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

What is meditation and what is it not? What are the different kinds of meditation?

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Meditation is defined as, maintaining a steady flow of thought on the same object. Typically, इश्वर isvara or saguna सगुण brahma ब्रह्मन्, the Lord with attributes, is the object of such a flow of thought. You can maintain that flow by repeating a name in your mind, by focusing your attention on a form, by thinking about the glories ‘of the Lord, by performing mental worship etc. Meditation includes all these different processes. It is called upasana उपासना or mental worship of the Lord. In this, there is a duality between the devotee and the Lord, between the one who is meditating and the Lord who is meditated upon.

There are many kinds of meditation, but we define meditation as maintaining a thought-flow centered upon the Lord. It requires some support in the form of a word, a mantra, of an image to keep the mind focused. It is not emptying the mind of thought, or thoughtlessness. The yoga-sastra योगशास्त्र defines meditation as the stoppage of thoughts or a complete stilling of the mind. If there is identification with the thoughts, there is bondage. The purpose of stilling the mind is to dissociate it from all thought so that there is no bondage. When there are no thoughts there is no identification and in the absence of identification, there is only the self. The idea in the yoga-sastra is that we can gain the knowledge of one’s own. self only if we still the mind. However, rather than emptying the mind, we prefer mental worship, which invokes the devotee in the person who meditates. This helps to purify the mind and secure the grace of God.

Another form of meditation is contemplation upon the realities of life or upon the nature of one’s own self; it can be called the reality; meditation. This meditation is of the nature of f seeing’ rather than worshipping. In mental worship, some kind of visualization may be involved, but here we see, for example, the order that obtains in the universe. There can be meditation upon your own self where you see the self as consciousness, or you can contemplate on the reality -seeing the reality as it is. You can meditate upon acceptance, compassion or the order. You can choose a topic and contemplate on it.

When meditation involves the worship of God, it is soothing, healing, and purifying for the mind. It is desirable that इश्वर isvara be involved in the meditation. Ideally, meditation should involve a spirit of worship. The Upanisads suggest that we meditate upon pranava प्रणव  or om ॐ and superimpose isvara on om. The repetition, of om then becomes meditation. If one reflects upon brahman with the help of om, it becomes contemplation. Thus, one worships om as isvara in the first instance and sees the self as om or isvara in the second.

In the उपनिषद Upanisads, we find उपासना upasanas that are meditations upon the Lord with attributes, and they are done with the help of certain models prescribed in the texts. For example, we find meditations upon the harmony and oneness obtaining in the universe, based on various elements of nature or the luminaries of the different worlds. In one meditation, the universe, which is the manifestation of isvara, is looked upon as the cosmic person with the sun for his eyes, with fire as his mouth, and so on. Seeing the cosmos as a person, as one organic whole, becomes meditation. These are some kinds of meditations that are taught in the Upanisads.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati
Excerpts from Satasanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol. 2
Link to Swamji’s Discourses

What are the mahavakyas?

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Every Upanishad must have a maha-vakya महावाक्य, not just four Upanishads. For the sake of समन्वय samanvaya, showing that all four Vedas have only one तात्पर्य tattparya, vision, four maha-vakyas are quoted, one from each Veda:

  1. तत् त्वम् असि, Tat Tvam Asi -> That Thou Art.
    from Chandogya Upnishad, Samaveda.
  2. अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि, Aham Brahmasmi -> I am Brahman.
    from Brahadarnayaka Upnishad, Yajurveda
  3.  प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म, Prajananam Brahma -> Consciousness is Brahman.
    from Aitareya Upnishad, Rigveda
  4. अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म, Ayam Atmā Brahma -> This self is Brahman.
    from Mandukya Upnishad, Atharvaveda.

In fact, every Upanishad has maha-vakya. Without a maha-vakya there is no Upanishad, there is no Gita, and there is no शास्त्र sastra either. Any sastra reveals what is to be revealed, and therefore, maha-vakyas are seen in all the Upanishads.

In maya-vakyas there are no differences. It is not proper to create differences among them, like some people do. Some claim that, tat tvam asi is an upadesa-vakya, a sentence giving the teaching; aham brahmasmi is an anubhavakya, a sentence revealing the experience of oneness, and so on. The whole Upanishad is meant for upadesa, revealing an equation between जिव Jiva and ईश्वर Isvara.

Sawmi Dayanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Kenopanishad

Six Schools of Philosophies of Hinduism

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In Hinduism the word darsana, ”Vision of Truth”  is used to indicate philosophy. Hinduism encompasses six schools of philosophy, called  सड -दर्शन Sad Darsanas (sad means six). Two different classifications of the schools of Hindu philosophy are recognized by the orthodox and heterodox thinkers.

The orthodox classification of the schools is:

  1. Vaisesika, Kanada
  2. Nyaya, Gautama
  3. Nir-Isvara-Sankhya निर्-ईश्वर -सान्ख्य, Kapila
  4. Sa-Isvara-Sankhya, स-ईश्वर -सान्ख्य,  Patanjali
  5. Purrva Mimansa, पूर्व मिमांसा , Jaimini
  6. Uttara Mimamsa, उत्तरा मिमांसा , Vedanta

The other classification, which gives equal status to the atheistic schools, is:

  1. Materialism – Charvaka
  2. Buddhism – Buddha
  3. Jainism – Mahavir
  4. Tarka – Kanada and Gautama
  5. Sankhya – Kapila and Patanjali
  6. Purava Mimamsa – Jaimini, and Uttara Mimansa Vedanta

Knowledge falls into two categories: secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge.

Secular knowledge pertains to the world of things and beings. Spiritual knowledge deals with the subjective realization of the transcendental Reality that lies beyond the limitations of the phenomenal world. The theme of each of the philosophies is an inquiry into spiritual knowledge.

Spiritual knowledge is divided into two main groups: theistic and atheistic.

Theists are those who accept the Vedas and believe in an eternal Reality. The Theistic school can be classified under two categories:

  1. Theistic Theism
  2. Theistic Atheism

Theistic Theism accepts the Vedas and also believes in Brahman, the nondual eternal Truth. Pure Theistic Theism is enunciated in the Brahma Sutras, which consist of the very essence of the Upanishads. This school of thought is known as Uttara Mimamsa, which had fallen into obscurity until Adi Shankaracharya revived it and brought it to the attention of the thinkers of the world as Advaita Vedanta.

Theistic Atheism supports a belief in the Vedic declarations but not in the one eternal Truth, or Brahman, as indicated by the Upanishads. Followers of this school believe that the Truth cannot be realized by study, reflection, and meditation upon the Upanishadic declarations. Three main schools of Theistic Atheism exist: Tarka, Sankhya, and Purva Mimamsa.

The Tarka school follows the points of view expounded by Kanada and Gautama, whose philosophies are called Vaisesika and Nyaya, respectively.

The Sankhyan philosophy is most rational, analytical; and scientific in its treatment. The Sankhyans fall into two groups, sustained by two great exponents, Kapila and Patanjali. Kapila’s philosophy, called Nir-Isvara-Sankhya, does not take into consideration the concept of a Creator, or Isvara. Patanjali introduces the concept of a Creator (Isvara) in his doctrine called Sa-Isvara-Sankhya.

Purva (”earlier”) Mimansa (”sequence of logical thinking”) is the last in the category of Theistic Atheism. The Vedas are divided into two sections, the Karma Kanda and the Jnana Kanda. Karma Kanda is the earlier section, which is seemingly dualistic, whereas the Jnana Kanda constitutes the later portion, which is positively non-dualistic, declaring the absolute oneness of Truth. The earlier Vedic thought, contained in the Karma Kanda, was compiled by Jaimini. The philosophy of Jaimini, discussed in the Jaimini Sutra, expounds the essence of Purva Mimansa. According to this philosophy, the human being has to follow faithfully the ritualistic portion of the Vedas. If he does so, he will gain infinite merit. To enjoy the fruits of such merit, the individual soul will get a chance to live for a fixed period of time in a realm of consciousness where he can experience subtler and more intense sensuous enjoyments. This temporary resort in Heaven is conceived by the followers Purva Mimamsa as the goal of existence.

The Atheistic school of philosophy is classified in two categories:

  1. Atheistic Atheism
  2. Atheistic Theism

Atheistic Atheism declares a disbelief in either the Vedas or the supreme Truth. This school is championed by some philosophers, the most important among them being Charvaka. The Materialists (Charvakas) believe that no higher goal than materialism is to be achieved in life, and that the human being has only to find maximum enjoyment in sensual indulgence, unrestricted by ethical or moral scruples. They believe that the human being merely exists as he is; he comes from nowhere when he is born and goes to nowhere when he dies. At death when the body is buried, everything ends.

Atheistic Theism, however, accepts a supreme Truth beyond the body and the objects of the world; however, it refutes the Vedas.

The Buddhists and the Jains fall under this category. The Atheism of Buddhism sprang from Buddha’s revolt against the excessive Vedic ritualism practiced during his age. Ritualism had reached a state of absurdity, and the people following it had grown to be barbarous and immoral. Buddha denied the authority for such practices and, in doing so, had to denounce the Vedic textbooks themselves.

The Jains, the followers of Mahavir, also belong to the Atheistic Theistic school. They are considered atheistic because of their non-acceptance of the Vedas. Their theistic leanings are attributed to their belief in the eternal Truth, which is permanent, perfect, and all-blissful.

Swami Chinmayananda

Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment

Hindu Scriptures at a Glance

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The Hindu Scriptural literature is so vast and comprehensive that there is no branch of knowledge left uninvestigated by the great Seers of this country. The Hindu was never satisfied unless every question that he faced, be it material, scientific, religious, physical, metaphysical, philosophic or purely spiritual, was thoroughly discussed in all its varied aspects, to its irrefutable conclusion. The various Books that constitute the Hindu Scriptural literature will give an insight into the progress of Indian thought through the ages, in the field of metaphysics and will show how the sages of the past in this country relentlessly investigated into the facts and truths of life, discovered the laws governing them, arrived at the path and goal of the ultimate human destiny, enunciated and codified them in systematic treatises and bequeathed them to posterity. To them, SANATANA DHARMA meant the “ENTERNAL VALUES OF LIFE” and human endeavor which they adhered to always and in all ways. To them Hinduism was not a closed Book, because in their profound wisdom they recognized and accepted that there is no limit to knowledge. Search! You will find ‘The more you search, the more you will find! This is true of all fields of knowledge -and all faiths. Only search and stop not till the goal is reached.

The knowledge can be broadly divides into two broad categories: Para परा – intuitive and Apra अपरा – intellectual. The intellectual knowledge can be further divided into secular and non-secular.

Knowledge Para – Intuitive
Apara – Intellectual Secular
Sacred Srutis – Deal with Eternal Principles
Smritis – deal with Practical Applications of Eternal Principles

All the Sacred Books are divided into two broad categories. the Srutis श्रुति and the Smritis स्मृति. The Hindus believe that the Srutis are “God-revealed” and the Smritis are “Man-realised” –or better, “recapitulated by man,” on what he has already heard from the “Srutis” which word means “That which is heard.” The Srutis deal with eternal principles and hold good for all time; while the Smritis deal with the practical application of those eternal principles according to changing times. In fact there is a Sruti content and a Smriti content in every religion. In Hindu religious thought, the word “Sruti” stands for the “Vedas.”

The four “Vedas,” Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharva form the . Srutis. The word “veda” वेद comes from the root “Vid” to know. The Veda is literally the Book of Knowledge-  Knowledge of the changeless and Supreme Reality.

The Sacred Books of the Hindus are tabulated for easy reference:-

Srutis – Four Vedas: Rig, Yajus, Sama, Atharva Karma Kanda Smahitas – Mantras
Brahmanas – Ritualistic
Jnana Kanda Aaranyakas  – Method of Worship
Upanishads – Vedanta
Smriti Ithihas Ramayana
Mahabharta
Puranas 18 Main Puranas
48 Ups Puranas
Smritis – Dhrama Sastras 18 Smritis
Manu Smriti – Main
Veda Upangas Nyaya – by Sage Gautama
Vaiseshika – by Sage Kanaada
Sankhya – by Sage Kapila
Yoga – by Sage Patanjali
Mimamsa – by Sage Jaimini
Vedanta – Sage Veda Vyasa
Vedangas Siksha – Phonetics
Kalpa – Religious Rites
Vyakarna – Grammer
Nirukta – Glossary
Chhandas- Prosody
Jyotisha – Astrnomy & Astrology
Upa Vedas Ayurveda – the Science of Life
Dhnur Veda – Science of Warfare
Gandhrva Veda – Science of Art & Music
Sthaptya Sastra – Mechanics & Construction

 

Excerpts from: Hinduism that is Sanatana Dharma, Chinmaya Mission

Hindu Caste System – Nothing but varying degrees of combinations of three thought textures!

caste

We are essentially divine, but the divinity in us is covered by a veil of thoughts. The differences in the concentration and type of these thoughts give rise to the variety of human beings we see in the world.

The textbooks of Vedanta delineate three thought textures, or gunas गुण , through which the human mind functions:-

  1. Sattva सत्व = purity: thoughts that are pure and noble
  2. Rajas रजस् = passion: thoughts that are passionate and agitated
  3. Tamas तमस् = inertia: thoughts that are dull and inactive

These thought textures, in various permutations, determine individual personalities. And on any one day or during any hour of a day, each of us may have one of the three textures play the predominant role. Every human being experiences all three types of thought currents: sattvika, rajasika, and tamasika. Only the degree to which any one of these textures predominates determines the type to which an individual belongs.

The four gradations in the caste system of India are s. The historic misinterpretation and misuse of those gradations comprise what is generally known as the caste system today.

The four castes were originally determined neither by ancestry nor by vocation, but by a person’s inner temperament:-

The brahmin ब्राह्मिन् (thinker) class is predominantly sattvika सात्त्विक, exhibiting only a little rajas and minimal traces of tamas. The Gita says that this category of people is characterized by serenity, self-restraint; austerity, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, knowledge, and belief in God. Priests, ministers, great thinkers, and subtle poets belong in this category.

The ksatriya क्षत्रिय (leader) class exhibits mostly rajasika राजसिक qualities, with a little of sattva and tamas mixed in. According to the Gita, this category is characterized by prowess, splendor, dexterity, generosity, and lordliness. Leaders of society, such as national presidents or community activists, fall into this category.

The vaisya वैस्य (trader) class has less of sattva and miss and more of tamas. In this classification fall the traders and business people.

The sudra  सुद्र (laborer) class has a major share of tamas, with a little of rajas and minimal traces of sattva. This category includes people who work on simple and menial tasks, and who are motivated largely by the direction given by others.

Today, these classifications have lost much of their meaning. They come to designate a hereditary birthright in the society, a mere superficial distinction that divides society into castes. For many years, people have espoused the belief that the four castes are based upon and determined by birth within a given family and by the type of vocation one follows. This confusion arose because the ancient masters of religion, who were also great psychologists, had suggested certain Vocations that they thought would be best suited to persons, belonging to each respective class of mental and intellectual texture. The intention was merely to guide those who were not well versed in psychology in selecting for themselves a gainful field of work wherein their present mental make-up could be put to best use. However, no rigidity was ordained about this selection. Anyone could pick up or even change one’s vocation and transform oneself from a sudra to a vaisya or ksatriya or brahmin, or vice versa. Hindu history is replete with such examples of mental transformation.

As the years rolled by, the basis of classification was forgotten, and people wrongly equated the four grades in the caste system to occupations and birth into families engaged in such occupations. Thus, a priest in a temple is generally considered a brahmin, without any reference to his attainment in study of the scriptures and in practicing the precepts. This is a dismal distortion of the truth. A true brahmin is one who is highly evolved in mind and intellect, has studied and assimilated the scriptural teachings, and daily practices the noble qualities that he has learned. Such a one can be found in any country, religion, or community. He need not be a Hindu or an Indian.

To achieve the mental transformations that catapult us from one classification into another, we have to put forth our own self-effort. A tamasika तामसिक person has to put in a lot of effort and time to shake off his lethargy and inertia and burst himself into activity before he can even dream of reaching the state of sattva. A rajasika person is already active, but that activity is directed to acquiring and enjoying the sense objects of the world. The person has to change the direction of her activity to again self-purification instead of sense gratification. The sattvika person is at the portals of Truth. Such a person is fully prepared to take the flight toward Self-realization; She needs only to contemplate and meditate on the supreme SeIf.

Swami Chinmayanada

Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment

Gita Jayanti – It’s Significance

THE krishna-arjuna-bhagavad-gita-quotesHOLY Gita Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad Gita, is celebrated throughout India by all the admirers and lovers of this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of the month of Margaseersha (December-January), according to the Hindu almanac. It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated to King Dhritarashtra the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord available to us, and to people of the world, for all time.

The Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the history of mankind. Nearly six thousand years ago on that day a dazzling flash of brilliant light lit up the firmament of human civilization. That flash, that marvelous spiritual effulgence, was the message of the Bhagavad Gita, given by the Lord Himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Unlike ordinary flashes of light which die away after a split-second, this brilliant flash of that memorable day has continued to shine through the centuries, and even now illumines the path of humanity on its onward march to perfection.

The Gita is the most beautiful and the only truly philosophical song. It contains sublime lessons on wisdom and philosophy. It is the “Song Celestial”. It is the universal gospel. It contains the message of life that appeals to all, irrespective of race, creed, age or religion.

The Gita was given to us about six thousand years ago by Sri Krishna, the Lord incarnate, through His most devoted disciple, Arjuna. Its teachings are based on the sacred Upanishads, the ancient, revealed metaphysical classics of India.

The Gita shows a way to rise above the world of duality and the pairs of opposites, and to acquire eternal bliss and immortality. It is a gospel of action. It teaches the rigid performance of one’s duty in society, and a life of active struggle, keeping the inner being untouched by outer surroundings, and renouncing the fruits of actions as offerings unto the Lord.

The Gita is a source of power and wisdom. It strengthens you when you are weak, and inspires you when you feel dejected and feeble. It teaches you how to resist unrighteousness and follow the path of virtue and righteousness.

The Gita is not merely a book or just a scripture. It is a living voice carrying an eternally indispensable and vital message to mankind. Its verses embody words of wisdom coming from the infinite ocean of knowledge, the Absolute Itself.

The voice of the Gita is the call of the Supreme. It is the divine sound explained. The primal source of all existence, all power, is the manifested sound—Om. This is the Divine Word. It is Nada Brahman, whose unceasing call is: “Be ye all ever merged in the eternal, unbroken, continuous consciousness of the Supreme Truth.” This is the sublime message that the Gita elaborates and presents in all comprehensiveness and in a universally acceptable form. It is this message of the Gita that I wish to recall and re-proclaim with emphasis to you.

To be always conscious of the Divine, to ever feel the Divine Presence, to live always in the awareness of the Supreme Being in the chambers of your heart and everywhere around you, is verily to live a life of fullness and divine perfection on earth itself. Such a constant remembrance of God and such an attitude of mind will release you forever from the clutches of illusion and free you from all fear. To forget the Supreme is to fall into illusion. To forget Him is to be assailed by fear. To live in unbroken remembrance of the Supreme Truth is to remain always in the region of light, peace and bliss, far beyond the reach of illusion and delusion.

Mark carefully how the Gita stresses again and again this lofty message.

The Lord declares: “Keep thou thy mind in Me, in Me place thy reason”.

In another verse He says: “Therefore, at all times remember Me and fight. You will surely attain Me, having thus offered yourself”.

And yet again: “Perform thou action, remaining united with Me at heart”.

The Gita guides you to glory with the watchwords: “Be thou divine-minded, devoted to Me as your goal, and let your subconscious mind be divine”.

The Lord gives the following firm assurance also: “I become the saviour from this mortal world for those whose minds are set on Me”.

Such is the most illuminating message of the Gita, seeking to lead man to a life of perfection even while performing his ordained role here. Long has this message been neglected by man. Forgetting the Lord, the world has turned towards sense indulgence and mammon. A terrible price has been paid. O man, enough of this forgetfulness! The Lord has warned you against heedlessness: “If, out of egoism, thou wilt not hear, then thou shalt perish”.

It is a matter of great regret that many young men and women of India know very little of this most unique scripture. One cannot consider oneself as having attained a good standard of education if one does not have a sound knowledge of the Gita. All post-graduate knowledge, all research in universities is mere husk or chaff when compared to the wisdom of the Gita.

Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talks or lectures will not help you in any way. Put into practice the teachings of this most sacred scripture and attain eternal bliss and peace.

The Gita may be summarised in the following seven verses:

“Uttering the one-syllabled Om, the Brahman, and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body thus, attains the Supreme Goal”.

“It is meet, O Lord, that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise; the demons fly in fear to all quarters, and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee!”

“With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world, enveloping all”.

“Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of the whole world, minuter than an atom, the supporter of all, of form inconceivable, effulgent like the sun, such a one goeth beyond the darkness of ignorance”.

“They, the wise, speak of the indestructible Asvattha, having its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas”.

“And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory and knowledge, as well as their absence. I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta, and the knower of the Vedas am I”.

“Fix thy mind on Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me; bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole Self with Me, taking Me as the Supreme Lord, thou shalt verily come to Me”.

Read the whole of the Gita on Sundays and other holidays. Study carefully again and again the verses in the second discourse, which deal with the state of the Sthitaprajna (a perfected Yogi and sage). Also study the eight nectarine verses in the twelfth discourse.

The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the purpose of scriptural study. You will find in it a solution to all your problems. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the deeper will your knowledge become, the more penetrative would be your insight, and the clearer your thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.

None but the Lord can bring out such a marvellous and unprecedented book, which grants peace to its readers, and which guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss.

The teachings of the Gita are broad, sublime and universal. They do not belong to any particular cult, sect, creed, age, place or country. They are meant for all. They are within the reach of all. The Gita has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.

At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the holy and auspicious Gita Jayanti is observed every year on a grand scale:

All the aspirants wake up at 4 am and meditate on the Lord. From sunrise to sunset there is unbroken recitation of the Gita. The Samputa method is used, that is, before and after each verse the following Samputa is recited:

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं  व्रज
अहं त्वाम् सर्वपापभ्या मोक्षयिश्य्यमि मा शुच् (18.66)

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja
Aham twaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucha

Thus, between two verses, this verse is recited twice. This is an extremely efficacious method of earning the Grace of the Supreme Lord and the Gita, the Mother.

Aspirants fast on the day, as it is also the Ekadashi day. Competitions are held among the little children, to develop their talents in the recitation of the Gita. In the case of the slightly older children, they are given a chance to deliver discourses. This is a wonderful way of encouraging them to study the scripture.

In the evening, a special Satsang is held at which scholars, Yogis and Sannyasins discourse upon the Gita. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the teachings of the Gita, as also translations of the holy scripture, are distributed.

Take a resolve on Gita Jayanti that you will read at least one discourse every day. Recite the fifteenth discourse before taking your meals. This is done at the Sivananda Ashram.

Keep a pocket-sized edition of the Gita with you at all times. Mark a few verses in it which inspire you. Everyday, while you wait for your bus or train, or whenever you have a little leisure, pull out the book and read these verses. You will be ever inspired.

May you all lead the life taught by the Gita! May the Gita, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, guide and protect you! May it nourish you with the milk of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads!

Glory to Lord Krishna, the Divine Teacher! Glory to Sri Vyasa, the poet of poets, who composed the Gita! May his blessings be upon you all!

Swami Sivananda

The Divine Life Society

All words are Lord’s Name!

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All words are the Lord’s names because everything is a manifestation of ईश्वर Isvara. While every word is his name, we do have significant names like Hari, Hara and so on. Why? The word, ‘tree’ means only tree; it does not mean the sun, the moon, or the earth. However, special words like Hari, Hara, Siva and so on include every form, each name having its own special connotation.

A nama, नाम name, has a namin नामि, an object to reveal. Without an object there is no nama. There is a relationship between a name and its object, nama-nami–sambandha, as between a word and its meaning, vag-artha-sambandha. When I show you a rose, you recognize it and the word ‘rose’ pops up in your mind. Since you have memory, you can think of a lake while you are travelling through a desert. The object need not be objectified by the senses. Once you know the meaning of the word, the object, you cannot say the word without thinking of its meaning.

The sambandha between the, vak and its artha is established by repeated exposure and education. Once you have that connection, then the name and its corresponding object are inseparable.

You can invoke lsvara in a particular name.

Among the many special names and forms of the Lord, you can have a name and form for the three-fold prayer. This is called इष्ट-देवता ista-devata, chosen form and name of lsvara. What does the word ‘Rama’ mean to you? The Lord. Krsna? The Lord. Narayana? The Lord. Siva? The Lord. Ganesa? The Lord. Every word is the Lord. Suppose I ask you, “Think of the Lord.” Who comes to your mind? “Rama.” That is your ista-devta. When Isvara is understood as one who is all, you can choose any one special name and form to invoke the Lord and offer the prayers. The attitude of generations of people, towards words like Rama and so on, have created an inseparable meaning along with an appropriate bhavna, attitude. You invoke Isvara by a particular name and form.

Let us look at the name Hari in the ‘hare rama hare krsna’ kirtana. The one who takes away all papa is Hari, harti papani iti harih. You are relating to Lord as a devotee, a bhakta. The words, Hari or Rama or Krsna, invoke the devotee, who is the basic individual.

You are son-brother-father; daughter-sister mother and so on, but who are you? You are a simple conscious being who assumes these various roles… This being, without playing any role, is related to whom? The basic individual is related to the total, समष्टि samasti. In the total manifestation, you are an individual with one body-mind-sense complex? This is a single conscious being, but like a tree in the forest. The forest-ness pervades the tree, but the tree is not the forest.

The individual body-mind-sense complex is pervaded by Isvara, but with reference to that single body-mind-sense complex, one is a जीव jiva. That jiva is a simple conscious being, and the simple conscious being is related to the total, Isvara.

A God who has a location in a theology, cannot be the creation itself. He can only be like a king ruling the universe. Such a God becomes time-bound and therefore limited. A religious pursuit becomes meaningful only when lsvara is total. He cannot be vengeful. When you say samasti it means that the total manifestation is lsvara. You are included in that, yet related to lsvara. When you use a means to invoke that lsvara, who includes everything, then, related to that lsvara, you are a devotee. When you think of your daughter, the parent in you is invoked. When you think of lsvara, the basic person in you is invoked. The basic person is ever related to lsvara. That is why that relationship does not vary. It is always the same. Your grandfather related to Isvara in the same way, individual to total. Your father related to Isvara in the same way, individual to total. You relate to Isvara in the same way, individual to total. On the other hand, whereas, your grandfather related to your father, as a father, you relate to your father as son. The son becomes father, and thus, all other relationships are variable. The relationship to Isvara, however, is an invariable relationship; it is between an individual and the total. This devotee pervades and sustains every role. While the role is this person, the person is not the role. The one who has this knowledge is a devotee, bhakta. That devotee is invoked when you say, ‘hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare.’

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Prayer Guide

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses

What is Deepavali?

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Deepavali or Diwali means “a row of lights”. It falls on the last two days of the dark half of Kartik (October-November). For some it is a three-day festival. It commences with the Dhan-Teras, on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartik, followed the next day by the Narak Chaudas, the 14th day, and by Deepavali proper on the 15th day.

There are various alleged origins attributed to this festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura.

In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light fireworks which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet one another, asking, “Have you had your Ganges bath?” which actually refers to the oil bath that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the holy Ganges.

Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instils charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.

Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4a.m.) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali that everyone wakes up early in the morning. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their descendents would realise its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.

In a happy mood of great rejoicing village folk move about freely, mixing with one another without any reserve, all enmity being forgotten. People embrace one another with love. Deepavali is a great unifying force. Those with keen inner spiritual ears will clearly hear the voice of the sages, “O Children of God! unite, and love all”. The vibrations produced by the greetings of love which fill the atmosphere are powerful enough to bring about a change of heart in every man and woman in the world. Alas! That heart has considerably hardened, and only a continuous celebration of Deepavali in our homes can rekindle in us the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous path of hatred.

On this day Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthern oil-lamps. The best and finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.

O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul.

He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who illumines the intellect, the sun, the moon and the stars and the whole universe but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is Brahman, He is the inner Self. Celebrate the real Deepavali by living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.

The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightnings shine and much less fire. All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.

Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the hearts of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon. The house is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the darkness of ignorance. O man! wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Realise the constant and eternal light of the Soul which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep enquiry.

May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!

Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book Hindu Fasts and Festivals.

Significance of Vijya Dashmi – Dusserah is Dasa-Papa-Hara

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Man’s real nature is Absolute Bliss and Knowledge. He tries to reach his state with the help of his mind and intellect. But the mind constantly gravitates to the sense objects for sensual pleasures and the intellect goes on seeking knowledge from the external world By such extroverted pursuits man gets involved more and more in the world of objects and accumulates desires which veil the divinity in him.

Man is thus in a helpless condition consumed by numerous desires. The ancient masters knew that he has to turn his attention inwards to gain the state of Absolute Bliss and Knowledge, which he foolishly seeks in the external World. With this view in mind, they introduced various rituals and festivals throughout the year to remind man of his supreme goal and ideal. One such festival is Dusserah.

The Dusserah festival is celebrated throughout the country for ten days. During this festival, everyone spends his time in worship, devotion, and study of the sastras, and every house assumes the sanctity of a temple The ten days are divided into three stages of three days each, for worship, and the culmination of the festival on the tenth day is called Vijaya Dasami

In the first three days Goddess Kali also called Durga, is invoked. In the next three days Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, and the following three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. On Vijaya Dasami day, a huge bonfire of the devil is made. and this marks the culmination of the festival. Such festivals are not only reminders for man to seek God, but they also contain in them the very path and technique by which man can reach Him. The great day of Dusserah indicates, as the word suggests, Dasa-Papa-Hara, or the end or liquidation of the ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the ten sense organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day the ten sins are coded which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the transcendental experience.

One can gain the experience of the Reality by following the right invocations in the required sequence. The invocation of Goddess Durga is done first, with a particular purpose. Durga is described in Puranic literature as “The Terrible Power” that vanquished and killed the demons who terrorized devoted religious seekers. Similarly, in the bosom of man there are destructive monsters of desire, passion, lust, greed, jealousy, and so on, which have to be annihilated before he can successfully seek spiritual unfoldment. Hence Mother Durga is invoked. By worshipping Her for three days man merely invokes his own power which lies dormant within, to discover and destroy the negative forces lurking in his bosom.

Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So the next stage is to practice the positive aspect of the Sadana. This is done by Shree Lakshmi Puja for the next three days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aiswarya. Aiswarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions alone but as including the divine wealth of love, kindness, devotion, patience, endurance. charity, ahimsa and the like. Again, these are not to be gained from without, but are to be engendered from within by the invocation of the Goddess within ourselves. By the end of these three days, these divine qualities should replace the devilish tendencies which had usurped and enveloped our bosom.

With the development of the divine, traits, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes an Adhikari for philosophical study, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is therefore the last and the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. Just as she brings out the music and melody from her well tuned flute, one can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well integrated mind, by the study of the Sastras, constant reflection and meditation. After the three stages are gone through, on the last Vijaya Dasami Day the devil is burnt down indicating the transcendence of the ego, when man attains the great victory -Vijaya -over his sense-life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality.

Swami Chinmayananda

From: Symbolism in Hinduism, Chinmaya Mission Publication