Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vedic Tells

    Vedanta literally means the last section of the Vedas (the sacred books of the Hindus) or it may mean the ultimate knowledge. The Upanishads and the Brahma-Sutras are the basic texts of Vedanta. The Gita which is a part of the epic called Mahabharata, is considered a text containing the principal vedantic points. Vedanta has undergone an evolution during the last four millenniums to become the principal element of what came to be known in course of time as Hinduism. But since the ninth century the Vedanta has increased its amplitude of influence and englobed all the other branches of Hinduism. From the doctrinal point of view, all the paths in Hinduism are but the difference nuances of Vedanta, within respective ritualistic particularities.

     Vedanta accepts the laws of karma, reincarnation and kalpa (periodic creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe). Vedantists hold that the soul is divine (either because of its identity with the Absolute in the advaitic or monistic tradition, or because it is derived from the Eternal in the dvaitic or dualistic tradition). In the language of Swami Vivekananda "the goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy - by one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details." Rightly has it been pointed out by Mr. J.-C. Demariaux in his book entitled Pour Comprendre l'Hindouisme: The Upanishads have always been a clean success in the West since the first translations in Latin done by the French orientalist A.H. Anquetil - Duperron (1731-1805). They left an indelible influence on A. Schopenhauer. Historically, as a matter of fact, it is through the Upanishads that Europe has discovered Indian philosophy and wisdom."


Manipura chakra

The Vedas are considered the earliest literary record of Indo-Aryan civilization, and the most sacred books of India. They are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings, and contain spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of our life. Vedic literature with its philosophical maxims has stood the test of time and is the highest religious authority for all sections of Hindus in particular and for mankind in general.
“Veda” means wisdom, knowledge or vision, and it manifests the language of the gods in human speech. The laws of the Vedas regulate the social, legal, domestic and religious customs of the Hindus to the present day. All the obligatory duties of the Hindus at birth, marriage, death etc. owe their allegiance to the Vedic ritual. They draw forth the thought of successive generation of thinkers, and so contain within it the different strata of thought.

Origin of the Vedas

The Vedas are probably the earliest documents of the human mind and is indeed difficult to say when the earliest portions of the Vedas came into existence. As the ancient Hindus seldom kept any historical record of their religious, literary and political realization, it is difficult to determine the period of the Vedas with precision. Historians provide us many guesses but none of them is free from ambiguity.

Who wrote the Vedas?

It is believed that humans did not compose the revered compositions of the Vedas, which were handed down through generations by the word of mouth from time immemorial. The general assumption is that the Vedic hymns were either taught by God to the sages or that they were revealed themselves to the sages who were the seers or “mantradrasta” of the hymns. The Vedas were mainly compiled by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana around the time of Lord Krishna (c. 1500 BC)


  1. Triguna · elevation of personality in accordance with the three cosmic effective forces

  2. Karma & Dharma · Rising from the state of being to an ideal life

  3. Atma · The perception of the eternal self

  4. Paramatma · The higher connection with the Superself

  5. Samadhi · The perfection of life in relation with the Supreme


|| An Ecological View of Ancient Vedic Era ||

:: History and Ecology ::

Ecology is beginning to define how we look at the world and how we look at ourselves. Each geographical region in the world constitutes a special ecosystem – an interrelated habitat for plants and animals shaped by climate and terrain. These ecological factors have a strong effect on culture as well.

As part of nature ourselves, society arises out of an ecological basis that we cannot ignore. Most of civilization, both in its advance and decline, reflects how people are able to manage the ecosystems in which they live and their natural resources. Human culture derives largely from its first culture, which is agriculture, our ability to work the land. This depends largely on water, particularly fresh water that is found in rivers, and flat land that can be easily irrigated.

However, so far we have looked at history mainly in a non-ecological way, trying to define it according to political, economic or racial concerns. Our account of ancient history, particularly that of India, has not afforded an adequate regard to ecological factors. It has put too much weight on migration, as if culture came from the outside, rather than on the characteristics and necessities of the ecosystems in which people live and must rely upon for developing their way of life.

The Aryan invasion theory is such a product of the pre-ecological age of historical theory that emphasized the movements of peoples over the natural development of culture within well-defined geographical regions. Nineteenth century thought, the product of a colonial age, found it easy to see culture as something brought in by intruders, rather than as developed by the inhabitants of a region who had to develop unique methods to harness their natural resources as shaped by the ecology around them.

:: Ancient River Civilizations and India, the Land of the Rivers ::

It is a well known fact that the main civilizations of the ancient world of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India (Indus Valley), and China were only possible because of the great river systems around which they developed. The rivers made these civilizations possible, not simply human invention or any special ethnic type who migrated there.

If we examine these four great riverine centers of early civilization it is clear that the largest and most ideal river region in the world for developing civilization is India. Egypt grew up around one great river, the Nile that flowed through what was otherwise a dry, rainless desert. Mesopotamia had two rivers but only of moderate size, the Tigris and Euphrates, flowing through a large desert as well. Both Egypt and Mesopotamia were in subtropical regions that provided abundant warmth and sunshine for crops, but otherwise suffered from the limited size of their one or two river banks that were their sole steady. China had one large but unpredictable river, the Yellow River, which frequently overflowed it banks in various floods. It also received abundant rain. But it was centered in a cold northern region, with a limited growing season.

India, on the other hand, had a massive nexus of numerous great rivers from the Indus in the West to the swamplands of the Gangetic delta in the East. It had both a warm subtropical climate and seasonal abundant rains. This river region included relatively dry regions of the northwest to the very wet regions of eastern India affording an abundance of crops both in type and quantity. The Indian river system was much larger in size and arable land, and better in climate than perhaps all the other three river regions put together. No other region of the world could so easily serve to create an agricultural diversity or the cultural richness that would go with it.

Ecologically speaking, north India was the ideal place in the world for the development of a riverine civilization via agriculture. Bounded by the Himalayas in the north, and mountains on the West, East and South, this north Indian river plain is a specific geographical region and ecosystem, whose natural boundaries could easily serve to create and hold together a great civilization. It was also ideal for producing large populations that depend upon agriculture for their sustenance.

This same network of rivers was ideal for communication. Not surprisingly, the Rig Veda, the oldest book of the region, is full of praise for the numerous great rivers of the region, the foremost of which in early ancient times was the Sarasvati, which flowed east of the Yamuna into the Rann of Kachchh, creating an unbroken set of fertile rivers from the Punjab to Bengal. This Vedic Goddess of speech was a river goddess. The Vedic idea of One Truth but many paths (Rigveda I.164) probably reflects this experience of life of many rivers linked to the one sea.

:: The Need for An Ecological View of India’s History ::

The main point of this article is that if we really want to understand the development of civilization in ancient India we cannot ignore such ecological and geographical factors. Ancient India was the ideal ecological region for the development of civilization in the ancient world. Therefore, we should look to an indigenous development of civilization in the region. We need not import its people, animals, plants, culture or civilization from the outside, particularly from barren and inhospitable Central Asia, for example, which would not have been suitable to India and which is separated from it geographically by very hard to cross mountain and desert barriers.

We need to take a new ecological look at the Vedas, which so far has not been examined adequately ecologically but has been approached mainly according to linguistic, Marxist or Freudian concerns that easily miss the obvious geography or ecology of the text. If we do this, we will discover that even the oldest Vedic text, the Rig Veda, clearly describes a region of many vast rivers flowing to the sea, the most important of which was the Sarasvati. The climate that it describes of great rains and monsoons, the symbolism of the great God Indra, is also clearly that of India. The flora and fauna mentioned including the Brahma bull, water buffalo and elephant and its sacred trees of the Pipal, Ashvatta and Shamali is also that of India.

The fall of the Indus or Harappan culture, just as was the case for many in the ancient world, was owing to ecological factors, something that nineteenth and early twentieth century migrationist views of history completely missed. It occurred not because of the destruction wrought by the proposed Aryan invaders but by ecological changes brought about by the drying up of the Sarasvati River around 1900 BCE. This didn’t end civilization in the region but caused its relocation mainly to the more certain waters of the Ganga to the east. Such a movement is reflected in the shift from Vedic literature that is centered on the Sarasvati to the Puranic literature that is centered on the Ganges.

The great Indian river system from the Panjab to Bihar is perhaps the greatest breadbasket or agricultural center in the world. Any humans in the region would have been aided by the land, the waters and the climate, affording them a great advantage in the development of language and culture as well. The natural resources provided by the riverine ecosystem of north India could uphold great civilizations over the centuries. From it the peoples and literature of the region had adequate support from nature to sustain their traditions.

:: Southern River Regions ::

The type of civilization developed in the rivers of north India could easily connect with the cultures developing on the rivers in the south of the country that shared a common climate and geographical ties. The other main great river region for India is the basins of the Krishna and Godavari rivers in the southeast of India, particularly Andhra Pradesh. This provides another important agricultural center in the ancient world, which has also not been examined properly.
Another important river area is the Narmada and Tapti rivers in Gujarat and Maharashtra. As these were nearby the delta of the Sarasvati, they could have been an extension of it (which is perhaps why the Bhrigu Rishis of this region are so important in Vedic literature).

That the civilization of north India could have had connections with these southern cultures is also ecologically based. For this we must consider the ecological factors that existed when agriculture began to arise in the world around 10,000 BCE. Before the end of the Ice Age north India was much drier and cooler in climate. This means that if there was any pre-Ice Age basis for agriculture in north India it would have more likely come from these more suitable southern river regions which had better rainfall at that time.

:: Conclusion ::

We need to look at the civilization of India according to geographical and ecological imperatives that are far more certain than historical speculation conditioned by simplistic ideas of ethnicity, linguistics or migrations. In this regard the study of the Sarasvati river system by the geologists of India and linking it to the Sarasvati in Vedic literature is probably the key.
Civilization is like a plant that owes its existence to the land on which it grows. We cannot ignore this important fact either for our past or for our future. The current government of India plan to link all the great rivers of the country represents such a responsible ecological approach which, including reconstituting the old Sarasvati river channel, links the great future of the country with its great past.

- An article by Pandit Vamadeva 


|| The summary of non-dualistic philosophy - Atma-Shatakam ||

The non-dualistic philosophy (Advaita Vedanta) has been beautifully summarized by the great Hindu scholar and philosopher Ādi Śankarācārya in just six stanzas. This famous poem is popularly known as Atma-Shatakam (also known as Nirvana Shatakam).

According to the legends, Ādi Śankarācārya, at a young age of eight years, traveled towa
rds North India from Kerala in search of his guru. While wandering in the Himalayas, seeking to find his guru, he encountered a sage who asked him, "Who are you?” He replied with an extempore Composition (the Atma-Shatakam) that brought out the Advaita Vedanta philosophy – the essence of which is that "Nirvana" is complete equanimity, peace, tranquility, freedom and joy. "Atma" is the True Self. The sage the boy was talking to was Swami Govindapada Acharya, who was, indeed, the teacher he was looking for.

मनो बुद्धि अहंकार चित्तानी नाहं
नच श्रोत्र जिव्हे नच घ्राण नेत्रे
नच व्योम भूमि न तेजो न वायु
चिदानंद रूपः शिवोहम शिवोहम ||1||

Mano Buddhi Ahankara Chitta Ninaham
Nacha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghrana Netre
Nacha Vyoma Bhoomir Na Tejo Na Vayu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

I am not mind, Intellect, Ego, and Seat of consciousness. Neither I am ear and tongue nor I am nose and eyes. Neither I am sky or earth nor I am power or wind. I am the eternal bliss, I am Shiva, the Auspicious.||1||

नच प्राण संज्ञो न वै पञ्चवायुः
न वा सप्तधातु: नवा पञ्चकोशः
न वाक्पाणिपादौ न च उपस्थ पायुः
चिदानंदरूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||2||

Na Cha Prana Samjno Na Vai Pancha Vayu
Na Va Saptadhatur Na Va Pancha Koshah
Na Vak Pani Padau Na Chopastha Payu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

I am not the state of being alive or the five type of Vayu. Neither I am the seven elements constituting the body (Dhatu) nor I am the five sheaths which invest the soul. Neither I am voice, hand, or leg nor I am Genitals. I am the eternal bliss, I am Shiva, the Auspicious.||2||

नमे द्वेषरागौ नमे लोभ मोहौ
मदों नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभावः
न धर्मो नचार्थो न कामो न मोक्षः
चिदानंदरूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||3||

Na Me Dvesha Ragau Na Me Lobha Mohau
Mado Naiva Me Naiva Matsarya Bhavah
Na Dharmo Na Chartho Na Kamo Na Mokshah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

I have not envy and passion nor greed and attachment. Neither I am intoxication nor I am jealous. And I am neither Dharma (righteousness,Duty), nor Artha (Material Wealth), Nor Kama (Desire), nor Moksha (Liberation). I am the eternal bliss, I am Shiv,the Auspicious.||3||

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दु:खं
न मंत्रो न तीर्थं न वेदों न यज्ञः
अहम् भोजनं नैव भोज्यम न भोक्ता
चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||4||

Na Punyam Na Papam Na Saukhyam Na Dukham
Na Mantro Na Teertham Na Vedo Na Yajnaha
Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhokta
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

There is nothing Punya (Virtuous deed), Paap (Vicious Deed), Saukhya (Wellbeing/Happiness), or Dukha (Grief) for me. Neither I am Hymns nor any Holy Place nor I am the Veda nor the oblation. I am not the Experience, nor the Experiencer nor the Experienced. I am eternal bliss, I am Shiv,the Auspicious.||4||

नमे मृत्युशंका नमे जातिभेद:
पिता नैव मे नैव माता न जन्म
न बंधू: न मित्रं गुरु: नैव शिष्यं
चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||5||

Na Me Mrityu Shanka Na Me Jati Bhedah
Pita Naiva Me Naiva Mata Na Janma
Na Bandhur Na Mitram Gurur Naiva Shishyah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Neither I have the fear of death nor I have the difference between Races/Castes. Neither I have [any relation like] father, mother, nor I am born. I am not a relative, nor a friend, a teacher (Guru), or a student (Shisya) of anyone. I am the eternal bliss, I am Shiv,the Auspicious.||5||

अहम् निर्विकल्पो निराकार रूपो
विभुर्व्याप्य सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम
सदा मे समत्वं न मुक्ति: न बंध:
चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम ||6||

Aham Nirvikalpo Nirakara Roopaha
Vibhur Vyapya Sarvatra Sarvendriyanam
Sada Me Samatvam Na Muktir Na Bandhah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

I am eternal and changeless, and lack all the qualities and form. I envelope all forms from all sides and am beyond the cognition of sense-organs. I am always in the state of equality — there is no liberation (Mukti) nor Bondage (Bandha). I am the eternal bliss state, I am Shiv, the Auspicious.||6||

- Adi Shankaracharya (8th century CE)

The depth of each word used in this masterpiece unravels as we go on learning the meanings of the verses. First 5 stanzas, Shankara describes all the attributes of physical and spritual world and says that the "I" of every person is beyond material and spiritual world. In last line of every stanza, poet says, "I" actually is - "चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम" - "I am the eternal bliss state, I am Shiv, the Auspicious" .

If we look at the meaning of this recurring phrase closely, we face a deluge of information and we grasp the flight of the creativity of this man.

नन्द - Nanda - propitious
आ - Aa - Towards, from all sides

आनंद - Aananda - Propitiousness from all sides...

चित्त - Chitta - Derived from word root - चित् - Chit - to percieve.
Same word root forms the word - चेतना - Chetana which is power of perception.
चित्त - Chitta becomes faculty/tool of perception. Energy which makes perception possible is Chitta. It should be noted that there are two conditions for this. Perception is only possible in presence of
a) Subject (one who is percieving - self or "I")
b) Object (one which is being percieved - universe)

An energy which makes perception possible is the one which is responsible for existence of both a and b.

Is Chitta (चित्त) same as Maanas(मानस) or mind?
No... it is something which transcends mind... Perception is linked with ego ("I") OR ahamkar(अहंकार) OR aatman(आत्मा)... Without sense of 'I', there can be no perception... So, looking closely, chitta(चित्त) is that feature which enables perception, that is 'I' or the Aatman(आत्मा)... Chetana(चेतना) is power of perception which comes from 'Chitta'(चित्त) and enables us to 'Chit'(चित्) or to percieve.

रूप - Roop - Image

Shiva - शिव - Auspicious.

Thus, चिदानंद रूप: शिवोहम शिवोहम actually translates as "I am that auspicious form of Chitta (Energy) which is surrounded by propitiousness from all sides". In other words, state of complete and perfect equianimity where all duality vanishes and complete Advaita (Non-duality) is established with Kaivalya (Singularity).

|| The Four-Fold Spiritual Wealth: A Prerequisite for Vedanta ||

To avail full benefit from any branch of knowledge, one has to have the prerequisite qualifications to ensure complete fulfillment in that particular field. This is known in Sanskrit as ‘Adhikara.’ For example, the part of Vedic literature dealing with rituals (Mimamsa) states that only a person with the following four qualification

s is eligible for performing Vedic Karmas (sacrifices etc) and their fruits thereof:

1). He should have the desire to perform the Vedic Karma (in order to obtain the desired fruits).

2). He should be competent to perform the Karma.

3). He should understand the secret behind the Karma (Karma Rahasya).

4). He should not be prohibited by the scriptures against performing that particular Karma.

Going further, the science of ‘Moksha’, or liberation, better known as Vedanta too requires a qualified seeker to attain full benefit from it. Only the one who is qualified for it can attain Moksha. However, only a very few people are interested in Moksha, because the majority of us live under the illusion that happiness is the result of fulfilling worldly desires, while Moksha is something which has no trace of ‘wordliness’ in it, and this is what frightens us, making us believe that Moksha is not our cup of tea at all.

What is needed for preparing the requisite ground entitling us to the study of Vedanta? Is it necessary to have performed Vedic rituals, or to have made an enquiry into the nature of Dharma (Dharma Jijnansa)? To all these questions Bhagavan Shankaracharya answers an unequivocal ‘No’. However, another set of qualifications is emphasized by him, which is both sufficient and necessary. This is known as ‘Sadhan Chatushtaya’, or the four-fold wealth of Sadhana (spiritual practice). It must be remembered here that acquiring this four fold wealth is extremely difficult because it depends upon the continuity of purifying Karmas performed by the seeker in his past lives. The Bhagavad Gita says: ‘One cannot transcend Karma, without performing Karma’ (3.4).

The Four-Food Spiritual Wealth consists of the following:

1). The ability to discriminate between that which is permanent and that which is impermanent (Nitya-Anitya-Vastu-Viveka).

2). Non-Attachment to the fruits of actions, in this world and the next (Iha-Amutra-Phala-Bhoga-Vairagya).

3). The Six Virtues like control of mind etc (Shata-Sampatti).

4). A sustained desire to achieve Moksha (Mumukshutva).

1). The Ability to Discriminate:

Viveka is the human ability to accept what is conclusively decided to be right, rejecting that which is identified as wrong after a proper analysis. What exactly is the nature of the Viveka which is required for pursuing (attaining) Moksha?

Indeed Moksha is a state of permanent, untainted, and unparalleled Ananda-Happiness. But the happiness derived from this world is not so. It is in fact the exact opposite, being momentary, tainted with many faults, meager and limited. This is obvious because this happiness is dependent on worldly objects which are by nature non-permanent. How can a permanent state of happiness be derived from a non-permanent object? Not only this, we all know that to derive pleasure, there needs to be a contact between the sense organs and the object in question. Therefore, there is an amount of effort required in this engagement which eventually leads to exhaustion and hence the joy gained is not long lasting.

Further, the pleasure does not persist all the time even when such a contact is in place. Only God knows His own Lila that the pleasure gained from the contact between a sense organ and an object sustains only for a limited period of time. Indeed, desire for an object seems to disappear when it is fulfilled and the fulfillment also disappears before long. Even then, the fulfilled desire does not reappear for a long time. Therefore, the seeker of Moksha comes to the firm conclusion that everything in this world is non-permanent. Keeping this always in mind, the seeker drops the craving for anything which is fleeting. The Vedas state that only Brahman is permanent. One should always remember this. Gradually then there takes place a detachment from the impermanent and attachment towards that which is permanent. This is the discriminative understanding known as Nitya-Anitya-Vastu-Viveka. Such a discrimination can never surface in one who is sinful in thought and deed. The Gita says: ‘Only those whose sins have been terminated by virtuous deeds are able to worship and pursue me firmly’ (7.28). This is Krishna’s own voice. Hence it is clear that such a discriminating faculty is found only in those who have obtained the grace (Kripa) of God through virtuous deeds (Punya Karma). Therefore, an aspirant should invoke the grace of God through Punya-Karma and through direct contact with saints and sages, Mahatmas who are already blessed with such a grace.

2). Non Attachment to the Fruits of Action:
As Viveka gets more and more rooted, detachment towards momentary pleasures becomes prominent and perpetual. According to the Viveka Chudamani:

The deer meets death through its attachment to sound. The elephant is caught by its desire for touch. The moth meets death due to its fascination for a sight. The fish dies due to its relationship with taste. The black bee meets death due to its fascination for smell. (Verse 78)

A deer can be caught by enticing it with sweet sounds like those of a flute. Upon hearing the flute, the deer stands motionless, entranced; an elephant, during the mating season, is easily lured by the touch of a female elephant; a moth is attracted to the light of a flame not knowing that if it falls into it it will burn; a fisherman baits a hook, and a bee is attracted to the odor of a flower.

Each of these creatures gets into a death trap due to attachment to a single sense object. What then can be said about humans who hanker after not one but five sense objects? Without the ability to discriminate between what is permanent and what is transient, believing sensory pleasures to be paramount, man has become a beast.

Compared to these extremely short-lived worldly physical pleasures, the heavens gained by performing Vedic Yajnas (sacrifices) are indeed lavish and lasting. However, they too are time-bound and hence impermanent. The Gita says:

‘After the Punya is exhausted they fall again from the heavens into the world of mortals’ (9.21).

Therefore, the seeker of Moksha should not strive for more than what is sufficient to sustain his life. Vairāgya matures to this state only when one lives with minimum possessions. This is the true meaning of detachment, which is defined as the mental state of giving up everything by one’s own choice.

3). The Six Virtues:
The Six Virtues (Shata Sampatti) are:

a). Controlling the Mind (Shama):

To achieve any aim in life, it is very important to remove the mind from its objects of desire and fix it unmovingly on the aim. This firmness of the mind is Shama.

b). Control of the Senses (Dama):

Controlling the outer senses is known as Dama. The seeker of Moksha should, while increasing his sense perception of God, constantly and forcefully prevent his organs of knowledge like the eyes (Jnana Indriyas) and organs of action like speech (Karma Indriyas) from indulging in their objects of desire. This is what constitutes Dama. It is only after Dama is perfected that Shama can be attained.

c). Satiety in the Enjoyment of Sense-Objects (Uparati):

It is through the sense organs that we enjoy an object. It is by Karma that we are able to acquire the desired sense objects. Therefore, the one who always hankers after sensory enjoyment is constantly involved only in performing actions (Gita 2.70). Contrary to this, the aspirant of Moksha withdraws from Karma and revels in God. This is knows as Uparati. On account of this feeling in his mind, the aspirant of Moksha ultimately becomes a Sannayasi (ascetic).

d). Endurance (Titiksha):

Man suffers from three types of pains. This is called ‘Tapa-traya’ (three-fold pain). On account of the body there is the ‘Adhyatmika-tapa’ in the mind. Natural causes like rain, sun etc. cause ‘Adhidaivika-tapa’. Scorpions, tigers etc. are the source of ‘Adhibhautika–tapa’. These all happen according to one’s previous actions (Prarabdha Karma). Commonly man tries to escape from them. When he is unable to do so, he begins to hate them. This is but natural. However the aspirant of Moksha does not view them with hatred. He endures them while progressing in the direction of his spiritual practice towards Moksha. This type of endurance is known as Titiksha.

e). Faith (Shraddha):

To understand this we need to keep two things in mind. Firstly, the nature of Moksha cannot be inferred using our own minds because it is beyond our mental faculties. Therefore it has to be known through the Vedas only. Secondly,no one, no matter how talented or qualified he or she may be, it is impossible to study the Vedas on one’s own. The Vedas can be understood only with the help of a Guru. Hence, for the seeker of Moksha, there is no way other than the Guru and the Vedas. Keeping this in mind, we should have complete faith in the words of both the Vedas and our Guru. This faith is known as Shraddha. The word itself is made of two components: Shrat mean truth, and Dha, means bearing it. Therefore, the faith necessary for bearing the truth is known as Shraddha. The Gita says: ‘shraddhavan labhate jnanam’ (4.39) - A man of faith can attain knowledge.

f). Proper Concentration (Samadhana):

Samadhana means keeping the mind in balanced concentration (sama-dhana). In what? In God and Guru. Generally it is seen that people behave only in such a manner that vitiates the mind. But contact with God or the Guru is of the opposite nature. These kinds of contacts divert the mind from the passions occupying it and the resulting concentration provides him peace. The equanimity of the mind obtained from fixing it on God and Guru is known as Samadhana.

4). An Intense Desire for Salvation (Mumukshutva)

Generally human existence is plagued with miseries only. Unable to face them, some unwise people commit suicide. They think that by doing so they will gain eternal freedom from miseries. Nothing could be far from the truth. Their suicide rather than ending their miseries becomes a source of even more grief. This is because our present suffering is a result of our misdeeds either in this birth or the previous ones. Ending our body without first annihilating our sins by undergoing the miseries confronting us, is to act like the prisoner who escapes from prison without first completing his full term. His sentence is increased even more. Thus suicide leads to even more miseries. Hence the fulfillment of human life lies in maintaining faith in Dharma while facing life’s miseries. Keeping this in his mind, the seeker with an intense desire for salvation (Mumukshu), realizing that in essence this world is but misery only, transfers his attention from the world to Moksha. Moksha is nothing but complete freedom from all bondages and miseries. This is not like the heavens (Swarga) we gain after death. Nor is it impermanent like Swarga. Moksha is attainable while living itself. It is permanent, and should be obtained by discriminating between the permanent and the transient, detachment, control of the mind etc. and listening to Vedanta from the mouth of an authorized Guru.
।। तंत्र , नाद, मात्रिका और मंत्र ।।

|| Tantra, Naad, Matrika and Mantra ||

Tantra is perhaps the most talked about, but the least understood of Indian philosophies. Its paths and practices are believed to be mysterious, and any attempt to understand it becomes difficulty due to the difficult nature of the subject itself, and the secrecy over the keys to its terminology and methods

A proper definition of Tantra is critical to understand the subject. The word ‘Tantra’ is formed from the Sanskrit root tn! which means ‘to spread, to widen, to expand, to elongate, to cover, to fill, to create’. Therefore the meaning of Tantra may be interpreted as i) Knowledge which encompasses all that is to know, and which itself is expansive in nature, and ii) a system which leads to growth of one’s intellect and awareness, resulting in sharper intelligence and other mental faculties, higher faculty of reasoning and intuitive power,very high mental creativity, and a speedy progress on the path of self- realization. In practice Tantra is a dynamic philosophy which supports life, action, aspiration, knowledge, quest for truth, a path which unshackles the infinite potential of the human mind and helps one be One with the Divine.

Tantra view the Universe as a playground of Form and Energy. Shiv is the Form and Shakti is the Energy, though; both are inseparable and hence the same. Shiv is Shakti and Shakti is Shiv. . Without Shakti Shiv is dead, a corpse, incapable of action, and without Shiv Shakti is unable to manifest and incapable of action either. This is best seen in the image of Mahakali who stands upright over the corpse form of Shiv.

शिव - ई = शव 
ई + काल = काली 

In Tantric terminology $ is Shakti. When Shakti leaves Shiv and stands separate, Shiv turns into a corpse and falls down. But to be Kali, Shakti also needs a union with Kaal, and Kaal is none other than Shiv. This male-female form is inseparable and is depicted as Ardhanarishwara, where half the form is of Shiv and the other half is Parvati. Shvetashvaropanishad says the Divine is Male and also a Female: त्वं स्त्री पुमानसि त्वं कुमार उत वा कुमारी ||

From a worldly point of view, however, Shiv is Purush, the unchanging Consciousness, the Silent Witness. Shakti is Nature - Prakriti, the changing supreme Power which creates, sustains and destroys. And yet, Prakriti can do nothing till Shiv wills it.

Tantra expressly differentiates itself from the Vedic methods of Yoga. In the Vedantic tradition the Purush is Divine, the Creator who runs the world, and Prakriti is the Maya, the power of Illusion who creates a world of mirage and casts a veil of ignorance. The god of a Vedanti sadhak is essentially Purush, the saviour from the clutches of Maya.

But in Tantra the prime force is Prakriti, the Energy, the Nature, the Divine Mother, Aditi who reigns supreme. In essence She is Formless, She is Maya who manifests herself in infinitesimal forms to create the Universe, and nothing is away from her. She is Mahakali, Mahasaraswati, and Mahalaxmi, but beyond the description of any known language. Yogis says that her seat is in the Self-Illuminated Chidakash where she rests on a throne whose legs are none else than Bramha, Vishnu, Rudra and Ishwar, and the plank is Sadashiv Himself

The ultimate aim of Tantra Sadhana is to realize the Truth, reach a higher state of consciousness, change mortal imperfection into a divine perfection, realize the Divinity within and attain godhood - all this while staying in the world and performing the worldly duties. Unlike the Vedic philosophy which treats the World as an illusion and a cobweb created by Maya, the Tantra Yogi looks upon the world as a manifestation of Nature, admires and respects it, lives in it and works towards Higher Consciousness, and Mantra becomes his most essential too.

Sound is the source of all manifestation...
the knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe ..

:: Naad, Matrika and Mantra ::

Bramha has infinite aspects, and each of them is seen as an independent deity. Each deity has unique attributes of form and behaviour and represents a unique set of Cosmic. A Mantra is the phonetic expression of its Deity, just as a Yantra may be taken to be a geometric expression of the deity. Sri Aurobindo explains a mantra as a set of phonetic sounds which create vibrations in
the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolizes.

Before the manifestation of the Creation all knowledge rests in Para-Vak, which itself rests in the Nishkal-Shiv, or Shiv who has no kalã or form. It is the state of being and nothingness. Nasadiya Sukta portrays the condition before dawn of Creation:

There was no Existence, nor Non-Existence. There was no air and no sky beyond it. There was neither Death, nor Immortality, There was no sign of the Divider of Day and Night. There was Darkness, concealed in Darkness. All around was an indiscriminate chaos.

Creation begins to manifest when Nishkal-Shiv decides to become Sakal i.e. manifest into various forms or kalãs. With his decision to manifest, the Para-Vak begins to acquire a sort of semi-independent entity and flows out of Sakal Shiv as Naad - the Primordeal Unstruck Sound of the Divine. Naad flows in five directions, and this phenomenon is recorded in Tantra as the formation of five Amnayas - Purvamnaya, Dakshimnaya, Pashchimamnaya, Uttaramnaya and Urdhwamnaya – by the five faces of Shiv: Sadhyojat, Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Ishan. (Kularnava Tantra).

Para-Vak is the seat of all knowledge, all vibrations, therefore not only the seat of all languages and communications, but in a way also of all gross substances and matter. With the manifestation of Naad it first manifests as Pashyanti, a state of abstract knowledge, like an idea which has not yet been expressed in words.Here Knowledge is a Thought and a distinct entity, unlike Para-Vak. This is the playground where Shiv acquires the dual form of The Divine Teacher and the Student. Where one part of him questions and the other part dispenses Knowledge. This is the ground where we look for answers to our problems and queries, where the Divine within us plays the role of the Disciple when we have a question to ask, and then the Divine becomes the Teacher and reveals the answer. The ground of Madhyama is the terrain of Mantras, because it is here that the aspoirant is able to purify himself and begin his spiritual ascention. This is the ground where the Mantra works.

When Vak descends to the level of physical manifestation, it loses its subtle powers and turns gross. This is the level of Vaikhari, the level of manifested Naad, or Sound as heard by the human ears and uttered by the human throat. This is the interesting field of Naad where Vaikhari expresses Thought in various languages and forms, written or spoken. Each syllable is called a Matrika. These Matrikas are extremely powerful and shroud the intellect, creating level of Ignorance. At Vaikhari level the Being is more close to the lower levels of human intellect and existence, to grosser elements, to lower human nature. Tantra turns it around: it uses these Matrikas to formulate Mantras. Mantra is the instrument by which the aspirant scales Vaikhari and ascends to Madhyama, eventually to transcend the Pashyanti and realaize his godhood.

Thus we see that Para-Vak manifests itself as the physical world by turning from subtle to gross through the following stages:

Para-Pashyanti > Pashyanti > Madhyama > Vaikhari Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari are the three sounds of : सुधा त्वमक्षरे नित्ये त्रिधा मात्रात्मिका स्थिता | अर्थमात्रास्थिता नित्या यानुच्चार्या विशेषता: ||

The fourth sound of Om is the Chandrabindu which belongs to the higher realm of Madhyama and cannot be spoken by the human throat. A yogi or a sadhak can only hear it.

These three levels of Naad later develop into the Cosmic Trinity,three dimensions of Time, three dimensions of Space, the three Vedas, and their ultimate ascention can be seen as the formation of the Divine Triangle .

These are the three stages of Shrishti, Stithi and Samhara - Creation, Maintenance and destruction. The triangle also represents the three manifestations of Shakti as Ichha, Gyan and Kriya, as the three Goddesses: Gauri, Brahmi, and Vaishnavi, This Triangle and the Bindu represents the Cosmic Union of Shiv and Shakti, and is the source of all manifestations. Naad, therefore, is the source of all Knowledge. All the Knowledge which is available, all which has been lost, and all which is yet to manifest in present in the Naad. This is the highest stage of Tantra, and also the original form of Tantra.

 || Shiv Tatvam ||

Shiva tatva is Omnipresent. The whole point of realisation is to be conscious of it in its depth, yet to be awake to its non-dual glory, in one's awareness, in the depth of Samadhi. It is as if a wave is being skilfully conscious of the vastness of the ocean. The jagran in Shivratri is not just forcing oneself to be awake or watching movies or singing bhajans aloud. It is all ab
out keeping awake and being inward... and reaching the witness consciousness by being consciously aware of the inner rest that sleep anyway brings on an everyday basis. When you surpass a certain layer of sleep, the rest of samadhi or Shiva sayujya happens.

Jagran means turning your mind inwards and keeping it awake. The moment you turn the mind inwards, it is habituated to go into sleep, unconsciously. Many a time, when people go into meditation, they do not know whether they slept or meditated. When they come out of it, they experience a certain pleasantness and reduced entropy, which brings an unusual freshness to the mind and senses.

The other story related to Shivratri is the union of Shiva and Shakti. The primordial and dynamic energy is wedded to the transcendental. Shiva is the silent witness, the chidakasha and Shakti is chitti or chidvilasa , the energy that plays and displays in the infinite space. Shiva is the formless Being; Shakti is the manifestation in the field. This is the recognition of the dual aspect of matter and energy, prakriti and purusha , the dravya and guna , substance and its qualities. Recognising the underlying non-dual nature of Brahmn is Shivratri.

Shiva is beauty incarnate, yet he comes to marry Shakti with all his shivaganas , the weird-looking people. The story is entertaining but the principle is that this creation is a dance of opposites, of weird things. They all rejoice and feel at home in the Shiva tatva , the one common harmonising factor. The Drishya is Shakti and the drishtaa is Shiva. The wakefulness, the darshana , causes the unity. The process of seeing causes the unity. That is why, during Shivratri, you don't go to sleep, you keep the darshana alive.

The seen can be many and weird, but the seer is one. The beauty lies with the seer who is the harmonising factor in the completely contradicting seen. It is the Shiva tatva , which brings celebration in creation... Parva in Sanskrit means celebration. As the earth rises in celebration, the hills are called parvata . The nirgun or formless Brahmn celebrates the sagun , the Brahmn with form.

It is only wakefulness that brings out this knowledge in the consciousness and Shivratri is the night to celebrate the wakefulness of one universal consciousness without falling into the unconscious sleep state. Breaking the pattern of unconscious sleep gives you a glimpse that you are not a mechanical apparatus but a legend in the creation. To recognise the Shiva tatva , you have to be awake.

|| The Symbolism of Nataraja ||

The image of Nataraja is an iconic representation of the whole of Saiva Siddhanta School of Saivism that gained popularity in Southern India as early as 3rd Century B.C.

Nataraja literally means lord of the dance. Siva is the lord, the ultimate and effective cause of all creation and the dance is his act of creation, a dynamic rhythmic movement. His dance is a

guided action, under his complete mastery, not an act of chaotic, random movements. The lord and the dance together constitute the projection of the Paramasiva, the highest eternal and formless Nirguna Brahman on the canvas of his own awakened state as Saguna Brahman.

Every aspect in the image of Nataraja represents an aspect of creation. The lord is surrounded on all sides by a circular ring of fire. The ring represents the whole of creation. It is finite, cyclical and filled with energy or shakti shown here as flames. It ensues from the hands and limbs of the Lord suggestive of the fact that he is the primal and effective cause of all creation.

Nataraja holds a tongue of flame in his upper left hand. The fire represents the energy that is responsible for creation and also the dissolution of the worlds at the end of creation. As a creator he creates, upholds and also destroys the worlds.

The upper right hand holds a drum or damaru which is a musical instrument that produces rhythmic sounds. It is suggestive of the sound of breath, the sound of life, the vibrations underlying all currents of creation and manifestation. It also represents the vibrations that arise from our thoughts, emotions, mental activity, movement of the senses and the very samsara with all its constituent tattvas in which the jivas continue their existence till they find an escape.

The lower left hand is held in an assuring mode (abhaya-mudra) suggesting that the jivas need not have to despair and that they can escape from the impurities of samsara (anava, karma and maya) and achieve sameness (saujya) with Siva through his grace (anugraha) and intervention. The second right hand is shown pointing towards the downside with the palm upside drawing our attention to the figure lying beneath his feet suggesting that the lord is not holding anything back but revealing the knowledge of creation and the secrets of our bondage so that jivas can find means of escape through the assurance they find in his lower left hand.

The matted hair of Siva is shown as flying high and flowing in all directions. These are the symbols of divinities or the higher gods and energies who live in the higher realms and participate in the cosmic dance enacted by Lord Siva. The tiger skin worn by the deity suggests that even God has respect for the rules of right conduct and the dharma he has established in the manifest creation for the guidance of the souls. The snake around his waist enjoying the dance with a raised hood is suggestive of the kundalini-shakti that remains ever awakened in Siva and is in unison with him.

The dwarf lying at the feet of the dancing Nataraja is known as apasmara-murthy. It symbolically represents the jiva that has forgotten about its own infiniteness and its Siva nature because of the impurity of anava which makes it believe to be a dwarf or anu (atomic or minute or finite being) and become a subject of the dance of creation.

Thus we can see that the image of Nataraja is an iconic representation of the whole Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, one of the most ancient schools of Saivism that gained popularity in southern India, also the place from where the images of Nataraja emerged. The various aspects of the image represent the nature of Siva, the act of creation, the state of the jivas and the means of liberation. By creating it or serving it or by contemplating upon it one can initiate the process of liberation through the grace of Siva, who usually comes to you in the form of an enlightened Guru. 

|| SADHANA and NAMA Japa ||

:: What is Sadhana? ::

Sadhana is Spiritual practice.
One has to put in efforts in order to experience bliss or everlasting happiness. This effort is called as sadhana or spiritual practice.

Sadhana is the practical aspect of Adhyaatma Shastra or Science of Spirituality. In the field of Medical science, one is recognized as a doctor only when he has studied the books (theory) and has given treatment to the patients, during his study period. One can never become a doctor just by reading books. Similarly one cannot understand Dhyaan, Jnan, Bhakti, Shraddha.. etc. by just reading about it. One has to undertake spiritual practice (sadhana) in daily life, to experience it.

In this part, we shall learn about the efforts that one should put in, to achieve final liberation.

:: Which is the simplest sadhana in Kaliyug? ::

In this fast-paced era of strife [kali yuga], which is the simplest and most practical method to attain the state of God realization?

The simplest sadhana in Kaliyug is chanting (namajapa). Our four main Vedas, Upanishad, Shreemad Bhagwat Geeta, Shreemad Bhagwatpuran etc… clearly explain the importance of naam sadhana.

Saint Tulsidas has said,
नामु सप्रेम जपत अनयासा ।
भगत होहिं मुद मंगल बासा ।।
सुमिरि पवनसूत पावन नामू ।
अपने बस करि राखे रामू ।।
Meaning: A devotee can easily get immersed in the ocean of Bliss, when he chants with love. Son of Vayu, Hanuman won Sree Ram’s heart only by chanting His name continuously.

Yajnaanaam japa-yajnOsmi (श्रीमद्भगवत्गीता १०:२५)
Meaning: I am Japa among all the Yajnas -Lord Krishna in the BhagavdGita.

:: What is the Meaning of chanting or naam jaap/japa ::

Chanting (japa) means repetition of some letter, word, mantra or sentence. Nama japa means repetition of God’s Name and mantra japa means repetition of a mantra. The terms japa and the Name (Nama) are often used synonymously with chanting.

:: Why is it important to Chant? ::

Continuity in spiritual practice is achieved only through chanting. The Name is both the tool and the target. The ultimate objective is to merge with the Name.

:: How does chanting The Lord’s Name’ work? ::

‘The subconscious mind carries millions of impressions. It takes a very long time to erase even a single impression or ‘vaasana’. As such, a considerable period of time would be wasted in overcoming the tendencies of the subconscious mind by following restraints and regulations (yam-niyam). It is more important to make continual efforts to merge with The Absolute Being (Purush), rather than to try and erase such impressions from the mind, which arise from Prakruti. This can be achieved by Naama japa. The mind, intellect, subconscious mind (chitta), among others, are all constituents of Prakruti and these function according to their own characteristics. Instead of wasting one’s spiritual practice in resisting the workings of the above, It is better if that time and effort is utilized to progress towards the God principle (Purushtattva) by becoming one with the Name (of God) that one repeats (chants).’ - Saint Bhaktaraj Maharaj

:: What are the BENEFITS of Naama Japa ::

- Benefits with reference to Psychology -
A. At least while chanting, no new impressions about other things are created on the subconscious mind. In order to prevent the development of new subconscious impressions, repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, is the best path to follow in the waking state.
B. When chanting is in progress, the conscious mind does NOT accept impulses coming from the centers like the desire & instinct centre, like & dislike centre, temperamental characteristic centre, etc. of the subconscious mind. If this continues for quite sometime then impressions in these centers start decreasing.
C. The power of concentration increases.

- Benefits with reference to Spirituality -
A. If the Name of a deity is repeated (chanted), the Deity gets appeased.
B. If one chants some bijakshara, one can acquire control over a particular element like the tej (absolute fire) element …and can acquire a supernatural power [siddhi] accordingly.
C. A non-action (akarma karma): If one chants the Lord’s Name while performing an action (karma), then that action becomes a non-action, i.e. no accumulated account (sanchit) is generated from it. Since no new accounts are created, after experiencing all that is destined, one can quickly get liberated from the cycle of births and deaths.
**Let us say, the accumulated account of an individual is 100 units at the time of birth. On an average in one birth, undergoing destiny depletes 6 units. This means one should be able to attain Liberation within l6 to l7 births. But this does NOT HAPPEN because, whilst one is undergoing 6 units of destiny, new accounts are simultaneously being created by one’s willful actions (kriyaman karma). New accounts rise by 10 units. Hence, at the time of death, the accumulated account has become 104 units instead of 94. Consequently, an individual gets more and more entrapped in the cycle of births and deaths. To prevent such a thing from happening, the action performed should be converted to a non-action (akarma karma)!! This can happen only by chanting The Lord’s Name.

:: Which God's Name should one chant? ::

We should chant the Name of God depending on the religion or sect of our birth.

:: There are Several Gods-Goddesses in Sanatana/Hindu Dharma.
So which God’s Name should Hindus chant? ::

Hindus should chant the name of their Kuladevata (Family Deity) in the initial stages of Sadhana. Ishta Devatha’s name can also be chanted, but after the initiation from a Guru.
The meaning of Kuldevata (Family Deity) is, the [care taking] deity of the family in which you are born to. In Hinduism, every family has a particular Deity whose worship brings about worldly and spiritual progress for that family.

:: How to chant the name of the Kula Devata? ::

If the name of Kuladevata is feminine gender i.e. Kuladevi, then the chant is formed as follows:
First say ‘Sree’, followed by the name of Kuladevi and then end with ‘devyei namah’.
If the name of the Kuladevata is masculine gender i.e. Kuladev, then the chant is formed as follows. First say ‘Sree’, followed by the name of Kuladev, like ‘Ganeshay’ or ‘Maheshay’ and then end with ‘namah’.

Now let us see some examples to understand this
If the Kuladevata is ‘Amba Ma’, then chant ‘Sree Ambadevyei namah’.
If the Kuladevata is Ganeshji then chant ‘Sree Ganeshay namah’.
There can be some exceptions to this. For example, if your Kuladevata is Hanumanji, then you will have to chant ‘Sree Hanumate namah’.

:: Naam Japa to eliminate distress ::

Before commencing any spiritual practice, it is extremely essential to recognize why he/she is stressed out or the cause for agony. Efforts to overcome this have to be made. The following explanation will illustrate its importance.

Most people and 50% of true seekers are afflicted with distressing energies. Due to distressing energies, a person experiences physical or psychological distress and/or constantly encounters some obstacle in his/her life. Externally, though one may attribute this distress or obstacles to physical, psychological or worldly factors, yet their true cause is -affliction by distressing energies. No amount of gross treatment can relieve the physical or psychological distress caused by distressing energies completely. Just as fever contracted due to malaria can be cured completely only with the aid of anti-malarial drugs, so is this. Distressing energies also cause obstacles in the spiritual practice of seekers. Consequently, seekers do not reap the expected benefit of their spiritual practice as most of it is expended in alleviating the distress caused by distressing energies. For instance, if one’s vital energy (pranshakti) has decreased due to distressing energies, then most of one’s spiritual practice is spent to restore it. So also, distressing energies take the benefit of the spiritual practice of seekers thus depriving them of the expected results despite undertaking a lot of spiritual practice. This shows how necessary it is to give priority to eliminate distress due to distressing energies.

EVERY DEITY IS A SPECIFIC PRINCIPLE. When we chant the Name of a deity, its principle gets drawn towards us. Distressing energies too are of different types and possess their own inherent qualities. The seven commonly worshipped deities namely Ganapati, Shrikrishna, Datta, Maruti, Shrirama, Durga and Shiva have the ability to destroy almost all types of distressing energies. Depending on a seeker’s constitution, spiritual practice in his previous birth and type of distressing energy, CHANTING of one or more Names out of these seven have proven to be useful to the seeker to eliminate the distress due to distressing energy.
a. First of all, one should recognize his/her affliction and identify the Name of the deity, who can eliminate it.

The following experiment of chanting the Names of the seven deities will assist in this. After performing the experiment of chanting all the seven Names in a specific manner, one will know the Name with which one experiences some distress. One can conclude that the Name of that deity with which one experiences some distress is most useful to overcome one’s distress due to distressing energy. That Name should be chanted for a maximum period of the day till the distress is overcome completely. ALSO, one should use other remedies along with the nama japa to overcome the distress. Refer to the holy text ‘Remedies to eliminate distressing energies’ for details on these remedies and the method of experimenting the Chanting. After the distress due to distressing energies is totally overcome, one can undertake Naama japa as given below.

Name of one’s favorite deity or benevolent (ishtadevata) or that recommended by the Guru?
The deity who is responsible for spiritual progress such as: the family deity or the deity given by the Guru as Gurumantra is known as the benevolent deity or ishtadevata. Most people consider the deity bestowing worldly benefits or the deity of one’s liking as the benevolent deity.
One should chant the Name imparted by the Guru instead of chanting the Name of one’s favourite deity for the following reasons.
A. One does not understand which Name is best suited for one’s own spiritual progress. Only the Guru is capable of providing this guidance.
B. Repeating the Name of one’s favourite deity helps only to enhance one’s sattvik (sattva predominant) nature. The gurumantra however can take one up to the unmanifest state (nirgun), that is beyond the three components (trigunatit).
C. The gurumantra does not contain mere letters but encases spiritual knowledge (dnyan), divine consciousness (chaitanya) and the Guru’s blessings as well. Hence spiritual progress is faster. This Name containing divine consciousness is called a sabija or a divya (divine) mantra. However, one has to practise Spirituality to obtain the ultimate result by chanting the sabija mantra.
D. Due to faith in the Guru, one chants the gurumantra with greater sincerity than the mantra decided upon by oneself. Also while remembering the Gur, one tends to chant the Name given by Him and thus one’s chanting increases.
E. While one chants the Name of the favourite deity, at least some amount of ego accompanies it. On the contrary, when chanting the Name recommended by the Guru, there is no ego.

:: Which Name should one chant if the Guru has not imparted a Name? ::

One should chant the Name of the kuladevata [can be either male or the female].
A. A family (kula) is made up of those people who are closely related to each other by blood as well as karmic debts. Depending upon which family deity’s worship is conducive for his spiritual progress, an individual is born in that particular family.
B. Kula also means the Muladhar chakra, energy or spiritual energy system (kundalini). The kuladevata ALSO means THAT deity with the worship of whom, the dormant spiritual energy [kundalini) in the Muladhar chakra is activated. When this energy is activated, the is spiritual progress begins. If one has both a male and a female Kuladevata, then one should chant the Name of the female kuladevata because She is appeased faster due to Her closer link with the pruthvi (absolute earth) element compared to the male family deity.
C. If one is not aware of the Name of the family deity, then one should chant the Name of his/her favorite deity or simply-"Shri Kuladevatayai namaha." Once this kind of Chanting reaches its completion, he/she coincidentally encounters someone who tells who the family deity is. It MAY also happen that the Guru Himself comes into a seeker’s life and blesses him with a gurumantra.
D. Worship of the family deity began in the post-Vedic and pre-Puranic period.
E. The spiritual practice is said to be complete when the subtle body imbibes all the principles in the universe. Just as the cow is the only animal which has the ability to attract the frequencies of all the deities in the universe (that is why it is said that there are 33 crores of deities in the cow’s abdomen), so also only chanting of the family deity’s Name has the potential to attract all the principles in the universe and increase them all up to 30%. Contrary to this, chanting the Names of deities like Vishnu, Shankar, Ganapati, Lakshmi, etc. increases only that particular principle in which one is deficient. This is akin to taking vitamin A, B, etc. as a supplement to reduce the deficiency of that particular vitamin in the body.

:: Why is nama japa essential for further spiritual progress? ::

: For whom is it useful? :

The point elucidates why Nama japa is essential for a seeker in the primary stage. Those who have attained a spiritual level of at least 50% through spiritual practice may have completed the stage of chanting the Name of the Kuladevata. Generally, this stage can be completed in the present birth by Mama japa for approximately 15 to 20 years. It can also happen if an individual is born in the same family after the previous birth and the repetition cycle is completed due to continued practice. If one renders service/Seva and does charity in addition to the nama Japa, then this stage can be completed within 5 to 6 years. For further spiritual progress, it is beneficial if seekers do nama japa of another deity other than the Kuladevata. One can decide which Name of The Lord is essential by Chanting the Names of the other deities according to the specific method of experimentation.

The Lord’s Name found by this method of experimentation is considered to be the gurumantra itself. However if one begins to experience distress when chanting, he/she should stop it. The experimenting should be continued till one does not experience any distress. Then the Nama japa to that deity can be continued for the spiritual progress.

:: What about those who have been initiated with a gurumantra? ::

Those who have been initiated with a gurumantra should not decide which nama japa they should undertake for further spiritual progress through the method of experimenting. Instead, they should repose faith in the Name imparted by the Guru and chant it continuously.

: More about the method of Nama Japa:

When addressing someone instead of simply using his name, one refers to him respectfully as Shri. (Mr.), Smt. (Mrs.), etc. Similarly, one should chant the Name of the family deity in a way that expresses respect. Shri should prefix the Name of the family deity, the Name that follows should be in dative case (chaturthi pratyay) and should conclude with namaha. For instance if the family deity is Ganesh then ‘Shri Ganeshaya namaha’, if it is Bhavani, then ‘Shri Bhavanidevyai namaha’. Since it is difficult to pronounce ‘Shri Bhavanyai namaha’ one should use devyai.

When the family deity is in the form of two deities (For example Laxminarayana, Ishwarlaxmi….) then 50 % of the deity principle of both, the male deity and the female deity is activated. Chant in the following way - The deity's name should be chanted prefixing Shri to it, followed by the dative case (chaturthi pratyay), according to the second deity and concluding with namaha. For example, if the family deity is Ishwarlaxmi, one should chant ‘Shri Ishwarlaxmideyai namaha.’ If Laxminarayana is the family deity then one should chant ‘Shri Laxminarayanaya namaha.’

:: Why should the seeker not chant the name of a saint? ::

One should not chant the name of a saint for the following reasons.
A. No saint has recommended the chanting of His own Name or that of another. For instance, Tukaram Maharaj has not advised the chanting of Saint Dnyaneshvar’s Name.
B. Our history of thousands of years records no instance where a temple of a saint or a sage has been constructed. Only temples of deities have been erected. Nowadays however, a wrong trend of constructing temples of saints has set in.
C. Since the law of creation, sustenance and dissolution is applicable to saints as well, Their energy persists only for a limited period of a few hundred years. Thereafter, They are unable to respond to one’s call. As against this, deities are eternally present from the time of creation of the universe till its dissolution.
D. Saints are born to carry out a particular mission and for that They possess manifest energy. So if Their Names are chanted then the manifest energy could possibly cause distress to some. Contrary to this, since a deity mostly has unmanifest energy, chanting its Name does not cause any distress. Besides a seeker does not want energy, he wants Bliss (Anand) and Serenity (Shanti).

:: Where should one do Nama Japa? ::

Since everything is created by God Himself one can chant His Name anytime, anywhere. Chanting when carrying out day-to-day activities is a superior form of practising Spirituality. This is so because, firstly the spiritual practice becomes continuous. Secondly performing worldly activities along with chanting of The Lord’s Name renders them as good as not being in the Great Illusion (Maya). Also it helps in karma yoga or dedicating that action to God. Thridly, It helps one to remain in communion with The Lord under all circumstances. This is called sahaja-sthiti or sahajavastha.

Some ancient scriptures mention that nama japa done in cowsheds of the home, temples, and places near waterbodies, and mountains give more benefit compared to that done at home. In other words, nama japa should also be done when a person goes to these places!!

Nama japa should be done with faith and righteous behaviour

“The one who chants the Name of Lord Viththala should observe restrictions.” - Saint Tukaram
Implied meaning: If the one chanting the Name of The Lord does not observe righteous behavior, then the entire spiritual practice is wasted in nullifying the resulting defects.

What are the benefits of synchronising nama japa with the breath?
One remains alive due to respiration and not due to chanting. Hence, one should synchronise chanting with the breath by concentrating on the breath.

The benefits of chanting with the breath are as follows.
A. Nowadays, due to pollution of the atmosphere with rajas and tamas components, polluted thoughts invade the mind along with the breath and cause mental disturbance. When chanting with concentration on the breath, the frequency of undesirable thoughts decreases.
B. Concentrating on the breath means CAPTURING the PRESENT MOMENT. On the contrary, entertaining any other thought means either contemplating on the past or the future. Since it is essential for a seeker to continuously live in the present, it is necessary to concentrate on the breath.
C. Whilst chanting even if one gets a vision of God due to spiritual emotion (bhav), duality persists. As against this, when chanting with the breath, due to devotion in the Name one does not get a vision of the unmanifest (nirgun) God. He/she marches towards non-duality (advaita), and merges with the Name.

Those whose chanting of The Lord’s Name occurs spontaneously, all the time need not synchronise it with the breath.

:: What about other thoughts during chanting? ::

Despite experiencing Bliss with the Name, why does the mind wander towards other thoughts? What should one do when one cannot concentrate on chanting? Initially, due to impressions in the subconscious mind (chitta) stray thoughts enter the mind while chanting. But with practice there is a gradual reduction in these thoughts. One should keep in mind that concentration is the target, not the tool.

:: Sometimes there is distress after Nama Japa. Why does this happen? ::

The reasons for it are given below.
A. Chanting the wrong Name: If a seeker of the level of the pruthvi (absolute earth) element or apa (absolute water) element suddenly starts chanting the Name associated with the tej (absolute fire) element, (the sun) then the radiance generated through it may cause distress.
B. Problems caused by distressing energy: If one is affected by distressing energy, he/she initially experiences discomfort even with appropriate chanting. However, it gradually subsides and finally stops. The cause for this initial distress is the tussle between the distressing energy troubling the individual and the pleasant energy generated by the chanting.

//HariH Om//
- from the Desk of Usha Swarup


Swami Adiswarananda

Where Do the Dead Go after Death?

     Vedanta speaks of the four courses that people may follow after death.
First, the yogis who lead an extremely righteous life, meditate on Brahman, and follow the various disciplines of yoga, repair, after death, to Brahma-loka (roughly corresponding to the heaven of the Christians) and from there, in due course, attain salvation, known as kramamukli, or gradual emancipation. Second, die ritualists and the philanthropists, who cherish a desire for the fruit of their devotion and charity, repair, after death, to Chandraloka, or the lunar sphere. After enjoying immense happiness there as the fruit of meritorious action, tiiey come back to earth, since they still cherish desires                      for worldly happiness. These are called gods or deities in Hinduism. Third, those who perform actions forbidden by religion assume, after death, subhuman bodies and dwell in what is generally known as hell. After expiating their evil actions, they are reborn on earth. Fourth, the persons who perform extremely vile actions spend many births as such insignificant beings as mosquitos and fleas.(1)

     In regard to the universe and its various planes or spheres, Vedanta presents the following theory: "All these spheres are products of matter and energy, or what Samkhya philosophy calls akasha and prana, in varying degrees. The lowest or most condensed is the solar sphere, consisting of the visible universe, in which prana appears as physical force and akasha as sense-perceived matter. The next is the lunar sphere, which surrounds the solar sphere. This is not the moon at all, but the habitation of the gods. In this sphere prana appears as the psychic forces and akasha as the tanmatras, or fine, rudimentary elements. Beyond this is the electric sphere, that is to say, a condition in which prana is almost inseparable from akasha; there one can hardly tell whether electricity is force or matter. Next is Brahmaloka, where prana and akasha do not exist as separate entities; both are merged in the mind-stuff, the primal energy. In the absence of prana and akasha, the jiva, or individual soul, contemplates the whole universe as the sum total of the cosmic mind. This appears as a purusha, an abstract universal soul, yet not the Absolute, for still there is multiplicity. From this sphere the jiva subsequently finds his way to Unity, which is the goal of his earthly evolution.

     "According to the Non-dualistic Vedanta these spheres are only visions that arise in succession before the soul, which itself neither comes nor goes. The sense-perceived world in which a man lives is a similar vision. At the time of dissolution, these visions gradually disappear, the gross merging in the fine. The purpose of the Hindu philosophers in treating of cosmology is to awaken in man's heart a spirit of detachment from the relative universe." The experience of happiness in different planes or spheres after death is transitory. The dwellers in these planes come back to earth and commence again their life of pain and suffering. Even the most fortunate dwellers in Brahmaloka must wait a long time before they attain complete liberation. On the other hand, Self-Knowledge, which can be attained by every human being, confers upon its possessor liberation in this very life. He does not have to wait for a future time to taste the bliss of immortality. This attainment of liberation through Self-Knowledge, while living in a physical body, is the goal of human life. The Hindu scriptures treat of the various cycles and planes and spheres, and also of the various courses open to the soul after death, in order to spur men to strive for Self-knowledge and the attainment of liberation here on earth." (2)

But none of the four courses is followed by the person who has attained Self-Knowledge.
The man endowed with Self-Knowledge attains liberation in this very life. His soul does not go to any sphere, for he has realized its identity with the all-pervading Consciousness.... All living beings, without any exception whatsoever, will attain Self-Knowledge and liberation." (3)

          What Happens at the Point of Death
Vedanta gives a vivid description of what happens at the point of death.

     When the soul departs from the body, the life-breath follows; when the life breath departs, all the organs follow. Then the soul becomes endowed with particularized consciousness and goes to the body that is related to that consciousness. It is followed by its knowledge, works, and past experience. Just as a leech supported on a straw goes to the end of it, takes hold of another support, and contracts itself, so does the self throw this body away and make it unconscious, take hold of another support, and contract itself. Just as a goldsmith takes a small quantity of gold and fashions another - a newer and better - form, so does the soul throw this body away, or make it unconscious, and make another - a newer and better - form suited to the Manes, or the celestial minstrels, or the gods, or Virat, or Hiranyagarbha, or other beings.... As it does and acts, so it becomes; by doing good it becomes good, and by doing evil it becomes evil - it becomes virtuous through good acts and vicious through evil acts.(4)

     The thought at the time of death determines the future life of the soul: "For whatever object a man thinks of at the final moment, when be leaves his body - that alone does he attain, О son of Kunti, being ever absorbed in the thought thereof." (5) Vedanta lays great stress on the thought and the state of mind at the time of death as determining the future of the soul. Thought is endowed with a self-creative power. Our inner being changes into that of which we insistently think with faith and devotion. We become that on which we keep our minds fixed and to which we constantly aspire. The ever-recurring thought of a lifetime, whether good or bad, presents itself vividly at the time of death. We cannot get rid of it, as the sleeping man cannot get rid of his dream. Since the character of the body next to be attained is determined by what a man thinks intensely at the time of death, he should always think of God if he wants to attain Him after leaving the body. This idea of the Gita is not analogous to the indulgences and facilities of popular religion. The absolution and last unction of the priest does not make death edifying and spiritual after an unedifying and profane life. Even while the priest performs his rites, the dying man may be cherishing in his mind the thought in which he has indulged all through life.

     The embodiment of the soul is apparent and not real. Therefore its birth and death are also apparent only. A knower of Self realizes that repeated cycles of birth and death are like nightmares and not real. A knower of Self is truly awakened. Though experiencing disease, old age, and death, he remains unruffled by them because he knows that they are charecteristic of the body and not of the Self. He is also free from desire, which arises when one is identified with the body. For if a person has realized himself to be Brahman, infinite and all-pervading, and if he sees himself in the universe and the universe in himself, he cannot desire anything. Self-Knowledge liberates the individual soul from its bondage and delusion. Only Self-Knowledge can overcome death.

     This is the Vedantic conception of immortality, an immortality not to be attained in heaven, but here on earth in this very body through the knowledge of the immortal nature of the self. About the enlightened person the Upanishads say: "Dwelling in this very body, we have somehow realized Brahman; otherwise we should have remained ignorant and great destruction would have overtaken us. Those who know Brahman become immortal, while others only suffer misery." (6)

     According to the Upanishads, unillumined souls go to heaven or return to earth for the satisfaction of their unfulfilled desires. He who desires is reborn. But the man who does not desire is not reborn. Regarding this there is this verse: "When all the desires that dwell in his heart are got rid of, then does the mortal [man] become immortal and attain Brahman in this very body." (7) The knower of Atman is like a man who is awakened from sleep and dreams no more of empty things. He is like a man who, having been blind, has received back his eyesight.

          The Soul's Journey to Freedom

     The soul's three basic desires - immortality, unrestricted awareness, and unbounded joy - are attained only when it discovers its true identity, the all-embracing Self. In search of its identity, the soul changes bodies and places, and finally, knowing the limitations of all pleasures and realizing that everything finite is shadowed by death, it practises detachment and desirelessness and realizes its immortal Self. Immortality is the return of the prodigal son to his all-loving father. It is the return of the reflection of the sun to the sun. It is the river of individual consciousness meeting the infinite ocean of Pure Consciousness. It is the realization that we are like leaves of a tree and that our true identity is the tree. It is our separative existence joining the infinite existence of absolute freedom. So the Upanishad says: "There is one Supreme Ruler, the inmost Self of all beings, who makes His one form manifold. Eternal happiness belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves - not to others." (8)

     The journey to this final freedom is a solitary one - alone a person is born, alone he suffers, and alone he dies. By realizing his true Self he becomes united with all beings and things and attains to final freedom. Only then comes the end of all sorrow, all fear, all anxiety.

     The doctrine of rebirth is the most plausible theory to help us understand the meaning of life and the diversities of existence. Each person is born with a blueprint of his or her mind that carries the impressions of past lives. Death seems fearful because we died many, many times before. Although we do not remember the incidents, the effects of those experiences remain stored in the conscious mind in a minute form. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna (Bhagavad Gita), "Many a birth have I passed through, О Arjuna, and so have you. I know them all, but you know them not, О Scorcher of Foes." (9) In the Bible, Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the prophet Elias reborn. "If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." (10)

         The Exhortations of Vedanta

     Death is an inescapable and inevitable reality. To ignore it is utter foolishness. To avoid it is impossible. To hope for physical immortality is absurd. Vedanta exhorts in this regard as follows:

     (a) Make death a part of life by understanding that life without death is incomplete. As soon as we are born, we begin to die. Life is sacred and so we cannot afford to squander it in daydreams, fantasies, and false hopes. Life without death, pleasure without pain, light without darkness, and good without evil, are never possible. We must either accept both or rise above both, by overcoming embodiment through the Knowledge of the Self. Death is certain for all who are born. As the Bhagavad Gita says: "For to that which is born, death is certain, and to that which is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you should not grieve over the unavoidable." (11)

     (b) Develop immunity against death by practising meditation and dispassion. In meditation we try to reach our true identity, the deathless Self, by crossing over the three states of consciousness— waking, dream, and deep sleep—and becoming videha, or bereft of body-consciousness. In this practice, we partially and temporarily die in our physical and mental existence. Along with meditation, practise dispassion, which is knowing that nothing material will accompany us when we leave this earth, and that nothing in this world can be of any help to us to overcome death.

     (c) Build your own raft. Vedanta compares this world to an ocean, the near shore of which we know, while the far shore remains a mystery to us. The ocean has bottomless depth, high winds, fearful currents, and countless whirlpools. Life is a journey, an attempt to cross this ocean of the world and reach the other shore, which is immortality. No one can take us across this ocean. Vedanta urges us to build our own raft by practising meditation on our true Self. No practice of this self-awareness is ever lost. As we go on with our practice, all our experiences of self-awareness join together and form a raft of consciousness, which the Upanishads call the 'raft of Brahman'. Sitting on this raft of Brahman, a mortal crosses the ocean of mortality: "The wise man should hold his body steady, with the three [upper] parts erect, turn his senses, with the help of the mind, toward the heart, and by means of the raft of Brahman cross the fearful torrents of the world." (12)

     The word Brahman in the verse signifies Om. Repetition of the word and meditation on its meaning are prescribed for this practice. Vedanta asserts that Self-Knowledge, or Knowledge of Brahman, alone can rob death of its paralyzing fear. So long as this Self is not cognized and realized, life will be shadowed by death and the world we live in will be the world of sorrow and suffering.

     (d) Free yourself from all attachments. Our attachments and desires keep us tied to our physical existence. We often hope for the impossible and want to achieve the unachievable. To free ourselves from these attachments and desires, we need to cleanse ourselves. Just as we cleanse our body with soap and water, so do we cleanse our mind with self-awareness. The Mahabharata advises us to bathe in the river of Atman: "The river of Atman is filled with the water of self-control; truth is its current, righteous conduct its banks, and compassion its waves. О son of Pandu, bathe in its sacred water; ordinary water does not purify the inmost soul." (13)

     (e) Know your true friends. Know that our only true friends are our good deeds - deeds by which we help others in most selfless ways. At death, everything of this world is left behind; only the memories of all the deeds we performed in this life accompany us. The memories of good deeds assure our higher destiny and give us freedom from fear of death, while the memories of bad deeds take our soul downward. Therefore, a person must try to accumulate as many memories of good deeds as possible while living.

     (f) Perform your duties. Life is interdependent. For our existence and survival, we are indebted to God, to our fellow human beings, and to the animal and vegetable worlds. Many have to suffer to keep us happy, and many have to die for our continued existence. We are indebted to all of them. To recognize this indebtedness and make active efforts to repay them is the sacred duty of life. By doing our duties, we become free from all sense of guilt. Be a blessing to all, not a burden. Remember, when you were born you cried, but everybody else rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die everybody will cry, but you alone will rejoice.

     (g) Know for certain that death has no power to annihilate your soul. Our soul, our true identity, is the source of all consciousness. It is separate and different from our body and mind, which are material by nature and are subject to change and dissolution. The consciousness of the soul in each of us is part of the all-pervading Universal Consciousness and is the deathless witness to the changes of the body and mind. The Universal Consciousness is like an infinite ocean and we are like drops of water. We rise to the sky from the ocean, and again we fall into the ocean as raindrops, ... will in the end, sooner or later, come together as part or me ocean. In the words of Swami Vivekananda:

     "One day a drop of water fell into the vast ocean. When it found itself there, it began to weep and complain just as you are doing. The great ocean laughed at the drop of water. "Why do you weep?" it asked. "I do not understand. When you join me, you join all your brothers and sisters, the other drops of water of which I am made. You become the ocean itself. If you wish to leave me, you have only to rise up on a sunbeam into the clouds. From there you can descend again, a little drop of water, a blessing and a benediction to the thirsty earth." (14)