…to finish

Hari Om

Full circle. The A-Z challenge is complete and so is my time on this platform. It is an elegance that the verb ‘to finish’ in Sanskrit should be a word which begins with “A”!

It all began with Ahangkaara. If you have arrived here wondering what to read, you can click that link and then forward through in order from the bottom of each page. One could, of course, simply close this site, but why not let it stand as a beacon? It may yet serve purpose.

As comments are closed on the posts themselves, here, should you wish to ask a question, please use the contacts form on the bio page (top right). Note that regular blogging is taking place in the links you see on the sidebar.  For Vedanta and comparative posts, click through to Aatmaavrajanam.

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…ae fond farewell



OM… ShaantiH-shaantiH-shaantiH     Aatman… peace, peace, peace

The three repetitions of peace are to be concentrated on separately as “may there be peace in our bodies/speech/mind as we reach for Aatman.” The ‘sh’ here is one of three ‘ess’ sounds in Sanskrit, each a little harder than the other. This is the ‘hardest’ being pronounced with the tongue full on the back of the teeth and held a little flat. Think ‘zebra’. That’s the closest and is why this is appearing here.

This is chanted at the end of prayers, at the end of puja worship, as a prayer in its own right and as a blessing to others. It is a fitting close to the A-Z month.

The challenge held within these thirty days was, for me, to present such a flow of deep and meaningfuls on the Meno bloggy, a place generally not quite so intense. However, it has been most gratifying to have had so many beautiful comments and ‘conversations’ happening, and it settled my mind about whether any of my regulars would want to visit. Quite a few hung around and didn’t take fright! A few did, though, and that’s okay. I knew the challenge would not be mine alone. Meanwhile, for the few (two) who requested, this WP page was set up for this challenge and only this challenge. Thank you to the readers here… one of the requestees ended up commenting on Blogger anyway! It is my hope that those who have followed closely here will be ready and willing to hop over to Aatmaavrajanam, which is my regular teaching blog.                 Your choice.

The  A-Z Experiencecons. As I had stated in my ‘setup’ post, am not really a blog-hop person. I don’t partake in any social media outside of blogging (hang, I barely even use text on my flipfone). There was a bit of bombardment about visiting as many blogs as possible and leaving ‘hey well done!’ comments. You all know me well enough by now to know that’s not what I do. I also don’t particularly appreciate the ‘thanks for sharing’ kinda thing being left with me – unless it is preceded by something actually pertaining to the post.   I’m an engager. A builder of relationship.  I gave up entering my URL halfway through because I wasn’t reading the list, so why should I expect that anyone would be looking for me? That’s not why I did this**. As one of the lovely places I did visit said in their “Q” post, there ought to be quality, not quantity. This is not to detract from the considerable effort of the organisers – blessings to anyone who commits to such as this on the admin side (been there done that never again). I just didn’t particularly enjoy the vague implication of guilt for not getting to 650+ blogs. I am sure I was not the only one feeling this.

 The  A-Z Experience; pros. I forgave myself the lack of ‘fibre’ to do all that visiting and after two days without sleep settled on 20 blogs where I felt at home; some fell by the wayside, so by the end of the first week it was 17 to visit and enjoy each day. I looked forward to them. Several were working along the same ‘drift’ as myself, several were just quality writing in different forms, and a few were ‘left field’ and fun for that! Some will have served their time in the month, but a few will be added to my blogroll. I loved that I have had good reading, the opportunity to give voice in return and with the ability to agree to disagree on occasion. In return, I have received some fantastic feedback on the posts here, and there has been a real sense of adding to knowledge and making a connection.

Most of all, it has been much appreciated that so many were engaged with my topic. Advaita is not an easy philosophy; having researched widely, it proved to be the one which addressed my need for logic, science and art all combined. To convey that successfully requires skill beyond my own, but if in some small way any part of the last month of posts has touched you, then I am grateful to have been given the words to write them. In this closing stage, I feel it important to impress upon the reader that, whilst there are rites and vigils and other such things associated with a religious activity, Advaita itself is precisely what it purports to be and is not a religion per se. It is a tool for assessment and practice by which we can see our condition and do something to improve it. One of the great joys for me in taking it on to advanced levels is that it allowed me to return to Biblical scriptures with a fresh and critical eye and gain so much more than I ever believed possible. Advaita belongs to no institution and can be freely applied by all. There are advocates for Advaita Vedanta in the faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. None lose by its study. There is only gain.

We all have within us the potential for a ‘Damascan’ experience. Whether we are ready for that or not depends upon our karma, our praarabdha and our guna. If we do have such an experience, it is almost impossible to convey the sense of the profound and Divine. As I commented on another lady’s blog in response to her ‘Damascan’ reveal; “When we receive revelation, much of the world is too ready to be scared and condemn. We who are listening will always find the path to Him which suits us best. For some, that may be Catholicism, for others Methodism, or Mormonism; but equally those of Islam and Sanatana Dharma. What is important is to always be listening to that Higher which we call as God. Problems arise when there are claims of “only” and “my”… All faiths practiced well are joyous and freeing to the spirit, and the participants condemn no other.”

Thank you all. Love and Blessings,

Acknowledgement and gratitude for the company of the following during April:

**sadly, Mcguffy’s Reader, who was my ‘goad’, had lots to deal with during this month and was unable to join in conversation after all.  Sending out continued POTP to her and the ‘anipals’ for whom she cares.

Yaatraaying Along

…outwards and inwards


Yaatraa – journey, expedition, way…pilgrimage

Let me put it to you, dear readers, that we have been on a yaatraa together, you and I. Through what country? To what destination? Why through a few words of the Sanskrit language and the meanings which can be brought out from them. Through the territory known as Advaita Vedanta. Departing from the akshara Akara and landing here at the penultimate post, the last ‘sleep’ before reaching the goal of this particular sojourn. Today, fellow travellers, we reach the letter ‘Y’ according to the English alphabet. The akshara Yakara.

The Sanskrit alphabet, known as Devanagari, is longer (even longer if all archaic forms are used) than the English, so there was no danger of running short of a route to traverse. It has been a typographical yaatraa. Devanagari also runs in a different sound order, but it matters not to take a more circuitous route, enjoying the scenery along the way. When we pause here for breath and look back, does not the picture start to form, the landscape and its undulations make sense?

Those of a tamasika nature would look at the ‘way’ and perhaps make a few steps, but they will readily find distractions, furnish excuses for not continuing. Let them be. They need the dark nooks and crannies for now.

Those of rajasika quality will be determined to travel, but it will not be done comfortably or without complaint. Some straights will be fine, along with the occasional downhill and slow corner… but oh those hills. So many hills to climb within ourselves. There may be argy-bargy, questions tossed, even some barbs thrown. “Why are we doing this again?” Brows knitted, shoulders knotted, muscles tensed and heads throbbing. Mostly though, they will stick through, just in case there’s something in it for them.

The sattvikas are gently finding their footing. They are pulled along by the allure and promise of something truly worth the finding. Our own True Self. They will have been seeing land which looked and felt familiar yet was presented in a different light. The realisation of the common threads, complimenting or even obliterating the differences.

“What’s this?” you are asking, “Yamini-amma’s rocker is fully off the porch now!”

No, dear ones, a yaatraa is not only for the legs and lungs. One might say it is not even for… rather, it is for the mind, intellect and the essential “I”. Walking established routes to places designated sacred is an excellent exercise; but they are designed to make us overcome the body and, ultimately, that monkey mind, the judgmental intellect and the ailing spirit. They do help us to focus on our saadhana – our daily devotional practice and contemplation. For those with good fitness, there could be some attempt at yaatraa in its common application.

Where to then?

For Hindus, yaatraa can be walking to the nearest mandir (temple). There are lots designated as especially sacred. However many folk make plans for the Himalayan yaatraa called the ‘Char Dham‘ – the four holiest abodes. Take it from one who has walked many lands, to walk in the Himalaya is to know something other than land, or sky or ocean or air… There are countless places on this Blessed and Beautiful globe which can embrace you, hold you still and return you refreshed and ready for more life. There is only one place where it is possible to touch Heaven as it reaches down and touches you.

That doesn’t mean one cannot have a full and meaningful journey sitting in one’s own living room! Again, take it from one who has experienced, it is entirely possible to travel on your own floor. All that is required is an empty mind, a full heart and quashed ego. Total surrender and supplication. Make a yaatraa into the core of you. You may be surprised what you discover.



…is no shame


Kshaama – forgiveness  

(There is no ‘x’ in Sanskrit – ‘ksh’ is the closest sound.)

Hello A-Zers! Today, something a little different. My regular blog has a Final Friday of the month post which I wish to keep going. Due to some formatting restrictions here at WP, it is not getting copied here as per all the other posts. I am going to ask you to go there to read it.

Where?                                                  HERE!

The link will open in new tab so you can come back here if you feel you must.

Only two posts left…



…with a wubblewoo



Sanskrit does not have a ‘w’; however the letter ‘vakara’ is here softened, with the lips more together and less tooth on lip, giving something approximate to ‘wvuh’. When applying the ‘schools’ as given below, the ‘d’ preceding consonant softens the vakara even further to ‘wuh’.

As it has been the underlying philosophy of these A-Z explorations, it seems appropriate now to define the subject a little more specifically. Vedanta (note lengthened middle vowel), as was mentioned previously, is translated as ‘end of knowledge’. One learns, however, that it is actually an all-pervasive knowledge when researched to the fullest. In reaching that ‘end’, it all comes round to the beginning…if one subscribes to advaita.

There are six schools of philosophy in Sanatana Dharma (the more correct name for what is generally referred to as Hinduism), of which Vedanta is one. Within Vedanta, there are further variances of understanding.

DVAITA; Dualism. We are we and God is God and the two remain separate. The senior guru of this school of thought is Madhavaachaarya. Even on reaching moksha, the jiivas remain separate from the perfection which is the Paramaatman. Divinity can only be Brahman’s.

ADVAITA; Non-Dualism. All this is That and That is All this. Adi Shankaraachaarya is the acknowledged propagator of this philosophy. This is the oldest school of Vedanta, and it states that Brahman is the only reality and the world is illusory (Maya). Ignorance of the Reality is what causes suffering, and liberation can be obtained only by True Knowledge of Brahman. It states that both the individual self and Brahman are the same, and knowing this causes liberation. The quintessence of Shankara’s philosophy is Brahman alone is real; this world is unreal, and the individual soul is non-different from Brahman. At not time are we anything other than Brahman, we just have to rediscover this for ourselves. All is – we are – Divinity.

VISHISTAADVAITA; “Unique” non-Dualism – version falling between dvaita and advaita. Ramanujaacharya proposed this model. It is a qualified monism; God and the individual souls are inseparable, just like the fire and spark. In liberation, though the jiiva understands Paramatman, it does not merge into It, thus keeping Brahman separate at the final stage. The Divine Life can be lived, but Divinity is Brahman’s alone.

…are you still here? Well done, that’s the dry stuff out of the way! See you tomorrow.


Will be absent from the Hutch for a couple of days; will respond to comments on return.

Vivid Values

…anchors to life


Viveka, vairaagya; discrimination and detachment

Each of the words presented in A-Z here has related to ‘Vedantic saadhana’, (practice), for it is immensely practical and as pertinent to life now as it was millennia past. We can all use words or phrases to make life more positive for ourselves, regardless of where we are on our life path.

That said, for the serious student, there are some very succinct ‘codes’ in the Saadhana Chatushtaya, which has been discussed in several posts of  Aatmaavrajanamto give the names of the four practices, they are, Viveka, Vairaagya, Samadhi-shatka-sampatti and Mumukshatvam. The latter refers to the fact that the seeker, to progress with these saadhanas, requires having such determination, such fervour, it’s as if their hair is on fire. Have a sense of urgency in spiritual research! The penultimate saadhana has a clue in its name that it is split into a further six categories; shama (control of thoughts), dama (control of senses), uparati (withdrawal – keeping oneself to oneself), titiksha (forbearance, fortitude), shraddha (faith – not blind belief, but trust in the Higher) and samadhaana (contemplative turn of mind in daily activity).

Before engaging in the more ‘nitty-gritty’ parts of saadhana, though, it is necessary to understand why one would follow this particular path and how best to do it.

Viveka is the application of upayoga, plus lots of raising doubts, questioning, with the aim of discerning the Real from the UnReal. In Vedantic terms, this means seeing the world/Maya for the illusion that it is and seeing only Brahman everywhere, in, through, around every rock, creature and human being. Viveka doesn’t get caught up in small talks, gossips, flights of fancy. It sees clearly and cannot be tricked.

Vairaagya supports viveka by endeavouring to loosen attachments to the material. This is not to say that one must become cold and unemotional. Not at all. However, it is the control of one’s emotions which allows the mind to move cleanly through troublesome times. There is no useful purpose served in wailing and gnashing of teeth; those things can be cathartic, but they must not be allowed to overwhelm and muddy the waters of discernment. Learning the art of self-containment is what vairaagya is about.

When V&V are in harmony, the shatka-sampatti readily can be applied, and further support the purpose of viveka, reaching towards the goal of Unity with Self.

What use is this to the regular reader here, you who have so willingly come along for this ride? Thinking a little more about what is worth investing your time in and what is not; prioritising the importance of things – for so much of what goes on in life really doesn’t matter – no it really doesn’t. Learning to keep emotions in check is a lifetime’s work but is worth attempting. We can have the feelings, but expressing them appropriately in place and time is a skill which can be developed. It will serve well – whether or not one is taking up a spiritual and devotional activity or not.


Up, Up

…and away


Upayoga – analysis; Upanishad; Utpalinii – lotus

As we enter the final stretch of the A-Z challenge, it is timely to look at how to approach philosophy, a vital part of the Vedantic philosophical literature, and a significant symbol used by many Eastern philosophies.

UPA – is the prefix to the first two words; unsurprisingly it means ‘up’. More widely, it is ‘higher’, ‘above’ and other related words.

YOGA – this has become one of the ‘usurped’ words, like karma. Ashtanga yoga – the exercise discipline –  is familiar to almost everyone, but it relates specifically to the physical. Philosophy is taught with it, to varying degrees, but the majority of practitioners are merely interested in the immediacy of the physical.

More correctly, ‘yoga’ means ‘path’ or ‘way’. In terms of the Bhagavad Gita, where each chapter is called as a ‘yoga’, it refers to teaching which points to the ideal of things. It, therefore, pertains to the pursuit of knowledge. In the case of ashtanga, it is, then, ‘pursuit of knowledge of the eight parts (of the body)’.

Upayoga is to apply one’s higher thinking faculty to the pursuit of understanding – in short, to analyse, to use logic.

It was one of the great attractions of Advaita Vedanta for yours truly that there was no spoon-feeding or doctrinal page-thumping. On the contrary, the challenge was to keep up with one’s own thinking and intellectual prowess. It was demanded. One of Gurudev’s favourite jibes at the end of exploring a text or part thereof was, “THINK!” Often, during the course at Sandeepany, we would find ourselves being stretched further, not quite believing that we had any ‘little greys’ left to activate! More than once, this phrase circulated within this student; “just when I thought I had my best thought thunk, along came more thinking and that thought was sunk.”  No matter how often a thing is repeated, regardless if you have heard the tale before; if you are genuinely listening, are fully open, you will always find something new, something more profound, something you missed.

NISHAD – to draw near. If left open as ‘nishada’ it refers to a musical note. It can also be a mountaineer. Not unwarranted in reference to spiritual researches, for it can sometimes feel like one is climbing a mental Everest! The Upanishads are part of the triumvirate of source texts for Advaita Vedanta. Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras and Upanishads. Their name carries clues as to their purpose; ‘draw close to the Higher’. They are found in the final sections of each of the four Vedas and might be considered (loosely) as the ‘New Testament’ of Hindu practice. The term ‘Vedanta’ literally means ‘knowledge ending’. In gaining this Knowledge, all other knowledge becomes homogenous. When one reads the Upanishads, all other scriptures open up as if new to one. However, not everyone can approach these writings and gain from them as intended. Thus, the Bhagavad Gita offers the same wisdom in a form more accessible to the reader with more pressing need. (For the interested, this book set is highly recommended – Indian residents, check here. There are also CDs and DVDs of Gurudev’s discourses on the Gita.)

UTPALINII – there are very many words for the lotus in Sanskrit. It is so that one can picture the plant in its various parts and presentations. In this case, it refers to the whole plant, from root to bloom and can be used in reference to a grouping of lotus. Why is the lotus so prominent a symbol?

It represents the epitome of overcoming odds. Despite having to live in swampy, dark, dingy, smelly mire. Its broad leaf repels all that falls upon it – an example of how to let troubles drop from our shoulders; its tall stem brings the bloom far above the gloom – an example of how reaching to the Higher can give us a clearer point of view; and its beautiful blossom is the promise and result of efforts made to rise above – an example of how seeking the Higher Self can result in a blossoming of our inner being, which does not worry itself from where it came, only that it can bask in The Light. What is more, the lotus does all this quietly, uncomplaining, with grace and charm.

Whatever our lot, remember the lotus. Become the lotus.


Too Much

…or is that too little?


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.