Category Archives: On Sadhana

Sadhana – A Constant Battle

When I read the following point, I realized how we too often need to engage such a ‘constant’ battle requiring continuous exhortation and effort.  But unlike Asoka who engaged in that ‘constant’ battle of dhammavijaya ‘with an eye not so much on this life as the next’, (p.271) we need to keep an eye even for our life here and now:

Such a victory which has been thus won everywhere and repeatedly, leads to satisfaction [piti].  I have obtained satisfaction through this dhammavijaya. But this satisfaction means little.  Devanampiya {Asoka} values only the fruits [of action] in the next world. {Rock edict 13, lines 10-11}—Upended Singh, Political Violence in Ancient India, London, Harvard University Press, 2017, p.270

For many, a day begins with Facebook and Whatsapp, and also ends with them. Apart from this because of so many responsibilities and pulls and pushes of demands from various quarters, we hardly have time, energy and eagerness to spend a few minutes with the Lord.

This morning as I got up very early in the morning, I was not in a mood to read, write, think, or even pray. So after having my tea, I sat for few minutes quietly. Then I thought what would be the best sadhana for me to spend few minutes with the Lord not allowing my mind to waver. Then I got the idea and opened Bhakti Gita which I wrote and played the first chapter. As it was properly composed and recorded with proper music, it impressed me a lot and as I know the song by heart, I closed my eyes and began to follow each word. The next few minutes which went was nothing but bliss.

I won’t say that everyone should do the same. Each bhakta should invent her own sadhana which will best suit her need and temperament.  But I would suggest, based on my experience that just play some bhakti song in any language about the Lord.  Then close your eyes and follow the words and meaning but not the music. This kind of sadhana might help you to engage constantly with this ‘battle’ of sadhana.

Religious charity

When I was in Mathigiri, one political leader asked why not I collect money from my shishyas and do some kind of social service to the poor and needy in that area.  For this I said, ‘poor and needy are everywhere.  So I encourage my shishyas to do their best personally in their own locality.  By this we can localize the charity and need not spend time, money and energy in organizing it, which again drains lot of funds which could reach the poor and needy.  For me even this Organized Social service is also a concept we Indians inherited from the Western tradition and influence@.  Traditionally in Indian society—all kinds of philanthropic work is done by individuals and families unorganized.  Of course lands were granted to the temple, but they are not for philanthropic work but as brahmadeya—for the maintenance of the temple and needs of the priests.  Of course ‘anna dhana’ is done in the temple, but this is not charity. Nara yajna is part of everyday sacrifice in which the need of others is taken care of.  This does not mean I am opposing any such Organized Social Service. I appreciate every kind of social work done by NGOs and others, yet I have some personal reservation about it.   Who won’t bow before Mother Theresa and the seva she has done and still carried on by Missionaries of Charity?

But, as I have already shared in the article ‘dhana and charity’, ‘throwing a bone to the dog is not charity, but sharing  the same bone when you are as hungry as the dog’.   This does not mean that all those who do some kind of charity should distribute all their wealth and become poor to serve among the needy.  I never promote such kind of socialism—which aims to make poverty equally distributed.  But using social service as a means to make a living needs to be seriously questioned.   And when it is done in the name of religion or god, then for me it becomes even a crime.  Every kind of charity should be done based on humanitarian consideration.  Keeping any other motive behind it is nothing but exploiting the poor and need to quench one’s religious urge or sentiment in the name of god.  And for me, any god or religion which encourages its devotee and followers to do charity because of their bhakti/religion, needs to be questioned.  I don’t think that  god or religion is promoting this kind of charity.  Any charity done,  explicitly or implicitly ‘either to the convert or to convert’ is a crime.  Some people say that they want to do charity as a witness to their faith.  But I cannot understand such a faith—which require my charity as a witness to god?

I know several Hindus are doing wonderful charity work, but I don’t hear or remember having seen that they are doing it as a witness to their particular deity or because of their bhakti.  Of course some charity is done either to earn merit or to get rid of sin.  But such charity is limited to individuals and it comes under the preview of dana.  But when charity is done on a larger scale, the motive behind it is pure humanitarian consideration.  This is part of ‘manushya dharma’—duty as a human being.  In such charity less energy and resources are spent in organizational requirement and administrative need.  Except large scale charity work, most of such charity done based ‘manushya dharma’ is localized and remains unorganized.  But when any charity is done in the name of faith/religion, then in  mobilizing the fund, channelizing them major part of resource and energy spent on organization and administration.  And most of the time, sorry to say this—such ‘organized’ charity is done to cater to the personal satisfaction and religious urge of some than keeping the need of the needy in mind.

I know this is a controversial subject.  I need to think more on this subject.  I am willing to change my view, if others could convince me—particularly those who do charity in the name of religion?

Dayanand Bharati.

Gurukulam, October 25, 2012

@ But in her excellent paper on ‘All gifting is sacred’: The Sanatana

Dharma sabha movement, the reform of dana and civil society in late colonial India’ by Malavika Kasturi (Department of History, University of Toronto) [The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/001946460904700104, Indian Economic Social History Review 2010 47: 107] points out:

In the colonial period, which witnessed an explosion in socio-religious forms of gifting, dana acquired new forms and political meanings. Donors perceived dana as a significant political and cultural field, replete with opportunities in troubled times. A number of elites, the main patrons of the exploding field of donations, asserted their moral authority and symbolic capital through flamboyant acts of public devotionalism, even as their power and position ebbed and flowed. (p.112)

Colonial laws on gifting aimed to transform the direction, forms and meanings of giving. Between 1780 and 1840, the colonial state had evolved a paradigm privileging state–sponsored charity based on the ideas of public utility, rationality and good works for the public good.34 This shift in colonial attitudes delegitimised indigenous gifting as wasteful in order to propagate the Company as ‘the effective and final source of benevolence and philanthropy’ in its territories.35 The new meanings given to dana were formalised by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Acts passed between 1863 and 1920.36(p.116)

34 S Sharma, S. Famine, Philanthropy and the State, North India in the Early Nineteenth Century, Delhi, 2001. p. 173–6.

35 Ibid., p. 136.

36Appadurai, Worship and Conflict, Koslowski, Muslim Endowments; Sharma, Famine and Philanthropy, p. 192; Birla, Stages of Capital, pp. 65–139.

 

 

Silent sadhana

Among all other sadhanas (spiritual discipline?) for me keeping ‘silence’ is the best one.  One cannot avoid ‘noise’ of all forms in life—both within and outside, even in nature.  So practicing ‘silence’ as a sadhana is the most difficult and challenging one.  I am not talking here about silencing the mind through some technics related to the so called ‘yoga’.   According to me we cannot silence something which is not there.  Even if take for granted that we have a mind, the moment we ‘realized’ the silence in our mind or the mind itself will break the very silence.

Well my point is different one.  How to practice the ‘presence of silence’ as a sadhana?  As a talkative person (both outwardly and inwardly) I am not competent to prescribe any steps for this sadhana.  However, as I am interested in this discipline, I would like to share some elementary methods which could help others to invent their own methods.

Don’t get up from the bed quickly.  When you woke up, first lay down for few seconds and silently recall the good sleep that you had.  If you have faith in god and believe in prayer, then thank god for the good sleep that She gave.  Then think about others who are with you either in your room or in the same house.  Thank god for their presence and help/seva that you received through them to have that silence in that morning.   You can at least thank that they are not disturbing your morning silence.

Then get up from the bed as silently as possible without making much noise.  Try to do all other activities silently not disturbing others as well as you.  The point is that your movements should not disturb the silence in your room or house.

If you are lucky to have your own separate bathroom, then try to do all your morning duties with minimum sound and disturbance to you and others.  Even brushing the teeth and answering natural call should be done with less noise.  Opening the tap should be done without disturbing the silence in your bathroom.  I put a long cloth on the mouth of the tap so that water will gather in the bucket without making much noise.

Then I need not tell what all the other activities that one should do then.  All the activities that we need to do should be done with making minimum noise and not disturbing the silence both within you and outside.   For example when I sit for my morning worship and meditation, I will sing a bhajan or chant a mantra first loudly, then wisher it and then will silently recite it.

I know what I narrated so far is easily said than done by anyone—including me.  I have the privilege to live in a remote place outside the society in a quiet and calm place.   As I am staying ‘alone’ I try this sadhana as much as possible.  But others living in society with family and all kinds of responsibilities cannot even think of doing one thing without breaking the silence in form or other.  But no discipline is possible without first trying it.  Even if we fail, we should not give up and try to start again and if needed to do the same first steps again and again till it become part of us.

However we need to keep few things in mind before attempting to do this sadhana.  First is that we need not begin this only from the morning, but can be practiced at time of the day according to our convenience.  Next is that we need not learn this discipline from another person, or any center.  Finally, one should not even read this kind of article on this subject.  Because when it comes to spiritual discipline (sadhana) we should invent our own according to our temperament, vocation need and circumstance.  Above all, sadhana of silence should be done on our own interest and not promoted by others.

Dayanand Bharati

Gurukulam.  September 7, 2012.

 

Demanding God

Sri Nellai Kannan is one of my favorite Tamil speakers and writer.  Rarely one can find a combination of scholarship and presenting it for everyone to understand it.  I am a great fan of him.  One more interesting thing with Kannan is that the way he is straightforward and outspoken even on controversial issues, in which others might hesitate to share their opinion openly.  But Kannan, with a clear conviction and clarity on his subject presents his view with authentic information—which rarely others can disagree with.

So when he speaks these days in Sun T.V. in the morning program (Suriya Vanakkam) on various topics, particularly related with Tamil, I never want to miss it.  So with his usual eloquence and oratory skill, both yesterday (September 13th) and today (14th) spoke about ‘spirituality’ (aanmeeham).  As I already said, he presented his view by quoting various Tamil songs from wide range of Tamil literature and I was amazed the way he could quote verbatim from all kinds of Tamil literature from memory.  His scholarship on Kammaramayana and Kural is undisputed one.

Though I agreed with what all he said about the true mark of spirituality, yet I would like to have different opinion on few points.  Of course all his advice to common people about the need of true spirituality are welcoming one.  The way he could gently rebuke people about the need of realism in all their approach in bhakti and faith in god is in need all the time.  For example, after quoting few Tamil poems of saints, he said that we need not go and even ask god anything, as She already knew what all our requirements are.  ‘When we born, god already arranged who should be our father, mother, brother, relatives; what all our needs etc.  So we need not go to the temple to ask god anything which She does not already provided.  And even if was ask, god is not going to grants them as they are “not required in our life”’.

Well who can disagree with such a reality when it comes to god and Her relationship with Her own creation.  However quoting the saints as the example and their poems as the guiding principle looks nothing but idealism to me.  For example on September 14th continuing the same topic of true mark of spirituality, Kannan quoting several poems of siddhas (Sivavakiyar, Pattinattar etc.) clearly point out the vanity of idol worship and need of single minded devotion to god with a conscious bhakti with Her.  But for me all saints are exception and their example cannot be followed by common people who have to struggle a lot in everyday life.  In fact, these common people alone bore all the burden of the life for these saints to emerge and become exemplary one among the ordinary people.

These saints are ‘exception’ to the common people and aberration to the orthodoxy.  That is why though people venerate them and glorify their teaching, yet rarely their example and teachings are remotely followed by common people amidst their struggle and need in mundane life.

The saints are exception to the common rule could be understood by the fact that except the name of few, who are often referred and quoted, most of the common people even don’t know most of them.  Among the 63 Saiva saints, people will quote the famous four (Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar) and may be few more.  Among the 12 Alvars few are well known like Andal and Periyazhavar.  Of course this is not limited only with Hindus.  Ask the common Christian to tell the name of all the 12 disciples of Muktinath (Jesus)?  We know Prophet Mohammad, but even I don’t know the name of his wife and successor.  I know one Ali, but I don’t know what his relationship with Prophet Mohammad is.

Does it mean that the life and teaching of saints need not be taken seriously?  Of course we should take them seriously.  But instead of criticizing people not living up to their level of maturity and achievement, we should rather encourage common people ‘not to give up’ even though such idealism will remain a distant reality in life.  The life and teachings of the saints always encourage me when I feel discouraged and depressed.  But all idealism that is carved out of their life and teaching, forgetting the defeats, failures and discouragement they faced to reach that stage will never help common people to have their life and teaching as a goal to be achieved one day.   For me saints are good inspiration but not best model for common people to imitate.

Because all the saints never lived up to the ideal which we want to project from their teaching and life.  For example, another important Saiva Saint who is also known as ‘friend of god’ (Tambiran Thozar) always ‘demanded’ not only the need for everyday life but even to lead a luxury life both for him and his wife:

13. நாகைக் காரோணர்

பண்மயத்த மொழிப்பரவை சங்கிலிக்கும்

எனக்கும் பற்றாய பெருமானே!

மற்று யாரை உடையேன்?

உண்மயத்த உமக்கு அடியேன் குறைதீர்க்க

வேண்டும், ஒளிமுத்தம், பூணாரம்

ஒண்பட்டும் பூவும்

கண்மயத்த கத்தூரி, கமழ்ச் சாந்தும் வேண்டும்.(–சுந்தரர்.)

–வேங்கடம் முதல் குமரி வரை. தொ. மு. பாஸ்கரத்தொண்டைமான். சென்னை, நல்லறப் பதிப்பகம்,  2009. ஆறு தொகுதிகள். ப. 141

Beloved lord both for me and (my wife) Paravai, whom else I have other than you. You have to remove the shortage of your bhakta.  I need pearls, jewels, silk cloths , flowers, Kasturi and other scented items.—[T. M. Baskarat Thondaiman, Venkatam Mudal Kumari Varai [from Venkadam to Kumari], Chennai, Nallarappadippagam, 2009, 6 vols. Vol. 3. p. 141.  Not only here but Sundarar asked so many times gold, paddy and other things from the Lord in different pilgrimage centers.

For me the my difference with Sri Kannan is not only about quoting the saints and their teaching but ‘not’ mentioning and quoting the life and teaching of other saints who asked god for various kinds of things in their life.

This topic on prayer has several dimensions and presenting one view won’t do justice to it and also meet our need.  For example, Manikkavasagar says:

வேண்டத்தக்க தறிவோய்நீ வேண்டமுழுதுந் தருவோய்நீ

வேண்டும் அயன்மாற் கரியோய்நீ வேண்டி என்னைப் பணிகொண்டாய்

வேண்டி நீயா தருள்செய்தாய் யானும் அதுவே வேண்டினேன் அல்லால்

வேண்டும் பரிசொன் றுண்டென்னில் அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே.- குழைத்தப்பத்து, -6

–you know what my need is; you will provide what all I need; you are rare indeed for Brahma and Vishnu; you voluntarily called me for your service; voluntarily you gave me your grace; I too requested the same; if there is something I need, I will leave that too for your choice. (Kuzhaitapp pathu, 6).

Does this mean Manikkavasagar has more maturity than Sundarar as he often asked gold, paddy, jewel etc.?  For me their life and songs presents various dimensions about our bhakti.  For me while Mannikkavasagar had ‘dasabhava bhakti’ (servant) Sundarar had ‘sakhya bhava bhakti’ (friendship).  Thankfully our tradition gives room for all kinds of bhakti known as navadhana1 bhakti (nine forms of bhakti).  One need not have only one kind of bhakti all the time.  Every human relationship has various dimensions.  A father can be a friend, a friend remains always another brother, and wife has various roles (counselor, companion, servant, mother etc.) in her husband’s life.  So we too can have different kinds of bhakti depending upon our need and mood.  And for me ‘dasabhava and atmanivedanam’ (servant and total surrender) need not portray maturity and sakhya bhava and kanta bhava (friend and wife) bhaktis are on the process of maturity.  Each bhakti is matured one in its own level the difference is only in its kind and not in degree.

For me prayer is not simply ‘demanding’ our need in life to god. It expresses more of our relationship.  Of course god knows our need and She has already arranged them for our legitimate needs and sometimes serves some extra sweet—as the famous saying goes: god not only provides our daily bread but also provides extra slice of cake.  So god knows what we need but She also enjoys when we ask for others things which we think need for us.  If deciding our needs is god’s right, demanding (what we think we need) is also our right which god respects and accepts.  So noting wrong is presenting a list to god about all our desires.  It is like a child giving a list of things that she wants for her birth day and with the innocence of a child might expect her parents to give all those gifts. But her parent finally decides about the gift and they know how to convince her about not receiving other gifts.  But this asking/demanding part is crucial for relationship between parents and child—god and bhakta.

Another important point which Sri Kannan told after quoting Pattinattar is lack of single minded devotion—at least in our worship and puja time:

கையொன்று செய்ய விழியொன்று நாடக் கருத் தொன்றெண்ணப்

பொய்யொன்று வஞ்சக நாவொன்று பேசப் புலால்கமழும்

மெய்யொன்று சாரச்செவியொன்று கேட்க விரும்புமியான்

செய்கின்ற பூசையெவ் வாறுகொள் வாய்வினை தீர்த்தவனே.–பொது , 4.

–hand doing one thing (by throwing flowers), eyes seeking another; mind thinking different one; my tongue tell lie (as it is not chanting the mantra or singing the bhajan with sincere devotion, the mantra and bhajans that I sing is nothing but a lie—is the interpretation given by Kannan); and the body seek another (pleasure) and the ear desires to listen different thing, how you will accept my puja (oh god) the one who has removed my karmas.—Pattinathar.

But for me this is also idealism.  Because our mind (rather brain) is multifunctional.  When we do a thing it has the capacity to pay attention and think other things simultaneously.  And I don’t think god is going to upset with us for such a puja.  God accepts us with all our limitation.  She never expects a perfect bhakta.  She knows our limitation and struggle.  She will be happy that we could still worship Her in spite of our lack of concentration and single minded devotion to Her.  Except those who has perfected all the eight steps of Patanjali yoga, others cannot say that they can do a thing with single minded devotion in which mind (brain) won’t be active on other activities.2  I don’t say because I failed in this sadhana (spiritual discipline).  But this is the reality which we need to accept and continue to do our part sincerely and faithfully.

When we sit and talk with other close members in our immediate family, we know that while we talk or they listen they have other thoughts in their mind (brain).  But this is not going to irritate us or affect our relationship.  Of course in any serious discussion not paying attention and deliberately showing our indifference (as a mark of our disagreement or anger) will irritate others.  But in normal life, in all our activities, conversation, listening and watching etc. our mind (brain) is going to pay attention to other things.  Interestingly if we note, Kannan while looking at the camera and talk will sometimes will look others who are not visible to us.  This does not mean he is not paying attention to his talk.  While concentrating on his talk, he can pay attention to other activities going around him.  The same is when we do our puja.  So quoting from the poems of saints,  who themselves never reached this perfection, we can remind others about need of more concentration is such sadhanas, but criticizing  such worship as false is not going to help people to change their practice.  Of course those who listens such talk are not going to stop their puja but knowing the limitation of all, even that of the speaker will carry on their routine as usual.  Interestingly Pattinathar in this song condemns his own puja and not others.  This poems is more of a confession than any criticism on others puja.

Every idealism is important one as it will inspire others and motivate them to overcome shortcomings.  But it is not going to bring radical change in a set pattern of life immediately.  So the life of the saints and their teaching may inspire us but they will never become our model—as they are not part of our everyday life and its need.

See further on my article on Prayer.

Dayanand Bharati.  Gurukulam.

September 14, 2012.

  1. …[In] Bhaagavatapuraana (Pandit Pustakalaya, Kasi, 1969),… we come across as many as nineteen different classification of bhakti, ranging from a threefold devotion to a thirty-six fold devotion, although a ninefold devotion [Bhaagavatapuraana, VII.5.23; XI.6.9] comprising sravanam (hearing) (XI.6.9), kiirtanam (changing) (XII.3.52), smarnam (remembering) (XII.12.54), Paadasevanam (service at Bhagavaan’s feet), arcanam (offering worship), vandanam (praising) (XI.27.9), Daasyam (servitude and humility), sakhyam (friendship), (p.173) aatmanivedaman (self-surrendered) (XI.29.34), is more frequently recognised and recommended….— Vijay Nath, Puraanas and Acculturation: A Historico-Anthropological Perspective, Munshirma Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2001, pp.173-4
  2. …In  Patanjali’s tradition it is said that when the mind is held immobile for the space of twelve restrained and elongated breaths the state of dharana may be said to being.  Dharana is the first stage of concentration in Patanjali’s tradition.  Dhyana, meditation, and samadhi, trance, are more demanding….—— Thomas McEvilley, Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008. p. 180

Prayer

No one can disagree with Sri Suki Sivam’s argument that the true mark of spirituality is not asking favors from God, like passing examinations, receiving a promotion, arranging a marriage, etc (Sun TV, July 9, 2011), but rather the true mark of spirituality is seeking God Herself and nothing else beyond Her.  Suki Sivam quoted several saints like Manikkavasagar, Thayumanavar, and Satya Saibaba, who said that seeking money, gold, and silver is not the true mark of spirituality.  He also rightly rebuked the practice of arranging a special prayer for students’ examinations, saying, “simply praying for an examination, God won’t help any student to pass. God may or may not help in passing the examination, rather students should study and be prepared for the examination”.

Unfortunately, the overall mark of spirituality, at least for the common man, is not seeking God and God alone.  There are even a few saints who are not a good model for spirituality.  Suki Sivam pointed out that asking for two kg of dhal or a few biscuits of gold are not the mark of spirituality, but it never reflects the total view of spirituality, at least in the life of any saint and bhakta.  For example, Sundarar, who is even called ‘Tamibran Thozhar’ (Friend of God), asked the same and even went further by asking paddy, gold and even God’s help to have a second wife (Song 3386, p. 218) and also to counsel his estranged first wife (song 3482, p. 264) for which God Thyagaraja (Siva) of Tiruvarur went several times to her door to pacify her anger and to reconcile them (song 3500, p. 274). 1

For the common man, spirituality is not merely seeking God and God alone, but even demanding that God take care of his mundane needs.  “Your duty is to uphold me and my duty is to serve you,” says Manickkavasagar.  The thought is that the true mark and purpose every avatara of God is to help Her bhaktas in their (mundane) needs and not merely to show the path of spirituality.  Even the very word ‘bhagavan’ means “one who shares her bhagas.2  In the same way, many students who pray for their examinations never think that without proper preparation, by mere prayer alone, God will help them to pass the examination.  In fact, prayer is not putting any ‘pressure’ on God, but a way of expressing our dependence on Her to remove some of our ‘pressure’.  It is a kind of counseling, to use a modern term, to remove our inner anxiety and trust God.

I do not disagree with the main point of Suki Sivam about the true mark of spirituality, but it would be good if he could point it as the culmination of bhakti for everyone—even for sannyasis and Babas who accumulate money, power and authority in the name of serving humanity, then his talk would be more appealing.  Particularly, he should take extra caution to quote the saints of the past as examples, because there were several saints who behaved even worst than common bhaktas in the name of their bhakti to God in involving violence (See Periya Puranam for Murka Nayanar, Kotpuliyur Nayanar who used violence to demonstrate their bhakti.3).  However, few Hindu apologetics like to explain such incidents, yet the fact remains that not all saints are good models for us to quote or to imitate, particularly for true mark of spirituality.

Dayanand Bharati, July 9, 2011

Notes

1. Periyapuranam, Chennai, Varthaman Publishers, 2000.

2.  …Bhagavaan has been variously explained, e.g. as `the One who possesses and shares bhaga or bliss, well-being’ or `the One who possesses the six bhagas or attributes’..— Julius Lipner, HINDUS Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, London 1994, pp.308-309

…Bhagavan means one who shares with us all the six bhagas.  What are those six bhagas? … aiswarya …wealth(p.383) virya – power, energy, shakit…. yasa glory … shri – splendour … gnana … wisdom … vairagya …unfettered freedom.— — Swami Amalorananda, Atma Purna Anubhava, Anjali Ashram, Mysore, 2000,  pp. 383-84

…Dispenser (Bhagavan)..—‘The Religious Discoveries of the Vedic Indians’ in, Editors R.De Smet and J. Neuner ,Religious Hinduism, Fourth Revised Edition, 1997, p. 77

3. Murkar: who gambled to get money and stabbed those who refuse to pay when he wins (song 3626, vol. 5. p. 337); Kotpuliyr kills all his relatives, including infants who used the paddy to feed themselves to escape from famine, which he kept to offer to God, song 4141, vol. 6.p. 292 in Periyapuranam, Chennai, Varthaman Publishers, 2000

In continuation with the above topic, here I would like to share my views on prayer.  On 26-10-1993 when I had to take some important decision on certain issues, I wrote the following poem as a prayer:

இது வேண்டும் அது வேண்டும்

என நிதம் பல வேண்டாமல்

எதை நான் செயவேண்டும்

என உளம் நீ கொண்டாயோ

அதையே நான் செய்ய வேண்டி

அருளை நீ தருவாயே!

In stead of asking for this and that; whatever you want me to do; give me your grace only to accomplish that.

But I am not the only person who offered such prayer.  Several centuries before Manikkavasagar, the leading Saiva Saint of Tamilnadu wrote a beautiful poem which I always considered as the TRUE PRAYER:

வேண்டத்தக்க தறிவோய்நீ வேண்டமுழுதுந் தருவோய்நீ

வேண்டும் அயன்மாற் கரியோய்நீ வேண்டி என்னைப் பணிகொண்டாய்

வேண்டி நீயா தருள்செய்தாய் யானும் அதுவே வேண்டினேன் அல்லால்

வேண்டும் பரிசொன் றுண்டென்னில் அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே.- குழைத்தப்பத்து, -6

–you know what my need is; you will provide what all I need; you are rare indeed for Brahma and Vishnu; you voluntarily called me for your service; voluntarily you gave me your grace; I too requested the same; if there is something I need, I will leave that too for your choice. (Kuzhaitapp pathu, 6).

Though such prayer could be the mark of total surrender of a bhakta, yet seeking God and Her will alone is not all that is recorded in so many poems by saints.  This is true even in other scriptures also.  So it will be an interesting study if we could do it based on the topic of prayer.  Though it is a big subject, knowing my limitation, I would like to limit it with the Muktiveda and few Hindu scriptures.

Dayanand Bharati,July 21, 2011.

Regardless of your faith, after a long struggle with the spiritual discipline of prayer, there is one secret: Live one day at a time.  Of course this has never been a true secret as it is the experience of many  saints.  ‘Each day’s concern is enough for that day’ says Muktiveda.  Though we know this, living it on a day to day basis is the real challenge and tapasya.  By living such a life I have learned that God will not allow me to face any challenge which I cannot handle with Her help.  When it looks like it is beyond my ability, then She sends the help, but I should have the discerning spirit to see that help and make use of it.  However, my ego and self-dependence could blind me to see the help that God has arranged.  Therefore, an important thing in ‘living one day at a time’ is : TRUST GOD, DO YOUR PART, GIVE UP EGO AND ACCEPT THE HELP THAT WHICH GOD HAS ARRANGED.

The next important part of prayer is to not run ahead of God or doubt Her.  For example: I have prayed for a particular need.  Then, I must wait for God’s Time to receive it.  After doing my part of praying and waiting, I should not run ahead of God to make my own arrangements.  Here we should not confuse our planning with making arrangements before God will act.

I can best illustrate from my current experience:  Narayanan, who is working here, couldn’t continue his seva, as he has to take care of his cattle.  He said that he will sell some of them and keep minimum (two) and then will come back and do the work.  Until that time I have to manage on my own.  Getting laborers is not an easy thing in a rural area, particularly after the MARAGA scheme in which a minimum of 100 days work is assured; people get easy money without much strain.  They work for two to three hours and then get around Rs. 100/-.  They also get around 30 kgs of free rice through the public distribution system in Tamilnadu.  So, when we ask them to come for work, they say “no”.  If you compel them, then they ask for double the amount.  Even if you are ready to pay double, there is no guarantee that they will do the work to your expectations.  Whatever they do you have to accept and you should not make any complaint about their work.  If you do, the next day they will not come.  In such a scenario, without someone to help, it is difficult to manage such a big property.  However, I prayed about it and trusted God. Though often I am tempted to find some other alternative, I have to resist that temptation.  I myself asked Narayanan to sell the cattle and then come for work as he find it difficult to manage both. And I also gave him some time (I told him one week, but I have decided to give one month as selling cattle is not easy).  The main help that I need is to buy vegetables from Thally and some other provisions.  But Viji is coming once in two weeks and bring things from Hosur.  And Santanam is also helping.  Above all, Narayanan is also coming twice in a week to buy vegetables and other things from Thally.  The milkman is also ready to help me to get vegetables from Thally.  And as some rain is coming I do not need to water the plants.  And my mother manages her own things (washing her cloths) and doing the rest is not a big issue for me.  Even if Narayanan comes, we do most of the household work.

Once I see all of the blessings and other arrangements that God has arranged for me, I need to wait patiently for God to answer my prayer for a worker.  I can keep in mind that, at present, I am in good health and that these works give me some exercise that I very much in need. Sweeping, washing and other works help me more than they make me tired.  Above all, as I have to do these works, I do them at my own convenience and plan and have begun to enjoy them.  So don’t experience any mental tension or irritation in completing these works, which I strongly feel is the work of God.  This is illustrates my feeling that God won’t allow any trial which is beyond my ability to handle.  The first ability is mental strength, then physical strength.  As long as these works give joy and do not become a burden, then I feel that God is in control of things and I need not worry too much about the need of a worker.  The day I become tired and feel the work as a burden and do not find joy in them, but rather do them out of compulsion, God will interfere and will make proper arrangements.  Until that time, I need to trust God and wait patiently for Her Time and Way to resolve the issue.

This is what I mean by living One day at a Time.

Note:  Narayanan returned back to work after five weeks, but without selling his cattle.

August 7, 2011.

I never read Quran.  So I have to limit my thoughts on prayer within the worldview of Hinduism and Muktiveda (Bible).  For a common Hindu, the life is centered on four ‘purushartas’ aims of life.  Though we Hindus never use those terms in everyday life or punctuate our talk referring always with scriptures, yet our life is based on this.  They are: Dharma, artha,kamaand moksha.  And they are not isolated concepts but interlinked with each other.  So to attain them we seek the grace and ‘help’ of God.  And what all the means to achieve them is part of our prayer.  Even the ritual done to deities (to please, appease, in gratitude etc. etc.) is part of that prayer.  That is why the ritual portion of the Veda viz., ‘brahmana’ means ‘prayer’. So prayer is not only to seek God and God alone but also to seek Her help to get all that we need for a proper life.  At the same time we have to remember here that all these aims of life can be also sought and exercised without the need of God.  And those Hindus who do not believe in God or do not want to disturb Her, could still carry these aims in life.  Then ‘prayer’ is meaningless to them.  But such Hindus are only a insignificant minority. Many Hindu saints expressed their needs to their respective deities in their poems.  Of course their list is not limited only with the need of the body alone but also that related with other aims of life like: dharma, and moksha.  I like Sri Ramalinga Vallalar’s one song in this respect:

ஒருமையுடன் நினது திருமலரடி நினைக்கின்ற

உத்தமர் தம் உறவு வேண்டும்

உள்ளொன்று வைத்துப் புறமொன்று பேசுவார்

உறவு கலவாமை வேண்டும்

பெருமைபெறும் நினது புகழ் பேசவேன்டும்

பொய்மை பேசா திருக்க வேண்டும்

பெருநெறி பிடித்தொழுக வேண்டும்

மதமான பேய் பிடியாதிருக்க வேண்டும்

மருவு பெண்ணாசையை மறக்கவே வேண்டும் உனை

மறவா திருக்க வேண்டும்

மதி வேண்டும் நின்கருணை நிதி வேண்டும் நோயற்ற

வாழ்வினான் வாழவேண்டும்…

–திருவருட்பா, மூலமும் உரையும், உரையாசிரியர்: ஓளவை துரைசாமிப் பிள்ளை, சுத்த சன்மார்க நிலையம், வடலூர். முதல் தொகுதி, பாடல், 8, p. 82

In this song Vallalar seeks the fellowship true bhaktas, one is honest in speaking the truth; only to talk about the glory of God; never tell lie; following the true path; should not have religious fanaticism; forget lust for woman; but not forgot God; need of a good mind; God’s grace; life without sickness etc.;–Tiruvarutpa, with commentary by Ovai S. Duraisamip Pillai, Suddha Sanmarga Nilayam, Vadalur. Vol. 1. song 8. p. 82 Vallalar’s life and teaching mainly centered on ‘Jeevakarunyam’ showing compassion to all living creatures.  So when he wrote such songs, he never sought them for his personal life or need, but representing the need of others he wrote this and all other songs.  So his prayer is not just to seek God and God alone but super imposing other’s need on him, he earnestly prayed to God for so many things that are in  need for a normal and healthy life here and also for eternity. Bhakti is not only total surrender to God but equally demand Her with equal right as Her child.  As I quoted above from Manikkavasagar, ‘Upholding is your duty and serving is my duty’(’தன் கடன் அடியேனையும் தாங்குதல்; என்கடன் பணிசெய்து கிடப்பதே’).  A bhakta strongly feels that she came to this world as per the will and grace of God, however all other facts like karma etc. too play important role.  Desire of parents with the grace of God a child is born.  So she came to this world not on her own will or desire.  Once she was brought to this world then it is the duty of both her parents and God to provide all that she needs to grow and live this life.  And true bhakti will also help one to see this very life also a gift from God.  So demanding the needs for life is not against bhakti but become part of bhakti.  And true bhakti is not seeking God alone but also asking for the needs for our life according to the will of God.  Any scripture that promote true bhakti will never deny this.  And Lipner rightly said: “…the divine avatara is made not only to help man towards some ‘other-worldly’ salvation but also to take account of legitimate, if lesser, worldly, desires, such as ‘wealth’ and ‘desired objects’.  Thus the divine avatara is a tribute to the Lord’s compassionate accessibility.”. (Julius Lipner, The Face of Truth: A Study of Meaning and Metaphysics in the Vedantic Theology of Ramanuja. Albany, State University of New York Press, 1986, p. 103) And few more songs by other Hindu saints are sufficient to show this fact (which I will give later).  So I would like to quote them without adding any comments, as the songs themselves speaks more clearly and loudly about what they asked God in their prayer.  This is what Sundarar asks Siva at Nagai, not just for himself alone but also to his beloved wife:

பண்மயத்த மொழிப்பரவை சங்கிலிக்கும்

எனக்கும் பற்றாய பெருமானே!

மற்று யாரை உடையேன்?

உண்மயத்த உமக்கு அடியேன் குறைதீர்க்க வேண்டும்,

ஒளிமுத்தம், பூணாரம்

ஒண்பட்டும் பூவும்

கண்மயத்த கத்தூரி, கமழ்சாந்தும் வேண்டும்

— Beloved lord both for me and (my wife) Paravai, whom else I have other than you. You have to remove the shortage of your bhakta.  I need pearls, jewels, silk cloths , flowers, Kasturi and other scented items.—[T. M. Baskarat Thondaiman, Venkatam Mudal Kumari Varai [from Venkadam to Kumari], Chennai, Nallarappadippagam, 2009, 6 vols. Vol. 3. p. 141.  Not only here but Sundarar asked so many times gold, paddy and other things from the Lord in different pilgrimage centers. July 23, 2011 Prayer in Muktiveda Though there are many similarities between Muktiveda and other scriptures (particularly in Hinduism) on the topic of prayer, yet there is some unique distinction between them.  One important uniqueness in Muktiveda regarding prayer is that it depends upon our relationship with God and fellow human beings.  Simply having faith in God one cannot ask anything in prayer.  This very seeking for our need in life is primarily related to our relationship and attitude with our fellow human beings.  To say in other words, without having right kind of relationship with our fellow human beings we cannot even ask any favor from God.  God won’t listen and answer our prayers unless we first mend our relationship with others, forgive our offenders, seek reconciliation etc.  So without adding any comment here I give certain vachanas from Muktiveda which will speak themselves these points: Our Mother in Cosmos; hallowed be your name (9); your rule come, your will be done among us as it is in the Universe (10) Give us today our daily food (11); Forgive us our shortcomings as we also have forgiven our offenders (12); And lead  us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew Ch. 6: 9-13, my own rephrasing) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; she who seeks finds; and to her who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if her daughter asks for rotti will give paper (to eat); or if she asks for rice, will give her sand?  If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Mother in Cosmos give good gifts to those who ask her. (Matthew 7: 7-11) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to her will, she hears us.  And if we know that she hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of her. (1 John 5: 14-15)

March 30, 2012

What is seva?

When a thing needs to be done but there is no one to do it, if I do it
without expecting any recognition, reward, acceptance or award, then that is
called seva. Other actions are only some kind of transactions done with some
expectation behind them.

A yet more important point in doing seva is that if my seva is in fact doing
damage to the person I intend to serve, then however humbly I claim to be
doing seva, it won’t be appreciated with the same spirit and attitude by the
receiver. And the tragedy is that in real life most so-called seva is done
for publicity or personal satisfaction and never serves a true purpose. And
those who are in need continue to suffer, in fact more than before such
selfish seva was done to them. Once example will suffice to prove this.
People living in huts are moved to temporary shelter to construct permanent
houses for them. But after the inauguration and publicity, no one pays any
attention to the project. So, losing their huts and living in temporary
shelter camps, their life becomes even more miserable than it had been
living in huts. Instead of serving their needs, they are exploited by
selfish people.

As also mentioned in discussing dana and charity, we should never do any
seva to satisfy our ego or just to feel good. In such seva, we are more
exploiting others who are in need, with a goal to satisfy our need. And
exploitation done in any name or form is sin against God and humanity.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam. August 31, 2009.

Meditation

‘Meditation is meaningless if it does not bring about a complete
transformation, if it does not purify your thought or alter for the better
your whole approach.’ Because, ‘True meditation helps you go beyond like and dislike, craving and aversion, to awaken in you a state of dispassion. Meditation which fails to develop equanimity is no meditation’. And those who merely seek such meditation from some meditation center but return the same as before, it is ‘no more than sleep or unconsciousness’. It is like an evildoer while harbouring evil inside, ‘but outwardly at least he does no harm while asleep’.

After giving these valuable (and many more) tips, Acharya Mahaprajna, in his article ‘Meaningful Meditation, Greater Understanding’ (The Speaking Tree, The Times of India, Bangalore, Feb. 20, 2007, p. 16) concludes by saying, ‘The approach is all important. And inculcating the right approach, you must go into what thought is and what transcends thought’.
The way he criticizes seeking meditation from some meditation centers, without aiming for ‘complete transformation,’ is noteworthy. These meditation centers are ‘limited by time and space;’ beware, those who seek readymade and instant solutions through meditation, yoga etc. in some commercial centers. Meditation is meaningless unless it is implemented in practical life. Because ‘equanimity’ (stitap prajnata) comes from a stable mind. When you are in a meditation center, as you are focused without much outward disturbance, you may feel that finally you have attained it. But the real testing ground is what you are when you began to rub shoulders with people again.

But what exactly to meditate on comes to my mind when I read any article on meditation. Considering the fickleness of our minds, giving some formulas in the form of mantra, slogans, chants, etc., may discipline our brain for some time, but the mind, as the center of our personality, needs to be trained by reflection and analysis of our thoughts and works as often as possible to asses our progress towards that transformation.* Because transformation is a continuous process which involves many factors. Without considering these important factors, mere meditation even with ‘right approach’ and going ‘into what thought is and what transcends thought’ won’t help much. However, as Acharya Mahaprajna says, one must take meditation seriously rather than merely seeking it without aiming for transformation.

Dayanand,

Mathigiri, February 20,12.30 pm.

*.in ordinary, normal conditions the mind is master of itself-perceives
justly, reasons soundly, acts rationally-behaves, in every respect, as a
sane mind should. The question is not, how will the mind act in the absence or disturbance of the appropriate brain conditions? But, how does it act when these appropriate conditions are present, and reason is securely seated on its throne?- – James Orr, God’s Image in Man, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1948, p. 76.

Dhana

One time I gave some money to help a person for his heart surgery. And immediately after giving, before he could say anything, I said, ‘thanks for accepting the gift’. A bit embarrassed, he said, ‘I am the one who has to thank, not you’. Then as a joke I said, ‘do you know what Kambar says in (his) Ramayana? There is no one to give dhana (alms) in Ayodhya, because there is no one to receive it. As all are content and have abundance in their lives, there never comes an opportunity for the citizens of Ayodhya to do dhana’. (“கொள்வாரிலாமைக் கொடுப்பார்களுமி ல்லை…[kolvaarilaamaik kodupparhalumillai]” Kambaramayanam, Commentary by V. M. Gopalakrishnamachariyar, Chennai, Uma Publications, vol. 1. Balakandam, Natuppadalam, song 62, line one. p. 62.). So in doing dhana, the person who gives is not much important but the person who is willing to receive it’.

There are so many views and guidance regarding giving and receiving dhana. But one important aspect in it, particularly for those who give dhana, is that she should remain more grateful to the person who is willing to receive it than expecting thanks from the receiver. Because when we buy a gift for someone else, if she refuses to accept it, then it cease to be a gift, but will remain a thing that we bought. So in dhana, the person who is willing to receive is more important than the one who gives it.

When I first time went to Kedarnath, on the way some pilgrims were distributing some money to several beggars who were sitting on the way, and also to some sannyasis. So when I was walking, a woman, who was going on a ‘Palki’ stopped on seeing me and gave some money. As I never used to accept money in that way, I refused it. Then with much humility she said, ‘Maharaj, by refusing to accept it, you are stopping me to get rid some of my sins and also earn merit. Above all it is my dharma to give and your dharma to receive’. A simple housewife taught me the good lesson. Because of western influence, as we learnt the habit of saying ‘thanks’ for every form of seva (service) done to us (even without intending to say thanks in a real sense), when someone gives something in dhana, then some kind of ‘humiliation’ on the part of the receiver and ‘feeling good’ on the part of the giver has entered in our collective conscience. Whereas our Indian tradition has some other worldview in this act of dhana-which is not mere charity. Dhana, at least inIndia, is closely linked with ‘dharma’ (duty) in which mutual respect and more gratitude on the part of the giver towards the person who is willing to receive is important. To say in other words, ‘dhana’ is not mere charity, which in one sense is giving something to the needy out of surplus. But the true mark even of charity (which is not ‘dhana’ ) is, as someone well defined, ‘throwing a bone to the dog is not charity, but sharing in the same bone when you are as hungry as the dog’ (from Readers Digest, quoted from memory). And Mahabharata portrays this through the story of the small fox whose half gold body cannot be turned completely gold, even at the Rajasuya performed by Yudhistira, as his dhana is not that much great as the poor Brahman who fed the guest even at the cost of his life, where it got its half body turned gold as the leftover flour from the cottage of that Brahmin touched its body on one side. Even Jesus appreciated the poor widow who gave in the temple all she had for her livelihood, more than the rich people who gave from their abundance.

In every way both ‘dhana’ and ‘charity’ can never be done just for the sense of ‘feeling good’ on the part of the giver alone.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, June 23, 2009.