Archive for April, 2010

Guru Bhakti

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Guru Bhakti is reverential love and sanctified feelings towards the Gurudev.  It is total surrender to Satguru and absolute faith in His words for they are veda-vakyas.  Doing obeisance with humility and reverence, perfect obedience in carrying out his commands, worshipping His lotus feet with love and devotion, listening to His holy upadesh and sincerely practicing it are the multiple expressions of Guru Bhakti.

It is not possible for any aspirant to attain the highest if only he has Guru Bhakti.  The Guru’s grace frees the sadhaka from the thralldom of matter and the fetters of prakrithi.  The surrender at the lotus feet gives peace to the agitating mind and ushers steadiness and composure.  What is the secret of Guru Bhakti?  It is complete self-surrender backed by sincere and earnest effort.  Faith in the words of the guru is the first and the last rung in the spiritual ladder.  The identification of the guru with the supreme is a great stride in the spiritual path.

Guru bhakti is the grace of the divine and is not a result either of intellectual knowledge, interpretation of shastras; good vocabulary; or scholarship.  Meditation, satsang, austerities, and vairagya — (the essence to realize that Paramathma is the abiding and eternal truth and everything else is transitory), induce detachment and dispassion.  The guru will imperceptibly help the aspirant from downfalls and shield him to resist temptation.  The redeeming grace of the guru is a sheet-anchor for a sadhaka.  The impenetrable armour of guru’s grace protects the chela from the piercing darts of the prarabdha.  With surrender, the guru helps to erase the disturbing elements of the mind and gives him strength to do sadhana and overcome maya.  Guru bhakti transforms the ego-sense into infinite consciousness.  It is the culmination of the three yogas and the foundation of the spiritual life.  Without Guru bhakti one cannot proceed even an inch.  Divine Mother Sree Rama Devi has often said to serve mankind is the service of the guru who manifests and pervades as one supreme shakthy.  Guru “uchista” is the bodhana given by the guru.  True and abiding happiness is at the lotus feet of the Guru, but the ringing note is unconditional surrender.

It is conformed on the sadhaka to obey the guru, whose words are “Amritha-dhara” based on supreme knowledge, and a wider and deeper vision, while the sadhak’s knowledge and vision are limited.  It is like a man on the hills who can see miles in front while the man on the plane can see only a small portion.  The only condition for the manifestation of grace is surrender.  Then the “I” will remain an unattached observer of actions and thoughts and be convinced that everything is being controlled by the higher power and the ego should  submit to it.  The ego has to be sacrificed and one needs strong perseverance, but the guru’s grace will protect and aid the aspirant, which he on his own  is incapable of achieving by his own efforts.  True bhakti is a matter of intense feeling and it is unshakeable whatever the trials and tribulations are; his mind remains unmoved.

Guru bhakti is the kernel of dharma.  All Gods are propitiated if and when the guru is propitiated.  We in our ignorance are not able to realize His glory and greatness, just as the sun to our naked eyes seems no bigger than a huge ball due to the distance.  The guru’s grace is the pillar and support for a sadhaka, for it flows in a mysterious way if one only opens oneself with total surrender, and dedication, sincere and earnest prayers.  One can always keep contact with the guru for distance is not a barrier.  Constant communion opens a channel between the guru and shishya, for the grace and light to flow.  Reverence and humility alone can break down the prison walls built brick by brick by ahankara, and crush the web woven by the notion of “I and mine.”  The relationship between guru and shishya is one which goes much deeper than anyone can understand.  He cannot reach the guru by growing higher but the guru comes down in His infinite compassion, responding to his appeals, Disciple should execute guru’s will follow His lead and do His bidding with intense devotion, pure and unselfish motives, and untainted with desires.  Guru bhakthi elevates the mind and culminates in jnana.  The grace of the guru falls on one and all alike, as the rain falls on trees, shrubs, plants, weeds, and grass, uniformly but the growth depends on ones potentiality.  The guru comes not when we want but when we need.

Govind, the farmer, tall with a calm face, friendly eyes, hospitable and God fearing, lived in a village near Dhond, with his faithful wife, and two sweet children.  The rustic farmer lived a simple life, cultivating his few fields, and contemplating on tragedy of life, and the mysterious way of nature: The year passes and never returns, the days of the year are unrolled while the days of his own life are shortened, and how time eludes.  Life like a candle flickers in the wind and vanishes.  Man sits to plan but old age creeps in and his energy is diminished.  The scene of song and dance passes away in the twinkling of an eye, sorrow and misery takes vantage.  Man clings to glory and wealth, vying with one another in the ambitious race for power and fame.  He thus wonders at the instability and the diverse problems confronting life.

Very near his hut, under the deep shade of the spreading branches of an old and majestic tree a few disciples gathered in the evening to pay homage and listen to the words of a Guru.  Govind was extremely eager to join the group of devotees, but knew not how to approach.  Early one morning when he was in his fields at work he saw the venerable Guru passing along the bund of the field. Mustering courage he fell at the lotus feet of the guru, who blessed him and enquired his needs.

Govind replied “Maharaja, I have no desires, my only wish is to surrender and seek peace at Thy lotus feet.”  The Guru smiled, and to test his sincerity and obedience asked him to cut the crop in his field.  Govind was only too glad to carry the behest of the guru.  He ran home to fetch a scythe and started to cut the crop which was yet unripe.  The wife in bewilderment followed him and so did his friends and neighbors, who were amazed at the sight.  They failed to persuade him to desist, for he was too absorbed in his act.  Next morning Govind met his Guru, who had learnt that the crops had been cut.  The guru said, “I may have asked you to cut the crops, but should you not exercise your discrimination?”  “Maharaj,” said Govind “when everything has been surrendered where is the intellect to discriminate?”  The guru smiled and was pleased at the steadfast faith and total surrender of Govind.  At the harvesting time all were amazed to notice that Govind’s crop yielded the thrice the quantity, than it usually did.  The grace worked its own wonder.

– V. R.

Practical Spirituality

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Time is required for mind to adjust and absorb spiritual ideas.  In a sense, knowledge is not inborn-not imparted.  Modern science of semantics shows that words strain, crack and even break under the might of weight thought.

Knowledge is capable of a three—fold classification: (1) Vishayanubhuthi, (2) Vignanam and (3) Gnanam.  The first of the classification is simple sense-perception-what we see and hear, taste and touch.  They are mere sensations which are not knowledge by themselves; which are only the raw-material for thought.  In the second class of the classification are ideas Correlated sensations, i.e.; percepts have become concepts.  Whole realms of facts have become capable of being reduced to ideas.  In the third category of the classification, the first and second of the categories are sublimated.  By a process of transmutation percepts and concepts are oriented to universal pattern to a divine idea.

Thus Gnanam is integration of knowledge.  When integration takes place, no single idea or concept, will stand out isolated from the rest as unexplained or inexplicable.  Our knowledge mostly consists of isolated facts, which do not cohere in a system.  We learn a fact for example, such as; The Vedas were in existence before the cataclysm (pralayam) which changed the face of Central Asia about B.C. 10,000.  We learn another fact such as Running round the waist of a gigantic statue of Zarathusta which remains since ages, in the circular cave in one of the mountains of Bokhara, there is the awful inscription, “I am He who lives and dies.” These two facts, about the antiquity of the Vedas, and about the inscription with its interesting theory of cosmic evolution – these are facts typical of Vignyanic knowledge.  Possibly, in a person achieving gnanam, these two apparently isolated facts will be harmonized, and an orientation may be given to them, which will then cohere in a cosmic setting.

Gnanam is knowledge of deistic evolution in its entire totality.  Only when we know the nature of the Divine, can we know the direction and destiny of humanity.

The central problem of spirituality is the transmutation of Vignanam into Gnanam.  The personality of man is evolving his mental horizon too is widening.  Every effort of man towards Gnanam is a self-surpassing endeavour.

Two virtues pre-eminently qualify man for this self-surpassing endeavour.  They are courage and devotion.  By courage is meant here a deeper quality than physical daring, or mental stamina.  Courage here means impartiality of outlook – the courage to remain with the dangerous truth at all times and in every situation. A Courage “which no shape of danger can dismay, nor thoughts of tender happiness betray.”  A cleaving to truth at all cost.

Devotion here means, not external forms of worship.  It means that which imbues the active neutrality of selfless service.  Not the negative neutrality of indifference to the suffering of others, upon the theory that, suffering is the result of others, upon the theory that, suffering is the result of past Karmas, divinely decreed, and hence unalterable.

There is gradation in virtues.  Courage and devotion, as virtues, are preceded by “Samabhavana.”  This term, with its wealth of spiritual meaning, can be translated into English as environmental harmony—a state of peace with one’s surroundings and fellow beings.  When there is tension and conflict within ourselves, in the mento-emotional level of our being, we cannot know courage and devotion.

Samabhavana requires that we should learn to look at objects, to regard our environments, which include fellow-beings with sympathy and understanding.  This alone can induce in us the sense of spiritual well being, which nothing can perturb, which will never desert us during our worst difficulties.

The advanced minds of our time are beginning to recognize that there are spiritual causes for our physical maladies, that the complete man is not only body and mind not even individual soul, but the universal spirit itself miniaturized.  The psychosomantic system of medicine which is becoming increasingly popular is based upon the theory of making the cure rest upon the patient’s own sense of responsibility; and his own individual efforts of course scientifically guided and directed.  Such trends of thought indeed are happy signs of advancing knowledge.  Without learning the working of our own psyches we cannot develop spiritual insight.

If we long for a life of idealisms we have to work hard upon the preliminary disciplines.  Facility is begotten of effort.  Spiritual vision is only for those who can master the complexities of mind and phenomena.

Behind philosophical controversies is self-evident truth.  Gnanam is self-acquired knowledge of self-evident truth.  The pre-requisites for it are independence and individual responsibility.  Love of independence distinguishes the striving after perfection—whether in spirituality, or in the practical affairs of life.  The beauty of a life free from fear is itself proof of the existence of spiritual perfection.

What is one’s influence upon surroundings?  That determines what sort of person one is if he has inward peace.  Sambhavana, courage and devotion, they will follow him, as a fragrance and as a recognizable beatitude, wherever he will be.  Of Lord Buddha, tradition reports that his holy aura extended for miles from the place of his immediate presence.  This is said of his visible aura.  His invisible aura was verily illimitable, and still operative, through succession of centuries.

Closely connected with this kind of beatitude is the wonderful power of prophecy.  By prophecy is here meant, not the foretelling of upcoming events but revelation of mystery.  This gift is rare even among saints.  It is given only to him who got interior illumination from within himself, not from another.  This power is only for the truly self-realized; the wholly independent; those who have disciplined themselves in the ways of ethical action; who have discovered truth, not only in penance and meditation, but in the perfection of virtuous conduct.

The mysticism of the highest sainthood is not in abstraction from human situation, not in academic knowledge of the absolute, not in possession of occult powers, not in theology of religion, but in conduct, in morality and ethics.  Only those who have achieved personal purity of conduct are entitled to impart moral injunctions (Dharmopadesam) and prescribe ethical codes of conduct.  The experience of others is tainted; their conclusions, hence, are unsound and invalid upon the question of righteousness (Dharma).  Unfailing virtue is not mere conformity to external standards of conduct.  It is in the nature of an unfailing impulse to righteous action, from the super conscious.

Because of this impulse for righteousness indeed in the saintly nature, there is no struggle of the kind that others experience.  In the recorded prayers of saints, there are, no doubt, references here and there to inner struggles.  But they have correspondence to contemporaneous historical conflicts, or to the perpetual predicaments of humanity.  Such historical conflicts, and human travail, may become the background for their spiritual experience.  But their spiritual vision cannot be clouded by them.  The saintly spiritual experiences are like a stairway, each step of which is a jewel of moral virtue.

What make a saint unique are virtues which are referable to intuition.  The mystical utterances all have eternal unanimity with regard to one thing—the indispensability of the moral life.  What is moral life?  It can be defined as a life of honour and truthfulness.  Honour the divinity within; be truthful to the divinity without.  Here, the intimate experiences of the mystic, and the practical conclusions of the philosopher are at last in agreement.

Religious emotion is significant as fostering moral virtue.  Mystical experiences occur in the human context and have tremendous import for their bearing upon the spiritual destiny of man.  The ideal universal prayer finds its classic formulation in the Sanskrit language, “Subhamasthu” which means, may good triumph, may virtue be victorious.  In the moral life is the culmination of spirituality.

–          M. Narayanan Unni