Thursday, February 04, 2010

Yama & Niyamas

As everyone knows, Hinduism does not impose any unchangeable moral or ethical on its followers. But there exists many pointers and suggestions as to how a Hindu can lead his life. The most important of them are Yama and Niyama. Yama & Niyama can be termed as the most important principles to be followed by every Hindu. I am copy-pasting from an old Hinduism today article about what they are:

The Ten Vedic Restraints, Yama:

1. Noninjury, Ahimsa: Practice noninjury, not harming others by thought, word or deed, even in your dreams. Live a kindly life, revering all beings as expressions of the One Divine energy. Let go of fear and insecurity, the sources of abuse. Knowing that harm caused to others unfailingly returns to oneself, live peacefully with God's creation. Never be a source of dread, pain or injury. Follow a vegetarian diet. Ahimsa is not to be understood as inaction towards adharma; it has to be understood as absence of hatred.

2. Truthfulness, Satya: Adhere to truthfulness, refraining from lying and betraying promises. Speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary. Knowing that deception creates distance, don't keep secrets from family or loved ones. Be fair, accurate and frank in discussions, a stranger to deceit. Admit your failings. Do not engage in slander, gossip or backbiting. Do not bear false witness against another.

3. Nonstealing, Asteya: Uphold the virtue of nonstealing, neither thieving, coveting nor failing to repay debt. Control your desires and live within your means. Do not use borrowed resources for unintended purposes or keep them past due. Do not gamble or defraud others. Do not renege on promises. Do not use others' name, words, resources or rights without permission and acknowledgement.

4. Divine Conduct, Brahmacharya: Practice divine conduct, controlling lust by remaining celibate when single and faithful in marriage. Before marriage, use vital energies in study, and after marriage in creating family success. Don't waste the sacred force by promiscuity in thought, word or deed. Be restrained with the opposite sex. Seek holy company. Dress and speak modestly.

5. Patience, Kshama: Exercise patience, restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances. Be agreeable. Let others behave according to their nature, without adjusting to you. Don't argue, dominate conversations or interrupt others. Don't be in a hurry. Be patient with children and the elderly. Minimize stress by keeping worries at bay. Remain poised in good times and bad.

6. Steadfastness, Dhriti: Foster steadfastness, overcoming nonperseverance, fear, indecision and changeableness. Achieve your goals with a prayer, purpose, plan, persistence and push. Be firm in your decisions. Avoid sloth and procrastination. Develop willpower, courage and industriousness. Overcome obstacles. Never carp or complain. Do not let opposition or fear of failure result in changing strategies.

7. Compassion, Daya: Practice compassion, conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. See God everywhere. Be kind to people, animals, plants and the Earth itself. Forgive those who apologize and show true remorse. Foster sympathy for others' needs and suffering. Honor and assist those who are weak, impoverished, aged or in pain. Oppose family abuse and other cruelties.

8. Honesty, Arjava: Maintain honesty, renouncing deception and wrongdoing. Act honorably even in hard times. Obey the laws of your nation and locale. Pay your taxes. Be straightforward in business. Do an honest day's work. Do not bribe or accept bribes. Do not cheat, deceive or circumvent to achieve an end. Be frank with yourself. Face and accept your faults without blaming them on others.

9. Moderate Appetite, Mitahara: Be moderate in appetite, neither eating too much nor consuming meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. Enjoy fresh, wholesome vegetarian foods that vitalize the body. Avoid junk food. Drink in moderation. Eat at regular times, only when hungry, at a moderate pace, never between meals, in a disturbed atmosphere or when upset. Follow a simple diet, avoiding rich or fancy fare.

10. Purity, Saucha: Uphold the ethic of purity, avoiding impurity in mind, body and speech. Maintain a clean, healthy body. Keep a pure, uncluttered home and workplace. Act virtuously. Keep good company, never mixing with adulterers, thieves or other impure people. Keep away from pornography and violence. Never use harsh, angered or indecent language. Worship devoutly. Meditate daily.

The 10 Vedic Practices, Niyama:

1. Remorse, Hri: Allow yourself the expression of remorse, being modest and showing shame for misdeeds. Recognize your errors, confess and make amends. Sincerely apologize to those hurt by your words or deeds. Resolve all contention before sleep. Seek out and correct your faults and bad habits. Welcome correction as a means to bettering yourself. Do not boast. Shun pride and pretension.

2. Contentment, Santosha: Nurture contentment, seeking joy and serenity in life. Be happy, smile and uplift others. Live in constant gratitude for your health, your friends and your belongings, Don't complain about what you don't possess. Identify with the eternal You, rather than mind, body or emotions. Keep the mountaintop view that life is an opportunity for spiritual progress. Live in the eternal now.

3. Giving, Dana: Be generous to a fault, giving liberally without thought of reward. Tithe, offering one-tenth of your gross income (dashamamsha), as God's money, to temples, ashrams and spiritual organizations. Approach the temple with offerings. Visit guru with gifts in hand. Donate religious literature. Feed and give to those in need. Bestow your time and talents without seeking praise. Treat guests as God

4. Faith, Astikya: Cultivate an unshakable faith. Believe firmly in God, Gods, guru and your path to enlightenment. Trust in the words of the masters, the scriptures and traditions. Practice devotion and sadhana to inspire experiences that build advanced faith. Be loyal to your lineage, one with your satguru. Shun those who try to break your faith by argument and accusation. Avoid doubt and despair.

5. Worship, Ishvarapujana: Cultivate devotion through daily worship and meditation. Set aside one room of your home as God's shrine. Offer fruit, flowers or food daily. Learn a simple puja and the chants. Meditate after each puja. Visit your shrine before and after leaving the house. Worship in heartfelt devotion, clearing the inner channels to God, Gods and guru so their grace flows toward you and loved ones.

6. Scriptural Listening, Siddhanta Shravana: Eagerly hear the scriptures, study the teachings and listen to the wise of your lineage. Choose a guru, follow his path and don't waste time exploring other ways. Read, study and, above all, listen to readings and dissertations by which wisdom flows from knower to seeker. Avoid secondary texts that preach violence. Revere and study the revealed scriptures, the Vedas and Agamas.

7. Cognition, Mati: Develop a spiritual will and intellect with your satguru's guidance. Strive for knowledge of God, to awaken the light within. Discover the hidden lesson in each experience to develop a profound understanding of life and yourself. Through meditation, cultivate intuition by listening to the still, small voice within, by understanding the subtle sciences, inner worlds and mystical texts.]

8. Sacred Vows, Vrata: Embrace religious vows, rules and observances and never waver in fulfilling them. Honor vows as spiritual contracts with your soul, your community, with God, Gods and guru. Take vows to harness the instinctive nature. Fast periodically. Pilgrimage yearly. Uphold your vows strictly, be they marriage, monasticism, nonaddiction, tithing, loyalty to a lineage, vegetarianism or nonsmoking.

9. Recitation, Japa: Chant your holy mantra daily, reciting the sacred sound, word or phrase given by your guru. Bathe first, quiet the mind and concentrate fully to let japa harmonize, purify and uplift you. Heed your instructions and chant the prescribed repetitions without fail. Live free of anger so that japa strengthens your higher nature. Let japa quell emotions and quiet the rivers of thought.

10. Austerity, Tapas: Practice austerity, serious disciplines, penance and sacrifice. Be ardent in worship, meditation and pilgrimage. Atone for misdeeds through penance (prayashchitta), such as 108 prostrations or fasting. Perform self-denial, giving up cherished possessions, money or time. Fulfill severe austerities at special times, under a satguru's guidance, to ignite the inner fires of self-transformation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The fascination for Hi-Fi

Man always tried to extend the limits of his abilities. Thus the idea of conquering the most challenging of the tasks fascinates him (the ambitious Big Bang experiment is one such example).

However, this attitude sometimes leads into negligence to basics. For example, one air crash absorbs all our attention, even though the number of dead in simple road accidents may be a thousand fold more. AIDS immediately comes to the mind when we say medical challenges, while diseases like malaria continue to kill more than 3000 children per day in Africa. What’s more, the malaria deaths are totally avoidable and preventable. Yet millions of dollars are poured into AIDS “awareness”, while much simpler, yet lethal diseases are happily forgotten. We hotly discuss the energy crunch in India and alternate methods of filling it. While that’s good, fundamentals like good power management are overlooked. The topics of more IITs and IIMs are passionately debated. But when was the last time primary education discussed with such passion? We closely follow the scheduled space flights of NASA. But how much do we know about rurally relevant technologies?

We are fascinated about the Hi-Fi, but neglect the basics. This behavior can be better understood with a background of the “slacker wins” attitude. The typical youth fantasy today is about an acne-pitted, pizza-gobbling, beer-guzzling mind-altered college dropouts in cut-off jeans and flip-flops starting a website and becoming billionaires. As an Asian times article points out, this attitude is reflected in even movies like “Kung Fu Panda”, in which a fat and feckless panda who in two easy lessons becomes a kung fu master. As film critic Carina Chocano lamented in the Los Angeles Times, "The slacker panda whose favorite word is 'awesome' is singled out for heroism when all the other characters have worked long and hard (the definition of kung fu) and sacrificed for what they've accomplished.

Underlying the seemingly good-natured adolescent humor movie is a nasty streak of resentment. Young men today profoundly resent the notion that they must subject themselves to the discipline in order to learn and advance - precisely what martial arts propose to teach.

Discipline and sacrifice are the two fundamental requirements for any great achievement. But most of us today are not willing to go for it, yet we want “greatness”. Thus the fascination for the Hi-Fi --- its makes more sense to choose a challenging job and not accomplish it (as you do not wish to give up slacking) than to choose a job which is achievable (you have to burn out your fat for that then).

Greatness does not lie in occasional sparks of genius, but in consistent hard work. In the words of Swami Vivekananda: “If you really want to judge of the character of a man, look not at his great performances. Every fool may become a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; those are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man.”. Time to put these words into practice.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In Search of Some Balance…

We often see many heated discussions on many types of topics, essentially revolving around various personalities.

Few illustrations- our neo-Buddhist friends often come up with the argument of Shambhuka and his killing by Rama as a proof of caste discrimination. Our dualist and arya samaji friends try to quote bhajagovindam or some other verse of Sankara to prove that Sankara was against women or sudras. To be fair, even some Hindus do the same to others - be it Arun Shourie’s treatment of Ambedkar or Ayesha episode in Prophet’s life.

It will be of course to wrong to just right away brush aside these people as brainwashed or prejudiced. There is some principle they are all trying to highlight, be it against caste discrimination or gender discrimination etc etc.

But the error is they confuse a Personality from a Historical Person. They think that rejecting one is equivalent to rejecting the other. However that’s not the case.

For example, how does a devotee of Rama react to the question of Sambhuka- he will reply that “look brother, how can Rama who ate from the tasted fruits of Sabari ever discriminate another person on the basis of his caste; all those episodes should have been interpolations of later authors”.

It’s needless to say that the other does not buy this and keeps harping that it is the Shambhuka episode that is real, and Sabari might have been fabrication or dikhava. Naturally the fight goes on and on…

But what the first person does not realize is that the second person already agrees to the principle he is trying to bring out. The first person:
1. Feels that a concept is wrong (caste discrimination here)
2. He then feels that the personality in question is acting as a wrong example and hindrance to the acceptability of that principle.
3. He thus sets out to destroy that personality with a view to actually destroy that idea.

But when the second person does not even think that the personality in question holds such a view, the link in point-2 is broken. What happens thus is: though the first person starts the argument with a view of establishing a principle, he gets so engrossed in the argument that he forgets that both actually agree on the principle in question.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the reverse direction too… for example we used participate in some educational work in our nearby slum and used to have regular interaction with some kids there. Being maharastra, many of them were from families of neo-buddhist background and had great reverence for Ambedkar. The bookish-scholar I was, and having read Arun Shourie’s book on him, I did not have a great opinion of him, to put it mildly. I used to feel that a neo-buddhist guy naturally hates all the hindus and their gods. So when I used to visit some of their houses, I used to find it strange and contradictory that in many houses the hindu gods used to share space with their new gods viz. Buddha and Ambedkar.

It was later that I realized that Ambedkar for them stood for dalit empowerment and not exactly anti-Hinduism (note that I am referring here to lay followers; not the political class). It was only the bookish scholars on both sides who fight a futile battle over those things. When it comes to the actual follower, he has amazing ability to discriminate between both.

The same pattern can be seen even in many inter-sect debates too. Take for example, our Arya Samaji friend’s displeasure at Sankara in a recent thread. If we separate out all the strong and bitter words, what remains is that he opposes the singling out of women and sudras for vedic knowledge. Such person then feels that the teachings of Sankara are hindering those principles and hence opposes Sankara too (note that this is just an example and I am not commenting on any particular groups; to be fair there are also Advaitins who denounce the other dualist groups worshiping Shakti as illusion dwellers)

But when he poses these questions to people who revere Sankara, they will probably reply that Sankara meant “keep away from lust”, when he says “keep away from women” and as proof of this they cite many of those Sankara’s strotras extolling Shakti.

Swami Sivananda for example while commenting on Brahmasutras, when it comes to the Apasudradhikaranam remarks that this Bhasya is an interpolation of a later author. Other Adviatins cite the incident of Sankara and the Chandala to substantiate that argument.

In the end, an argument which started essentially to uphold some viewpoint lost itself somewhere and argument descends into an expression of one’s grammatical skills (when both parties actually agree to the principles in question).

One may ask is it not important to ascertain whether the person is question actually held those views or not? The answer to this takes back to the beginning of the post where we started with understanding the difference between a Personality from a person in history. None of us have empirical evidence of all the acts of Rama or Sankara. These personalities refer not flesh and blood people, but a set-of-ideas. Hence it also appropriate to judge them for what the follower understands them to represent, instead of what you or me understand them to represent. I feel if start to view things in this manner, we may agree with each other more easily. At least we can avoid fighting on things we don’t actually disagree.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Economics101 - Demystifying Economics

Economics is one field which completely surrounds us but which hardly understood by us. It is made more complicated by use of a jargon of complex terms. Hence this effort to give the reader a small introduction to this field.

Later Update: As it was too long, I have moved it to googlepages. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Religion and Humanity

Post of Thread starter:

Friends ! Here I am starting a new topic to understand religion and humanity impartially. Here I request post your views without criticizing any religion or community.
Here I start:
Different religions define life in different manners. There are many similarities and dissimilarities. And this variety is the beauty of world. If everything was alike then it would not have been so attractive. Variety of flowers makes a garden worth seeing.

My Reply:

You brought up a good topic (which is also proved by the fact that there are no responses to it )

There is an old story I remember. A hunter living in the forest once found a wooden bark in the form of a boomerang. It proved to be very helpful to him in his hunting. In the course of time, he slowly started to get attached to that boomerang.

As time went on, that boomerang slowly started to wear down and was no more useful. But as the hunter has become too attached to it, he kept using the same boomerang even though it was not really helping. Eventually he reached point where the boomerang was no use at all and this hunter unable to overcome his attachment to it could not leave it. Hence he no longer had any animals and eventually starved.

The case of humanity and religion is also something like that. Some persons realized various spiritual truths. Then religions came into existence in the form of various practices propounded by those spiritual men to imbibe those spiritual ideals they have realized.

But in the course of the time, the followers started forgetting that various practices are not the end, but the means. It is time Hindus ask themselves: who is a hindu – is it a person who covers himself with vibuthi and rudraksh, but does all the bad things or a person who even while believing in some other god, still is committed to the core to Bharat? Who is closer to Hinduism- is it Kalam or Lalu? Similarly the people of other religions too.

I like this “The Ideal of Universal Religion” and “The Way to Realization of a Universal Religion” lectures of SV very much. Quoting some bits from them:

Unity in variety is the plan of the universe. We are all men, and yet we are all distinct from one another. As a part of humanity I am one with you, and as Mr. So-and-so I am different from you. As a man you are separate from the woman; as a human being you are one with the woman. As a man you are separate from the animal, but as living beings, man, woman, animal, and plant are all one; and as existence, you are one with the whole universe. That universal existence is God, the ultimate Unity in the universe. In Him we are all one. At the same time, in manifestation, these differences must always remain. In our work, in our energies, as they are being manifested outside, these differences must always remain. We find then that if by the idea of a universal religion it is meant that one set of doctrines should be believed in by all mankind it is wholly impossible. It can never be, there can never be a time when all faces will be the same. Again, if we expect that there will be one universal mythology, that is also impossible; it cannot be. Neither can there be one universal ritual. Such a state of things can never come into existence;

What then do I mean by the ideal of a universal religion? I do not mean any one universal philosophy, or any one universal mythology, or any one universal ritual held alike by all;… What can we do then? We can make it run smoothly, we can lessen the friction, we can grease the wheels, as it were. How? By recognising the natural necessity of variation. Just as we have recognised unity by our very nature, so we must also recognise variation. We must learn that truth may be expressed in a hundred thousand ways, and that each of these ways is true as far as it goes. We must learn that the same thing can be viewed from a hundred different standpoints, and yet be the same thing….

…Then arises the question: How can all these varieties be true? If one thing is true, its negation is false. How can contradictory opinions be true at the same time? This is the question which I intend to answer. But I will first ask you: Are all the religions of the world really contradictory? I do not mean the external forms in which great thoughts are clad. I do not mean the different buildings, languages, rituals, books, etc. employed in various religions, but I mean the internal soul of every religion. Every religion has a soul behind it, and that soul may differ from the soul of another religion; but are they contradictory? Do they contradict or supplement each other? — that is the question. I took up the question when I was quite a boy, and have been studying it all my life. Thinking that my conclusion may be of some help to you, I place it before you. I believe that they are not contradictory; they are supplementary. Each religion, as it were, takes up one part of the great universal truth, and spends its whole force in embodying and typifying that part of the great truth. It is, therefore, addition; not exclusion. That is the idea. System after system arises, each one embodying a great idea, and ideals must be added to ideals. And this is the march of humanity. Man never progresses from error to truth, but from truth to truth, from lesser truth to higher truth — but it is never from error to truth. The child may develop more than the father, but was the father inane? The child is the father plus something else. If your present state of knowledge is much greater than it was when you were a child, would you look down upon that stage now? Will you look back and call it inanity? Why, your present stage is the knowledge of the child plus something more.

Then, again, we also know that there may be almost contradictory points of view of the same thing, but they will all indicate the same thing. Suppose a man is journeying towards the sun, and as he advances he takes a photograph of the sun at every stage. When he comes back, he has many photographs of the sun, which he places before us. We see that not two are alike, and yet, who will deny that all these are photographs of the same sun, from different standpoints? Take four photographs of this church from different corners: how different they would look, and yet they would all represent this church. In the same way, we are all looking at truth from different standpoints, which vary according to our birth, education, surroundings, and so on. We are viewing truth, getting as much of it as these circumstances will permit, colouring the truth with our own heart, understanding it with our own intellect, and grasping it with our own mind. We can only know as much of truth as is related to us, as much of it as we are able to receive. This makes the difference between man and man, and occasions sometimes even contradictory ideas; yet we all belong to the same great universal truth


How come different Saints have different realizations?


if realisation is the answer to all, then how come different saints have different opinions. For example Shri Ramakrishna in his enlightenment used to visualise Goddess Kali, Gautam Buddha got the enlightenment concluded that there is no God and all things are subject to change. Jesus Christ preached love to God. Mahavir Jain mediated only to find there is no God but souls are present!! I mean different saints concluded different truths(existence of God,soul, no God, love to God,creator God, incarnated God and so on). If they all got the wisdom how their conclusions of realisation/enlightenment are different? There should be only one truth after realisation. May be the oath/approches be different but the truth should be one only na?

My Reply

>>> if realisation is the answer to all

Realization is not the answer to all the questions of everyone. It is just to the questions of the person who realized. The others are still bound to have questions. If I have a meal, it will be my hunger, not yours that will be satisfied; even if I give you a lengthy theoretical description of how each dish tastes. They may water your mouth and encourage you to satisfy your hunger. But there it ends.

>>> then how come different saints have different opinions.

Yes coming to the actual question- how come they “differ”. Whenever, wherever, whoever finds truth, it will be same because... because it IS truth. How can we then account this disparity?

What a rudimentary follower will do is to cry foul about the integrity of the other. A Christian to account for the difference in what the earlier messengers said and what Christ said will say that Jews corrupted the earlier messages. Muslims will say that Christians corrupted the Christ’s message hence the difference in the teachings of Christ and Prophet. Some Hindus will say that Vedas became corrupted by Upanishads. Some will say that Upanishads are corrupted by Puranas. Some will claim that Puranas are corrupted by some other things. Some will claim that Sankara was corrupted by Buddhism. Some will claim that Madhva was corrupted by Islam. etc etc etc etc. These type of things go on and on.

There may be an element of truth in the factor that teachings got altered in the course of time. But that it itself will not answer all the questions. Followers of Saint-A may accuse that Saint-B was wrong and confused or much worse say that he is a fake and imposter. But the same logic also holds good in reverse as well. Hence let’s keep aside this “they got corrupted” reason.

There may be many imposters in the world and many more in the religious world; but there are also some personalities like a Buddha, a Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a Christ, a Sankara, a Mahavir, a Ramanuja etc on whose personal character and integrity we cannot raise a finger.

If we look at the physical level, then all the various teachings of different religions makes it impossible to accommodate each other. But if you look at what is the idea behind all these that they are trying to express, it is the idea of man trying to go beyond the limitations of the nature.

If science can be called the struggle of man to conquer external nature, religion can be termed as the struggle of man to conquer internal nature. But he may not be equipped with a complex language to express his idea clearly.

If there is difference between a man and a child, it is not in what they want to express, but in the clarity with which they can express their idea.

The early man seeing the apple fall thought there was a demon there, invisible, which is trying to pull the apple down. He did not have the mathematics to explain it clearly like newton. But it is the same idea of gravity that he was trying to express, but only in a crude manner.

Thus formed various ideas in various societies and each, man trying to express a idea in various form, sometimes sophisticated, sometimes crude.

Am I then saying that the differences are coz the Saints goofed up on putting their ideas into words? Not exactly. The trouble is more with the very language.

Lets take a silly example to drive home the point: lets say you have tasted a mint chocolate and want to convey to the other how it tastes. How will we do it? It depends on the target audience. If you are in a place where they know the taste of “sugar”, then you will take that as the starting point and try to explain that the mint is also sweet like a sugar etc etc.

Now lets imagine you are in a different place where people don’t know what is sugar, but know of ice. Then to them you start explaining that mint feels “cool” like ice etc etc.

Your idea was same, so was what you were trying to convey. But when it comes to conveying it, the perceptions of people come into picture. If that is the case with a simple eatable, imagine the difficulty involved with the case of Absolute, which is beyond even the realm of mind.

Christ might have comprehended the reality, but when he was trying to teach it to the people from Judaic background, he will start with the identification of that with the 'father in heaven'. This 'father in heaven' was no longer an angry, jealous god of the old testament, but a Loving god. But he was still the “father in heaven” they know nevertheless.

If a Saint goes to the devotee of Krishna, then he will not start off with saying “here stop calling the reality in that name, and adopt this name”. He will instead fine tune the understanding of that devotee that Krishna will be with such and such qualities.

Let me give you one example of such a phenomenon from your post itself. You said “For example Shri Ramakrishna in his enlightenment used to visualise Goddess Kali”.

Now this is the description of his first vision of Goddess Kali in Sri Ramakrishna’s own words “I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother's temple. I determined to put an end to my life. When I jumped up like a madman and seized it, suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself.

The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up! I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious. What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.

That was his vision of Kali in his own words. When we hear vision of Kali, we start imagining that the Kali with four hands, a sword, etc etc came appeared in front. But in his own words it is “a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness”. We may term it with words it in english, but that Ocean of Consciousness itself was Kali for him. Hence he will say “vision of Kali”. But either the teacher may present it in the perspective of the seeker or the seeker may understand the same from his perspective and hence the differences.

Veg vs Non-Veg: Killing of plants justified??


As we know that we kill plants and animals for food. But Is Killing them so that we stay alive is justified? We are told to be compassioante for all living beings. Is this compassion and love is restricted to human beings only. Also we realise or worship the God within every creature.

I agree that killing a creature for defense is right but killing plants and animals for food is which I feel something wrong. I know it is necessary to kill them for food but will it not lead to bad karma right from our birth. if this is the case then I wonder why the system has evoloved like this? Is Darwin theory of survival of the fittest makes us to stay and others to perish.Even Plants and animals have the right to live.Please if you all can enlighten me as this question is coming again and again in my mind.

My reply:

>>>But Is Killing them so that we stay alive is justified? I know that human beings are the most intellect and superior living beings on earth.But does that give us the license to kill or is it because that only we can realise God spiritually.

You are looking at only external life- but what about internal life. If starving and suicide not a form of violence?

The first requirement to get a clearer idea of this topic is to drop the barriers between internal and external. Whether seen from the lofty ideals of Advaita that there is no difference and all that exists is divine- both inside AND outside or even general common sense POV where world is a continuous existence of life.

Hence there is no “outside” and “inside”.

Now coming to non-violence. Firstly we should ask ourselves whether total non-violence is possible? If we do not consume plants, then we kill ourselves and there is still violence there. Then the plants and animals etc also form their own food cycle. A tiger may live on a deer; a deer may live on a tree; a tree may live by suppressing other plants.

Hence, whether you life it or not, there is always an element of violence involved in some form or other. Hence the next best thing we should aim is not “eliminate” violence, but minimise it. This is done by balancing the internal violence with the external violence. Different people may have different levels of cut off- some of them being:

1. The worst form is to breed, raise animals to only kill them. This is more rampant in Europe etc. They breed animals in excess to their natural ability just for the sake of killing them for food.

2. The next level is to form a part of natural food cycle. A tribal man might not be breeding animals for killing, but will consume them just like any other animal might consume it.

3. Then comes the attitude where you don’t kill any animal or in any way influence in the killing of an animal, but if somebody does kill it, then there is no harm in taking it. Buddha and Buddhists are known to follow this level. They do accept non-veg food as biksha coz the animal has not been killed coz of them, but irrespective of them and the excessive wasted food is being offered to them as biksha.

4. Then is the level of most vegetarians- do not consume animal meat in any manner, but cultivate plants to eat.

5. Then is the level of Sages who live in forests etc. They do not cultivate plants for food, but rather consume whatever has naturally fallen from trees etc.

6. The final is the way some of the Jain monks do- totally abstain from food, lest you kill someone. This again in the other extreme in my view.

There are no hard and fast rules- where you draw the line is something dependent on the nature of the person.

>>>I mean will it not lead to bad karma?

That’s a big subject in itself. The results of Karma do not dependent on the physical acts, but the attitude of the person in doing so (refer to this post for more on that subject).

One accumulates bad karma NOT by bad action, but by bad thought. In most day to day cases, bad thought precedes a bad action, hence people naturally identify bad action with bad karma. However the subtle difference needs to be maintained.

Let me give an example- take all the poltugiri steps that Pandavas take in Mahabharata under the guidance of Krishna to kill Kauravas. They are surely bad actions in the physical sense. However, the Pandavas did not accrue any bad karma coz they were not motivated by bad thoughts- i.e., the motive for their actions was not selfish, but unselfish upholding of Dharma.

In the same manner, if food is consumed with a sense of enjoyment (as they say, some people live for food, instead of food for living) then it accrues bad karma, for the motive there is enjoyment. But if it is consumed with a sense of duty, as a means to sustain this body, the perfect instrument given to us for Moksha, then it accrues no bad karma at all.

Horoscope – to believe or not to believe

Are Horoscopes correct? Whether to believe them or not? I am sure most of had this doubt.

There is some truth in this whole horoscope business. To my understanding it works out something like this:

Firstly, it is a common misunderstanding that a horoscope has our “destiny” predetermined in it and that we just follow it like puppets. That’s not true- a horoscope does NOT tell you your future. Rather it calculates your past and present karma and extrapolates it into the future.

It is like a mock test. A mock test based on your preparation in the past forecasts how many marks you may get if you continue with the same preparation. But that does not decide your test out come. You still have things in your control and by effort, we can change that.

A horoscope has to be seen only in that view. If a horoscope tells you that you are going to have such and such thing in future, it only means that based on your present karma and assuming that the present trend continues, you will get such an outcome in the future. But we do still have the power to change it.

One more question related to this believe-not_to_believe is why is there so much non-uniformity in the forecasts; for some ppl things turn out exactly the same, for some ppl they do not. If jyotishya is right, it must be right for everyone. Why this difference then? The following are some of the reasons for it:

1. Jyotishya is very much dependent on factors like time, place of birth etc. Even a 5 min difference in birth time or time of sunrise in that place may make huge difference in your jataka. In some cases we do have accurate timing, but in some cases, we may have the wrong time of birth, thus wrong horoscope.

2. As I said earlier, you can still with strong will change the forecasted outcome.

3. Seen isolated, this whole thing is nothing more than a bunch of numbers. A jyotishi has to understand what those refer to and based on it tell one about the horoscope. This involves insight and keen understanding. Something like a share market- anybody can tell you what the share rate of a company is, what’s the growth rate is etc. But it requires an insight to tell what those numbers mean, whether it is “good” or “bad” etc etc.

Are Yoga and Meditation interrelated?


In the below website and the links, I studied that meditation is related to yoga. It says the third step in yoga is meditation.

As far I know, that meditation can be practiced on our own but not yoga. We need to study yoga from a well known teacher in that. If that is true, Can we practice meditation our own???

Is that meditation becomes a part of yoga???

Please reply.

My Reply:

First and foremost: Yoga does not mean a series of physical exercises like aerobics.

As the hinduwisdom website says “The aim of Yoga is to tear the veil that keeps man confined within the human dimension of consciousness. Yoga, is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul”.

Sri Aurobindo commenting on the nature of Indian mind says “she saw that the physical does not get its full sense until it stands in right relation to the supra-physical; she saw that the complexity of the universe could not be explained in the present terms of man or seen by his superficial sight, that there were other powers behind, other powers within man himself of which he is normally unaware, that he is conscious only of a small part of himself, that the invisible always surrounds the visible, the supra-sensible the sensible, even as infinity always surrounds the finite. She saw too that man has the power of exceeding himself, of becoming himself more entirely and profoundly than he is, - truths which have only recently begun to be seen in Europe and seem even now too great for its common intelligence…

Then with that calm audacity of her intuition which knew no fear or littleness and shrank from no act whether of spiritual or intellectual, ethical or vital courage, she declared that there was none of these things which man could not attain if he trained his will and knowledge; he could conquer these ranges of mind, become the spirit, become a god, become one with God, become the ineffable Brahman.

Yoga is the “means” to the aim Sri Aurobindo talks about in the earlier para. It comprises of lot of steps. The body according to yoga is an “instrument” we have to reach the goal.

Yoga also has some exercises which aim at maintaining the body in healthy condition. But these are prescribed with the motive of keeping the “instrument” in good condition. Mere longevity of the body is never the aim of Yoga. A banyan tree lives for 500 years, but still it’s a banyan tree never the less. By ensuring the good condition of the instrument, Yoga tries to smoothen the path of man knowing his real nature.

That part of Yoga which deals with the physical longevity of the body is called “Hatha Yoga” and comprises of a series of body-exercises. Usually the yoga is identified with this. But this is actually a minor part of Yoga.

If Hatha Yoga is the part of Yoga in which we try to control our body, Meditation is the part of Yoga in which we try to control our mind. Thus in my view meditation can be termed as a subset of Yoga.

BTW both Yoga and meditation require a teacher. It is not advisable to say see a TV programme and try practicing it.

Sanyasa vs Grihastha

One often comes around arguments that either try to place Sanyasa or Gristha superior to the other. But I find this whole debate of Grihastha vs Sanyasa as dumb and stupid. Each caters to different people.

That’s fine you may say. The real question is which caters to whom- how can one know that one is following Sanyasa as a form of austerity and not as a form of escapism; how can one know that a person is living a Gristha life as a form of spiritual endeavor and not for indulgence and enjoyment?

Swami Ashokananda in his book “Spiritual Life” gives a simple but very useful guide. A person trying to attain Moksha by freeing himself of all the attachments should ask himself this simple question: “Is the person attracted to the objects of attachment even when he is away from them?” For example let us say you are attached to a particular sweet and cannot stop yourself from eating it. Now the above question will transform itself as: (1) are you not able to control yourself only after seeing the sweet or (2) are you hounded by it even when it is not in your surroundings.

If the answer is (1), then it helps to separate ourselves from that. If (2) is the answer, then even separation from it is not going to help as the sweet now is not in the physical world, but our mind. We must in that case try to settle the matter in that surroundings itself.

The same logic holds for Sanyasa vs Grihastha question. Are we attracted to the objects of enjoyment even when they are not around?

[1] If yes, then in that case it helps to separate ourselves from the objects of attachment and renounce the world. If you still stay in the world, your indulgence will increase.

[2] If no, then it means that the objects of enjoyment have entered our mind. Thus it is no use even if you go into a forest. The same mind is still with you and will continue to hound you. In that case it is better to stay in the world and even while following your daily routine, give them a higher direction. Do each daily routine as an act of worship and offering to the lord (this idea is the origin of the concepts like Pati-dev; griha-lakshmi, bala-gopala etc etc).

None is greater than other. It’s just that one suits one individual, the other suits another. The following is a story narrated by Swami Vivekananda in his Karma Yoga lectures which explains this point very well:


If a man retires from the world to worship God, he must not think that those who live in the world and work for the good of the world are not worshipping God: neither must those who live in the world, for wife and children, think that those who give up the world are low vagabonds. Each is great in his own place. This thought I will illustrate by a story.

A certain king used to inquire of all the Sannyasins that came to his country, "Which is the greater man — he who gives up the world and becomes a Sannyasin, or he who lives in the world and performs his duties as a house holder?" Many wise men sought to solve the problem. Some asserted that the Sannyasin was the greater, upon which the king demanded that they should prove their assertion. When they could not, he ordered them to marry and become householders. Then others came and said, "The householder who performs his duties is the greater man." Of them, too, the king demanded proofs. When they could not give them, he made them also settle down as householders.

At last there came a young Sannyasin, and the king similarly inquired of him also. He answered, "Each, O king, is equally great in his place." "Prove this to me," asked the king. "I will prove it to you," said the Sannyasin, "but you must first come and live as I do for a few days, that I may be able to prove to you what I say." The king consented and followed the Sannyasin out of his own territory and passed through many other countries until they came to a great kingdom. In the capital of that kingdom a great ceremony was going on.

The king and the Sannyasin heard the noise of drums and music, and heard also the criers; the people were assembled in the streets in gala dress, and a great proclamation was being made. The king and the Sannyasin stood there to see what was going on. The crier was proclaiming loudly that the princess, daughter of the king of that country, was about to choose a husband from among those assembled before her.

It was an old custom in India for princesses to choose husbands in this way. Each princess had certain ideas of the sort of man she wanted for a husband. Some would have the handsomest man, others would have only the most learned, others again the richest, and so on. All the princes of the neighbourhood put on their bravest attire and presented themselves before her. Sometimes they too had their own criers to enumerate their advantages and the reasons why they hoped the princess would choose them. The princess was taken round on a throne, in the most splendid array, and looked at and heard about them. If she was not pleased with what she saw and heard, she said to her bearers, "Move on," and no more notice was taken of the rejected suitors. If, however, the princess was pleased with any one of them, she threw a garland of flowers over him and he became her husband.

The princess of the country to which our king and the Sannyasin had come was having one of these interesting ceremonies. She was the most beautiful princess in the world, and the husband of the princess would be ruler of the kingdom after her father's death. The idea of this princess was to marry the handsomest man, but she could not find the right one to please her. Several times these meetings had taken place, but the princess could not select a husband. This meeting was the most splendid of all; more people than ever had come to it. The princess came in on a throne, and the bearers carried her from place to place.

She did not seem to care for any one, and every one became disappointed that this meeting also was going to be a failure. Just then came a young man, a Sannyasin, handsome as if the sun had come down to the earth, and stood in one corner of the assembly, watching what was going on. The throne with the princess came near him, and as soon as she saw the beautiful Sannyasin, she stopped and threw the garland over him. The young Sannyasin seized the garland and threw it off, exclaiming, "What nonsense is this? I am a Sannyasin. What is marriage to me?" The king of that country thought that perhaps this man was poor and so dared not marry the princess, and said to him, "With my daughter goes half my kingdom now, and the whole kingdom after my death!" and put the garland again on the Sannyasin. The young man threw it off once more, saying, "Nonsense! I do not want to marry," and walked quickly away from the assembly.

Now the princess had fallen so much in love with this young man that she said, "I must marry this man or I shall die"; and she went after him to bring him back. Then our other Sannyasin, who had brought the king there, said to him, "King, let us follow this pair"; so they walked after them, but at a good distance behind. The young Sannyasin who had refused to marry the princess walked out into the country for several miles. When he came to a forest and entered into it, the princess followed him, and the other two followed them. Now this young Sannyasin was well acquainted with that forest and knew all the intricate paths in it. He suddenly passed into one of these and disappeared, and the princess could not discover him. After trying for a long time to find him she sat down under a tree and began to weep, for she did not know the way out.

Then our king and the other Sannyasin came up to her and said, "Do not weep; we will show you the way out of this forest, but it is too dark for us to find it now. Here is a big tree; let us rest under it, and in the morning we will go early and show you the road."

Now a little bird and his wife and their three little ones lived on that tree, in a nest. This little bird looked down and saw the three people under the tree and said to his wife, "My dear, what shall we do? Here are some guests in the house, and it is winter, and we have no fire." So he flew away and got a bit of burning firewood in his beak and dropped it before the guests, to which they added fuel and made a blazing fire. But the little bird was not satisfied. He said again to his wife, "My dear, what shall we do? There is nothing to give these people to eat, and they are hungry. We are householders; it is our duty to feed any one who comes to the house. I must do what I can, I will give them my body." So he plunged into the midst of the fire and perished. The guests saw him falling and tried to save him, but he was too quick for them.

The little bird's wife saw what her husband did, and she said, "Here are three persons and only one little bird for them to eat. It is not enough; it is my duty as a wife not to let my husband's effort go in vain; let them have my body also." Then she fell into the fire and was burned to death.

Then the three baby-birds, when they saw what was done and that there was still not enough food for the three guests, said, "Our parents have done what they could and still it is not enough. It is our duty to carry on the work of our parents; let our bodies go too." And they all dashed down into the fire also.

Amazed at what they saw, the three people could not of course eat these birds. They passed the night without food, and in the morning the king and the Sannyasin showed the princess the way, and she went back to her father.

Then the Sannyasin said to the king, "King, you have seen that each is great in his own place. If you want to live in the world, live like those birds, ready at any moment to sacrifice yourself for others. If you want to renounce the world, be like that young man to whom the most beautiful woman and a kingdom were as nothing. If you want to be a householder, hold your life a sacrifice for the welfare of others; and if you choose the life of renunciation, do not even look at beauty and money and power. Each is great in his own place, but the duty of the one is not the duty of the other.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sanskrit in the Mottos of some popular organizations

Thanks to the prevailing "secular" atmosphere in the country, there was a huge hue and cry in the media about the recent ruling of Allahbad High Court on Gita as a national dharm granth. Secularism has now become equal to the negation of any kind of religious symbolism. So I did a small search of the Mottos of various organization in India. Surprisingly many of the Mottos, including that of our Indian State itself (Satyameva Jayate) are in Sanskrit and taken from Hindu Scriptures like Gita and Upanishads.

People who are shocked at the mere reference by a "secular" court to a "religious" Gita may ponder on these:






Indian Navy

Shano Varuna

May the Lord of the Oceans be Auspicious Unto Us (Tattraiya Upanishad)


Indian Air Force

Nabha Sparsham Deeptam

Touching the Sky With Glory (Gita 11:24)


Indian Coast Guard

vayam rakShaamaH

We protect (Bala kanda of Valmiki Ramayana)


Reserve Bank of India - Bankers Training College

buddhau sharaNam anvichcha

Seek Refuge in Reason - Let intelligence be thy sole quest (Gita 2:49)


Life Insurance Corporation of India

yogakshemam vahaamyaham

I shall take care of the well-being (Gita 9:22)


Defence Service Staff College

Yuddham pragayya

To war with wisdom

Some Army Units


The Madras Regiment

Swadharme Nidhanam Shreyaha

It is a glory to die doing one’s duty


Grenadiers Regiment

Sarvada Shaktishali

Ever Powerful


The Rajputana Rifles

Veer Bhogya Vasundhara

The Brave Shall Reap the Earth


The Dogra Regiment

Kartavyam Anvatma

Duty Before Death


The Garhwal Rifles

Yudhaya Krit Nischya

Fight With Determination


The Kumaon Regiment

Prakramo Vijayate

Valour Triumphs


The Jammu and Kashmir Rifles

Prashata Ranvirta

Valour in Battle is Praiseworthy


The Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry

Balidanam Vir Lakshanam

Sacrifice is a Sign of the Brave



Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

Vidya Viniyogadvikāsaha


Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

Tejasvi Nāvadhitamastu


Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode

Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam


Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Gyanam Paramam Dhyeyam


Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Tamaso Mā Jyotirgamaya


Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam


Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Siddhirbhavati Karmaja


Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee

Shramam Binam Na Kimapi Sādhyam


Kendriya Vidyalaya

Tat Twam Pushan Apavrinu


Central Board of Secondary Education

Asato Ma Sadgamaya


Bengal Engineering & Science University,Shibpur

Uttisthita Jagrata Prapya Baraan Nibidhata


Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani

Jnanam Paramam Balam


Gujarat National Law University

Aa Na Bhadro, Kratavo Yantu Vishwata


Indian Statistical Institute

Bhanineshvaikyasay Darshanam


Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya

Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayat


Madan Mohan Malaviya Engineering College, Gorakhpur

Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam


Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad

Siddhirbhavati Karmaja


National Law School of India University

Dharmo Rakshati Rakshata


Sri Sathya Sai University

Sathyam vada dharmam chara


Sri Venkateswara University

jnanam samyaga vekshanam


University of Calicut

Nirmaya Karmana Sree


University of Colombo (Sri Lanka)

buddhih sarvatra brājate


University of Delhi

Nishtā drithih Satyam


University of Kerala

Karmani Vyajyate Prajna


University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka)

Vidyaiwa Sarwadhanam


University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka)

Sarvasva Locanam Sāstram


University of Rajasthan

Dharmo Vishwasya Jagatah Pratishtha


Sri Venkateswara University

jnanam samyaga vekshanam


Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur

Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam


West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

Yuktiheena Vicharetu Dharmahnih Prajayate


Andhra University

Tejasvi Nāvadhitamastu


Banasthali Vidyapith

Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye

PS: Thanks to the following sites for helping me as a good starting points.