What spirituality is not

Here is a beautiful video that I came across that illustrated the point of what spirituality is not:

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Spirituality : all about science …..now lets throw the belief out

My approach to spirituality has always been to focus on the methods, tools, engineering and science of it. Towards this – i really feel out of place when people talk about devotion. For me devotion is also another tool ……………..to an end …………and not an end in itself.
I have always felt that various religions came out of the spiritual base. They were a cultural skin to the spiritual core.
The core is what really matters and not the skin. Throw the skin away i would say. The skin holds value from a social perspective and not from an existential perspective.
On the path people should know where the skin needs to be played with and where the core needs to be focused on.

Here are excerpts from a talk that Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev had with Sanjiv Goenka an industrialist

In southern India, we also refer to the deity as a yantra. A yantra is a form or a machine that works for you. Essentially, every machine is only an enhancement of a faculty that we have. It does what we can do, but in a better way. To give a few examples – we can walk. With a bicycle or car, we can move much faster. We can see. With a telescope, we can see much farther. We can speak. With a microphone, we can speak much louder. So, every machine is only an enhancement of our existing faculties.

He goes on to compare gods to tools ……………which enhance our faculties and further our lives in subjective and objective ways.  The example of Ramanujam and his goddess is incredible.

As we have created physical machines, we have created subjective machines. We call them deities, murtis, or gods. These are machines that can do something for us that we ourselves cannot do to the same extent. In other words, they greatly enhance our faculties. There are innumerable examples of people using their deities or yantras in ways that have made them into incredible human beings. The great mathematician Ramanujam is one of them. He simply poured out mathematics. When asked where all this comes from, he credited it to his goddess. Things he wrote in the early twentieth century are still being figured today. And just a few years ago, scientists realized that some of the formulas that he built are actually describing black holes. He created a mathematical backbone for black holes, at a time when there was not even a concept of black holes.

He further goes on to give real life examples where he compares a deity/god to a plumbing tool

So, these deities are tools. Whenever I refer to the Dhyanalinga as a tool, people get upset, because to them, it is more than their life. They find the word “tool” too mundane and crude in this context. Then I tell them, “Suppose I give you a plumbing job and you are only allowed to use your bare hands and teeth, no tools. If after three days of working like that, I give you a spanner, will you worship the spanner or not?” Do not underestimate the power of the tool. As human beings, we are who we are only because of our ability to create and use tools. That is what sets us apart. So, we built subjective tools which, today, are being referred to as gods. We appropriately called them yantras because these are machines that work for us. Towards this end, there was a certain way to operate a certain machine, and a certain way to access it – a particular sound pattern, a particular form, and a particular process. Unfortunately, these processes have gotten distorted in many places, but if a deity is alive, and you know how to use it, it can do incredible things for you. This is not a belief system; this is not a religion; this is a technology – a technology of a different kind.

Brilliant!!! Not a belief system ……………..wow!!!

On similar lines ………..Swami Rama speaks about how various religions share similar methods and core …………….while having differing skins to suit the time and context.  He mentions this in his book “Living with the Himalayan Masters” in so many words

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My pet take on this topic is especially around two rituals …….one is that of shodashopachaara and the second is that of animal sacrifice.

Shodoshaopachara or the sixteen forms of worship are practiced in different religions in different ways.

In a Christian consecrated altar – usually a Sunday mass would have devotees bring in flowers, incense, candles etc. Some even bring in salt, rice etc. I recollect a particularly mystical experience I had in Cairo when I visited a church that was almost 1800 years old and that had been continuously used as a place of worship for such a long time.  These places have a particular force field and energy to them.  When I lit a candle there – a certain mystical experience happened to me.

Similarly in Islam there is the tradition of offering incense, flowers and a cloth (chadar) to a shrine.

Buddhism has similar traditions of offering incense, flowers, fruits, cloth, lamps.

Jainism has a similar tradition

Sikhism has a tradition of offering cloth, flowers and wind from a sacred device (chaamara).

Yoga has its own Guru pooja where all sixteen offerings are made.

Apparently the science behind this seems to be that you make some specific offerings that are in tune with that energy entity that you are transacting with.  So you “give” something in a certain way.  This creates an obligation to the entity to give back in another way.  This completes the transaction.  But there is a method to give. You should give without expecting in return …………….and that’s how things work for you.  This is how you would do “Upachaara” (which is the word related to the technique of Shodashopachaara).

Apparently Shodhashopachara originated with Agastya Muni offering his knowledge back to Shiva (from whom he learnt).  There were sixteen sciences that he had learnt from Shiva and he gave it back to Shiva and emptied himself of everything he knew.  This seems to be the historical root of the technique.

The technique works well if you are truly initiated by a living master into the technique ,  you follow the technique surgically and with a sense of inclusiveness

The second ritual of animal sacrifice is similarly practiced in Abrahamic religion of Islam, Hinduism, European pagan religions etc.  The way it is done is remarkably similar.  Again here in some practices there is a mantra that does with the jhatka (the point where the head is severed from the body) and at times it is a jhatka facing an energy deity with a fire in between the animal and the deity.   Again in some European pagan practices there is the deity, fire and animal in a straight line ………………with a circle encompassing all three.  The jhatka is done after that.  Essentially the pranic energy interacts with fire in a special way.  This is offered to the deity.

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Again going back to my original topic of technique over belief – it reminds me of my visit to Mt.Kailash.  The mountain is important for five different religions – Sikhism, Jainism, Bon religion, Buddhism and Hinduism.   These are the known “isms”.  Apparently various masters who don’t belong to any particular ism have deposited their knowing in that mountain (read: Sadhguru on Kailash).

But how do we really know wether a certain process, technique or ritual is working the way we intend to.  This calls for evolving our consciousness to perceive things for what they are.  There are various states of consciousness.  Stitah Prajna and Ritambara Prajna are two such states.  In the former – you can see things for what they really are ………….rather than what your earlier programming may lead you to believe it is.  Ritambara Prajna makes you see forms that emnate from sounds.

What methods do you adopt to get there.  One sure way of doing it is to embark on learning Prana Vidya.  This is taught by the BSY group (Bihar School of Yoga) of Swami Satyananda Saraswathi.

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Fear and Doubt

Whenever I attended the “Pancha Bhuta Aradhana” programme at the Isha Yoga Center – Dhyanalinga on the monthly Shivarathri day ………………….I would be told that “Fear and Doubt” are the biggest hurdles in ones life and in the spiritual path as well.

Fear and Doubt manifest in so many ways.  They are not generic words that sound so off the mark.  They are real, technical states of being.  I have seen many people around me having fear manifest in them in various ways.  Fear that impacts their decision process in everything that they do. 

Doubt that can be of anything – self-doubt, doubt the path chosen, doubt your relationships, doubt your colleagues etc.  While it is one thing to perceive things the way they are – it is quite a different thing to doubt things …………………because that would mean that you begin to see things the way you think they are.

A classic example from the epics is of Anjaneya having self-doubt on wether he would be able to cross the oceans.  It is only when Jambavantha counsels him that Anjaneya attains to enlightenment and his true prowess really begins to show.  This happens on the beach.

Krishna doubts whether he is the chosen one.  His Guru Sandipani reminds him of his mission.  He attains to enlightenment on the Govardhana giri peak after this counselling.

A quotation from the book “The Power of Mantra and the Mystery of Initiation” by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait :

I noticed that the answers to all my questions centered around two central themes.  The first theme was to be careful of fear and doubt.  Fear and doubt are like an army of termites chewing away at the foundation and causing the entire structure of spirituality to collapse.  The second theme was that ego and selfishness are the greatest enemies.  In fact they are the commanders – they organize anger, hatred, jealousy, greed and the desire for revenge – commanding them to create both inner and outer turmoil

Many times we are not even aware that Fear, Doubt and Ego are manifesting themselves in our thoughts, decisions and actions.

It is one thing for me to say that its not a good thing to have fear, doubt and ego …………….but leaving you high and dry without giving you the tools ….is not fair 🙂 :-).

There are many tools.  Some tools create a space between “You” and “Your thoughts”, “You” and “Your body”, “You” and “Your Emotions”, “You” and “Your mind”.  This creation of a distance is so essential for you to be aware that you are indeed afraid, in doubt or have that ego that is manifesting currently.  Awareness is the first step to change.  Tools like Shambhavi, Shoonya/Deep Meditation, Aana Paana Sati/Breath Awareness, Samyama help create that space and make you deeply aware that you are not your thoughts/body/emotion/mind and give you the space and handle to deal with things.

The second set of tools are to address the root of fear, doubt and ego and remove it.  For this the set of practices are tattwa shuddhi or bhuta shuddhi and mantra sadhana.  Essentially they help cleanse and address the karmic root and samskaras over a period of time.  This evens out fear, doubt and ego over a period of time.

Deep Meditation, Shambhavi and Samyama are offered by  Yogani at http://www.aypsite.com

Shambhavi, Shoonya, Bhuta Shuddhi, Aana Paana Sati and Samyama are offered by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev at Isha Foundation

Tattwa Shuddhi is offered by Swami Satyananda Saraswathi from Bihar School of Yoga – Munger

There are many more practices that also address the same aspects of cleansing and creating a space – like Hatha Yoga etc.

Codes to Reprogramme the Brain

This again is from the same book “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya”by Swami Satyananda Saraswati – Book 1 Lesson 2.  The chapter is titled “The Root Cause of Tension”.  Code 5 and 6 are two codes that I am very familiar with ………………experientially.  These codes are not meant to be preachy.

REPROGRAMMING THE MIND
This is definitely possible, at least to a degree.
The content of our mind is due to our
environmental interactions since birth. Our
mental programming has been written in
response to the situations we have faced in
life. It is continually being updated and
modified in the light of new experiences. In
this way it is possible to influence the direction
in which our mind is being programmed by
consciously developing attitudes such as the
ones suggested at the end of this topic. Of
course, we can never overcome deep-seated
mental impressions. These can only be removed
or at least neutralized by the deeper
exploration of our mind through meditational
techniques. But the process of consciously
developing attitudes to life is a positive step
towards cleaning the whole mind, gaining
relaxation and starting to live life joyously.
The choice is ours: we can either take steps to
make this world a veritable heaven on earth or
we can remain as we are.
Codes for mental reprogramming
The codes we have formulated are not intended
to be moralistic. They are a means to an
end. To reiterate, they are suggestions by
which you can start to consciously alter your
attitude towards life’s situations. They are
intended to relax you sufficiently, so that you
can eventually delve into your mind through
meditational practices and thereby root out
the deeper negative aspects of your mental
nature.
These codes are not supposed to change
your lifestyle, and we don’t advise you to force
them on yourself at all times. Only remember
them as you go about your daily routine and
their presence will help you from within, from
your subconscious ‘attitude centres’.
Code 1
Make the effort to begin to accept other people
fully. Try not to see them merely as objects to
be used for your own gratification. Try to
accept others as also acting in accordance with
their mental conditioning. What you see in
them is only an external manifestation of their
mental program. In this way they are no
different from yourself, except their program
may be a little different. You are now aware of
your dependence on your mental conditioning;
perhaps they don’t realize it yet. If you
can accept others more they in turn will start
to accept you. Laugh at yourself, at your
behaviour and at your antics.
Code 2
Accept yourself. Know that your actions are
the result of your mental makeup. For this
reason don’t worry about your deficiencies
and problems. Accept your limitations. But at
the same time feel the need to clean the mind
of its conflicts. It is our inability to accept
ourselves that causes so much anguish in life.

Code 3
Watch your habituated reactions to people
around you and to your environment. Watch
how your attachment to the external can result
in so much discontentment. Try to reduce your
need to find happiness in outside things. This
does not mean that you should not follow
external attractions for this would result in
suppression, which causes more harm than
good. It means that you should carry on your
life as it is now, but if you don’t get what you
want then accept it with a shrug of the
shoulders, with a sense of detachment.
Code 4
Find out your greatest needs, attachments,
desires, etc. Be as critical as you can. A good
method of discovering your attachments is to
trace the cause of your present anger or your
present unhappiness back to its source and
there you will find the emotional and mental
attitude that caused the disturbance. Particularly
notice how you react with people whom
you distinctively dislike or don’t get on with.
These persons will help you to recognize and
to eventually remove your emotional hangups.
View the whole world and everyone in it as
being your teacher.
Code 5
Try to live in the now. Don’t live in the past by
worrying about what has already happened or
by reliving pleasurable past experiences. Don’t
anticipate the future. Plans can be made, but
see the planning as being part of the now, not
as really being for the future. Try to live each
moment, each present moment as fully as
possible by giving your attention to the now.
In this way you will start to live life to the
fullest. When you do anything, from taking a
bath to eating food, or sweeping the floor to
earning your living, try not to think of when it
will be finished. Enjoy every action that you do
at the time that you do it. Try to enjoy the fact
that you exist and that an expression of your
existence is in your every action.
Code 6
Don’t identify yourself completely with your
actions, your body or your mind. Though you
are trying to change your mind, it is only part
of you. It is not your consciousness – the
witness that sees all events that occur in your
life. Most of us identify ourselves completely
with our minds and bodies. We ignore the
consciousness that lies behind everything we
do. As we purify our mind and body we will
begin to see and identify ourselves with this
underlying consciousness.
Code 7
Try to be more open towards other people.
Express your true feelings as much as possible.
When we try to be what we are not, when we
try to impress people and when we hide our
inner feelings from others, we immediately
experience mental tension and alienation. This
tends to intensify our feelings of ‘me against
the world’. Remember also that even the most
insensitive person can detect to a degree if
you are trying to hide something, or if you
have a guilty secret, for he might also be
hiding or have hidden the same type of guilty
secret.
Code 8
Remember that everyone has the potential to
attain higher levels of awareness. A man’s
present attitude towards his environment or
toward you is caused by mental programming.
His present mode of living is temporary” and
will change and become more harmonious if
and when he starts to understand himself and
his mind. All of us have unrealized potential
just waiting to be tapped. Try to see this
potential in all people, no matter how difficult
it may be.
Code 9
Don’t avoid difficult situations. Normally we
shape our lives so that we interact with people
we dislike as little as possible. We continually
try to associate ourselves with people and
situations which tune in with our emotional
programming. As such we continue to live in a
way that reinforces and satisfies our individual
prejudices. Treat difficult situations and
enemies as the greatest teachers. It is they
who can show us most clearly the way in which
our mental program works. It is our enemies
who bring to the surface our emotional
conflicts and prejudices. Very few of us are
really aware of programming and conditioning.
When we recognize it then we can start to
deal with it.
Code 10
Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
Instead of blindly reacting in ways that you
are programmed, try to see the other person’s
point of view. For example, if a person leaves
the door open you may become angry. Instead
of becoming angry ask yourself why he left the
door open. Perhaps he was in a hurry. Perhaps
he was thinking of some other business.
Perhaps it is part of his mental programming
to leave doors open; maybe he was brought
up in a house that did not have doors. Also it is
your programming to become angry when
someone leaves the door open. Remember
your reaction is purely automatic. Try to
change your response so that doors that are
left open don’t cause emotional upsets. Apply
this to other situations in your life.

Route-map to freedom

My second post. 

Freedom.  What is it? There are many definitions to freedom – depending on one’s perspective.  My definition to it is to be free of constraints that hinder what you want to achieve. 

You may want to achieve anything – and there may be a hundred and one hurdles (depending on how you see it).   A hurdle may be as simple as the inability to get up to do the next thing.  

In reality a hurdle exists only within ourselves. 

If we think of something or somebody as not fitting into a certain mould (of our own creation) that satisfies our own sense of what is right/correct or wrong/incorrect – then the mental position we take of classifying it as such and such ……..goes on to create a mental hurdle of that ‘thing’ or ‘body’.  This is just one perspective to the mental obstacles we go on subconsciously creating within ourselves.   There are many more perspectives – about which i will not talk here (possibly in a later post). 

Talking about the paths to freedom – there are many many paths that lead us to ultimate freedom (whatever that is).  I would not focus on the end goal or even try to define what we want to achieve at the ‘end’.

The road-map really focusses on our own chemistry and how we cleanse our chemistry and nervous system.  We transform from inside.  The transformation leads to an immediate improvement in the quality of our life (the tangible immdiate results) and eventually to freedom. 

Traditionally the key-words to the chemistry of the nervous system (per our Indian traditions) have been:

a. Nadis

b. Chakras

c. Prana

I would assume that readers who come here – are aware of what these are.  You can check wikipedia about these – if you don’t.

The basic road-map is this:

1. Balance your ida nadi and pingala nadi. This can be achieved by nadi shodhana – a simple practice of alternate nostril breathing. 

2. Cleanse your chakras blockages by intensifying your pranic frequency.  This can be achieved by various hata yoga asanas, pranayama and kriyas.  Playing games or general aerobic, fitness exercises – to an extent help increasing the pranic frequency.  There are various other indirect means as well – which we will discuss in later blog postings.

3. Activate your chakras – by continuing to do things you have been doing in step 2 and also a few more direct practices.

4. Activate your kundalini to rise through your chakras.  The kundalini keeps rising to a few chakras initially and falling back.  Keep prodding it gently to rise, rise and rise – and reach the Sahasrara Chakra.

This is the direct path to freedom.  There are many many side benefits of this.  Your awareness can increase manifold to various levels of subtlety.  The various dimensions of freedom – become apparent to you the more deeper you go into this.

A word of caution: while I give this path as the basic road-map – please don’t try it without guidance of a proper teacher.  Its fairly risky to try this without the necessary guidance.

As far as the usual man on the street is concerned – our main business is two fold:

i. Increase the Pranic frequency to as high as we can get it.

ii. Purify ourselves in various ways internally to clear various blockages of the nervous system (chakras and nadis).

Freedom or no freedom – if we get ourselves to do the above two as consistently as we can ………that in itself can guarantee a very high quality of life to us.

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham Shivoham

Dattatreya the Guru of Parasurama

Sarwa Darshan Na Ninda

These are the first words which I would like to mention while I embark on this new blog.  They are from Parasurama Kalpasutra – one of the ancient treatises of Tantra.  It simply means that you will not insult/reject the path/ways of another.  All paths have their place in the world.  There is no ‘single’ way that fits all.  Each practitioner would consider his path as the royal path and the ‘best’ path. 

What we need is discretion to pick the best from all paths and trace our own path.  Never lose track of your discretion to accept the rights and wrongs of somebody else.  Your own experience is the best source of validation of something that ‘works’.   A mind that classifies something as ‘good’ and tries to enforce ‘its good’ on all others follows the path of cruelty.  The biggest evil on the planet is to enforce your own ‘good’ on others. 

On my new blog I would broadly have two categories: Method and Thought.  Method will contain details of practices which I encountered and Thoughts will contain certain approaches to life and thinking ….which would go on to enhance Awareness.