Flopping Around

…just for today

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Phapharaayat – darting to and fro

(the aspirated ‘p’ is closest to ‘f’ as in ‘photo’)

Feeling Frayed???

We all have times in our lives, even in each day, where we feel a little out of control, turning in circles or darting to and fro. Usually, the best thing to do is say STOP! Take a breath, step back, do something completely different and then return refreshed and ready for the fray again…

It’s Friday, let’s take a break. There’s a regular Feature over at my true blog – it’s a Film clip. Why not pop over and Futz with it?

Embrace All

…we are one, you and I…

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Ekaanvaya – of the same family…you won’t have to be a genius to see where this one is headed… We Are One.

Right, having said it out loud, how many of us truly feel the unity of Mankind? Heck, I know a great many people who struggle to feel unity with their own family. Where’s the hope in their understanding – or even wanting to – the commonality of our condition?

There has never, ever, been a time in our history where we have not seen division amongst us. It goes back to the ahangkaara thing. “I-ness” and “my-ness”, claiming ownership, territory, power, wealth. Acquisitiveness, envy, lust, anger, greed, ambition… the list is long for the traits of the ego which keep us separate. Initially, these traits were about survival. We must never forget that our physical make-up is the same as all the animals which populate this planet and the only thing which separates us is the intellect. The opposable thumb is nothing without the thinking power to utilise its potential.

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That thinking power is both our most dangerous trait and our saving grace. We became clever at justifying poor behaviours and its consequences.  We have made arguments for mass destruction of the environment or whole societies. Equally, we have – and can – counteract those arguments and we can rebuild and heal with clear thoughts and pure intentions.

We can all point to the wider society and point out what is going wrong, but what can we do about it? We can take responsibility for ensuring that on a personal level we are matching the expectation we have of that wider society.

A problem will lie before us if our view of wider society is that it ought to be segregated and ‘me-centric’. If we think that society ought only to be as we are, then we are going to have a life of great disappointment. A rich and thriving society understands it is made up of individuals, that diversity is healthy, that cultural exchange removes fear. It respects difference with deference. Each individual within it knows that the person over there who looks so very opposite, who lives and eats in a way that challenges, who may worship strangely, is still a human being. Their bodies are made up exactly the same way and they have brains and abilities to match the next person.

An intellect which argues for difference, for separation, no matter its I.Q. is dangerous in the extreme.

Currently, we live in times where leaders are emerging who wish to separate rather than congregate. “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours I would like to be mine…” There were times when it was just a case of throw a spear and march a few horses or elephants. Now it is done so very subtly, under a layer of uncivil civility.

Those of us who are able must continue to live the life of understanding unity. That We Are One. That the human race has not destroyed itself thus far is down to the balance of those who can see the picture of Unity and those who seek to destroy it. Thus far, Unity as won.

To think Unity, one must not simply think in terms of not hating, one must think, feel, and live Love with the capital ‘ell’. Only then can we live ekaanvayatva.

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Do It Just

…with ease, please

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Daana. Charity. We all know about charity, right? Most of us will drop a few coins or notes here and there. Some of us will do a lot more, or at least give regularly.

However, the act of handing over is prompted by all sorts of things within us. Daanam karoti, the act of giving is not necessarily accompanied by a genuine and considered compassion. The fact that charity has become big business, that it advertises like big business, uses marketing ploys like big business… well, we also know, don’t we, that this has led to the same sorts of problems as big business for those charities.

The paths of good intentions.

 

There’s no doubt that there is a need for these mega-charities. Then there are the ‘thons’, those sponsored television and multimedia events which have proliferated this century, where giving becomes a competition. In both cases, they pull at the strings of the emotional beings, tug the chains of conscience, or brush the egos of the ‘wannalookgoods’. They all use some of the funds to fund the fund-raising (not all of them but most). They have their place, the world – and the beneficiaries at the end of the chain – need these organisations and events.

The problem with giving to these places, the high profile ‘wells’, is that we cannot really have any personal connection with the charity process itself. We put our money in and it is like pouring a bucket of water into the ocean. We’ve added to the volume, but how can we see that? Do we even want to?

Daana needs to be personal, it needs to be involved, it needs to see the difference being made. By all means, add to the ocean – as much as you are able – but consider, also, the ‘brooks and streams’. Those smaller charities, hands-on, focused and determined to participate in the alleviation of a social problem. In India, I experienced much local daanam karoti. The whole thinking about giving is different. It opened my eyes.

Families would set up their own mini-charity for, say, a home village and build what was needed as and when they had the funds. One to which I was close, succeeded in creating a fully-functioning ablutions block for their village, separate facilities for ladies and gents and a laundry yard to the side. Their next project was to turn the under-tree classroom into an actual building – which has recently been achieved.  Now, these are things for which, if they had chosen, the family charity could have applied to one of the Biggies and waited their turn. The philosophy of daana, though, meant not waiting to be rescued but taking action to escape. It is a prime example of charity begins at home. The villagers could do the work, they just needed the resources and that was provided by one of their own who had made good in the big city. This is going on all over India – and, quite likely, in Africa, the Orient and many other places that we shall never know or read about.

I mentioned the ‘thinking’. Here’s the thing; how many of us here in the affluent West can truly and honestly say that we give freely without a second thought as to how we are going to budget without that money? This is the key difference that I observed and have experienced between what we call charity and what is known as daana.

My own personal circumstances are very restricted, financially, but in the last decade, I let go of the ‘poverty mentality’ which meant that there was always never enough. Instead, I followed my Indian friends’ understanding of giving. That it be without any second guessing or with-holding. That it be to a place or person where I could see the effect of that giving. Then that I pray for the opportunity to give again. What happens is that there is always enough. Tight, yes, but always enough. I have also learned that I can be on the receiving end when it is appropriate and deserved. The adage ‘what goes around comes around’ applies. The comparatively recent movement in the West of ‘pay it forward’ comes from that same place in the heart.

Give without expectation. Give meaningfully. Give not because you have to but because you want to. Most of all… Give.

Tropinhanaa

 

It Matters

…does the matter of conduct

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Charanavat. Of good conduct. cr/char = conduct; by extending with the [/n, if relates to walking and to stability by reference to the root of a tree, or pillar; vt!/vat = possessed of.

One might ask, ‘is this not the same as yesterday’s post?’ The answer would be, ‘no.’ Brahmacharya is certainly about good conduct, but it is contained only with ourselves. Charanavat is our conduct in our external dealings, with other beings and with the environment.

This may seem an obvious word to use in relation to self-improvement, but the point is, how well do we apply it?

It pays to be questioned at times, to be challenged. It pays to question ourselves and hold ourselves culpable for falling below the mark.

What is the mark, exactly?

Each must decide this for themselves. However, there are some marks which are quite generally accepted by society as to what is appropriate behaviour and what is not. That is what rules and law are about. The basics, then, are clear.

At a personal level, though, we can do better than the basic – can’t we? This is why people join up with various spiritual organisations, or other groups which hold high philosophical ideals that we are expected to adhere to if we seek to properly belong and, what is more, attain the self-improvement we seek. It is how self-help billionaires have made their money, cashing in on people’s desire to get better at being who they think they are.

Here’s a rocker for you. It should cost you nothing other than your purushaartha, your self-effort. The Lord helps those who help themselves.

Most of us need something to get us properly on the road, though. So joining a group is absolutely fine. Until the time when we can properly and consistently walk on our own, we need our aides. People who are travelling with us and who can offer support and guidance and point out where we might be going adrift. We need guides to help us see ourselves and to learn how to measure our conduct against the standard we have chosen.

Today, then, think about the current level of conduct, at work or home, and consider whether there might be cause for raising the bar, for working to improve. Regardless how high your standard, it might be surprising to find that there is still room to lift.

Razminky

Keep It Contained

…restraint is the better part of values

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Brahmacharya. Continence. Mostly this term is used in connection with abstention from physical relations. I, for example, as well as being an aachaarya (spiritual teacher), am brahmacharini, single marital status and celibate. It is a choice, not an unavoidable condition!

What use is this knowledge to the general public, to the readers here? Well, the purpose of my A – Z offerings is to provide prompts for self-improvement. Brahmacharya, whilst it can be taken for the purely physical aspect of sexual restraint, is also to be taken at the philosophical level. Self-discipline. This means that we must consider all the potential for distraction and impurity in our lives. A clear and obvious example might be language. If our words are unclean, then our minds certainly are. Brahmacharya cannot be applied if our minds are not resolved to continence also.

It would be obvious, given its meaning, that to watch or listen to porn would be an absolute no-no. It would be fair to assume that the majority of readers here would not go there anyway. However, consider this… zombies, snuff-movies, other horror genres, movies and shows in which the language and behaviour are of the gutter… all of these assault and demean us as much as any brazen sexual act. Certain types of music aggravate us – even if we think we like the stuff, it is polluting us. A great many of the popular television and films now would not be considered fit for one who wishes to embrace brahmacharya. They appeal to the baser nature, to the animalistic part of our being. Something, once seen, cannot be unseen. It is, therefore, a pollutant. Impurity is the result. We have to work harder to scrub it away.

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The goal of any self-improvement is to have full health and well-being and to be able to sit well in society. We can do all the running, weight-lifting, dietary control and so on, but ultimately, if we are taking in only junk food and mind-altering drinks and substances, at best all we are doing is keeping status quo.  What determines whether all that effort will hold, and whether we are generally worthy folk, is the state of our mind. If we cannot be continent in our thinking, nothing we physically do will fix us. Virtually everything which will take us to good physical health, and bring us to the best we can be, begins at thought-level.

Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of Singularity is all about learning how to overcome our inner hurdles, deal with the monkey mind and improve our intellectual power. This is achieved best through the application of brahmacharya.

This is not novel. It is not restricted to we who chose to walk a spiritual path. Here’s the thing… self-control and discipline are important aspects in any walk of life. One may be married, but can still apply this principle. Do not be wanton. Understand purpose. Desire for a better you, deeply felt, will spark the process of brahmacharya.

It Begins With…

The ego. Self-development must always begin with the ego…

Welcome! This is to be my very first attempt at joining in the A – Z challenge and my theme is   ‘WORDS…possibly wise’. The ‘alphabet’ of words will all be Sanskrit, but given that Sanskrit has no actual ‘f, q, w, x or z’, the sound equivalents will be used.

We begin with –

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Formed from aham = “I, myself” and kaara = the process of doing. Thus, ahangkaara = in the processes of ‘being me’. The subtext to ego is Attachment.

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It is a good place to start as, necessarily, it is how we identify. As a Vedantaachaarya, it might have been possible (or made more sense) to have completed this series on the teaching blog, but there are two key reasons for not doing so.

  1. It has a set flow and ‘curriculum’ and to interrupt it for this challenge, which is purely a personal activity-choice, would be exerting the ego upon that blog
  2. On that blog, at no time do I, as the teacher, ever refer to myself in the first person pronoun. What I teach is not mine to own. To claim it as such would be highly egotistical – not to mention a flat-out lie.

While the A – Z presents an opportunity to share some insights to Vedanta, it will also be good to have a little more personal freedom, to be able to say ‘I’ in order to relate examples and to point to myself as a ‘work in progress’. Am looking at this challenge not to teach Vedanta, per se, but to give insights as to how life can be viewed through its lens and how that is exceptionally close to how most would wish to live.

When I first went to the Sydney ashram, I was asked by the aachaarya, “Who are you?’ I, of course, responded as almost everyone does (and as you thought right now on reading it) – with my name. When I went to Sandeepany, the same question was asked and the first response was our names. We were asked again, more firmly, and the next response was to fall to a statement of the work we had been doing -‘I’m  a homoeopath and counsellor’… then the question would come again, even more pointedly, ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ By the completion of our studies, having peeled away the layers of identity, we all knew we were something other than our small, individualised selves. We are but beams shed by the Source of light. The Source never diminishes, but the beams only have a finite time to shine. Sadly, each individual forgets its Source and thinks that it shines of itself. It identifies with its shape and form. The Source needs to be remembered to make its existence worthwhile.

Overcoming the ego is central to progress not only as a Vedantin but as a human being whose driving force is Love with the capital ‘ell‘. Spreading Love can, however, become an egotistical act. One must always guard against self-serving motivations, even for acts of charity and compassion. The ego seeks approval, it hungers for attention, longs for recognition. It wants and needs to feel good about itself. A balanced self-esteem is important for healthy social interaction, but it is fragile if we attach everything to it. To attach is to open oneself to a sense of loss when that attachment is no longer available to us. We all fall prey to it, some more than others.

To break our attachment to the material world (and, therefore, our ego), we must do it in stages. Gradually shift attachment to something Higher; for example – substitute chocolate with the ideal of rising half an hour earlier each morning, substitute caffeine with the ideal of giving regularly to charity… it is not that you must not have these things, but that you must not have an attachment to them. Attachment is recognised by the ‘I must have…’ which precedes the taking of these things. It is recognised be the feeling of a sense of lack if the objects of our desire are not obtained. Gurudev used to say, “You enjoy the coffee, let not the coffee enjoy you!” It may seem mundane to talk of chocolate and caffeine, but it is to demonstrate how the human psyche grows attached, dependent on so much. If one cannot break these peripheral attachments, how much harder will it be with the deep and powerful attachment to family, and to the body?

Of course, there will be those who are reading this wondering why would we want to do this at all. Mind you, they probably haven’t read this far down the page… if you have, then you have the intellectual curiosity for delving into the human condition. You may not subscribe to ‘God’ – and be clear, neither does Vedanta, in the sense that most think of it – but you almost certainly do subscribe to the concept of ‘being human’, which is something very much ‘other’ from the rest of the existing world.

It is that small spark of deeper awareness which has enthralled Mankind since thinking began and which has been brought down to our level, rather than us raising ourselves to That. All through history are littered the saints and sages who proved time and time again that it was in rising above our physical and mental limitation, in the superimposing of Higher things to quash the ego, that great things could be achieved. Not material things, but purposeful, meaningful, life-assuring things. Just such a sage was Yeshu, the carpenter’s son.

Who are you?

Will you choose to roll away the stone of ignorance of the True You, the Self at Source?

Blessed Easter and हरि  ॐ 

 

The First

…opening gambit

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Vignyapti – Announcement

This is the grand opening of a WordPress version of my Blogger Blog – see sidebar for the explanation. My blogs are ‘domiciled’ in India, time zone UTC +5.30h, so for the majority of readers, it will all look to be half a day early.

The posts here might be considered as a pilgrimage. Or not.

Either way, tomorrow we begin…

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