Thursday, May 23, 2013

Welcome to the Buddha Purnima issue of e-Sanai

Sri Sandip Dasgupta

Dear fellow devotees,

Welcome to the Buddha Purnima edition of our electronic magazine.  In this editorial, I will begin with certain conversations between the revered Guru Ramana Maharshi and one of his devotees. These gems were picked up from a recent posting on Facebook!
Q:  Why does the waking state look so real?
A:  We see so much on the cinema screen, but it is not real; nothing is real there except the screen.  In the same way, in the waking state, there is nothing but Adhistan (substratum).  Knowledge of the world is the knowledge of the knower of the world.   Both go away in sleep.
Let us analyze this with the Light of Oneness that our beloved Sadguru, Sri Sri Babathakur has showered on us. The Absolute I-Reality is the substratum amongst all of us – just like the cinema screen is the substratum on which various films, actions, emotions are enacted. The screen is real and everything enacted on the screen disappears at the end of the movie. When the movie is running, the spectator is led to believe that the events on the screen are real and they get emotionally attached temporarily to the contents of the movie. The person watching the movie is the Jiva, who is a reflection of the Supreme I-Reality.  Yet, during the movie everything superimposed on the screen appears to be real. This error of perception/judgment is due to ignorance. As the Knowledge of Oneness dawns on the individual by the Grace of Sadguru (who has realized the truth), the individual merges into His/Her real entity, namely the I-Reality.

We have been extremely lucky to have received direct instructions from a Self-Realized Master like Sri Sri Babathakur.  Now it is up to us to rededicate ourselves to repeatedly listen to His teachings, reflect on them, apply them to our daily activities, and strive to reach the goal of Self-Realization.

Starting with this issue, we shall electronically reproduce articles published in the Saccidananda Society's Sri Sanai magazine for the benefit of our readers.

Train to be what you truly are


Sri P.C. Lahiri

I read the following article by Sant Rajinder Singh (Santji) appearing in the May 14th, 2013 issue of the Bengaluru edition of the Times of India.  Only the story part is presented below along with a few observations by Santji.

“There was once a seeker who would meditate in a room for several hours each day. He wished to solve the mystery of life. He would not speak to anyone but would stay in the room, meditating almost all day. One day a dark cloud passed above the building, darkening the room. Once the cloud passed, the room became light again. Suddenly the seeker came out of the room, went into the street and began dancing and singing with joy. Seeing this, the Master asked, “What has made you so happy and full of laughter today.” The seeker said, “I have just figured out the secret of life. All life is maya or illusion. One day the sky is clear. Then a cloud comes and darkens the sky. Then the cloud passes and the sky is clear again. Such are the events of our life. All the ups and downs in life will pass away also.”

The simple realization brings forth a calm approach to life, revealing the fact that our true Self is the soul. The soul, a mere traveler in the physical world, wears a physical body and is given a physical mind even as we experience maya and the transitory nature of existence.

…. We will have happy events and sad events. The key is to realize that each of them is like the clouds that too will pass.” Quote ends.

That too shall pass --- this thought is quite reassuring and helps us tide over the ups and downs of life, provided we are able to hold on to this lesson at all times through the vicissitudes of life.  The real difficulty arises when we face the downs.   At such times, holding on to the lesson turns into an uphill task.  For trying times, Santji suggests, “We can avoid the ups and downs of life by realizing they will pass.  We should instead keep our attention on God and spend time daily in meditation.”  So, ‘focusing our attention on God and meditating daily’ is what Santji recommends.

Conventional religion (and the systems based on it), align well with what Santji suggests.  They smoothly fit in with standard religious practices, as also with the mental training of the common people in India.  It is easy for us to accept that which is widely prevalent.  So many different schools of meditation, yoga, worship, prayers etc. have come up.  There is nothing wrong with that, and this article certainly doesn’t criticize any particular religion or the practices associated with it.

As per the Master’s (i.e. Prajnanpurush Sri Sri Babathakur’s) teaching of ‘all acceptance and all embrace’, nothing is reject-able in this universe and beyond.  In the spiritual and the self-development field, there are innumerable ideas and paths amongst which to choose from.  We select one out of them as per our knack, company, capability, preparation/education, aims/goals, desires etc.  So it is “his-his, whose-whose” and “live and let live”.  Master, being identified with Pure Consciousness, realized that the entire world drama is the sameside game of Self-Consciousness/Self I-Reality.  So, how can anything be rejected when the Self-I (i.e. our True Nature) Itself is playing from both sides – i.e. acceptable/right on one side, and the reject-able/wrong on the other side?  How can I reject my own Real Entity.

Now I come to the ground-reality aspect.  Those of us who are not able to totally follow the science of ‘all-acceptance and all-embrace’, look for some other support or line of self-development.  This is where all other systems, processes and thoughts appear.  Taking the help of the thought of “this too shall pass” and spending more time on the serious practice of meditation with attention on God, shall train the mind to be calm and steady over a period of time.  The time period shall depend on the preparedness and eagerness of the seeker. To keep attention on God and meditate properly, specific training from a fully trained Master is needed; otherwise the desired result shall not be achieved, leading to frustration.  After a certain level of proficiency is acquired, the Guru takes the seeker through higher levels of meditation courses to ultimately reach the state of supreme Self-Realization.  This entire process of mental training is very elaborate, has many stages, and requires constant guidance at every stage till the Real Self reveals.  The bottom line is, how devoted and dedicated are we to get mentally trained to reach the state of no-mind?

If the whole issue revolves around mental training, then why shouldn’t I train the mind to accept all as verily my own Being?  By the devoted and dedicated following of this single-line mental training, I shall reach the same ultimate goal of Self-Realization, abandoning all the intervening processes and stages.  A very important thing to be noticed and understood clearly is that in this process, the means and end are but one and the same.  How?

I start off by constant reminders to my mind that I am the Absolute, Paramatma, Parameshwara, Brahman/Atman Self I-Reality; at the end of my training I get established in this very Supreme Truth.  This is how the means and end are but one.

With any other process, I start with the assumption that I am at present, finite (and must faithfully adhere to all the steps of the process to achieve the Infinite); that I’m not yet the Absolute Self I-Reality, and must acquire it through some process.  There are many processes available all over the world. We follow them as per our choice, capability etc., but all are indirect paths to Self Realization.  The most direct and easiest process however is to ‘accept my True Self-identity which is eternally with me, whether I realize it or not, and proceed in life with its constant awareness.’  Once this paravidya (Supreme Knowledge) is unfolded by a perfectly realized Master, the ultimate secret is revealed.

We call ourselves rational beings, using our rationality/intellect at every step to discriminate and choose only that which is acceptable. We are so accustomed to this behavior and style of living that it is difficult for us to accept the august proclamations of the Master revealing the ‘Science of Oneness’.  How can I be ‘pure, enlightened, liberated, not subject to decay, immortal, sinless, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute’?  Master says that you do not need any training or sadhana/tapasya because you are verily that which you are trying to achieve through training or sadhana/tapasya.  The same intellect with whose help I am inclined to disbelieve my own True Nature is also the one that strongly leads me to believe that the Master is Parmatma, Parameshwara, the Absolute personified.  If that be so, then why can’t I believe the latter half of my intellect and follow the directions of the Master to simply accept my own Self I-Reality as the Absolute.

If I have at all to resort to any mental training for Self/God Realization, shouldn't it be direct and supreme?  Do I really need any temporary relief through the various other courses available all around?

Revealing Characteristics of Consciousness Itself

The following is the first article from the 'Revealing Characteristics of Consciousness Itself' series of articles published by the Saccidananda Society, Kolkata in 'Sri Sanai', its quarterly magazine. It has been electronically reproduced 'as-is' from the print version that appeared in the the Janmashtami 2004 (Volume XVIII, No. 3, September 2004) issue of Sri Sanai.  We hope the readers realize immense spiritual benefits on reading and contemplating upon the words of Sri Sri Babathakur.

The universe is dwelling place of mankind.  Here mankind is born, is brought up and asserts itself for its integral progress and development aspiring for its worldly prospect, comfort, happiness, personal purification, perfection and realization.  The more it asserts the more it finds something new, something unknown, something more interesting and thereby acquire some experience greater and greater than previous ones.  In this way new sorts of experience enrich it.  Such experience makes it more qualified and enlightens it with new light of understanding.
In life whatever we consider to be most dear and valuable is our personal experience, experience of some objective and some subjective dimensions.  In the initial stage, we are interested more in objective pursuits and understanding.
The truth that we first experience is that our objective experience inspires us so much that we are only involved and devoted in all respects to the objective pursuits of life and experience thereof.  It goes without saying that nothing is valid without experience.  Therefore whatever and however we think, do, enjoy, behave, transact, expect, and acquire, all are fully objective by nature.  For that the objective and visible world is solely responsible.  We in general feel that the relative existence of names and forms mainly serves the purpose of our worldly life and most of us cannot even think anything beyond that.  That is the characteristic of relative existence or objective nature of life.
We, the common people, begin our worldly life with the objective environment and its influence.  We think that life subsists on worldly object of diversified names and forms.  So long as we are engrossed with this objective view of life, we are bound to experience both the merits and demerits of the same.  Here the most pertinent point is that such experience compels us to prefer something agreeable and favourable and discard or avoid the opposites.  In this way, we develop the nature of liking and disliking and thereby become limited to some extent.  Here it is clear that objective experience of life being relative is not all perfect.  In such experience we lack perfection of objective understanding.  It cannot be denied that the objective experience, even of greater and better one is incomplete and insufficient to satisfy our inner and higher needs of life.  The aspiration of life cannot be limited to this or that and that or this, so and so.  That is why our unsatisfied nature tries to overcome such limitation and condition for which we are prone to think and try in a different outlook.  We enquire within ourselves if there is any agreeable solution.  Thereby we come in contact directly with our subjective fold of nature which is more subtle, finer, wider and dependable.  Thus we discover our subjective nature which is not only the source of objective one but also the support, guide and subject of the same.
The subjective nature of life is not so much limited and conditioned as the objective one.  Our subjective nature, when it is conscious of its own existence, never depends on the objective one but gets itself more aware about its subjective fold.  Subjective nature experiences both the objective and subjective ones separately and simultaneously as well.
When subjective nature is more conscious about itself, it is no more limited and conditioned by the objective one which was its first experience.  The subjective consciousness of life by virtue of its merits tries to overcome all sorts of demerits and it succeeds in such endeavour to some extent, though not fully.  It is true that subjective experience is wider than and superior to objective ones in all respects. Subjective experience of life controls and rules over the objective nature of life according to its efficiency, needs and understanding.  The subjective nature of life can acquire its highest limit but still it cannot experience its all perfect true nature and attain its realization.
Objective experience of life in its fullest and highest limit is subject to that of the subjective one.  Objective experience is twofold---the individual and the universal. The subjective one is also twofold----the individual and universal.  The former is subject to the latter and the latter is the ruler of the former.  Here we find that the subjective knowledge of life in its universal aspect is the creator, controller and ruler of the objective ones---individual and universal.  The subjective experience in its highest state is the super-subjective one which is the inner divine soul that sustains the previous two experiences—objective and subjective. The objective one pertains to outer nature of life, the subjective one to inner nature, while the super-subjective one is the central nature of life which is the inmost soul, i.e. the Lord of all.
Consciousness Itself which is the inmost Self is independent by nature called the Kutastha, the immutable Consciousness, the ever-witness of Itself and the rest. That is the permanent and eternal nature of life which is ever transcendental and beyond and is 'All Divine for All Time, as It Is.'
That is the Supreme Reality or the Ultimate Essence which is ever realized by itself as immortality, perfection and underlying truth of life.  This is the summum bonum of life-philosophy which begins with objective experience, passing  through subjective and super-subjective, and finally ends (culminates) to Witness Consciousness of inner-revealing characteristics appearing as 'All Divine for All Time, as It Is.'
Sri Sri Babathakur

to be continued............


The 2013 Maha Kumbha Mela at Prayag

Sri Ajit Halder

Kumbha Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage, the most popular religious festival and fair in which Hindus gather to perform the ritual of Snaan, i.e. to bathe in a sacred river adjoining a holy site.  It is held every third year at one of four places by rotation.  These places are: (i) Prayag or Allahabad at the Sangam (i.e. confluence) of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati (that supposedly flows underground); (ii) Nasik by the river Godavari; (iii) Ujjain by the river Shipra, and (iv) Hardwar by the river Ganges.  Thus the Kumbha Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year.  The site where the Mela will be held is determined by the zodiacal positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the planet Jupiter according to the Stotras (scriptural verses):
1. Makare ca Divaanaathe, Vrishage ca Brihaspatau /
    Kumbha Yogo bhavet tatra Prayage hi atidurlabjha //

2. Vrisha Raasi gate Jeeve Makare Chandra Bhaskarau /
    Amabshyaa tada yoga Kumbha akhoyau teertha Nayaaka //

This year the Sun is in Makar Raasi while Jupiter is in Vrishava Raasi.  These celestial positions fulfill the criteria of Stotra1 for holding this Mela at Prayag (Allahabad).  The Kumbha Mela that is held only at Prayag is called Purna Kumbha and is the largest of all Kumbha Melas.  This year’s Prayag Mela comes after twelve Purna Kumbhas i.e. after a gap of 144 years and is very special.  It is called the Maha Kumbha and is considered to be the most holy and auspicious of all Kumbha Melas.
The mythology of Kumbha Mela:

‘Kumbha’ means a pitcher.  According to Hindu mythology, the Gods and the asuras (demons) once churned kheer saagara (i.e. the ocean of milk).  This churning, known as Samudra Manthan, was done with the Mandar Mountain used as a churning rod and the serpent Basuki used as a rope tied around the mountain. The Gods pulled one end of the rope while the asuras gripped the other end.  Hindu mythology also states that this churning yielded amrita (i.e. the nectar of immortality) which was collected and placed in a Kumbha.   In order to prevent the demons from forcibly grabbing the amrita-filled Kumbha, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha spilling drops of amrita at four places, namely Prayag, Nasik, Ujjain and Hardwar.  Kumbha Mela is held in these four places by turn.  The next Kumbha Mela will be held at Nasik.

Significance of the Kumbha Snaan

The Kumbha Mela is an event that offers an opportunity to witness religious activities like devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men, women and the poor, assemblies of learned scholars discussing religious issues, and beholding the power of faith that motivates millions of devotees to come to the Mela.  Yet of all the sights, sounds and activities one is likely to encounter at the Mela, it is the experience of participating in (and witnessing the multitude of fellow pilgrims) bathing in the holy river that leaves the most profound and lasting impression of Kumbha Mela on a visitor.

The offering of a prayer and taking of Snaan (i.e. holy dip) result in a renewal of the Self, of bringing in an awareness of ‘leaving behind’  one’s sins and misdoings of the past, and of reawakening of the ‘I-ness’ in the mind – all leading to a new, spiritually enriched life.  The two phrases - ‘Immersing in’ and ‘Emerging out’- are eloquent expressions for the reward one gains by undertaking the entire ritual.   While taking the dip, the devotee immerses his/her entire body, mind and spirit into the bosom of Mother Ganges, and emerges out of the water as a transformed, uplifted, resurrected and reassured person, empowered to make a fresh start towards a richer, more enlightened  life.  It brings home a feeling of the Yoga (union) i.e. the linking of the individual self with the Universal Self, of Jibaatma with Praamatma.  This is the religious benefit one achieves by participating in the Maha Kumbha Snaan.

The 2013 Maha Kumbha Mela:

This year’s Kumbha Mela began on the day of Makar Sankranti (i.e. 14th January 2013), and continued for eight weeks, ending on Maha Shivaratri (10th March 2013).  I consider myself very fortunate for having been able to attend this auspicious event and taking a holy dip at the Sangam. I feel doing so helped me gain immense spiritual boon.  I experienced the aforementioned transformation within me while approaching the bathing ghat, taking a dip in the water and then coming out of the river onto the bank and facing the Sangam while chanting ‘Jai Ganga Maayi’.  I am sure millions others performing the same ritual experienced similar uplifting feeling of their souls as I did.

The Snaan on Mouni Amavasya (which fell on 10th February 2013) attracted the highest number of pilgrims.  It’s been estimated that nearly three crore pilgrims took Shahi Snaan (i.e. the royal bath) that day.  The second largest crowd numbering one crore was registered on 15th February, 2013, the day of the Basant Panchami.  Although taking a dip in the Ganges any day during the Mela period is considered to be a pious act, there were three other days earmarked as being very auspicious for taking the Shahi Snaan: the Makar Sankranti (on 14th January), Pous Purnima (on 27th January) and Maghi Purnima (on 25th February).

Public Facilities, Media Coverage, Consumerism and Modernity at the Mela:

The 2013 Maha Kumbha Mela was extensively covered by the Indian and foreign newspapers.  They printed hordes of statistical data on the number of devotees attending the Mela, detailed description of the construction of a temporary city at the site to cater to millions of visitors to Allahabad, and the opening of hospitals staffed by large team of doctors to provide health care.  It was reported that a huge number of police and volunteers were recruited to manage crowds on the roads leading to the bathing ghats and to ensure the safety and security of the visitors.  Accounts of thousands of pilgrims lost and separated from their families and later reunited with their loved ones after an agonizing period of waiting in suspense touched our hearts.  These extensive reporting on the enormity of the Mela was interesting to read as I witnessed the largest ever congregation of people I had ever come across in my life!

Banner advertising radio coverage of the Mela proceedings

It was a huge undertaking to feed the millions of visitors and to provide for their accommodations.  Hundreds of food stalls and dhabas had sprung up all over the place. These outlets sold mouth-watering food items and soft drinks to tired and thirsty pilgrims who stopped in for a snack and a drink during their long strolls to scour the Mela.  Besides the food stalls, many shops displayed religious merchandise, artefacts, and even small jugs filled with the water of the Sangam for pilgrims to take back home and share with their friends and relatives.   Listening to the experiences of those who visited the Mela, touching a jar filled with the water of the Sangam, and sipping a drop of holy water can certainly help those who were unable to attend the Kumbha Mela, feel religiously uplifted.

Crowds making their way through the Mela and to the bathing ghats

 The Uttar Pradesh government and several commercial firms erected hundreds of tents with modern facilities to serve as temporary lodgings.  A large number of new hotels also opened up to meet the demand of the visitors for suitable accommodation.  The arrangements made by the state authorities to offer care and hospitality to the Mela visitors were indeed amazing and admirable. 

The 2013 Maha Kumbha Mela was more than a spectacle of spirituality; it also showcased to the consumerism and the march towards modernity that have accompanied the economic growth of modern India to the rest of the world.  The extensive press coverage and telecasts brought to the world’s notice the rich, Hindu religious tradition along with the emergent consumer culture in India.  Considering the fact that the Mela attracted the largest number of individuals gathered at one place at the same time, it is not at all surprising that Indian Corporate bodies like banks and commercial groups used the opportunity to publicise their business activities through eye-catching hoardings and the distribution of trade literature from information booths.

The author will remember the 2013 Maha Kumbha Mela as a spectacular event in which age old Hindu rituals and religious practices were intertwined with the new consumerism and market economy that have visibly penetrated into small towns and rural India.