Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Blooming of Lotus

The function of meditation practice is to heal and transform. It helps us to be whole, and to look deeply into ourselves and around us in order to realize what is really there. The energy that is used in meditation is mindfulness to look deeply into the heart of things in order to see their true nature. When mindfulness is present, meditation is present. Mindfulness helps us to understand g the true essence of the object of meditation - whether it is perception, an emotion, an action, a reaction, the presence of a person or object.
By looking deeply, the meditation practitioner gains insight, prajna, or wisdom. This insight has the power to liberate us from our own suffering and bondage. In the meditation process, fetters are undone, internal blocks of suffering such as fear, anger, despair and hatred get removed, relationships with humans and nature become easier, and there is freedom and joy. We become aware of what is inside us and around us; we are fresher, and we become more alive in our daily existence. As we become freer and happier, we cease to act in ways that makes others suffer, and we are able to bring about change around us and to help others become free. Isn't that wonderful?
The meditation practitioner is like a lotus flower in the process of blooming. Buddha's are fully bloomed human flowers, beautiful and refreshing. All of us are Buddha's-to-be. That is why in practice centers when people meet each other, they form a lotus with their palms and greet each other while bowing saying, 'a lotus for you. As they inhale while saying 'a lotus for you' and exhale, smiling, while saying "a Buddha-to-be", they have the appearance of a blooming flower.
It may be possible for you to meditate on your own, without a teacher or a Sangha, namely, Buddhist community of practice. But it goes without saying that to practice with a teacher and a Sangha is more advisable and much easier. A teacher is someone who has had the experience of the practice, and has succeeded in ti. A Sangha is a meditation community where everyone follows more or less the same kind of practice. Since everyone is doing the same practice, it becomes easier for you to practice too, because the group energy emitted by the Sangha is strong and very supportive. You can also learn a great deal from individual members of the Sangha, especially those who have realized some degree of peace and transformation. There are many things you may find difficult to do when alone, but in the presence of the Sangha you can do them easily. All of us who have practiced with a Sangha can testify to this fact........

In the Buddhist tradition, we consider Sangha one of the three gems. The three gems are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. As we see it, the three gems are already in your heart. The Sangha in yourself may guide you to the Sangha that is somewhere near you. Maybe the teacher and the Sangha are right there, very close to you, but you have not yet noticed. With practice, you will generate the energy of mindfulness, which may lead you towards a teacher and a community.

The Company You Keep

The impact of the company we keep, on our mental state and our actions, is tremendous. Even a person with all positive attributes may end up pursuing undesirable activity because of bad company. For example, you may be quite averse to the idea of accumulating wealth through dishonest means by the effect of a close friend who is untruthful may push you to do so.
To cultivate dedication, as Ramkrishna mentions, it is important to be in the company of those who have taken the path of renunciation. If you spend a great deal of time with materialistic persons discussing worldly affairs all the time, you are bound to become like them, irrespective of the meditation you might be practicing. You can begin to feel intense love for God only when you come in contact with those who are experiencing such love. Hasn't it been said that good literature and good company play seminal roles in shaping your personality?
Sometimes our mind itself can be our worst enemy. Ma Sarada Devi once said that God may be gracious, the guru may be generous - yet a person can be ruined if his mind is not cooperative. In such situations the company of good people can bring in unbelievable change in the mental state.
It is difficult indeed to avoid the company of those who have negative qualities in abundance - they tend to entice you to stay with them or harass you to remain in their companion. Such is the force of negative influences. The mutual dependence among those who lack integrity tends to be greater than amount those who shine out on account of their integrity. Because of this, destructive power often tends to become more powerful than its constructive counterpart. But one has to keep up the deepest mental poise and flow the principle of 'generous neglect'.
Indeed, it is part of our social responsibility to warn wrongdoers against their actions but there is no point in repeated reminders. Time would be better spent on contemplation. Problems caused by your enemies can at times prove to be very costly. But the principle of tolerance works in unique ways. Ramakrishna says, one who withstands, stays, and one who does not, gets ruined.
When it ruins heavily, some varieties of fish are able to follow the continuity of the downpour and survive despite the thrashing waters. The mind has to follow the same route: It has to move against the gravitational force. If there is an urge, nothing is impossible. However, that urge has to be nurtured in a sustainable manner. The restlessness has to be there but it has to be accompanied by patience. And this unique combination derives its source of inspiration from The Company of saints who, in an uninterrupted manner, keep pursuing their efforts steadily.

If we remain satisfied with what we have achieved, there cannot be any progress towards God. The striving has to be there; an attitude of constant dissatisfaction with the present conditions has to grow which in turn can force the Mahamaya to detach us from bondage, says Ramakrishna. Restlessness is therefore essential to expand our horizons, and the good company we keep ignites that urge in us.

The Ideal of Proper Diet

Meaning: The line of Yajurved 12/76 has given the information about our diet as follows - body is the principal means for 'dharma, artha, kama and moksha'. Therefore, good health must be maintained by proper diet, disciplined daily routine and benevolent conduct. Only a disease-free body is the source of all happiness.
Message: The joy of heavenly bliss and salvation is possible in this life itself. But it so happens that we do not properly understands our life's objective and makes all attempts in the wrong direction for attaining it. We can achieve the above four goals of life i.e. 'dharma, artha, kama and moksha' only by a healthy body. We can remain alive by maintaining physical health. Unhealthy, ill and weak persons are already like half-dead. This is because they suffer not only the bodily ailments, but the simultaneous incapacity and the pain of failure also breaks them mentally, thus neglect of health is very costly for everyone.
Good health does not depend on medicines. It cannot also be bought by money. It is also foolish to think of protecting health by imbibing costly materials. Good health depends only on diet, proper routine, exercise and restraint or discipline. The royal road to maintaining proper health and increasing it is to live life in harmony with nature regarding food-habits, daily routine, and lead a natural life. People fall ill with unnatural, artificial, pompous and luxurious life style and die at an early age. All the living beings, insects, birds, animals etc follow the rules of nature; as a result they never fall ill. If by some accident or fights among themselves, they do fall ill, they automatically come back to normal by the grace of Mother Nature. Those animals and birds that have come under the control of man, they only require veterinary dispensaries.
Only man is a very foolish animal who himself invites illness because of wrong conduct, indiscipline and irregularity. This disregard for food and routine is a result of carelessness, laziness, negligence etc. Nature has made man as the most beautiful, healthy, shapely and long-lived animal complete with physical, mental and spiritual powers. The best and easy way for excellent health is that as far as possible only natural (uncooked) food should be taken. The essential elements of the food will be alive within the food to the extent that it does not come into contact with fire (or heat) and that way these elements will provide strength to the body. Ripe seasonal fruits, raw vegetables, sprouted grains and boiled or steam-cooked food is excellent from every point of view, is 'saatvik' and nutritious'
If the body is healthy, the mind also is healthy; it gets pure and pleasant thoughts and is filled with pleasant and good imagination. The mind gets engaged in work, there is no laziness or uneasy feeling and the heart is cheerful and light like a flower.

The Ideal of proper diet, proper routine and proper conduct must always be the guiding principal of our lives.

The Life Forces

The whole universe and absolutely everything in it is full of the One divine spirit, the pure life-force energy
Isha Upanishad
May my limbs, speech, prana (life force) sight, hearing, strength and all my senses gain in vigor. All is the Brahm (Supreme)
Kena Upanishad
Start the practice of self-control with some penance; begin with fasting.
Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness
Quran 39.10
Blood itself cannot explain in life........ the universal vitality is a subtle, mobile, invisible substance, superadded to the structure of muscles...... as magnetism is to iron, and as electricity is to various substances with which it may be connected.
John Abernethy
Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.
The XIV Dalai Lama

Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living

The River of Life

Two young girls Laukika and Samatha, set off on an adventure. Both of them had completed their formal education and before venturing into their respective samsaric enterprises, they thought of taking a break to contemplate life. And thus was born this hedonistic idea of journeying down the river.
Laukika was so over whelmed with the river’s speed, energy and her own enthusiasm that she said to her friend: “I’m going to jump into the river, Samatha, and be carried along with its great energies. Meet you later”. So saying, she took the plunge, without waiting for her friend to respond.
Laukika enjoyed the initial adventure. At times the river frightened her, its strong current sweeping her along. But she dismissed her fears as she was taken up by the full flow of the river. The current carried her after and she could now no longer see the shore. Laukika was euphoric and wanted more of the adventure. Forever engrossed in steadying herself from the speed of her journey, she managed mere fleeting glimpse of the beauty around her.
Now, the waves got bigger, the waters deeper the river widened, the gushing become so forceful that she was thrown about, knocked about on the rocks all over, water and sand filled her nostrils and mouth, she was being bruised…….. by the gravel and creatures in the river, “Help me to the shore, someone”, she cried, but no one heard her. Those who did hear her couldn’t do much, as they were not in a position to help her.
Meanwhile, Samatha had set out on foot. “I choose to walk down the river bank instead. I might be able to enjoy the vistas better this way”, she had thought to herself before embarking on her journey.
Many years passed. The two friends met again. They hugged each other, happy to meet once again. They shared their experiences. Laukika admitted she did have her share of fun, but the journey had tired her out. Moreover, she felt vacant inside. There was so much she wanted to do, she said, but the sheer speed of her journey didn’t permit her to take those liberties’.
Samatha spoke. “I too thought for long after your left me, Laukika. I was tempted to follow you. The river looked enticing. But then, there was no hurry, either, I chose to walk down instead. I got to experience and enjoy the scenic offerings around the river. I marveled at the sunrise and sunset that were so different each day. The open blue sky was so re-assuring, as were the stars at night. I played with the countless birds and butterflies that filled the forest. I stopped to smell the forest and waited with bated breath for the kingfisher to dive into the    waters for a quick mea land the seagulls that flew over my head. I was tempted many times to plunge myself into  the racing river but would spend only a little time in the waters before drying myself on the warm rocks on the banks, read a book and resume my journey.
The local people who collected firewood and fruits from the forest would invite me to their humble homes. I would play with their children and share with them simple tips on improving their health before bidding them goodbye. It has been an amazing journey.”
The friends sat in silence, mulling over the choices they’d made and the experiences they’d been through.

The Self Alone Exists

The concept of an adept teacher lies at the heart of Upanishadic dialogue in which the guru clarifies the doubts of his pupils and inspires them to think deeply on matters of consciousness. Since experience is the only true touchstone, the ancients focused first on the evolved state of a guru, who could awaken others to a higher consciousness. This focus characterizes the Ashtavakra Samhita, the discourse-dialogue centered on Self-realization, between the young sages. Ashtavakra and the elderly king of Mithila, Janaka, who discussed knowledge as being ever conscious of the eternality of one-self, and understanding it as inextricably linked to the question of what constitutes bondage and liberation.
"Non-attachment for sense-objects is liberation love for sense-objects is bondage..." Ashtavakra describes the nature of knowledge thus, going directly to the central focus that the self alone exists and all else, within the mind-senses matrix, is false and unreal. He draws his disciple's attention to his own restlessness, despite being satisfied king. Ashtavakra talks of the eternal yearning of the mind for its true nature, beyond all objects, beyond all desires. The seeker has only got preoccupied in this world till now to quench this restlessness, not fully comprehending what he seeks. The seeker remains unfulfilled as a result of this material pre-occupation because one can actually only feel satiated in the realization of one's true nature.
Ashtavakra continues with his exposition of the illusory nature of the world by exhorting Janaka to renounce desire in all forms, be it the desire for enjoyment and learning or even of pious deeds, for "bondage consists only of desire and the destruction of desire is liberation..." Heasks him to wake up to the transitory nature of all things, to cultivate dispassion by seeing loss and suffering all around, to understand that the root of this cycle of suffering is attachment born of desire. The Ashtavakra Samhita so completely focuses on the nature of Atmanubhuti, defined within the contours of the bondage-liberation paradigm.
Ashtavakra goes on to annihilate the false  sense of identification of the self with the mind, saying that "it is bondage when the mind desires or grieves at anything, rejects or accepts anything, feels happy or angry at anything. " He sums up a free and fearless soul as one who has renounced desire, for "the renunciation desire alone is the renunciation of the world"
Ashtavakra then attempts to describe the state of bliss of the self in which all notions of plurality fall away, in which even intellectual or aesthetic or ethical pursuits seem secondary, where "there is no heaven or hell or liberation .... Nothing but the self in this expanded cosmic consciousness". The fire of knowledge ignited by the guru burns away the desires of the disciple, and the last two chapters allude to the experiential realization of the disciple himself.

Janaka concludes the Samhita by describing his own state to his guru Ashtavakra; where are the elements, where is the body, where is the mind, where is the knower; the means the object of knowledge where is anything, where is the world, where is the aspirant......, "The self alone exists."

Transcend All Identities

If we human beings are mortal, then how is it that we desire eternal existence, knowledge and bliss? Human beings devoid of the attributes of existence, knowledge and bliss, logically cannot express the desire to live in this world eternally, to attain complete knowledge and complete bliss.
Beyond the existence of the physical body, you can directly feel the existence of mind, intellect and perverted ego. As we are of a finite nature, our mental and intellectual capacities are also finite. The existence of perverted ego can be perceived by the presence of specific thoughts such as thinking that one belongs to this or that country; this or that religion; that one speaks this or that language or belongs  this or that group - whatever it may be. It may be questioned whether after death of the physical body there is the existence of any such nationalist, religious or language groups - in fact, it may be pertinent to ask whether everything is destroyed or if there is the existence of a subtle body consisting of mind, intelligence and perverted ego or even beyond that the existence of an eternal entity.
Human birth is best due to endowment of the special quality of power of discrimination between good and bad and eternal and non-eternal. Physical bodies re in the grip of numerous births and deaths and are subject to many other drawbacks. This renders the physical body is non-eternal then the body's sense organs must also be non-eternal. Therefore, if there should be any eternal entity, it must exist beyond the comprehension of human material non-eternal sense organs.
In the Mahabharata, Arjuna was blessed with divine eyes, so that he may witness the Vishwarupa of Krishna a dazzled sight. Thousands were present at Kurukshetra when Krishna revealed His Virat form, yet Arjuna was the only one to see Him like that. Why?
The Supreme God is infinite; everything about Him is infinite. He has created countless species to a plan. If one accepts that human beings can determine their own cause by means of material senses, mind or intellect, then that will be a mentally or intellectually concocted thing. That will not be reality. If Reality is in fact Reality, then He must always exist. What is the Truth?
Why do we wish to be eternal? Why are we eager to learn and to experience bliss? We are a part of the Supreme - so we are like the Supreme in some respects. He is Sacchidananda and so are we. Sat in Sanskrit menas eternal life, chit is eternal knowledge and anand means eternal bliss. Soul is sacchidananda.

We were given this limited body to know our true identity. Our duty is not to hanker after temporary bliss, but to have eternal bliss. We have to find ways to realize our true identity to become servants of Sacchidananda. Since we are part of the Supreme Lord, it is our primary task to serve Him or to act in a way that pleases Him. Once we realize Him, we will also realize other eternal truths, and know that not only He but His Associates, too, do not take birth but descend.

Water is Life

Meaning: The line of Rigved 10/9/12 says us that - water is beneficial to man. By using it, the outer and inner dirt is removed.
Message: The glory of motherhood lies in the welfare of the children. A mother is always alert about her child's good health and good habit, and God knows how much hardship she suffers for the child's sake. A woman's life becomes glorified by children with good qualities and good habits and right from the time of conception to the child's birth and even thereafter her remaining life she spends for the welfare of her children. Similarly, God the Supreme Father keeps this world going with the desire for the welfare of His children. He gives happiness, like the happiness through a mother’s tender care, for all the living beings and makes arrangements for feeding them all. Among the innumerable types of help given by God, the importance of water is maximum and it is beneficial for all.
Water has been described as life and nectar in the Vedas. Water has wonderful health-giving medicinal properties and it can remove a number of diseases. Ayurved recognizes the great importance of water for the treatment of diseases. The percentage of water in man’s body is 70 percent, in the brain it is 90 percent and in solid bones it is 25 percent. Man’s body is made up of the five elements of water, earth, air, space and fire.
The entire beauty of this earth is because of water. The pleasant greenery, the beautiful fragrant flowers and plants, the trees laden with tasty fruits, ghee (butter-oil), milk, curds, butter, etc all this is produced through water only. When the water filled with the rare minerals of the mountains reaches the fields, the earth yields a golden harvest. All the works of the world are dependent upon the benevolence of water. The authority or supremacy of water is all pervading. Water possesses many great qualities and it is the nectar of our life.
By drinking clean and cool water all the dirt of the body is flushed out (through bowel-movements and urine) Ayurved mentions ‘usha-paan’ (i.e. drinking of water on getting up in the down) The man who drinks about two glassfuls of water, always remain healthy. This is because the bowels move and with the emptying of the bowels, the mind becomes cheerful, man develops a good appetite and the digestive system works efficiently. With ‘Usha paan’ many diseases and weaknesses are removed. If instead of drinking water with the mouth, practice is made of drinking water through the nose. It is extremely beneficial for the health. It increases the brightness of the eyes, raises the level of intelligence and drive away old age.
Bathing is extremely necessary for the cleanliness of the body. A daily bath is useful for strength, energy and health. A bath with clean and cool water removes dirt, perspiration and tiredness. It increases physical strength and luster and gives longevity. As far as possible, avoid bathing with warm water. Bathing with cold water is beneficial for the health.

Thus we can say that water is life itself.

Designed to Bounce Back

There is a lot in life that we are not meant to take seriously - your nasty boss, for instance, or an unkind colleague who put you down. Why remember those who never valued us in the first place? Why recall repeatedly, all those occasions when we were slighted or overlooked?
we were never meant to take these things to heart. And yet we keep running into folks who are discouraged by the slightest thing. There is something inbuilt into life itself that could help us overcome trials and difficulties - a kind of survival mechanism that supports us, teaching us to keep boosting ourselves and our self esteem, particularly when faced with flake.
People are often judging us from a perspective that is narrow. So what if the first draft did not make the mark? What if I failed in a task, or if I did not measure up to the expectations of my colleagues? What if I was not as successful as others would like me to be?
The calm, measured life that I have chosen to lead - no matter if it appears drab and dull to some - may have been rich in content in ways that is not comprehensible to them. May be my ambitions did not drive me to always be on the top. Perhaps I was like a neutral figure in an organization that made heroes of straw men. Perhaps, too, I am remembered for other, more enduring qualities like kindness and compassion?
As I look back, I wonder if it was that rebuff that made me work harder and with greater concentration. It was the downgrade I received that made me assess myself more realistically and helped me build on my real individual strengths and resources. It was the unkindness of others or the cutting remarks made, that made me value myself even more.
Life has so many facets and we do our best to simplify our responses and to unravel its complexities. The process is sometimes long and we are prone to discouragement on the way. But as we travel and journey along, we become more hopeful.
The discouraged person will always find a sympathetic ear, timely advice, and reaffirmation from significant others and unconditional acceptance by those who by their very existence encourage people along the way. So, when we are tired and have reached the end of our tether, we get a helping hand and are uplifted on the way.
Life calls all of us to be encouragers. We can do this well only when we ourselves have been through the pain of rejection and yet survive to emerge accomplished in other ways. We are after all co-travelers on the voyage of life.
Just think: What would have happened if life did not survive the thousands of trails and errors that have gone into the making of it? To succeed like Edison after the 1,000th trail in making the electric bulb is akin to all the other experiences of life - repeated failure, perseverance and success.

As it is so well said, we might only be a hit away from striking gold, so we need to keep at it, no matter how discouraged we are and feel.