We are conditioned to accumulate stuff. We accumulate both abstract and concrete things – objects, wealth, acquaintances, information, ideas, concepts etc. We associate everything that we accumulate with an idea of a ‘self’.
When people are in the process of getting the next thing listed in their to do list, some of them suddenly come across the concept of spiritual enlightenment or a complete spiritual awakening. It is advertised as the best thing that can happen to a human being and sounds incredibly cool. They just grab this idea and add it in their shopping list.
Spirituality is a business today. So before one gets the true spiritual thirst as the result of an inner calling, spirituality is advertised at their door step with exciting offers and discounts. A lot of these deals are full of bullshit sandwiched with statements of some mind-blowing truths picked up from the literature of some of the most popular gurus of the last century.
Some of them are from people who have been having short or long glimpses of non-duality in their daily life, but are convinced that this is what spiritual enlightenment is all about and this is how the rest of their lives are going to be. They usually give up and come to premature conclusions.
I have addressed the above points many times in my recent Youtube videos. But in this blog post I want to explain why spiritual enlightenment is all about losing and what exactly you lose.
Spiritual enlightenment has various definitions in general. There are people who say that spiritual enlightenment is about being omnipotent and omniscient. But when I talk about spiritual enlightenment, I am talking about what is practically possible to anyone who is truly seeking it; it is something that has happened to millions of people before and something that is happening in more numbers in today’s world.
It is not about achieving or accumulating anything; it is about returning to the source; it is about going back to your natural state; it is about untying the knots or undoing all the complications that your mind has created while growing up; it is about going home. So it is all about losing.
You lose many things. You lose all the reifications. You lose your false ideas, beliefs and illusions. You lose the cravings to do many things you had been doing before. You lose 98% of your mental chatter and lose all self-referential thoughts. You lose your conflicts and your mind loses a lot of its weight.
But I can list three primary things which you lose, which is usually regarded as the symptoms of atma jnana or self-realization. It is only after self-realization and abiding permanently in non-duality, your awakening is complete.
Here are these three things:
Sense of a separate self – At self-realization, you permanently lose the sense that you are an entity separate from the existence. Your experience of life changes completely. You no longer feel like you are trapped in a body and limited. There is no difference between you, the blue sky, the blowing wind and the rest of the nature. It is like a wave realizing that it doesn’t have a separate existence but it is the ocean itself. It is not intellectual understanding or understanding gained by temporary glimpses; it is dying completely before you physically die.
Sense of agency – You no longer feel you are doing your actions; actions simply arise from the inner stillness without any sense of agency. You see life as if everything is unfolding all by itself. Ahankara or the sense of agency is lost.
Psychological time – Everyone has a to-do list or agenda. Everyone is looking forward to future to get a sense of completion. Everyone feels like something that is in the future is waiting to complete them. A religious person hopes that he will reach heaven in the future and a spiritual person thinks that he will reach spiritual enlightenment in the future. This craving and seeking, whether it is for a material goal or a spiritual state is completely absent after self-realization. You will feel full and complete already and you are not looking forward to future to get something that will give you a sense of completion which is missing now.
Spiritual enlightenment is the end of duality and the life that is confined to the rat race of humanity. But it is not the end of everything. It is a new beginning.
In the following video, I have made some important clarifications:
You may have already heard that advaita talks about oneness, the oneness of the existence that exists without a second; it says that this oneness is your true nature! But this is not a theory and not something that is meant to be just intellectually understood. This oneness is realized in one’s living experience which not only transforms you but also liberates you from all psychological bondages.
I will give you a short introduction on Advaita Vedanta but will also let you know about some pitfalls that one can encounter if certain things are not understood. Before Advaita Vedanta is taught, the disciple is expected to develop four-fold qualifications called sadhana chatushtaya. I will also quickly go over them in this post.
First, advaita (non-duality) doesn’t really have a contradiction with dvaita (duality). And there was a reason why various dvaita (dual)) schools emerged after Shankara’s time. What is usually described as advaita philosophy or the non-dual oneness is the fruit of the spiritual path. What is described as dvaita philosophy (the duality of God and devotee) is actually a path. In the beginning of bhakti, there is duality; but it always ends with non-dual oneness.
In Advaita Vedanta, bhakti or devotion is considered as one of the means to purify oneself and develop sadhana chatushtaya or four-fold qualifications. But the problem with Advaita Vedanta is usually this: people directly go for the theory or the higher teachings in Vedanta without developing these four-fold qualifications. It is developing the four-fold qualifications that takes the most part of a person’s journey.
This mere intellectual understanding sometimes results in pure arrogance with absolutely no transformation. When you tell someone that sounds like “You are God”, it is very likely that it will be misunderstood; the person may also forget his duties and become very careless; because from the perspective of Advaita, nothing really matters. But in practical life; everything matters. Even after realizing the truth in your experience, you still have to play the role in the real world. You would certainly live like a water drop on a lotus leaf, but the world still sees you as an individual bound to the obligations of the society.
Advaita and Dvaita
People like Ramanuja and Madhva who came after Shankara addressed the above mentioned problem. If you see the traditions in the world which see God and devotee as separate, you will notice that they all promise a place after death where they can live in God’s presence. We often hear vivid descriptions of vaikunta, paradise or heaven. This was just used as a trick or a social tool. To the general public, it was this teaching which was appropriate: develop loving devotion to God and surrender to him; after death, you can live with him forever. This was like tricking a child. By saying this, they can lure them into showing devotion. This in turns purifies the mind. According to the tradition, even if liberation is not possible for a person in this life, the spiritual development that he went through is carried forward to the next birth.
There have been many places in the world where people were quite primitive and completely lacked any moral sense or obligation towards society. Just imagine a vast peninsula which has no empire, no state, no kings and no public laws. 5th century Saudi Arabia is one of them. Many people, as a reaction to how things have turned out in the name of Islam and how Muhammad’s life was described in Hadiths written down many decades after his death, have come to a conclusion that Muhammad was a power hungry warlord, who was just after power, women and sex. But that will contradict many things in Islam itself.
Even the critics of Muhammad agree that Muhammad was a genius. Also, historians suggest that he was not illiterate as it is believed by Muslims. Muhammad also played tricks; he made compromises too. The idea of eternal hell was actually a social tool developed by Plato, a disciple of Socrates; it is not there in old Testament of Bible. Muhammad used this concept to discipline the people of Arabia. He was against female infanticide and many other social problems. Most importantly, Muhammad asserted that surrender or submission to one supreme God is the true form of worship. There was no concept of religion those days, even though people had various beliefs. People only had a concept called ‘deen’ which meant ‘the way of life”. Muhammad asserted that Islam or surrender to God is the right way of life or deen.
Islam stands on five pillars which basically is: oneness of God and submission to God; 5 prayers a day which has different postures just like yoga, a way to convey submission and also to focus one’s attention; fasting for a whole month with an attitude of devotion and love; going on a sacred pilgrimage where various devotees from different races and places gather as a symbol of equality and charity to the poor. But Muslims later became too sensitive towards their faith; even though Muhammad improved the status quo of Arabia as per historians, he couldn’t improve it completely in his lifetime. So, only Sufi tradition preserved the original teachings more clearly, which the mainstream Islam rejects as heresy.
Jesus also insisted that love towards God and love towards human beings are his two commandments.
So the bottomline is devotion is one of the ways to purify oneself. And a personal God or a personification is required for it; this divine has to be one and not many, so that one can surrender to it. It is the same as prapanna as described in Gita.
Apart from devotion, karma yoga, or doing one’s duties without attachment to the fruits of actions, also purifies the mind and develops the four-fold qualifications. Karma yoga is about focusing on the action rather than the result, on the present rather than the future; it teaches to develop love towards one’s actions and do the actions with focus and involvement, not with a mind that is daydreaming about the results. Pure Karma yoga produces states of flow quite effortlessly. Other sitting meditations and kundalini yoga also comes under karma yoga.
Four-Fold Qualifications – Sadhana Chatushtaya
So now you may ask; what are the fourfold qualifications that one should develop?
Out of those four, let us just see one for now, which is Shad-Sampat or six virtues. So this one among the fourfold qualifications is further divided into six:
Sama: calmness of the mind;
Dama: gaining control over the mind and senses.
Uparati: The tendency to naturally drop certain conditioned behaviors and habits; for example, you may lose interest in certain habits.
Titiksha – forbearance. Not getting too excited in pleasure and ability to withstand suffering.
Sraddha – trust; This is a trust in spiritual path and see it as a working method; this trust naturally develops once you start feeling some changes in your mind and experience.
Samadhana: Resolving all the internal conflicts so that you gain the ability to focus.
The most practical way to go for is to first slowly develop these six virtues; don’t give any deadline. The practice has to be taken slowly and gradually so that you also live your social life in the meantime. For example, a person who starts with can first work on forbearance or titiksha. This means that whenever you go through suffering, you should go through it willingly since there is no choice and try to bear the suffering without getting too distressed about it. You can also develop shraddha, or a faith that you would be able to grow spiritually as the time goes by.
Focused attention meditation that involves focusing on an object (like dhyana or shamata) can bring calmness to the mind and develop sama. It will also slowly develop dama or self-control. That is essentially about bringing the wandering mind under control without letting the mind distracted by sense objects. Uparati is something that would happen naturally when other virtues are developed. Samadhana is something you develop last.
2) Vairagya – Non-attachment
The next thing in four-fold qualifications that I am going to explain is vairagya or non-attachment. Many people mistake that non-attachment is renouncing one’s possessions. But one can lead a normal worldly life and still develop non-attachment,. This is usually symbolized as a metaphor: one lives like the lotus leaf in water; even though the leaf resides in water, it doesn’t get wet or the water doesn’t stick to it. Vairagya also refers to a certain state of mind; To understand that we have to learn about a concept called ‘hedonic treadmill”.
Hedonic treadmill theory is a psychological theory that states that regardless of the objective outcomes of lives such as success and failure, the experience of life always returns to a base-level happiness. Happiness never increases as time goes by; the base level happiness always remains the same but it keeps us in the hedonic treadmill, chasing for objective outcomes without actually reaching anywhere. This base-level happiness is a limited happiness and one is not satisfied with it. It is only self-realization or the realization of the truth about one’s own nature which can make the limited level of happiness to blossom fully, giving an individual the absolute sense of fulfillment and liberation. When one realizes that running on this hedonic treadmill is fruitless and is not interested in the objective outcomes, he has developed vairagya.
Now one may ask, if one chooses to not to be interested in the objective outcomes, won’t he stop working or performing? No; this will increase the performance. Because it will actually make the karma yoga to mature. Since you are not interested in objective outcomes, you can be fully devoted to action, while doing your obligatory duties. As I said, flow states are very normal when one is in karma yoga; so actions actually give a sense of enjoyment at this point.
3. Mumuksutva – Desire for liberation
Now you know that self-realization and the liberation that happens because of it while living is the only thing which will give you the absolute fulfilment. So, your concern shifts automatically from worldly desire to the desire for liberation. Your calm mind, non-attachment and the desire for liberation will make you more focused on the practice and also make you qualified to understand what Viveka is. It might have taken a few decades to reach up to this point. But there are exceptions, like people who get vairagya and mumuksutva in a very early age in life.
4. Viveka – Discrimination of the observer and observed.
One need to realize something that is self-evident. You know the existence of anything because you are conscious of it. You know that a tree you see exists because it is a perception perceived by the consciousness. Consciousness is what that knows everything; that knows that this world exists. So, existence of anything is only known by the existence of consciousness. You are also aware of your own thoughts, emotions, subtle mental movements and mood changes as they float as the contents of your consciousness. When you see everything from a totally subjective perspective, you will see that this world itself appears as a perception in your consciousness; it is as if everything is happening within consciousness.
It takes a great deal of objectivity to understand and develop viveka. Usually a human being is too attached to the concept of ‘me’ or ‘self, which gives him a sense of separation from the world. But when you develop non-attachment, it will be very easy to see this concept of little ‘me’ as an object of consciousness, which only appears to exist because the thoughts flow in the mind in a high speed. Just like a fan which is running in a high speed creates an illusion that there is a circle, the thoughts when moving fast gives a continuity and creates the illusion of self.
But if you take a step back from your thoughts and just observe what they do, sometimes they may slow down and you may be able to silence your mind for a few seconds. In that few seconds, you would just exist as consciousness simply perceiving sense perceptions. You can now see that you are actually consciousness itself, and that the thoughts, emotions, body and everything you perceive in consciousness is not you; But consciousness, which is the true Self, is now identified with the body, mind and many other concepts like one’s beliefs, one’s nationality, one’s religion etc. It mistakes a selective part of what is observed as self. This idea of mistaking the body and mind as one’s self is avidya or root ignorance, which is considered as the root cause of all suffering.
Since it is because of consciousness that the world is perceived, consciousness is seen more real than what appears on the consciousness. This consciousness or the pure awareness has no attributes and gives space for the life experience to occur and the perceptions to exist. Whether you are sleeping, dreaming or in a waking state, it is consciousness which pervades all these three!
With this understanding you can inquire everything that happens in your consciousness and see that it is not you; because you as the pure awareness that observes a thought or emotion should be separate from what is observed.
Since you can observe the thought, the thought is not you. This discrimination or clear identification of the observer or the pure awareness (the real you) and the objects of observation (thoughts, emotions, perceptions etc) is viveka.
Now this may raise a question. Doesn’t Vedanta say that everything is one and there is no two? Doesn’t the discrimination of observer vs observed promote duality? No.. Actually, this discrimination is necessary to remove the attachments and the selective identification of consciousness with body, mind and certain mental concepts related to the egoic self (my beliefs, my religion, my country etc).
The concept of oneness doesn’t have to be promoted as a teaching, belief or a philosophy. This is the reason some traditions do not talk about oneness or the absolute Brahman that exists without a second. It may actually confuse people at the earlier stages. Brahman is the same as your real self. Upanishads say prajnanam Brahman, which means consciousness is Brahman.
You can imagine your consciousness as a screen and everything that is observed in consciousness as moving pictures on the screen, In a sense, the screen and the pictures are different; but the pictures do not have any independent existence on their own, So the picture part is called as maya and the screen part is brahman. But you need to understand that the screen can exist without picture. The pictures are just modifications of the same reality. You may see thousand men marching in a screen but the screen is one. But until or unless this oneness of Brahman becomes living experience, theoretical understanding of what is Brahman is of no use. When the final realization dawns, both observer and the observed is realized as one and the same; this is Advaita. If you want to really understand oneness, it has to start with developing sadhana chatushtaya first.
The final stage of Vedantic path involves to be completely established as a witness or awareness; It is called as shakshibhava or nididhyasana. This is the same as mindfulness in Buddhism. It requires just being a witness and passive observer of everything that passes by in consciousness. You just let the mind happens by itself; you neither give force to the thoughts, emotions and subtle movements of mind nor suppress them. You simply let anything arise and pass away in your conscious experience. Your focus is more on silent gaps between thoughts and mental movements. these gaps keep increasing until the observer and observed converges and all the distinctions disappear,
There are many other things taught in Advaita like karma and creation of the universe. But they are not really much important, Understanding karma helps, but many things can be learnt in the later stage. The only thing one can focus on as a starting point is to work on purifying one’s mind.
I have explained more about Sadhana chatushtaya here:
True islam involves three things: surrender to the will of God and Holy Jihad, which is actually a war against one’s own ignorance and delusion, and unconditional love towards God. The concept of oneness in Islam is so subtle that it is misunderstood by 98% of the people. So, the Quranic verses that came through Muhammad was tailored to suit the understanding of the barbaric, uncivilized people who lived in Arabia back then. People were making idols and eating the pieces of them, and were also killing female children alive.
How can the oneness of God be understood by these people when it deifies the minds of people who are living in a technologically advanced, scientifically progressed and culturally more civilized modern world? But still, Quran seems to preserve the essence, as Sufis seem to interpret it in a way that is so close to the essence of various thoughts of schools of ancient India, Greece and China. The violent verses in Quran need to be interpreted with the right context, as a verse intended to convey how one has to defend oneself. It was true that a large number of people were trying to kill Prophet Muhammad and those verses should be taken as inspiration that Muhammad gave to Muslims to be ready for the war as a self defence. It was a need of the hour.
Also, It seems to make sense to think that Muhammad was a very compassionate and intelligent person, going by the things that have been written about Muhammad. He is described by various authors of his time as an extremely compassionate and caring person. He was also a conqueror by his psychological nature and was a Kshatriya in the lingo of Hinduism. He seemed to have created a revival in the society and culture.
His main teaching was the oneness of God, surrendering to the will of God (taking what comes in life and not struggle against the nature; surrender itself gives a deep sense of peace) and unconditional love towards God. Everything else he said was culturally specific and also specific to the social conditions of the time he lived. Because, there are multiple ways to approach divine. As long as the essence of a spiritual path is love and meditation and conveys the oneness of God, it is the right path.
Now, what is this oneness of God? It doesn’t just mean that there is no other God apart from him. It means that nothing else has an existence apart from him. This is what one without the second means, and it is the literal meaning of the word Advaita (without second). Oneness of God is something that is realized in one’s experience. Words of prophets and Imams can only guide you towards realizing it on your own. They cannot describe the oneness because the oneness and the unity of Gods cannot be described in words, even though people always give it a try. You have to walk the path and dissolve yourself in the process.
Let me put it this way. Imagine that there is a water in a glass tub and an ice cube is floating in it. There are two clearly manifest entities in the bathtub now: an ice cube and the given volume of water. But when finally the ice cube melts and becomes one with water, ice cube has lost its independent existence. Now there is complete oneness, one without a second. Same thing happens psychologically to a true Muslim. He is like the ice cube and the water is like God. He loses his psychological boundaries and his sense of independent existence. Then he gets his true afterlife, which actually happens while living in the body. In this afterlife, there is eternal peace and bliss. This is when a Muslim truly understands the oneness of God; this is when it is possible to understand it in the first place.
To put it in Christian terminology, this is when you discover the Kingdom of God inside you, become spiritually reborn, get a mind like a small child, become baptized by the Holy spirit and enjoy the gifts it brings such as peace, joy, kindness, goodness, a deep trust in existence etc.
To put it in Hindu terminology, this is when you finish your sanchita karma, get atma jnana or self realization and understand the true meaning of Advaita. This is when you are twice born or dvija. In the terminology of Upanishads, this is when you are really a Brahmin, a knower of Brahman!
Spiritual wisdom is so subtle and can be easily misunderstood. But it is the central nerve that runs through every major religion. It is also the same in all religions. People focus more on the skeleton and skin instead of the flesh. How would you feel if I come to your home on Ramadan, get a plate of delicious mutton Biryani from you, throw the flesh and eat the bones? God has given a feast to you. But you are fighting among yourselves in proving whose plate has more number of bones, when it is actually an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Spiritual wisdom of oneness of God and realizing that oneness in one’s own experience by walking on the path of unconditional love and surrender brings out the flesh of the feast that Allah has given you in this wonderful party of life! Alhamdulillah الحمد لله (All praise goes to God!).
Islam openly shares two elements of self purification that it shares with Bhagavad Gita: 1) Doing one’s duties while surrendering oneself to the Will of God or karmayoga 2)Showing unconditional love towards God, long to unite with him and go through a pain of suffering until the Unity of God is experienced in one’s experience or bhakti yoga. But Bhagavad Gita also has something called Jnana Yoga which Islam too secretly shares through the path of Sufism. Sufism is not just about love and surrender but also about getting the true knowledge of oneness of God through one’s experience. Muhammad gave the Sufi teachings to his cousin and son-in-law Ali. Almost all Sufi orders trace their origins to Ali.
Let me first quote a paragraph from one of my recent posts, which will serve as an introduction:
“ We tend to interpret the scriptures the wrong way when we take them literally. But scriptures are full of metaphors. It is said that God breathed his breath into man. The Holy Spirit comes from the Greek word ‘pneuma’ which means ‘breath’. Holy spirit is the same as Prana, Shakti and Kundalini in Hinduism. It is what animates the world and the human beings. But inside the human beings it is dormant. By spiritual practice involving unconditional devotion and meditation, we purify ourselves and let the holy spirit be revealed and fill our entire being. This is the meaning of getting baptized by the Spirit. The fall of Adam and Eve is a beautiful metaphor that indicates how the oneness of childhood is lost by the birth of duality. This happens to everyone. Exodus is the symbolism of the journey from bondage to liberation. Crucifixion is the death of the duality. And resurrection is the birth of Christ consciousness, the spiritual rebirth which brings the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is called as Jnana in Hinduism. “
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 say that your body is the temple of Holy spirit. We have the exact same concept in Hinduism. Holy spirit is within us, but we have to purify ourselves with unconditional love so that holy Spirit fills your entire being and experience.
Psalm 139:7-8 talk about the omnipresence of God. God is usually personified but that is only for our understanding in the initial stage. As you progress in the spiritual path, you realize that God is all pervading presence and the essence of existence. The verses say that God is in your depths, within you, as a divine spark of consciousness and as the divine breath, energy and experience of Holy spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 talks about the gifts of the Holy spirit. These are nothing but the fruits of self realization or spiritual enlightenment. It brings love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Self realization indeed brings all this. So these two verses prove that Bible has a hidden message, which has a collection of some truthful verses about spiritual path and self-realization randomly distributed in the Old testament and concentrated much on the New testament. When we interpret symbolically, it solves many problems.
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha’s birth story conveys something very symbolic. Parvati while taking bath, makes the form of Ganesha with turmeric paste. She breathes life into the form and makes him as a young boy and appoints him as a guard. When Shiva comes in, Ganesha doesn’t recognize him and doesn’t allow him inside. This results in a fight and Shiva severes the head of Ganesha. Finally when the truth is recognized, an elephant’s head is fixed on the headless boy.
Parvati taking bath symbolizes the first step in the spiritual path: preparing the ground by purifying oneself. Ganesha guarding the door is your awareness guarding the contents of the mind, which symbolizes the second step in the spiritual path where you remain as a witness. When Shiva or the self realization comes, the head or the ahamkara, the feeling that one is the doer of his actions, is severed. Elephant symbolizes wisdom. Wisdom replaces ahamkara.
The story of Skanda and Ganesha quarrelling for the fruit of wisdom or the gnanapalam also has a symbolic meaning. Ganesha symbolizes the type of seekers who realize that Purusha and Prakriti, or the Father and the Mother are within and get the fruit of wisdom instantly. They are like Ramana Maharshi who follow the direct path like self inquiry right away. Skanda symbolizes the type of seekers who go around the world, seeking fulfillment in worldly things, then trying various spiritual practices before attempting to go through the direct method. These people are like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who was more attached to the name and external form of Goddess Kali. After trying various sadhanas, he receives Vedantic instructions from Totapuri and gets the fruit of wisdom.
Gayatri mantra is a short hymn written in Gayatri meter. Let us first look into the significance of this meter.
A meter is a basic rhythmic structure of the verse. Sanskrit has many meters using which verses can be composed, but Gayatri is considered as the most sacred of all. It is also the shortest meter. It has three lines or padas with 8 syllables each. It is like an Indian version of Japanese Haiku.
An extraordinary talent is required to say something in the shortest way possible, limiting the number of syllables to very few. People who composed hymns in Gayatri had to say something sweet and significant in just 24 syllables.
In Bhagavad Gita 10. 35, Krishna says गायत्री छन्दसामहम् (gAyatri chandaSAmaham) which means ‘among Chandas (metres), I am Gayatri’. This verse glorifies Gayatri meter and says that it is the best among all meters. (In Tamil, we have a meter called Kural venpa, a meter of two lines, which has the same significance because of its shortest length. Tirukural, a Tamil law code for the humanity, proves its excellence by conveying great wisdom quotes in Kural venpas.)
Now let us explore the actual Gayatri mantra, a highly revered verse from Rig Veda (Mandala 3.62.10). It is addressed to Savitr, a Vedic solar deity, which is one of the Adityas. Savitr refers to the sun before sunrise. This implies the hidden sun within us, the sun of Self or atman which is hidden by our own ignorance. Bhagavad Gita 5.15 says ‘अज्ञानेनावृतं ज्ञानं’ (ajñānenāvṛitaṁ jñānaṁ) which means that jnana or the wisdom of Self is covered by one’s own ignorance.
Gayatri Mantra goes like this:
ॐ भूर् भुवः सुवः ।
भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥
(oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt)
– Rigveda 3.62.10
Gayatri mantra has three parts:
The first part is the mantra Om. Om is the symbol of absolute reality and a mantra on its own. It is considered as the most suitable one for meditation. This sound can actually be heard as a buzzing sound when you close your ears with fingers, when you are in a silent room or when you are in meditation. It might have a medical explanation on its own but focusing on this sound is one way to do focused attention meditations.
The second part has the phrase ‘bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ’. This is known as ‘Mahāvyāhṛti’ which means ‘great utterance’. It has three words.
Physically they mean the following:
Bhūḥ: the terrestrial,
Bhuvaḥ: the world connecting terrestrial to celestial,
(The letter ‘r’ replaces the visarga ḥ of‘Bhūḥ’ because of Sandhi.)
There is also a mystical interpretation to this. There are three obstacles when it comes to spiritual path, which can be also said as the three layers of the mind. Here they are:
Attachment to objects, pleasure, sleep. It is tamasic in quality. ‘tamas’ means resistance and is one of the three attributes of prakrti (nature). In human beings, lethargy, laziness, depression etc are tamasic qualities. They resist the flow of life and act like speed breakers. This level of mind is very basic and called as Brahma granthi or the knot of Brahma.
Attachment to people, ambition, goals, power, fame etc. It is rajasic in quality. ‘rajas’ means activity and is one of the three attributes of prakriti (nature). Desire in human beings is rajasic, as it makes people to be active and even restless. This is also called as Vishnu granthi or the knot of Vishnu.
Attachment to one’s own self-concept or personal narrative. This is the last obstacle. It is a combination of rajas and tamas. This is also called as Rudra granthi or the knot of Rudra. This knot is responsible for the sense of separation, the duality or avidya, the basic ignorance of mistaking one’s body and mind as the Self.
Savitr, the inner sun illumines all three in the process of the spiritual path. As you go deeper and deeper in meditation, your consciousness illuminates the deeper layers of your mind and purifies them, helping you to untie the three knots and get liberation (moksha).
The third part is the actual verse, which has 3 lines and 24 syllables:
tat savitur vareṇyaṃ (or vareniyam)
bhargo devasya dhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt.
Let us explore the word by word meaning:
savitur – the God Savitr or Savitri. Spiritually it is the inner sun, the antaryami or the divine spark within you.
varenyam – it means ‘the most excellent’ or supreme bliss.
bhargo – भर्गस् (bhargas) means glory or radiance; it becomes bhargo because of Sandhi.
devasya – of God (bhargo devasya together means the radiance or glory of God).
dhimahi – it means let us meditate. It comes from Sanskrit root root ‘dhī’ = to think about (something/somebody), to meditate upon (something/somebody). When it is conjugated in first person plural, it becomes ‘dhimahi’. It doesn’t need any pronoun since dhimahi itself is the conjugation in first person plural, making it clear.
dhiyo – the actual word is ‘dhiyaH’ which has become ‘dhiyo’ because of Sandhi. dhiyah is the plural of ‘dhi’ which means intellect.
yo – which
naḥ – Our
prachodayāt – comes from the root ‘pracud’ which means to command, to excite or to inspire. It means inspiring or driving something to action.
So the actual meaning of the third part is, “Let us meditate on Savitr, the glory of God and supreme bliss, which inspires our intellect!”.
There is also another significance in this verse. The verse summarizes the three attributes of Brahman or supreme reality: which is sat – truth, cit – consciousness and Ananda – bliss. (satcitAnandA means truth – consciousness and bliss:
‘tat’ refers to the truth. Truth is always mentioned with the pronoun ‘that’. tat tvam asi, an important Mahavakya from Chandogya Upanishad means ‘You are that’.
‘bhargo devasya’ means ‘radiance or glory of God’ and it refers to consciousness.
‘varenyam’ means ‘’the most excellent’ or the supreme bliss. It refers to the bliss, AnandA.
So, Gayatri mantra is a good mnemonic device as it has some important spiritual concepts. It is also a good choice for meditation. Focusing on a sound comes as an aid in meditation and Gayatri mantra is a good choice as an aid.
In my blog, I have written in detail about a meditation called ‘3 level meditation’. It combines a psychological concept called classical conditioning, vajrayana meditation of Buddhism, and dhyana, the form of focused attention meditation mentioned in Yoga sutras. The second level of this meditation requires chanting of a mantra and Gayatri mantra is an excellent choice for it. I have explained about the three level meditation here: A Shamatha Meditation Based on Symbolism, Visualization, Mnemonics and Classical Conditioning
It has a visual meditation aid (VMA) to facilitate focus and I have written about it in detail in the page, including two videos of my speech regarding the various objects you see in the VMA. Here it is:
You are going to read my commentary on a very important verse from Bhagavad Gita. If you have read my book, you may recall that I have talked about the discrimination between subject and object. The other terms for this include Purusha and Prakriti, Kshetrajna and Kshetra, Brahman and Maya, Shiva and Shakthi, Vishnu and Lakshmi, witness and the witnessed etc. Rig Veda says that the truth is one in spite of being called by many names by wise people (ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti). You can apply it here. Even the concept of Yin and Yang of Taoism roughly translates to these two concepts. All these names that I just said point to two apparent realities that you see from the actual One reality.
May be the last sentence requires further explanation. We can actually divide the reality into two: the subject or the witness and the object or the witnessed. Witness is just the pure awareness and the witnessed is the contents of consciousness, including the perception of the external world. But this doesn’t mean that there are two realities. There is only one. Witness is like a screen; the witnessed is like the contents of the screen. The contents of the screen do not have any reality separate from the screen. In other words, the contents of the screen is also screen. The contents are not real but the screen is real.
From this, we can derive three statements:
The screen is real.
The contents of the screen are unreal.
The contents of the screen is also the screen.
Adhi Shankara made the same statements but used different terminology.
Brahman is real
The world (contents) is unreal.
The world is Brahman.
Let us now move on to the actual sloka in Gita (13.2):
śhrī-bhagavān uvācha—the Supreme Divine Lord said; idam—this; śharīram—body; kaunteya—Arjun, the son of Kunti; kṣhetram—the field of activities; iti—thus; abhidhīyate—is termed as; etat—this; yaḥ—one who; vetti—knows; tam—that person; prāhuḥ—is called; kṣhetra-jñaḥ—the knower of the field; iti—thus; tat-vidaḥ—those who discern the truth The Supreme Divine Lord said: O Arjun, this body is termed as kṣhetra (the field of activities), and the one who knows this body is called kṣhetrajña (the knower of the field) by the sages who discern the truth about both.
In Gita, the Brahman, (including the aspect of Maya, the witnessed), is personified as Lord Krishna. Krishna is talking to Arjuna in the battlefield. Here the words kshetra and kshetrajna are used instead of the subject and the object. It is very important to note that Kshetrajna is not only the knower of the body but the knower of everything. No, it doesn’t mean kshetrajna is omniscient!.. It simply means kshetrajna is the knower of everything that happens in the field of consciousness: five sense perceptions, organs of the body and the body, your likes and dislikes, your thoughts, memory and intellect.
There is another word called sarvajna. It is usually understood as omniscient. But sarvajna means all knower; this actually means that it is the all knower of the content of consciousness. One who is established as a witness or the one who has realized his true nature is also called as sarvajna.
The discrimination between kshetra and kshetrajna, or the subject and object is very important in the spiritual path. You may recall my previous posts regarding this topic:
I used the tools that technology has provided to make things colorful and appealing. I have been already trying to explain certain subtle things using images, infographics, comics etc. Such a variety will help you to focus easily and remember about certain important things. This time I am trying my hands on some animated gifs. I was playing with an app today and it was really helpful for making these animations.
There is an image which is needed as a visual meditation aid for this meditation. I have included several copies of that image in the page itself. But I am including an animated one here. You can download and see it in your phone:
By the way, do you mind if include a picture of mine? As I was playing with the app, I also tried editing one of my pictures and it was fun. This pic is just for my friends (for you, I mean ). I just wanted to say a ‘hi’ with a smile, standing before the falling waterfalls and moving clouds.
During and before the time of Buddha, the journey to self-realization was a torture. The early ascetics fasted for days, never cut their hairs and nails, most of them roamed naked, did hard penance in scorching heat and freezing cold and tortured themselves in numerous ways. There was also no streamlined method that someone can be guided with. It was Buddha who came up with the middle way. He said that it was a wrong idea to put oneself to torture; only few people succeeded that way. His middle way condemned severe fasting, being naked and all kinds of tortures that people were putting themselves through. These wandering ascetics were called as Sramanas.
But Buddha still said that a complete renunciation of one’s properties is essential to reach liberation. A person who wants to be liberated from the psychological suffering and unsatisfactoriness should become a monk, own only a begging bowl, survive by begging and should keep moving from village to village. Wealth was a taboo for anyone who wants to walk on the spiritual path.
On the other hand, early Vedic religion before the dawn of Upanishads didn’t accept the theories like spiritual liberation, karma, rebirth and renunciation. Early vedic religion, when the rituals were popular and endorsed by kings, insisted that the way of the householder is the best way. A householder’s duty is to conduct daily rituals with sacred fire for five times and should acquire wealth and progeny; only then he would reach the heaven and live with their ancestors forever. They had three goals for life in the early days – dharma (ethics, the natural order and many other things), artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure). On the other hand, Sramanas had just two goals, which are dharma and moksha or spiritual liberation.
After a lot of debates, disagreements, condemnations etc, Brahmana (Vedic) tradition absorbed Moksha as one of the goals of life. Then their goals (Purusharthas) became four: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Readers can read ‘The Greater Magadha’ by Johannes Bronkhorst for plenty of evidences for what I have said above.
If you think about it, you can see that there is a life negative aspect in Sramana traditions and life-positive elements in Vedic tradition. Vedic tradition was also right in its own argument: progeny is important for people to survive. In fact, if everyone in the world had followed what Buddha said, mankind would have been dead already. But this is not to put Buddha down. It is to make you understand that spiritual science was in a much early stage in Buddha and it developed a lot later. So, a merger of Sramana and Brahmana tradition was a need of the hour, a requirement of the time; and it happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen.
Bhagavad Gita played an important role in uniting the concepts of Brahmanic and Sramanic traditions. Arjuna, who want to renounce the world is reminded by Krishna to continue his way of life and participate in the war for a number of reasons. Krishna was shown to be mainly concerned about the defame and disgrace that Arjuna’s escape from the war could cause to Arjuna himself. But Bhagavad Gita beautifully merges the concepts of both traditions.
As centuries passed by, a strong consensus was born among the wiseman that no one has to renounce the world to reach liberation They can simply live their usual life, get married, give birth to kids, enjoy what life gives and also attain liberation by meditations and other things that we know about. In fact, the point of having four Purusharthas that I mentioned earlier is exactly this.
But sadly, this is still not understood by a lot of people. But Osho came up with the concept of Zorba, the Buddha; this meme is about the merger of the life negative and the life positive aspects of the tradition, done clearly for the second time and explained very clearly by Osho. So this post is mainly to share some quotes of Osho regarding this, from the book ‘The Rebel’ which is a transcription of his talks that were recorded in the beginning of 1987.
Just want to end with a quote from Yajur Veda regarding universal friendship. I made this pic today:
Hi people! Is there anything that is greater than love? Can there be anything ever that is greater than Love itself? No! I don’t think so! Love is the only thing that connects us… No matter which part of the world you are from… You need to understand that we belong to the same family! I am your relative no matter where you are from… This whole earth is one family and our family!
Let us all unite together, be happy and treat everyone as our own family members. I love you guys… We as humans have to stand up for a global unity and peace.
We CAN make this world a better place to live..
I don’t see any difference between John 14: 19-21 and Bhagavad Gita 9:29. I have no idea why people are fighting…
I am equal to all living beings; I don’t have anyone that I hate or anyone who I told dearer than the others. But whoever worships me with devotion, they are in me and I am in them…
John 14:19 -21:
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
What we call as God is beyond time and space; but we understand him or imagine him as a person. This is because human mind always detects an agent for everything; this agent deduction in the human mind imagines God in human form or an invisible personality that has human psychology. But this is due to our limitation, not God’s! God is not a person but a personification that points to a direct experience and presence beyond time and space.
Also, most of the scriptures got distorted because of later interpolation, poor translation, lost verses, edited verses and testimony from people who are not direct eyewitnesses. Even the testimonies of eyewitnesses can be biased and memory can be biased too! But regardless of all that, the essence of the scriptures have been realized by millions of sages before us and their teachings can guide us to salvation.
Here is a riddle for you:
He sees through the eyes of every being, knows through the awareness of every manifest organism and walks using the legs of every piece of life.
As an Octopus he has eight legs; as the son of Man, he has two legs; as the son of God, he is the inner light of every little thing that eats, procreates and decomposes!
He is beyond time and space.
He exists as the love of every mother, as the care of every father, as the company of every brother, as the support of every sister, as the closeness of every wife and as the convenience of every servant.
He shakes hands with you through every friend you see and he pays your wages as every boss you work for. He is the one who eats and he is the one who gets eaten, yet he neither eats; nor gets eaten. He is the essence of every word, every sound, every sentence, every contradiction, every confusion, everything that is good and bad; NOT EVEN AN ATOM MOVES WITHOUT HIS WILL…
He is the one who robs, which gets robbed and the act of robbing; yet he neither robs nor gets robbed. He is beyond the limits of human intellect even though intellect itself is a manifestation of him; he is beyond the power of human vision, even though human vision itself is one of his manifestations!. He is beyond the power of human ears and yet he is everything that you hear…
He is She; She is it, and it is You! … His kingdom is within you and He is closer than the mane behind your neck! All praise ultimately goes to him and no one else.. He is the good shepherd and the sheep, he is the Gopalan and the Gomata; he is the Pashu and he is the Pathi! He is the Kartha, the doer; every biochemical living piece on planet earth is just a puppet; this puppet show is going on for aeons as a holy game of God…. you suffer, you laugh, you enjoy, you grow, you sin and someday you may even become a saint.. but you know, it is all in the game… in the eyes of God, there is no discrimination!
He is the sweetness of the milk and the sourness of the toddy; He is the intoxication and he is the clarity.. everything happens to according to His will and His will alone.. He is both the uppercase and the lower case letters and the one who is beyond, before, beneath, below and in the middle of all the letters.. He is the first and he is the last, yet He has no beginning and no end!
He expands through and from you in all directions and pervades everything, including every single stone pillar on earth, every single speck of dust and every heart that beats…
He is every mistake and he is every correction … He is… Only He is… He is the one truth which is known, spoken, and understood by various means, forms, names and practices by wise people…
He is not a person but a personification!
Who is He?
Clue: The answer is inside you, within you and lies very close to you; close your eyes and keep looking until you find it…
When you find it, your expression certainly will be, ‘Oh My God!’….
Generally, I prefer movies which show reality as it is, like a mirror. A lot of Indian movies are usually anti-reality, but things are getting better. There are a few Tamil lyrics written by Tamil poet Vairamuthu, who is currently the top lyricist in Tamil Movie Industry.
Let us start with a wonderful movie ‘Anbe Sivam’ (2003). The movie itself comes with a strong spiritual message and seems to be inspired by the Hollywood movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles ‘. You can compare the stills, they look alike:
Now, let us see a song in the movie with its English translation:
“யார் யார் சிவம்? நீ, நான், சிவம்!
வாழ்வே தவம்! அன்பே சிவம்!
ஆத்திகம் பேசும் அடியார்க்கெல்லாம் சிவமே அன்பாகும்!
நாத்திகம் பேசும் நல்லவருக்கோ அன்பே சிவமாகும்!
அன்பே சிவம்! அன்பே சிவம்! என்றும்,
அன்பே சிவம்! அன்பே சிவம்! எங்கும்,
அன்பின் பாதை சேர்ந்தவனுக்கு முடிவே இல்லையடா!
மனதின் நீளம் எதுவோ, அதுவே வாழ்வின் நீளமடா!
Who is Shiva? You and I are (essentially) Shiva!
Life is a penance; Love is Shiva!
For theists who surrender to the Almighty, Shiva is love!
For atheists who are good at heart, Love is Shiva!
Love is Shiva, Love is Shiva forever!
Love is Shiva, Love is Shiva everywhere!
If you walk on the path of life, there is no end for you..
The length of your mind (heart) is the length of your life!
Vairamuthu, The Great King of Poets
(If you do a search, you may be able to watch the movie online with English subtitles. I recommend watching both ”Planes, Trains and Automobiles ‘ and ‘Anbe Shivam‘ if you are interested in both movies and spirituality.
Then there is another song from the movie Padayappa (1999). Here is just a part of that song, which I like very much:
தங்கத்தை பூட்டி வைத்தாய் வைரத்தை பூட்டி வைத்தாய்
உயிரை பூட்ட ஏது பூட்டு?
குழந்தை ஞானி இந்த இருவர் தவிர இங்கே
சுகமாய் இருப்பவர் யார் காட்டு!
“ஜீவன் இருக்கும் மட்டும் வாழ்கை நமது மட்டும்”
இது தான் ஞான சித்தர் பாட்டு!
இந்த பூமி சமம் நமக்கு;
நம் தெருவுக்குள் மத சண்டை ஜாதி சண்டை வம்பெதுக்கு?
You can lock the gold, you can lock the diamond,
but you cannot lock your life inside a body!
Is there anyone who is blissful except a child and a Jnani (self-realized person)?
Only as long as life is in the body, you can say that life belongs to only me.
This is the song of the Jnana Siddha!
Everyone has equal rights on the earth (like a family)..
Why should there be quarrels in our street based on religious and caste discrimination?
Vairamuthu, The Great King of Poets
Controversies on Vairamuthu
People, especially politicians in Tamil Nadu have been trying to malign and defame Vairamuthu because of an absurd reason. Vairamuthu wrote a research article about a Tamil saint Andal, completely praising her Tamil poetry. He also quoted a researcher who said that Andal was a Devadasi who lived and died in Sri Rangam temple in Tamil Nadu. Devadasi literally means, a slave to God! A huge community called Devadasi community existed in South India and the women who belonged to this community were brought up in temples right from the young age and were taught fine arts. Women are usually good at fine arts like dancing, singing, painting etc. You can check out Sreeja Renganath from Quora for example: https://www.quora.com/profile/Sreeja-Renganath. For me, she seems to be the living manifestation of Goddess Saraswathi, the Goddess of wisdom. I am not being polite, I am being brutally honest. Read this answer of hers, you will know what I mean: https://qr.ae/TUhfF0 (an English name which represents wisdom is ‘Sophia’. This can be said like the English concept of Sarasvathi.)
Devadasis were wonderful women. Usually, they grew up to be extraordinarily devoted and consider God as the master and themselves as slaves. This is called Dasa Bhavana, the attitude that Hanuman is shown to have towards Rama in Indian epic Ramayana. These girls saw the Almighty as their husband. But later on, some people who were in charge of some temples started enslaving these Devadasis, took advantage of them and used them for prostitution. People who are so attached to the forms of deities (without realizing that all forms represent one truth), who claim that their ‘God’ can be insulted, should first realize that this tragedy that happened to Devadasi community was the actual insult to Goddess Saraswathi. Over the years, the word ‘Devadasi’ earned a bad connotation. The word ‘Devadasi’ can be very easily misunderstood nowadays as a synonym for prostitute. So, thousands of people who didn’t even read Vairamuthu’s essay started to verbally abuse him, threatened to kill him, forced him to apologize to Andal by coming to Andal’s temple in Srivilliputtur and made his life difficult after that for no reason. Vairamuthu didn’t do anything wrong in this regard!
Recently, he also has been accused of sexual harassment by a singer Chinmayi in Tamil Nadu, via the METOO campaign. Chinmayi made an allegation on him and the poet denied it. Chinmayi says that it was something that happened more than a decade before. I have no idea who is saying the truth! But the impression that singer Chinmayi has made in general among the people of Tamil Nadu is not good. I sense a dominative character in Chinmayi and I suspect that she can lie or at least exaggerate something and make a mountain out of the molehill. Generally, after looking at the METOO issue, everyone gets this question: ‘Is this campaign really helping common men and women or is it only targetting celebrities? Because I know very well that most of these common people in India do not use Twitter or have never heard about it. Also, what makes these people to think that a person is exactly the same as how he was more than a decade ago?’
People change… But forgiveness, which seems to be the backbone of all the world religions is becoming an out of date concept these days!
The truth will win one day! No matter what the truth is, it will win! I just wrote this post to help people see and focus the positive side of poet Vairamuthu. He is a legend..
For the sake of the argument, let us say that Vairamuthi was indeed guilty of things that he is accused of. We need to still realize the fact that every saint was once a sinner and every sinner has the potential to become a saint. A human being is not a static entity, it is a process! Even Valmiki, who wrote Ramayana is said to be a robber before he became a saint!
This post is an expression of gratitude to Andal herself. The month of Marghazhi (16 Dec 2018 – 13 Jan 2019) which is considered to be special for Andal is also approaching. The name Andal reminds me of my English teacher at Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Matriculation higher secondary school, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli -627357. My English teacher in my seventh standard was a teacher named Andal. Whenever someone says my English is good, please understand the whole credit goes to her.
These are the letters that she wrote to me many years before:
Wow, the first one is dated on 24th of November, 1997. I didn’t realize that the anniversary of this letter was over just a couple of days before until I began to write this paragraph… (I have already mentioned about this letter and a few other letters in my Quora answer here: https://qr.ae/TUhfPb )