Sunday, January 16, 2011
SwAmini AtmaprakAshAnanda, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 02:15 AM
SwAmini AtmaprakAshAnanda, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 02:15 AM
Two things make a human being unique: self-consciousness and the faculty of choice.
Self-consciousness, the knowledge 'I am', is only half-knowledge. It becomes complete when the human being understands what I am, or who I am. Other animals are deprived of this knowledge. All other animals remain steeped in the bliss of ignorance and are thus free from complexes, problems and goals.
The second thing that distinguishes a human being, the faculty of choice, free will, is the choice to do something, to not do it, or to do it differently. Human beings are the only creatures that have goals to be attained.
Because of these two unique qualities, and because of the human being's knowledge of values based on what he expects from others, the human being has goals: artha, kAma, dharma and mokSha (security, pleasure, value-driven behaviours and happiness). Even though shastram, scripture, speaks about four ends, four puruShArtha-s, the end is one:mokSha. The others are not really goals, they are the means that one needs in order to live this life in order to accomplish this goal of discovering the fullness or happiness that is already there. It is important for our half-knowledge to become complete.
The word puruShArtha can mean 'goal', it can also mean 'free will'. mokSha is the ultimate, choiceless human goal. The direct meaning of the word mokSha is 'freedom'; the implied meaning is 'happiness' or 'fullness'. Freedom from the unwanted is happiness (unhappiness is what's unwanted). Thus discovering who I am is equal to happiness. Happiness and Self are not two different things, like sun and light, or fire and heat. Happiness, fullness, is the very svarUpam of Self, one's intrinsic, inseparable nature. To discover what I am is to discover happiness.
There are two types of happiness: viShaya Ananda and AtmA Ananda. ViShaya Ananda, is called pleasure. AtmA Ananda is happiness. Pleasure is a fraction of fullness; happiness is total fullness. Pleasure is derived through, and is dependent on, external objects, things, situations, people. Therefore it is always time-bound and incidental because that on which it depends is time-bound. Fullness is not derived from any external situations or sources: it is natural. Because pleasure is derived through other objects it isa-nitya, impermanent, time-bound. Happiness, however, is nitya, eternal, because it is not borrowed or derived: it is natural, one's own nature.
To gain pleasure one has to work hard, to preserve it one has to work hard, and when we lose it, there is pain. Pleasure thus involves pain in gaining it, in preserving it and, obviously, in losing it. In this way pleasure is mixed with pain. AtmA Ananda involves no pain because it not something to be gained or attained. What is natural and already there does not need to be attained. Because it is natural you cannot lose it: you cannot lose yourself. Can fire ever lose its light or heat or brilliance? Impossible. Light and heat is its very svarUpam, intrinsic nature. One upaniShad says that if one says, 'There is nobhagavAn, no Truth', it is like saying: 'I am not there'. When we say: 'I am', we are saying: 'bhagavAn is'. One's intrinsic nature is kevala Ananda, pure happiness, unadulterated, unmixed with pain.
If kevala Ananda is our very nature, then why do we become unhappy? Why is there such a thing as unhappiness at all? The simple answer is that our true nature is not known. Somewhere the flow of happiness is blocked. It is like having a tank full of water but nothing flows. It's because the pipe is blocked. Similarly, shAstram says that, blocking the flow of Ananda are pratibandha-s, obstacles. You have Ananda, but it does not flow because of the obstacles: the obstructions, hindrances, impediments.
Obstacles are threefold, mala, vikShepa and AvaraNa, which, if removed, will allow you to enjoy your own svarUpam.
Mala is equal to mental impurities. This is the gross block. If mental impurities are removed, one block is removed. The subtle block that remains is vikShepa, mental restlessness, agitation, mental strain, stress, turbulence: attention cannot be in one place for a length of time. That's why from childhood we are trained to be in one place for a length of time: 15 minutes with coloured crayons, 15 minutes with coloured beads, 15 minutes in the playground to jump about. 15 minutes is the limit, after 15 minutes the child will lose attention.
Next we have a third obstacle called AvaraNa, cover. What is the cover? Ignorance,aj~nAnam, is the cover: ignorance of what happiness is, of what my svarUpam is, of what fullness is. Happiness is veiled by ignorance. It has to be discovered. AvaraNa is the subtlest obstacle. You cannot remove it before you remove the gross and the subtle obstacles: mala and vikShepa. Once the block from the pipe is removed, the flow of water cannot be stopped. Similarly, here, once these pratibandha-s have been removed the flow of Ananda cannot be stopped as it were. Fullness will be there forever.
Mala, mental impurities can be reduced to two: rAga and dvesha, attachment and aversion. These main impurities - to which we can add kAma, desire, and krodha, anger - cause the other impurities: jealousy, hatred, etc. (VikShepa is also sometimes caused bymalam) We cannot remove attachment and aversion because we did not create them. They are two states of mind that are naturally there. If these two are taken care of then all the other impurities are taken care of.
In bhagavad gItA there is a verse:
IndriyasyendriyasyArthe rAgadveShau vyavasthitau
tayorna vashamAgacchettau hyasya paripanthinau
There is attachment and aversion with reference to every sense object.
May one not come under the spell of these two because they are one's enemies. (bhagavadgItA(3.34))
To get rid of the obstacle called mala, impurity, in the form of attachment and aversion there is only one way: to live a life of karma yoga. To understand how to live a life ofkarma yoga we have the karma kANDa of the veda (the first voluminous section) to help us ward off mala. karma yoga is anything that we do, physically, mentally, orally with a proper attitude. (The proper attitude when acting has three characteristics: the action is offered to the Lord, the results are accepted as a gift from the Lord, and there is no transgression of ethics or morality).
vikShepa, the obstacle of mental agitation or restlessness, can be removed only by the practice of upAsanam, meditation. upAsanam in this context is purely a mental activity. This is prescribed in the second part of the veda, the upAsana kANDa. Now even thoughpUja (worship) involves physical and oral activity, it is as good as meditation because your focus is on bhagavAn alone. Therefore pUja is said to be upAsanam. japa (mental repetition of a name that stands for the Lord) too comes in here to ward off the obstacle in the form of mental agitation, vikShepa. Meditation, focusing on bhagavAn 's name, is the best. If you can't do this, then performing pUja (kAyikam karma, action performed with the body) and singing hymns (vAcikam karma, action performed with the voice) with attention, is preparation for meditation (mAnasa karma, action performed with the mind). Better than manasam japam is an unbroken flow of thought resting on bhagavAn.
The third obstacle, AvaraNa, ignorance, the cover that covers happiness, is removed only after you have dealt with the first two. Only then will upaniShad study work. Not knowing happiness is the cover. That's why ignorance is likened to darkness. In a darkened room, even though your eyes are perfectly okay, you will not see the chair because darkness covers objects. Darkness is the AvaraNa of objects. That is the nature of darkness. Similarly ignorance covers. Not knowing what happiness is is as good as not having it. The obstacle of ignorance has to be removed. j~nAnam alone can remove the cover of ignorance. Therefore the j~nAna kANDa (the final portion of the veda-s called vedAnta) is there to bless you with the knowledge with which you can remove the obstacle ofAvaraNa.
One is not creating knowledge. One is only removing the obstacle, ignorance. We removemala by karma yoga, we remove vikShepa through upAsanam, and we remove AvaraNaby j~nAnam. Therefore we need the j~nAna kANDa, the upaniShad-s.
How do we remove the third obstacle?
upaniShad-s contain the wisdom but, even if I try to read them, I cannot understand. The butter that's already there in milk will not come to the surface on its own. You need to extract it. And extraction involves a process, a method of extraction. Similarly there is a method of extracting knowledge from the upaniShad-s. This method of extraction is very important. The one who has knowledge of the method is the guru. That is why the teacher is very important in the Tradition. The guru knows how to handle the words of theupaniShad-s: what's first, what's not first, what to say next, so that there is no ambiguity, no vagueness on the part of the student so that clearly one gets to the knowledge.
j~nAna kANDa is called veda-anta shAstram (scripture at the end of the veda). Why is it given at the end and not at the beginning? Without the removal of mala and vikShepa, the removal of AvaraNam is not possible. j~nAna kANDa, which is the smallest section of theveda, is said to be veda shiras, (the pinnacle of the veda-s): it will take care of the surgery needed to remove the cataract from the mind. The clue is in the word, upaniShad-s itself.
upa, near, implies guru, upasAdanam: a student respectfully approaching the teacher is implied by this prefix. The obstacle of the cover of ignorance has to be dispelled for which you need the knowledge in the upaniShad, for which you need the method of extraction, for which you need a teacher who knows how to handle the words. Removal of ignorance is not possible without a teacher. One needs to listen with all humility for a long time without interference, or talking back. This is called shravaNam.
Ni in the word upaniShad stands for nishcaya j~nAnam, definite, doubt-free knowledge of what fullness, happiness, Reality is. These are not different things. Knowing the Self is knowing Reality, knowing Reality is knowing fullness, knowing fullness is knowing happiness. svarUpam (the nature) of Truth is fullness, Self is Truth, so the svarUpam of the Self is fullness. Knowing the Self is discovering what fullness is. Two things prevent doubt-free knowledge: saMshaya, doubt, and viparyaya, unhealthy emotional habits. Doubt has to be eliminated by mananam, reflection on what has been heard.
viparyaya is unhealthy thinking, the helpless building up of thoughts; scheming and planning and going from one thought to another without even wanting to. It is natural for the mind to entertain such thoughts, unable to stay in one place. This always obstructs.nididhyAsanam will help get rid of viparyaya. To do nididhyAsanam you should have got the knowledge of Reality without any doubt, for which you need to have done shravaNam(study with the teacher) and mananam (clearing any remaining doubts).
upa and ni stand for shravaNam, mananam and nididhyAsanam: approaching the teacher, having definite doubt-free knowledge, constantly focusing the mind on the nature of the self. This doesn't allow the building up of doubt and unhelpful thoughts.
We now come to sad. It means nAshanam, putting an end to, destroying. It is the definite knowledge or wisdom that destroys ignorance and ignorance-born problems involved insaMsAra, the cycle of birth and deaths.
upaniShad, therefore, means knowledge that removes ignorance and ignorance-born problems. veda is likened to mAtA, mother. Mother knows the need of the child very well, similarly veda knows what your mind needs. veda is always there to help you discover fullness, which is your own nature. You already have it, but still you are searching for it and suffering. You are like the richest person begging with a bowl in the road. You can easily go into your bank account and draw the money out and live like royalty, but don't know what the balance is. veda knows and says: I have to help this person discover.
First is the removal of mala by karma yoga, then vikShepa through upAsana and japa(the best of meditation techniques), and AvaraNam/aj~nAnam through knowledge. And you have to go to the guru to help you know how to extract the wisdom. Listen to the teacher, shravaNam. Repeated listening will result in mananam through which all your doubts should go. Even when the doubt goes you know that you may still have viparyaya,unhealthy thinking, because, even if you know Brahman, you are still unhappy. J~nAnamis there, but nishcaya j~nAnam is not there: viparyaya has to go. That's why you neednididhyAsanam.
Commitment to the pursuit of knowledge must be such that one doesn't get distracted at all. This is what will make the study of upaniShad effective. To be more focused, more effective, to make you more inclined, more interested, to benefit more, you need to be 100% committed to the study of upaniShad. Know the value of it. To make you discover that commitment in yourself, upaniShad needs to make you know the limitation of karma.
karma is very important, because it is only by doing karma you can convert the karmainto yoga, which is the only way to rid of the problem of mala. Without the removal of malathere is no way of discovering fullness, but the removal of mala is not sufficient for fullness.
You are not gaining anything here. You are just removing the obstacles: first mala, thenvikShepa then AvaraNa. When these three are removed you discover what is already there: you are not attaining anything.
Do you attain fullness? Do you gain fullness? No. You only attain knowledge of fullness. Fullness and pure consciousness are one and the same. When the three obstacles are removed, everything flows. You are a fountain of joy. From you fullness will be flowing everywhere: that unobstructed flow of fullness is an expression of love.
upaniShad-s make you realise the value of knowledge and the limitation of karma. Karmamerely performed without puruShArtha nishcaya (doubt-free certainty that mokSha is the ultimate aim of life) will leave you bound forever; karma performed with knowledge of the limitation of karma, with puruShArtha nishcaya, will be a yoga that will remove impurities of the mind. But karma on its own is not enough, so in order to make one committed to the pursuit of knowledge the upaniShad-s talk about karma merely in order to point out its limitation.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
From 'Doorway to Heaven'
If you had two doorways, a doorway to heaven and a doorway to a lecture about heaven, you would find the vast majority of people lined up before the doorway to the lecture about heaven. Often we aren't as interested in experiencing the divine as we are in being able to 'know' about it, talk about it, and impress people with our astounding depth of information about it. And what if you could actually open the doors and look in? In the doorway to the lecture about heaven, you would find a room full of beautiful people, drinking organic tea, talking about Gods & Goddesses, doing energy work, singing songs, meditating together, discussing the pros and cons of various paths and spiritual techniques - generally having a great time. On the other hand, if you opened the door to heaven, standing outside and peering in, you would see nothing. It would appear empty, dark, and unattractive - because through that door there is nothing for the mind to know, nothing for the body to experience, no concepts or beliefs to grasp, and certainly nothing that would 'attract' our mind, unless annihilation was attractive. For to enter into the absolute is to be totally beyond the mind and ego.