What is devotion – भक्ति – and its role?


The Relative and the Fundamental

Everyone is, from one moment to another, a relative person. Father, husband, son, uncle, master, servant each one is I, but I is only one, assuming different roles. Each role exists only when there is a particular relationship that evokes it; when objects or individuals change, the role also changes. But among these relationships there is one that does not change. I is related to the total as an individual, to the Creator as the created. This fundamental relationship exists for every being in this world. Whether you like it or not, whether you disavow it or not, every creature in the world and you are related to the Lord.

When you are with your father, you are also a son; but when you are with your son, you become a father and the son that you were is gone. Relationship with individuals is thus peculiar and distinct, but is one’s relationship to the total, the Lord, distinct and peculiar? You are created, your father is created, your grandfather is created, your uncle, grandson, friend, enemy, mountain, river all are created and He is the Creator. He is the sustainer, we are the sustained; He is the destroyer, we are the destroyed; He gives the fruits of action, we perform the action; He is the Lord, and we are devotees. Father, son, uncle, friend, enemy – all are devotees. Any role that anybody plays is played only as a devotee. In all your changing roles, you are an individual – jiva जीव –  related to the Lord; you are a devotee first and last, a fundamental devotee. With this understanding, how can you ever miss the Lord?

Without this understanding, however, you are a devotee only at the altar. Outside, you are a business person. You are only a spasmodic devotee having bouts of devotion whenever, you are in a temple or a church. If you are fundamentally a devotee, devotion cannot be intermittent.

A cook who has a flare for music is only a cook who sings. If he studies music very well and finally becomes a professional musician whose hobby is cooking, he is a great, musician who cooks. See the transformation. When music becomes his life, he is no more an occasional musician; he will discover music in the boiling of water or in the noise or a moving train.

Similarly, an occasional devotee can become a permanent devotee by constant remembrance of the Lord. That is why a temple tower or church steeple is so high to be constantly in sight, reminding us that the Lord is there in all our thoughts and actions, so that we may all the time gracefully accept His blessing. By cultivating this attitude one comes to command a mind that can receive the knowledge that destroys the – ahankara अहङ्कार  –  ego, the notion of an isolated I.

Until one is able to see the Lord always, in all the phenomena and laws of the world, one must cultivate the devotee in oneself by engaging in various forms of worship such as prayers, singing, chanting, rituals, etc. To become a musician, a person practices singing until it becomes natural; the practice is meaningful because singing is the means by which the singer can attain his or her goal “of being an accomplished musician. Similarly, all forms of worship become relevant if one understands that worship is, the means of becoming a permanent devotee, and that a permanent devotee can discover his or her identity with the Lord.

Invocation and Worship

All worship is aimed at cultivating this attitude; to help bring out the devotee in one. The purpose of offering a coconut to the Lord or doing ritualistic worship is that by these actions the fanciful mind learns to appreciate Him. This is not the worship of an idol. When you invoke the Lord in a form such as a cross or a crescent or a lump of turmeric powder, you are not worshiping that form, but the Lord represented there. Anything you offer goes not to the idol of clay or stone, but to the Lord you invoke.

Day after day people in India go to temples and declare, “All wealth is yours; my body, and my mind bring to you; of all this you are the author and owner. 0 Lord!” If by these words you really mean to offer all you have to the Lord, what is the need for repeating this everyday? Does it mean you are bluffing even in your prayers? Of course it doesn’t. This chant is repeated daily so that one can slowly transform oneself into a real devotee, a devotee first and last. The business person who prays can become the devotee who transacts business. When one’s relationship to the Lord becomes primary, all other relationships become secondary and the problems encountered in them are resolved. As a devotee you have no problem; the Lord does not need anything from you.

Devotion is an Attitude

पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति |
तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मन: || 9-26

patraṁ puṣhpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayachchhati !
tadahaṁ bhaktyupahṛitam aśhnāmi prayatātman !!

Whatever is offered to Me with devotion – leaf, flower, fruit, or water, offered by the pure-minded I take. (Bhagavad Gita, 9-26)

Lord Krsna tells Arjuna that what is offered is not of consequence; “You may even offer something mentally; that is enough for Me. What is important is only your attitude.”

Many people feel that devotion is easy; but it is not. Often respect is not shown and salutations that traditionally are to be offered to elders are not offered, because of ahankara, ego. Similarly, ego often prevents one from expressing devotion to the Lord. A man with a big ego cannot even place a flower at the altar of an idol unless he has at least some appreciation from the Lord. Surrender is not easy. It is not easy to love. To discover devotion one must create a mental condition that is conducive to expressing love for the Lord – at least one must avoid creating conditions that stifle the expression of love.

If is you who stand isolated from the Lord as an iceberg of ego which, though surrounded by its source, water, remains crystallized and separate. Worship the Lord in order to melt away this crystallized ego. Even while you act in order to achieve, remember the Lord when you receive the result of our action. By this you will neutralize your likes and dislikes and your ego will be dissolved. Only then can you discover that He and you are the same. This knowledge of identity of the Lord and the devotee is the consummation of a life of devotion, for worship helps the devotee to develop a tranquil mind free from wants, a mind that can recognize the truth presented by the teacher and the teaching.

Absolute love resolves duality. Even in the love between two persons, separation ends; the two are fused in emotionally identity. If love for the Lord – is total, it liquidates the; individual. In perfect love or surrender the individualism dissolved in the Lord not like a salt crystal in water, but like water in water. There is only one Lord who expresses the m inside and outside of you. The individual is a notion; all is the Lord. You dissolve as the wave dissolves into the ocean; what goes is only your notion – that you are different. It is dissolved in the ocean of knowledge.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from the Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses

What is (the meaning of word) Dharma धर्म?

gurudev (2)
The word dharma is derived from the root dhr धऋ, which means to sustains or upheld. By definition, dhrarayati iti dharmah धार्यति इति धर्मः, that which upholds is called dhrama धर्म.

It is based on the understanding that there is something that sustains this universe. All the different components and elements that comprise the universe follow a certain order. Everything has its innate nature and it never transgresses it. There is unity in diversity and harmony in what may appear to be chaotic. This harmony or order is called dharma because this is the fundamental principle that informs, upholds and sustains everything.

An act in keeping with the order also can be called dharma. It is one of the four human ends and is the goal that one achieves as a result of following a life of dharma. The word dharma is, used both in the sense of means and ends. Normally it signifies means, in the sense of a certain conduct-righteous conduct, the right or proper way of conducting oneself that is in keeping with the order. Question can be as to how do we know what the order is and what would be the right way to conduct ourselves in a given situation.

We are all born with the awareness that we want to live and live happily, just as other living beings also want to. Our freedom and happiness should not be encroached upon. What I expect of others is what they expect of me. Conduct in accordance with this awareness is dharma. It may be called universal dharma or righteousness. Pujya Swamiji calls it common-sense-dharma. It is common sense inasmuch as everybody has this sense. This is samanya dhrama सामान्य धर्म, general dharma. Then there is visesa-dharma विशेष धर्म, conduct that is followed in’ particular situations. Every individual has to play a variety of roles and they call for appropriate responses. There are guidelines as to how one should act under various conditions. That is the visesa-dharma विशेष धर्म of a person.

The first part of the Veda prescribes dharma, the right code of conduct. This is conveyed in the form of do’s and don’ts. It is not so much that the Vedas give commands as to what to do and what not to, do, but they teach what is in the best interest of a person. What will help the person in terms of his well-being and growth is prescribed as do’ s and the opposite in the form of don’ ts. Ultimately it is up to the person to decide what he wants to do, whether he wants to conform to the guidance of the scriptures or wants to surrender to his own impulses.

Everyone knows what is right and wrong. Each one is in agreement as to how they would like to be treated by others This is known through common sense. Even if one does not know what the prescribed code in a particular situation; is, the universal code can be applied and interpreted in a given situation. In interpreting dharma the principle is universal and its application m a given situation is particular. Every individual has to understand What non-violence, truthfulness, compassion etc. is and what it means in a given situation. Non-Violence is not a particular conduct; it is the understanding that goes with the conduct. Dharma that is in the form of values requires to be interpreted in a given situation and followed accordingly.

Dharma can be explained as righteousness or right or. appropriate conduct. The result that is produced by this kind of conduct is also called dharma or punya पुण्य. This is conducive to the spiritual growth of. a person. Right conduct requires a one to subdue impulses of adharma अधर्म. The negative impulses, are there in us though they are not our nature. They are incidental to us. By nature we are loving and compassionate. To become free of the negative forces is spiritual growth. Because they are incidental they can be removed by asserting the positive tendencies in all possible situations. Kindness etc., being the very nature of oneself, can never be removed.

Very often the word dharma is translated as religion, Hindu religion etc. In that sense it can be said that there are many religious traditions. We can say that dharma in the sense of a religion is a way of life which is prescribed by the founders of that tradition to help the followers adhere to dharma that is the universal values with a view to help them reach dharma that is the universal truth. Dharma as the end is what each one is seeking and that is unconditional freedom. Ultimately that goal becomes dharma.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Hindu Dhrama, Basics & Beyond

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses

What is brhaman – ब्रह्मन् ?


Brahman – ब्रह्मन् –  is the provider of existence to everything, including ignorance. When you say that a flower ‘is’, that ‘is-ness’ always is. That never goes. That is why you cannot destroy it. If you destroy the flower, the flower is gone, but the petal ‘is’. If that is also destroyed, the destroyed petal ‘is’. Suppose everything disappears and you do not see any form. Then the absence of form ‘is’. The ‘is-ness’ is never negated. That ‘is-ness’ is Brahman. That is the reality of everything. Therefore, knowing that Brahman as oneself without any attribute, everything is as well known.

When the sruti says everything is ब्रह्मन् – Brahman, it is not pantheism. In pantheism the cause has undergone change to become the world. It is not so here. Brahman is विवर्त्त  उपादान vivartta-upadana and also निमित्त कारण nimitta-karna, therefore there is no pantheism here. If at all there is change, it is attributed to maya, which has no reality apart from Brahman. So, maya being there in between Brahman and everything else, it does not become pantheism. When satya and mithya are not understood, it all ends up in confusion.

The words, ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ are only from a point of View. You say that this is the effect and that is the cause. In fact, the effect itself is the cause, being non-separate from the cause. Then again, which is cause and which is effect? When the pot is broken, it becomes clay. That means clay came from pot! This concept of cause and effect is purely a point of View. Our understanding that the cause came first and the effect came later is only a point of View. From the standpoint of Brahman, there is nothing that comes later, because Brahman itself is the effect. If at all the concept of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ is talked about, it is from the standpoint of the un-manifest and manifest conditions.

The un-manifest becomes manifests-that is called creation. Creation itself is not a proper word for us, because the word ‘creation’ is relevant only when something did not exist before, and later came into being. But it is not like that. That Which is in an un-manifest, undifferentiated form, comes to be differentiated. One is in a subtle form, the other in a gross form. In a differentiated form it is called creation. In an undifferentiated form it is called dissolution. This creation is cyclic. The creation becomes un-manifest because it was manifest before. Unless it was manifest before, it cannot become un-manifest. We cannot talk about any sequence here.

In the Daksinamurti Stotram we have this sentence: “Like the sprout is there within the seed in an un-manifest form, so too, this world is in an un-manifest form before creation”. The un-manifest tree in the seed manifests under conducive situations. What is already there alone comes to manifest. The tree is there in the subtle form, in a programmed form in the seed. That is why only the mango tree comes from the mango seed; no other tree comes. Just as the whole tree is un-manifest in the seed, so also, this entire jagat (universe) is un-manifest before creation. Again it becomes manifest ‘as it was before’. The phrase ‘as it was before’ points to the previous manifest state that was there before the un-manifest condition. So from this it is clear, it is cyclic.

The world has not come into being from total non-existence. If it is already existent it need not come. So, from nonexistence the jagat cannot come, and from existence also, the jagat cannot and need not come because it is already existent. The nonexistent pot can never come into being, and an existent pot does not require coming into being. We cannot say that the pot is both non-existent and existent. There is a self-contradiction in that statement. A thing cannot be both none, existent and existent at the same time. So, it is only the un-manifest pot that manifests, because of the intervention of the pot-maker in the form of his plan, skill and effort. Pot is potentially there in the clay and that is brought into manifestation now. The intervening factor is called the intelligent cause accompanied by secondary or aiding causes like the wheel, the water, the sun, and so on. This jagat was there before in an un-manifest form. From the un-manifest, it is manifest now. So, it need not be called creation.

We do not accept आरंभ वाद arambha-vada – an argument that the jagat comes into being. The Vaisesikas and the theologians are arambha-vadis, those who say the creation begins. All the theologies are similar to the Vaisesikas philosophy dating back to BC. The theologian is definitely talking about God creating a world that was previously non-existent, and bringing it into being out of nothing, or out of infinite power.

Vedanta does not propose a creation. It does not, therefore, have the question: Why this creation? If creation is accepted, then we have to say that God created the world. If God created this world, definitely you can ask him, “Why did you create the world?” This so-called created world itself being God, he does not require to answer such a question. You can ask a little more, “Is this the nature of the Lord?” Then we can discuss the reality of everything and discover what is satya and what is mithya. The word ‘creation’ is, therefore, only a provisional word.

In the beginning was the word, the word was with God, the word was God – such sensible statements are available in the sacred books which are the basis for certain theologies. It is a clean set of statements. In the beginning was the ‘word’. It is singular, not that there were words. There was ‘word’, not ‘a word’. That is also important. A sound is a word when the meaning which the sound or sounds refer to, is the same, not only for you but also for everyone. When I say ‘Water’ you understand, I understand and everybody understands that it is H2O. Then it is ‘word’. Word implies knowledge. There is no word without knowledge. ‘In the beginning’ means before the creation. What was there before creation was word, pure knowledge. Name and form were there in the form of knowledge, but that knowledge had not come out in a visible form, in a differentiated form. In the beginning only knowledge was there. Knowledge can exist only in a conscious being, nowhere else. Therefore, knowledge exists in the all-knowing conscious being, whom people call God. Here we have to add that it exists in the maya-upadhi. When they say, “Word was with God” it is not something like ‘the car was with the man’. The next statement is, “The word was God”. The knowledge was not separate from that God Without that knowledge there is no God, and therefore the knowledge itself is God. That knowledge alone comes to manifestation as the jagat.

The seed-tree example has something special to convey this regard about this jagat. In the clay-pot example, there just a change of form, but in the seed-tree example there is real, intelligent programming involved. The roots, the taproot, secondary roots, trunk and so on must be there in the program. If it is a banyan tree that grows horizontally, it must have the programming for the adventitious roots to come down from the branches. Otherwise, banyan trees cannot afford to have such branches, they will break. To protect the trunk, the bark is necessary. The bark helps to retain, the water. The core trunk is also important. The tree does not need unnecessary water, and also, it has to become stronger and stronger. So, the core does not have water at all. It is like a bonal structure. There must be a programming for that core also. So too, there should be programming for the branches, for the seeds, for the flowers, for the type of flowers, for the type of fruits and so on. For the whole life of the tree there is a programming. This programming is a very intelligent one, enjoying a certain order. So much knowledge is involved even in the programming for a tree. For the entire jagat, for the sentient and insentient forms, the whole programming must be available in the un-manifest as knowledge, which is not separate from Brahman.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Mundakopanisad, Vol: 1

Link to Swamiji’s talks & discourses

श्रद्धा – Śraddhā – Enlightened faith that we discover as a result of verification!

gurudev (2)

गुरुपदिष्टवेदान्तवाक्येषु विश्वासः श्रद्धा !  [Vedāntasāra, 24].

श्रद्धा Śraddhā is trust in the statements of Vedanta as taught by the teacher. Śraddhā is generally translated as faith and also as trust, which may be a better word. A trust in Vedanta is called śraddhā. Since Vedanta is a प्रमाणं pramāṇam, the trust is in the vision of Vedanta as revealed by the scriptures.

Vedanta is a means to the knowledge of the Self, not of worldly objects.

The organs of perception are a valid means of knowledge for gaining knowledge of external objects. A listener does not question the data collected by his ears; he accepts it without questioning. Similarly, you accept your eyes as a means of knowledge with respect to color and form. All our organs are the प्रमाणं  pramāṇam for their corresponding objects and we have śraddhā or full trust in them. For example, if my tongue says a hot drink is coffee, I accept it; I do not question it. We accept the knowledge given by our organs of perception with trust because we accept them as the pramāṇam or प्रमाण कारणं pramā kāraṇam, valid means of knowledge for revealing the corresponding objects. We should have a similar trust in Vedanta because Vedanta is a pramāṇam. The first statement of this text is वेदान्त नामोपनिसत्प्रमाणाम vedānto nāmopaniṣatpramāṇam, Vedanta is the Upaniṣad, which is a pramāṇam for the truth about the Self. The Self or God is not available for perception. It cannot be grasped by the organs of perception, the mind, or words. In short, the Self cannot be comprehended by any means of knowledge other than Vedanta.

The Upaniṣad may sometimes talk about things of the world and give various illustrations to explain certain points. Those illustrations may sometimes be questioned. Very often, an illustration is given of a worm that constantly thinks of a wasp and, ultimately, becomes a wasp. This example is given for meditation to illustrate the point that if we constantly dwell upon anything with a total faith and devotion, we become that. For example, if we constantly meditate upon a chosen deity, we become that. Regarding this example, somebody can say that a worm can never become a wasp. The illustration may be questioned from a scientific standpoint. We do not accept that a worm becomes a wasp just because the Upaniṣad says so, but we do accept the illustration in the spirit in which it is stated. If we maintain a certain flow of thought, we become that. This concrete or tangible form that we have now is nothing but the product of the thought-flow we entertained for a great length of time in the past. Vedanta is a pramanam for the nature of Reality and we don’t necessarily look upon Vedanta as a means of knowledge to other worldly things. Vedanta also gives an illustration of a spider that creates a web out of itself to show how the spider is the efficient cause as well as material cause. What should we do if we discover that the spider is not like that? Should we say that Vedanta is wrong? We don’t accept Vedanta as a pramāṇam with reference to the spider, but definitely do so with reference to God, who is both the material and the efficient cause of this universe.

Trust is accepting Vedanta as a means to the knowledge of the Self.

Truth alone is called God or the Self. Truth alone is called by different names and, therefore, Vedanta is accepted as a pramānam, valid means of knowledge with reference to revealing the reality of myself, of the world, of God, and the relationship that obtains among them. Here trust means accepting Vedanta as a pramānam and giving it the same benefit of the doubt that we would give any other pramānam. Before we dismiss the data given by our ears, for example, we first give it the benefit of the doubt. If there is a problem with the ears, they might misguide us; in that case, it is necessary to correct the pramānam. I start questioning my ears only when what they tell me does not make sense. Similarly, we must give Vedanta the benefit of the doubt before we question what it reveals.

 Trust enables us to understand Vedanta correctly.

The श्रद्धा śraddhā or trust that we have in Vedanta enables us to maintain a certain frame of mind wherein we don’t question what Vedanta says, but try to understand what it says. The Self is a unique subject. Typically, I don’t have any preconceived notions or opinions about the objects of the world. A scientist can investigate an object without any kind of prejudice or preconceived notions. However, here we already have many firm ideas or conclusions about the Self, God, and the world. For example, when you say you don’t believe in or accept God, you already have conclusions about the nature of God. Therefore, when Vedanta reveals a truth about the self or the world, which contradicts our present conclusions, we question Vedanta. When we do that, we cannot learn; once we question the means of knowledge, we cannot learn from it. What do I do when there seem to be a contradiction or deviation between what Vedanta says and what I think is right? I give Vedanta the benefit of the doubt first and then proceeds to see if my conclusion is valid or not. In doing so, we have an opportunity to review our own conclusions. Otherwise, how can we learn and grow? If we always hold on to our present conclusions, we will never learn anything. In order to learn, our scope of knowledge must grow and it is necessary to question our conclusions. Therefore, wherever there is a discrepancy between what Vedanta reveals and our own conclusions, we question our conclusions rather than question Vedanta. श्रद्धा Śraddhā or trust does not mean that we have to blindly accept whatever the teacher tells us. It only means that we give it the benefit of the doubt and look upon it with a certain reverence.

श्रद्धा  Śraddhā is trust as well as a reverence for Vedanta and the teacher.

Śraddhā is not merely trust, but trust along with reverence. This aspect of reverence is very important in India. There is a reverence for certain things, the scriptures, teachers, elders, and for people who follow a lifestyle that includes austerity and penance. Such a reverence opens up the channel for the teaching to flow from that source to us. The reverence that is śraddhā is nothing but being in tune with that source. Thus, if we have reverence for the scriptures, we necessarily have reverence for the teacher because the scriptures come to us through the teacher. Therefore, the text says that śraddhā is गुरुपदिष्टवेदान्तवाक्येषु विश्वासः gurūpadiṣṭa-vedāntavākyeṣu viśvāsaḥ. It calls for a trust in the words of Vedanta that we receive from the teacher, not in what we learn by ourselves through reading. When we study on our own, our minds tend to fit what we study into the frame of knowledge that we already have. Whenever we read a book, we already have certain ideas about the subject and we try to understand it in the context of our existing frame of mind or conclusions. If the book confirms to our conclusion, it is deemed to be good and if it does not, we think there is something wrong with it.

Bondage is nothing but various conclusions and preconceived notions about ourselves. My first conclusion is that I am a limited being, followed by the conclusion that I am subject to birth and death, and happiness and unhappiness. These are my fundamental conclusions about myself. Vedanta says, तत्त्वामसि  tat tvam asi, that thou art. You are not a doer, enjoyer, or limited being. You are a complete being and free. However, I can’t accept that. Should I dismiss what Vedanta says? Or should I ask who is right? I give Vedanta the benefit of the doubt: I must be free. I explore further. If I am free, how is it that I don’t experience that freedom? I question my conclusion. Next, I look into the process by which I arrived at that conclusion and create the ground for discovering the fact that my conclusion is erroneous. This process of inquiry or विचार vicara can begin only when I first permit Vedanta the benefit of the doubt. This is all that is asked of us: that we give Vedanta the benefit of the doubt and have trust and reverence primarily in Vedanta and secondarily in the teacher through whom we learn the Upaniṣad. The meaning of the word guru is explained as:

गुकारस्त्वन्धकारो  वै रुकार्स्तन्निवर्त्तकः अन्धकारोधित्वाद गुरुइत्यधीयते

gukārastvandhakāro vai rukārastannivarttakaḥ, andhakāranirodhitvād gururityabhidhīyate.

The syllable ‘gu’ stands for darkness (of ignorance) and ‘ru’ represents its remover. A guru is so called because he removes the darkness (of ignorance).

Devotion is very important. As we saw earlier, the one who has supreme devotion for the Lord and the teacher has an equal devotion to the scriptures also. We cannot separate God from guru and the scriptures.

The revealed scriptures are looked upon as God.

We accept that the scriptures are revealed by God. Vedanta can be accepted as valid only when we accept the fact that it is not composed by human beings. Anything composed by a human being will reflect the limitations of the human mind. The Vedas are looked upon as not having been composed by the ancient sages, but as having been revealed to them by God.

Our reverence for God automatically results in a reverence for the scriptures, which are looked upon as an avatāra or incarnation of God. Just as we look upon Lord Krishna as an incarnation, so also, we consider the scriptures to be an incarnation of God in the form of words. God incarnates in different ways, sometimes, even as an animal. The Puranas describe various incarnations, including one of the Lord incarnating as cloth, the vastra avātara. There was a great devotee of the Lord, Draupadi, who was about to be stripped of her clothes in the court of the Kauravas. At that time, she prayed to the Lord and her prayer was answered. It is said that the Lord presented himself in the form of cloth. There is a sect in India, the Sikhs, who believe God to be the Granth, their very text. They call it the Guru Granth Sahib, the composition of the guru, and the devotees carry it on their heads to indicate their highest reverence towards it.

One has to discover śraddhā.

Let śraddhā, trust or faith, arise in its own way. Let it be discovered. It cannot be commanded. This reverence cannot be thrust upon anybody. We discover it as we get exposed to Vedanta, appreciate its profundity and clarity, and see how it releases us from different notions and complexes. Just as we cannot make ourselves love someone, we cannot make ourselves have śraddhā. Love has to manifest itself. Similarly, devotion and śraddhā are not things that we can command; they have to happen.

Śraddhā is the enlightened faith that we discover as a result of verification.

Śraddhā, trust and reverence, is essential to learn and enjoy an open mind. An open mind is willing to shed its conclusions and prejudices and is ready to learn and change. In having śraddhā, there is trust, faith, reverence, devotion, openness, and freedom. In fact, this is the trust where there is freedom. Normally, the word faith scares us. Any intelligent person is skeptical when this question of trust and faith arises because faith is always understood to be blind faith. But here we are talking not about blind faith, but enlightened faith, a faith that we discover as a result of verification. As we listen and understand Vedanta and try to assimilate and implement it in our lives, we discover its validity and take the next step. We do not simply believe it, but proceed as we discover the validity of the truth. Vedanta says that qualities such as humility, non-pretentiousness, and non-violence give peace of mind. This is a testable proposition.

Vedanta says that happiness is not to be found outside, but is to be discovered within ourselves as it is our own nature. Let me stop the external pursuit of happiness and focus my attention on myself and see whether I am able to discover inner peace or not. The reverence or trust will enable us to shed all the notions that we may be holding on to and thus free us from our shackles. Nobody else has created these shackles of our various conclusions, complexes and prejudices, but we ourselves. Śraddhā or reverential faith enables that learning frame of mind and, therefore, is freedom. Such a mind remains free from doubts and questions and open to the teacher and the teaching. In the Vivekacuḍāmaṇi [25], Śrī Śaṅkarācārya says:

शास्त्रस्य गुरुवाक्यस्य सत्यबुद्ध्यवधारणम् ।
सा श्रद्धा कथिता सद्भिर्यया वस्तूपलभ्यते ॥ २५ ॥

śāstrasya guruvākyasya satyabuddhyavadhāraṇam, sā śraddhā kathitā sadbhiryayā vastūpalabhyate.

The conviction that the scriptures and the words of the teacher are true is said to be śraddhā by the wise by whom the Truth is known.

Lord Krishna also gives importance to śraddhā and says, श्रद्धावान लभते ज्ञानं  śraddhāvān labhate jñānam, one who has śraddhā gains knowledge [Bhagavad Gita, 4-39]. We give our eyes and ears the status of a pramāṇam with reference to revealing their corresponding objects. Similarly, we need to accord Vedanta the same status with reference to revealing the nature of the Truth. Thus, śraddhā, which we discover in course of time, is an extremely important disposition of mind.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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You already are, what you are seeking to be!

gurudev (2)

I am seeking to become something all the time. I am seeking to become different from what I am on account of the fact that I am not happy with the way l am. Therefore there is an endeavor on my part to constantly bring about a change in me so that I will be different, and happier, than what I am, acceptable to myself. In Pujya Dayanandji’s words, I am seeking to be a pleased self, a happy self, a satisfied self. Why do I want to become a pleased self? Because I am not pleased with myself as I find myself  to be. I have a certain perception of myself, and in that perception, I find myself not measuring up to my own expectations of myself. In my perception of myself, I find myself to be Inadequate, Wanting or lacking, and I am not satisfied being a wanting or a lacking or an inadequate being. Therefore, I want to be free from any limitation; meaning that I want to be limitless.

When we analyze what it is that we are seeking to be, it will be discovered that we are seeking to be free from every form of limitation. We are seeking to be limitless: then alone we can be pleased with ourselves. In the Chandogyopanisad, sage Sanatkumara says to Narada, यो वै भूमा तत्सुखम् न अल्पे सुखम् अस्ति  – yo vai bhuma tatsutkham nalpe sukham asti. That which is bhuma, abundant, limitless, that indeed is happiness. Only limitless can be happiness. Na alpe sukham asti. “In anything that is limited, there cannot be sukha, happiness.” This is a very fundamental definition of happiness given by the Upanisad. Happiness can only be in the limitless; there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Therefore, whenever: I find myself limited or lacking in any way, I become unhappy, because in limitedness there cannot be happiness. Thus When I say that I want to be happy, it amounts to saying that I want to be limitless.

This may not be so understood by most people, because people usually associate happiness with things other than themselves, such as wealth, name, fame, recognition, heaven and so on, and that is therefore what they are trying to achieve, accomplish, or become. But going by the definition given in the Upanisad, it is very clear that happiness can only be in the limitlessness, and that there cannot be happiness in being limited.

I want to be adequate, I want to be happy, I want to be pleased, meaning that I want to be free from every limitation. This is what my endeavor is. It is this endeavor to become limitless that has been making me assume embodiment one after the other from beginningless time. Vedanta says that will] this desire to become limitless can be satisfied only when I discover that I am limitless. A limited being cannot become limitless. Regardless of what I do with myself, regardless of how much I multiply myself, how much I add things upon myself, I can never become limitless. As Mundakopanisad says, नास्ति अक्रतः क्रेत्न nasti akratah krtena. Akrta, un-created, cannot be created by karma (action). Limitless has to be un-created, it has to be free of time, and timeless means that which is here right now. What is right now doesn’t have to be created, it has to be discovered.

Therefore, the limitless has to be discovered, has to be known, which amounts to saying that what I want to become is what I want to know, because becoming limitless can only be accomplished by knowing that I am limitless. Vedanta says, तत्वमसि  tat tvam asi, “that thou art.” You are what you are seeking to be. You are seeking to be limitless. You are limitless, so knowing and becoming is one here, because what I seek is my nature. That is called knowledge, when I spontaneously become limitless, spontaneously own my true nature, which is limitlessness. That spontaneous, abiding knowledge is called knowledge. If I have to remember, that cannot be called knowledge. It may need remembrance for a while until it becomes abiding knowledge, but as long as there is an effort on my part to remain limitless, so long it is not an abiding knowledge. Knowledge is called निश्चितम् ज्ञानं niscitam janam when it is free from any error or vagueness or doubt.

Swami Viditatmannada Saraswati

Excerpts from: Kaivalyopanisad

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How is Vedanta a – प्रमाण – pramana, means of knowledge?

gurudev (2)

Vedanta means the Upanisads. Vijnana विज्ञान means visesa-jnana विशेष ज्ञान the particular knowledge, the unique knowledge that Vedanta or the Upanisads reveal. Vedanta is pramana – प्रमाण or a means of knowledge. Just as eyes are pramana, the valid means of ‘ knowledge to perceive colors and forms, or the faculty of hearing is the means of knowledge to perceive sounds; so also Vedanta is the valid means of knowledge for knowing the self which cannot be known by any other means of knowledge. We have the organs of perception, with which We perceive the objects of the world, but the self is not an object. The self is the subject, my own self, so it cannot be perceived with the organs of perception, and therefore it cannot be the object of any other pramana such as inference, presumption, or comparison, which are all based on perception. For example, we can infer that there is fire on the hill ‘when we see smoke. Inference is based on some perceptible evidence we perceive the smoke and therefore infer the presence of fire. So when atman, the self, is not available for perception, it is also not available for other means of knowledge, like inference, presumption, and comparison, which depend on perception.

Upanisad is not a means of knowledge in the sense that eyes are a means of knowledge to see this flower, or my faculty of smell IS the means of knowledge to experience its fragrance. The eyes reveal the colors and forms, but Vedanta does not reveal atma. We should know in what manner the word pramana (means of knowledge) is used for Vedanta. When 1 we say that eyes are pramana for color and form it means that ‘ color and form are revealed by the eyes. Without the eyes one would not be able to perceive color or form. We cannot experience the fragrance of a flower Without the faculty of smell, and we cannot experience the touch of the flower without the faculty of touch. Can we say that we cannot experience the self without the Upanisad? No we cannot say that because we ever experience the self. I do not require anybody to tell me that I am. That I am is a self-evident fact I am, I shine, I am conscious, I always love myself (अहम् अस्मि सदा भामि कदाचिन अहम् अप्रिय ! Aham asmi, sada bhami, kadacinn aham apriyah). That I am, that I am conscious, that I never dislike myself, that I always love myself are all self-evident facts about me, and therefore I do not need Upanisad to know that I am; I do not need Upanisad to know that I am conscious; I do not need Upanisad to know that I love myself.

If Upanisad is not pramana in the sense of revealing the atmanआत्मा, in what sense is it pramana? It is pramana for me to know that I am nondual, that I am brahman ब्रह्मन्, that I am limitless. For gaining that knowledge, Upanisad becomes pramana If we did not experience the self, then there would be no problem at all in life, there would be no samsara, because error can take place only when there is an experience. N 0 experience, no error. Is it not so? When can I mistake the rope for a snake? Only when the rope becomes an object of my awareness and I do not recognize it as a rope, then I take it to be a snake. We may say that I have the general knowledge of rope, but not the particular knowledge of rope. I See that there is an Object, so the is-ness is known, but the rope-ness is not known. This ‘ kind of a unique condition should obtain for error or superimposition to take place. If. I see a rope, but not as a rope, then my mind will project a snake or something else there. If it were pitch dark and I could not see anything, then I would have neither general knowledge nor particular knowledge, so no superimposition would take place. On the other hand, in broad daylight I would see the object as rope and have both general knowledge and particular knowledge, so again no superimposition would take place. But in the evening, in a twilight situation or semi-dark situation, when I see the object but do not see the rope-ness of it, that is when the superimposition takes place.

It is similar with the self also. I experience myself all right; I have the general knowledge of myself, that I am; without that, there would be no scope for superimposition. In the deep sleep state, when I am not even aware that I am, there’s no superimposition, there’s no samsara, meaning there is no sense of smallness or inadequacy there. In deep Sleep we are blissful, blissfully ignorant, because in the deep sleep state there IS neither general knowledge nor particular knowledge of am. The wise person is the one who is blissful because he has both. He has the general knowledge that he is and l the particular knowledge that he is brahman, nondual Everyone else has the general knowledge of being, but not the particular knowledge of being limitless, of being brahman; then one takes oneself to be jivatma, a limited being. That is why Upanisad is; the pramana to reveal the particular aspect that I am nondual; I am brahman. Thus, Upanisad becomes pramana not for revealing the self, but for revealing the particular aspect of the self about which we entertain this error or adhyasa (superimposition). Basically, statements of Upanisad remove adhyasa, or adhyaropa, or superimposition, and thus reveal the nature of the self truly as it is

The vijnana the particular knowledge that Vedanta revels is तत्त्वमासि  – tat tvam asi, you are brahman, you are limitless. This cannot be revealed by any available means of knowledge. Vedanta is the only source of knowledge which tells us and makes us see that I am limitless, I am nondual, I am the self of all, I alone am, there is nothing other than I.

I am that I which does not exclude you. The meaning of the word I changes. It becomes I that does not exclude anything; it’s all-inclusive. I recognize that I am all-inclusive, there is. nothing apart from me, nothing separate from me. This is what Vedanta teaches us. Only when we recognize that as the nature of the self, do we become totally free from every lack, because when nothing is apart from me, then nothing is lacking in me; I am complete in every way. Then there’s a total satisfaction about myself. That is the Vedanta-vijnana. Suniscitarthah सुनिस्चितरथः  are those who have the ascertained understanding about what Vedanta teaches, those people in whom this determinate knowledge which Lord Krsna calls vyavasaydtmika-buddhi व्यवसायात्मिका बुधि  has arisen that “This is the knowledge that I want”. Pujya Swamiji says that a mature person has no choice. The immature person has many choices. People who do not have that determination in their life, for them there are many choices, today this, tomorrow something else, and so forth. But for a mature person there’s no choice, because a mature person recognizes that all I want is to know myself,1 all I Want is this knowledge. There’s no real choice. The only choice is for inconsequential things like whether to eat idli or pasta, but for important goals there is no real choice; Whatever he does IS all directed to the gaining of the knowledge. That’ s Called samadhana समाधान; the mind is very clear. Take hiking as an example. We know that we want to reach a destination, and then every step leads to that destination. You might choose a particular path, either a steep one or one that takes a longer time, but every step is directed toward the destination. So also, a mature person would not waste even a moment, would not waste any ‘ opportunity at all, in anything other than making his whole life a process of reaching his destination. Here, reaching is nothing but knowing and making whatever preparation is required for that knowledge. That’s called devotion. That’s called commitment. So vedantavijnana-suniscitarthah वेदान्तविज्ञान सुनिस्चितर्थः are those people who have discovered that commitment for the knowledge that Vedanta reveals, namely that the self is brahman.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Kaivalyopanisad

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Freedom from Desire !

gurudev (2)

Desire is a product of ignorance. Some desires are helpful, some are hurtful, and some are neither helpful nor hurtful. There could be some desires that may be conducive to self-growth. For instance, the desire to come to the gurukulam is also a desire, but it is a desire that will help you grow. So we cannot say that to desire per se is wrong. We have only to see whether or not a desire will be helpful.

As we grow in emotional maturity, our needs gradually reduce and We discover more satisfaction within ourselves. Our desires become fewer. Gaining freedom from desires is a process of ’growing out’ of desires, so that there is no more need for any desires.

The ultimate goal is to become free from need, which creates desire. The Vedantic perspective is that one already is what he seeks to be. Ideally, therefore, one should have no needs at all. But this is not the reality of our experience! Therefore, the wise approach is to accept the need, analyze whether fulfilling that need is going to help or hurt us, and then decide accordingly.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmanada, Vol: 1

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Is self-knowledge (self-realization) an experience?

gurudev (2)

Knowledge is not an experience. What we mean by knowledge is cognition. When my eyes come into contact with a flower in front of me, the cognition of the flower takes place. In that cognition, I have no doership at all.

Knowledge is determined by the object of knowledge, jnanam vastutantrum. The type of cognition that takes place in my mind is not determined by me; it is determined by the object, the vastu. That you experience something implies that the experience is of something other than you. Thus an experience usually conveys duality. On the other hand, knowledge conveys understanding Therefore, one can have an experience, but not an understanding. For instance, I may see the Lord in front of me and yet not recognize him.

We can illustrate the distinction between an experience and an understanding. I had once been talking to a person for 10 minutes. A mutual friend then came and said, “Swamiji, do you recognize this person? This is Krishnamurthi. Do you remember how we used to do so many things together in New York City in those days?” ”Oh, is he that Krishnamurthi?” I remembered that in those days he was clean shaven and always in a suit. Now he had a beard and long hair! I was then able to recognize my old friend Krishnamurthi. Until then, I’d had an experience of Krishnamurthi the individual, even though I had not recognized him to be the Krishnamurthi I used to know Therefore, there can be an experience while there may be no recognition. In that sense, you have to distinguish between an experience and the recognition of knowledge. It is okay to use the word experience to mean understanding. That I can ‘experience’ a person while I do not necessarily know him would give an idea of the difference between experience and knowledge.

In the same manner, I can have the experience of God and yet not recognize him. Vedantins will say that you don’ t need to “experience” God because Whatever you are experiencing is God; you don’ t need an experience of the self because the self is self-revealing. In fact, any experience is possible only when you experience the self. Therefore, when you talk of an experience of God, if you mean the experience of god in certain form, it’ s okay. However, if you mean the experience of God as Vedanta explains it, you must know that everything that appears is God1. Every experience you have IS but an experience of God. Thus, what is lacking is the recognition, not the experience. In that sense, experience and knowledge or understanding are different. There cannot be knowledge without experience.

Knowledge requires an experience because there has to be something for you to know. If you are talking about a god of a certain description, you require an experience of that god to know him. Therefore, in dvaita1, where god is looked upon as different from us, we require the experience of that god because it is a particular god of a certain description. Whatever may be the description of god, you would require an experience of that god. However, if God is your own self, He is always experienced. If everything is God, it is also always experienced, it is simply a matter recognizing him in every experience.

In the case of a belief in duality1, an experience is required. In the case of non-duality, only recognition is required because all that exists is God. Experience and knowledge need not be identical. You can experience something and still not have an understanding or recognition of it.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

1 What is advaita, non-dualism?

Excerpts from Satasanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol: 2

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