Too Much

…or is that too little?

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Tamas – darkness

We all of us have tamasik phases in our lives, but one notable time which can be generalised is our teenage years. Few escape it.

Rebellious to authority, indolent and entirely self-absorbed. Seeing the dark side of everything and struggling to see the positive. Seeking to live only through the senses and desires. Tamasik-dominant personalities contribute little to society. They are the vice-prone, easily-led characters who are looking for cheap thrills, to escape ‘real life’ and to work as little as possible to gain as much as they can. There is no caring and sharing in this personality trait. This is why it was said earlier that it is difficult to think of this as a ‘virtue’ as per the term ‘guna’. However, it is karma at play, and the jiiva is learning lessons, experiencing consequences and furthering itself along the greater course of karma, and this is a virtue for sure. The quality of tamas is, of itself, certainly not virtuous!

To have a ‘slob day’ every now and then is fine. Have a weekend without showering, cooking or even getting dressed. It can relieve tension… but consider instead having a sattvik weekend, where you seek to raise vibration for release from stresses by walking in nature, reading a good book, share good conversation, instead of sinking into self-pity and sloth. The danger of tamas is that it captures us and holds and is much more difficult to withdraw from. It is easy. Sattva, on the other hand, requires discipline and effort and unless we can see the value, it does not hold us. After a sattvik weekend though, we generally find ourselves refreshed and ready for another week of whatever the world throws at us. If we have sunk into tamas, we are rarely revived, often hung-over from one thing or another. We do not feel good about ourselves.

Tamas has a propensity for foul entertainments such as ‘slash movies’ and horror/terror in general, “reality” tv, and disturbing music. It will look for mind-altering substances and make inferior food choices.

Any food that is stale, which is overripe or not ripe enough, food that is fermented, tasteless or rotten, ‘fast’ foods, supermarket ready-meals…

  • Meat
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • Bread (yeasted)
  • Cakes
  • Pastries
  • Canned foods
  • Frozen foods

Some of these look the same as for the rajo-guna. However, it is a matter of scale. In rajas, it is possible to take meat lightly, and less alcohol, for example. In tamas, these foods start to rule our lives. They are addictive, and we do not stop to assess the quantity we are consuming. We may not realise it, but a predominantly tamasik diet can make us angry and greedy, can even affect our decision-making process for the worse and compromise our judgments. 

To raise ourselves from the tamas we need to incorporate more rajas. To lift ourselves from rajas we need to integrate more sattva. Sattva and tamas, to the casual eye, can look very similar. Both will not be particularly interactive with the world. However, the difference will be that sattva sits straight and alert, even in meditation, whilst tamas stoops and sleeps in meditation. Sattva misses nothing, tamas misses much. When something needs to be done, sattva will act accordingly, tamas won’t even see the need.

Tamas is represented by the colour black.

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Safe and Sound

…sober and stable

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Sattva – spiritual essence, vitality, courage, existence… (long list!)

The simplest way to describe the sattvika nature is ‘pure’.  Every single one of us is born sattvik. Then the sanchita karma kicks in and determines whether we retain that or have to work through our vaasanas in the state of rajas or tamas. Regardless of our current state, if we are not already in a sattva-predominant nature, then we can make efforts to reach there.

What is sattva and why would we want to be it? The sattvika personality knows how to be still, how to be quiet. Sattva is cheerful and accepting, content and unperturbed. It can see the troubles of the world but does not carry them. It moves only when necessary, takes only what is required, seeks to return more than was taken. Sattva is capital ‘ell’ Love, it is compassion and able to provide a haven for the hurt and needy. Sattva is serene, watchful, has no desire beyond spiritual gain. Sattva is clear about what is “I” and what is not. It knows how to be in the world but not of it. There is detachment and clarity. We can all find a bit of the sattva within us at times, but to be classed as sattva personality, it needs to be instinctively present.

How do we work towards more sattva in our lives? Less careless living; instead, listening to uplifting music, reading fine literature and philosophy, films which carry a message of high human values. Embracing the quiet; appreciating nature, little moments with friends and family, learning to make appropriate boundaries between work and self-time, keeping better company. Taking up self-improvement; be prepared to self-assess without ego, spend time with ourselves to do that, watch for the excuses as to why not…

Then there is the diet;

  • These are foods that are nourishing, soothing and help sharpen the mind, making it more aware and active.
  • Sattvik foods are vegetarian and eaten in moderate amounts.
  • These are foods that are free of chemicals, preservatives, artificial colours and flavours.
  • Processed foods generally are to be avoided – these days, there is an argument for the use of frozen items and organic canned goods – but these should be used minimally.
  • Organic and fresh fruits and vegetables that have been grown and picked with love. More and more we can source our foods if we don’t grow them ourselves.
  • Whole grains, such as buckwheat, barley, rice.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Beans and lentils of the lighter variety; butter beans, broad beans, green beans, peas, moong dal, chana dal etc.
  • Dairy products like milk and ghee.
  • Oils mostly derived from plants; coconut, mustard, sunflower.
  • Foods that are not overly sweet; honey or sugar of minimal processing, such as jaggery.
  • Spices which are beneficial for the body and mind; turmeric, cardamom, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, fennel, cumin…

Many will read this and say ‘oh, that is the government standard for healthy living.’ Which is true, many countries now understand the need to eat better quality and less quantity and encourage their citizens to this… but the ayurvedic diet has been around for millennia. Nothing new under the sun!

To be sattvik is to walk upon the earth lightly, to be ahimsa. It is represented in the colour white, in which all colours unify.

white

Revved Up

…and raring to go

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Rajas – restlessness

In the post on the Gunas, there was a little array of meanings, the last of which was the capitalised ‘Virtue”. This pertains more specifically to today’s subject. The ‘trigunas’ are often spoken of in Vedanta. The three dominant qualities of the personality, also applied to certain things and their effects upon that personality. They are generally referred to in unison, ‘sattva-rajas-tamas’. Due to the flow of the alphabet, today we shall look at the middle of the three. Which is fine, because it is the one which the greater number of folk can identify with.

Let it be said at the outset that we all of us have all three qualities and in any given situation, from one day to the next, we can fluctuate to some degree with how they present. However, there will always be one of the three which is the primary quality of our life. This leads to our being described according to our dominating guna.

Rajas and Tamas may not necessarily be thought of as a virtue, particularly the latter. However, these temperaments are to be considered in relation to one’s karma, and anything which provides for our learning may be regarded as a virtue.

What, then, does it mean to be rajasic? The short-form translation gives a good point. It points to the personality who must always be doing something – or being seen to be always doing something. Without rajas as part of our makeup, nothing would get done. It’s the get-up-and-go virtue. In its positive aspects, it keeps us keeping on. Rajas needs to be active, and the most obvious activity is to work. Be that housework, career and employment, hobbies, volunteering, pioneering, planning… rajas is on the run. It likes to be involved and has a strong sense of duty. Some amount of rajas is necessary to be goal-oriented and fund the determination to reach that goal. Rajas is the acquisitive personality – what’s in it for ‘me’; acquire, build, retain. The leaders of the world will all have rajas dominance in their personality if they are to be successful.

What has to be watched, though, is that our rajasik nature doesn’t fall into egoism. The trouble with having to act in the world is that we can become attached to it and have expectations of results from our actions. Rajas can become domineering, bullying, demanding. It can have a sense of being always in the right and brook no opposition or countenance any possibility of a different point of view. Rajas can become inflexible and ‘kharu’.

Rajas is what most of us see in the transactional part of our lives. Without an element of tamas, the personality can become tiresome and overbearing. Without sattva tempering both those things, there can be no real compassion or softness, no stillness and quietness. Rajas is required to survive in the world, but if it is the dominant guna, the personality bearing it can become worn out, exhausted, sick, depressed. Rajasika-dominant personalities must take care of diet and rest and recreation to balance themselves. There will be a tendency for those of rajasik nature, to ‘live fast and play hard’. Their diet is likely to consist of items which boost and stimulate. Major components;

  • Meat
  • Alcohol and soda
  • Caffeine
  • Garlic and onion
  • Fried foods
  • Excess spices, including chilli
  • Pickles and brewed sauces
  • Refined sugars
  • Heavy pulses such as kidney beans, black and green lentils
  • Heavy vegetables such as potato, broccoli, turnip

None of these things is majorly problematic if one is in full interaction with work and exercise – but of course, it is the usual rule, that moderation is best. Even a sattvika person will take some rajasik foods when in need of a mental and physical boost  (though never meat or alcohol!) For rajas to be useful but not destroying, it needs to be balanced and the best way to do this is to encompass more of the sattva into life.

Rajas is represented by the colour red.

Red

Queued

…waiting your attention

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Kharu – cruel, harsh, foolish, desirous of improper or forbidden things (covetousness)‘kh’ is the closest to ‘q’ in Devanagari script.

 Why use such a word here? There can be a tendency, when discussing self-improvement methodologies and philosophy, to focus on the ‘up’. Positive affirmation and all that. That’s great and appropriate, but something I experienced when I committed fully to Vedantic practice was the bringing in of the negative.

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Whatchya say?

The swamis and sadhus can be most loving and supportive, but when they see that one is truly on the path, they will surprise one – nay, ambush! – in order that the grime and untouched corners of one’s being get properly cleaned. It can seem most harsh – (says the ego).

It is a simple fact known by all who have seriously attempted any form of self-development program, that the negatives have to be faced. Think housework; unless you take out the rubbish, the house will, eventually, start to stink and no amount of incense or proprietary perfumed sprays are going to cover it. Politically we can point to all the positives which have developed to create a society, but all too readily avert our eyes and minds from the battles with the dark side and the costs to some areas in order to benefit others. This can only go on for so long before it all becomes a festering mess.

We all have kharu in us but not all of us are able to recognise it and make amends for it. Even in the small day-to-day things; the harsh word to the loved one at the end of a tiring day, the silly joke that backfired on our colleagues, the jealousy we felt when someone else got something we wanted ourselves. You know it – sorry is the hardest word. To ask for forgiveness is, for many people, a submissive thing. It means quashing the ego and it can be almost impossible for some.

Forgiveness as such will be addressed a little more in a later post; but it is important to know that it exists and that it is an empowering thing – not just to ask for it, but also to give it. It greatly helps in overcoming the kharu. At all levels.

The whole world can seem to be driven by kharu. How to counteract it? As always, it comes back to the individual. Each must ensure that they are as clear and unobstructed in their personalities as it is possible to be. If that means coming face to face with the hard facts of who we are, so be it. Brushing things into a corner, pulling the curtains over the facts of history, only leads to the potential for ‘time bombs’. Almost without fail, life will find a way to shine the torch on those corners, to pull back the curtains, and if we have not prepared ourselves, it will hurt.

Sometimes, we are the bearers of truth in a situation which has been obfuscated with others’ interpretations of events or their investment in who they want us to be (versus who we are) and we then receive their kharu upon us. The hurt felt has to be measured against our ego; is there some truth in what they feed back to us? Is there anything worth the effort of correction? Are they totally missing the point and is it time to move on? Are they even directing cruelty specifically at us or are we, in our ego, taking it upon ourselves when it has nothing to do with us?!

It’s a complicated business, this becoming whole, congruent human beings. When faced with the aachaarya who keeps demanding ‘who are you?‘, it is only when we can face the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, warts, kharu and all, that we can respond even remotely close to who we actually are.

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Premed

…for Prayer

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Prem(an) – affection, fondness, joy, kindness, tender regard

Love – with the capital ‘ell’ – is the Universal Love, unconditional, unselfish, unstinting. It seeks no reward, no kudos, has no expectation of receipt. Preman is Pure Love and even in the worldly plain, holds no strings, makes no demands, states no ownership and is a bottomless well of compassion, affection and kindness.

To apply prem in our daily life, we need to be secure within ourselves and clear about our understanding of Love of the capital variety. It is a commodity which is often taken for granted. The mistake is to think it abundant. It is certainly freely available, but the ability to tap into it and work with it and live it… well, that takes some doing.

Even the noblest of people can get lost in the myriad other  connotations of love – seriously, check out that list, love in all forms but the Universal. The love which permeates the world in all sorts of guises and which can as often be nothing more than lust, jealousy, anger, greed and so on, all dressed up with a cherry on top to fool the unsuspecting and the needy.

Needy, yes. We all of us, every single one of us, wish to be loved – but what that is to us is as individual as ourselves. There is the expectation of something coming our way – even among the most giving of us. Indeed, almost certainly we all know of at least one person about whom it is said ‘they have such love to give’ but who seek attention through that love, or control, or drama… indeed ‘love’ is the most abundant emotion we have available to us and yet it is the most abused, misused and discarded.

In fact, for many, the idea that a Love which makes no request of them, which has no expectation that they can return it, is as alien as the atmosphere of Venus. They have learned that there is always a cost, a charge, for love and they expect to pay it. They can be suspicious of motives, be greatly in fear of it, and seek to second-guess the bearer of Love.

So demeaning has been the experience of love, by some, so sceptical have they become, that there is a refusal to believe such an Unadulterated Love can exist. This is beyond sad.

Those of us who can, who have seen, felt and experienced the capital ‘ell’ Love have a duty to vibrate and spread it to the world. In thoughts, words or deeds, whichever is appropriate and of which we are capable.

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There is room, though, to ask the Parent to listen, to cry in His Ear…

It is my Prayer, that all can come into the embrace of Prem, that all will feel its healing and be lifted. Please listen to the supplication.

 

OM…

…nipotent…

 

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A.U.M. The primordial sound. “O”rigin.

 मृ॒त्युरा॑सीद॒मृतं॒  तर्हि॒  रात्र्या॒ अह्न॑ आसीत्प्रके॒तः।

आनी॑दवा॒तं स्व॒धया॒ तदेकं॒ तस्मा॑द्धा॒न्यन्न प॒रः किञ्च॒नास॑॥२॥

Then there was neither death nor immortality

nor was there then the torch of night and day.

The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.

There was that One then, and there was no other.

को अ॒द्धा वे॑द॒  इ॒ह प्र वो॑च॒त्कुत॒ आजा॑ता॒ कुत॑ इ॒यं विसृ॑ष्टिः।

अ॒र्वाग्दे॒वा अ॒स्य वि॒सर्ज॑ने॒नाथा॒ को वे॑द॒ यत॑ आब॒भूव॑॥६॥

But, after all, who knows, and who can say

Whence it all came, and how creation happened?

The gods themselves are later than creation,

so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

इ॒यं विसृ॑ष्टि॒र्यत॑ आब॒भूव॒ यदि॑ वा द॒धे यदि॑ वा॒ न।

यो अ॒स्याध्य॑क्षः पर॒मे व्यो॑म॒न्त्सो अ॒ङ्ग वे॑द॒ यदि॑ वा॒  वेद॑॥ ७॥

Whence all creation had its origin,

whether it was fashioned  or whether it was not,

He, who surveys it all from highest heaven,

He knows – or maybe even does not know.

( excerpts; Rg Veda 10;129)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.

4 In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

(John 1 KJV)

All languages of the planet have a sound, and most have a graphic form (letter) for ‘a’. Sound is formed in the larynx and can only ever start with this expression. “A” represents the spark, the beginning. As sound moves through the mouth, it reverberates in the palate and becomes more of the ‘oo’ sound. This is the sustenance of sound, the continuation of the universe. As the sound exits the mouth, the lips close gently around and cut it off. The lips cause the sound of ‘mm’ and represent the destruction of that sound, leading into the fourth state, which is an apparent silence (turiiya), during which the inwards breath is taken for the renewal of sound to take place.

Made up of the movement of sound in the mouth, given three letters, the sound is homogenised as OM.

In Hindu philosophy, it is accepted that the Rsis of ancient times, in their enormous capacity for meditation, heard the sound of the universe, the reverberation of shrishti – that which we perceive as creation. In recent times, the ‘silence’ of the cosmos has been broken, as science catches up. The Rsis understood physics, the unseen particles which modulate, coagulate, create, remain, disintegrate and recycle. They understood the importance of sound in the process of generation.

There are many ways to view the power and substance of the cosmos. Many refer to That as ‘God’. It’s as good a word as any but comes with the inherent problem of keeping that power and substance separate from us. The majority of the population who subscribe to spiritual faith do so with a view of ‘God’ as something other (dvaitam/dualism). In what form is not relevant. The point is that it is challenging to comprehend a Formless, Immutable, Eternal Presence with which we are integrated. Our limited selves need the comfort of form and circumscribed function. Mankind, therefore, created the ‘gods later than creation’.

That, from which all this arose, had-has-will never have form. That which ‘breathed’ and created the first sound and, by default, vibration, set in motion this which we call creation. OM was the first sound, the opening word, and that word became ‘God’.

OM is still not That; it is only the breath of That. That sits in the turiiya, the silence beyond the breath. All this (us, world, cosmos) sits there also. The purpose of meditating upon the OM is to find our way to turiiya and then to moksha. Re/Union with the Self – Realisation of The One, (advaitam/non-dualism = singularity).

What’s that you say? Can’t do it? Fearful? All tosh?

No worries. I was there once. Secure in what I knew. Then came the time where what I knew couldn’t help me. The time comes when one is stripped so naked inside, the universe opens and swallows – and everything ‘known’ becomes nothing. As it says up top, the problem with ‘knowing’ is we block ourselves from growing. The jiiva, separated from That, keeps manifesting physical forms until it reconnects.  Thus it might, in one life, completely deny anything beyond the physical, what can be seen and touched. In another life, it may start to comprehend something a little more, but it will be ‘charismatic’ and filled with a level of dream and fantasy. Then there will be lives of seeking, but still missing the connections… then will come the life where all the dots get joined. All lives, all paths are valid to the jiiva on its journey back ‘ome.

OM waits for those ready to return. Even if they never knew they’d departed.

Do listen… OMandalaa

 

No, None

…and then less…

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Nididdhyaasana – profound and repeated meditation

Root verb is ‘dhyaan’ – to think, to contemplate. Dhyaanam is the simple act of sitting and doing the thinking and more correctly translated as ‘contemplation’. Nididdhyaasanam is doing this in a single-pointed and sustained way. It is almost exclusively used in conjunction with the intellectual steps which precede it and prepare the meditator.

  • Shravanam, which is to listen attentively, not merely hearing but receiving, acknowledging and processing.  One whose skill of shravanam is firm will be able to inculcate as the knowledge enters them and to begin already the second process.
  • Mananam is what follows. Having received a chunk of information, it is necessary to ponder upon it. Hold it up to the light of existing knowledge, assess it for what is new, and seek to integrate it. This may result in doubts and questions arising. These must be aired with the teacher and discussion is to be had so that the knowledge can adequately settle. (Vedanta doesn’t want blind belief, or sheep wishing all the time to be herded – no, it demands robust assessment and debate so that each student can ‘own’ the knowledge.)

Having resolved the learning, nididdhyaasanam will start to become a habit. There will be plenty sitting and attempting to focus the mind, but only once all doubts are quashed, once commitment becomes firm, once the desire to move beyond gross knowledge into the realm of direct experience is his or hers, can the contemplator genuinely become the meditator.

Where two or more thoughts rub together, thinking is taking place. This is contemplation. Only when the flow of thoughts is suspended can one be said to be meditating. This is the ‘transcendence’ of which much is spoken.

It is not ‘airy-fairy’.

It is not psychedelic.

It is not an altered perception.

It is not achieved by any means other than to work through one’s thoughts to the point where they can be left alone… the thinking will not be about the ironing in the other room, the meal that is to be cooked, the problem at work, this that or the other desire which arises. The thinking will be about the teachings of the Upanishads and about four key statements.

  • Consciousness Alone Is (प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म / prajnaanam Brahma)
  • That (Consciousness) You Are (तत्त्वम असि / tattvam asi)
  • Consciousness and (my)Self Are One and the Same (अयं आत्मा ब्रह्म / ayam aatmaa Brahma)
  • I Am Brahman (अहं  ब्रह्मास्मि / aham Brahmaasmi)

High-falutin stuff, you’re thinking? Yes, it has to be admitted that it is. However, no series of articles on Vedanta and its application in life would be complete without pointing to its higher levels.

When you are at school you are made aware, are you not, of the possibilities of where studies can take you? The chance of going to university might have seemed remote at one point, but then you might find that there is a real passion for one subject or other and you begin to pay more attention, more dedication. Gaining entry to the course of your choice, you discover that as much as you thought you knew, you actually know very little. Learning takes a different turn and more than ever you have to stay focused. What keeps you going is the knowledge that others have achieved the thing you are trying for and that you can too. Sometimes though, you need reminding when the going gets tough. You need to be shown the goal again so you can refocus.

Of course, not everyone wants a specialised, high-level standing. They just want to get on with life. That’s fine, but there is still a need to understand life to get the most out of it. There is a need to obtain a skill-set to support yourself.

We are talking about meditation in this post so, if you find the idea of transcending your mind just too far beyond, do at least consider contemplative activity which keeps you relaxed and focused. Not to escape the turmoil of life, but to help you deal with it better.

That’s a whole other counselling session peeps…

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