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

gurudev (2)
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

The maha-vakya of Kenopanisad: तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि – tad eva brahma tvam viddhi, May you understand that alone to be Brahman.


यद्वाचानभ्युदितं येन वागभ्युधते !
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते !!

May you know that alone to be Brahman, which is not revealed by speech (but) by which speech is revealed, and not this that people worship (as an object). (Kenopnisad 1.4)

The first line reveals primarily the pratyagatman, the inner self, that which is ear of the ear, etc., that which is neither known nor unknown, but the basis of both the known and the unknown. In the second line the inner self is pointed out as Brahman by saying tadeva brahma tvam viddhi, may you understand that is Brahman.

While Chandogya Upanisad says, “tat tvam asi” that (Brahman) you are,” here, the teacher Says “tad eva brahma tvam viddhi”, may you understand that alone to be Brahman.” That ‘you,’ is the eye of the eye, ear of the ear, etc, and which is neither the known nor the unknown. All these details make the meaning of tat very clear; it is you. Understand that consciousness alone to be Brahman which is you, in Whose presence you are aware of all these things. Brahman means limitless, the cause of everything-that from which everything has come, and unto which everything goes back. You are that Brahman.

Yada vaca anabhyuditam: That which is not revealed by the word. Anabhyuditam means na prakasitam, not objectified by a word. The vastu is not revealed as the direct meaning of any word. It is unlike the object ‘pot’ that is revealed by the word ‘pot’. However, the vastu is revealed by words through implication, after creating a context.

Yena vag abhyudyate: By whose presence a word comes to manifest. Here, we have to take into account all that is connected to a word-by whose presence alone a word is a word, a word is pronounced as a word, a word is heard, a word is understood. In the presence of the invariable pratyagatman alone a word is heard and its meaning understood. So too, it comes to manifest.

The word ‘vak’ can also be taken to mean the organ of speech. That caitanya, consciousness, which the organ of speech cannot objectify, but because of which it is able to function, is Brahman. This meaning is given here because a story is going to be narrated later, based upon this fact.

That vastu which is not revealed by a word, but because of which a word comes to manifest, is referred by the word, ‘tat’ which, in the context of the previous unfoldment, means ‘you’. The mantra exhorts you to understand tad vastu, that caitanya, to be Brahman.

The word Brahman is already arrived at in the language. It is derived from the root brh, in the sense of growth. Brhatvad brahma, that which is big or brhmanat brahma, that which is capable of growing into jagat. Both meanings are applicable here. The bigness here is aparicchinna, unrestricted. Hence, Brahman is ananta that Which is limitless-time-wise or space-wise.

An object is limited both in terms of space and time – previously it was not, now it is. Whereas, Brahman is unlike any object that exists in time and space. Space itself is paricchinna, limited. Even though space is relatively all-pervasive, it does not pervade Brahman. In fact, Brahman pervades space. That is why space is part of the jagat. Therefore, space also is mithya. It has kale-pariccheda, time-wise limitation, because it is collapsible, as we know from the experience of sleep. Brahman, being limitless, has no spatial or time-wise limitation – means it is not born, it is not gone, it does not grow, it does not decline.

Brahman is not a object, and so there is no vastu-pariccheda, object-wise limitation. Brahman sustains time and space, and .it sustains everything else that exists in time and space. No object enjoys an independent reality without the reality of Brahman. Therefore, every object is Brahman. This is the meaning of Brahman, that which is ekam eva advitiyam, one without a second.

Let us look at the word, advitiya, without a second. A second thing can cause three types of bheda, difference, to a given thing – sajdtiya, vijaatiya and svagata bheda. A coconut tree, for instance, is different from other trees within its own species. There are many coconut trees, and this is one of them. This is sajatiya-bheda, a limitation caused within one’s own species.

Then there is vijatiya-bheda. Vijati means something belonging to a different species. A tree, for instance, is different from the rocks, rivers, and so on. If the tee is a coconut tree, then there are varieties of trees like an areca nut tree, an oak tree, and so on that are different from the coconut tree. In the genus of coconut tree itself there is a dwarfed coconut tree, a hybrid coconut tree; there too, there are varieties. Things that come under botany, things that come under zoology, and [things that come under geology are all different. Within botany itself there are varieties of plants like a vine, a creeper, a small plant, a big tree and so on. A jati, species, keeps on dividing itself endlessly. But you can bring them all under one jati, one subject matter of botany, because they have certain commonness about them. The coconut tree is distinct from a dog that comes under zoology. This is called vijatiya-bheda, a limitation caused by things of different species.

Finally, there is svagata-bheda, difference within a given species. A given tree has varieties of differences within itself like the” leaves, the flower, the fruit, the trunk, and so on.

Taking one’s own body, one can see all these bhedas. It has sajatfya-bheda, because there are many human bodies. It has vijatiya-bheda, because it is different from the body of any other being, like a dog . and so on. Then, it has svagata-bheda, varieties within the body such as the head, shoulders, hands and so on, each one being different from the other.

All these bhedas are not there in Brahman. There is only one non-dual Brahman that is revealed by the sastra. All that is here is that Brahman. Since a second Brahman is not there, there is no sajatiya-bheda, limitation or difference caused by the same species. Further, as there is nothing other than Brahman, there is no vijatiya-bheda, limitation caused by a different species. Brahman is satya, and everything else is vikara, apparent modification, and hence mithya. Mithya cannot be counted along with satya. Brahman being non-dually one, and everything else being mithya, does not add to the one. In Brahman itself there are no parts and hence there is no svagata-bheda. Brahman is satyam jananam anantam. It is pure caitanya, consciousness, which is neither knower-known-knowledge but the truth of all the three.

Tad means pratyagatman, the inner self, consciousness. Tad is predicated here to Brahman. The subject matter pratyagatman has already been introduced, about which the teacher reveals something here. We do not really require a pramana to arrive at the existence of oneself. By drg-drsya-viveka, subject-object-analysis, we can come to know the subject, the self, is not subject to objectification. Recognizing this self-revealing consciousness is Brahman, is the result of veddnta-pramana.

Suppose I say, ‘tvam asi, you are,’ you do not get anything out of this sentence without knowing the predication. Tvam is the subject about which something is going to be revealed. Here, an akanksa, expectancy, is created to hear what the predication is; what is it that the speaker wants to convey about the subject? Suppose, I do not say anything after saying tvam asi, What does it mean? Each one, per his or her psychology, will read the silence. “You are,” creates, in the listener, an expectancy. The speaker fulfils the expectancy, communicating what he or she intends to convey, which is called vivaksa (the intention to say).

The subject, srotrasya srotram, is already introduced, but needs to be predicated. This is where pramana walks in to say, “tad eva brahma tvam viddhi –  you understand ‘that’ to be Brahman.” That ear of the ear which is not objectified by the organ of speech, and because of which the organ of speech functions, is advayam brahma, non-dual Brahman, and that Brahman you are. That means there is nothing other than you; the thought is not other than you, the knower is not other than you, the object of thought is not other than you. Any other knowledge implies a knower-known difference. Here, the knower is you, the knowledge is you, and the known is you. That is the revelation.

The teaching is, “May you understand that to be Brahman.” There are no two entities here – yourself and Brahman. You are Brahman. If you are ignorant, well, Brahman makes that ignorance exist and known. Like anything else, this ignorance also is mithya. What does not exist by itself, but draws its existence from something else is mithya. Ignorance draws its existence from the same consciousness alone. Hence, ignorance is also mithya; it goes away in the wake of knowledge. Therefore, tad eva brahma tvam viddhi. Let there be no ignorance with reference to the fact of the self being consciousness, satyam brahma. That is the whole intention of the teaching.

That vrtti, the cognitive thought that takes place in one’s buddhi as a result of teaching, is known as akhandakara-vrtti, a cognition in which the knower-known-knowledge are resolved into one awareness. That means all the three are you.

Generally, a vrtti is the connecting link between the object of knowledge and the knower. When you say, “This is a pot,” pot is the object and you are the knower of the pot. The pramana-phala, the result of operating a means of knowledge, goes to you, the knower. Between you and the pot, the connecting link is tadakara-vrtti, the thought having the form of a pot. Akara means a form. A given thought assumes the form of the object it objectifies through perception, inference, words, or recollection.

You, the knower, look at the thought and say, “This is a pot.” That pot thought is called idam vrtti. You are the knower all the time. Therefore, you say, “I am the knower, and the whole world of objects is different from me.” With this kind of division in thoughts, you move around knowing different things in the world.

Now, you are told by the sastra, tad eva brahma tvam viddhi, understand that Brahman you are. That consciousness is Brahman which is the mind of the mind, without which there is no thought, there is no object of thought, and there is no knower.

Further, on analysis, you recognize that Brahman as the intelligent and material cause of the jagat. That means the whole creation is non-separate from Brahman. Therefore, your body is Brahman, your senses are Brahman, your mind is Brahman, the knower is Brahman, the cognition is Brahman; everything is Brahman. In this vision you recognize the invariable consciousness cit, as satyam brahma.

In other words, cit is sat. Once you say Brahman is satya, everything the knower-known-knowledge is Brahman. That means it is the whole. That is why it is called ananda or annanta. Being the whole, it is not an object of any of these words, but rather known more by implication. You are not in any way, anywhere, circumscribed, limited.

“That consciousness is Brahman” is the maha-vakya, a sentence revealing the oneness of you and Brahman.

In this mantra, there is also a negation of what is not Brahman. Brahman is generally understood as God, the cause of the world. People worship Brahman as Visnu, as Siva. Is that not Brahman? It is Brahman if you include yourself. That which includes both the subject and the object is Brahman. Nedam yad idam upasate: Not this, which people meditate upon.

Upasana means ‘people worship’. The sastra does not criticize or condemn upasana; on the contrary upasana is included. However, one should not construe that the form alone is Brahman. When a topic is considered, due respect is given to the topic. The consideration is showing respect.

Upasana is fine, but the upasya, one whom you Worship, includes you the upasaka too. If the upasya and the upasaka are one, then the upasana-phala, the ultimate result of worship, is gained; the payoff is recognizing the fact that both the updsaka and the upasya are sustained by one consciousness, Brahman, which is srotrasya srotram; that is why it is satyam. Therefore, What people worship is also Brahman, but that alone is not Brahman. These are sentences revealing an equation and one must see the truth of these sentences. One has to inquire into them thoroughly, curbing the tendency to gloss over.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Kenopnishad

What are the mahavakyas?


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

What is the cause of Creation?


सदेव सोम्य इदम् अग्रे आसीत!

छान्दोग्योपनिषत, Chnadyogyop Upnisad (6.2.1)  says, “This world was there before as ‘sat’ सत्.  Without any differentiation”. Pure knowledge alone was there before. The jagat जगत् (unverse) is now differentiated. For this differentiation to take place, knowledge has to manifest. The time has come now for the jagat to get out of the un-manifest condition. ‘The time has come’-  this is only an expression because time itself is yet to come. Getting out of the un-manifest condition is like waking up from sleep. You wake up because of the prarabdha प्रारब्ध  karma. But lsvara ईश्वर  does not have any karma to clamor for fructification. The karmas of the individuals in the un-manifest condition clamor to manifest, and we refer to that condition when we say, “The time has come”. What does lsvara do now?

From the un-manifest, the world manifests. This is cyclic. Here we are talking about a given cycle. Before the manifestation, there must be a certain motion, some commotion is involved. That is pointed out here. The Sankhyas say that before the creation there is some commotion in pradhana प्रधान, the cause, consisting of the three gunas – sattwa सत्व, rajas रजस, and tamas तमस. They are in equilibrium in the un-manifest condition. That equilibrium gets disturbed due to some vibration and the creation starts. Here we ask, “How did it get disturbed? Who disturbed it?” Purusa पुरुष, the conscious being, has nothing to do with pradhana. Other than purusa nobody else was there. If pradhana gets disturbed on its own, then it should always be disturbed. How come the disturbance did not take place so far? Another section of the Sankhyas, who accepts lsvara, says, “lsvara disturbs the equilibrium.” Then What is the occasion for lsvara to disturb it? Sankhyas have no logical answer. But every one of them has to point out that before the creation there must be a disturbance in the un-manifest, and there was a disturbance.

It is like the factor that wakes you up in the morning from sleep. Why do you wake up in the morning? What makes you get up? While you were sleeping you did not have any agenda to wake up. In sleep you do not recognize anything. A person who is sleeping should be sleeping all the time, sleep being a pleasant experience. No. There is a karmic pressure working. One more day you have to live. You have to undergo the experiences that are brought about by the karma on a day-to-day basis. This is one model of explanation, the karmic model. You can also give a physiological model. The body had enough rest, and, of course, it is hungry in the morning. A physiological stimulation in the body wakes you up. A psychological explanation also is possible. But it is all finally karma only. Day-to-day karma has got to be exhausted.

Similarly, something happens before the creation. Whenever we say ‘creation’ you must take it as one cycle. It has no end. This creation is like the previous creation. The previous creation was like its previous creation. Thus every creation was preceded by a creation. In between two creations Isvara brings about dissolution, which is called pralaya प्रलय. When one goes to sleep, one dissolves one’s own individuality and ceases to experience any object. This dissolution is called laya लय, sleep. When the creation goes to dissolution it is called pralaya. After dissolution and just before creation there must be another state, and that is said to be tapas in the sastra शास्त्र. The nimitta निमित, occasion, for the tapas is the karmas of all the beings that clamor to fructify.

Tatah annam abhijayate: the un-manifest world is born from that Brahman ब्रह्मन्. Anna is food. Adyate iti annam, that which is eaten is called anna. Here it means, that which is going to be experienced by all the manifest jivas जीव later. The entire jagat that is devoured at the time of dissolution is anna. It refers to avyakta अव्यक्त, the un-manifest. Anything with distinct features, anything that is created, is vyakta  व्यक्त. That which is in a causal form, without distinct features, is avyakta. If you take a seed, the entire tree is there in it. The tree has a number of distinct features like trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits and so on. But if you look into the seed, you do not see any of them. At the same time, you know that the tree has come from the seed alone. Given the time, place and atmosphere, all those features will manifest. The seed in vyakta, manifest form, is a tree. The tree in avyakta, un-manifest form, is a seed. Similarly, the causal form of this World called anna or avyakta is the upddhi of Brahman. It is also called maya. When the sruti says that anna is born, it means that Brahman identifies – with this upadhi, identifies with the knowledge of avyakta which is going to be manifested later as jagat, and thereby, it becomes the potential cause for the creation. The avyakta has to be differentiated for others’ perception, and this differentiation is called the creation or manifestation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Mundakopanisad Vol. 1
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses


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

Six Schools of Philosophies of Hinduism


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


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
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!


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

What is the nature of creation?

gurudev (2)

According to Vedanta, creation is nothing but projection. As the dream world is projected, so too is the waking world We have that projecting power in the dream also, so we are not unfamiliar with what is meant by creation or projection.

There is no real creation or transformation as such. It is just projection, in the same way as there is no real transformation of rope, just a projection of snake. Nothing whatever happens to rope, it is just made to appear as snake. One thing being made to appear different from what it is, is what we call ’creation’. Wherever creation takes place, it is only this.

Here an objection may arise, “What are you talking about Swamiji? I take this clay, and I make a pot out of it. It is a transformation of clay. We curdle milk so it becomes curd. That is also transformation. A lot of changes happen. This table is made. Formerly it was the trunk of a tree, and then we did so much to it! Do you mean to say this is projected?” Sometimes this may be very frustrating. We will look into it more later, but if you inquire into what the substance is, there is only one substance. As far as the Vedantin is concerned, that substance is ब्रह्मन brahman. There is no other really existing thing (vastu). Brahman is made to look like a table or a chair or a house. It is made to look like the whole world. That is why the text says विक्षेप-शक्ति viksepa-sakti, projecting power.

Similarly, there is a veiling of brahman, which is limitless, one, nondual, and a projection of the world of diversity. Then what is this world, this diverse creation? As we will see later on, when you inquire into the nature of diversity, it all resolves into just one, nondual vastu. That is why Chandogya Upanisad says:-

सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत् एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
sadeva somya idam agm asitt ekametvadvitiyam

“Hey, Somya (good-looking one)! This whole universe of diversity and divisions was only sat, existence, brahman, one without a second.” That is the substance upon which various projections are made, which we call creation. This viksepa-sakti of maya in fact creates the appearance of the entire universe.

Lingadi-brahmandantam jagat srjet, it projects, jagat, the world, linga-adi, beginning from the individual subtle body, brahma-anda-antam, culminating in the entire brahmanda, cosmos or universe. Thus, from the individual to the totality, the projecting power of maya creates or projects the whole universe. The same thing is clarified in verse (Drg Drsya Viveka 14):

सृष्टिनार्म  ब्रह्मरूपे सच्चिदानन्दवस्तुनि |
अब्धौ फेनदिवत्सर्वनामरूपप्रसरणा ||

Srstirnama brahmarupe saccinanandavastuni |
Abdhau phenadivastarvamarupaprasarna||

सुष्ट्री Srstih -the creation; नाम nama -known as; ब्रह्मरूपे brahma-rupe in that which is of the nature of brahman; सत-चित -आनंद -वस्तुनि sat-cit-ananda-vastuni in the vastu, which is sat (existence), Cit (awareness), and ananda (wholeness); अब्धाओ  abdhau in the ocean; फेन-आदि-वत्त phena-adi-vat like the foam etc.; नाम -रुप -प्रसारण nama-rupa-prasarna -expansion (i.e. manifestation) as names and forms

The manifestation of all names and forms in the vastu or reality, which is sat-cit-ananda and which is brahman is called the creation. It is like the creation of foam, etc, in the ocean.

Creation has sat-cit-ananda as its basis.

Srstirnama. It is nama, what is known as, srsti, creation. What we call srsti is nama-rupa-prasarna, the expansion or manifestation as names and forms. The basis upon what it manifests is sat-cit-ananda-vastu or brahma-rupa. That which is sat-cit-ananda as well as vastu is called sat-cit-ananda-vastu. The word vastu is used here to mean ’reality’. And the nature of the reality is sat-cit-ananda.

Sat-cit-ananda is satyam jnanam anantam brahma

This is the first time in the text that we come across the term सत-चित्त-आनंद sat-cit-ananda. Sat means existence, cit means awareness or intelligence, and ananda means wholeness or completeness. That is the only vastu. This reality is called brahman, whose nature is sat-cit-ananda. It is also called सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma in Taittiriya Upanisad.

We do not find the expression sat-cit-ananda in any of the major Upanisads. What we find is satyam-jnanam- anantam brahma. Satyam is truth, ज्ञानम jnanam is knowledge, and anantam is infinite. So brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite. Do not think that truth, knowledge, and infinite are all different. What is satyam is also jnanam what is jnanam is also anantam, and what is anantam is also satyam.

The Upanisad need not have employed these three words; it did so for our sake only. Any one word is quite adequate to reveal the nature of the vastu. What happens is that each one of these words, satyam, jnanam, and anantam, is used commonly in our day-to-day parlance. Therefore we have some concepts or ideas in our mind about what they mean.

When I hear the Upanisad say brahman is satyam, truth, then I think, “Alright, I have some idea about what satyam is, what truth is”. Satyam means the material cause of the five elements, so therefore I would think, ”Okay, brahman is the material cause.” But the material cause undergoes transformation to become the effect, so I would think that brahman undergoes transformation to become effect. The material cause is also always inert, so I would think that brahman is inert.

But then comes the word jnanam, so it is not inert; it is conscious. Jnanam means knowledge, and knowledge always has its locus in a conscious being. So then I think, ”Brahman being conscious is alright, but knowledge is always limited, like ghata-jnana, knowledge of pot, and pata-jnana, knowledge of cloth.” The cognition of pot or cognition of cloth, cognition of anything that is ’this’, is always limited. So I may think that brahman is limited.

But then the Upanisad says, “No, it is anantam.” It is knowledge alright, but it is not what you understand as a given cognition. It is neither a cognition nor the knower. It is that which is the common basis of the knower, known, and knowledge. It is infinite.

That is how the three words enable us to understand brahman correctly: that it is truth, meaning it is changeless; it is jnanam, meaning it is consciousness; and it is anantam, meaning it is not consciousness of something, but is rather consciousness itself, which is limitless. This can be translated as sat-cit-ananda, where satyam is equated to sat, jnanam is equated to cit, and anantam is equated to ananda.

Happiness is only in the infinite

Ananda is where anantam is. Anantam means infinite. Vedanta says that ananda or happiness is there only in the infinite. There cannot be happiness in the finite. Chandogya Upanisad says:-

यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम नाल्पे सुखमस्तु
yo vai bhuma tat sukhan nalpe sukham asti.

The sage Sanatkumara says to sage Narada, yo vai  bhuma tat sukham, happiness is only in that which is bhuma, abundant or limitless. Na alpe sukham asti, there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Happiness is the nature of the limitless, it cannot be the nature of anything that is limited. Therefore, Chandogya Upanisad says that ananda or happiness has to be anantam.

Thus, anantam is ananda, jnanam is cit, and satyam is sat. Satyam jnanam anantam is sat-cit-ananda. Usually, the laksan-vakya, the term used to indicate brahma-svarupa is सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma. But here, satyam jnanam anantam is the same as sat-cit-ananda. And the vastu, reality, is sat-cit-ananda.

What Vedanta says is that there is nothing but reality, that is all there is. It is not that there is reality and then there is something other than reality. Reality is nondual. What is meant by ’nondual’ is that reality is one without a second.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Drg, Drsya, Viveka

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

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