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A 'Vedanta Mission' Page

Letter's of Guruji-1

(Poojya Guruji Sri Swami Atmananda Saraswati )


INDEX

(Click on 'Subject' to jump to that particular Letter)

No.

Subject of Letter

1. The Four Ashramas
2. Disappointments to suicides
3. Ignorance & the blowing up of the top
4. Self-knowledge makes responses sharp
5. Holi & Temples
6. Times when mind just doesn’t get along
7. Advise to a youngster going abroad
8. Inter-Religious Marraiges
9. Love & Arranged Marraiges
10. Why did you take Sanyas ?

- 1 -

The Four Ashrams

Dear O.., (A student of Tel Aviv University, Israel)

Greetings ! Received your e-mail today. I was happy to know that you are doing some research on the dwija and the upanayana ceremony, and you would like to know about the four varnas & also the four ashrams. These are all unique features of the Hindu religion or the Sanatan dharma as we call it. I am a Hindu religious teacher and would be happy to help you.

Basically the so called Hindu religion expounds that the main goal of life of every person is to realize the Self as the ultimate, transcendental truth called Brahman. (Ayam Atma Brahma) To take oneself as being limited by time & space is an indication & also proof of ignorance in that person about his or her true nature. The realization of Self as the non-dual, eternal reality of the universe is what we call Moksha. Even though we believe that this is our main goal and every human is basically capable of attaining it, but like in any knowledge some prerequisites are required before the knowledge can dawn. The potential for this realization is inherent in all, but this potential has to be manifested very patiently. A mind ready for the inner awakening is called a sattvic or pure mind.

The process of manifestation of this potential is a very specialized affair. It is very specific too. We do not profess a single path & duties to one & all. We believe that every person has a specialized frame of mind & a definite inclination for some activity. This has to be identified with the help of our gurus. As a general rule we believe that children of parents having an X kind of inclination are most likely to have that X kind of inclination too. So commonly categorization is made on the basis of lineage. But this is not a hard and fast rule, but only the best available initial categorization system. This unique inclination of mind is what we call as the varna and they are broadly of four kinds. The Brahmanas (the simple, clean minded intelligentia who are inclined to know more & more of the secrets of life, do research etc.), Kshatriyas (the inspiring, dynamic, fearless and selfless workers which forms the leader class), Vaishyas (the dynamic business class who is motivated best at the possibility of self-interest & profit) and the shudras (those who do not have any of the above inclination and therefore are the dull ones). This is what others generally call as the caste-system. We believe that duties, work-field, responsibilities etc. of a person should always be assigned or chosen on the basis of his or her inner coloring or fragrance. Then alone the best can come out. Then alone the mind can be loving, dynamic, creative, selfless or in short sattvic. We respect such kind of activity because dynamic, loving & selfless work helps to bring out our best not only in the field of our work but also manifests our potential for the inner realization. So it is extremely essential to identify ones varna, be true to it and live accordingly. Thus the varna system indicates our field of action, while the ashrams indicate the stages of life.

There are four stages or Ashrams of life. The brahmacharya (the disciplined & austere life of a student), grihastha (the dynamic householder), vanaprastha ( for a quiet life of austerities & meditation) & the sanyas (a life of a renunciate). A child when relatively mature (which incidentally varies with varnas) is formally initiated into the first Ashram i.e. the brahmacharya ashram. This ceremony is called the upanayana ceremony, wherein a sacred thread is put round the shoulders of the boy, the head is shaven, a special mantra is given for his daily prayers & meditation, and various do's & don'ts are given. The child had to stay at his teachers place till his studies were completed. The moment this upanayana ceremony is over the child is called as the dwija or the twice-born because thereafter alone his new & real life starts which has to culminate in realization of the ultimate truth as his own Self and thus fulfill his life.

I hope the above details answer your queries. If at all you need any further clarifications then feel free to write back.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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- 2 -

Disappointments to suicide

Hari om !

I had heard that every normal being, at some point in life feels very disappointed and probably this is the stage where most of them give up and put their life to end. How can a person overcome this stage.

Disappointment is not an inevitability which has got to be there in anyone's life at some point in time. It is some thing which may not be really there at all, or may even painfully linger on continuously. It is a natural outcome of certain negative perceptions & values. Whenever that 'cause' is there the 'effects' have got to be there too. I agree that it can & does have some very disastrous consequences, so it is some thing extremely important which should be understood properly.

Goals & aspirations are a must for everyone who wants to make the best of his or her life. When inspite of everything we do not seem to attain our goals & aspirations then depending on the extent of thoughtfulness & some other such qualities the reaction is different in different people. Some who are in a great hurry & obviously not very thoughtful get dejected, while the others become more introspective & go into the whole issue thoroughly.

The first & foremost thing which one should remember is that 'the various fulfillment's & successes are for me and not vice-versa'. I am important & not they. Even if they do not come then also that which is really important is not lost. I am still there, and that is great. This 'I' is like a queen bee for which all bees are working so hard to get the sweetest thing they can find. That beloved, for whom all this was initiated, is still around. Moreover, however abstract it may appear, it is extremely important that we should understand properly that how does 'real' fulfillment come. Not knowing this we impose so much importance on some things outside that for all practical purposes we create a Bhindrawale in our own bosom's. That thing which was for my own pleasure becomes so important that I keep dancing to its tune.

Even when we have a clear goal and patiently worked hard for it, without much success, then instead of complexes & dejection, one should rather try to see as to what has gone wrong where. Why have the notion that 'what I did was the ultimate, and it cannot be improved upon further'. If there is humility that

'I still have a lot to learn', then instead of dejection, the failure will bring about greater drive for deeper understanding. There is obviously something fundamentally wrong somewhere, and the fact that signs of dejection are surfacing shows that we are not aware of our shortcomings, but rather entertain an inflated & obviously baseless opinion about ourselves. Such a mind which is not objective enough to even see the real factors which are responsible for such state of affairs, but justs jumps to the conclusion of his or her own incapacities etc. in fact deserves to get that alone which he/she has got - failure. Getting success is not something which is bestowed on some people by lady luck, but is clear & simple 'intelligent' hard work.

People who are getting disappointments pretty often are those who have either kept a goal which is beyond their capacities, or have resorted to wrong means. If both end & means are proper, then the only thing missing is absence of some positive values & outlooks of mind. There is nothing mysterious about it.

Having built up the emotional pressure & pain of disappontment, it has first got to be released. The helpful practical tips for that are : See a person who is happy even without that which you consider to be so very important for the real fulfillment in life. In all humility realize that you still have a lot to learn. See a person who has got success in life. Try to identify the real factors which are responsible for bringing about success in anyone's life. Realize that life by itself is the most precious things, it has to be lived at all costs. Never impose so great an importance on any thing that this very life starts appearing meaningless. If painful situations are lingering on too much then remember that all situations are transitory and have to sooner or later end by themself. 'Even this will pass away'.

Today I know a few people who want to be successful in life, they are working hard to achieve their goals but are unsuccessful. We realize that it not in our hands to change the situation and even the fruits are not in one's reach. If this is so how far should we wait.

Obviously mere desire for success & hard work is not enough. Even if I believe that they really worked hard, then the only thing which has to missing is right understanding. This itself is enough proof of his insufficient understanding & state of mind, that some failures are bringing about such a despondency that the fellow is even thinking about ending his life. Great wisdom !

I do not agree that it is not in our hands to change a situation. The fruits of action too are certainly within our reach. What is required is right action & in a right way. It is not a question of 'how long we should wait' but to identify the right means and work 'intelligently' for it. Dedication to our goals and consistency of purpose have to be an in-built qualities for all times to come. Even if you dont get success then also learn to live happily without these extraneous crutches. That will reveal some real wisdom. Then you are a master of situation and not a slave.

If we do not receive the goals then probably we are heading towards the wrong direction. How is a person supposed to decide this, rather is it in our hands to decide this?

It could be possible that we are treading the wrong path. It is very much in our hands to realize this, but for that we should learn to observe & go deeply into a situation without letting any complexes. Have this capacity then not only you will be able to realize that intrinsic capacity & motivation which is already there in you, and for which you have been made, but also will be able to see what has gone wrong where. With a balanced mind one can see so many things including the existence of a supreme power, and the ways of its working. It never directly interferes yet helps & blesses. So have the confidence that there is a way out, and work to first bring about the right state of mind, with the necessary equipoise and then see. You will find the answer there alone where the problem is.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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- 3 -

Ignorance and the blowing up of the top

Hari om !

I appreciate & encourage all sincere enquiries about life, so in a way I was happy to receive your mail. 'In a way' because even though I do see in u a some desire to know the meaning etc of life & human birth, but it is not really a sincere endeavor, the enquiry doesnt seem to be objective enough. You appear to be in a hurry, you appear to come to conclusions pretty soon, so there appears a conditioning operating in you rather than real inquisitiveness, and thus you seem to be imagining things rather than seeing facts.

I understand that in the process of understanding the meaning of life etc. we may get occasionally frustrated, but to discern that if I am confused then everyone will also be like that is what 'jumping to conclusions' imply. I am happy that you have some guts to write clearly what you feel, however stupid & baseless it may be. That is a good quality.

As you yourself say that you dont want any answer, so I am not writing to you my detailed perceptions, but I do not subscribe to various things you write. My response to the specific points you write is :

1. Man is not an 'object of life' but 'life' itself.
2. Man is an embodiment of perfection.
3. He has infinite capacity & potential
4. He is perfect.
5. He can transcend time & space
6. He can attain a state which transcends happiness & sorrow
7. To say that 'Books that he writes are just a collection of his confusion' is just exibiting your confusion
8. He is not mistaken to think that he is someone special
9. Man is greatest piece of art & perfection ever possible
10. Earth is a realm of beauty and to be able to get this experience is blessedness
11. We are not a 'mass of nothingness' but divinity itself.
12. Meditation is neither forcing peace into yourself nor suppression of thoughts.

That's why I say you are in a hurry and are jumping to conclusions. I would have considered that as more sensible and a meaningful dialogue if you had expressed your desire to see my point of view, and the reasons why I have come to them, instead you just come to some conclusion, just because you have stuffed some information into yourself by reading A B or C. With such an attitude you will certainly find no answers. By myself I am not interested to prove my perceptions & convictions. I can initiate a dialogue, only when I find a deep rooted sincerity to know and humility to accept that you dont know. At present you are simply exibiting an arrogance by coming to some conclusions even without even initiating an enquiry.

On one hand you arrogantly reveal your conclusions, state that you dont need an answer, imagine baseless things about meditation etc, accuse me of escapism & suppression etc, yet want an 'acknowledgement' from me whether you are right or wrong ! Why ? Why do you need an acknowledgement ? and, Why should I give you an acknowledgement ? with such a outlook, how do you think that you deserve one ? Please dont think that I am getting angry or am reacting due to personal accusations. I am simply trying to reveal some
inherent contradictions & negativities in you. I sincerely believe that only when a person approach's the portal of truth with an inherent purity & truthfulness then alone the gates are opened.

Love,

Swami Atmananda

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- 4 -

Self-knowledge makes responses sharp

Hari om !

Regarding your question about the possibility of ones responses becoming poor. Well ! If at all this is the case then it will & should be only a temporary phase. Ultimately there is no reason why should the responses become poor. The bottom line is that you are that, complete. All what is expected by this is the elimination of the sense of limitation and bringing about of love and selflessness. Love being the best motivator the responses will ultimately become very sharp & good. So know the present phase only to be temporary.

With lots of love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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- 5 -

Holi & Temples

Hello C.. ! Namaste !

Hi all...namaste... I need to know what Holi is and how to celebrate or rather what happens and what happened to make this a sacred day. I am new to Hinduism for 2 years now and go to temple but I have no idea what is going on....

It is nice to know about your interest in Hinduism. Holi is an annual festival of colors. It comes just before the advent of spring season. The farmers celebrate the arrival of their new crops, and others celebrate this festival as a victory of goodness over evil, by using dry & wet colors on one & all. No distinctions of class etc come in the way on this festival. Later in the evening, people go to their elders to take their blessings.

The story goes that long time back there was an evil King called Hiranyakashyapu, who had a son called Prahlad, who was just the opposite of his father, he was very religious & virtuous, which the King did not like. The King tried his best to dissuade the boy, but to no avail. Various efforts to get rid of the boy also failed. The King had a sister named Holika, who had been bestowed with a boon of not getting burnt with the fire. The King asked her to sit in a pyre of fire with the boy in her lap. Then the boy will be certainly burnt, then she could come out. They planned their sinister game and on this particular day, the fire was lit with Holika sitting with Prahlad on her lap. To their surprise what happened was just the opposite. Holika got burnt and the boy came out unscathed. That is the story of Holi, which till date is celebrated with the affirmation of the conviction of people that 'Where ever there is Goodness & virtue, there alone will be all happiness & success. Even God helps these people in various ways. The King was later killed by the Narsimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Temples or for that matter any religious place is meant for offering our gratitude to God in various possible ways, which come down to us through our traditions. In Hindu Temples the basic idea is to receive stimuli associated with God through all our five sense organs, namely ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. So we have a 'form' of Lord, the 'smell' of incense sticks, the 'sound' of bells & mantras, the 'taste' of prasadam and finally the 'touch' of blessings by the priest. All of these make us 'feel' the presence of God which is the basic purpose. There are also prayers, rituals for various objectives etc. and for various deities.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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- 6 -

Times when mind just doesn’t get along

Hari om !

Please let me know how to continue doing 'Manan' and 'Vichar' uninterrupted, while being involved in the various activities connected with living, specially in present day and time.... Presently, I am going through the phase when I am unable to do meditation or even introspection. Please help.

There indeed are times when our minds are just not what it normally is. Such times require some extra patience. Even though we cannot really do are usual sadhana, still the first principle is to keep on with them. Just to keep the routine going. Moreover, the possibility of finally handling the mind to come back to its usual self is basically by these sadhanas only. But dont push too hard & dont even prolong. Take it easy, because we know that inspite of such moods, sooner or later, the mind does naturally revert back to its normal self.

Some change too appears called for. Go out somewhere. Do the thing which you like most. A short stint of some social work may help too. The reason is that such states of mind indicate some extra-rajo-guna, and rajo-guna is always subdued by some loving, selfless service or activity. At the same time inside your mind retain your objectivity and keep an eye on what is going on in your mind. If possible bring to your mind your basic convictions & other inspiring ideas.

Another thing which helps a lot is some good company, preferably some Satsang, where you can get some new ideas, thoughts & inspiration. It is a place where you can unload too. If company of some saints is not directly possible, then go over to some friends place who are real sincere, wise & loving. Initiate some good discussion, or if by the way there are some problems then just unload yourself. Finally, sincerely believe that it is just a passing phase and soon enough you will be your good old self once again.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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- 7 -

Advise to a youngster going abroad

Hari om !

1999 has indeed brought with it the beginning of a new life for you. I was very happy to know about the US student Visa, and your plans to leave on 5th. My very Best Wishes & blessings to you. May your hard work be appropriately recognized & paid in US. May you lay the foundations of your new life, career & relationships there. So give out all you have and make the best of your life.

In order to learn to tread the life all by yourself, the first thing ofcourse is to have your own independent identity & career, and have the ability to face & handle all situations. But there is another very important thing which should never be ignored. That is about the man himself. This guy keeps bringing surprises, and thus keeps messing up things. So keep learning about the what's, how's & why's of fellow & his mind too.

Potentially all human beings are good, but the ego-prompted insecurities & fears alone bring in lot of unimaginable problems. This is not only a fact applicable here, but is a universal fact, as you have seen yourself, so learn to 'see' the play of ego, how & when it raises its head, what are its consequences, and when are the conditions when it does not raise its ugly head. There are some good aspects of it too. This is something one should never ignore. It is a fact of life, so as & when possible keep learning about this aspect of life too, otherwise surprises will keep coming. Just because 'now' the problems are not there dont ever make the mistake that they never will. You all have gone thru & are in some ways still going thru darker phases. In my opinion these things come to teach some lessons of life, and I am sure you are intelligent enough to learn from them too.

With lots of love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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  • - 8 -

  • Inter Religious Marraiges

    Hello … !

    Ref your mail regarding inter-sectarian & inter-religious marriages Well ! In theory there are no problems in such marriages, however there are certain practical aspects which should definitely be taken into consideration before you make this important decision of your life.

    1. As marriage is a life long relationship, having legal acceptance & bindings so presence of great mutual love & respect is the basic requisite.
    2. Even though it is a fact that even in arranged marriages there are aspects of both the persons which differ, so one anyways has to have the ability to accept & love other irrespective of each others earlier conditionings, nevertheless there are some things which should be common.
    (a) A common language in which one can express ones most intimate feelings & ideas is a must.
    (b) Both should share common values, vision & goals of life.
    (c) Food habits etc should also be preferably common. You should be able to not only eat but enjoy Khamans & Dhoklas for breakfast and she should be able to enjoy Parathas too. The conditioning of Veg & Non-veg should also be seen. Sikhs are generally very liberal in habits of eating & drinking, while Gujaratis are not. This is no rule, but a general fact. What is important is that both should be able to go along with each others habits & tastes.
    (d) As marriage is not merely getting together of two people but two families, so it is important that both should be able to get along with each others families, otherwise have the strength to live as per ones own conviction ignoring all reactions & rebukes from the conservative people of each others clan. It should be preferred that both of you get the necessary blessings from each others parents & other elderly people. Just because you want to get related to A, then it should not result in breaking your relationship with B. It is a must that one should have the ability to respect all relationships and people. A person who easily breaks one relationship just because some emotional upsurge has taken place cannot be really relied upon to continue this relationship for long. The moment such a fellow gets some inconvenience then he or she cannot be relied upon to continue this relationship too.
    (e) There should preferably be some cultural compatibility. You should be able to enjoy the social & religious functions together. Do not plan to live in isolation, because that is exactly what you are trying to eliminate through this new relationship too.

    Hope you got your answer. Feel free to write back if u need more specific answers. Best Wishes,

    With love & om,

    Swami Atmananda

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    - 9 -

    Love & Arranged Marraiges

    Hello …. !

    Both Love & arranged marraiges have their own risks. In love marriage even though there is a great joy to start your life with someone you know & love, but because of the fascination in love other aspects in life are generally ignored. In arranged marriage too, while the parents use their wisdom to see that they provide an ideal partner, but the boy & girl are very uncomfortably placed. They cant go back too, without causing unrepairable damage to the other. Personally I am of the opinion that mutual love & thorough acquaintance should be the basis of this relationship, but don’t hurry. If your mind is really ready all questions will end. If you can accept your partner without any problems or guilt, then others too will surely accept you - maybe in due course of time.

    Basically it all depends on the strength & convictions of person concerned. If you have the strength to tread your way inspite of what anyone says, then it should be no problem. Regarding children, if parents have magnanimity, adjustability, intelligence & ofcourse love, and can tread together taking others too along with them, then the children too will get what they should. What is important is these above qualities & not the systems which we follow, at times blindly. Religion basically is a compendium of knowledge & practices to help bring out the best in you, not only here but also hereafter. It is a holistic package taking care of all round welfare. Religion can never be against real love, so if you really love someone then know this to be a religious act and go ahead. All divinity expresses with this love around. Weak people cannot love & therefore various things have to be told to them.

    Love,

    Swami Atmananda

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    - 10 -

    Why did you take Sanyas ?

    Hari om !

    The only reason of my taking to the life of a Sanyasi was my inquisitiveness to know the meaning of this Life ? I found it strange just to follow the ways of the world blindly. Have a job, Make a living, Get married, have children, and make them also follow a path blindly knowing not what it is all about. I found that there were people who were pretty respectful yet strangely they were not followng this usual beaten path. Why were they still respectful ? What do they pursue ? I needed to know all that before I could jump to any bandwagons. I think I was not the type who could blindly follow anyone. I searched for a teacher who could explain things about life, and that also in a way in which I could understand the philosophy of life, the Why's & What's ? I was lucky, I got a good teacher, and then the rest is history.

    I was astounded by the depths of analysis & understanding of life of these masters. I was surprised at the ignorance in which others were living in. Marraige is basically no problems, it is no obstruction to understanding life, but I had no personal inclination to it, for me it amounted to getting bound in limited responsibility. I prefer to be a free bird and if need be take greater responsibilities. I sincerely believe the whole world is my family. That's why even without knowing who u r still I like to help u, have good feelings for u, because u too are my own. I think this is a beautiful way of looking at the world. Even after taking to this life I still follow a way of life which is best as per my understanding. I do not blindly follow anyone here too. You will not find many Swamis on the web learning, exploring & using the Net. My role model is Sri Adi Sankara. Dynamic, detached, creative, bubbling with enthusiasm, highly intelligent, living only the way he deems fit, not blindly following anyone who do not know why or what one is doing, yet very loving, very compassionate, living for others, helping others, giving out all he had for the well being of the world. Helping but not by providing food etc but with right knowledge - the permanent solution. That in my view was & still is the greatest challenge. Teaching others about the truth of Life. Looking at the profound ignorance in which people are living the world over I feel still that is the best way to live today & always. To educate the common folks is one thing, but to teach the learned is altogether a different job. I enjoy my work, my life is very meaningful, I have great goals to work & live for, and every moment is a challenge. My prayer is to have the ability to help all, enlighten all, love all, irrespective of the various conditionings the society has created & imposed. As for myself I know that I am the infinite divinity myself, who has no account to settle.

    It is nice to know that you have been thinking of treading the religious path. But let me warn you, treading a particular path is not sufficient. What is more important is 'knowing' the truth of Life, knowing God, knowing 'who' exactly follows, 'why' does he follow, 'what' to follow, Is 'following' a necessity, Who am I ? and things like that. If you do not understand these things first then merely leaving your family etc will not really help you much. You will not be different from what you are now, ignorant about fundamentals yet simply following someone or something. To know the Truth one has to give up all paths and have the guts to question one & all, and understand everything in a detached way.

    Love & om,

    Swami Atmananda

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    OM TAT SAT