A simple case for saMpradAya

|| हरि ॐ ||
What I'm trying to do with the following thinking is make up a simple case for the Vedantic saMpradAya or tradition, which requires one to learn in a succession of guru-shishya relation.

Lets say that I'm an engineer and for some reason, I feel myself inclined to medicine. So I pick up some books that I hear are taught in medical school and then read them cover to cover. I've no one to teach me, much less endorse if I've learnt it all right. At the end of my self-acclaimed learning, am I a qualified doctor? Is it okay for me to practice medicine treating patients? Is it also okay for me to start my own medical school and take students? Fortunately, law answers all these questions in the negative. It requires me to learn from an established medical school which is authorized by a body of qualified people in medicine. Only then will I be said to have any useful knowledge of medicine for application and teaching.

Now, why is it that people are mistaken to think that the same set of rules do not apply to Vedanta, which is even known to be esoteric? For some reason, there are people who have books by self-acclaimed masters or have learnt under them, who themselves are not disciples of anyone in the saMpradAya. Its no surprise then that the so-called knowledge that they have is not useful knowledge as far as the spiritual progress is concerned, not to say that its a downfall!

The saMpradAya requires, therefore, for a student to approach a shrotriya and brahmaniShTA guru, with reverence, to learn Vedanta after acquiring the sAdhana cAtuShTaya, that is the four-fold qualifications. Many are known to discard this set of qualifications also and thats another reason there is a misunderstanding of concepts and the knowledge doesn't shine forth. To draw a parallel with the above example of medical school, don't they too have a minimum set of qualifications before one attempts to learn medicine?!

What is meant by shrotriya is a master who has gained scriptural knowledge through a disciplic succession in saMpradAya and with that basis, not only knows the subject well, but also knows how to teach. This is a concept lost on many. The word brahmaniShTA describes being established in brahman or the absolute consciousness. Further, the saMpradAya says that its impossible for a non-brahmaniShTA to know if someone is a brahmaniShTA, which means that the stress here is on shrotriya. Bhagavatpada says that being a shrotriya guru is a must for one to gain knowledge, even if the guru is not brahmaniShTA, so thats how important the saMpradAya is.

|| श्रीगुरुपादुकार्पणमस्तु ||

Another funny incident

|| हरि ॐ ||

I spoke to Raghav on phone yesterday after a long time. Somewhere during the morning, I woke up recalling something and called this friend again. He sounded sleepy and then I realized it was too early to wake up, let alone call someone! The time seemed like a little past 0400 hrs. I apologized for calling that early saying that I didn't realize myself what the time was, but since I'd something interesting to share, I just picked up the phone. I think he asked me what it was and by that time, I'd forgotten what I'd called for! I expressed my regret again for an odd-time call and disconnected.

Now here's whats interesting. I began thinking how I could be that stupid in calling someone at an odd-hour and wondered if it really happened or was it a dream. I've done this before a few times. The only logical way I thought I'd know that was by picking up the cell phone and checking the last outgoing call with its timestamp. I did that and it looked as if I'd indeed called. I was feeling remorse, sleepy and doubtful again all at the same time. I slept off, only to get up after a while and look for my cell phone again. The cell phone wasn't around since I'd kept it away for charging before I went to sleep last night itself! It was nothing but a dream. :)

The sAdhana struggle to see the dream as a dream continues...

|| श्रीगुरुपादुकार्पणमस्तु ||

I want realization too!

॥ ॐ॥
There are many a fundamental flaw in the statement 'I want realization too!' no matter whether you interpret it as I too want realization or realization too is wanted by me, because the statement could mean any of the two, though I want to focus more on the latter meaning in this post.

Lets treat the first meaning as we often hear people say I want it too to mean I too want it. This becomes a statement that indicates reason for wanting. The problem with one wanting realization because someone 'else' (pun intended) wants it is that one may not be necessarily ready. There is a right reason for wanting to liberate oneself and that right reason is viveka-driven vairAgya. No other reason is apt, nor is the sAdhana fruitful with such foundation. Enough said on this point.

The issue with wanting realization among other things in life is that of lack in mumukshutva. This is a major hurdle on the path... why, sAdhana cAtuShTaya must culminate in mumukshutva to become an utammottama adhikAri of j~nAna. The burning desire to liberate means the only desire, which itself becomes a cause in getting the Guru. The Guru is said to search and find such a mumukshu himself! Since that is an extreme rarity in an already rare number of seekers, the remaining grades of uttama, madhyama and  manda adhikAris in decreasing order of mumukshutva must achieve citta shuddhi by focusing entirely on sAdhana cAtuShTaya. Such grades of adhikAris also benefit due to physical proximity to the Guru, which again means wanting only one thing in life. Ones who neither have the intensity in desire to liberate, nor focus entirely on achieving purity of mind are the ones who want realization also among other things. Unfortunately, most of us are not even a part of manda adhikAris, but are of pastime philosophical needs in our cozy lives. Such people go nowhere on the path because its more of an arm-chair philosophy for them, something to chat about over a cup of coffee. And here's why...

When we want other things, the basic step of viveka itself is not going well. We are unable to discriminate between the real and unreal, end up living almost the entire day in the unreal, believing it to be real and trying to gain most of it towards the unreal goals. Take an example of a person who wants to make more money. He would go out of his way to spend more time at work to the expense of his family. Would this person do the same towards his goal to liberate and at the cost of the family? No! Our social norms declare the earlier kind as a hardworking person, while the latter is supposed to be an irresponsible chap, regardless of whether the society understands anything at all between the real and unreal. Therefore, vairAgya is difficult to come by for such people who try to be seekers. Without these basic qualifications, Bhagavatpada says in Vivekachudamani that even the practice of shaTsampatti is as useless as a mirage in the desert. How then will such a person gain mumukshutva, let alone liberation? Bhagavatpadacharya says in Kathabhashyam: न हि बाह्यविषयालोचनपरत्वम् प्रत्यगात्मेक्षणं च एकस्य सम्भवति। It is not possible for one and the same person to have commitment to dwelling on external objects and appreciation of the inner self!

In closing I'll quote a little-known teacher, Dr. Poy, who had once convincingly told someone so--
You asked for my teachings and here they are: ''Part-time sadhus don't get enlightened.''

॥ श्रीगुरुपादुकार्पणमस्तु॥

A short note on aShTAnga yoga

|| हरि ॐ ||
I've been meaning to write a series on yoga as I announced on the blog several months back. Unfortunately, circumstances have not been favourable to do something consistently. Someday I do hope to get back to it, but here's a quick note. A friend of mine suggested that there seems to be a Catch 22 in that a person cannot have a mind free of desires without meditation and he can't focus on meditation without a restless mind. In my opinion, this is not true. If thats the case, it would be an endless journey and we do know such is not the case, there being many well-established yogis. Had they not been there, we would have not even considered taking to the path, let alone walking it! My understanding is that most people jump to either mass yogAsana and/or prANAyAma and call it yoga. They either hallucinate themselves into a so-called meditative state and cry on when they fail to control their downfall, or blame the path when they cannot meditate. I don't want to sound holier than thou here, but I do have trouble with the hot-selling yoga, however it is sold. Yoga is definitely not something you can buy off the market. It is not something to do as a mass class, but an individualistic path; if not so while learning the initial steps, it should graduate to be one such. Guru's guidance to the disciple is also individualistic in the higher stages.

Yoga by itself doesn't make clear what one is doing per se and for what really, not in totality at least. Thats why yoga is said to go hand-in hand with sAMkhyA, which is the theory behind yoga practice. The basics of sAMkhyA tell one that he is the purusha though he finds himself stuck in prakRRiti. The path of yoga is a practice that delivers one's freedom as purusha. I've always stuck to my opinion that Yoga must go through all the 8 steps of aShTAnga yoga. There is no skipping levels and jumping straight to yogAsana & prANAyAma if the goal is indeed meditation. These two steps are just good for physical health otherwise and somewhat mental, and the resultant benefit is just worldly without yama & niyama.

"When a yogin becomes qualified by practicing yama and niyama, then the yogin can proceed 
to Asana and the other means." --Yoga Bhashya Vivarana (II.29)

yama and niyama lay the foundation for one to focus on the Asana positions well and the movement of prANa during prANAyAma. yama is made up of satya (truthfulness), ahimsA (non-violence), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (celibacy) & aparigraha (non-covetousness), while sauca (cleanliness), santoSha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svAdhyAya (self-study), Ishvara praNidhAna (surrender to God) make up the niyama. One must try to follow these to the best of one's abilities. As one becomes well-established in these basic rules, over a period of time, his citta is shuddha and then he can build over these while carrying on to yoga and prANAyAma next.

The basic idea of Asana is to keep the body flexible enough to maintain a position without physical or mental agony over an extended period. Before reaching any meditative exercise, one has to be able to disconnect from bodily suffering, else what kind of "meditation" would that be? Even prANAyAma would not give good benefits soon if the Asanas don't make prANa movement flexible. Most AsanAs are to be done in stages of sync with breath. A classic example is suryanamaskAra that has inhale, exhale and breath retention tied-in per stage. Once the body is flexible enough to perform the AsanAs painlessly and the movement of prANa through the body is smooth, one can proceed to maintaining one of the sitting postures for longer period of time.

While the practice of the above continues, one should move onto a very important stage before the doorway to meditation: pratyAhAra. This is also the least understood anga. All the yama, niyama virtues gained are good for meditation only if pratyAhAra succeeds, because this stage links the bahiranga (external) stages with the antaranga (internal) stages. A great analogy for what pratyAhara means is what a tortoise does. The way a tortoise withdraws its limbs within its shell, so should one withdraw his attention from all the five senses. This is an extremely important step in sAdhana of a yogi. This makes or breaks a yogi, so to say. The mind is fed all the data from the senses, other than one's own memory to process. Pulling one's attention from these inputs lets a person use his mind for the goal. The practice of this step can continue with some senses even while in simple worldly activities.

With the above internalization, one becomes ready for dhAraNA (concentration) on an object, breath or IshTa devata, etc. When this dhAraNA towards the object becomes steady over a period of time, without any distractions whatsoever, it is said to be tailadhArAvat (like a steady flow of oil) and then dhyAna (meditation) happens! Its not something you do, its a happening! So when you say you can't meditate, its because you're trying to meditate, what you need to do instead is remove all obstacles that you think are troubling you. Be honest. Accept that there are troubles, else you would be realized already... why, you wouldn't even have been born in the first place! :) So be true to yourself, try to remove obstacles with all the bahiranga and antaranga steps, keep concentrating and meditation will happen.

I'll close this now, what was intended to be a short note, by saying that I'll purposely skip the last anga samAdhi which has no English word per se and its something that can best be left unexplained (till I someday write a series perhaps, if there is Guru icchA) and only be experienced.

|| श्रीगुरुपादुकार्पणमस्तु ||


हरि ॐ ||

I intend to express a somewhat detailed learning in a later blog entry, if mood sticks on, which would likely talk of the Mandukya Karika as placed against Buddhist philosophy. However, here's a quick note from a reference in Gaudapadacharya's Mandukya Karika, which appears to me as a very good expression of mithyatva (delusion) of the world.

When an incense stick is burnt and moved about rapidly in various patterns, those patterns appear to be existing. Say when moved in a circle, a red ring of fire is seen. Now, this particular red circle has no existence of its own, but it does appear to be existing. It is not different from the incense stick itself because the incense stick is the material as well as the efficient cause for the red circle, but yet it is different because the incense stick is not a red circle. The circle appears due to the power of movement of the incense stick that projects a circle, which is only of apparent reality based on the incense stick as a substratum. So too, brahman is the material and efficient cause for the world to appear, but brahman is not the way the world appears. The world appears due to Maya, the power of the real substratum of brahman, that makes brahman appear as the world. The world is therefore mithyarupi; in reality, brahman is without a second: ekameva advaitya brahma.

ॐ तत् सत् ||