Friday, February 15, 2013

"Death Vs Death"

When we talk of death, we normally mean death of the physical body. As we are all aware, our body consists of a Sthula Sharir, or the physical body made of matter. In addition we have an Astral body also known as the Sukshma Sharir made up of “Prana” and the mind (manas). The third part is the Karan Sharir, or the Causal Body (as it is the cause of the other two), comprising of Intellect or Budhi and the Soul. When physical death takes place, it is the physical body and the prana which are affected, the other parts remain as they are. Thus our mind, intelligence and the Atma remain and we come back again in a new form based on our karmas and desires. (i shall refrain from elaborating about it in this blog as a lot has been written about it). There is another type of death…. true death as described by our sages. What is It? Perhaps the following story might explain it. There was a caged parrot which was very dear to its owner, who was a trader. The parrot was well trained and could talk quite a bit. The trader was going to another city for some work and, being kind hearted, he asked everyone if they wanted him to get anything for them…he asked his parrot too. The parrot just said, if you meet anyone of my kind, please give them my regards. The trader left and when he reached his destination, he found many parrots sitting on a tree. He called out to them and conveyed the message as requested by his parrot. Hearing the message, all the parrots flew off except an old one, who screamed …and dropped dead! The trader felt very sad as he thought, perhaps his parrot may have been related to this old one and he blamed himself for the old parrot’s death. When he came back, he told his parrot about what had happened. When the caged parrot heard the news, he asked the trader incredulously …”did he die”? The trader said ‘yes’. Hearing this…. he too died! The trader felt doubly sad and blamed himself again and cursed himself for having divulged the news of the demise of the old parrot. With a heavy heart he opened the door of the cage and took the parrot out. The parrot woke up and went and sat on a tree! The trader felt cheated and asked him why did you do this? The parrot replied that when the old parrot had died he had given a very strong message…that if you want to be free from your cage, you must “die”. Bulle Shah has said that this is a symbolic story…. a hint to all those who want to be “free”…go inside see the beautiful sights(part of spiritual evolution) and fly towards freedom. He has also said that one should ‘die while living”. Here the parrot symbolizes the atma which is trapped in the cage….like our atma is trapped inside our physical bodies. Let us explore this a little more. Those saints who can open their third eye, situated at the centre of the forehead, between the two eyes…..connect with themselves at will , leading to the merger of their consciousness with the Universal Conciousness. This is true death. “Saint Paul said, “I protest by our rejoicing which I have in Christ…..I die daily”. He could withdraw his life force and consciousness from the body into bliss (rejoicing) of Christ Consciousness. He could daily experience the state of conscious death when the soul does away with body consciousness and its physical and mental restlessness and activity, and the breath and heartbeat slow down to almost nothing or cease altogether. After mastering the breathless superconscious state , the soul can ascend and make contact with the Christ Consciousness and return again to the body….switching the life force on and off at will from external bodily senses and activity’ (Sri Paramhans Yogananda) Real Death, therefore, means not only extinction of the physical body, but also the dissolution of the two other bodies, namely the astral as well as the causal bodies. Hence death is applicable to these three bodies. Let us remember “Die before you die so that you don’t need to die again”!(Bulle Shah) ....mystical but so true! The best way to “Die while living’ is to internally connect with the Shabd/Aum, gifted to us by a Realized Guru…..and bask in the glory of the soothing divine music and the ever so beautiful and breathtaking vistas of the beyond….nay the inner self! Sources: My Guruji and “The Second Coming of Christ” by Sri Paramhans Yogananda.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Ego Too Has A Purpose"

Volumes have been written about this so common but abstract word…but do we actually know what it is? We have been made to believe that it is something which is very bad…but is that really so? What is it after all? All of us have an ego but do not know that we have it. It is difficult to define it but this small story may be able to explain it. There was a king who prided himself on being very knowledgeable. He had read a lot about the Ego but had not understood what it was. He , therefore ordered that a learned man be produced before him to explain to him as to what it was. Unfortunately no one could be found despite a wide spread search till someone mentioned the name of a very wise old man, who was produced in the king’s court. The king asked him to explain what Ego meant…the old man roared with laughter and made fun of the king for not knowing what it was! The king got angry at being laughed at but asked him the same question again. The old man laughed even louder and said that he had never heard such a foolish question in his life before. This so enraged the king that he ordered the wise old man to be beheaded. The old man laughed again and told the king that he had given a practical example of ego by behaving the way he had. My Guruji puts it so beautifully…if there are three things, my ego, myself and God…..what happens when the ego is removed? Then only God remains! This is because ego is the biggest barrier between me and Him….when the ego disappears then my Self merges into Him. The above relate to the body identified ego…which affects most of us. If Ego is really so bad, then why has God created it? The genesis of Ego. According to the Sankhya Philosophy of Creation, Purusha, which is the male but passive counterpart, and Prakriti, which is the female active principle,( Mother Nature/Holy Ghost) together, lead to the development of Mahad or Mahat or Intelligence/Awareness or Buddhi. This gives rise to Ahamkar or Ego. This Ego is responsible for the genesis of the three Gunas of Prakriti, namely Sattva , Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is responsible for the Mind, the five sense faculties, namely ears, skin, eyes, tongue, nose, and the five motor organs, which are mouth, hands, feet, reproductive organs and the excretory organs, while Tamas is responsible for the Five elements or Tattvas…Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Ego, therefore, is our sense of self identity and the seat of our consciousness. This is the Universal Ego, which is supposed to be identified with the Self. What does Ego do? For any action to take place, first and foremost a body is needed and the second requirement is the presence of the ego, or the pseudo soul, which enthrones itself in the body, senses, mind and intelligence. For any activities to be directed or executed, this “I-ness’ is essential. What is then, the real purpose of the Ego? Ego is actually a divine manifestation when it identifies itself with the soul. It uses the various instruments of the body and mind to interact with the manifestations of creation. On the other hand when it identifies itself with the senses it becomes the body destroying ego. According to Sri Yoganandji ‘When identified with the subtle instruments of perception and knowledge in the astral body, the “I-ness” becomes a clearer sense of being…when it expresses through the pure intuitive wisdom, the instrument of the causal body, it becomes the pure discriminating ego(divine ego), or its highest expression the soul, the individualized expression of Spirit. The soul, the purest individualized sense of being knows its Spirit-identity of omniscience and omnipresence, and merely uses the instruments of the body and mind as a means of communication and interaction with objectified creation” In other words, Ego has two parts, one identifies with the body while the purer form is identified with the astral and causal parts of our bodies. If the Astral ego identifies with the sense organs it becomes the “pseudo soul”and rules us, and actually gives us a false personality, but if it remains in its pure form it remains in conformity with the wisdom consciousness of the causal body. The pseudo soul gives us a false personality. A classic example is Bhishma Pitamah in the Mahabharat... Sri Yoganandji has called Bhishma Pitamah as Universal ego… here he has been symbolized as the astral or inner seeing ego (which is the consciousness identified with manas, buddhi and chitta). But this astral ego, in Bhishma’s case, has been strongly affected and identified with the outward pull of the sense mind and sided with the Kauravs, but when Bhishma was in samadhi this astral ego became more transcendant and ultimately became part of the pure being. His was the divine ego originally which identified with the senses and he sided with the Kauravs, later, however, he went into samadhi when he achieved union with the pure being. This also goes to prove that ego is very difficult to annihilate. The purpose of the ego, therefore, is to hold together, along with the soul, the body, life force and consciousness, which are three different rates of vibration. Ego, therefore, has been given to us for ident ifying ourselves with the Self or soul….but we misuse it and convert this divine form into the pseudo soul which takes us away from Divinity. Body identified ego is very difficult to kill…our Hindu Scriptures have said “When this ‘I’ will die, then will I know who am I”. In other words, ego is that bubble that separates the drop from the ocean, when the bubble bursts the drop becomes the Ocean…and for that to happen one needs to transgress the Conscious and Subconscious minds and go into the Individual or Universal Superconsciousness through meditation. We, therefore, need to identify with the divine ego and rise above the physical ego. Sources: “God Talks to Arjun The Bhagwat Gita” and “The Second Coming Of Christ” by Sri Paramhans Yoganand and “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Remedies’ by Vasant Lad.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

'Balance...The Essence of a True Life"

Human life as we are told is invaluable and has been achieved through His immense kindness. It has been bestowed upon us for us to learn, experience and progress to ultimately merge with Him. Life is a continuum and the human body is multidimensional….. with myriads of factors coming into play for it to run smoothly…but smoothly it runs only when delicately balanced. How is this delicate balance achieved? To understand this we need to start from the beginning…. Creation. As we are aware, the human body as well as the entire Universe came into being through a vibration comprising of sound and light, called ‘Aum”, ‘Shabd”, “Amen”,” Ameen” or “Hum”. The human body formed through what is called “Pranashakti’ also known as “Chi” or “Ki’.This pranashakti, after giving birth to us lies dormant at the base of the spine, at the Muladhar chakra from where it controls the functioning of the human body through a network of nadis. As pranashakti descends down it divides into a number of energy centres called chakras, which are “wheels” and are spiritual and energy processors, each related to an endocrine gland and concerned with the regulation of the functioning of the various systems of the body. They are also related to the five elements or ‘tattvas” and store specific types of emotional memories. These chakras, therefore keep the energy flow of the body in balance…the flow of which is normally positive, but whenever it becomes negative or blocked imbalance of the chakra results leading to the development of various diseases in the body. We are also aware that this entire creation has been formed by five elements…Earth (Prithvi), Water, (Jal) Fire,(Tejas), Air (Vayu) and Ether (Akash).The human body is also derived from the same elements. Every cell of the human body is represented by all the five elements….the cell wall is formed from the Earth element, the vacuoles in the cell from Space, the cytoplasm from the Water element, Nucleic acids from Fire and cell movement is due to the Air element. Human beings and Nature are thus interconnected….our bodies are holograms of the Universe (each part of a hologram contains the whole). To quote Kahlil Gibran “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of the ocean”. Our sages tell us “As is the atom, so is the Universe; As is the microcosm so is the macrocosm; As is the Human body , so is the Cosmic Body; As is the Human mind so is the Cosmic Mind;” Elsewhere, the same thing has been expressed as “As above, so below” We, human beings as well as everything else in Nature bear an integral relationship. The five elements or Tattvas combine into three basic energies or functional principles, present in all of us in varying degrees. In other words they are responsible for Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Space or Ether (Anahat and Vishudhi Chakras) form Vata, Fire (Manipur chakra) forms Pitta. Kapha is constituted by Water and Earth elements (Muladhar and Svadisthan chakras). These have been called “Doshas” in Ayurveda. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in each and every cell…when in balance, they create health but when imbalanced they cause disease. These doshas are responsible for the variety of our individual differences, preferences, our eating habits as well as the various biological and psychological processes of our mind, body and consciousness. Very briefly, Vata is the principle of Air and is the energy of movement, while Pitta is the principle of fire which is responsible for the energy of digestion and metabolism. Kapha, being the principle of water is the energy of lubrication and structure. Each of these have quite specific characteristics, for example, a person who has a predominance of Kapha is generally heavy or obese with a fine skin , beautiful eyes, is stable (grounded), happy and has a graceful walk. A Pitta, on the other hand has a sharp intellect, ambitious, an overachiever, has a pronounced hunger and can see “ahead”. A person with a Vata personality is generally thin, very intelligent, creative, has a good grasp of things but forgets easily. The whole of life’s journey is also divided into three major milestones. From birth to age 16 is the Kapha period, from 16 to 50 years is the age of Pitta while from 50 to 100 is the age of Vata. Seasons have also been classified according to the doshas. The windy, cool, dry weather of autumn is predominantly vata, followed by the dark, heavy, damp, cloudy qualities are Kaphic in nature. Early spring is still mainly Kaphic but late spring and summer are Pittic, characterized by increased warmth, light and brightness…and heat. Similarly, the various times of the day and their effect on the human body have been described in detail in Ayurveda…. Kapha predominates from 6 am to 10 morning and evening, Pitta is dominant between 10 to 2, afternoon and night while Vata is at its peak at dawn and dusk. Living in accordance with these principles and moulding ourselves accordingly brings a proper balance to our lives. There is a lot of truth in the saying “early to bed and early to rise makes Jack healthy, wealthy and wise”! The Cycles of Nature are responsible for our Biorhythms which create the basic vibratory backbone of our existence…namely the beating of the heart, pulsation of the cerebro spinal fluid, the menstrual cycle etc. There are many such examples…the two hour shift between right and left hemispheric dominance (of the brain)…our breath regulates this and there is a distinct shift of our mindset from linear to intuitive depending on the shift of our breath from one side to the other(the nasal cycle) It is well known that when we are born, we are born with a particular “prakriti”, which is a unique and specific combination of the three doshas at conception, which is one’s psychobiological temperament and does not change during one’s life time. It is decided by the person’s combination and proportion of Vata, Pitta and Kapha and is determined according to the genetics, diet, life style and current emotions of the parents. Incidentally, the five “Mahabhutas” as these elements are called form part of practically all Complementary Systems of Medicine, be it, Ayurveda, Chinese, Tibetan, Thai or Unani Medicine, Yoga etc, though the names are somewhat different. As life progresses, a lot of changes take place in the balance of the doshas in our body due to weather, dietary choices, fatigue, stress, emotional state, exercise etc . All these factors alter the state of our doshas and reflect the state of health …this is called Vikriti. Prakriti has certain ‘gunas’ called the ‘gunas of Prakriti’ which are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. It is these gunas which decide how we behave since each has certain typical characteristics. Sattva is characterized by purity and virtue, and related to the Spiritual Eye or the Agya chakra, Rajas is concerned with passion and worldly activities and related to the Heart centre or the Anahat Chakra. Tamas is characterized by inertia, pride, arrogance and evil tendencies and related to the lower three chakras, namely, Manipur, Svadisthan and the Muladhar chakras. All of us have a mixture of all three but one or the other predominates. As per Yoga, our body has five parts, or sheaths or “koshas” which are known as the Annamaya Kosha or the “Sthula Sharir’, (the Physical body), the Energy body or the Pranamaya Kosha, (the Physiological Body), the Manomaya Kosha (the Psychological Body)…these two together constitute what is called the “Sukshma Sharir”/Astral Body. This is followed by the Vijnanmaya Kosha (the Intellectual Body) and finally the Anandmaya Kosha, or Bliss Sheath (Space). The last two are together called the ‘Karan Sharir’ or the Causal Body. In a nutshell, the human body thus has a Mind, a Body and Spirit…all being ENERGY, which must remain in balance. Generally there is a tug-o-war between our mind, body and spirit….the mind is forever pulling us towards sense pleasures while the spirit tries to take us towards Him…the resulting pull is detrimental to our healths. Ayurveda states that the purpose of our lives is achieved by balancing four fundamental aspects of life, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. ‘Dharma’ broadly means duty or right action, “Artha” is material success or wealth, “Kama” is positive desire while “Moksha’ is spiritual liberation. For all these to be possible, sound health is essential. From the above, it becomes clear that to maintain a balance in life there has to be a balance between our Mind, Body and Spirit, which is the Inner and the Outer, between the Self and the Environment, between the three Doshas…Vatta, Pitta and Kapha, between our Energy flow and our chakras, between our Prakriti and Vikriti, and last but not the least a balance of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. How is this to be achieved? All of the above are possible by connecting to the Self…through Yoga (as in “Union’). This union is best achieved through meditation as learned from a Realized guru. Ashtanga Yoga too plays a very important role….all the eight “petals’ slowly but surely lead one to the yoga of union. Yoga asanas and Pranayam bring about a balancing of the chakras leading to balancing of our energy system. This combined with Meditation gradually leads us through our spiritual evolution…we transgress the negative aspects of the chakras which occur when they are imbalanced…namely transgressing the Muladhar Chakra gives us freedom from fear and brings about grounding, balancing of the Svadisthan Chakra makes us rise above our five major negative qualities…Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moh, Madha and Matsya, ie we rise above our Tamasic temperament by transgressing the two lower chakras. Transgression of the Manipur chakra makes us rise above our Rajasic temperament. As we ascend to the Anahat or the Heart Chakra, positive emotions of Bliss, peace, love, harmony, understanding, clarity, purity, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and unity come to the fore. This combined with ascension to the Vishudhi Chakra brings us closer to the truth and one becomes sattvic in temperament. Similarly meditation helps us gradually transgress the various koshas…. When we meditate, the first thing that happens is improvement in physical well being, followed by harmonization of the breath (the pranamaya kosha). The two together lead the development of a strong body and strong will power. As meditation becomes deeper and deeper, our breathing becomes slower and slower, and tranquility of the mind starts, which is conducive to focusing on the Self leading to beautiful experiences.With still deeper meditation, we reach the level of the Vijnamaya Kosha or the Intelligence sheath, resulting in greater development of wisdom….finally with still deeper meditation, we reach the level of the Bliss sheath which is supposed to be the ultimate…..merger with Him. Yoga and Meditation increase our awareness, which helps us in our eating habits, our life style, our mental processes, and brings us closer to the Divine all of which are conducive to balancing our mind, body and spirit….and enable us to live in conformity with Nature. Therefore, in order to truly ‘live’ one needs to be in balance……just ‘Be” Sources: “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Remedies’ by Vasant Lad, ‘Radical Healing” by Rudolph Ballentyne, “The Spiritual Approach to life” written by Sri Bimal Mohanty