Q: There are moments when I think I am the one that is creating my world with my specific positive thoughts – is that true?
Or is it the concsiouness bringing me those positive thoughts or negative thoughts? I know that I don’t have to ask for anything because in that way there is an infinite possibility of something fresh and new and totally different.
How do I pray? In silence only doing meditation?
A (Sitara): Yes, it is true. Your experiences (positive as well as negative ones) are constructs of your mind. The question is, what do you do with this information?
It seems that all of your questions are about, how to get a different life. For that you would like to know the mechanism of what in New Age (or Yoga, magic etc.) is called materialization of things, events, persons etc.
There are three ways to change one’s life that you feel you have at your disposal:
1. active materialization, using certain esoteric techniques,
2. praying for specific things or
3. silently meditating, trusting that whatever is best for you will materialize out of the infinite possibilities life bears.
I understand that you want to know the best of these three, i.e. the method that would produce the best results for yourself and/or others.
Now, first of all, these considerations have nothing to do with Vedanta. They are related to what is called the Karma Kanda section of the Vedas, which prescribes certain rituals, charms, healing formulas etc. in order to improve one’s life in a holistic way.
Vedanta is the other part of the Vedas, called Jnana Kanda, which concerns itself exclusively with understanding the true nature of oneself, God and World while teaching that these apparently three different entities are one and the same, namely consciousness, and that consciousness is all there is.
This touches on your second question: ‘Or it is the consciousness bringing me those positive thoughts or negative thoughts?‘
Consciousness being identical with existence itself neither does anything (there would need to be at least one other entity in order for consciousness to be active) nor is it realized by doing or changing anything. It is realized entirely by inquiry into God, world and oneself with the help of a Self realized teacher who knows the Jnana Kanda and how its content is to be made available to a seeker.
But there is something in this question that does point closer to the truth than the assumption that you could fabricate your reality. While it is true that your mind constructs your reality, it is not true that anyone would be able to think exactly the kind of thought that will bring about a certain reality. First of all you do not have such handling of your thoughts. Secondly you do not have the knowledge that would enable you to think the right thought at the right moment in order to produce a certain result. Objects, such as thoughts, appear in, and as, consciousness without the mind being able to direct them. Why not? Because thoughts/mind/objects in essence are consciousness and, as said, consciousness does not do anything.
Most people who claim that they are able to direct the course of their lives, by choosing the right thoughts at the right moments, deceive themselves (and others). There are very few, for example yogis, magicians etc., who have dedicated their whole lives to the art of concentrating their thoughts as to actually bring about those certain results. It requires huge amount of effort and you really have to ask yourself whether you are ready to invest that much time and energy into it.
Yet, as I read from your question, you are actually not yet interested in realizing your true Self (this realization may not improve the circumstances of your life in any way!) but more concerned about improving the circumstances of your life. My advice to you is to aim for developing a karma yoga lifestyle. Allow me to quote from another of my essays (http://www.astro-sitara.de/essay_en.php?show=49 ):
[Karma is a Sanskrit term meaning action. Karma yoga means acting with a certain attitude. (…)
To be able to be called karma yoga, actions must meet the following three requirements:
1. The ultimate goal of everything one does is moksha and not security or well being (see http://www.astro-sitara.de/essay_en.php?show=38 ).
2. No matter what action is performed, the karma yogi takes the following decisive stance: I do what I can do and know that the result of my action does not lie in my hands (see http://www.astro-sitara.de/essay_en.php?show=46 ). This means that although I stand behind my actions I am not identified with them.
For this Vedanta inevitably includes ‘the divine’. The divine is nothing but the totality of all natural law and order and their seamless interlocking. It is called Ishvara. Karma yoga means: I act in the best of my knowledge and leave the result to Ishvara. (more about prayer: http://www.advaita-vision.org/prayer-for-advaitins/ )
3. Ethical action – ethics following a relatively simple basic pattern: I treat others as I would like to be treated and I do not treat others in a way as I myself would not like to be treated. This basic pattern is called dharma and dharma is considered to be universal. As nobody likes to be hurt one should, for example, take care not to hurt anybody. As nobody likes to be cheated, one should not cheat anyone etc. Of course in particular cases one must consider the cultural, social and individual context, but with this rule of thumb one can go quite far.
Whoever starts to cultivate a karma yoga life style his mind clears, he develops self-control and absence of doubt – characteristics that one needs to walk the path of knowledge.]
As to your question about prayer versus meditation – these should not be taken as two separate things. Both help you to develop more equanimity, which, in itself will greatly improve your life. If you want specific things, see to it that they are in accordance with dharma and pray for them with all your trust and love for the divine. If it so happens that you do not get what you prayed for, in spite of doing your very best in order to get the desired result, trust that right now this too is best for you and everyone concerned.
A (Peter): I’d like to take your questions in order:
Q1: There are moments when I think I am the one that is creating my world with my specific positive thoughts: is that true?
A1: Getting what you want simply by thinking about it is not as simple as authors of books like ‘The Secret’ and ‘What the Bleep…’ make out. If this were absolutely true, then you would not be hesitant about your ability to produce results using positive thoughts (as implied in your question).
The enormous karma kāṇḍa section of the Vedas is packed with rituals and mantras that can produce tangible results. These are not only massively complex, involving the requirement for total precision in execution and chanting, but they are also fraught with high risk. If the ritual is mis-performed, then the merit of the performer and several generations of her or his family will be destroyed! This is specifically mentioned in the Upanishads as a way of cautioning against going down this route. Parallel to the route of the ritualist is the path of understanding. Understand the truth of who you are, and the craving for controlling/changing how things are will cease being a driving force in your life. What more could you want when you are fullness itself? What more happiness can you gain when your are happiness itself?
What one faces in life is explained in Vedānta by the law of karma. Every action you perform will have two levels of consequence: visible and invisible. We are very familiar with the visible in a general way: you eat food and hunger is satisfied; you go to work and get paid at the end of the month, etc. The invisible, however, is not appreciated. This results from how you perform actions. Unethical, immoral action is like sending yourself a self-addressed parcel of pain for your future life. Performing an action in the right way, at the right time, for the right person, in appropriate measure is like sending yourself a self-addressed parcel of happiness for the next life. So whatever you experience today is only triggering the delivery of one of these self-addressed parcels. And these parcels don’t always correspond with what you expect from what you do now, but are delivered when the time for delivery is right.
Haven’t you noticed that things you do never produce the precise result you wanted? If it’s positive and makes you happy, then it’s a past action that delivered it and all elements from your environment are drawn to deliver it. If it’s the opposite, then that too is from the past. The question now becomes: how do you face success or failure? With evenness of mind? Or are you reactive, thus triggering the sending off of yet another self-addressed parcel of pain? The law of action is massively complex and requires a number of factors to come together, including grace. But all of this is earned by you alone.
Q2: …is it consciousness that is bringing me those positive thoughts or negative thoughts?
A2: Without consciousness there can be no thought. But is consciousness some sort of active agent? No. Consciousness is merely the sum total of all knowledge of every tiny detail of law and order, of names and forms, of functions and consequences. It doesn’t trigger thoughts but all thoughts are lit by falling within the light of consciousness. This is just in the same way as everything falling within the reach of sunlight comes to view, but the sun is not somehow willing the illumination of this that or the other: it’s merely the nature of sun that allows things that fall within its scope to get illumined.
Q3. How do I pray?
A3. Here are some broad-brush guidelines:
1. Be clear about what prayer can and cannot achieve: it invokes grace – the hidden factor – to bless the action
2. Be clear about who are praying to.
3. Be very clear about what you are praying for.
4. Don’t entertain any doubt about the efficacy of prayer (which, again, seems to be implied in your questions).
5. Don’t be unrealistic in your expectations (e.g. sitting at home and praying for £1million is unrealistic).
6. Pray from the heart and not from the head.
Q4. (Do I pray) in silence only doing meditation?
A4. Payer invokes grace. Meditation is designed to still the turbulent mind. Both are connected by being directed towards saguṇa Brahman, the Lord. So they are two things in terms of intention but, in those moment when the mind is totally focussed on the Lord, meditation and prayer are one. If the mind is put to sleep by meditation then it is not prayer.
All that is talked about above is, at best preparatory if performed with a devotional attitude; so a concept of a deity is essential. But, at best, the results will be temporary. To find permanent happiness, contentment and peace, there is only one thing to do: remove the ignorant notions that hide your true self from yourself. Pray, therefore, that you find a teacher and a teaching and the conditions that are most propitious for this end.
A (Dhanya): In terms of the world of experience, aka duality, we can say there are two types of realities. One in Sanskrit is known as Ishvara shristi, and the other is known as jiva shristi.
These two can also be referred to as objective and subjective reality. Ishvara shristi—objective reality—is the reality we all share. In Ishvara shristi—objective reality—water is wet, fire is hot, the wind blows, and if I drop something, it will fall to the ground due to the force of gravity.
Subjective reality—or jiva shristi—is the individual’s ‘take’ or projection onto objective, shared reality. Thus if a person gives me a look I find to be strange I might think that person doesn’t like me. But in reality that person might have a speck of dust in his eye, and what I think is going on, and what is actually going on are two different things.
In this sense, in subjective reality, in jiva shristi, we do create our own realities. We project our own individual views and opinions onto the reality we all share, and this may create a lot of suffering for us.
The less we project our individual views onto the total reality, the more objective we become, the more clearly we see things as they are, and the less we suffer.
We suffer less because we come to appreciate that within Ishvara shristi, or the ‘big picture,’ events are taking place along the lines of a much larger order than our individual minds can fathom.
When we are objective, we learn to trust, and to lessen our individual projections onto situations as they unfold. We learn to ‘let go, let God.’ And if there is something we feel needs to be changed we can take action, but we do so knowing that the result of our action is not in our hands, but rather in the hands of the total order. Gaining that understanding relieves stress and brings mental peace.
Our negative or positive thoughts, i.e. our individual projections or takes on duality, are probably a result of our psychological conditioning; and as such we can say they come from the total order, or God, as everything unfolds according to that order. We can endeavor to make our thoughts more positive by adopting certain attitudes, and one of those attitudes would be to become more objective to life’s situations as they unfold.
Seeing things objectively is a very sane and rational view to have. We can apply the scientific knowledge we have to appreciate that some events unfold along the lines of a certain order. And we can logically extend that understanding to apply to the unfolding of events the causes of which we don’t understand or are not available for our knowledge.
If we have this view we have much more ease toward the events in world of duality as they unfold.
If you want something why not pray for it? Why not ask? In asking, you place your self as an individual in relationship to God—the total order. You can pray silently or out loud, or in whatever way feels appropriate to you. You have the freedom to make requests.
When one prays, a good attitude to have would be, “I’m asking for this, but if it doesn’t happen, I accept what happens as a result of the total order.”
This is called ‘prasada buddhi.’ I make a prayer, and the prayer is my offering, and I accept the result as prasad, as a sacred gift from the giver of the result of action, which is the total order, which is God.
A (Dennis): The reality of the world is the same as the reality of yourself. It is as a result of believing in its separate existence and assigning names to perceived separate forms that you effectively create ‘your’ world. The choices that you make here are governed by your particular nature, which is governed in turn by your past actions.
Consciousness, which is what you really are, is unlimited. There is no need to look for anything ‘fresh and different’. Such an idea results from believing yourself to be limited.
Silence and meditation (and prayer) will help prepare the mind but only self-knowledge will solve your (perceived) problems.