Monday, May 16, 2011

e-Sanai: 2011 Buddha Purnima issue

by Sri Sandip Dasgupta

Welcome to the 2011 Buddha Purnima issue of e-Sanai.

At this point, we are all busy making arrangements for the bhajan program in San Jose, California on May 29th. The artists are getting ready to travel, and a very large number of volunteers are finding time away from their after-work schedules to make this event a big success. I am amazed to see how many volunteers our Sadguru Sri Sri Babathakur has lined up for this event – to the point that I practically don’t have to do anything whatsoever for the preparation. I am surrendering the results of this event to His lotus feet and praying that He make this a very successful event (success as measured by His criteria).

So, if you haven’t yet made plans to travel to San Jose, please reconsider and make every effort to attend.

Joy Babathakur! Joy Babathakur! Joy Babathakur!

Bondage and Liberation

by Sri Ramen Basu

Sometimes I feel that I am a bonded laborer. The question remains: 'Who feels that? Why bonded?

I go through the routine of the day and feel that I am scripted. Each day I go through the same movements – wake up, eat, entertain myself -in fact, go through the required motions of the day and end up going back to sleep, to the not-knowing state of bliss. Some changes of the routine come and I go through those also according to the given circumstances. But, when I feel that I ought to change that script, I feel helpless because repeated attempts do not change thought patterns and habits as my mind want them to be. It is no doubt, a very subjective feeling. The question pops up: Am I the subject or an instrument of a destiny of my own doing? I'm ignorant definitely, compared to our highly evolved Gurus and other realizers... and I reckon I don't know either the individual self or the Supreme Self.

What keeps my mind attached to the body senses, intellectual and emotional pursuits? I have often questioned myself: What would liberate my soul? I have been told that the human mind and sense of ego are the causes of bondage as well as liberation of the soul. There is, by now, no doubt in my mind that a desirous mind, at least three quarter full of worldly thoughts, binds one to Maya. I have also been told and read, that a non-desiring mind, free from worldly thoughts, is conducive to liberation, to realize the Self.

Qulities or gunas can be characterized as sattva, raja and tama. The characteristics of the triple gunas function in the following ways:

When tama gunas are prevalent in mind, it remains immersed in the body senses. The Soul, therefore, can't avoid attachment to the body and the mind. The body senses assert control over the mind, although the true nature of the Soul is free.

When raja gunas prevails in mind, it becomes distracted and when engaged in self-centered or ego-tainted activity, the mind becomes restless. Restlessness will not let the Soul or Real Self shine freely and peacefully.

When sattva gunas are prevalent in mind, it strives to achieve blissfulness and/or Knowledge. It is however still attached, and mind being attached remains bonded.

There are methods to help one increase the sattvic qualities and thus diminish and eventually eliminate tamasic and rajasic influences. Popularly it is called 'the cleansing of mind'. A thoroughly cleansed mind according to Sri Sri Babathakur becomes, 'Aman' (no-mind) which eventually leads to liberation, to Self realization. Bondage and liberation are but states of mind - desirous and desireless. In my individual experience I find that, only when tamasic and rajasic gunas fight and thus become tired, the sattva gunas in me prevails. Sattva can also be trained to prevail through, for example, sincere spiritual practices like satsang, meditation and japa. Thus I am in despair as I can't get rid of desires and am unable to follow any practice for the length of time required.

Experiences of my life up to the mid-thirties were a continuous struggle between tamasic and rajasic aspects of mind. I was at my wit’s end. At that juncture of life I was introduced to Sri Sri Babathakur by a well wisher. A ray of hope suddenly appeared. A bright sun shined; a chance meeting with Sadguru Sri Sri Babathakur changed the perspective of my life. I still remember the day He held my hand, a support I felt that would never fail me. As time flew by, I came closer to Him and I learnt through His teaching ‘Who am I’. Days in and days out, His utterances poured into my head and I tried to figure out what it all was about. He talked about Self identity and said that it is the One Self who is the Self of all. This is the very basic spiritual Truth I gathered. I tried to identify with that. Now I know that the soul is ever free. It is but Maya or Prakriti that makes the Self experience the bondage or gunas or forces of Nature.

So far so good. Years passed by, and I continued to listen to the talks of Sri Sri Babathakur. I heard of the ‘Science of Oneness’, the 'Real I' and the 'conditioned I'. At the same time I had seen His everyday life. He is the Being in Being, where His becoming is a wonder to his followers and devotees and one may glimpse the 'Absolute I' in a human form. I have faith in Sri Sri Babathakur's words that all are certainly That, but the difference is that He and His words are one and the same, whereas for me the experience of that state still is missing. The originality of Sri Sri Babathakur shines incessantly. To give an idea about His originality, I take the help of two of His dictums... He lived these words which showed how original He was in thought, words and deeds.

All Divine for all time as It is

Creation is a sportful dramatic same side game of Self Consciousness

I do not intend to delve into the tattvic (teaching) aspects of these dictums. All I can say is that I have seen a human being who has Direct Knowledge and who shared that Knowledge with all who cared to listen.

The utterings of Sri Sri Babathakur contain the initial impetus towards Liberation. Hearing from a Sadguru about Self-knowledge and internalizing those utterings are like a breath of fresh air that brings forth the possibility to spread my wings and fly. The caged being finds an open window to pass through. After coming in contact with Sri Sri Babathakur I have tried to follow His instructions. Only slowly can I fathom the impact of His words on my life.

Everybody says that Knowledge is freedom. But what kind of knowledge is discussed here? Material knowledge can liberate one from some worldly miseries and is comfort or ego-stroking oriented. But, there is a hitch: there is no end to such thought pattern unless faith, belief and determination rein-in adhering to the injunctions proclaimed by a Self-realized Soul.

Through internalizing the Knowledge inculcated by Sri Sri Babathakur and reflecting on it - mind, which causes the bondage, gradually becomes free from the heavy influences of tama and raja. The beginning of the stabilization of Direct Knowledge is rather difficult. I am still grappling to reduce the knowledge impressed on my mind through inherent tendencies and social-behavior needs.

Once Sri Sri Babathakur asked me, ‘Are you Self or not Self?’ I could not but say that I am Self. Then he uttered the great dictum :Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art). That was a revelation to me. Direct Knowledge dawns from the complete focus of mind on the above great dictum. Continuous practice of reflection on the above words, along with the control of inner and outer sense organs, is imperative to reach such a state of absorption of the mind. Ignorance is, no doubt, destroyed by practicing the above great dictum. Once the cause is negated, the Jiva is sure the Witness Consciousness that exists and that is verily the Self.

As a consequence of the destruction of the cover or Avarana of spiritual ignorance, the distraction (Vikshepa) is destroyed. Man (jiva) thus becomes free from bondage, but... the process may take a life-time for the sincere and capable practitioner. Only for the very best of practitioners, Self-realization may occur in one life, but for ordinary ones largely bound by Maya, it may take several lives to achieve any level of realization.

On stabilization of the Direct Knowledge, there is contentment in knowing that whatever is to be done in the present life is achieved. Delight or bliss ensues. Delight or Bliss herald the end of the perception of miseries in life and true equanimity reigns supremely. One may ask: What are the signs of a liberated mind? Delight or satisfaction of reaching the intended goal of having got a human life reflects in the behavior pattern in various positive ways along with the cessation of sorrow. All the above tattvic knowledge, I have gathered from the speeches and writings of Sri Sri Babathakur. In Him I have seen the tattvic knowledge come alive as He, to me amongst many followers and devotees, represented Knowledge Absolute incarnate. His is, was and always will be the 'Real I' whereas my 'I' is conditioned. To get the conditioned mind freed from the triple gunas seems to be a life-long struggle of mine, not to speak of my incessant effort. Only His Grace will enable me to overcome the present conditioning. In this article I have tried to delineate the concept of bondage and liberation in life through the Perfection of Conscience (which is nothing but purification of mind and intellect) and thus promote the increase of sattvic influences.

There may be other paths towards Liberation, like the path of devotion or great sacrifices, which are not touched upon here. Whichever path seems suitable to the conditioned self should be used; all paths, if sincerely followed, lead towards the one goal of a human life: Self-realization.

Hari Om Tat Sat


by Sri Subbu Venkatakrishnan

First, I want to start with a story. Most of you perhaps know that Indian weddings are quite an elaborate affair. Actually, it used to be more so in the olden days, particularly in the villages of India. A typical marriage would last for 4 days or so and there would be celebrations all around. Just as an example, my marriage took place over 2 days-----and believe me, I am not all that old.

All the work would be done by the families and friends of the bride and the groom. There was none of the contract style weddings that we see quite frequently these days. As is to be expected, there would be a large variety of sweets and other eatables that would be prepared ahead of time and all of this would be safely stored in a special room, which would be under lock and key. Everyone knew what would happen if the door was left open-----what with all the children waiting to get their hands on the sweets.

The ‘Key Person’ would usually be a benevolent but stern looking uncle, so that the children would hesitate to go anywhere near him. Sooner or later, one brave child would slowly approach this ‘Key Uncle’ and cajole him to hand him one sweet. After some persuasion, the uncle would agree. He would secretly take the child with him, have him wait outside the room, slowly open the room, slip in, take one sweet out, and come out of the room to hand it over to the child. Lo and behold, the Uncle would next spot a long line of all the other children waiting behind this child, each waiting for his or her share. Having been caught in the act, the uncle would have no choice but to give everyone a sweet. In this way, he would satisfy all the children through the end of the line, except for one.

This child would not accept any sweets. Despite being repeatedly offered a sweet by the uncle, he would still refuse accepting it. The frustrated uncle would throw his hands up and, as if giving an ultimatum, ask the child, “What do you really want after all?” To this question, the child would respond, “Uncle, I want the key!” This illustrates the rarity of a true seeker. This child is very clear about what is the ultimate goal-----in a limited sense here. We often find that most of our time is also spent seeking some trivial pursuits, while we miss the main goal. We are like the rest of the children running after some temporary toys. Even when we pray to the Lord, what we ask for is often meaningless----for example, why do they have daylight savings time; I have to lose one hour of sleep. You see the point.

So, what is the real goal that should be sought by us? Some of us might think that becoming supremely wealthy should be the real goal. In this regard, I have another story. Once there was a very wealthy man who was very attached to his wealth. And when the time came for his departure from this world, he wanted to take his wealth with him. So, he pleaded with the angel in charge to seek permission from God and have his desire fulfilled. After much pleading and persuasion, the angel came back and told the wealthy man that he was allowed to take one suitcase to his future abode. This man was very happy and soon converted all his wealth to solid gold bars and filled one suitcase. In due course of time, he left this body and when he reached his heavenly abode, the customs officer stopped him and said that no luggage is allowed in heaven. To this, our man replied that he had special permission from God and even showed an i-phone app where he had captured his conversation with the angel. On seeing this, the customs officer became agreeable to allowing one suitcase into heaven. But he wanted to check what was inside, and asked the man to open it for him. Upon seeing the gold, the customs officer incredulously asks, “You brought Pavement??”

In any case, coming back to our discussion, very few of us question what should our real goal be. Suppose this question is asked of worldly-minded people like us, I am sure we will get as many different answers as the number of people being asked this question. The variety of answers could be, “Becoming wealthy”, “Gaining fame”, “Being powerful”, “Having a family”, “Raising good children”, “Becoming an astrophysicist”, “Teaching in inner-city schools”, “Helping those in need”, “Becoming a movie star”, “Professional basketball player”, etc...

One common theme that emerges from these answers is that each one is seeking fulfillment from his/her pursuit and expects that fulfillment once the goal is reached. As one goes through this becoming process, one recognizes that in reality there is no total fulfillment that is achieved by accomplishing these finite goals. Attaining such finite goals indeed provides temporary satisfaction, but they are just that; temporary. What each of us truly seeks is total eternal unconditioned fulfillment.

So, “What is the real purpose of life?” Now, one would imagine that a question such as this would have a direct answer. Indeed, it does. In the words of great masters, the answer is “Self realization”. Sometimes we may get ‘apparently’ different answers, “Self realization is the goal of life”, “God realization is the goal of life”, “To experience what is beyond this physical existence is the goal of life”, “To have supreme compassion for all”, “To go beyond all differences”, “To recognize the divinity within”, “To do all actions with utmost awareness”, “To offer everything to God”, “To surrender to God”.

So, our intent is to examine these and see if indeed they are different answers, or they are only apparently different. Is it possible that some of these answers might be pertaining to spiritual practices or sadhana that one performs in order to reach the goal, yet some others might reveal the nature of one who has already achieved the goal. Let us take the first statement, “Self Realization”. The message seems to be quite clear----I need to realize my Self, I need to recognize the truth of my being, I need to know myself as I truly am.

Now someone might say----what is there to know about myself? Let me tell you who I am. You see that red Ferrari parked in the No Parking spot in front of the ashram. I am the owner of that car. This statement reveals that this person has a sense of self invested in the Ferrari. If something were to happen to the Ferrari, his self-worth is damaged. We find many people in this category; people who have invested a substantial portion of their self in the objects of this world. And when something happens to their possessions, they are shattered - in other words, they almost cease to exist. So, who am I? I am the Ferrari, and if the Ferrari gets damaged, I am damaged.

In Sanskrit this sense of possession is called “MamaKara” and the sense of I is called “Ahankara”. In this particular situation where one is totally identified with one’s possessions, there is a mixing of Ahankara and Mamakara. I have purposely used the car example, just as a play of words------My car becomes Mama car (Mamakara?) in Sanskrit.

It becomes clear that this is very superficial thinking. Even so, it is not easy to get rid of this idea of wnership. Let me illustrate this with an example. Once there was a person who was getting married nd he did not have a jacket to wear for the reception. He requested his friend to lend him his jacket or the evening, which the friend readily agreed to. As the reception started, the friend, who was one f the ushers, would welcome people and tell them, “You see the jacket that the groom is wearing; that is my jacket.” This conversation reached the ears of the groom and he summoned his friend and told him not to embarrass him with such declarations. So, when the next set of people arrived, our friend would say, “You see the jacket that the groom is wearing; that is not my jacket.” Now once again the situation was getting out of control. The friend was once again duly requested him to refrain from such comments. And when the next set of people came, our friend started saying, “You see the jacket that the groom is wearing; I don’t know who it belongs to.” We can see how the identification is so deep that in all interactions, the jacket became the central topic.

Suppose we say that we have overcome this idea, and that we do not misinterpret our possessions to be our selves. Well then, who am I? Some of us will say, “Of course, I am this body.” Now is this really the case? Saying that I am this body is not very different from saying I am this car. This body is also something I possess, something I know, and hence something that is different from me, the Knower. I am the knower of this body. So, when I say that I am a man, what I am really saying is that this human body is that of a man, I have identified with this body, and therefore I am saying that I am a man. Identified with the car, I said I am the car, identified with the body, I say I am the body. Then if the body is a large body, I say I am fat and then think that I should not have a fat body----because all the advertisements are telling me so. Then I spend several hours in the gym trying to lose this fat from the body which is not me.

Identified with my qualifications I could say that “I am an engineer” or “I am a physician”, etc. But even without being an engineer or physician, I still am. So, Who am I?

By this process, I start recognizing that I am different than what I know. At a subtler level, identified with the state of my mind, I make statements like, “I am happy today”, or “I am sad”, etc. Really speaking, sadness is a state of mind, and I am aware of this state of mind. Further, I identify with my mind and claim that I am sad. In reality, I am neither sad nor happy. In this way, when I eliminate all that I am not, I will have to acknowledge that “Really speaking, I do not know who I am.”

It is only when I reach this conclusion, do I truly become a student and a master comes into our life. I cannot independently establish the truth of myself. I have to depend on the teaching of the scripture that a Master reveals adeptly. Your true nature is Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, says the Mahatma. In Sanskrit the terms used are Sat or existence, Chit or consciousness, and Ananda or bliss. SatChitAnanda. This is you.

How about the person sitting next to me? He is also SatChitAnanda. She is also SatChitAnanda. Really? Now-----you are stretching it, you might say. In fact there is only one reality, that is SatChitAnanda. How about God? God is SatChitAnanda.

Now, when we examine what was said earlier as Self Realization being the goal of life, I understand that knowing myself as SatChitAnanda is Self Realization, which is also God Realization, because God is SatChitAnanda. Also, since there is only one reality, which is SatChitAnanda, there are no differences-----so going beyond all differences also means Self Realization. Once I recognize that there is only one reality, and I no longer see any differences, compassion towards all is a natural outcome.

Surrender to God is same as recognizing that everything is God and all acts are performed in God, for God. Thus, surrender is natural. Everything is divine, within and without. Knowing this is recognizing divinity within and without.

Someone might say, “Sir, I understand it when you say I am of the nature of existence or Sat. I can also understand when you say I am of the nature of consciousness or Chit. But I don’t understand how I am of the nature of bliss or Ananda. In fact, most of the time I am of the nature of sorrow rather than bliss.” So, how to reconcile this? Although my true nature is Ananda, when it comes to my experience, my mind is the medium through which my true nature gets reflected. If the mind is very disturbed, or is entertaining undesirable thoughts, or there is an emotion of anger, or if I am carrying thoughts of jealousy or hatred, all of this influences the reflection. The mind is like a mirror. If the mirror is very clean and polished, the reflection will be bright and clear. Otherwise, it will be fuzzy. So, even after knowing my true nature, if I am unable to abide in it, then there is work to do. Here is where all the spiritual practices or sadhana comes in.

What type of spiritual practices should I undertake? Anything that helps me gain greater clarity, develop sufficient objectivity in my assessment of the world and what it has to offer, develop a relative sense of contentment, become devoted to God, etc.

Someone might say that in spite of all my efforts, I am unable to see any improvement in myself. Let us take the example of making yogurt. First the milk is boiled and then when it is relatively cooled down, some yogurt culture gets added. This should be allowed to settle for it to become yogurt. If instead, I keep stirring it or disturbing it to see if the yogurt is settling, then it will never settle. This is what is happening in our case. Although I have heard the teachings, in practice, I keep filling my mind with unwanted thoughts like greed, jealousy, passion, etc. These thoughts do not permit the knowledge to settle and create any noticeable change in my interactions with the world.

If I want to become a true devotee of the Lord, then what should I do? Once, the celestial sage Narada went to the Lord and asked him if he had a list of devotees that loved him. The Lord handed him a computer printout that listed all devotees that loved him. As soon as Narada got the list, he wanted to see if his name was in there. During our high school and college years, after the final exams, a grade or rank list would be published and posted by the teacher. We all would jostle against each other to see if our name was on the list. Some of us would start from the bottom of the list and get satisfied as long as our name made it to the list. Some would start from the top and if their name was not either first or second, they would get irritated. How did he or she make it to the top? Why not me?

Here too, Narada wanted to see if his name was there, as also who else was on the list. Interestingly enough, Narada did not find his name. Although he was upset at not finding his name in the list, he asked the Lord in a roundabout way------Lord perhaps this list has some mistakes? I do not find names of great devotees like Hanuman, Shabari, Jatayu, etc.. How come?. The Lord said that their names were on another list. What list was this and what was different about it?

The first list, said the Lord, is a list of devotees who loved the Lord. The second list is a very short list of devotees whom the Lord loved. I may say that I love God. The real question is, Does God love me? How do I know who is dear to the Lord? The answer to this question is provided by the Lord himself in the Bhagavad Gita. In chapter 12, titled “Yoga of Devotion or Bhakti Yoga”, the Lord enumerates the qualities of a true devotee; one who is dear to the Lord. I would like to quote two verses as an example:

Adveshta Sarva Bhutanam Maitrah Karuna Eva Cha

Nirmamo Nirahankarah Sama Dukha Sukha Kshami

Santushtah Satatam Yogi Yatatma Dhridanischayah

MayyarpitaManoBuddhih Yo Mad Bhaktah Sa me Priyah

The last quarter of the second verse says, “Yah mad bhaktah sah me priyah”, such a devotee is dear to me. The first verse and rest of the second verse is a description of the qualities of a true devotee. You will find that these are the qualities of a realized master. But they are being prescribed to a disciple or a seeker.

In spiritual literature, a commonly used phrase is, “Siddhasya Lakshanani, Sadhakasya Sadhanani.” The seeker or student should try to inculcate the qualities of an accomplished one. Okay, I want to be dear to god, what should I do?

Adveshta sarva bhutanam---toward all beings in the world one who has no hatred, is very dear to me, -----What? So I am not allowed to dislike even a single person in the whole world? When we say the word ‘world’, we may start thinking-----the world has so many solar systems, galaxies, planets, stars etc., and on this earth so many people and creatures. But in reality when we talk about ‘our’ world, only 20 people come to our mind - 17 people in one list (those who I like) and 3 in other list (those who I dislike)--- this is our world. We don’t care if something is going on in Siberia, or that a comet is going to hit Africa in another 2 million years. We don't care much...we are completely unaffected with respect to that. All we want to know is if anything is happening to me, my family, or maximum to our neighbors.

The so called created world is not of importance to me, what is important to me is the experienced world only. If I can take care of whatever is relevant for me then I have taken care of the whole world.

I have to work only on that which is relevant to me. So how can I not entertain hatred towards anyone? The key is knowing that I alone am everything, just as I know that I will never hate any part of my body. If I accidentally bite my tongue I do not punish my teeth, because it is me, myself.

As I said, those 20 people on the list alone matters to us. These may be people in the house, or in the office, even sometimes those we meet on the road. A devotee can never entertain such negative thoughts. If my vision has already assimilated the truth that everything is that Lord alone, I can never let go of that thought or harbor hatred towards anything of this world. A great master says, “Harboring hatred towards your enemy is like consuming poison and expecting the enemy to die.” Hatred only destroys my peace of mind. By not entertaining hateful thoughts, I am not doing anyone a favor. I am helping myself alone. This is Adveshta Sarva Bhutanam.

Next is Maitrah----be a friend to all. The best example of friendship is of milk and water. When they mix, milk is ready to give all its property to water, increases the status of water. Water on the other hand says whenever anyone heats up milk, I will burn first,. But they will get split if some sourness gets in--- possibly a lack of trust or doubt. So, a lot of care and awareness is needed in order to maintain friendship.

Karunnah - compassion towards those individual who need financial, physical, but most importantly, emotional support. Don't dismiss them by saying they always have problems. Be compassionate. True compassion is giving fearlessness to all. Don't keep anyone under your thumb, don't exercise power over them.

Nirmamo nirahankarah. Nirmamah---Give up the idea of mine with respect to possessions, objects over which we want to exercise control; and Nirahankarah---Give up the idea that I am this body and mind. A true devotee considers everything as non-separate from God.

Sama dukha sukhah—samatwa or total acceptance of joy and sorrow, pleasure or pain. Now one might ask, does the devotee also have to undergo difficulties in life? The answer is yes----difficulties come from the world. They do not affect the state of being of the realized master. In fact, such experiences allow the master to come to our level and interact with us. How else are we going to learn?

Kshami---one who forgives everyone. Everyone gets criticized by someone or the other. Say there is a saintly person and he wants to do seva. People will say why do you have to get involved with such things; you do your meditation; we will take care of things, but then someone else might say what is this, why are you just sitting like that, do something...either way, someone will criticize. You will never be able to satisfy the world, so just forgive people. You need to be large hearted; it is good for us, otherwise it can become a problem for us, it will not allow the yogurt to settle down.

Santushtah satatam yogi – Satatam santushtah ---- ever contented. Such a person is a yogi, one with an integrated personality. Worldly people like us are always unhappy about what we don't have, never happy with what we have. A true devotee is always content.

There are two boys from Stanford who made low cost incubators for babies that could be used in poor countries...the father says I spent so much money on their education, but the children are willing to work for non-profit, low paid jobs. This is inspiration. The biggest seva can be done only by a person who is internally content. Satatam santushta, satatam yogi - no failure will get this person down, deflate his inspiration, or demotivate him. He is a yogi, because he is constantly synchronized with the teaching.

Yatatma Drda nischayah-one who is striving, alert, his buddhi/intellect is never wavering.

Mayi arpitah mano buddhihi---offering mind and intellect to Me, means Bhagavan saying that in your intellect the vision should be there, and the mind should be filled with love for me. Surrender your ego to Me. Such a devotee is dear to Me. Yo MadBhaktah SahMe Priyah.

I pray that the entire guru parampara continues to shower their grace on us and lead us all to our ultimate goal.

The Concept of God in Hinduism

Sri Ajit Halder


The teacher of a primary school asked a little girl to describe her family to the class. She replied: ‘We are five in the family; my mum and dad, my brother and me, and with our God who lives in mum’s Tulsi plant our family of five is complete’. The belief that God is part of the family lingers on in the mind of a Hindu child as it grows up into adulthood. To a Hindu, God is not something that stays away in a far off heaven, He is right in front of us perceived amidst His creations and He is right inside us too. God is not just Magnificent Almighty, but is also a lovely One with whom you, I and everyone else, can have a relationship as a devotee. The essence of Hinduism is that God, protector of humankind against all adversities, can be realized in this life here in this world through prayer, worship and righteous living. We often hear it said: ‘May God be with you’ as if God is apart from you but Hinduism preaches that God is residing within each one of us. So to a Hindu a more appropriate statement should be this: ‘Realise God who is resident in your heart’.

Hinduism considers God not just as the Supreme and Benevolent to humanity but also a personal God whom the individual can worship with love (prema) and devotion. Devotion or bhakti is a very key concept in Hinduism and more on this will be covered later on in this article. The Hindus believe that God possesses many qualities and therefore no one word could adequately describe all His attributes and hence serve as God’s name. Hindus use different names when referring to God’s many adorable qualities. One Sanskrit word for God is Ishvara. The word Ishvara is derived from the roots Isha (meaning powerful/lord) + vara (meaning most excellent). So Ishvara refers to a divine being with extraordinary powers. Hindus express their allegiance to God by uttering ‘Hey Ishvara’.

Another popular address made to God is ‘Bhagavan’ – the divine being endowed with ‘bhagavatta’ meaning the possessor of good qualities, usually the six main attributes. These attributes and their interpretations are:

(1) Jnana (Omniscience); (2) Vairagya (Detachment); (3) Yasha (Fame) (4) Aishvarya (Sovereignity); (5) Sri (Glory) and (6) Dharma (Righteousness).

Other important qualities attributed to God are Gambhirya (grandeur), Audaarya (generosity) and Karunya (compassion). Bhagavan is also described as the representation of all that is good.

Definition of God:

Since this article discusses Hindu concept of God it will be of immense help if a definition of God is provided. Hindu theologians defined God as one possessing a number of graces that includes God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, perfect goodness, eternal, all pervading and necessary existence.

The Upanishads talk about God’s many virtues and reaches a conclusion that God (Brahman) is the ultimate Truth, the Reality and the visible world perceived by our senses is Maya, an illusion of God, and beyond Maya is Brahman, The worldly objects which are God’s various manifestations, are helps to focus on God. Each manifestation of God is given an image that represents one attribute of God. A devotee chooses an image to worship as a personal deity.

How to know God:

The scriptures of Hinduism are the pathways to know God, are sources that reveal God to the devotees. The Vedas and the mythology of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata tell us a lot about God through stories and proclaim the glory of God. The scriptures are genuine help to know God but the spiritual calling that emanates from within brings a devotee closer to God.

The seeker who wants to know the true nature of God may feel puzzled because the Vedas say God is unknowable, incomprehensible yet many ancient sages (rishis), seers have known God. God is knowable and perceivable only through the grace of God. Rigveda (1.164.46) states – ‘Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Badanti’ - meaning God is one, sages call Him by many names. Also in the Rigveda (8:1:1) – ‘Ma cid anyad vi sansata sakhayao ma rishanayata’ - meaning ‘O friends, do not worship anybody but Him, the Divine One, Praise Him alone’. The Brahma Sutra states: ‘Ekam Brahma, dvitiya naste neh na naste kinchan’ - meaning ‘Here is only one God, not the second, not at all, not in the least bit. Chandogya Upanishad (6:2:1) says: ‘Ekam Eva Advitiyam’ which means ‘God is only one, without a second’.

In ancient India there were many saintly figures like rishis, munis who had received the calling from above and also the vision of God. The scriptures abound with their wise discourses and their messages are guides to help aspirants to realise God. In Hinduism, there have been many saints but no single mediator (prophet) between God and humans; the beauty of Hinduism is that one can gain direct communication with God through prayer, meditation and worship.

Hindus believe in one God (the English word used to denote Ishvara) and the word God is always written with a capital ‘G’. His many representations (deities) are Gods or Goddesses - but all point to the same unique God. Note that the word god, a perceived image of God, begins with the letter ‘g’ in the lower case. The Vedas refer to God possessing three aspects:

‘Bhakta bhogyam preritaram ca matva

Sarvam prokritam trividham Brahmametam’ –

This verse means: first is the enjoyer (rasika); the second is the enjoyable (rasa) and the third Brahman, the inspirer. God’s grace is the fundamental condition for attainment of supreme bliss and gaining liberation from material affliction.

It is accepted that God has created every thing; therefore, there must be a trace of God in every item He has created just like a baby carries the gene map, the DNA signature of its parents. This is quite simple to comprehend and Hindus believe in the link with God that exists in everything, living and non-living. It is not enough to know that one is linked to God and is divine; one should strive to manifest it every moment of one’s life.

Why do we need God?

The simple answer is that as our creator, God knows us best; also He understands our sorrow, cares for us and forgives our wrongdoings... We need God as our protector, our saviour and with His compassion we will achieve spiritual perfection.

When we are in distress suffering alone, the thought that God is with us gives the strength that we need to overcome the difficulty. God’s message to us is one of love, hope and by following Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, we prepare ourselves to receive God’s blessings.

Bhakti, the path of devotion to reach God:

Bhakti is self-giving entirely to God to attain salvation or liberation and more over to enjoy a better quality of existence which comes about with one’s progression from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. The Bhagabad Gita emphasizes Bhakti, the loving devotion to God, as the only way to realise God. In Chapter 11 of the Gita, after exhibiting His cosmic vision to Arjuna, Lord Sri Krishna says in verses 53-55, ‘…only by one-pointed devotion (bhakti) to me and me alone that you see and know me as I am in reality and ultimately reach me …’. Also in Chapter 18, verses 65-66, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna (and through him the entire humankind): ‘Let your mind be constantly directed towards me (i.e. Sri Krishna); be devoted to me; dedicate all your actions to me, prostrate yourself before me; completely surrender to me and me alone, and consider this to be your religious duty i.e. your practice of dharma. Bhakti, therefore, is the only way to the true knowledge of God and the surest way to reach Him.

In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the epithet Svayam Bhagavan is exclusively used to designate Krishna(Krishnastu Bhagavan Svayam). Certain traditions of Hinduism consider Krishna to be the source of all avatars (incarnations of God) as such Sri Krishna is regarded as Svayam Bhagavan.

Some advice may help a devotee reach God through Prayer, Meditation and Nama Samkirtan. We start with Prayer. When an individual prays s/he devotes all his/her attention to the Lord and almost attains merger with the Lord. Prayer is considered an essential part of Bhakti. When we say a prayer with a group of worshippers in a temple, our minds are linked together with thoughts focused on the same God. This congregational worship adds a new dimension to our religious act and creates a spiritual bond with the worshippers all praying to the Lord.

Meditation ensures peace of mind and in that tranquil mental state the seeker concentrates on a deity. It is suggested that you select a quiet corner and after seating comfortably relax and allow the symbol ‘OM’ to come into your awareness. Visualize the symbol with your entire being and you will begin to achieve a perfect union with your object of meditation. Gradually a gentle, subtle awareness of the wholeness of ‘OM’ will fill your consciousness leading you on to the holiness of the Lord.

Nama Samkirtan means chanting the holy names of the Lord with rhythm and sweet melody believing that chanting ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna; Krishna Krishna, Harey Harey’ and singing other kirtan songs is a process to purify the soul. Hari Nama Samkirtan begins with ‘srinvanti’, hearing about the greatness of the Lord. As soon as we are convinced about the attributes of the Lord it will be our religious duty to broadcast it, to proclaim it to the world through ‘gayanti’, chanting Nama kirtan. Nama Samkirtan contributes to the spiritual gain of the singer and also to the spiritual awakening of the whole of humanity.

Is God Formless or With Forms?

God has infinite, limitless attributes. But in the Upanishadic tradition God is referred to as Nirguna Brahman meaning God is neither limited to any specific form nor possessing any particular attribute. This view of the Upanishads makes sense because if God is given a form (a particular shape), He will be limited to that form manifesting just one attribute – something that would be contradictory to Hindu belief that God’s qualities are limitless. However, God takes form(s) as perceived by the Hindus and this perceived form is called Saguna Brahman (God with good attributes). Each form has its significance and provides a basis for the Hindu worshipper to easily pursue the otherwise incomprehensible Supreme. Hinduism accommodates diverse ways of worshiping God with form or without any form. Whether one worships in Saguna or Nirguna way, it is ultimately the same God being adored.

Is God only a He?

Hinduism says God is beyond the gender diversity. When God is called the Lord of all creatures, God is above the differentiation of gender and is referred to by using He or She whichever is deemed appropriate to describe Him. God may be masculine or feminine but the representation of God as ArdhaNarishvara clearly displays both male-female aspects of Him blended into one divine form.

Face to Face with God:

We have learnt a lot about God and we adore His love and care for humanity. Time is now ripe when instead of hiding away from God we would better be closer to Him. We need to listen to His voice and feel His presence all around us. We can hear the voice of God in many sounds that Nature provides for us and we can perceive God in His creations visible to us. Do we have ear to listen to the voice of God and an eye to see, riveted with wonder and admiration, the many sights that God offers for us in this world and in the outer universe?

How nice and enchanting it would be to listen to the murmur of the breeze rustling through the leafy boughs of trees, the sweet note of the cooing of a cuckoo, the chirping of birds, the humming of bees, the cry of a newly born baby, the flutter of the wings of a crane standing on one foot in the water of a lake, the perennial sound of sea waves breaking on the shore, the rumbling of thunder-different sounds of celestial music but all ringing God’s voice into our ears in a variety of notes.

For heavenly sights we only need to look up towards the sky and watch the clouds sailing by gracefully, admire the colours of the rainbow painted on the sky’s wide canvas, the setting of the sun on the western sky radiant with golden sunrays and the beauty of thousands of stars sparkling like diamonds in the night sky. And here on earth, the stunning view of lofty mountains, the meandering rivers, rain drops falling on perched earth making the soil fertile for a rich harvest, lush green valleys strewn with flower beds on which daffodils dance in the spring, colourful roses, sweet smelling jasmines, sprightly children chasing butterflies in a summer afternoon – all these are glimpses of God presented to us in various shades, forms and sizes.

The simple act of hearing the varieties of sound issuing out of Nature and observing the eye-catching sights becomes an act of adoration of the Lord. This offers us a wonderful benefit. Our soul is purified; our minds freed and calmed because the burden of the world is lifted by the grace of God. Being face to face with God, we are indeed in His merciful presence and this makes us feel grateful to praise the Lord for everything good He has done and is always doing for us all.

Life is a journey, and like any other journey one should be in possession of a route map and secure the service of a trusted guide to ensure smooth progression along the way. Luckily for us, God is our guide and what a relief that He has already drawn up our life’s route map. We will never walk alone for God is our constant travelling companion leading us from the front. So ‘Ma Bhai’ : have no fear; proceed in confidence believing that God is always with you and leaving your footprints behind, you will surely move forward in your life’s journey. It should be borne in mind that the happiest, luckiest person on earth is s/he who lives every moment of his/her life in God.

Concluding Remarks:

Years ago, I attended the AGM of the UK Hindu Parishad held in Bradford, England. At that AGM, I gained a clear indication of the mission that God wanted us to fulfil in our worldly life. In his opening address the President of the UK Hindu Parishad warmly welcomed all to the AGM. Then the ritual of introduction began. One person said: ‘I am Harish Kumar, Managing Director of Globe Trading, Bradford’; the next guest said ‘I am Jos Patel, Chief Executive of International Finance, Wembley’ and others followed boasting about their superior social status. Then, it was the turn of a young man who said humbly: ‘I am Suresh, a community care worker and I am here to serve you’. This modest introduction is a gem of a statement focusing our attention straight on to the Concept of God in Hinduism which is:

‘Serve humanity as your act of worship of the Divinity and thus realize God’.

Swami Vivekananda touched on this point in his lecture on Karma Yoga delivered in America in 1893 when he said: ‘Our duty to others means helping others, doing well to the world. Be grateful to the man you help, think of him as God. Is it not a great privilege to be allowed to worship God by serving your fellow men?’

Demonstration of Science of Oneness.

Smt. Sunetra Chakravorty

People like us have a very common problem of accepting the Right Knowledge. I remember during my initial days of visiting the Master (Sri Sri Babathakur), how difficult I found each word of His sayings to be. However I soon developed a liking towards Him and His words - and that fondness made me go to Him regularly. However the problem of not understanding the subject (and trying to discern the logic embedded in every sentence), was not helping me much.

The Master understood this. He said, “The mind is full of contradictions and preoccupied with bundle of thoughts, ideas and experiences. Intellect tries to prove them logically correct because mind and intellect both function with ego. So it is obvious that the ego will never allow the mind to accept new thoughts and ideas.” I wanted to learn and understand new things, but after a while the mind rejected whatever I was trying to learn, and the urge went away. The Master would then say, “You have to vacate your mind first”. Now the question arises how to vacate the mind?

He gave a demonstration. He took a big flat container and placed it on the table. Next He took a glass full of colored (muddy) water and placed it in the center of the flat container. Then He started pouring colored water from the top into the glass. After a few minutes I could see the glass still remaining filled with colored water - with the excess colored water overflowing on to the plate. He said, “Now I am going to replace the colored water with pure water. See what happens!” He continued the demonstration and started pouring pure water into the glass containing colored water. After a few minutes I could see the colored water starting to overflow, and what remained inside was pure water. I though it took a little while for the colored water to overflow from the glass. Master said, “Through the continuous pouring of pure water, the glass is now full of pure water. Same is the case with the mind. If you can continuously shower light (i.e. the light of Right Knowledge) into the mind, it will start absorbing that light. However, here you need the guidance of a Realized Master who will continuously shower the light that is the Knowledge of Knowledge/Science of Oneness, clear our mind and makes it pure, enlighten us and free us from all demerits.”