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A 'Vedanta Mission' Page

Letter's of Guruji-8

(Poojya Guruji Sri Swami Atmananda Saraswati )


INDEX

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

No.

Subject of Letter

1.

Some Questions about Gita

2.

Sai Baba & his darshan

3.

Untruths about Hinduism

4.

Naam & Naami

5.

Flowing Times

6.

I - the most used & abused word

7.

Teacher facilitates discovery of Truth

8.

Desires too have a role

9.

Handling lethargy

10.

The crux of all suffering

1

Some Questions about Gita

Hari om V !

Blessings ! I am very happy to know that you are studying Gita regularly.

I have read the first four adhyays of the Gita and I have some questions relating the same. Can you explain the following :
1) Sankhya - In the second chapter Bhagwan Vasudev Krishna says that Arjun I have described to you this(Sankhya yog) means of attaining me and now I will explain you the way of Karma yog. (I hope my memory is correct on this)

Yes, you are right. This is what Lord Krishna says to Arjuna in the 2nd Chapter. Apparently you have inquisitiveness about this word Sankhya. Sankhya means the 'line of enquiry which reveals to us the secrets of ourself and the world', it is a synonym for Tattva Gyana. Karma Yoga is the art of doing Karma in such a way which not only brings out greatest effeciency outside, but also helps bring about the right disposition within to realise the truth of ourself. Thus Karma Yoga prepares us for that subjective awakening, while Sankhya is the line of enquiry undertaken by this fellow to realise the secrets of life & Self. Sankhya basically comprises the entire compendium of knowledge of life as revealed to us by Upanishads.

2) Some words like tamoguni, satoguni and rajoguni. What is the differentiation of these categories.

The great Maya Shakti with which this entire creation has been created, comprises of three Gunas. Sattva, Rajas & Tamas. As the cause always flows in the effect so we can see the play of these gunas in everything around, including our minds. Depending on various factors there is a constant movement in these gunas. So we see various moods of the mind, and along with
these moods follow some inevitable effects. Whenever there is predominance of Sattva guna in our minds, then we will see greater intelligence, quititude, balance etc. Rajoguna brings activity, extrovertedness, flush of desires, egocentricity etc., while Tamoguna brings dullness, absence of
enthusiasm etc. All these gunas have some role to play, but a predominance of Sattva guna should be the aim. All sadhanas aim for its predominance.

3) Some more words like Tamsik, satvik - especially like satvik bhojan.

I think this has been answered. That which leads us to dullness etc by bringing about predominance of Tamo guna is Tamasik. When we say sattvic bhojan word is used, then it implies that this food facilitates manifestation of sattva guna in the mind.

4) Why is the importance of yagya so high - is it not possible to attain Moksh by doing one's designated duties. In the Gita Bhawan Shri Krishna has said that "Bhakti yog" or "Karma yog" both can be the was to attain me - but how can one perform Karma yog without enlightenment(vivek) and how can that (vivek) be attained without Bhakti. Isn't performing ones duty another form of Yagya - Our actions are like the rituals of the yagya - all performed in his service.

The word Yagya is used to indicate a particular 'way' of doing a karma. It does not necessarily refer to a particular karma, but the 'way of doing a karma'. (You will see this specially when you go thru the 4th & the 18th Chapter). Any karma which is done in this particular spirit is called a Yagya. It is basically a spirit of love & respect, where you offer your oblations to someone with great reverence & devotion. The message of Gita is to make all our acts a divine Yagya. May all our acts be converted into oblations, an expression of our love & joy. Those who say there are different paths do not know what they are really saying. All our scriptures reveal the integrated approach. Our emotions, acts & understanding all should work in an integrated way to work for whatever we aspire. So you are on the right track.

Now there are some questions which are related to common life,

1) How do you relate the teachings of Bhagwan Vasudev Krishna in the context of non-vegetarians and vegetarians.

This topic is not directly related to the subject matter of Gita, but elsewhere in other scriptures it is certainly mentioned. However it has been proved beyond any doubt by various researches that human body has been designed basically to digest veg food, and that it is the most ideal food for human beings. Gita does indicate to us to understand & live as per the laws of nature.

2) Lets say that my wife wishes to go on a world tour - and I work hard to ensure that her dream comes true - does this mean that I am being sucked into the materialistic desires( sure my wife wants to go but I would also like to see the world). Is this against the concept of sakam karma. I know that I can only plan but my going or not depends on him. But by working towards a goal am I succumbing to my desires.

The essence of Nishkama Karma is to live & work for the well being & happiness of others. Working to help realise the aspirations of your wife is by itself not a sakama karma, it is your duty. You have taken a vow to take care of her. In Sakama Karma the basic motivation is centered on 'my personal happiness', while in Nishkama Karma you get joy out of others
happiness. That you get joy is no problem, but that which really matters is some other thing. Your personal desire also to go around the world is not basically a negative thing. It should be seen in the context of seeing the beautiful world crated by my beloved God. This way it also becomes an act of devotion. Moreover travelling is an education & learning too.

3) In the Gita as it is by Swami Prabhupada in the Purport there is mention of another religion in existence at the time of Lord Krishna. It is mentioned when Bhagwan Vasudev Krishna tells Arjun that even if you do not believe in this, by acting in this way you will not be harmed in anyway.

Existence of the path of truth & untruth has always been there. Anyone taking resort ot the path of truth, even in a small way, gets blessed. I would however suggest that you get the Commentary on Gita by Swami Chinmayanandaji. In Prabhupada's Gita the theme of non-duality is compromised, which as per me is a big fallacy.

There are many more queries and after I read the chapters once again I will get back to you.

You are welcome to write to me any question.

Love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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2

Sai Baba & his darshan

Hari om !

Thanks for your kind mail.

It was great knowing from you and also from B.. about the changes in your life styles & devotion. Sometime we learn the hard way and therefore the all compassionate God is compelled to bestow some hardships on his own beloved children so that they learn some important lessons of life. Your accident etc did have an inherent blessing in them. I am indeed happy that you did catch what was being communicated. I am sure your life will now keep becoming progressively more & more meaningful & beautiful. However as I see
you still have far to go, and you have my best wishes & blessings for it.

I can understand how some experiences & understanding effect our lives, habits, values & goals. The ability to get strength to drop old habits etc so effortlessly, only reveals the profoundity of experiences. We obviously love to share these things with all - with our child-like innocence & enthusiasm. After going through all this, I think now you are better poised to understand what all I would gone through to bring about so profound changes in my life.

Satya Sai Baba is a great soul. He has helped turn thousands & thousands of people to the path of truth. He has inspired his devotees to work for the cause of providing good education & health care to the needy. The Bhajan groups run by his devotees are good organised sessions. He at times even takes resort to revealing his super-natural powers to his new devotees by
bringing out vibhooti from his photos (the veracity of which may not be shared by many). He has personally come over to inaugurate the Gita Discourses of my Poojya Gurudev in Bangalore. Therefore I have reasons to revere him too, but inspite of all this, and with due respects to him I very humbly say there is no reason whatsoever for a sanyasi desciple of Param Poojya Swami Chinmayananda 'to go for his darshan'.

I need not go for his darshan because for the simple reason, that I see him right here & now, thanks to the 'strange knowledge' of the Upanishads (a part of Vedas) bestowed so lovingly to me by my Poojya Gurudev. I can now see HIM in my Guru, in God, in the birds, animals, flowers, inert things, and the best of all as my very Atma. Once anyone is blessed by this
'out-of-the-world knowledge' the objective of initiating a student into the 'path of truth' even by at times resorting to contentious means is fulfilled. The objective of such masters is not merely to shake up his devotees by some the so called 'strange co-incidents' but ultimately bless
them with this divine knowledge & vision of the omnipresent Truth. That is the ultimate goal towards which Baba is going to take you. At present you are simply seeing some trailers. When you finally get that vision you will have no-where to go. He will be where you are, he will be in & through your every cell. There will be total self-effacement, in fact - HE alone will be. Call him by any name but there will be just one non-dual divinity alone. By dropping some old habits you are progressing all right, but the culmination will be in the total harakiri of your sense of individuality. If you have to go somehwere for HIS darshan then indeed you still have far to go.

There is another reason also why I say that you still have far to go. The power & dynamics of Faith is yet to be fully understood by a modern man. Once you associate Godliness with anyone and have reasons to very strongly & thoroughly believe what you believe, then strange inexplicable incidents do happen. Our ignorant mind obviously tries to associate the effect with some cause, and depending upon the level of understanding of the person associates with something or the other. The doorway to the world of inexplicable incidents is not the existence of some divinity somewhere in someone, but your own Faith unto him. This should be properly understood, because then alone your own Meditations & Pujas will progress properly. A great devotee of X also experiences strange inexplicable incidents which a devotee of Y experiences. Even Sai Baba during the time of his sadhana turned his attention to his 'Ishta-devata' & Guru - with unflinching faith & devotion, and was amply rewarded for his devotion & faith. I just mentioned about myself too, the fact that I could garner this strength to take to the path to truth all alone obviously reveals that I too have been blessed with some divine prasad for my faith in someone & something. The lesson to be learned here is that it is the 'purity & intensity of Faith' which really matters, and not any person (Please refer to the 7th Chapter of Gita for greater details). The incidents in your life are only tip of the proverbial iceberg revealing what this Faith can do to life. He who is instrumental to invoke this faith is no doubt respectable, but one should certainly know the truth, so that appropriate attention can be put to further this basic
'cause'. The proof of knowing the right 'cause' is that thereafter you too can see more fireworks - the 'effects'. So if you really want to be blessed all the more then the focus should be your Faith. Increase your 'Faith & devotion' unto the HIM - in what ever form you see him and you will be blessed. Others too will be equally blessed if they too have that same degree of Faith & devotion unto that which they happen to see & revere.

With love & om to all of you,

Swami Atmananda

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3

Untruths about Hinduism

(Reply to an essay sent to Arjunas List)

Hari om !

Unlike other world religions, it does not prescribe any do's and don'ts.

Where on earth did you get this from ? We have Vedas - the foundation of Hinduism giving specific do's & dont's, so many Smriti-granthas (Yagnavalkya, Narada, Manu etc) elaborating on such Vedic mantras, the Dharma-shastra of Jaimini - which organises the tenets given in various places and so many such litrature which provide elaborate do's & dont's to every kind of person. However, unlike other religions the do's & dont's prescribed in Hinduism are case-specific and are modified as per the disposition & age of the person.

It allows you to live life the way you like.

Nonsense. If every person lives a life as per his or her own whims & fancies then what is this so called "way of life" all about. Is the objective of Hinduism just to validate what anybody does.

It allows freedom of thought.You do not have to agree with its philosophy unless you are convinced about it.

It certainly allows freedom of thought, but has a very definite thought of its own. It does not believe in coersion, compulsion & blind following, but teaching, discussion, debates to communicate the vision of Vedas. If you are not convinced about its philosophy then the Upanishads clearly say that 'please remember you alone will be the loser, not anyone else." Also Satyameva Jayate, nanratam (Mundaka Upanishad).

Buddha questioned the authority of the Vedas, Adi Shankaracharya reformed Hinduism, yet not one of these critics was harmed unlike the Sufi saints who proclaimed they were God. It has a very broad encompassing philosophy and is a tolerant religion. It is a relentless pursuit of truth. You have to discover its philosophy yourself. It absorbs new ideas very easily.

It is the most tolerant religion all right, but please dont forget each & every God of Hinduism is armed, and the stories of all Gods have in them chapters of fighting it out to death on the battlefront. The only difference is that they dont resort to war imediately, but keep it as a last resort. If a person is found to be following values which are detrimental to the society on the whole then such people are uncompromisingly handled. Either they change their ways or they are wiped off.

Moreover, Sri Adi Shankaracharya did not reform Hinduism. He was one of its great illustrious teacher. He wrote commentaries on the fundamental texts of Hinduism, established institutions of learning and did various others things to facilitate motivation & preparation for Self-knowledge. His litrature just eliminates the possiblity of mis-interpretations of the fundamental tenets of our philosophy, and presents the facts in such a way that even a layman could understand the facts.

Unfortunatley, some evils like the rigid caste system, superstitions have crept in over the years.

Caste system is not anything evil. It is a psychologically perfect system for the division of labour to the people, which every Hindu should be rather proud of. The problem today is the way it is wrongly understood & practised. Discernment of caste was on the basis of intrinsic inclinations of a person and not birth. Depending on the basic inclination of a person the Gurukulas initiated them in that field, and it was this reason that we had great specialists in every field. They were chosen and trained right from childhood, not like the education system of today, where education is just information-feeding and cant even gaurantee a job what to talk of profeciency in every field. The negativities of caste system can not be removed by branding the system per se as evil, but by bringing to fore-front the exact truth of it. If caste system is evil just because it is wrongly practised then democracy is still more evil - because the people who are suppose to run it are making a mockery of it. Please remember that no religion in the world realised or professed the neccessity of psychological compatibility of the disposition of a person & his work. Just because some western scholars or some local politicians could not understand and therefore denigrated this system the neo-literates too just keep repeating this nonsense like parrots.

On one hand the writer says that till about 2000 years ago Hindus never worshipped idols, and on the other hand he also says that seals of Lord Shiva were found in Harrapa, which are about 5-6 thousand years old. Vedas do talk about the necessity of symbolising the infinite into some finite symbol - which is what idol worship is all about. Please see the Kenopanishad (part of Vedas) where we have the first ever reference of the infinite manifesting in human form too. Apart from Vedas we also have a unique class of litrature called Puranas, which were there years before Buddha came, and all of them give elaborate details of idol worship. Yes, he is right when he says that this idol-worship is just a means for some higher end and is not the ultimate sadhana.

I am sorry to say that 'almost' every line of this so called essay on Hinduism is wrong and deserves outright rejection. It is such baseless untruths which have done greater harm to Hinduism than anything else. I humbly suggest to the author of this essay to first study Hinduism from beginning once again and then try to enlighten others.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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4

Naam & Naami

Hari om !

Thats a lovely name, expressing your feelings. I however accept you as you are, whatever be the name. Even the name J is dear to me, because it represents you - a sensitive, devoted & emotional person. Now as this name reflect your feelings still better it is all the more dear to me.

I do not look at your physical body which has seen 58 springs. I look at your Self and also the mind. From the point of view of your true Self - I see you as the immortal divinity itself, and from the point of view of your mind - I look at you as a child who has caught hold of my finger to tread the misty road to that inherent divinity. Why identify your self with this body too much ? Let the world do that, but we have a choice to look at ourselves differently. I f we have the choice then why not take up the best option, the truth.

Please dont bother about writing anything whatsoever to me. I prefer a relationship where my students feel free to open their hearts - their feelings, questions & problems. Look at me and relate to me as you relate to your own Self. Completely relaxed and at home. What you write is not trivial at all, it is very valuable to me, because in & through your words I see the the deep rooted love, respect & spiritual aspiration. So open up slowly - I always get some time to peep & enter the deep recesses of anyones heart. I may be late in replying sometime but I do go through all the mails thoroughly and make a point to reply to as many as possible & necessary.

I am happy that the Tattva Bodha lessons & the Letters were found useful. We have just released one more of our net-publication - 'Snippits from Lists'. Let me have your reactions about them too.

With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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5

Flowing Times

Hari om !

Nice to hear from you after a break. I can understand that there are times when you just flow along. Well ! make the best of these flowing times & learn to even enjoy this flow. It is the present moment alone which is, rest is all a projection of mind. Planning for future & learning from past should certainly be there, but never at the cost of making the best of every moment, whether we are on a roller-coaster or we have all the time in the world to turn our attention to that which we cherish most.

Nice to know that you both attended the Gita Discourses of Swami B..ji and also that your bhajans sessions are going on regularly. I am sure that when I come next, you will have a good stock of bhajans. It was also great to know that the Bhajan session at your place went off nicely. L.. was also full of praise about the success of the session. I am happy that S.. came over to the session too. She is anyway going to Satsangs regularly, so it was not really breaking any ice.

Love & om,

Guruji

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6

I - the most used & abused word

Hari om !

You have rightly begun from where one should - from the beginning. The meaning of the word 'expectation' if simply put means 'looking forward to', it indicates that which the person cherishes & values. However, if we like to go into 'Why does a person cherish something?' then the reasons vary. When it comes to 'things' then we may expect that which we dont have, but when it comes to 'people' we may also expect to find like-minded ones. In relationships we may look forward to somethings in other which may complement our defeciencies, but we also look forward to some compatibilities, things which are common.

Yes, it is a fact that very few know themself fully & properly, and almost all human problems can be traced to the non-apprehension & the subsequent mis-apprehension of the truth of our self. Realising the truth of oneself is indeed one the greatest challenges of life. The word 'I' is not only the most often used word, but also most-abused word. We keep on coming across so many mirrors in life which prompt us to introspect not only our expectations, perceptions & values, but about our very essence. The great sages of yore also point that Self-knowledge should be considered as the ultimate goal of human life. It is the door to redemption from all subjective malaise. Self-realisation is God-realisation. Even the modern day physics is turning to metaphysical dimensions to unravel the secrets of life. With great humility & intensity keep probing the unseen & also seen dimensions of your Self, here alone lies the biggest secret & treasure of life.

Love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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7

Teacher facilitates discovery of Truth

Namaskar !

Really speaking I did not have any scripture in my mind when I sent that story to the Discussion Forum. Even though it is a fact that I am a teacher of Vedanta philosophy, and Gita is my love, yet my approach is different. I prefer to let people be 'unconditioned' and 'discover' the truth of life. I see the role of teacher only as a facilitator to help bring about the ability of objective enquiry. So lets keep Gita aside and try to objectively understand the message of the Strange shop. If we do discover some facts then I can assure you, we will definitely get some validation from Gita.

Love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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8

Desires too have a role

Hari om J !

Yes, expectations are desires, and they have an important role to play. Even though it is worthwhile to realise that pain & grief follow desires, but that does not mean that one has to give up all desires right in the beginning. What is required is to identify those desires which will help us sort out this problem once for all. Having done that one has to give out all what one has to fulfill that desire, inspite of any obstruction.

In the beginning 'desire for knowledge', 'desire for good company, good qualities, devotion, well-being of all, praise from those who really matter' are all extremely necessary. If we lack in these then pain should be rather there. It is this pain which will motivate us to work hard. Gita suggests to us to take resort to selfless aspirations, and give up selfish ones, and aim for Self-realisation.

Please dont bother about your elaborations. Reflections become rambling only when we go off track.

Love & om,

Swami Atmananda

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9

Handling lethargy

Hari om !

I have noticed of late that I am not performing my duties at the right time you can say I am displaying qualities of Tamas guna i.e. dullness, lathergic, lack of motivation etc. And this is more so evident when difficulties arise. Yesterday I lost two orders which I was working on - and both were important (for my performance in the company) I could not
get myself to complete my daily task list - I have so many pending chores and duties at home and work that I am unable to focus and clear them. (I think my state can also be described as - panic depression). The biggest problem of not doing work when it should be done is that, no one has control on the future and there are no gaurantees that time will be by your side in the future as well.

Basically what I have known about you does not really categorize you in the category of a 'Tamasic' person, if at all there is some problem nowadays then it is just a temporary phase. I am sure things will be normal soon. Regarding the above mentioned problem, Well ! my humble suggestion is that you should "learn to ENJOY every work, every challenge". Then you will be
living in present and future itself becomes secondary.

Guruji, I need your advise on how to improve on this aspect of my life as I feel this is a big impediment in my progress and also in discharging my duties. Can you suggest me some means of meditation/concentration which will help me in focussing on my duties at all times.

I have some suggestions for you :
1. Learn to enjoy every work, every challenge.
2. Plan & execute your daily work in such a way that you dont have any pending work left at the end of the day (or as little as possible).
3. Always keep out some time to 'forget all the business work' & just relax with your family or friends.
4. Take out 10 minutes daily for the following sadhana :
Choose a time when you are most relaxed & fresh (preferably in the mornings, and it could be before your bath too). Sit alone in the posture you feel most comfortable (for this exercise even sitting on the chair will do). Close your eyes, drop all the thoughts of any work etc., bring gratitude in your mind for all what God has blessed you with. Use the mantra "Hari om" to
express your gratitude to God. Chant this mantra with 'all your feelings' for about five minutes. After some time, associate the chanting of "Hari om" mantra with the exhalation & inhalation of your breath, and again chant this mantra 'in your mind, but loudly'. Now, with every exhalation feel that along with the impure air all weakness & defeciencies are going out of your mind & personality, and along with every inhalation you are imbibing strength, positive qualities & wisdom. Feel this intensely. After about another five minutes then 'just be quiet inside' and relax. Thats all ! Do this for a month and let me know the results.

With lots of love & om,

Guruji

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10

The crux of all suffering

Greetings to you K !

K wrote : Here's my ignorant interpretation of your tale....

To start your response by saying that it is a product of your ignorance is not a very worthwhile thing to do, it is more of a negative conditioning. Humility is good but negative conditioning is an obstacle for right understanding. It is enough that it is your interpretation. Let others judge you by their own understanding, and as far as you are concerned you continue your journey of right understanding with objectivity & humility.

1. The goat needed to be made to think that it was attached to something in order for it to stay in one place (even when it actually wasn't), therefore the shepard had to "go thru the motions" to produce the illusion in the goat's mind.

All goats who sit down, including those in the wild, do not need the assurance that they are now attached to something & therefore safe. This particular goat was simply conditioned to be tied with a rope before it could call it a day, and therefore the act was necessary.

2. This shows that although physical bondage is tangible & real, the mind is above and superior to the body and physical things because one needs only to convince it (i.e. mind) that it is attached to something in order to actually produce that bondage.

The mind is indeed superior to the tangible & gross things, but even the mind is an effect of some cause. There is still something more to the truth of mind. Not knowing that truth and imagining something else to be the truth is the crux of all suffering & bondage. It is a problem of ignorance & not a real problem, therefore it was compared to the tying & untying of the unseen rope.

"Mankind surely deems lovable desirable things - such as beautiful woman, children, piled up treasures of silver & gold, valuable steeds, massive herds and valuable land. This is the enjoyment of worldly life . But Allah holds the most desirable treasures in reserve!."

Even God prompts man to awake to the truth within. Devotion to him paves the path for bringing about conditions for objective & unconditioned enquiry.

Love,

Swami Atmananda

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OM TAT SAT