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)

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)

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)

Essence of Srimad Bhagavatam by Swami Tejomayananda


Swami Tejomayananda, the principal disciple of Pujya Sri Chimayananda Swamiji Maharaj, and the president of the Chinmaya Mission Trust, will be delivering a talk on the “Essence of Srimad Bhagavatam”:

Srimad Bhagavatam (Canto 1, Chapter 3, Verse 43) declares,
 
krsne sva-dhamopagate dharma-jnanadibhih saha
kalau nasta-drsam esa puranarko’dhunditah
“The Bhagavata is as brilliant as the sun. After Sri Krsna has left for His abode, accompanied by dharma and knowledge, it has arisen to save us from the darkness of the age of Kali.”

Dates: 27.4.2011 – 30.4.2011
Time: 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm
Place: RELC Language Centre at No. 30, Orange Grove Road

Panguni Uthiram and Its Mahima


Swami Haridoss Giri Maharaj, the direct disciple of His Holiness Sri Sri Srila Gnanananda Giri Maharaj, had mentioned in one of His discourses that all days that are auspicious for the worship of Lord Shanmukha are equally important for Lord Shiva. One such day is Panguni Uthiram.

Panguni Uthiram is a highly auspicious and spiritually significant day. In the 12th month of the Tamil solar calendar, i.e., Panguni (March-April), on the day when the moon transits in the Uthiram (in Sanskrit “Uttara-phalguni”) nakshatra, it is called Panguni Uthiram. It is also a full moon day

It is a day that is important for all Hindu sects: Smarthas, Saivites, Vaishnavites, etc.

Hindu Scriptures on Panguni Uthiram

Hindu scriptures like the puranas, Ithihaas, Thevaara Pathikam and Periyapuraanam have made various references to the importance of this day.

Nayanars

Sundarar
It is on this auspicious day that Sundara Moorthi Nayanar’s wife, Paravayaar, was accustomed to distribute   money, wealth and riches in charity. (Paravayar who was none other than Kamalini, the attendant of Parvathi in Kailasa. Daily she would go to the temple and worship the Lord with faith and devotion and sing).

Sudara Moorthi Nayanar wanted to celebrate this same day with his wife by providing the Sivanadiyars all that that they wished, for—In this regard, Nayanar needed much money.
To meet this desire of his wife, the saint went to the shrine at Thiruppuhaloor and worshiped the presiding deity Lord Shiva. ELord Shiva, however, did not oblige him. The saint felt sad and sleepy. He did not want to spend the night at the near by thirumadam (pilgrims rest), hence, decided to sleep under the temple gopuram. He found some burnt clay bricks, which were  meant for the temple renovation, and used them as headrest and slept.
When he awoke in the morning, he was astonished to find the clay bricks had turned tino gold bricks! He praised the God Shiva of Thiruppuhaloor’s mercy, with a Thevara pathigam.
Gnana Sambanthar
The day is a great significance in the life of saint Gnana Sambanthar. In the village of Mylapoor lived a Chettiar named Sivnesar. He had a lovely daughter Poompavai. Hearing the greatness of the young Saint Sambanthar ,she fell in love with him, and wanted to marry him. But fate intervened when she had to be bitten by a poisonous when she was picking flowers for pooja. She died as a result. On Panguni Uthiram day,  saint Sambanthar resurrected Poompavai by offering the wonderful Thevaram Poompavai.

The Chola king, who was Nami Nandi Adigal’s contemporary, celebrated every Panguni Uttaram festival on a grand scale.

Celestial Marriages
It was on Panguni Uthiram day that the celestial marriages of Parvati (in the form of Gowri) and Parameswara, Murugan and Deivanai, Aandaal and Rangamannar, Narayana and Kamalavalli Naachiyaar had taken place. According to Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, it is on this holy day too that Sita’s marriage with Rama was celebrated. And Lord Ayyappa incarnated on this very day. Mother  Mahalakshmi incarnated on earth from milk ocean (in the wake of the ocean having been churned by the Devas and the asuras) on Panguni Uthiram—Her appearance day is celebrated as Mahalakshmi Jayanti.

Brahmaanda Purana says that on Panguni Uthiram every holy water joins Thumburu teertha, which is one of seven sacred tanks in Tirupati Tirumala.

This day underscores the preeminence, distinction and splendor of grahasta dharma (married life). On Panguni Uthiram, in all places where Lord Subrahmanya has a temple, his devotees celebrate the day with grand devotion and Muruga Bhava.

2011’s Panguni Uthiram coincides with Holi festival: In North India, it is celebrated to glorify Sri Krsna who vanquished Holika or Putana, and in the South, it is remembered for Lord Shiva’s burning Kama, the Hindu cupid.

The Philosophy And Significance Of Idol-Worship by Swami Sivananda


The following is an excerpt from Srila Sri Sivananda Maharaj’s “All About Hinduism” (pg. 110-114, Chap. 7)

 

The Idol—A Prop For The Spiritual Neophyte

Idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image-worship. The worshipper will have to associate the ideas of infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness, truth and omnipresence. It is not possible for all to fix the mind on the Absolute or the Infinite. A concrete form is necessary for the vast majority for practising concentration. To behold God everywhere and to practise the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol-worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.

A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralised. In the beginning, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.

Everyone An Idol-Worshipper

There is no reference to worship of idols in the Vedas. The Puranas and the Agamas give descriptions of idol-worship both in the houses and in the temples. Idol-worship is not peculiar to Hinduism. Christians worship the Cross. They have the image of the Cross in their mind. The Mohammedans keep the image of the Kaba stone when they kneel and do prayers. The people of the whole world, save a few Yogis and Vedantins, are all worshippers of idols. They keep some image or the other in the mind.

The mental image also is a form of idol. The difference is not one of kind, but only one of degree. All worshippers, however intellectual they may be, generate a form in the mind and make the mind dwell on that image.

Everyone is an idol-worshipper. Pictures, drawings, etc., are only forms of Pratima or the idol. A gross mind needs a concrete symbol as a prop or Alambana and a subtle mind requires an abstract symbol. Even a Vedantin has the symbol OM for fixing the wandering mind. It is not only the pictures or images in stone and in wood, that are idols but dialectics and leaders also become idols. So, why condemn idolatry?

A Medium For Establishing Communion With God

Idols are not the idle fancies of sculptors, but shining channels through which the heart of the devotee is attracted to and flows towards God. Though the image is worshipped, the devotee feels the presence of the Lord in it and pours out his devotion unto it. It is the appalling ignorance of the modern sensual man that clouds his vision and prevents him from seeing Divinity in lovely and enchanting idols of His form. The very scientific advances of this century ought to convince you of the glory of idol-worship. How are the songsters and orators confined to a small box-like thing to be called a radio? It is a mere piece of a mechanical lifeless structure which breaks into a thousand pieces if you throw it away violently; and yet, if you know how to handle it, you can hear through it, the music that is being played several thousands of miles away and the discourse that is being delivered in the remotest part of the globe. Even as you can catch the sound-waves of people all over the world through the radio receiving set, it is possible to commune with the all-pervading Lord through the medium of an idol. The divinity of the all-pervading God is vibrant in every atom of creation. There is not a speck of space where He is not. Why do you then say that He is not in the idols?

There are others who would glibly say: “Oh, God is all-pervading formless Being. How can He be confined to this idol?” Are these people ever conscious of His omnipresence? Do they always see Him and Him alone in everything? No. It is their ego that prevents them from bowing to the idols of God and, with that motive, put this lame excuse forward!

Empty vessels only make much sound. A practical man who does meditation and worship, who is full of knowledge and real devotion, keeps always silence. He influences and teaches others through silence. He only knows whether a Murti is necessary in the beginning for concentration or not.

However intellectual one may be, he cannot concentrate without the help of some symbol in the beginning. An intellectual and learned person, on account of his pride and vanity only says: “I do not like a Murti. I do not wish to concentrate on a form.” He cannot concentrate on the formless one. He thinks that people will laugh at him when they come to know that he is meditating on a form. He never does any meditation on the formless one. He simply talks and argues and poses. He wastes his life in unnecessary discussions only. An ounce of practice is better than tons of theories. Intellect is a hindrance in the vast majority of intellectual persons. They say that the existence of Brahman is a guess-work, Samadhi is a bluff of the mind and Self-realisation is an imagination of the Vedantins. Deluded souls! They are steeped in ignorance. They are carried away by their secular knowledge which is mere husk when compared to the Knowledge of the Self. There is no hope of salvation for such people. First, their wrong Samskaras should be flushed by good Samskaras through Satsanga. Then only they will realise their mistakes. May the Lord bestow on them clear understanding and thirsting for real knowledge!

A Symbol Of God

Pratima, the idol, is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it stands for something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but it stands for a soldier for something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. Just as the flag arouses martial valour in the soldier, so also the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper.

A piece of ordinary white paper or coloured paper has no value. You throw it away. But, if there is the stamp of the Government on the paper (currency note), you keep it safe in your money-purse or trunk. Even so, an ordinary piece of stone has no value for you. You throw it away. But, if you behold the stone Murti of Lord Krishna at Pandarpur or any other Murti in shrines, you bow your head with folded hands, because there is the stamp of the Lord on the stone. The devotee superimposes on the stone Murti his own Beloved Lord and all His attributes.

When you worship an image, you do not say: “This image has come from Jaipur. It was brought by Prabhu Singh. Its weight is 50 lbs. It is made of white marble. It has cost me Rs. 500/-.” You superimpose all the attributes of the Lord on the image and pray: “O Antaryamin (Inner Ruler)! You are all-pervading. You are omnipotent, omniscient, all-merciful. You are the source for everything. You are self-existent. You are Sat-Chit-Ananda. You are eternal, unchanging. You are the Life of my life, Soul of my soul! Give me light and knowledge! Let me dwell in Thee for ever.” When your devotion and meditation become intense and deep, you do not see the stone image. You behold the Lord only who is Chaitanya. Image-worship is very necessary for beginners.