Burning bridge

September 18, 2007 at 3:03 am

It was the year 1996. Hyderabad was the city. The then CM Chandrababu Naidu was on a Hyderabad beautification spree. One of the main items on his agenda was road widening. Too many encroachments and the roads had become too narrow for the growing volume of traffic. If he wanted investment to come into Hyderabad he had to make the infrastructure attractive and make it easier for people to move around within the city.

During his road widening spree, there was one thing that he religiously followed. He would go around demolishing everything in the way of his proposed wide road except places of religious worship. It could be a temple, mosque, church or a gurudwara, he would just leave alone that area of the road that’s covered by the structure and convert it into a roundabout. He did that to respect the beliefs and sentiments of the religions involved. He did not want to arouse riots in the city because of relocating a structure of religous belief. He never thought about demolishing any of them.

I only wonder why our central Government cannot have an ounce of sense while deciding to go ahead in demolishing the Rama Sethu (Adam’s Bridge)! It is connected too deeply to the sentiments of the Hindu religion. It is considered to be the bridge built by the vanarasena for Rama to cross over the sea to Lanka to bring back his kidnapped wife Sita.

Now questions like: Whether the bridge was really built by man or not? (Technically, the question should be ‘whether the bridge was really built by monkeys or not?’) OR Whether Rama existed or not? OR any other such inane question is irrelevant. Rama is a Hindu God and he needs to be respected for it. If there is something in this world that can be connected to people’s faith about Rama then it needs to be respected. You cannot go and demolish it straightaway. Apart from the sentiments, faith and belief of the Hindus, you also need to consider various other points.

  • Underwater sea life is going to be damaged
  • Danger of tsunami increases with the demolition of the bridge
  • Livelihood of the local fishermen
  • In my opinion, the Government would be committing political harakiri by going ahead with the demolition. Even the US wants to preserve the Rama Sethu. [Link] And TN CM Karunanidhi (He leads a party called DMK that’s a part of the coalition government at the centre) isn’t quite helping matters by releasing statements like these. “Who’s Ram?”, he asks. Hey Ram!

    Faith is no longer blind

    July 20, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    I have had this debate with many people for long. I had always advocated tolerance towards all religions if not acceptance. But recent developments have left me and my faith in such a philosophy questioned. And as always, it is again Islam under the scanner.

    More than the feeling of my philosophy being questioned I am wondering if I was totally wrong in the first place itself. As in was I wrong to include Islam in my list of ‘all’ religions to be tolerated? Were my friends who strongly opposed every bit of the religion right?

    Co-existence of science and God

    August 16, 2006 at 11:36 am
    An interesting article that discusses the co-existence of science and God in today’s world.
    Is God Necessary?
    Sri C.S. Ramakrishnan is a long-standing and close devotee and a former editor of The Vedanta Kesari.
    Voltaire, whose massive scholarship and keen intellect are beyond question, used to say that if God did not exist it will be necessary to invent him. He felt that many things in life and the world cannot be rationally and consistently explained without assuming the presence of God. No doubt, at the time of Voltaire science had not developed as it has subsequently. Today’s science is an Aladdin’s lamp enables us to perform phenomena, which would have been termed miracles. All manner of indescribable phenomena can be attributed to modern science. So most scientists do not share Voltaire’s views.
    It will be interesting to see what a reputed scientist like Eric Cornell, the Nobel laureate in Physics in the year 2001, has to say in this regard. He gave a very insightful lecture while getting inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Eric Cornell explained his view by accounting for a familiar pheno menon, the blue sky. He offers two types of solution. The first answer of scientific insight is the Raleigh’s law of scattering of light. Light consists of a series of coloured rays starting from red and ending in blue. The rays in the red region are long waves whereas those in the blue region are short. When the light is flowing from the sun to the earth, the rays undergo scattering. The red rays get scattered more readily than the blue ones. Therefore by the time the rays reach the earth only blue rays are left, i.e. the source appears to be blue. The sky therefore is blue. This was the discovery made by Lord Raleigh on which subsequent developments in optics took place.
    But Cornell indicates a second solution. May be God wanted the sky to be blue. You cannot question why he wanted like that. The Nobel laureate points out that Raleigh’s law of scattering explains `how’ blueness came but not why. Science always explains the `how’ of things and not the `why’ of things. While how is scientifically explained, the why finds explanation only in religion.
    Eric Cornell suggests that in a scientific class only scientific questions can be raised. For a religious answer we have to be in a religious class. He suggests that we should not confuse by asking a scientific question in a religious class and a religious question in a scientific class. Not that the two solutions are opposed to each other but each has to be applied in a separate dimension. Suppose we are talking to a friend in English we have to follow the rules of English grammar but if the talk is in Tamil it is the Tamil grammar that has to be applied. Both the grammar rules are valid and not opposed to each other. Again, suppose you have the dream of a tiger chasing you. In the dream the chase is real. But once you wake up, the dream-tiger disappears. In the wakeful state we cannot ask where the tiger has gone, though it is the same mind which is witnessing both. The Ultimate Reality is one; it may manifest itself scientifically or religiously. In what way we wish to perceive the reality, the choice is ours.

    Ramakrishna Ashram | Discourse on kathopanishads Part IV

    August 15, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    Continued from Part III

    Extending the from the types of “sukhas” quoted in the Gita, to the types quoted in the “Kathopanishads”. There are three types of “Ananda”s.

    Vishayananda: Vishaya (Poisonous things) + ananda (Happiness) = Happiness that we find in doing mundane tasks referred to as poisonous things.

    Bhajanananda: Bhajan (hymns sung in the praise of God) + ananda (Happiness) = Happiness that is derived from singing hymns in the praise of God.

    Brahmananda: Brahman (The Lord) + ananda (Happiness) = A state of Happiness where one is united with one’s own Divine Self. It is in this state of “Brahmanandam” that Ultimate Happiness lies.

    For a person to perceive an object there needs to be sunlight (or light). And there is a limitation to our sensory perceptions since there are physical limits. The limitations vary from species to species. Human eye, for example, cannot see clearly beyond a few metres whereas the eagle’s eye can see clearly upto several kilometres. The human eye can not perceive things in the dark whereas the cat/ owl can. Our eyes are not built that way. Physical dimensions of our sensory perception have limitations. And there is another added limitation without which we cannot perceive at all – “The Mind”. Our mind can influence our perceptions completely.

    Coming back to the first part of the sloka that’s being understood it means that in the state where the sun does not shine and a person cannot perceive an object but preceives the “Ultimate Happiness” is this state of “Brahmanandam”. Where the sun, moon, stars or even flashes of lightning are not present, only those minds “Antahakarana”, that are free from all internal blemishes can perceive the Ultimate Happiness.

    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “Pure mind and pure Atman is one and the same”.
    He was responding to a question from a devotee who spoke thus, “How can I perceive something that’s transcedental through this mind?”.
    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa replied, “This mind keeps hovering around everywhere. mind when completely still is no longer ‘Mind’. Our mind depends on our daily habits. The highest reality is something that has never been defined. It cannot be defined. If it can be confined to any ‘naama-roopa’ [Names and forms] then it is not the highest reality.”

    During the ritual of “Mangalarthi” in the Ramakrishna Ashram Temple we all sing “Namo nama prabhuvakyamanaateetha”.
    It can be broken into “Namo Nama Prabhu Vakya Mana Ateetha”.
    Which means “I bow to you (Namo) O Lord (Prabhu) who are beyond(Ateetha) names (Nama), sentences (vakya) and mind(Mana)”.
    These are the highest lines of praise that can possibly be. A Britisher on hearing these was lamenting how it took him hours to explain or make some one understand the deeper meaning of these words. Whereas in the Hindu way of life, it is a daily part of our lives. We sing them everyday. “Bhaja Govindam” that represents the highest truth that the Vedanta has to offer is sung with a simple arrangement of tabla and a harmonium.

    All this means that the Hindu way of life was designed to achieve the “Bhajanandam” mentioned in the Kathopanishads. Through that we just had to take the next step that is towards “Brahmanandam”. Sometimes during the stages of “Bhajanandam” the highest reality dawns on us but it goes off at a tangent because our minds are not fully prepared to receive it. All other realities/ forms of light that we come across are borrowed realities/ forms of light. This consciousness that we are trying to understand is the basis of and for Life.

    Sometimes we see a star in the night sky. We also notice that it wasn’t there yesterday. So, we give it a name and celebrate its deiscovery. But it’s also possible that the star might not exist at all in reality. The star might have been present millions of years back and it’s light might have been visible to us today. And our sensory perceptions only allow us to perceive, understand and believe it in a way that it’s present even today. Hence, senses do not give us access to the Highest Reality.

    Everything that we see is Brahman. Why we do not see Brahman is the subject of spirituality.

    Swami Vivekananda was once asked, “Why do you make us believe that God is not visible to everyone? Why do you hypnotize us into believing that we are all ignorant?”
    For which Swami Vivekananda replied, “I am in fact dehypnotizing you. I am creating an awareness in you that there is a world outside what we can perceive through our senses.”

    Spiritual Life is to know that which is beyond ouselves and begins with reforming ourselves. Spiritual Life is about cultivating an attitude of Divinity and through that bringing a change to oneself.

    Ramakrishna Ashram | Discourse on kathopanishads Part III

    August 13, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    This discourse was given on Sunday, August 13, 2006. In this article I have tried to include my learnings or my questions wherever possible.

    How is the highest reality to be perceived? Knowing the ultimate reality is not similar to knowing something through your senses. It is something that is much beyond. And knowing it will give you “Paramam Sukham” unlike happiness from sensory perceptions. For example: A man sees an apple tree. He is happy because he perceives apple to be a good thing. But when a man sees a posionous tree, his happiness doesn’t exist. Like this, happiness derived out of sensory perceptions are short-lived and temporary.

    “Paramam Sukham” is the peace that surpasses all happiness. Let us first try to understand what “sukha” is all about? In the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 18, Lord Krishna is discussing about the various kinds of sukhas.

    The first one is of the lowest kind “Tamasika“. It is born of delusion, sleep, laziness and miscomprehension. People who live in unhygenic conditions and are happy about it are examples of such kind.

    Probably, people like me who sleep at any given chance are also of this

    Let us take the example of the Lord himself, who once took the form of a pig (Varaha avtaara) and began deriving so much of happiness in that form that he forgot to come back to his original form. Lord Krishna had to remind him to come back to his original state.

    The second one is of the mediocre kind “Rajasika sukha“. Happiness emerging out of an element of restlessness and lot of activity. Any type of “sukha” that is aimed to satisfying our greed, anger, vendetta or some such emotional extremity. This kind of happiness “sukha” is characterized by the taste of nectar at first and poison towards the end.

    The third one and the highest kind “Satwika sukha”. This sukha is characterized by poison at first, but nectar at the end. Something that begins as a very difficult job but slowly we attain pleasure in it because of something that we discover in it that is more than the sensory pleasure. When we discover something more than the senses can sense then that kind of happiness is “satwika sukha”.

    A fitting example of “satwika sukha” would be that of chewing the amla fruit. it gives a distinct bitter taste at first, but if you are able to bear with it then there is the sukha of the sweet taste that it leaves in the mouth towards the end.

    Another example is that of a student studying for his exams. There are so many things to distract him from his studies. A film on the television or a film magazine or something that will give him immediate pleasure are all more attractive to him than studying for his exams. He doesn’t understand that if he studies well now, he will be able to derive more happiness later in his life. If he bears with the poison of hardwork now, he will be able to enjoy the nectar of the results later on.

    A person who understands this basic premise of postponing immediate happiness is a mature person. He has understood the principle of “satwika sukha”. It is a thought requiring utmost maturity in a person. A person who doesn’t understand this becomes a source of unhappiness for everyone around him. A person who doesn’t understand this gets into bad habits and other escapist activities qutoing immediate pleasure. These are the people who become anti-social elements.

    Ritualistic Nonsense!

    August 8, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    My wife was supposed to do some puja today and the poor thing has no idea how to go about doing one. It’s the first time ever that she is conducting a puja on her own. I belong to the category of “What puja? Why Puja?”.

    She came out of the Puja room, after completing the puja, and exclaimed, “Oh Adi, I forgot to break the coconut!”

    I broke into peals of laughter. Almost fell off the chair I was sitting on. If some elder had been in the house I can imagine what they would have made of my wife!

    Why force rituals on people? Why does she have to do it without knowing what she is doing but knowing that she HAS to do it?

    Ramakrishna Ashram | Discourse on kathopanishads Part II

    August 6, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    Continued from Part I

    Achieving Divinity is:

    To recognize the Eternal amidst the ephemeral
    And to recognize that force or power that gives the fruit of actions
    effortlessly alongwith grace.

    This power to achieve Divinity is recognized by “Dheera“. Eternal peace is for those who recognize the underlying Unity.

    “Dheera” is a very familiar word to one who is familiar with Sanskrit Holy scriptures. “Dhee” means higher intellect.

    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has an interesting similie to distinguish higher intellect from intellect. An intellect which is used for simple things like calculating profit and making money is like “thin curd”. Chchaas in hindi, Majjige in Kannada, Majjiga in Telugu and Mor in Tamil. An intellect that is focused on achieving God is like “thick curd”. Dahi in Hindi, Mosaru in Kannada, Perugu in Telugu and Thayir in Tamil.

    “Dhee” appears in the Gayatri Mantra also. “..Dheeyo yonaha prachodaya aath“.

    Somebody once asked a learned monk, “What is the immediate benefit
    of living a morally upright life?”

    The monk answered, “It sharpens and brightens the intellect. Thus making
    it ready to achieve Divinity”.

    To achieve the higher intellect we could start living a morally upright life.

    “Dheera” is a person who has turned his attention within to make the discovery of inner Reality. “Dheera” is one who is a “viveki” (One with the power of discrimination).

    The Mind is an interesting thing if you can call it one. It has the ultimate power of discrimination. But that power is dependant on the atmosphere in which the Mind is. Outside that atmosphere the mind might not be able to attain the same level or power of discrimination.

    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to give a simple example to illustrate this: A sail boat in ordinary condition can be easily directed with the help of changing the direction of sails. But when the wind is blowing heavily, it is tough to control the direction of the boat.

    Similarly the wind of Senses hijacks the “Buddhi” to somewhere else. Senses are the means to identifying the external world. Once the senses become our Master, we become their slave. Senses are like Horses tied to a chariot controlled by a charioteer called “Buddhi”. If the horses begin driving the Chariot then the charioteer should start controlling. But usually, it doesn’t happen. The horses go where they want, the charioteer just follows.

    Wherever the “Buddhi” dominates the power of will is seen. It is the “Buddhi” – the Power of discrimination to be cultivated to attain the higher intellect. The greater the Self-Control, the Greater the Buddhi.

    People are generally heard saying, “Kathopanishad says God is everywhere, then why cannot we see God?” In simple words, not everybody can see God. We are not competent “Yogyata” to see God. We need to develop the competence to see God. When a person has developed that “Dhee” – intellect and courage – only then can he make the search of Shashwatha Shantihi – Eternal Peace.

    In their ignorance people make the sin of considering, the changing as the Unchanging, impure as the Pure, Source of unhappiness as happiness and loss of Eternal Reality is mistaken to be Eternal Reality (meaning that Body is considered to be The Aatma) .

    The Original Sin is to consider the Body as the Aatma. After this sin happens, everything else just follows. Once a person is into this Sin, he gets only ephemeral happiness.

    Camels have this desire for thorny plants for food. Whenever they eat those plants they are happy that they are eating what they wanted. But those thorns prick their mouth and they start bleeding. This is ephemeral happiness.

    He, who has the ability to discriminate the Eternal from the ephemeral, destructible from the indestructible and is able to find Nitya amidst Anitya is the one will experience Shashwatha Shantihi eternal peace and not the others.

    Ramakrishna Ashram | Discourse on kathopanishads Part I

    August 6, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    After a long time I attended the discourse at Ramakrishna Ashram on Kathopanishads by Swami Atmashraddhananda. Here is a write-up of whatever I understood there. Swamiji started off with reading out the sloka and then started explaining it in his inimitable style of raising questions and answering them.

    Those who have not known the (nitya in sanskrit)Reality of eternal truth will never find peace – eternal happiness in other words. As long as we think that Reality and we are something different we will never see it. Reality is inside us, rather reality is us and we are reality. This Reality is permanent, it has no beginning and has no end. Hence it is the ONE. Eternal peace is for those who see the Reality and not for those who discriminate.

    Spirituality is a quest for the Reality. It begins with the question “Is there something Real in this world?” and finding the answer is the end of the journey. Let’s take the learning curve of a child for example. He begins with an understanding of the moving and the non-moving. A cat moves and a table doesn’t. Pleasurable and not-pleasurable is the next stage. Here he does not think whether it is beneficial or not, it is all about pleasure. Next stage is Good or Bad. And so on there are various stages. But very few people can come up with the question of Real or Unreal.

    More often than not, when a person undergoes a very strong experience is when he comes to this question of Real and Unreal. For others it is just between pleasant and unpleasant. For others it is all matter(that which can be sensed through our senses). But as per our Upanishads and other Holy writings of the Hindu Religion and according to the Lord Yama, it is Nitya from which everything has come. All material is a form of thought. The Upanishad thought varies from the mechanistic thought in this manner about Nitya.

    He, who has the ability to discriminate the Eternal from the ephemeral, destructible from the indestructible and is able to find Nitya amidst Anitya is the one will experience Shashwatha Shantihi eternal peace.

    A small story to better understand eternity and the ephemeraless. The Lord of Rightenousness Yama wanted to teach the Pandavas a lesson. While under exile, the Pandavas wandering in the forests felt thirsty and so they rested under a tree. Yudhishthira instructed Nakula and Sahadeva to find if there was any water source nearby.

    Nakula and Sahadeva climbed to the top of trees and surveyed the surrounding. They couldn’t find any water per se but they saw a certain kind of trees that grew only near water sources. This also points to the knowledge of flora and fauna that the people of those times had. They inform Yudhishtira about the same and they proceed towards the spot to find a lake.

    In the meantime, Lord Yama has taken the form of a stork and is standing nearby the lake. Sahadeva proceeds to get water for all of them. Then the stork speaks. Ok, let’s just assume that they understood each other’s language if you find a stork speaking to be so illogical. It is an altogether different topic that we don’t understand a fellow human being’s language itself! A stronger indication of the harmonious living between the flora and fauna and the human beings.

    The stork says, “I will ask you a few questions. After you answer them
    successfully, you may take water from here and go”.

    But Sahadeva is in such a thirsty state and also seeing his family members state he just ignores the stork and bends down to collect water. As soon as he comes in contact with the water, he falls down dead! The same fate befalls Nakula, Bheema and Arjuna.

    After waiting for an inordinately long time, Yudhishtira himself makes it to the lake and encounters the stork. Immediately he realises that it’s not an ordinary stork. And he pauses to take the quiz voluntered by the stork. This quiz is the famous “Yaksha Prashna” that we have come to know of. One question in that quiz was related to eternity and ephemralness.

    The Stork (in-the-form-of-Lord Yama) asked, “What is the latest
    Yudhishthira answers, “People die daily around us yet no one believes that
    he is going to die”

    Later on, Lord Yama shows his true form to Yudhishtira after being pleased with his answers. And also brings all his brothers back to life.

    The point here is that, we are Eternal (Nitya). But this Body is not. We realize that we are eternal but restrict the understanding to our body-mind consciousness and hence we are fearful. When we approach Divinty we become fearless. Identification with Anitya is why we never see the Eternal Truth.

    Continued in Part – II.

    18 Principles of a Spiritual Life | Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

    August 4, 2006 at 11:24 am
    Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is both visionary and practical. At the dawn of the new millennium, he calls for a return to the timeless values common to all religious traditions as a means to resolving conflict in the world today. He recognizes that this begins with individuals who embody those values in their own lives. In guiding people around the globe to finding this life for themselves, Sri Sri offers the eighteen principles of the spiritual path.
    When attention is given to the spiritual aspect of one’s life, it brings responsibility, a sense of belongingness, and compassion and caring for the whole of humanity. Spirit upholds and sustains life. It makes you strong and solid. It breaks down the narrow boundaries of cast, creed, religion and nationality and gives you an awareness of life present everywhere. It is only through this awareness, this uplifting of consciousness, that wars can be eliminated and human rights restored in the world today.
    How can these things be achieved? What are the main principles of a spiritual life?
    The first principle of the spiritual path is to have confidence in yourself. Without confidence, achievement does not come. Doubt is what opposes confidence. Once you eliminate the negative, you will see that the positive has already happened. When doubt clears, confidence is there. So to gain confidence, you must understand what doubt is.
    If you observe the nature of doubt, it is always about something positive. You never doubt what is negative. You know this from your experience. You doubt someone’s honesty, but you never doubt dishonesty. You doubt the goodness of other people, but you never doubt their bad qualities. If someone says, “I love you very much,” you say, “Really?” But if someone says, “I hate you,” you never say, “Do you really?”
    Understand your doubt as questioning the positive and having confidence in the negative, and know that if you are having doubt, there must be something good present. Approached in this way, doubt gives you a means to move ahead. I am not telling you to drop your doubt. Doubt as much as you can! Give it your 100%. That will help you through it. Once you cross this barrier of doubt, then further progress comes.
    Stop Blaming Others and Yourself
    The next principle is to stop blaming others and yourself. The spiritual journey is a journey to the Self, and when you are engaged in blaming yourself, you will not want to approach the Self. You will not be attracted to that. Without this movement toward the Self, toward spirit, you have a journey toward matter. The joy you get from matter is tiring. The joy you get from spirit is uplifting.
    You will find negative qualities within yourself, but you don’t need to blame yourself for them. Whenever you blame yourself, you are bound to blame the other, because self-blame cannot stand for too long. You will find reason to escape from it by hooking it onto someone else. This causes hatred to arise. And whenever you blame someone else, you are preparing again to blame yourself. There is so much blame being given today that it is dampening the consciousness of the whole world.
    Praise Other and Yourself
    The third principle is praise yourself and praise others. Praising others goes a step beyond not blaming others. Praising kindles spirit and the presence of spirit is uplifting to yourself, to the other, and the entire environment. In praising yourself or another, a space is created within you that is filled with joy.
    If you can praise yourself, you won’t need praise from others. Often we think that praising ourself is ego, but, in fact, ego cannot praise itself. Rather it hopes for praise from others. And understand that all praise goes to the Divine anyway. If you say you have beautiful eyes, who made them? Every praise goes to the Divine, the Maker.
    The act of offering praise expands consciousness. Something inside you opens up. Blaming shrinks consciousness. Since the spiritual dimension is an expansion of consciousness, of the mind, we do not want to counter that by blaming. Sincerely offer praise to someone and see how you feel.
    Sincerity is the fourth principle. In all things, be sincere. Do not fool yourself and do not try to fool anyone else. You are not on the spiritual path for anyone else’s sake. Spiritual seeking without sincerity is empty. It brings no benefits. With sincerity, it brings peace, happiness and joy you can find in no other way on this planet.
    The fifth principle of the spiritual path is responsibility. The spiritual path is not escape from responsibility, but taking responsibility. However much responsibility you have taken for your life, by that much you are on the path. If you think it is difficult to manage what has been given to you to do, more will be given! People mistakenly think that being spiritual is an escape from hard work. No. The spiritual path is marked by effective and dynamic activity.
    Let Go of the Past
    The sixth principle of spiritual life is the ability to let go of the past. See the entire past as a dream. Then you come to the present moment. You will find it is not necessary to make an effort to be in the present. The moment you let go of the past, your mind comes to the present on its own.
    In the present moment, spirit is kindled—even a little spark is made into a glow. When you cling to the past, the spark is covered with ashes. Be in the present and blow away the ashes of the past.
    You need to know how to create a harmonious environment around you. You may think that your environment creates you, but in truth, you create your environment. See that what is, is. The acceptance of what is has two aspects. The first is the acceptance of the present moment as inevitable. It has happened as it happened. If you want it to be different, it can only become different in the next moment. Only when you accept what is and become calm, can you effectively change anything.
    The second aspect is to accept other people as they are. Whatever behavior they are exhibiting, see that it is the best that they have to offer in that moment. Be analytical. Look for possible explanations for their actions. And simultaneously take responsibility for your own. In this way, acceptance becomes dynamic and your environment becomes harmonious.
    Confirmation of Your Own Death
    The eighth principle of spiritual life is confirmation of death, the understanding that you are going to die one day. Because there is something deep within us that does not die, we may not fully comprehend the fact of our own death. The confirmation of death can bring you to the present moment. It can take you out of all the small temptations that keep you away from the present. Once you know that you are going to die, then the future will not haunt you.
    Impermanence of Life
    The ninth principle is the impermanence of all that exists right now—the impermanence of situations, circumstances, emotions and people around you. Knowing that all this is impermanent raises the level of spirit. You can act with more energy, enthusiasm and vigor. We think that if we recognize that everything is impermanent, it will bring down our enthusiasm and lead us to a state of apathy. No. The correct understanding of impermanence kindles spirit. Whenever spirit is kindled, you feel uplifted. Enthusiasm and dynamism are present.
    Trust the supreme and infinite Intelligence which has formed this entire creation, from the
    cosmic display to the interplay of genes and atoms and molecules. Just in the arrangement of electrons, something becomes a flower and something else becomes a stone, something is gold and something else is charcoal.
    See that there is a basic substratum, an underlying intelligence, a unity, in this entire creation. And see that it is lively. We don’t see the universe as a living thing. We see only matter everywhere; in our eyes only objects appear. We know there is a magnetic field in creation, but we often see it as a dead field. Pure consciousness, that which is the basis of mind, that of which you are a part and everyone else is a part, is such a field and it is alive. Understanding, accepting and trusting the Intelligence which creates and sustains all things is the tenth principle of spiritual life.
    Unity in Creation
    When the human mind is stressed and tense, it judges, discriminates, loves this, doesn’t love that, makes boundaries. And in so doing, it removes itself from existence. This removal of existence from the flow of existence is called separation, but it is only apparent. Separation from existence is not possible. If a portion of a circle is removed, there is no longer a circle. See that you are part of existence, a fragment of the expression of the supreme Intelligence, the unifying force which underlies all of creation, all that is. This is the eleventh principle.
    Your Nature is Love and Peace
    When you understand the unity in creation, you don’t have to make an effort to love others. Love is your nature. Love is what there is. Nothing other than love exists. See that love is not an action that you do, not a moral obligation that you must carry out. See that you exist in love and everything else exists in love.
    And know that peace is also your nature. At any moment, in any place, you can just sit and let go, knowing inside you there is a pure clear space, vast and deep. That inner space is what you are. When you feel this, you are in touch with your spiritual dimension.
    “I have come from peace, I am in peace, I’ll go back to peace. Peace is my origin and my goal. I am peace, I am space, I am love” This inner affirmation or experience makes you a seeker. Knowing that your nature is love and peace is the twelfth principle.
    The thirteenth principle of spiritual life is finding a balance between activity and rest—between enjoying your world and coming back to your self, and finding a balance between silence and speech. If you kept silent all your life, never uttering a word, you would not necessarily be living the spiritual life. You have been given speech. You have been given talents and abilities. Make right use of these things you have been given and balance that with meditation, the self-referral aspect of your consciousness.
    Self Enquiry
    Self-enquiry is the next principle of spiritual life. Start with awareness of the feeling of your own body —your own skin, the feeling of your skin under your garments, and under the skin your muscles and nerves and then bones. Do not be insensitive to life, like an animal who only eats, drinks and sleeps. Observe every sensation. Have the keenest awareness. In knowing your own body, you will come to know spirit—that which is different from the body.
    Dispassion and Maturity
    Keen awareness comes with maturity, or you could say, with dispassion. Maturity and dispassion come together. You cannot be mature and not be dispassionate also. Dispassion is often wrongly understood to be a flat, dull state of mind or a negative mood. It has the connotation of being aloof and disinterested. This is not true. In dispassion, you are aware; you are intimate with yourself. In maturity there is no fevershness. In maturity there is royalty, there is freedom, there is understanding, there is mystery. This is the fifteenth principle of spiritual life, gaining dispassion and living maturely.
    Appreciation of Beauty
    The sixteenth principle of spiritual life is to acknowledge the beauty in creation, the beauty in every person, the beauty within you, and to know this beauty in the nature of spirit. The mind runs after beauty, appreciates beauty, but there is a difference between appreciating beauty and wanting to possess it. In wanting to possess beauty, we lose our dispassion.
    Know it is spirit that is beautiful. Wherever you perceive beauty, spirit is there. If someone is beautiful, it is because of the spirit in them. A dead body is never beautiful. Attributing beauty to spirit and differentiating that from matter takes you a long way on the spiritual path.
    Worshipfulness and Honor
    The appreciation of beauty brings worshipfulness. You worship beauty, you adore it. Adoring and worshiping everything in creation as a reflection of the Creator is the next principle of spiritual life.
    And honor everything. Honoring is more than an emotional response. It is an attitude. It indicates a balanced understanding of life. When respect and love are both present, that brings honor. When there is honor, the mind is one hundred percent present and a sense of sacredness comes. Love and respect bring honor and honor brings sacredness. You cannot feel for something and not feel its sacredness. Sacredness brings alertness in the consciousness. Awareness comes.
    Life is Imperishable
    The final principle of spiritual life is knowing that life is imperishable. This is totally contradictory to the principle of knowing that life is impermanent, that everything is perishable. Now we say that life is imperishable; nothing can happen to it. Truth is always contradictory.
    Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, a United Nations Non-Governmental Organization, and is the inspiration behind numerous charitable organizations focused on service and the promotion of human values. In 1982, Sri Sri began to teach Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique that eliminates stress and brings one completely into the present moment. Today this program is taught in over 142 countries around the world as part of the Art of Living Course. More information is available at www.artofliving.org.

    What is Success in Life?

    May 1, 2006 at 1:49 pm
    Success in Life

    There was a talk on “What is Success in Life?” by Swami Dayananda Saraswathi yesterday at K.L.N. Prasad Auditorium, Hyderabad. I will try to articulate the 40-minute speech here. The learned and well-versed Swamiji laced his speech with characteristic humour and made it sound quite down-to-earth. Though I felt he could have avoided unnecessary swipes at other religions, as my uncle said after the speech, “Somebody needs to protect Hinduism too”. Maybe it’s true. I am thinking.

    The Chief Guest of the evening, Hon’ble Justice L. Narasimha Reddy tried interpreting the topic in his way and gave his ideas on it. He said, “Success is something that is achieved on meeting Goals. An individual fixes a goal before starting out and at the end if he has achieved whatever he had set for himself, then success is achieved.” Fair enough we thought. We applauded.

    Then Swamiji began.

    What is Success? You have a desire. You achieve it. If the means of achieving that desire are within the confines of Dharma, then it is a success. That’s all. That’s why you need people like hon’ble Justice! [Pointing to the chief guest of the day!Audience is impressed. Laughter all around. Appluase follows!]

    In life, we play multiple roles. A father, an employee, a son, etc. There are homes in which “Father is coming” is announced as if some ghost is coming. And as if on cue, the children rush into their rooms hiding from their father. Everybody is running to take shelter somewhere. The only person to come out is ‘the dog’ of the house! Ah! What a success! [Audience is in splits! Applause follows!] In some cases, even the dog runs for shelter! [More laughter, more applause!] With the tail in between its legs! [Laughter! Applause!]

    There are some religions where it is preached, “Don’t have any desires. Be desire-less. The state of desireless-ness is happiness. Between the fulfilment of one desire and the beginning of another desire is defined as happiness.”

    Don’t have any desires is like saying,”You are having an headache? Cut off your head!”. Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Now you laughed. What desire did you fulfill you tell me?! You were happy, you laughed. Sometimes, happiness can also be achieved by not fulfilling any desire.

    Have desires. It is healthy to have desires. If you have desire you will experience failure. You will learn how to come out of it. You will grow as a person. But make sure the means to achieve your desire is within the confines of Dharma.

    We, human beings, have two things to do. We have to survive, and take care of ourselves to follow Dharma. Because there are predators all around. Be careful. They are waiting to prey on you.

    But we have one more thing to do. “Make-up”. If we don’t have hair, we do some farming on our head to help hair growth. If we have some hair left, then we need to comb it from one side to another. If we have to hear a swamiji speak we need to comb our hair, put on a good dress and come. So, that means we have three things to do. Survive, take care and make-up! [Audience is almost on the floor laughing!]

    What is Dharma you might ask. The Dharma being referred to here is Samanya Dharma. Lord Krishna has said, “I manifest myself in the form of desire in you. I am desire”. But before that he says, “I manifest myself in you as Samanya Dharma”.

    What is Samanya Dharma? In order to have a desire you need to examine if it falls under the confines of Samanya Dharma. It is something like the “Law of Gravitation” that a baby monkey knows. Have you ever seen a Mother monkey tell it’s baby monkey, “See, you will need to hold on to me tightly. Otherwise gravitation will pull you down and you will fall”. Have you ever seen a baby monkey ask, “What is gravitation?”!

    Similar to the knowledge of gravitation to a monkey, is the Samanya Dharma to a Hindu. Why is it called “Samanya”? Because it is “Samana” to all. “Samana” means common to all. It exists in everybody. In Hinduism, ends does not justify means. Never. The means have to be as righteous as the end being achieved.

    Finally, success is following Dharma to achieve a desire.
    [Applause! Applause! Applause!]