Live Your Knowledge


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The spiritual way of the communication of knowledge is by living the knowledge—living it. The knowledge of a saint is the same as the life that he lives. It is not a book that he has written. What he thinks, how he lives and what he does is the exact counterpart of the knowledge with which he is blessed. The student is prepared in the same way as an embodiment that lives that knowledge. It is not thinking some thoughts that is knowledge. It is not memorising some texts that is knowledge. It is an infusing of a mode of living and a transfiguration of the psychophysical personality in us—which we are—so that, just as we feel a kind of energising bolt entering into us when we are given a vitamin injection, so do we feel an energising atmosphere within us when knowledge enters us. We have to repeat, again, that knowledge is being of knowledge; it is not an acquiring of something that is from outside.

Hence, it was difficult for many people to live with Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. Thousands must have come here as dedicated ones and with a determination to live here till they attained salvation—but it was not to be. Among the many that came here, even a handful did not find it convenient to stay, because it is not merely staying in a geographical place. It is not listening to what is told; it is not doing some work. It is a transforming of oneself into a higher person, a lofty individual, a stronger embodiment of the very thing that one knows. To live the life spiritual is to make knowledge one’s torch in the movement of the career of our lives.

In the present condition of our minds it would be difficult for us to understand what it means to live the knowledge. It is something that we hear, the meaning of which cannot be very clear. How can we live our knowledge when we make this inveterate conclusion, again and again, that knowledge is an abstract acquisition by way of information gathered by the mind, which also looks like an ethereal something while the body is a solid object? We conclude that the solidity and the substantiality and the beingness of a thing are to be equated with a physical condition of the thingness of anything. Whenever we think of realities, substances, we compare them with bodies—stones, trees, mud, or this physical body of ours—and in that sense, the mind does not look real. We have never seen the mind, and we have never seen knowledge. It is something that is conceived.

(pgs. 94-95, Sri Swami Sivananda and His Mission by Swami Krishnananda)

Scriptural Knowledge and Abominable Scoundrels


Question 1: I have known people who can volubly quote chunks of verses from the scriptures but they seem to have serious moral turpitude. How do we reconcile their vast knowledge with their character defect?

Answer 1: “Quoting scriptures is….not a sign to indicate the spiritual development of a person. A man may recite the whole of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras; and yet he may be the greatest and the most abominable scoundrel.” (pg. 24, Satsanga and Svadhyaya by Swami Sivananda)

[“Scoundrel” refers to a dishonest or unscrupulous (=having or showing NO moral principles) person: Oxford Dictionary]

Question 2: I have known people who give impressive lectures; yet, they have every trait that qualifies them to be un-spiritual. Oftentimes, some of them are even bad and hypocritical. How do we reconcile their impressive knowledge with their lack of spirituality?

Answer 2: “One may deliver a lecture on Adwaita Philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one verse of the Gita for a week and yet these people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of Vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercise. Nothing more than that.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Answer 2: Swami Sivananda: “It is practice that counts. You know the Gita by heart. But are you living in the spirit of the Gita—that is what matters.” (Swamiji’s speech on 25.9.1950: pg. 150, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).

Answer 2Mata Amritanandamayi: “Memorising something is NOT that difficult; putting what YOU have LEARNT into practice IS difficult.” (pg. 43, Lead Us to the Light)

Question 3: How is it that their knowledge of the scriptures does not help to eradicate their bad and evil tendencies?

Answer 3: “It is easy to become a lecturer on Vedanta. If you sit in a library for some years and enrich your vocabulary and phraseology and commit to memory some passages, you can deliver good lectures, in two or three years, but it is not so easy to eradicate an evil quality. Only a real aspirant who is doing Sadhana will realise his difficulty.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Some of these people who are so-called well-versed in the scriptures often say that there should be a balance between pleasure of living in this world, enjoying the sense satisfaction and leading a spiritual life. Can one make substantial progress in attaining God-Realisation in this way?

Answer 4: “Spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are NOT going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theory—a fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So, the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction,” (pg. 19, The Role Celibacy in Spiritual Life by Swami Chidananda)

Question 5: So, what are the uses of spiritual or scriptural knowledge?

Answer 5: “It is not enough…merely to read the scriptures. We must hold their teachings up to the watchful presence within us…,” (pg. 203, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda) [Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”].

Answer 5: “Even if we memorise the most complicated… texts, without an innocent love for God, it will be difficult to make any real spiritual progress,” Swami Ramakrishnananda (pg. 246, The Blessed Life)

Answer 5: Mata Amritanandamayi: “Knowledge is good, but ONLY when expressed in life is its benefit experienced both by ourselves and by society….(Scriptural study) must be practised in DAILY life… ONLY when we live BY its principles can we progress without flagging, no matter what the circumstance.” (pgs. 4-5, Matruvani, March 2013, Vol.24, No.7)

Answer 5: “All too often the intellect becomes satisfied with just theory about God. Great and glorious is the story of God’s presence, but greater and more glorious is the actual perception of the Infinite….If you practice one millionth of the things that I tell you…you will reach God. Success doesn’t lie in listening to my sermons, but in practising what I have told you.” (pg. 94, The Divine Romance by Paramahansa Yogananda)

Answer 5: “It is true that our ancient teachers were great, their wisdom was profound, their morals were high, and their spiritual insight transcended the limitations of time and place. HOWEVER, we have NOT been able to take advantage of the great treasure that could have made life better and brighter.” (pg. 51, Spirituality by Swami Rama)

Answer 5: “It is not enough to read the scriptures as a form of duty. One should think deeply about the meaning they contain and try to get a firm conviction about the possibility of realising the Truth.” (pg. 514, Meditation and Spiritual Life by Swami Yatiswarananda)

Satsang is a Waste of Time


Question 1: My friends and I discuss a lot of spiritual issues at bhajans/satsangs (=spiritual gatherings). We discuss valuable quotations that we have gathered from the scriptures and from the books of mahatmas or enlightened masters. A friend of mine says that all these are SHEER WASTE OF TIME and especially effort. What are your views on this opinion? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “It ISN’T enough to read ABOUT living spiritual life, or to HEAR about it, or to just TALK about it—you have to put it into practice… Attending a lecture on the THEORY of cooking ISN’T enough to remove hunger. To appease your hunger, you have to cook the food and eat it. If you want to grow fruit, just STUDYING agriculture ISN’T enough. You have to plant the fruit trees and nurse them.

“It is NOT enough to know that there is water beneath a particular spot, because that WON’T give you ANY water. You have to dig a well there. Nor can you quench your thirst by merely looking at a picture of a well. You have to draw water from a REAL well and drink it. Is it enough to sit in a parked car, staring at a map? Tp reach your destination, you HAVE to travel on the road which is shown on the map.

“In the same way, it’s NOT enough to just take part in SATSANGS, or to READ the SCRIPTURES. To experience the Truth, you HAVE to LIVE according to those words.” (pgs. 273, 292, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)

Question 2: So, attending regular SATSANGS is a waste of time? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “…To someone who DOESN’T make any effort, satsang is like a COCONUT given to a jackal; his hunger will NEVER be appeased. A tonic will improve your health, provided you follow the directions written on the bottle and take the right dosage. SATSANG is like learning those directions, and sadhana is like drinking the tonic. Satsang teaches us about the eternal and the transitory, but only through sadhana will we be able to experience and realise what we have learnt.” (pg. 293, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)

Attending Talks and Satsangs—Any Value at All?


Question 1: Is it wrong to attend spiritual talks by people who are quite well-read and informed?

Mata Amritanandamayi: Everyone has something to say on every topic. People are under the impression that they are all authorised to speak on any subject under the sun. Amma remembers a story. A boy once said, “I know a professor. What a great man he was!” When asked why he thought the man was great, the boy said, “He can talk for hours, no matter what the topic (is). Even if you give him an insignificant topic, he can speak for more than five hours!” Another boy who overheard this said, “Your professor can speak for only five hours, and that (has to be on) a topic! My neighbour, however, can go on talking for days on end without any topic!… (People) do not practise anything that (they) preach. (pgs. 2-3, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

Question 2: For many years, I have been studying the holy scriptures, viz., Gita, Upanishads, etc., and I have mastered them in a way. But I do not feel the oneness of life in all. I still take delight in gossiping, backbiting, rumour-mongering, etc; I still get jealous, angry; hypocrisy subtly exists in me. Therefore, are scriptural studies of no avail? Are the scriptures for mere study alone?

Swami Sivananda: “Mere study of the Vichar Sagar or Panchadasi cannot bring in the experience of pure Advaitic consciousness. Vedantic gossiping and dry discussions on scriptures cannot help a man in feeling the unity and oneness of life. You should destroy ruthlessly all sorts of impurities, hatred, jealousy, envy, idea of superiority and all barriers that separate man from man. This can be done by incessant, selfless service of humanity with the right mental attitude. Practical Vedanta is rare in these days. There are dry discussions and meaningless fights over the non-essentials of religions. People study a few books and pose as Jivanmuktas. Even if there be one real Jivanmukta, he will be a great dynamic force to guide the whole world. He can change the destiny of the world. The present-day Jivanmuktas are mere bookworms. Many imagine that they can become Jivanmuktas by a little study of Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi and Tarka. Oneness of life can be had only by Self-realization through constant spiritual practice. Study of scriptures can help you a bit, but it cannot make you a Jivanmukta.” (pgs. 143-144, May I Answer that?)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…Learning becomes complete only when one is able to express what one has learnt in one’s life. One who strives to do is a true disciple.” (pg. 4, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

 

Who is Fit to Receive the Lord’s Grace?


Swami Chidananda Maharaj: “…The very first factor of significance which seekers have to realise is that the Grace of the Lord, which was instrumental in leading one party to victory, came out to support the Devas and it was the fitness of the party that dictated the descent of the Grace.

“Herein the first truth is revealed that if the aspirant in his struggle should become fit to approach the giver of Grace for the bestowal of Grace, he must first make himself of Daivi-Prakriti and possess Daivi-Sampat.

“The accessibility to this fountain-head of Grace from which we may draw support is conditional upon the nature of the one who approaches it. Because they were Devas, they could approach the Gracious Lord in order to ask for His Grace. We have to become Adhikaris, if we may approach the one who is to bestow grace upon us and who is to provide us with the necessary leadership and the strength to overcome the evil forces with which we are trying to battle. This is given out by all Acharyas, all great seers and Mahapurushas in the form of the Sadhana-Chatushtaya, the Yama-Niyama or the Sadachara, the acquisition of Daivi-Sampat. This is an indispensable prerequisite for every seeker who wishes to get the better of the lower self and set foot on the path of Yoga. 

“…we have first to recognise the presence of the lower self and that we are distinct from it; and that the lower self is an obstacle within us, an undesirable element within our nature. And we must align ourselves not with that force but with the divine forces. The second is the truth that mere recognition of this or acceptance of the fact that the lower self is undesirable and must be overcome is not enough; we must put this recognition into dynamic action. We must manfully set about trying to do this process of breaking down all these elements of the evil, lower nature with all our heart and all our might.

“God helps those who help themselves, is a well-known old adage. This is very true upon the spiritual path. Unless we demonstrate our sincerity and completely rid ourselves of the impurity, unspiritual and undivine, by means of practical effort and actual striving, we have not yet attained the fitness to ask for grace. We must exert; then we become deserving. Then we can desire to obtain the help of the higher powers.

“This is a law which the majority of seekers are prone to disregard because recognition and acceptance of this law is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. For, it implies that we have to strive and to make effort, and the lower nature will not easily sanction this, inasmuch as in the beginning of the spiritual practice, to a great extent, the personality of the seeker is under the habitual dominance of the lower nature, its old tendencies, old habits, inclinations, etc.

“There may be a desire or even sincerity; but it is all theoretical and the Tamoguna which is the prominent feature of the lower nature will not easily allow the aspirant to put forth right exertion. To bring out this law in a telling manner, we are told that the Devas again and again gave battle to the Asuras, not once but time and again; and it was after repeatedly being worsted in battle that they found that, in spite of their earnest and sincere practical efforts to overcome the evil forces, they were yet not crowned with victory. Then it is that the celestial hosts turned to the Supreme Lord and prayed for His Grace. And, it is only when these conditions are fulfilled that the Lord will hear this prayer and bestow His Grace.”

(pgs. x, xii-xiii, Lord Shanmukha and His Worship by Swami Sivananda)

Walk Your Talk


Swami Sivananda: “Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talk and lecture will not help you in any way. You may know the whole of the Gita by heart and may deliver lectures for several hours. But they are of NO avail without wisdom. What is wanted is SOLID Sadhana with mental non-attachment and REGULAR practice of the teachings of the Gita,” (pg. 169, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Swami Sivananda: “Spiritual life is not a mere idle talk. it is not mere sensation. It is actual living in Atman. It is a transcendental experience of unalloyed bliss. Tread the path of truth and righteousness. Stick tenaciously to the twenty instructions. Be regular in your meditation.

“Be patient. Practise introspection. Do selfless service. Develop Vairagya. You will attain immortality,” (pg. 132, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Swami Sivananda: “Mere hearing of eloquent, valuable lectures will not do in the spiritual path. You will have to act according to them. You will have to give your whole heart, mind and soul to the practice. Then only will you have progress in the path. Follow the instructions of your Master and the teachings of the scriptures to the very letter. Give no leniency to the mind. Exact, implicit, strict obedience to the instructions is expected of you.” (pg. 44, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “Men who read much and work little are like bells, which sound to call others and they themselves never enter into a church.” (pg. 118, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “Instead of trying to become a Pundit with vanity and pedantry and thirst for applause, try to develop a clean unblemished virtuous life.”  (pg. 119, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “High education, vast study of scriptures, wealth, rich offerings are not necessary for attaining God-realisation. What is wanted is purity of heart and sincere devotion.”  (pg. 120, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “… attending or conducting Ramayana or Bhagavata may, no doubt, aid one’s spiritual aptitude. But, if you do not fulfill the fundamentals of ethics and morality, all the above observances would no way ensure Self-realisation. Therefore, first and foremost, please look to the rudiments of ethics and morality.” (pg. 135-136, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “One may deliver a lecture on Advaita philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in a hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one Sloka of Gita for a week and yet those people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercises. Nothing more than that. Vedanta is a living experience. A Vedantin need not advertise that he is an Advaitin. The sweet divine aroma of Vedanta oneness will be ever emanating from him. Everybody will feel this. (pg. 76, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Is Your Conscience Reliable?


Swami Sivananda: “…I shall speak a word on conscience. Some people say, We can find out good and evil, right and wrong, by consulting our conscience only.” No individual will be able to do this by consulting his conscience only. It may give some clue and help, but in difficult and trying conditions, it will not help one. Conscience is not an infallible guide. The conscience of a man changes according to the experiences and education he has had. Conscience is one’s intellectual conviction only. The conscience of the individual speaks in accordance with his own tendencies, proclivities, inclinations, education, habits and passions. The conscience of a savage speaks a language that is entirely different from that of a civilised European.

“The conscience of an African Negro speaks a language that is vastly different from that of an ethically developed Yogi of India. Ask a clerk at the collectorate, “What are your duties?” He will say, “I must earn money and support my family and parents. I must not injure others. I must read the Ramayana.” He has not the least idea of the laws of Nature. If you ask him, “What are your duties to the country and humanity? What are right and wrong? What are good and evil?” he will simply blink. Ask any vehicle driver, “What is your duty?” He will say, “I must anyhow earn Rs. 20 daily. I have to purchase ten gallons of fuel, tyres, tubes and crude oil. The tyres are very costly. I have six daughters and five sons. I have to take care of them.” If you ask him anything about God, about moral virtues, liberation, bondage and freedom, about right and wrong, he will be bewildered.
“Why is there so much divergence between the promptings of conscience of two persons of the same caste, religion and creed? Why do we find ten different convictions among ten persons of the same district and the same community? The voice of conscience alone is not sufficient to guide man in understanding the law of God, about right and wrong, good and evil and other duties of life. The Shastras and realised persons only can truly guide a man in the discharge of his duties in an efficient manner.
“Dear friend, do your duties in a satisfactory manner. Consult the Shastras and the Mahatmas whenever you are in doubt. As you have not the ability or the time to think of the moral principles and rules given in the scriptures, you can get the moral precepts or instructions from the sages and saints and follow them to the very letter. Evolve. Expand. Grow. Develop and realise the Satchidananda Atma.”
(pgs. 27-28, “Kingly Science, Kingly Secret”)

Guru Purnima


Maharshi Vyasa

By

Sri Swami Sivananda

In ancient days, our forefathers, the Rishis of Aryavartha, went to the forest to do Tapasya during the four months following Vyasa Purnima—a particular and important day in the Hindu calendar. On this memorable day, Vyasa, an incarnation of the Lord Himself, began to write his Brahma Sutras. Our ancient Rishis did this Tapasya in caves and forests. But times have changed and such facilities are not common nowadays although Grihasthas and Rajas are not wanting who are able and willing to place at the disposal of the members of the fourth Ashrama such help and facilities as they can afford. The forests and caves have given place to the rooms of Sadhus in their own Gurudwaras and Mutts. One has of necessity to suit himself to time and place; and change of place and situation should not be allowed to make such a difference in our mental attitudes. Chaturmas begins from the Vyasa Purnima Day when, according to our Shastras, we are expected to worship Vyasa and the Brahmavidya Gurus and begin the study of the Brahma Sutras and other ancient books on ‘wisdom’.

Our mythology speaks of many Vyasas; and it is said that there had been twenty-eight Vyasas before the present Vyasa—Krishna Dvaipayana—took his birth at the end of Dvapara Yuga. Krishna Dvaipayana was born of Parasara Rishi through the Matsyakanya—Satyavathi Devi—under some peculiar and wonderful circumstances. Parasara was a great Jnani and one of the supreme authorities on astrology and his book Parasara Hora is still a textbook on astrology. He has also written a Smriti known as Parasara Smriti which is held in such high esteem that it is quoted by our present-day writers on sociology and ethics. Parasara came to know that a child, conceived at a particular Ghatika or moment of time, would be born as the greatest man of the age, nay, as an Amsa of Lord Vishnu Himself.

On that day, Parasara was travelling in a boat and he spoke to the boatman about the nearing of that auspicious time. The boatman had a daughter who was of age and awaiting marriage. He was impressed with the sanctity and greatness of the Rishi and offered his daughter in marriage to Parasara. Our Vyasa was born of this union and his birth is said to be due to the blessing of Lord Siva Himself who blessed the union of a sage with a Jnani of the highest order, although of a low caste.

At a very tender age Vyasa gave out to his parents the secret of his life that he should go to the forest and do Akhanda Tapas. His mother at first did not agree, but later gave permission on one important condition that he should appear before her whenever she wished for his presence. This itself shows how far-sighted the parents and the son were. Puranas say that Vyasa took initiation at the hands of his twenty-first Guru, sage Vasudeva. He studied the Shastras under sages Sanaka and Sanandana and others. He arranged the Vedas for the good of mankind and wrote the Brahma Sutras for the quick and easy understanding of the Srutis; he also wrote the Mahabharata to enable women, Sudras and other people of lesser intellect to understand the highest knowledge in the easiest way.

Vyasa wrote the eighteen Puranas and established the system of teaching them through Upakhyanas or discourses. In this way, he established the three paths, viz., Karma, Upasana and Jnana. To him is also attributed the fact that he continued the line of his mother and that Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were his progeny. Vyasa’s last work was the Bhagavata which he undertook at the instigation of Devarshi Narada who once came to him and advised him to write it as, without it, his goal in life would not be reached.

Vyasa is considered by all Hindus as a Chiranjivi, one who is still living and roaming throughout the world for the well-being of his devotees. It is said that he appears to the true and the faithful and that Jagadguru Sankaracharya had his Darshan in the house of sage Mandana Misra and that he appeared to many others as well. Thus, in short, Vyasa lives for the welfare of the world. Let us pray for his blessings on us all and on the whole world.

Everybody knows that there are six important systems of thought developed by our ancients known as the Shad Darshanas or the six orthodox schools of philosophy, viz., Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta. Each system has a different shade of opinion. Later, these thoughts became unwieldy, and to regulate them, the Sutras came into existence. Treatises were written in short aphorisms, called “Sutras” in Sanskrit, meaning clues for memory or aids to long discussions on every topic. In the Padma Purana, the definition of a Sutra is given. It says that a Sutra should be concise and unambiguous; but the brevity was carried to such an extent that the Sutra has become unintelligible and particularly so in the Brahma Sutras. Today we find the same Sutra being interpreted in a dozen ways.

The Brahma Sutras written by Vyasa or Badarayana—for that was the name which he possessed in addition—are also known as Vedanta Sutras as they deal with Vedanta only. They are divided into four chapters, each chapter being subdivided again into four sections. It is interesting to note that they begin and end with Sutras which read together mean “the inquiry into the real nature of Brahman has no return”, meaning that “going by that way one reaches Immortality and no more returns to the world”. About the authorship of these Sutras, tradition attributes it to Vyasa.

Sankaracharya, in his Bhashya, refers to Vyasa as the author of the Gita and the Mahabharata, and to Badarayana as the author of the Brahma Sutras. His followers—Vachaspathi, Anandagiri and others—identify the two as one and the same person, while Ramanuja and others attribute the authorship of all three to Vyasa himself. The oldest commentary on the Brahma Sutras is by Sankaracharya; he was later followed by Ramanuja, Vallabha, Nimbarka, Madhva and others who established their own schools of thought.

All the five Acharyas mostly agree on two points, viz., (i) that Brahman is the cause of this world and (ii) that knowledge of Brahman leads to final emancipation. But they differ amongst themselves on the nature of this Brahman, the relation between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, and the condition of the soul in the state of release. According to some, Bhakti and not Jnana, as interpreted by Sankara, is the chief means of attaining liberation.

Vyasa’s life is a unique example of one born for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. His writings inspire us and the whole world even to this day. May we all live in the spirit of his writings!
(pgs. 3-6, Lives of Saint)

What is Guru’s Grace? What is Guru Kripa?


Swami Chidananda: “What is Guru’s grace? It is not some mysterious something that comes out of him, as Gurudev used to say, like water out of his kamandalu. His kripa, his anugraha (grace) is in the form of his sandesa, upadesa and adesa. They constitute the manifestation of his grace. His teachings, his admonitions, his instructions to us and his positive, imperative directives are the dynamic expression of his grace.

” ‘Sleep no more; wake up; sit in asana; do japa. Meditate on the Supreme Being. Read one chapter of the Gita. Have sattvic diet. Be simple in life; reduce your wants. Control anger through kshama (forgiveness). Observe mauna for some time every day. Speak the truth at all costs. Observe brahmacharya. Do charity every day according to your ability. Introspect; find out your defects and remove them. Draw inspiration from elevating, inspiring svadhyaya; daily svadhyaya will increase your knowledge and wisdom; your mind will become transformed and your heart purified, elevated and inspired. Read the lives of saints. Thus progress day by day.’

“In this way, the Guru gives practical suggestions and warns that these are all important spiritual canons and must be observed rigidly. You should not give any leniency to the mind. And if you do something wrong, punish yourself, atmadanda. Great ones have progressed through this method only. These positive and imperative commandments, adesa, directives, to spiritual aspirants, sincere seekers, disciples, devotees, constitute anugraha. They constitute guru kripa. They constitute the light in our life, the light that illumines our path and which shows clearly the goal that we have to attain.

“……….know that the Guru is where there is reverence for his teachings, an eagerness to fulfil his teachings and a keen desire to follow the path pointed out by him. Where there is an earnest, ardent and fervent wish to move along that path, to practise his instructions, there the Guru is fully present and guru kripa is fully present. The anugraha of the Guru enriches such an aspirant.”

 

(This is an excerpt from Swami Chidananda’s book “Sure Ways to Guru Kripa)

 

What is Puja? Why Do Puja At Home? Benefit of Worship…


Puja or its alternative Pooja is a Sanskrit word, which literally means “reverence”, “honour”, “adoration” or “worship”. In colloquial Tamil, it is called “Poosai” with the same meaning.

 

 

The word has also been defined variously by other archaryas and pundits: one Tamil interpretation is, “puja” has two letters—“pa” and “ja”—“Pa” connotes “paaraayana” or ceremonial repetition of sacred texts; and “ja” stands for “japa” or recitation of His Names. In this sense, “puja” is continuous parayana and japa.

There is yet another explanation, “Pu” represents “pushpam” (=flower) and “ja” means “jaal” (=water). Hence, in “puja”, we use flowers and water in paying our respect to the Lord.

It has also been said that “puja” derives from “pu-chey”, which literally means “flower-action”, or “action performed with flowers”. This definition quite accurately describes what happens in the ceremonial act of showing reverence to God through invocation, prater, bhajan and ritual.

 

Sivacharyar Muthukumara Gurukkal says that the Tamil letter “Pu” in “puja” signifies “the pleasures, auspiciousness and good fortunes of Bhu loka”. The letter “jai” denotes an “instrument that easily brings something to us”. Hence, “puja” is an effective but spiritual tool that brings all that we rightly deserve for living in this world. (pg. 11, Home Puja).

Why Should One Perform Puja?

His Holiness Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh explains in his celebrated book “All About Hinduism” (pg. 108): “Puja is the common term for ritual worship, of which there are numerous synonyms such as Archana, Vandana, Bhajana, etc., though some of these stress certain aspects of it.

“The object of worship is the Ishta Devata or guiding Deity or the particular form of the Deity whom the devotee worships-Narayana or Vishnu as such, or His forms as Rama and Krishna in the case of Vaishnavas, Siva in His eight forms in the case of Saivas and Devi in the case of Saktas. The devotee selects sometimes his Kuladeva or Kuladevi, family Deva or Devi, for his worship. Sometimes, the Devata is chosen for him by his Guru or spiritual preceptor. Sometimes, he himself chooses that Devata which most appeals to him. This form is his Ishta Devata. An object is used in the outer Puja such as an image (Pratima), a picture, or an emblem such as Saligrama in the case of Vishnu worship or Linga in the case of worship of Siva.

“Whilst all things may be the objects of worship, choice is naturally made of those objects which, by reason of their effect on the mind, are more fitted for it. An image or one of the useful emblems is likely to raise in the mind of the worshipper the thought of a Devata.”

Is There a Need For an Image, Murthi, Vigraha When We Perform Puja?

“Puja”, some erudite Hindu scholars opine, is a post-Vedic Hindu practice. In Vedic times, it has been said, “Homa” or the offering of grains and sanctified liquids into sacrificial fire, was what that been in vogue.

 

As the texture of Man’s mind changed, archaryas had introduced a form of worship, which we today call “puja”: it differs from the Vedic sacrifice primarily in the fact, unlike the Homa, that image, vigraha (=murthi) or a representation of God is used in the worship. Such a ritualistic worship is highly symbolical with deep philosophical, esoteric and spiritual import.

Some Hindu pundits have said “vigraha” (a Sanskrit word) etymologically can be divided into “vi” (=removes) and “graham(m)” (planets): that which removes the ill effects of the “grahas” or planets.

Swami Sivananda explains further the reason for the use of vigraha (pg. 109, All About Hinduism): “Saligrama stone induces easily concentration of mind. Everybody has got predilection for a symbol, emblem or image. Idol or Murti (Vigraha), sun, fire, water, Ganga, Saligrama and Linga are all symbols or Pratikas of God which help the aspirants to attain one-pointedness of mind and purity of heart.

“These are all personal inclinations in the worshipper due to his belief in their special efficacy for him. Psychologically, all this means that a particular mind finds that it works best in the direction desired by means of particular instruments or emblems or images. The vast bulk of humanity are either of impure or of weak mind. Therefore, the object of worship must be pure for these people. The objects that are capable of exciting lust and dislike must be avoided. But, a higher, advanced Sadhaka who has a pure mind and who sees the divine presence everywhere and in everything, can worship any kind of object.”

Home Puja

“Puja” can be done in the home, temple, during ceremonies and at festivals. Every Hindu home must have a personal shrine at an appropriate place in the house. It is a imperative that every Hindu should do daily puja at home. A daily puja usually consists of a simple worship of offerings, such as an offering of light, water and incense, and/or fruit, followed by an aarti.

 

Home puja includes several agamic upacaras (=observances). The following is an example of what constitutes a Home puja done by aspirants in the Smartha or perhaps even in Saivite tradition:

  1. Dyana/ Avahana (“invocation”): The deity is invited to the ceremony.
  2. Asana: The deity is offered a seat.
  3. Paathyam: The deity’s feet are washed.
  4. Arghya: Water is offered so the deity may wash His face and hands.
  5. Acamanıya: Water is offered to Him.
  6. Madhuparka: The deity is offered water, honey, milk, etc.
  7. Snana or abhisekha: Water is offered for bathing.
  8. Acamaniya.
  9. Vastra: Offering clothes to the Deity
  10. Upaneeyam: Adorning the deity with turmeric, etc.
  11. Aaparanam: Adorning Him with jewels.
  12. Kantham: Adorning Him with perfumes.
  13. Atchathai: Offering Tumeric-flavoured rice.
  14. Puspa: Flowers are offered to the Lord.
  15. Archana: Recitation of Mantras
  16. Dhupa: Incense is burned for the Deity.
  17. Dıpa: A burning lamp is waved in front of the image.
  18. Naivedya or prasada: Foods for the deity.
  19. Paaneeyam: Oblation.
  20. Acamanıya.
  21. Thaampulam: Offering Vettrilai to the Deity.
  22. Aarati
  23. Mantra Pushpam: Offering flowers to the Deity.
  24. Thothiram.
  25. Paarayana
  26. Japa
  27. Dyana
  28. Namaskara: The worshiper and family prostrate to the Deity.
  29. Prarthana
  30. Shanthi mantra
  31. Aarathi
  32. Mangalam
  33. Prayachittam: Mitigatory prayers
  34. Samarpanam
  35. Yathasth-thaanam: conclusion
  36. Acamaniya

The following article is from Swami Sivananda’s “All About Hinduism”

CHAPTER 7: HINDU WORSHIP

Worship Or Upasana

Worship is the expression of devotion, reverence and love to the Lord, of keen yearning to be united with Him and of spiritual thirsting to hold conscious communion with Him. The devotee prays to the Lord for granting him intense devotion and removing the veil of ignorance. He pines for His benign grace. He constantly remembers His Name. He repeats His Mantra. He sings His praise. He does Kirtana. He hears and recites His Lilas. He lives in His Dhama in the company of His devotees. He meditates on His form, His nature, His attributes and His Lilas. He visualises the form of the Lord with closed eyes and enjoys supreme peace and bliss.

Worship is the effort on the part of the Upasaka, i.e., he who does Upasana or worship, to reach the proximity or presence of God or the Supreme Self. Upasana literally means sitting near God. Upasana is approaching the chosen ideal or object of worship by meditating on it in accordance with the teachings of the Sastras and the Guru and dwelling steadily in the current of that one thought, like a thread of oil poured from one vessel to another (Tailadharavat). It consists of all those observances and practices, physical and mental, by which the aspirant or Jijnasu makes a steady progress in the realm of spirituality and eventually realises in himself—in his own heart—the presence of Godhead.

Benefits Of Worship

Worship of the Lord purifies the heart, generates harmonious vibrations, steadies the mind, purifies and ennobles the emotions, harmonises the five sheaths, and eventually leads to communion, fellowship or God-realisation.

Upasana helps the devotee to sit near the Lord or to commune with Him. It fills the mind with Suddha Bhava and Prema or pure love for the Lord. It gradually transmutes man into a divine being.

Upasana changes the mental substance, destroys Rajas and Tamas and fills the mind with Sattva or purity. Upasana destroys Vasanas, Trishnas, egoism, lust, hatred, anger, etc. Upasana turns the mind inward and induces Antarmukha Vritti. It eventually brings the devotee face to face with the Lord, frees the devotee from the wheel of births and deaths, and confers on him immortality and freedom.

The mind becomes that on which it meditates in accordance with the analogy of the wasp and the caterpillar (Bhramara-Kitaka Nyaya). Just as you think, so you become. This is the immutable psychological law. There is a mysterious or inscrutable power (Achintya Sakti) in Upasana which makes the meditator and the meditated identical.

You will find in the Bhagavad-Gita: “But by devotion to Me alone, I may thus be perceived, O Arjuna; and known and seen in essence and entered, O Parantapa” (Ch. XI, 54).

Patanjali Maharshi emphasises in various places in his Raja Yoga Sutras, on the importance of Upasana. For even a Raja Yogi, Upasana is necessary. He has his own Ishta Devata or guiding Deity—Yogesvara Krishna or Lord Siva. Self-surrender to God is an Anga (limb) of Raja Yoga and Kriya Yoga. Patanjali says: “One can enter into Samadhi through Upasana.”

Of all those things which are conducive to spiritual advancement, Adhyatmic uplift and the acquisition of Dharma, Upasana is one which is not only indispensably requisite, but eminently beneficial to all classes and grades of people. It is easy too.

Eating, drinking, sleeping, fear, copulation, etc., are common in brutes and human beings, but that which makes one a real man or a God-man is the religious consciousness. He who leads a mere outward sensual life without doing any Upasana is an animal only, though he wears outwardly the form of a human being.

Saguna-Upasana And Nirguna-Upasana

Upasana is of two kinds, viz., Pratika-Upasana and Ahamgraha-Upasana. Pratika means a symbol. Pratika-Upasana is Saguna-Upasana. Ahamgraha-Upasana is Nirguna-Upasana or meditation on the formless and attributeless Akshara or transcendental Brahman. Meditation on idols, Saligrama, pictures of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva, Gayatri Devi, etc., is Pratika-Upasana. The blue expansive sky, all-pervading ether, all-pervading light of the sun, etc., are also Pratikas for abstract meditation. Saguna-Upasana is concrete meditation. Nirguna-Upasana is abstract meditation.

Hearing of the Lilas of the Lord, Kirtana or singing His Names, constant remembrance of the Lord (Smarana), service of His feet, offering flowers, prostration, prayer, chanting of Mantra, self-surrender, service of Bhagavatas, service of humanity and country with Narayana-Bhava, etc., constitute Saguna-Upasana.

Chanting of Om with Atma-Bhava, service of humanity and country with Atma-Bhava, mental Japa of Om with Atma or Brahma Bhava, meditation on Soham or Sivoham or on the Mahavakyas such as Aham Brahma Asmi or Tat Tvam Asi after sublating the illusory vehicles through ‘Neti, Neti’ doctrine, constitute Ahamgraha-Upasana or Nirguna-Upasana.

Saguna-Upasana is Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of Devotion. Nirguna-Upasana is Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge. Worshippers of Saguna (the qualified) Brahman and of Nirguna (the unqualified) Brahman reach the same goal. But, the latter path is very hard, because the aspirant has to give up attachment to the body (Dehabhimana) from the very beginning of his spiritual practice. The Akshara or the Imperishable is very hard to reach for those who are attached to their bodies. Further, it is extremely difficult to fix the mind on the formless and attributeless Brahman. Contemplation on the Akshara or Nirguna Brahman demands a very sharp, one-pointed and subtle intellect.

The Bhavas In Bhakti Yoga

The Yoga of Bhakti or Devotion is much easier than Jnana Yoga or philosophical meditations. In Bhakti Yoga, the devotee establishes a near and dear relationship with the Lord. He cultivates slowly any one of the six Bhavas according to his temperament, taste and capacity.

Santa Bhava, Dasya Bhava, Sakhya Bhava, Vatsalya Bhava, Kanta Bhava and Madhurya Bhava are the six kinds of attributes of devotees or Bhavas towards God. The Bhavas differ in type and intensity of feeling. The different Bhavas are arranged in order of their intensity. Dhruva and Prahlada had the feeling of a child to its parents. This is Santa Bhava. In Dasya Bhava, the devotee behaves like a servant. His Lord is his master. Hanuman is an ideal servant of God. In Sakhya Bhava, there is a sense of equality. Arjuna and Kuchela had this Bhava. In Vatsalya Bhava, the devotee looks upon the Lord as his own child. Yasoda had this Bhava for Sri Krishna. Kausalya had this Bhava for Sri Rama. Kanta Bhava is the love of the wife towards the husband. Sita and Rukmini had this Bhava. The culmination is reached in Madhurya Bhava. The lover and the Beloved become one through the intensity of love. Radha and Mira had this type of love.

The last Bhava is the highest culmination of Bhakti. It is merging or absorption in the Lord. The devotee adores the Lord. He constantly remembers Him. He sings His Name (Kirtana). He speaks of His glories. He repeats His Name. He chants His Mantra. He prays and prostrates. He hears His Lilas. He does total, ungrudging, unconditional surrender, obtains His grace, holds communion with Him and gets absorbed in Him eventually.

In Madhurya Bhava, there is the closest relationship between the devotee and the Lord. There is no sensuality in Kanta and Madhurya Bhavas. There is no tinge of carnality in them. Passionate people cannot understand these two Bhavas as their minds are saturated with passion and lower sexual appetite. Sufistic saints also have the Bhava of lover and the Beloved, Madhurya Bhava. The Gita Govinda written by Jaya Deva is full of Madhurya Rasa. The language of love which the mystic uses cannot be comprehended by worldly persons. Only Gopis, Radha, Mira, Tukaram, Narada, Hafiz and similar other great devotees of the Lord can understand this language.

Puja And Ishta-Devata

Puja is the common term for ritual worship, of which there are numerous synonyms such as Archana, Vandana, Bhajana, etc., though some of these stress certain aspects of it. The object of worship is the Ishta Devata or guiding Deity or the particular form of the Deity whom the devotee worships—Narayana or Vishnu as such, or His forms as Rama and Krishna in the case of Vaishnavas, Siva in His eight forms in the case of Saivas and Devi in the case of Saktas.

The devotee selects sometimes his Kuladeva or Kuladevi, family Deva or Devi, for his worship. Sometimes, the Devata is chosen for him by his Guru or spiritual preceptor. Sometimes, he himself chooses that Devata which most appeals to him. This form is his Ishta Devata.

An object is used in the outer Puja such as an image (Pratima), a picture, or an emblem such as Saligrama in the case of Vishnu worship or Linga in the case of worship of Siva.

Whilst all things may be the objects of worship, choice is naturally made of those objects which, by reason of their effect on the mind, are more fitted for it. An image or one of the useful emblems, is likely to raise in the mind of the worshipper the thought of a Devata. Saligrama stone induces easily concentration of mind. Everybody has got predilection for a symbol, emblem or image. Idol or Murti (Vigraha), sun, fire, water, Ganga, Saligrama and Linga are all symbols or Pratikas of God which help the aspirants to attain one-pointedness of mind and purity of heart. These are all personal inclinations in the worshipper due to his belief in their special efficacy for him. Psychologically, all this means that a particular mind finds that it works best in the direction desired by means of particular instruments or emblems or images.

The vast bulk of humanity are either of impure or of weak mind. Therefore, the object of worship must be pure for these people. The objects that are capable of exciting lust and dislike must be avoided. But, a higher, advanced Sadhaka who has a pure mind and who sees the divine presence everywhere and in everything, can worship any kind of object.

In Puja, an image or picture representing some divine form is used as the object of worship. The image is adored. All image, a Sila or Vigraha or Murti, represents the particular Lord who is invoked in it. A Linga represents Siva. It represents the secondless, formless Brahman. The Sruti says: “Ekamevadvitiyam Brahma—The Brahman is one alone, without a second.” There is no duality here. A Linga is shining and attractive to the eyes. It helps concentration. Ravana propitiated Siva and obtained boons by worshipping the Linga.

A Saligrama is an idol of Vishnu. Saligrama is the symbol of Vishnu. There are images of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Karttikeya, Ganesa, Hanuman, Dattatreya, Sita, Lakshmi, Parvati, Durga, Kali, Sarasvati, etc., according to the taste of the particular devotee.

The images of Vishnu and of His Avataras, and the images of Sakti and Siva, are the popular idols that are worshipped both in temples and in the houses. The idols in the temples of Tirupati, Pandarpur, Palani, Katirgama, etc., are powerful Deities. They are Pratyaksha Devatas. They grant boons to the devotees, cure their ailments and give Darsana. Wonderful Lilas are associated with these Deities. There is no polytheism in Hinduism. Siva, Vishnu, Brahma and Sakti are different aspects of one Lord.

God reveals Himself to His devotees in a variety of ways. He assumes the very form which the devotee has chosen for his worship. If you worship Him as Lord Hari with four hands, He will come to you as Hari. If you adore Him as Siva, He will give you Darsana as Siva. If you worship Him as Mother Durga or Kali, He will come to you as Durga or Kali. If you worship Him as Lord Rama, Lord Krishna or Lord Dattatreya, He will come to you as Rama, Krishna or Dattatreya. If you worship Him as Christ or Allah, He will come to you as Christ or Allah.

You may worship Lord Siva or Lord Hari, Lord Ganesa or Lord Subrahmanya or Lord Dattatreya, or anyone of the Avataras, Lord Rama or Lord Krishna, Sarasvati or Lakshmi, Gayatri or Kali, Durga or Chandi. All are aspects of one Isvara or Lord. Under whatever name and form, it is Isvara who is adored. Worship goes to the Indweller, the Lord in the form. It is ignorance to think that one form is superior to another. All forms are one and the same. Siva, Vishnu, Gayatri, Rama, Krishna, Devi and Brahman are one. All are adoring the same Isvara. The differences are only differences of names due to differences in the worshippers, but not in the object of adoration. It is only out of ignorance that different religionists and different sects fight and quarrel amongst themselves.