Monday, November 16, 2009

The Value of Practice

"Realization takes time to steady itself. The Self is certainly within the direct experience of everyone but not in the way people imagine. One can only say that it is as it is. Just as incantations or other devices can prevent fire from burning a man when otherwise it would do so, so vasanas (inherent tendencies impelling one to desire one thing and shun another) can veil the Self when otherwise it would be apparent. Realization takes time to steady itself. Spasmodic Realization is not enough to prevent re-birth, but it can not become permanent as long as there are vasanas." --Sri Ramana Maharshi

In Advaita Vedanta there are two schools: vivarana and bhamati. We can call vivarana the talking school and bhamati the practicing school. The talking school is focused on intensive study of the Upanishads and the practicing school is focused on the removal of vasanas.


Of these two schools, vivarana is the most popular--even in India. This popularity of the talking school underscores something I believe is quite common for any thinking person: the thinking person may easily presume that he or she has not resolved a certain problem or issue, because he or she has not thought well enough about it. Talking gives us food for thinking.

Of course, the main idea with vivarana is that what we think about is to be the Truth revealed through the Sruti and other scriptures. For example, if we think about "Aham Brahmasmi"--"I am the Supreme Reality" then this helps us to realize "I am the Supreme Reality". Yet we can ask, "Is this really how things work? Does thinking about how I already am the Self, help me to realize that I already am the Self? Does thinking make it so? If not, what does?"


If we turn to the bhamati view we find the teaching on vasanas. So we may ask, "What are vasanas?" They are inherent tendencies in our karana sharira or deep sleep body. What we see as human beings are things that manifest within our waking or dreaming states. We can not see the things within our karana sharira because they have not manifested yet. But the bhamati teachings on vasanas say that our inherent tendencies are seeds of good or bad that will manifest into our dreaming and/or waking states if the appropriate conditions arise.

A simple way to understand the karana sharira and our vasanas is to rely on the metaphor of the ground. We all know that the ground is filled with many kinds of seeds. Some of the seeds will grow into fruit-bearing plants, and other seeds will grow into weeds. Everything starts with the seed and once there is a certain kind of seed, then the outcome is simply a matter of time and circumstance. In order to not have weeds grow up from the ground, that ground has to be purged of its bad seeds. It has to be purified.

We many wonder, "How do I transform the vasanas in my karana sharira when they have not yet manifested?"

In the outer world a seed can not be transformed, but in the inner world a seed can be transformed. In the spiritual world our vasanas are transformed from bad to good through practice. Therefore practice is important because practice is what changes the quality of what manifests.

In a transformed life experience it is not only easier for us to live in harmony with others, it is also more probable that we will be able to meditate on and realize the Self.

om tat sat

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 108 Holy Names of Ganesha

Om Vinayakaya Namaha
Adoration to the Peerless One
Om Vighnarajaya Namaha
Adoration to the Ruler of Obstacles
Om Gauripatraya Namaha
Adoration to the Son of Gauri
Om Ganesvaraya Namaha
Adoration to the Lord of Categories
Om Skandagrajaya Namaha
Adoration to the First-born, Skanda's Elder
Om Avyayaya Namaha
Adoration to the Inexhaustible One
Om Putaya Namaha
Adoration to the Pure One
Om Dakshaya Namaha
Adoration to the Skillful One
Om Adhyakshaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who presides
Om Dvijapriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of the twice-born
Om Agnigarbhachide Namaha
Adoration to Him who contains fire within
Om Indrasripradaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Power to Indra
Om Vanipradaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Speech
Om Avyayaya Namaha
Adoration to the Inexhaustible One
Om Sarvasiddhipradaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of All Fulfillment
Om Sarvatanayaya Namaha
Adoration to the Son of Siva
Om Sarvaripriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of night
Om Sarvatmakaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is the soul of all
Om Srishtikatre Namaha
Adoration to the Creator
Om Devaya Namaha
Adoration to the Resplendent One
Om Anekarchitaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is worshipped by multitudes
Om Sivaya Namaha
Adoration to the Auspicious One
Om Suddhaya Namaha
Adoration to the Pure One
Om Buddhipriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of intelligence
Om Santaya Namaha
Adoration to the Peaceful One
Om Brahmacharine Naamaha
Adoration to Him who is celibate
Om Gajananaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has an elephant's face
Om Dvaimatreyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has two mothers
Om Munistutyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is praised by sages
Om Bhaktavighnavinasanaya Namaha
Adoration to the Destoyer of Devotees' obstacles
Om Ekadantaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has one tusk
Om Chaturbahave Namaha
Adoration to Him who has four arms
Om Chaturaya Namaha
Adoration to the Ingenious One
Om Saktisamyutaya Namaha
Adoration to the Powerful One
Om Lambodaraya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has a large belly
Om Surpakarnaya Namaha
Adoration to Him whose ears are like winnowing fans
Om Haraye Namaha
Adoration to Him who is lion-like
Om Brahmaviduttamaya Namaha
Adoration to the foremost knower of Brahman
Om Kalaya Namaha
Adoration to the Embodiment of Time
Om Grahapataye Namaha
Adoration to the Lord of Planets
Om Kamine Namaha
Adoration to Him who is love
Om Somasuryagnilochanaya Namaha
Adoration to Him whose eyes are the sun & the moon
Om Pasankusadharaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who weilds the noose and goad
Om Chandaya Namaha
Adoration to Him whose actions are rhythmical
Om Gunatitaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who transcends qualities
Om Niranjanaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is without blemish
Om Akalmashaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is without impurity
Om Svayamsiddhaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who achieved fulfillment by himself
Om Siddharchitapadambujaya Namaha
Adoration to Him whose lotus feet sages worship
Om Bijapuraphalasaktaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of pomegranates
Om Varadaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Boons
Om Sasvataya Namaha
Adoration to the Unchanging One
Om Krutine Namaha
Adoration to Him who works incessantly
Om Dvijapriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of the twice-born
Om Vitabhayaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is free from fear
Om Gadine Namaha
Adoration to Him who weilds the mace
Om Chakrine Namaha
Adoration to Him who wields the discus
Om Ikshuchapadhrite Namaha
Adoration to Him who holds the sugarcane bow
Om Sridaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Wealth
Om Ajaya Namaha
Adoration to the Unborn One
Om Utpalakaraya Namaha
Adoration to Him who hold the blue ltus blossom
Om Sripataye Namaha
Adoration to the Lord of Wealth
Om Stutiharshitaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who rejoices in praise
Om Kuladribhettre Namaha
Adoration to Him who supports the mountain ranges
Om Jatilaya Namaha
Adoration to the Intricate One
Om Kalikalmashanasanaya Namaha
Adoration to the Destroyer of Kali's Impurity
Om Chandrachudamanaye Namaha
Adoration to Him who wears a moon on his head
Om Kantaya Namaha
Adoration to the Beloved One
Om Papaharine Namaha
Adoration to the Destroyer of Wickedness
Om Samahitaya Namaha
Adoration to the Attentive One
Om Asritaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is our refuge
Om Srikaraya Namaha
Adoration to Him who manifests prosperity
Om Saumyaya Namaha
Adoration to the Pleasant One
Om Bhaktavanchitadayakaya Namaha
Adoration to the Grantor of Devotees' Desires
Om Santaya Namaha
Adoration to the Peaceful One
Om Kaivalyasukhadaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Absolute Happiness
Om Sachidanandavigrahaya Namaha
Adoration to Him whose form is Existence/Knowledge/Bliss
Om Jnanine Namaha
Adoration to the Wise One
Om Dayayutaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is full of compassion
Om Dantaya Namaha Adoration to Him who has self control
Om Brahmadveshavivarjitaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is free from aversion to the Supreme
Om Pramattadaityabhayadaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is feared by power intoxicated men
Om Srikanthaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has a beautiful throat
Om Vibhudesvaraya Namaha
Adoration to the Lord of the Wise
Om Ramarchitaya Namaha
Adoration to the God worshipped by Rama
Om Vidhaye Namaha
Adoration to the Controller of Destiny
Om Nagarajayajnopavitavate Namaha
Adoration to Him who wears a cobra as a sacred thread
Om Sthulakanthaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has a stout neck
Om Svayamkartre Namaha
Adoration to Him who acts independently
Om Samaghoshapriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of the sound of Sama Veda
Om Parasmai Namaha
Adoration to Him for whom there is no other
Om Sthulatundaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who has a stout trunk
Om Agranye Namaha
Adoration to the First-Born
Om Dhiraya Namaha
Adoration to the Courageous One
Om Vagisaya Namaha
Adoration to the Lord of Speech
Om Siddhidayakaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of Fulfillment
Om Durvabilvapriyaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of durva and bilva
Om Avyaktamurtaye Namaha
Adoration to the Manifestation of the Unmanifest
Om Adbhutamurtimate Namaha
Adoration to the Wondrous Form
Om Sailendratanujotsanga Khelanotsukamanasaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is fond of playing with His mother Paravati, daughter of the mountain Lord
Om Svalavanyasudhasarajita Manmathavigrahaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who is a vast ocean of sweetness more charming than the God of love
Om Samastajagadadharaya Namaha
Adoration to the Supporter of All the Worlds
Om Mayine Namaha
Adoration to the Source of Illusory Power
Om Mushikavahanaya Namaha
Adoration to Him who rides the mouse
Om Hrushtaya Namaha
Adoration to the Rapturous One
Om Tushtaya Namaha
Adoration to the Content One
Om Prasannatmane Namaha
Adoration to the Benign One
Om Sarvassiddhipradayakaya Namaha
Adoration to the Bestower of All Fulfillment

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Swami Dayananda in Spain

For anyone who may be able to attend, Sri Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati will be in Granada, Spain on the 13th and 14th of October. For details, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Devotion to Ishwara

In a gnostic tradition such as Advaita, it is easy to conclude that Ishwara is unimportant. This, however, is not what the Upanishads reveal. They teach that Brahman is both saguna and nirguna. In Advatic teaching, nirguna Brahman is described as 'higher' than saguna Brahman (Ishwara) because nirguna Brahman is beyond comprehension.

This said, there is something else to consider. Just as no wave can create another wave, much less the sea from which it arises, all human beings are created, sustained and dissolved by Ishwara. It is for this very reason that we see even jivamuktas expressing devotion and worshiping the Lord who gives life to all.

Just as the vyavaharika and paramarthika levels are not-two, so, upon final analysis, we find that Brahman is One-without-a-second.

om tat sat

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On the Fact & the Study of Consciousness

Scientists have discovered that matter is nothing but a manifestation of cosmic energy. So there exists a single cosmic energy or force which is infinite in capacity and takes on the form of matter under certain conditions. Our holy scriptures also make the same assertion. But the universe is not mere matter which we can trace to atoms. You and I exist. Apart from our physical bodies which are, of course matter, there is the spark of intelligent consciousness in us which cannot come under the category of matter and that also has to be explained if a complete explanation of the universe is attempted.This universe is a vibration of consciousness and cosmic energy. It is created, sustained and dissolved in the infinite ocean of consciousness and cosmic energy. Scientists must concern themselves with consciousness. Only through a comprehensive study of consciousness can a complete explanation of the cosmos be found. --Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chatushtaya Sampatti

“The tendency to neglect the doctrine that Vedantic study is intended only for the competent is responsible for the confused thinking of modern days. Even simple crafts such as masonry or carpentry, require a preliminary course of training. But in the field of Brahma-Vidya, the science of Value of the Self, the highest and the most difficult of all sciences, everyone thinks himself competent and entitled to study the system of Advaita and even to sit in judgement over it. This attitude must go and must be replaced by earnest endeavour to secure first the necessary competence.” --Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal

"Some rivers flow directly into the ocean. Others first join bigger rivers and then merge with the ocean. So also the paths of devotion, meditation and desireless work lead by stages to the ultimate Realisation. The path of Knowledge is a direct means but it is difficult. To follow it, an aspirant requires the four-fold qualifications namely viveka, vairagya, sama and the like and mumukshutva." --Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidytheertha Mahaswamigal

Chatushtaya Sampatti


saadhanaanyatra chatvaari kathitaani maniishhibhiH .
yeshhu satsveva sannishhThaa yadabhaave na sidhyati

aadau nityaanityavastuvivekaH parigaNyate .
ihaamutraphalabhogaviraagastadanantaram.h .
shamaadishhaT.hkasampattimumukshutvamiti sphuTam.h
(Vivekachudamani verses 18 & 19)


Here is the text we will be meditating on, as it has been translated by an Italian Master who goes by the single name Raphael.

“The Sages have said that for realization it is necessary to practice four qualifications, without which the attainment of Brahman could fail (18). The first one is discernment between the real and the non-real; the second is detachment from the fruits of all actions in both this world and other worlds; the third consists of the group of the six qualities, such as mental calm, and so on; and the fourth one is a firm and yearning aspiration for enlightenment (19).”

Nityanitya vastu viveka indicates discrimination between things permanent and transient.

The principle way that viveka comes about is through accumulated punya (meritorious deeds). Here we might note that papa (sin) is the opposite of punya. Papa is bad action that we do as a result of our fundamental avidya (ignorance). If we have been doing sin for a long time, we will probably need to do punya also for a long time to counteract the effects of our bad behavior. Only then will we have the clear hope of succeeding in our viveka.

What ethic can we follow to correct our bad behavior? In the Gita Krishna teaches us a pristine ethic known as nishkama karma. He says, “Do whatever you like, but offer the fruits of all of your actions to Me.” If the best we are able to offer is another cigarette or a lie to our co-worker, this does not matter to Krishna. He will still accept our offering nonetheless. However we may not feel such things are the best we have to offer. After all, we are making an offering to the Lord of creation. Gradually we will work to change our behavior, so that it is in harmony with what the scriptures and wise teachers recommend.

Ihamutraratha phala bhoga vairaga means renunciation of the enjoyment of the fruits of action in this world and in the hereafter.

Vairagya is the result of successful discrimination. The more we understand that the world (and everything in it) is impermanent, and therefore not where we look to find lasting happiness, the more dispassionate we become with regards to the things of the world.

Strong attachments cause us to take the view that there is some combination of things we can do--or figure out--to realize the Self. Such attachments also prevent us from realizing that Ishwara alone acts.

From Sringeri Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyathirtha Mahaswamigal: “People are often devoid of dispassion. The reason for this is the lack of discrimination. Dispassion may dawn due to some calamity but that dispassion is only temporary. Only that dispassion that results from discrimination is lasting. The importance of burning dispassion can never be over-emphasized. It would not be wrong to say that much of the trouble which people encounter in controlling the mind is due to want of Vairagyam.”

Shamadi shatka sampatti means the six behaviors. These are as follows:

Shama means tranquility of mind, which is to say control of the antahkarana (the inner organ comprised of manas, buddhi, ahamkara, and chitta). Shama is the result of viveka and vairagya.

Importantly we want to consider that control of the mind is nothing to do with suppression. Shama is the fruit of healthy self-education.

Dama means self-control or control of our indriyas, our senses. If we see a new car or a nice outfit and deeply understand that by possessing it we will not have greater peace of mind or happiness, then we are exercising dama.

Katha Upanishad gives us a beautiful metaphor in which buddhi (the Intellect) is represented by a charioteer, manas (conventional mind) is represented by the reins and the indriyas are represented by the powerful horses drawing the chariot.

Our senses include the five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas.

Uparati means introversion or inwardly absorption. Uparati is the result of correct shama and dama. When we exercise both shama and dama in relation to the things of the world, we discover our own inner poise.

Titiksha means forgiveness and forbearance. The obstacles we encounter on our path are the result of our parabdha karma. Rather than blaming others or feeling sorry for ourselves we might instead think, “This obstacle is the result of my own bad conduct. Because Ishwara is an Ocean of Grace, He is allowing me this experience so that I may understand why I do not want to do sin, which causes undue hardship for me and for others.”

To paraphrase Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyathirtha Mahaswamigal on the topic of encountering obstacles, “When tendencies nurtured in the previous birth are the same as those in the present birth then obstacles to a course of action are negligible. On the other hand, when past and present trends are at variance the one that is more powerful decides the course of action. If we try hard enough, we can certainly overcome past tendencies. How hard we must try cannot be determined beforehand. When obstacles are encountered we must try harder and harder till we succeed.”

Shraddha means faith in the scriptures and the guru. Without shraddha it is impossible to grow spiritually.

We have two questions here. Why faith in the scriptures? And who is a guru?

To answer the second question first, a guru is a brahmanistha (knower of Brahman), a shrotriya (versed in the scriptures) and a good teacher. It is not enough for the guru to be a jnani. The guru must also be able to wield a pramana or valid means of Knowledge.

In the case of Vedanta, that valid means of knowledge is the scriptures. However the scriptures are basically incomprehensible without the aid of a guru (or the grace of Ishwara!) to unfold them for us. It is because of this incomprehensible nature of the scriptures that we need to have faith in the guru as well.

In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II, 4, II-IV) we find one of numerous examples of an adhikari approaching a guru: “(2) Maitreyi said, ‘Blessed one, if I had this whole earth, filled with riches, would I become immortal by it?’ ‘No,’ said Yajnavalkya. ‘Your life would be as the life of the wealthy, but there would be no hope of immortality through riches.’ (3) Maitreyi said, ‘What use to me is something by which I cannot become immortal? Blessed one, teach me what you know.’ (4) Yajnavalkya said, ‘Ah, you have always been dear to me, and now you speak what is dear too. Sit down here and I will teach you: but, as I explain, meditate upon it.’”

In this passage, Maitreyi is a picture of shraddha.

Samadhana means singleness of vision or focus. Our biggest obstacle on the spiritual path is often our own lack of focus. We hold to a manas or hive mind point of view and feel supported in our rational reasons for not digging for the spiritual by observing the lifestyles of family, friends, colleagues, and the society in general. Breaking this hold that we have is tantamount to a rocket breaking free of the gravitational pull of the earth.

In Phaedo, 99, Plato describes breaking this hold as the “second navigation”, which is to say, one begins to be guided by the noetic mind (nous, buddhi) rather than the sensible mind. The noetic mind is capable of meditating on Ideas, whereas the conventional mind offers nothing more than opinions. As a result of this “second navigation”, one becomes a true philosopher, a true lover of wisdom.

Mumukshutvam means the burning desire for spiritual freedom.

Lastly, we can consider what it is that we are to focus on. We are to focus on the possibility of our own realization and enlightenment.

It is not likely that we will have a burning desire for enlightenment minus some basic familiarity with each of the above points and qualifications. These all serve to strengthen our desire for enlightenment, allowing us to receive the vidya which brings our fundamental avidya to an end.

om tat sat

Friday, March 27, 2009

Karadarshana or Morning Prayer


Karagre Vasate Lakshmi
Kara Mule Saraswathi
Kara Madhye Tu Govindah
Prabate Kara Darshanam


On the tip of my fingers is Goddess Lakshmi; on the base of my fingers is Goddess Sarasvati; in the middle of my fingers is Lord Govinda. In this manner, I look at my palms.


"Kara" means "the palm of the hand" and it symbolizes the five karmendriyas or organs of action. Our hands are our primary way of connecting with our external environment and doing actions or "karmani". In this practice we meditate on our palms and fingers before beginning each day. While this practice is simple it is nonetheless valuable. Notably "sama" or "internal self-control" is one of the requisite qualities for the study of Vedanta.

om tat sat

Friday, March 20, 2009

Isavasya Upanishad: Mantra 2


Kurvanneveha karmani
jijeevishet chatam samaaha
Eavam tvayi na-anyadha-itha-asthi
na karma lipyate nare


By performing actions (as enjoined by the scriptures) here in this world, you will desire to live a full life. There is no way apart from this. In this way actions will not bind you to the "doer".


13) While renunciation is emphasized within the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, for those individual suited for its pursuit, karma or action is recommended for the majority of aspirants. Many individuals feel the impulse to do actions in the course of their spiritual quest and in a manner similar to the teachings on "nishkama karma"--"doing actions and surrendering their fruits to the Lord" laid out in the Bhagavad Gita, the Rishi in this mantra elucidates the path of karmani (actions).

14) He begins with the phrase "Kurvanneveha", which means "performing"--"Kurvan" "only"--"eva" "here"--"iha". The next word is "actions"--"karmani". Taken together, we have the phrase "by performing actions (as enjoined by the scriptures) here in this world". But if we recall the beautiful teaching from the Bhagavad Gita on nishkama karma we are saved from imposing upon ourselves innumerable rules. For Sri Krishna teaches us only one principle: "Whatever you do, do it for My pleasure, and offer everything to Me." It is a pristine ethic that can be carried deeper as one matures within oneself. Whereas one person may happily offer to Sri Krishna a glass of whiskey, another person may offer Him a life of selfless service to humanity and to life. While the latter one is preferable, both are accepted by the Lord.

15) The late Jagadguru of Kanchi Kamakoti H. H. Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal points out that the Vedas contain both karmakanda (the way of action) and jnanakanda (the way of knowledge). He notes that many believe the Buddha and Mahavira were the first to attack the karmakanda teachings of the Vedas. However this is not so because Sri Krishna says in the Gita, "The Vedas are associated with the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. You must transcend these gunas (qualities). Full of desire, they long for paradise and keep thinking of pleasures and material prosperity. They are born again and again and their minds are never fixed in samadhi, these men clinging to Vedic rituals." The Vedas also turn against themselves, Swamigal says, in that "the jnanakanda constituted by the Upanishads ridicules the worshipper of deities as a dim-witted person no better than a beast." This can be appreciated in a simple way by holding the view that karmakanda teaching is prerequisite to jnanakanda. In this mantra karmakanda is not being belittled. On the contrary the Rishi is encouraging us to take up this path if we are not yet suited for jnanakanda. Also the Gita itself contains an entire chapter on the gunas (as we will explore below, in point 17) and another on karma yoga--so it includes karmakanda teachings similar to those it chastises the Vedas for including.

16) "Jijeevishet"--"you will desire to live" "chatam"--"one hundred" "samaaha"--"years". For those of us on the path of action it is important that we be engaged in and committed to our actions. To quote once again from Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal, "When tendencies nurtured in the previous birth are the same as those in the present birth then obstacles to a course of action are negligible. On the other hand when past and present trends are at variance the course of action is decided by the one which is more powerful. If one tries hard enough, one can certainly overcome the past tendencies. How hard one must try cannot be determined before hand. Only when obstacles are encountered one must try harder and harder till one succeeds."

17) When considering action, there is another beautiful teaching from the Gita. It is that of the three gunas or qualities, which are tamas (inertia), rajas (passion) and sattva (purity). And, as Swami Chinmayananda explains in his commentary on this mantra, action as related to the gunas can be described respectively as inaction, action and unaction. It is common that only two categories will be noted; either action or non-action. But Swami's distinction is legitimate. For, while inaction and unaction are both outside of the spectrum of action, unaction is actually engagement in the most refined action possible. Unaction is of the same substance as renunciation (which is not achieved by simply refraining from action) just as heat is of the same substance as fire.

18) But here we are talking about action and the path of action. So why do I mention unaction? Because as the qualities tamas and rajas reach certain limits within us, they turn into the next guna--as ice melts into water and water rises into vapor. It is the fulfillment of action for it to go beyond itself and become unaction. And according to Advaita Vedanta this is achieved through sadhana chatushtaya sampaatti or the fourfold qualification. This sadhana involves necessary preparation of the mind and heart so that Vedanta teachings can effectively awaken the akhandakara vritti, which is the inner pramana of authoritative intuition or knowledge. These qualifications are: viveka (discrimination), viragya (dispassion), samadishatkasampaatti (the six disciplines), and mumukshutva (unshakable desire for liberation). It is precisely through the accomplishment of these qualities that our action is transformed into unaction.

19) The second part of our mantra begins with the word "eavam". "Eavam" means "in this manner" or "in this way". It indicates that even an enlightened person works--albeit by way of unaction. In many cases such a person has realized the Self but still has work to do if they are going to incarnate jnana phalam or the fruit of knowledge. Such fruit does not emerge automatically with enlightenment. Also, not everyone who has Self-knowledge is able to communicate effectively through their quality of life or verbal expression.

20) "Eavam tvayi na-anyadha-itha-asthi"--"There is no way apart from this." This teaching speaks empathetically into the twilight of samsara--and offers a way out. In order for this to be possible, however, the "fact" of this samsara and the advidya (ignorance) that produces it must be accepted. We have all had the experience of being lost, and from it we know the significance of that moment when we realize we are lost. From then on it is simply a matter of persisting to find our way until we do find it. Differently, the person of inaction does not yet know it is possible to be lost (which is considered in mantra 3 of this Upanishad). Only a person of action can recognize this and then engage in appropriate sadhana so that action can be carried beyond itself and transformed into unaction.

21) In conclusion, the Rishi says, "na karma lipyate nare". "Na"--"no" "karma"--"action" "lipyate"--"clings to" "nare"--"the man (person)". I translate this with the sentence "In this way actions will not bind you to the "doer"." What the Rishi means is that actions at first chaotic and selfish are harnessed through ritual practice and then tamed through the gradual practice of nishkama karma. The fruition of all this is our abiding realization that the Lord is the Doer of all actions.

om tat sat

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Isavasya Upanishad: Mantra 1


Om Isavasyam-Idam Sarvam
yat-kimcha Jagatyam-Jagat
Tena Tyaktena Bhunjeethha
ma Gridhah Kasyasvid-dhaman


The Lord inhabits all this (that is perceivable)--whatever moves in this moving universe. Therefore by renunciation, you can enjoy all things. Do not covet any one's wealth.


1) The Isavasya Upanishad begins with the word "Isa". Isa is the name of the Lord in this particular Upanishad. From the Vedantic point of view the Lord is both saguna or with qualities and nirguna or without qualities. This means that the Lord is not simply the underlying Essence of all things. The Lord is also totally separate from the "self" that we may believe ourselves to be due to avidya or ignorance.

2) "Vasyam" can be understood by looking at the root word "vas" which means to be covered, to be clothed, to be enveloped, to be pervaded, and to be permeated. It is a word rich in meaning--and the Rishi is using it to teach that the Lord is clothing, pervading, etc. all of existence.

3) If we are considering this word carefully, we may easily question, "How can the Lord be outside of all things at the same time that He is pervading them and inside them?" We can ask this question because the meanings of the word "vas" are related to both the inside and the outside of things.

4) The answer to the above question is that this is an assertion from the Upanishads and from this particular Rishi. The Rishi doesn't explain how. He is simply teaching what has been revealed to him by the Lord. An assertion is not something that needs to be explained. The hearer is welcome to take it or leave it. For someone to take it does not make it truer. And for someone to leave it does not make it less true. Either way is no skin off of the Rishi's nose!

5) But I always like to reflect on why he says "vasyam". It seems to me that he is teaching that the Lord is inside and outside for a reason, which is this: the Lord is inside all things and pervading each one of us as the Atmic Essence which is One with the Brahmanic Essence--and the Lord is also outside of all things because He is not limited to any particular thing or person. The Essence of the Lord is pervading even a person who is doing terrible actions. We do not want to say that the Lord is doing these actions. The Lord is not doing any action. He is simply present in the action and with the action in the same way sunlight is present to illuminate all things without being those things.

6) "Idam sarvam" means "all this (that is perceivable)." There two types of things that we can perceive: external things and internal things. We perceive external things through the jnanendriyas or organs of perception. These are srotra (hearing), tvac (touch), caksus (sight), rasana (taste), and ghrana (smell). We perceive internal things through the inner organ or the antahkarana. The antahkarana is made up of manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (I-thought), and citta (consciousness). In order to determine for ourselves whether or not the Lord is pervading and inside of us, we turn within to our buddhi (intellect) and then we begin to experiment with turning it away from the external things it has been identifying with and toward the light of awareness within ourselves.

7) Next we come to the phrase "yat-kimcha Jagatyam-Jagat" which means "whatever (yat-kimcha) moves in this moving universe (Jagatyam-Jagat)." "Jagat" means "change of state" or "world" and here we can reflect on why it is helpful to realize our unity with the Lord and the Lord's unity with all things. In the middle of a world that is none other than ceaseless "change of state" we easily feel the chaos that is inherent in this and long to know what is permanent, abiding and steady. But only the Lord in His Essence which He shares with us is permanent. So when we are in Jagat and do not realize Isa then we believe Jagat to be heavier and more bewildering than it is.

8) There is an example that draws together the points that we have considered so far. It is the example of waves, the ocean and water. If we envision each human being as being like a wave on the ocean and the Lord in His saguna form as Ishvara as being like the ocean, then we can see that there is difference within the vyavaharika (empirical level). Some waves are bigger than others as some people have a greater role to play in life than most others. Yet every wave, regardless of how big or small it is exist due to the existence of the ocean. No ocean, no waves. But there is also the matter of Essence. All waves are nothing but water. The ocean is also nothing but water. When we are considering water as a substance we can not measure it. Whether it is a small amount, a larger amount or all water, we can see no difference. The small amount is not less as water than the larger amount; and neither of these are less as water than all water. Water is water. To look from the angle that all waves depend on the ocean is relevant to the vyavaharika and to look from the angle that water is water is pointing to paramartha or the Being-Essence shared by all.

9) The second part of the mantra begins with the word "Tena", which means "therefore". In his excellent book on this Upanishad Swami Chinmayananda points out that Sri Madhavacharya has given us a beautiful new understanding of this word. Madhavacharya understands it to mean "by Him"--this is to say "by Isa". Since "Tyaktena" means "that which is renounced" or "that which is left, after all things have been renounced", then we can understand from this phrase that all things belong to the Lord, and we only have them on loan from Him.

10) Because all things given by the Lord are gifts, we can "enjoy" all these things. And "you can enjoy all things" is precisely the meaning of the next word in our mantra which is "Bhunjeetha". The important point being made here is that we can not enjoy a thing if there is a string running between the thing and our heart. If we think we are tied to anything after we find it then we will be distressed when we no longer have the thing or when it changes. To illustrate this point, here is a story that I heard recently from a friend. He was telling me that for a long time his mother wanted a convertible. He watched happily as she looked over different information on new convertibles that were available for a long time. Then one day he heard that she had finally settled and purchased her dream car. On his way out of his parent's home he went over to share the excitement with her. Only as he approached the shiny new car in the driveway, he saw that his mother's head was down as she sat inside it. And when he asked "So how do you like your new car, Mom?" she said "It's okay. But I thought this thing would be bigger and this feature would be different than it is." So my friend was not able to share some excitement with his mother because she was already not happy with the car! This is because there was an invisible string of presumed ownership and exaggerated expectation running between her heart and her new convertible. This is an extreme example of a dynamic that can emerge for anyone.

11) "Ma" means "do not" or "don't" and this word might have some of us cringing a bit--and wondering, "Is the Rishi trying to tell me what to do?" Of course the answer is no. This word comes after everything that has been taught previously in the mantra. So the Rishi is saying the word "don't" to those of us mature enough to appreciate the next facet of teaching. If we can't handle the word "don't" then it may be helpful for us to go back and reconsider the previous teachings.

12) "Do not" what? Do not "Gridhah"--"covet" "kasyasvid-dhaman"--"any one's wealth". Here we encounter a very direct teaching and the value of this teaching is in its clear focus on greed. According to Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal, the late Jagadguru of Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham, "Sri Krishna describes desire, anger and greed as the triple gates of hell. These are man's worst enemies and one must never succumb to them. Desire can be overcome by dispassion. Anger is a result of frustration of desire. Thus by conquering desires completely one can conquer anger. An attempt must be made to control greed by impressing upon the mind that in reality everything belongs to Ishvara alone and that one is but an instrument in the hands of Ishvara." Of these three, greed is the most contrary to the cultivation of renunciation--the fruition of which is authentic "enjoyment".

om tat sat

Friday, March 13, 2009

Peace Chant


Om Poornamadah poornamidam
poornaat poornamudachyate
Poormasya poornamaadaaya

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti


That is Whole and this is Whole; from the Whole the world (mithya) becomes manifest. From the Whole when the world (mithya) is negated, what remains is the Whole. Om Peace Peace Peace


Study of this particular Upanshiad begins with the Peace Chant or Peace Prayer, which is spoken aloud by both the teacher and the student(s). In the seemingly simple and unglamorous act of articulating this chant, we are reminding ourselves exactly why it is that we are devoted to the spiritual life. In the Western Tradition there is a term "anamnesis" which means: (an • am′• nē • sis) n. [Gr. ἀνάμνησις remembering < ἀνά up, again + μιμνήσκειν to call to mind, attend] a recollective ascent or ascensional recollection. It, also, is the practice of turning to the whole within, as a point of departure from which to realize the Whole of Divine Being.

The triple repetition of the word Shanti is, according to the late Swami Chinmayananda, to aid us in overcoming all of the obstacles coming from three sources that may hamper our study of scripture at the feet of a teacher. These sources are the unseen, the seen and what is arising from within us (due to our karmas and vasanas).

om tat sat

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra

Namskar Friends,

Here is a wonderful mantra. It is called Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra or also Trayambakam Mantra. It is already on this blog in a video explaination on a post from last year. You can find it in the archives.

Happy chanting!


tryambaka yajāmahe
sugandhim pushti-vardhanam
urvārukam iva bandhanān
mrtyor mukshīya māmrtātat

Translation (by Arthur Berriedale Keith)

"OM. We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, O Shiva. You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, who nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. As, in due time, the stem of the cucumber weakens, and the gourd is freed from the vine, so free us from attachment and death, and do not withhold immortality."


tri-ambaka-m "the three-eyed-one" (accusative)
yaja-mahe "we praise" (1st pl. middle)
sugandhi-m "the fragrant" (accusative)
pusti-vardhana-m "the prosperity-increaser" (accusative)
urvaruka-m "disease, attachment, obstacles in life, and resulting depression" (accusative)
iva "-like"
bandhanāt "from attachment stem (of the gourd); but more generally, unhealthy attachment" ("from the stem", ablative)
mrtyos "from death" (ablative)
mukshīya "may you liberate"
mā "not"
amrtāt from immortality (ablative)

om tat sat

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fire in Stone

Reality is not some
distant mystical mystery.

Reality is.

Lovers have heard this
explained before--

have heard how
every wave shares
its Essence with
the Ocean.

But lovers are not
concerned with

transcendental Essence alone.
Lovers throw their own little love
into the arms of


as its flashing

Lovers are not bound to
what is either fleeting



Lovers love to touch
and be by
in stone.


What kind of
dreamed of
hand has
a thumb and

another thumb?

This is like
the moon being

shadowed by

another moon when

one moon is
distance enough.

Any moon is

half in darkness

half in light--

borrowing from that
freely giving


(for Joanna)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Byasa, Cottage Cheese & Krishna

Namskar Friends,

I hope you enjoy this little story. I first heard it some years ago while listening to a recording of a talk given in 1948 by Paramahamsa Yogananda on the occasion of his birthday celebration. It was a wonderful talk that he gave and I always have remembered this story as one of the most lovely parts of the talk.


Once Beda Byasa--the writer of the Bhagavad Gita--was with some other disciples of Krishna. Krishna loved cottage cheese and so these disciple were trying to bring him some cheese. Only the Jamuna river was in flood and they could not think of how to get across it. So they said to Byasa, "Can you help us?" And Byasa said, "Do you think it is only Krishna who is hungry?" Then Byasa took the cheese and ate as much of it as he could. The other disciples were quite shocked and could not believe that Byasa would eat before the Master did.

Then Byasa stood facing the river and said, "Oh, Jamuna, if I have not eaten anything part your waters so that we can cross and be with Krishna." And to the amazement of everyone...the river parted. No one could understand. Nonetheless they began to make their way across the river.

When they at last made it to where Krishna was staying, he looked sleepy and his belly seemed quite full. But they took what cheese was left and offered it to him. He waved his hand to politely decline. So they asked, "Master, don't you want any cheese today?" And Krishna said, "Oh, no. I'm too full. The other disciple on the other side of the river already feed me too much." The rest of the disciples then understood that when Byasa was eating, he was only eating for Krishna.

om tat sat

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chaitanya, Chaitanya

Everyone has heard
the story
of the time
beautiful Chaitanya
discovered a man


the Bhagavad Gita
and weeping.

When Chaitanya asked,
"Do you understand
these words?"

the weeping man


as I read I see
Arjuna on the battlefield
and I see and hear
beautiful Krishna
such beautiful teachings."

Chaitanya, Chaitanya--
as you see and hear this mystery
your Face shines

so softly


Lover's Song

We are all lovers

Even the few of us
to know

despite having long ago buried
the faithful seeds of our

in the dark ground
of the heart's
Inner Chamber.

If you meet any clouds
tell them tenderly
you have heard
about us.

If you see the Sun
pray for it to
shine, shine.

We are all lovers--
waiting on

the Sun.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Devotion, Dust & Vedanta

See the devotion
from Shankara's heart
when he


the fingernails

of the Goddess.

See the dust
gathering on his


as he walks
and walks to
share the santana dharma
in the form of his



See his Vedanta
as our Vedanta--

as illuminating

our hearts,
our minds.

My soul is your temple, O Lord

My soul is your temple, O Lord,
My actions are your handmaids,
My body is your home,
My senses witness only you,
My sleep is pure meditation on you,
These walking feet are your journey,
Whatever falls from my mouth is prayer to you,
Oh Lord, everything I say and do are worship.

by Adi Shankara from Shiva Manasa Pooja

Two Jokes

Pranams to Bill for sharing this joke at one of the Starbucks meetings!

A monk is accepted into a monastery that has an extreme vow of silence. Upon entry he is told, "You can say two words every five years."

After the first five years he says, "Bed hard."

Then after another five years he says, "Food sucks."

And finally after five more years he says, "I quit." To which the abbot replies, "I thought you might. Since you've been here you've done nothing but complain!"


Did you hear about the snail that died?

While he was between incarnations he said to another snail, "I hope this time I am reincarnated as a red race car covered with yellow S's." "Why?" the other snail asked. Said the snail: "So as I zoom around the race track everyone can say, 'Look at that S car go! Look at that S car go!'"