#2 – When Religion is the stepping stone to Spirituality!(12 mins)

OM!

Before getting started with spirituality, let’s discuss ‘Religion’, because of which I am where I am and love being today!

Religion to me is like that teacher who places a nut with its hard shell in the hand and tells us to “believe” that there is something in it. When the nut is shaken out of curiosity, there may not be anything immediately perceptible in the case of a very tightly packed nut. At such point, 1 of 4  reactions is possible:

  1. One rejects it because the inside is not immediately known/perceptible-atheists.
  2. One becomes so obsessed with the nut itself, its shape, colour, beauty and thus becomes “nut obsessed” that they even forget the possibility of something existing inside of the shell-extremely religious folks whose entire life is consumed by and ends at religion.
  3. The nut obsession itself is pushed so far that the obsessor himself turns into a nut (hehe sorry I simply couldn’t hold that back)-religious fanatics who won’t stop short of even killing.
  4. Holding the nut long enough in the hand based on some initial belief induces curiosity and questioning to the point where there is a frantic search for a tool to crack open the shell to look at what’s within it. Philosophy is that tool to crack open the nut and voila, the core is exposed-those driven into Philosophy through initial instillation of belief/faith by religion.

Points 2, 3 and 4 above clearly indicate a grounding in some belief without which the nut would have been discarded, as in 1.

It is only when that core of the nut is exposed that its very purpose is served! Similarly insist the wise, Religion has served its highest purpose only when it has led to the core of it, God!

Continue reading

Beginner Series – Blogs on advaita vedAntA!

OM!

Namaste🙏 and welcome! I am Priya, a humble seeker and privileged student of advaita vedAntA under the  tutelage of Swami Paramarthananda. Having benefitted greatly from a changed life perpective that the beautiful teachings of vedAntA have granted me, I wish to share the liberating knowledge with others who may be interested.

I propose to take you on a journey, one that is fun, full of exciting twists and turns with many new things to learn and discover, through a series of blogs. Every other trip we’ve been on so far has left us with beautiful memories. This is one journey that will change inside out the very One making the memories! Be ready to be introduced to a new, upgraded version of yourself at the end of this journey! Ready yourself for the biggest change of your life!

This journey will be in the form of blogs written in simple language incorporating everyday examples. The highest, most profound and subtlest teachings of the self and God as expounded by the vedic vision of advaita vedAntA will be unfolded here. The word “unfolding” is of significance here! Many of us spiritual seekers in the initial phase of enthusiastic spiritual seeking read and listen to matters pertaining to spirituality in a very random fashion from literally all over the place. While this is certainly not bad, such randomness is not very fruitful and productive in terms of the results it yields. Afterall, the very idea we pursue spirituality is to effectuate change in the way we live and react rather than it simply remaining as an intellectual collection of new jargon in our already crowded, busy minds. Just as a folded, ironed shirt has to be carefully unfolded in order for it to be usuable, spiritual teachings, if they have to be of good use to us mentally and emotionally, necessarily HAVE to be unfolded and received in a very systematic manner and that is the aim of these blogs.

Whom are these blogs for?

The world is in dire need of love, peace, satisfaction, compassion, contentment, kindness, unity, happiness. Today we are living life focussed on the most superficial differences which results in dividing us more and more. As long as we continue to stay divided at the level of race, colour, Religion, language, etc. any chances for happiness, untity and peace will only be a far cry. Spiritual study is the means of going past the differences even while living in them, by effectuating shift in the very way we think by teaching us to turn our awareness towards the unifying factor that connects us all. Such study is beyond the scope of Religion which still is at the realm of difference. That means, anyone with an open enough mind ready for change, belonging to any group, culture, country, sect, race or religion is welcome to join the journey.

Why read my blogs?

No, I am no learned teacher but an enthusiastic seeker and student as much as you are. That means I have  the same questions and doubts that you have! By writing these blogs, from my standpoint I stay completely immersed in the teachings which helps my understanding and assimilation better while from your standpoint I will raise the same kind of doubts and questions that might pop up in your mind. There is absolutely no taking away or replacing the process of receiving these profoundly subtle teachings from an Enlightened teacher!

I am blessed with a compassionate preceptor who gives me the teachings and also am fortunate to have plenty of time to devote to spiritual study. Into seemingly simple, short blogs, many many hours of study and contemplation go. I am happy to consolidate my efforts into blogs which might run to be about 12-14 minute reads every 10 days initially and then every 15 days as things start getting hotter! That gives a busy person enough ‘catch up time’ to take it in before the next blog is published. You don’t have to scramble and search the internet for more spiritual information, they will come to you in the right sequence as they came to me, at the right time! advaita vedAntA texts are in Sanskrit(what is considered the Mother of all Languages) and I will provide Sanskrit equivalents in red wherever appropriate. In the blog, points that I would normally consider important enough to highlight while studying will appear in green. The title will be followed by an average reading time in brackets to indicate how much time will approximately be needed for the blog.

Join me on a journey like none other and experience for yourself all the wonderful possibilities that lay ahead!

OM! Peace!

Picture credits:pixabay.com

Q.441 Creation and Morality

Q: I’ve heard/read from multiple sources that the universe/non-dual everything there is/whatever you want to call it is ‘love’. How do we know that, and why couldn’t it be hateful/evil/neutral/any other way?

A: This is the sort of statement made by ‘new-agey’ teachers. Nowhere in the scriptures (to my knowledge) is this expression used. There is ONLY brahman/Consciousness. The ‘universe’ is mithyA, which means it is not real in itself; it is just name and form of brahman. Brahman is said to be unlimited (anantam) existence (sat) Consciousness (chit) but these are only for the sake of definition/pointers. See also Q. 100 and 120.

Q: In answer to Q.120, you said: “Indeed, according to traditional advaita, part of your preparation for enlightenment involves acting unselfishly, not harming others, living a moral life etc. All the opposites do exist at this level and, if you act knowing your action to be wrong, you will incur the lawful penalty (karma).

I’m having trouble understanding why one should act ‘morally’ or ‘good’; i.e. why does karma exist at this level? Why is it set up this way?

A: The ‘bottom line’ of advaita is that there has never been any ‘creation’; no jIva has ever been born etc – there is only brahman. Obviously it does not seem like this; there is the appearance of duality and we initially believe this to be real. Accordingly, traditional advaita has a progression of teaching to accommodate this appearance. For those who still believe in duality, the teaching is aimed at the preparation of the mind to accept the more advanced teaching. This includes a world, a creator and laws applicable to the operation of the world and the action of the jIva. And the operation of cause and effect is one of these laws. If you act purposefully, you will reap the fruit of that action; if not in this life, then in the next.

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 15

On Narada Bhakti Sutras  – 15

Part – 14  

6.  FROM MARKANDEYA PURANA:

Narada happened to go to Indra’s court at a time when the celestial damsels Rambha and others were giving a dance performance.  After a while Indra enquired from Narada as to whose performance was like best by him. Narada responded by saying that the performance of that girl who danced with passion, emotion and agility was the best. The dancers were debating within themselves as to who did better, when Indra intervened and requested Narada to declare the winner. Narada announced that that girl who could excite the Sage Durwasa would top them all. A damsel by name Vapuvu accepted the challenge.

7.  FROM BRAHMAVAIVARTA PURANA:

The sons of Daksha were about to commence creation. Narada met them at that time and directed them to work for liberation instead of getting stuck with the cycles of birth and death. He successfully dissuaded them from creation.  Coming to know of the role played by Narada, Daksha complained to Brahma. Daksha then cast three spells on Narada – that Narada would take birth in the womb of Daksha’s daughter, he would be a wanderer without a stable place of stay and he would not have a wife. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 14

Part – 13  

4.  FROM ADBHUTA RAMAYANA:

The Musician Kaushika was singing melodious tunes in the Heaven. Goddess Lakshmi along with her cohorts, several Sages, Narada, Tumbura and several others visited the Heaven at that time. Goddess Lakshmi requested Tumbura to sing along with Kaushiki. After the duo performed, she honored them and bestowed gifts to them. Narada felt slighted by her action. He cursed her to  be born to wicked people and be punished by them.

Lord Vishnu then cajoled Narada and told him that Tumbura achieved special accomplishment because of his devotional singing. Vishnu asked Narada that he should go to the Manasottara Mountain range and learn singing from a bird living there if he desired similar abilities. He went to Manasottara Mountain and learnt the singing under tutorship of the bird. When he returned and met Tumbura, he discovered he was no match and felt very jealous of Tumbura. So he went back to Vishnu. Vishnu promised to teach singing to Narada when Vishnu takes birth as Krishna.

Narada approached Krishna and requested him to teach him singing. Krishna directed him to learn the singing for a year from Jambavati. After that Krishan directed him to go to each of his wives for a year and learn singing. Even then he could not master singing. Finally he was taught by Krishna. He became very skilled in singing, he became free of his jealousies and lived happily.

5.  FROM LINGA PURANA / SHIVA PURANA:

It was a time when Narada was observing askesis on the Himalayan Mountains. In order to disturb his austerities, Indra sent a few celestial damsels to distract him.  But Narada was a great devotee of Shiva. Because of the power of that devotion to Shiva, his mind was very stable and did not get lured by the damsels. Narada felt proud of his own achievement. He thought that it was because of his prowess that his mind did not waver and he did not fall for those girls’ wiles. After completing his austerities and meditation, he went to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Even though Vishnu that it was due to Shiva’s power, Narada was boastful of his ability to control his mind in not being beguiled by the celestial damsels. Vishnu decided to teach him lesson.  Narada took leave of Vishnu and proceeded on his onward journey.  Vishnu created a city at a place on Narada’s route. He also generated an attractive palatial building in the city. A voluptuous and beautiful woman by name Shrimati was also created and placed in that palace. Narada fell for her charm. He wanted to win her hand. So he went back to Vishnu and requested him to bestow the Vishnu’s looks on him.

Narada and Parvata were on a tour of the world. They reached the city where Ambarisha lived. Ambarisha received them with befitting honors. They saw the melodiously singing Shrimati at his house. They enquired about the girl. Ambarisha told them that she was his daughter. Both of them requested him to give that girl in marriage to them. As it was not possible for both of them to marry her, he agreed to give her to one of them whom she chose.  A date was fixed for Shrimati to meet both and select one of them.  Narada and Parvata met Vishnu separately without the knowledge of one another and each of them prayed to Vishnu to convert the other’s face to look like that of a monkey. Lord Vishnu fulfilled the desire of both of them. Both of them came to attend the function where Shrimati would express her choice.  Vishnu also went to witness the goings on. Everyone laughed looking at the mokey-like faces of Narada and Parvata. Shrimati chose Vishnu as her husband because of his comely features. Vishnu took her along with him.

Narada and Parvata were outraged. They cursed Ambarisha that he would become a womanizer as he failed to stick to his word of marrying Shrimati to one of them.  But Vishnu’s weapon chased them both and they had to run away.  They went to the Heaven and they saw Shrimati at Vishnu’s place. They cast a spell on Vishnu accusing him for having deceived them by making their faces look like monkeys and winning the girl of their love.  They said that Vishnu would be born as a human being, would suffer separation from his wife and would be able to join back with her with the help of monkeys. Vishnu revealed that everything happened the way it did because of the power of Shiva. Because of that curse, Vishnu eventually took birth as Rama, got separated from his wife, and could get back his wife with the help of monkeys.

(To continue …. Part – 15).

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 13

Part – 12  

2.  FROM DEVIBHAGAVATAM:

Once Narada went to visit Vishnu. Noticing that Narada was approaching them, Laksmi, the consort of Vishnu, moved away from being near to Vishnu.  Narada wondered why she had to move away seeing him who was just an aged Saint. When he enquired the reason, Vishnu remarked that it would always be better to keep distance from other males as anything might happen under the power of illusion. Narada requested Vishnu for a demonstration of his power to create illusion.  Vishnu then took Narada on a ride on his Vehicle Garuda and reached Kanyakubja. Vishnu asked Narada to have bath in a pond there. When Narada came out of the pond, he got transformed into a beautiful lady. Vishnu quietly left the place.

A King by name Taladhwaja saw the lady and fell in love with her. He took her along with him to his city. He made her his queen. They had a few sons. In course of time, some enemy kings pillaged his city. They killed all the sons. The queen was extremely grief-stricken at these developments. Lord Vishnu went to her in the guise of an old Brahmin and consoled her. He taught her about the impermanence of relationships in this world and instructed her on spiritual Knowledge. He took her along with him. He asked her to have a bath in a nearby pond. Immediately after the bath, the queen got back her original form of Narada. Narada prostrated to Vishnu and realized His powers of illusion. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 12

Part – 11  

We will now take a brief look at the Stories of Narada appearing in different purANa-s. Some of the stories repeat themselves in different purANa-s with slight to significant alterations.

Shri Vemuri Srinivasa Rao

What I write in the next 3-4 Posts will be a copy paste type of job from the magnum opus in the Telugu language authored by my Father, late Shri Vemuri Srinivasa Rao, a Lawyer. The reference is:

pUrvagAthAlahari – An Anthology of the Stories of all People and Topics Arranged in an Alphabetical Order from the Eighteen purANa-s,” by Vemrui Srinivasa Rao, Venakatrama &Co, 1958.

1.  FROM BHAGAVATAM:

Narada was the son of Brahma. He originated from Brahma’s thigh. He had neither a family nor any offspring. He never stayed in one place. The reason for that was the curse he received from Daksha. He wandered through all the worlds playing devotional songs on Lord Vishnu on Mahati (Mahati is Narada’s vINa – a stringed musical instrument). Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 11

Part 10: 

In the last ten Posts, we have had a quick synoptic view of the contours of the subject matter that we will be discussing in the coming days.

We touched on the efficacy as well as the infirmities of the only tool we have, namely the mind, to explore the various nuances of Narada’s teaching. We found that we are easily deceived by our sensory apparatus which shows us what is needed to be known at the moment in the interest of the preservation and perpetuation of the body-organism but it goes only to hide the absolute reality that exists out there. In other words, the sensory apparatus has no capacity to know what actually exists.

We have come to know that a lot of processes go on within our mind-brain system beyond our conscious awareness of the activities that go on inside our brain to show a world that is projected for us to see. We have also discovered that ‘things’ out there in the world lack physicality and even the “me” who we think “I am” is only a ghostly imaginary entity.

We had a brief look into the way our mind fantasizes a “me,” an “other,” and how it conceptualizes a savior, a world etc. The mind imagines that its unhappiness in the world is due to some “lacks and limitations.”   It tries to compensate for these lacks by conceiving a protecting Godhead in which those “lacks” don’t exist. Devotion is the way by which it gets connected to the God of its conceptualization and it hopes to get its wants fulfilled by deference to him. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 10

Part – 9

Modern Evolutionary Biologists are increasingly realizing that “thought” evolved its own survival tricks. Thoughts get replicated and passed on by ‘memes’ just like biological traits are propagated by ‘genes.’ A Meme is “an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory and gets copied to another individual’s memory” with variation and selection. Slogans, catchy tunes, many beliefs, culture are examples for memes.

Our mind has a tendency to forget certain things. Strangely it may also show things that were never seen previously by us. This is because somebody else’s experience infects our mind as a “meme” and we begin to believe that it was our own experience. Dr. Grant says, “An idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior.” It then causes you to tell your friends, “thus exposing them to the idea-virus.”

Thus Memes spread like viruses using human beings as carriers. In a way all our thoughts are infections. There is nothing like an original thought. The word ‘meme’ was coined by Prof. Dawkins in the late seventies. But our sages recognized the havoc memes could play thousands of years ago. Maharshi Vasishta tells in Yogavasishta the delightful story of how Sage Gadhi was confused and befuddled when his mind was infected by other’s experiences. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 9

Part – 8 

At the end of Part – 7 we made a reference to the tricks that our mind plays on us.

I think I can safely bet that all of us (unless you are yourself a magician) wonder how a magician or trickster pulls off a trick fooling us right in front of our eyes.  Magicians and tricksters take full advantage of the fact that beyond the radar of our ability to consciously detect things, our brain and mind do many things unknown to us. By a sleight of hand or carrying out an elaborate illusion, they hack into our brains with their skill.

Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde and her husband Dr. Stephen Macknik, Neuroscientists at Barrows Institute in USA have been studying the magician’s tricks for the last few years. From their work and the research of many other scientists, we are understanding much better about the way our cognitive mechanisms work in showing us the objective world we “think” we see out there.  Continue reading