PRELUDE TO NIRVANA SHATAKAM

Before we start exploring Nirvana Shatakam and look at the answers to the vital question of “ Who am I?”, it is essential for us to understand what am I made of, what do I do and what is beyond me. To my limited knowledge, there cannot be a more deeper analysis to these questions than by the Saints & Philosophers of Hindu Religion. One needs a lifetime to understand the material available in the religion. I will definitely restate again and again that I am a novice in this field of philosophy (“Vedanta”) and can only skim at the surface without any deep understanding. Yet from this ocean of information and knowledge I will venture out and reproduce one approach advocated by the legendary Swami Chinmayananda (http://www.chinmayamission.com) which helps me in the process of understanding myself.

BMI Chart

Interpretation of Symbols :

The Symbol of Truth

Om 

viewed through the veil of

Vasanas 

Expresses through the instruments of:

the Body (B), Mind (M), Intellect (I)

As the individual entity or ego:

the Perceiver (P), Feeler (F), Thinker (T) 

In the world of:

Objects (O), Emotions (E), and Thoughts (T). 

I – The person

Here is how the Swamiji helps us in Understanding Ourselves (Our Personality). When we say “experience” we are looking at three fundamental factors:

1. the experiencer (the subject)

2. the object of experience (the object)

3. the relationship between the two, the experiencing (the act)

The Individual as an experiencer (PFT) is the subject who gains experiences of the world (OET) through the instruments of experiencing (BMI). Through the body, the person experiences the world of objects; through the mind, one experiences the world of emotions, and through the intellect, the world of ideas.

When the subject identifies with the intellect, he becomes the thinker, experiencing the world of thoughts and ideas; when identified with the mind he becomes the feeler, experiencing the world of emotions and feelings; and when identified with the body, he becomes the perceiver, experiencing the world of objects.

Therefore each individual acts out the various roles of a perceiver, feeler, and thinker as he seeks his happiness in the world of objects, emotions, and thoughts.

In every experience in life, man contacts the world through the media of four constituent entities in him. They are his body, mind, intellect, and the Consciousness, symbolized by the symbol Om, which is the Life Principle in him. 

Now let us have an idea of what these elements are as explained by the Swamiji.

Body, Mind, Intellect:

“ The physical body (பிண்டம்) is solid matter, the densest aspect of the human personality. It contains five organs of perception (ஞானேந்திரியம்) and the five organs of action (கர்மேந்திரியம்). The size and shape of the body differ from individual to individual, but the essential ingredients and the functions of the organs are common to all.

The variable factor in man is the mind and intellect equipment. The mind is the seat of impulses and feelings, and it is common to all living creatures. Animals also possess a mind. It all boils down to how one applies the mind.

Human being alone has the capacity to discriminate and analyze his/her feelings as and when they arise. He/She alone can allow his/her actions to be guided and directed by his/her power of discrimination instead of being driven and carried away by momentary impulses and feelings. This faculty of discrimination, this power of judgment, this capacity to discern what is to be done and what is to be avoided, is the function of the intellect.

Vasanas:

The quality and textures of the mind and intellect equipment differ from one individual to another, depending upon one’s inherent and innate tendencies or inclinations, which are called vasanas.

Vasanas create desires in the intellect; desires produce thoughts in the mind, and thoughts manifest in the form of actions at the level of the physical body. Desires, thoughts and actions are, therefore, only manifestation of vasanas in the respective individual. Each one of us thus becomes a helpless statement of our past though this impulse of vasanas.

(Note: How did we get these Vasanas in oneself? This is a separate subject by itself. For this particular blog I would just compare Vasanas to the Residual Magnetism in a material.)

Om, the Symbol of Truth:

In the ultimate analysis, the whole aim of living for a human being is to condition the body, mind and intellect to ensure that the vasanas are transcended in order for us to regain our true nature. At this individual level, when the vasanas are completely transcended, the Self manifests of its own accord. Only then does man know his true birthright. At the Individual level, this Self is called an Atman and at the level of the cosmic totality, this Divine Self called Om, the Life Principle, is called the Brahman.

The Ground Reality:

Due to our vasanas and the consequent desires, agitations, and actions, we are ignorant of this Divine Self. Therefore, we identify with our body, mind, and intellect and their limitations. An individual is the Self as though contaminated by this ignorance. The only method for regaining one’s true nature is to vigilantly and ceaselessly divert one’s mind and intellect away from preoccupation with objects, emotions, and thoughts and direct it to an awareness of the divine Self”. (Material Courtesy – Chinmaya Mission).

How do I proceed?

This is the essence of Spirituality. The paths that we take to get rid of this ignorance are the path of knowledge (Gnana) , the path of devotion (Bhakthi) and the path of action (Karma). These three paths are not independent and are seamlessly integrated. At this point I will quote the blog I wrote on May 17, 2019, about Knowledge and Devotion as part of my attempt to write in Tamil, Adi Sankara’s Sivananda Lahari. In that blog I quoted the eminent Indian Scholar C. Rajagopalachari. He brings out the integration of the three yogas beautifully by saying “ When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes bhakti. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is bhakti. If it does not get transformed into bhakti, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To believe that gnyaana and bhakti, knowledge and devotion, are different from each other, is ignorance”.

Nearly a year later I am fortunate to attempt to write in Tamil, the philosophical treatise in Vedhanta by Adi Sankara called Nirvana Shatakam. Understanding the simple concepts outlined by the Swamiji will help us unravel the truths brought out by Adi Sankara

Verses will start from the next blog.

WHO AM I ?

Remember the two vital questions which I missed while I was “role playing” during the Corana Virus! Who am “I”? What do I mean when I use the word “Happy”?

There are numerous ways by which one can explain “happiness” – the state of being happy. I was looking for an apt definition for happiness. Pop! Came the answer from Twitter. Here is the link

Here is my interpretation. Modern psychology brings out the science behind “happiness”. As an “experiencer”, I look at “being happy” in a different perspective. When I am in deep sleep without any application whatsoever of my mind and sense organs, I am in a state unaffected by anything – “It is a Bliss” – indicating how happy I am when I am sleeping without any miseries. That is what I mean by the word “happy”. That kind of happiness is what I want in every second of my life. Am I the only one desiring like that? The lady there in Anand Mahindra’s tweet brings out exactly what is happiness. It depends on oneself (attitude of myself decides what is happiness). So who is myself or who am I?

This question however is a complex one. The self inquiry in the question has one challenge. Am I splitting myself as inner and outer Self? Dr S Radhakrishnan, a great philosopher and the former President of India, says “To divide human being into outer desire and inner quality is to violate the integrity of human life. The two orders of Reality – the transcendental the empirical are closely related”. If I agree with this argument, then, who am I ?

I don’t have an answer ready made. The real answer cannot be provided either by a theory or by dialectic. These alone, as in themselves and without reference to personal experience cannot carry conviction. But I am still in the process of experiencing the answer (otherwise called as my life) and won’t be able to answer till my experiences (life) end.

Luckily, the experiences elucidated by legendary philosophers and thinkers are available for me. Their teachings are presented either as metaphysics or ethics. In the traditional Hindu system this is called “Brahmavidya” and “Yogashastra”. The universally acclaimed classic Indian treatise “Bhagwad Gita” is a combination of both – the science of Reality and the art of Union with Reality.

In India, there are two outstanding treatises, considered equivalent to The Divine Response available for the vital question “Who am I?”. The answer to my question was provided as early as in 8th Century by Adi Shankaracharya. He brought out the “Brahmavidya” to the question “Who am I?” through a hymn in Sanskrit comprising six verses – “Atma Shatakam or Nirvana Shatakam”. The word shatakam means six and the word nirvana means freedom or liberation. It is thus a hymn of six verses on liberation, each of which is like a jewel in the garland of Vedanta. It is also called as atma shatakam or six verses on the nature of the Self. The first three lines in each of the first five verses negate all that is not “I”(Atman), while the last line in each verse strongly affirms what “I”(Atman) is.

In the year 1902, in a town called Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, Bhagwan Shri Ramana Maharishi provided answers to one Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai, a graduate in Philosophy, who was at the time employed in the Revenue Department of the South Arcot Collectorate. This was published in 1923. The teachings of Bhagwan Shri Ramana Maharishi is published by SriRamanasramam in Thiruvannamalai as “Who am I”.

My next series of blogs will focus on Adi Shankaracharya’s Nirvana Shatakam/Atma Shatakam.

WHO AM I?

During the last three months, as COVID 19, otherwise known as the Corona Virus, took on the world by its scruff and shook every one of us in the globe. The devastation still continues. Locked down at home, all of us are in the process of understanding ourselves, our work, our relationships, our lifestyles and our future.

Here are a few examples of how I looked at myself. During these three months, sitting on the couch at my son’s Manhattan residence, I went four decades back to my “Masters in Management” days and started “Role Playing”.

In normal times, travel was a physical activity & we needed a transport to travel long distances. Yet I travelled across without the use of aero planes/vehicles to all parts of the world. I went to China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Cuba, Ecuador, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Great Britain and several other countries. I am learning so much about these places, the people there, their food habits, their social behavior, their travel etc that even a citizen of that country would normally won’t bother to know these details during normal times. Thus I became a global citizen simply sitting in a couch and using my iPad!!

I watched political leaders across the world in action with their left, right, socialistic and capitalistic orientations. I became law maker for several countries and started review of the actions and inactions of these leaders. I advised the public through social media as to what went wrong with these guys and what they should have done. I became a consultant to the global leaders!!

I reviewed the science behind the diseases that the world faced/faces/will face. I became an epidemiologist, a health care specialist, a pharmaceutical expert; I thought I understood respiratory systems, became emergency care professional. I literally became the master of life sciences.

I analyzed human behavior, impact of country, culture & religion on human behavior, I tried experimenting with social distancing (remember – human beings are social animals). In short I became sociologist.

I ran restaurants & Bars; I ran public transport, managed hospitals, became insurance administrator; I ran treasuries and stock markets, I specialized in mathematical modeling, (understood lots of curves, peaked them, flattened them). I saw numerous movies & TV Shows, listened to all kinds of music & podcasts, recited slokas/hymns. I did baby sitting, & played with kids. There are practically very little fields that I left uncovered in these testing times.

The only area that I didn’t touch in this period of crisis is about “I“(myself). Who am I ?. ..

All I know about myself is that I am not happy (अहं सर्वदा दुःखभारावसन्नो – I am always sunken with the burden of Sorrows). I want the crisis to be over and I want to be happy.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this feeling. All living beings desire to be happy without any misery. This is human nature. But then who am “I”? What do I mean when I use the word “Happy”?

Read my blogs in the coming weeks in the “Spirituality” Section of the Menu.