Sunday, 24 September 2017

Dhyana Yoga – Preparation and process

Gita essays – 9

Dhyanam means meditation.  In advaita Vedanta, meditation is prescribed not for liberation, nor for gaining knowledge but for assimilation or internalisation of knowledge already acquired.  For as per advaita Vedanta, Athma being identical with Brahman is not bound and always stand liberated.  One through Athma Jnanam comes to know of this fact and feels liberated.  Only this gaining of knowledge of unbound nature of Self is termed liberation.  Further meditation is not listed as one of the six pramanams, means of knowledge. So Vedantic meditation, called Nitidyasanam, is practised to let this knowledge sink into the subconscious neutralising the habitual vasanas so that one will get established in the advaitic jnanam all the time. Therefore Lord Krishna introduces the topic of practice of Dhyanam, after talking about Jnanam with these verses, 5-27&28.
स्पर्शान्कृत्वा बहिर्बाह्यांश्चक्षुश्चैवान्तरे भ्रुवोः। (Sparsaan kritwaa bahir baahyaamschakshus chaivaantare bhruvoh)
प्राणापानौ समौ कृत्वा नासाभ्यन्तरचारिणौ।।5.27।।(Praanaapaanau samau kritwaa naasaabhyantara chaarinau)
यतेन्द्रियमनोबुद्धिर्मुनिर्मोक्षपरायणः। (Yatendriya manobuddhir munir mokshaparaayanah)
विगतेच्छाभयक्रोधो यः सदा मुक्त एव सः।।5.28।। (Vigatecchaabhaya krodho yah sadaa mukta eva sah)
Shutting out all the external sense-objects, fixing the gaze between the eye-brows, regulating the outgoing and incoming breaths that move through the nostrils, the senses, mind and intellect controlled, freed from desire, fear and anger, and with Liberation as the supreme goal, one who meditates is verily liberated forever.

In these two verses Lord Krishna has given a comprehensive pre-view of meditation that He will discuss in the next Chapter.  Lord gives a scheme of practice of meditation by which one can gain a complete integration in himself.  When we shut out external objects - not physically- but through discreet intellectual detachment at the mental plane, we shall discover in ourselves the necessary tranquillity for engaging in meditation.  Then the gaze should be fixed in between the eye brows so that the eye balls remain steady. This is followed by rhythmical breathing which makes the mind quiet and perfect harmony is developed in the system. These instructions relate to physical adjustments.

The instructions relating to mental and intellectual adjustments are then given. The seeker is asked to be free from desire, fear and anger, to attain perfect peace of mind. When the senses, mind and intellect are subjugated by dedicating all his outer and inner activities to achieve the goal of realizing the Self, he attains liberation. The mind gets restless because of the agitations caused by desire, fear and anger. When it is desireless, it proceeds towards the Self spontaneously and Liberation becomes one's highest goal. When an individual follows these steps he can remain in the contemplation of Brahman without any distractions. Such a man of meditation comes to experience the freedom of the Brahman before long. 

The question as to what a person of balanced mind has to know and on what to meditate upon in Dhyana Yoga is discussed in the next verse no. 29, which is the last verse of this chapter where Lord says, “He who knows Me as the receiver of all rituals and austerities and as the supreme Lord of all the worlds and the friend of all beings, attains peace.   The word `Me' does not mean Lord Krishna in the bodily figure but indicates Iswara whose Avatar is Lord Krishna.  This He clarifies through the qualifications “receiver of all rituals and austerities”, and “supreme Lord of all the worlds”.  If one is not exposed to vedantic teaching then the meditator can meditate on any form of Saguna Iswara, as one’s Ishta Devata.

The instructions relating to physical, mental and intellectual adjustments are further elaborated in Chapter 6 starting from verse 10 which states:
योगी युञ्जीत सततमात्मानं रहसि स्थितः।(Yogee yunjeeta satatamaatmaanam rahasi sthitah)
एकाकी यतचित्तात्मा निराशीरपरिग्रहः।। (Ekaakee yatachittaatmaa niraasheeraparigrahah)
A Yogi should always try to concentrate his mind in meditation, remaining alone in solitude, with the mind and body controlled,   without any desires and without any possessions.
One need not retire to a cave or a jungle to practice meditation but one should try to withdraw oneself mentally and physically from the normal preoccupations and can retire to a secluded spot in one's own home itself for practicing meditation. This helps keep off all external distractions. He must not be excited, or agitated. There should be no restlessness or turbulence of mind which should be kept free of desires and longing for possessions. The effort should be constant and not pursued in fits and starts.  In the words of Dr. Radhakrishnan “A continuous creative effort is necessary for developing the higher and intenser form of consciousness”. 

Lord goes on to describe the place and the seat. The place must be clean as an untidy and dirty place itself serves as a cause for mental disturbance.  The seat must not be too high or too low as a high seat induces a sense of insecurity and a low seat may cause body-pain.   A three layer seat is prescribed, with Kush grass, deer kin and a piece of cloth constituting the three layers.  Besides being firm and soft, this seat offers protection against cold, heat and dampness.  Lord then goes on to describe the posture conducive to gain and retain concentration.  The meditator should keep the head; neck and the spinal column vertical to the horizontal seat so that the vertebral column is completely erect and he should be seated relaxed without moving the body in any direction. He should not look around but his gaze should be turned and kept in the direction of the tip of the nose.  

After talking about external disciplines concerning body i.e. place, time, seat, and posture, Lord proceeds to expound the internal disciplines dealing with mind and intellect.  He should have inner peace that comes with firm fixation of mind in the present, with no regrets for the past and no anxiety for the future. He should observe steadfastly Brahmacharya, which means not only celibacy but also self-control in all fields of sense-stimulations and sense-gratifications.  Further through celibacy the conservation and transformation of the vital fluid into spiritual energy adds to the power of concentration.  He should also eschew fear from his mind as he has nothing to fear his Real Self being Athma, the Brahman.  Keeping the mind under control free of external wanderings, it should be kept focused upon the Divine seeking nothing but the Supreme. The mind becomes still but not vacant for it is fixed on the Supreme which is a state called Ishvara Pranidhana . In his daily routine, be it eating, sleeping or recreation, he is to practice moderation avoiding extremes of abstinence or indulgence.  Such a meditator should keep his mind steady in concentration like a steady flame in windless place.  This ultimately leads to the vision of Lord in all creatures and to the incomparable bliss of Athma that is Brahman.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Karma Yogi and Jnana Yogi


Gita essays – 8

In Chapter 4, Lord Krishna glorified Jnanam, as a great purifier that washes off all sins, past and present, and praised Jnana karma sanyasi as actionless in action and not bound. But in the concluding verse of this chapter Lord told Arjuna “Get up and take to karma yoga.”  So Arjuna was confused and wants know for certain which is superior; karma sanyasa or karma yoga.  These two represent two life-styles, one is pravritti marga where you engage in action as a householder, renouncing attachment to action, while other is nivritti marga, where you renounce action itself as a sanyasi. Arjuna is confused as to whether sanyasa asrama is compulsory for gaining Jnanam to achieve liberation and if so why should he not straightaway renounce action itself and take to sanyasa.  Lord Krishna clarifies that what is important for liberation is only Jnanam which can be attained in both ways of life and one who tries to differentiate between them is only ignorant in verse 5-4.
सांख्ययोगौ पृथग्बालाः प्रवदन्ति पण्डिताः। (Saankhyayogau prithagbaalaah pravadanti na panditaah)
एकमप्यास्थितः सम्यगुभयोर्विन्दते फलम्।। (Ekam apyaasthitah samyag ubhayor vindate phalam)
Ignorant (people) assert that sanyasa and karmayoga are different, not the wise. By resorting to any one of them properly, one attains the results of both.
Physical renunciation of objects is no renunciation at all. What is wanted is the renunciation of egoism and desires. So one does not become a sanyasi by merely giving up actions due to laziness or some other personal or family problem,  One is a true sanyasi who is free from raga, dwesha and other pairs of opposites. Asram is no bar to obtain Jnanam but it is difficult for one to become a true sanyasi with a pure mind free from attachments, without going through a life of karma yoga. So a life of karma yoga is preferable for an ordinary person, advises Lord Krishna. Then Lord goes on to describe karma-yoga as a sadhana for Jnanam ultimately.

A Karma Yogi lives in the world without bondage like a lotus leaf on water.  With selfless action and without anxiety for the fruits, he has inward peace at mental and intellectual levels. He finds divinity everywhere at all times. As he sees the divinity of the Self as all pervading, Lord remarks “he realizes his own Self as the Self in all beings”.  Even in the common, natural and unavoidable activities of the world like eating, sleeping, breathing, speaking, closing and opening of eyes etc., a man of wisdom will not have any sense of doership or egoism.  As he identifies himself with the Self always he remains only a witness of the activities of the senses.  As he has no attachment, whatever actions he performs at the level of body, mind, intellect and senses, they are only for the purification of the self and not for selfish benefits. Dedicating all actions to the Lord and abandoning attachment, he totally surrenders to the Divine will.  Thus united to Lord he attains eternal peace and is not born again.  On the other hand the one who is motivated by desire and attachment to the fruits of actions and who is full of egoism and sense of doership can be considered as unharmonised with the Divine will, and is bound by his actions and continues in the cycle of birth and death.  Attaining Athma Jnanam, karma yogi lives happily as a Jnana yogi, established in Self-knowledge, mentally renouncing all actions and not identifying himself with the body which is called a city of nine gates.  He is totally free from the consciousness of “I”, “me” or “mine” and also from the idea of acting or causing action and he lives only for exhausting the prarabhdha karma, which caused his present body.  He attains videha mukthi when the prarabdha karma is exhausted.

Then Lord goes on to explain the nature of Athma and about Jnana yogi who has successfully gone through all the four stages listed below and is firmly established in Jiva-Brahma-Ikya Jananam.
1)    Discovery of the value for the knowledge of one’s higher Self, Athma Jnanam
2)     Discovery of the higher Self, Athma, as his Real Self
3)    Gradual identification of oneself with Athma, the higher Self, while simultaneously disidentifying oneself from ahamkara, the lower self
4)    Effortless, constant mental Identification with Athma, one’s higer Self
Athma, one’s higher Self, is akartha and aboktha and it is only under the influence of maya /prakrithi, one’s ego-self, ahamkara, acts and enjoys the fruits of action.  So Athma has no hand in one’s papams and punyams. Maya’s avarana sakthi, veiling power, covers one’s Jnanam and as a result one mistakes in ignorance his ego-self as the Real Self and imagines in his ignorance that his Real Self, Athma, is the doer and enjoyer and papams and punyams result from the actions of Athma.  When this ignorance is destroyed by Self-knowledge, the reign of ego ends and Athma that is Brahman becomes revealed as Self just as the objects of the universe are revealed when the dark clouds covering the sun are dispelled and move away.  Identifying his Real Self with Brahman, he continues to live as Jivan muktha and attains videha mukthi at death gaining freedom from the cycle of birth and death. He is a Brahma nishta, ever established in Brahman mentally.  He is no more a samsari but a samadarsi, seeing divinity everywhere and in all forms of life, human or otherwise. He does not depend on his senses for his pleasure and satisfaction, with the knowledge that they are generators of pain and suffering in the long run. Facing the pleasant he is not elated, and facing the unpleasant he is not depressed and he accepts with equanimity the play of opposites in life, keeping his desires under his firm control.  Before concluding Lord Krishna declares that for success in spiritual sadhanas to become Jnana yogi one should restrain the impulse of kama and krodha and should not indulge in sense pleasures, understanding their impermanence besides acquiring doubt-free knowledge of Athma

Friday, 18 August 2017

Jnana Yajna

Gita essays – 7

In verse 4-24 Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that a Jnani beholds only Brahman in everything and everywhere illustrating it with the example of yajna.  Thereafter He continues his teaching comparing Brahma Jnanam and the sadhanas for purification of mind to get Brahma Jnana yogyatha as yajnas.  Yajna ordinarily means the fire ritual in worship, kindling the flames with offerings.  Lord Krishna gives a new interpretation to the word yajna to cover the human day to day activities done with devotion and dedicated to Lord and the prayerful acts done for spiritual growth.  We shall see them one by one starting with Brahma yajna.

1)    Brahma yajna – In the fire of higher Self, Paramathma, the oblation of lower self, ego, is offered.  This is an intellectual act bringing about a cognitive change. This is also the highest act of Bhakthi as well, Athma Nivedhanam and is practised by a Jnani.

2)    Daiva yajna – regular worship; any type of worship done at home to any deity,

3)    Viṣhaya bhoga yajna -  all the interactions with world in worshipful attitude; whatever you give you give as offering to the Lord, whatever you take you take as prasada or as offering to the Lord within you.

4)    Dama yajna -  sense mastery; discipline of the sense organs, not being a slave to them.

5)     Sama yajna - mastery of the mind; so that it is under one’s control and not the other way.

6)    Dravya yajna – acts of charity.

7)    Tapo yajna -  practice of moderation in everything.

8)    Yoga yajna – practice of ashtanga yoga

9)    Svadhyaya yajnaparayanam of scriptures

10) Pranayama yajna – practice of pranayama.

11) Ahara niyama yajna – discipline in eating

12) Jnana yajna – acquiring  spiritual knowledge leading to Atma Jnanam.  Swami Chinmayananda’s public lectures on Gita and Upanishads were called jnana yajna only.

After talking about all these yajnas, Lord Krishna says that of the yajnas from 2 to 12, Jnana yajna is superior to others, as other ten sadhanas can only prepare the mind for Jnanam and gives Jnana yogyatha to the sadhaka.  Through Jnana yajna one can acquire Brahma Jnanam that can lead to liberation but under certain conditions as enumerated by the Lord in verse 4-34.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया। (Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa)
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।। (Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninas tattwadarshinah)
Know that through prostration, proper enquiry and service to the wise ones, who have realized the Truth, and they will impart (that) Knowledge to you.

A competent Acharya is one who has perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and also subjective experience of the Infinite Reality.  Mere theoretical knowledge, however perfect, does not make one a competent guru in this discipline.  The mental attitude and intellectual approach on the part of the student should also be different from that of a student in other disciplines. Self -knowledge is acquired through:

  • Prostration and Service:  Prostration, besides being a physical act also stands for an intellectual attitude of humility, reverence and obedience when he approaches the guru.  Service does not imply any physical service but the attunement of the student to the principles of life advised by his guru.
  • Inquiry: The student besides exhibiting readiness to understand, grasp and follow the Master's instructions should also be prepared to raise relevant doubts regarding what is taught with devotion and respect and have them cleared so that the knowledge acquired is doubt-free.

Additional qualifications for the student are also listed in 4-39, where Lord saysश्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। (Shraddhaavaan labhate jnaanam tatparah samyatendriyah) One who has shraddah, who is devoted, and whose senses are under his control attains knowledge”  Shraddah, devotion and sense-control are the additional desired qualifications besides attitude of humility, reverence and obedience and intellectual sharpness and keenness, listed earlier.  In this verse Lord gives the benefit as well.  He states that one, achieving this Jnanam, attains supreme peace and this supreme peace gives supreme happiness which is the ultimate goal of all human activities. This comes as a climax of other benefits listed ealier from verse 4-35.

Lord Krishna declares first that having gained the Self-knowledge, Arjuna will never again suffer such delusion, as he had at the start of the war.   Second benefit Lord  lists is, Self-knowledge will give him knowledge of Jiva-Brahma-Ikyam.  Like the wave that discovers it is nothing but water which is also the true identity of ocean, he will also learn that his true Self is Pure Consciousness, which is also the real identity of Brahman.  Thirdly all the karmas will be reduced to ashes in the fire of knowledge. Karma is of three kinds, which are,

  • Prarabhdha - past karma that has given rise to the present birth (operative).
  • Sanchita - the balance of past karma that will give rise to future births (not yet operative)
  • Agami - karma done in the present life (to be operative in the future).

Through this knowledge all the sanchita karmas are destroyed, all the agami karmas are avoided; and all the prarabha karmas are de-fanged, in Swami Paramarthananda’s words.  When karmas are destroyed, all papas and punyas are dissolved absolving him of future births.  So Lord glorifies this knowledge as a great purifier that washes off all sins, past and present.  He assures that one with mental purity attained through karma yoga and  sadhana chathushtayam will discover the knowledge himself in course of time.  
Lord also uses a negative approach to emphasise the importance of this knowledge and qualities for this knowledge by denouncing the one, who has no knowledge of the Self (ignorant), who has no faith in the scriptures and in the teachings of his guru (faithless) and who is of a doubting disposition, as one who will not find any joy anywhere - neither here nor in the hereafter.

Before concluding His teaching on Jnana karma sanyasa, Lord Krishna recapitulates the three main qualifications for the person whom actions do not bind:

1)    The person has the body-mind complex under perfect control

2)    The person has renounced attachment to the fruits of action, righteous and unrighteous, through the practice of karma yoga and

3)    The person is free of doubts by following the teachings of his guru

Lord Krishna concludes his teachings on jnana karma sanyasa in verse 42 with a call for action as follows:
तस्मादज्ञानसंभूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनाऽऽत्मनः।(Tasmaad ajnaanasambhootam hritstham l forjnaanaasinaatmanah)
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत।। (Cchittwainam samshayam yogam aatishthottishtha bhaarata)

O Arjuna, Therefore with the sword of knowledge (of the Self), destroy the doubt about the Self which is in your mind, and which is born out of ignorance. Get up and take to karma yoga.

Arjuna has doubts in his heart about waging the war, where he is pitted against his beloved grandfather and revered Acharya.  Lord Krishna exhorts him to get rid of all his doubts born out of his Athma ajjnanam through the knowledge of one’s true Self and with a doubt-free firm mind do his duty as a kshatriya like a true karma yogi. We can interpret it as an advice to all spiritual seekers to act in the spirit of yajna like a true karma yogi, when assailed by doubts and confused as to goal