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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Gita Jayanthi !

Bhagavat Gita happened 5111 years ago on this day, 28th december.

Below is the message of Sri NV Raghuram for the significance of this special day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Asparsha Yoga - Part 1

Several people are practicing some thing in the name of yoga all over the world. We really do not know how many of them have really understood what yoga means or how yoga has been explained in the parampara! The word yoga is not some thing new or need to be invented fresh. It has come since the start of this civilization and culture and has been consistent with its definition through out these many years.
Sage Patanjali in his treatise on yoga called yoga sutras gives us the technique how to reach the state of yoga with the help of ‘Astanga yoga’ which is very popular in the scholars’ circle. Adi Shankarachaya’s teacher’s teacher Gaudapada while writing the commentary on Mandukya Upanishad has given a method called “Asparsha yoga”, which is based on the principle investigation taken up by Mandukya Upanishad.
Mandukya Upanishad has a great appeal for the scientists because of two essential features. One is the simplicity and brevity of the subject content. No unnecessary information is given. And the second feature is the similarity between scientific investigation and inner investigation. Objects of the world may be many and random but in order to understand the matter science divides various elements into categories such as solids liquids and gases each category having common properties. Similarly our experiences may be many and appear very random. Mandukya Upanishad very successfully categorized our experiences into three categories and from there derives how this can lead us into the experience of the atman.
Atman is not a theory but we need to experience the state of atman. How can we have this experience? Is it some thing that has to come about or is it already there. If it is some thing which has to come then does it also not go away? If it is also having the quality of coming and going then why is it so important? Is it not like other experiences? Thus our enquiry has all these doubts.
Let us therefore take it slowly step by step to see how we can find out answer to all these questions.
All our experiences can be divided into three categories. First of them is the wakeful state experiences. It is the experiences in the gross world and the experiences are gross. There are nineteen (opening) mouths through which we have nourishment in this wakeful experience. There are few points we need to recognize here. First one is that nineteen senses are five perception sensory organs, five locomotion organs, five pranas, and four internal modifications of the mind namely mind, intellect, mind stuff and the ego. What ever interactions we have with these nineteen openings, they all belong to gross world. There can not be any experience which belongs to these senses and in the nature of subtle world. If I say that I am seeing with my eyes, it only means I am seeing in the gross world.
All these experiences are for gross nourishment. It is our decision to see what we interact is for our nourishment. If our interaction in this world is not providing us nourishment we can not blame any one but ourselves, because it is for us to accept things which are for our nourishment. We also follow this unconsciously. When we take banana we peel the skin away and take the fruit in it. The skin is not nourishing but the fruit is nourishing. Same way when we buy a toffee we take away the paper and eat the toffee. Even a child knows that, what is nourishing need to be taken and what is not nourishing we should just simply discord. Instinctively child throws away the food if child is full because eating food after being full is not nourishing. These cases are simple, but why not we think in the same way in all the cases. The food we eat should have the effect of nourishing if not we need not go for that. We find facts of nourishment in the form of labels on various food items these days and people select food accordingly. Organic foods are nourishing and foods which are chemically processed are not nourishing. Therefore, these days, people select organically grown foods and avoid foods which are chemically grown. An important fact we need to know in this regard. Nourishment factor has one more consideration. The food belongs to hunger. Food has to be given to hunger. If you are not hungry and give food that food is like poison and will be no-nourishing. We need to look at it more carefully. Are we giving food to the hunger within us? Are we eating food because we are hungry or are we eating food because of some other reasons? Many times we may be eating not because we are hungry but because we find the food interesting or we have nothing else to do so let us eat! Such food is not nourishing. When we take food it is also necessary that we have pleasant mood. Otherwise the food will not be nourishing. It is also not just the food items but the ingredients which go into food in what combination they are taken are also important. Instead of considering all thee things lot of orthodox people pay their attention seriously on who touches and what touches the food.
We can accept to some extent that we follow in food about what is nourishing very carefully. But the Upanishad says that the fact of nourishment does not belong only to the food that we take thorough the mouth but also to all other organs, because we nourish in this gross world through all our nineteen senses. What we hear through our ears has to be nourishing and what we see should be nourishing. We need to introspect ourselves about this. We read daily news paper or we read so many junk novels. Did we any time think whether what we read is nourishing or not. We see movies but have we thought if that movie is nourishing for us or not. Similarly we are engaged in gossip so often but have we thought of the nourishment we get out of it.
This awareness at once makes us a different person. You will recognize that a host of things in which we are engaged, become wasteful and non- nourishing. There is no reason for us to keep blindly taking it.
Another aspect is that, not only the external sensory organs, our internal organs are also for the sake of nourishing. The movement of motor organs is for the sake of nourishing. This concept is interesting. The animals and human beings are provided with the limbs which we need to utilize regularly on daily basis. If we fail to use our organs after few days or months we loose the ability if using the limbs. If we immobilize the limbs for few days the body part looses its functional ability. When we have a fracture or a dislocation we immobilize the limb for six weeks so that the bone rejoins. But due to immobilizing the part that hand or leg will not have any strength to perform simple duties. It takes some days of training before we can use that part of the body. Therefore it is necessary to continue to do the activities or exercise so that body will not become useless. In the ancient times people used to go to walk miles together in daily activities, sit down and stand up several hundred times in every day life and lift weights countless number of times every day. As we have become more and more sophisticated and technology developed we have appliances and gadgets to take care of all these activities and we don’t do with our body. We don’t walk any more because we need car even to go small distances. We don’t lift weights, which is taken care of by mechanical devises. Sitting down is nearly forgotten as we have couches and sofas which have also become a status symbol. Even a simple thing like hand writing is also forgotten by many because the computers have come. Since we don’t use these limbs and small joints we suffer from all sorts of ailments at body level. That is why Upanishad says that we need to do the activities with the motor organs so that we are nourishing. We need to do physical works such as walking, sitting and standing, lifting weights, all such activities for the sake of nourishing.
Not only the five pranas but the four internal modifications of mind stuff, namely mind, intellect, memory and ego are also for nourishing. What we think and what we memorize should also be for the sake of nourishing. We normally keep in mind only negative thoughts of any person and bad experience encountered and tend to forget good things. Even though it may be a single thing happened, we keep that in mind much more than several good things about him or her. Keep those things which are nourishing in your mind. We have to be careful to exercise ‘ego’ which is nourishing for us and if it is not nourishing we should have the freedom to discard it. People pursue their ego in all cases where it is non-nourishing. This is non spiritual according to the Upanishad.
- to be continued...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pooja vs Prayer and worship

A friend of mine Dr Anirudh having read my article on the meditation and Dhyana expressed that I should write about pooja or worship also giving the picture according to Indian philosophy.

Pooja is one of those words, which is very widely used in the Indian culture. This is so because in Indian culture, every house is having temple in the house and they offer daily pooja. This house of pooja will normally have the idols of or pictures of several gods of their own choice and many houses also keep the photographs of the saints sadhus or swamiji’s who either lived in the recent past or who are also living even now. Therefore, pooja is a very common word in the household in India. I do not think pooja to be translated as ‘prayer’. It is very different as pooja does not emerge from praying per say. in English we may say it as worship but we need to understand pooja clearly. I do not know the full meaning and philosophy behind the English word called ‘WORSHIP’ but let me here give some of the details of pooja its philosophy, which may help them not only to appreciate the depth of the ideas about pooja but also to follow it with this understanding in the day-to-day life.

The pooja place in a house is very intimately and emotionally associated with the owner of the house, I observed several times that the owner started building the house and the engineer would have put the marks on the ground about foundation for various walls. The moment the marking for the pooja room is there on the ground, the owner does not step there with his foot wear on because going into pooja room with footwear is disrespect to god! One could see such a thing in the earlier days where the owner would have built house himself and not like the culture of apartment houses these days.

According to Sage Narada, pooja, or what we translate as worship, has two components.

Poojadishu Anuraga iti prasharyah II

[The anuraga in pooja and other things is Bhakti according to Parashara’s son Vyasa.]

The component called Anuraga is the element of Bhakti in the case of doing Pooja. This brings about a question what is the other component, which is there in our culture along with the Anuraga? That component is the Physical details of the practice of worship.

He did not specifically make mention of it because this is some thing which one can see very clearly out side. The problem is that many people take this alone as the Bhakti. Let us try to understand it in detail.

Like many other things in the nature, pooja also has two components. One is the outer component and the other is the inner component, like the body and the soul. What we normally see is the outer component, the visible component and the other the invisible component or the hidden component. The outer part the body is having meaning and purpose only when there is the inner component. The freedom the growth, and the joy and satisfaction, which we see in the body, they all belong to the soul and not to the body. Body alone does not have any of these things.

Similarly, the practice of pooja also has two components. The practice details, the gods and their details, method and the ingredients involved, are the outer structure and what Narada calls as anuraga, is the inner component. This anuraga is again very difficult to translate in English. Roughly this can be understood as the feeling intimacy with, the feeling the presence of god in your heart and not in head. Anuraga is richer and nobler than attachment. You are doing out of pure joy in giving or doing for others! Feeling is some thing you can see from out side. It is one’s own experience happening inside. It is intimacy with the god or with the other so that the other will not be there as other any longer.

Pooja is the real one when the feeling of intimacy leads us into pooja or the worship. At that time in just doing pooja, you are satisfied and you are not looking for any further happenings. If there is any other demand or other expectations and the satisfaction depends upon any further happenings such as some grace or some benefit f winning a lottery or exams etc then the pooja becomes secondary. Therefore, anuraga is the seed for the pooja and your feeling is the seed, as the plant is the expression of the seed planted. Anuraga comes from deep respect, love, wonder, closeness and intimacy all blended into one thing!

The technique of pooja involves saying some mantras in Sanskrit and in between offering various things. If you look at these mantras they give a very simple meaning like this.

To start with, you offer your prayers and welcome the god. Offer him water so that he can wash his feet and his hands before entering so that he is purified of all the dust from out side. The corresponding mantras are ‘Padau prakshalayami and Hastau prakshaayami’. Stapayami poojayami, make his to sit down Asanam sweekrutya requesting god to accept the seat. The moment god comes light comes in to the house.. Symbolically the moment he comes in the lights are lighted and you offer him fragrance by lighting the dhoop sticks. The mantra for that is dhoopa deepam agrapayami. Depending up on the god we are worshipping we select the items for pooja. When we do the pooja of lord Ganesha because he is with elephant head he loves to eat the grass and fresh leaves his appetite is vast so. We prepare several varieties of sweets and offer him grass and variety of leaves and sugar cane etc. While offering with each mantra, which is the praise of god, we offer one thing. Since he is a child he likes to be with children so that day all the children go round several houses to see Ganesha and in his presence which ever may be the house children do some simple yoga exercise, scientists found in USA recently that this exercise is good for improving memory and attention. When we offer food to the god especially whenever any item is felt to be having spicy taste then naturally, he requires water in between to feel cool inside. There is a mantra for that saying, madhyemadhye paneeyam samarpayami. In between water is offered. In the evening, we offer music and dance programs and in the night, there are special rituals suggesting god Ganesha is being put to bed and there are bed tie stories. There are lullabies for all gods in Indian philosophy and culture. In the morning, there are wakeup songs for the lord. These activities are so sweet that they do not pace god far above beyond clouds. Thus, pooja is a practice for a very intimate specialized guest for you and the family. All these steps create the necessary psychological posture and inner preparedness. There are also substitutes in case you miss some thing you do not have to feel guilty about it. Rice with yellow colour and some times even some camphor or other essence is added, can substitute any of the missing items. Like the mantra says offer nice dress to god and if not available offer handful of this rice known as akshata in place of the cloth or dress. Vasteram samarpayami. Offer cloths and if not available offer akshata. tadabhave ashatam samarpayami. The best available material such as curd, coconut water, honey, thick milk, and dry fruits etc are all material for offering because god likes them! Having used the substitute items at the end out of humility there are also mantras praying to the god, ‘oh, lord, please for give me if I had done any thing wrong knowingly or unknowingly since it is not out of intention of doing things wrong way but my own other limitations.

Since the pooja is the expression of the deep love and oneness with god, you are experiencing the day of pooja you are not to get angry or irritated towards anybody and to keep cheerful mood and freely exchange cheers with all. Thus, these pooja will make our mind positive and helps arise above the level of complaints. This has to be done with pure inner experience of divinity. Now the question comes how to develop this feeling of presence of divinity!

Our life gives us many experiences or opportunities to develop this deep respect and love. On many occasions things will happen to you unexpectedly which brings about great happiness to you! If only you think deeply you will realize that things would not have happened if you planned and worked for it. It is not by your effort that things happened that way. Many times even in spite of you things would have happened in a favourable way to you and this can only be possible due to some grace from some unknown quarters. If you think like that, you will be filled with unusual joy and at the same time filled with such great reverence that you feel the help you received is from god beyond! We can let this situation slip away by saying egoistically that we have achieved it and it is purely our effort!

Only when one gives up this claim on the doer-ship and deeply feels touched by god then pooja the feeling of prardhana comes up whose expression is pooja! This feeling inside is the mother of all the rituals and all the forms of god and all the mantras and chantings which are the manifest form outside.

Not only in Indian philosophy but also in all the spiritual paths have emerged with the practices that are, expressions of great saints who gave the expression to their inner experience. Those who must have been around such great personalities would have seen their masters and would have been seen the shades of god on the faces of their masters and thus they adapted the rituals very diligently! However, later persons would have only followed the practices and further they become mechanical rituals and the soul the anuraga is not adapted.

If we observe the details of pooja one can notice that pooja consists of treating god as human being and welcoming him in the best possible way and offering him the water to wash his or her feel and fanning him after making him sit comfortably before you start any thing further. In case of Lord Ganesh since he is a child we need to get the permission from his mother so that we can take him to our house and for that you worship her before and please her so that she will not deny your request when you ask her permission to take lord Ganesh with you. In addition, all the days the god is with you provide time-to-time food entertainment and all that so that he will stay with you very happily and finally send him back to his abode with all care and love. Thus in all the pooja methods god is personified. For some people it may look silly but nature is such that all our emotions we need personification to find expression. Simple example is the dreams! Dream are he expression of our motions like fear anxiety or anger deep in our minds. They find their vent in our dreams where we see some persons or some animals and we have expression of our emotions. When we wake up we realise what we have seen is not real but in the process we find expression for our emotions. Bhakti is conscious tool to manifest our good emotions of love, reverence etc. However, unless until we bring god to the human level and treat god, like another human being very intimately related to you, we will not give expression to these emotions. Then the whole practice becomes mechanical and there is no devotion behind our doing pooja.

Once I was giving a series of lectures on Upanishads in a temple in Los Angeles. The organisers wanted to introduce me to the pujari who is employed to do pooja in the temple. When my fried took me to him he was talking to some one holding the phone in his right hand to his ear discussing about the share market and with the other hand he was offering the flowers to the god image and with the same hand he took the holy water ‘teerthem’ and offered to me! My friend felt that he has not heard him earlier introducing me so he attempted to tell him that I am the speaker on Upanishads in the temple, for which he replied ‘yes I know sir’, and continued to talk on the phone. Where is the spirit of pooja in this? pooja is not just a worship where you follow some rituals or say some mantras - holy chants, ringing some bells and finally feel relieved at the end of all that exercise relieved in the sense that now you can establish your claim for his grace and put in front of him your demands list. It is a method, which can flow the fullest expression to your heartfelt emotions and you are fully absorbed in his consciousness so that you become one with the divinity. The earlier sages who have given expression to their experience in the form of pooja methodology will feel satisfied.

That is the reason Nerada expresses in the subsequent sutra that you become one with god, ‘tanmayah’ out of love. When you go to god out of fear or favour god is not important, you are important. God is some one who is attending to your demands. If he has to keep his position then he has to attend other wise in your eyes he looses his position as god! When you go to god out of love, which is enriched in the form of devotion and deep respect and intimacy, then god is important and you are unimportant! Your worth is only in dissolving in god!

In the beginning, you become self-conscious about others observing you when you are doing pooja. Therefore, all cultures provided methods, which people can follow in the group so that you can do the rituals. Soon it is important that you do the pooja in aloneness and not in the presence of others where you can freely express your feeling from your heart, you can cry you can dance or you can use any other form of expressing your heart. That is the reason, sage Narada said in another sutra ‘Bhaktinah Ekantino Mukhyah’. Bhakti practitioner needs to practice in aloneness with god so that he can find his true expression. Therefore, people go to the temples and we have group ritual practices in the society but at the same time, every house we have temples where people do their pooja alone! Many times people do not find that kind of devotion in the, so-called big temples, what they get in their simple home temple. True pooja is to surrender to god and no to claim the achievements and it should make you humble. The people how does pooja and becomes arrogant and looks down upon others who do not do pooja are not sincere in their pooja.

A little child is playing with her doll for hours and mother was happy that the child has not done mischief. The child is engaged in offering child in doll food and tea and all such things. The child also changes the diaper of the doll child raises the tone like mother does and gives instructions to the child.

Mother has seen the child is playing for hours. I the evening the mother now instructs the child @ now you played enough with the doll now keep it a side and wash your hands and legs and come for dinner. Child replies to the mother “please, mom, don’t shout I am coming in few minutes child will be sleeping any moment and you don’t raise your voice that will disturb the sleep of the child”. Mother in reply says, “There is nothing like child and after all it is a doll. Don’t worry”. Pained in her heart the child says to the child doll motherly words, “you please you don’t take it to your heart, mom shouts and that is her nature, you go to sleep now. I will come back soon and be by your side”. Child feels the presence of consciousness in the doll, which mother does not see. Same way the person who does pooja must see the consciousness being present and not the stone idol; then only pooja is real pooja or worship is real worship and not otherwise!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dhyana or Meditation

Interview about the difference between Dhyana and meditation/concentration on youtube :

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shiva Manasa Puja by Adi Shankaracharya


Rathnai Kalpitham asanam, Himajalai snanam cha divyambaram,

Naana rathna vibhooshitham mruga madha modhanvitham Chandanam,

Jathi champaka bilwa pathra rachitham, pushpam cha dupam Thada,

Deepam deva dayanithe pasupathe, hrud kalpyatham gruhyatham.

Souvarne nava rathna Ganda Rachithe, pathre Grutham Payasam,

Bakshyam pancha vidam Payo dadhiyutham, rambha phalam panakam,

Chaaka namayutham jalam ruchikaram, karpoora gandojwalam,

Thamboolam manasa maya virachitham Bhakthya prabho sweekuru

Chathram Chamarayoryugam vyajanagam, chaa darshakam nirmalam,

Veena bheri mrudanga kahala kala geetha chruthyam thada,

Sasthangam pranthi sthuthir bahu vidha, hyethat samastham maya,

Sankalpena samapitham thava vibho, poojam gruhana prabho.

Aathma thwam Girija Mathi sahacharaa, prana sharreram gruham,

Pooja theey vishayopa bhoga rachana, nidhra samadhi sthithi,

Sanchara padayo pradakshina vidhi, sthothrani sarva giraa,

Yadyath karma karomi thathad akhilam, shambho thavaradhanam.

Kara charana krutham vaak kayajam karmajam vaa,

Shravana nayanajam vaa maanasam vaa aparadham,

Vihithamavihitham vaa sarva methath Kshamaswa,

Jaya Jaya karunabdhe sri Mahadeva Shambho.

English Translation:

A diamond studded seat, cool water and divine robes,

adorned with many jewels, musk and sandalwood to anoint you.

Jasmine and Champaka flowers, bilva leaves and incense,

and flame. O compassionate one, Pashupati, please accept these that I have imagined.

In a golden bowl inlaid with jewels, sweet rice and ghee,

Five different types of foods made from water, milk, curd, fruits and vegetables,

My chanting of your name that is like the tasty drinking water, scented with camphor,

and betel leaf, created in my mind with devotion. Please accept them, Lord.

A canopy, a pair of yak’s tail whisks, a fan and a spotless mirror,

With music from veena and mrindangam, singing and dancing,

And prostrations, and many hymns I offer you

In my imagination. Lord please accept my offerings.

You are my Self. Parvati is my reason. Pranas your attendants, my body your home.

My senses are for your worship, my sleep is your Samadhi.

When I walk I circumambulate you, Everything I say is in your praise,

Whatever I do is your worship, O Lord.

(Sins) of my hands and feet, of the body, or of action,

of hearing, or of sight, or of the mind,

whether allowed or prohibited, please forgive them all.

Hail, Hail, O ocean of compassion, O Great Lord, Shambhu.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interviews on Youtube: Indian Gods, Festivals, Calendar

Indian Festivals and Indian Calendar:

Multitute of Gods:

Indian Gods and Puja:

Interviews on Youtube: What is Guru & Is Discipleship still alive

What is guru:

Is discipleship still alive: