This is a short story which I heard in a discourse by Suki Sivam on Bhagavad Gita.
A group of doves are living in a temple tower. The temple’s renovation works begin and many people start frequenting the temple tower. The doves leave the temple tower and move to a church tower. There are a few doves which were already staying in the church tower and they are happy to have new friends. The doves heartily welcome the new doves and they start living together happily.
After a few months it is Christmas time, they start painting the church and many people start frequenting the church tower. The doves leave the church tower and move to the tower of a mosque. There a few doves in the mosque tower and they too happily welcome the new doves and share their place with the new doves. All the doves are now living happily in the mosque tower.
One day a group of people below are fighting in front of the mosque, below the tower. A little dove gets curious and asks his mother to find out why they are fighting. The mother dove explains they are different groups of people and that’s why. Some of them go to the mosque and they are called Muslims, some of them go to the church and they are called Christians and some of them go to the temple and they are called Hindus. They are fighting amongst each other as to who is right, who is great.
The little dove really gets puzzled and asks the mother dove, we were living a temple, and then the church and then the now we live in the mosque. We are all still doves we did not change to something other than doves because we live in a different place, how can it be so different for humans. The mother thinks for a while, lets out a sigh and then responds: that’s why we get live in a place where God lives and humans cannot live here, they have to be visitors. And that’s why we live above the humans and they live below us. Once they realize that regardless of the church, mosque, temple they all are humans, they will join us as doves.
Here is an anecdote from Sant Eknath Maharaj’s life.
One day a group of people were gambling. A small fight began within them and they started fighting within themselves. One of them tried to stop the fight and asked them not to get angry and fight among themselves.
One of them immediately replied that he was not Eknath to be calm and collected and never to get angry for anything. One of them listening to this asked if Eknath really will not get angry for anything. All others said that even the sun may rise in the west but Eknath will never get angry. He then said that if someone doesn’t get angry then he is not human. The others then said that he was not human and that he was god. The guy then betted the whole money they were gambling and said that he would make him angry.
The gambler who had betted, had a house near the banks of Godhavari. He went home and the next morning he was waiting for Eknath to come to Godhavari to have his bath. Eknath had his bath and was returning back. The gambler was chewing pan and spitted on his head from the terrace of his house on Eknath. Eknath dint even bother to look up to see him, nor did he shout at him and he went back to Godhavari to bath again. When he came back the gambler again spit the pawn on him. Eknath still dint say anything and went back to bath again.
Eknath would clean himself and come and the gambler would spit on him, this happened several times and by noon the gambler had finished his entire pan and was also tired standing in the terrace and spitting. Now the gambler came down and was waiting for Eknath to come. This time when Eknath was going back from the river the gambler blocked him and asked him how he had so much of patience and that why he did not get angry with him when he has been spitting on him since morning.
Eknath then replied to him that he came to Godhavari to clean his body before performing pooja to god. He also said that one should perform pooja with clean body and mind. When he spitted on him, he only dirtied his body and went back to clean it. He then said that if he had got angry and shouted at him, his mind would have become dirty and that it would be even more difficult to clean his mind than cleaning his body. The gambler was moved hearing this and said that he had read about this but never seen this in practice.
Source & Credits: http://indiansaints.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/sant-eknath/
This post is again broadly based on notes from a discourse by Swami Paramarthananda.
What is meditation?
Meditation (dhyana) is a practice (sadhana) of conditioning the mind. Many of us are conscious of our physical health. We try to imbibe
- physical sports,
- workouts at the gym,
- (pathanjali) yoga asanas (postures)
- into our daily routine – to keep ourselves physically fit.
Meditation likewise is one of the key practices to keep our mental faculty (mind) fit. Even though meditation is related to the mind, it also has some physical health benefits as well.
The Goal of meditation
Meditation is a means for different things to different people. We can use meditation to help us with
- either worldly / material goals such as physical and mental health, personality development and better performance etc. (upasanam)
- or spiritual advancement (upasana yoga)
Meditation as a spiritual practice
When meditation is used as a practice for spiritual advancement it can be
- either preparatory (dhyanam)
- or assimilatory (contemplation as per Swami Dayananda Saraswathi) (nidhidhyasanam)
Types of meditation
A spiritual seeker (sadhaka) can use Preparatory Meditation to condition his mind before studying Vedanta. Depending on what aspect of the mind
- Tranquillity / Peace (Shama)
- Focus / Sharpness
- Value system
is being developed the meditation can be classified into
- Relaxation meditation
- Concentration meditation
- Expansion meditation
- Value meditation
In relaxation meditation you try to ‘relax’ your mind using a technique that works for you. It can be very simple mental self talk / imagination like
- while breathing out imagine breathing out all negative emotions, stress, tension etc.
- while breathing in imagine breathing in good health, wellness, peace etc.
You can choose any task that requires you to focus. Swamiji used the example – a typist can use typing. But since we all do this, all of the time, It is better to use a practice that is spiritual.
You can choose from a spectrum of mental worship practices (manasa upasana) such as
- Mental worship (manasa pooja – scope is large) – You can imagine yourself or a priest performing an elaborate spiritual ceremony (pooja). For example you can choose Mantra Matruka Pushpa Mala Stava or Shiva Manasa Pooja Stotram by Adi Shankara Bhagavad Pada and visualize your self doing an elaborate pooja. If you are not used doing a pooja, next time you visit a temple, observe how it is done. You can use the same visualization.
- Mental chanting of spiritual verses (manasa stotra parayana – scope is as smaller than mental worship as there are only words now) – You can mentally chant verses from the scriptures / prayer songs etc.
- Mental chanting of lord’s name (manasa japa – scope is smaller than mental chanting of verses as there is only one name that you are chanting) – You can mentally chant the name of the lord repeatedly. Ex. chanting
- Om Nama Shivaya, or
- Om Namo Narayanaya, or
- Om Maha Devyai Nama:, or
- Shree Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama or
- Hare Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare or
- What ever be the name of your lord (ishta devata).
The smaller the scope is the harder it is for the mind to keep the focus. Thus one can start with larger scoped practice and move towards the smaller scoped practices.
This is done to identify ourselves with the bigger universe. You can slowly start identifying yourselves with a bigger entity. Self –> Family –> Neighbourhood –> Street –> Locality –> City / Town / Village –> State –> Country –> Humanity –> World –> Universe –> Creator of the Universe. As the salinity of a water reduces with dilution (by adding more and more water) the selfishness / narrow minded-ness reduces as one starts identifying himself with bigger entities. This can almost eliminate our narrow notion of self.
The first step here is intellectually convincing ourselves that values are required and they should not be compromised even if the situation is adverse. Example
- Rama agreed to sacrifice the throne and to live in forest to honour his father’s word.
- Nachiketus agreed to goto to Yama to keep his father’s word.
- Raja Harishchandra was ready to die for truth.
Here we can imagine our self in adverse situations and imagine our response to them in accordance to desired values. Example we can imagine our self in a situation that makes us angry and imagine that our response to be patience instead of anger. Or we can imagine our self in a situation that can make us jealous of someone and instead of feeling jealous we can imagine our self congratulating the person with our whole heart.
Once we practice this enough, this becomes a habit in our real life as well.
Which one to practice
Just like we use different kinds of exercise to strengthen different parts of the physical body, different kinds of meditation, condition different aspects of the brain. So we need all of them.
An un relaxed mind, however sharp it can be, cannot study Vedic philosophy (Vedanta).
A relaxed mind, if lacks focus cannot do Shravana (listening) or Manana (memorizing, analyzing)
So every type of meditation is required.
Obstacles & tips to overcome them
What if, I am unable to start?
- Start small and slowly increase the time (start with 2-3 minutes & slowly increase the time)
What do do with other thoughts during meditation?
- Just do not try to control the thoughts, in which case the thought might become more powerful. Everyone knows the story where a king is asked by the doctor to not to think of the monkey when taking the medicine and the king ends up thinking about the monkey every time he tries to take the medicine.
- At the same time try not to entertain it further and get back to your meditation / relaxation / concentration technique at hand (ex. breathing or relaxing or manasa pooja or manasa stotra parayana)
- Follow some sort of non co-operation movement with the thoughts, so that the thoughts do not overpower / control you.
- Generally it does not matter if the mind wanders from one thought to another, because such is the real nature of mind. But it might be a problem if a single thought pattern repeats. It might mean that you may need to fix something in your lifestyle as a whole.
I tried to get back to the meditation technique when I realized that my mind had wandered off, but it still keeps happening often, what can I do? Well if your mind is completely racing and you are not at all able to continue –
- Try guided meditation.
These are again notes from an old Guru Poornima discourse by Swami Paramarthananda.
To understand the topic “Why do some relationships fail?” we need to understand two kinds of people first and their characteristics.
Two kinds of people
- Wise – Happy(read content) with himself
- Ignorant – Not happy(read not content) with himself
- This classification puts a vast majority of the people in the ignorant bucket.
When two ignorant try to strike a relationship (which is the most common case) these are the characteristics.
Characteristics of an ignorant-ignorant relationship
- Both are not happy with themselves, and they try to gain happiness from each other
- This is like Two unsteady people trying to hold each other in order to become steady (This is one of the best examples that one can attribute to such relationships).
- They both try to influence (sometimes even manipulate) each other (in order to gain happiness)
- Expectations keep mounting, No human can fulfill the expectation of other human – impractical
- More complaints than joy as a result of the relationship
- No question of progress / improvement – because maintenance itself is a struggle – Samsara
Lower your expectations
- Well that kind of sets the expectations you can have from most of the relationships. So what kind of relationships you can trust on, the relationship with the content (wise) – Read – your Guru.
But, what about other relationships, which form a vast majority and which are most likely you run into. Well the only thing we can do is have lower expectations or better zero expectations when you get into such relationships.
You can read the notes (not transcript) that I made from the discourse here
Let go and move on
So next time your friend, relative does something that you did not like, or does not do something when it is really needed (It is not one way, you may also do something that your friends / relatives may not like or refrain from doing what they were expecting from you) – remind yourself this example
Two unsteady people are trying to hold each other in order to become steady
Lesser disappointment as a result. Any favourable outcome is rather an exception (not the norm). This simple and profound thought enables us to move on peacefully by letting go.
The other day i listened to an excellent (all of Swami ji’s discourses are excellent, but you got to in the right mind-set to appreciate them) discourse from Swami Paramarthananda (a disciple of Swami Dayananda). It was a wonderful analysis of the problem “Seeking help when you need help from the right source”, Seeking help when the situation is unfavourable. I made a transcript of this discourse. These are snippets from the transcript. I encourage you to read the entire transcript. It is well worth your time.
Every human being, being a samsaari subject to karma, goes through varieties of situations; both favourable and unfavourable. No human being can avoid difficult and challenging situations in life. To face the challenging situations the most important virtue we require is self confidence. But unfortunately every challenging situation knocks off the self confidence alone first.
Naturally when we don’t have confidence in ourselves because we have lost it the situation may be physical illness or any other situational problem. Naturally we look for help from outside.
I look for support from outside. I expect them to give me confidence and support. To our disappointment often what we get is not confidence and support. Most of the people, who come to (to help) me at the time of difficulty, give me a big discourse on the list of mistakes that I have done, because of which I am in this situation. A big lecture of wisdom is given. You should have done that, you shouldn’t have done that. They give a big advice. This is the most inopportune and wrong time to talk about my mistakes.
What I really seek is that somebody to come and tell me, ‘Don’t worry you have the resources to tide over the problem’. Or I want somebody to come and tell me, ‘I am with you, Don’t worry’. Or somebody to come and tell me, ‘We will together face the situation’. What I require is confidence building with the help of another, but instead of confidence, I get a big lecture on my mistakes. They will tell, I told you that day itself, you didn’t listen, That’s why. Swamiji says didn’t I tell you.
I don’t have confidence to face the situation and all other people are criticizing me for the past actions. Isn’t there anyone to help me or support me at all. There is an utter feeling of loneliness and an utter feeling of helplessness. This sense of loneliness and sense of helplessness is one of the powerful expressions of samsara. Samara can be defined in many ways. One of the powerful expressions of samsara is sense of loneliness that there is nobody even though many people of around. In spite of having people around me, I have a sense of loneliness and helplessness. This, every human being feels often in his life time. This feeling of loneliness and helplessness is prominent when the situations are not favourable.
one method is that always remembering that the God is with me to support, to give me strength and to give me confidence. The very thought that I am not anatha: helpless, I have got anathanatha. Ananthanatha is the name of the Lord. I am not anatha:, but I have got the lord to help me. The very thought that I have the help from lord, boosts my confidence. The beauty is what I require is not actual help from the Lord, really speaking what I require from the Lord is not actual help. The very thought that I have someone to help me, the very thought gives me confidence. So this is a psychological fact, What a human being actually requires is not help, but the very thought that I have someone to help me gives me enough confidence in myself. Once I have the confidence, I will discover the inner resources to handle the situation. Therefore, what I require is the offer of help, not help itself.
Dayananda Swamiji says ‘Seeking help when you need help from the right source is intelligence’.
The other day, one lady was telling me:
Swamiji I had to undergo cataract surgery. Only me and my husband are here, And I decided to undergo the surgery here (in my place) itself. My son who is away (in another place in India) offered to come and stay during that time. I told him that you need not unnecessarily give up your family work and all, we will somehow manage it no problem.
If he had not offered to help, I might have felt bad and helpless. The very offer of help was enough to give me the moral support that there is somebody to come and help. The very offer of help gave me the confidence. I told him, you don’t come. We two, even though we are old, who helps whom we don’t know, We managed and we are fine.
Root cause analysis
Samsara is not actually caused by the event itself. But samsara is caused by the event-centric thought pattern. Like that lady, what made her comfortable is not the help of the son, the son did not come, But it is the event-centric thought, Whenever I need I call my son. There is the offer of help from the son, it is the event-centric thought pattern that helped her, not the actual person. Therefore events are only the general cause of samsara. The specific cause of samsara is our thought pattern centred on the event. ‘Enakku aarume illainu aaspathirikki porache’ (when I go to the hospital thinking that I have no one to help) the suffering is more. ‘Enakku Paiyyan irukkan, venda podhu varuvaan gra thought oda aaspathirikku pora podhu’ (when I go to the hospital thinking that I have my son to help, he will come when I need) the suffering is less.
Therefore the external events are only samaanya karanam, the internal thought pattern is the vishesha karanam of samsara. Therefore what we do is, use the Vedantic teaching to change the thought pattern itself. Which is called Nidityasanam process. Instead of blindly and mechanically studying Vedanta,
Instead of blindly and mechanically writing notes, and the moment a situation comes all goes… In the class ‘Aham Bramhasmi’. Instead of blindly and mechanically preserving the cassettes, Why can’t you use this teaching to change your thought pattern.
Instead of saying the family members are there to help me and expecting help from them and they hesitating to offer, me feeling bad (I did so much, but they are not reciprocating, can’t they least offer?). Instead of feeling miserable, and instead of again shifting the dependence from family to God, which is another anathma (external source). Why can’t you learn to depend on your own resource by knowing your own true nature. Therefore gaining Self Knowledge, and changing the thought pattern is the method given by Vedanta. What is the Self Knowledge? The Self Knowledge is really speaking, I am the truth of the entire Universe. I don’t have to depend on the world. On the other hand the entire world of anathma is dependent on me the athma.
Therefore I am independent, Therefore I have all the strength in myself, Therefore I don’t need help and even if I seek help, the ‘Mithya World’ cannot give me help. Even if I seek help, the ‘Mithya World’ cannot me help, Therefore ‘Than Kaiye Thanakkutth Thunai’ Self Help is Best Help.
Read the notes from the entire discourse here
काममय एवायं पुरुष इति।
स यथाकामो भवति तत्क्रतुर्भवति।
यत्क्रतुर्भवति तत्कर्म कुरुते।
यत्कर्म कुरुते तदभिसंपद्यते॥
kāmamaya evāyaṃ puruṣa iti |
sa yathākāmo bhavati tatkratur bhavati |
yatkratur bhavati tat karma kurute |
yat karma kurute tad abhisaṃpadyate ||
You are what your deep, driving desire is
As your desire is, so is your will
As your will is, so is your deed
As your deed is, so is your destiny