What is life? A continuous series of experiences.

openeyes

The term “Life” is easier to understand by analyzing and understanding its antonym “Death”. An organism is said to be dead when it completely ceases to receive or respond to the stimuli from external objects. In other words, “Death” is a state of total cessation of experience. Life, therefore, is defined as a continuous series of experiences – anubhavadhara, अनुभवधारा.

Since life is a series of experiences, each experience becomes a unit of life just as a brick is the unit of a wall. The strength or weakness of a wall will depend upon the quality and texture of the bricks constituting it. Similarly, the type of experiences that an individual goes through will determine the character of his life. If his experiences are happy, his life is happy and if they are miserable, his life is miserable.

An individual gains an experience when he receives and responds to a stimulus from the external world. An experience therefore is constituted of the following three entities:-

The Experiencer ….the subject,
The Experienced… the object,
The Experiencing…..the relationship between the subject and the object.

The field of enquiry of the ऋषि Rsis, was the “experiencer”, whereas that of the physical scientist was the “experienced”. Investigation about the “experiencer” is philosophy, while investigation about the “experienced” is science.

The Rsis tried to develop the inner personality of man and make him independent of the environment and happenings in his world. Thus, their goal was to raise the standard of life in man.

The scientists, on the other hand, tried to beautify and make the world a better place to live in; their attempt was, therefore, directed to raising the standard of living.

Swami Chinmayanada
Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment

What is mind? What is an intellect?

When we ask the question, “What is the mind?” an intelligent person will probably answer, “Mind is thought.” Yes, whenever there are thoughts, we can say that the mind exists. Whenever there are no thoughts, we can say there is no mind. In deep sleep no thoughts exist, and therefore there is no mind.

Thus, thoughts and the mind are very much interrelated. If the thoughts are calm, the mind is calm. If the thoughts are agitated, the mind is agitated. If the thoughts are hopeful, the mind is hopeful. The mind is exactly as the thoughts in it.

However, thought alone is not the mind. The sages of India concluded that the thoughts and the mind have a relationship similar to that of water and the river:

Water by itself is not a river. A pool of water is not a river. However, when waters flow in a continuous stream, a river is born. Thus, a river is water flowing. Similarly, thought by itself is not the mind, but when thoughts flow, the mind exists. When the waters of the river are muddy, the river is called muddy. When the waters are clean, the river is clean. When the waters are fast, the river is fast. As the waters, so the river. Similarly with the mind: as the thoughts, so the mind. If the thoughts are good, the mind is good. If the thoughts are bad, the mind is called bad. A person may have a beautiful body, a big car, and a million dollars, but if his mind is unhappy, he is unhappy. If the mind is good, the whole world is attracted to the owner of that mind.

We can understand the mind further by understanding its relationship to the intellect. We can think of the mental function as the expression of thoughts in two different ways:

Thoughts as emotions = the mind  – संकल्प विकल्पत्मकं मनः
Thoughts as ideas or decisions = the intellect (buddhi) – निश्चयत्मिक बुधि

We can understand the differences between these two aspects of the mental function by again using the analogy of the river:

Mind A flow of thoughts, like the flow of water in a river
Intellect: That which directs the thoughts, just like the banks of a river direct the water in it

Swami Chinmayananda
Excerpts from Self-Unfoldment

The Happiness Equation

contemplation

The scriptures explain this truth and help to awaken the dormant faculty in us. Once we learn the art of quieting the mind, our mind will no longer find it necessary to pursue the objects of the world for gaining peace and happiness. At that point we will have learned the real joy of living. We will get established in a state of permanent happiness, independent of the environment or the circumstances. A person who has achieved this state stands out like a beacon-light for others.

Happiness = Number of desires fulfilled / Number of desires entertained

We can increase the amount of happiness by either of the following:

  1. Increasing the numerator
  2. Decreasing the denominator

Fulfillment of existing desires quiets the agitations created by desires. Again, if we have fewer desires, the agitations in the mind are lessened. In either case, it is the lessening of agitations that quiets the mind and therefore produces happiness.

The formula works. However, there is one caution about Working on the numerator only: Fulfilling our desires generally causes more desires to spring up.

No sooner do we have the desire for a new house fulfilled, then springs up the desire for new carpeting. As soon as the house is freshly recarpeted, a previously unknown desire for a deck looms its head. No sooner is the deck finished, then the desire for a swimming pool has us in its grips. It never stops.

And as the number of desires increases, the denominator increases, resulting in reduced happiness. Thus, the best way of establishing permanent happiness is to reduce the number of desires entertained by directing our thoughts to a higher ideal of principle.

Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Self-unfoldment

Japa is a form of worship. A form of mediation leading to the appreciation that you are the consciousness that is silence!

gurudev (2)Repeating a mantra or a hymn or a name of the Lord is japa जप. It is also a form of prayer and worship. A devotee performs japa with a spirit and attitude of devotion. Japa is a special kind of worship that can be at the level of speech or mind. Japa has three forms ucca ऊचा, manda मण्ड and manasa मनस japa, Ucca japa is to repeat the name of the Lord loudly so that others around can also hear. Manda or upamsu japa is when it is repeated softly so that the performer alone can hear. Manasa is when the name is repeated mentally. Each form is considered superior to the previous one. Chanting softly is considered superior to chanting aloud and mental chanting superior even to that, for simple reason that each following step requires more concentration than the previous one.

A mantra is p a sacred formula in repeating which a certain attitude is also involved. For example, in the mantra, Om namah Sivaya ॐ नमः शिवाय, salutations to Lord Siva, the attitude of surrender is involved. Similarly also in Sri krasnah Saranam mama श्री कृष्ण शरणम् मम्, Lord Krishna is my refuge. In the GayatrI-mantra we meditate upon the brilliant light of Lord Sun to inspire our thoughts in a noble direction. Japa is a very important form of worship. Lord Krishna says in the Gita :

यज्ञानां जपयज्ञोऽस्मि !!
yajñānāṁ japa-yajño smi!! [10.25]

“Among the yajna I am japa-yajna.” Japa, repeating the name of the Lord is compared to yajna, sacrificial ritual. The Lord says, among all sacrifices japa is the most exalted. He identifies himself with it, saying he is the ritual in the form of japa, since it does not involve offering of any material other than one’s own self and devotion.

Japa is prescribed as a spiritual practice for the devotees. It helps us develop focus and concentration of the mind. When Om namah Sivaya, Om namah Sivaya is repeated, the mind is able to maintain the flow of the same thought form. The mind is nothing but a flow of thoughts, in which there seems to be a connection between one thought and another. We do not know what that connection is and hence it is hard to say what that next thought will be. The mind also has a habit of wandering and getting distracted. Therefore in japa, we deliberately give a specific occupation to the mind. When every successive thought is the same, like when repeating a name or a mantra, the mind develops an ability to focus itself on one thought. When the mind wanders it is brought back to the mantra or the name that is being repeated.

Japa is a spiritual practice because not just any word or formula is repeated. It is the name of the Lord that is repeated. The very utterance invokes the devotee in a person. It is the devotee who repeats the name of his Lord, his ista-devata इष्ट देवता for whom he has reverence and love. It is with this worshipful and prayerful mind that the Lord’s name is repeated and that has a soothing and purifying effect. Japa is compared with the flow of the sacred Ganga. Just as many unclean streams of water become the Ganga when they merge in her, so too when the impurities of the mind merge in the name of the Lord they become sanctified.

Japa can be for meditation also. When it is performed at the level of the mind it becomes an excellent form of meditation, involving a worshipful attitude. Our Pujya Swamiji says that the japa can be further utilized for contemplation on the Self, by repeating the name of the Lord with devotion, the mind does calm down. The repetition gets progressively slower. As the repetition becomes slower and the mind gains a degree of calmness, one gains an ability to witness the mantra that is chanted. By long practice the mantra emerges from the mind without any effort and one becomes the witness. The observation of the mantra and the space between the mantra also becomes possible. Om namah Sivaya, silence, Om namah Sivaya, silence. Appreciate the fact that silence precedes and follows the mantra, that the mantra emerges from silence and merges back into silence and that the mantra is nothing but the manifestation of silence. As the mantra merges into the silence what remains is only silence. That is the silence of the mind. At the same time you are the silent conscious witness of the silent state of mind. This leads to the appreciation that you are the consciousness that is silence.

We prescribe meditation involving the repetition of the name of the Lord because meditation should necessarily be mental worship of the Lord.

Thus japa is a form of prayer, worship, meditation and contemplation. It is not easy to do mental japa. So first of all start with loud recitation of the name, make it soft to a murmur and then bring it to the level of the mind. If the mind gets distracted, then go back to loud chanting. By long practice, doing japa at the mental level can be accomplished. This is an excellent form of prayer leading to -meditation and samadhi, absorption. Yoga-sastra says that isvara-pranidhanam ईश्वर प्रणिधानम worship of the Lord leads to samadhi, absorption, identification with the Lord. The idea behind any form of worship is to ultimately identify with the worshiped.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma Basics & Beyond
Link to videos of Swamiji’s Discourses

How do we become free from worries and anxieties?

gurudev (2)Worrying comes to us naturally. It is not as if there can ever be no worries in life. Though it would be easy to declare that there are no reasons for worry, there can certainly be some genuine causes for worry.

Let us understand the nature, of worries. Why do we worry? It may be a question of physical security. Suppose we are subjected to physical abuse, there can be worry that we may be abused again. Health can be a cause for worry. Income can be a cause for worry. The future can be a cause for worry. These are some of the things we may worry about.

We must, however, recognize that mere worrying does not help or accomplish anything. If we find ourselves worried about something, we must confront the object of worry and act upon it. If it is possible to alter the situation, we must try to change things to make the situation more pleasant or agreeable.

There are certain inevitable things in life that we cannot help and which we cannot change. Worrying about things that we cannot change is not right. Lord Krishna says,

अपरिहार्येर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि !!
aparihāryerthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi

You should not grieve over that which cannot be altered [Bhagavad Gita, 2-27].

The inevitable cannot be changed and we have to accept it gracefully. We should have the willingness to gracefully accept the unpleasant realities of life.

Anxiety occurs because we are not willing to accept the unpleasant. It is natural that we are unwilling to accept pain or unwilling to accept the unfavorable. But we must remember that the unpleasant, the unfavorable, or the undesirable is also a reality of life. Because we cannot avoid certain things, such as physical pain, we must be willing to accept them gracefully. However, accept them in the spirit of humility, not defiance or worry and anxiety, or sadness and fear. Accept it as boldly as you can and with a prayerful mind.

Prayer also helps in reducing anxiety. You can pray and seek the grace of the Lord that you may avoid unfavorable situations as well as seek the strength to confront the inevitable. Worries and anxieties call for a response. To the extent possible, this response must be in terms of our willingness to accept the inevitable. We are born, and we are bound to grow old. We have a body, and there is bound to be a disease. Where there is birth, death will also surely come. Where there is wealth, poverty can also be at hand. Where there is an association, disassociation is just as likely. These are some of the laws of nature that we have to accept, however difficult, not out of a sense of helplessness, but with grace. If possible, accept them as prasada, the grace of the Lord.

There are certain aspects to every situation that we can change and many things that we cannot change. We should use our will and courage to change what we can change, and gracefully accept whatever we cannot. This is the way to deal with worries and anxieties. When we were born, everything was provided for us. As we go along in life, whatever we need continues to be provided. We must trust that there is somebody taking care of us. Whoever has caused this birth will take care. Of course, this does not mean that we remain with hands folded and do nothing to help ourselves. But we must have sraddha, faith or trust in the scheme of things, a reasonable trust that there is fairness, which will take care of everything. It should also be acceptable to us that things may not always go well.

When we worry, let us confront that worry. Sometimes the worry is purely a supposition, as in what if? We tend not to confront situations. We simply choose to worry. ”Swamiji, what if I lose my job?” I Would only ask you to explore your own fears: “So, what will happen?” “Oh, I won’t have any income.” “So what will, happen?” ”It will mean that I cannot pay my mortgage.” “So what will happen?” “I cannot continue to live in’ this house.” “Then move to an apartment.” “What will people think of me?” ”Let them think Whatever they want.”

Very often, we impose too many requirements upon. ourselves. We have an image of ourselves and want to conform to it, imagining that we cannot be otherwise. But We. can be. When we examine our own thoughts deeply enough, we will be able to confront the unpleasant as well. It is not that we cannot confront it. We surely can. If not, we can pray to the Lord to give us the strength to confront whatever we are faced with

“God, give me the serenity to accept gracefully what I cannot change. Give me the will and courage to change what I can. And give me the wisdom to know the difference.”

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Satsanga with Swami Viditatmananda Vol.1
Link to videos Swamiji’s Discourse

God cannot be angry because anger can be there only when there is an agenda. If God also has an agenda then he cannot be God!

gurudev (2)There is a benevolent order and fairness and that is an expression of God. Everything functions according to the fundamental laws or the order, which is what ordains and controls everything. In that sense it can be said that the order is the expression of God himself. God is benevolent and not punishing. Even if there is a pain in life, which may be the result of the past actions, a devout person will not consider it as a punishment but will understand it as the result of his actions and that even the pain is meant for his growth. Faith in the benevolence of the order will create an attitude that will look at all situations as a means of inner growth.

We do not have the concept of an angry, punishing God or a God who takes revenge. God cannot be angry or revengeful because anger can be there only when there is an agenda. Anger is the result of unfulfilled needs and demands. If God also has an agenda or need then God also becomes a needy and incomplete being. Then he cannot be God; he cannot be fair. In order to be fair one must have no axe to grind. In a court of justice the presiding judge has no personal gain in the judgment that he passes. He is totally objective; and compassionate also.

God is always kind. Whatever is done is done out of kindness and not out of revengefulness. If he is revengeful then he becomes incomplete because he has. likes and dislikes. And then he cannot be fair. There is freedom from likes and dislikes when one is whole and complete within. Likes and dislikes are manifestations of incompleteness and discomfort. with oneself. When controlled by likes and dislikes, actions also will be violent. There cannot be violence for order and fairness to be there. So God cannot be violent or unfair. There will be no order in the world if he were so. Whatever is done out of completeness is always an act of kindness. One who feels happy, whole and complete can never be unkind. In God’s infinite compassion everything has a place.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma – Basics & Beyond
Link Videos of Swamiji’s Discourses

 

What is anger? Is it justified? How can I manage it?

gurudev (2)Let us understand the occurrence of anger. It is anger that gets us and not vice-versa. Is anger justified? Well, we cannot get angry deliberately. Justification should be sought for something that is under our control. When that is not so, there is no question of justification. We find ourselves angry. Anger grips us. We are helpless.

Anything done in anger will cause someone harm. Anger will hurt both the one it is directed against, and the one expressing it. Anger does not solve any problem. It can never be productive in any sense. It is very often used as a tool to control others. But it is not an effective weapon. Anger is like a match-stick that must burn before it can burn something else. Anger will burn one’ s own mind and heart before it burns another’s.

Anger is a result of. demand. When a demand is not satisfied it gives rise to anger. The demands we make of others, and the world, come from our emotional needs. These needs are expressed as demands through which one wants to control others. When these demands are not met with, frustration comes. When one is not in control it makes the person feel helpless. This frustration and helplessness manifest as anger. The way to freedom from anger is to first recognize its mechanism.

Learn to accept the world for what it is. Learn to accept ourselves as we are. Graceful acceptance of things as they are is a way to become free. from demands and anger.

People say anger is justified in situations Where injustice and harm is inflicted upon innocent people. Then also a proper response is in order, but not anger. Clarity and firmness of conviction will help us determine what an appropriate response is.

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that anger is our number one enemy. It arises from demand or desire. It is best to understand our mind and its demands and to deal with them accordingly so that anger does not get in the way. We can remain deliberate and do what is right in a given situation.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma Basics & Beyond
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

 

 

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma Basics & Beyond

How does one establish freedom from conflict in a relationship?

gurudev (2)

What creates conflicts is often conflicting demands. Two people in a relationship may have conflicting demands. Each one is a demanding and a needy person. Demands indicate emotional need. We are not totally content with ourselves. We need others to love us, make us happy. For that we need them to conduct themselves in a certain agreeable way. Then only do we feel loved.

How do we know we are loved? Love being subjective, there is no one way of judging or sensing it. We may understand it if we are sensitive, but we are often not. So we judge love by the way the other person conducts himself or herself. The reason we make demands upon others to conduct themselves our way is because of our need for their acceptance, love and respect. This is our way of asking for comfort. Unfortunately they also have their needs and expect the same of us. Conflicts arise when these expectations are different. So accept others as they are with their virtues and limitations and be as undemanding as possible.

Ideally, freedom in a relationship is when there are no demands from those related to each other. A relationship is healthy when each one’s needs, welfare and comfort are met with love and understanding. Freedom in a relationship requires maturity on both sides. Maturity is in terms of understanding that a relationship is for mutual help, support and nurturing. This kind of attitude establishes harmony.

A relationship based on mature give and take, nurturing, nourishing and sustenance will blossom and gain strength. To the extent the relationship is free from demands and is established on the basis of helping and giving, with concern and care for each other, to that extent there will be freedom from conflicts in the relationship.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Hindu Dharma, Basics & Beyond
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

How do we overcome attachments & aversions?

gurudev (2)

A राग raga, attachment is created for something because of a particular viewpoint, e. g., dwelling merely at the benefits or the virtues of a given thing. Similarly, dwelling too long on the defects or disadvantages of a thing creates द्वेस dvesa, aversion. Both raga and dvesa are results of a partial viewpoint. If constantly dwelling on the virtues creates raga, let the mind do दोष-दर्सन dosa-darsana, see the faults or the harm involved in association with that object or being. This is called प्रतिपक्ष-भावना pratipaksa-bhavana – deliberately taking the opposite view point. The objective of pratipaksa-bhavana is to take into account the totality, not just one viewpoint.

विरज्य विषयव्रातादोष्द्रष्ट्या मुहुर्मुहुः !
virjya visaydvriitat dosadrstya muhurmuhuh!

The Vivekacudamani [22] says detachment can be created by making the mind see again and again the dosa, the defect or harm associated with the thing.

The pratipaksa-bhavana should be applied not only to the ragas and dvesas, but also to the related emotions such as indulgence (kama काम), anger (krodha, क्रोध), and greed (lobha लोभ्). If there is anger, we bring in its opposite emotions such as compassion and forgiveness. If there is greed, we bring in contentment, satisfaction with what we have. Thus, we keep observing our emotions or impulses and keep neutralizing them; Thus, alertness is to identify these emotions and neutralize them.

As Lord Krishna teaches us, we should do what is right rather than doing what we like in every situation. What we like is the result of our ragas and dvesas; what is right requires us ‘to subdue these emotions. We need to cultivate प्रसाद-बुध्धि prasada-buddhi, graceful acceptance. We should accept the outcome of our efforts as प्रसाद prasada grace of ईश्वर isvara (Lord); then we will not react with frustration or elation. Success also is prasada and so is failure. We can avoid elation and depression with prasada-buddhi. We should strive to maintain equanimity of mind in everything -whether we are walking, talking, doing any action. Do what is right rather than what you like. Accept gracefully what you cannot change, and commit to do what is right; where you can do something. See isvara everywhere.

Ragas and dvesas arise because we give too much importance to dissimilarities or disparities, or whenever we give importance to the name and form which is but a costume. There are many commonalities also. Even if we do not go all the way to isvara, we can notice that all the bodies are common and they are but modification of food. All are products of the five basic elements. Thus, we can identify the sameness in all beings. Let us make our minds pay attention to what is common. Thus; make a commitment to see the sameness in everything or समत्व-द्रष्टा samatva-drasta. Ultimately, isvara of course is सम  sama or equal everywhere. Thu, seeing Lord Narayana or Lord Siva in everything is an excellent way of making the mind free from ragas and devsas. We work with the minds and its impulses constantly this way.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol 2
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

How do you find the agenda or purpose of life? Is living life as a householder and raising children the agenda?

gurudev (2)

Doing your work and raising your children are only a means to an agenda; they are themselves not the agenda. One’s agenda in life can simply be emotional maturity. We are born with an innate desire to be happy and free. When can you experience this happiness and freedom? It can happen only when you are emotionally mature. Therefore, emotional maturity becomes an agenda in itself. All the things you do, such as your work or raising children, should be done in such a way that they bring about emotional maturity. These are very demanding things. You fulfill all those duties properly to bring about emotional maturity. It is different if you cop out or take short cuts, but if you sincerely fulfill the demands that are made upon you, Whether in your workplace or in relating to your family, your friends, or the community, life will become a process of achieving emotional maturity. Whatever you do must be done in keeping with dharma so that your very life will become a means to emotional maturity.

Relating to each other requires us to drop and let go of things. As much as is possible, we must let go of our demands, our rights, and our egos in order to nourish and nurture relationships. The most important thing in any relationship is our ability to nurture that relationship. After all, most of our happiness comes from relationships. Objects such as pizza and ice cream might contribute in a small way, but as emotional beings, our real happiness or joy comes from our relationships. By relationships, I mean all kinds of relationships Whether between a husband and wife, between, parents and children, between siblings, friends or in the workplace. Each one of these relationships can be a source of great happiness just as much as each one of them can also be a problem. That’s why every relationship is important.

A friendship, for example, is a very precious relationship. It is a great blessing to have a good friend, and however many you may have, you must nourish each friendship. Just as a young plant needs you to constantly take care of it, so also, every relationship requires a commitment on your part not to take it for granted. We cannot take any relationship for granted. Nothing can be taken for granted. Each relationship requires nurturing and nourishing. It requires an investment on one’s part. In turn, the relationship is a source of great joy. Every relationship can, therefore, become a means to grow in emotional maturity.

Every relationship has its own demands. The relationship between a husband and wife may be one of the most demanding relationships. Even the relationship of the teacher and student such as between us needs to be maintained, nurtured, and nourished. Therefore, each one has to play the role of being related to another properly.

We are constantly relating to the world. That is the nature of our lives. Our minds are ceaselessly thinking about something or someone. Our interaction with the world is also a relationship. We are social beings and relationships are the most important and valuable things that We have. This demands that we value them and treat them with commitment and wisdom. Therefore, even as you live the life of a householder, it is a means to grow in emotional maturity. Guard against your ego coming in the way of your relationships. Remember that the ego is not a source of happiness, but a burden. If the relationship requires that you drop the ego, then that is good. Why don’t you drop it? When we understand this, we will be ready to let go.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati
Excerpts from Satsanaga with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol. 2