By-Products of Spirituality

Dear readers,

Welcome to another interesting week of insightful topics and discussions. It is great to be able to share with you all once again.

The last weekend has been festive and intense for those of us who are Gaudiya Vaisnavas and during this very auspicious period of reflection on the appearance of the Supreme Lord on this planet over 500 years ago, I took in some realizations which I shall share. During the course of our spiritual journey many of us will encounter different test, trials, setbacks, be they internal, external or objects of our own creation. Our response to these factors usually go a long way to shape or mold our subsequent path in spirituality.

However adversity is not the only stumbling block on the path of devotional service to the Lord, as opulence, and even material success could very well impede our progress. It is on this matter we shall deliberate today. Many people take on spirituality for a diverse number of reasons and with time these reasons manifest or take form due to the practitioners intense desire to have them or just due to the fact that they have developed some good spiritual credit that gives them the spiritual eligibility to attract and manifest these subtle desires. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krsna mentions that four kinds of Men surrender unto Him, the distressed, the one who desires wealth, the inquisitive and he who is searching the knowledge of the Absolute truth. Now very few people fall in the last category and Lord Krsna Himself mentions this again in the Bhagavad Gita that of many Men who seek Him hardly does one know Him in truth.

Today these four classes of men still seek Krsna and they are not to be condemned of Judged, however our discussion today is centered on what happens to a practitioner who fall in the category of those who harbor desires and seek to fulfill it in the process of devotional service. It is said that the Maha Mantra is a wish fulfilling mantra and as such those who chant this mantra naturally have their desires fulfilled.  Second point is that on the level of chanting the semblance name (nama-abhasa) one gets his material desires fulfilled. This is one of the qualities of such improper chanting. Having one’s material desires fulfilled is not a flaw in itself if the objective is to use those desires to further service the Lord properly, however when these material desires are used to acquire fame, worship and adoration, or presented as a pseudo-advancement yard stick, then the practitioner gets into a difficult position in his/her spiritual life. Of course one may cite the verse that says “akarma sarva karmo va, moksa karma udaradi…” that is even if one has no desires, to many desires or desires liberation still one should worship the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, as a reference to justify our having desires different from giving satisfaction to the Supreme. Fair enough, the idea is that with time and practice, the practitioner can either dove tail those desires or even rise above them and totally focus his time and energy on the Lord’s service.

If a practitioner who while chanting harbors material desires in his mind or heart, soon they will manifest and come to reality either by the potency of the semblance name or by virtue of his spiritual practice. This in itself is doesn’t mar his progress as much as the fault of beginning to assume that these material desires that are manifesting are as a result of his spiritual growth and his progress on the path of devotion. This thought or misconception is where the real problem lies and if not tackled immediately, could very well spell out his downward swirl. When a practitioner or persons on the path of devotional service begin to equate spiritual progress with the level of one’s material success then the growth of our devotional creeper is stunted. So what should be the mindset of a practitioner who has material desires or has them being fulfilled while engaging in devotional service?

The sincere practitioner should pray to the Lord for guidance and help to be able to curb his material desires. He should try to reduce the association of persons or things that increase these desires. He should take his devotional practice seriously while accepting whatever material embellishment he gets as just a means to serve better. He should not use or even harbor the desire to use these material embellishment to attract fame, honour or adoration. The practitioner should dearly pray to the lord to help him surmount the temptations that come with material progress and he should pray to those practitioners who are advanced to help him steer clear of distractions that come with material advancement.

I know some of my readers may wonder and even begin to think that I am saying material advancement is bad or not something to acquire. The truth is when something powerful is placed in the hands of someone who cannot manage it, then it becomes dangerous. However when placed in the right hands it is desirable. So it is not much the item but the person who has the item. On a lighter note, as living beings in the material world it is natural that at some point in time we will have material desires either due to past karmic impressions or due to our current actions and choices. This should not be a cause for despair or lamentation, the mere fact that we can identify which desire is not favorable or which advancement may be an impediment is a step in the right direction. The only thing we have to do in addition is to be careful of our choices, and our actions.  There is no one to police our thought or our desires or to see how we use our material embellishments. The only person who can really check us is; ourselves.

I hope this blog sheds good light on this matter, do read, share and follow for more. Do have a splendid week ahead.

God; form or formless

Dear readers,

It’s a pleasure to be able to share with you all once again yet another interesting topic. Last week we had the chance to deliberate on a thought-provoking matter and needless to say we were able to gain a lot more insight on tests in our spiritual journey.

Today however topic of deliberation is different and beyond the regular, before we delve into it, allow me to give a brief preamble. If you are new to this blog space and would like to have a background information on what I’ll be discussing today then please do read this blog >God’s descent<. Having said that, today we shall be discussing about the form or formlessness of God. It might sound somewhat bold to try to “depict or describe” God, however there is no cause for alarm or panic as whatever I present here today will be backed by references from scriptural texts and in this way we can appease the minds of my readers who are from various religious backgrounds.

The reason why I have chosen to deliberate on this topic today is because; tomorrow the world over many Gaudiya Vaishnava will be celebrating the advent of the Supreme Lord on this planet over 5000 years ago.

So first question is why would God want to come here to this planet in the first place?

In the Bhagavad Gita Chap 4 text 7 and 8, the Lord gives the reason why he descends. He says whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious principles he descends, and when he does he comes with the objective of re-establishing religious principles, protecting his devotees and annihilating the miscreants. Sometimes the Lord doesn’t descend himself but sends his emissary to do his bidding. This emissary could be the Lord himself in the form of an incarnation or of a being invested with spiritual potency to carry out his mission. The Bible confirms this in John 3.16 where it says for God so loved the world that he sent his Son, that whomsoever believed in Him would not perish but have ever lasting life. So by accepting the Lord or his incarnations when they descend puts us under their protection. When we are protected by the Lord we definitely will have ever lasting life.

Does God really have a form?

Many people ascribe various attributes to God, and in this light describe Him as the great Light, the Great sound, the great energy etc. In as much as He is all these, He is also more. He is the great light but also the source of that light, he is the great sound but also the source of that sound. He is described in an ancient text known as the Brahma Samhita, or hymns by Brahma; one of the demigods working under the Lord’s direction. In this text it is mentioned that “the lord has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all, and has no other origin. He is the prime cause of all causes. This means that despite the fact that He has a body his body is not subject to the laws of material nature like ours. We have a body that grows, falls sick, gets diseased, grow old and eventually dies off. These attributes do not occur in the body of the Lord, thus his body is eternal, blissful and spiritual. His body doesn’t deteriorate in any way form or manner. He never gets old and there is no question of death for him, as he is death personified himself.

In the Bible in Genesis 1:26, God says “let us make Man in our image and likeness” which means we have a form similar to his.  In the Hadith, it is mentioned that on the day of resurrection, Allah will come to those who worship Him and He’ll say I am your Lord”, they reply: we’ll stay here till our Lord comes to us and when he comes to us we will recognize him, then Allah will appear in such a shape that they can recognize.

If God has a form why is that form not spoken about, or why is He treated as formless by many religions?

In all sincerity, many people are hesitant to speak about the form of the Lord due to inadequate information on this subject matter. This is because not many scriptures have a detailed description, and thus there is hesitation to discuss that which is not properly explained. However those who have access to revealed scriptures like the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures known to Mankind, have no difficulty in getting the right information.  Second is they find it difficult to actually discuss the subject because they are limited in understanding and feel the Lord’s form is like theirs; which is full of limitation. The human mind finds it difficult to discuss about the absolute or anything absolute because it is finite in nature. Naturally whenever there is a discussion in that direction and there is inadequate guidance then the immediate response is to try to negate the concept so as to remain “safe” in their limited conception.

More so, one cannot speak about what one has no information on. In order to speak about the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord, one needs to have access to the information and the right attitude to get it. Also, because this concept has been abused by many people who claim to be “god”, because they know it is valid and exists, many religious do not even teach it ( for those of them who know).

The form of the Lord is definitely not one we can cover in one dissertation, however this is just a sneak peek into the concept of the nature of the form of God. When we make a genuine effort to try to serve the Lord in truth and surrender to a bona fide representative or spiritual guide, then we can hope that the necessary information needed is revealed to us. By the mercy of the spiritual master one gets the benediction of the Supreme lord, and without his mercy one cannot make advancement.

I hope this dissertation helps shed light on this matter. Till next week, do share, read and internalize. Follow for more.

The Gold and Diamond Test

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be here to share with you all once again yet another interesting topic. I hope you all had a productive week, mine has been great and I am particularly looking forward to a festival today, which is celebrated by Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

My topic of consideration today is one which many spiritual practitioners find difficult to wrap their minds around, because of the delicate nature of the subject. This subject is one that has made many people become atheist and has also strengthened the faith of those who are believers. It can be summarized in a single phrase; “why does God allow his devotees to go through tough times”. However before we begin to deliberate on the subject matter let’s look back in time and cite a few examples.

Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible was of a simple disposition, he helped the poor, fed the hungry, healed the sick, but in the end he was betrayed by his own disciple for 30 silver coins (is a man’s life not worth more than that? How cheap). In the last meeting with his disciples when he was about to be arrested by the soldiers and one of his disciples drew a sword to fight back, Jesus did the opposite and turned himself in. Bear in mind that this is a person who is a sakti-avesa avatar (one who is imbued with divine potency to do God’s work), he is described as the Son of God in John 3.16 and we all know he had divine powers and abilities. He didn’t try for once to use that power, when brought before the people and the Pontius Pilate asked the crowd to choose between him and the criminals, they chose the criminals over him, still he didn’t complain. Today he is celebrated the world over, and almost everyone knows that name, Jesus.

Haridas Thakur who is the manifestation of Suddha nama, and who is known as nama acarya was flogged in 22 market places, lied on etc. He had the potency to descend wrath on those who did these things yet he didn’t, and the lord intervened. Today his glories shine even brighter than ever.

The Pandavas, knew Lord Krishna on a one on one basis, imagine having the Supreme Lord as a relative and friend. Yet despite this privilege they went through such terrible situations that one can hardly even imagine the extent to which they must have been damaged.  They were poisoned, attacked, set up, had their house burnt down, had their property usurped by dubious means, had their wife stripped in front of an assembly of men, My goodness, this one is tough. However in the end they were victorious and today their glories are sung even more. I can go on to list more examples but I’ll just stop here.

Now let’s draw a few lessons; sometimes in the course of our spiritual life we are thrown into some situation which may seem absurd, however if we fail to learn the lesson, we fail the Gold and Diamond test.  What is the Gold and Diamond test? To purify gold and make it pure, it is subjected to heat, diamonds are just carbons subjected to a lot of pressure over many years. Similarly for a devotee’s qualities to shine, he has to be subjected to heat and pressure, after that one can see the Gold and diamond in him/her. A pseudo devotee will melt under heat (trials) or break under pressure (tribulations).  Lesson two, when a devotee is going through the Gold and Diamond test, in matter of time, if he/she passes the test, we may not see the transformation or elevation physically, but internally there is a great milestone covered, and they are given more access to divine strength and protection.

Lesson three is often times people want to know but these people who pose as disturbances to devotees what is their fate? Usually not very good, Judas committed suicide and couldn’t even spend the money he got from betraying Jesus, the entire Kauravas lost their lives and none of them was spared in the war, etc. The devotee doesn’t wish anyone bad, however Krsna never lets his devotees perish, “Na me bhakta pranasyati”. It’s a promise. I once had an interesting experience once while travelling by road in a public bus.  A private car, double crossed our vehicle forcing us to come to a complete abrupt halt and he jumped out of his vehicle yelling at the driver of the bus I was in. That day was Pandava Nirjala ekadasi, I was travelling with another devotee, and we were observing the fast in total. We were chanting the entire time of the journey, when this incidence began. The driver who had forced us to stop began hitting the windshield and went on to hack off the side mirror on our vehicle.

Our driver became furious and wanted to retaliate, I told him “wind up your side mirror and stay put”. When the devotee who was me tried to speak calmly to the enraged driver who was trying to damage our bus, the driver moved over to our side of the bus as we were seated in front and started to rain abuse on him, the devotee in question wanted to step out to and probably engage with the driver, again I told him, “ignore it, remember you are fasting”. Now this is where it gets scary, from nowhere in a split second a van carrying military officers, suddenly pulled over, and in a few seconds the man terrorizing our vehicle was in cuffs. It was unbelievable, it happened so fast that many people didn’t even understand what was happening. While the officers were whisking him away, for causing nuisance and destroying our car, he started to apologize. A few minutes ago this was the same person who had vowed to beat us up if we dared step out.

The devotee with me looked and me and said this must be instant karma. I said “you see why it was pointless go out to meet him”. The devotee in no way wishes that those who prosecute him should suffer, rather he prays for them, Jesus said on the cross “father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Haridas thakur was constantly praying in his mind for those who were flogging him and that inhibited the lord from acting, even Arjun who saw his wife stripped in front of him, turned down retaliating when he had the chance at the battel field. However the Lord, in his own sweet time, solves everything.

I don’t intend to make this too lengthy, I hope you all learn a thing or two from this. Till next week do share, read, internalize and follow for more.

Subtle Dependency

Dear readers,

It’s a pleasure to be able to share with you all today yet another interesting topic. I hope you all are faring well.

A couple of days back it rained quite heavily and the wind that accompanied the rain was pretty intense thereby resulting in our power lines shutting down. When the power is down, automatically the internet also is inaccessible. In this little space of roughly 48 hours, a lot of things came into perspective. One of them is the immediate exposure of our total dependence on things that we have “created”. We create things with the intention that they will make our lives somewhat easier, however when these amenities are absent even for a short period of time, we become so vulnerable. This is one clear difference between the living entity and the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is described as Atmaram; one who is self-sufficient.  He is self-sufficient because He doesn’t need anything or anyone to be Himself or to feel complete. We on the other hand; as infinitesimal spiritual living entities, are constantly in search of something to satisfy or complete us.

In one of the ancient scriptures known as the Isopanisads, it is mentioned that the Supreme Person is perfect and complete, and from him comes so many complete wholes such as this cosmic manifestation. Whatever comes from him is also complete in itself, however even though all these complete wholes are emanating from Him, He remains the complete balance. This means that he is not bound by the laws of material nature which subject us to various limitations, because even the laws of material nature function under his sanction and jurisdiction. In our quest to create a “perfect and complete” environment for ourselves here on this planet we have forgotten to take shelter of the Supreme complete person. It is interesting to note that even though we are perfect and complete as spiritual sparks emanating from the Lord who is also perfect and complete, we cannot experience this “completeness” in full until and unless we begin to act in that capacity. The only way to act in full capacity or knowledge of our complete self is to actually realize that we are first and foremost spiritual beings beyond the gross and subtle body.

When we realize this as a fact and thus act in such consciousness then we may aspire to operate on the level of completeness. One of the reasons why our attempts to “recreate” a perfect and complete life here on this planet fails, is because we do not acknowledge the proprietorship of the Supreme person. We feel that everything in this world is meant for our gratification and that we are lords of all that we see and survey. When we actually work with the knowledge that everything animate and inanimate belongs to the Supreme Lord and that we should only take as much as is allotted to us as our quota, then we may hope to achieve this state of completeness. More so, there is a guarantee that comes with acting in such consciousness. It is mentioned in the same upanisad that one may aspire to live for hundreds of years if he acts in such consciousness, because he is not bound by his work. Thus herein lies the answer and secret to living long. Scientist have searched endlessly to no avail for the “fountain of youth” in a bid to prolong or extend life. What they fail to realize is that we cannot discover the “elixir of immortality” in matter or dead substance. We can only get life from life, thus if we desire eternal life why not get it from an eternal source?

We may try to create medications upon medications that may slow down or even hide our aging process, however to tap into the immortality that may people crave so dearly, they must begin to act in proper consciousness of the Supreme Lord, knowing him as the proprietor of all that we see. When the living entity acts in such a consciousness then the mentality to exploit things, people or the resources of this planet automatically diminishes. This is because we cannot exploit something that doesn’t belong to us, if we really acknowledge the ownership. The more we try to exploit the material energy to create a perfect and complete situation here, the more we become frustrated, because for each problem we “solve” we are faced with  ten new ones. A good example is our foodstuff today. There was a time when a man could plant and harvest only the amount of land he could till or get others to help him till and cultivate. If he wanted to get more plants, he had to engage the help of family and friends. Today one man can farm and till a land meant for probably hundreds of people and produce a lot more. This seems very positive and people may wonder what is wrong with such a great positive step in our endeavors as humans. Well with excess comes waste, a couple of years back France put a prohibition on food stores and supermarkets throwing away “unfit food”.

This naturally brings us to the next point, in an attempt to create our own concept of “perfectly shaped and good looking food” we have altered the chemical composition of our food and plants and have created poison which is now exterminating us in droves through the disease called Cancer. A good number of years back, no one cared if the vegetables didn’t look perfectly shaped as far as they were not rotten or spoilt and people had their health intact. Today we have perfect vegetables but very bad health, so what advancement have we really made? How is this perfect and complete?

Just before my reader begins to think this writer is anti-technology or anti-improvement, I’ll like to crave your indulgence by saying I am not and the very proof is I am using one of the inventions of technology to share this thoughts with you. What I speak up about is the exploitation of nature, with disregard and little or no recognition for the proprietor. Without stretching this topic too long I’ll say the last 48 hours gave some time to reflect in the absence of these amenities. I hope we all take time to do so once in a while. Till next week do have a great day ahead.

Please share and follow for more.

Meditation 2

Dear readers,

It’s a pleasure to be able to share with you all once again yet another interesting topic this week, I hope you all are faring well.

Last week I started a discussion on Meditation and I promised that we’ll try to do a second part where by we focus more on “chanting meditation”. In order to be able to fully appreciate this topic I suggest that those of you who are new to yoga or meditation in general, should kindly read Sound Vibration, and the part one to this sequel.

Having said that, let’s take a look at meditation by sound vibration or chanting.

What does it mean to chant? A chant is a rhythmic repeated phrase, usually chanted or shouted by one or more persons in unison. When the chant is of a sacred text then it becomes a mantra. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means that which liberates the mind. Since meditation is more of a subtle thing than a physical feat it is very important that the practitioner has the desire, ability and training to curtail the excesses of the mind. When we allow the mind to run loose then our meditation is hampered and we find it difficult to attain the desired result we are looking for.

How does chanting meditation differ from silent meditation? As I mentioned in the first part of this blog, in silent meditation we are at the mercy of our mind’s dictate and prancing, if we cannot tame it. Usually many people start out as neophytes on the part of meditation and usually after a while they feel frustrated at the antics of the mind and just give up. They become helpless in the face of the situation and they conclude it is rather impossible to meditate. However if these practitioners can adopt the method of “chanting meditation” not only will they achieve success in their meditation process but they will also achieve the wonderful feat of curbing the mind’s excesses. In this light the major difference between both forms of meditation is that in the silent form of meditation, the practitioner is quiet or silent while in the second form, he does his meditation by using a chant, hymn or mantra.

Is it not distracting to chant while trying to meditate? On the contrary, it help one to focus. One learns to focus initially by concentrating on the words of the hymn, chant or mantra. Then as time goes on, one learns to concentrate on the meaning of the words, each time trying to see how best to exemplify those meanings, and in a more advanced platform one uses the mantra, hymn or chant, as a vehicle or medium to connect with a higher reality. The mantra thus acts as a conduit that transports the practitioner to a realm beyond his immediate physical reality. For gaudiya vaisnava’s who are on a more spontaneous level of devotional practice, the mantra is the wave which they ride in order to be able to fully associate with the Divine couple in their daily meditation of the lord’s pastimes.

What if while chanting I still get distracted in my meditation? This is not a new occurrence and it is bound to happen, the fact that this is happening and you can notice it means that you are beginning to keep track of your mind’s activities. Something that would have been difficult prior or with another form of meditation. The response to this will be to continue to chant while being aware of our chant, gradually with time and more practice the mind becomes steady and accepts the mantra.

Of what benefit is chanting while meditating? The benefits of chanting while meditating are innumerable. First and foremost the chanter gets a lot of spiritual merit for reciting such sacred prayers, hymns, etc. and because he is reciting it in a manner that is audible to others, all those who hear also get benefits. By constantly reciting the mantra, he gets purified of his misdeeds, especially if the mantra is the maha mantra. In addition to this he/she is in a constant contact with the Supreme Lord, because the Lord is non-different from his name or paraphernalia. Thus by chanting while meditating, the practitioner is soon to realize that he is more than just matter and that if he pays more attention to the chanting process, he can very soon identify his true identity.

Must the chant be sacred, can one chant whatever he likes as far as it is repetitive? The mantra has to be of sacred value and substance for it to help our mind, and connect us with the Supreme Lord. Just as it is impossible to quench one’s thirst by simply saying water and by actually drinking water, similarly mere repetition of words cannot help us connect to the Supreme Lord, because those words do not represent him. Moreover, by calling the name of a friend, it is certain that there will be a response, as opposed to saying gibberish and expecting our friend to respond. If we desire to connect to a higher reality way beyond our present reality, if we desire to tap into the waters of transcendental unlimited bliss then the chant has to be of sacred spiritual value. One of such chants is the maha mantra. ( Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), or whatever chant that represents sacred value in one’s spiritual practice. The Christian can recite the Lord’s Prayer in Psalm and the Muslims can recite Al fatiyah (Bismilai rakmani Rahim).

Invariably the goal is to focus the mind and senses on a higher object and free ourselves of our base tendencies as we meditate and chant.  Meditation and chanting are actually very sublime processes with which we can connect with the absolute truth provided we engage in them with the proper mood and mindset.

I hope this sheds some light on the topic till next week when I shall bring you another topic. Do read, internalize and share. Follow this blog for more and you can now listen to this blog on my podcast(http://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-c2pam-6d5530).

Meditation

Dear readers,

It is a great pleasure to have such a wonderful opportunity to share with you all today, yet another interesting post. As I was going through my previous blogs, I suddenly realized that there is a very important topic I am yet to deliberate on. This topic is no other than the revered subject of  Meditation.

What is Meditation?

This is a process whereby we think deeply or focus our mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. In as much as this definition does some justice to the word, as a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga, I can’t help but notice that it says “focus the mind”, however the definition doesn’t tell us on what to focus the mind. In previous ages, when people had the ability and the physical attributes required for meditation, it wasn’t uncommon to see many people engaged in meditation. Meditation is one of the eight process of yoga called Dhyana. This is actually the 7th stage of the eight fold process of mystic yoga.  For those who are conversant with the nature of yoga in details, it comes as no surprise to see meditation as the stage before the final stage of “perfection”.

Thus the natural question would be; what about the other 6 stage before this stage. Well in brief they are Yama and Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhayana, and Samadhi. The natural process would be to follow up the stages through from Yama up to Samadhi. However in our Jet aged society, many people have neither the life span to go through this process nor the mental equilibrium to see it through. In order for one to fully master the eight fold mystic yoga process, which is very arduous, one needs to practice for many years, thousands of years. Unfortunately in this age we do not have such a potential. Nevertheless there is a different kind of meditation recommended for us in this age and it is meditation accompanied by chanting. Before I delve fully in to this part of our discussion I would like to say here that even though meditation as it should be is rarely practiced now, the pseudo form of it that many engage in, still has a lot of benefits.

In a society today, where there is an unending influx of negative energy and vibes, meditation has helped many people to find a safe haven amidst all the chaos. People from different walks of life, of different ages are now seeing the immense value of engaging in meditation. In fact recently there was a video online, on social media that had Hollywood celebrities talking about how meditation had greatly helped them. The other interesting side was the fact that even those we least expect to engage in meditation were also involved. There was an interview where Oprah Winfrey had with popular rap Artist 50 Cent, and he admitted to be engaged in meditation. It came as a shocker to everyone. He (50 Cent) went on to say that meditation had helped him a lot in controlling his emotions. Many corporate individuals are leaning towards meditation now as a form of de-stressing themselves after a stressful day at work.

The advantages of meditation cannot be over-emphasized and for this reason it is safe to say those who engage in it can draw a lot of benefit even if the end result or motive is material or temporary. Now back to the initial point I made, meditation has to be done with a specific goal and object in mind.  The “focus” has to be directed somewhere. New age meditation “gurus say that there is no need to focus on anything, as the process of meditation is in itself self-focusing. This concept is however erroneous, as many of us will remark that when we sit still to “meditate” with little or no focus, two things happen; we either fall asleep or our minds begin to race about. The essence of having a tangible focal point is to help the mind and restrain it from “running wild” by gently persuading it to focus on the focal point/object. If we intend to captivate the mind then we must present to it, an alternative that is most attractive and captivating. We will all agree that in this material world, it is difficult to find something that can sustain the interest of the mind for long. Thus the sane thing to do, is to give the mind that which captivates everyone’s mind. The Supreme Lord is known as the “all attractive one; Krishna”, thus we engage the mind in thinking of the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the lord. This way the restless is curtailed and we can hope to achieve a better meditation process.

There is no gain saying that for one to be able to practice meditation properly there has to be a Guide, not just any guide but a spiritual guide who understands the intricacies of mediation and is not just searching for cheap fame, and money from students in the name of offering meditation. If the guide cannot himself meditate peacefully on the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord then he cannot fully deliver the meditation process to anyone. The purpose of meditation has been different among various people, and we can say it ranges from the desire to obtain mystic powers and opulence, to the desire to control, the desire to obtain material opulence, or even for the simple reason of keeping the mind calm and at peace.

If the objective is however not geared towards pleasing the Supreme absolute Person, then we are sure to encounter lots of difficulties and even have to repeat the entire process. In this light weather we are engaged in silent meditation or chanting meditation ( I hope to write about this next week), we should endeavor to always remember that the ultimate purpose of engaging in meditation is to place the mind at the lotus feet of the Supreme personality of Godhead, in constant and total absorption.

I hope this sheds light on the subject, till next week do read, internalize, share and follow for more.

If you don’t MIND,Then it doesn’t MATTER

Dear esteemed readers,

I hope you all had an amazing Independence Day celebration last week. My week was intensely busy as I was also involved in a festival a few days after, needless to say it was a grand success.

Last week I was having a discussion with my Father about certain philosophical topics and I was really trying to understand certain things about the human way of thinking, willing and feeling viz a viz the opinion of others. It was at this point in our discussion he made a point or a phrase which kind of stuck. He said “If you don’t MIND, then it doesn’t MATTER.” Now there is a bit of Pun (a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.) If we look at this statement from the contextual point of view, we can say it means, if you don’t mind (care, bother, worry) about a situation or circumstance, then it doesn’t matter ( it’s not an issue).

This is a simple yet powerful meaning which I must say if applied one will naturally evolve to the much more esoteric meaning. Usually in life we tend to worry so much about stuff that actually aren’t worth worrying about. Often times we worry about how we look, what we wear, and what people say or think about us, etc. The truth of the matter is a good deal of the time, we actually create these situations in our head. However in a scenario where maybe there is an actual situation where there is a second or third party opinion about us, still if we don’t MIND, then it doesn’t MATTER. When we MIND (worry, care, bother) we are actually giving the situation life and feeding it to grow. Such situations need us to “mind” in order for it to thrive.

The second meaning is a lot deeper and more esoteric. There are basically two factors in life; MIND and MATTER. Mind represents all that is subtle and spiritual, while MATTER represents all that is gross and physical. In order for us to grow as spiritual practitioners, we must focus more on the mind than on matter. When we try to cultivate things of the mind then we try to reach or tune ourselves to a higher frequency, while focusing on matter does the opposite. It is worthy to mention here that when we say “if you don’t mind” it is not a way of saying have a carefree attitude. No, rather we are saying give your energy to those things which are worth your energy and time, and those things that can impact you positively, keeping you energized rather than drained. The entire process of spirituality is actually getting to train the mind to focus on the finer aspects of spirituality rather than on the gross things of matter. To the degree that we can achieve this to that degree we actually understand the real meaning of the words “we are not this body”. As eternal spiritual beings we must understand that it is better to be in tune with our spiritual side than with our gross and physical side if we must make considerable advancement.

There are people who have been able to work on this second aspect and have achieved extraordinary feats. They have been described by many names such as yogis, sages, mystics, or simply those who apply the principle of “mind over matter”. We have seen folks who have been able to levitate objects with their mind, all by harnessing the power of the mind. As spiritual practitioners who are on a mission of discovering our original identity and serving the Supreme Lord, we actually desire more than being able to do “amazing feats” with our minds. We actually want to transcend the mind and connect to that which is greater. So when we say “don’t mind” as spiritual practitioners we are saying “go beyond” the mind”. This naturally brings us to the third interpretation.

The third meaning enables us to see things from the perspective of a spirit soul, completely detached from the dualities of material designations. In this light when we “don’t mind”, we actually saying go even further than operating on the subtle-mind platform, go deeper. When we say “then it doesn’t matter”, we mean; by trying to go deeper than the level of mind control we get to the level of spirit soul connection. We then realize that we are souls with a body and not vice versa.

I do understand that there are folks are who are a lot simpler in mind and are not so philosophical and would like to know what way they can apply this principle in their lives in the simplest way possible. To them I say “If you don’t mind the constant influx of desires the mind throws at you, if you don’t mind the constant criticism that come from different types of people, if you don’t mind the natural setbacks we have to face and deal with in life, then you will definitely realize sooner that it doesn’t really matter. There are a lot of things in life that deserve our real and genuine attention; things that add to our growth materially, spiritually and otherwise. If we can learn to red-direct the “mind” to those things that actually “matter” instead of focusing on just “matter” then we can hope to attain some level of peace and tranquility.

In conclusion, I would like my readers to make a concrete effort in identifying those things that actually don’t matter but take up our minds. When we can identify and isolate these things then we can slowly begin to take back control of our lives and there is a one interesting point. Those who operate on this level deeply, begin to amaze and surprise people, because they do not fit into the “regular type of people” any more. Once you stand out then it becomes easier.

Till next week, do read, internalize, share and follow this blog for more.

The Core Test

Dear readers,

I would like to kick off my post this week by saying a Happy Independence day in advance (if you reside in the States), easy on the fireworks, lol. Actually last week while we were having a beautiful Swan boat festival and the fireworks were going off, there was one particularly loud that made my heart skip a beat. It really got me thinking about how something so small could release so much sound energy. Anyways I hope you play safe with the fireworks.

That being said, this week I would love to share something that speaks in relation to what is our content. What exactly are we made up as individuals? Now I am not speaking about our real-self here but more in terms of what kind of mood and mannerism makes up our inner identity. To help us grasp this idea I have taken the liberty to share with you all a brief analogy. Let’s take a Tea bag, a Potato and an egg as our specimen and then we carry out an experiment. When these three items are subjected to intense heat and put in boiling water, they all respond differently, each according to its own constitution and capacity. The potato in its fresh state is hard on the outside and seemingly tough, one would expect it to be the strongest in this test. However this is not the case when it is subjected to high temperatures over an extended period. After sometime it softens and even splits open.

When the egg which has mainly liquid as its internal constitution is subjected to the same situation, it comes out hard and refined. Finally when the Teabag is subjected to a similar situation, it dissipates itself into the liquid and also gives off its aroma. Interestingly, Humans are also like this. Some of us fall into the Potato category, some into the Egg category and others in the Teabag category. When life gets tough and most especially our spiritual practices get difficult, some of us encounter the situation like “potatoes”. We go in strong with a lot of “resolve” but somehow or the other we fail to brace the circumstances and come out soft and weakened. We lose the battle against the forces we combat. There are others who go in like Eggs, apparently fragile and weak but then the entire situation brings out another side of them, which sometimes they never imagined they had. There has been cases of people who lost family members, went into depression but came out of it and became counselors. In spiritual circles, there are practitioners who “fell, or backslide” but comeback with a lot more vigour and become a story of inspiration for others to emulate. These people have been able to harness a lot more than just courage or positive thinking, not to say that these factors aren’t necessary but they have gone even a step further.

The final set of people are those who go in like the teabag. We all know that the teabag is the most unassuming thing we can think of. It is soft and naturally quite simple. In the real sense one would expect the teabag to undergo total destruction in such a situation of high temperature and even pray to see the remains. Nay, it surpasses all others in its glorious exit. Like a magical act, the teabag comes out unharmed and even leaves a lasting impression of itself in the situation that was supposed to be excruciating. These class of people are very rare, because they are the ones who change things in our world today be it in spirituality, economics, management etc. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that one who neither rejoices nor grieves….. is very dear to Him. The first two items could be said to have reacted in either grief or happiness, depending on how we see it. One comes out hard and the other soft. However the teabag goes into the same situation and is content with being “itself”. The result is that there is aroma and a change in the situation itself. When we encounter tests and setbacks as spiritual practitioners or as just regular folks, the result of the situation is mostly born from what our real internal composition is made of. If we are pseudo spiritualist then we become soft or weakened by the situation, if we are serious but attracted to the results of our actions then we come out hard. This hardness is often times seen in different forms in various people. A quick example; some spiritual practitioner’s take the vow of celibacy and in the long run become very hard hearted due the “nature of their austerity”. They seemingly have overcome a big challenge, which is total abstinence from sex life which is supposed to allow us connect to a higher sense of love, but they have created a different problem, which is lack of compassion or an unforgiving spirit, because they do not have a good sense of the austerity which they practice.

Regular folks may go through adverse situations of poverty, and struggle so hard that they eventually becomes financially successful but end up being miserly because they feel “no one helped them when they needed help”. So in one sense we may feel it is best to go into adverse situations and come out “strong” but we should also reflect on how much this so-called “strength” is actually helping our advancement. We can only give out what we have inside. When we squeeze oranges, we get orange juice and not pineapple juice. Similarly when a spiritual practitioner is subjected to various forms of trials and test, his/her response is proportional to their core values and constitution. If we have hate, anger, grief, envy, malice etc. inside of us, naturally when we are put under intense temperatures or when we get “squeezed”, all these attributes come out. On the other hand if we have love, peace, compassion, equanimity and happiness inside of us, when we get “squeezed” we will exhume these very same traits. The key to surviving these tests isn’t just being tough or hard, it isn’t about just knowing how to deal externally with a situation or knowing how to let waters slide. It is about knowing how to radiate what is truly inherent in us, to the degree that they reflect the true nature of a compassionate spiritual practitioner.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject, till next week do like, share and follow for more. Happy Independence Day celebration to my friends who live in the states too.

Sharpen the Saw

Dear readers,

I hope you are all having a great time. It’s been a great privilege sharing all these insightful topics with you all and I can only aspire to share more as time goes on.

Today while I was in the Kitchen, by the way for those of you who do not know me personally, cooking is one of my biggest activities besides blogging, I had a thought flash through my mind. I had been working on some recipes and finally put it out for people to try and I got some really interesting and positive feedback. The highlight of my thinking process wasn’t just the nature of the type of feedback I got but the fact that my time and energy in researching those recipes were actually yielding results.

It dawned on me, that time and energy invested in self-development is never a waste, as long as we maintain the right attitude. To sharpen the saw, means to improve oneself in whatever field one has an interest. To sharpen the saw means to realize that if we must succeed then it is up to us to make it happen. To sharpen the saw means to realize that to the degree we keep reinventing and rebranding ourselves, to that degree do we keep our relevance.

As a chef I have noticed that the final outcome of a prep can be foretold often times in the manner in which the cook goes about preparing the ingredients and the actual mélange. The result that we desire in the final outcome of the finished prep comes in with the total combination of ingredients, technical know-how, finesse, feeling and the need to constantly better our self. A couple of years back I was to make a very delicate dessert and I was having some difficulty and I asked the Lady who was tutoring me at time “How do you do this stuff, it seems to just wanna mess you up each time.” She looked at me and said “This prep isn’t very kind even though it is very sweet”. Her words hit me and sank deep. She said to conquer it, you must try several times, you must fail several times, you must cry several times and finally when it sees that you are serious about making it, it would let you. Needless to say, that was what happened.

The process she described was sure to happen however I could dictate how much I wanted to try, how much I wanted to fail and how much I wanted to cry, by how much I was going to sharpen my saw. Similarly in other aspects of our lives we have to decide how much time we want to invest in an activity or endeavor by checking how “sharp our saw” is. The phrase “sharpen the saw” is actually coined from a short story of a wood cutter who goes to chop down trees but ends up having a bad day as his saw is blunt. AN old man walks by and tells him to take a break and sharpen his saw, to which he responds I don’t have time to do that. I have to cut down this tree. The old man replies “well that is correct however at the moment it is taking you so much time to do this, why not stop ,sharpen your saw and get back at it.”

Often times many of us complain about how difficult certain things are in our lives, and we give a million reasons why we do things the way we do. However what many of us fail to admit is that, we are constantly trying to hack down the tough trees of life with our blunt saws. We feel taking time out to sharpen our saws, or to master our craft is “too time consuming” yet we wonder why the next guy is doing so well. Truth be told there is no endeavor that gives itself easily without an additional effort. I have taken a close look at many successful people and there is a common denominator; they spend a lot of time sharpening their saws. Every hour others spend hacking at the trees of life with their dull saws, these men spend it in sharpening their saws, so that when they finally begin to cut through the forest of obstacles and life goals, they do so with such an effortless gets. What many of us fail to see is how much effort has been put in, prior to such an effortless gest.

One rough patch some people have in life is they are busy cutting other people’s trees. What does this mean? They have actually realized how important it is to sharpen the saw and have invested a great of energy in doing this, only to proceed in a wrong direction and begin cutting the wrong trees. Some people use their “sharp saws”; talents, effort, training, etc in cutting a tree because everyone is cutting this tree. For example, if I spend a good deal of my time creating a recipe and fine-tuning it according to my time, place, circumstance and materials and I abandon all of that at the last stage of execution to adopt a method from someone else who doesn’t have a similar scenario like mine then I may as well be welcoming trouble. If your saw is meant to cut trees of music, then go ahead, if it meant to cut the trees of show business then go ahead, however do not be confused. Now that been said, some of us are actually “people of many hats” being blessed by two or more talents.

Such talents come with the intelligence to be able to know the difference and thus learn to sharpen these saws differently. No matter how multi-talented one may be, the saws are always sharpened differently. Try to spend sufficient time on each saw and only then can such gift of multi talent be enhanced.

I hope this blog sheds some light on the subject, till next week do read, share, and follow for more.

 

Karma

Dear Readers,

It’s a pleasure to share with you all yet another interesting topic this week. Yesterday was father’s day and I’ll love to say happy belated Father’s day to all Father’s out there. Being a Father is more than just having the capacity to produce babies, it comes with a lot of responsibility and naturally all those who wear this crown are really special people.

In this light, I’ll like to speak about something which many of us may be familiar with already or perhaps might have heard of; Karma. Karma or the Law of retribution, as some call it. The word Karma simply means that we are accountable for every action we pose and these actions can have effects on our lives, either in the past, present or future. Even though many people find it hard to “believe” in the Laws of Karma, this doesn’t change the fact that the law is universal and always acting. The laws of Karma are like Newton’s third law, which state that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

If we can accept Newton’s law as scientific, then we must also realize that the laws of Karma are similar and even more efficient. Contrary to some belief system, that the laws of karma are just “cold and heartless” because they hold us accountable for events which we may have committed in a life prior, the laws of Karma are actually needed to keep some balance in the universal system. A quick look at our modern day Justice system, we may have seen cases where by a criminal is investigated for years and a track record of all his misdeeds are documented and used against him in a court of law. The criminal doesn’t tell the judge; “O how can you judge me by those crimes I committed 5 years ago, I can’t even remember I did them”. Similarly some people find it difficult to accept the laws of Karma because it naturally brings to light a very crucial topic; Reincarnation.

The laws of Karma go hand in hand with reincarnation and thus anyone who is adverse to the principles of reincarnation cannot easily accept the laws of Karma. Often times the reason why people find it difficult to accept the principles of reincarnation is because it places a lot of responsibility on them; something many people do not like to have. The fact that we are responsible for everything we do, no matter when it happened, is a thought many people cringe at. So basically what Karma says is, not only are we responsible for the results of our actions but these results can be transferred to another life time if need be. Should this be difficult to comprehend, let’s take the example of retaking a course at the University. Sometimes when a student fails a course in a semester, he is asked to carry the course over to the next semester and retake the exam.

The idea behind is to make sure that whatever has to be learnt in that course is learnt and only then can the student be allowed to move on. Similarly Karma clapping back at us is not in any way “cold or heartless”, we all get what we sow. we cannot sow corn and somehow or the other expect to reap apples. Another interesting point is the fact that our karma is not all bad and gloomy. There are people who have good Karma in this life as a result of extra pious activities they have performed in a previous life. The presence of pious credits from a previous life accounts for the seemingly inexplicable blissful life some people have now, despite the fact that they do not have to work so hard. In the same vein, many people have to pay a lot of Karmic debt this life time due to mismanagement of certain privileges in a previous life time or due to gross misdemeanor.

On the brighter side, not all Karma is bad and not all is fixed. We have the power to change whatever Karmic pattern we have in our lives because our lives are defined by the choices we make. The proof to this is certain inspiring stories of people who come from very poor backgrounds but work and become financially successful. This is to show that we can change our karma in certain areas if we decide to put in the necessary work required. Of course there are certain people who feel that Karma is fixed and cannot be changed, however this is a misconception. If Karma was fixed then we wouldn’t have to do anything, because whatever has been pre-destined would happened. This conception would have left many rich people today still poor, if they had believed that they couldn’t change their poor background status by working diligently and legitimately.

Just like we have good and bad, we also have good and bad Karma, both are results of our activities. For those who engage in activities that are bad and nefarious, there is a resultant karma waiting for them to reap. Likewise those who perform pious activities also have good karma in store for them. There is an interesting twist to karma, which makes it sometimes difficult to comprehend and this is due to the intricate nature of the laws of action and inaction. In this light sometimes we have people act in a way we calculate to be “bad” but in the long run they actually are doing something pious, even without their own knowledge. When this occurs they get pious credits all the same, irrespective of whether they knew or not. This goal of life however is not to go about doing good deeds just because we want to acquire pious credits in this life and beyond. In actuality the aim of our activities should be to please the Supreme Lord, because by so doing we are free from the resultant actions of good and bad karma.

When we understand this point and endeavor to apply it then our lives become successful.  I hope this sheds some light on the matter. Till next week do read, share and follow for more.