Category Archives: Spiritual development

Practical Bhartrhari – Digging well when thirsty!

Bhartrhari should be mandatory study for all students! (Just as Tirukkural should be for all Tamils) There is something applicable for every situation in our lives in it. The messages are sharp and incisive but nobody can argue about the stark truth in them.

Due to a personal situations, this shloka from his Vairagya shatakam hits the nail on the head! We see elders going through this, but very few of us learn from their mistakes!

yāvatsvasthamidaṁ śarīramarujaṁ yāvajjarā dūratō,
yā vaccēndriya śaktikara pratihatā yāvatkṣayō nāyuṣa:|
ātma śrēyasi tāvadēva viduṣā kārya; prayatnō mahāna|
sandīptē bhavanētu kūpakhananaṁ pratyudyama: kīdr̥śa:||
-bhartr̥hari, vairāgyaśataka

So, we have to prepare for old age, disease or death – not at the time of old-age, but much ahead in all ways – physically, logistically, financially and most important – emotionally.

If you are trying to prepare after old age sets in, it is like “sandīptē bhavanētu kūpa khananam” meaning “the house is on the fire and he is digging the well”!!! Especially, like a super deep bore well in Chennai!

So, where is the question of getting the water and quenching the fire! Therefore, be prepared, don’t be complacent, and don’t take things for granted. This is the slogan of life. Therefore, for a prepared person, nothing comes as a shock.

Adapted from Swami Paramarthanandaji

 

 

 

 

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Maanasa Pushpam

 

Flowers are a big part of the Hindu puja (worship). Shodashopachara (16 step) pujas require flowers for various stages of the worship. Our saints and poets sing of offering various flowers to their gods. Tyagaraja sings of offering “lotus, various types of jasmine, champaka, lilies” apart from the sacred Tulasi in his “tulasi dhala”. Some special leaves such as Bilva/Vilva (for Shiva), as well as grass like arungampul (for Ganesha) join their flower-brethren in these pujas.

We Hindus are blessed to have many deities (who we proudly worship whether we are disparagingly called polytheistic or idolators, or we are conceded to be monotheist with all deities as manifestation of One, or we are admired to be pantheistic). As a delightful consequence, we get to celebrate festivals around each deity across the year, each with their own special rituals, traditions, food and flowers!

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Of course, for many devout Hindus, offering fresh and fragrant flowers daily to their altar is mandatory. They will go to lot of trouble (like waking up at 3am as my father does) and even the poor will shell out a substantial part of their purse to get a “muzham poo” – a arm length of jasmine garland to offer. As a result, there is always a fresh, natural smell in almost all homes and of course, overwhelming fragrance in temples!

 

The above lengthy introduction is just to assert that I love the tradition of offering flowers. I am not a pseudo environmentalist and by no means, am I advocating stopping the offering of flowers to our dear Devatas, just because I share the beautiful shloka below!

A beautiful verse attributed to Srimad Vedanta Desikar, states that, more than the flowers collected from nature, Bhagawan Vishnu prefers the following pushpam (flowers)

अहिंसा प्रथमं पुष्पं पुष्पम् इन्द्रिय-निग्रहः
सर्वभूत-दया पुष्पम् क्षमा पुष्पं विशेषतः
ज्ञानं पुष्पं तपः पुष्पं शान्तिः पुष्पं तथैव च
सत्यम् अष्टविधं पुष्पं विष्णोः प्रीतिकरं भवेत्

ahiṁsā prathamaṁ puṣpaṁ puṣpam indriya-nigrahaḥ
sarvabhūta-dayā puṣpam kṣamā puṣpaṁ viśeṣataḥ
jñānaM puṣpaṁ tapaH puṣpaṁ śānthiḥ puṣpaṁ thathaiva ca
satyam aṣṭavidhaṁ puṣpaṁ viṣṇoḥ prītikaraṁ bhavet||

The shloka enlists 8 flowers we can offer from our mind – which is both pleasing to the Lord and will also purify us.

The flowers are –
1. Ahimsa – non-violence in thought, words and action towards all creatures
2. Indriya nigrahah – sense control and reigning in the mind
3. Sarva bhuta daya – compassion and empathy towards all
4. Kshama – forgiveness to all
5. Jnanam – knowledge, especially self-knowledge
6. tapah – living a life of austerities and meditation
7. Shanti – peace even in the middle of samsara
8. Satyam – abiding in truth in all conditions
While physical flowers are great and should continue, we should try to offer these Maanasa pushpani throughout the day, not just during our puja!
(Source – inspired by Acharya Dhiren Khatriji who shared this shloka)

 

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)

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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?