Saturday, May 19, 2007
( I met a wise man years ago, namely Prof / Pandit Saraswati Prasad Ghimire. He had this to tell me. Sri Ghimire is no longer with us. )
AUM is made up of three syllables A, U, and M. Ancient sages used this division profoundly in their practice. Dwelling on meaning of AUM has been an important aspect of teachings. It is because as you practice, you will find out that syllable, meaning and their origin have been merged, i.e. at highest level. Direct and spontaneous. As things really are or as they are not.
How can this realization be direct and spontaneous?
For this, wise seers devised an unique way one can relate to intimately. A of AUM was corresponded with our waking state, U with dream state and M with deep sleep state. Thus, our body and mind were made laboratory in enquiry to Truth. This way, one does not need to go far. One does not need to rely on external objects. Body and mind are universally accessible, close to us and can have direct effect.
In Waking state, we are conscious of the world around us. With our five senses, we perceive. Nobody has to teach us nor we need to learn to perceive. ‘A’ represents this.
In Dream state, we are unconscious of the outer world and form a mental world, just as we have an outer world while awake. Except, this mental world is internal. We don’t need to learn nor be taught to dream. ‘U’ represents this.
In Deep Sleep state, we don’t form any world neither physical nor mental. All our actions and thoughts cease to be.
But, here, one thing is amazing. In deep sleep, all our physical and mental activities are absent. Yet in the morning we know we had a sound sleep. How come? What is responsible? This is not mere theory or logic. In practice also, we are aware of this.
Wise seers of Vedanta have termed that conscious entity or essence as ever present and omniscient, thus real. It is AUM, the whole. They called it ‘Turiya’ or the fourth state but also present in all three, conscious of all three.
Meditate on the meaning of AUM. This is the starting point, the seed. Just keep going as it bears fruit. Amazing things will be on your way. Don’t be attached to any experience, pleasant or unpleasant. Don’t try to jump to the fourth at once. Generally, it is difficult working from the fourth state. Remember, this is not the usual inhaling/exhaling AUM exercise . This is practice of understanding. Or rather non-practice.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
'Avadhuta' refers to 'Ever Free' and 'Gita' to song. Hence Avadhuta Gita is, in short, 'Song of the Ever Free.'
Why do we have songs or Gitas as in Bhagavad Gita, Rama Gita, Uddhava Gita, Ashtavakra Gita and so on? Simply because they are very effective form of transferring knowledge ----- knowledge of the Absolute. Absolute that is beyond our vocabulary and comprehension but is directable and thus pointed out. Besides, Gita or Song is also abstract which nullifies our above mentioned limitations. It is generally composed as a duet rather than a chorus highlighting the foundation of guru-disciple tradition. Mind you, knowledge of Absolute is highly personal.
Avadhuta Gita is ascribed to Vedanta school of Hindu teachings. However this is not your mainstream Vedanta prevalent today. It does not indulge in debates to prove the non-dual nor tells you to control your senses for there is no distinction between sense perception and spiritual perfection in the highest level of realization. What it does is make amazing statements and fill you with utmost wonder. You just have to be ready to imbibe.
Dattatreya (literally, son of Atri) is said to be author of this treatise. Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya were his parents. But there is very little written about him in scriptures. Markandeya Purana gives some references to him. This is also very little and legendary. But Dattatreya is considered knower of the Absolute, and hence Avadhuta. The duet is about his teachings to his unnamed disciple.
Dattatreya Gita does not salute absolute reality. This is not to inflate your ego but to know the reality of egolessness.
yenedam puritam sarvam atmanaivaatmanatmani
nirakaram katham vande hy-abhinnam sivam avyayam
( How shall I salute the formless Being, indivisible, auspicious and immutable, who fills all this with its self and also fills the self with its self ?)
I am myself filled by that self and all this also by that self. I and the Self are no different. I and the Self is (right grammar) one/same. Self that is without any form, is not divisible, is good, compassionate and changeless. There is no need to salute because there is no one to perform salutation or to be saluted. There are no-two for salutation to happen.
One of the most famous verses of Avadhuta Gita is :
mano vai gaganaakaram mano vai sarvato mukham
mano atitam manah sarva na manah paramarthatah
( The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is omnifaced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. But in absolute reality, there is no mind. )
The mind is the form of space and is vast. It has faces everywhere. It is the past. Along with present and future, it is all we perceive, including all time and space. Everything is mind- made. The mind precedes all phenomena.
Here comes the most amazing part, antidote to all this. In absolute reality, there is no mind. From the perspective of Avadhuta, the mind does not really exist anymore. It has ceased to be. Only our deep common ignorance feeds the mind with substance, essence, significance and entity and we think the mind is Truth. And Avadhuta Gita burns this ignorance with the fire of the very knowledge ----- there is no mind whatsoever.
Here, everything is discovered as dependent of the mind. Then true nature of the mind which is its own absence is known experientially. Once the mind is absent, things depending on it are non-existent. The first Shankaracharya pointed out this state as “scenes becoming unseen.”
Avadhuta Gita is saturated with this wisdom. Let's take one more into account before closing.
( naiva bodho na chabodho na bodhaabodha eva cha
yasyedrisah sada bodhah sa bodho naanyathaa bhavet )
( There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge. It is never otherwise.)
In absolute reality, there is no knowledge, no ignorance. Both are equal opposites of each other. There is no distinction of knowledge and ignorance. Neither is there combination of the two. Synthesis is also not possible since it implies distinction. He who has this realization, understands this deeply in his heart, always, in all conditions ----- is himself Knowledge, Truth and its embodiment . One who knows Truth is Truth himself. Mundaka Upanishad also says, "The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman." (3.2.9)
"It is never otherwise" means any statement opposite to above observation is not true. Truth is said firmly, categorically, without least element of doubt. This knowledge itself is real knowledge, knowledge of the absolute. Know this knowledge. Nothing otherwise. Eliminate doubts, distractions and dualities. There is nothing to know after this knowledge.
Be Avadhuta Dattatreya yourself. Because you are yourself that. That's the importance of Avadhuta Gita. From the onset, it sets out to make you an Avadhuta. This is what Dattatreya is saying to unnamed disciple and us. Know it firmly, freely, independently. And maintain it at all times, all conditions. That is all. This is the gist of wonderful, amazing Avadhuta Gita.
A perfect example of self effort. An embodiment of devotion. Grace personified. Mystic par excellence. Some even thought his teachings whimsical. They considered the master eccentric. He didn’t care. He remained in the glory of his true identity, immersed in ever joy of existence revealed.
It is believed he became engrossed in divine seizures for realising various aspects of Reality as revealed in different scriptures. Perhaps this inspired him to taste the truth in various ways. Every experience he underwent was divine variation, rejoicing in playfulness. He made it look like it was his hobby to experiment. Like a child playing with toys, making a house, dismantling and building again with different designs.
In 1861, he first took the path of Tantric Sadhana at Dakshineswar Temple Garden from Yogeswari Bhairavi Brahmani. In a short period of time, he passed thru fairy ordeals described in sixty-four principal Tantra books. Truth of Tantra was verified yet again by Sri Ramakrishna.
Then in 1864, he was into Vaishnava Path, courtesy of Jatadhari, the revered exponent. After practising all different phases of devotion viz. Shanta, Dasya, Sakya, Vatsalya and Madhura (all deities correspond with various human emotions), he found out the same truth.
Also, he embraced the non-dualistic path, initiated into by Totapury, the Advaya master. In one day, he was in the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi ( Highest form of Realization where meditator, meditated and meditation is revealed as one)
Talking about the teaching he received from Kali, Divine mother, Ramakrishna says: First there is ignorance. Then there dawns knowledge. When supreme knowledge (Awareness) manifests, it takes you beyond ignorance and knowledge. He gives an example. When a thorn gets inside your body another thorn is used to take out the first one. Later, both are thrown away.
Indeed Ramakrishna is a Paramhansa, a supreme swan. Swan is a metaphor for sublime discernment. It easily separates milk and water apart in a mixture of milk-water. A man with the quality of a swan also easily separates real and imaginary, Sound and Echoes.
Osho Rajneesh called him 'Buddha of our time.' Disciples such as Ouspensky, Walker and Nicoll made this master's esoteric teachings known to outside world. George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a very uniqe mystic.
Born in 1873 in Alexandropol, Russia, his teachings focussed mainly on 'Self- Remembering'. This involved awareness of now. Now was the only real time for him. Past is gone, Future is not yet, only now is. Time is a succession of nows strung like pearls on a string. Present, the only reality, is one infinite moment to be enjoyed and savoured. Be joyous and always remain so.
Nowness or awareness of now, would eventually bring freedom from time factor altogether. And this is remembering (or realising) real nature of oneself and things or the world around us.
To remember or realise this state, however, Gurdjieff taught to see the futility of linear thinking. It is done by the jolt method or shock therapy. Break the habits of mind by an element of surprise or even jolt or shock to attain thoughtfree state. Jolt but don't give a heart attack. Otherwise, whom would you jolt. This 'Out of the blue' jolt method was somewhat similar to Zen Koan. Purpose of both are same --------- Remember your own true nature suddenly and stabilize in it.
Gurdjieff jolted disciples out of their habbits of brooding incessantly on their worries, ills and resentments and at times, on their excitements, pleasures and aspirations which were ephemeral too. He was a man of strict discipline when it came to practising the methods. He termed them "Work." As a result, most of the disciples couldn't stand the strain and quit. Those remained went on to master the technique as per the wish of the Master, like Ouspensky.
Coming back to Gurdjieff's theme, Remember Yourself. Don't forget to remember yourself. Be alert and try in all circumstances to remember yourself.
How to do this? Simply by keeping attention. Gradually, your mind will be more open and expand. You will experience it. You will be able to tell this from mere self-hypnosis. By jolt method, breaking old habits of mind and not building new. By understanding paradoxes, parables. Don't worry even if you forget sometimes to keep attention.
Gurdjieff passed away in 1949 AD.
Bahais are followers of Bahaullah, founder of Bahai faith. In Arabic, Bahaullah means light of god.` Bahais believe it is this light (knowledge) which is the final destination of human progression. In other words, we as human beings are continually progressing towards the Absolute through various spiritual realms. Accordingly, man is unable to grasp the essence of god and through this evident world, only few qualities of divine are manifested. Here the role of realized comes to play who reflect divine qualities as a mirror does. He can be a medium through whom/which man is able to understand the Absolute.
"Pass beyond the baser stages of doubt and rise to the exalted heights of certainty. Open the eye of truth, that thou mayest behold the veilless beauty and exclaim: Hallowed be the Lord, the most excellent of all creators," says Bahaullah.
Bahaullah started this faith in 1863 A.D. He taught about peace: world peace and inner peace. Several of his teachings can be found in his writings such as following:
The Hidden Words
Seven Valleys and Four Valleys
Book of Firm Conviction
Letter to the Son of Wolf
Prayer and Meditation
However, his teachings were too revolutionary for prevailing times and the regime. As a result, he was exiled. After his demise, in 1892, his son and later grandson and thousand of followers contributed in making Bahai faith what it is now, a non-sectarian order. Today it has expanded to 233 nations and islands. Bahai teachings have been translated into more than 800 languages. People from all walks of life and religion have embraced this faith. They have respect for other religions and other realized teachers like Buddha, Mahabir, Krishna, Abraham, Christ, Mohammed Zoroaster and so on. Bahaullah is considered to be the latest of great teachers. However, there is no room for priests and other hierarchy. There are no formal methods, rituals, oratories and initiations. Prayer and meditation are their only practice.
The teachings of Bahaullah has placed utmost importance on individual self-reliance. Every human being has the potential to be light of god. He/she is responsible for what he/she is. To a Bahai, freedom or realization is a single act where one is devoid of self-ego, retaining his identity.
"Free thyself from the fetters of this world and
loose thy soul from the prison of the self
seize thy chance for it will come to thee no more."
Prayer and meditation for the Bahais means contemplating and reflecting on the words of the teacher, Bahaullah. The regular practice of single-mindedness of our true identity which is manifested by kind words of the teacher gets a Bahai going. Progressively, that glimpse of realization is strengthened and stabilized. As Bahaullah says:
The temple of being is my throne
Cleanse it of all things
That there I may be established
And there I may abide.
First it was IQ, Intelligence Quotient. People with higher IQs were thought to be smarter. But that all changed in the Nineties. They were considered to have lacked the emotional factor ---- very much like a machine. Hence came EQ, Emotional Quotient. People with higher EQs were thought to be smarter + empathetic, discovering empathy that was missing earlier. It gradually became evident that was not enough either. There were so many smart and empathetic people who were dissatisfied and felt something was missing in their lives. Thus the advent of SQ or the Spiritual-Intelligence Quotient. It is also termed Spiritual Quotient sometimes. Not an invention or discovery but an uncovery, it had been there but we were too busy or unaware. SQ is the basis for effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence. In other words, back to basics ----- towards the traditional wisdom which we had forgotten or failed to understand in modern context. Let’s take a look in the form of some guidelines.
· Have an open mind. Make yourself free from any fixed, rigid pre-conceptions.
· Don't judge. Once you stop judging people or judging as a whole, you will feel so light and burdenless that life becomes full of joy.
· Be clever not cunning.
· Learn to say NO. Your life will be a lot easier and less tense. You will make people dislike you or make them angry but it is worth it. Remember, you can't please all the people. In your quest to please all people, you will end up with pleasing none.
· Mind is a chatterbox. With a little help, with your effort, it can be silenced. That silencer is Meditation.
· Happiness is not about destination, it is how you live the journey. NOW is your most important time, not past nor future. So, be happy now and always remain so.
· Expectations bring unhappiness. Things wont change whether you expect or not. So don't expect as much as possible. Or expect as less as possible.
·To prevent backlash in the form of repression or suppression, give neither value nor substance to expectations. Don't worry if you sometimes expect unknowingly.
·Don't take things too seriously. Indigestion, physical or mental, is the cause of all ills.
· It is better to be a protozoa in sea than be a frog in well.
· Ego-power is nothing as compared to ego-less power.
· I read somewhere recently:
We are not human beings having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences.
· Paradox is a very important way in meditation. It enables us to notice the limits of language and pierce the words, getting inside real essence.
· Knowing the absolute is just understanding, not much, not less. Remember the middle path. Buddha used to say that one's approach should be like that of a tigress when she is carrying her cub by her teeth. Cub is neither hurt nor dropped.
· The line between effort and spontaneity is erased in Meditation.
· Primary function of practice is to stabilize the real meaning without becoming mechanical.
· Practice is increasing the frequency of 'self remembrance.'
· A true Guru moulds the seeker towards the goal which he/she has reached.
· A real Guru is unpredictable because unlike us, he/she lives moment to moment without any legacy of past and any aspiration for future.
· Don’t mix various practices together without proper guidance.
· Don’t misunderstand Krishnamurti and don’t inflate your ego when he says you don’t need a Guru. What he means is ---- refrain from the personality of Guru, not from his essence which is not distinct from yours.
· In the time of quasi and pseudo Gurus, real Gurus have often been misunderstood. Interestingly, Frenchman Rennin once remarked when fate couldn't destroy a great man, it sent him disciples.
· Since there is dearth of real Gurus, one has to filter the teachings, scriptures and the like in order to have a foundation on which to practice and embark on the path. Check once in a while ( not frequently ) whether you are actually ready to dismantle that foundation too. As you will find out, Truth has nothing to do with any sort of reliance.
· Why should one practice before going to bed?
Because even when one falls asleep, practice will continue itself all night. Again, practising in the morning makes your day, resonating in you like echoes. It is working inside you even while you work in office.
· Remember 'Unity in diversity.' Contemplate on 'Diversity in unity' too.
The indian subcontinent from time immemorial has had no dearth of wise men whose wisdom radiated from their analytical and/or experiential studies. Ashtavakra as an experiential yogi is a fine example in this regard. His studies and experiences focus on man and universe, inner and outer world, being and knowing. As the legend goes, he learned and realised the Vedas while still in his mother's womb. When father Kagola recited scriptures, at times incorrectly, as a result he used to twist his body in pain and when he was born, his body was crooked in eight parts. Thus the name Ashtavakra, meaning Eight Crooks. (another version is that the faulty father cursed his son out of rage for objecting in his recitals.) During that time in court of King Janaka of Mithila, there was one pundit, Vandi whose hobby was to drown people who lost to him in polemical contest. The ill fated Kagola also went to challenge and lost.
When he grows up, Ashtavakra, a master of scriptures in a very young age, also goes on to challenge the pundit. Inside the palace, courtiers poke fun at his crookedness. They become even more severe as they find out he has come to challenge Vandi. A calm Ashtavakra responses, " I didn't know this place had ignorant cobblers.” Janaka asks, " Why do you say so? "Because" replies he, " all they see is skin and flesh-bones beneath it; unaware of the inner" Consequently, he proceeds on to beat Vandi. Janaka is impressed and later asks Ashtavakra to be his teacher, his guide. Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue in Sanskrit verse, a duet which is an effective form of sharing knowledge and wisdom. Rather than going, with futility, into whether Ashtavakra and Janaka were historical figures who actually lived or were just fictional characters composed by mature minds, it would be fruitful to concentrate on teachings.
As all great teachings of the world, Ashtavakra Gita also underlines grace and dignity of human life. It considers everyone equally qualified to be on a road to Bliss-pur provided one has an aptitude, attitude. That way one can board the vehicle called mind. A simple trick is not to look forward or backward but inward. And you will be swept along without any effort. Spontaneous. When you are aware of this spontaneousness, you have already parked and left the vehicle aside.
According to the treatise, mind is a vehicle as is body, words, language, teacher or even the treatise itself. At best, it can generate a sense of direction toward the absolute. Hence, Ashtavakra takes aid of symbols, images, paradoxes, examples to convey the incomprehensible, the inexpressible that is only to be understood, realised, experienced. Then a different mind, an equanimous, aware mind emerges and produces compassion and practical sensibility in our lives rather than blindly following the texts without discernment. However, there is a risk. To talk about it is to invite trouble, to describe it is to fall in the trap. But as a great sage he is, he takes calculated risk as he has to guide his pupil in a medium accessible.
As a great sage he is, he is an embodiment of compassion and in the very beginning introduces Janaka to the essence. This permanent and independent essence, he remarks, is not body nor mind but something that watches both --- the witness. It does not do or indulge and it is not suffering or feeling joy. It is not in the domain of the senses. It is what it is, self-existent, without beginning or end, luminous knowledge. This ancient wisdom proceeds on. Sometimes the student understands, sometimes he doubts. The teacher clears doubts and checks the student. Sometimes Janaka tells about his experiences. Ashtavakra keeps on clarifying. At last, a stage is reached when he is convinced that the king has perfected the teachings and there is no more need to continue. This is when all dualities and antidotes are gotten rid of. But before that, elaborating, the sage instructs that ego prevents us from seeing things as they really are. We see things in their apparent reality and consider them to be real. This apparent is compared to the lion of the dream. In the dream, we are scared of the lion thinking it to be real and find it unreal in waking up. Or when there is this classical illusion of rope imagined as serpent. When visible knowledge dawns, rope is not seen anymore as a serpent.
This applies to all things we see, hear, taste, smell, feel and cognize. Hence name of the game is perspective and surpassing it. Ashtavakra uses examples of inseparateness of gold and its ornaments, ocean and waves, space and jars and so on to demonstrate the non- dual and to bring clarity to Janaka. Every verse in Ashtavakra Gita is a gem in the treasure and its contemplation leads one to path of realization. Take the one about waked, dream and deep sleep states. As for waked, it is the state when and where we are awake and conscious of world around us. The dream one wherein we are not conscious of the world and there is another world, a subtle one. Deep sleep is the one when we are neither conscious nor dreaming, a state in which mind and body are relaxed and asleep. After waking up in the morning, we do know we had a sound sleep previous night. So if mind and body were asleep, how did we know we had a sound sleep? According to ancient wisdom, this knower is the essence ------ the eternal witness always present in us and beyond space and time. This knower which knows above three states and is also beyond them is the fourth state or turia (fourth). Our memory derives information off it and next morning we say we had a very good night sleep.
As Janaka is enlightened, he generates a sense of direction toward enlightenment. He implies that he is devoid of conflict and antidote. Since he resides in the ownness, seeing himself and the world in exactness, no longer to him it makes sense to say what is waked state, dream state and deep sleep state. When you completely get rid of something or non-something, conflicts or antidotes, there is neither conflict nor non-conflict, neither duality nor non-duality, neither space nor void, neither time nor timeless, neither atman nor non-atman, and so on. Aware of the spontaneous, you have left the vehicle aside. Do you carry the boat even after crossing the river?
This is when and where Ashtavakra Gita stops. The sage is convinced that the king has perfected the teaching. Janaka has pierced the words and gone beyond. Reading between the lines or rather `Hearing between the lines` may be the right expression.
(This write-up of mine was published in The Kathmandu Post )