be a light unto yourself

veda vyasa

It is the credibility of the gurus and the saints that makes an anti social element to don the garb of a guru or a saint so as to carry on criminal activities. Remember, even Ravana came in the garb of saint to abduct Sita?

Fortunately though, the kingdom of Ayodhya did not have the treta yuga version of deshi journalists and imported intellectuals who would condemn Ravana, Vishwamitra and Vashistha to the same categroy of godmen and frauds.

When Buddha was dying, Ananda – one of His foremost disciples – started crying and said, “What will I do now? You are leaving and I have not yet become enlightened.”

Buddha said, “Don’t cry, because I cannot make you enlightened — only you can do that miracle to yourself. “Be a light unto yourself — APPO DEEPO BHAVA.”

This has been misinterpreted by many to mean that a person does not require any guide or guru on the spiritual path. But Buddha said this to a disciple who had already evolved to a certain stage in the spiritual path. If He had meant that there was no need for a guide or guru in the spiritual path he would not have taken any disciple at all in the first place and the moment any body came for advice He would have turned them away saying, “APPO DEEPO BHAVA.”

A prominent person of India said in a recent interview, “…… Unfortunately today, with all the bogus spiritual gurus around, people are being misled. My advice is to look within. Meditate. You are your own best guru.”

For this eminent person, presence of some bogus gurus becomes reason enough not to seek a genuine guru. Applying same logic, will he not make any friend because a few friends turn out to be unfaithful? Will he not go to a doctor because a few doctors are engaged in fraudulent practices?

There  are lakhs of gurus and saints in India belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jaina and other dharmic traditions.  A few of them have been tainted with immoral and illegal activities. Even some of them had been falsely implicated as happened in he case of the Kanchi Seer.  Unfortunately, our media only highlights those cases where a criminal used the garb of a saint to cheat. While the saints who are genuinely engaged in pursuit of knowledge and other philanthropic activities do not find even a two line or two second mention in our sensation and TRP driven media.

Moreover,  why should the word guru be used in the spiritual context only? The ancient Indian seers divided knowledge into two broad categories: apara vidya and para vidya i.e knowledge of this world and knowledge of the beyond or,  worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge. So, there are gurus for the worldly knowledge and there are gurus for the spiritual knowledge. While Vyasha, Vashishta and Vishwamitra are spiritual gurus, Dronacharya and Kripacharya are gurus in the art of warfare.

Of course such eminent persons and their ilk do not use the word guru. They may use words like ‘Godmen’ in a derogatory context to demean all Hindu spiritual leaders and figures and dare not say anything about the wrong doings of the religious leaders of Islam and Christianity.

There is reason to suspect the bonafide ‘humanist’ and broad mindedness of such intellectuals when they make a selective attack on the ancient Indian tradition of transfer of knowledge down generations in the Guru-Shishya parampara.

Recently a close aid of the Pope has been accused of serious sexual crimes. A Muslim religious teacher has been found to be raping girls as young as five.  There are black sheep among the religious leaders in every religion. But when it comes to targeting religious and spiritual leaders our media and a section of our elite society target only Hindu spiritual leaders.

It is not surprising that such intellectuals of dubious distinction and mala- fide intentions continue with their vicious agenda to malign Indian traditions. What is surprising is that a section of religious Hindus, who take pride in being experts in scriptures, make  light of the guru. (coincidentally, guru also means heaviness)

I have a friend who has been reading the Bhagavat Gita regularly for the last twenty years. The other day I was surprised when he argued against the guru shishya parampara. He became silent when I pointed out that the knowledge of the Gita is a dialogue between a master and a disciple. The knowledge comes when Arjuna is ready as a disciple to receive the knowledge. The advice did not come as long as Arjuna considered Krishna merely as his friend.

The 7th sloka in Chapter 2 reads: (Arjuan says)

Karpanyadoshopahata swabhavah
pruchhami twam dharmasammudhachetah,
Yatshreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme
Shishyasteham shadhi mam twam prapannam.

(With my natural traits overcome by a sense of helplessness and sin, and my mind perplexed regarding my duty, I ask You – tell me that which is definitely good for me. I am your disciple; teach me who have taken refuge in You.)

The  Bhagavat Gita is a part of  Mahabharata which is  composed by Veda Vyasa on whose honour Guru Purnima is celebrated.

Sant Kabir dedicated many of his couplets (Doha) to the glory and grace of the Sadguru. He assigns Guru with a higher pedestal than God. The inescapable need of a Satguru in one’s life is brought out by the following couplet :

“To find the Guru is a great boon:
without Him, you are lost,
As the moth attracted by the lamp’s flame
falls into it in full knowledge!”

Of course, it has happened in some exceptional cases, like that of Astavakra or Sri Raman Maharshi who attained to spiritual awakening without the guidance of a Guru in Human form. So, one has to examine oneself and see if, one is has already reached to that stage of spiritual maturity, why should one take the trouble to find a spiritual master?

Other than those few exceptions, whether in spiritual life, or material life, or any kind of education,  everybody needs guidance till a certain stage, after which one may go on one’s own.

It is said that when the student is ready the master appears. Maybe, the Master has no role to play when the disciple gains the ability to walk on his own.

Coincidentally, today is Guru Purnima. I bow down with deepest gratitude to each and every one who has played the role of a Guru in my life, in matters material as well as spiritual.

ageing gracefully

 

Once somebody asked His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – ‘How can we age gracefully?’  Pujya Gurudev answered,  (with a mischievous smile and a small subtle gesture toward himself) “Like this! See you are really asking how to look attractive. Your desire to look attractive makes you unattractive! If you want to look attractive, have that feverish desire that makes you unattractive. But if you are calm, serene, then that brings beauty….”

Indian BloggersQuite often ageing ‘gracefully’ is equated with sporting a youthful look and many industries now survive selling those dreams. Some people go to great lengths to prove to the world that age has not withered their physical powers in any way even though they might have added a few wrinkles. There was this US millionaire who married an eighteen year old girl when he was eighty six. He spent millions and hired many top scientists to do research on slowing down aging process.

Many wise men have come up with prescriptions and consolations for the problems that come with advancement of age. “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul”, says Samuel Ullman while Jeck Benny philosophizes, “Growing old is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. However here is a nice piece of advice from Ogden Nash, “Old age begins and middle age ends the day your descendents outnumber your friends”.

In India, traditionally, a certain amount of grace and respect has been attached to aging and in many families the eldest enjoys the veto. While the problem of aging has been an engaging concern in the west since long, with the disintegration of joint family and deterioration of family values it is becoming an ever increasing matter of concern in the east as well.

Be it on the popular films or the media, the solutions suggested mostly emphasise on being young at heart in line with what John Kenneth Galbraith said “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon our heart. The spirit should never grow old.”

Some would like to continue to be young in their acts as well.  “I’m not in the least interested in growing old gracefully; I want to grow old disgracefully, with a gleam in my eye. I want to carry my own wood into my cabin on the day that I die,” said Leslie Kenton.

Worse than the obsession of hiding the wrinkles is the self inflicted pain of aging regretfully. Unfortunately, a great many of today’s middle aged and aged subscribe to it. While those concerned with freezing the marks of old age live in an utopian future, those aging regretfully live in a perpetual ‘should have’ past. The latter may agree with Mark Twain’s saying “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”, – as if old age is not meant for smiling at all.

A simple antidote to aging regretfully would be to age gratefully.  When one ages usefully, aging gracefully is a natural follow up. May be that is what Pujya Gurudev indicated when  questioned about aging gracefully.

It is not that only when one has some kind of official or formal position, one can age usefully. Just an intention to change the dynamics from trying to be the centre of attraction every situation to giving attention to others will work wonders. One of the common complaints of the aged is- “Now no one cares for me, nor do I command the respect or awe  that I used to have”.

sri sri ravi shankar
Sand art tribute by famous sand artist of Odisha – Sudarshan Patnaik

(When we talk of aging gracefully and usefully, who can be a better example than Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself. By the way, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar steps onto his sixty first year today. Wishing him all the best. He has been a guiding light to millions in mastering the Art of Living. May his grace continue to flow for ages to come.)

Of self discovery and spirituality

May be somewhere at the age of twelve I started to have deep feelings of uselessness of life. The feelings continued off and on. Pressing responsibilities and needs, first of a student life, then of a professional and family life drowned out the inner call.

Of course, since childhood I had been interested in yoga and meditation. I used to do certain practices following the instructions in some books that I had come across. However, I was not having any deep  feeling or any significant progress as an amateur self taught pilgrim of the spiritual journey. But my self taught yogic practices continued from high school till the first year of college. Then, sometime in the second year I discontinued the yogic practices and my lifestyle took 180 degree spin off.

Indian BloggersIt is said in esoteric spirituality that every spiritual / non-spiritual  cycle lasts twelve years. It may be a matter of pure coincidence that after my third 12 year cycle,  I started again to search for answers to some of the existential questions that had bothered me every now and then: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Is there any use in this thing called life? yeh jina bhi koi jeena hai yaro? These feelings of inner emptiness, uselessness, meaninglessness continued for quite some time. I turned my attention to a variety of spiritual literature. But nothing satisfied me.

One day while channel surfing on TV, I got stuck with an interview of Sri Sri Ravishankar taken by Pratibha Advani. I do not remember what exactly was the question or what was the answer, but I had a feeling that I  got a starting point for the answers to some of the disturbing questions in my mind. Then, one day out of curiosity I went to the Art of living center to inquire about their workshops. It was a Tuesday and I was told the next workshop known as the Art of Living Basic Course was to start in two hours.Without thinking much I enrolled my self. Then I was in Hyderabad.

The six day workshop, for me was sheer bliss. By the end of the course my journey of self discovery had begun on a serious note. After that I visited the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru and met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I also did many advanced courses.

Of course till now I have not got the final answers to my ‘existential’ questions. The quest of self discovery is still on. But the difference is, now I have the feeling that  I am on the way. As I continue with the spiritual practices and knowledge, I experience many positive changes in my attitude towards life and society.

Different people may have different experiences and opinions about Art of living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But one thing I know is that the word bliss cannot remind me, first of all,  anything other than the Art of Living.

I have realised that one need not be a believer of anything to experience the bliss of meditation, yogic practices and mystic glimpses into the nature of truth.

sri sri quote.jpg

In addition to Sumelika Das, I must thank Cattie’s World  for being the inspiration for this post.