Category Archives: Spiritual development

Same Life. Different Life.

To my guru.
It is a wonder.
The work is more than ever before.
The stakes are higher than ever before.
The challenges are harder than ever before.
The ups and downs more often than ever before.
Yet.
There is calm within
There is liquid energy
There is quiet confidence.
There is unabated joy
There is lucid thinking
There is mind-blowing love.
For all work. For all people.
Its not a wonder, since,
In every breath, I feel you.
Ramana in your form
Is rooted in the heart.
Let your grace dig deeper roots
Let your grace itself water them.
Let your grace merge into me.

Bhakthi – the force behind karma yoga also

Leave behind “raaga-dvesha” and become karma yogi, say the shastras. This is a sure path to chittha-shuddhi, which in turn is mandatory for jnAna.

Easy said. Try doing it.

Spouse asks for certain food when it is already tiring day. Kids cry for attention. Office work very often mind-deadening. One feels reluctant to move. On bad days, this “dvesha” for certain activities becomes a burden. This burden results in burst-outs of temper, hatred towards the person causing this, mental stress leading to tamas.

Guru bhakthi is the cure for this too. One sees Guru not only “talking” but “walking the talk”. Swamiji takes class, whether he wishes or not, whether is sick or healthy, whether the audience is big or meagre, whether audience listens or not. Swamiji answers patiently whether people ask wise or silly questions, cleans property whether people do it or not. Endless examples.

Once one opens up to this prabhAva, one cannot but do similarly. I am still feeling the dvesha for certain work. Mind and body still rebels. But along with it is the power of guru bhakthi forcing itself into the confused mind. With its power, mind and body put aside the raga/dvesha and act as should be done.

Point is – the strictly drawn paths of karma, bhakthi and jnana are not possible. The force of bhakthi has to power every mArga.

Guru bhakthi power

Crows vs Hamsapakshi

My Guru,
You are the tattva darshinah
The One that knows
The One thing to be known.

We are the Ones
That know a bit of this and bit of that
All irrelevant, all useless.

Yet, like screeching crows
Which shriek when they find
A piece of rotten food
We caw caw, we boast.

This habit has to die
This screeching has to stop.
The only power to quell it
Has to come from your silence.

How many miles to “self realization” ?

I was feeling dejected that even after several years of study and contemplation of Vedantic texts, I still didn’t see much progress in my behavior or attitude.
Swamiji asked “Do you think you’re on the right path?”. After having attended a zillion of his lectures, after nearly a hundred days of one-on-one advice from him, after all the hours of reading and listening to Vedantic topics, it seemed discourteous and blasphemous to even say “No”. So, I did say “yes”.
In thinking further, who am I to even judge that I am on the “right” path? Or, aren’t we all in the “path” in some form or fashion though we may stray away often into habitual off-roads or tempting scenic routes?
I guess the only reason to think we are on the “path” is the simple internal belief that we are on the “path”. And maybe the understanding that there is a goal to reach beyond living a normal life – the goal of “self-realization” and a slowly growing desire to attain it. The desire seems to burn bright once in a blue moon, and then the torrents of life fling one away from it leaving behind a trace of that desire like the faint impression of a old table on the carpet.
Anyway, going on with Swamiji’s query, he continued “Believe that you are on the right path and that you will progress. Measuring progress, getting elated with perceived progress, dejected with supposed failures, comparing with others, setting milestones are not conducive to spiritual sadhakas”.
This was timely advice for me. As if the agitations of the mind in the vyavarika world is not enough, I was adding to it the pressure of progress/performance/milestones of spiritual sadhana. It is the ingrained habit that we develop right from childhood to measure progress – tests, grades, ranks, competitions, interview acceptances, performance assessments, KPIs, metrics, weight goals, children’s growth, calorie goals, paycheck earned, bonus, interest earned – all that entrench into our thinking, this notion of measurable progress.
I forgot that “Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana” is very much true violated for spiritual sadhana too!

Faith is beyond measurement. I have to learn to “just be”. (And throw away all units of measurement)

Image
Source of cartoon: Arunachala Ramana forum

Bhamathi – born Jeevanmuktha?

Most students of Advaitha Vedantha have likely heard the name “Bhamathi”. Bhamathi is one of the sub-schools of Advaita Vedanta. I cannot claim to know much about these subtle philosophies, but I am fascinated by the story behing the Bhamathi school.

The interesting fact is that Bhamathi, the eponym behind the name of this sub-school, was the wife of the main author of this sub-school, Vachaspathi Mishra. You can find more details on them here. While using pen-names of loved ones/spouses are slightly common now, it is amazing that such a attribution happened several centuries ago! How did this come to be?

Vachaspathi, soon after marriage, completely forgot himself and his householder life, in the study of Vedantha and writing several works elucidating them. Decades rolled by when he barely paid attention outside of his work, thus likely neglecting his new wife.

What did the little wife do while her husband was tucked away with his palm leaf manuscripts and his tomes on various topics, his mind and body engaged in lofty philosophical thought? Did she manage her household on her own, care for aged in-laws, handle the affairs of property/land? Did she quietly serve him, anticipating his every need? Did she sharpen his bamboo brushes, prepare his palm leaves, dry and bind the written leaves? Could she read his works, comprehend them and understand their importance?

As her friends went on to bear children, celebrate festive occasions, enjoy the joys of married life, did she ever feel angst? Did she glace wistfully at the little children playing in the roads? Did she ever wish for the simple gifts that young brides seek from their husbands? Did she ever hesitatingly wait for her husband to look up from his work when she served him food? Did she resign herself to her lot or accept it with equanimity?

Legend goes that, one day, on the verge of completing his magnum opus (a commentary on Adi Shankara’s Brahma sutra Bhashyam), he looked up to see an elderly lady lighting a lamp. Not recognizing her, he questions her about her identity and learns that she is indeed his own wife “Bhamathi”!! He is naturally stunned, but touched by her unconditional support, uncomplaining nature and devotion to her duty.

As most legends are, this one is likely an exaggeration. However, it probably is based on some truth. Bhamathi could have been a born Jeevanmuktha who did what she felt was her duty, with no expectations or desire whatsoever. She may have known the import of her husband’s work for Hindu philosophy or she may have been ignorant of it, yet she supported him selflessly in his endeavor, her ego annihilated.

Can there be a better example of Shithapragna lakshana?

Journey to avoid slandering/back biting

 

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” ― Jane AustenPride and Prejudice

Oh, the joy of gossip, slander and putting down others!! I remember reading somewhere that if we stopped talking about others, our conversations would reduce by a whopping 75% !!! What would we then talk about 😦

The habit starts in early childhood.. I see it in innocuous comments from my elementary age kids – “mom, Owen is stupid”, “Sara chews gum in class”, “he is a bully”. And very soon, it becomes as habitual as breathing. And boy, ain’t the habit hard to break?!

A combination of a re-reading of Tirukkural’s Purankuramai chapter and Swami Ishwaranandha’s short but powerful book “Silent Search” forced me to evaluate my own behavior with respected to slandering. (English – On not backbiting, Tamil – புறங்கூறாமை)

In a nutshell, here is what I understand. By definition, slander/backbiting means talking negatively about a person behind their back.

Why do we slander/backbite?

  1. To take “revenge” after somebody else hurt you. When somebody has hurt you intentionally or unintentionally, our ego seems to go into a fault-finding mode. When we develop this attitude, everything from what the person says, dresses, eats, goes will appear faulty. This is because, we think slandering them in turn will soothen the hurt they caused us.  → when I think about it, this never works. In fact, revisiting the initial hurt  never lets the healing happen. In fact, by repeatedly talking/thinking about it, it builds up like a gangrene.
  2. To feed our own “ego” – by putting down someone, we feel “superior”. For e.g., commenting “her cooking is so bad” is meant to make yourself feel good about your own cooking skills. → This probably makes up a bulk of why we slander.
  3. To commiserate with somebody’s situation → While this is not always slander, it is important to watch if the comment is genuinely out of compassion and only do it if there is something good that will result out of the conversation.

Based on what Tirukkural says, slander is very much like “the quality of mercy” in one sense – as Shakespeare says, the quality of mercy blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Similarly, slander hurts him that slanders and him that is the object of slander.

How can we prevent slander? Here are some things I am consciously trying with some success.

  1. When we find fault in others, simply turn back and find a fault within yourselves                Tirukkural 190 – If each his own, as neighbours’ faults would scan, could any evil hap to living man? If they observed their own faults as they observe the faults of others, would any evil happen to men ? This should be fairly easy for most of us  – it is for me 🙂
  2. Sympathise – when people act wrongly, give them the benefit of doubt (source – Silent Search). Often, their behavior is a result of their intrinsic vasanas, past experiences, upbringing, current stresses/worries they may have. Just like we get carried away by these intrinsic tendencies, they do to. Forgive them, for they know what what they are doing.
  3. Move on – After forming a observation about them, move on. Holding on to that memory will influence all future interactions.

Try it. I have for the past half-year or so – mostly works when I consciously follow it. And I try not to be harsh on myself when I fail – after all, lets forgive ourselves first before forgiving others!!