नहीं कर रहा हूँ, नहीं होगा

Shri Vishnu

Shri Vishnu

This is the Diwali season!

Aum Shubh Labh Aum!

For Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs – as well as our friends, loved ones, and supporters – this is one of the biggest and most important holidays of the year, if not THE biggest. During Diwali, we celebrate the triumph of Light over Darkness, of Good over Evil. Except in the most metaphoric contexts I don’t actually believe in Good or Evil, Light or Darkness, although I sometimes employ the terms for linguistic clarity. Nonetheless, Diwali holds immense significance for me. For me, instead of light versus darkness, it’s a bit about “I am not” and “I won’t.” I’ll see if I’m able to briefly marry am not & won’t to light & darkness.

When considering light in relation to darkness, you instantly enter into polarization. You go for one, or you go for the other. Same with Good vs Evil. With “am not” and “won’t,” however, things are more about potentiality, and not nearly as automatically polarized. And the tricky part, to be honest, is in determining what lies you’re telling yourself while you attempt to discern.

During the Diwali season we talk about the triumph over evil and darkness. We light diyas and deepas and make rangoli designs in front of our homes. We worship Lakshmi to bring prosperity – prosperity being perceived as a symptom of Good winning over Evil. For me, however, this season is more about looking within and seeing That light. It’s the same light within myself that is at the heart of every being. This light, truly, is neither good nor evil and it doesn’t actually dispell darkness because it’s not actually light. It literally transcends all of those qualitative descriptors.

If you ever feel you are not That, you are mistaken. You may be confused. You may be submitting to misleading ideologies. You may be many things, but there is never a time when you are not That. This leads to something else important to remember: Since you are That, you must help. You must know your part, and just as importantly you must do your part. You have a role in dharma, in fact your role is dharma and is the maintenance of it. This is where the won’t comes into play.

Whenever you find that you won’t, you’re expressing an option. Many times a person will think they can’t (or shouldn’t, which is a WHOLE other ball of yarn!), when they actually can and they’re simply not willing. Many times we become unwilling on account of the stories we tell ourselves and subsequently recycle within ourselves.

Often, when circumstances or situations make us unsure or uncomfortable, we become unwilling, although that’s not how it feels at the moment. Through our ego we convince ourselves, “It’s not my place” or “I’m not capable of making that thing happen” or “Someone else’s dharma covers this best.” And truth be spoken, there are certainly instances when this is true enough that the avoidance serves a purpose down the road.

Celebrate Diwali and all that it might mean; light a diya for your Self. You are the only and all the light there is. You are the only one who can keep adharma held in its place – the only one who can contribute to the promotion of prosperity and sustaining dharma. My Diwali hope is that you do the leg work necessary for you know and understand your place (your swadharma) as completely as possible and confidently play your role in dharma’s maintenance so that others in life can learn the same from you. Shubh Diwali!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Swastik Rangoli Design

Swastik Rangoli Design

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33rd Appearance Day

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the past, on my birthday, I’ve written about how birthdays are one’s personal new year and how I use the day to establish resolutions (which I don’t ever really do) and assess things in life, set a few new goals perhaps. It really is like a January 1st for me. This year is different, though. I have no interest in setting goals or personal resolutions on my body’s very own new year.

In recent weeks, however, I’ve been assessing a few things. A few things that are actually really very and truly important to me as an aspiring/developing Jnanayogi. In an earlier post, I mentioned the value is perpetual assessment and questioning. To be clear, I don’t mean to doubt. I mean to explore and to experience and to know.

Occassionally, I find nuggets that really hit home and help me do that assessing and either show me that I need to adjust or confirm that the direction I’m pointed in is correct for me. Recently I visited a blog that is one such nugget. I’ll encourage everyone to visit and follow that blog, which can be found here. Below, I’ve copied/pasted a lengthy post from there titled “Spirituality of the Intellect.” For me, this title is fairly synonymous with Jnana Yoga. If you read the post, and if it makes even a little sense to you, and if you implement some of this wisdom in your existence, you can be sure that so much else will fall into place. There are, of course, many other valuable and enjoyable posts on the blog which I also encourage you to read.

Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti
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Spirituality of the Intellect.

One of the oft repeated assertions in spiritual circles is that the mind and intellect is a hindrance to true spirituality. This is only a partial truth, an oversimplification of the diverse possibilities of a misunderstood and ill-defined (in normal parlance) part of the human organism.

The mind is but a lose term for a collection of psychological processes-drivers of a human being. It can be broadly classified into 3 parts. First the sensory mind, also called manas, which controls and reacts to influences that reach the mind through the sense-organs. This part of the mind is driven by instinct and compulsive reactions. Then the chittah, repository of all impressions and influences, also called samskaras. Everything that a normal human being ever does, howsoever insignificant, plants an impression in the chittah. At odd times, in otherwise uncalled for situations, the chittah can throw up random, arbitrary images from an semi-forgotten past. The third part of the mind is a mental ahamkara. A very subtle I-sense whose job it is to endlessly and mindlessly oppose, sometimes in a secret and subliminal manner, any part of the human being that is asked to transform itself in the process of sadhana. The ahamkara will do just about anything to hang on to the old personality including all its various likes/dislikes/automatic-movements/passions/desires/comfort-zones ETC, for only by the survival of the older flawed frontal-personality can the ahamkara’s own existence be justified. Often people wrongly translate the word ahamkara to mean pride. Pride is just one manifestation of it, equally expressions of humility or pity or even friendship (or any human relation) can also be a work of the ahamkara. Any refusals to change the flawed habits of the surface personality is a work of the ahamkara fighting for self-preservation.

From this chittah, is thrown out another aspect of the mind – the part which in the realm of pure-thoughts. This is buddhi. In most people the buddhi part of the mind is inseparably tied to the manas and the chittah and the ahamkara. Therefore the thought process is driven in a very subjective manner by the randomness of the conditioning present in the chittah or the compulsive, reactive nature of the manas, or is taken for a royal ride by the ahamkara churning out comfortable but insincere logic to justify the preservation of the flawed, frontal personality. The Buddhi thus becomes severely distorted and defeats the very purpose of its own existence. Such a mind is terrible master.

On the other hand, if the Buddhi is taught to function without being influenced by the sensory mind or the repository of random impressions and conditioned thinking, or be at the service of the ahamkara, then it can work in an objective and non-distorted fashion, searching for the truth as it is, and a trying to find the route to that truth. Such an intellect, unsoiled and pure, is never outraged by anything for agitation is foreign to its nature, can look at all possibilities however obnoxious or repugnant in complete calmness, and weigh them on well defined parameters of judgement. To do this the intellect has to slay the demons of the sensory mind and chittah and ahamkara, at least temporarily if not permanently, which is the higher aim. The Rig Vedic Rishis named this pure intellect as Indra, one who has won the battle against indriyas (sensory mind, manas), the mighty slayer of the demon vritra (meaning envelop), and hence named vritahan.

Once this pure intellect is developed and instilled and one learns to operate from that platform of pure-reason, one must ideally head for the next stage of pushing the frontiers of the mind and intellect into a higher region of functioning, where by default the intellect can integrate apparently contradictory lines of thought in a harmonious manner. Even higher than this stage is an intellect with a natural illumination and unfailing intuition, which can known things by dint of a process that seems to bypass normal logical constructs. Beyond this intuitive mind, lies a vast Cosmic Mind, the mind of the Great Gods where like a Universal game of chess one see innumerable possibilities on every side, gigantic divergences, near-infinite karmic-chains and their exact repercussions right down to the minutest details. It functions not from the premise of piecemeal analogical building blocks of reason, for such a lower method simply cannot handle a universal complexity of unspeakable proportions, but from a perspective of spontaneous knowledge that does not need to strive. And then there is a mind beyond this too, the mind where direct knowledge of Truth comes by the inalienable oneness of subject and object, of viewer and the viewed, or the experiencing-agent and the experienced-subject, where everything is simultaneously and equally divided yet undivided. There is no point thinking of it from our normal mind. Whatever one may think, whatever one can think, will be inevitably flawed for sure, because this is as far beyond the ranges of the average human mind as a normal man is to a cockroach.

The one singular disadvantage of the intellect, though, is its habit of moving in endless circles when it hits a logical road-block. If one falls into that trap, the intellect hinders the seekers progress. However if one is well aware of limits of pure intellect, one can very well use it as a stepping stone into a higher range of the mind and beyond. But to imbibe the essence of these higher platforms of the intellect, one must first develop the pure intellect – uncluttered by manas, chittah and aham, which is the beginning of the spiritual planes. And therein lies the problem for 90% of people, as the mind in most has not learned to offload the retarding, retrogressive weights and soar high above on its own wings. Therefore the spirituality of the intellect is off-limits to most, and consequently the intellect gets unduly demonized.

Ganesha-Lila, Do

Here’s another myth about Ganesha that I find humorous and interesting. I’ve encouraged others before to be bold and even bossy toward God. This story could have come from my own heart, except for it’s a story of bhakti. All the same, it’s wonderful.
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Once there was a fair honouring Ganesha near a temple outside a village. A little girl pestered her mother to let her join her friends who had all gone to participate in the festivities. Eventually her mother agreed and gave her daughter two churma laddoos, ‘Feed one to Ganesha,’ she told her daughter, ‘and then eat the other yourself.’

The little girl went straight to the Ganesha temple, offered a laddoo to the deity, and settled down in front of the image waiting for him to eat the offering. Hours passed and dusk approached. The little girl refused to leave until Ganesha ate her laddoo. She waited and waited. Eventually Ganesha, moved by her devotion, manifested Himself before her and she fed him the laddoo.

Then she grabbed one of His hands and refused to release her hold. Ganesha said that he would grant her whatever she wished if she would let him go. The little girl remembered the old saying: when offered a boon, ask for benefits that will extend over three generations. So she said, ‘I want to see my grandson eating from a gold katori in a palatial haveli where I am surrounded by seven sons and seven daughters-in-law. My husband is with me and together we watch our grandchildren playing.’

And so, indeed, it was.

Rime-n-Reezun

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Two times in the last 48hrs I’ve encountered things from freinds who were in one way or another kind of questioning the “why” behind certain actions. I think this is important and wanted to post briefly on this.

I recall from when I was a child some discussion with my mom or maybe overhearing her remark about something… the lesson was, if you’re not grown enough to talk about your actions without embarassment, you probably shouldn’t be performing those actions. Agreed.

Embarassment doesn’t pertain to what either of my friends were dealing with (one was writing about tilak/bindu application and the other about wearing a brahmin thread/upanayan and having to explain it to his significant other), but there’s an underlying principle at work in all of these contexts – know why you’re doing anything you’re doing as well as why or why not you should be doing it.

The friend writing about tilak application touched on this. He mentioned wearing it out and abouty, including at work where it would be a bit out of place for him. He also mentioned other outward expressions – like wearing an Om pendant on the outside of one’s shirt – and how that kind of thing is sometimes perceived. He also mentioned applying tilak with a mostly invisible substance, knowing it was there although no one else did. I think that’s brilliant.

The other friend indicated that he wears the brahmin thread and that his spouse was having a hard time understanding why. A number of questions were asked this friend by many who noticed the post. On the surface, it seemed as though this “brahmin” didn’t actually know why he himself wore the threads. After more dialogue, it turns out that the spouse in question might be demanding a logic-based reason for wearing the threads – which will remain debatable. Otherwise, it’s a fairly cut-and-dry matter and an explanation should be relatively easy to provide by someone wearing the garment. I remain not entirely convinced that the person wearing the brahmin’s thread actually knows every in-and-out as he should, or perhaps he’s just a poor communicator when it comes to this stuff and talking about it with his spouse. Any which way, the numbers don’t quite add up as they should in my opinion. I’m thinking that someone demanding a logic-based reason for this samskar could receive a full answer from someone wearing the thread and would fill the rest of the blanks in for himself. That is, unless the spouse is a bit unreasonable to begin with and might be looking for reason where there is none, and refusing to accept anything else.

Whether you’re talking tilaks or threads, it’s all the same – the what simply doesn’t suffice, unless you’re cool with looking like a shallow doofus. You’ve got to know something’s why as well as that why’s implications, or you probably shouldn’t be doing it. It’s part of what sets the reals from the wannabes.

Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Ganeshapujana

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

One thing I enjoy studying is variance within the same. What I mean is how many different ways can the same haircut be performed and get the desired results, how many different ways are there to make bread, how many ways are there to skip rope? Also, how many ways are there to perform Ganesha puja? This is a question that can never fully be answered because the truest and most complete answer is that there are as many ways are there are people performing the puja. Youtube is full of suggestions, as is the Interweb in general. Ganesha puja can be as complex as you need, but because He’s the closest to the material plane of existence, and is also the most easily satisfied, puja to Him can be as simple as wanted, too. Many times, the details are ironed out for one by the forerunners of the sect he’s adhering to.

Below is one example taken from a blogspot entry, which conveniently enough also offers guidances on puja for Hanuman, Shiva, Shiva/Parvati, Krishna, and Ram.

How to do Ganesh Puja?

“Vakratunndd mahaakaay Suryakottisamaprabhaa. NirvighnaN kuru me dev sarvakaaryesshu sarvadaa.” Meaning: O Lord Ganesha of large body, curved trunk, with the brilliance of a million suns, please make all my work free of obstacles always.

Ganpati Puja : Stepwise-wise directions

Puja must be commenced only after performing ablutions. Begin by reciting “Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah” (1) Follow this by repeating “Aum” thrice. Now take a sip of holy water and invoke the god to purify you by repeating Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah thrice and wash hands. Now the puja can begin.

Sprinkle the ganesha idol with rice grains and flowers and chant Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Asanam Samarpayami

Next wash the feet of the idol with rice and sandal water and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Padyam Samarpayami.’ Next wash the hands of the idol with sandal water mixed with rice and flowers and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Samarpayami.’

Next offer the idol water to drink , thrice , while chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Achmaneeyam Samarpayami.‘

Next the idol has to be bathed with milk, curd, ghee. Honey and sugar. Chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Panchamrita Snanam Samarpayami.’
After this make holy water offering. All the five offerings are to be made separately chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Payah Snanam Samarpayami ‘ when offering milk.

‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Dadhi Snanam Samarpayami‘ when offering curd.
‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Ghrut Snanam Samarpayami‘ when offering ghee.
‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Madhu Snanam Samarpayami’ when offering honey.
‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Sharkara Snanam Samarpayami’ when offering sugar.

Now offer holy water to the idol and then wipe it clean with a piece of cloth while chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Uttaraposhnam Samarpayami.’Now all the necessary ablutions have been completed.

The puja will proceed by making various offerings to lord ganesha. Offer raiment to the idol in the form of two threads chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Vastropvastram Samarpayami.’When offering white thread repeat ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Yagyopveetam Samarpayami.’

Now red sandal powder paste is applied to the brow of the idol while chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Gandham samarpayami.’

Offer rice and chant, ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Akshtam Samarpayami.’ Garland the idol, shower flowers and chant, ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Puspam Samarpayami.’ Offer Durva grass chanting, ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Durvan Kuran Samarpayami.’ Leaves offering chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Bilvapatram Samarpayami.’ Burned perfume offering to be made while chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Dhoopam Agrapyami.’

Perform the aarti of the idol with a ghee lamp chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Deepam Darshyami.’

Give sweets to the lord, chanting ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Naivedyam Samaryami.’Offer water to the idol ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Achmaneeyam Samarpayami.’
Offer fruit, ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Phalam Samarpayami.’
Offer betel nut, betel leaf, clove and cardamom and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Tamboolam Samarpayami.’ Offer perfume and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Itram Samarpayami.’ Offer coins and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Dakshinam Samarpayami.’ Now offer sandal rice, flower, and durva all mixed in water and chant ‘Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Vishesh Argyam Samarpayami.”Now genuflect before the idol while chanting, Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah I bow before you.

Finally to bring the puja to a close, circle the idol in a clockwise direction while chanting Aum Shri Ganeshya Namah Pradakshinam Samarpayami once.

A Game of Ropes and Snakes

adi-shankaracharya-with-shishyas-e1353178839579

Shankara’s view of what it means to be real comes from his predecessor, Gaudapada, and from the Upanishads. No object, no kind of knowledge, can be absolutely real if its existence is only temporary. Absolute reality implies permanent existence. For example, we often have different experiences while dreaming during sleep. Those experiences often contradict the experiences we have while awake. And of course, both our waking and dreaming experiences cease when we’re deep into dreamless sleep. And so every object of knowledge, whether external or internal, is subject to modification and therefore not “real.” Here in the West, we don’t often recognize that thoughts and ideas are also objects of knowledge.

Behind all our experiences lies the Reality. This deep consciousness alone is the only constant feature of all experience. Vedanta sits squarely between realism and idealism. Western realism and idealism are both based on the distinction between mind and matter. For Vedanta, though, mind and matter fall into the same category as objects of knowledge.

According to Shankara, the world-appearance can be likened to an imagined snake which ends up being just a piled/coiled rope. When the truth is known, the snake-appearance vanishes into the reality of the rope. In like manner, the world vanishes into Brahman for the illumined soul. This snake-appearance idea can also be found in the Ashtavakra Gita in a lesson given by sage Ashtavakra: “The universe rises from you like bubbles rising from the sea. Thus know the Atman to be one and enter even thus into (the state of) Dissolution. The universe, being manifested like the snake in the rope, does not exist in your who are pure, even though it is present to the senses; because it is unreal. Thus verily do you enter into (the state of) Dissolution.”

Other systems of Hindu philosophy (Sankhya, Nyaya, etc…) insist that the phenomenal world holds objective reality. Advaita Vedanta disagrees, insisting: there is no ultimate reality to the world of thought and matter. Mind and matter, which are finite objects with relations, are a misreading of Brahman… like confusing a rope to be a snake.

At this point, it should be made clear that according to Shankara there’s a difference between non-real and non-existent. Simply put, the world-appearance “is and is not.” In the state of every-day consciousness (ignorance) it is experienced and it exists as it appears. However, in the state of illumination it is not experienced and ceases to exist. Shankara also distinguishes between private illusions of the individual and the world illusion. He refers to private illusion as pratibhasika (illusory) and the world illusion as vyavaharika (phenomenal). So pratibhasika would apply, for example, to a man’s dreams – which cease to exist during his waking hours. However, the other, vyavaharika, continues through his waking life – until he comes to realization of the Truth through knowledge of Brahman.

This seeming paradox – the world being non-real yet having existence – is a fact. And Shankara calls this fact Maya. Maya has its basis in Brahman, but only applies to the phenomenal world of names and forms. This leads us to a deep philosophical issue: the relationship between the finite and the Infinite; the problem of how the phenomenal world came into being.

“If we believe that the finite has an absolute reality of its own and that it has emerged from the Infinite and is an actual transformation of the Infinite, or if we regard the Infinite as the transcendental first cause of the phenomenal world, then we must admit that the Infinite is infinite no longer. A God who transforms Himself into the visible universe is Himself subject to transformation and change – He cannot be regarded as the absolute reality.”

We surpass this difficulty if we consider the world as Maya. Further, this explanation of the universe is in perfect accord with modern science. Some might point out that the Upanishads state that the universe emerges from, subsists in, and eventually merges back into Brahman. Shankara doesn’t disagree, but explains it differently: The universe is a superimposition upon Brahman.

In this way Brahman remains entirely unchanged. It is not transformed into this universe, but appears to us as this universe, in our ignorance. We superimpose the apparent world onto Brahman just as we sometimes superimpose a snake onto rope.

It should be noted that the idea of superimposition (vivartavada) is inseparably linked to the Theory of Causality. Causal relation exists in the world of multiplicity – which is Maya. Within Maya, the mind cannot function without causal relationships. Here’s the twist: To speak of cause and effect with reference to the Absolute is absurd. To seek to know what caused the world is to transcend the world. To seek to find the cause of Maya is to transcend Maya – and when we do that, Maya vanishes because the effect ceases to exist. How can there be a cause to a non-existent effect? Thus the relation between Brahman and Maya is unknowable by the human intellect.

Coming up: Maya is an unreal fact.

Om Shanti