Friday, July 27, 2018

The struggle for liberation

Once there was an innocent person living in a village. one night he was walking outside the village and he saw a well there. He looked down the well to see if there is any water and to his utter shock he found the Moon there, drowned in the well. He thought, "how can the villagers live without the Moon?" and decided to rescue the Moon at any cost. So, he gathered a rope and a bucket and started drawing the water out of the well. 

He continued this for hours and suddenly the rope broke and the man fell flat on his back. Lo! there he saw the Moon in the sky. He was overwhelmed with joy that he was finally able to rescue the Moon from the well and thus saved the lives of all the villagers.

This story may look silly at the outset, but if we think deeper it resembles our struggle for liberation. The Moon is the Omnipresent Brahman. The well is our gross-body and the water in it is the subtle-body. as long as the subtle-body is present, we see a reflection of the Brahman in it as Atman and believe that the Atman is bound by the body and needs to be liberated. The rope with a bucket at the end of it is the spiritual practice we do in order to liberate the Atman. as long as we strive to clear the mind out, we suffer from the grief of that bondage. 

But, as soon as the rope breaks and we start looking up instead of looking down into the well, we realize that the Atman was just a reflection of the Brahman and was never bound by the body or any other worldly things. There is nothing in this creation that can bind the Brahman. So, we have always been in a state of liberation, but we don't realize that as we keep looking into the well(the body) and identify ourselves with the Moon's reflection there. As soon as we turn this worldly outlook towards the divine, we realize our state of liberty.

So, does that mean we need not do any spiritual practice, or Sadhana? No, it doesn't mean that. We should keep doing the Sadhana, but the purpose of it should be to change our outlook, rather than to liberate ourselves. The mere thought of bondage in itself is a bondage that obstructs our vision from realizing our true state of liberation. As the great Gurus say, the mind is the key. As you can see daily at your home, the same key when turned in one direction, locks the door and when turned the other way unlocks it. In the same sense, when the mind is turned towards the world, it leads to the illusion of bondage. But when the same mind is turned towards the almighty, it leads to the realization of our liberated state.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Four learnings from the Char Dham Yatra

Sri Guru Maharaj recently granted me the great opportunity to participate in the Char Dham Yatra along with Pujya Sri Mathaji and other devotees. Since it's yatra of four holy places, wanted to share four things I learned/observed during the yatra.
As we went through the Himalayas we observed that many mountains were converted into farm lands through the process of step farming. We all know that it's the nature of water to always reach the lowest altitude. So all the rain that falls on a mountain directly follows down to the valley. To retain the water on the mountain, the farmer flattens a small portion of the slope and constructs a retaining wall. This will retain the water and make the soil ready for cultivation. He then flattens the next part of the slope and constructs another retaining wall so that any overflow of water can be retained in the next step. Like this the whole slope of the mountain is converted into several steps and used for farming.
If we imagine the mountain as God and the rain water as our mind, when we try to concentrate our mind on God, it keeps sliding down to the worldly things. The mind never likes to stay in place and always has the lust to wander, shop etc. So a Sadguru constructs retaining walls like yatra, deeksha, puja, japa, homa, etc to still retain the mind on God while we do our favorite things like travel and shopping.
The second thing we witnessed was the origins or holy rivers like Ganga and Yamuna. A river is formed with rain water from a mountain which in turn was the evaporated water from the ocean. Once a river forms, it starts it's journey to go back and merge with it's origin, the ocean. At the starting of a river there are huge rocks and big boulders washed off from the mountains by the mighty force of the river. The river also flows very actively with gushing sound. But as the river advances, the rocks keep colliding with each other and turn into small stones and finally sand and dirt. At the stage the river turns calm and serene. Finally when the river merges with the ocean it leaves behind that dirt too.
In the same way when we start our spiritual journey to reach our origin, the God, we are filled with the big rocks of our good and bad qualities, or Gunas. They keep colliding with each other throughout the journey reminiscent of the epic battle of Mahabharata. As we progress in the journey these Gunas diminish into insignificant proportions and we attain Sthitaprajnatva. Finally we leave out all these Gunas when we merge with God.
The third thing we observed was the ghat road. In plains the roads are straight and we don't see anything twice on the road. But the roads on the mountains go back and forth on the same side of the mountain and we see the same scenes again and again. One may think why are we going on the same road again and again, but we should understand that with each iteration we are attaining new heights. Same way, in a wordly curriculum there is no repetition. Punarukti, or repeating same words is even called a dosham. But in spiritual curriculum, we keep listening to the same concepts in the discourses and one may wonder why am I listening to the same things again or doing same yatra or puja every time. But we should realize that with each repetition we are attaining new spiritual heights.
The fourth thing we observed was that there are two kinds of mountains, those made of hard rock and those made of soft soil and small rocks. The rocky mountains are tightly packed and hardly have any tall trees, unlike the soily mountains that are loosely held together and host a lot of tall trees. It's very hard to construct roads on the rocky mountains but once constructed, the road is safe and free from risks of roadblocks by mudslides and trees falling. On the other hand it's easy to construct roads on the soft mountains but you always have the risk of the above mentioned roadblocks.
Great Gurus like Sri Babuji Maharaj went through the hardest of Adhyatmik Sadhana at a very tender age and through their hard work constructed the safest road for our spiritual journey. On the other hand those who give discourses by simply reading some books and memorizing, lead us on a road full of risks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Our True State

Recently I underwent a surgery. The doctor was talking to me and I was narrating my experiences with our Gurudev Sri Babuji Maharaj. Slowly they passed chloroform thru my oxygen mask and I slipped into unconsciousness. When I regained consciousness, the first thing that came to my mind was what was "I" during the past few moments?

As long as we are awake we keep thinking and saying, "I did this, I did that" etc. And in our dreams also we have the concept of "I" and we identify ourselves with a body, even though the body in the dream may look different from the physical one. We think we lose our connection with the body during deep sleep, but that's not true. We still identify ourselves with the body and its name. That's why we wake up when our name is called. We even maintain relation with our close family and identify their voices while in sleep. We also recognize when the fan or AC is switched off. Thus, we still identify ourselves with the body even while in sleep.

But when chloroform is given, we completely lose the concept of "I". In fact that state is concept-less, experience-less, thoughtless, emotionless, formless and nameless. That's our true state. Our Gurudev Sri Babuji Maharaj used to say "The state you are in while on chloroform, you have to be in that state even when your body is awake and going about its daily duties. That's the true state of liberation."

I also remembered a verse from our Gurudev's charitra at that moment - "Moolaabhavam idam jnatam sareeram naasthi kevalam. Swapne prateeyamaanaani roopani yadha tadha" "In the root concept there is no experience or thought. There is no body itself. This body and all its belongings and relations are as true as the things in a dream."

When we wake up from a dream we easily write it off saying it was just a dream and not real. But as long as we were in that dream, we strongly believe whatever we see or experience to be true and real. Similarly when we are awake, we strongly believe our body and all the things we experience through it are real. And when someone says this is all just a dream, it's very hard for us to accept it. But just think, when we slip into the final sleep, leave this body and take another birth, if someone tells us the events of our past life, don't we realize that that was all not real? When we wake up from a dream and again go into sleep the next day, the same dream will not continue. That's why it's easy for us to believe that it was not true. But when we sleep and wake up the next day, our life continues to be same, and thus hard for us to believe that it is not real. But there is a final sleep for this body after which we wake up in a different body and the whole previous life of 80, 90 or 100 years turns out to be just a dream.

When we truly realize the non-existence of this body and everything related to it, we attain the state where there is no thought, experience, form, name, relation or any other worldly concept. That's our true state of liberation.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The illusion of our bondage

We all have the hidden feeling that we are bound by the material world and have the urge to be liberated from the vicious cycle of rebirth. But is the bondage real? Let's ponder over it. Once upon a time there was a merchant who was travelling to another village to bring the goods for selling in his village. He took a herd of donkeys along with him to carry the goods back. While he was passing through a jungle, it became dark and he was forced to halt there for the night. So, he started tying the donkeys one by one to a big tree with a rope. When it was the last donkey's turn, the remaining rope was not enough to tie it to the tree. He was worried that the donkey may wander into the jungle in the middle of the night.

A saint also happened to come to the same tree to spend the night. He inquired why the merchant was so worried. When told about the rope not being enough to tie the last donkey, the saint said, "Child! it's a donkey and it doesn't know. Just pretend of tying the donkey to the tree with the rope and it will stay here the whole night." The merchant couldn't believe it but he had no choice but to follow the advice. The next morning he was happy to see the donkey still there. He started untying each donkey and patting them on the back to get them started on the journey. 

As the last donkey was not tied, in his view, he just patted the donkey on the back. To his surprise, the donkey didn't move. It didn't move even after multiple pats. As the saint woke up, the merchant pleaded for his help again. The saint said, "untie the donkey and it will move." Perplexed, the merchant wondered, "But sir! I never tied it in the first place." The saint calmly replied, "It's a donkey and it doesn't know. It thought last night that you tied it. Just pretend to untie it and it will move." The merchant followed the advice and the donkey moved!.

Now, let's come back to our feeling of bondage. Isn't it the same feeling the donkey had the whole night? We don't understand that the whole world is an illusion and it doesn't have the power to bind us. Our true state is of liberated. We are only bound by our ignorance and the illusion of bondage. In Vedanta they give an example of illusion. It's called Rajju Sarpa Bhranthi. When there is a coil of rope lying on the ground and you see it in semi-darkness, you see a serpent lying there. Once the fear of the serpent seeps into your mind, you start seeing the movements and hearing the hisses. This fear from illusion can only be quashed by someone bringing a light. When the light drives away the darkness, you realize that it's just a rope and not a snake. There has always been the rope and never a snake. But it was an illusion because of the semi-darkness. Another example is the illusion of a thief looking at a tree trunk in the semi-darkness.

If we think deeper, in both the examples the non-moving thing is mistaken to be a moving thing. In the same way there is only God all around, who is omnipresent and thus has no space to move. And in the darkness of ignorance, we mistake Him to be the moving world and feel bound by it. For this illusion to occur there are two prerequisites - darkness and prior knowledge of the moving thing. Since the day of our birth, we have been feeding the knowledge of the moving world to our minds through the five senses. And we are living in the darkness of ignorance.

The knowledge of the world always leads sorrow only. For example, let's say we go out in the morning wearing a new shirt and a crow poops on the back. As long as we don't know about it, we go around our daily activities happily. We meet friends and colleagues, eat out and do all kinds of happy stuff. And in the evening someone notices the bird-poop on our back and intimates us. That moments on wards, we constantly think of it and feel ashamed and lose our peace of mind until we go home and change the dress. As long as we didn't know about the worldly things we live happily. But once we gain the knowledge we lose the happiness.

Let's take another example. We work and earn money. We feel happy and contented with whatever we are being paid. But, once we know one of our colleagues is being paid more than us, we feel constantly disturbed. Thus the knowledge of the world and the ignorance of the spiritual gives us the illusion of bondage. Like in the example of the rope and the snake, when the Guru comes with the light of spiritual knowledge and shows us the real world(God), we ignore the illusion of the world as we know and be in a blissful state forever.

It's hard to believe that there is only God and this world is non-existent. But let's take the example of a dream. As long as we are in the dream, we never realize that it's not real. We go through all the emotions and experiences that are brought in our way in the dream. We feel fear, sorrow, pain and all other emotions as real as they can be. But once we wake up and realize that it was a dream, all our sorrows and fears go away and a smile comes to our face. In the same way when we wake up to the true spiritual reality, we realize that this material world is not real and it has no more power bind us.

In the Vedanta they say "Kevala Mokshapeksha Sankalpo Bandhah" - "Even the desire to be liberated is a bondage". Why so? Because as long as you desire to be liberated, you still have the bondage. Spiritual liberation is not something to be achieved. It's only to be realized. Because that is the ultimate reality and the bondage is only an illusion.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Inquiry

Our Gurudev Sri Babuji Maharaj used to narrate a story. There were this group of people called Gunupudi Jangams. They didn't have any personal possessions and used to beg for a livelihood. Once they all met in a place and wanted to build houses for themselves. As they didn't have any money for buying bricks, cement etc. they looked around and found a field of banana trees. They found the banana trunks so round and shiny and thought they would make great pillars for the house. They cut the trees and constructed houses for each one of them with the banana trunks as pillars and the leaves as roof.

One of the Jangams wanted to know what is inside the banana trunk. He took a knife and started peeling the layers of the trunk one-by-one. Finally, there was nothing left except for himself. A short while later a huge gust of wind blew and all the houses made of banana trunks fell down. the Jangams were very sad and started crying. but the one Jangam that did the inquiry into the true nature of the banana trunk already knew that it wouldn't last long and he remained blissful as ever.

In Vedanta, there is a process of inquiry called "Neti Neti Vicharana" - meaning inquiry that rules out all the things that are not "I". The inquirer starts with all the worldly things he finds around him and rules each one of them out realizing "This is not I, this is not I." Then he realizes his own body, mind and intellect are also not himself. By such inquiry one realizes the true "I" or "Atma". Once he realizes that there is no fear or sorrow of losing the worldly things and he remains in his blissful state no matter what comes his way.

Thus, he attains the true state of a Sthita-Prajna as described in the Bhagavad Gita. No joy or sorrow can touch him as he realizes his oneness with the all-pervading almighty. Sri Gurudev used to give another example also for this kind of inquiry. He used to say, "You start peeling the layers of an onion to see what's really inside it. Once you peel of all the layers, there is nothing left except 'You'." 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The secret to peace of mind

We all want peace of mind, but don't know how to get it. But first let's see what's causing restlessness to the mind. There are two things that rob us of our peace. The constant desire to get something that we don't possess and the constant fear of losing the things that we already possess.

I'm sure most of us do impulse buying the moment we see something new out attractive on a shopping site or a store. And if we can't afford it, we start saving for it and always keep thinking about it. This causes restlessness and we lose the peace of mind. We also have the constant fear and tension of losing our jobs, relationships and other pricey possessions. This builds stress and then there's no scope for peace.

Our Vedanta philosophy prescribed four tools in the path to attain Moksha. These are called Sadhana Chatushtayam. And the first two are "Nityanitya Vastu Vivekam - the wisdom to differentiate between the permanent and the temporary and always seek the permanent" and "Ihaamutrardha Phala Bhoga Viragam - renunciation of the desire towards both the earthly and the heavenly outcomes of your deeds."

Our Gurudev Sri Babuji Maharaj used to say, "always remember that every breath could be your last breath." I used to wonder, "wouldn't that cause more tension and constant fear?" But to the contrary I recently found that this is the secret key to peace of mind. 

We came to know about 5-6 months back that we are moving back from USA to our Ashram. Suddenly we lost interest in buying anything that's not absolutely needed in our remaining stay in USA. Even if we went to a shop or a mall, we mostly return without buying anything. The same things that once used to attract us now evoke a mere indifference. We now buy only things that are essential for our temporary stay here. Isn't that the first tool of sadhana mentioned above? 

And the fear and tension about losing the job or not satisfying the bosses evaporated into thin air. There is this sense of fulfillment that nothing needs to protected against now. I was still doing my work to the full potential but now there is nothing to fear. There is nothing I can get by doing more work and nothing I can lose by not satisfying others. Isn't that the second tool of sadhana?

This lack of desire and protection from fear is what lead to ultimate peace of mind. Even though these few months were daunting both physically and mentally, the peace of mind we are experiencing is priceless. We all know that our stay in this world is temporary and we all need to die one day. But we keep forgetting that fact and constantly indulge in desires and fear losing our possessions. Just imagine - if knowledge of the departure from a foreign country back to your native place can lead to such a peace of mind then what ultimate bliss we can achieve by knowing our departure from this land to the abode of our creator. If we practice to remember the ultimate truth of our lives, we stop desiring and only work for what is absolutely necessary. And since we know that we can't take anything with us, the fear of losing things also vanishes. But this is possible only when we are assured that we are going back to the lotus feat of our creator and not going to have another birth in a different form. And only a true and able Guru (Samartha Sadguru) can give that assurance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

True Transformation

Once upon a time there was sage living in his ashram. One morning, while he was offering his prayers to the Sun god, a small mouse fell in his hands from the sky. It was being carried by an eagle and badly wounded. The sage felt pity on the mouse and transformed it into a human girl to protect it from the eagle. He took the girl to his ashram and nurtured her as his own daughter. The daughter grew up in the ashram and attained ripe age for marriage.

The sage wanted to marry his daughter to the most powerful person in the world. When the sage thought about the potential bridegrooms, he realized that the Sun is the most powerful in the whole visible world around us. So, he asked his daughter, "Dear, I want you to marry the most powerful person in the world. And I see that the Sun is the most powerful in the whole world. Are you willing to marry the Sun god?" The daughter replied, "You are right father, but a small cloud could obstruct the power of the mighty Sun. Isn’t the cloud more powerful?" The sage replied, “OK, so will you marry the cloud god?” “But father, when the wind blows it could easily scatter away the thickest of the clouds. Isn’t the wind more powerful than the clouds?”

The sage asked again, “so, you want to marry the wind god?” “No father. Please think about it. Even the most powerful winds are blocked by a mountain. Isn’t the mountain mightier than the wind?” reasoned the daughter. “So, how about you marry the mountain god?” “Don’t rush father! I agree a mountain is mighty. But a small mouse can easily dig a tunnel through the mountain. Isn’t the mouse the most powerful creature in the whole world?” The disappointed sage said, “My child, I transformed your body from that of a mouse to a human and raised you for so many years in my ashram, but I couldn’t transform your mind. You better be a mouse and live your own life,” and transformed her back into a mouse.

Similarly a Guru offers protection to the disciples in distress and raises them as his own children. A Guru’s one and only desire is to liberate the disciples from the shackles of illusion and make them attain the ultimate peace and bliss that he constantly experiences. But we, the disciples fail to follow his directions and instead desire and seek the most mundane pleasures. We pester the Gurus for things like promotions, marriages, children, wealth, health etc. while they seek to liberate us from this whole cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It doesn’t matter if we live in an ashram, dress like devotees and perform all the religious rituals. As long as our mind does not transform and progress on the path shown by the Guru, there is no use of the bodily transformations.