, we know it too. Do we realize how much power alert silence has? Swami Chidananda Varanasi March 15, 2010

Surge : Seventy five

DARKNESS IS THE MAIN PROBLEM

Our vision is blurred because of veiling (avarana) and distraction (viksepa). The language of gunas attributes these two problems to tamas (darkness, inertia) and rajas (outgoing nature, restlessness). Certain darkness (gu) has enveloped our vision, and a luminary comes along in our life who removes (ru) that darkness. He (or she) is called guru. We pay homage to him (her) and a day is specially marked every year for remembering him (her). That is guru-purnima*. Right Action The problem of darkness besets us when the question is, “What is the right thing to do?” Presidents and Prime Ministers err with regard to action, and so do common men and women.  National and international affairs are therefore in jeopardy; so are matters in every family. Wrong actions lead to wrong results and life gets very complicated. If only we could see clearly, at the time of taking decisions, much harm could be avoided. An individual, in her personal life, goes on committing errors – again because of this darkness. She is unable to see her situation properly. She sees a snake where there is actually a mere rope. She runs away in fear while she could have just walked on. If there was enough light, she would have seen the rope properly. In eating and drinking, exercising and working, speaking and writing, investing and spending, in all matters of daily life, seeing rightly assumes utmost importance. Without it our life moves from error to error. The guru removes darkness and helps us see rightly. Tradition emphasizes methods, techniques and practices to cleanse our inner equipment so that we can see properly. When the surface of a mirror is clean, the reflections are clear. If the energies within us are free from impurities, the vision of right action is clear. All over the world, therefore, people are engaged in worship, japayogapranayama etc. All of this is meant to bring about inner purification, citta-suddhinadi-suddhi, antahkarana-suddhi, as the words go. (The word nadi is pronounced with n as n in nut, a as a in car, d as d in dance and i as ee in deep. The nadis are the invisible paths through which subtle energy flows inside our body. Kundalini rises up through the main nadi called sushumna.) Alas, man tends to make everything mechanical. He makes his practices a separate compartment of life. He finds ways to deceive himself and becomes a hypocrite in the process. So all the practices, given by religions of the world, do some good but fall short of causing radical change. The basic selfishness in man does not go. Right Seeing Can seeing itself lead to seeing? Can we grow day after day in our maturity through right seeing as the primary means? Let the practice of techniques and methods play the second fiddle. Let them not occupy the main seat. They do not deserve the front seat. They are in the department of karma (and upasana) and the Vedanta scriptures have declared the supremacy of wisdom (jnana). Seeing is the hallmark of jnana, while doing is that of karma. The GURU operates from within us and also from outside us. She comes to us in many forms. She is by our side all the time if we have the eyes to see. She helps us see the whole of life every moment. By sharpening our vision in the present moment,we can go to the root of our problems. Then there is the uprooting of the misery in life. That is freedom. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Tuesday, July 20, 2010 *Guru Purnima falls this year on Sunday, July 25. On this full moon day, centuries ago, Veda Vyasa began to write the Brahma-Sutras, which became one of the three foundation scriptures (prasthana-traya) of Sanatana Dharma (now called Hinduism). The other two are Bhagavad-Geeta and the Upanishads

Surge 76

KASHI – THE BRIGHT LIGHT WITHIN YOU

Millions have believed for ages that they get liberated if they die in Kashi, the city of Lord Vishwanatha. The true meaning of this is as follows. Our mind is usually trapped in regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. Both these are projections of thoughts. When we awaken to the higher intelligence within us, we rise above thoughts to the plane of Pure Awareness, the bright light within us. This awakening is living in the present – where the ego dies. This is touching immortality, amritatva, and we are freed from the cycle of birth and death. We touch Shiva (the changeless ground) and are released from Bhava (the field of change). Much stress marks our daily life for many thoughts of what we should have done or what we should not have done disturb us. These thoughts are the building blocks of the ego in us for they constantly evaluate us as good or bad. They create a picture of how worthy or unworthy we are. This price tag that memories attach to us robs us of the freshness of the present moment. We have to intelligently see the havoc our own thoughts are working; we have to regain the freshness of our true nature, which is Existence, Awareness and Bliss (sat, chit and ananda). We must shake off the dust that has gathered over our expensive suit which was left in the open. We must get rid of unnecessary patterns of thought that tend to accumulate over the bright expanse of awareness because of social conditionings or influences that have their roots in the past, in moments of inattention. Past mistakes leave behind certain residues, which tend to take a toll on us for years to come. Whether others know it or not, the self remembers the mistake and suffers negativities like guilt, shame or low self-esteem. It does somersaults when it goes through varieties of justification and defensive thinking.  In the process, alas, the self gets reinforced. However cleverly the cover up may be accomplished, there is no way for the self to be erased by mere shrewd or cunning thought. It is only when we give up all attempt to justify or defend, and, in all humility, acknowledge the limitations of the human mind itself that a quantum leap takes place in our consciousness. That would be meditation, which is not engineered by conscious effort but is something that takes place on its own in the atmosphere of quietude and total receptivity. “Not by work, progeny or wealth is gained immortality,” says the Veda mantra1. We may add, “Not by any amount of scholarly or clever thinking too.” The mantra2 declares, “By renunciation alone is freedom attained.” We would clarify, “By renouncing effort itself,” for there is the agency (the self, the me) behind any effort. No wonder Krishnamurti observed, “Conscious meditation is no meditation.” Alertness does not, incidentally, belong to the domain of thinking; nor does it partake of the nature of effort. True alertness just comes about through alertness itself, and not through the decision to be alert. Attention is the way to attention, we may say, for there are no other steps to it. This may sound a bit abstract to many. However, the shift from inattention to attention has to be an matter of “no steps” because:  where there are steps, we are still within the field of thought. The shift from the field to that which is outside the field cannot take place through thought. So let us invoke Shiva by being in a state of silent receptivity. When we talk, He remains silent; when we are silent, He speaks. This alert silence is Kashi3 where Shiva destroys the threefold division of past, present and future with His trishoola(trident). He whispers “Rama mantra” in the ears of the dying soul, says the tradition. He gives to the meditator the insight of her natural bliss4. * Swami Chidananda Varanasi September 3, 2010 Notes: 1 na karmana na prajaya dhanena – Maha Narayana Upanishad 2 tyagenaike amritatvam-anashuhkash means shine; kashi means LIGHT, like prakasha. 4 the word Rama means bliss or He who delights all.*

SURGE 77

C.I.O.

CONTEMPLATE, INQUIRE, OBSERVE

Many great teachers ask us to study the scriptures, reflect upon their instructions and revelations, and contemplate upon them. They emphasize on changing the texture of our thoughts by continuous dwelling on noble thoughts of holy books. As you think, so you become, they say. Masters like Swami Chinmayananda therefore dedicated their lives to the propagation of books of wisdom like the Bhagavad-Geeta. Regular study of the shaastras, Swamiji used to say, will lift your vision to greater heights of contemplation. The quality of thoughts decides your character; it makes what you are and so on. Contemplation (mananam) thus is highlighted. Certain mystics have given relatively less importance to the study of scriptures or to dwelling on the statements thereof. Inquire, they say, into the source of thoughts. Catch hold of the basic I-thought amidst the wide range of thoughts that rise in you. If thoughts are comparable with the number of branches of a large tree – they give an analogy – the I-thought is like the trunk or the base. Put the axe to the base, they say, by inquiring Who am I? The sage of Arunachala, Shri Ramana Maharshi, is usually credited with this kind of guidance. If a thought arises, (for example), “I was insulted by my uncle last night,” you are to ask yourself, “Who am I?” rather than entertaining thoughts about the uncle, what he said and what he should have said etc. Rejecting all answers to the question, you are to go deeper into the matter. Inquiring constantly into your identity, you are to peel the onion of your personalityuntil no descriptions remain. All pride and hurt vanish in the silence of pure awareness. A thousand forms of such advice have guided humanity to “do this” or “do that”. You and I have fallen in love with such advice and have believed that “doing something” and “doing it repeatedly” will lead us to total freedom. Techniques, in other words, hold the key to ending of sorrow. Seers like Krishnamurti have taken strong exception to such a view. They seem to say that any technique further strengthens the self. Any practice becomes another shell of conditioning in which you are trapped. Repetition of thought cannot take you beyond thought. Clever manipulation will get a thousand benefits to you but they cannot open the door to freedom. Exercise of will (will power) can help you achieve many goals but all of them are bound by time and perish in time. Ending of sorrow cannot be the result of any effort, with a certain end in mind. The moment you keep a result in mind, all your (gross or subtle) operations reinforce the self. Observe what thought is doing, they say. Do not make this “observing” into another practice, they hasten to add. Observing is not to be an act of will. There is observation without the observer, the agent of observation. Living in attention, not made into a practice of some sort, is freedom. The first step here is itself the last step. What are you to do now? Contemplate? Inquire? Observe? That is not the right question. Do not be obsessed with the question, “What am I to do?” Be gentle and compassionate to yourself. A hundred goals, some achieved and some not achieved, have already tired you out. Do not make freedom (or realization) another goal and add to your burden. Be kind. Understand your joys and sorrows. Understand your fear and desire. Understand what you call contemplation, inquiry or observation. There is peace in this understanding. You understand there is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Swami Chidananda Chennai, September 12, 2010 Surge Fifty One

Zero Worship

We find in this world a lot of hero worship everywhere but in advanced spirituality we go for zero worship. The hero is someone who has some extraordinary talent. He has performed brilliantly in his chosen field of activity. He may, in some cases, have a lot of wealth or a high position. The zero is the quiet sage in whom the ego has died. He has become empty within – in a very desirable sense. This emptiness is then the secret of his feeling light all the time, with no regrets of the past or no anxieties for the future. Indeed memories of the past and projections into the future are quite a burden all of us carry normally. Since there is no ‘me’ in this sage of the highest wisdom, there is nobody (psychologically) inside him to feel sad about some event of yesterday or get afraid about some possibility of tomorrow. “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere” is one of the works of Ayya Khema (1923 – 1997), the renowned Buddhist nun who inspired a lot of people on to the path of meditation and mindfulness around the world and prepared many women teachers of Buddhism. The title itself has a profound message. The high plateau of spirituality, be it Vedanta or Buddhism, talks of the ending of the individual self. An illumined saint is sometimes compared with the donut – sweet all around but hollow in the center. (The South-Indian delicacy vada also illustrates this equally well.) She has a personality that blesses all around her with words of grace and acts of service. Within her, however, she is very silent. Great dynamism works around a still center in the case of such an evolved soul. Noble qualities of head and heart abound in her personality and her own inner experience is, “I do not do anything” (Compare Geeta 5:8). In a special chamber of his palace, the king of a country had called a meeting of all the prominent members of his court. All had come and taken seats except the king himself. As all were waiting for him, a fakir (a spiritual recluse looking like a beggar typically) entered the chamber to everybody’s surprise and shocked them by going straight to the chair meant for the king and sitting on it. The prime minister took it upon himself to ask the fakir, “Who are you?” but there was only a smile in reply. Puzzled, the prime minister asked, “Are you some king of another country?” The fakir replied, “I am above any king in the world.” To the next question, “Are you a very rich businessman somewhere?” the answer was, “I am above any businessman anywhere.” After many questions, he had to answer the query, “Are you God?” and even to that he said, “I am above God”. To such an answer, the prime minister reacted tauntingly, “Come on. There is nothing above God.” Then said the fakir, with a gentle nod, “Yes, I am that nothing.” Saying so, he left the chamber and went away, never to return again. Humility born of self-knowledge makes one drop totally any idea about oneself – either as superior or as inferior to anyone else. In fact there is no sense of ‘any other’ in this state of wisdom. When they asked Shri Ramana Maharshi, “Will one serve others after one’s enlightenment?” the sage of Arunachala said, “After enlightenment, there are no others.” The Upanishads declare, “One sees all in oneself and oneself in all.” To be this zero is no different from merging in the infinite truth. Swami Chidananda, Varanasi Saturday, May 19, 2007

Surge Fifty Two

The Most Excellent Advice
Over many years of my own spiritual studies, the one advice that has always remained very valuable to me is, "When one hand of yours is at work, hold God with the other; as soon as your work is over, hold Him with both your hands." Said by Shri Rãmakrishna, these words have a beauty beyond compare and a practical importance that none can afford to ignore. God is satyam, shivam, sundaram – true, good and beautiful. What can be wiser for us to do than to hold Him tightly all the time? Sweet remembrance of Him through His name, form or qualities (nãma, roopa or guna) is at once such a purifying act that we can then ill afford to do anything wrong in our daily life. What is more, our mind will prompt us to do truly virtuous deeds when it is held in the pure state through an emotional bond with God. As we know well, our life has become unnecessarily complicated. We keep a lot of extra stuff with us, physically and mentally. On top of it, we want more and more. A lot of our fights with other people are actually ‘much ado about nothing’. Our mind is utterly confused about what we actually want in life. As Swami Vivekananda quotes in one of his talks, "The mind is like a monkey, restless by nature. It drinks the wine of desire and, to add to its troubles, is bitten by the scorpion of jealousy. On top of it all, the ghost of ego enters into it. Imagine the mind’s state." False prestige, unnecessary sentiments and useless comparisons make our psychological field a veritable fish market of the small town with unbearable noise. In such an unenviable situation, loving remembrance of god anchors us in inner stability and helps us view the worldly matters with much objectivity and the least selfishness. Selfishness is itself the basic ailment with the human mind. True remembrance of God cures us of this ailment. On a Sunday morning, in a small village, a man requested his wife to go to the neighbor’s house and borrow their hammer. The lady went but returned saying the neighbor’s house did not have any hammer. The man asked her to go the neighbor on the other side and she returned from there too, saying they were using it and therefore could not lend it. Then she went to a couple of other houses nearby and could not get a single hammer from anywhere. After all this, the man said with much anger and disappointment, "Look how selfish all these people are. Nobody is ready to part with their hammer for even a couple of hours. All right, let us then use our own hammer today." Often we do not realize how selfish we are and we very cleverly identify how everybody around is self-centered. It pays to slow down and introspect. Taking the name of God can help us get a handle on our mind which tends to deceive us. If anybody somehow does not have much idea or feeling about God, she or he could substitute Truth (Existence – Awareness – sat – chit) for God. Truth, justice or order is to be thought of as lying behind and beneath all the apparent chaos and disorder in this world. Hold truth tightly always. The practical importance of this advice is that it relates to our daily life where we have work to do, duty to discharge. Even the sannyãsis (monks) in the Himãlayas have a few things to do on a daily basis. Householders in villages, towns and cities of course have long lists of things to do. Even with a hundred jobs on hand, it should be possible to put a part of our mind on God (Truth). When we have tooth ache, a part of our attention is on the paining tooth, no matter what we are doing. When a little love of God has risen in us, we would have no difficulty in thinking of Him during all our exertions. Shri Rãmakrishna thus is giving us an advice that is quite doable. Actually there is no other way. Unless we follow his advice, we can have no peace. This is an open secret. Alas, the extrovert tendencies in us make us postpone such divine practices and suffer, unnecessarily. This advice of the Sage of Dakshineshwar is an echo of Geetã (8:7) where Lord Krishna urges Arjuna, "Therefore, at all times, keep Me in your thoughts and do your duty." The Geetãchãrya defines a new yoga as though by coining a word here – abhyãsa yoga. To translate it literally, it is the spiritual discipline (yoga) of constant practice (abhyãsa). Normally when we work, our mind is partly in work and it partly runs towards a hundred other things that could be unrelated to the work on hand. The practice here involves withdrawal from those countless irrelevant topics and dwelling on the loving remembrance of God. A certain saint explained this with an agricultural analogy. He said we need to remove weeds and sow seeds as per the crop of our desire. Thoughts of work and thoughts of God can go together. Upon completion of work, let there be just thoughts of God. Swami Chidananda Varanasi, Monday, June 18, 2007

Surge Fifty Three

Solve and Dissolve In life, a lot of problems need to be solved. There are however a good number of problems that are to be dissolved. This second category is self-created and, in their case, we need to uproot the basic causes of the problems. These causes are hidden within us. Spiritual wisdom helps us get the problems not just solved but dissolved. Take an example: I have chronic back pain and there is a certain medicine which is a bit expensive. Further I have mental turmoil about my ill health. My problem is - how to get the medicines which I cannot afford? A friend, Ravi , supports me financially and he bears all the expenses of my medical bills. Ravi has solved my problem. Alternatively, let us say I have another friend, Lalita, who counsels me, teaches me some yoga exercises and gives me a new vision of life. I sincerely practice the exercises and begin to look at life differently. My back pain disappears and I experience much peace within me. Then we say the problem has DISSOLVED. In the first case, a friend procured the necessary medicines. In the second case, the friend made medicines unnecessary. Material and psychological issues get typically mixed up in life. Most of us do not see the dividing line or how they are interrelated. When we see the external aspect of our problems, they seem to be all material. It is in the internal side that we can notice how our thinking, values and attitudes, have contributed a lot to life’s problems. To fulfill a desire is to solve a problem. To be free from the desire is to dissolve the problem. Science and technology strive to solve the problems of humanity all the time. They have achieved a lot also. So have other branches of knowledge like economics or political science. Spirituality, on the other hand, has highlighted the wonderful prospect of dissolving problems. Great saints have repeatedly pointed out to humanity that we only create a large number of problems because of our ignorance and wrong values like greed, ambition, jealousy or intolerance. Mental purification can prevent numerous problems from coming into being. Isn’t prevention better than cure? A great teacher of meditation claims rightly that, if 2% of the population in a town meditates daily, there will be no crime in that town. To have a very efficient police department ‘solves’ the problem of crime but to have the minds of all the citizens purified ‘dissolves’ it. The spiritual approach seems to be too idealistic and many may brush it aside as impractical. Really, isn’t the materialistic approach also hard to achieve actually? Can we ever have a totally honest and fully efficient police force? The police too are human beings and are prone to many imperfections. We may thus give equal importance to both the solutions and work both externally and internally There is an old story of an American businessman who lands on the shore of the Arabian Sea somewhere in Karnataka in India . A fisherman is relaxing on the sands at 12 noon. The American teases the villager, “Why have you stopped fishing so early? Come on, do some more work and earn more.” The village fisherman says, “What would I do with that extra money?” The westerner says,”You can buy a larger boat and do better fishing. Then you will earn ten times as much.” The simple man says again, “What will I do with that money?” The man from the city responds, “You can get very rich and employ people to do the fishing.” The villager questions, “If my employees do all the work, what will I do then?” The American clarifies, “You can then sit back and relax.” Very puzzled, the fisherman says, “Is it not what I am doing now anyway?” While the story in now makes a case for laziness or lack of motivation, it all the same provokes thought. Are we caught in a wild goose chase when we pursue more wealth, power, comforts etc.? In the psychological domain also, we seek popularity, fame and name. We want everybody to agree with our views and opinions. We want all to appreciate how we look or how we dress. Any criticism embarrasses us. For strange reasons, or without reason, we feel insecure endlessly and want to become all right by acquiring wealth or fame. We gossip and talk ill of others with the hope of feeling better or more secure. Surely these are the clear symptoms of an inner ailment and we cannot solve these problems by collecting some objects outside. We need to dissolve these problems by looking inward and eliminating all contradictions in our thinking. A man lost a silver coin and was frantically searching for it in the street light. Some of his neighbors also joined him in his search out of sympathy. After a while, one of his friends asked him, “Where exactly did you lose the coin?” The man said, “Inside my house.” “Then why are you searching for it outside?” The man’s reply was, “Because there is better light outside.” The glitter and glamour of the world, alas, has every one of us fall a prey for it. As we become very clear about the impermanence of everything outside, we begin to look within. Prince Siddhartha was clear about this matter very early in life. He saw an old man, a sick person and a dead body. He was deeply struck by the sight of these three examples of impermanence and sorrow in the world. He then went on a journey, never to look back. His enlightenment was the culmination of his looking within. He examined, in the finest details, the ways of ego and desire. In his long meditations, he saw the movement of his mind as it created fear or hope. All his problems dissolved when the ego in him died. In its mystic death, the Buddha was born. Swami Chidananda Monday, July 30, 2007

Surge Fifty Four

The Soul's Journey of Evolution - 2 Light the Lamp within your Heart The Festival of Lights - Diwali - is here again and it is time to celebrate. Originally Deepàvali (deepa = lights, avali = row), the word meant 'a row of lighted lamps' and it became Diwali as time passed. Signifying the conquest of the good over evil, this festive occasion marks the day of making a new beginning in our lives. We resolve again to give up our wrong ways and live with right values. Lord Shri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura on this day long ago and then onwards the fourteenth day (chaturdashee) of the dark fortnight of the month àshvayuja is the NARAKA-CHATURDASHI. Celebrations take place the next day, the Happy Day of DIWALI. We worship Goddess Lakshmj on the day of Diwali. Along with loving remembrance of God, we wear new clothes, share delicious sweets and decorate homes and offices, especially with rows of lamps. Can we light lamps within us too? Can we bring to our hearts the lamp of clear discrimination (viveka), the one of compassionate sensitivity (daya) and the one of right seeing (samyag-darshana)? It is indeed important to drive away the darkness within us in order to live happily and experience harmony. Know that sattva (purity) is predominant in you, when there is light in all the gates of your body, says the Bhagavad-Geeta (14:11). Thus light represents purity and knowledge. Not mere bookish knowledge but such wisdom that enables us to see things with eyes of kindheartedness and impartiality is the mark of purity. Mere scholarship may not lead us to illumination. Ideas and concepts very often come in the way of clear perception. Thoughts help us at times but on many other occasions it is silence that makes true understanding possible. For the light within to burn brightly, we need to submit silently to the silent voice within us. The ego's noise often tends to drown the whisper of our conscience.  By invoking the grace of the Lord, we need to subdue our own ego and make way for truth to speak through us. Naraka means hell and it is the misconceived ego alone that creates hell-like experiences for us and therefore we must invoke Shri Krishna to come and destroy this demon. Shri Ramana Maharshi asks us to control our breath (prana) and verbal thinking (vak) as preparation for true self-inquiry to take place. Such exercises facilitate proper watching, which alone can bring about the inner transformation. It is no easy task. Alert and vigilant daily living paves the way for this arduous journey to inner perfection. The bright side of the matter is that, deep inside, we are the light of all lights. We have the unbelievable power within us to overpower the old, habit-driven egoistic tendencies in our mind (antaSkaraVa). The greatest battle is to be fought in the field within our heart. True Diwali is when all selfishness subsides and the lamp of love shines inside us. WISH YOU A HAPPY DIWALI. Swami Chidananda (Varanasi) Friday, November 9, 2007

Surge Fifty Five

Thoughts and Their Sad Limitations

Most people in the world go for the simple philosophy of ‘Be good; do good’. Noble thoughts, for them, are the means to such spirituality and they often boast of their understanding as being the most practical. They regard good thoughts as everything. In a manner of saying, they worship thoughts. For them, thoughts are the ultimate. The truth is different though. True spirituality is the glimpse of what lies behind (or beyond) thoughts. “Mind alone is maya at play,” observed Swami Chinmayananda, who also defined the mind as nothing else but the flow of thoughts. Many mystics have gone to the extent of saying that we can never know the truth as long as there is the play of thoughts. No doubt great people like Swami Vivekananda have extolled the power of thoughts. He remarked, “We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” There is the popular saying too, “As you think, so you become.” All these pass for basic spiritual education. Deeper literature makes us shift our attention in a totally new direction. Thoughts flow from a thinker. This thinker, which becomes the ‘I’ in a lot of contexts, is a product of memories or conditionings. Accordingly, all the thoughts are the outcome of conditionings. Therefore they are not real; they project a world which is self-created. The thinker himself/herself is a bundle of thoughts. To see the truth of this is to get down into intense self-inquiry. “Who am I?” then gains tremendous significance in our eyes. When we understand that we need to doubt (or question) the sense of ‘I and me’, which drives a number of thoughts, we no more concern ourselves with merely controlling thoughts. Just controlling the mind or channeling it in some desired direction loses all meaning because the self (for whose sake all this is done) is an impostor. If the ‘me’ presently is a product of the past, who am I really? All sadhana (spiritual practice) comes under a cloud now. If we lose trust in a man, all he does becomes questionable. In the same way, when the ‘me’ is of dubious validity, the practices that this ‘me’ takes up lose their credibility. What do we do then? The doors of the ‘great yoga of doing nothing’ now open. We do not decide not to do anything; we see that doing anything reinforces the self, therefore we cease to do anything. The energy saved through abandoning all those ego-prompted activities now acts on its own. This energy, when we stop doing the wrong things, brings about a deep inner change. This is not an activity of thought (or thinking) but is a flame; it is the flame of awareness that burns away both the thinker and the thoughts. Then takes place radical change of the human being. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday, January 14, 2008 Surge Fifty Six Managing Hurt, the Highest Way When a blade hurts us physically, there are medical means to heal the wound. Let us consider here psychological hurt, and see what can heal the injury. This topic is of utmost importance. All spirituality is essentially about being free from hurt. When our mind is totally cleansed of all the scars of the past, that itself is moksha, liberation. The root cause of hurt and of its continuation is one and the same in the cases of other common psychological ailments such as fear, worry, greed and jealousy. We say, “I am hurt.” The wise ask us, “Who is hurt? Who or what is that ‘I’ that is hurt?” The entity that is hurt is a conception of I. Many thoughts, born of memory, build this concept. If I have enjoyed fame and name for years, there is a large bundle of memories of all that and I carry a ‘me’ that expects special regard and attention from others, who are common men (and women) in my eyes. When I do not receive any special consideration, it hurts me. Even in the case of a relationship between just two people, it is the attachment to memories that keeps certain expectations arising and, when they are not fulfilled, there is hurt. Go anywhere in the world, you will soon be caught in the net of expectations. Spiritual centers are no exception. You expect the so-called gurus to constantly pay attention to you; what is more tragic, some (unripe) gurus seek attention or continued admiration from a good number (if not all) of their followers. A mind that expects nothing cannot be hurt. Such a mind is an empty but alert mind. We cannot go far by merely deciding not to expect. Willpower is a charming aspect of mind’s capabilities, which actually is utterly incapable of blessing us with true freedom. Intelligence and willpower are poles apart when it comes to how they influence the human mind. The former is born of total seeing while the latter breeds on partial consideration. With willpower, we may win battles but are sure to lose the war. Its glories are short-lived and it puts no end at all to any human misery. Will power gives us energy in a chosen direction and helps us achieve tasks but we are back to square one very soon. Intelligence removes basic misconceptions and leads us to illumination. We need to give up our hurried ways that often border on panic, and take a dispassionate look at how we think. What drives our thoughts? Does a certain self-image act as the basis of all our reactions to situations? Is this image closer to facts or is it sustained by fancies? Do ideas of ‘what we should be’ have a great power to shape our thoughts? Is the fact of ‘what we are’ on the back seat, helpless and hapless? True intelligence is the ability to see through the games that our own thoughts play. It is about gaining basic understanding of how the machinery of thought functions within us. It is not a matter of generating great thoughts; it is rather made of insights into the structure of thought. Self-observation, carried with intelligence, dismantles all the images in the mind. The walls of the hall then shine brightly without the clutter of too many framed pictures upon them. Such a mind comes upon silence. It has transparency. Old hurt leaves it and new hurt cannot then be. Swami Chidananda Monday, March 17, 2008

Surge Fifty Seven

Reach the Ruler Within Life is full of conflicts for all humanity, with hardly any exception. “Oh, this dilemma is so difficult; what am I to do?” is the question in almost everybody’s heart; only the details of the problem vary. Exploring various possible solutions to our difficult predicaments, we necessarily exercise our intellect and almost exhaust our logical abilities. This self-effort is something we must put in. Great people have indeed said that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Spiritual masters do not undermine this self-effort (purushArtha). However, they advise us to look beyond also. They would not like us to be blind to ‘prospects beyond reason’. The kathopanishad (2.2.1) declares,   There is a city with eleven gates Of which the ruler is the unborn Self. Whose light forever shines. They go beyond sorrow who meditate on the Self. And are freed from the cycle of birth and death. For this Self is supreme.1 Our own body is the city, and the metaphor here counts its eleven gates. (Two each of the eyes, the ears and the nostrils, combined with the mouth, the navel, the genitals, and the anus, make ten. The science of yoga mentions an eleventh gate, the brahma-randhra, found on our head, through which the life force leaves the body in the case of the illumined yogi.) Ordinarily we look out and perceive this world of names and forms (nAma-roopa). No wonder almost all our thoughts revolve around the external world. We seldom suspect that there could be a supreme truth within us. The mystic work from the yajurveda beckons us to a hidden treasure. The Self (Atman) is our own true nature, kept away from our view by the mischievous thoughts. Memories spur thoughts, which in turn evoke more memories from the past or projections into the future. This whole domain of thinking, as per the wisdom of the Vedanta, has sad limitations. At best, battles are won here but the war is lost. To hope for lasting peace in this field is an exercise in vain; it is a wild goose chase. To turn within and to meditate on the Self, which is of the nature of Pure Awareness is an entirely different proposition. We do not build a bridge to happiness here nor place a ladder to climb up; it is rather a quantum leap where we discover the substrate of all our experiences. This ground was, is and will be an endless repository of pure bliss. This shift is a transition from reason to ‘beyond reason’.  Please note it is not against reason. The Ruler Within blesses us with a new vision. We then are clearly aware that the framework of space and time, in which all our sorrows occur, is actually a small affair. There is then the unbroken, intuitive understanding that we are the Self, unaffected by the worldly phenomena. Swami Chidananda Monday, June 09, 2008 1 The translation of this verse is by Eknath Easwaran, as found in his book “Selections from the World’s Most Sacred Literature,” published by Nilgiri Press in USA and by Jaico in India ; page 159 Surge Fifty Eight Peace: Geeta’s Guidance Very few in this world are able to live in peace and tranquility. Material discomforts are the cause of agitation in a lot of cases and disturbed human relationships are the cause of trouble in other. Many imagine that living in spiritual centers (ashrams) ensures peace. Others fancy Himalayan settings. Yet others dream of special time zones, such as free mornings, cooler or warmer months, and vacation periods etc, as the gateways of peace. While all such factors of place and time may marginally help, the real key to peace is more elusive than is available to ordinary reason. Giving up all selfish desires is the way to peace, says the Geeta (2.71). When the self (ego) ends, we find peace wherever we go. Otherwise no external arrangements are to any avail. To give up (the self and) the selfish desires, we need to have the wisdom of the Self. We must know we are full, adequate and completely secure. It is spiritual ignorance that makes us cling to a hundred things in the world and seek security in them. The Vedanta wisdom helps us let go of all false clinging. The Song Celestial again says (5.12) we can discover profound peace if we abandon our attachment to the fruits of action. This is actually not different from the earlier revelation. The advice is put in different words. The emphasis on ‘what we get’ in a relationship is the attachment to the fruit. Such stress is born of the activity of the self only. We imagine that our worth is linked to the material rewards or the praise by people. Such thoughts are once more the result of spiritual ignorance. We must realize that our dependence on factors like comfort, profit, recognition etc keeps us eternally bound. What is more, such dependence is merely a bad thinking habit. We can drop it. A powerful insight into the truth, often facilitated by satsanga (contact with a sage), makes us just drop it. Meditation is said to open the doors of deep peace (6.15). As we gain a better understanding of meditation, we realize that Shri Krishna is not giving a different medicine to our ailment here. Seeing is the essence of meditation. Rather than riding on thoughts, pleasant or unpleasant, we stay as the light of awareness that sees the play of thoughts as they construct the self and its myriad projections. There is no ‘adding fuel to the fire’ in this right seeing, as we are merely the witness. The mischievous machinations of the mind have to die a natural death upon being watched quietly by us. Peace is ours when we wake up from our complicated, dreamy way of living, characterized by false identifications with goals and groups.  When we rediscover the plain human being within us, the entire structure of seemingly endless fears and agitations collapses like a house of cards. Swami Chidananda Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Surge Fifty Nine

REVELATION AND INQUIRY

Even within the fold of what goes by the name of path of knowledge, certain saints reveal the truth, having gained its perception in all clarity. The rest of us then have the opportunity to reflect upon it, gain right understanding of it and own it. These teachers primarily reveal and instruct. They help their students, in their secondary role, to inquire and think logically. Certain other saints raise questions and go on shaking the foundations of erroneous thinking of their students. To a large extent they avoid spelling out explicitly what the truth is. They concern themselves with exposing the false. And there again, their attempt is to help the students find out for themselves where the contradictions lie. The path of devotion, of course, is highly centered in revelation. Faith and surrender are its key words. Here we are saying that even the wisdom traditions (jnana yoga) are of two kinds. The first kind does involve a good amount of faith and a bit of surrender. However these are supported and verified by reason and experience. Continuing on the wisdom traditions, take for example, the revelation, “That Thou Art” (tat-tvam-asi) is a revelation. The Vedanta teachers say to the student, “You are pure existence-awareness (sat-chit).” The necessary clarifications, explanations and logical support are supplied in instruction sessions that precede or follow the revelation. Also, necessary changes in the way of living are also advised or prescribed. Avoiding excess of food or speech and ensuring honest transactions are examples of moral disciplines. Teachers like J Krishnamurti (and some Zen masters, I believe) seem to go for “inquiry with hardly any revelation”. They abhor any pointers to the truth, saying such attempts would distract the student from the actualities of daily living. Truly enough, many seekers make philosophical studies another comfort zone for them to forget (avoid thinking about) the true challenges of life. The teachers of the second camp firmly suggest that we examine our life with an ‘on the spot’ alertness. In the elimination of all psychological escapes is the face of truth revealed. Wherever we go, our worst enemy is within us. Our own clever mind is capable of turning any guidance into a compartment of comfort. We use (misuse) all the scriptures (and such literature that stands apart from scriptures) to our (gross or subtle) selfish advantage. Most important therefore is the need to be utterly honest and earnest. Then there is hope. Our ego may burn away in the flames of true wisdom1. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday Sep 29th, 2008 1 jnanagnih sarva-karmani bhasmasat kurute tatha. Geeta 4.37

Surge Sixty

 

Beauty and Power of Watching

Watching the whole of our psychological life, every moment, has great charm. While we talk, walk, eat or react, the inner eye can expose dimensions of our being, which may be hitherto unknown. This exposing leads to ending of the self. “Alert and vigilant living itself is sadhana1 in its truest sense,” observed Swami Chinmayanandaji. When taken seriously, this can mean watching is the best of all sadhanas. Alertness is ‘watching’ and a hundred other sadhanas are ‘doing’. Watching (seeing, observing, inquiring) does not involve any doing. Doing may be on the planes of thought, word and deed. Attentive living involves awareness of thought, word and deed; it is itself not any of these three. Putting this teaching in rigorous terms, Krishnamurti once2 said, “Just be alert, and do nothing.” What is the wisdom of observation? How does it have such high merit? The Vedanta literature at many places praises ‘right seeing (samyag-darsana)’. Such seeing is different from bookish, verbal knowledge. It is wisdom (jnana) or inquiry (vicara), and it is the key to liberation. “Inquiry reveals the Reality and millions of actions (karma) are incapable of doing so,” declares Viveka-cudamani. Atma-bodha, another classic piece of Vedanta wisdom, argues logically, “Being not opposed to it, karma cannot eliminate ignorance (avidya). Right seeing (vidya) alone eliminates ignorance just as light alone can dispel darkness.” Call it liberation, name it ‘radical transformation of the human psyche’ or just describe it as ‘ending of selfishness’, the quantum leap in human consciousness is through an insight. It is not through some activity, however well-conceived.  The person himself (or herself) gains a totally new understanding of life, about his (her) relationship with the world and with regard to his (her) very identity (or absence thereof). Watching is our true nature, and is free of the sense of doership. In contrast, doing something necessarily involves a sense of doership (kartr-tva). The state of freedom is marked by absence of doership. So while our body or mind may be active or inactive, observation can go on. Someone like Krishnamurti was not a Vedanta scholar. What made him denounce all action as a means to (true) change? He perhaps saw that the countless forms of sadhana that the various religions of the world propagated had certain sad limitations. Masses especially were divided by these religions and these divisions led even to a lot of bloodshed. Even learned individuals, practicing the sadhanas, were found to be unable to come out of their limited identities. He therefore talked of such themes like the limits of thought. Calling thought a response of memory, he pointed out how the past clouded every one of our perceptions. Can the mischief of thought come to an end by more of thinking? Why do we not change despite much scholarship? We may know a description of sthita-prajna (a man of steady wisdom), as given in the second chapter of the Gita. We may have deeply appreciated the life and teachings of The Buddha. Following such inspiration, we may be practicing certain disciplines also on a regular basis. Yet various conflicts do not leave our bosom. Some of us get upset over the imperfections in others or in ourselves. “They should be like this, but they are not; I should have done that but I did not,” are the typical, generic descriptions of our daily life’s conflicts. Some others among us stay calm apparently, but have actually become insensitive or indifferent to things going wrong. A cleansing of the subconscious mind is required in order that we may truly change. This is not brought about by practices, which are basically a repetition of a chosen action. We need to catch the thief red-handed and that is possible only through awareness at the moment. The thought, “I am meditating regularly” can itself hold a person in its grip. The sense of individuality is then strengthened in yet another way. Watching eliminates such subtle thoughts and leaves us in the state of “I am”, uncontaminated by thoughts. Thinking, doing, feeling and chanting put us in the balcony of the divided self. Watching alone sets us free in the open sky of undivided existence. Notes: 1 sadhana is generally translated as spiritual practice. 2 To Asit Chandmal Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday, December 1, 2008 Surge Sixty One  

One Good No

As you welcome the New Year 2009, resolve to say one good NO everyday. On this, please do not say No to me. Find out what has wasted most of your time all through life. Say NO to it daily in the coming year. What has weakened you? What has spoiled your valued relationships? What has damaged your efficiency and effectiveness? What thought, word or deed has let you down consistently? Give it up. In the Hindu tradition, you give up something very dear to you when you visit Kashi (today’s Varanasi or Banaras ). Please remember, the word Kashi means Light or Effulgence. When you visit the luminous true nature of your own, the Atman, you will naturally break the shackles that bound you all along. You give up the worst all-time bad habit of yours. You conquer time and stay in the timeless, shining Self. What has been your constant error? Fearing something? Have you been afraid of ‘what others say’ even when your conscience is very clear about the right thing to say or do? Say NO to that fear on January 1, on January 2 and daily till December 31. Was it some silly pursuit of pleasure, which came in the way of your duty? Was it the attachment to some comfort that prevented you from performing better? Was it some slavery to sense enjoyments that brought a foul smell to your relation with family, friends and associates, which otherwise had the perfume of true love? Let go of such an unnecessary clinging. Bask in the lovely sunshine of freedom in the New Year. Did you waste your time and energy trying to please somebody who really did not deserve any of it? Did you give a lot of attention to certain people who anyhow never valued it? Enough is enough; now say NO. Was it an ambition to become something, while you are actually very fine as you are? Caught in the clutches of that desire, you never found time to smell the roses that bloomed in your backyard. That great longing was no other than a false conditioning that you fell a prey to. Say NO to it now. Celebrate what you are and do not waste an iota of energy anymore on building castles in the air. In the name of love of truth (that is what philosophy means), did you actually get caught in books and more books? Say NO to all those heaps of words. Live your life in true eagerness to understand directly (and not through some scholar’s descriptions) what life is all about. You have all the intelligence within you. Let not concepts bring smoke in those flames of ‘right seeing’ that are part of your true nature. One good NO a day, keeps the guru away. (No disrespect meant; when you are full of light, the guru stands at a distance and smiles away.) With lots of good wishes, Swami Chidananda Varanasi December 31, 2008
Surge Sixty Two
  Thought Binds, Attention Liberates   By and large, human life is dominated by thought. In one sense, much praise is rightly heaped upon thought, as countless are its achievements beyond the shade of doubt. All the accomplishments of science and technology are thanks to thought and, further, there is some truth in the saying, “As you think, so you become.” However, the same power that put a man on the moon has caused endless wars and sorrowful starvation on the earth. We claim we have subdued Nature and made all the animals and birds on the planet subservient to us. The only cause of fear for us is – another man. Man has proved himself to be ungrateful, greedy and ever discontent, time and again. The culprit is, alas, man’s own thought, which is a process that is hard to understand and difficult to manage. Desire is a form of thought. We may consider it a product of thought, when we regard thought in a much larger sense, as a process with many components that are woven in the form of a complex network. Then desire is just one of the many expressions of this multifaceted process. (To draw an analogy from mathematics and electronics, electromagnetic waves are analyzed with complex algebra with one of the components placed on the imaginary axis. The signal is expressed as x + iy. Both electric and magnetic forces travel together in space. This wave contains many kinds of information.) Thought carries many things – desires, resentments, beliefs, doubts and so on. So inscrutable are the ways of thought that the Vedanta1 exclaims, “There is no other ‘illusory power’ (maya, avidya) other than thought (mind).” All our ‘becoming somebody’ in the society or in the world loses its significance when, at the end of it, we are psychologically pretty much the same as ever before. If I had envied the pretty pencil set that the other girl in my class had, during my school days, I now envy the magnificent mansion the other businesswoman possesses in a very posh locality of my city. A thousand people may admire me for all the success I have got in my field but I burn with envy so often (if not day and night) thinking of the grand house of Kanchanamala2. The so-called power of thought has outwardly taken me to heights of glory but I inwardly remain at the same place where I was at the age of eight. Therefore the wise have asked, “Can we change?” Their interest is the radical transformation in human psyche and not any superficial glory. They see that the realm of thought is fraught with problems. They do not believe that thought is the answer to the troubles caused by thought. Thought is a trickster. J Krishnamurti says, “Thought gives rise to desire and then thought says – I must control desire.” Maharshi Ramana compared thought with the thief-turned-policeman who was apparently searching for the thief and he himself had been the thief. There is in every one of us another higher power – attention. Meditation is staying attentive, and not savoring some delicious thoughts. We may borrow noble thoughts from great traditions and, dwelling upon them, experience peace. Such exercises however do not go to the root cause of our bondage. Awareness – silent observation – reveals freedom, when all the machinations of thought get exposed and subside on their own. Silence surpasses the glory of word and thought. Swami Chidananda March 18, 2009 Notes: 1 na hyastyavidya manaso’tirikta – Viveka-Chudamani, verse 171 2 a name, not uncommon among Indian women, that means ‘a lady with a gold necklace’

Surge Sixty Three

Is Our True Nature Divine? “That Thou Art,” is one of the Great Statements1 of the Vedanta. It means every one of us is divine in our true nature. God and we are one, implies this revelation. We know God to be indestructible and full of love. The Vedic utterance here2 is meant to be an eye-opener for us, saying we too are full of love in the depth of our hearts. Usually we live in self-doubt if not in self-condemnation. How are we divine? A simple way to explain this is – we have infinite capacity to love and we are undoubtedly lovable. Love here is in the truest sense of the term, and not in one of its narrow connotations as most movies, plays, novels or short stories present. Love is a state of being, where there is no selfishness or fear. In that state, we look at all people with a great sense of harmony. We have no intention to take anything from them, nor are we worried about losing anything to them. This state has no personal likes or dislikes3. The ignorant work for happiness, but the wise do out of happiness, observed Swami Chinmayananda. This answers the popular question, “Why would a divine person do any work at all in this world?” Most people take some kind of discontent or dissatisfaction as a prerequisite to live in this society. They imagine that a man would drop dead if he were satisfied in all respects. They do not see anything other than desire or ambition as the driving force behind action. The truth however is different. Love moves mountains. Almost everybody in the world suffers from some form of insecurity or the other. Today, in the face of the global economic depression, large numbers of people in the developed countries also are under stress. A study of the Vedanta can help them see through their own self-created misery. Such a study can throw light on the dividing line between biological insecurity and psychological insecurity. Spiritual wisdom eliminates the latter and then we see that, in 99 out of 100 cases, the former hardly exists. “You are the Atma,” roars the Vedanta, “You have identified falsely with the personality made of the body and the mind.” Countless thoughts, following this false identification, continuously reinforce the foundation for all sorts of negative conclusions. We are then sorry for not having a big house, while our true need is just a little place with basic amenities. We are sad that somebody else is more recognized than we are, while we have received enough love and regard from a good number of people. We are depressed that we do not know enough philosophy (to talk over tea), while a lot of verbal knowledge seldom enriches our life. It is neither by possessing things nor by avoiding them that we become happy.  Similarly neither company of people nor resisting them ensures happy living. Harmonious living is marked by not depending on things or people. When we are happy within us, we welcome them when they come and let them go when they leave4. This state is not arrived at by willing to be so. This becomes our natural state when we let go of all artificialities in our daily living. When pretending ceases and we stop clinging to false prestige, we remain in our nature. The Vedanta calls this true nature of ours divine, “You are That.” Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday, March 30, 2009 End Notes: 1 The Great Statements are called maha-vakyas in Sanskrit. 2 It is found in the Sama-Veda, in one of its upanishads (Chandogya). 3 Compare with Geeta 12.15 and 12.17. 4 aagate svaagatam kuryaat, gacchantam na nivaarayet – an old saying. Surge Sixty Four Nonattachment and Right Seeing Nonattachment (vairagya), alas, has become just a word for most people. They are attached to a lot of things in life; and they are attached to words too – worldly (laukika) and spiritual (vaidika). Knowledge and scholarship make them proud. In a significant advice1 in the Viveka-Cudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination), Sri Sankaracarya connects nonattachment with right seeing (samyag-darsana). “A man, drowning in the ocean of samsara, must lift himself up, by himself, through (first) attaining nonattachment2 and (then) establishing himself in right seeing,” says the master of non-dual Vedanta. In his commentary on this eminent work, Sri Candrasekhara Bharati says ‘right seeing’ is the direct means to liberation while ‘nonattachment’ is the main cause (or means) leading to right seeing. The higher we go, the lesser becomes the difference between the means and the end. When we examine the nature of pure nonattachment, we can see that it is impossible to have it without right seeing. We therefore wonder if right seeing leads to real nonattachment. Which is then the means and which the end? No wonder teachers like J Krishnamurti have described ‘attention’ (going well with right seeing) as the beginning and the end. They would dismiss the division of means and end, and appeal to their friends to just live in attention. Any attachment is a reflection of old conditionings and therefore is the shadow of our past. The self (ego) and its preferences are both created out of memories. Attention is abidance in the present; its flame burns the dead. Alert living is the mani-karnika ghat of Varanasi , where the corpses of thought are continuously consigned to the tongues of ‘the fire of awareness’. Traditionally we have always heard that viveka (discrimination between real and unreal) leads to vairagya. Here again, true discrimination demands ‘seeing things properly.’ If we look at objects, letting some old habits take us over, viveka is just not possible. If, on the other hand, we behold the glitter and glamour of this world with a quiet mind, free from past tendencies, hardly anything can take us for a ride. Sweets or cars, music or dance, woman or wine – we may relate with them all with no bias: then the wonder of wonders happens. The machinery of thinking slows down and grinds to a halt. Thinking (drawing from the past all the time) had all along colored our vision, making us attached to certain things and averse to certain other. When thoughts do not govern us anymore, the quiet mind has a unique intelligence. Then we have a liberating vision, with love and compassion in our bosom. We seek nothing; nobody needs to fear us anymore. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Friday, May 01, 2009 1 uddhared-atmanatmanam magnam samsara-varidhau yogarudhatvam-asadya samyag-darsana-nisthaya – Verse 9 2 The verse actually says, “Having mounted the steed of yoga,” but it means, “Having attained a high degree of vairagya.” The justification can be found in Gita 6.4 Surge Sixty Five NET-WORTH AND SELF-WORTH People have shown a great ability to bounce back, when unexpected turns of events made them lose all their wealth and status. When Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of JPMorgan, was recently in India , he reminisced on his reaching heights of glory at Citigroup in the good old days and then being thrown out suddenly. He had to start from scratch. “My net-worth had gone totally but not my self-worth,” he said to reporters. There is something spiritual about such an outlook. Maintaining high self-worth is a sign of good spiritual health. Time will tell, of course, if you had hypnotized yourself into it or you really had the strength born of the intuitive grasp of your own deeper dimension. When external assets vanish and when even the body and the mind get weak, the spirit can rise and show its powers. It will breathe new life into the mind first, and then restore the agility of the body. Before long, your material well-being also has to stage a comeback. Are we saying people like Dimon are spiritual and we would place them on par with saints and sages? Of course not. This element of inner silence in the wake of a tragedy that empowers fresh thinking and involvement in a new venture (as he did with JPMorgan) is a sure sign of spiritual potential. With a few other requirements fulfilled, yes, such business icons can scale the heights of spiritual glory. Those requirements would be, among others, keen awareness of the limitations of all the worldly pursuits and love of the truth that shines behind the (gold lid of) word and thought. These are called vairagya and jnana by Adi Shankaracharya in his introductory remarks on the Bhagavad-Geeta, where he says these two qualities mark the nivritti-dharma (the discipline of renunciation). People like Dimon were destined to blaze a trail in pravrtti-dharma (the discipline of action in the world). “Never say die,” is possible when you have an inkling of “who you are” deep down. The Vedanta repeatedly puts it in the words, “You are not the body, nor the mind; you are Pure Existence and Awareness.” Those who fully grasp this truth stride across this earth with no fear or worries. The purpose of studying the Upanishads is to awaken such Self-knowledge in us, and not merely make us scholars of philosophy. What prevents such an intuition is the loud noise of our own thoughts, which are – to make matters worse – the product of false conditionings. We are caught in the maze of memories, which not only play again and again bygone events before our mental eyes but also create an identity for us. This latter part (referred to as I-thought by Maharshi Ramana) is what mainly weakens our self-worth along with our net-worth. Self-inquiry counters these memories and clears the smoke screen created by them. The thought, “Who am I?” removes a thousand thoughts of “Who I am” and, finally, itself disappears. The Pure Self is not a thought, while the ego is nothing but a bundle of thoughts. Would you say, you never thought this way? Swami Chidananda Varanasi Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Surge Sixty Six

STAY ALERT Staying alert is the essence of spirituality. The man who is vigilant lives rightly while the scholar slips and falls. Organized religion gives false and temporary sense of security. Only a personal discovery of truth sets a man free. Much thinking cannot help you take right decisions but you will come out with right action when you can stay quiet and perceive the given situation without coming under the sway of likes and dislikes. Attachments and aversions are the undesirable gifts of the dead past. When you are alert, you are in the living present. The light of pure intelligence acts through you and you are not overpowered by the forces of old habit. You stand on the firm ground of freedom. Fear and desire are the outcome of memories. When you remember some painful event, you fear its repetition. You do not want it to happen again. Similarly you desire the recurrence of some pleasant experience and want to go through it once more. So both these are rooted in memory. The fact meanwhile is that memories are very limited in their scope and they are unreal. A picture of an apple cannot satisfy your appetite as a real fruit can do. When you are carried away by fear and desire, you are, to a great extent, guided by the false and directed by the unreal. When you stand on guard, you are face to face with the true and the real. An ancient text1 observes, “Lack of alertness is death.” The death that the scriptures warn you of is not the clinical death of the body, but the terrible situation where you are trapped in ego and egoistic tendencies. It is the psychological prison, worse than death, where you deny to yourself the beautiful freedom of your true nature, of the Self. More than harming anybody around you, you do a great disservice to yourself when thoughts that separate you from others rule the roost. Enslaved by pride or prejudice, you live in self-created insecurity and the consequent misery. You are caught in the maze of thoughts and the light of pure awareness barely gets in. “The sense organs have likes and dislikes towards various sense objects. An intelligent person would not let them gain control over him,” says2 the Geeta (3.34). Though a translation like, “One should not come under their control,” is broadly acceptable, the meaning is better conveyed when you say, “If you are alert and intelligent, you would not let them rule you.” The language of “should and should not” has the smell of exercising will power; action proceeding from right understanding has a different fragrance. When you know there is fire in front of you, you do not exercise will power. Your perception does everything. There is no need to think, argue or weigh the pros and cons of touching the shooting flames. Alertness, right perception and seeing with a quiet mind are all about an operation above the plane of thought, memory and habit. “Desire, anger and greed are three thieves that have made your body their home. They are all set to steal the jewel of wisdom from you. Therefore be alert; be on guard,” says3 Shri Shankaracharya in one of his compositions. What are these thieves but mechanical repetitions of old thought waves? Every one of us has enough common sense to recognize these as undesirable but the problem is – they become very powerful when they arise. We become helpless drivers of cars the headlights of which have suddenly turned off and the road before us is dark. Should it really be so? Is it possible that, to stretch the illustration a little further, we knew some defects were coming up with our front lights and we had ignored them for the last two weeks or so? In like manner, is it possible that we live our daily life with some amount of casualness, letting many influences frequently condition us, and then, at a testing moment, we are just unable to handle an emerging emotion? No wonder Krishnamurti remarked, “Attention is the way to attention.” Not rituals, not reading and not repetition of sacred mantras is the way to this waking up. All of them can be seen to cause compartments in your life. They cause the division of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde4. You become a split personality: within you there are a good person and an evil person too. What is worse, you keep struggling with this division and you carry ideas (judgements) of who you are. Your life swings between the so-called good deeds and the so-called immoral acts. The pendulum goes from one extreme to the other. (In physics we learn: as the pendulum reaches zero kinetic energy and has stopped moving for a moment, it has gathered the maximum potential energy and is all set to move again.) You move from guilt and shame at one end to a repeat act at the other. At one end you have so many ideas of how you should be; and remorse over how you are not yet so. At the other end, you throw everything to the winds and let sheer habit take over. Do not get carried away by judgements – good or bad. Be passively aware of how your mind works. Be intensely aware of your indulgence in both pleasure and pain. Small victories lead to big victories, they say. Be attentive to the tiny wave of pleasure that rises in you when you see your name or picture in a magazine or newspaper, with some importance attached to it. Watch the little disappointment within you also, when somebody forgot to mention your name in her speech. Being aware of all these crests and troughs of the emotional movement, you learn about yourself. In this learning there is the undoing of the ego. It is well said in an old couplet5, “Do not do what should not be done even if your life is at risk. Please do only that which should be done, even at the cost of life.” Our society has always praised such righteous behaviour and has urged children especially to cultivate sterling values, follow some glorious role model and so on. The difficulty is as simple as this: without understanding what you are, your adoring ideas of what you should be will cause a lot of psychological complications. In seeing who (and what) you are, there is the elimination of falsehood. That alone clears the ground and facilitates true transformation. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday, July 27, 2009 Notes: 1 pramado vai mrityuh – Shri Sanat-kumara in Sanat-sujateeya. 2 tayor-na vasham-agacchet 3 tasmad jagrata jagrata 4 Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from the other. 5 akartavyam na kartavyam pranaih kantha-gatair-api  

Surge Sixty Seven

STEP BEYOND THE NET The great Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj observes, “We see the world through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. The real world is beyond the mind’s ken. To see the universe as it is, we must step beyond the net.” He then adds, “Stepping beyond the net is not hard, for this net is full of holes!” What are the holes? How do we find them? When we look at the net, we can find many contradictions. We do and undo at every step. We want peace and love but work hard to create pain and hatred. We want to live long but we overeat. We want true friendship but exploit everyone. The net of our thoughts is thus full of holes, its contradictions. If we see them, they will go. Therefore the urgency is not about reading all those books that we have collected at our home library. It is rather about being aware of the mechanical way our mind is working. Krishnamurti called it reading the book of life. The action is needed here and now; of what use is it to think, “Oh I must meditate tonight; I must go to the temple this weekend”? Meditate now – in the form of breaking the habit of imagining and by way of seeing things as they are. Go now to the temple in your own heart – where the light of pure awareness shines, unconditioned by memory. Are we earnest at all about our own freedom? Or are we content with the praise, “He is a good slave?” When we have given primary importance to social respectability, we thereby put off indefinitely our own breaking free. This does not of course mean we must simply disregard the society and break its laws thoughtlessly. We need to see how we create artificial structures of power or glory and then suffer under their weight. We make somebody a celebrity and then envy her. We make someone else a (so-called) common man and turn indifferent to him. The extra attention we give to the celebrity and the attention we deny to the common man are both actually expressions of our lacking the quality of true attention. In such self-created hierarchy we lose our sensitivity; we live carelessly. If we are earnest in self-inquiry, we would not live under the pressure of various notions. Fancy ideas of who is great and who ordinary create the false net of the mind. The idea of greatness makes me ‘want to become like that’. Similarly the idea of commonness makes me ‘not want to remain like that’. Either way, I am pursuing an image (or avoiding an image) and, in the process, am failing to know myself as I am. The challenge before us is to ask, “Who am I?” and not to get caught in the wild goose chase of becoming. Caught in the net, we look out and chase a dream. Stepping out of the net, we wake up. Many dreams, no doubt, are lovely. Alas, all of them at the end are nothing. They are, as a play of Shakespeare is titled, Much Ado about Nothing. The Vedanta therefore gives the analogy of going after the mirage, mistaking it to be real water; or desiring the silver in the (sea shell called) mother of pearl. The Upanishads ask, “Are not all actions (karmas) a sign of ignorance? Are you not chasing one illusion after another through them?” The wise do not (with plan and scheme) do any karma. If at all, karmas take place spontaneously through them. Swami Chinmayananda therefore made a distinction: the unwise act for happiness; the wise act out of happiness. The happiness of the wise is from their intuitive awareness of their own fullness, no matter what. Let us not think of long years of tapas on the slopes of the Himalayas; that is a grand future plan. What is the present plan? Let us live today with all vigilance, ensuring that no word slips from our mouth wrongly and no food enters our mouth unnecessarily. Let us, if necessary, reprimand somebody who is at fault but not utter one un-parliamentary word. Let us eat sweets (provided we are not diabetic) but not take one more piece than the appropriate quantity. Living now rightly may make the grandiose plans redundant. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Monday, August 10, 2009 Surge Sixty Eight BURN THE INCENSE TO GET THE FRAGRANCE Mere words take you nowhere; live them and then you know the great beauty of spiritual wisdom. Just as you have to burn incense sticks to get their fragrant fumes, you have to burn the words in the flame of actual living to feel their great power. “bhuktaye, na tu muktaye” said Shri Shankaracharya in his Viveka-Chudamani, which means, “Verbal scholarship can only give some amount of worldly enjoyment but not inner freedom”. Like singers, dancers and other performers, speakers on spiritual topics become heroes in this mad world. Masses see in these people larger-than-life figures; they almost become living gods in the eyes of their fans and admirers. They suffer privately from their human frailties. They can neither be comfortable in their role (as it is not natural or normal for them) nor can they easily extricate themselves from the artificial structures around them. One in a hundred, however, walks out. She intensifies her efforts towards living the core teachings. She stands guard, for example, against her habitual tendencies to seek “reward, recognition, fame and name” in all that she does. That is phala-tyaga of the Bhagavad-Geeta. To let go of the urge for praise is more valuable than giving a hundred discourses on one of those Geeta shlokas that talk about such “renunciation of fruits of action”. She does not hesitate to cancel a public talk if some difficulty arises in the organizing of it but takes extra care not postpone her  inquiry or meditation. She saves energy by withdrawing from egotistic activities and invests it in actual, inner exploration. In speech, food and sleep, she avoids excess and gently trains her body and mind to come upon a natural state of harmony. Plenty of opportunities to do real sadhana come to us in our privacy. No wonder Bernard Shaw remarked, “A man’s character is to be judged by what he does when he thinks nobody is watching him.” Real sadhana does not compartmentalize life into public and private domains. The earnest seeker has no dual policies for these two spheres. If he likes to read some magazines for half an hour, for example, he does so – irrespective of whether someone is watching him or not. His true values and understanding determine his behaviour; the fear of being judged or the desire to impress people does not. All this is possible if a certain inner cleansing has taken place. This cleansing takes place when we give space to ourselves, to watch and to learn. Much before the big question “Who am I?” could be asked, we must ask, “What am I doing? What do I fear? Why am I compromising?” Rather than going into a long, verbal analysis or commentary on our own behaviour, we must inquire with a silent mind. It is not in elaborate thinking but in simple, direct seeing that false fears flee. Contradictions disappear; integration of personality takes place. Living the spiritual teachings thus is not about conforming to some precepts or formulas. The core of the great teachings seldom stresses on dos and don’ts. It rather asks us to find out what is right. The light within us guides us. The silent mind – free from personal likes and dislikes – is the springboard of right action. The best judgment arises from the non-judgmental state of mind. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Saturday, September 12, 2009 INSIGHTS Surge 69 SILENCE AS VIRTUE The talented also suffer in life. They have a good time for a while but then sooner or later they get quite attached to the skills that they possess and to the recognition that they receive. Before long they notice that the world has other things also to do than just stand and admire their show. It is not easy to accept this. They want to continue to impress people. They want to go on displaying their gifts and receive awards and accolades. They get miserable when people turn their attention to somebody else. The ability to remain silent – in contrast to the outgoing urge to perform, impress and derive pleasure – is a great virtue. In this silence we listen and learn. We are able to appreciate others’ abilities. We accept gracefully many ups and downs of life when there is this inner silence that perceives without hasty reaction. We are then ready to give but we do not insist. We do not impose ourselves on anybody but are available to help and serve. People feel peace about us. Our presence itself is a gift to them without a word uttered. When they asked him to describe most briefly the essential sadhana (spiritual practice), Shri Ramana Maharshi said, “Be Still.” This advice to keep quiet means much more than vocal silence. In its profound sense, it is a call for a spiritual seeker to be free from ego. When the ego is present, long verbal silence has little value; when the ego is absent, talking much also is benediction in every word of it. The crux of the matter is therefore not “to talk or not to talk” but “to be free from the sense of I, me and my”. By deciding to be free from ego, no one succeeds in doing so. The will to be humble and the resolve to serve people generate the ego if not create more illusions. Teachers like Krishnamurti therefore laid emphasis upon alertness and awareness. Paying attention to the movement of the self, which means being intensely aware of the operation of the ego, could bring a basic change in the way we live. To notice the false becomes the essence of sadhana, and not any attempt to define and assert the truth. Let the clouds go; the sun shines forth unhindered. There is the play of ego when we dominate over others and there is its play when we cooperate in a situation where others dominate over us. The exploiters and the exploited both contribute to exploitation typically. The former would like to cause fear while the latter are used to reel under fear. Those who cause fear in others are afraid within themselves too, for they believe that they are in danger unless they keep others under their thumbs. Strained psychology is involved in all these cases of human consciousness that fears outwardly or inwardly. The plane of words has its sophistication, no doubt. The nonverbal domain is more complex. Even after we learn to speak well-chosen words, and embellish the art with gestures gentle and suave, clever self-interest could lurk behind all these and cause insecurity and suffering. Attention penetrates all these layers to expose the machinations of the ego. The self thrives in a state of inattention but cannot stand the heat of attention. The selfish structure withers away when there is the flame of attention burning brightly in our life, moment to moment. Where do religions stand? Where can we place practices like studying of scriptures or prayers to Gods? Or, for that matter, is the practice of meditation relevant in the context of radical transformation through attention? The answer is not in the form of dos and don’ts. Driven by our conditionings, which are memories, we are into many practices; they are long-standing habits. By merely deciding to do them or not do them, we hardly change. Decisions and resolutions are superficial. It is only through understanding born of awareness again that practices drop off. Or they may get enriched, which means we may do certain things regularly (yoga for example) without the foul smell of ego, selfishness or seeking personal reward. True silence fills our life with its fragrance, only when we observe the foolishly insecure ways of thought and there is ending of all insecurity in this observation. Swami Chidananda Varanasi* 13th October 2009 INSIGHTS Surge 70 What Guides Your Work? Will or Love? Most of us do not realize that much of the conflicts that we suffer in our life are created by ourselves. There again, we do not suspect that certain attachment to goals, ideas or ideals is at the root of the problem. We conceive something as a good goal, a noble ideal or a respectable objective. We are convinced that we are not chasing some false value. Having decided that our agenda is unquestionably sound, we then get busy with mobilization of resources to achieve the set purpose. Among the many things we then need is “will power.” Call it just will. Here begins the game. In the name of will, we goad ourselves to work. If we work well one day, we compliment ourselves; if we do not, another day, we blame ourselves. Judgments such as, “I am not focused; I am lazy; I lack killer instinct; I wish I was more ambitious,” and so on disturb our mind frequently. Some notion of achievement drives our life. At times we consider it even the only way to survive. Burn out or get out, goes the slogan in such a state of affairs. We lose all our sensitivity to many other aspects of life such as caring for people, animals and nature. Life loses its holistic quality. Even when we seem to succeed, in terms of earning money or name, there is stress and discontent. When we pause at times, we wonder, “Do I love my work at all?” Caught apparently in a vicious circle, we are unable to change our way of living. “Do I do things out of helplessness? Would I do something very different if I were really free?” Most of us certainly imagine some other way of living, if we had a chance to reprogram our entire life. It seems that our responsibilities are tying us down. Not only our families but also the organizations where we work seem to have got us highly obliged to work for them. We sometimes envy monks or other unmarried people who, in our eyes, are free. The truth is different. Married or single, a human being feels bound purely because of his (her) own countless conditionings. Numerous ideas of how things should be cloud his thinking so much that he loses all his sharpness of perception with regard to how things are. He hardly understands his fears but lets them drive him. He does not watch the structure of his desires but allows them to steer him. He does not re-examine his ideals but suffers under their weight. His agitations about the past and his anxieties about the future make him blind to the present. So he errs, errs and errs again. Clean up. We must clean up our consciousness of so much junk that has accumulated. Thought – in all its varieties – carries many likes and dislikes. False prestige, vain pride, fears around our image and hopes of becoming some important person are just a few examples of this collected garbage. We have lost our simplicity. We need to slow down, take a fresh look at how our thought operates. We shall then discover that much of (if not all of) our fear is baseless and, equally so, a lot of our desires are unnecessary. It is not about labelling desire and fear as wrong; we just see that we can travel much more lightly without them. When it is not much cold, a sweater becomes unnecessary; without calling the sweater bad, we just take it off and walk away. So it is with many thoughts; they just drop off as we see them properly. Love then manifests. Not pressure – external or internal – but a quiet joy accompanies our work. In the morning, we may then exercise with much enjoyment and not with the fear, “Oh, if I do not exercise, I will pay a heavy price later.” Without using will, we keep our house in order and do a number of things purely out of right understanding. Will (will power), much praised in this confused world, has actually the smell of conflict and contradiction, “A part of me does not want to do this; another part of me prevails and so I do it.” In love, there is no such division. We do everything wholeheartedly –  eat, drink, sleep, exercise, meditate, work and earn. Love is the fragrance of total inner integration. Will has some charm but it is a soldier who wins battles but loses the war. Swami Chidananda Monday, November 9, 2009 INSIGHTS Surge 71 DO NOT BE CRUEL Do not be cruel to yourself. You may not be aware of the ways in which you have inflicted pain to your own self. And you continue to do so even now, in ignorance. I am not talking of physical violence. The context is psychological and, of course, it affects the body anyway. When you blame yourself unnecessarily or condemn yourself for no true fault of yours, there is cruelty to the self. Relax and be gentle to yourself. Ambition is the source of much of this kind of cruelty. Therefore you find in this world many millionaires who are neither happy nor let others stay at peace. They live in tension. They fret and fume when small things go wrong (in their opinion, and not really). They seem to be achievers and they are proud of the image they have created in the public eye. The truth however is that, for a little that they have indeed achieved, they have caused a lot of problems also in their surroundings. They are not true assets of this world. Do you curse yourself when do not perform well? If you do, that surely worsens the situation. It is healthier for you to (take a deep breath and) just examine how you could do better. Please do not heap negative judgments upon yourself. If you do, you will find yourself caught in a vicious circle. Because you think low of yourself, you will spoil the next performance; and because you performed poorly, you will think even more negatively of yourself. We come across an irony when people get depressed that they did not “meditate this morning”. They call themselves spiritual seekers and they are not aware of the burden that label is causing them. They say, “Oh, I again got up late and missed my meditation today. I have become terribly lazy.” If they know what meditation is, they would right away observe that very thought of guilt or shame at the present moment. To be in the now is the essence of meditation. So do not regret that you got out of bed late; rather, as there arises a habitual thought of regret, stay aware of that wave. Be in a learning mode and examine (by observing, and not by thinking) the way of your conditioned mind. You may not suspect how ideals might have caused injury to your psyche. Your fascination with an ideal may have blinded you to the actual, to the realities of your situation. You have a mental picture of Mahatma Gandhi and he becomes your ideal, the role model. You do not have a proper understanding of Gandhiji but all the same have created an image of him. For any variation with that image, you blame yourself and get sad over your imperfections. Upset over your failure to become as good as he was, you go through many related negative emotions. For example, you may get angry with your spouse who, you think, came in the way of your living the ideal life. You may find fault with the society as a whole, which does not appreciate your ways of seeing things. Heal yourself now. Not by pampering yourself or by indulging in some pleasure pursuit after throwing all ideals to the winds. Heal yourself by staying normal. The excitement of (the prospect of) becoming great or the depression over certain inability to achieve heights are both a play of the mind. What is most important is for you to understand what you are, without any judgment. “Who am I? What am I?” are thus important questions. Stay with such questions and let the frills go away from the mind. You will then find great love and sympathy for yourself. Through that, you will love all and sympathize with all too. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Thursday,  December 10, 2009 SURGE  72: Friday, January 22, 2010 SELF-INQUIRY, SILENCE AND POWER The power of silence excels over that born of thought. All thought is limited but the ground of silence is limitless. All thought has the narrowness of conditionings but silence is free from the foul play of conditionings. When thought empowers us, there is something artificial about it; silence is natural and its fragrance therefore is wholesome. Thought is partial and silence impartial. The ego is made of thoughts (memories) and silence alone is free of ego. We need to understand silence and a silent mind alone can do it. Self-inquiry de-conditions us. It shows the falsehood of all thoughts – those projecting us as inferior and those presenting us as superior. Though this may defy the understanding of beginners, our true nature is simply not within the reach of any verbal description. The right answer to the fundamental question, “Who am I?” is silence.  This is similar to the mystery of this universe. The basic building block of it all – the atom – is not describable in definite terms. The subatomic particle, the electron, is an enigma by itself. They can neither say it is a particle nor confirm it is a wave. More new theories, like the string theory, keep coming up, to explain what it is ultimately. This ‘I’ is like that. Any answer to the question of our identity has temporary validity; it is dismissed later, or now itself, from another angle of view. Self-inquiry is practical: It applies to daily life, to every minute of our existence. In every transaction, even as we assume a position in relation to somebody, the question, “Who am I?” has a bearing on the position held. If you think you are the benefactor and somebody a beneficiary, the question WAI (Who am I?) can dilute the notions, if not eliminate them. Can a pen claim it wrote the poem, ignoring the poet? Can a decorative statue, seemingly holding the ceiling on its hands, claim to support the roof? Are not the pillars really the essential support? Do we benefit anybody at all really? Are not various circumstances and diverse factors practically forcing us to play the role of being of help to others? When we see the larger picture, our idea that we helped somebody gets weak and slowly disappears into thin air. WAI-FI in place of Wi-Fi: Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) is popular these days. Motels, restaurants, coffee houses, malls and libraries and so on boast of providing Wi-Fi, where you have internet access on your laptops just like that. You connect to their internet host through the wireless modem built into your laptop. Could we have WAI-FI zones as well? These are areas – parks, river banks, lakesides and so on – where an atmosphere conducive to meditation and self-inquiry is available. Wai-Fi means Who-am-i Fidelity, which means Self-Inquiry Friendly. Let people sit and introspect here. Let them re-examine ‘what they think of themselves’. Let them bring under close scrutiny all their notions of being good, bad, wise, unwise and otherwise. Let them put aside the habitual arguments of thought and, with fresh eyes, observe everything inside and outside. Let them see, without anything colouring their perception, their own thoughts and emotions; let them see trees, birds and other people, with absolutely no prejudice. Silence is the way to silence. When we do not react but look at something quietly, there is silence in our seeing. Such seeing can help us discover dimensions hitherto unseen. Upon seeing these new dimensions, our old likes and dislikes disappear. The absence of attachment and aversions (raga-dvesha) is silence, the gift that silent watching brings to us. The absence of any bias such as gender bias, regional bias etc gives to us the healthy space to think and act with grace and power. There is the coming together of intelligence and compassion here. The quiet, pure heart sees much more than otherwise; therefore it is intelligent. The pure heart has sympathy for one and all; therefore it is compassionate. The pure heart is the basis of the truth: Awareness Heals. May we devote this year 2010 for a better understanding of life through a deeper understanding of who we are. Swami Chidananda Varanasi INSIGHTS Surge 73 Shiva: Two Aspects Shiva is auspiciousness. That is what everybody seeks. Also called shubha, mangala and kalyana, it signifies all is well. In this life of ours, the dark clouds of disappointment, despair and insecurity do not seem to leave us and we are constantly seeking the bright sunshine of happiness, cheer and fearlessness. Shiva represents just these most desirable conditions – outside and inside. So when we say Om Namah Shivaya, we are implicitly expressing our longing for order, harmony and total well-being. Shiva destroys. He negates the false. He removes asat. Advanced Vedanta declares that this negation of the false is the only thing that needs to be done. “The true reward of wisdom is the complete ending of all illusion,” says Viveka-Choodamani1. When the misconceived snake no more appears, the beam of light has done its job. It goes without saying that the rope, which alone was there all along, becomes visible with no obstruction. When clouds go away, the sun shines forth without any need for something to be done for us to see the sun. The essence of wisdom is therefore to stay alert, notice the distortions in our perception and be free from the prejudice that causes distortion. The third eye of Shiva is thus Clear Seeing (samyag-darshana). Lust, greed, insensitivity and indifference are products of certain conditionings; they are our delusion and they are not part of right seeing. They go away in right seeing. Using a metaphoric language, it is said Shiva’s third eye burns away Kamadeva, the god of passion. Seeing every situation rightly, without the coloured glasses of our likes and dislikes, surely puts an end to our selfish desires. What remains is pure love, symbolized by the coming together of Shiva and Parvati. Scholarship does not help in living rightly. The unique skill of keeping an open mind does. No wonder the Geeta2 admits, “He alone is happy who does not come under the sway of desire and anger.” Scholars are sometimes seen to have as much desire and anger as anybody else, if not more. They are able to talk or write a lot on the state of freedom from desire and anger; but they are not free. This does not mean scholarship is evil. On the contrary, it is good in its own place and serves much purpose in keeping the society informed. The means to freedom is the ability to remain watchful, moment to moment. The wise one sees how foolish it is to be jealous; giving up (negating) follows this seeing. She sees the meaninglessness of personal ambition – of the pleasure of visualizing herself as wealthy or mighty. She sees clearly how thought projects that pleasure and there is no actual happiness in being, let us say, the Chief Executive of a large organization. She sees that certain conditioned patterns are behind the urge to become the CEO. To pursue something projected by thought is different from pursuing a fact. Getting nearer to a picture of fire cannot give to us warmth; getting closer to fire can and will. Pursuit of pleasure is a movement of thought, observed Krishnamurti. It is one thing to eat some good food and enjoy it when we are hungry. It is quite another to be driven by memories the next day when we pass by the same restaurant and make an unplanned diversion into the eating place, order the same dish as yesterday and so on. No wonder the food does not taste as good as it did yesterday. In such cases of being led by thought (memories, fancies, projections, images), we lose touch with the reality. We become insensitive to the true needs of our body. The natural intelligence of our body goes unheard. The body says, “I am not hungry; I am tired; I need rest.” Thought says, “This is time to eat; it is foolish to rest now.” To see forms of psychological confusion within us is the nature of right perception in daily life. Then we have invoked Shiva. He destroys all distortions and restores to us our contact with truth. That is truth, well-being and beauty: satyam, shivam, sundaram. Swami Chidananda Shivaratri, February 12, 2010 Notes: 1 vidya-phalam syat, asato nivrittih – Viveka-choodamani, verse 423 2 shaknoteehaiva yah sodhum..  Geeta, 5.23 Surge: Seventy four

TRUE CHANGE: CHANGE IN CONSCIOUSNESS

Call it the expressions of unending selfishness or the result of deep insecurity, a human being manages ‘not to change’ deep inside, while adapting his public behaviour very cleverly. Desire and fear lurk in his consciousness but he learns to show himself as highly service-minded and not afraid of material loss or criticism of any kind. His public behaviour makes him not only acceptable in the society but quite good in his own opinion. However there are skeletons in the cupboard and he therefore lives in conflict and his daily life lacks true peace. Change in behaviour is not a big deal. You will achieve it with some intelligence. You succeed in conforming to the demands of family members, colleagues or the society in general. This business of getting social approval begins in school days when many a student gets the approving nod from his teachers. They say he is well-behaved. Words like obedient, loyal and disciplined are heaped upon the so-called good student. Less importance is given to the question if he is creative or if he is free from inner conflict. The poor boy may have suppressed many a curiosity or explorative urge in order to satisfy the expectations of the teachers and other elders. There is then no holistic growth for he is not learning in an atmosphere of freedom. The pressure of expectations makes him a second-hand personality. Change in consciousness is of very great value. Your intelligence has to penetrate very deep in order to bring about it. You then show care and love to people not just because that is expected from you but you see clearly how lack of care and love is injurious to yourself and others. You directly notice the foul smell of insensitivity and indifference even as they arise in you. If you are a scholar, a speaker or a writer then you have a lot of knowledge. It does not ensure however that you have changed. Information does not mean transformation. Through constant intellectual activity, you may gather a lot of knowledge. Through direct perception, your consciousness changes. Hidden fears and lurking desires leave you when the magical faculty of seeing (which is not thinking or analysis) exposes their illusory nature. You change in behaviour when thought operates. Change in consciousness takes place when attention works on thought. Thought is concerned with the self, which is its own creation. When you think, you cannot but keep the interest of the self as a priority. When you pay attention to how thought operates, there is no priority. There is only an effort towards understanding what is. This effort at understanding the movement of the self is distinct from the usual cerebral activity of reading books and forming concepts. We must see therefore the importance of silence. Sitting silently, we may take a look at the way our thought operates. Without interfering with rising memories, without encouraging or suppressing any of them either, we may learn a lot through alert watching. While clever thinking brings to our view many solutions to problems, this seeing takes a quantum leap and dissolves problems. Words have power, we have always heard. Thought has power, we know it too. Do we realize how much power alert silence has? Swami Chidananda Varanasi March 15, 2010           Surge : Seventy five DARKNESS IS THE MAIN PROBLEM Our vision is blurred because of veiling (avarana) and distraction (viksepa). The language of gunas attributes these two problems to tamas (darkness, inertia) and rajas (outgoing nature, restlessness). Certain darkness (gu) has enveloped our vision, and a luminary comes along in our life who removes (ru) that darkness. He (or she) is called guru. We pay homage to him (her) and a day is specially marked every year for remembering him (her). That is guru-purnima*. Right Action The problem of darkness besets us when the question is, “What is the right thing to do?” Presidents and Prime Ministers err with regard to action, and so do common men and women.  National and international affairs are therefore in jeopardy; so are matters in every family. Wrong actions lead to wrong results and life gets very complicated. If only we could see clearly, at the time of taking decisions, much harm could be avoided. An individual, in her personal life, goes on committing errors – again because of this darkness. She is unable to see her situation properly. She sees a snake where there is actually a mere rope. She runs away in fear while she could have just walked on. If there was enough light, she would have seen the rope properly. In eating and drinking, exercising and working, speaking and writing, investing and spending, in all matters of daily life, seeing rightly assumes utmost importance. Without it our life moves from error to error. The guru removes darkness and helps us see rightly. Tradition emphasizes methods, techniques and practices to cleanse our inner equipment so that we can see properly. When the surface of a mirror is clean, the reflections are clear. If the energies within us are free from impurities, the vision of right action is clear. All over the world, therefore, people are engaged in worship, japayogapranayama etc. All of this is meant to bring about inner purification, citta-suddhinadi-suddhi, antahkarana-suddhi, as the words go. (The word nadi is pronounced with n as n in nut, a as a in car, d as d in dance and i as ee in deep. The nadis are the invisible paths through which subtle energy flows inside our body. Kundalini rises up through the main nadi called sushumna.) Alas, man tends to make everything mechanical. He makes his practices a separate compartment of life. He finds ways to deceive himself and becomes a hypocrite in the process. So all the practices, given by religions of the world, do some good but fall short of causing radical change. The basic selfishness in man does not go. Right Seeing Can seeing itself lead to seeing? Can we grow day after day in our maturity through right seeing as the primary means? Let the practice of techniques and methods play the second fiddle. Let them not occupy the main seat. They do not deserve the front seat. They are in the department of karma (and upasana) and the Vedanta scriptures have declared the supremacy of wisdom (jnana). Seeing is the hallmark of jnana, while doing is that of karma. The GURU operates from within us and also from outside us. She comes to us in many forms. She is by our side all the time if we have the eyes to see. She helps us see the whole of life every moment. By sharpening our vision in the present moment,we can go to the root of our problems. Then there is the uprooting of the misery in life. That is freedom. Swami Chidananda Varanasi Tuesday, July 20, 2010 *Guru Purnima falls this year on Sunday, July 25. On this full moon day, centuries ago, Veda Vyasa began to write the Brahma-Sutras, which became one of the three foundation scriptures (prasthana-traya) of Sanatana Dharma (now called Hinduism). The other two are Bhagavad-Geeta and the Upanishads Surge 76 KASHI – THE BRIGHT LIGHT WITHIN YOU Millions have believed for ages that they get liberated if they die in Kashi, the city of Lord Vishwanatha. The true meaning of this is as follows. Our mind is usually trapped in regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. Both these are projections of thoughts. When we awaken to the higher intelligence within us, we rise above thoughts to the plane of Pure Awareness, the bright light within us. This awakening is living in the present – where the ego dies. This is touching immortality, amritatva, and we are freed from the cycle of birth and death. We touch Shiva (the changeless ground) and are released from Bhava (the field of change). Much stress marks our daily life for many thoughts of what we should have done or what we should not have done disturb us. These thoughts are the building blocks of the ego in us for they constantly evaluate us as good or bad. They create a picture of how worthy or unworthy we are. This price tag that memories attach to us robs us of the freshness of the present moment. We have to intelligently see the havoc our own thoughts are working; we have to regain the freshness of our true nature, which is Existence, Awareness and Bliss (sat, chit and ananda). We must shake off the dust that has gathered over our expensive suit which was left in the open. We must get rid of unnecessary patterns of thought that tend to accumulate over the bright expanse of awareness because of social conditionings or influences that have their roots in the past, in moments of inattention. Past mistakes leave behind certain residues, which tend to take a toll on us for years to come. Whether others know it or not, the self remembers the mistake and suffers negativities like guilt, shame or low self-esteem. It does somersaults when it goes through varieties of justification and defensive thinking.  In the process, alas, the self gets reinforced. However cleverly the cover up may be accomplished, there is no way for the self to be erased by mere shrewd or cunning thought. It is only when we give up all attempt to justify or defend, and, in all humility, acknowledge the limitations of the human mind itself that a quantum leap takes place in our consciousness. That would be meditation, which is not engineered by conscious effort but is something that takes place on its own in the atmosphere of quietude and total receptivity. “Not by work, progeny or wealth is gained immortality,” says the Veda mantra1. We may add, “Not by any amount of scholarly or clever thinking too.” The mantra2 declares, “By renunciation alone is freedom attained.” We would clarify, “By renouncing effort itself,” for there is the agency (the self, the me) behind any effort. No wonder Krishnamurti observed, “Conscious meditation is no meditation.” Alertness does not, incidentally, belong to the domain of thinking; nor does it partake of the nature of effort. True alertness just comes about through alertness itself, and not through the decision to be alert. Attention is the way to attention, we may say, for there are no other steps to it. This may sound a bit abstract to many. However, the shift from inattention to attention has to be an matter of “no steps” because:  where there are steps, we are still within the field of thought. The shift from the field to that which is outside the field cannot take place through thought. So let us invoke Shiva by being in a state of silent receptivity. When we talk, He remains silent; when we are silent, He speaks. This alert silence is Kashi3 where Shiva destroys the threefold division of past, present and future with His trishoola(trident). He whispers “Rama mantra” in the ears of the dying soul, says the tradition. He gives to the meditator the insight of her natural bliss4. * Swami Chidananda Varanasi September 3, 2010 Notes: 1 na karmana na prajaya dhanena – Maha Narayana Upanishad 2 tyagenaike amritatvam-anashuhkash means shine; kashi means LIGHT, like prakasha. 4 the word Rama means bliss or He who delights all.*                                                          

SURGE 77

C.I.O.

CONTEMPLATE, INQUIRE, OBSERVE

Many great teachers ask us to study the scriptures, reflect upon their instructions and revelations, and contemplate upon them. They emphasize on changing the texture of our thoughts by continuous dwelling on noble thoughts of holy books. As you think, so you become, they say. Masters like Swami Chinmayananda therefore dedicated their lives to the propagation of books of wisdom like the Bhagavad-Geeta. Regular study of the shaastras, Swamiji used to say, will lift your vision to greater heights of contemplation. The quality of thoughts decides your character; it makes what you are and so on. Contemplation (mananam) thus is highlighted. Certain mystics have given relatively less importance to the study of scriptures or to dwelling on the statements thereof. Inquire, they say, into the source of thoughts. Catch hold of the basic I-thought amidst the wide range of thoughts that rise in you. If thoughts are comparable with the number of branches of a large tree – they give an analogy – the I-thought is like the trunk or the base. Put the axe to the base, they say, by inquiring Who am I? The sage of Arunachala, Shri Ramana Maharshi, is usually credited with this kind of guidance. If a thought arises, (for example), “I was insulted by my uncle last night,” you are to ask yourself, “Who am I?” rather than entertaining thoughts about the uncle, what he said and what he should have said etc. Rejecting all answers to the question, you are to go deeper into the matter. Inquiring constantly into your identity, you are to peel the onion of your personalityuntil no descriptions remain. All pride and hurt vanish in the silence of pure awareness. A thousand forms of such advice have guided humanity to “do this” or “do that”. You and I have fallen in love with such advice and have believed that “doing something” and “doing it repeatedly” will lead us to total freedom. Techniques, in other words, hold the key to ending of sorrow. Seers like Krishnamurti have taken strong exception to such a view. They seem to say that any technique further strengthens the self. Any practice becomes another shell of conditioning in which you are trapped. Repetition of thought cannot take you beyond thought. Clever manipulation will get a thousand benefits to you but they cannot open the door to freedom. Exercise of will (will power) can help you achieve many goals but all of them are bound by time and perish in time. Ending of sorrow cannot be the result of any effort, with a certain end in mind. The moment you keep a result in mind, all your (gross or subtle) operations reinforce the self. Observe what thought is doing, they say. Do not make this “observing” into another practice, they hasten to add. Observing is not to be an act of will. There is observation without the observer, the agent of observation. Living in attention, not made into a practice of some sort, is freedom. The first step here is itself the last step. What are you to do now? Contemplate? Inquire? Observe? That is not the right question. Do not be obsessed with the question, “What am I to do?” Be gentle and compassionate to yourself. A hundred goals, some achieved and some not achieved, have already tired you out. Do not make freedom (or realization) another goal and add to your burden. Be kind. Understand your joys and sorrows. Understand your fear and desire. Understand what you call contemplation, inquiry or observation. There is peace in this understanding. You understand there is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Swami Chidananda Chennai, September 12, 2010    

Surge 78

 

CARING LOVE AND CARDIAC HEALTH

When we care for others and find ways to express our love for them, we make a great gift to ourselves. A physician1 has prescribed caring love as an aid to improve heart condition in his book titled How to Reverse and Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer. He refers to the story of John D Rockefeller who was extremely rich but came close to dying at the age of 53 because of ulcer and heart problems. The man had made his first million at the age of 33 and was a workaholic. Fear, anger, guilt, sadness and “phony love” in the “business as usual” way of dealing with people were among his mind-felt feelings. He suffered the misery of ill-health for about a year. A number of well wishers, compassionate care-takers and his wealth were not able to restore health to him. Then he suddenly decided to donate his wealth, establishing the Rockefeller Foundation and made many charitable gifts to people around the world. The result was unbelievable. He recovered completely and lived to be 98. What an error many of us are committing! We read a lot and accumulate large amounts of information on right living. Some of us write books too and go places to give lectures. Our life however does not reflect our knowledge. We are like that man who had collected books like Critical Essays on Kalidasa and Bharavi but was not yet able to make simple sentences in Sanskrit . “Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” laments the poet2. The joke3 goes that a psychotic believes 2 + 2 is 5; a neurotic knows 2 + 2 is 4 but does not like it. We are like the neurotic perhaps. We know a lot but do not like to do what is right. (The psychiatrist, if asked what is 2 + 2, says, “First pay my fees and then we will talk about 2 + 2.) Caring love or unselfish concern for others, notes Dr. Naras Bhat, creates healing chemistry in the body. In childhood, all of us had a natural tendency to bond and love. We secreted chemicals like endorphin whenever we met people. Growing older, we treated each human contact with suspicion and competition. In our money-oriented society, we evaluated every new person from the perspective of economic gain or loss. Such judgmental feelings released more adrenaline and noradrenaline than endorphins. This led to habitual competitiveness and outright cynicism instead of trust and altruism4. To get angry is to punish oneself for the fault of another, observed Swami Chinmayananda. We may adapt this wise saying to, “To care and love is to reward oneself despite others’ imperfections.” Learning to love is what life is all about5. It is definitely not about rituals, scholarship or emotionalism. “I do not believe in bending my body; I believe in straightening my mind,” is another witty remark by Chinmaya. He was highlighting the need for healthy outlooks and mature understanding in life in contrast to complex yoga postures that get undue importance in certain quarters. Teachers like Krishnamurti emphasized the importance of “being human” in contrast to being a Hindu or Muslim, a Democrat or a Republican. To be a human meant experiencing the humane qualities of love and compassion in our hearts. This was to take precedence over the emotions arising out of belonging to certain religious, political, ethnic or professional group. There is no intelligence without compassion, said Krishnamurti. We are not only cruel to other people, animals or Nature but also to ourselves. Through our endless desires, we deny the basic need of seven hours of sleep to our own poor body every night. Through our ambitious psychology, we whip the body to slog and the poor thing does it all, most of the time. Alas it then gets a host of ailments by the age of 50 or 60. Let us be kind to our BMI (body, mind and intellect) and treat them with love and respect. They have their own dignity. When we do not misuse them but handle them with care, they remain healthy. So let us have a heart – towards others and towards ourselves – and our cardiac health is sure to get better. Swami Chidananda, Varanasi Gandhi Jayanti, Saturday, October 2, 2010 Notes: 1 Read How to Reverse and Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer by Dr. Naras Bhat, MD, FACP published by New Editions Publishing, California; pages 186 – 200. 2 T S Eliot in The Rock.Humour in (and as) Medicine – Dr. K P Misra published in India by Rupa and Co. 4 op.cit. page 192 5 Compare this with Sri Aurobindo’s saying, “All life is Yoga”. (Synthesis of Yoga, page 8, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2007)

INSIGHTS

Surge : Seventy Nine

The Core Issue

Our main job in life is to maintain inner order – in everything we do, small or big. When there is disorder at the centre of our life, any other thing about us – however impressive it may be – becomes irrelevant and wasteful. The confused society around us may not see it. People see us in terms of name, fame, wealth and position. The situation is like that of a man who is very well-dressed but has acute stomach pain. People see how expensive his suit is. What do they know of his stomach pain? In an interview with the British journalist Mr. Hurst and a Buddhist Bhikshu, Sri Ramana Maharshi said, “Everyone is an avatar1 of God. The kingdom of God is within you. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Krishna – all are within you. One who knows the truth sees everyone as a manifestation of God.” The core issue in life is to get back in touch with this divinity within us, proclaimed by sages and reconfirmed by many saints. We cross the age of 50, 60 and 70 years but our list of things to do in the world outside does not get shorter. As our capacity to work decreases, we get miserable. Some of us say, “Oh, I have just begun my life. Alas, my faculties are getting weak.” Our ignorance of the vast amount of work that needs to be done inside is appalling. Think of the well-dressed man with stomach ache. How would it be if he imagines his suffering would go if he goes shopping and picks up an even better dress? By hurriedly deciding to give up work (karma), we would achieve nothing. It would not work first of all. Progressing from the gross to the subtle requires seeing a) the sad limitations of the worldly work that engages us endlessly and b) the splendid possibilities of the inner, spiritual quest. Then we can (and will) detach from the less meaningful and attach to the more meaningful. “It takes time, sir,” says somebody. Such a remark seems true but actually lacks precision. What it takes is clear and intense seeing. Time is not a factor at all. Those who see, change instantly. Those who do not see, keep doing things which have no bearing on the issue. Let us take an example. You say to a friend, “Please sit down.” Your friend does not hear you properly or does not understand your language. He goes out, comes in, walks around and asks you again and again, “What do you want me to do?” You repeat, “Please sit down.” After an hour, he understands what you wanted him to do. He sits down. Going out, coming in and walking around were not necessary steps before the right thing to do, namely sitting down. An hour went by in those activities but they were not part of the implementation, truly speaking. is the nature of insight (jnana) in sharp contrast to activity (karma). Insight transforms us. Activity brings various results that we enjoy (or suffer) but after a while we are back to square one. The core issue is to discover our divinity through right seeing. Time (including the coming of the New Year) has no bearing on this. Swami Chidananda Varanasi, January 3, 2011

Surge:  Eighty

KEEP MOVING

 

Fit or unfit, keep moving. The best weather or calamitous tsunami, keep moving. Friends with you or all alone, keep moving. Those who keep moving attain bliss, charan vai madhu vindati, says the Veda. An ant that moves reaches long distances but the might Garuda, if he does not move, stays just where he is –  sings another old Sanskrit verse1. Fall you may, rise every time you fall and start your journey again.

So weak we are, from one angle of view. Eternally dependent on food, clothes and shelter, and endlessly craving for creature comforts, all of us are particles of dust in this vast universe. Infinitely strong and indomitable is the human spirit, from another angle again. Our achievements in fields outer and inner are unbelievably great. Like a frail seed becomes the huge banyan tree, anyone of us, weak at one time in life, may flower into a great source of energy and compassion.

Personal ambition is the driving force in our lives for a good part of our journey. “What do I get in this activity?” is the question that surfaces everywhere or operates in a hidden form at places. The desire of the self raises its head even in spiritual efforts, seeking experiences, sensations and a new, exalted identity. Fame and name come to us in the material world and in the world of religion and spirituality also. The ego in us gets very gratified through all this. It is however shallow when we take a closer look at it.

“Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations,” says2 Lao Tzu. King Yayati enjoyed all kinds of pleasure but finally remarked3, “Desire gets stronger with its enjoyment and does not really get appeased. Like fire into which one pours ghee (clarified butter), it rises forth with taller flames, asking for more.” As we observe our own life with greater depth, we realize the foolishness of all selfish activity. Out of that understanding there arises a new attitude towards all our relationships.

We keep moving then, as before. The difference now is we have joy in giving, serving. Our happiness is not by getting something. It is unconditional. It is through a quiet recognition of how we are fine as we are. “I am ok, just like that. I am good, just like that.” We do not have to get something. We do not have to be praised by somebody. The hold that judgments by others (or by ourselves) had on us all along gets loosened. In this evolved state, we keep moving – not out of fear but out of love and peace.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi, March 15, 2011

Footnotes:

gacchan pipeeliko yaati yojanaanaam shataanyapi

agacchan vainateyo’pi padamekam na gacchati (subhaashita)

2 Taken from Tao Te Ching Journal, which has Excerpts from Stephen Mitchell’s translation; published by Chronicle Books.

na jaatu kaamah kaamaanaam upabhogena shaamyati

havishaa krishnavartmeva bhooya evaabhivardhate.

Surge Eighty-one

STAY WHERE YOU ARE

The ways and means for your spiritual rehabilitation are readily available. If you employ them, you will be happy where you are. There is no need to make those external changes your unsteady mind keeps suggesting all the time. A humorous verse1 in Sanskrit teases us, “If you have not conquered desire and anger, why join an ashram? If you have won over them, why again join an ashram?” In the former case, you will be a problem to any ashram. In the latter, there is no need for you to join an ashram. Either way, it is better for you to stay where you are and focus on inner change.

Sri Gundappa (known popularly as DVG) makes2 an earnest appeal, “Rebuild the fallen house of yours, O man!” We must respect life and we must believe in the inexhaustible reserves within our own spirit. A hundred times we may fall; rise we must, and strive on. We must take care not to repeat our mistakes. We must open a fresh page in the book of our life as the sun rises and covers the earth with his light on yet another, new day.

Begin with the body (but do not stop there). Re-examine your habits. Do you exercise daily, or for four to five hours a week? Are you cautious with the food you consume? Last, but not the least, do you give, on a daily average, six (if not seven) full hours of continuous sleep to the body, which you use so much all through the week? If you are negligent about exercise, food and rest, but are very knowledgeable and qualified otherwise, you are clearly a case of lopsided growth. You are also penny-wise and pound-foolish, when you have acquired many cheap degrees but have let go precious health of your physical body. Stay where you are, and work on gaining robust physical health.

Meditate daily. The science of yoga says there are thousands of naadis (channels, paths) in our body, invisible even to microscopes. They carry praana, life energy. Breathing exercises (pranayama) and forms of meditation are known to bring about naadi-shuddhi3. These paths become clean. Today we know the importance of clear arteries for unobstructed blood flow. Similar is the case with clear naadis, and proper energy flow means you are cheerful, balanced and emotionally sound. Meditate by withdrawing your mind from its usual engagements. Help it unwind by giving it some space. Think of God or visualize the vast, blue sky; let your mind be freed from thoughts of men, money and matters of the world. Stay where you are, and work towards naadi-shuddhi.

Study a bit, if not a lot. Even scholars have to study so that they do not remain in their own little ‘frog’s well’. They have to know what other thinkers are saying so new vistas open up for them. You may study spiritual literature with a view to refresh your own understanding of life’s hidden depths. Life is surely much more than earning and spending, marrying and raising a family. You have to know the art of living as well as the art of dying. We are not talking of clinical death, which also is something everybody has to face one day, no doubt. We are concerned with the accumulation of memories in the human mind, with all its pain, misery, hurt and a little of pride too. Cleansing the mind of all such debris is a kind of dying. The old has to die, in order to give birth to the new. You must study the elevating thoughts of mystics. Sri Krishna, The Buddha, Jesus Christ and others have thrown light on ways to find peace. Stay where you are, and find peace here and now.

When the mind is gross, it struggles to find a way to peace. Upon getting subtle, the mind discovers that peace is the way. Stay where you are; stay in peace, which is within you.

Swami Chidananda                                                                                                                     Varanasi, May 27, 2011   1 kama-krodhau anirjitya, kim aranye karishyati? athava nirjitau etau, kim aranye karishyati? (We have taken the liberty to translate aranya as ashram, while it literally means a forest.) 2 bidda maneyanu katto mankutimma – verse 474, Kagga 3 See Ramana Geeta, chapter 6.                                                                                    * * *  

Surge 82

INNER DETACHMENT   My friend Vijay Chhabra was in Italy last week, and he Emailed me, “Here at Meran, on the wall of a house where I stayed for a few days was imprinted a statement [in German] that read: This house is mine and yet not mine. My predecessor thought it was his, he left and I got in, and after me it will be the same story.” Objects, places and people seem to belong to us, and we sometimes get very attached to them. How much blood has flown, for example, over land, sometimes in a fight between brothers! “This is mine,” says one and, “It is not yours but mine,” says the second. “I and mine, you and yours,” is the definition of maya (worldly delusion) that Shri Tulasidas gives1 in his work Ram-Charit-Manas. Desire, attachment, pride and hurt are the different facets of the conditioned mind’s erroneous perception. They keep us trapped in this worldly existence. The folly leads to, immediately or later, terrible unrest and sorrow. Can we decide to be detached? Will we succeed in being free from all attachment overnight? Is it possible for us to keep one day in a week for the practice of detachment? How about shedding our attachments one by one, and be free of everything through a five-year plan? All this is ridiculous, though a lot of popular spiritual teachings have made millions believe that there is a graded process or a systematic journey towards freedom (mukti). Religious organizations have become (or remained) rich by propagating such beliefs2. Attachment is a thought process. Another thought process cannot end it. You do not come out of the dream world by a vehicle which also is part of the dream projection. Nor does any somersault that you turn in the dream become the cause of your waking up. It is not a conscious act, willed by you, that brings about the waking up. You wake up by a leap into a different state of consciousness; this leap is not the effect of any particular thought, word or deed of the dream state. The Vedanta therefore says uncompromisingly that freedom is not an effect (kaarya). No cause (kaarana) can lead to it. No action, and therefore no effort, has a bearing on this mysterious enlightenment. Most students get very puzzled by this scenario. Majority of them pay no heed to these utterances of the Vedanta and simply proceed with their (so-called) saadhana, for they are attached to ‘doing something’; they are terribly attached to their being the doers. On a parallel track, most people cannot sit quietly for they are slaves to their habits of ‘doing’. They do not realize how memories have hijacked them and held them captive. They cannot see that there is nothing intrinsic in ‘work’ that boosts their self-worth; it is their thought processes that make them feel good when they do some work. A child holds a doll and feels good. An adult does not attach value to that doll but the thought process in the child makes the doll very precious in his eyes. This doll is nice, feels the child, and what is more, the child considers his own self-worth as high when he possesses the doll. Many of us work because, like the doll, work gives us an enhanced self-worth. It is self-deception. There is nothing right or wrong with work itself. The doll is innocent; let us not blame the doll. We need to examine if we are escaping some fundamental issue by immersing ourselves in work. Can we face ourselves, leaving aside either work or entertainment? We need to stand apart from our own thought processes and see the habitual, repetitive conclusions that our mind arrives at. We then see clearly that we are not really attached to another person but our attachment is to the self-image built by thought. “I am complete, with her; I am incomplete without her,” says the thought process. The Vedanta reveals, “I am complete – with her and without her too.” The insights of the liberating wisdom of the Upanishads help us see that various conditional clauses (if I get that, because I got rid of this, and as a result of acquiring that etc) are the mischief of thought. Becoming a Vedanta scholar is not the solution either. We must examine our life, maybe with the help of some Vedanta study, and let the erroneous perceptions get exposed. Let the mischief of thought be brought to light. Let the ego come under the scanner. Swami Chidananda Varanasi, Monday, June 20, 2011   1 mein aru mor tor tein maya – Sri Ram to Lakshman in Aranya Kanda. 2 It was in this sense that J Krishnamurti once remarked that gurus were spreading illusions. He stood for a sense of urgency with regard to waking up; anything that prolonged the dream was nothing short of illusion even if it gave much comfort to the student.   * * *

Surge: Eighty Three

 NEGATION, A QUIET CELEBRATION

We are attracted to a hundred things outside of us, dreaming of possessing them and becoming special by virtue of them. We know at the same time that the richest man in the world has his own problems. Our standard of living may rise by leaps and bounds but the quality of life remains as great a challenge as ever before. By quality is meant, among many aspects, the sense of love that we may experience in our heart.

     Are we able to love the people whom we meet on a daily basis? Do we feel loved by people around us? If the fragrance of love does not permeate our day, is it of much use to have fancy possessions, positions, name and fame?

      What do we do? Work harder? Run faster? Think more?

      Why not an ‘out of the box’ approach? Shift your attention from doing something new to just examining whatever you have been doing, with no specific plan to change it in some way. There is a lot beneath the surface, when you examine your actions, words and thoughts. Much is exposed. Hidden desires, vague fears, irrelevant beliefs, outdated conclusions and subtle schemes are operating all the time within you. They shape what you do, what you say and what you think.

      There is urgency in this matter. Life is not long. Do this job, before you follow those who have gone, like Steve Jobs. (Steve, by the way, could not work much on exploring the holistic beauty of life. They say he went to India to meet a guru he fancied, Neem Karoli Baba, but upon finding the latter had passed already, shifted his focus. He made remarkable contributions and became famous, no doubt. How nice it would have been if his intelligence had helped him enrich himself with human values like sensitivity towards the deeper needs of humanity and compassion towards the suffering of the poor and of the rich.)

     Examining our entire way of life has urgency about it. Our house is on fire. It is not the time to sing or play the piano. We have been racing, perhaps quite efficiently, in the wrong direction. We have been chasing illusions. Leave alone the false glitter and glamour of our goals, our sense of ‘Who I am’ is itself a deceptive foundation on which stands the edifice of our life’s major activities. Imagine, for example, that somebody mistakes his identity for being a homeless person and goes around the town asking for help. In reality he is a prince and could be a generous giver, rather than a beggar.

     Examining the way our thought works can lead to radical change in us. Here it is neither substitution of thoughts nor improvement in the way we think. No specific plan is suggested as to what to think or how to think. Being aware of the movement of thought is the suggestion being made here. In this awareness, junk gets exposed and eliminated. You will lose all that does not really belong to you. A lot of stuff had made your mind their home. In the process, you lost your true identity. The ego therefore is called an imposter in related literature. This imposter takes to his heels. The self gets negated. The Self emerges (to use the language of the Vedanta. The Buddha talked of just negation of the self and kept silent on the Self, the Atma.) The negation of the false – false identity, false values, and false pursuits etc – is a silent affair. There is no ‘doing’ here. The wisdom here expresses itself as ‘ceasing to do’ rather than doing. The relief therefore is quiet celebration.

 Swami Chidananda, Varanasi Thursday, October 13, 2011

Surge 84

Life is Short and Yet Beautiful

 Celebrate this Diwali with the reassuring message of the Upanishads – The Lord resides in your body. He is the Light of lights, and the perishable body borrows light from Him. On the surface, life is short indeed and there is the dance of death everywhere. Your dear and near ones are not with you forever and, remember, you too have to pack up and go, one of these days. But who goes? Every body dies, nobody dies. Know the body as the chariot.      Atman (Self) is the Lord of the chariot.      The intellect is the charioteer and,      The mind makes the reins. – Kathopanishad 1.3.3 That our life is short is in no way a negative message. This law of Nature has its own wisdom. We must go, in order to make room for others just as many left before us and we took their place. Demons like Ravana departed from this earth and divine incarnations like Rama also did not stay forever. Who are we to cling to this physical existence? Our journey in and through this body is short-lived.  To see this fact should not depress us. It should rather help us gather all our energy to have a vision of our own spiritual dimension. “We are not a body having a soul; we are rather the soul having a body,” remarked some wise man once. The earlier we see the soul, the better. The Vedanta of course clarifies that we cannot literally see the soul, for we are the soul. To see means here to understand. As we understand our own deeper nature, we are freed from all kinds of insecurity. Knowing our own imperishable nature, we become fountains of love and compassion. Two horses – prana and apana – drive this chariot, the body, says Swami Srikantananda in his little book1 Meditation According to Vedanta. The Lord of the Universe (Jagannatha) is seated in the chariot (Ratha). Realizing Him is the only way to liberation2. How blessed we are, to have this opportunity to see the Lord. This metaphoric language implies we have a higher potential in us which is way above our personality as we usually know. Tension, stress, fear, loneliness, disappointment or frustration often marks our day. [Sam asked Tom, “What were you before you became a manager at this company?” Tom’s answer was, “Happy.” Isn’t there a Tom in every one of us?] We have unhappiness in life. The Lord in the chariot is no other than yourself, as you will discover when all negative thoughts disappear and your last trace of low self-esteem vanishes. So question the self (ego) put together by thought. Let not your conditioned mind deceive you. Rise above the weakening influences of the world and celebrate Diwali by knowing yourself to be the Light of Awareness. Wishing you Happy Diwali, Swami Chidananda Varanasi, October 26, 2011   Notes: 1 Dhyana-Sadhana – Meditation According to Vedanta by Swami Srikantananda, published by Vivekananda Institute of Human Excellence, Hyderabad, page 5. 2 (Hindi) praan apaan do ghodon se                  chalta jeevan kaa rath                  rath mein baithe Jagannath kaa                  darshan hee mukti kaa path.

 Surge: Eighty Five

Surge 85

Believe in Yourself

 You can discover unalloyed happiness within yourself, if you do not let ‘conditioned thinking’ judge you in umpteen ways. ‘Thought’ itself is like the cave in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where the prisoners take to be real what in fact is an illusion. One prisoner escapes and comes out of the cave, to see the bright sunlight outside. The Upanishads speak of the domain of Awareness (chit), in contrast to the field of thought (chitta). Rare is the individual who leaves the cave (thought) and beholds the sunshine (Awareness).

 You can anytime step out. Be that rare individual who leaves the cave. Neither academic qualifications nor some special intellectual background is needed to do it. Though it is not common, everybody is always close to doing it. Easy to do (susukham, Geeta 9.2), it is described as something that everybody wants really. Yes, one in a million takes this step. All look out but a rare one turns inward, says the Kathopanishad (2.1.1). You can be that rare one. It does not matter how old you are or whether you are female or male. Freedom is as far as the waker is from the dreamer, said Swami Chinmayananda. In your dream, you were in Chicago and wanted to go home in Cupertino. When you wake up, you realize that you were all along in Cupertino itself. It was never far.

 Believe in yourself. You are the sun, reflected sometimes in the holy waters of the Ganges and at other times in the dirty pool in a slum area too. Let not the medium where you are reflected bother you. Thoughts are the medium. They make you feel great at times and miserably low at other. The insight of the Vedanta is that you are the same sun, no matter where you are reflected. This insight naturally makes you accept yourself as you are, gladly, without any complaint. You then say, “I am OK” (aham brahma asmi).

 You do not need any reason, to turn inward. An excuse is enough. Let the New Year 2012 be the excuse. Celebrate your true nature as Awareness beginning January 1. Day after day, come out of the cave (of thought) and bask in the sun (of Awareness). Do not get stuck in any judgment. As Krishnamurti would advise, do not be in a hurry to find answers but stay with the question. Do not sink in ideas of “I am good,” or “I am bad”. Hold instead the question, “Who am I?” Be aware of a hundred opinions but stay primarily in the vast sky (akasha) of nonjudgmental awareness.

 When you stay in this self-acceptance, the peace you experience is itself love. Great action flows from this state of love. You will solve all problems that can be solved. You will smile at the rest.

 Swami Chidananda Varanasi Saturday, December 31, 2011

Surge: Eighty six

Surge 86

 Are you a Person?

In stillness, pure consciousness, there is nobody. When thoughts arise and memories begin their play, there is ‘the person’ that you take yourself to be. When the person comes in the play, your mind splits. There are the divisions – positive and negative, pleasure and pain and so on. The reflex comes up – to be somebody. In the medium of thoughts, there arises the relationship between personality and personality. There is an object-to-object relationship, and this object – the ‘me’ created by your thoughts – lives for security, recognition. It feels the need to be loved. It asks, demands and suffers conflict.

When the body-mind wakes up in the morning, it is memory that wakes up. Fear, anxiety, reactions and many other residues wake up. There is sensation of the body; you become aware of the body. This body anchors all the thoughts. You may not believe – this body itself is a thought; it is memories. Only the awareness in which it arises is not thought. You are awareness. The person, made of thoughts, arises in this awareness.

Awareness is your true nature, your real home. Hari Om, hurry home, says the teacher. You spend too much time in the artificial nest of memories. Come out and fly in the open sky of awareness, your natural habitat. Move from ‘person’ to ‘no person’. Shift from ‘somebody’ to ‘nobody’. Let your abidance in awareness refresh you, and let it reinvigorate the ‘person’ in you. Like electricity empowers all electrical equipment, let your wisdom of the Self enliven your personality in all your (its) relationships.

They say ‘person’ has its roots in a Latin word, which means a mask. You unmask yourself in the stillness of meditation. The person lives in fear. You, the truth behind the mask of the person, are of the nature of love. Fear is artificial, brought about by conditionings and memories. Love is natural and is ever available within you, waiting to be uncovered. In wisdom of the Self, you unravel the greatest mystery of life. All mysticism is of an inferior order.

What is meditation? A hundred kinds of practice are like preparing the bed. They are not meditation, which is like going to sleep. Lying on the most comfortable bed in an air-conditioned room, some just gaze at the ceiling. Some others go to deep sleep on just a bench, even as mercury soars and there is noise around. Likewise, some claim to practice meditation but are in the tight grip of thoughts and memories. The sense of ‘I am this person’ does not leave them. Some others, blessed indeed, become quiet in very simple settings – perhaps while watching a river or as they are seated in their backyard with a cup of tea in their hand. Meditation happens to them.

What is the way to awareness? Attention is the way to attention, the wise say. To stand apart and watch the mechanical ways in which ‘the person’ is behaving is the essence of the practice. Here you find there is no path leading to awareness. Awareness is the path.

 Swami Chidananda Varanasi, March 21, 2012 PS: The first two paragraphs above are based on some observations made by Jean Klein as found in his book Transmission of the Flame (pages 81, 82).

Surge: Eighty-seven

 RISING TO RAMA CONSCIOUSNESS People are found to be living in conflict, in this world, irrespective of their chosen way of living. The majority who believe in pursuing pleasure are constantly chasing the mirage of fulfillment. They find it is wild goose chase, leaving them tired at the end. Many questions haunt them, “Where did we go wrong, if at all we did?” or “Would we have been happy if such and such thing had not happened in the year 2002?” A large number among them continue to believe that objects of the world can give them lasting happiness, provided certain conditions exist. They do not see that those conditions are just not possible. They are indeed in the grip of ‘moha,’ the worldly delusion. Happiness comes from outside, is the summary of their misunderstanding. There is a minority, not too small in numbers, who think they are religious. They repeat statements from scriptures and they are always going through a struggle – of combating their very demanding senses. They try to deny pleasure to their eyes, palate and other organs of perception (indriyas). This denial is mostly a failure and these people often end up as hypocrites. They are penny-wise but pound-foolish. They save a little energy by their less indulgent lifestyle but lose much more through their inner conflict and unrest. The senses laugh at all of us. We let them indulge, we are in sorrow in one way. We suppress them, we suffer in another way. Merrymaking (bhoga) is one face of delusion (moha) and immature control (viveka-rahita-samyama) is its second face. We are miserable either way. The great saint  Sadashiva Brahmendra praises Sri Rama in his well-known poem,  khelati mama hridaye sri Ramah, “You help us go beyond the ocean of moha1.” Rama represents the bliss of clear understanding, where there is neither indulgence nor suppression. When we realize Him, we are not in the field of attraction or repulsion2. It is a quantum leap, transcendence. We do not strive to attain peace here. We are at peace. Sita, of the nature of peace, is by Rama’s side3. We rise to a different plane. The scriptures refer to it sometimes as ‘residing in the inner space of dahara4’. We must inquire into our usual approach in sadhana (spiritual practice), where we employ a means (sadhana) to arrive at an end (sadhya). This special space or the higher plane is marked by the absence of the division of the means and the end. Therefore it is said, “Be still.” The advice again is, “Awareness is the way to awareness.” A Zen greeting card said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Maharshi Ramana remarks5 that the way to remember (or think of) the Supreme is simply to stay in it. Be in it and be it. Let thought subside. Let all activities of the mind, rising from its (limitless store of) memories, cease. All duality (dvaita) is created by the mind (manah-kalpita). Can we stay away from this old habit of remembering something, and then taking a position of being the desirer. Employing thought, I become the desirer; something becomes the object desired. I become the seeker; something is sought. The ego is a creation of (psychological) memory. {To remember the route to a friend’s house is functional memory. To remember how he had insulted me once, and to let this memory go further to build an image of mine, is psychological memory.} When we discard psychological memory and stay with just the functional mind, we are like the mythological swan (hamsa) that can separate milk from water. The saint pays a tribute to his guru, calling him the Supreme Swan6, and remarks that we realize (and become one with) Sri Rama whose nature is Existence, Awareness and Bliss7. When we shed our ego, not by indulgence or suppression, but through right understanding and intense awareness, Lord Sri Rama plays in the field of our hearts. Swami Chidananda Varanasi, April 2, 2012 End Notes: 1 moha-maharnava-tarana-kari 2 raga-dvesha-mukhasura-mari 3 shanti-videha-suta-sahachari 4 dahara-ayodhya-nagara-vihari 5 tasya smritis-tatra dridhaiva nistha (Saddarshanam verse 1) 6 parama-hamsa-samrajya-uddhari 7 satya-jnana-ananda-shariri
 Surge 88 The Trap of the Seen

It has always been a problem for the human mind to encounter the dazzling names and forms1 of this created universe and yet remain unmoved. The world of the ‘seen’ is just too tempting to remain at peace. “Oh it is beautiful,” is followed in no time by, “Well, I want it”. All material pursuits are basically going after possessions possible in this visible world, which our mind labels as objects of desire. Our ego is attached to these objects. No wonder somebody expanded the three letters that make the word EGO as – Earth Guide Only2. It cannot guide us towards the heavens, the divine. The extrovert mind is also fascinated by numbers. It feels happy to imagine, “Maximum customers buy my product; my house is the biggest; my car is the best; the largest number want to read my book,” and so on. M K Gandhi wrote: Strength of numbers    is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit    glory in fighting alone3. The unseen is called the spirit. “Unseen am I to most people, for the delusory power of maya veils them. People who are charmed by this creation do not know me, for I am unborn and changeless4.” The words of Shri Krishna drive home the point. Whether you are spiritual in the usual sense or not, this distinction between the seen and the unseen can be very relevant to you. You are creative when your ego is silent. You take a leap in your understanding when your attachments to the seen subside. The hidden courage in you expresses when you do not care for quantity but go for quality. In the language of philosophers, there is an invisible source of everything in our material world. Reconnect to that source and regain great powers of that source. Invite the ego, and you ensure separation from your source5. “Particles themselves are not responsible for their own creation6,” observes modern quantum physics. “That which is seen hath not come from that which doth appear7,” observed Saint Paul, one of the authors of the New Testament. Physicists and mystics thus appeal to us together to explore hidden possibilities within us, in our life filled with mysteries. A glimpse of this truth frees us from despair, gives us new hope and even supplies energy to surge forth in the field chosen by our heart. The Creation is no doubt wonderful. As a field of infinite possibilities, it is whole (poorna) in itself. The Source is magnificent too. As the fountain of infinite possibilities, it too is whole (poorna) in its own right. Take the whole out of the whole (or add the whole to the whole), the whole alone remains. Division, separation and misery accompany the part, created by ego. Oneness, Aloneness and bliss are experienced when we reconnect to the Source. Swami Chidananda Varanasi, Monday, April 16, 2012 End Notes: 1 naama-roopa, names and forms, implying all that is seen or perceived. 2 Wisdom of the Ages, Wayne Dyer, published by Thorsons, London – page 216 3 ibid page 215 4 Bhagavad-Geeta 7.25 5 Wisdom of the Ages, page 217 6, 7 Quoted by Dyer in his book referred to above, page 215 Blog: http://www.chidananda9.blogspot.in/

Surge 89

Full or Empty?

Thich Nhat Hanh, the well-known Buddhist teacher, comments1 on the famous Heart Sutras (Prajna-Paramita) and says a sheet of paper contains everything in the universe in it, and yet, according to the revelations of the Bodhisattva Avalokita, it is empty! Removing the apparent contradiction, the author clarifies that ‘empty’ means here, ‘empty of a separate self.’ When we hold a cup of water and ask somebody, “Is this an empty cup?” we get the answer, “No, the cup is filled with water.” When we throw away all the water and ask the same question, we are told, “Yes, it is empty.” The cup is empty of water. In that sense, when we deeply examine this universe or, for that matter, ourselves, we find there is nowhere a ‘separate self’. The ego is always a creation of thought. Deep inquiry – here and now – dispels the false ahankara.

We have lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach and blood in our bodies but none of these can exist independently. They can only coexist. In like manner, the entire universe is filled with things which are interdependent. Hanh coins a new verb – inter-be – in his book and says2, “Lungs and blood inter-are.” We tend to forget the interdependence of things and beings, and get concerned with ‘me and mine’. The illusion is hard to penetrate for the one who has to question is also a part of the illusion. In the famous illustration of the ‘snake upon the rope,’ both the illusory snake and the factual rope are outside us. The onlooker has to throw a beam of light upon the spot of confusion. Here, however, in the context of the illusory ‘I’, the onlooker is not separate from the illusion. She asks, “Why am I miserable?” and looks for a cause outside. She does not suspect that the ‘I’ which is miserable is itself of questionable credentials. Self-knowledge (atma-bodha) therefore is different from all knowledge. In any other knowledge, the knower and the known are separate. In Self-knowledge, the knower disappears the very instant knowledge takes place. There is only knowing (observation) without a knower (observer). “Can the Self be two-fold? Can there be one Self that knows, and a second Self that is known?” asks3 Shri Ramana Maharshi in one of his works. This scenario seems mystical where there is no knower. We may think such experiences could happen at some point of meditation but it is not practical when we have to work in daily life. We generally put meditation into a separate compartment – in time (like very early morning) and space (like the special room or a cave in the Himalayas). True meditation is not a matter of the right time and the right place. It is rather dependent on the intensity of inquiry and on the maturity of perception. Steer clear of wrong habits of thinking. Give up false beliefs. See life with very fresh eyes. Meditation happens. The society has, with our full cooperation, pumped ideas into our head. “We are from a prestigious family. We are from a superior religion. We are very good in heart (though we have made 108 mistakes in our life). We must be respected (and it does not matter if others are not.) etc.” These ideas create the false, separate self. As these ideas arise, we must gaze at them with no bias. When my memory says I am superior, I must ask, am I? When it suggests I am worthless, I must ask, am I? This watchful state is the best ‘time and place’ (desha-kaala). Let us gather our energy and bust this illusion central to our life of conflict and misery. Is there anything more important? Swami Chidananda Varanasi, Wednesday, May 9, 2012 End Notes: 1 The Heart of Understanding, published by Full Circle, New Delhi – page 5. 2 ibid page 10. 3 “drig-drishya-bhedat kim ayam dvidhatma?” – Saddarshanam, verse 35

 Surge: Ninety

Surge 90 

 Regaining Balance

“No matter in what state you are – impure, disorganized, disturbed or depressed – you return to purity and poise by remembering the Lord,” says a popular verse1 recited by priests at the beginning of many a ritual. Regaining balance is the need felt by increasingly large number of people everywhere in the world these days. Men and women in developed and developing countries find they are going through life in mechanical ways with no meaning or depth in their daily activities. They feel alienated in some strange way from their own homes. “What is wrong with me?” they ask, and wonder if they could “reset” the machine of their life and start all over again.

Remembering the Lord, we can return to poise. The “Lord” here is not necessarily the God that organized religions have talked about, in their loudest voices. The Lord is our own true nature, our own “original face”. Don’t we, in our heart of hearts, wish to love all and don’t we, deep within us, wish to be loved by all? This inmost calling is declared by the Vedanta as the nature of our real Self. To hate or distrust is as much a departure from our true being as it is to be lazy or laid back. Our own mind plays a thousand games, which successfully take us away from our home of peace. We are victims of our own thought patterns, which for example fill us with such self-importance that any small incident where somebody did not treat us well causes a lot of hurt to us. To return to a state of openness, utterly free of any self-importance, is the true meaning of “remembering the Lord”.

We generally attach importance to the conditions of our body and mind. The spiritual insight of the Upanishads lifts us above the physical and mental levels. The body and mind keep us in the realm of space and time. Spirituality helps us gain a glimpse of that which is not touched by either space or time. Big, small, far and near are ideas related to space. Slow, fast, yesterday and tomorrow are concepts of time. When we shift from ‘thought’ to ‘insight’, we operate through a different consciousness. Therefore such wisdom is called transcendental – it goes beyond the periphery of the usual parameters.

So how do we ‘remember the Lord’? Mantra or tantra can taxi for some distance but the “take off” is a mystery. Techniques and their practices, very popular in this world, have their limitations. The key to the miraculous leap to the higher consciousness is better described through a number of negations than by any assertion. When we understand clearly that saying (reciting) something, doing (repeating) something or visualizing (imagining) something could sustain, if not strengthen, the self (the ego), then alone the new phenomenon may begin. We may ‘let go’. We may relax. We are otherwise disturbing our own rest, all the time. Consider an analogy. After we swing the cradle for sometime, we find the baby is asleep and let him sleep peacefully. Similarly, after some effort at study or meditation, we recognize that our mind is inclined to explore the unknown. In that state, we just let the mind take off.

The road of effort leads to the zone of no effort. Grace takes over at this point. Effort paves the way but grace makes the real thing happen. Effort is in the realm of the ego and illusion. Grace is the wonderland of spirituality.

Swami Chidananda

Varanasi, Saturday, June 30, 2012

End Notes: 1 apavitrah pavitro va, sarva-avastham gato’pi va    yah smaret pundareekaksham, sa bahya-abhyantarah shuchih.

Surge 91

 HOLD THE DIVINE IN YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS

 The news1 has it that American researchers have now solved a cryptic formula that renowned mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan had left behind. What is more fascinating is that this formula had come to Ramanujan in dreams while on his deathbed. He wrote about it to his mentor G.H.Hardy. He had a hunch that it could explain the behavior of black holes. Now scientists have confirmed this.

Math, math, and math. Ramanujan’s consciousness had math at its center. Rain or sunshine, he pondered mathematics. Even on his deathbed, in 1920, he was grappling with math puzzles.

Is it possible for us – similarly – to hold higher, spiritual questions (like Who am I?) in our consciousness? The Kathopanishad2 speaks of meditators (yogis) protecting carefully their understanding of truth, very much like pregnant women protecting the child growing inside them. Can we pursue a noble value with such passion, without getting distracted?

It is within us. This love of the divine is inside every one of us. The charms of this world – of names and forms (naama-roopa) – throw us off balance time and again. Toysof play occupy our mind during childhood; handsome men (or pretty women) take away our discretion during youth; memories of errors that we committed shackle us during old age; when do we think of God?

The key to solve this problem is within us too. Moment by moment, we can rise to alertness. Leave behind thoughts (of the past and of the future) and pay attention to the job on hand. Be in the present. Be aware of what actually is going on around you, and what is happening inside you. Just do it.

People are dying in front of us. Many uncles and aunts have left us. Many brothers and sisters too have departed. Our life too will end. As that moment comes near, our possessions do not matter much. It is rather the level of consciousness where we have reached. Have we arrived at a state of mind free from anger, jealousy and criticism (of self or others)? Is there love in our hearts?

Wish you a New Year of higher consciousness.   Swami Chidananda Varanasi

January 1, 2013

  1 The Hindu, December 30, 2012. This Indian newspaper report refers to a conference of mathematics held in November at the University of Florida, where Ken Ono of Emory University was one of the speakers. 2 Kathopanishad 2.1.8 aranyor-nihito etc. 3 Bhaja Govindam – baalas-taavat kreedasaktah etc.

INSIGHTS

April 6, 2013

Surge 92

THE ENDLESS OBSESSION

                Our attachment to the finite seems to have no end. From birth till death, human life revolves around a variety of desires. Toys in childhood, romance in youth, many a possession to seek at different times and some professional goals and so on – are all of limited value, philosophically speaking. Even in the name of spirituality, we remain attached to symbols, words, concepts and so on. We miss out on the infinite truth pointed to by the wise.

                Deep in our heart, we actually want the infinite. In fact, any desire is the outcome of a sense of incompleteness within us. No object in this creation, bound by space and time, can take away that incompleteness. The finite cannot lead to the infinite, is a truth to be borne in mind.  Adding countless finite objects also does not take us to the infinite. Many of us know this in our heart but go on with our pursuit of desires for we are caught in sheer habit.

The infinite, observes the Mundaka Upanishad, is not (and cannot be) the product of effort1. Effort may be called karma or krita. The infinite is akrita. It is therefore not something to be acquired. We just have to realize it as being already with us. “I will become happy,” is the slogan in the field of the finite. In contrast, “I am happy,” is the intuitive vision in the realm of the infinite. To gain that vision2, says the text, we must approach the wise.

The Chandogya Upanishad teaches us this discrimination, employing the wordsalpa (finite) and bhoomaa (infinite). Though he is a repository of vast knowledge, Saint Narada is unhappy. He goes to Sage Sanat Kumara and the latter does not mince words in pronouncing3, “There is no happiness in the finite.” And again, the infinite (bhoomaa) is not something to be gained through effort (as we know it usually) but we need to inquire, question our ideas of who we are.

To realize what we already have is illustrated in Vedanta through such cases as the necklace on a lady’s neck. She thinks she has misplaced and lost her necklace and is therefore very miserable. After a lot of frantic search, she finally discovers that it is right on her neck. Thus it is a matter of knowing (who we are) and not becoming (somebody).

Since what we need to know is infinite – without name or form – the process of realization is precisely through negation of false concepts, rather than affirming the truth.  “Not this, not this,” is therefore the celebrated way4. Interestingly enough, the guidance of seers like Shri Ramana Maharshi goes intensely into ‘identifying a false notion’ and ‘discarding it’ by questioning, “Who am I?” In this sense, self-inquiry is essentially negation of the false. Our mind can hardly engage in visualizing the truth, which the sacred lore describes5 in no uncertain terms as beyond thought and word.

The Buddha therefore remained silent on God or the Absolute Reality. Krishnamurti in the last century expressed much discomfort when anybody referred to the Self (Atman). For him there was only negation of the self (the limited I). The Self (an unlimited I) would be a concept. The Vedanta tradition however employs the idea of the Self but hastens to add it is not within the frame of thought or word. There is never a hint that this Self is personal or private!

I am That6 – is again an utterance that deserves to be discussed. Masters like Shri Nisarga Datta Maharaj, who spoke of abiding by “I am” did not surely mean clinging to any thought. They spoke of a direction. From ideas of “I am this” or “I am that”, we could turn our attention towards the basic sense of “I am” and stay vigilant. A thousand ideas of our limited identity then arise, get exposed and fall away. After peeling the onion all the way, we are left with nothing. Likewise we are left with “no thing” with regard to our true nature. The Upanishads would say this “no thing” is the infinite substrate where we find last peace, which always was.

Swami Chidananda Varanasi End Notes: 1 naasti akritah kritena – Mu. Up. 1.2.12 2 tad-vijnanaartham – same as above 3 na alpe sukham asti – Cha. Up. 8 4 neti neti – Brihadaranyaka Up 5 mano-vaak-agocharam resembling aham brahma asmi of Br. Up.

INSIGHTS – Surge 93

  May 1st,, 2013

DETACH AND ATTACH

 Turn away from temporal honors and worldly applause, in which much vanity is found.

 - The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 40 (Practice)

  A child wanted to eat candies in dream and ice cream in waking state, both at the same time! Refusal by us adults to let go of attachments in the world, while wanting the happiness of the spiritual realm is similar. We want to have the cake and eat it too! We cling to varieties of comforts, pleasures, conveniences – both in objects and in our relationship with persons. This psychology is based on an error. We think happiness is outside; it actually is in our mind. In the simple example of enjoying a delicious meal, 50% credit should go to our tongue, good appetite and the mental disposition to relish food. The remaining 50% may first be given to the meal itself but as we inquire and examine, factors outside us slowly lose the game; their reality is of questionable nature! No wonder certain philosophical systems called the world outside an illusion, maya! Even if they were real, it is not at all wise for us to be much dependent on them. Seek the Lord – Bhaja Govindam – says1 Adi Shankara, urging us to direct our physical and emotional energy towards the divine. To resonate with this, we have intense thoughts in The Imitation of Christ. True glory is to rejoice in your Name, not in one’s own virtue – says Thomas a Kempis in the all-time spiritual classic2. Mystics discovered this secret: there is great joy in divine contemplation. When the real moon – on a full moon night – is shining in all glory outside, who would remain indoors to enjoy a wall painting of the moon? As this analogy goes, all pleasures of the world are like a poor imitation for the mystics while the inner bliss is the original. Pleasure, power, position and fame are mere reflected glory and the joy of the Self is genuine. Detach from this immature indulgence, exhorted Swami Chinmayananda, and attach to the higher truth. “Detach and attach,” was one of the briefest summaries of spiritual wisdom that he, the famous Vedanta master, gave on an occasion. This happiness is undecaying3, remarks Lord Krishna, referring to the inner bliss. Whether you like it or not, he adds the expression4 ‘those who are not attached to happiness coming from outside,’ when he specifies who would enjoy the joy within. We must not look at such statements as some kind of condemnation of sense pleasure. It is more in the spirit of showing higher planes of consciousness. The whole emphasis is on climbing the heights, and not finding fault with the base camp. ‘Men, money and matters’ are the base camp where all of us have to start. We should not stay there but move on and climb the mountain. In one of his parables, Sri Ramakrishna speaks of a woodcutter who receives loving advice from a holy man on the move. The poor man is told, “Go deeper into the forest, you will find something interesting.” As he follows the advice, he discovers the interior of the forest has precious teak wood. In his next visit, the holy man repeats the same advice. The woodcutter this time discovers sandal wood in the deep recesses of the woods. And the next time it is pearls and diamonds, and so on. Sri Ramakrishna’s illustrious disciple, Vivekananda, gave the world the clarion call: Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. We must therefore detach from home, move on and attach to Om.

Swami Chidananda

 @ Solan, Himachal Pradesh

 End Notes:

 1 Bhaja Govindam – first verse and refrain 2 Man has no good of himself, and can glory in nothing. – Chapter 40 3 sukham akshayam – Geeta 5.21 4 bahya-sparsheshu askakta-atma – Geeta 5.21

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   INSIGHTS – Surge 94

 July 11, 2013

 IT’S ALL INSIDE YOU

 Like a city in a mirror, seemingly out there but actually in here. – Dakshinamurti Stotra

 The division of ‘others’ and ‘us’ is the hallmark of spiritual ignorance. As the Vedanta removes our misunderstanding, we naturally grow in human values like sensitivity and compassion. We are less obsessed with ‘our’ time, wealth or other possessions; we find serving ‘others’ as meaningful as helping ourselves. Human values are thus intimately related to spiritual wisdom.

 When they asked Shri Ramana Maharshi, “Will a man serve others, after his enlightenment?” the reply by the Sage of Arunachala was, “There are no others, after enlightenment.” Just as our hand reaches out to an injured portion in our legs, trying to care for an injury or wound, we reach out to each other without ideas of ‘me’ and ‘others’. A man was walking by a forest and, when he heard some scary sound, climbed up a tree and sat on a branch. After a while, it was all silent and he started looking down carefully. He noticed there was a small pond below, and it seemed there were precious, shining jewels at the bottom. He jumped into the pond, dived into the depth but found no jewels. After three failed attempts, he discovered that the jewels were actually on a higher branch on the tree and what he went after was only their reflection. The whole universe, the Dakshinamurti Stotra says1, is within us. It is as though outside, but actually inside. The universe is comparable with a city seen in a mirror2, says the hymn. Something seen in a mirror is not actually over there in that direction. Taking that part of the analogy seriously, we have to question all our ideas of “others and us”. In terms of community, color of skin, professional group or economic section, we tend to feel, “we belong here” and “they belong there”. Such divisions are due to questionable conditionings. Self-inquiry begins with the recognition of our false identifications and culminates in their elimination. When we realize we are not, in our essential nature, limited to any community or section, the so-called others do not stay far from us, in our new outlook or understanding. Another major factor that fosters duality is the memory of right and wrong. As we think of a good thing we had done in the past, we feel ‘high and virtuous’. As a memory of a wrong thing that happened at our hands arises, we feel ‘low and sinful’.  Pride and guilt are caused by memories, when we do not question the basic self-description (I-thought, in Ramana terminology). Self-descriptions based on the past are residues of undigested events. If we digest an event, no residue of egoism is left in our mind. So what are we to do? Stay alert and dismiss the old residues now. By gazing at the structure of the I-thought, the false beliefs behind its construction fall apart. When we stay alert, new events do not cause any residue either. Praise does not leave behind an “Ah I am superior” type of egoism; insult does not cause an “Oh I am no good” type of egoism either. We remain sat-chit – Pure Existence Awareness.

Swami Chidananda

 @ Bay Area, USA

 End Notes:

 antar-gatam... bahir-iva udbhootam – verse 1, D M Stotra

vishvam darpana-drishnamana-nagaree-tulyam – verse 1, DM Stotra

INSIGHTS – Surge 95

September 9, 2013

 

ARE YOU THE WORLD?

 

     Like in a hologram, the part can contain the whole at times. Is it possible that you are a spiritual hologram, and the world, which appears outside, is contained within you – in a sense? Sages like Shri Ramana Maharshi used to ask visitors, “Does the world appear when you are in deep sleep?” While it is difficult to figure out the full or exact significance of such puzzling questions, there seems to be some dependence that the world has on the self. The world and the self (the limited I) rise together; they subside together (in deep sleep, with no dreams). You take the self as real; the world also seems very real. If you begin to question the self, the world seems to lose its grip on you.

      Leave aside the issue of the so-called ‘objective, physical world’. Be concerned with the ‘world that bothers you’. If you are a little advanced in spiritual philosophy, you know that the world bothers you because of your own likes and dislikes. The more judgmental you are, the more is the power of the world to upset you. You judge somebody as good; he makes you happy. You judge a second person as bad; she gets on your nerve. If you look at him and her without forming an opinion; you find there is peace within you.

      Have you ever suspected that your own thinking could be empowering the world that you perceive? Have you tried to see people, places and objects with no prejudice whatsoever? What would happen to your world if you begin to see Miss World and an old woman at a widows’ home in Benares or Brindavan equally? What if you see both of them as just human beings, which they are? What will happen to your world if money or power does not mean much to you? You measure scholarly people also in terms of their popularity, the number of books they have written or their oratorical skills. What if you pay attention to their whole being, and try to understand what they essentially are? If they have some gifts, you need not be awe-struck; if they have some shortcomings, you need not feel disillusioned; can you understand them, without being judgmental?

      Compassion will perhaps fill you, if you see all with no desire to get anything from anybody. Otherwise you are either elated or depressed. You might envy some and pity others. When you have nothing to take from the other person and nothing to lose either, your vision may get transformed. You will perhaps truly hope that the other person be free, happy and at peace. You do not want to be the giver of peace. You just feel love in your heart. You may move on without saying a word and without doing anything. Your heart, filled with love, does something quietly.

      When you feel insecure, the world appears calculative, if not cruel. When you shed all fear, the world becomes lovable. When you change, the world changes. Does it matter if you are not literally the world?

 

Swami Chidananda

At Chennai.

 Surge 96

October 14 2013

WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?

    It seems we possess so much, and yet we are poor. Where did we go wrong?

     There is completeness1 everywhere, says the Upanishad. {That is complete; this is complete; completeness arises from completeness; completeness alone remains after completeness emerges from completeness.} Our divine source (Brahma) is said to be full, complete. We are said to be complete too, in our true nature (Atma). How is it that we suffer from an endless sense of inadequacy?

     Everyone knows the story of the old lady who was searching for a lost silver coin under the street lights. When asked where she had lost it, she replied, “Inside my house”. She was doing so because it was bright and nice below the street lamp. Similarly we are searching for the sense of completeness in the domain of ‘sense gratification and emotional satisfaction.’ This domain is no doubt quite colorful and enchanting. Completeness however lies inside us – on the ground of our true nature, which is Pure Awareness, distinct from ‘senses and mind’. Awareness is the supreme truth, declares an Upanishad2. We will never come upon true completeness (poornataa) if we stay in the field of objects, emotions and thoughts (OET, as Swami Chinmayananda ji used to call). When we pursue OET, we become right away the PFT (perceiver, feeler and thinker). Clinging to the limited, we become limited.

     When wealth, qualification, position, status etc. are seen to fail in the matter of giving us the sense of “I am totally all right now,” there is another reason also for us to be sad. We find we are incapable of compassion towards those who are suffering. We are dissatisfied with what we are and with what we have. Beggars cannot be givers. We are ourselves constantly in need of receiving; how can we give? The choice we make – in ignorance – to look for completeness in the realm of the finite, outer world leaves us incomplete. This results in an unenviable condition. We are preoccupied with ‘what we can get’ and, in the process, have hardly any room in our heart for those around us who are suffering.

     There is an expression in the Geeta3 about spiritually mature people, “interested and engaged in the good of all living beings.” This maturity is characterized by ‘contemplation upon that4 which is everywhere,’ and ‘having kept their senses under check5.’ These inner qualifications are not mentioned in the same verse by mere coincidence. Turning inward and recognizing the sacred that pervades all life are the requirements for us to first enjoy our own natural, inner security. It is only then that we let go of our hankering after sense pleasures or dependence on emotional fulfillment. A radical change takes place in our outlook before we are really peaceful within and compassionate towards others. The hallmark of this basic change is that it does not matter to us anymore whether pleasures and comforts are part of our daily life or people praise us at all.

     No wonder the great thinker J Krishnamurti observed, “There is no intelligence without compassion.” Bookish knowledge can very much be ours but it surely lacks the perfume of compassion. True intelligence is that where we abhor selfish, scheming ways. This wisdom is definitely accompanied by compassion.

     May Vijaya Dashami – the tenth day of Dussera, which marks the victory of good over evil – bring to all of us the insight into where true happiness resides. The ignorant mind, accompanied by the outgoing senses, is Ravana indeed. Spiritual intelligence, born of unbiased study and self-inquiry, is Rama. May we celebrate Rama’s conquest of Ravana, and rejoice in the bliss of living in awareness.

Swami Chidananda

Notes:

1 poornam-adah poornam-idam . . peace invocation of Ishavasya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads, Shukla Yajurveda

2 prajnaanam brahma – 3.1.3 of Aitareya Upanishad, Rig Veda

3 sarva-bhoota-hite rataah – 12.4

4 sarvatragam 12.4

5 sanniyamya indriya-graamam 12.4

INSIGHTS – Surge 97

November 3, 2013

THE LIGHT OF INTELLIGENCE WITHIN YOU

 

Hear the audio of this at (YouTube) Voice S97 

     The celebrated Gayatri mantra1 refers to a divine light within each of us, which directs our thoughts (and emotions). Where is this light? Is it just poetry or do we have something scientific about this revelation? We normally understand the power of thoughts and emotions but here we are told there is something above or beyond both these acclaimed faculties. Is this an abstract concept or a solid reality?

     In the well-known story of “the lost tenth man,’ each of the ten members of the group that swam across a river counted the other nine but left out himself. Everyone therefore concluded that they were ten before and were only nine now. The tenth man had drowned and died. Everyone went by what he could see outside himself and ignored himself. The kind words of a passerby helped them to realize they had not lost anyone. Likewise we usually count all our bodily faculties, intellectual abilities and emotional strengths but leave out the Self, the supreme light within.

     To get back in touch with the hidden Self, the Atma, is all the more necessary in these days of fast technological growth. Someone2 remarked recently, referring to the story of Kisa Gautami and The Buddha where the lady had lost her son and the Great One advised her to get a handful of mustard seeds from a house that had not known death. The writer said, if The Buddha were to re-enact the episode, he would ask the bereaved mother to fetch some mustard seeds from a house that did not have a mobile phone! In developing countries like India, we find families in poor villages or slums have multiple mobiles though they may not have drinking water or proper toilets.

     Technology has apparently solved a thousand problems but has surely created a thousand new ones too. “Revolution in technology has resulted in hefty salary, enhanced purchasing power, erratic work schedule, work pressure and ailments,” says the author referred to above. With our access to Google search and many other popular features of the Internet like the FaceBook, Wikipedia and YouTube, we are certainly enjoying a higher standard of living but, as Swami Chinmayananda often asked, where has our standard of life gone? There was a report just ten days back that a teenage girl committed suicide because her parents forbade her from using the social network FaceBook. Millions among us are unable to set our priorities and get lost in the endless ‘little pleasures’ of modern technology.

     Stop, and Proceed – is the simple message of the day, to avoid more accidents. We need to just stop our engagement in doing, talking, thinking and feeling; we need to return home to the silence deep within, where transcendental intelligence (divine light, bhargo devasya) awaits us. It has the capacity to heal us, to restore our sanity. If we have no idea of what this hidden power is, we are to take help from mystics of the great spiritual traditions of the world. The ancient Upanishads3 made the call, “Know that, which the mind cannot know but which empowers the mind to know everything.” Sri Ramana Maharshi’s advice on self-inquiry and Sri J Krishnamurti’s comments on self-observation are examples of how mystics in recent times pointed to coming upon this light of intelligence that is not bound by thought.

Swami Chidananda

Solan, Himachal Pradesh

Notes:

1 Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

2 Latha Shashidhar in an article “IT has done more harm than good,” in The Hindu, Chennai, September 15, 2013 – page 14.

3 Kenopanishad 1.5

INSIGHTS – Surge 98
Why Study Upanishads?
January 7, 2014
The Upanishads reveal the highest truth – that the divine principle (Brahma) and every one of us (Atma) are one. Understanding this, and owning this vision through contemplation and inquiry, leads to our life’s highest fulfillment. Insecurity ends. Love, peace and compassion characterize our thoughts, words and deeds.
When our intellect is ripe, the truth revealed by Upanishads destroys our ego instantly. Erasure of the ego is the essence of spirituality.
Shri Ramana Maharshi says:
If the ego rises, all else will also rise; if it subsides, all else will also subside. The deeper the humility with which we conduct ourselves, the better it is for us. If only the mind is kept under control, what matters it where one may happen to be?
A ripe intellect is ready to let go of all baggage that is the past. It does not cling to any idea of superiority, inferiority, being merited or being a sinner. It is ready to discern and distinguish between the true and the false. Such a pure intellect leaves the false way without resistance and moves in the true direction gracefully. A revelation from the Upanishads, like “tat tvam asi” (Thou art That, you are one with the divine), facilitates such an intellect to dissolve individuality and experience undivided expanse of pure existence-awareness.
When our intellect (buddhi) is not ripe, we are soaked in the past. Our attachments confine us to a limited sphere of egoistic thought. We are then interested in ‘becoming’ somebody, something. That keeps us on an endless wild goose chase.
Are Upanishads of any help to us even when our mind is impure? The second level of teachings supplied by these sacred compositions does come to our rescue.
In the journey of life, our body is the chariot. Our mind is the reins. Senses are the horses. The driver is no other than the intellect. The essential point is to keep the horses on the right track. “Keep your senses under check,” exhorts one of the Upanishads (Katha 1.3.6) for example.
These books of wisdom urge us to give up false ways of living, marked by undue attachment to pleasure, habitual emotional (over-) excitements or by scattered thinking (lacking in focus). “Unless you desist from bad conduct, you will not attain this Self through right seeing,” says a text (Katha 1.2.24).
Upanishads are thus for living rightly. In right living alone we enjoy healthy relationships and true inner peace.
Swami Chidananda

INSIGHTS – Surge 99

Form to the Formless

February 27, 2014

If we examine the structure of our thoughts, it consists of some form or other. When we think of a flower, for example, our thought takes the form of the flower. We may have at another time a thought of the form of a pot. Even emotions like anger and desire have their own distinctive forms. Otherwise we would not be able to distinguish anger from desire.

The Kaivalya Upanishad (mantra 7) asks us to meditate on the form of Lord Shiva. “If you turn inward and become contemplative (muni), and if you meditate upon Shiva, the Supreme Lord with three eyes, with His neck turned blue, having Divine Mother Uma next to Him and very serene, you will reach the state beyond darkness. You are then one with the Source of all creation, witnessing everything.”

How do we understand this? How can long meditation of Lord Shiva’s form lead to our rising to a higher state of consciousness?

This is where the Upanishads are indeed mystical. They are secret teachings. They hold the key to resolving certain fundamental puzzles of human life. We are generally held in captivity by our own thought processes, which constantly move from one form to another. As we fix our mind in Lord Shiva’s form (blue-necked, three-eyed etc.), our mind undergoes a change. Countless names and forms (nama-roopa) that had held our mind hostage all this time loosen their grip over our mind. We find great inner space when these thoughts leave us. As thought subsides, we discover an entirely new dimension of our own existence. That is it. We as ‘existence free of thought and its modifications’ are right away the Self, Atma.

Images are formed on fountain water by certain projection processes these days, and those images look so real. Our ego is like that. Thoughts, especially memories, provide the images and we are generally drowned in concepts, ideas, notions and judgments. Who are we really? The Upanishads answer this existential question. “Tat tvam asi,” roars the Chandogya Upanishad, by which it means we are Pure Awareness with no boundaries. To realize this, a combination of “receiving insights” and “staying in quiet observation” is required.

Shivaratri is the night where Lord Shiva’s grace becomes all the more abundantly available to us. The Shiva Linga, of the form of an ellipse, represents infinity. Every point in an ellipse is a beginning; every point may be considered an end too. Alternatively the ellipse may be looked at as a figure with no (particular) beginning or end. While ‘thought’ has a beginning and an end, ‘Awareness’ has no beginning and no end.

To help us stay with the insight that we are actually Pure Awareness, meditation upon the form of Lord Shiva is prescribed. At the right time, we would drop the support of the divine form, and merge in the Reality, the formless one.

May Shiva the Auspicious shower His grace upon you.

Swami Chidananda

 

INSIGHTS – Surge 100

 Welcoming the New Year

March 30, 2014

 

Far apart from each other and leading to totally different results are the two ways: one of right, spiritual understanding and the second of wrong, pleasure-driven understanding.

Kathopanishad 1.2.4

*

Ugadi (Yuga + Adi), going by the lunar calendar is on Monday, March 31 this year. It heralds the New Year – samvatsara. Spiritually speaking, it is a new year for us if we opt for ‘ways of vidya’ and give up our habits rooted in ‘avidya’.

 Even the well-placed ones among us have certain habits because of which we have let peace elude us. We take pains to make a hundred changes on the surface but do not give up these psychological habits that are at the core of the self (ego) in us. Habits (in thought processes) after all make the ego.

 

We are not talking about coffee or tea, cigarette or wine. By psychological habit is meant things we do following the belief that our self-worth depends on a certain ‘image’ to which we are attached. The behavior in daily life that follows this belief causes spiritually incorrect choices and disharmony with people around.

 An educated husband for example could find himself in disharmony with his wife when he values his social image excessively and does not care enough (and truly) for his wife. His attachment to his own ideas of how people in the society look at him gets so strong that he is constantly trying to boost that (self-conceived) image. His buying and selling, eating and drinking, entering politics and leaving it etc. are all driven by the ‘image’ that he is trying to protect and embellish. Self-inquiry (who am I?) can expose this attachment and make him realize the falsity of the image too. To be more specific, he may find that people would love him even if he (for example) does not buy some fancy property; he had falsely presumed that his image would suffer if he did not buy. Also, he may realize that their love and respect are of no worth, when they value him if only he becomes the owner of the glamorous property. “I am fine with or without this new property; I am fine with or without these people showing respect to me,” becomes the silent discovery when he conducts self-inquiry. The atma-vichara loosens his value structures and bestows upon him inner peace that is unconditional.

When he is relieved of all the self-created inner pressures, which made him conform to certain unnecessary patterns of behavior, he cares for his wife better. She would then feel the difference.

 May we question the workings of avidya (spiritual ignorance) in us; may we leave thoughts supported by false presumptions; may we walk into a New Year marked by right seeing, possible through vidya (right understanding).

 

Swami Chidananda