Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sri Yukteswar Giri


Sri Yukteswar was born Priyanath Karar in Serampore, India to Kshetranath Karar and Kadambini. Priyanath lost his father at a young age, and took on much of the responsibility for managing his family's land holdings. A bright student, he passed the entrance exams and enrolled in Srirampur Christian Missionary College, where he developed an interest in the Bible. This interest would later express itself in his book, The Holy Science, which discusses the unity behind the scientific principles underlying Yoga and the Bible. He also attended Calcutta Medical College for almost two years.

After leaving college, Priyanath married and had a daughter. His wife died a few years after their marriage, and he eventually was formally intitiated into the monastic Swami order as "Sriyukteshvar Giri" (note: thus 'Sri' is not a separate honorific, but part of his given name).

In 1884, Priyanath met Lahiri Mahasaya, who became his Guru and initiated him into the path of Kriya Yoga. Sri Yukteswar spent a great deal of time in the next several years in the company of his guru, often visiting Lahiri Mahasaya in Benares. In 1894, while attending the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, he met the Guru of Lahiri Mahasaya, Mahavatar Babaji, who asked Sri Yukteswar to write a book comparing Hindu scriptures and the Christian bible. Mahavatar Babaji also bestowed on Sri Yukteswar the title of 'Swami' at that meeting. Sri Yukteswar completed the requested book in 1894, naming it Kaivalya Darsanam, or The Holy Science.

Spiritual Life
*************
Sri Yukteswar converted his large two-story family home in Serampore into an ashram, named "Priyadham", where he resided with students and disciples. In 1903, he also established an ashram in the sea-side town of Puri, naming it "Kararashram". From these two ashrams, Sri Yukteswar taught students, and began an organization named "Sadhu Sabha".
An interest in education resulted in Sri Yukteswar developing a syllabus for schools, on the subjects of physics, physiology, geography, astronomy, and astrology He also wrote a book for Bengalis on learning basic English and Hindi called "First Book", and wrote a basic book on astrology. Later, he became interested in the education of women, which was uncommon in Bengal at that time.

Sri Yukteswar was especially skilled in Vedic Astrology, and prescribed various astrological gemstones and bangles to his students. He also studied astronomy and science, as evidenced in the formulation of his Yuga theory in The Holy Science.
He had only a few long-term disciples, but in 1910, the young Mukunda Lal Ghosh would become Sri Yukteswar’s most well known disciple, eventually spreading the teachings of Kriya Yoga throughout the world as Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda attributed Sri Yukteswar’s small number of disciples to his strict training methods, which Yogananda said “cannot be described as other than drastic”.

Regarding the role of the Guru, Sri Yukteswar said:
Look, there is no point in blindly believing that after I touch you, you will be saved, or that a chariot from heaven will be waiting for you. Because of the guru's attainment, the sanctifying touch becomes a helper in the blossoming of Knowledge, and being respectful towards having acquired this blessing, you must yourself become a sage, and proceed on the path to elevate your Soul by applying the techniques of sadhana given by the guru. It is in the path of meditation, truthfulness, and surrendering to God that the Guru-graced sadhaka becomes successful in attaining revelation and understanding of new methods of learning.

Author W.Y. Evans-Wentz described his impression of Sri Yukteswar in the preface to Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi:
"Sri Yukteswar was of gentle mien and voice, of pleasing presence, and worthy of the veneration, which his followers spontaneously accorded to him. Every person who knew him, whether of his own community or not, held him in the highest esteem. I vividly recall his tall, straight, ascetic figure, garbed in the saffron-colored garb of one who has renounced worldly quests, as he stood at the entrance of the hermitage to give me welcome. His hair was long and somewhat curly, and his face bearded. His body was muscularly firm, but slender and well-formed, and his step energetic."

Sri Yukteswar died at his Puri ashram on March 9, 1936.

Interview with Ramana in Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret India


Interview with Ramana in Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret India, published by Rider & Co., London:

Q: What exactly is this Self of which you speak? If what you say is true there must be another self in man.

Sri Ramana: Can a man be possessed of two identities, two selves? To understand this matter it is first necessary for a man to analyse himself. Because it has long been his habit to think as others think, he has never faced his 'I' in the true manner. He has not a correct picture of himself: he has too long identified himself with the body and the brain. Therefore I tell you to pursue this enquiry, 'Who am I?' You ask me to describe this true Self to you. What can be said? It is That out of which the sense of the personal 'I' arises and into which it will have to disappear.

Q: Disappear? How can one lose the feeling of one's personality?

Sri Ramana: The first and foremost of all thoughts, the primeval thought in the mind of every man, is the thought 'I'. It is only after the birth of this thought that any other thoughts can arise at all. It is only after the first personal pronoun, 'I', has arisen in the mind that the second personal pronoun, 'you', can make its appearance. If you could mentally follow the 'I' thread until it led you back to its source you would discover that, just as it is the first thought to appear, so it is the last to disappear. This is a matter which can be experienced.

Q: You mean that it is possible to conduct such a mental investigation into oneself?

Sri Ramana: Certainly. It is possible to go inwards until the last thought, 'I', gradually vanishes.

Q: What is then left? Will a man then become quite unconscious or will he become an idiot?

Sri Ramana: No; on the contrary, he will attain that consciousness which is immortal and he will become truly wise when he has awakened to his true Self, which is the real nature of man.

Q: But surely the sense of 'I' must also pertain to that?

Sri Ramana: The sense of 'I' pertains to the person, the body and brain. When a man knows his true Self for the first time something else arises from the depths of his being and takes possession of him. That something is behind the mind; it is infinite, divine, eternal. Some people call it the Kingdom of Heaven, others call it the soul and others again Nirvana, and Hindus call it Liberation; you may give it what name you wish. When this happens a man has not really lost himself; rather he has found himself.

Unless and until a man embarks on this quest of the true Self, doubt and uncertainty will follow his footsteps through life. The greatest kings and statesmen try to rule others when in their heart of hearts they know that they cannot rule themselves. Yet the greatest power is at the command of the man who has penetrated to his inmost depth.

What is the use of knowing about everything else when you do not yet know who you are? Men avoid this enquiry into the true Self, but what else is there so worthy to be undertaken?"

Biography of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharishi


Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879 near to Madura in South India. For the first 16 years of his life he was a normal child, with a keen interest in his studies and sports. However at a certain point he became struck with an unusual, yet overwhelming fear of death. Lying in his own room he became acutely aware of the inevitability of death and the mortality of his own body. However this paralysing fear proved to be only transient. With another penetrating insight he became aware that “I am not the Body” The real “I” was beyond matter. He was not a body but spirit. It was just that up until that point he had ignored this “I” or inner self.

With this glimpse of a higher, immortal consciousness the Maharshi lost all interest in his worldly life, he was plunged into a period of intense meditation on the nature of “Who am I” Absorbed in contemplations of a higher consciousness Ramana no longer felt any reason to stay in his home town. Instead he was magnetically drawn to the holy mountain of Arunachala, whose name alone, held a mantric appeal to Ramana Maharshi . Arunachala was to become the home for Ramana Maharshi for the rest of his life and the mountain was to be inexorably linked to his own sadhana and self.

For several years Ramana maintained a virtual silence because he was so absorbed in his interior meditations. Despite leading the most simple of lives and barely communicating, a group of devoted seekers began to be drawn to the mystical aura of this young sage. Thus gradually an ashram was built around him on the foothills of Arunachala and Ramana Maharshi would start to teach those who came, although he never claimed to be anybody’s Guru. After 2 years his mother came to visit Ramana, tearfully pleading with him to return home. Despite this Ramana was unmoved maintaining a calm meditative expression. Finally he answered that sometimes a higher power controls the fate of men and whatever she said could not change his destiny. (After her other children died several years later, his mother would return and eventually became a devoted disciple of her own son and remained in Arunachala for the last 6 years of her life)

Ramana Maharshi had no formal training in Yoga, he was entirely self taught, receiving only guidance from his own inner pilot, but so unique and powerful were his teachings that learned men well versed in scripture became disciples of Ramana Maharshi. Ramana Maharshi taught a simple path of self inquiry along the lines of “Who I am” He guidance sadhaks to train their awareness to the source of their thoughts - to their own inner self. Because of this Ramana Maharshi was often viewed as a Jnani (Man of knowledge) however he also had a strong devotional aspect, that is evident in some of his poems

“Thou madst me mad to cure me finally
Of madness for this world of fantasy.”

“As a spider thou wouldst watch me, Lord,
To trap me in thy web of Grace
Till now, when I’m enmeshed, thou com’st
And feed’st on me, O Blessedness!”

(Translated from the original Sanskrit, entitled Five Hymns)

Ramana Maharshi was compassion and forgiveness incarnate. There is a story told that once burglars came to the ashram. They were so incensed there was nothing worth stealing that they started to hit Ramana. However the great Sage displayed no sense of anger, he even offered the burglars some food before they left. (A year later they were caught for similar crimes and sent to jail) Ramana only felt pity for their state of ignorance.

Ramana Maharshi also had a wonderful relationship with animals. Many wild animals such as Tigers and snakes roamed the mountain side but the Maharishi never showed any signs of fear and often befriended animals who came in contact with him. A disciple recorded that on one instance a black cobra entered a hut where the Maharshi was staying, the snake stopped and stared into the eyes of Ramana, after a while the snake retreated. A realized soul maintains a close oneness with all of God’s creation and this compassion can sensed by the animals themselves. The ability to befriend animals is somewhat reminiscent of St Francis of Assissi who had a similar touch with animals.

Who Am I? - (Nan Yar?)..... I Love This Topic!


Om Namo Bhagavathe Sri Ramanaya
Who Am I? - (Nan Yar?)

As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form "Who am I?", is the principal means.

1 . Who am I ?

The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive sense-organs, viz. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning's, I am not.

2. If I am none of these, then who am I?

After negating all of the above-mentioned as 'not this', 'not this', that Awareness which alone remains - that I am.

3. What is the nature of Awareness?

The nature of Awareness is existence-consciousness-bliss

4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?

When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.

5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there (taken as real)?

There will not be.

6. Why?

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.

7. When will the world which is the object seen be removed?

When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition's and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called 'mind' is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).

9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?

That which rises as 'I' in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought 'I' rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind's origin. Even if one thinks constantly 'I' 'I', one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the 'I' thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

By the inquiry 'Who am I?'. The thought 'who am I?' will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.

11. What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought 'Who am I?'

When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: 'To whom do they arise?' It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, "To whom has this thought arisen?". The answer that would emerge would be "To me". Thereupon if one inquires "Who am I?", the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called "inwardness" (antar-mukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as "externalisation" (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the 'I' which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity "I". If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).

12. Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed, is the nature of the mind. The thought "I" is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity. It is from that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent, the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent. But in deep sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop. This is because of the will of God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled. Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps breath in the body; and when the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath-control is only an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manonasa).

Like the practice of breath-control. meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.

Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when a chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone. When the mind expands in the form of countless thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the sattvic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.

13. The residual impressions (thoughts) of objects appear wending like the waves of an ocean. When will all of them get destroyed?

As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the thoughts will get destroyed.

14. Is it possible for the residual impressions of objects that come from beginningless time, as it were, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?

Without yielding to the doubt "Is it possible, or not?", one should persistently hold on to the meditation on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep "O! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?"; one should completely renounce the thought "I am a sinner"; and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed. There are not two minds - one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds - auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.

The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other people. However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one's self. If this truth is understood who will not give to others? When one's self arises all arises; when one's self becomes quiescent all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.

15. How long should inquiry be practised?

As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry "Who am I?" is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry. If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.

16. What is the nature of the Self?

What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no "I" thought. That is called "Silence". The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is "I"; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.

17. Is not everything the work of God?

Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire, the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches itself to Him. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.

18. Of the devotees, who is the greatest?

He who gives himself up to the Self that is God is the most excellent devotee. Giving one's self up to God means remaining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other than that of the Self. Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?

19. What is non-attachment?

As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is non-attachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.

20. Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?

God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru's gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with one's own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else's. Does he who is Rama require the help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?

21. Is it necessary for one who longs for release to inquire into the nature of categories (tattvas)?

Just as one who wants to throw away garbage has no need to analyse it and see what it is, so one who wants to know the Self has no need to count the number of categories or inquire into their characteristics; what he has to do is to reject altogether the categories that hide the Self. The world should be considered like a dream.

22. Is there no difference between waking and dream?

Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings seem real while awake. so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on another body. In both waking and dream states thoughts. names and forms occur simultaneously.

23. Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?

All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one's Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one's Self with one's own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

24. What is happiness?

Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

25. What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?

Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To remain quiet is to resolve the mind in the Self. Telepathy, knowing past, present and future happenings and clairvoyance do not constitute wisdom-insight.

26. What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom?

Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self is wisdom.

27. What is the difference between inquiry and meditation?

Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Meditation consists in thinking that one's self is Brahman, existence-consciousness-bliss.

28. What is release?

Inquiring into the nature of one's self that is in bondage, and realising one's true nature is release.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sacred Symbols - Holy Ash


Sacred Symbols
MR PL Rethinam Chettiar

The Saiva symbols are the insignia of Saivism. Like nations and corporate bodies, religions too, have their own symbols. The main object of the symbol is to indicate its principle. The holy ash and rudraksha
are used as symbols by the Saivite to remind oneself as well as to make known to others one's religious creed and practices. Saiva philosophy declares that God,soul and bondage are eternal. When we apply the holy ash on the forehead with three fingers, it is called tripundara or 'three lines'. This indicates that the above three entities are without beginning or end and are eternal. Vendantins of the Sankara school explain the significance of the holy ash thus: "The world is impermanent and death is inevitable and the holy ash indicates this truth". They cite in this connection the statement of Pattinattar, "Even the crowned monarch will in the end be reduced to ashes".

Holy Ash
The Saivites consider the holy ash as an auspicious thing. Thiru Neeru (holy ash) also means 'wealth' Saint Jnanasambandhar in this decade of songs on the 'the holy ash' proclaims thus: "The holy ash brings
About prosperity, it is pleasant to behold, enhances the person so adorned; beautiful indeed is the holy ash." It is clear then that the idea that the holy ash reminds one of transience and is therefore inauspicious is not the view of the Saiva saints.
These saints do accept the transience of the world but the holy ash does not indicate such transience.

Aim of Saivism
The objective of Saivisn is the destruction of the three impurities of the soul, anavam, kanmam and mayai and thereby lead the soul towards bliss, Sivananda. The cow dung stands for the impurities. Burning it in fire represents the destruction of the thee impurities by the fire of knowledge. The white colour of the holy ash stands for the experience of unalloyed bliss.
Arumuka Navalar of Jaffna explains this idea in his Saiva vina-vidai.

Application of Holy Ash
Those who have been duly initiated may smear the holy ash mixed with water in the morning, noon and evening. At other times the ash as it is can be smeared over the body or applied in the form of tree lines. Those who are not initiated can also apply the ash mixed with water but only in the morning. At other times the dry ash can either be simply smeared over or applied as three lines. Whenever the holy ash is mixed with water it can be applied only in the form of three lines. The dry ash can be applied either way.

Basically, the holy ash can be worn at any time. It is recommended that it be applied as soon as one gets up in the morning. Some may wonder if it is proper to do so, especially without bathing or washing up. As the ash is considered holy and auspicious, there is no pollution attending to it under any circumstances. Obviously, after a bath there is a sense of cleanliness and some may prefer to apply the holy ash only after a bath. The important thing to remember here is that the holy ash be worn as long as possible if not at all times.

Many people feel that in a modern environment it may not be possible to adorn the forehead with the holy ash all the time. They consider it particularly difficult in a cosmopolitan society.

Well according to Jnanasambandhar, a similar predicament was faced by the Pandyan queen Mangayarkarasi in her time. She could not openly wear The holy ash as her husband himself had embraced Jainism and frowned upon Hindu customs. She opted to apply the ash on her chest and covered it with her garment. Going by that precedent those who feel today they cannot openly wear the holy ash may apply it on their chest under their clothing.
However, when they go to the temple or attend auspicious ceremonies outside, and certainly when they stay at home, they can make a special effort to wear the holy ash on their forehead. This effort will serve two purposes: One, to receive the direct benefits of wearing the ash and the other, to reinforce their religious identity. As to the exact procedure of applying the holy ash, this is how it goes: One should take the holy ash with the right middle three fingers, face the northern or eastern direction, lift the head up, utter the words 'Siva Siva' or 'Sivaya nama' and then either simply smear the ash or apply it as three lines. One should avoid taking the ash with one finger and applying it like a streak or as a circular dot. As Cekkizhar records in his poems, Jnanasanbandbar "applied the holy ash on his forehead thickly and fully."

While applying the holy ash with three fingers one should take care that there is no bend or breach in the streaks. The space between the lines should be even. There is a reason for applying the holy ash facing north or east. Mount Kailasa, the holiest of the Savite pilgrimage centres, is in China - north of where most Saivites live. The sun rises in the east Thus, both these directions are considered auspicious. The three streaks of the holy ash also have another symbolism: The first one represents purity in thought the second purity in speech and the third purity in action.

Purity in thought is marked by the absence of jealousy and duplicity and observance of love and humility. Purity in word consist of avoiding falsehood, harshness of expression, and observance of truth and sweetness of expression. Purity in action is characterised by avoidance of liquor, drugs , non-vegetarianism, lust, and extra-marital relationships, and on the positive side it means the control of senses, wearing dean clothes and keeping a clean body.

In short, the holy ash is a reminder to everyone of us that we should pursue the path of Truth.

Distinction of Caste
Saivites both in Tamil Nadu and in other countries are found to be caste conscious. Our saints and seers looked upon the holy ash as a means to negate caste distinctions. The saints of our holy Thirumurais have stated that we should pay due respect to anyone with the holy ash on him, regarding him as "our brethren, fellow believer and servant of Lord Siva"

Effect of Holy Ash
The holy ash is a constant reminder that a person is striving for divine grace. We should not ignore it in a lighthearted manner thinking that it is just a symbol. Only if we show due regard to the outward symbols, would lofty ideas flourish in our inner mind if we care for religious sentiments we must necessarily wear the holy ash.


Saffron and Sandal Paste
Holy ash is the primary symbol of Saiva religion. Saffron and sandal paste are only auxiliaries to the holy ash. We use saffron to suggest tat divine grace is auspicious. The sandal paste suggests that the divine grace is extremely comforting.

Rudraksha
The rudraksha that saivites wear round their necks is another major Saiva symbol. The puranas speak about the rudraksha as symbolizing compassion. When the demons of Trip pura (triple cities) harassed the gods, the latter appealed to lord Siva for help. When Lord Siva listened to their tales of woe, drops of tears rolled down from His eyes. Those drops turned into the rudraksha beads. Rudraksha reminds us that we should express our deep concern when we come across the sufferings of people.

The basic concept of Saivism is compassion. "Be kind to every living being" says Saivism. As there is no virtue higher than compassion, rudraksha which represents compassion is indeed a lofty symbol. We see some people wearing the holy ash and taking meat. But there is virtually none who wears rudraksha and eats meat. Thirukkural proclaims truth and non-violence as great virtues. The holy ash stands for abstinence from falsehood and rudraksha for non-violence.

Wearing Rudraksha
As with the holy ash, we should try to wear rudraksha at all times. Rudraksha beads are obtained from a tree. The beads, strung in silk or golden thread, can be worn on the head, neck, ears, arms and hands. The beads should be so strung that they face each other.

Indispensability of Symbols
Some people hold the view that the use of symbols is not necessary. They argue that inner purity is important and outward symbols are not necessary and it only serves the purpose of differentiating us from the followers of other religions. We should remember that though one may have inner purity it is the external purity that makes us intensely aware of it Differences in language, food or the colour of a person will persist at all times. Instead of saying that all those differences should be removed, it is best that we should learn to respect each other. Differences in religion are bound to exist in the world. In these circumstances, there is no compulsion for anyone to abandon using religious symbols. As stated already, though there may be some difficulty in using religious symbols while at work or at school, we can use the religious symbols without inhibition in our homes and temples and on auspicious and festive occasions.

Osho


Osho, also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was a fully enlightened master who lived during the twentieth century.

He was also a man of extraordinary intelligence, erudition, charisma, and powers of communication.

Some people thought of him as a guru of hedonism, an impressario of spiritual Mardi Gras. Tens of thousands of seekers jetted across oceans to his ashrams and communes to participate in giddy, high-energy experiments in living and consciousness.

But he was also a professor of philosophy, a lover of literature, and the author of an extraordinary library of books that explain the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures in matter-of-fact, crystal-clear English.

In the 1980s, he and his followers built a 65,000-acre city from scratch in the Oregon wilderness. Some people called it an experiment to provoke God, and others called it a fascist concentration camp.

Controversy surrounded him; he was accused of crimes and eventually deported from the United States for violations of immigration law.

He has left us a great legacy: his books. We think they are the clearest maps of the roads to enlightenment that anybody drew during the twentieth century.
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Biography

Born in Kuchwada, Madhya Pradesh, India on December 11, 1931. His parents gave him the name Rajneesh Chandra Mohan and raised him as a Jain. When he was seven, his grandfather died with his head in Osho's lap while riding to the doctor in a bullock cart. Osho became enlightened at 21 and graduated at about the same time from the University of Saugar with first-class honors in philosophy. While a student, he won the All-India Debating Championship. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Jabalpur for nine years. In 1966, he left his teaching post and established an ashram in Bombay. In 1974, he left Bombay and established an ashram in Poona. In 1981, he moved to the United States and established an ashram in Oregon. In 1986 he was deported from the United States for violations of immigration law (to which he pleaded no contest) and returned to Poona. He died on January 19, 1990.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi - AMMA


Love, compassion, empathy and tolerance--under the pressures of modern life, these qualities have all but disappeared. Through Her loving embrace and charitable activities, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (affectionately known as Amma or Mother) is healing the heart of the world, rekindling love and mutual respect, and awakening people to their fundamental oneness.

Through Her extraordinary acts of love and self-sacrifice, Amma has endeared Herself to millions. Tenderly caressing everyone who comes to Her, holding them close to Her heart in a loving embrace, Amma shares boundless love with all. Be they young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor--everyone who comes to Her receives the same unconditional love.


Amma's compassion crosses all barriers of nationality, race, caste and religion. She has initiated a vast network of charitable activities, which is drawing attention throughout the world. At the root of these services lies Amma's teaching that the Divine exists in everything--in every person, plant and animal. Perceiving this unity is the essence of spirituality and the means by which to end all suffering. It is through this simple, yet powerful message that Amma is transforming our world, one embrace at a time. In the past 33 years, Amma has physically embraced more than 24 million people.

Amma's teachings are universal. Whenever She is asked about Her religion, She replies that Her religion is Love.

She does not ask anyone to believe in God or to change their faith, but only to inquire into their own real nature and to believe in themselves.