What is Karma? What is prarabdha, destiny?

gurudev (2)Karma means action. Here karma means action that is deliberately performed by a human being with a sense of कर्त्र्त्वम् kartrtvam or doership. Any action that is deliberately performed by us is an action that brings about a result. It is an action for which we are accountable. An involuntary action like breathing etc. does not produce any result because there is no sense of doership involved in it. That is why if somebody who is fast asleep kicks his neighbor we do not hold him accountable for it because he did not intend to do it. Even in a court of law, if it can be proven that some crime was committed by a person when he was not in his right mind he may either not be punished or will receive reduced punishment. That is why the defense lawyer will also try to prove that his client was provoked and did not intend to commit a crime. The idea is that only an action intentionally done makes one accountable and produces a result.

An action that is in keeping with dharma or righteousness produces what we call punya पुण्य or virtue. If an action is in violation of dharma, it creates the opposite, papa पाप or vice. Therefore, punya and papa are the results of actions that are either righteous or otherwise.

As human beings, we are constantly performing deliberate actions. One of the main reasons why actions are performed is the fulfillment of desires. We are born with all kinds of needs. We are born needy and most people also die needy. As these needs arise in the mind, the mind is prompted or sometimes compelled to perform action to fulfill the needs or desires. Therefore, actions are usually performed as motivated by desires and needs or by expectations and demands. Since there is no end to desires, the fulfillment of one desire brings another desire in its wake. That being the case, human beings are continuously performing actions from birth to death. Therefore, we keep on accumulating the fruits of these actions. The one who has a sense of doership in performing actions is accountable for experiencing the results.

The next question is, “When will these actions give rise to results?” That depends upon the kind of action that has been performed. It is like asking when a given seed will result in fruit. That depends upon the kind of seed it is. Certain seeds bring forth fruits in about a year or two. Other seeds take a few years longer, perhaps five years or even ten. It depends entirely upon the seed. For instance, it may take a mango tree five years of growing before you get mangoes, while it takes a banana or plantain about two years to produce fruit; some seeds fructify soon and some take time. Similarly, there is no rule that an action that is performed now will produce results immediately. Some actions do give immediate results. Eating food appeases hunger as an immediate result. But when we perform an action of charity, service, or worship, it will produce results only in its own time. By the same token, if we hurt somebody, steal something or cheat somebody those actions will also bring about results in their own time. Therefore, of the number of actions that we perform during this lifetime, there are many that yield results in this lifetime itself, while there are many others that will perhaps not fructify during this lifetime.

One may ask what happens to those actions, which do not fructify in terms of results during this lifetime? They are stored in an ’account’ for us to experience their outcome in the future. Therefore, those results will be experienced in a future lifetime. It can be the following lifetime or a future lifetime; we do not know. We call them accumulated results or accumulated actions. The accumulated actions, which are waiting to fructify in the future, are called sancita-karma संचितकर्म. Sancita संचित means that which is accumulated. A sancaya संचय means collection. Sancita is that which is collected or accumulated. As we understand it, there is no beginning to this creation. Therefore, each one of us must have experienced countless human births and, therefore, performed countless actions. It is therefore possible that there are countless actions in our ’account’ that are waiting to fructify. Theoretically, this can result in countless births; ‘there is no end to the process of exhausting the results of the actions we have performed because we do not know how many they are. Not only that, but in the very process of experiencing the result of an action, we perform some more actions. These actions also add up, and thus we accumulate a huge store of sancita-karma. It is like a part of one’s salary getting automatically deposited in the bank every month. The amount in the bank accumulates each month. Some of that accumulated fund is invested in short- or long-term deposits for a period of five years, ten years, fifteen years, or even thirty years. Therefore, periodically, some part of that invested money results in the maturity of a deposit and then they get back that chunk of money. Similarly, of all the karma that accumulates, the result of some of it may ’mature’ and we then get the result of those actions. That is called prarabdha-karma and it is this karma, which has resulted in the present birth and this life.

Of all the sancita-karma, that part which has fructified and resulted in the birth of this body and this life, is called prarabdha-karma प्रारब्ध-कर्म. It is pra-arabdha प्र-आरब्ध  or prakarsena-arabdham प्रकर्षेण-आरब्धं, that which has very well begun to fructify or produce its effect. However, our ’deposit’ continues even while we exhaust our prarabdha-karma in this lifetime as we continue to perform new karmas. And, in turn, that which fructifies Will determine our prarabdha in the next lifetime. So the total continually keeps adding up. As we live our present lives and experience the effects of our prarabdha-karma, we continue to perform new karma. Some of this new karma may yield results in this lifetime and some of it may get added to our store of sancita-karma.

The karma that we perform in the present are called kriyamana-karma क्रियमाणा-कर्म  or agami-karma आगामि-कर्म. They are the same. Kriyamana means that which is being performed and agami means that which is coming, which will give rise to result in future. Thus, there are three kinds of karma: sancita-karma, prarabdha-karma, and agami-karma, which is also called kriyamana -karma.

All action is karma, but it is classified into three kinds because we are experiencing the results of some of those actions in the form of prarabdha-karma. To become free from the bondage of Karma, all our sancita-karma should be exhausted, which is impossible. The only way to become free from this cycle of karma is to recognize that one is akarta अकर्ता, actionless, and recognize our real status, in the sense that doership is not our true nature; all our actions were performed by the ignorant ’I,’ and the enlightened ’I’ has nothing to do with them. This is just as in a dream we may do all kinds of things, which, at that time, seem very real. The dream-karma may well even give rise to a dream result of pleasure and pain. When we wake up in the morning, however, we have nothing to do with those dream actions or results because the one performing actions in the dream is no more. Thus, when we wake up to our true nature of being brahman ब्रह्मन्, all the actions that we performed as a jiva are not applicable any more. Therefore, the knowledge of the actionless self is the only means to become free from the bondage of action and its result.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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


Concepts of Prarabdha, Destiny and Purusartha, Self-effort.

gurudev (2)We accept that the two aspects of  self-effort, पुरुषार्थ purusartha and destinty, प्रारब्ध prarabdha are present in every situation. There are things that we can control, and there are many things that we do not control but must confront. We apply our freewill to that which we can control; while that which we cannot control is called prarabdha. Sometimes, we may not have much freedom in exercising our choices and, sometimes, we may not have any freedom in deciding what to do. Even that may be determined for us. Yet we still have freedom in our attitude towards all of that. Therefore, what is given is prarabdha, and what we do with it or how we handle it is called purusartha.

The prarabdha of the present is the consequence of the freewill of the past. One way to look at this would be to say that there is nothing but freewill. Another would be to say that freewill is itself a result of prarabdha, or, in other words, that there is nothing but prarabdha! Both are ultimately the same because prarabdha is that which is given by God and freewill is that which the individual exercises, and God and the individual are identical from the standpoint of truth. Therefore, prarabdha and purusartha merge into one. Until we realize this fact of non-duality, both prarabdha and purusartha influence every situation.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmananda Vol: 1
Link to Swamiji’s Vedanta Discourses

Vedic Marriage – a means, a sadhana साधना for self-growth!

55574f57cb3b24f23c5f160a621063d8_indian-wedding-symbols-clip-art-gallery-symbols-and-meanings_1500-1600There are many types of vivaha or weddings in the Hindu tradition. For example, the wedding of Shakuntala and Dushyanta is a gandharva-vivaha, a marriage by mutual consent, without any wedding ceremony. Many weddings in the west fall under this category. The most common wedding in the Vedic tradition, however, is the वैदिक-विवाह vaidika-vivaha, also known as the ब्रह्म-विवाह brahma-vivaha.

In this kind of wedding, typically, a number of guests are invited to attend and bless the couple. If the guests are younger than the couple, they wish them well and pray for them. If they are older, even by a day, they bless them. Everyone present at the event is a witness to the wedding, including the priests, brahmans; agni, fire, and the adityadi devatas, etc. Your hridaya, heart, and your mind also witness the wedding.

The concept of the heart and mind being a witness, here, is a reference to one’s conscience. In fact, there is no conscience other than your common sense, or knowledge of right and wrong. The ‘informed you’ is the conscious being, and that being is the witness. Finally, saksi or atma is also a witness to the wedding.

We perform certain specific rituals during the wedding ceremony. First, we perform a nandi-sradha to obtain the blessings of all our ancestors. Then we perform a dayadi homa to get the blessings of all the देवता devatas. There are many significant steps in these rituals involving the families of both the bridegroom and the bride. Their brothers and sisters are also involved in the rituals. The माङ्गल्य-धरणं mangalya-dharanam or the tying of the mangala-sutra is an important step, but is not the final ritual. It is only a prelude for what follows. The vaidika wedding is complete only after the saptapadi सप्तपदी,  the taking of seven steps by the couple. These seven steps are symbolic and very significant. They are symbolic of two people coming together, both of whom are pilgrims. You know, a pilgrim is just not a traveler. While every traveler is not a pilgrim, every pilgrim is a traveler. Someone who goes to Hawaii is not a pilgrim, but the person who goes to Jerusalem or Varanasi is a pilgrim. A pilgrim has a very sacred destination. Thus, with every step that is taken in this saptapadi, there is a prayer, “May the all-pervasive Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of everything, lead us as we take this step.”

Human life is very complex and you have to take the initiative to make it simple. Each one is born alone and walks alone, and is proceeding towards a certain destination. What can that destination be? Security is one destination and it is relative in the beginning. Only once you gain relative security, can you gain absolute security.

For example, money, a home, progeny, etc., are all forms of relative security, which give you a sense of satisfaction. This sense of satisfaction gives you a sense of growth or maturity. For instance, you gain a certain fulfillment through your children.

Everyone has an inner child that missed out on something in his or her childhood. When you become a parent, through the very process of parenting, you get back what you missed. The experience of love is the same whether you love or are loved by another person. When you think the other person loves you, it is only your guess; but, when you love, you are sure about your love. As a parent, you are certain about your love for your children. That is why when you bring up children, you find that you become a therapist for yourself. Hence, no therapists were needed in earlier days.

When you become a mother or father, you get what you missed as a child. That is what marriage is for: to help you in self-growth. You grow in a marriage; you have no choice but to grow. In this creation, which is continuously taking place, the man and the woman, two pilgrims, begin their lives together. Is there a destination? What can it be? Every self-conscious individual wants to be self-satisfied. When I don’t need to be ‘approved’ by others, I am O.K.; I have made it. I have made it when I don’t need others’ emotional support; that is growth. It is very important. Therefore, every self-conscious being has to see himself or herself as an adequate person: self-satisfied, content, and happy. That is the destination: मोक्ष moksa or freedom. To reach that final destination, there is a relative destination; growth. You have to be morally upright without any conflicts.

In the beginning, there may be conflicts, but afterwards, there will be moral uprightness without any conflict. It should become so natural to you that it is impossible for you to compromise your value structure. For this, you need to be emotionally secure.

To achieve this relative emotional security you need to fuse your ego, and for that, you require another person. You have to work with another person towards this emotional growth because when there is another person, one ego rubs another ego. If the rub is too rough, it is not good; if there is no roughness at all, it is not good either.

This is the nature of marriage. There will be some roughness, but you will have to work with it all the same because of your commitment. You have declared in front of all these witnesses that you are going to be together for life. You yourself have declared this openly, in the presence of agni and all the devatas and, therefore, you don’t have a choice. You have to work it out for yourself. For two persons to live together, it takes a certain sacrifice, a certain yielding. Nobody can sharpen a knife on a rough stone; much less, on a slab of butter! When you yield, you grow, and you become richer.

Marriage is a very significant event in one’s life. It is sacred because two separate pilgrims come together to proceed forward towards the same goal. Like two rivers that come from different sources and merge in the same ocean, these two people come together in a marriage and undertake the pilgrimage together. Therefore, marriage is not an end. If it were an end, it would end! It is a means, a sadhana, for your growth. In as much as it is a means for your growth, there is no bad marriage at all.

But, you have to make it a means. We need to grow. This growth ensures that nobody is a loser. Naturally, the couple prays to Lord Vishnu and then takes the first of the seven steps.

The first step in the saptapadi is for material wealth. The next step is for health and strength. The third step is toward wealth of all kinds, including inner wealth, and here the couple is asking for help in following dharma, for growth. The fourth step is toward mutual happiness and the fifth toward the welfare of the families. Then there is  a sixth step taken for prosperity in all seasons, and finally, the seventh step toward the happiness born of wisdom. After taking the seven steps, the bride and groom chant a mantra pledging lasting friendship, mutual respect, and harmony. Once your bride is in your home, she is your friend. In an Indian marriage, the man is typically older than his wife. Because of this, he is given respect in this relationship. In this friendship, however, neither is superior or inferior to the other.

In the final ritual, the sakhya-homa, the bridegroom chants a mantra telling the bride that he is the sËma and she is the rk, meaning that he is the lyric and she is the music, and that he is the earth and she is the heavens, and so on. The sakhya-homa is the last ritual in the wedding, but it is very important. Ultimately, a marriage is all about friendship and understanding. Finally, there is the hridaya-sparsha हृदय-स्पर्श, the ‘touching of hearts’, in which both declare, “I give my heart to you. May your mind work in consonance with mine.” This does not mean that both should think alike, but is an affirmation that each will support the other, support the other’s interest. The sakhyahoma is a wonderful assertion of eternal friendship.

From all this you can understand that you are not a mere witness in this world. You are a participant in this creation; you create; you do; you accomplish, and you have all the saktis, powers, for all this. When you participate in the creation, you are one with Ishvara and that is why the wedding is highly ritualistic. In fact, the couple is viewed as Siva and Parvati, or Narayana and Lakshmi. If you think you are Narayana or Lakshmi, you cannot have any problems with your self-image. Devo devlayah proktah देवोदेवालयप्रोक्त; the body is called the abode of the gods, देवालय devlaya. Thus, this jiva जीव is Bhagavan भगवान . Where, then, is the problem of self-esteem? Every day, we offer a bath, snana; clothing, vastra; ornaments, abharana; sandal paste, chandana; and kumkuma in worship to ईश्वर Isvara in our hearts. Ishvara is not only in our hearts, but is everywhere and is everything. Whatever we do to ourselves is an offering to God or whatever is offered to God is, in effect, given to ourselves.

Thus, these vivaha mantras are very significant and very meaningful. The two separate pilgrims, who come together in this friendship pledge to support each other and use the marriage as a means for self-growth.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Excerpts from Swamiji’s Discourse on Vedic Marriage

Religion begins with this question and ends with its answer!

Swami-VivekanandaGreat is the tenacity with which man clings to the senses. Yet however substantial he may think the external world in which he lives and moves, there comes a time in the lives of individuals and of races when involuntarily they ask, “Is this real?” To the person who never finds a moment to question the credentials of his senses, whose every moment is occupied with some sort of sense enjoyment-even to him death comes, and he also is compelled to ask, “Is this real?” Even in the remote past, where recorded history cannot help us-in the mysterious light of mythology, back in the dim twilight of civilization-we find that the same question was asked: “What becomes of this? What is real?”

One of the most poetical of the Upanishads, the Katha Upanishad, begins with the inquiry: “When a man dies, there is a dispute: one party declares that he has gone forever; the other insists that he is still living. Which is the truth?” Various answers have been given. The whole sphere of metaphysics, philosophy, and religion is really filled with various answers to this question. At the same time, attempts have been made to suppress it, to put a stop to the unrest of the mind, which asks: “What is beyond? What is real?” But so long as death remains, all these attempts at suppression will prove unsuccessful. We may talk about seeing nothing beyond and keeping all our hopes and aspirations confined to the present moment, and struggle hard not to think of anything beyond the world of the senses. And perhaps everything outside may help to keep us limited within its narrow bounds; the whole world may combine to prevent us from broadening out beyond the present. Yet, so long as there is death, the question must come again and again: “Is death the end of all these things to which we are clinging, as if they were the most real of all realities, the most substantial of all substances?” The world vanishes in a moment and is gone. Standing on the brink of a precipice beyond which is the infinite, yawning chasm, every mind, however hardened, is bound to recoil and ask, “Is this real?” The hopes of a lifetime, built up little by little with all the energies of a great mind, vanish in a second. Are they real? This question must be answered. Time never lessens its power; on the contrary it adds strength to it.

Swami Vivekananda
Excerpts from Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works

We all understand that desires are wrong; but what is meant by giving up desires? How could life go on?


This is what Vedanta teaches: Give up the world which you have conjectured, because your conjecture was based upon a very partial experience, upon very poor reasoning, and upon your own weaknesses. Give it up. The world we have been thinking of so long, the world we have been clinging to so long, is a false world of our own creation. Give that up. Open your eyes and see that, as such, it never existed; it was a dream, maya. What existed was the Lord Himself. It is He who is in the child, in the wife, and in the husband; it is He who is in the good and in the bad. He is in the sin and in the sinner; He is in life and in death.

A tremendous assertion indeed! Yet that is the theme which Vedanta wants to demonstrate, to teach, and to preach. This is just the opening theme. We avoid the dangers of life and its evils by seeing God in everything. Do not desire anything. What makes us miserable? The cause of all the miseries from which we suffer is desire. You desire something, and the desire is not fulfilled; the result is distress. If there is no desire, there is no suffering. But here, too, there is the danger of my being misunderstood. So it is necessary to explain what I mean by giving up desire and becoming free from all misery. The walls have no desires and they never suffer. True, but they never evolve. This chair has no desires; it never suffers; but it is always a chair. There is a glory in happiness; here is a glory in suffering. If I may say so, there is a utility in evil too. The great lesson in misery we all know. There are hundreds of things we have done in our lives which we wish we had never done, but which, at the same time, have been great teachers. As for me, I am glad I have done something good and many things bad; glad I have done something right, and glad I have committed many errors; because every one of them has been a great lesson. I, as I am now, am the resultant of all I have done, all I have thought. Every action and thought have had their effect, and these effects are the sum total of my progress.

We all understand that desires are wrong; but what is meant by giving up desires? How could life go on? It would be the same suicidal advice, killing the desire and the man too. The solution is this: not that you should not have property, not that you should not have things which are necessary and even things which are luxuries-have all that you want, and more; only know the truth about property: that it does not belong to anybody. Have no idea of proprietorship, possession. You are not anybody, nor am I anybody, nor is anyone else. All belong to the Lord. The opening verse of the Isa Upanishad tells us to cover everything with the Lord. God is in the wealth that you enjoy. He is in the desire that rises in your mind. He is in the things you buy to satisfy your desire; He is in your beautiful attire, in your beautiful ornaments. This is the line of thought. All will be metamorphosed as soon as you begin to see things in that light. If you put God in your every movement, in your conversation, in your form, in everything, the whole scene will change, and the world, instead of appearing as one of woe and misery, will become a heaven.

“The kingdom of heaven is within you,” says Jesus. So says Vedanta and every great teacher. “He that hath eyes to see, let him see, and he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Vedanta proves that the truth for which we have been searching all this time is present now and was all the time with us. In our ignorance we thought we had lost it, and went about the world crying and weeping, struggling to find the truth, while all along it was dwelling in our own hearts. There alone can we find it.

If we understand the giving up of the world in its old, crude sense, then it would come to this: that we must not work-that we must be idle, sitting like lumps of earth, neither thinking nor doing anything-but must become fatalists, driven about by every circumstance, ordered about by the laws of nature, drifting from place to place. That would be the result. But that is not what is meant. We must work. Ordinary men work, driven by false desires-what do they know of work? If a man is impelled by his impulses, desires, and senses, what does he know about work? He works who is not impelled by his own desires, by any selfishness whatsoever. He works who has no ulterior motive in view. He works who has nothing to gain from work.

Who enjoys a picture-the seller or the seer? The seller is busy with his accounts, computing what his gain will be, how much profit he will realize from the picture. His brain is full of that. He is looking at the hammer and watching the bids. He is intent on hearing how fast the bids are rising. That man is enjoying the picture who has gone there without any intention of buying or selling. He looks at the picture and enjoys it. So this whole universe is a picture, and when these desires have vanished, men will enjoy the world; then this buying and selling and these foolish ideas of possession will be ended. The money-lender gone, the buyer gone, the seller gone, this world remains a picture, a beautiful painting.

I have never read of any more beautiful conception of God than the following: “He is the Great Poet, the Ancient Poet. The whole universe is His poem, coming in verses and rhymes and rhythms, written in Infinite Bliss.” When we have given up desires, then alone shall we be able to read and enjoy this universe of God. Then everything will become deified. Nooks and corners, by-ways and shady places, which we thought dark and unholy, will all be deified. They will all reveal their true nature, and we shall smile at ourselves and think that all this weeping and crying has been but child’s play, and that we were only standing by, watching.

Swami Vivekananda
Excerpts from Vivekananda The Yoga and Other Works

We are all rushing towards freedom; we are all following that voice, whether we know it or not!

imagev1We are all rushing towards freedom; we are all following that voice, whether we know it or not. As soon as we understand the voice, we see the reason why this struggle should be there – this fight, this competition, these difficulties, this cruelty, these little pleasures and joys; we see that they are in nature of things, because without them there would be no going towards the voice, which we are destined to attain, whether we know it or not. All human life, all nature, therefore is struggling to attain to freedom.

One stumble more than another, him who stumble more we call bad and him who stumble less we call good. Good and bad are never two different things, they are one and the same. The difference is not one of kind, but of degree.

Swami Vivekananda
Excerpts from: Vivekananda Yogas and Other Works

Why do we sing in the shower?

Happiness is the absence of desires. Whenever your mind does not long for anything, you are happy. In the interval between the fulfillment of one desires and the cropping up of the next, you are happy. Why do you sing in the shower? You don’t do it to please yourself or anyone else; you do it simply because you are happy. At that time, the mind does not long for anything; all the window dressings, the masks you wear for people, are removed with your clothes you are with yourself. Your singing is an expression of the happiness felt by a mind that rests in the Self.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Excerpts from The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

Three Illegitimate Problems of Our Life!


Everyone suffers from a sense of limitation but no one accepts that, because one cannot be happy as a limited being. Through analysis we can identify three types of limitations. The first is the limitation of sorrow. Sometimes our sorrow is very eloquent, sometimes it is only an unwept sorrow; but the basis of sorrow, the feeling, ”All is not well with me” is always there. That the human heart is subject to sorrow is a limitation no one wants to accept.

Another limitation that we feel is that of time. Nobody wants to die today; everyone wants to live a day longer. Animals and plants also have this love for life. Even a tree bends to grow towards the sun. Only if we find that this world can no longer give us happiness do we think of quitting it; if a person is healthy and happy, he or she wants to live on. Perhaps it is this love for continuity that accounts for the desire to have a son or a daughter, or urges one to engrave one’s name on a stone. No one wants to disappear without leaving a trace.

We know that we shall all die one day, and yet we want to live for at least today. The desire to live today is the desire to be eternal; we do not want to admit that we are mortal, even though we know very well that our birth and death are marked on the-sands of time. Mortality, a limitation with respect to time, is the second limitation that we cannot stand.

The third limitation that humankind suffers is ignorance. If a person is not enrolled in a school or a training institute, he or she will at least stand at the window to see what is happening in the street. This behavior is an expression of our innate love for knowledge. We cannot stand ignorance; We always want to know something more.

If you examine all your pursuits, pravritti प्रवृति  or nivritti निवृत्ति, you will discover that all your life you have been trying to overcome these three limitations. You seem to have concluded that you are sorrowful, mortal, ignorant. You seek more security and more objects so that you can be comfortable in your life; much of your time is spent in going after things that are meant m make you happy, to keep sorrow at bay. Another part of your life is spent in pursuing things that will keep you going just one day more; you do exercises or take vitamins and proteins out of a desire to live a little longer. A third part of your life is spent gathering knowledge. For some, such as scientists, who regard knowledge as the most important goal in life, this is the most predominant pursuit, but everyone does devote a part of his or her life to learning. Picking up a newspaper in the morning is prompted by this quest for knowledge; reading the Gita is motivated by a desire to seek freedom from one‘s sense of inadequacy. Thus the three things we seek in all our pursuits are freedom from sorrow, freedom from death, and freedom from ignorance.

The Lord Krishna says that all the three limitations, are illegitimate; that is, all three are asocya अशोच्या, matters that do not warrant any grief. A problem can be solved only if it is legitimate. If you see a snake on the road you can choose to avoid it or chase it away, so that you can continue on the road. Encountering a snake is a’ legitimate problem and it can be solved by such actions. But if the problem looming large in your mind is illegitimate, how can you solve it by an act? Let us consider the famous example of a rope mistaken for a snake by an imaginative mind. The illegitimate, projected snake and the fear one experiences on seeing it cannot be removed by beating the snake or by throwing a stone or by praying or clapping. The snake and the fright caused by it will go away only when one comes to know that there is no snake in fact. When one sees the rope, the problem is solved and one’s fear goes. In this case, one solves the problem not by action, but by knowledge. A legitimate problem can be solved by action but an illegitimate one can only be solved by knowing that it is illegitimate.

If I can make you see that a given problem does not really exist, I have released you from it. The knowledge that the limitations of sorrow, time, and ignorance do not really exist for you frees you from these limitations. That knowledge is called sankya, that which is clearly seen. it is unfolded by Vedanta.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Excerpts from The Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita

Acceptance – Consciously dropping will to resist an unchangeable fact!

Swami Dayanand Ji

There are many occasions in life, many situations in life that I can change. If I have enough resources, I can change the furniture in my house, I can buy new clothes, I can eat out three times a week, I can camp out every week-end, I can have a new hair-cut, it’s endless. If it’s cold I can buy a heater. If it’s warm I can buy an air-conditioner. A new micro-wave ……yes there are a lot of changes that I can make.

If I have no resources but a lot of creativity, I can do the same things that I do every day, in new ways! I can cook food with the same ingredients, but it tastes different and good. I can lay out the table in new ways. I can sing and dance a little differently each time and enjoy it too. I can change my job, my apartment, my car. If I have a big heart, I can express the love in my heart in many different ways too.

I can change my attitudes and my behavior if I choose to. I can tighten what needs to be tightened and loosen what needs to be loosened. If I am very inflexible and rigid as a person, I can become more flexible. If I am critical always and finding-fault I can try and change that too. If I am angry and always want things my way – well I can look into that too if I want to. If I always blame others for my problems, I could see if that is true. If I am a person who does not know how to draw boundaries, then I can learn how to do that. I am always emotionally dependent on someone and it has become painful for me, I can learn how to grow out of that. If I am very fearful always, I can learn to face challenges boldly. If I’m so bold that I become fool-hardy, then I can learn to exercise caution.

Whatever I can change, if I feel I need to change it – I should change.

But I don’t call all the shots in life. There are some situations which are what they are, some events that have taken place, which I cannot change. I cannot change the weather of the country. I cannot change the politicians immediately! I cannot change the fact that a near and dear person has passed away. Sometimes I have family responsibilities, my boss is a pain and I cannot change my job. Above all I cannot change people – this includes my parents, my spouse, my in-laws, my children, my boss, my co-workers, friends, employees. I cannot change my past – happy or sad. I cannot change my childhood. I cannot change my age. I cannot change the way I look very often….the list is endless.

When something cannot be changed whatever it might be – when I find that I have an incapacity to order things as I want – I feel helpless, sad, agitated and angry. I get into a depression very often too.

Now this is the hard fact – that the situation cannot be changed. If I want people to change why should they? They might want me to change too. Maybe I also don’t want to change. Nobody can make a person change unless that person really wants to change. This is how it is. Maybe if I try to understand the background from which the person comes, then I can understand them better and feel some compassion towards them instead of anger. Maybe my expectations are unreasonable. Maybe my expectations are reasonable but the person cannot meet them, or does not want to meet them. Whatever the reason, this is how it is.

Would it not be just easier to accept gracefully that this is how the person is, this is how the situation is, this is how my past was, what has happened has happened. I cannot do anything about it. If I can change something I will – if I cannot, I accept it just gracefully. When I accept, there is a relief because my resistance to a fact is gone.

But the capacity to accept gracefully what I cannot change is not something that I am able to do easily. But at least I can have a value for it. I can have a value for it only if I know what benefit I get from it. To understand the value of graceful acceptance, let’s see what I get if I don’t have this acceptance. Then we can see what can help us.

When I am unable to accept a fact that cannot be changed – I feel helpless, I feel anger and resentment. All my present moments are occupied only in brooding and thinking and repeating the scenes again and again. I lose my self-esteem and destroy any chance of joy I might have in the current moment. Supposing I am walking and there is a beautiful sunset- I am unable to enjoy this truth about my present moment – I spoil my present moments with brooding about the past, the injustice, how I would like the situation to change. And if I keep up this frame of mind of resistance and pain indefinitely, my health is affected. I get ulcers, heart-problems, headaches, body-pains. I find no joy in life and my sadness spills over to others in my environment.

Now when the fact is that I cannot change the situation, does this frame of mind help me? Or does it hurt me. Very clearly, I am hurting myself. Do I want to continue to hurt myself? That is the choice I am faced with. I can continue to hurt myself by retaining this resistance to facts and working myself up into hurting and feeling bad – or I can just let go -by accepting. Consciously dropping my will to resist an unchangeable fact.

I have to see this very clearly and have a value for the peace of mind and a certain relief that results because of this acceptance of facts. Once I have a value for it, then there are ways to help myself to let go. Here devotion to the Lord born of understanding the Lord is invaluable. For understanding the Lord come to Gita class! Here an understanding of the Lord as All-Intelligence and seeing the fact that whatever there is in this creation is in Order, ( even disorder is in ultimate order) there is a meaning behind it all, there is a purpose is very important. The purpose of my life is to grow – maybe because of these situations now I can pray. Growing devotion in the form of a growing trust in the Lord’s order, a growing trust that every situation has a purpose and meaning behind it all and it must be all for the best even though I may not be quite able to understand it right now.

I recognize that I am helpless in accepting the situation and then when I am helpless I can seek help from the Source of All- Help – the Lord in a meaningful prayer. Seeking help when I need it, is intelligent living. So I can make this prayer to the Lord:-

O Lord, may I have the maturity to accept gracefully what I cannot change; may I have the will and effort to change what I can; and may I have the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Sorrow does not happen; you contrive it.

imagesSorrow does not happen; you contrive it. When you hear the news of someone’s death, you are only shocked; only after the news sinks in does sorrow slowly develop. Like jealousy and “other emotions, sorrow is built up. Happiness is natural to you, sorrow is not. If sorrow were natural, you would be happily sorrowful; but you want to get rid of it, and you can get rid of it, because it does not belong to you. Though it looks as if happiness comes and goes, it does not. It is only that your confused thoughts sometimes keep you from enjoying the happiness that you are. You think that this world makes you sorrowful, and that giving it up will help you; but you cannot give up the world totally as long as you are alive. As Lord Krishna has said in Gita, no one can remain without activity even for a moment:-

न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् (3.5)
na hi kaśhchit kṣhaṇam api jātu tiṣhṭhatyakarma-kṛit

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Excerpts from The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita