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Tag: amazing simple gita

Prayers don’t work – part 2 of 2

Okay, time for the big reveal!

What 5.14 is saying, is that the Lord doesn’t interfere in our karmic world, or our actions and reactions. However, this “Lord”, is nirguna (no gunas, i.e. no qualities), the formless nameless substratum of all existence, aka Brahman, Paramatman etc.

The prayers we offer however, are not to this nirguna Lord, but to the so-called ‘lower’ deities. These deities like Hanuman or Ganesha or Shiva and so on are all part of the same formless “Lord”, but they had also taken up specific forms for specific purposes in this world. It is believed they still exist, albeit in an astral body / energy form, and that is why we pray to these deities for various reasons. Like to Ganesha to get rid of obstacles, to Hanuman for victory and fearlessness and so on.

There are also various rules that have been codified. Such as if there is a 5-syllable mantra like Na-mah-shi-vaa-yah, and it is chanted 5-lakh times with faith and devotion, then the deity will manifest. These rules are all created by the Original Creator aka the nirguna Lord, but he does not participate in them. Neither are we praying to him, because he can’t be encapsulated, not even in words!

This is why my Guru’s trick-question is such an outstanding one.

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Temporarily permanent – part 2 of 2

Did you notice the sly switch of words in title from yesterday to today? 🙂

There’s a reason for it.

While Lord Krishna’s message may have got lost in between, the content remained absolutely the same. Absolutely evergreen. So despite temporary disappearances from our collective memories, it still remains permanent.

Why? Because the message is as relevant today as it was 5000 years ago.

But how is that possible? Would the ancients even begin to fathom how hard it is when your post on social media does not get even 10 likes? Or the difficulties presented by not having a charger on hand when the iPhone battery is close to dead?

Obviously they wouldn’t. But that is also precisely the point. No matter the advancement in technology, the underlying problems are still the same. People still get tensed, jealous, angry, stressed, greedy – you name it.

What should we prioritize then – newer technology or time-tested truths?

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Permanently temporary – part 1 of 2

At the start of the 4th chapter of the Gita, the Lord tells Arjuna, “I revealed this yoga to the Sun god, Vivaswan, Manu, Ikshvaku. It got lost by passage of time. The same is told to you now.”

Can you believe it? The most important knowledge in the world, nay not even the world, of all creation. In fact the secret of creation itself…lost!

What does this tell us?

That with the passage of time, everything is lost.

Grandpa plants a seed, three generations later, the kids are okay to cut down the tree to construct their home. Parents save a fortune, only to see it frittered away by the next layer. Bulbs, telephones, car models, women confined to the kitchens – you name it, and it will change.

What do we learn from this? Not to be (too) attached to anything. Because the expectation that we should preserve anything forever, is just foolishness.

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5 point program

In chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna provides an interesting break-up of karma yoga.

This comes in verse 30. Here is how we could break it down for daily application:

1. “Renounce everything to the Lord” = make spirituality a priority in life, which will make life peaceful and content. Let it not just be a 5 minute activity, but the substratum of every waking moment.

2. “Quality matters” = Work in the best way possible; treating it like worship, with the knowledge that this is the highest offering there is. The benefit? We wont slack off or cut corners, irrespective of whether someone is inspecting or not.

3. Niraashi = no aasha, no expectation or hope of a specific outcome = receive the result with grace.

4. Nirmama = no mamakaar = no ‘i’ness = work with the attitude of custodianship; i.e. none of my achievements are possible without the support of those around me.

5. vigata-jJwara = “without fever” = this is not body temperature, but the fever of the mind, i.e. stress and anxiety, which can be eradicated if the above points are followed.

Such a nice and implementable way to live, isn’t it?

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Are you a leader? – part 2 of 2

As a leader, what is expected of us? In verse 21 of chapter 3 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says the following.

"Whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it."

This is a very interesting shloka, and it seems like a motivational quote for one’s goal setting, doesn’t it? We should all have great goals, be great leaders, so that people follow in our footsteps. But that’s not all.

Krishna in this verse is also talking about Himself. Is he subjected to the same rules? He says he is! Isn’t He also constantly working to keep the universe running? Brahma creating, Vishnu sustaining, Shiva destroying, in a sense?

My Guru would be another example – an already-realized soul, but why is he working so hard? Why would he need to do aarti thrice a day? Why would he choose to live his life in a rural setting to help educate the poor? Why would he need to wake up at 5 am daily to do yoga? Why does he work 7 days a week 365 days a year?

Because as Krishna says, “whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it.” What are each one of us doing? What are we striving to achieve? It is a question we need to answers for ourselves, and honestly.

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Are you a leader? – part 1 of 2

Yes you are. One way or another. How, you ask?

Because you are a son/daughter/mother/father/brother/sister/colleague/friend, and that too a one of a kind.

As a parent, your kids look up to you as their leader.

As the one running the household, your spouse looks up to you.

As the one running the family, your family members look up to you.

As a guide for life, your siblings look up to you.

As a mentor, your employees look up to you.

As a shoulder to rest upon, your friends rely on you.

Aren’t you thus a born leader? Aren’t we all?

Now that we understand this, how should we conduct ourselves? Lord Krishna has a clear directive for each one of us. Coming tomorrow… stay tuned!

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Real duty

Remember our discussion on verse 35 from the Gita? One of those often misunderstood shlokas. Why should I do my own duty badly when I can do someone else’s well?

Surely you remember. They key is to understand one’s duty well.

The word in Sanskrit, is swadharma. This too comes a summation of dharma and swabhava. Dharma we know, duty, which for human beings is to attain moksha. Swabhava is our internal innate quality. Whatever we naturally gravitate towards.

Here’s a nice story that drives home the point. A watchman sees his building owner leaving for the airport. He immediately warns the owner not to take the flight that day. Why? Because in his afternoon siesta, the watchman saw a dream that the flight would meet with an accident. The building owner heeds his watchman’s prophetic advice and stays home. A few hours later, indeed the flight meets with a fatal accident. The watchman is elated, thinking that he will now be showered with gifts from the owner. The owner comes up to him, thanks him profusely, but also does not give the watchman any money. Instead, he tells the watchman, that he needs to do his duty more alertly, instead of sleeping in the afternoon on his watch!

This story is just for fun, not for nitpicking, but it underscores the importance of sticking to our swadharma in the long run.

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Great falls

Shlokas 36 and 37 of chapter 3 in the Gita are eye-openers.

36 has Arjuna asking Krishna why people sin, despite knowing better. And he’s not asking about normal people. He’s asking about those very close to or even at, the pinnacle of spiritual progress. The jnaana yogis.

A jnaana yogi practitioner truly sees everything as the same – no discrimination. He sees the Atman not just in himself, but also in everyone around him. And he also experientially understands that all of these are no different from paramatma. Even so, our mythology is replete with the greatest of rishis, committing the gravest of mistakes, and falling from glory. So Arjuna wants to know why.

The Lord answers in 37, that this is all only because of our desires. “Desire is a great devourer – a great sinner, this is the enemy.”

My Guru is very clear on this too. It might sound boring. But if you want moksha, then this is the way (channelling my inner Mandalorian!). Not for material objects mind you – so not about praying for promotions and bonuses and topping in exams or begetting progeny, but for moksha alone. He doesn’t advise any maha mudras, or maha mantras, or maha japas, or any kundalini rising, or maha meditations – nothing. The only requirement he says, is to give up desires and attachments – that’s it. Can it get simpler?

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Divine eyes – part 3 of 3

In most visual depictions of the Mahabharata and the Gita, Lord Krishna is shown as though expanding in size and form, until he becomes humongous. So large, that he opens his mouth, and many galaxies are seen inside it. He has myriad arms and legs and heads, and in general is representative of a supernatural being.

But this may not be fully accurate. Because the Lord in his own admission, states that everything is He, and He is everything. So all the empty space around us, all the filled space around us, all the objects, all the living creatures – everything is Him only.

And thus the Lord’s viswaroopa is to be seen as a wake up image for Arjuna (and by extension us). The whole of the 10th chapter where Krishna gives so many examples of his manifestations in the world around us (vibhutis) was not enough to convince Arjuna.

But when he did finally see the True form, not only was he amazed, but also terrified. Why?

Because he saw Krishna as the Creator, but did not expect to see his Destroyer side (all of creation was eventually being destroyed). He had forgotten the lessons he learned in chapter 2 on aham or ego. He was unable to reconcile his friend Krishna, as also the terrible Krishna. But as the Lord himself says, all this is a play of maya. As my Guru says, “Once we are out of ‘body consciousness’, all these will be taken care of”.

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Divine eyes – part 2 of 3

There is another side to this. The ‘divine eyes’ are not some cool sunglasses, but rather a change in perspective of the Lord.

No different from when we expect a Guru to perform miracles like levitation and telepathy, only to realize the real miracle was in his changing our minds!

It is easy to change anything in today’s world if you throw some money at it, but to really deeply change someone’s mind? Ask a parent about their adolescent kids. Or a husband/wife about their better half. “Impossible”, they will say.

And it’s not as though Lord Krishna had been hiding anything from Arjuna. He told him he was the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer, and heck, even the substratum of all Creation!

But Arjuna didn’t really get it. It’s like meeting your childhood gully friend (the one you use to play with in all the dirt and dust, wearing only undies) after 3 decades only to realize he is now one of the richest people in the world. To you, that person is still the same old playmate from your childhood. Only when you see his face in a few magazines do you realize the truth.

And so he requests Krishna for a true-blue view.

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Nimittas – part 2 of 3

In verse 11.33 of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna “nimitta maatram bhava savyasaachin“. Savyasachin refers to Arjuna, but in a roundabout fashion, as the word in Sanskrit means ambidextrous, or one who can wield the bow effortlessly with either hand. The important word as we saw yesterday as well, is nimitta or instrument.

Krishna tells Arjuna that he has already slain all the adharmic enemies facing him on the battlefield, and that all he had to do was to stand up and fight.

This verse is immediately misinterpreted by many, stating that everything is predetermined and how Krishna leaves no chance for free will. How fatalistic and defeatist, they say.

But saying this would be missing the point. Krishna still offers Arjuna a very important choice. He recommends him to get up and fight, but does not force him to. Arjuna had the option of going back home and chilling out if he wanted to. Isn’t that not free will?

All Krishna said, was to be a part of the Grand (aka Karmic) Plan, where dharma would be upheld no matter what. It would benefit Arjuna personally if he would choose to act as the nimitta in that position. But if not, another nimitta would come by, in order to maintain dharma. Wouldn’t we want a similar justice system, where no matter the person playing the role of judge, the wicked get punished?

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Confusion, instruction, disciple-tion – part 2

Of course Arjuna said he feels defeated already. Nay, not defeated, but more deflated, like retired-hurt, to use a cricket term. Or maybe a hit-wicket? He didn’t even want to star in the war, the same one for which he had trained all his life!

So he finally came to Krishna and surrendered completely. “Krishna, I’m lost and I’m a mess. Please instruct me. Take me as your disciple. What should I do now?”

But let’s look at the other side of the battlefield shall we? Just days before the Kurukshetra war, the arch villain Duryodhana had a meeting with Krishna too. He was in fact offered a choice – either Krishna, or a massive army. Duryodhana chose the latter, because tens of thousands of soldiers are better than the Lord Krishna no? Or was it because he didn’t recognize that Krishna was an avatar of the Lord?

No, Duryodhana very well knew of Krishna’s true nature. In spite of this knowledge, he chose the army. Not just that, he also told Krishna thus, “I know what I am doing is wrong. I know I am on the wrong side of Dharma. I know I should be choosing you. I know I am a wicked person. But still Krishna, I am unable to do what is right.”

What is the difference here then? Simply one of ‘ego’. Duryodhana was just unable to accept that he needed help. He was unable to surrender to a greater power. Because he thought himself to be the greatest power. Arjuna on the other hand, realized that he was in a situation that he could not solve on his own. What better way then, than to surrender?

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Confusion, instruction, disciple-tion

Shloka 2.7 in the Gita is a landmark one. Arjuna says, “I’m confused as to my duty. Please instruct me, I’m your disciple.”

There could be so many learnings from this. Here are a few:

  1. Arjuna is confused, after a life full of preparation for this very war. And confusion is alright, especially for mere mortals like us. As long as we understand that we are confused, and are ready to seek help. (More on this, tomorrow)
  2. Humility – on Krishna’s part. He is omniscient, yet never interrupts Arjuna’s lamentation. He never utters a word even, until he is asked for advice. Most people today, with far lesser achievements than Krishna, start spewing solutions without even knowing what the problem is.
  3. Asking for instructions, and to be taken as a disciple, probably means that Arjuna exhausted all of his options. He realized there was no way he was going to arrive at a solution on his own.
  4. The word used here is ‘instruct’. Not ‘advice’ or ‘help’. Advice is surely given for free these days. But this ‘instruction’? It will have to come with clear guidance – a plan, here is step 1, step 2, step 3.
  5. Arjuna is asking Krishna only for instruction. He is not asking for Krishna to magically make this all go away. Arjuna knows that each step needs to be implemented by he himself. No way out. This work cannot be outsourced to a backoffice.
  6. There is also no doubt that Arjuna has about the quality of his teacher – he knows he’s got the best. Just like a Guru. But no, Krishna is a God, isn’t he? How can a Guru be a God? Guru is God only. The difference is only in the eye of the beholder.
  7. Arjuna is clear he wants to be Krishna’s disciple. Not his childhood friend, not his cousin, not his colleague, not his commanding officer as Krishna was only his charioteer. Nope, he had full faith. And that right there was his foundation for success.

Concluded tomorrow!

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Astral planes – part 3

  1. What then, about the patal lok, narak lok, various layers of hell, lower worlds, upper worlds, 14 worlds etc.? Maybe they exist, we can never know for sure. But for sure these are all also states of mind. When something nice happens, we are quickly transported to cloud 9, while we would like nothing more than to bury ourselves deep underground if we encounter failure.
  2. Even heaven is said to have an end date. To get moksha, our scriptures tell us we need to come back to human form, so we will have to leave heaven and thus: end date.
  3. Heaven is the greatest place ever no? But then even Indra, the king of heaven, is not one person, but just a position. There are stories of millions like him who have come and gone. So is heaven really the place of all awesomeness that we are thinking of?
  4. Even in said perfect heaven, there will be jealousy and promotions and favourites no? Because not all citizens of heaven are Indra or his consort. There will be people who work for them, and those who work for them and so on. Is it logically possible for everyone in heaven to be always happy? Then is this really a heaven?
  5. My Guruji’s point is very clear. We have to go beyond all this heaven/hell/duality/dwandvas. Krishna is very clear too, that if dwandvas exists, then there is no moksha there.
  6. The very fact that heaven and hell might exist at opposite ends of the spectrum means that dwandvas exists.
  7. The ‘desire’ to get the answer to such questions on astral planes is also a form of desire only. The ‘attachment’ to this very body, and to think whether this astral body will enjoy/struggle in heave/hell, that is also attachment only. So Guruji says we need to break out of the shackles of all our desires and attachments, as this is the only way to break out of this cycle of samsara.

Your thoughts please?

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Astral planes – part 2

  1. How can we understand the sookshma sharira? If we are pinched, we feel pain physically. But is all pain only physical? How about emotional pain? This happens in the mind. And so perhaps doesn’t require a physical body at all, and so the astral body aka sookshma sharira is sufficient.
  2. Is there any use of an astral body? When we perform homas / havans / sacrificial fire offerings, it is believed that the prayers and offerings are carried via the fire to deities who each are astral beings. Said astral beings may also be a part of the same environment / room where the homam is being performed. This is why menstruating women for instance are advised to stay away, as the smell of blood may displease said astral beings. On the flip side though, there are certain temples where only women or rather menstruating women are allowed to visit, so there’s that too. Hollywood movies like Marvel’s Dr. Strange speak of the ability to control one’s astral body at will – and even make it a superhero’s main powers. Perhaps this is really possible? Or maybe only in heaven?
  3. We often expect astral beings and fairies and what not to only be found in heaven. And thus has ensued man’s never ending search for such a hallowed land – the ultimate paradise. But Sadhguru has a nice take. He says that living here and now, when we are doing something willingly, that is only heaven. And if instead we are forced into doing something unwillingly, then that becomes hell! As the saying goes, “A religious person is one who believes in and is afraid of going to hell and a spiritual person is one who has been to hell and back”

Concluded tomorrow…

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Astral planes – part 1

So there are often questions about mystical fantastic things that capture a spiritual aspirant’s imagination. One question is on astral elements, like does an astral body exist? Who is the experiencer of an astral body, if the physical body has been left behind? Will the astral body go to heaven or hell?

Honestly, these are very hard to answer, all the more because I’m also always learning. But here are some of my thoughts.

  1. Does an astral body exist? I don’t know from self-experience, but many scriptural books (like Yoga Vashishtha) have spoken of this in great detail. Many Himalayan masters and mystic Gurus today also talk of it. So who am I to go against them? Also, I’ve seen a few things that would be impossible to explain by simply using the word ‘coincidence’ as a euphemism. So I would certainly not want to write any of this off.
  2. How can I see my astral body? Not sure again, although I’ve read it needs a lot of meditation, dhyaana etc. to experience.
  3. How about what exactly happens to the astral body after death? Well in some texts, like in the Garuda Purana, the various kinds of torture an erring soul will have to go through, have been enumerated.
  4. But who is undergoing this so-called torture in hell, if the physical body is already dead and discarded? It’s the sookshma sharira or the subtle body.

More tomorrow…

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Calculus

Okay, I admit, I suck at math. I used to hate it in school, and I still don’t find it fun. And calculus? Oh man, I never understood it. It just wasn’t intuitive you know?

There was a point though, when I learned that everything in the world around us, is actually mathematical, to an amazing degree. Like fractal patterns in snowflakes and plant designs and what not. Wow. I also remember how a dog that runs to catch a frisbee in the beach, intuitively does calculus. Same for the archer fish that shoots its prey from underwater, implicitly calculating refraction angles. Pretty amazing instincts.

As one of the senior satsangis says, all of the learning around us is additive. If we study math or history or geography or medicine, we actually become more knowledgeable about those subjects, and hence those ‘add’ to us.

However, a scriptural book like the Gita? It was just a conversation between a charioteer and a warrior. Not much to add to oneself really. Why? Because the Gita is not really a book of knowledge. One could read the meanings of the 700 shlokas maybe in a few hours and come out none the wiser. That is because, the Gita is a book of action. Calculus applies here. The Gita is not additive, it is integrative. Like a spoon of sugar dissolving in the coffee.

The same Gita when read over and over again, and its lessons put into action, can result in the reader being transforming into a better and better person each time.

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Qarm& yogA – part 2

The Q&A on karma yoga concludes today.

Question 4 – If there are no qualifications needed, then what is my duty exactly? Because the grass always seems greener elsewhere (ie other’s duties seem better).
Answer to that is verse 35. Whatever you are doing now, that is your duty. If you are speaking in the satsang that is your duty. If you are driving your car that is your duty. Also, our ultimate duty we need to remember, is to attain the Happiness within and eventually enable everyone around us to access it, just like Guruji does. As Krishna says in the 18th chapter, the one who teaches His messages is dearest to Him.

Question 5 – Now that we know our duty, while doing it, how should it be performed?
Answer to that is verse 25 – Selfless work – always working for the welfare of the world. No “what’s in it for me”?

Question 6 – How to work without expecting a result? Should I not be aiming for a goal/target/promotion?
Answer is that there is a difference between goals and results. The Guru says by all means have a goal and work hard towards it, but do not dwell on the result. The distinction is subliminal, yet key.

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Qarm& yogA

Chapter 3 in the Gita is all about karma yoga. Here’s my quick 2-part Q&A on this outstandingly practical chapter.

Question 1 – The Lord says that ‘knowledge’ is superior to ‘action’. Should I not then go in search of ‘knowledge’ first?
Answer to that is verse 3 – two paths are given by Lord K – one jnaana yoga, other karma yoga. If the mind is pure, then jnaana yoga is fine. But if we are not ready for it, and still have desires and attachments, then action is the only alternative. But the same goal can reached, irrespective of the path – knowledge or action.

Question 2 – When we feel hopeless and helpless sometimes, and become fatalistic, because “in the long run, we are all dead anyway” – then why should I do any work/action at all?
Answer to that is verse 8 – action is superior to inaction. Through inaction, one cannot even maintain one’s own body.

Question 3 – What qualifications do I need? Do I need to be a doctor, lawyer, MBA for karma yoga?
Answer to that is verse 19, purport 2 – also the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, and which Guruji has also put onto the back cover of his Amazing Simple Gita. “No qualifications needed.”

Intrigued? Continued tomorrow…

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(Wo)men

One of the books my Guru suggests we should all read is the Kural by Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. No he’s not a Tamilian and he cannot read Tamil, but there are English translations (C. Rajagopalachari), so nothing to worry. We’ve discussed this book before a few times. It is a series of couplets, ~1300 of them, with amazing practical takeaways for daily life.

A question that comes to some readers is, why is everything written from a man’s perspective? And why does it sound derogatory to women? Like the ‘Life Partner’ chapter is all about duties of a woman – so men go scot-free?. And the children bit talks only about sons, not daughters. Where is the feminism and equality angle?

How should we understand  this? My Guru says whatever lessons are applicable to a man should also be taken to be applicable to women, wherever relevant, using common sense. Also:

  1. The book was written 100s of years ago. So certain aspects may need to be re-read in that context.
  2. We can combine the lessons from his Amazing Simple Gita – marry it with his purports. When it says a woman must be completely devoted to her husband, we absolutely take it to read the other way as well.
  3. Like the Vashishta – Arundhati stars in our galaxy – where they both go around each other, unlike the Sun in our solar system, where the Sun is relatively stationary and other planets orbit around it. Wedded couples too are supposed to be going around each other, not just one being stationary at a time.
  4. There are negative criticisms too in the Kural. But all of those too, are directed towards men only. Like a person who is speaking harshly is referred to as a man not a woman – so in that sense, both good and bad have been treated equally.

There are some absolute gems in the book – totally not worth missing out on, and certainly not because of this gender issue!

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