Friday, November 30, 2007

Brand new or same old?

I was recently catching up with a good friend of mine in the US, after a long time. She was telling me - life is the same old, the same old PhD, the same old exams, nothing majorly exciting as such, to share. I am sure we have all heard this many times and surely many of us have said similar things before. Why is everything 'the same old' to us?

Remember the times you did something for the first time, the excitement within - be it your first time in an aircraft, your first outing with your spouse, the first day at office. After a few days, the same office or person becomes 'the same old'. Why? It is not really the aircraft or the office or the person causing the excitement, but the freshness of the experience.

The same excitement and energy flows in an artist, every time he paints or in a poet every time he composes a poem. During these moments, he/she is giving birth to something new and the creativity expresses. What stops us from feeling this all the time? The answer is simple.

After a while, we start taking things for granted.

Swamiji gives an example of how if we go to a beach, our heart longs to buy one of those beach side chalets. Once we own it and visit it a few times we start to think - 'the same old beach', 'the same old house'. Our mind has taken it for granted.

So how do we make sure this same creativity and energy bubbles through us all the time?

In this post, instead of stopping with an analysis of ourselves, let me share with you a practical technique from the Shiva Sutra that Swami Nithyananda gives in one of his discourses. It's a simple and beautiful technique.

For the next few days, just become a baby, an innocent child which is just put into this world and see everything for the first time, with freshness.

When we see anything only our eyes see it, but when a child sees it, its whole being sees it from deep within. Am sure you agree. If you watch a little child closely, you will observe a sparkle in its eyes, a smile of awe and deep joy.

Just try this for the next one week. When you see anything, be it a plant, a flower, your food, your books, whatever... Just treat it with freshness, curiosity and loving awe, as though it is the first time you are seeing it.

As Swamiji says, this will open up a new dimension within. When we take things for granted, we become dead and dull. When we open ourselves for the freshness and creativity to flow through, we become alive!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rubbish! Think Again...

Yesterday while I was traveling back home by bus, I came across this advertisement from the National Environmental Agency of Singapore. It asks people to throw coke cans, plastic bags, newspapers etc. in their respective recycle bins and the importance of reducing rubbish around.

Today while traveling by bus on my way to office, I was watching this interview on the mobile TV in the bus. As a part of Singapore Design Festival, an exhibition called Utterubbish is currently going on. The organizers of this exhibition were being interviewed. They were discussing about how the items thrown out as rubbish by a person can reveal the person himself. They did all kinds of stuff by collecting the rubbish thrown out by celebrities like Madonna and Tom Cruise.

I started wondering why did I register these two events - something as inconsequential as an advertisement and some silly exhibition where people are collecting some thrown overs of some celebrities. May be inspiration for a new post :) ... incidentally most of my recent posts are inspired by some program on TV mobile :)

Anyways, coming to the point, we see so many people, leaders, scientists etc. etc. talking about rubbish outside that is environmentally unfriendly leading to all kinds of diseases, global warming, climate changes, glacial depletion etc.

But what about the rubbish inside us? What about the continuous filling of negativities, fear, anger, frustration, irritation and lust inside us? Consciously or unconsciously we continuously feed our system with negativities. A simple thing like a movie trailer of a violent movie is enough for fill our mind-body system with huge volumes of rubbish. This is a scientifically proven fact that 80% whatever happens outside goes into our unconscious memory and we capture only 20% consciously. If we think we do not have any negativities inside us, we are most certainly wrong. When we see a violent or horror scene on TV or wherever, though we consciously believe that we are unaffected by such scenes, unconsciously we have already filled our system. This rubbish that we are collecting piles up so much that one day the body has to give way. There are so many cases of people dying out of fear, anger, frustration, depression; and these very people claimed to be completely happy.

We cannot sit silently for a second because of this inner irritation. We have to keep on doing something, either watch tv or talk to friends or go for party. If theres nothing to fiddle with, we start shaking our leg. All these are signs of inner disturbance, inner rubbish which is just waiting to be let out.

The problem is that we don't even know what we are feeding ourselves with, simply because an unconsciousness process is constantly going on due to our own ignorance. We are not aware of ourselves and our mind; hence we empower our unconscious mind to take over us.

Meditation is the key to flood ourselves with this awareness. Forget enlightenment; forget realizing the Ultimate Truth through meditation. Meditation can help us to lead a healthy lifestyle and help us flood awareness in the way we live. That's all!! The first two levels of meditation programs by Life Bliss Foundation is just about that - removing all negativities inside us through a conscious process; they help us flood awareness inside us.

You could either call this post as rubbish or you could throw the inner rubbish by giving meditation a chance. The choice is up to you...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are you your name?

I came across this riddle when I was in primary school. I think it goes like this :)

"What is one thing that is yours, that you carry with yourself but you yourself hardly use it?"

Take a guess.

The answer is - your name. The name is yours but you hardly use it. It is used by others to address you.

Our name is such an integral part of our life. We are so much attached to it that there are people who get upset if you call their name in a different way or spell their name incorrectly.

On the same lines, if you have seen this movie named - the Namesake, the protagonist of the movie (Kal Penn) is named Gogol, after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol who wrote some controversial books. So the hero of the movie changes his name because he couldn't face his peers with his original name.

There are thousands of such cases. Laskman Prasad Sharma becomes Lucky; Venkateswarulu gets converted to Venki; Krishna Reddy becomes Krish.

So whats with this name thing anyway? Why do we want some stylish names? Why are people sensitive about their names?

Simple reason! Our name is what we identify ourselves with. If someone asks you, 'Who are you?', what is your first reaction? Our immediate reply is - 'I am XXX.'

Our name is the first thing that we identify ourselves with. Next our name is also channel for others to identify us. It is way with which society recognizes us. This is what makes us very sensitive about our name.

We constantly seek attention from society and our name is a mode for society to recognize us. That is the reason why we want our name to stylish or modern. We equate our names to the real person inside us and hence we are concerned about our name.

In simple words, holding to our name is holding onto our ego. An enlightened master knows that our name is the first thing that we clutch to. He knows that our name is the crutch on which our entire ego stands, our complete identity stands.

Swami Nithyananda gives spiritual names to his disciples and asks them to legalize the spiritual names. When we tell this to people, you can imagine the reactions - how can you change your name? Why is that necessary for someone to follow a spiritual path? What is this whole thing about changing name?

The fact is people cannot digest the fact that someone who is 25 years old can actually change his or her name at that age. They are perfectly fine to change the name of a 2 year old kid if an astrologer says the kid has some defect due to the name but a young person of 25 years, in his or her prime, how can he/she?

This is because, we have built a solid identity by that time. We have a strong foundation called - NAME and the world knows us, addresses us by that name; our ego has already created the "name and fame" around that name. That is the reason we hold on to it and an enlightened master like Swami Nithyananda cuts exactly that - ego.

Going beyond ego, the spiritual name is not just any name. An enlightened master studies the energy of the person and gives a name that suits the energy of the person. It gives the path of the person which leads him/her to realize the Truth. We have personally seen people with spiritual names given by Swami Nithyananda and we can clearly see how apt the names are. Not only that, we have seen how they have progressed in the path unique to them, that the name contains. When we were given our spiritual names, we were flabbergasted to see how much it resonated with our beings. Swami Nithyananda meditates on each and every person and gives the spiritual name. It is a tool that keeps on reminding us about our path and about the Truth.

Even a spiritual name can bloat up our ego. Swami Nithyananda says, 'you should not hold on to your spiritual name either. Let it just be a reminder. That's all.'

The point is whatever the name may be, one thing is certain - we are more than our name.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shaolin Kungfu, Yoga, Tai Chi ... 1000 Tools but Few Takers!!

When I say, 'Shaolin Kungfu', what is the first thing that strikes you? Jackie Chan and Jet Li fighting 10 bad guys! Kungfu Hustle! Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! Monastery with a large ground and 1000 students lined up in files being taught Kungfu by a master for a competition!

Recently I was watching an interview on TV of a National Geographic photographer Justin Guariglia. He spent eight years of his life in Shaolin Monastery with the monks there trying to unravel the truths behind Shaolin Kungfu, their tradition, history and above all, the point of all the martial arts. He was given full access to the entire monastery after five years of his stay there.

By the way, anyone and everyone, especially photographers and film makers, is not allowed into the monastery. The reason is simple - the truth behind Shaolin school of Kungfu is replaced with the film makers' or photographers' own interpretation. The Shaolin monks do not trust them and they have a good reason to do so.

Justin Guariglia released a book of photographs of the Shaolin monastery and discussed the history in the interview. He says how Shaolin is misinterpreted as a school where people like Kungfu for fighting or for competitions. Shaolin monastery was founded by Bodhi Dharma (a disciple of Buddha about whom Swami Nithyananda talks very frequently) . He traveled from India to China and started Shaolin monastery for Zen monks as a place for meditation to get enlightened. It still is a place to realize one's true potential. Kungfu in addition to other meditations and yoga practices was introduced as a means for enlightenment. I saw the book having various mudras (hand gesture meditations) that are a part of Ashtanga Yoga by Patanjali, the father of Yoga.

Now the interesting point that he noticed (and I saw during the interview) is that the monks do not fight against each other when they are practicing Kungfu. Each one practices on his own. They select a secluded spot and practice. They consider it as a meditation to achieve the Ultimate Bliss. This is the underlying truth of the highest school of Kungfu.

What has happened all along is that these techniques for Self realization have been adulterated by people to suit their own needs. Martial arts like Kungfu started off to help people realize their true potential but now it is just another fight between 10 people. Thanks to Shaolin monastery, that the true spirit of Kungfu is still preserved.

The same is the case with Yoga. What started as a 360 degree approach to enlightenment has now become a mere physical exercise. Different meditation techniques, Yoga, Kungfu, Tai Chi etc., which work with mind-body system through breathing techniques and physical movements, are techniques developed by enlightened masters to help us experience the bliss that they were continuously in.

Enlightened masters have been continuously providing tools and techniques. It is our suspicion, our ignorance and our ego that blinds us from their compassion. All they want to do is to share that boundless joy and bliss, which has no reason, no cause, no ending. But we do not see them... the truth is we do not want to see them because we feel comfortable and secure with what we have. If someone/something removes that comfort zone, we panic; we feel dead; we feel we are no one.

Just think - if the absence of that comfort zone makes us feel we are no one, then what is point of holding on to it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Karma - what is it all about?

Thanks to Ramya for bringing up the topic of karma in her comment on the previous post.This is one topic greatly misunderstood and even hyped up.

Karma is commonly understood as "if you do good, you will be rewarded", "if you do bad, you will be punished". The main flaw in this kind of understanding is that "good" and "bad" are defined by society. But really, a prostitute thinking about God all the time is closer to God than a priest in a temple thinking about money. So this understanding of karma based on good and bad deeds is very shallow and interpreted by the "doing" rather than the "being".

Now, let us understand it in a way that we can directly relate to. This understanding of karma by Swami Nithyananda also gives us an insight into the relationship between karma and rebirth.

He puts it in simple words - karma are unfulfilled desires that drive us.

He explains this in great detail in many discourses and books. Here's an attempt to explain it in just one post :)

Firstly let us assume that there is something called rebirth. Now like Swami Nithyananda says, 'whether we accept it or not, believe it or not, understand it or not, this is the truth.' Enough scientific and psychological studies bear testimony to this fact.

Now let us analyze - Why have we taken this body? Our body is a mere tool for us to fulfill the unfulfilled desires. Now what are these unfulfilled desires and where do they come from?

In the process of rebirth, there is something that passes from one body to the other. Lets call it XYZ (some people also call it soul or spirit; some intellectuals don't like such words, so let me call it XYZ like in algebra).

This XYZ takes on a body because it was not able to realize its desires with its previous body. So XYZ takes a body with a certain set of desires. All that XYZ wants to do with this new body is to get the unfulfilled desires exhausted. After XYZ wants to be fulfilled, isn't it?

Now a twist in the journey of XYZ. There is a villain - the mind. Instead of exhausting the basket of desires by fulfilling them, the mind starts playing its games and starts to borrow desires from others in this world. Example, we might be rich but we want to be richer, then the richest. This is doing of the mind; the race to fulfill desires never ends. The basket initially had finite or fixed number of desires in it when XYZ took a new body but the mind added new desires by borrowing from others.

At the time of death, a big list of unfulfilled desires still exists because all that the person was doing was accumulating rather than dispensing. Can you see the play of mind through our greed and fear? We are greedy to get more and more and the list also keeps growing; we are afraid of losing what we have, so we accumulate desires or ways to keep what we have.

This baggage of unfulfilled desires is karma.

Now while dying, XYZ is burdened with an updated list of unfulfilled desires. So what will it do? It searches for a new body in a family that can help XYZ to get rid of karma.

Summarizing it in spiritual terminology, in Swami Nithyananda's brilliant explanation:
Referring to the case 1 in the figure, the circle binding the white space is the body, the white space inside the circle is Aatman (the Individual Consciousness or I) and the white space outside is Brahman (the Universal Consciousness or Energy etc. etc.) At the time of death, the circle or body disappears and Aatman would ideally want to merge with Brahman, i.e. white space into white space (See case 1 in the figure).

But what happens is due to the unfulfilled desires or karma, the white space no longer remains as white space at the time of death (See case 2). It gets a tinge. So in order to remove this tinge, Aatman takes up another body. This is how the cycle of birth and death continues.

Swami Nithyananda and many other enlightened masters say, 'the state when Aatman and Brahman merge is the state of enlightenment. The realization and experience of the realization that Aatman and Brahman are the same is enlightenment. And mind you! You don't have to wait till your death to realize it. You can experience it in this very lifetime.'

Now, the ball is in our court ...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are we just beggars?

Its been quite long that we posted anything... but well, we are back now right in time for Deepavali (the festival of lights).

In Singapore, and I am sure in many other places around the world, we can see people thronging the temples. There is a street in Singapore called Little India which literally becomes India during this time of the year. Most Indian temples are located in this area and we can see they become more crowded during this period of time.

This reminds me of something else in relation to temple visits. During my pre-university board exams, I along with my group of friends used to go a temple... only during the exam time :) I have seen people putting their engineering entrance exam admit cards at the feet of the Ganapati before going for exam. There are various other things people do - going to temple early in the morning on the day of the exam, putting the newspaper (containing the exam results) at the feet of god before opening it, etc. etc. etc.

What is the point of all this? We go to a temple out of sheer greed and fear. Whether we accept it or not, this is a fact. Out of those 10 emotions that come to our mind when we go to a temple, atleast 9 if not 10 are of fear and greed; that last one may be one of real devotion.

We have completely brainwashed and conditioned by all kinds of sources - parents, relatives, friends and ofcourse our dear society, that when we should go to a temple because that is good. Its a common sight to see a father or mother or grandparents telling young kids, 'ask Ganapati to help you get good rank in class.'

These are the two emotions that we grow up with right from when we were a kid and we associate god also with these emotions. We want something, so we go to god; we are scared that something may happen, so we go to god.

There are millions of people who donate large sums of money, clothes for gods, tube lights of temples etc. Most people believe by donating to a temple, they are getting rid of their karma, their sins, their guilts etc. In Tirupati, we can see millions of people everyday tonsuring their head, putting gold in the hundi (Tirupati god's piggy bank) and donating various things. Whats the point when the same person after the darshan allows the same emotions to engulf him again. The same greed, the same ego, the same jealousy, the same worry, everything is back to the same. People then come up with their annual trips to Tirupati. Every year they go and believe that they shed all their guilts etc. and then become eligible to accumulate more... Ridiculous isn't it??

Swami Nithyananda says, 'when someone donates money to My temples or ashrams, they think that I am going to give them a special pass to heaven. Be very clear, if you are thinking that, you are already in hell.'

A temple is a sacred place and like I said before, it is an energy hub that is meant to relieve us from our strong base emotions like greed, fear and guilt. But we do not allow it to do that because we do not understand the energy behind the idol in the temple. We see it as a boon giver and we beg and in the process we bring down that energy also to our level, a beggar.

If you think about it, there is no difference at all between us who go to the idol and beg in the temple, and the beggar sitting outside the temple and begging to us. Literally speaking, both are beggars.