What is life? A continuous series of experiences.

openeyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Chinmayanada
Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment

What is mind? What is an intellect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Chinmayananda
Excerpts from Self-Unfoldment

The Happiness Equation

contemplation

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

Happiness = Number of desires fulfilled / Number of desires entertained

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

  1. Increasing the numerator
  2. Decreasing the denominator

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

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

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

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

Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Self-unfoldment

How do we become free from worries and anxieties?

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

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

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

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

अपरिहार्येर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि !!
aparihāryerthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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

 

 

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma Basics & Beyond

How does one establish freedom from conflict in a relationship?

gurudev (2)

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

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

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

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

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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

How do we overcome attachments & aversions?

gurudev (2)

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

विरज्य विषयव्रातादोष्द्रष्ट्या मुहुर्मुहुः !
virjya visaydvriitat dosadrstya muhurmuhuh!

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

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

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

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

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

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

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

gurudev (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who am I? What is the nature of the mind?

thWho am I?

The gross body, which is composed of the seven fundamental elements (dhatu, धातु), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, i.e., the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, i.e., sound, touch, color, taste, and odor, I am not; the live conative sense organs, i.e., the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, प्राण prana, etc., which perform respectively the live functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functions, I am not.

After negating all of the above-mentioned as “not this, not this,” that Awareness which alone remains-that I am.

What is the nature of the mind?

What is called mind is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines), the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Arman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul जीव (jiva).

Raman Maharshi

Excerpts from The Spiritual Teaching of Raman Maharshi

Give that infinite wisdom the benefit of the doubt; surrender the individual petty wisdom to the infinite wisdom. Let it be a surrender that comes from trust.

gurudev (2)

Accepting the Lord means accepting the infinite wisdom that He represents. When we say that the whole universe is a manifestation of the Lord, it means that the whole universe is a manifestation of the knowledge, of the omniscience, of his infinite wisdom. Letting go of our limited perceptions or limited conclusions and accepting that wisdom is accepting the Lord. This is प्रसाद बुद्धि prasada buddhi: performing an action and accepting the reward as it comes; recognizing that the outcome of our actions is determined by ईश्वर Isvara; accepting the infinite wisdom, and letting go of any resistance to it. When the results are not favorable to us, we are apt to resist or reject them. Therefore, recognizing that the outcome of every action is in accordance with that order and accepting that it must be fair is प्रसाद बुद्धि ‘prasadwbuddhi’. A large part of the worship of the Lord lies in adhering to the universal order when performing the action and in accepting the outcome of the action gracefully.

The different situations that we face are not without reason; every moment that we encounter is the outcome of an action. We do not control the outcome of an action; it is the result of  प्रारब्ध prarabdha or destiny. What is destiny? It is the result of whatever we have done in the past, and it presents itself before us in the form of the various situations that we encounter in the present.

What should be our attitude towards things that we cannot control? The result of our actions, whether in the present or in the past, is one of the things that we do not control. For instance, why should a given thing happen to us? There must be some reason for that. We do not know what the reason might be. Yet we grant that there must be some reason, some fairness involved, or that there must be some benefit in it for us. Again, this is called मत्पर: mat-parah, having trust that the Lord is always our well-wisher. The Lord declares, सुहृदं सर्वभूतानां  suhṛidaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ [Bhagavad Gita, 5-29], “I am the well wisher of all living beings.” Therefore, we need to accept the Lord as our well wisher. This will require us to let go of our resistance and give up many of our complaints and the blaming which is, again, a habit. It is the ego that is responsible for the complaining, blaming, and resisting because we always want to control everything. We want the whole world to be favorable to us. If anybody or an g is not favorable to us, we react with intolerance, impatience, anger, or frustration. our anger and frustration only show our discomfort with the realities of life Therefore, accepting ईश्वर lsvara  in our lives means accepting the realities of life gracefully. It means accepting that which is determined by the omniscient Lord, who is all knowledge, power; and fairness. Thus, letting go of our resistance, letting go of our complaints, letting go of our tendency to blame, letting go of intolerance, and letting go of frustration is a great process of growth.

Pujya Swami Dayanandaji says, “I make it impossible for the world to upset me or do anything to me. You can’t tighten a screw if there is no spiral thread on the screw. Blaming, complaining, intolerance, impatience, and non-acceptance are the ’threads’ on our ’screws’. The world, the order or Event, has an uncanny knack of tightening our screws or pushing our buttons. ईश्वर lsvara pushes these buttons so that we may learn something from our experiences. Every. experience of frustration or disappointment can teach us something. It shows how there is a tendency on our part to resist, to not accept or to reject the reality. It challenges us to develop comfort with the realities of life. Karma-yoga is not an ordinary thing; it brings about a complete transformation. According to Pujya Swamiji, Isvara is the greatest therapist; we should accept him as a therapist and allow him to work. In what way is he a great therapist? He ‘ pushes our buttons, often very gently. If we accept him, or accept the very order, have trust in him, and give him the benefit of the doubt, we can give “up our resistance, intolerance, and impatience. The ego is nothing but the product of ignorance and all these tendencies are nothing but the manifestations of that ignorance.

अनन्येनैव योगेन Ananyenaiva Yogena. Yoga means joining Ananya is when there is no anya, other Ananya-yoga is joining with the Lord and with nothing else. मम ध्यायन्त उपासते  Mam dhya‘yanta upasate, those who worship me. Life becomes a form of worship if we live it with a worshipful attitude By following a value, We are not obliging anybody. In fact, we are obliging ourselves; and we look upon that as an opportunity to use our-free will. We are human beings gifted with free will. We are also gifted with the faculty of deliberation. This distinguishes us from other living beings; they perform impulsive actions, Whereas, we have the faculty of choice so that we can perform deliberate actions. That is grace.

Meditating upon the Lord can also mean meditating Upon this grace. We are enjoying his grace all the time, As Pujya Swamiji says, we are enjoying his grace every moment. Our hearts are throbbing ’lub’ and ’dub’ all the time. Between the ’lub’ and the ’dub’, there is a small rest or gap. This throbbing need not happen. It can stop anytime, but it goes on by his grace. Every doctor knows that there are millions of things that can go wrong with the body; yet the fact that it is functioning more or less well is due to the grace we enjoy.

What we have is by his grace, and what we do not have is also by his grace. “Swamiji, how can you say that? How can it be by his grace that I’ did not get what I wished for? ” Well, who knows whether you would have been better off if you had been granted all the things you wanted? We do not know. It is a matter of faith. If you say that you would have been better off having something, you could say just as well that you are better off without it. Therefore, give that infinite wisdom the benefit of the doubt; surrender the individual petty wisdom to the infinite wisdom. Surrender gracefully, not out of helplessness. Let it be a surrender that comes from trust. In this manner, life becomes a process of worship.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmandanda, Vol:2

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses