Religion begins with a tremendous dissatisfaction with the present state of things, with our lives, and a hatred, an intense hatred, for this patching up of life


“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the voice that is leading us forward. Man has heard it and is hearing it – all through the ages. This voice comes to man when everything seems to be lost, and hope has fled, when man’s dependence on his own strength has been crushed down, and everything seems to melt away be his fingers, and life is a hopeless ruin. Then he hears it. This is called religion.

On the one side, therefore, is the bold assertion that this is all nonsense, this is maya; but along with it there is the hopeful assertion that from this maya there is a way out. On the other hand, practical men tell us: “Don’t bother your heads about such nonsense as religion and metaphysics. Live here; this is a very bad world, indeed, but make the best of it.” Which, put in plain language, means: Live a hypocritical, lying life, a life of continuous fraud, covering your old sores in the best way you can; go on putting patch after patch, until everything is lost and you are a mass of patchwork. This is what is called practical wisdom. Those who are satisfied with this patchwork will never come to religion.

Religion begins with a tremendous dissatisfaction with the present state of things, with our lives, and a hatred, an intense hatred, for this patching up of life, an unbounded disgust for fraud and lies. He alone can be religious who dares to say what the mighty Buddha once said under the Bo-tree, when this idea of practicality appeared before him and he saw that it was nonsense, and yet could not find a way out. When the temptation came to him to give up his search after truth, to go back to the world and live the old life of fraud, calling things by wrong names, telling lies to himself and to everybody, he, the giant, conquered it and said: “Death is better than a vegetating ignorant life; itis better to die on the battlefield than to live a life of defeat.” This is the basis of religion.

When a man takes this stand he is on the way to find the truth, he is on the way to God. That determination must be the first impulse towards becoming religious. I will hew out a way for myself. I will know the truth or give up my life in the attempt. For on this side it is nothing, it is gone, it is vanishing every day. The beautiful, hopeful young person of today is the veteran of tomorrow. Hopes and joys and pleasures will die like blossoms with tomorrow’s frost. That is one side. On the other, there are the great charms of conquest, victories over all the ills of life, victories over life itself, the conquest of the universe. On that side men can stand. Those who dare, therefore, to struggle for victory, for truth for religion, are on the right path, and that is what the Vedas preach. “Be not in despair; the way is very difficult, like walking on the blade of a razor. Yet despite not; arise, awake, and find the ideal, the goal.”

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works


What is real? What is un-real?

gurudev (2)

Mithya – मिथ्या – means unreal that which very much appears to be real but which is not real. When I look at the world, it appears as though the world can fulfill my desire of attaining immortality. The things and beings and achievements generally create this impression in me or may seem to give me the promise that through them I can attain immortality. And it is only for that reason that I am always running after material achievements. They have this fascination, the attraction.

That happiness comes from objects is my conclusion but it is not right. Happiness does not come from any object in the world. It only comes from within, from myself. How come than when I contact the objects I seem to experience happiness? That happiness is akin to that of a dog chewing a dry bone which does not have even a drop of blood in it. The dog chews it for hours together, thinking there is blood in it. But in fact he enjoys the very blood that is coming from the wounds that the bone has made in his mouth but thinks that the happiness, or the taste comes from the bone. So also when the happiness appears to come from the objects, in reality it only comes from myself.

What does this knowledge do? It creates the right attitude towards the world. The world is not useful for attainment of immortality that I want to gain. So I must give it up. That is how people take sannyasa – सन्यास. But that is not proper. An aversion for the world, a hatred for the world, a rejection of the world is not desirable. Nothing should be rejected. Why is the world there? If the things and beings and the wealth and achievements cannot serve the purpose that I want them to serve, why at all should they be there? Well, they cannot serve the purpose that I want them to serve. But they serve some other purpose and that is why they are there. The world is called Mithya – मिथ्या only inasmuch as it cannot give me immortality, but that does not mean that the world does not exist or that it should be rejected as useless.

The other day I was invited for bhiksa भिक्षा at some place. I went there, and as the door was open I entered the hall. There was a dining table nicely set up but no food had yet been served. The lady of the house was inside and I was feeling very hungry. I noticed there were some beautiful fruits on the dining table and what attracted me the most was a beautiful apple. Since there was nobody around, I quietly picked up the apple. And as soon as I picked it up I came to know that the apple was Mithya – मिथ्या, it was false. It was a wooden apple placed on this modern dining table which was also decorated with beautiful flowers and fruits; all of them were artificial. They were so lively and so attractive that we would take them to be real.

So just because the sense of perception seems to say it is real, a thing need not be real. The apple was very beautiful, very attractive. Only when I picked it up and started biting it, did I come to know that it was not a real apple, that it was a wooden one. It is called Mithya – मिथ्या – apple. It is Mithya – मिथ्या inasmuch as it cannot serve the purpose of an apple to appease my hunger, which it very much seems to be promising to do. But that does not mean that it is useless or that it has no purpose. It is beautiful and its purpose is to decorate the table. I should not hate the apple or throw it away just because it cannot appease my hunger.

I should not throw away the things in the, world just because they cannot appease my hunger. They are not meant for that. This flower cannot appease my hunger, for that is not the purpose the flower is meant to serve. Inasmuch as the world cannot appease my hunger of immortality, from that standpoint I can say that the objects, the things and the beings in the world are mithya’. But it does not mean that the things are non-existen or that they are not beautiful. In fact a wooden apple may look more beautiful than a real one. ‘So no doubt the world is a beautiful thing to enjoy, but the manner in which it should be enjoyed is different. By eating it, that apple cannot be enjoyed. It is to be enjoyed by looking at it as a piece of art. That apple is not an object of eating.

Thus we come to the most beautiful and the most fantastic way of relating ourselves to the world. In our colloquial language we use the word Mithya – मिथ्या to mean imaginary or non- existent or wrong. Therefore people develop an aversion for the world. Mithya’ means that-it does not serve the purpose it seems to promise to serve but it does serve some other purpose. It is an object of adoration. It is an object of appreciation. Once I understand this, my relationship with the apple changes. Earlier, when I didn’t know the real nature of the apple, I looked upon it as an object of enjoyment. I expected it to appease my hunger taking it to be my food. I may touch it, I may smell it and I may even try to cut it with a knife. That is I may examine it well from all the sides, to know its’ real

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

Excerpts from: Vedanta in Present Day Life



Theory of Evolution – from Amoeba to man to the Absolute ब्रह्मन्!


What is the theory of evolution? There are two factors: First, a tremendous potential power is trying to express itself, and secondly, circumstances are holding it down, its environment not allowing it to express itself. So in order to fight with this environment, the power takes new bodies again and again. An amoeba, in the struggle, gets another body and conquers some obstacles, then gets another body, and so on until it becomes man. Now, if you carry this idea to its logical conclusion, there must come a time when the power that was in the amoeba, and that evolved as man, will have conquered all the obstructions that nature can bring before it and will thus escape from all its environments. This idea expressed in metaphysics will take this form: There are two components in every action—the one is the subject, the other the object – and the aim of life is to make the subject master of the object. For instance, I feel unhappy because a man scolds me. My struggle will be to make myself strong enough to conquer the environment, so that he may scold but I shall not feel. That is how we are all trying to conquer nature. What is meant by morality? Making the subject strong by attuning it to the Absolute – ब्रह्मन्, so that finite nature ceases to have control over us. It is a logical conclusion of our philosophy, that there must come a time when we shall have conquered all our environments because nature is finite.

Swami Vivekananda

Jana Yoga, The Absolute and Manifestation

What (Who) is शिव Shiva? Why the snake, the damru and the trident?


In this world, change is continuous. While destruction occurs in one part of the world, development occurs in another. Destruction and development are part of this universe. However, energy is essential to cause change. In fact, the whole universe is made up of energy. Our very bodies are floating in an ocean of energy, called “dark energy” by today’s scientists. Here, “dark'” only means unseen, not negative energy. This unseen energy can be experienced in silence, in the depth of meditation in one’s heart.

We see the sun as a spot of energy, but the energy that surrounds the sun is a million times more powerful than the sun itself. This unmanifest energy is much more powerful than the manifest energy of planets, stars, the sun and other objects. The whole universe is as if in a thick syrup of dark energy. This is what the Nasadiya Sukta in the Rig Veda said thousands of years ago darkness was enveloped by darkness. The unseen energy envelops the seen universe. Shiva became the name of this unbelievable, astounding, benevolent energy that envelopes the whole universe.

Knowing Shiva

ब्रह्माण्ड व्याप्त देह – Brahmand vyapta deha – The body of Shiva is the entire universe.

The sun, the moon, the stars and the whole sky lies in Shiva. The sun and the moon decorate Him. The stars are His garland. Rivers flow within Him. Mountains stand tall in Him. The whole universe is present inside His unfathomable, unbelievable Being.

What is His nature? It is very alert and conscious and this is depicted by putting a snake around Shiva’s neck. There is no snake really, but the snake symbolizes alertness. This energy is not dead. It is alive, conscious and It can understand. If a few people are sleeping and you call one person by name, only that person will respond. How? Because even when you are sleeping, there is a part of your consciousness that is awake and alert. In the same way, the universe, though appearing to be dormant, is alive and conscious. This liveliness in the consciousness was depicted using the snake as a symbol.

The trident indicates waking, dreaming and sleeping states, and Shiva is beyond these three states. When you are not waking, dreaming or sleeping, even then this universe exists, even then consciousness exists, and that state is the basis of waking, sleeping and dreaming. That is Shiva or Turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. The three states are held by Shiva, the fourth state of consciousness.

Damaru is the drum that makes sound. Where do light and sound travel? In space. That space Which allows light and sound to travel, the medium of existence itself – that is called Shiva. Both light and sound are part of the universe, but this energy principle is beyond light and sound.
Shiva is also called the “Lord of Dissolution,” because ‘even when anything dissolves, it still remains there. Where does it go? It remains in a different state, that’s all. That space is always here. So, it is also called Shasvat, permanent.

To know the Truth, the intellect has to be content and finer feelings awakened. Both scientific ‘ understanding and spiritual wisdom are necessary to bring this contentment that is holistic and complete. There is no need to go on long pilgrimages to find the Divine. If you don’t find God here, where you are, then it is not possible to find God anywhere else.
Where the mind dissolves, there is Shiva. Be established wherever you are. The moment you are established and centered, you see that there is Divinity present everywhere.

Invoking Shiva

This entire universe is made up of the five elements, the Pancha Mahabhootas: Prithvi (earth), Agni (fire), Jala (water), Vayu (air) and Akasha (ether). Shiva represents the manifestation of the Pancha Mahabhootas. The entire world invokes the energy of Shiva in .many forms. People do Pooja and Abhishekam. Some people sing and dance in His name, while others meditate.

Poo – पू – means fullness and Ja -जा – means birth. That which comes out of fullness is called Pooja पूजा. When you feel grateful, with a full heart, in that total state of consciousness, whatever you do is Pooja. It means honoring, respecting and offering.

What do you do when you honor someone? If a guest comes to your home, what do you do? First, you welcome them and offer them a seat. Then, you ask them if you can get them something. You give them some flowers or fruits in a traditional way, and offer them some water or some tea. If they come in the evening, you switch on the light, (so that they can see your face). This is natural. Pooja is honoring with all the five elements in creation.

Rice and fruits represent the earth element, incense sticks and flowers represent the air element, light represents the fire element, water represents water element, and mantras represent the ether element. When you sing and chant mantras, the ether element becomes vibrant with subtle energy. A heater in the corner of a room is not Visible but its warmth spreads all over the room. If the room is well insulated, the heat will remain for a long time. Similarly, if the mantras are chanted properly, the Vibrations remain in the atmosphere for quite some time; the ether is enriched by mantras.

The ancient practice of Pooja has, therefore, a lot of depth and meaning to it. Mainly, it creates more positive ions, more so when people are meditating. However, just doing Pooja as a ritual is not that effective because mantras are effective when people are awake from within; for them, mantras have more meaning. So, the ultimate goal of mantras, Pooja, and all ancient practices is to help you to go deep into meditation. And only in deep meditation can you realize Shiva.

Sri Sri Ravishankar



Why do I need a teacher – guru – to learn Vedanta?

gurudev (2)

The Mundakopanisad [1-2-12] says, त्व्तद्‌विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगत्व्छेत्‌’ – ‘Tadvignãnãrtham sa gurumevãbhigachchhet’, to know brahman, one should go to a teacher. One should not pursue the contemplation of the self on one’s own. Explaining this verse, Sri Sankaracarya says, even if one is very learned, one should not independently pursue the enquiry into the nature of the self. That is, one should always seek this knowledge from the teacher. This sounds very convenient for the gurus or teachers; everybody is required to go to a guru!

What one wants to know is the nature of the self. It is a very peculiar subject. We already know ourselves, but wrongly; we entertain a number of false notions and do not ‘know that the notions are wrong. We are quite convinced about the conclusions and opinions we have about ourselves, such as, ’I am a human being’; ’I am subject to birth and death’; ’I am limited’; ’I am a seeker,’ or ’I am needy.’ The ego entertains all these false notions about itself. Therefore, What we now need to do is to inquire into the nature of the ego-Are these notions true or are they false? Is this the true nature of the self?

We should be objective in order to determine the reality of anything. We should be able to maintain an emotional distance, like a scientist who is objective with reference to whatever he is investigating. He has no preconceived notions about the object of inquiry or any agenda regarding ‘what the investigation’ reveals. The investigation into the nature of the self would also require us to be objective with reference to ourselves and objective with reference to our own present notions and conclusions. Objectivity means detachment. It means that we do not have any agenda with reference to what we should be. It means having an open mind. It is very difficult for the ego to inquire “into its own nature. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to. stand on another platform from where we can l00k at the ego, enquire into the ego. That is the platform of the scriptures. The Upanisads are, in fact, an investigation into the nature of the self. Therefore, we must identify with the Upanisads and examine ourselves from the perspective of the Upanisads. Then alone can we recognize what is false as false. Then alone can we see that the various notions that we entertain are not correct and then let them go. That is called having an Open mind, a learning mind, which is willing to let go of anything that is discovered to be false.

We cannot go to the Upanisads directly, however, because they need to be interpreted. Therefore, we seek ‘ the help of a teacher. The teacher is one who has studied the Upanisads from his teacher and gained the vision of the Upanisads. He epitomizes the Upanisads.

Swami Viditatmananda

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmanda, Vol