Thursday, April 14, 2011


We have spent a year studying the concepts underlying ADVAITA and the BLISS or ANANDA that is of the nature of experiencing BRAHMAN and the state of ADVAITA.
We now proceed in our exploration of how to reach that understanding or experience the Bliss of Advaita. This is called SADHANA and we welcome you to a new blog where we extensively study ADVAITA SADHANA :
One can conceive that each of these blogs as they emerge are chapters of a book.
I am grateful for your support during 2010 and seek your continued support and involvement during 2011 and onwards.
Warm regards, love and God Bless

Thursday, December 30, 2010


We have traversed the whole cycle from apparent nothingness to the manifestation of the universe with its vast expanse and its diversity.

We noted the Vedantic concept of an all pervading Brahman, slowly stirring into movement and the emanation of a basic vibration, a sound called the Omkara.

From this basic vibration, in space, called the Akasha principle, manifests the vayu principle, the agni principle, the jala principle and the prithvi principle.

The prithvi principle is the plane of existence in which we operate in our waking state. The material universe is the physical manifestation of the prithvi principle.

The jala, agni and vayu principles form the subtle universe, the mental level.

The Akasha principle constitutes the super-subtle or causal universe.

This three fold concept of the manifest universe comprising the physical, mental and super-subtle levels, all integrated into one, is called the jivA, at the individual level, and prakriti/iSwara at the global or cosmic level. The jivA is a part of prakriti.

Prakriti comprises both living and non-living manifestations. The living manifestation comprises the same electrons, protons and neutrons that form non-living manifestations, but it is especially distinguished with the existence of a new principle called prAna or the life principle. Science has so far not been able to isolate or identify prAna or measure it. However, we do know that the entire prithvi principle is permeated with prAna and the living creatures are fitted out with various equipment to absorb prAna from prakriti.

At the scientific level, plants absorb carbon-di-oxide and exude oxygen. Animals and human beings absorb oxygen and exude carbon-di-oxide. The metabolism of a plant is different to the metabolism of the animal and the human being. While the structure of both plants and human beings is strikingly different in physical terms, what is common is that both need prAna to function, to live.

Thus prAna transcends, is superior to, and is subtler than the physical gases such as oxygen and carbon-di-oxide. The body of a plant needs carbon-di-oxide and the body of a human being needs oxygen. But both need prAna.

PrAna, therefore, exists at the subtle level of the universe. Where does prAna come from? Obviously it is a product of the causal level of the universe. The source of prAna is the AtmA.

The AtmA is manifest Brahman and at the causal level is called Isvara. Iswara is conditioned Brahman. From this emerges the subtle level called the hiranyagarbhA comprising mind, prAna and everything that is subtle. From this emerges the physical level called vaisvAnarA.

The non-living physical universe is the AdharA, ground or basis on which the living physical universe is born, grows and dies out, in varying life-spans. This concept of the cycle of life brings in the principle of time.

The passage of time depicts the occurrence of a sequence of events in succession. But it is cyclical, that is, it repeats itself endlessly.

Progression of events is cyclical and unending. Cyclicality implies beginning and ending. So how can that which has an end be unending? The ending is followed by a new beginning that has a new ending and so on. It is called the kAla chakra, the wheel of time. It continually rotates.

The cyclicality is observable in prakriti. The earth rotates and so in relation to the sun causes the passage of day and night. This happens all the time. It is unending. Similarly in relation to the moon, there is a fifteen day period when the moon is apparently waxing, culminating in what is known as full moon or poornima. This is followed by a fifteen day period of waning ending in the new moon or amavAsya. Thus the concept of the month takes shape. This happens all the time, but for six months the days grow longer compared to the nights and is called the uttarAyana. This is followed by a six month period when the night grows longer than the days and is called dakshinAyana.

Thus is born the concept of a year or samvatsarA. This is caused by the revolution of the spinning earth around the sun. There is cyclicality in the passage of years. The unit of measurement is a mahayuga which comprises 4,320,000 years. This is the basic unit of one cycle of manifestation (srishti), evolution (sthiti) and de-manifestation (laya). Each mahayuga gets divided in the ratio 4:3:2:1 into four yugas:
Krita or Satya 1,728,000 years
Treta 1,296,000 years
Dvapara 864,000 years
Kali 432,000 years

We are currently in the 5010th year of the current kali yuga.

Manifestation, evolution and de-manifestation (or re-absorption) is cyclic. It continually takes place. 3, 893,000 years of the present cycle have already passed. Scientific studies, observations, radiometric dating, archaeological excavations, studies of biological diversity, fossils, etc have all indicated a broad concurrence with the above numbers.

Human beings are said to have appeared some 2,000,000 years ago, that is, sometime during the treta yuga. The huge pyramids and sphinx in Egypt, the massive stone figures of Easter Island at the southern tip of South America, the edifices in Mexico and Peru, all bear mute testimony to bygone civilizations with larger than life creatures. The dragon, venerated and feared in China and part of the European tradition could represent a species of dinosaurs.

The human being is universally considered as the pinnacle of manifestation. The human is considered most capable of understanding the processes of manifestation, evolution and de-manifestation because he is endowed with the gift of intelligence. Evolution is a natural process and the progressive remarkable capabilities displayed by human beings are a proof of the march of evolution.

Man is programmed to traverse, everyday of his life, through the three states of deep sleep (pure consciousness), dreaming (only mind) and wakefulness (mind and body). Through the revelations contained in the Vedas and VedAnta, through the interventions of the avatAra purushAs and through the extensive guidance of masters, saints, gurus, and enlightened souls, man has been made aware of Brahman.

He has gradually come to realize that the cyclical evolutionary processes in the outside world and in the universe are entirely meaningless unless he grasps the underlying truth that the external appearance is transitory, changeable and false. It is the innermost core, the essence of the universe, the cause of manifestation, Brahman, alone that represents the truth.

The Vedanta declares:
Brahmaiva satyam

That truth cannot be understood by studying the processes of evolution and the outside world. That truth has to be experienced internally within the core of oneself.

The automatic programming of human life into the three states of deep sleep, dreaming and wakefulness, can at best help one to understand the three strata of one’s personality, that is, soul (Atma), mind and body respectively. But it is only by consciously, deliberately detaching oneself from the body, its associations, and then the mind that one can hope to reach into the Atma to experience Brahman.

The Vedanta states:

PragnAnam brahma

Consciousness is Brahman
and again
Ayam Atma brahma

This Atma is Brahman

To experience Brahman, one not only has to detach one’s awareness from the world, from the body, from the mind, but also become conscious of the vasanas which take the form of conditioning, of predispositions, of desires, of feelings, of attachments. One has to become aware of them and then give them up. This is called sAdhana.

The experience of Brahman, brahma anubhava, or Atma anubhava, is an indescribable experience because it is beyond all thought and feelings. We only have the evidence of the great ones who have attained that experience, their declarations, and their expressions, to guide us. The categorical declarations of realized souls like Sri Sankara, Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana Maharishi, serve to inspire and guide us.

This experience of Brahman has been described in many ways in the Vedanta:

Satyam Sivam sundaram
(Truth, auspiciousness, beauty)

Asti bhAti priyam
(Existence, feeling, love)

Sath chit Ananda
(Existence, awareness, bliss)

ShAntam, Sivam, advaitam
(Peace, auspiciousness, unity)

These declarations contained in VedAnta and expressed at various times during the process of evolution, contain the essence of the experience of Brahman.

The experience of Brahman is the only true purpose of human life. When a person attains that, then the cycle of that particular soul is complete and ended finally.

A spark of Brahman which manifested as an Atma, collected various vasanas through millions of lives, misconstrues its own nature, forgets its true nature, finally attains perfection and becomes aware that it is Brahman again. The cycle is complete for that soul.

This is the aim of life, the true purpose of life. It is called moksha. It defines the strategic objective of life.

All other aspects of life, such as parentage, tradition, nationality, religion, education, marriage, family, career, power, fame, authorship, success, wealth, name, acclaim, everything for which one appears to have been trained and guided by life is purely incidental.

It is the attainment of the experience of Brahman which is one’s true Self, and the innermost Self of everything around us, that is the only worthwhile objective of life.

This objective is defined as

Advaita Ananda

The bliss of One-ness or unity

The question then arises:
How do I go about it?
I am in the middle of my education or my career
I am married or greatly desirous to be married
I have a family or want to have a family
I have duties and responsibilities
In the midst of all this how can I possibly attain the bliss of Brahman?

The simple answer is:


We are grateful to you for your encouragement, your support and your understanding as we have traversed through the year and reached this point.

Now we welcome you to join us in the adventure of sAdhana.

Understanding the goal is the first step. Taking the necessary action is the second step.

One of the simplest and most beautiful expositions on sAdhana is the exquisite Sanskrit and Tamil compositions of one of the greatest advaitins of these times, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi. It is called upadeSa sAram or the Quintessence of Instruction.

This has been the chief guideline for us in this life and we welcome you to explore it with us in the coming year.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi came to a sacred place in Tamil Nadu called Tiruvannamalai as a teenager in 1896 and stayed there all his life till 1950.

At this time of the year, every year, a sacred flame is lit right on the summit of the Arunachala Mountain. It is called the Karthigai Deepam and a huge wick is created out of hundreds of yards of cloth, immersed in ghee and ceremoniously lit. The flame is visible for miles around and symbolizes the light of knowledge. Incidentally, the temple of Arunachala Shiva at the foot of the mountain is called the agnikshetra, the location of the agni principle.

This year Karthigai Deepam fell on November 21, 2010. May the light of knowledge illuminate your mind!! May you attain the bliss of Advaita and Brahman!!!

Nirmala has left nearly 500 books and extensive notes on a wide variety of topics to work on and share with the world she loved and cared for. How can I thank you all for your understanding these last few weeks when the total architecture of my life changed in one moment? All I can do is to complete the four main projects she entrusted me with and motivated me and gave me confidence that I could do it. So you will keep hearing from me in the coming months and years till the breath leaves this body and the Divine Principle and Nirmala decide that duty has been fulfilled.

May 2011 bring to each and every one of you all that you hope for, all that you have yearned for and all that is auspicious and good. Learn to use your discrimination to choose what you really want and yearn for. The Vedas state that merger with the Divine Principle is the only one worthwhile objective of human life. Ponder over this and do what you think is right.

Love God Bless

Monday, November 1, 2010


We understood the concept of Maya in the last chapter to mean the inherent power of Brahman to manifest in the multitude of forms which we call the Universe. This power, also called Shakti or Devi, is inherently a composite of the three Gunas and is therefore called ‘Gunamayi’. It manifests as mobile and immobile forms and so is termed ‘Characharamayi’. It is of the nature of sound and is thus called ‘Vagmayi’. And it is entirely auspicious and is called ‘Srimayi’.

The resultant manifestation is considered as the feminine principle, as mother, as nature, and is termed ‘Prakriti’. The English word ‘create’ or ‘creative’ is undeniably linked to the Sanskrit ‘Kriti’.

As we have seen, this principle is also called ‘Narayani’ and is thought of as a sister of ‘Narayana’. What does this relationship between Narayani and Narayana symbolize?

It means they are children or offshoots of the same source. This source is Brahman. If Narayani represents the Universe then what does Narayana represent?

Narayani is inherently ‘Gunamayi’ or a product of the Gunas which represent Karmas or Vasanas. Narayana is also manifestation but He is free of Karmas and Vasanas.

Narayani is the conditioned guna-filled karma-ful or vasana-ful Brahman. Narayana is unconditioned guna-less karma-less or vasana-less Brahman.

Narayani is the ever-present ever-changing Universe. Narayana is that rare extremely infrequent pure manifestation of Brahman and hence as a principle is unchanging and permanent.

That is why Narayana is considered extremely rare and precious when it occurs. This occurrence of Narayana is called the ‘Avatarana’ or ‘descent’ of Brahman in its pristine unconditioned form right in the midst of Narayani or Prakriti. Brahman appears as Narayana endowed with all the three attributes of body, mind and soul but without karmas. He is therefore also called ‘Pranava Swarupa’ or ‘Of the form of the Pranava or Omkara’.

Such is the nature of the Avatara Purusha extolled in Indian thought. The appearance of the Avatara or Narayana takes place as manifestation evolves. The earliest Avataras are in the form of animals, the ‘Matsya’ or Fish incarnation in the Sathya Yuga, followed by the ‘Kurma’ or Tortoise (amphibian) incarnation, followed by the Narasimha (half man , half lion ) incarnation. The pinnacle of manifestation, the human being was on the anvil when the Vamana (dwarf) incarnation appeared, followed by Sri Rama (the full human of gigantic build) in the Tretha Yuga and then by Sri Krishna, born in royalty, grew up amidst farmers and cowherds, and transformed the world of His time in the Dwapara Yuga.

Pure unconditioned Brahman has thus descended or appeared at various times during the evolution of life forms in a Mahayuga which is itself a part of a Manvantara. In all cases and especially in the appearance as human beings (Vamana, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna) they were born to human beings, grew up as human beings and lived and worked as human beings subject to all the challenges, tribulations and circumstances of human beings in their respective times. But in their lives there were moments when they rose above circumstances and displayed the characteristics of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence which distinguished them from their peers, astonished the world of their time and has remained deeply etched in human memory.

The most recent of the appearances, that of Sri Krishna about 5010 years ago is extensively recorded by Sri Veda Vyasa and his spiritual disciples and descendants. The Mahabharata, containing the Bhagavat Gita and the Vishnu Sahasranama as its core, and the Srimad Bhagavatham containing the record of all the earlier incarnations are still extant in their pristine form.

The life and teachings of Sri Rama are recorded in the Ramayana of Sri Valmiki Maharishi. He (Valmiki) was an ordinary human being called Ratnakara who eked out a precarious existence as a dacoit. By a strange circumstance, a chance remark of his wife transformed him and through intense efforts he realized Brahman, recognized Sri Rama as an Avatara Purusha and was inspired to set out Sri Rama’s life and teachings in exquisite Sanskrit. It is still extant and continues to inspire people the world over.

The Narayana Principle is in no way different from Brahman except that it is with form. So it is called ‘Sa - guna’ meaning ‘with form and attributes’. Brahman is termed ‘Nir - guna’ meaning formless or without attributes and qualities.

The Vishnu Sahasranama is a beautiful exposition of one thousand attributes of Narayana. It is set in the Mahabharata of Sri Veda Vyasa and is expounded by Sri Bhishma as he lies on his death bed of arrows on the battlefield. The names are a remarkable admixture of human and superhuman attributes establishing that Narayana is unconditioned Brahman with a form.

The earliest extant commentary on the Vishnu Sahasranama is by Sri Sankara, the exponent of the concept of Advaita. It is also said to be Sri Sankara’s very first treatise.

Indian spiritual thought abounds with illustrations of formful unconditioned Brahman. The Dattatreya tradition expounds the case of the son of the great Rishi Atri and his spouse Anasuya. Many people consider the Buddha as a divine incarnation.

In the last century, there have been many teachers of rare divine endowment who have spoken of the unity of all spiritual paths. Sri Ramakrishna practiced the tenets of Islam and Christianity, in addition to his practice of various forms of Hindu tradition and proclaimed that all paths lead to the same truth. Swami Vivekananda recognized his teacher Sri Ramakrishna as a divine incarnation.

Sri Saibaba of Shirdi, both in his life and his teachings, espoused all religions, especially Islam and Hinduism.

Today in an obscure corner of South India called Puttaparthi, Sri Sathya Sai Baba exhorts all human beings to accept the five universal Vedic values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-violence ( Sathya Dharma Shanthi Prema Ahimsa).

This month on November 23, 2010, Sri Sathya Sai Baba commences the 85th year of his life. Millions of people all over the world believe that He is a Poorna Avatara Purusha and that this birthday will be a major turning point for the world. He preaches Divine Love or Prema as the key factor that will benefit all humanity and this planet, transcending all divisions that have come to influence human civilization.

In his Bhashya on the Vishnu Sahasranama Sri Sankara defines the appellation ‘Narayana’ as the principle that derives from the root ‘Nara’ which means Brahman.

Sri Sankara opens his famous treatise ‘Viveka Chudamani’ with the sloka:
Jantunam Nara Janma Durlabham
Amongst (living) creatures the human life is (extremely) fortunate.

It is remarkable that the term Nara means both human and Divine.

This means that the human and the Divine are identical. The apparent difference is only an illusion. Nara and Narayana are identical.

It is this identity, this unity of Divinity and Humanity that is the core of human existence. Such is the nature of ‘A - Dwaita’ or ‘Not Two’. The human and the Divine are not two but One.
May the bliss of this truth pervade the universe!!!!

On Friday November 5, 2010 we celebrate the festival of Deepavali all over the world. It is called the festival of lights and it is traditional custom to light lamps around one's dwelling and at the entrance. It celebrates the dawn of knowledge and spirituality in the world, the awakening of the inner light. Old clothes are discarded and the house is cleaned and decorated and new clothes are worn. Crackers and sparklers are lit to dispel ignorance and the world is full of sound and light. Many people consider it the dawn of a new year. Businessmen close their old books of accounts and open new ones. In some parts of India people pray to Mahalakshmi as the provider of the means of sustenance,as Srimayi the symbol of auspiciousness. It is a time of celebration and we wish all of you a very Happy Deepavali !

Warm regards and God Bless

Nirmala and Mohan

We acknowledge with thanks the above Deepavali pictures from:

Friday, September 3, 2010


We have come a long way since we started this journey to understand the Universe and ourselves. We have now understood that there is an invisible, unseen and unmanifest principle called Brahman that is permanent, auspicious and blissful that has manifested Itself as the manifest Universe of which we are parts.
Brahman transformed Itself into the Manifest Universe at three levels of manifestation. The first is the Super-subtle state called Iswara. The second stage is the Mental level called Hiranyagarbha. The third stage is the Physical level called Virat or Viswa. All of us, humans, animals, plants and rocks are part of this structure and so the same three levels are present in all of us. In the human, at the Super-subtle level we call it the Jiva or Jeevatma or Soul, at the Mental level we call it the Mind and at the Physical level we call it the Body. These levels in the human being are also called Pragna, Taijasa and Vaiswanara respectively in Vedanta. They correspond to the Deep sleep, the Dreaming and the Waking states in humans. These are called Sushupti, Swapna and Jagruta in Vedanta. They also correspond to the Suvaha, the Bhuvar and Bhu Lokas and to the ‘M’, ‘U’ and ‘A’ sounds of the Omkara respectively.
The question that arises is ‘How did this transformation occur?’ This is an important question and a subject worth studying and is truly the key to spirituality.
One of the earliest answers to this question is given by a great sage called Kapila Maharishi in His description of the concept of ‘Purusha and Prakriti’.
It is remarkable that the Maharishi is said to be the grandson of the very first Manu called Swayambu Manu who appeared as the first human manifestation in the very first Manvantara of this Kalpa. We have already seen (please refer to the Blog 4 - Time Line) that we are currently in the seventh Manvantara and some 1970 million years have passed since the Kalpa commenced. Kapila Maharishi lived then. What is remarkable is that when one travels from Mumbai to a place called Nasik one crosses the mountains of the Western Ghats and the highest point is a place called Igatpuri. A few miles away from there, in the lush forest area is a place said to be the site of Kapila Maharishi’s Ashram. It is awe inspiring to say the least.

Kapila Maharishi taught a stream of philosophy called ‘Sankhya’ in which He posited the concept of ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’. The concept of Purusha was identical to Brahman and the concept of Prakriti was the Manifest Universe. He stated that both these concepts were real. However, Prakriti was ‘powerless’ and incapable of any action without the infusion of the energy of Purusha. They had to both work together and in tandem to create the Manifest Universe and make it perform. From this concept arose the idea of Purusha or Brahman as a masculine principle and Prakriti as a feminine principle. In essence, all of us, and the whole of the Manifest Universe is feminine. Thus arose the concept of the Divine Father and Divine Mother. Through the energisation by the Father the Mother could produce the Universe. Thus all of us and all creation are children of the Divine Couple.

In later times Purusha came to be called ‘Shiva’ and Prakriti came to be called ‘Shakti’. The term Shiva means ‘auspicious’ and the term Shakti means ‘energy’. Shiva continued to be an unmanifest concept and Shakti became the energetic manifest principle.

In the Bhagavat Gita, Sri Krishna describes these concepts as ‘Kshetra’ and ‘Kshetragna’. The term ‘Kshetra’ means ‘arena or field of activity’ and corresponds to Prakriti and the Manifest Universe at the global level and to the Human Body at the individual level. The term ‘Kshetragna’ refers to the ‘Indweller or the Knower of the Field’, the motivating principle and refers to Purusha or Brahman.

Vedanta talks a slightly different language. It describes the process of transformation or energisation as ‘Maya’. The term ‘Maya’ can be translated as ‘Illusion’. Vedanta describes the creation of the Universe as a kind of superimposition of the Manifest World on Brahman.

To elaborate this concept, Vedanta gives the typical example of the ‘rope and snake’. When a person is going out in the dark, he comes across an object lying on the ground. In the darkness, he thinks that it is a snake. He is horrified and fearful. Emotions based on his conditioning race through his mind. Then, controlling himself, he takes out a torch and flashes the light on the object and realizes that it is only a rope which he then picks up and throws away. All the fear has vanished. Knowledge of the reality or truth (the rope) banishes the emotions of fear etc and he realizes that he has been mistaken. His emergence from ignorance of the truth to knowledge is likened to his waking from a dream. The concept of the snake was ‘superimposed’ on the truth.

Vedanta describes Maya as having two characteristics, ‘Avarana’ or ‘Veiling of the truth’ and ‘Vikshepa’ or ‘The tendency to create confusion’. Knowledge or Jnana is the answer to removing the illusion and realizing the truth.

At some time in history, in one of the Manvantaras, the concept of the ‘Gunas’ or ‘Qualities’ arose. The Manifest Universe is called ‘Gunamayi’ that is full of Gunas. In this concept the Manifest Universe is said to have three Gunas or Qualities. They are called ‘Satva’, ‘Rajas’ and ‘Tamas’. Satva means ‘calm, peaceful, balanced, tranquil and knowledgeable’. Obviously this tranquility comes from knowledge. ‘Rajas’ means ‘active, aggressive, dynamic, passionate, and emotional’. The Rajasic condition is based on part knowledge. ‘Tamas’ means ‘inert, inactive, ignorant, and lazy’. The Tamasic condition arises from ignorance and lassitude.

Everything in the Manifest Universe is a mixture of these three Gunas. In some the Tamasic will be predominant. In some, the Rajasic will be dominant. In some Satva will prevail. This gives a clue to the concept of living and non-living manifestation. The rock is predominantly Tamasic. The animal is predominantly Rajasic. And the human has the ability to be Satvic. Life is the progression from the Tamasic to the Rajasic to the Satvic states. The Guna concept explains a lot of what we see in the world around us. While all other forms of manifestation are programmed according to their species and cannot change their Guna-mix, so to speak, the human being alone is gifted with the means, through his intellect, to transform, to change, and to develop and from an understanding of what his/her Gunas are like, move from Tamas to Rajas to Satva.

The second pertinent question that arises is ‘Why have these Gunas come to exist in us? What is their source or cause?’ Vedanta describes the Gunas as the result of past actions or ‘Karmas’. The term ‘Karma’ means both ‘Action’ and ‘The result of Action’. Every time I perform an action I embed a karma in my soul. ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ was the famous statement of Sir Isaac Newton. He was of course talking of the physical world. It is remarkable that this same theorem applies to our Mind and Soul, not just to our Body.

Actions can be physical or mental or spiritual in nature. Every such action produces a reaction. Good actions produce good Karma and bad actions produce bad Karma. Thus came to be propounded the ‘Law of Karma’. These Karmas are embedded in the Soul. They drive and create the human personality. A predominantly Tamasic karma content in the soul brings about a Tamasic personality. Similarly, a predominantly Rajasic karma content brings about a Rajasic personality. And of course, a predominantly Satvic karma content will bring about a Satvic personality.

In India we tend to personify and symbolize these concepts to aid understanding and retention. As we have seen, the human mind tends to think in pictures and images. The ancient psychologists thought it a prudent approach to personify the Gunas and work out methodologies to move a person from Tamasic to Rajasic to Satvic karmas. For this purpose they conceived of the concept of the three Gunas as offshoots of Maya, the Divine Mother, Ambika. They called the Tamasic Guna as Mahakali, the Rajasic Guna as Mahalakshmi and the Satvic Guna as Mahasaraswathi.

Mahakali is displayed as a fiery lady who dances on a prostrate Shiva. She wears a garland of skulls around her neck and is shown as killing a fierce demon. The message is ‘Destroy ignorance for salvation!’

Mahalakshmi is shown as a beautiful lady who stands on a lotus and with one hand seems to bestow gold coins and with the other hand a blessing. She is peaceful and wears the color pink and is resplendent with jewellery. The message is ‘Actively pursue life pursuits, enjoy prosperity but be spiritually oriented!’

Mahasaraswathi is portrayed dressed in white and holding a veena, a musical instrument, a rosary of beads and a book. She represents knowledge and creative arts and culture. The message is ‘Be peaceful in the knowledge of the Divine, gather knowledge, study, be attuned to the Divine through the medium of sound, and pray!’

The outstanding characteristic of Indian thought is that the concept of ‘Karmas’ has been divinized.

The progression from Tamas to Rajas to Satva is the process to freedom from rebirth, because if one keeps on accumulating fresh karmas, then one is going to keep on being born to work the karmas out. The only way to freedom from rebirth is to work consciously towards a Purity of Soul or a Soul that is free of karmas. This process is called ‘Sadhana’. One of the outstanding teachings on Sadhana is by a great teacher called Patanjali Maharishi who wrote a treatise called ‘Yoga Sutras’. In modern times this has come to be called just ‘Yoga’. He uses the word ‘Kleshas’ to depict karmas.

It was Sri Krishna who used this word ‘Yoga’ for the first time in the Bhagavat Gita.

Sri Sankara has written a wonderful treatise called ‘Viveka Chudamani’ which details what He calls ‘Sadhana Chatustaya’.
Sri Sankara uses the term ‘Vasanas’ to refer to karmas.

Some sixty years ago Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi compiled a short terse guideline to Sadhana called ‘Upadesha Saram’ or ‘The Essence of Instruction’.
All these terms ‘Karmas’, ‘Kleshas’ and ‘Vasanas’ refer to the same thing. They are caused by actions, words and thoughts and are carried forward in the Soul to future births. They cause the wonderful variety of manifestation in the Universe. They are called the Gunas and are personified as Divine Goddesses. They represent the moods, feelings and emotions we experience day to day in our life. By propitiating them and praying to them as Goddesses we take note of them and become aware of them.

One who is unaware of the reason for the challenges and events in his/her life is said to be caught in the unending cycle of birth-life-death taking on all sorts of bodies in all sorts of places on earth. Such an ignorant person is said to be caught in the whirlpool of ‘Samsara’.

On the other hand, one who is aware of the truth and the reasons for all that seems to happen to him/her, has a good chance of freeing himself/herself from the cycle. Such a person takes to Sadhana.

In India the system makes one aware of these concepts. That system is of remembering these truths at least once a year every year. That is why in this month of October, after the monsoon rains have ended and the whole of nature is green and verdant, we remember the Divine Mother, who is none other than Brahman in disguise. We remember Her in many ways but the most common and universal way is to celebrate the ‘Navaratri’ or ‘Nine Nights’.

The first three days/nights are dedicated to Mahakali and we look deeply within ourselves and see the Tamasic demonic qualities which abound in us and pray to Her to help destroy them and put us firmly on the path to freedom.

The second three days/nights are dedicated to Mahalakshmi and we seek Her help to manage our life well both in career and home and fulfill our duties properly.

The last three days/nights are dedicated to Mahasaraswathi and we pray to Her to open our eyes to the Truth and cleanse us completely and make us fit for freedom.

This year the Navaratri festival starts on Oct 8 and the nine days end on Oct 16 followed by the tenth day called Vijayadashami or Dussera on Oct 17.

It’s a beautiful time of the year all round the country. In Kolkatta it is celebrated as Durga Puja. In the North of the country it is celebrated as Dussera. In the South it is celebrated as Navaratri.

May the Divine Mother who is really Brahman in disguise bless all with love, peace, prosperity and joy. May She also take us all towards the realization that all this that we consider to be real is actually a grand illusion caused by our own karmas and may She show the way, like all mothers do, to our Father, the Truth, the essence and basis of all that we experience.

A beautiful prayer from the ‘Devi Mahatmayam’ which forms a part of the Brahmanda Purana says:

Sarva Mangala Mangalye Shive Sarvartha Sadhike
Sharanye Triambike Devi Narayani Namostute

You are the embodiment of all that is auspicious, and all efforts towards auspiciousness,
We prostrate to the Mother who is threefold in nature and whose name is Narayani.

Mother is also known as the sister of ‘Narayana’. Who is Narayana? We will look at that in the next blog.

We hope you continue to find these jottings of help in your quest for perfection and peace. We look forward to your posts and your comments.

Warm regards and God Bless

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Through a fairly detailed analysis of the structure of the Universe and the Human Being, we have come to the conclusion that, if the Mandukya Upanishad and the Purusa Suktham are to be taken seriously, then there must be one more level, the core or fundamental level, behind the Soul/Jeevatma.

Brahman is the Cause and the Basis of all Manifestation. It is Brahman that manifests as the Universe and as the Individual Human Being and all the wide varieties of manifestation. Brahman is verily the Omkara sound that pervades and interpenetrates the entire Universe. Every part of manifestation is but a modification of Brahman.

The analogy that comes to mind to explain Brahman is a beautiful cotton cloth. The color of the cloth is attractive and beautiful. The texture is soft and there is a border around that is decorative and elegant. But that is only the outer or physical appearance. In reality the cloth comes is woven from a set of multi-colored threads. If you have ever visited a textile plant or a weaver’s place of work you will be amazed at the complex apparatus which blends the ‘warp and the woof’ as they call it and create the cloth. With skilful hands and tools the weaver creates the myriad patterns that adorn the cloth and make it beautiful to see and wear. Is that all? If you enquire further you will then discover that the thread itself has been formed by another piece of equipment called the loom. The thread has been created and then dyed in various colors. The thread has been created from a skein of cotton. The cotton comes from hand-picked lumps of cotton from the pods of a cotton plant.

The cotton is the ultimate cause and the basis for the cloth. Without cotton there can be no cloth. Similar is the nature of Brahman. Without Brahman there cannot be any manifestation. It is Brahman that manifests as the Universe and the Individual.

Another analogy is sugar. When sugar is blended with chocolate you get a chocolate sweet. When sugar is mixed with wheat flour and oil, you get a sponge cake. When sugar is mixed with tea or coffee you get a lovely cup of tea. The sugar is the same but mixed with various materials it seems to produce a variety of different things. The sugar is the same although the end product seems different.

A further analogy is electricity. The same electricity when applied to a lamp produces light. When applied to a fan, it produces a breeze. When it energizes a radio it produces music. When it is applied to a TV it produces images and sounds. The electricity is the same, but it seems to produce all sorts of different applications by association with different objects.

Similarly, Brahman produces a wide variety of manifestation when it associates with various parts of the Universe. The above analogies fail miserably when you realize that Brahman is the root cause of all manifestation. It itself causes the Five Tathwas ( Akasha, Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi) and in association with them produces the three Lokas (Bhu, Bhuvar and Suvaha) and the three aspects of the Universe and the Individual. It is the cause of the Jeevatma as well as the Mind as well as the Body. Collectively, it is the cause of the Supersubtle or Causal Universe (Iswara), the Subtle or Mental Universe (Hiranyagarbha), and the Physical or Gross Universe (Jagat).

So it is called the Ultimate Cause or the Primordial Cause. It is the basis of manifestation and existence. If Brahman was not there, there would be no existence. It is not only the cause of everything that exists but also the very principle of existence.

So it is called ‘Existence’ or ‘Sath’. That is considered as the most important Truth of the Universe. So the sound ‘Sath’ is the basis of the concept ‘Sathyam’ or Truth. It is ever existent. It does not have a beginning not does it have an end. It is just there all the time. It is the basis for ‘Time’ itself. The concept of Time would not exist if Brahman had not manifested Itself as the Universe with the beautiful harmony of the spheres as they progress through space. So it is also called ‘Achala’ or ‘Immovable’. That is why in this very small part of the Universe, in this Solar System, we see the unchanging and immobile Sun, as an analogy or a symbol of Brahman.

The existence of Brahman is posited by the great Rishis of yore in the Vedas. The term ‘Rishi’ itself means ‘ the See-er’ or ‘He who has Seen’. The word ‘See’ is from a point of view of ‘Perception’ and not necessarily ‘Sight’ or ‘Vision’. Such Rishis who had this experience of deep perception and could then posit or state categorically that Brahman exists, are called ‘Realized Souls’. Their experience of Brahman is called ‘Atma Sakshatkara’ or ‘Self-Realization’. Thus the concept evolves that Brahman is the heart of the matter, the innermost core of everything, the Atma or Self.

So if a question were to be asked of you : ‘Who are you?’, your first answer would be to describe yourself as ‘So-and-so’ with a name, a gender, a set of parents, a family, a profession, a place from where you come, a country to which you belong and so on. But all these descriptions relate only to your Body and to the Physical Universe.

So you may be inclined to take this comment seriously and attempt to go a bit further and try to describe the sort of person you are. You may say you are a positive thinking individual or an ambitious person or a creative person or an adventurous person and so on . In fact, other people will delight in describing you and your ideas and your achievements. But all these descriptions relate only to your Mind and to the Subtle Universe.

So you may then smile and say,’ OK, I get what you are saying. I am the Atma !’. Well, you are very close. But you are only describing your Atma or Soul. A Rishi might describe you as a ‘Pure Soul’ or as an ‘Enlightened Soul’.

The point is that you and everything in the Universe is basically Brahman. Every other description is dependent on the level of manifestation you are talking about. ‘He is a tall man with close cropped hair and skilful fingers’ is a description of your Body. ‘She is a wonderfully creative person with so many ideas and a vision of the future !’ is a description of your Mind. ‘He is an enlightened soul !’ is a description of your Soul. But the real Truth of the matter is that you are Brahman.

It is in this respect that there is really no difference between you and anyone else. In fact, Brahman is the connecting link, the underlying interconnection between everything that is manifest.

The question then arises ‘ If that be so, then why the difference? Why should the different Bodies be so different? Not only between an elephant and me but also between other human beings and me? Why should there be so many different Minds? Why should there be so many viewpoints, so many different ways of thinking about the same thing? Why should everyone not think the same thing? Why should some be called enlightened and pure and some be called dull and ignorant? If the basis of the entire manifestation is only Brahman then why the differentiation?’

These are valid questions and we need to look into and understand the concept of ‘Conditioning’ to comprehend why Brahman becomes many.

The Vedas state:
‘Ekam Sath Vipraha Bahuda Vadhanti’

Truth is One; Enlightened people describe It in many ways.

Also the Vedas say:
‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’

All (that is experienced) is verily Brahman(alone).

The Vedas further say:
‘Brahmaiva Sathyam’

Brahman alone is the Truth.

To understand the mechanism by which Brahman becomes the many in the Universe it becomes necessary for us to study the mysterious power of Brahman called ‘Maya’.

We will do so in the next blog. We hope you are feeling comfortable with this explanation of the underlying unity of the Universe . This unity pervades the whole of the Universe and me as well. If I can experience Brahman, then I will be able to experience the unity. That is the thesis. In these Blogs we will be exploring various methods by which we can experience this unity.

This month we want to remember Brahman Itself. Brahman is Unmanifest so how can we remember It? Our minds require some tangible form or pattern to be able to visualize and remember a concept. Modern psychologists have found that most of us think in patterns and symbolic figures. The Mind or the Subconscious thinks in pictures. It does not think in letters or pages or paragraphs although we read and write in this manner. The language of the Subconscious is Pictures and Symbols.

All the world civilizations abound in symbols. Indian culture is full of symbols. So how to symbolize the Unmanifest?

Someone sometime in the hoary past found a method. The method was so powerful that it has lasted for nearly a few million years in this Mahayuga and may be even a carry over from an earlier cycle of Yugas.

The Unmanifest is symbolized in as an ellipsoid, an egg. It seems to have a form and still does not have a form. The Sanskrit word for ‘symbol’ is ‘Linga’. The Unmanifest Brahman is thus symbolized as a Linga. We have reproduced a picture of the famous Shiva Linga at the Amarnath Cave which has formed from ice in the Kashmir Himalayas.

The name ‘Shiva’ means ‘Auspicious’. Auspiciousness is the nature of Brahman. And the entire beautiful Universe is a symbol of Brahman. So Brahman is often described as ‘Sathyam-Shivam-Sundaram’. The term ‘Sundaram’ means ‘Beautiful’.

The Vedic Rishis experienced Brahman and were convinced that Brahman alone was the basis of the Universe and sang of Brahman as ‘Satchithanandam-Sathyam Shivam Sundaram’.

A beautiful sloka comes to mind:

‘Sarva Roopa Dharam Shantham
Sarva Nama Dharam Shivam
Sat Chith Anandam Advaitam
Sathyam Shivam Sundaram’

All forms are His and bestow Peace
All names are His and bestow Auspiciousness
He is Existence Awareness Bliss and the only One
He is Truth Auspiciousness Beauty incarnate

Brahman has also been called in ages gone by as ‘Purusha’. That is why the ‘Purusha Suktham’ is held as so sacred. We will explore the various concepts relating to Brahman in future blogs.

As always we look forward to your active participation. We would be happy if this blog is just not read but commented on. We value your comments and we are sure that your posts help many readers to understand these concepts. Writing many times helps us to concretize our thoughts and clarify our understanding. So please participate.

This month we celebrate the festival of ‘Ganesha Chaturthi’ on Sept 11. Ganesha is also an ancient powerful symbol that inherently represents Buddhi, our intellectual aspect, which helps us to understand concepts and thus helps us to live a richer and more successful life. Every action in India is commenced with an invocation to Ganesha. He is said to be the elder son of Shiva. This symbolizes what we discussed above that the Mind derives from Brahman. Ganesha is a beautiful way of expressing the same truth. So we pray ‘ Oh Son of Shiva! Please help us to use our Intellect to overcome any problems that confront us ! As you are the favourite son of Shiva , you embody all His powers ! You are in fact the symbol of Manifestation ! You are our innermost core ! You are Me! So please manifest yourself in Me and help me to live life successfully !’

To much of the world Sept 11, in this century, has come to mean ‘challenge’. So on this 9/11, let us invoke Ganesha, the son of Brahman, and thus the entire Manifest Universe, to help us all, everywhere, to live lives full of harmony, peace and love!

In this prayer to the Manifest Brahman is enclosed a powerful message. Brahman is Absolute. Brahman interpenetrates and is the basis of everything that is Manifest. So whether we invoke the Unmanifest Principle or pray to the Manifest Principle we are praying to the Absolute alone. To us that is the Principle of Advaita. All is One. So for fulfilling the purpose of your life you can address either the One or the All.

Warm regards and God Bless

Thursday, July 22, 2010


We have seen that the Body and Mind play such an important role in our life. They provide the wherewithal for all our daily actions and the information and knowledge for managing our interactions with the world at large. They are intricately intertwined and work closely together, informing each other and influencing each other. They are like two close friends.

But is that the whole human being?

The Purusa Suktham and the Mandukya Upanishad indicate that there is something more. There is definitely one more entity in the human being. That is the third level of the human being and in fact, the whole Universe as well. This third level is called the Soul or Atma. And just as the Mind correlates with the Subtle Universe, the Bhuvarloka, and the Body correlates with the Physical Universe, the Bhuloka, the Soul correlates with the Causal or Supersubtle Universe, the Suvahaloka.

Let us once more look at a pictorial presentation:

Soul M Suvahaloka Super subtle or Causal Universe
Mind U Bhuvarloka Subtle or Mental Universe
Body A Bhuloka Gross or Physical Universe

This is further proved by the three states of consciousness, the Waking (corresponding to the Body), the Dreaming (corresponding to the Mind), and the Deep Sleep state
(corresponding to the Soul).

In the Waking state, the Body is aware of the Physical Universe through its sense organs and its Brain and relates and interacts with it. The Upanishad calls it ‘Bahirpragna’ or Outwardly Conscious. The Upanishad also calls this aspect of the human being ‘Vaisvanara’ or the consumer of all inputs from the outer world including food and drink.
In the Dreaming state, the Mind is disconnected from the Body, and is aware of its Memories and Thoughts and reacts and interacts with a Universe it creates within itself. The Upanishad calls this ‘Antarpragna’ or Inwardly Conscious. The Upanishad also calls this aspect of the human being ‘Taijasa’ or the ‘Luminous’ because the dream images which symbolize the mind in action are luminous like a TV program.

In the Deep Sleep state, the Mind is withdrawn or simply vanishes and of course, the consciousness of the Body has already vanished. Then what is there? Only plain Awareness or Consciousness. The Upanishad calls it just ‘Pragna’.

Often when a person wakes up from Deep Sleep, he will remark that he ‘slept like a top’. If he was in Deep Sleep and the Mind was absent and the Body was not perceived, then how does he say he ‘slept’? That awareness that he slept is ‘Consciousness’. It is plain Awareness. Just awareness that he slept. And it is interesting that the sleeper experiences a state of Bliss and remembers it! Deep Sleep is the most important experience for everyone as it refreshes and re-invigorates a person. People may do without food or drink, but they need to sleep for survival. This automatic program that comes into action everyday without fail is absolutely necessary for a person to be active and normal the next day. It is a daily program.

So the two characteristics of Deep Sleep are ‘Awareness’ and ‘Bliss’. The Sanskrit terms for these are ‘Chit’ and ‘Ananda’. This state of Deep Sleep is considered to define and describe what is called the ‘Soul’ or ‘Atma’. Thus this third level of the human being is the state of pure Existence characterized by Awareness and Bliss. It is thus called the ‘Sath-Chith-Ananda’ Swaroopa, that is, the embodiment of Existence-Awareness -Bliss.
In modern times one of the scientists who realized that there was something beyond the Mind was Dr Sigmund Freud. While studying certain cases of depression and hysteria amongst his patients, he got interested in their train of thoughts and later their dreams. He was fascinated by these studies and started studying his own dreams. From this study came his definitive thesis called ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ where he posited or theorized the existence of an ‘Unconscious’. Through his experiments and studies he found that the Unconscious realm of the human being was the source of deep-set memories that managed to trickle through into the Mind and was the cause for most of the disabilities that the patients suffered from. He found that the memories usually came in a distorted or disguised form and could be even detected during the waking condition apart from the dreams. He studied what he called ‘a slip of the tongue’ in people and found that these slips were actually caused by deep memories and revealed the state of the mind of the person being studied. His work has opened up the field of ‘Psychology’ and a kind of formal treatment called ‘Psycho-analysis’ and ‘Psychiatry’ have developed to help people understand their minds.

But what Dr Freud did not realize was that the Unconscious was not only the receptacle of the memories but also the Atma or Soul. Vedanta recognizes that the third part of the human being, the Pragna, is in fact the source of the Mind and the Body. No doubt it contains within itself the stored memories of past lives which color and characterize the individual human being. But the memories lie quiescent in the Atma and do not affect the Atma itself. That is why the state of Deep Sleep where one experiences the Atma is Blissful and not full of any thoughts or memories.

These memories of past lives are called ‘Karmas’ or ‘Vasanas’. A great Vedantic psychologist called Patanjali Maharishi calls them ‘Kleshas’. Some Vedantic treatises use the term ‘Samskaras’. All these refer basically to the same thing. The explanation is that these memories come from actions (Karma) performed during an earlier birth. They are subtle fragrances, as it were, of those earlier experiences hence the term ‘Vasanas’. Patanjali considers them as hindrances and so calls them ‘Kleshas’ or afflictions. We will study them in greater detail in a future blog so for the moment suffice it to say that while the Vasanas are present in a very subtle form encased in the Atma they do not affect the Deep Sleep state which remains Blissful and full of peace and serenity. These Vasanas or Karmas are the essential cause for the human birth and so they are the ‘Karana’ or Cause. That is the reason why this third level of the human being is also called the ‘Karana Sharira’ or Causal Body.

This Causal Aspect of the human being is thus described as ‘Jeevatma’ to allude to the causal aspect as the reason for birth as a living being or ‘Jantu’ or ‘Jeeva’. It is described as Atma conditioned by the Vasanas to work as a Jeevatma. This implies that there is a difference between the Jeevatma and the Atma. The difference is of course the presence of the Vasanas in the Jeevatma. It is the Vasanas or Karmas which essentially differentiate the Jeevatma from Atma.

So in Vedantic thought, most of the time the Pure Atma is described as ‘Paramatma’. The question will naturally arise ‘What is Paramatma? How does it differ from Jeevatma? What are its characteristics? Can one independently experience the Paramatma?’. We will try to address these questions in the next blog.

We have understood the three aspects of the human being as the Body or Vaiswanara, the Mind or Taijasa and the Soul or Pragna to use the Upanishadic definitions. These aspects of the individual human being relate and are in fact a part of corresponding Universal aspects called the Jagat or Physical Universe, the Hiranyagarbha or Subtle Universe and the Iswara or Super Subtle Universe.

Don’t worry. Vedanta is full of such terminologies but once one understands the terminology, then the basic concept is simple. Many people who are interested in spirituality get confused by the terminology and think there is contradiction. We have already seen the huge expanses of time we are looking at (see Blog on ‘Time Line’). In India, thanks to some very special circumstances, these descriptions have survived the ravages of time. They were expressed at various times to different civilizations. They are all descriptions and commentaries of the same Vedas and Vedanta. There is actually no contradiction and no need for confusion once we have understood it in our language. The concept is all important not the terminology.

We will progress to understand what the Paramatma concept is in the next blog. Meanwhile we hope you are enjoying these blogs and will continue to post your comments so we also learn how to communicate better and clarify matters as we go along.

This month we remember a great embodiment of the Paramatma concept called Sri Krishna. He was very much closer to us and lived and worked just over 5000 years ago.

The monsoons open up around June every year in India nowadays and the intensity progressively increases. By August the whole sub-continent is being drenched in rain and in the northern parts of India the main rivers are invariably in spate. That is when Sri Krishna was born in a prison where His parents were incarcerated by a villainous uncle who had usurped the throne of Sri Krishna’s grandfather. Under miraculous circumstances Sri Krishna arranged for His father to transfer Him to a small village on the other side of the River Yamuna where He grew up amongst cowherds. In due course the real objectives of His life became apparent when at a tender age He killed the uncle and re-established his grandfather as the King. All His life was a struggle against inimical forces and the grand culmination was the great Mahabharata War when He organized the separation of those who espoused the Vedic way of life and those who couldn’t be bothered and guided the former to success. Thus the world which had degenerated into depths of degradation was saved and the Vedas and the Vedantic way of life were re-established.

He was born on the eighth day after the New Moon in the constellation Rohini and that day falls on Sept 1 this year. He was not only a reformer but a philosopher too and graced His friend Arjuna with the great Bhagavat Gita just before the war started. His most poignant injunction was to have unsullied and continuous faith in Him and proceed to wage war. This injunction is said to refer to all human beings and applicable to all life situations.

Contemplating on Him itself is said to give a glimpse of the Paramatma concept. So even though the world may seem in a confused state and full of challenges of various types, we urge you to think of Him and proceed to do your duty with courage and conviction and we are sure He will show the way, protect you and yours and take you to victory.
The beautiful sloka from the Gita comes to mind:

Ananyaschintoyanto Mam Ye Janaha Paryupasathe
Thesham Nithyabhiyuktanam Yogakshemam Vahamyaham

To those who see Me everywhere and continually think of Me
To them I assure the provision of their needs and protection of their possessions. B.G. IX - 22

On this Sri Krishnashtami may His Blessings pour on you all and fill you with joy and peace!

Warm regards and God Bless

Monday, June 28, 2010


We have already seen how the human body is so exquisitely designed to pick up signals from the Pancha Mahabhuta Elements from which the world and the body are built. The ears pick up sound which characterizes the Akasha Tathwa. The skin picks up the sense of touch which is the special characteristic of the Vayu/Prana Tathwa. The eyes pick up light, form and colors which characterize the Agni Tathwa. The tongue picks up taste which is the characteristic of the Jala Tathwa. And the nose picks up smell which is the characteristic of the Prithvi Tathwa.

When we say ‘picks up’ what do we mean? All the sense organs mentioned above are connected by a network of nerves to the cerebro-spinal nervous centers. Nerves are physical connecting pathways for the signals which are electrical in nature. These signals are processed by the Brain, first in the Medulla Oblongata in the rear part of the Brain, then in the Frontal Lobe where the signals are classified and understood. Based on the nature of the signals, reverse signals flash back to the organs of action, that is, the hands, the legs, the mouth, the reproductive organ and the excretory organ. Indian thought broadly endows the human body with these five sense organs (the receivers) and the five organs of action (transmitters). If one goes into further detail, there are plenty of other parts which may get activated, such as eyelids, or the cornea, or the nostrils or the facial muscles or the tear glands or even the hair on the skin (when goose pimples arise) and so on.

The Brain plays a decisive role in determining these reactions. Many other actions also result which may not be visible such as a faster heart beat, the release of perspiration, or flow of saliva. The incoming signals from the sense organs result in actions of various types. This reflex action takes place many times automatically and immediately. For example, it is remarkable how fast the eyelids can close on the appearance of a foreign object. It is as though the Brain is fully programmed to deal with a wide variety of contingencies.

Over the last century or so, there has been a great and continuing debate, particularly in the scientific community about the nature and location of Mind and Brain. Solid arguments have been put up that Mind is the Brain. There has been an opinion that Mind is a kind of offshoot or part of the Brain. However, there has also been the opposite view expressed that Mind appears to be distinct from the Brain.

Indian thought seems to distinguish the two clearly. Brain is considered to be a part of the Body. It is a purely physical part of the Body and is similar to the Nervous system. It has been possible to observe electrical signals in the Brain. However, the Mind is subtle and is part of a nebulous unmeasurable world of its own. The Mind is definitely interconnected with the Brain. Some think that the pineal gland in the Brain may be the point of connection. Some near death experiences have given the experience of Mind working while the Body and the Brain appear to be dead.

This question stood unresolved for most of the last century. However, the advent of the computer and the internet gives us a metaphor in the physical world which may explain the phenomenon. The Brain is akin to the computer which has a computing power of its own and a memory bank also of its own. However, when anything unknown to the computer has to be studied then one resorts to connecting with the Internet. The Mind is akin to the Internet.

The Mind and the Brain are closely interconnected. The basic programming for survival as a human being comes programmed in the Brain at birth. It is like a Basic Operating System. Then as life evolves and the child grows up it continues to pick up new information which is continually fed into the Brain. The Operating System develops through applications.

The Mind is a vast ocean of information and knowledge in the form of memory. When the Brain is confronted with a new situation then it has to refer to the Mind for guidance. The Mind then checks through its data bank and either recognizes the new situation or files it anew. The fresh guidance received from the Mind is stored in the Brain and will become useful for a future contingency.

The Mind has been studied more from its effects than from knowledge of its contents. From a careful study of the way people behave or act some knowledge of the capabilities of the Mind has been obtained. It is still insufficient and there are more questions than answers.

Vedanta, however, is categorical in defining the Mind. In the Mandukya Upanishad, for instance, the Mind is described as consisting of nineteen components: Manas, Buddhi, the Subtle Aspects of the five Sensory organs, the Subtle Aspects of the five Organs of Action, the Five Pranas, Chitta (Memory) and Ahamkara (Ego).

‘Manas’ stands for the flow of thoughts. Like the flow of blood characterizes the Body, thoughts are the stuff of the Mind. Thoughts have content and feeling. Content defines the nature of the thought and feeling is an emotion associated with the thoughts.

‘Buddhi’ stands for the discriminative, analytical faculty, normally called the Intellect. It is a power of the Mind to classify, identify, judge, correlate, analyze and compile. It is a faculty which stands apart from Manas and is independent.

The five Sensory organs have a replica in subtle form in the Mind. That is how the Mind is able to recognize certain signals from the Brain and advise suitable action.

The five Organs of Action have a replica in subtle form in the Mind. That is how the Mind can initiate responses to certain situations which may be new and unrecognizable by the Brain.

The five Pranas is an interesting concept in the Vedanta. The life-giving and life-sustaining subtle force called Prana is conceived to comprise five different forces which help operate the Body. They are ‘Prana’, ‘Apana’,’Vyana’, ‘Udana’ and ‘Samana’.
Prana is the basic life sustaining energy which is inhaled and helps maintain the respiratory system in the body. Apana is the energy that helps exhalation and excretion. Vyana sustains the circulatory system and glandular secretions in the Body. Udana is the energy mainly concerned with the faculty of speech and the assimilation and retention of knowledge. And Samana is the system that maintains digestion and overall equilibrium of the Body.
Prana, which is plentifully available in the atmosphere as well as in many natural locales such as rivers and grass and forests, is the main nutrient and life-sustaining force for both the Body and the Mind. We will explore this later in the blog. For the moment let us recognize how important it is in the operation of the Mind.
Chitta which represents memory is the data bank of experiences and knowledge. It comprises both the data collected during this lifetime as well as the stored memories from earlier lives. It plays a very important part in defining the personality and behavior of a human being.
Ahamkara or Individuality is that specific shade of self identity that sets the particular human being apart from all others and gives him/her a unique identity.
Chitta and Ahamkara, although separately mentioned in the Upanishad, are closely related and so are often referred to as one concept, Chitta-Ahamkara. In English it is referred to as Ego or Egoity.

So the Mind of a particular person stands separate and unique in relation to the vast ocean called the Subtle Universe. This is similar to the Body of an individual which stands separate from the entire Material Physical Universe. The genetic formulation of a Body differentiates it from all other living and non-living objects in the Physical Universe. Similarly the individual Mind stands separate from all the other individual Minds which populate the Subtle Mental Universe.

However, the individual Mind is capable of transacting and communicating with the Subtle Universe. It is rather like a fish in the ocean which retains its individuality but is still in the ocean and so can transact and communicate with other living beings and non-living matter in the ocean. This explains the phenomenon called ‘telepathy’, for instance, where a person seems to be able to receive mental ideas from someone far away. It also explains the phenomenon called ‘hypnosis’ where one person is able to control the thoughts of another person.

The individual Mind of a human being is thus able to communicate with the Brain of that person and also with the Minds of other people in the Universe. The Mind of a person interpenetrates the Physical Body and envelops it in a kind of aura. Some scientists claim to have developed a special type of photography called ‘Kirlian Photography’ which is said to photograph this aura.

The Mind is a fulcrum with the Body on one side and the Soul on the other. It acts to connect the Body to the Soul. We saw the analogy of the telescope earlier. The Soul expands into the Mind which can expand into the Body. Just as the Pancha Mahabhutas evolve sequentially from each other, starting with the Akasha Tathwa and proceeding to the Vayu Tathwa to the Agni Tathwa to the Jala Tathwa and ultimately to the Prithvi Tathwa, in similar manner, the Soul (comprising mainly the Akasha Tathwa) evolves into the Mind (comprising the
Vayu/Agni/ Jala Tathwas and finally evolves into the Body (comprising the Prithvi Tathwa).

SOUL ------------MIND ---------------BODY

This triple aspect of a human body reproduces the Universe:


This triplicity also refers to the three states of consciousness:


The OMKARA symbol thus represents in a symbolic form both the Individual and the Universe.

The existence of the independent Mind is proven by the state of dreaming. During dreaming, the individual human being is not conscious of his/her Body. Images flash in a dream drawn from the Chitta (Memory) and events seem to take place that may have some vague relationship to the waking experiences and many times cannot even be recognized by the individual. These unrecognizable experiences are said to be from experiences from past lives stored in the Chitta or Memory. The Mind is a storehouse of not only today’s experiences but many past experiences. Sometimes the individual Mind may pick up bits of information from the Subtle Universe too.

The Mind is often likened to a monkey because it is extremely mobile and active, moving from one idea to another. This happens because of the flow of thoughts which is incessant and continuous. The thoughts only stop during Deep Sleep when Mind itself seems to vanish. In Deep Sleep the person is not aware of either the Mind or the Body. There is no perception of thoughts and feelings. That is why the Deep Sleep state is called ‘Blissful’ or ‘Restful’.

Because of the close interaction of the Mind and the Body through the Brain, the contents of the Mind influence the actions and behavior of the Body. If the Mind is restless and active, the Body seems to display the same restlessness and tension. If the Mind is restful, placid and calm, the Body also seems to become peaceful. The Pranas never stop working even in a calm Body. Breathing continues, the heart keeps beating, blood circulation and the actions of various glands continue.

Similarly, if the Body is stressed and fatigued, then the Mind could get disturbed and stressed. When the Body needs nourishment, then the Mind could get tense. Anger is often the result of hunger.

If the Mind develops a desire arising from a memory, or arising from something seen by the eyes, then the Body could respond to fulfill the desire.

Life is lived through the work of the Mind and the Body. If the Body-Mind connection gets broken, the meaning and the means of life could get affected and life, although present, becomes meaningless. Close co-ordination between Mind and Body is essential to live life properly. The movements of a gymnast showcase the close co-ordination between Mind and Body. When one sees a star cricketer wield his bat one can see the close co-ordination between his hand, his legs and his mind.
The Mind and the Body are the wherewithal, the main means by which we lead a successful and meaningful life. But is that the end of it? From where do they get their energy? What makes them tick?

To answer these questions it becomes necessary for us to try and understand the third important part of the Human System, that is, the Soul or Atma. We will explore this in our next blog.

This month we would like to remember a great sage called VYASA. He is said to have been a contemporary of Sri Krishna some 5010 years ago during the end of the Dwapara Yuga and the beginning of the Kali Yuga. He was a great scholar. He wrote the account of the life of Sri Krishna in two masterly treatises, the SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM and the MAHABHARATHA. Both are a combination of history, philosophy and sociology. They record the achievements and events during the life of Sri Krishna and the establishment of a new World Order where the sanctity and importance of the Vedas were re-established. This became necessary because of the drastic demolishment of them by several inimical entities. Sage Vyasa was also instrumental in getting the Vedas written down and classified into four groupings so that they would be preserved for posterity. These groupings are called the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas.

Vyasa entrusted the propagation and preservation of each of these groupings to His disciples and got them to establish schools of learning and research called ASHRAMAS. From these schools, long lines of teacher-disciple relationships got established and the Vedic knowledge was preserved in a world which during the last 5010 years has seen lots of conflagrations and wars and destruction. It is said that during Sri Krishna’s time the whole world as it existed then, was immersed in the Vedas and Vedic way of worship and life. However in the intervening years from then to now, much of the world has lost its Vedic connections although Vedic thought seems to come through at odd places. The Vedas and the Vedic thought and ideas have been preserved in India and continue to be actively practised even today. Vyasa is thus called VEDA VYASA. He is said to have compiled the eighteen chief PURANAS. He is also credited with the compilation of the BRAHMA SUTRAS which give the essence of the Vedas in a highly condensed form. He built the Vedic thoughts into the BHAGAVAT GITA which is the philosophic centerpiece of the MAHABHARATA. Thus because of his massive and major contributions to the preservation of the Vedic thought he is remembered each year at the time of the Full Moon in July. This occasion is called GURU POORNIMA or VYASA POORNIMA. Let us also remember Him on this occasion this year when it falls on July 25.

We hope you are finding these notes interesting and helpful and we trust you are able to see the emerging correlation between Spirituality and Life.

We continue to look forward to your comments and posts as also your active participation.

Warm regards and God Bless