Trust your Divinity. Trust your Intuition.

Divine Message

24 November 2021

 

When we were planning the 96th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, some of the students asked me, “How do you get the idea what to do next? How do you decide whether we should hold a Music Conference or a Medical Conference and on what themes they should be? Where do you find the time to study all these topics and decide who should be selected as participants and who should be in-charge? How do you know all these things?” Then, they simply concluded by attributing all this to the idea, “Oh, you have God in You and You know everything.” I want to tell them that it is not just because of the Divinity that I know all this. It is simply because of the Love. It is the love within us that prompts us to do good to the world. That love is intuitive, intelligent and aware; it will guide us to do the right things and tell us what to do next.

I am letting out a big secret to both those who know me and those who don’t! If you ask Me today what we are going to do next or what is coming next, My answer is, “I don’t know.” I can tell you tomorrow what needs to be done tomorrow because that will be revealed tomorrow. What needs to be done the day after will be revealed the day after. This is why the present is called the Omnipresent. You should live for today and do what needs to be done today. You should just do it with all your might, sincerity, effort and love. Why worry today thinking about tomorrow? Tomorrow will reveal itself to you tomorrow. That is how Divine guidance happens.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to dismantle the idea that Divinity means one person manifesting in one place and in one form. I want to destroy that complete concept and tell you that your intuition, which arises out of pure feelings of love for each other – the selfless feeling − is Divinity. Each one of us has it. This is what has been told to us for 96 years by Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) − that you are Divine; trust yourself, trust your intuitions, trust that voice of God within. It is nice to come on stage and give a discourse that you are God, I am God and everything is God, and go for lunch after that! But my question is, “Who is really paying attention to what I am saying?”

Trust your Divinity; trust your intuition; don’t be afraid.  How long will you hold your parents’ hand and walk? It is ok to do so when you are kids. If you are grown up and you still go out with your father or mother, holding their hand, it doesn’t look nice. Likewise, I am there as a physical presence for the children who are still growing. For them, physical presence is needed because that is the only way they can relate to this idea of what God’s love is like. Otherwise, they wouldn’t know. They have experienced mother’s love, father’s love, brother’s love, friendship and things like that but they have not experienced God’s love. For them, My presence is a must because they have not yet grown into a state of understanding beyond that. But for the others, esp. the elders, the most important thing that you must all do is to turn within and believe in your intuition. It’s okay to take a chance. In the worst case scenario, you will fail once or twice. Accept it. Next time, you will learn and move on.

Therefore, do not doubt your Divine intuition. That is how God has spoken. Before He came as Sathya Sai Baba, was God not there? Did people not achieve great things in their life? Did they not go on to realise their Selves? Did they not become mahāpuruṣas (great personalities)? How did they do that without having someone around? They trusted their intuition and recognised that Divinity, which always speaks from within. That is exactly what we also have to do, especially the elders, who have been in the fold for a very long time. That is what I will be pushing for here onwards. The youngsters have some more time. However, it will be much easier for them. They will understand it much faster because they don’t have preconditioned minds.

How will you know that it is your intuition guiding you and not your instinct or intelligence interfering with your thinking? The fact is that there is no attachment in intuition. When you have some personal idea, where your individual intelligence is at work, you are attached to that idea. If something does not happen as you want it to, you get agitated. If it happens, you get excited. Although you tell everybody that it’s all God’s Will and it’s all God’s doing, within yourself, you say, “I did it. I did it.” Somewhere in your private personal space, you will tell yourself that and feel good about it. That is not intuition. People achieve great things with intelligence also. There is no doubt about it. But that’s not what God wanted you to do at that point in time.

We end up doing lot of things that God does not want us to, either because of our instincts or intelligence. But when intuition is at work, we do exactly what God wants us to do. Sometimes, you would not know what to do or how to go about doing it. In such situations, you have to just trust your intuition and take that step forward. Slowly, you will see how the whole puzzle starts falling in place. It feels a bit scary in the beginning to trust one’s intuition, which comes from within. It looks fearful because we are used to getting guidance and being told that this is not the way. But the real way forward is to trust one’s own intuition. How do you test your intuition? If there is no sense of attachment to your idea, then you know it is your intuition working. If there is any attachment to the idea, you know that it is lower level event and simply an interference in God’s work.

You should live for today and do what needs to be done today. You should just do it with all your might, sincerity, effort and love. Why worry today thinking about tomorrow? Tomorrow will reveal itself to you tomorrow. That is how Divine guidance happens.

That is the idea and a very simple one, but I want everybody to practice this every day. How long will you send Me messages or emails? How long will I answer them? Of course, there are some important things like large projects that have several aspects, and especially when I have initiated them, you have naturally to seek My guidance. But there are lots of things that you have to do in your daily life, in your own countries, campuses and homes. For these, you must develop that inner connect and trust it. Let it go wrong one or two times; it is okay. We have fallen many times before we learnt to walk. So, trust your intuition and walk ahead. Don’t keep looking for Swami to approve everything. That is how each one of you will grow into that true Divine Self.

Devotees come in different colours and hues. There are some devotees who have been ardent devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba from generations. They have never seen Sathya Sai Baba. Yet, when they come here, they experience so much of Divinity. They try to look for Shirdi Sai Baba in me because that is the only way they can connect to me. I allow them to do so. They call me Baba and I accept that because it makes them happy. Next, there are people who come here in search of Sathya Sai Baba because they are attached to the Sathya Sai Baba form. They try to analyse, understand, assure themselves and feel comforted that this is indeed Sathya Sai Baba here. To them I say, “Alright, you feel comfortable that way? You call me Swami or Sathya Sai Baba.” Then, there are many new devotees who have come here recently; In fact, they are coming to such a gathering for the first time. They have neither seen Shirdi Sai Baba nor Sathya Sai Baba; I am also new to them. They call me Swamiji or Sadguruji and have their own understanding of how things are. But for their sake and for them also to get connected to this Divine path, I allow them to go ahead too. Finally, there are a few other people who know me ever since I came here 11 years ago; earlier to that, they knew me as a brother, colleague or friend. They cannot overcome that and call me the same even today. I allow them to do as they feel too.

Why do I do all this? Just to allow each of you to slowly rise and finally connect to the Divinity within. You don’t have to look outside. New things will happen; new people will come to experience and connect to that Divinity. But there is a greater responsibility on those who have already experienced and known what the Truth is − the responsibility to go beyond names and forms. Ultimately, there is no form and name. As long as you dance around names and forms, you will never be redeemed; you will find redemption only when you come out of it.

Even Meera, who was such an ardent devotee of Krishna, was so attached to the form of Krishna. She had not seen Krishna; she had only heard about Him, His charm and beauty from others in her childhood. She never had the physical darśana, sparśaṇa or sambhāṣaṇa of Krishna all her life. Even though she got married, she felt that Krishna was her husband and was always pining for His form and craving for His love. Finally, she found that Krishna was present in that love itself; she found Krishna as her own Self; there was no separate Krishna. She sings that the Krishna whom she was searching for outside was actually within her. You can also feel Divinity in Love. When your every thought, word and deed is suffused with that pure love, and when all that occupies your being is the sole feeling to love others selflessly and unconditionally, in that practice you will experience Divinity. That practice must become more and more intense in each one of you. That is my message.

You will see changes happen. Those who are very attached to forms and names will struggle. There are millions of devotees of Shirdi Baba but they cannot accept that idea that He can be Sathya Sai Baba. They cannot accept the tall and strong old man becoming the slender, beautiful and charming form of Sathya Sai Baba. Even Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Sri Rama, who is ciranjīvī (ever living, deathless), did not do the kind of work in the Krishna avatāra that he did in the Rama avatāra. Though he accepted that Sri Krishna can be Sri Rama and did what he was asked to do by Sri Krishna, somewhere in his heart he was too attached to the name and form of Sri Rama. Though he was a jñāni, he was bound by name and form. Jambavan, the bear king, fought with Sri Krishna and understood that He was Sri Rama only after being beaten to pulp. Yet, his chapter too ended in the bhāgavata.

Do not get entangled with name and form. Trust your intuition. Trust the Divinity within and do not look for the things outside. One phase of the phenomenon has come to an end; this is how it was meant to be. The next phase has begun and in this phase, each one must withdraw and go within. It does not mean that you should not come for satsang; however, you must come with a different attitude and a different idea that this form is just another vessel filled with Divinity. Like water takes different shapes in different vessels, Divinity fills different forms, including each of you. If the vessel is transparent, you can see through and feel the Divinity within. If it is a coloured bottle, the water looks coloured. That’s all is the difference between us. The vessels or forms are different but the water is the same. Take that form and continue on the path.

You have to learn to slowly withdraw and understand this great Truth. This has been repeated quite often and it is time to pay more attention. All this got triggered again because somebody asked me, “Now that 96 years of Sathya Sai are over, how should I call you? Should I call you Baba or Swami or Sadguru? Please clear my confusion.” I replied, “Call me whatever your heart says and however you feel comfortable. But if you want to be technically correct, you should know that one phase has come to an end and a new phase has begun. Therefore, try to understand that and conduct yourself accordingly. If you are too attached to name and form, it is impossible to outgrow that attachment. You have to look deeper within and you will find that it is all the same, including what is within you.”

This is what scriptures say, this is the Truth and this is what we have heard for decades. It is time to put it into serious practice to feel that Divinity within. The best way to do this is to ‘Love All, Serve All’. If you develop more and more love for each other and for others, especially those who are in need, you will start experiencing Divine intuition and Divine feelings in that love, and that will redeem you. You will then be satisfied and contented wherever you are.

Feel that love within. Express that love without, freely for all. In that love, find that Divinity. Do not allow names or forms to restrict or limit you. That Divine intuition will guide you at every step and at all times, provided you are ready to listen to it and follow it. This is the Ultimate Truth; there is nothing beyond this. ‘ahaṁ satya bodhakaḥ − I am the teacher of the Truth.’

Sit down, think, contemplate on the Truth, understand it and more importantly, practice it. Just as ‘father’ and ‘mother’ are titles, ‘Swami’ is also a title. Swami means one who has mastered himself and thereby, is somebody who is to be looked up to. Swami is not a person; He is a personality.


Four stages of life in sanātana dharma

In the last eight articles, we discussed all the fundamental concepts of sanātana dharma; that sanātana dharma is not a religion but a law that is supreme and eternal, which governs all creation. The two most important tenets being – all is Divine, and every action has a reaction which leads to reincarnations. The core and the highest philosophy is advaita vedānta found in the sacred upaniṣadic part of the vedas which are the main texts of sanātana dharma. We also learnt that the God of sanātana dharma is brahman who is beyond names and forms, attributes, and qualities, with the best definition being – satyaṁ-jñānam-anantam – which means, it exists, it is awareness, and it is eternal, without a beginning or an end. We learnt that humans are endowed with a mind, which is a collection of thoughts, and is the main reason why the divinity of one’s own existence is hidden from the person, and one is tricked into believing that oneself is anything other than divine; this illusion is called māyā. The knots of ignorance of one’s own existence as pure divinity, the unwanted desires and the unnecessary actions leading to consequences, cause bondage or limitedness of human existence. However, with the help of a guru one can attain freedom, provided one develops discrimination, detachment, self-restraint, and most importantly a burning desire for mokṣa or liberation. We also learnt that attaining mokṣa or mukti does endow oneself with a bliss which is supreme. But at the same time, a truly realised person does not necessarily abandon the world, but instead remains active and dedicated to the welfare of all, while constantly living in the awareness of one’s own divinity.

So far, so good!

Now that we know the ultimate purpose of human birth is to attain mokṣa, let us also know how sanātana dharma lays out a very clear, step-by-step approach for the same.

Most of you who might have been blessed by a temple priest or a learned scholar must have heard a mantra that they would chant while blessing anyone – ‘शतमानं भवति शतायु: पुरुष: शतेन्द्रियः आयुष्येवेन्द्रिये प्रतितिष्ठति śatamānaṁ bhavati śatāyuḥ puruṣaḥ śatendriyaḥ āyuṣyevendriye pratitiṣṭhati’. This mantra from the taittirīya brāhmaṇa means, ‘May you be blessed with a lifetime of hundred years with fully functioning senses and have all the faculties fully intact to perform all the duties.’ In sanātana dharma, a person is blessed to have a full lifetime of a hundred springs during which one must discharge all duties, be it individual, family, social or spiritual. This period of hundred years is divided into four phases of roughly twenty-five years each, with certain duties prescribed for each phase. Let’s learn about each of these phases.

sanātana dharma guides that every individual has four goals – dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, collectively called as caturvidha puruṣārthasWe all know about mokṣa being the highest goal, and the other three being there to lead one towards the final goal of mokṣadharma is to lead a life in accordance with the laws of the material and spiritual world, thereby earn wealth or artha in the righteous way using which one could fulfil righteous desires or kāma, and finally develop renunciation to attain mokṣa. Similarly, there are four stages of life too as proposed by sanātana dharma and described in dharmasūtras, during which the individual is expected to perform certain duties. These four stages of life were called varṇāśrama dharmas.

The first being brahmacarya āśrama, which is the period during which one undertook studies of scriptures and life skills, that helped one eke out a livelihood and raise a family without losing sight of the ultimate purpose of Self-Realisation. So, the first twenty-five years were spent in the pursuit of knowledge and dedicated to studies in the ancient schooling system called gurukulas, run by gurus who were adept in both the knowledge of the material world as well as the spiritual sciences. Thus, the first stage was dedicated to learning dharma – or righteous ways to lead one’s life.

Thereafter, the next twenty-five years of a person’s life was spent in the next stage of life called gṛhastha āśrama, wherein a householder entered the institution of marriage, raised children, worked, and earned to fulfil the needs of the family. Thus, the other two goals of life namely, artha and kāma were fulfilled during this stage.

The next stage of twenty-five years was called the vānaprastha āśrama, which literally means ‘living in the forest’. At this stage, the person had to give up all the duties of a householder and leave his hearth and home to live separately in a forest hermitage away from society and dedicate one’s life for social service and spiritual practises. In old times, usually the husband and wife left their home and stayed at the āśrama of their family guru where they rendered service, and at the same time practised spiritual austerities. This was done to prepare oneself for the next stage of life comprising of the last twenty-five years called sannyāsa āśrama – or the stage of complete renunciation.

Swami Vivekananda pursued the path of sannyāsa soon after brahmacharya.  He could dedicate all his energy to the mission of spreading spirituality to the world and serving the society, while redeeming himself from the bondage of cycles of birth and death.

At this stage, having matured in one’s spiritual practises, like a fruit that ripens naturally, one was readied to be able to give up one’s body while completely established in the awareness of one’s own divinity, thus being freed from the cycles of birth and death and becoming eternally free by attaining mokṣa, the highest and final goal.

These āśrama dharmas were a path, well-thought and well-laid, for anyone to go through one’s life and find the ultimate fulfilment of Self-Realisation. Everyone spent the former half of their lives in preparing and entering the world through the first two stages of brahmacarya and gṛhastha, and then spent the latter half to prepare and exit the world through the last two stages of vānaprastha and sannyāsa.

The four stages of life were a step-by-step approach to realisation of divinity and liberation from bondage. Great kings like Bharatha followed this path and so also the sages like Yajnavalkya, or in recent times leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.

This did not mean that there were no exceptions to this path of four stages of life. It was permitted for one to skip the stages in between and directly choose to be a renunciate, practicing sannyāsa āśrama. The society did not ridicule or look down upon or ostracise such a person, but instead appreciated that such a person, with less interest in worldly affairs, was keen to pursue the path of Self-Realisation more fervently. The famed advatic scholar, Sri Adi Shankaracharya is an example who after his father’s demise, took due permission from his mother to be allowed to enter sannyāsa āśrama in his pre-teens, without having had to go through the stages of gṛhastha or vānaprastha. Similarly, Swami Vivekananda pursued the path of sannyāsa soon after brahmacarya. The result was they (Sri Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda) could dedicate all their energies to the mission of spreading spirituality to the world and serve the society in their own way, while redeeming themselves from the bondage of cycles of birth and death. The motto being – ‘आत्मनो मोक्षार्थं जगत् हिताय च ātmano mokṣārthaṁ jagat hitāya ca’– which means ‘to redeem oneself and also serve the society’. With lesser encumbrances such renunciates could do a lot for all, and society does remain indebted to them for their contributions.

However, for the average person, the four stages of life were a step-by-step approach to Realisation of Divinity and liberation from bondage. Great kings like bharata followed this path and so also the sages like yājñavalkya, or in recent times leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. This path is for all and only goes to show the depth and clarity of sanātana dharma to help the ordinary to evolve, lead a good life and attain a good end.

caturvidha puruṣārthas

sanātana dharma guides that every individual should have four goals to guide them through the different stages of life:

dharma

A life led in accordance with the laws of the material and spiritual world.

artha

Wealth to be earned in a righteous way.

kāma

Righteous desires to be fulfilled.

mokṣa

Liberation as the highest goal to achieve upon complete renunciation.


Self-Realisation - The supreme goal of sanātana dharma

We have learnt so far that the central philosophy of sanātana dharma is Self-Realisation which is to experience divinity within and without. The four goals of human life namely, dharma or righteous actions to fulfil one’s duties, artha or righteous means to earn wealth and fulfil desires, kāma or righteous desires that are to be satisfied by righteous means, and finally mokṣa or liberation from the cycles of birth and death that bind the self, by realising the truth of all existence as divinity, have also been discussed earlier.

We have also learnt that the knots of the heart namely avidyā – ignorance of our divine nature, kāma – unwanted desires, and karma – unnecessary actions undertaken to fulfil unwanted desires, distract oneself from the goal of life and thus render a person incapable of realising one’s divinity.

The guidance and company of an enlightened master or guru helps one overcome the influence of illusory world or māyā and forge ahead on the path of Self-Realisation. We have learnt about the qualities of a true Master and a true seeker as well.

Now, we are about to discuss what it means to be self-realised, what is ‘that’ state of existence like, how does it feel to be a self-realised person who has attained liberation – the highest human potential?

This realisation that we are divine is not to be found somewhere, it is right here within us, it’s just that we are looking for it in the wrong place having totally forgotten about it.

There are many who have interpreted and explained Self-Realisation including the idea of its attainment only upon one’s death, but those are way off the mark of truth. The first thing we must know is that realisation is not meant to be attained upon death, but it is the very existential reality of all. The word Self-Realisation or ātma sākṣātkāra is actually self explanatory. When we say we have realised, it only means that we have understood or accessed something that was very much with us, unlike achieving or attaining something that was not there before. Like the forgetful old grandfather who keeps his spectacles on his head and looks for it all around, till his grandchild tells him that it is right on his head, that’s when he realises that the spectacles are with him. Similar to this case where the spectacles were not lost and so could not have been found, but had been forgotten on one’s own head, likewise this realisation that we are divine is not to be found somewhere, it is right here within us, it’s just that we are looking for it in the wrong place having totally forgotten about it.

So with certain efforts and guidance when one realises divinity very much within ones lifetime, what does he or she truly experience? taittirīyopaniṣad’s ānandavallī declares that the Self-Realised person experiences supreme bliss equivalent in its quality and intensity to the bliss of Supreme brahman – the divine origin of all! Just to give you an idea of the quality and intensity of the bliss of brahman, ānandavallī explains that the ānanda experienced by Brahman is 10^20 times the ānanda experienced by a person who is in the prime of his youth, who is healthy, capable, intelligent and determined and who owns the entire earth and all the wealth that exists therein! Even with all the earthly efforts of a lifetime one can not fulfil this condition of being young, healthy, intelligent and super-wealthy to own the entire earth and all its belongings, which collectively consist of only one single unit of human bliss, but the experience of 10^ 20 times of this human bliss which is the divine bliss of brahman comes to the one who is Self-Realised and thus freed of all desires (akāmahata). Do not take this calculation too literally, for it is only a way of the great seers of upaniṣads to encourage people to abandon hankering after paltry worldly pleasures and motivate them to pursue the path of Self-Realisation.

Many might have this false notion that such a person intoxicated by the divine bliss, may end up growing a beard, wearing robes of a renunciate, disengaging from all societal actions and dwelling in far-off wild secluded caves; but these are all misconceptions. Yes, one may choose to lead such a life of a renunciate, but it’s not necessary, not even true in the case of a Self-Realised being. In fact, muṇḍakopaniṣad on the contrary says that such a person who sees oneness of all creation considers everything and everyone as the same divinity manifest in different forms, thus becomes ever engaged in the welfare of all even while revelling in the divine bliss within and without – ātmakrīḍa ātmaratiḥ kriyāvān.

Further our scriptures like the muṇḍakopaniṣad also say that such a person experiences permanent happiness and peace – teṣāṁ sukhaṁ śāśvatam – teṣāṁ śāntiḥ śāśvatī. The knots of the heart are cut asunder, all his doubts disappear, he is freed from the cycles of action- reaction and thereby of births and deaths. He perceives divinity within and without and thus gets rid of all duality and differences. The bhagavadgītā calls the realised person as sthitaprajña – the one of steady awareness, who is unaffected by the dualities of pleasures and pains, is completely desireless and is freed of attachments, fear and anger.

Thus, one thing that must be made clear is that this experience of Self-Realisation is something that can be had even while one lives in the society, and not to be considered as a post-death event or something that is reserved only for the monks and renunciates.

Another beautiful term for such a person who has realised divinity even while living as a regular human being is jivanmukta – free from all bondages of life. Sri Adi Shankaracharya explains in vivekacūḍāmaṇi about the qualities of such a jivanmukta in great detail in ślokas 426-445. But at the end of it all, the foremost quality of a jivanmukta is what the Lord of death, Yama, tells to the curious young seeker Nachiketa in kaṭhopaniṣad, which is the complete annihilation of all desires in one’s heart. Such a desireless person is verily brahman then and there.

The foremost quality of a jivanmukta is what the Lord of death, Yama, tells to the curious young seeker Nachiketa in kaṭhopaniṣad, which is the complete annihilation of all desires in one’s heart. Such a desireless person is verily brahman then and there.

One may wonder if eating, sleeping, working, earning, having a family and progeny, which are all prescribed by the scriptures as part of the four goals of life, are considered as desires that can be impediments in one becoming Self-Realised! Well, the answer is that anything which one does to get closer to divinity is acceptable, and any desire or action that deviates from that ultimate goal of Self-Realisation is to be rejected. A jivanmukta also eats, sleeps, does his or her thing, but all that is done without any desire for oneself. He or she simply undertakes activities as dictated by the divine consciousness within, and exists only to allow divinity to express itself through his or her life like an actor in a drama who carries out the instructions of the director. ‘Such a person does not find it difficult to either involve in or withdraw from whatever comes his or her way by the divine will. Such a person does things as divinely ordained and remains ever free and happy’, says the aṣṭāvakragītā.

Isn’t it amazing to experience that exalted state of existence where one is ever free, ever happy, ever satisfied and ever at peace? This is the ultimate guidance and goal of sanātana dharma.

We shall discuss this in the next article.

Are acts such as eating, sleeping, working, earning, having a family and progeny considered as desires?

Anything which one does to get closer to divinity is acceptable, and any desire or action that deviates from that ultimate goal of Self-Realisation is to be rejected.

akāmatā

free from all desires

sthitaprajña

one with steady awareness who is unaffected by the dualities of pleasure and pain, is completely desire-less and is freed of attachments, fear and anger

jivanmukta

one who is free from all bondages of life


Knots of the heart in sanātana dharma

Knots of the heart in sanātana dharma

Article 7

By Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai

Human birth is the rarest to get because it’s given only to humans to realise one’s divinity, which is the true purpose of human life, says sanātana dharma. In the previous article we learnt that to realise one’s divinity one needs three blessings, namely, a human birth (narajanma), desire for self-realisation (mumukṣutva) and the guidance of a guru (mahāpuruṣa saṁśraya). The true seeker must have four pure qualifications which is to have discrimination (viveka), dispassion (vairāgya), the six qualities of śama, dama, uparati, titikṣā, śraddhā and samādhāna – (together called ṣaṭsampatti) and an intense desire to realise the truth (mumukṣutva). The question that remained unanswered in the last article was, why is that most humans don’t seek to realise their divinity; why don’t they have such an intense desire for liberation? We shall ponder upon that here.

There are three reasons for this as elucidated by our scriptures – avidyā or ignorance, kāma or wrong desires, and karma or actions directed towards such wrong desires. Well, if one dwells deeply, the root cause of the latter two can be discovered in the very first reason – ignorance.

The desire to know something develops only if someone gets to know that such a thing exists; for instance, unless you know that a new product version has come in the market, be it of your favourite car or a phone, you won’t be able to develop a desire for it. So, the first reason for not having any desire for Self-Realisation is the ignorance that such a concept exists in the first place. And that’s due to the company of those who are also equally ignorant about it. This is called ‘avidyā’ or ignorance which is the foremost reason for people lacking a desire to know their divinity. While on one side it is the ignorance of the existence of divinity, on the other side it’s also the incorrect knowledge about the world around which is experienced by the body and the mind of a person.

These three – avidyākāmakarma are known in our scriptures as hṛdaya granthi, or knots of the heart. They bind oneself in tight knots which are difficult to unloosen and free oneself.

Sri Krishna says in the bhagavadgītā – ‘anityam-asukhaṁ lokam’, – this world is temporary and sorrowful – but due to the wrong knowledge or ignorance of this fact, most get deluded by the tinsel and glitter of the world and forgo the true gold of Self-Realisation. The classic example of this incorrect knowledge is the illusory appearance of a snake in the rope, in the twilight. Though the world and the joys that it seems to offer appear to be real, they are but transitory, whereas the knowledge of the Self bestows permanent happiness. Unfortunately, due to ignorance of this truth or incorrect knowledge about the impermanence of the world, people don’t develop intense desire for realisation or mumukṣutva.

The second reason is ‘kāma’ or wrong desires, born out of avidyā. Faulty knowledge of the world, and its transitory pleasures, makes one believe that this world is real and the joys will be everlasting; this creates a chain of desires to seek the world instead of God. Also, even if someone comes to know that such a thing as divinity exists, the distracting desires which seek paltry pleasures of the body, and instant but fleeting joys of the mind, do not allow one to constantly pursue the path of Self-Realisation. The body and its various needs, the mind and its endless wants, constantly drive the person into the dogged pursuit of their gratification, leaving barely any energy left to dedicate one’s self for Self-Realisation.

Think this way, you started from your home to your destination, but on the way met someone who was so engaging that you forgot the very purpose of why you even started and ended up spending all your time with the newfound friend. It happens all the time; a student who wants to study for examinations is often distracted by the video games on the phone, or a person wanting to lose weight may get distracted by the tasty food that comes his or her way, and so on. This determined effort to know one’s divinity is diminished by the endless distractions that the world around oneself offers.

This third reason – ‘karma’ – actions, is born out of the second – ‘kāma’ – or the desire for something. When one develops a fallacious desire, in the sense that it is a desire that is different from Self-Realisation, then, one is compelled to undertake actions to fulfil them. For example, if you want a new gadget or a particular possession, you need to acquire it by certain efforts, righteous or otherwise. We all know Newton’s third law of motion which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and this applies in the case of karma or action too! Every action undertaken also produces reaction or consequences. These consequences can be pleasurable or painful depending on the kind of action undertaken.

But the reaction or consequences of karma called – ‘karma prabhāva’ have to be experienced without fail. This reaction born out of any action leads to the next action and therefore the next reaction, and this cycle goes on and on – like you might desire for a new wristwatch that you may have seen the other day on a billboard. Now to buy that, which is slightly beyond your budget, you must spend some of your savings or earn some money or take out a loan. Each of these will affect you in its own way. If you spend your savings, you are left with lesser security which may make you anxious and compel you to earn more to compensate for that. If you have to earn more, you will have to work extra hours, which means you will have to take time out from other activities like rest and leisure, and that may impact your health. If you borrow money to buy the watch, well I do not need to explain the consequences, the loan which will have to be repaid will naturally create anxiety and restlessness. So while there is the pleasure of having acquired the prized possession of the watch, it did set off a trail of action-reaction behind it. And more often than not, by the time you finally buy the new model of that watch, there is this newer version up for sale in the market, triggering a new sequence of desires and actions.

This way having developed a desire other than liberation, one would be bound by the chain of action and reaction. These actions and reactions which are like the alternating links of a chain born out of desires other than Self-Realisation, is in turn born out of the ignorance of the true purpose of human birth, and is the cause why most people don’t pursue the path of Self-Realisation.

If you spend your savings, you are left with lesser security which may make you anxious and compel you to earn more to compensate for that. If you have to earn more, you will have to work extra hours, which means you will have to take time out from other activities like rest and leisure, and that may impact your health. If you borrow money, the loan which will have to be repaid will naturally create anxiety and restlessness. 

However, if one finds the company of spiritual people or enlightened Masters, there is a good chance that he or she will eventually overcome this three-fold obstacle of ignorance, desires and action-reaction and lead a life dedicated to knowing the truth.

These three – avidyākāmakarma are known in our scriptures as hṛdaya granthi, or knots of the heart. They bind oneself in tight knots which are difficult to unloosen and free oneself. The muṇḍakopaniṣad says that the person who has realised his or her divinity is freed from this knot of ignorance-desires-actions, all his doubts are dispelled, and the seemingly unending chain of action-reaction is cut asunder. Thus, the person attains peace and bliss.

What is that state of self-realisation? What is the quality of that peace? What kind of happiness is experienced by a realised person?

These shall be our subject of discussion in the next article.

Only the knowledge of the Self bestows permanent happiness

अनित्यमसुखं लोकमिम्
anityamasukhaṁ lokamimam

This world is temporary and sorrowful.

Extracted from verse 33, chapter 9 of the bhagavadgītā

avidyā

Ignorance

kāma

desire born out of ignorance

kārma

action undertaken to fulfil a desire born out of ignorance


The Rarity of Human Birth in sanātana dharma

A guru who is a realised being and totally selfless, an ocean of compassion and ever ready to help the seeker realise the truth, is placed even above Gods is what we learnt in the last article. However, a good teacher without a good student would not be of much consequence. A guru’s wisdom finds fulfilment when it meets with the untiring efforts of an earnest seeker. Who is an earnest seeker? Who is eligible to know his divinity and how? This is the subject of discussion in this article.

sanātana dharma proclaims that of all the species born on earth, human birth is the rarest and the most sacred as it is only through a human birth that one can realise one’s divinity. Sri Adi Shankaracharya in his work vivekacūḍāmaṇi, the highest treatise on discrimination, begins his discourse by saying – ‘jantūnāṁ narajanma durlabham’ – of all the creatures, human birth is the rarest. He goes on to say that rarer still is mumukṣutva, the  desire  to  realise  one’s  divinity,  and  rarest  is  to  find  the  company  of  a realised soul – mahāpuruṣa-saṁśraya. While it may not be a surprise that human birth is one of the best births that one can have on this earth, as compared to the plant or animal species, most would imagine that it is so due to the several abilities that distinguish humans from other species. For instance, the ability to walk on two legs, speak several languages, have a very developed intellect, being able to invent and innovate and so on. But our scriptures call it the rarest and most difficult to receive, not because of the physical, mental or intellectual capacities, but the spiritual potential hidden in every human to be able to realise his or her divine nature.

We know by now that the fundamental tenet in sanātana dharma is that ‘all is divine’, animate and inanimate. However, the ability and opportunity to realise one’s divinity is given only to humans and not to other species. Yogically it is due to the ‘erect spine’ that humans are  endowed with, which is a must to perform yogic practises to experience the higher truth of divinity, but more importantly it is due to the inherent potential in terms of ‘self-enquiry’ and thereafter ‘directed efforts’ to realise one’s divinity which makes homosapiens special. One may argue that on this planet, inhabited by over 7.8 billion humans who seem to grow in numbers year after year, human birth does not seem to be a rare phenomenon or difficult to have. But one must understand that it’s not just about getting an erect spine, but more importantly developing the desire to realise divinity which is rarer to come by. A human who is only concerned about eating, sleeping, securing and procreating, is no better than an animal and our scriptures call such a human as narapaśu or a ‘human equal to animal’. Therefore, humans desirous of divinity are truly rare. Sri Krishna says in the bhagavadgītā that out of thousands of humans only a few develop the desire to know the truth and plod efforts towards that. And out of thousands of those who exert themselves, very few realise the truth. So, to be born a human may not be as rare as to be the seeker of truth, and the rarest would be to realise the truth.

A gurukula was a place where a realised Master lived and taught students, both the knowledge of this world (aparā vidyā) and that of the spiritual world and beyond – (parā vidyā), and thus prepared them for their societal lives which were founded on strong spiritual values.

In today’s world driven by materialistic and pleasure-seeking societies, such a seeker is truly rare to find. However, the situation was not so abysmal a few millennia ago when everyone was taught these basics of spiritual life in a well organised system of education called gurukula. A gurukula was a place where a realised Master lived and taught students, both the knowledge of this world – aparā vidyā and that of the spiritual world and beyond – parā vidyā, and thus prepared them for their societal lives which were founded on strong spiritual values. A child was sent off to a gurukula at the age of seven for a good 10-14 years of education, which meant that the child would have to stay away from the biological parents for the stipulated period of time. This ensured that the guru had total freedom in training the pupil according to his or her inclinations and abilities. And since there was no education fee then, unlike modern times, this completely residential system of education of gurukula was available to one and all. Unfortunately, over a period of time this culture dwindled with the onslaught of materialistic and selfish societies. The mighty and divided, deprived the weak of this wonderful opportunity to learn both spiritual and material knowledge for free which was the basis for an equitable and egalitarian society.

sanātana dharma which believes that all are divine and therefore equal in the eyes of God, is the only permanent solution to all the problems of the world today. Peace in the world can be established only when all humans live in harmony. This harmonious society is possible when all humans lead a spiritual and divine life where they respect all creation as divine, leaving no scope for disparities and differences. Human birth can truly be sanctified only if all make efforts to seek the divine within and without, and abide by the principles of sanātana dharma.

Why is that all humans don’t develop this earnestness to seek the truth and thereby lead happy and contented lives? What stops them from accepting and following such lofty principles of sanātana dharma?

Let’s discuss in the next article.

The qualities of a true seeker

Sri Adi Shankara says that a true seeker must have these four qualities:

viveka

Discrimination between the temporary world and the permanent divine Self.

vairāgya

Detachment or dispassion towards the world and the worldly distractions.

ṣaṭsampatti

Six possessions which are śama (Control of mind), dama (Control of senses), uparati (Withdrawal of senses and the mind from the external to within), titikṣā (Forbearance), śraddhā (Sincere faith in the words of the guru and the scriptures), and samādhāna (Equanimity).

mumukṣutva

Intense desire to attain mokṣa or freedom. Only those possessed with these four qualities could qualify to earn the grace of the guru and attain the ultimate realisation of one’s divinity.


guru in sanātana dharma

All are brahman declares sanātana dharma and the true purpose of human life is to overcome the māyā or illusion created by the mind, which projects the myth of duality that one is different from brahman by giving a false identity (ahaṁkāra) through the acquired thoughts (manas), memories (citta), and flawed analysis (buddhi). This realisation that one is brahman is mokṣa – destruction of moha or false attachment, also called mukti or freedom from ignorance. To achieve this, a guru – a realised Master – is imperative as he experiences his truth as brahman, and can thus help the lost seeker also discover his true identity, like the big lion that guided the ignorant cub lost in the flock of sheep to its real identity of being a lion, and thus liberated it from the illusion of calling itself a sheep. That’s what we discussed in the last article.

But how does one find a guru? Who is a real guru? What are his qualities? And how does he help one realise brahman? These are the questions that we would try and answer in this article.

As mentioned some time ago, the same brahman descends as an avatāra amongst people with the main purpose of establishing dharma – which is to help one execute one’s true duty of behaving in accordance with one’s Divine nature. 

Many who come across such an avatāra are inspired and strive to achieve the greater heights of the supreme state of brahman, cutting asunder the bondage of false identification that ties them down to the māyā of the world. These great ones who aspire, strive and ultimately achieve the truth of their true nature as brahman are ascended Masters or gurus, who out of their immense compassion for the others teach them about this path of freedom. guru is a combination of gu and ru’, where gu stands for darkness and ru stands for its dispelling. In short, guru means the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance. Just like how we fail to identify ourselves in the mirror if it is dark, likewise we fail to identify our true nature due to ignorance. Like switching on the light and making things visible as they are, a guru enlightens the seeker through his teachings and helps remove the darkness of ignorance. In the presence of such an enlightened master, the disciple is enabled to identity oneself as brahman

brahman descends as an avatāra amongst people with the main purpose of establishing dharma – which is to help one execute one’s true duty of behaving in accordance with one’s Divine nature. 

However, if it was so simple, then why does everyone not have a guru to guide them? The truth is that one must develop the deservedness of having a guru in one’s life. What does that mean? The muṇḍakopaniṣad says that after one tries and carefully analyses everything in the world, and comes to the conclusion that one is unable to attain true happiness out of the actions undertaken, one becomes detached and seeks relief by approaching a guru who is a ‘learned and enlightened one.’ Such a guru then trains and teaches a surrendered and willing seeker. So the first reason why one even seeks a guru is when one is disillusioned by the temporariness of the world which does not give true and lasting happiness. The sorrows in the world, the failures and disappointments are thus stepping stones to a spiritual life. This understanding may happen within this very birth or after several births of accumulated yearning to know the truth.

An earnest seeker of truth finds a Master in due course, the moment one is ready to let go of the world and seek guidance of a Master. This Master does not accept the disciple without testing him and demands sincere, dedicated efforts and complete surrender to attain the truth, like in praśnopaniṣad where guru pippalāda, asks the six seekers to practise tapas – austerities to purge oneself of any attachments to the world and develop a burning desire for the truth, śraddhā – sincere faith in the words of the scriptures and the guru, and brahmacarya – absolute abstinence from seeking pleasures of the body and the mind, thereby completely engaging in spiritual pursuits. It’s only when guru pippalāda is satisfied with the sādhanā or prescribed practices of the disciples that he called them after a year, and clarified their doubts.

So while the disciple is to undertake tapas, possess śraddhā and practise brahmacarya, a true guru is also known by certain qualities, eight of them to be precise, as described by the great scholar Saint Sri Adi Shankaracharya of 8th century CE in his work, vivekacūḍāmaṇi (verse 33): 

Eight qualities of a guru

  1. श्रोत्रियः śrotriyaḥ - learned
  2. अवृजिनः avṛjinaḥ - sinless
  3. अकामहतः akāmahataḥ - desireless
  4. ब्रह्मवित्तमः brahmavittamaḥ - knower of brahman
  5. ब्रह्मण्युपरतः brahmaṇyuparataḥ - withdrawn into and abiding in brahman
  6. शान्तः निरिन्धन इवानलः śāntaḥ nirindhana ivānalaḥ - calm like the fire that has consumed all its fuel (unperturbed by the activities)
  7. अहेतुकदयासिन्धुः ahetukadayāsindhuḥ - ocean of mercy without any reason
  8. बन्धुरानमतां सताम् bandhurānamatāṁ satām - true friend of the noble one who surrender to him

Just to tell you how compassionate a true guru is even when the disciple wavers and wanders, here is the story of a great realised guru ṛbhu and the disciple nidāgha. Though the great Master ṛbhu, upon the request of the father of nidāgha, teaches the disciple the knowledge and path of brahman, the wayward disciple drawn by the world, leaves the guru to settle down in a family life far far away. But the compassionate Master visits him in different disguises only to guide him back on the spiritual path. One such incident is an interesting one wherein after several years, the guru disguises himself as a poor old man and makes his way to the city where nidāgha lived. On his way, he notices his disciple waiting on the wayside for the procession of the king. Acting like an ignorant old rustic, the guru asks the unaware disciple as to what was going on? To which nidāgha replies that the king’s procession was passing by. The old man (guru) asks again as to who was the king? nidāgha replies that the one on the elephant was the king. Now, the guru asks as to what is an elephant. The annoyed disciple replies that the one below is the elephant and the one seated above is the king. Yet again, the old man poses another question and asks as to what is meant by below and above. Now, having lost all the patience with the foolish old man, the infuriated nidāgha climbs upon the old man’s back and tells him, “I am above and you are below.” The patient old guru then asks the final question as to who is ‘I’ and who is ‘you’. This makes the disciple realise that the old man was his own guru who had come in disguise to remind him of the great truth that all are one in divinity and there are no differences of ‘I’ and ‘you’. Thus, the disciple is guided back on the spiritual path by the guru.

This is the story of every guru who is an ocean of compassion without any reason and selflessly works for the greater good of the disciple in every way. Finding such a guru is the greatest of fortune. Therefore, in our tradition, guru is equalled to God and at times even placed above Gods.

Well, this is the story of every guru who is an ocean of compassion without any reason and selflessly works for the greater good of the disciple in every way. Finding such a guru is the greatest of fortune. Therefore, in our tradition, guru is equalled to God and at times even placed above Gods –

gururbrahmā gururviṣṇuḥ gururdevo maheśvaraḥ।
guruḥ sākṣāt parabrahma tasmai śrīgurave namaḥ॥

guru is the embodiment of the supreme brahman, thus salutations to such a guru.

What are the lessons that a seeker learns at the feet of a guru? How is this human birth the most scared and best suited to attain Self-Realisation, thus freeing oneself once for all from the vicious cycle of birth and death?

Let’s learn about this in the next article.

guru is equalled to God and at times even placed above Gods

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः ।
गुरुरेव परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

gururbrahmā gururviṣṇurgururdevo maheśvaraḥ ।
gurureva paraṁ brahma tasmai śrīgurave namaḥ ॥

Salutations to guru who is verily the Supreme brahman, greater than Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer) and Maheshvara (destroyer).

(गुरु स्तोत्रम् guru stotra)

tapas

austerities to purge oneself of any attachments to the world and develop a burning desire for the truth

śraddhā

sincere faith in the words of the scriptures and the guru

brahmacarya

absolute abstinence from seeking pleasures of the body and the mind, thereby completely engaging in spiritual pursuits


Ending Ignorance - The sanātana dharma Way

In the previous article we discussed the idea of the self-manifested brahman – the Supreme God of sanātana dharma, who manifested the entire universe with all the movable and immovable entities, on His own, like the spider that brings out the web from its stomach, lives in it and swallows it back. The universe emanated from brahman, is sustained by brahman and ultimately dissolved by brahman into His own self. sanātana dharma thus believes that – all that which exists is brahman or Divine – as it is made by and made of brahman.

Though brahman has no particular form and name, He incarnates as avatāras, time and again, to set things right in the society by not merely annihilating the evil and protecting the virtuous, but by transforming humans into better beings.

The question that intrigues one is, ‘Though the world is nothing but brahman, and human beings are also manifestations of the same brahman, then why is the world saturated with problems?’

To understand this seeming contradiction, we need to delve into the teachings of the upaniṣads.

A quick look around will tell us that more or less all elements and creatures of nature follow a set path as governed by the natural law. For instance, the ecological balance is maintained through the food cycle, where the grass is eaten by the deer, which in turn is eaten by the lion. And when the balance is lost, there is natural extinction of the species in the food chain which sets the balance right. Or take the example of the water cycle, where the water from the oceans evaporate and condense to form clouds, which bring the rains into the rivers, and they flow and merge into the oceans, thus completing the cycle. However, in the case of human beings the balance is disturbed by their constant wanting for more, much more than they need, for which they diligently produce things and exhaust nature’s precious resources. This incites imbalance causing societal disharmony and natural disasters, leading to chaos and confusion in creation. When an unlettered animal can behave according to its needs, then why are humans driven by greed, one may wonder.

The difference between humans and animals is that human beings are endowed with a mind. Simply put, mind is a collection of thoughts of all kinds, good, evil or just neutral. These thoughts are different from the instincts that are present in animals. Instincts like hunger, sleep, fear and procreation are common to animals and humans. While animals have instincts alone which drive them, humans have a mind that can think, desire, analyse, remember and discriminate between good and bad. One may argue that a lion killing a deer to eat is evil as it is sheer cruelty on part of the lion. Well, do not forget that mother nature made them that way. A lion must eat deer to live and a deer must eat grass; there is no choice there. It’s their natural way of life. But humans on the other hand have the ability to make choices, decide to do what is good, and avoid what is bad. The mind of man, which broadly has four abilities namely, citta or memories, buddhi or intelligence, ahaṁkāra or identification with oneself, and manas or the thoughts that encompass all the other three, is responsible for all that humans do and experience. The scripture – taittirīyopaniṣad – describes this as ‘manomaya kośa’ or the sheath of mind, which hides the pure existence of brahman in humans, and thus makes them incapable of behaving like brahman under the influence of this cover of the mind. Just like an object covered by a piece of cloth cannot be seen clearly, in the same way, humans fail to see that they are made of brahman due to this cover of the mind that influences them to think of themselves as those other than brahman.

How does one remove this cover of the mind and realise that he or she is one with brahman? sanātana dharma prescribes methods and means to achieve that. Just as a cloth is made of threads and the removal of threads would lead to the disintegration of the cloth thereby revealing the object covered by it, in the same way, removal of thoughts from the mind would lead to the realisation of oneness with brahman. These thoughts in the mind are born out of desires that are in turn born out of associations. So when one associates oneself with noble and pure people, the desires gradually reduce, thoughts disappear, mind disintegrates and the truth of one’s existence as brahman is revealed. The conscious effort to be in the company of realised beings is the key to uncover the reality of brahman within oneself.

Let me tell you a story. There was a lioness in the forest. One day, while hunting a flock of sheep she gave birth to a cub and died out of exertion. This cub joined the flock of sheep and was looked after by them. The cub grew up in the company of the sheep and started thinking of itself to be a sheep. One day, a majestic lion arrived in that forest. All the fearful sheep ran for their precious lives after seeing the lion. The cub was rather surprised to see a very different creature other than the sheep with whom it lived. The magnificent lion was equally surprised to find a lion cub roaming amidst the sheep. It asked the cub as to what it was doing with the other sheep. The cub, overcome by ignorance, simply replied that it was a sheep and therefore lived with them. This amused the big lion, who took pity on the ignorance of the poor cub and took him to a nearby pool. Upon seeing its own reflection in the water, the cub realised that it was also a lion and not a sheep. The constant company of the sheep made the cub think and behave like a sheep until this lion came by, and acquainted the cub with the truth, thus liberating it from the false identification and behaviour.

The moral of the story is that, just like the poor lion cub, humans have lost themselves in the crowd of those who are under the wrong influence of their minds and ignorantly think that they are anything other than brahman. However, a realised Master, who knows by experience the truth that he is brahman, can guide the lost humanity to its true nature thus putting an end to the confusion and chaos caused by the ignorant behaviour of mortal humans. In the vedic texts this wrong impression of one’s own reality due to the ignorance of the mind is called as māyā, which simply means that which is not. Ending this ignorance and realising the truth of one’s true nature as brahman is called mokṣa (moha + kṣaya) which means destruction of delusion, or sometimes mukti which means freedom from wrong thinking.

Just as a cloth is made of threads and the removal of threads would lead to the disintegration of the cloth thereby revealing the object covered by it, in the same way, removal of thoughts from the mind would lead to the realisation of oneness with brahman.

How does one find the right company and shed the preconceived false notions of māyā? When does one shake away the ignorance of the mind that covers the truth of brahman and thus attain mokṣa? Does one get lucky like the lion cub to find the realised one, or is there an effort needed to find such a Master?

Let’s deliberate in the next article.

Animals have instincts while humans are endowed with a mind

The difference between humans and animals is that human beings are endowed with a mind. Simply put, mind is a collection of thoughts of all kinds, good, evil or just neutral. One may argue that a lion killing a deer to eat is evil as it is sheer cruelty on part of the lion. Well, do not forget that mother nature made them that way. A lion must eat deer to live and a deer must eat grass; there is no choice there. It’s their natural way of life. But humans on the other hand have the ability to make choices, decide to do what is good, and avoid what is bad.

māyā

the wrong impression of one’s own reality due to the ignorance of the mind

mokṣa

destruction of delusion (moha + kṣyā)


The Self-made God of sanātana dharma and His Self-made Creation

The Self-made God of sanātana dharma and His Self-made creation

Article 3

By Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai

In the previous article we learnt that the supreme God head of sanātana dharma is brahman who is represented by three aspects of Existence (satyam), Awareness (jñānam) and Perpetuity (anantam). Though we often refer to brahman as He and not she, the truth is that brahman is attributeless and therefore best called as brahman. The function of God as – Generator, Organiser and Destroyer is performed by brahman and is known as sṛṣṭi (Creation), sthiti (Sustenance) and laya (Dissolution). This is cyclic and perpetual.

The idea of brahman creating, sustaining and dissolving the various aspects of this ever-changing universe is quite understandable, considering that brahman is the supreme god head of sanātana dharma. However, the question remains as to who created brahman? How did brahman come into existence? And if brahman is without name and forms, then what about various male gods and female goddesses and even stranger – ‘half animal-half human bodied gods?’ Let’s dwell upon these aspects.

Since perpetuity is brahman’s nature, there is no beginning and end to brahman. brahman was, is and will be, is the basic premise on which this idea rests. Therefore, brahman never came into existence on a particular date or time, but brahman is an eternal and intelligent existence. However, for us as humans bound by space, time and situations, it is almost impossible to imagine an existence beyond space, time and situations. Well not really, let’s take the case of a dream. It comes into existence without the rules of space and time and even causation. We dream of things which don’t even exist in the waking world, the concept of time vanishes and the place and situations too are beyond rationale. Like someone flying in the sky and travelling to unknown places at great speed, meeting never-seen-before people and so on. All these strange things can happen in a dream but in physical reality while being awake, these are impossible. Yet the dream feels so real, until one wakes up.

The scriptures like muṇḍakopaniṣad describe this idea by the example of a spider ‘ūrṇanābhi’ (the one with threads in the stomach), which brings out the web from within its stomach, lives in it and ultimately swallows it back.

Extrapolate this idea to brahman as the dreamer who is beyond the bounds of space, time and situations of the dream. Just as the dream emerged out of the dreamer, is being experienced by the dreamer and would end when the dreamer wakes up, so also the whole universe emerges out of brahman, is sustained by brahman and ultimately is dissolved by brahman who is beyond the universe and the bounds of time, space and situations. And another important point to note is that just as in the dream one builds a house and even stays in that dream house, without having deployed an architect, building material or any other efforts to construct, similarly the world is considered as created by brahman without deploying anything outside of brahman.

Scriptures like muṇḍakopaniṣad describe this idea by the example of a spider ‘ūrṇanābhi’ (the one with threads in the stomach), which brings out the web from within its stomach, lives in it and ultimately swallows it back. The creation, sustenance and dissolution may seem to be as simple as that for brahman. And brahman needs no assistance just like the spider! brahman is self-sufficient.

Take another example, that of a potter and a pot. For the clay pot to come into existence three are needed, namely, the maker or potter, the material or clay, and the instrument or potter’s wheel, but in the case of brahman and the creation, brahman is the potter, the clay, and the wheel too; this is the basic principle of God and creation in sanātana dharma.

This idea may take time to understand but there is a three-step process described in our scriptures – śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana– which is to listen, contemplate and assimilate. So, deploy this technique and try to understand the idea of this self-made God, and the creation which is all the universe, within and without us. As you chew more on this sugarcane of the idea, you will experience more sweet juice of the truth therein.

Going by the idea that, the maker, the material and the instrument, all are brahman only, sanātana dharma considers everything as divine or brahman. īśāvāsyopaniṣad says, ‘īśā vāsyamidaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat, all that is seen in this world, animate and inanimate is verily divine. In the very first article we had learnt about the principle of ‘sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma’, all this is Divine, a proclamation from chāndogyopaniṣad, which also echos the same idea. Therefore, one may observe that followers of sanātana dharma worship even inanimate objects like trees, rivers and mountains as they visualise the presence of divinity in all being. Isn’t it wonderful!

Going by the idea that, the maker, the material and the instrument, all are brahman only, so sanātana dharma considers everything as divine or brahman. īśopaniṣad says ‘īśā vāsyamidaṃ sarvaṃ yatkiñca jagatyāṃ jagat’, all that is seen in this world, animate and inanimate is verily divine.

So, it’s no surprise that same brahman which is nameless and formless may choose to take a name and a form, and manifest as a male God, a female Goddess or even the stranger kinds. When brahman manifests in a physical form and displays certain superpowers, such manifestations are called ‘avatāras’ or incarnations. The scriptures call these also as brahman but with attributes or guṇas, and therefore the term saguṇa brahma, whereas in the attributeless state of existence, the same brahman is called as nirguṇa brahma.

These manifestations happen time and again for special reasons and the most important of them all is to establish dharma or righteousness. dharmasaṁsthāpanārthāya saṁbhavāmi yuge yuge – Sri Krishna declares in bhagavadgītā during His sermon on the battlefield to his warrior disciple friend Arjuna. This idea of establishment of dharma is often mistaken as simply punishing the wicked and protecting the virtuous. However, it is much beyond that. Punishing the evil doers may be one of the ways to set things right in the society and maintain law and order, just as a police does. But the deeper meaning of it is to transform humanity into a better race which follows the dictates of inner conscience, that always guides one on the right and virtuous path, avoiding the pitfalls of a sinful life.

One may ask, if brahman is all that which exists, and considering that brahman is the most noble and pure, how is that the creation of brahman, especially the human race is full of faults and frailties! How is such imperfect creation come into existence out of the pure supreme divinity that brahman is, so much so that the same brahman has to manifest as avatāras, time and again, to set things right!

We shall discuss this in the next article.

When brahman manifests in a physical form, such manifestations are called ‘avatāras'

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् ।
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥

paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśhāya cha duṣhkṛitām
dharmasaṁsthāpanārthāya saṁbhavāmi yuge yuge

In every age, I manifest Myself for the protection of the pious, the destruction of evil and for establishing dharma.

भगवद्गीता bhagavadgītā, 4.8

saguṇa brahma

brahman but with attributes or guṇas

nirguṇa brahma

the attributeless state of existence (brahman)


The Supreme God in sanātana dharma

The Supreme God in sanātanā dharmā

Article 2

By Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai

In the last article it was learnt that sanātana dharma is not a religion but a supreme eternal law that governs the entire universe. It’s fundamental philosophy of the ‘oneness of all existence as divinity’ (sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma) is the most ancient way of life practised in the bhāratavarṣa – Indian peninsula, for much longer than the recorded modern history. vedas are its fundamental texts and vedānta, the philosophy. The twin principles of ‘reincarnation’ (punarjanma) and ‘action-reaction’ (karma) are the rules within which this law operates. 

Today let’s understand the idea of God from the point of view of sanātana dharma

While ‘God’ is a non-existent entity to atheists, a mystery to the seekers and a living experience to the believers, God has always been the most debated topic from the very beginning. Ever since the first man opened his eyes and looked around in wonder at the suspended stars in the night sky which twinkled and shimmered eternally, the golden disc at the dawn which never missed its appointment with the earthlings, the soothing silver moon in the night that waxed and waned rhythmically, the mother earth with all her myriad inhabitants, animate and inanimate, minuscule and mighty, and the crest jewel of it all the human kind with its endless enterprise and enquiry, he asked within himself; Where did all this come from? Who governs this? Where does it all go at the end? 

The first man wandered wide-eyed in the wilderness, seeking answers to these questions, and when he could not find the answers outside, he turned within, in deep contemplation. That’s how seekers and sages evolved out of ordinary beings, just like a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly. The answers were more of intuitive revelations than experimental conclusions, call it serendipity if you may. 

The first understanding that emerged from this process of deep enquiry was that definitely there is a power, ‘a creative force’ that exists, and all this has come out of it. The second inference was that this power or force is not mechanical but ‘conscious and creative’ for this kind of distinctive variety and intelligent detailing isn’t possible by a dead unconscious power, and thirdly that this power has no beginning or end, for everything in the creation is cyclic, be it days or nights, seasons or situations, even life and death on this planet. Just that some are shorter cycles and some are longer. Upon keen observation, a student of science can easily draw striking parallels between this intuitive understanding of the sages of yore and the scientific conclusions of the modern scientists, who said that all matter is energy (e=mc²) and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only be transformed from one form to another! 

The first understanding that emerged from this process of deep enquiry was that definitely there is a power, ‘a creative force’ that exists, and all this has come out of it.

Thousands of years ago, much before all the modern scientific studies, taittirīyopaniṣad described these three aspects of that supreme creative force as  – satyaṁ-jñānam-anantam, which is to say that this power has three attributes of – Existence, Consciousness and Perpetuity. Simply put, it means that it exists, it is intelligent and that it can never be created nor destroyed, which is what scientists say now, well almost, except that they are still debating whether it is a conscious energy or an unconscious force of nature. 

However, with the newer frontiers of quantum mechanics and unified field theory, the idea of a ‘field’, a substratum to the entire universe is gaining rapid acceptance. This field consisting of four kinds of forces, namely, gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force, seems to have an intelligent way of its own, leading to creation of newer materials, sustenance and destruction of it as well. Let’s not forget that once upon a time people thought that the earth was flat, till they discovered that it wasn’t! So science is yet to discover what sages have already done. 

Though electric current does not have any attributes such as lighting, heating or blowing, yet its interaction with the various appliances transforms its essential electrical energy into all these apparently diverse and different kinds of energies.

In sanātana dharma, the term given to this power which exists and is conscious as well as eternal, is ‘brahman’. brahman is considered as one without name and forms, without attributes and qualities, without dualities and differences, though paradoxically all the variety, beauty and apparent differences in the creation are all due to that one, eternal, non dual, unchanging brahman. How is that possible? Let’s take the example of the electricity, which by itself is nothing but a force generated by the flow of electrons in a wire. But, when the same electric current passes through a bulb, it turns into light energy, when it enters a heater, it becomes heat energy, when it enters a fan, it becomes wind energy and so on. Though electric current did not have any of these attributes like, lighting, heating or blowing, yet its interaction with the various appliances transformed its essential electrical energy into all these apparently diverse and different kinds of energies. Similarly brahman’s conscious intelligent energy interacts with nature and generates everything, sustains them and finally even destroys them. The subatomic particles interact to form atoms, which form molecules, elements, compounds, matter, plants, birds, animals and humans, and when humans die they disintegrate back into the same subatomic particles and energy. The cycle continued perpetually! Based on this cyclic nature of work of brahman, three functions have been attributed to brahman, which are creation – sṛṣṭi, sustenance – sthiti and dissolution- laya

Thus, this one changeless brahman, essentially energy appears to manifest in all the changing things or masses of the universe. But just as all ornaments, be it bangles, rings, necklaces are nothing but modifications of gold, and though known by different names which are attributed to their different forms, they are essentially gold only, everything and everyone is essentially brahman, is what sanātana dharma preaches. 

This brahman in sanātana dharma is the supreme Godhead, and though for the sake of it we often refer to that brahman as ‘He’ and not ‘She’, however the truth is that brahman is neither ‘He’ nor ‘She’ and not even ‘It’! brahman is brahman!!

Then one may ask, what about all this variety of Gods that we worship, some masculine, some feminine and some even stranger like half human- half animal, how can these be brahman? How can we also know brahman like the sages of the past? 

We will learn about it in the next article

The supreme creative force has been described in the taittirīyopaniṣad  as:

satyam

Existence

jñānam

Consciousness

anantam

Perpetuity

Three functions have been attributed to brahman:

sṛṣṭi

Creation

sthiti

Sustenance

laya

Dissolution


sanātana dharma Simplified

The most ancient culture in the world is that of bhārata. Beyond the recorded history of modern historians, the sacred texts and scriptures of bhārata date back to thousands of years of advanced civilisation going all the way back to the timeless vedas which are considered as apauruṣeyas, or not of human origins. These were the greatest truths of the universe and all existence, that were revealed to highly concentrated and purified minds of the evolved sages through intuition, and have been passed on for generations through oral traditions and therefore earned the name śrutis or that which is heard. 

The fundamental vedic texts since then have been explained and interpreted in simpler language, considering time and context of the societies through ‘śāstras – or the scriptures which carry code of conduct as well rules and regulations of various kinds, for example vāstuśāstra which deals with do’s and don’t’s of architecture, and the likes. This apart the history of this most ancient land has been recorded in the texts called ‘purāṇas’, the ‘ancient’ stories as well as ‘itihāsa’ (iti + ha+ āsa) which can be loosely translated as ‘It was thus’ which originated from the memory of those who witnessed such times and thus are classified as ‘smṛtis’ or memories. rāmāyaṇa and mahābhārata are part of it. These stories did happen and are a part of the ancient Indian history is proven by various astrological extrapolations of the planetary positions which were described in those ancient scriptures. For instance, in rāmāyaṇa as described by maharṣi vālmīki, the author Sri Rama was born under certain planetary positions which has been described in great detail. These details when studied astronomically- astrologically through reverse calculations, led to the date December 4, 7323 BCE. Not just that several other incidents mentioned in the text like the construction of the bridge across the ocean when matched with the studies of the remnant of the present Adam’s Bridge shows that astronomically the bridge must have been constructed around October of 7292 BCE and when studied geologically, radio carbon dating estimates that the area of that bridge must have been exposed (and not submerged) anywhere between 7,000 to 18,000 years ago. These stories when corroborated with actual archaeological sites that still hold significant evidence of the happenings as mentioned in rāmāyaṇa, leave no room for doubt about the ancientness of bhārata beyond the modern recorded history of Harappan civilisation dated only 2600 BCE.  

With the passage of time and with more and more people studying these scriptures, various other texts of this ancient land emerged. Be it the commentaries on these ancient texts called ‘bhāṣyas’ or even independent works of one’s own spiritual and intellectual acumen like the ‘sūtras’ – aphorisms, inspired by these ancient truths of the vedas. 

Thus, the roots of Hindu culture truly lie in the tenets of sanātana dharma who’s most essential teaching is the divinity of all existence as found in the philosophical part of the vedas called ‘vedānta’, described in the upaniṣadic texts of the vedasvedānta does not mean end of the vedas but simply the ultimate wisdom of the vedas beyond which there is nothing more to be known.

This peninsular land was then known as Bharath Varsha located in jambūdvīpa  – the great island, which stretched all the way from the Eastern Europe to the Far East Asia of today. The culture of this great land that bound everyone together in a way of life unique only to this land was called ‘sanātana dharma– or simply put ‘the supreme eternal law’. This was simply the law that guided and governed the material as well as spiritual well being of all the its people.  

The culture of this great land that bound everyone together in a way of life unique only to this land was called ‘sanātana dharma– or simply put ‘the supreme eternal law’.

However, with the passage of time this very law came to be known as ‘Hindu dharma’ due to the naming of this land which on the other side of the river Sindhu as the land of Hindus. Not until Persians named is Hindu (as they pronounced Sindhu as Hindu)  that the then residents of this land came to be known as  Hindus and our way of life came to be known as Hindu dharma. However if we refer to our ancient texts, nowhere do we find the word ‘Hindu’, which has been ascribed to us albeit very recently if  one were to consider the timeless history of our ancient land.  

Thus, the roots of Hindu culture truly lie in the tenets of sanātana dharma who’s most essential teaching is the divinity of all existence as found in the philosophical part of the vedas called ‘vedānta’, described in the upaniṣadic texts of the vedas. vedānta does not mean end of the vedas but simply the ultimate wisdom of the vedas beyond which there is nothing more to be known. The idea of divinity of all creation is unique only to sanātana dharma which proclaims ‘ahaṁ brahmāsmi’, I am Divine and ‘sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma– All is Divine. The supreme divinity which is simply the pure consciousness pervading every part of the creation is known as parabrahman or paramātman and the individual consciousness in all is referred to as jīvātman or simply ātman. Think of a bucket of water immersed in a tank of water; the water in the bucket and in the tank is same but known differently due to its presence in the different containers. 

The supreme divinity which is simply the pure consciousness pervading every part of the creation is known as parabrahman or paramātman and the individual consciousness in all is referred to as jīvātman or simply ātman. Think of a bucket of water immersed in a tank of water; the water in the bucket and in the tank is same but known differently due to its presence in the different containers.

The other most important aspect of sanātana dharma which naturally cascades down to Hindu dharma is the twin principles of – karma (Cause and Effect) and punarjanma (Reincarnation). The actions that we perform lead to consequences that are good, bad or mixed ones and we must experience them at some point of time. Much like Newton’s third law of action and reaction with the only difference being that some results are instantaneous like satisfaction of thirst upon drinking cool water, some are long drawn like  a seed sown that becomes a tree after a few years, and some are really long drawn spanning several births. Therefore, reincarnation happens when the same jīvātman must experience the left over consequences of previous births by reincarnating in another form in another time and place. That would explain why some children are born child prodigies without any formal training, or why some are born poor and some are born rich, some are born sick and some are healthy and so on. This twin principles of karma and punarjanma control or decide the family and circumstances in which one is born. This cycle of birth and death goes on until the jīvātman or individual consciousness evolves to realise that it’s not different from the paramātman – the supreme divine consciousness. And this happens through purification of one’s mind and actions. Thus, sanātana dharma promotes annihilation of individual ego through purification of mind by various spiritual means like devotion to a name or form of God of one’s liking, study of spiritual scriptures, selfless service to all or intense meditation on the truth, or a combination of two or more of these.

Thus, sanātana dharma is the most universal, flexible, comprehensive and practical way of life and anyone can follow it, just any one! 

The key tenets of sanātana dharma

The roots of Hindu culture truly lie in the tenets of sanātana dharma: 

I am Divine – All is Divine

The idea of divinity of all creation is unique only to sanātana dharma which proclaims अहं ब्रह्मास्मि ‘ahaṁ brahmāsmi’ (I am Divine) and सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म ‘sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma’ (All is Divine).

karma

The actions that we perform lead to consequences that are good, bad or mixed ones and we must experience them at some point of time.

punarjanma 

The concept of reincarnation which happens when the same jīvātman must experience the left over consequences of previous births by reincarnating in another form in another time and place.