Friday, April 20, 2018

The strength of the elephant
The heart of the lion
As humane as the pachyderm
As noble as the regal feline
The wisdom of the Guru
The compassion of Chandra
As valiant, brilliant as Surya
Full of Sattva, Bhakta of Hari

Fights valiantly with

The dragon, the snake
Heart is cold blooded devious like Rahu
Yet breathing fire thru mouth like Ketu
Full of Vayu, full of Agni

Sura so pehchaniye

Guru Gobind Singh said:
"Sura so pehchaniye jo lade din ke het
Purja Purja kat mare tabo na chhade khet"

Now a Bhagavad Gita Karma Yoga form of this in contemporary Hindi
Shur use pehchano
Jiska yuddha hai dharmakshetra
Har purza kat Jaye
Phir bhi na chhoDe Kurukshetra

Who fights for his cause
Know him to be brave
Though cut to pieces
He fights to his grave

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Motivating quote

From the trailer of Subedar Joginder Singh (film)

Jang jitne de liye asla nahi hosla chahida
To fight a battle, more than ammunition, you need spirit.

So true! battles are won and lost due to presence or absence of courage and not just due to superior resources or tactics. The resolve must be deep, the determination firm under any attack. Once you decide to the last bullet, there is no looking back. Either you shall win gloriously or die heroically - in either case your name shall be remembered, your examples would be given and people down the ages would be inspired by what you did and how you did it.

And mental strength comes from being righteous. A righteous battle fought for greater good gives one unshakable confidence.

Guru Gobind Singh said:
"Sura so pehchaniye jo lade din ke het
Purja Purja kat mare tabo na chhade khet"

Know him to be a hero, who fights for the righteous cause
Even though cut down to pieces, fights on without a pause

The battle is not just an external battle with a physical enemy, but the biggest enemy of all is Shadripu - the six weaknesses in a man, which gives rise to baser instincts.

Rahu is that enemy - the snake with many heads. Jupiter is the lion, full of purity, virtue, righteousness.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rama - the protector

From Rama Raksha Stotra

आपदामपहर्तारं दातारं सर्वसंपदाम्।
लोकाभिरामं श्रीरामं भूयो भूयो नमाम्यहम्॥३५॥

āpdāmapaharatāram dātāram sarvasampdām ''।
''Lokābhirāmam ShriRamam bhūyo bhūyo namāmyaham ''॥35॥

 ApadA - calamity
hartAram - destroyer
dAtA - giver
sarvasampadAm - all resources, wealth

lokAbhi - the people
rAmam - (who) charms, pleases
Sri Rama - Sri Rama
bhuyo bhuyo - again and again
namAmyaham - I salute

The destroyer of calamities,
The giver of all prosperity
The one who pleases one and all
O Sri Rama, I offer thee my curtsey
Again and again.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Vicara - in Yoga Sutras

A large proportion of what I understand of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is through Swami Venkatesananda's commentary which I mention either verbatim or paraphrase it or mention it's essence below. Wherever it's verbatim, I will indicate the page no, sutra no.

YS 1.2 states "yoga citta vritti nirodah" - quite a famous sutra
YS 1.12 states "abhyasa vairagya tan nirodah"

J Glenn Ingersoll ( in Pg 82 (catvari aryasatyani) of his work "Mechanics of Mind: Subject - Object Relationships" states:
"Both verses 1:2 & 1:12 end with the same word, nirodha. All commentators agree that the word tan (1:12) refers to the chitta vrttis (1.2). Therefore, yoga, as remedy, is the union of abhyasa & vairagya."

So the way to attain yoga is through "abhyasa vairagya"

and how can you do abhyasa? This is explained by Sutra 1.17 (this is after defining abhyasa and vairagya in the previous few sutras - Abhyasa: 1.13, 1.14 & Vairagya 1.15) which states -

"vitarka vichara ananda asmitaroopa anugamat sanprajnatah"

This is defined as 4 different types of samadhi by various commentators, but Swami Venkatesananda has a different take on it - he doesn't define them as samadhis, but just defines what they are i.e. what these technical words mean.

Out of this - he spends a lot of words explaining vicara specifically. Basis this, it emerges that to do abhyasa the way is vicara, at least it is the starting point. If you are able to do vicara in a disciplined manner, you get self-realization, then and there! The other way (in case the path of vicara doesnt suit you) is ishwara pranidhana (see in same sutra Swamiji's explanation in Pg 85). In a manner, he equates vicara with "jnana yoga" and ishwara pranidhana with "bhakti yoga". What Ramana Maharishi did was vicara.

Vitarka is analysis - say you have some psychological complex, you assess it logically, rationally. As Swamiji explains if say someone's wife leaves him, then it is the wife's problem, why is the person agitated. Because he has an attachment to the wife, some expectations. This kind of approach only helps to an extent. At times, we are beset with a deep seated fear or anxiety. If we start analyzing it, the fear or anxiety gives some rational explanations for it's existence - like you may not succeed in something important could be reason for the fear, if you try to logically attack it (if you can), then it will find some other reason. The point is the fear will find some target or other. What you have to address is the fear itself. It's like that snake in the dark, which is not a snake but a rope. Vicara is the method of directly looking at the fear, encountering it, not running away from it, not analyzing it, but seeing it for what it is. Frankly despite the difficulty of even comprehending what this means, this approach really appeals to me. Over last few days, to an extent, I have been able to do this (I dont know if what I did was what is explained by Swamiji - but it felt good!).

Presenting below Swami Venkatesananda's explanation of Vicara is his book: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Pg (50-56)

"When you try to meditate, the first thing is that the mind throws up all kinds of arguments - pro and con. As this happens, you confront these arguments with counter arguments. So, argument and counter argumentation is the first stage in this meditation. This goes on for some time until the mind reaches its own barrier, which is the rational barrier. The intellect does not function beyond ratiocination, the logic barrier, and logic comes to its own conclusion. You have no logic or rationalising intellect now, so you begin to watch and look - not inquiring in the sense of using the mind, because that vitarka stage is past. Now you see no argument at all for or against the existence of this indwelling intelligence, you see no reason for or against the truth or the falsity of the ego.
The intellect is helpless and so it stops functioning there. When this happens, the intelligence which is reflected within you begins to function. You cannot rationally discover this intelligence. Now you can only look - vicara.

Then another movement in consciousness begins. It is not mental activity, but pure attention. It is not a movement in consciousness which proceeds from what is called ‘me’ towards the other. It is a movement in the consciousness which seems to flow towards its own centre. It is neither mental activity, thought nor reasoning, but enquiry, a direct observation within. What is ‘within’? What is ‘without’? We don’t know. For the present it looks like within, because a moment ago ‘that’ looked like without – otherwise there is no within, no without. When the enquiry starts there is a feeling that the attention is moving within towards the centre. That is called vicara!

Vicara starts when you feel trapped, you experience bondage, unhappiness. Vicara has no proper translation in English, though it has been translated into 'enquiry', which has unfortunately been misunderstood to be intellectual pursuit. It is not enquiry in the sense of asking questions, etc. You may ask once, 'What is happening in me, who is repeating the mantra?', but once that asking has been done, it is merely looking at it. If that is the meaning of the English word 'enquiry', marvellous! If it is not, the proper meaning has to be discovered. It is merely looking without thought, without thinking.

'Car' in sanskrit means movement, and 'vicara' means to move efficiently. Without vicara there is no spirit in yoga practice. In vicara there is neither argument nor rationalisation. There is no anxiety to get rid of unhappiness - then you avert your gaze from the unhappiness and you cannot understand what it is, nor is there a desire to grin and bear it - again you are not looking at it. There is a
third alternative - to look within to discover where this unhappiness is. 

The question of 'what' is the essence of vicara. Here one merely looks at it and enquires 'What is this sorrow?', not 'Why is it there?', or 'How did it arise?' There is no 'my' sorrow and 'your' sorrow, there is just sorrow. You must be able to extricate this phenomenon of suffering or sorrow - which is independent of the personality and the circumstances, and see the phenomenon as it is.

Here tremendous concentration is needed, so that you can focus your whole attention upon this phenomenon of suffering and let the energy of the mind flow in that single direction. Then you have forgotten why you are unhappy, you are only aware of sorrow. It is in you.

If you are aware of sorrow, are 'you' and the 'sorrow' two different entities, or are they the same? When you use a mantra in meditation and mentally repeat it, you can hear it. Who is saying it, and who is hearing it? Suddenly you realise that you are also there, you are watching both these. The sound is emanating from somewhere. Someone is saying this mantra, someone is listening to it, and
someone is watching both these fellows! Similarly, here you are merely observing this phenomenon of sorrow, and you say, 'I am aware of sorrow'.

Try this. Stand in front of your electric stove. You can see that the water is boiling in the kettle, but you do not have to boil, do you? No. So similarly, you can see sorrow, observe sorrow and become aware of that sorrow. You observe that you are aware of sorrow. As you are becoming more and more intensely aware of sorrow, you suddenly become one with that sorrow. You are not sorry any more, you are not suffering any more, you are sorrow. The fire itself does not feel hot, it is hot. So that, if you are sorrow, you do not feel sorrow any more. You are free.

So, vicara is a movement in consciousness. It is pure attention. It does not proceed from what is called 'me' towards the other, but is a direct observation within. You can focus it on sorrow, pain, fear, hate or anything you like. Unless there is a feeling that the attention is moving within towards the centre, these words have no meaning. There is pure observation, and that observation itself
discovers the true nature of experience. 'Discovers' is meant in its almost literal sense - you had covered that pure experiencing with a big label called 'sorrow', and when this light of observation shone on it, it dis-covered or peeled that label off. That is discovery - 'un-covery'. There is an endeavour to merely observe the reality or the content of that experience. This is like flashing a torch on the shadow on the wall. When the shadow is illumined, its background or substratum is seen. In that observation there is great stillness, and the object of observation alone exists.

Because of the extreme importance of vicara, let us look at another example - of pain, for instance. Pain, sorrow and suffering are really a blessing. But in ignorance we turn them into a sorrow by blaming someone or something else - the psychologist blames one's childhood and the oriental religious man blames one's previous birth, for instance. Instead of listening to these ideas, if you look at the pain immediately, you may be able to deal with it. A wise man need be hurt only once.

What is pain, what is it made of? When you begin to inquire seriously, the first thing you notice is that the mind is absolutely calm and quiet. You have pulled away from the pain, and therefore the pain is not terribly painful. You are observing it, inquiring into it, and in the meantime the body takes care of the pain, or whatever it is. There is no pain, only the mind-stuff. In the light of that observation, it becomes absolutely clear that there is only the wall - the screen; there is no shadow at all, just the background. There is no wave, there is only the water.

The observation still continues, it does not come to an end, because there is one question which we have not answered. We are using such expressions as 'I observe the mind', 'I am meditating', knowing that all these are mental modifications. Even if these statements are the fruits of direct observation, there are still these questions, 'What is I. Who is the experiencer or observer? Is the observer a totally independent entity, independent of the experience? Is I a completely different and independent being standing apart from the mind-stuff?'I do not know.

The whole area of observation has narrowed down completely. The object has gone, the experience has gone, the only thing left now is the observer. If this pure observation asks this question and gets the answer 'I do not know', then 'I' and 'do not know' are the only things left, and these are not two completely different factors, but two sides of the same thing. Here, there is no logic and no observation, there is total stillness.

Vicara is essential in the practice of Raja Yoga and meditation. Meditation helps the vicara and vicara helps the meditation, because vicara needs one-pointedness and introversion of the mind. The mind must be introverted so that both during the practice of meditation and at other times the yogi must be aware of the thoughts and the emotions that arise in him. That makes it very clear that the yogi is not looking for a blank mind and an emotionless heart!"

I can post the next few paras on Vicara here, but just pause and meditate on the beautiful explanation by Swami Venkatesanandji given above, before you go further.

"The Buddha said, 'Live in this world as you would if you were living in a room with a deadly cobra.' As soon as you become aware of it, you begin to observe - not thinking about it, knowing that your thinking or not thinking does not alter the situation. You are wide awake and full of energy, perfectly concentrated. You may panic for a couple of minutes, but once you realise that you are caught in it,
the mind is absolutely calm and alert, looking actively but passively. All this is involved in that single instruction of living with the cobra.

If you can dramatise the whole thing within yourself for five minutes, you have learnt all about meditation and vicara. You know what it is to enquire into, to look into, to observe. In the same way, if you are able to observe pain, either physical or psychological, and you have pulled yourself away from it, there is this inner feeling, 'I am here, I am not affected by this.' It is not verbal, and you are
not trying to bluff yourself. The pain seems to go away, because you are acting as an observer now, you do not really experience the pain that the body is experiencing. But this does not last long. Once this observation comes to an end, you get caught up in the pain again.

If you are serious about this enquiry, if your mind, heart, emotions and life itself all come together and 'functionise' vicara, then you have tremendous energy which is derived from the non-dissipation of the mind. There is nothing that you cannot achieve. Use whatever pleasure and pain life brings you every day for your enquiry, and if you are sincere and earnest about it, then there is not a single moment in your life when this enquiry need be really absent. For example, when you are singing, can you forget about everybody else and listen to your voice? How and where does it
originate? How does it feel inside? Even as you are listening you, can look at the process of listening - not the anatomical and physiological aspects, but how listening takes place. If, while you are singing, you are merely observing the singing, neither thinking about it, analysing it nor examining it, it is a beautiful sensation. So, whatever the experience - singing, walking, driving, eating or having a shower - you can utilise it for pure awareness or vicara.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Purification of Samskaras

Verbatim Copy from "Concentration and Meditation" by Swami Bhajanananda

Purification of Samskaras (Pg 27-28)

"The first struggle in meditative life is to break the connection between memories and impulses. This is what purification of the mind really means. In a purified mind instinctive impulses do not operate. Memories in the form of pictures and ideas appear but they are not tied down to impulses. Like white clouds which do not rain but disappear in the blue sky, these memories disappear after remaining in the field of consciousness for a short while.

Purification of Samskaras
The purification of the mind really means the purification of samskaras which, as we have seen, means breaking the connection between impulses and ideas. How can one do this?

One method is to weaken the power of the impulses through abstinence, avoidance, withdrawal and other forms of tapas or austerity.

Another method is to increase the number of good samskaras through virtuous karma. Something like what physical chemists call the Law of Mass Action operates in mental life also. When dharma samskaras (good impressions) increase, they keep in check adharma samskaras (bad impressions). These two methods — tapas and virtuous karma — are unavoidable disciplines during the early stages of meditative life.

Patanjali speaks of a third method, which may be practised along with the other two. This is to change the connection between impulses and mental images. Images exert a great influence in the mind. If bad impulses, when they arise in the mind, are connected to the image of a holy man or holy woman, they immediately get controlled. Similarly, bad images cease to appear bad when connected to good emotions. This process of changing the connections between mental images and impulses is called pratipaksa-bhavanam (Patanjali Yoga Sutras 2.33). This is to be done through proper self-analysis, but this becomes effective only when the new connections are tested in action.

A fourth and higher method is to detach the will. The connection between images and impulses is consciously made by exercising the will. This connection is supported by the will. If the will is detached, the samskaras break apart. However, detachment is not easy. It becomes possible only when supported by other disciplines. A story is told about the great French impressionist painter Matisse. A visitor to his studio pointed to some unholy pictures hanging on the wall and asked Matisse: “Don’t you think these have a demoralizing effect on people?” The artist calmly replied, “My dear man, it is not a woman, it is only a picture.” An artist sees only a picture in a woman, whereas an ordinary man sees a woman in a picture — this is the difference between the two. This does not of course mean that all artists are holy sages. But in them the creative urge becomes so strong that it produces a certain degree of detachment — aesthetic detachment as it is called. However, owing to a lack of systematic moral discipline, most artists are not able to sustain this detachment for long.

All impulses can be reduced to three types of instinctual reactions: “towards,” “against” and “away from” — raga, dvesa and bhaya, as Indian psychologists call them. The terms dharma (virtue) and adharma (vice) can be applied only to these impulses and the actions that result from them. Memories, that is the various images and ideas that rise in the mind, are neutral. By themselves they are neither good nor bad; it is their association with impulses that makes them good or bad. When we speak of purification of the mind, what we really mean is freeing the memory from the hold of impulses, or smrti parisuddhi, purification of the memory, as Patanjali calls it.

When bad memories appear, one should not get upset but should calmly proceed to free them from bad impulses through self-analysis. Further, one should understand that mental images appear living only because they are charged with consciousness through association with the self. When the self is disconnected from the mental images by detaching the will, they get deflated and disappear."

Samskaras to Vrittis Pg 29

"How do samskaras sprout into vrittis? What activates the samskaras? Just as the recording in a magnetic tape is activated by the electric current in the tape recorder, the samskaras are activated by the cosmic energy flowing through the mind. Regarding the nature of this cosmic energy Indian sages hold different views.
According to the Samkhya Yoga school it is rajas, the mobile element of the three gunas, that manifests itself as all movements in the cosmos. The Gita says, “This lust, this anger, arises because of rajas.”11 Commenting on this line, Vedanta Desika says, “Watered with rajas the seeds of subtle impressions left by the experience of objects of senses sprout into desire and anger.”12 In the Vedas and the Tantras the cosmic energy is called prana. By prana is meant not the air we breathe, points out Swami Vivekananda, but “the sum total of all forces in the universe, mental and physical, resolved back into their original state.”13 The Yoga Vasistha says, “The tree of the mind has two seeds: one is the latent impression, the other is prana. When one of these is weakened, both get quickly controlled.”14 According to yogis, the movement of prana in the psycho-physical system depends upon the activity of two main channels known as ida and pingala. Pranayama is an exercise for controlling these channels. When the activity of these channels is controlled, the mind becomes calm. However, it should be noted that pranayama only stops the sprouting of the samskaras but does not destroy them. When the effect of pranayama wears off, the samskaras sprout again.

10. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1977), 1.241-42.
11. Bhagavad Gita, 3. 37.
12. Tatparyacandrika on ibid.
13. Complete Works, 1. 148.
14. Laghu Yoga Vasistham, 28, 34."

How to destroy Vasanas

Verbatim copy from - "Some Guidelines to Inner Life" by Swami Gokulananda (Pg 76 to 79)
Copyright by Ramakrishna Math
Bold highlights by me.

"Sometimes various kinds of evil desires will come, but if we do not encourage them by the exertion of our will power, then we can avoid their expression as lustful action. Suppose a bad thought invades our mind, we should not encourage it. Rather, on the contrary, we should take up the attitude of a witness and sublimate this lustful thought to divine thought and chant ardently the holy name. This point can be best illustrated from two incidents, one from the life of Lord Buddha and another from the life of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, both incarnations of God. In the life of Lord Buddha, it so happened that once a woman of ill-fame, enamoured by the beauty of Bhagavan Buddha, went to the palace at midnight with evil intentions. She wanted to tempt Lord Buddha and at midnight knocked at the door of the palace where he was living. Buddha stepped out and asked why she had come. He could immediately understand the evil intention of that woman who said, 'I have come with some fruits and offerings.' Obviously she wanted to tempt Buddha. He did come out, receive the lady with all warmth and affection, but also said, 'Mother, what can your son do for you?' So, the poor woman, who had come to tempt him and was burning with passion inside, was struck by these words of Buddha — 'Mother, what can your son do for you?' The lady was frozen to death, so to say. Another incident of the same kind occurred in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. When he had just finished his first four years of Sadhana at Dakshineswar. Somehow a doubt about his condition came in the minds of Rani Rasmani and her son-in-law Mathur Babu, as Sri Ramakrishna was not behaving in a normal way. They thought that he was dwelling on a very high plane and living an absolute life of continence which perhaps had led to his abnormal behaviour, and that he should be brought down to the normal plane by breaking his vow of continence. Mathur Babu hit upon a plan to tempt Sri Ramakrishna through Lakshmi Bai and other women of bad character in a house at Michuva Bazar in Calcutta. But as the Buddha said to that lady, 'Mother, what can your son do for you?' Sri Ramakrishna also immediately saw the Divine Mother in these women of illfame and cried, 'Mother, Mother,' and they all begged his pardon and saluted him again and again.

The more we proceed towards the east, the west recedes of itself. At present, we are living a life of identification with the unreal. Basically and intrinsically we are atman. We are Sat-Chit-Ananda, but we have forgotten our divine heritage. We are conscious of our biological heritage only and we live on the psycho-physical existence, on the plane of unreality. And we go on indulging in different kinds of Asat Vasanas (evil desires), which are predominant in our mind. These Asat Vasanas are to be removed by Sat Vasanas (holy desires).

We have to ensure that we do not indulge in any kind of wrong and sensuous thoughts. We all have Vasanas. Some Vasanas are in the form of seeds which, if allowed, will grow wild, will increase and multiply. The individual would feel helpless and confess, 'Oh, I have so many poweful Vasanas which drag me down to a very low plane. I just cannot escape out of it.' Now even when these Vasanas are in the seed form, we should take pains to curb and crush them and not allow them to come forth, as that will bring more of such Asat Vasanas.
So Sankaracharya, who was a great psychologist besides being a philosopher, says in Verses 312 of Vivekachudamani:
Karya-pravardhanat bijapravrddhih paridrs yate |
karya-nasat bijanasah tasmat karyam nirodhayet || —
It is seen that when the effect is developed, its seed also is developed. When the effect is destroyed, its source also is destroyed. Therefore, one should subdue the effect. When the 'effects' flourish, the seeds are observed to increase and when the 'effects' are destroyed, the seeds also are destroyed. Therefore, the effects are to be destroyed and subdued. When the seed is allowed to germinate and grow into a big tree, we get a fresh crop of millions and millions of seeds from it. If the tree is destroyed, no fresh crop of seeds will be there. So, what are we to do? We are to stop the effect, then the cause ends. The cause-effect chain is never-ending. When this body becomes incapable of expressing the Vasanas, then we have to take the help of a new body. A new body means again fresh Vasanas and again another body, and so it goes on. To break the vicious circle, we cannot do much directly with the Vasanas. Even if we attempt to do so, we shall ultimately find that unless they are removed with their very roots, there are chances of their reappearing. An illustration from our everyday life will make the point clear. Say, gardeners are employed to uproot the weeds in a flower garden. They are going on plucking out and uprooting the weeds. But the next morning, the gardeners feel helpless. For, more sprouts, more weeds have come out. Then what is the remedy? We are to remove carefully the weeds along with their roots. Even after removing the weeds with their roots, we find that in some corner of the lawn we have some fresh weeds. Perhaps there were some seeds lying scattered, ungrown. So also even though we take pains to channelise our different kinds of Vasanas into useful thoughts, we may find that some undesirable Vasanas again somehow crop up, because there were some lurking Vasanas, lying dormant. On getting a chance to grow under favourable circumstance, they appear again.
Therefore, we should never, never relax. We should go on weeding out and at the same time we should also see to it that the legacies of the past with all our bad impressions are reduced. Therefore, along with the effort with which we remove the weeds, we should also cultivate some positive attitudes. When the lawn is freed from weeds, we should plant in their place some good flower and fruit-bearing vegetation. In the same way while all sensuous thoughts are eliminated, along with that positive virtues must also be cultivated."