The Power of Solitude

meditation

Dear All,

OM !

One of the most essential qualities one must cultivate to be established in Self (Truth) is solitude. Because Truth reveals in all its glory in Silence and one gains the alertness and clarity to pierce through the layers of erroneous thinking and be established in the Self. . It is quintessential for a Seeker.

I have heard many people telling that “one need not leave home or renounce anything, one should be like a lotus leaf in a water pond and untouched by it”. That may be so. Yet, all the saints and sages who inspire me from all religions have renounced, became house-less wandering seekers and have spent some time in solitude before they have attained the establishment in the Truth – Buddha, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, Guru Nanak, Sadasiva Brahmendra, the Russian Christian Pilgrim (The Pilgrim book) etc. To be untouched by water and to be like a lotus leaf seemed to be the goal, where as during the “Seeking” stage one sees oneself being touched and influenced by the external situations, people, places, events. There is a gap that needs to be reconciled. Swami Sivananda has explained very well in “The Kingly Science and Secret” that sometimes simply saying “One should be like Janaka, untouched even though involved in the worldly activities” does not always do justice to the seeking. One MUST learn to be in solitude, to gain strength and clarity and conviction in the Self-Knowledge. Because of this, one gains detachment, thereby wisdom to re-enter the world.

lotusleaf

Today, I was reading through some articles by Swami Krishnanada ji and I came across the article called “The Importance of Being Alone” which is very valuable and helpful for Sadhana. I am greatly inspired by Swamiji, though I never met him. His writings carry a firm and deep conviction and clarity. Hari had the privilige to meet him in Rishikesh in 1995 or so, when Swamiji, upon knowing  that Hari was an engineering student, advised him “Make Self-engineering your subject !” What an insightful advice !

I am just posting an excerpt from the article here:

One of the essential conditions the seeker of yoga is called upon to bear in mind is ekantavasa, or sequestration, solitude. These days, wrong notions are driven into people’s minds by inexperienced teachers who say that we can be in the midst of a city and yet practise sadhana. Though this goes on very well and sounds fine as a theory and a doctrine, it is a total impossibility when we actually try to practise it. The ancient masters who said that solitude is necessary were not fools. Though in the end, in the consummation, it may be possible for us to find a solitary forest in the thick of New York City, consummation should not be identified with the beginning. That would be like putting the cart before the horse.

In this connection, I am reminded of a very homely analogy of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Fire consumes ghee. Any amount of ghee that we pour on fire will be burnt by the fire. Yes, this is a great truth, a fact known to everyone. But suppose we pour a mound of ghee over a spark of fire; will it burn the ghee? The fire itself will be extinguished. The fire should first become a huge conflagration. Then we can pour the entire fuel of the world into it, and it shall burn it to ashes. Our fire of aspiration will then be capable—only then, and not before—to burn all the dirt and dust of this world even if it is thrown upon it in huge heaps. But when we are only a struggling spark who has not been able to take even the first step in yoga, if the whole weight of the world is to sit upon us, what will happen? We cannot face it. We will be crushed to dust.

Just being aloof, not having any friends, spending time in reading novels, watching movies etc is not “aloneness” or “solitude”, though it may appear that way sometimes, but being in a state of “alert lone-ness” where the mind is engaged in contemplation on the Self and thorough examination of the world to grasp the substratum behind it – that is the solitude we are speaking of for a seeker.

I strongly encourage all of us to read the full article titled “The Importance of Being Alone – by Swami Krishnanandaji” and be highly benefitted.

With Prem and Om,

Aparna Hari

Recipe for a Wonderful and Happy New Year

OM !

We wish all our readers a very happy and peaceful new year. We went to Arsha Vidya Gurukulam for the new year and had a good time. While at Ashram, I came across the “Natural Awakenings” magazine and glanced upon an article titled “Fail-proof ingredients for a glorious new year”. It is a nice article and I thought I would like to share with all of you.

We wish you a very happy, productive and cheerful 365 days ahead !

IMG_0064

With Prem and Om,
Aparna & Hari.

Moksha Gita – The Song of Freedom

freedom

Dear Readers,

Namaste !

I came across this work “Moksha Gita or The Song of Freedom” by Swami Sivananda (in 1949) which summarized the essence of Advaita Vedanta, the goal of life and the pursuit of a seeker. All our pursuits – whether through Dharma (ethics), Artha (security), Kama (comforts) – are towards the one goal of Moksha – liberation or freedom from insecurity, from want, from lack, and thereby towards our own real Self which is of the nature of Purna, completeness, adequacy.

By mistake, we think there are 4 different pursuits -like dharmaarthakamamoksha chaturvidha purushartha. That is not the case. We pursue happiness, comfort and security not for their sake, but to be “free” from unhappiness, discomfort and insecurity. Hence our  journey is from the feeling of small, bound, insecure and wanting  “i” to the Big, ever-free, ever-full “I”.  Throught the knowledge of our Self, We understand that we are ever free, and bondage was just an idea, a notion. Mira says in one of her songs “Bhava sagar sab sookh gaya hai. phikar nahi mohe taranan ki.” – the whole notion of  ocean has disappeared, so, there is nothing to cross.

Here is the preface of Swami Sivananda to his published book ‘Moksha Gita’ in the year 1949:

1sr December 1949.

Blessed aspirants,

‘Moksha’ is freedom from births and deaths and the attainment of supreme Immortal Bliss. Moksha is the goal of life. Moksha Gita is the essence of Vedanta and all Upanishads. It is the “Song of Salvation”. It will throw much light on the spiritual path and help you all in the attainment of freedom and Immortality.

May the Lord bless you.

Sivananda

Swami Krishnananda, a great philosopher and thinker, has said the follwoing about the study of Moksha Gita in his commentary:

This is “Moksha Gita” or the “Song of Liberation.” By practising its teachings one gets liberated from all bondage and becomes Immortal. Moksha Gita is an exhaustive treatise of the highest wisdom of the Advaita Vedanta. One cannot but be transformed into a higher spiritual state, after reading this blessed Gita. A study of Moksha Gita alone is enough to guide a sincere aspirant in the path of Jnana-Yoga. It will clear all his doubts and raise him to the Truth of SelfConsciousness. Having studied, understood and realised this highly spiritual philosophy, one does not stand in need of any other performance for Liberation. It will lead him to the highest meditation on Brahman. The Knowledge of the method of attaining Moksha expounded here, shall bring suffering to an end and give a unique consolation to the heart. It is the essence of all that is best, noble and sublime. Every seeker after Brahma-Jnana should study this book. It will dispel his ignorance and raise him to the higher Consciousness of the Reality. This Gita is an exposition of the way to attain the State of the Supreme Satchidananda, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute! This is the highest Brahma-Vidya!

Please click to download the Book here: Moksha Gita 

MokshaGita

In Wonder unto the Divine,

Yours, Aparna & Hari

Happy New year !

Dear Readers,

We wish you a very happy and productive new year 2015.

Below is the new year message by Swami Sivananda:

“Everybody wants peace, but peace does not come easily. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Peace is freedom from disturbance, riot or violence. It is harmony, silence, calmness. It is the way of love and truth.

Peace should be built on right understanding between nations, mutual goodwill, striving after a common welfare and a higher good. A proper understanding of the essential unity of religions will remove all the superficial differences and conflicts which create restlessness, discord and quarrels. This will contribute to universal love, world harmony and the brotherhood of mankind.

The heart must change. Greed and selfishness must perish. In a state of peace and love, people evolve, grow in their distinctive culture and develop a perfect civilization. In peace and calmness, spiritual evolution is also facilitated.

This world can be saved only by those who have already saved themselves. If everyone tries to work out their own salvation, there will be nobody to create problems. If everyone strives heart and soul to do spiritual sadhana, there will be very little inclination and time to create quarrels. Automatically there will be peace on earth.

Make your own individual appeal to God and ask Him to send light to help humanity in the establishment of peace and happiness. May this New Year bring peace, prosperity and happiness all over the world.”

The below verse from Vedanta Panchadasi highlights the unchanging aspect in all these changing phenomena. Days, weeks, months, years, centuries and aeons come and go. They are ever changing. But the Samvit (Awareness) does not rise nor set. It is ever present.

मासाब्दय़ुगकल्पेषु गतागतेष्वनेकधा ।

नोदेति नास्तमेत्य़ेका संविदेषा स्वय़ंप्रभा ।। (1.7)

Through the many months, years, ages and world cycles, past and future,
Awareness/Consciousness is the same; it neither rises nor sets (unlike the sun); it is self-revealing.

– Vedanta Panchadasi by Swami Vidyaranya, English meaning by Swami Swahananda of Ramakrishna Muth.

Once again we wish you a very happy and contemplative new year.

Yours, In Service,

Aparna & Hari.

Happy Thanks-Giving

Namste. We wish all our readers a Happy ThanksGiving!

Thanksgiving

  1. We thank our Parents for nurturing us all through the years, for giving good Genes and good Samsakaras, for cultivating good values in us, for giving us the best of opportunities, for their unconditional love and support, and for making us who we are.
  2. We thank our Teachers and education institutions for imparting us the knowledge of the world necessary to tune our intellect, sharpen the mind and excel here in this world.
  3. We thank the Saints and Sages of Yore – of all religions and regions – for inspiring us and for our Teachers who are imparting a greater treasure of spiritual wisdom – the knowledge of the Self – which is the source of freedom and peace.
  4. We thank our Siblings for helping us through thick and thin of life and for giving a shoulder and ear, and for being so loving and understanding.
  5. We thank our Relatives, Neighbors, Friends and Community for freely giving the sense of belongingness and affection.
  6. We thank our employers for giving us opportunities to put our creative potential to use and deliver products that help humanity at large.
  7. We thank our Mother-Country India for her generous gift of natural beauty, cultural heritage, spiritual values and traditions, great resources, and for the rich & ancient gems of wisdom.
  8. We thank our Father-Country United States of America for the gift of time, freedom, independence and abundant opportunities to explore our hobbies, interests and spiritual path.
  9. We thank Iswara – the Lord, the One who appears as Many – for the abundant Grace we have received and will continue to receive.

Om Shanti.
Yours,
Aparna & Hari

A Verse from Dhammapada

Namaste.

I have started reading Dhammapada in the later part of this year, when I borrowed the book from Madison Library. The treatise Dhammapada is a compilation of Buddha’s teachings during his life time giving instructions to his disciples, advice on meditation, guidelines for moral conduct for monks and householders, cautions and guards against pitfalls in Sadhana, and many other topics on spiritual path and dhar(m)a for a seeker after truth.

Buddha is an embodiment of renunciation and compassion and he pointed out the Path of Morality (Sila), Concentration or Meditation (Samadhi) and true wisdom or Insight (Panna) for attaining freedom from Samsara. The Dhammapada encapsulates all these three topics in-depth and provides a guiding light for an aspirant.

In the introduction to Dhammapada by Ven K. Sri Dhammananda, I found the following lines:

“The BhagavadGita and Thirukural are Hindu works in Sanskrit and Tamil languages of great antiquity. The former is an ancient work of literature and the latter was composed just before the christian era. Both these works contain many truths which are expressed in Dhammapada.”

Pali language, which is the spoken language during Buddha’s time and the language of Dhammapada, is very close to Sanskrit since Sanskrit is Pali’s source. I found that with little effort, I could understand what the Pali verses meant since most of the words were similar with some changes. However I borrowed another book which presents the same verse in sanskrit so I can exactly know what word was meant in the verse.

Dhammapada is divided into Vagga or Sections, each one focusing on one aspect:

  1. 1. Yamaka Vagga – The Twin verses
  2. 2. Appamada Vagga – Heedfulness
  3. 3. Chitta Vagga – Mind
  4. 4. Puppha Vagga – Flowers
  5. 5. Bala Vagga – Fools
  6. 6. Pandita Vagga – The Wise
  7. 7. Arahanta Vagga – The Worthy
  8. 8. Sahassa Vagga – Thousands
  9. 9. Papa Vagga – The Evil
  10. 10. Danda Vagga – The Punishment
  11. 11. Jara Vagga – Old Age
  12. 12. Att(m)a Vagga – The Self
  13. 13. Loka Vagga – The World
  14. 14. Buddha Vagga – The Buddha
  15. 15. Sukha Vagga – The Happiness
  16. 16. Piya Vagga – Affection
  17. 17. Kodha Vagga – Anger
  18. 18. Mala Vagga – Impurities
  19. 19. Dhammattha Vagga – The Just or Righterous
  20. 20. Magga Vagga – The Way or The Path
  21. 21. Pakinnaka Vagga – Miscellaneous
  22. 22. Niraya Vagga – Woeful State
  23. 23. Naga Vagga – The Elephant
  24. 24. Tanha Vagga – Craving
  25. 25. Bhikku Vagga – The Mendicant
  26. 26. Brahmana Vagga – The Knower Of The Truth

I have completed reading only the first three sections. I liked them very much for their simplicity and profoundity. Each verse is followed by a story and a context during Buddha’s time. It is a worthwhile effort to try to memorize some important verses so they can act as reference in our daily life. Many of the teachings resonate with what we learn in Sri Sankara’s Viveka Chudamani, Bhartrihari’s Vairagya Satakam etc, and other works.

Quoting one verse below:


Bahumpi ce samhita bhasamano
na takkaro hoti naro pamatto |
gopova gavo ganayam paresam
na bhagava samannassa hoti || (19)

Though he recites much of the Sacred Texts, but is negligent and does not act accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts the cattle of others, he has no share in the benefits of the Holy Life.


Appampi ce samhita bhasamano
dhammassa hoti anudhammacari |
raganca dosanca pahaya moham
sammappajano suvimuttacitto ||
anupadiyano idha va haram va
sa bhagava samannassa hoti || (20)

Though he recites only a little of the Sacred Texts, but acts in accordance with the teaching, eradicating passion, ill will and ignorance, clearly comprehending, with his mind freed from moral defilements and no longer clinging to this world or to the next, he shares the benefits of the Holy Life.

Yours,
In Service of the Lord,
Aparna & Hari.