and…YOGA

Dhyana Yoga

The International Yoga Day is celebrated worldwide on 21st June.

I will be posting a series of asanas to help get you started! The first of the series is Dhyana – also called meditation. An integral part of the Ashtanga Yoga ( 8 steps) of Patanjali, Dhyana brings a calmness to the mind, and helps one look inward, seeking the Atman, or Self. Try this for at least 10 minutes each day to begin with.

Preferable before sunrise, but if you can’t wake so early, anytime on an empty stomach is fine.

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Panchagni Vidya

Tat Tvam Asi
PANCHAGNI VIDYA, the Theory of the Five Fires, is central to the understanding of the laws of the Universe.
The CHHANDOGYA UPANISHAD lays down a unique template which maps out each activity in the Universe through the prism of chants.  The term CHHANDOGYA  is etymologically derived from CHHANDA (poetic metre).  Even as it presents a five-to-seven fold chant structure, through which all human and natural phenomena are seen, the CHHANDOGYA, at another level, goes deep into the metaphysical dimension of the empirical world.
The doctrine of PANCHAGNI through the story of Svetaketu, the highly learned and educated son of Sage Uddalaka, who, in the course of his travels, turns up at the court of king Pravahana Jaivali.  Having welcomed the learned young man, the King poses some questions to Svetaketu to comprehend how much the young man has learned.
chandogya-upanishad-hridaya
His first question, “Do you know where mortals go to after death ?” perplexes Svetaketu, who is at a loss for words. The second question, “Do you know from where people come when they are reborn ?” confuses Svetaketu.  The third and fourth question, “Are you aware of the two paths through which the soul ascends ?” and “What is the reason this world is able to contain so many people yet not overflow ?” further stumps the young scholar.
The last question, “Are you aware of the Five oblations that are offered, and how the fifth as water / liquid becomes a human ?” leaves Svetaketu at his wit’s end.  He realises that there are fundamental principles of which he is unaware.  So he turns to his father, but he too has no insight into such matters.  His father turns to the King for answers.
yajna-painting
The King initiates Sage Uddalaka into the principal of the Five Fires, in which the COSMOS / SKY is in itself metaphorically seen as a great altar, into which the fuel of the burning sun is offered, from which rises the moon.  The Upanishad lays down this as the first Fire stating that all existence follows this cycle of fire.  The next altar is of CLOUDS, where the fuel is the air from which arises rain.
The third altar is EARTH, where the fuel is time, from which arises food.  The fourth altar is MAN, where the fuel is food, from which arises semen (seed).  The fifth and last altar is WOMAN, to who the seed is offered as oblation, and from whence arises the foetus.
The CHHANDOGYA views Creation at all levels as a sort of YAJNA (sacrifice), where every activity is interconnected.  The birth of a child is not just a simple outcome between man and woman.  The CHHANDOGYA states that the child is conceived from every cell of the universe, and this prompts us to look beyond the obvious, to delve deep into the
fundamentals of whatever we see, hear or touch.
Atman
TAT TVAM ASI is the grand chant of the CHHANDOGYA, the MAHAVAKYA that each of us COMES FROM and ARE that Self, the ATMAN, nothing less.  ———
————-Pranav Khullar.

What should we ask God for?

When people are able to connect to the Divine and to benefit from Divine Grace in their endeavours, the mind gets perplexed as to what it should ask for.

bhagwan-sri-krishna

In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna says that devotees worship him for different reasons-some people only want worldly possessions, power or relief from illness.  There are others who want to understand the mystery of the Cosmos.  And finally there are those who remember the Divine out of sheer affection.  Lord Krishna states further that He loves all devotees and fulfils their wishes in different ways, but the ones who pray to Him just for the sake of love are closest to His heart.
sri-rama
In the Ramayana, when Kevat ferried Lord Rama across the Ganga, He offered Kevat a precious ring in return for his service.  But Kevat was enlightened and knew that there was something far more precious that Lord Rama could bestow upon him.  So he prayed that in return for his service, he may be freed from the cycle of birth and death and be granted eternal devotion.  An overwhelmed Lord Rama accepted Kevat’s request.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the only way to this realisation is through self-unification and evolution.  Sri Aurobindo saw the self as consisting of the physical or body, the vital or emotions, the mental or reason and cognition and the psychic or the dynamic representation of Atman.
aurobindo-ghosh
Often the voices of the physical, vital and reason are so dominant that they bind us in a false identity and we often express ourselves through this falsehood.  The psychic voice is a very faint one, but when we neglect it, it gives us a sense of unease.  We should let our physic see all our parts, movements, thoughts, emotions, desires and will and then accept only that which takes us close to the Divine.
—– Pulkit Sharma.

Sringeri

sringeri-sarada-peetha

SRINGERI, also written as SHRINGERI, is a hill town and taluka headquarters located in CHIKKAMAGALURU District in Karnataka.  It is the site of the first MATHA (SRINGERI SHARADA PEETA) established by Adi Shankara, Hindu theologian and exponent of the ADVAITA VEDANTA Philosophy in the 8th century CE.  It is located on the banks of the River Tunga and is also an historical temple (1,200-years-old).

adi-sankara

The name SRINGERI is derived from RISHYASHRINGA —- a nearby hill which is believed to have contained the hermitage of RISHI VIBHANDAKA and his son.  The Rishi appears in an episode in the Ramayana, where a story narrated by VASISHTHA, relates how he brought rains to the drought-stricken Kingdom of ROMAPADA.

According to legend, ADI SHANKARACHARYA is said to have selected the site as the place to stay and teach his disciples because when he was walking by the Tunga River, he saw a cobra with a raised hood, providing shelter from the hot sun to a frog about to spawn.  Impressed by the place where natural enemies had gone beyond their instincts, he stayed here for twelve years.  He also established MATHAS in the northern (at JYOTIMATH, near Badrinath), eastern (at PURI) and western (at DWARKA) quarters of India.

sringeri-temple

SRINGERI is home to a number of historic temples.  Of these, SRI SHARADAMBA Temple & SRIVIDYASHANKARA and PARSHWANATH Jain Temple are prominent.  Other historic temples nearby are HORNADU, KOLLUR & KALASA.

sringeri-sharadamba-temple

(1) SHARADAMBA TEMPLE, dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom, has grown from a simple shrine dating to the time of Adi Shankaracharya.  In the 14th century, VIDYARANYA is said to have replaced the old sandalwood image with a stone and gold image.  The Temple structure itself continued to be made of wood till the early 20th century.  After an unexpected fire that damaged the structure, the current structure was built in the traditional South Indian CHETTINADU Style of Temple structure.

sri-sharadamba-sringeri

(2) VIDYASHANKARA TEMPLE was built in commemoration of the Pontiff Vidyashankara, around 1357 – 58 CE.  It was built by Vidyaranya, patron-saint of HARIHARA & BUKKA, the brothers who founded the VIJAYANAGARA Empire.  The niches in the Temple have a number of sculptures from Hindu Mythology.  Inscriptions in the Temple record contributions made by several Vijayanagara Emperors, but the Temple was probably built on an earlier Hoysala site as it combines Hoysala and Vijayanagara architecture features.  The Temple architecture is also an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of Medieval South Indian Temple builders.  The main Temple Hall features  12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  Windows and doors along the Temple walls are arranged such that EQUINOXES sunrise views reach the Deity.  The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the Hall during SOLSTICES.  The Temple was built in the year 1338 AD.  It stands on a high plinth and commands a magnificent view from the hills and the slopes all around.  It is more or less a rectangle with  APISIDAL east-west ends.  On the western side is the GARBHAGRIHA, with VIDYA GANAPATI on one side and DURGA on the other side of the entrance.  On the other three sides are shrines to BRAHMA, VISHNU & MAHESHWARA with their consorts.  In the eastern half of the structure is a MANTAPA with 12 pillars, huge monoliths carrying large figures and carrying heavy projecting CORBELS on top.  The central ceiling is an exquisite piece of workmanship with lotus and pecking parrots.  The VIMANA over the GARBHAGRIHA rises magnificently with SHIKARA, MAHAPADAMA & STUPI.  The rest of the roof is made up of sloping channelled slab.  The basement is elaborately sculpted with animals, Siva, Vishnu, Dasavatara, Kali, Shanmukha and so on.  To a student of Hindu Iconography, this Temple is a veritable storehouse of sculpture.

sringeri-temple-1

(3) THE ZODIAC PILLARS, in the Vidyashankara Temple, are popularly known as RASHISTAMBHAS (Zodiacal Pillars).  Among the many delicate carvings, lions that are engraved in biped positions on the pillars may be mentioned.  There are stone balls inside the growling faces of the lions and they can be moved inside their mouths.

vidyashankara-temple

Since SRINGERI is situated in the MALNAD Region, the best time to visit is between October and March.

God’s unseen arm around us

There is an interesting story about a mother who wanted her young son to learn how to play the piano.  She had given him some lessons, and thought that if she took him to a live concert of a great pianist, he might gain inspiration to continue practising.
When they arrived at the concert, they took the front seats.  Suddenly the mother noticed that the boy had slipped away.  At eight o’clock, the stage was illumined by the spotlight as a sign that the concert was about to start.  When she looked up, she saw her son sitting at the grand piano, picking out the tune, TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR.  Then she saw the great musician enter the stage and move towards the piano.
boy-playing-piano
The musician whispered to the boy, “Don’t stop.  Keep playing”.  While the boy kept playing his simple tune, the musician leaned down behind him, and using his left hand played some notes on the left side of the piano to accompany the child with low. bass notes.  He then reached around the child’s back and put his right hand on the right side of the piano and accompanied the child with high notes.  Together, the musician and the child played and the crowd was thrilled.
This is how the unseen Hand of God helps us in our daily life.  Many times we try to do something knowing that we are incapable of succeeding, only to find out that we are mysteriously helped by some invisible force. We often think that we are all alone in the world.  We think that we have to face the challenges of life by ourselves.  But we do not realise that God’s help is always available to us.  At the right moment, we get a helping hand when we think all is lost.
As we walk through the byways of life, sometimes feeling discouraged that we are alone, we should recall how God is always with us.  His arms are always surrounding us, helping us with the high and low notes of life.  God’s arms are always around our back, surrounding us, loving us and protecting us.
—– Sant Rajinder Singhji  

Breaking free of our karma

“Why have you followed the spiritual path for your whole life ?”  There are many answers to this question, but a big one is, “It brings me freedom”.  Freedom to change negative patterns that have kept me in their clutches, freedom to respond with calmness and kindness even when others are angry or challenging, freedom to enjoy whatever life brings.

Swami Kriyananda says, ” When you see a fault within yourself, don’t despair, but rejoice.  It has been there all along, but now that you have seen it, you can start working to change it.”  What are some spiritual tools that help us to break free of our Karmic patterns ?  Karma is simply energy generated by past thoughts or actions that we have steered in a certain direction.


Karma chakra


With conscious awareness and determination, replace a negative pattern with a positive one.  Use affirmations repeatedly with deep concentration to change chronic patterns of thinking.  Be patient.  The deeper the Karma, the longer the time required to change it.  Don’t constantly dig up the spiritual seeds you are sowing to see if they have taken root.  Let them grow in their own time to become mighty plants.

Bring the problem to God in meditation and prayer.  Our sincere efforts and desire to be free draw the grace that brings release.  We have to do our little part, and then God steps in and unties the knots of Karma that have kept us bound.

—————– Nayaswami Devi.  

The Hidden Splendour

A person who meditates sincerely generates tremendous energy within and around him.  Existence blesses him with healing powers that are also felt by others.  The same could happen to a devotee whose prayers originate from his heart and is not a mechanical ritual taught by priests.  Authenticity is needed in both the cases.  The healing with the meditator or the devotee is not something of his own, but a blessing from the divine or God’s grace.  When the flower blooms it has the fragrance that spreads around.
The flower does not go into an ego trip.  In one of his discourses on THE HIDDEMeditation dhyanaN SPLENDOUR, Osho makes this point with a Sufi story :  A Sufi mystic was so full of love and joy  —- his life was filled with laughter, music and dancing.  So God became very interested in because he never asked for anything, he never prayed.  He never went to the mosque, he never even uttered the name of God.
God became intrigued with the mystic and came to the Sufi and said, “I am immensely happy because that is how I want people to be.  I don’t want them to pray for an hour and do the opposite in the remaining 23 hours.  I don’t want them to become pious once they enter the mosque, and when they go back, they leave their piety in the mosque and are just their own selves : angry, jealous, full of anxiety and violence.  I have watched you and I have loved you.  That is why you have become the prayer.  You are, right now, my only argument in the world that something more than man exists —– although you have never argued, you have not even uttered my name, but you live, you love, you are so full of joy that there is no need for any language, your very presence becomes the argument for my existence.  I want to give you a blessing.  You can ask for anything.”
The Sufi said, “But I don’t need anything.  Forgive me, I cannot ask, because I really don’t need anything.  You are generous, you are loving, you are compassionate, but I am so full, there is no space within me for anything else.”  God said, “I knew you would not ask for anything.  Don’t ask for yourself, but you can ask for others, because there are millions of people who are miserable and sick, and have never known anything for which they can be grateful.  I can give you powers to do miracles, and you can change the lives of all these people.”
Yoga meditationThe Sufi said, “If you insist, then I can accept your gift under one condition.”  God said, “Condition ? You are really strange.  What is the condition ?”  The Sufi said, ” My condition is that I should not become aware of what is happening through me, by you.  It should happen behind my back.  It should happen through my shadow.  I may be passing and my shadow may fall on a dead tree, and the tree may become alive again, but I should not know it, because I don’t want to fall back.  If I know it —– that I have done it, or even that God has chosen me as the instrument to do it —– it is dangerous.  So my condition is : a blind man might start seeing, but neither should he know that it is because of me, nor should I know that it is because of me.  My shadow behind my back will do all the miracles.”
And it is said that God said to him, ” You are not only strange, you are unique and rare.  And this will be so : You will never know what things are happening around you.  Miracles will happen.  And I will remember your condition.”
————- Swami Chaitanya Keerti.