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Samskara, a Sanskrit word describes several concepts. These concepts are all related but convey different essence when used in different context. This is not very dissimilar to some common words in English. Water a plant carries a different meaning than drinking water to quench one’s thirst. In this book we will try to explore, understand and try to be innovative about the meaning we attribute and the methods of imparting samskara in modern times. Samskara of an individual has a general meaning of what one carries from one life to another; a journey from life to life. The last thought in your dying moments is the quintessence of your entire life up to then. The same impressions and experiences will become your potential for the next life. That will be your asset to carry into the next birth in a seed form. In the interval between births, though there is no body, there is a great chain of body-related experiences existing in seed form which can become active at any time upon acquisition of a body. We refer to these impressions and chain of bodily experiences as Samskara. One may call it conditioning or even a built-in program of your life, applicable in the future. A man knows how to drive a car. If the car is taken away from him he does not forget how to drive a car. His experience of driving a car stays with him in a seed form. The only thing lacking is the car. Once he gets a car his driving will come back to him.
Let us examine the banking system of today. You deposit money or take out money from a bank in the currency you deposit. You can some times borrow money and the other times lend money. You have to balance your check books, the credits and debits. Don’t forget the finance charges. The usual desire or requirement is to have a positive balance. The more you have in the bank the more value it has, the more you can do with it. The aim usually is to have as much as you can.
Now imagine that instead of having a brick and mortar building to deal with you have to deal with a virtual entity. Actually, it is not hard to comprehend a virtual banking since many people do actually deal with banks via the Internet. If you can stretch your imagination a little more you can imagine of having a virtual currency in a virtual bank. Why to carry dollar bills or a plastic? Even with virtual money in a virtual bank, you still have to deposit money, balance the checkbook and desire to have a big bank account.
Now, imagine that you have to deposit this virtual currency in kind rather than in currency (money) in a virtual bank it is getting close to the concept of samskara. The virtual bank is your bank. This is not accessible to any one other than you. The currency is your karma, be it a good karma, a bad karma, or an ugly karma. You do not have to deposit the karma. Deposit is out of your control. It is automatic. Once you do a karma it is deposited. Even if you intend to do a karma it is deposited. The desire of performing a karma is considered equivalent to doing the karma. The balancing also is automatic. Once you undo a karma it is removed. In this account a good karma does not cancel out a bad karma. All karma have to burn out. We will get into the details of karma later on since the samskara can not be understood independent of the concept of karma. They are closely related.
The main thing that has to be understood is that the goal of the samskara deposit is to get to a zero balance. The understanding of this principle is important. Buddha was walking along. Accidentally, his big toe hit a pebble and as expected the toe started bleeding. It of course was painful. Buddha’s response was that of utter relief. This was the last of his karma coming back. He thanked the pebble and continued walking. In your childhood you might have experienced sprain or trauma. Your mother might have said, a ‘graha’ has been cut. This is a similar situation as of Budha’s toe. The concept of karma deposit and then burning out has gone deep in our psyche. Sometimes these word are uttered without even understanding the details of the incident.
This virtual account of karma that we all carry from life to life is what Hindus have called Samskara. It is worth focusing a bit more here. How did we learn about the significance of Samskara? Why did we not focus on the body? Why did we spend thousands of years of our total energy on apparently virtual things?
Every time period has a contemporary approach. At the present time we use the rational approach to understand the real nature of material world. We want to know the details of all matter and also of living species. We examined the matter and reached to electrons protons and neutrons. Similarly, we examined the living cells and reached to the genes. To reach where we are in this direction it has taken thousands of years and a continuity of at least two thousand years.
Hindus had a different approach. The sanatana dharma provides the answers to the holistic relationship of an individual (vyakti), nature (shrishti), society (samashti) and God (parmashti). The relationship of soul (atma) and Ishwar (parmatma) has been the subject of our studies. The primary focus is on the immortality of soul and not on the transient body or the material world. This is clearly mentioned in Gita by Krishna who says:
Vaashaanshi Jirnani Yatha Vihay
Navani Grihnaati naroparani
Tatha sharirani vihaya jirna
nyanyani sanyati navani dehi (2..22)
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones,
Similarly the soul accepts material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
Another meaning of Samskara is the sacraments of human beings that takes place at various stages of life. We will discuss this in more detail in the third chapter of the book. There are sixteen samskaras (sacraments) that are typically recommended in the Hindu tradition. We will be recommending a minimum of four samskaras that are more prevalent now. The Namkaran samskar (ceremoney of naming of the child) is conducted when a child is born. The yagnopaveet (thread ceremony) samkara when the child grows up and is ready to go to school. Vivaaha samskara (marriage ceremony) is performed at the time of marriage. The antyeshti samskaras (Final rites) are performed at the time of death. In the example of our virtual bank with virtual currency, you can take these samskaras as initiation incentives contributed to you by the society to help you do dharmic karmas in your life.
Many regard Hinduism as being synonymous with working for enlightenment. The meditations, the tapas, the yogas the mantras; all leading to moksha. The path to enlightenment does not relieve you of the virtual bank of samskar. You are still bound by the law of karma and as Buddha will say:
Aeso Dhammo Sanatana
This is the law.
So the Hindus have also worked on what happens when you do not get enlightened. Enlightenment happens to only a few. Most of us belong to the category where we carry the baggage of current and past bodily experiences to the next life. It is only when the virtual accounts becomes zero that the virtual body becomes one with the divine. This simplistic model is presented in this manner only to develop an understanding about the significance of Samskara, Karma and the journey from life to life.
A certain race, a certain religion, a certain nation carries its own samskara, which gives it a certain character. That is what has happened to India. The trees of India, the soil of India have become charged with the energy liberated from the likes of Rama, Krishna, Budha, Mahavir, Nanak, and numerous such divine entities. This has created an energy field, a budhafield that is unique. The whole development of Teerthas and dhams is based on this concept of release of focused energy. If you can be on that wavelength you can feel it too. You can be a part of it as well.
What is the source of this knowledge? How did we acquire this knowledge and where did we loose it? What do we do to rediscover it? Each one of us can develop some understanding of samskara, karma, dharma and other Hindu concepts by reading about the scriptures. But a deeper appreciation requires one to explore, research, do sadhanas and tapasyas to rediscover and further enhance the knowledge about these. Before we get into the concept of samskara let us explore the scientific concepts and learn how the intelligentsia has given time, money and energy to get to the point they have come, the distances they have covered. We believe that for hundreds and thousands of years the Hindus poured their entire intellect and resources to discover these truths. When Buddha says Aeso dhammo sanatana (this is the law) he does not theorize, he does not think so and this is not his opinion. Similarly when Mahavir says “Dhammo mangalmukkitam” that is what he knows. It is backed up by his experience, work and the work of thousands who experienced before him.
It is important to realize that we in the east were not so much interested in philosophy. Philosophy is more of a mind game. A philosopher is more interested in the logic of mind and less in the Truth and realization. We do not like to think whether or not God exists. Our Rishis were not interested in proving God’s existence. Even if you do not believe in God, it is o.k. They were more interested in the search itself. We used the word Darshan which is often translated as philosophy. But, Darshan has a totally different meaning. Darshan is face to face. Darshan is realization. That is why many of our scriptures have statements by the people who had Darshan. Vivekananda wanted to know about God. He is passionate. He goes to Ramkrishna and asks him, “where is He.” RamKrishna laughs and then touches Vivekananda with his feet. Vivekananda goes in to a trans. He had the realization that could not have been expressed in words (the darshan). There was no debate and it was not necessary.
Budha was in the audience of over 10 thousand people. Budha never spoke a single word about Truth. If some one asked him the question what is truth he would keep quiet. This day he just sat silently. A flower in his hand. It was a lotus flower. He was just looking at the flower as if the ten thousand people did not exist. Moments passed and then hours started passing and people started becoming uneasy. Then suddenly, one disciple -Mahakashyap – amongst the gathering of ten thousand – started to laugh for no reason. Budha called him and handed over the lotus flower. He said to the audience, “What I could say to you in words, I have said to you. What I could not say in words, I am giving to Mahakashyap.” This is the Darshan, face to face, a deep realization that Mahakashyap had which prompted his laughter to manifest. This transfer of realization is difficult to be expressed in words. But, when a realized soul chooses to speak, he does not simply philosophize, it is not merely a mind game. He simply states the facts as he sees them.
Our Shashtras reflect word from people who had the realization. We never paid much attention to the pundits, the intellectuals and the so called philosophers. Yes, the intellectuals have written a lot of commentaries. There are several commentaries on the Bhagavadgita and likewise there are several on Brahmasutra or Pataanjali. But the original ones, be it Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, or Dhammapada or Shankarbhashya; they were all spoken and written by the realized ones, the ones who had the face to face darshans.
With this introduction we will try to get on with the rest of the book. It is imperative that we try to understand the law of Karma, it is also crucial that we understand what we mean by Dharma and know how to perform the important samskaras.
To understand our culture, (samskara, Dharma etc.) it is important to understand the concept of parampara. What can we learn from parampara? How a disconnect in parampara can be disastrous for a civilization?
Parampara is one reason why people in India like to remember a series of past generations of an individual. In many families the whole series of ancestry was and to some extent even today given great importance. Rameshwar comes from the family of Satishwar who was a saint and was son of a great saint Parmeshwar. Rameshwar has to have an element of saintliness because Satishwar was a saint and his forefathers were all saintly people. It is as if a flow, a continuum of Parmeshwara is flowing through Satishwara and Rameshwar. It is very important to grasp this point before we get any further with any kind of Samskara. As if the river Ganga originates from Gangotri…It flowswith all its white waters and its melodious music. And, the name changes to Alaknanda. It flows in a continuity. There is the same essence, the same melody, and the same purity. Just the name is different. Ganga flows to Haridwar, and then touches Varanasi. Other rivers and riverlets join in. But, the same Ganga flows with the essence in continuity. It has covered distance in space and time, it has changed in quality and quantity. But its reverence has remained the same.
Parmeshwar to Satishwara to Rameshwara, the flow of santliness has continued. Krishna has described it beautifully in Bhagwadgita:
Ewam paramparpraptmimam rajaryayo viduh
sa kalenneh mahatta yogo nashtah parantap (4..2)
This supreme science was received through the chain of succession and the saintly king understood in that way (the way of parampara). But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to have been lost.
He is talking about a method of knowing and calls it knowing by parampara. Arjun is an intellectual. He has been through the education system of the time and was the best at the time. Krishna is not only dealing with the best educated person of the time but also with a brave heart of the time who also happens to be his sakha (friend). And to him he says that there is another method of learning that seems to have been lost. In the preceding shloka he has said that he told this yoga to Sun. Knowing that he is talking to Arjuna he says in this shloka that there is another method of learning. Learning by parampara. What is the meaning of parampara. In fact there is no word in English that can explain what is the meaning of parampara. Parampara is more like a continum or a flow as described above. It is not the same as tradition. It is not learning by reading the shastras, it is not part of learning as you grow; it is a flowing. This knowing by parampara is a flow.
The knowledge Krishna is talking about in Gita is of a different nature, a higher nature. There are other knowings by parampara. Purohits in our villages mostly learned by parampara. There was no school of purohits then. It just flowed through a system. For thousands of years people in India have poured their entire energy for the search of truth. You can visibly see the flow of Ganga. Ganga is not an ordinary river, its flow was not just melting of the glaciers, it is not a random phenomenon. It is an alchemy, it is science of a kind which we have not mastered yet. For a simple fact that Ganga water is always fresh no matter how many years it has been bottled in is one parameter you can see for yourself. There is another flow that permeates through India and that is the very essence of India. India is an eternal journey, a path of nectar, stretching from eternity to eternity. The Ramas, Krishna, the Budhas, the Mahavirs, Kabirs, Nanaks and many others have all contributed to this flow of nectar which forms the very essence of India. This is why we never wrote a history. Some of these events are beyond time and space. It is a continuum. And then there is the esoteric history, which is so very difficult to authenticate. For example it is not an accident that 22 out of the 24 Jaina Tirthankaras went to die on the same mountain the Samved Shikhar. The gap between the first tirthankara Adinath and the last one is thousands of years. But they all went to leave their bodies at the same peak. The namokar mantras developed by Mahavira may appear simple spoken words but they were developed with a specific goal and for a specific purpose. How can you really incorporate all this in a written history. That is why the emphasis of the flow, the learning by parampara, the learning by shruti. What happened to this flow? What happened to this learning by parampara. What has happened to the Samskaras, the samskaras as mentioned earlier represents this flow which is truly beyond time and space and also represents the sacrements which appear to be bound in time and space
In Krishna’s time part of this was lost, the part that Krishna has touched in Gita. In the present time It seems that most of it is lost. The flow seems to have been interrupted. Maithili Sharan Gupta raises the same point in Bharat Bharati when he says:
Ham kaun the kyaa ho gaye
Aur kyaa honge abhii?
This is a concern shared by most people. We have to remember and remind others that the destiny of India is the destiny of the whole humanity – because of the way we have refined human consciousness, and because of the lamps we have lit within the human being. No where else in the world has this been done. It has been over ten thousand years of ceaseless perseverance, of ceaseless yoga and incessant meditation. And for the sake of this we have lost everything else. But, even in the darkest nights of man, we have kept this lamp of human consciousness burning. No matter how dim the flame may have become, the lamp still burns. The lamp is burning.
Hindus knew a lot of things – it would be surprising if they did not having been on a religious quest for thousands of years. For over ten thousand years most of their most intelligent and wisest people have devoted their lives to the same end – the search of the ultimate, the search of truth. They were possessed with the only desire of knowing the truth hidden behind the existence, to see that which is invisible. They wanted to encounter that which is formless. It would be really amazing if such people did not know anything after having single mindedly dedicated all their intelligence and energy to the single quest, and that too for over ten thousand years. They developed the science of yoga, tantra, mantras, meditations. One book Vigyan Bhairva Tantra describes 112 techniques.
But, during the last 200 years certain very disturbing events happened. It is worth understanding and taking serious note of this. There have been hundreds of foreign invasions on India in the last several years, but no invader could ever attack the vital core. Some invaders looked for wealth, some occupied land, others captured palaces and forts. But, none could touch the core (interiority) of India – the attention of invaders was not drawn towards it. Then for the first time attacks were made on this vital core of India, on the interiority of India when the western civilization invaded India. The easiest way to attack it was to disconnect the country from its long history and to destroy the past. A gap was created between the people and their history. In this way people became uprooted and powerless. Suddenly the learning by parampara was interrupted. The flow was obstructed.
If western civilization were to be destroyed today, there would be no need to destroy its buildings, its cinemas or its theaters. If just the top ten universities were destroyed the whole western culture would disappear. The western civilization would slowly die and become lost. The real basis of all cultures is its sources of knowledge. The roots of a civilization are in its long chain of knowledge…it is in the knowing by parampara, it is in the flow of knowledge that passes from generation to generation without any conscious awareness about it. Let me give an example. Two brothers from a family in India were sent to a Convent school by their father. The family was a large family and the two brothers used to touch the feet of their father each morning. The father decided to visit the sons in their school and went there. The two brothers came to see their father and happily said hello to their father. The father simply asked the sons to pack up and go back to home. The sons were surprised and did not even know what had happened; what had gone wrong. The father remarked, Sons, “I sent you to this school to learn what is new, not to forget what you knew.” But, there are many fathers who will be proud when their son will say hello to them. What is in touching the feet? Very few know that it is not just a custom. It was a science of energy transfer. It developed as a science whereby father or a guru could transfer energy to the one touching the feet by touching on their head. This was part of the technology of shaktipat. On the other hand, It will be interesting to know how hand shaking developed in the west. It was a way to ascertain that the person coming to meet you is not hiding a weapon in his hand. The first method is a product of trust while the other one (hand shaking) is a product of distrust.
If the history of just two generations were taken away, a country would become cut off from all possibilities of further progress That is the difference between human beings and animals. Animals are not able to make progress because they do not have schools. They do not have any way to transfer knowledge from older generation to the new generation. At its birth an animal begins life right from where its father began, and its offspring will do the same. The human being through education, can help his child’s life begin from where he left off. So there is a continuity of knowledge. All human progress depends upon transfer of accumulated knowledge from generation to generation.
If you visit Mexico and see the ruins of Mayan civilization, you will be astounded. They rose to fame around 900 AD. Now there is not more than 3.5 million Mayans in the world. They do not know how their civilization lost the glory. They are known to be an intelligent race. They built several beautiful structures including pyramids. Their pyramids are present as far as in St. Louis, Missourie in the USA. The parampara is lost, there is a disconnect between their past and the people. They are now made to believe that they were primitive culture who used to make human sacrifices to rain god for every little trivia. They have ruins of this ball game that can only be hit using feet, elbows and waist. Again, they have been made to believe that the loosing team captain had to be sacrificed after the match. Not only did they loose the parampara of their own history, their history has been distorted to make them look inferior and primitive. In the Sacred cenotel (water pond) in Chichen-Itza a 16th century Christian Spanish Diego De Landa postulated that children were sacrificed in that well by Mayans. That is the truth now. Every one else has to prove otherwise. Several divers have been inside the well and none found remains of children. But, then there are theories of what might have happened and why there are no bones of children. No body asks why the certain priest thought that children were sacrificed.
Just imagine if for twenty years all adults decided not to teach anything to their children. It would not just be loss of twenty years worth of knowledge but all the knowledge collected over ten thousand years could be lost. And such a loss could not be made up for in the next twenty years. Several decades will take to make up the gap, because of the discontinuity created in the accumulation of the knowledge.
In this way, those two hundred years of British dominance in India created a great gap. Most of its links with the ancient knowledge and wisdom were broken, and it had to establish an identity with a totally new and alien civilization with which its older civilization had no relationship. Indians think that theirs is a very old civilization. However, they are mistaken, they are only two hundred years old. The British in some sense are now far older a community than Indians. The education imparted by Maculey system has controlled many of our minds. That which the West chose to give India is its knowledge. Whatever India knew before 200 years ago was lost in one stroke.
When the threads of a branch of knowledge are lost, people seem just like ignorant fools. If you go out now with tika on your forehead, and someone asks you why you are wearing it, you will feel ashamed because you have no good answer. So, applying a tika cheerfully is difficult these days. Of course a simpleton can do it. He has no fear of others. But he is doing it not because he knows its purpose but because he thinks it is the thing to do.
When the links of real knowledge are broken, the outward symbols of it become difficult to carry. Then a certain tragedy results. Those with intelligence keep away. And a traditional knowledge remains meaningful only as long as intelligent people are involved in it. It is interesting to see that whenever such a misfortune overwhelms a civilization, whenever it looses its connection with the past knowledge, the intellectuals drift away from it because they do not like to look foolish. And the ignorant masses try to preserve the symbols and follow the rituals. The symbols and rituals continue for some time and unless revived die a natural death. It often happens that a valuable heritage is preserved by ignorant and backward looking people and the people who claim to understand disappear at the first opportunity.
If India wants to restore the broken links with the past, people will have to look at every ritual and sacraments that is being performed by the so called ignorant and illiterate masses. What they are doing is not without any reason. Their outward symbols are linked with the past of thousands of years. Some day we will have to thank them for at least having saved the symbols of that knowledge- symbols on which research can be done. Only by doing the research in to these rituals, symbols and the likes can we revive and give new life to the deep understanding that grew over a period of several thousand years.
The whole gist of life centers around karma. The virtual currency unit in the virtual bank of Samskara is karma. We have to develop the understanding of karma, nishkam karma, karma sanyas, and why one performs one or the other karma. A man is born with certain Samskaras; his past pushes him towards doing certain karmas and these karmas are then deposited in the virtual account. The process continues. What is the way out? How do you reach a zero balance? These are all the areas we will explore in this chapter.
The first thing that must be understood is that no one lives without doing a karma. Karma is not optional. Once born, you have to perfom karma. Krishna in Gita says
Na hi kaschit kshanmaapi jatu tisthtyakarmkrit
karyate hyawashah karma sarva prakritijjairgunaih (3..5)
There is no doubt that no human in any time period even for a moment can be without doing a karma; because the whole humanity is induced to perform karma by the gunas of prakriti.
A child is born. The first thing he or she does is to cry, the cry expands the lungs and then on it breathes and does its karma. Krishna is saying that life is synonymous with karma. As long as you live, you continue working (do karma). There is no way to escape. Humanity has freedom, but not as far as whether he or she can do karma or not. One can choose what karma to do but one can not choose not to do karma. Arjun has the choice to fight or not to fight but by not fighting he can not escape from karma.
As mentioned earlier one can choose what he wants to do. However, that is not totally true. Most of the vital work (karma) is not left to the individual. The body breathes. This breathing is not left to the choice. If it were left to human choice, the person might forget to breathe, or may just not want to breathe. Several such vital actions are not optional. The beating of the heart is not your choice. If you do yoga you may be able to control your breathing or heart but in doing so you have developed the integrity and the wisdom not to interfere in the nature’s process. Your Karma that is left unto you is really not that important for the universe. It may be very important for you but for the existence it is totally immaterial.
So the question arises. If you have to do karma and every time you perform a karma it is deposited in the Samskara virtual account, how can you ever achieve the zero balance that we talked about in our first chapter? Normally what we understand by karma or work is a response, a pratikarma. Pratikarma is a actually a pratikriya to a karma, response or a reaction to another action. You go home and your son is angry at your. You are the father and you reply to that action of anger by your reaction of anger. Both you and your son make a deposit in the virtual account of samskara. These two karmas had their origin from a reason, it was a response to some reason and there was an expected result. The son must have been angry because of something and he is showing anger to get a response. Most of our lives we live doing pratikarma.
A karma in strict sense is a different phenomenon. Karma is spontaneous. It is not a reaction or a response to another action (karma). When the son shows anger and no response arises inside you, then what comes out is karma. You irritate your baby son and he pushes your hand away. Instead of an anger, tremendous love arises inside you. You smile and hug that child and the child gives you a giggle. This is spontaneous. A young baby’s anger is authentic and so is its smile and the giggle. The identity of I has not developed. And the karma here has a different quality.
A man goes up to Gautam the Budha and spits at him. Budha wipes the spit with his shawl and asks the man if he had to say anything more. The man gets disturbed. This is not the response he was looking for. He had answers for why did he spit, he had answers if Budha’s disciples tried to restrain him. But, the man was puzzled. Budha clarified that he realized that the man was angry and did not have words to express and therefore he spit on Buddha. Buddha acknowledged that this problem of expression happened to him many times when he had difficulty expressing with words. The man further asked why Buddha did not get angry in response. Buddha was very clear. He said, “you are not my master.” Why should I react to what you do. I am not your slave. The next day the man came back again and this time he was crying and putting his head on Budha’s feet. Buddha again asked him if he had to say anything more. The man said I am asking for an apology and you are not saying anything. Budha said that again you have problem expressing with words and you are using tears to express. I acknowledge that and want to know if you have to express anything more. As far as apology is concerned anger did not arise in me yesterday and therefore there is no question of pardoning you. Karma in itself is spontaneous and comes out of a man who has akarma inside, he is silent inside. You throw a stone and no ripples arise. This karma of such a person does not get deposited in the account of the samskara similar to the no deposit of a baby’s giggle. Once you stop depositing karma all you have to wait for is the return of your deposited karma and the zero balance gets closer. This karma can be performed by Karma Sanyas and Nishkam karma yoga. We will come back to it a little later.
We should also understand a little about vikarma, a karma that should not be done. This is where it gets tricky and Krishna says that the gati of karma is mysterious. Let us examine why Krishna says that the gati or movements of karma is mysterious.
There was a war going on in Kargil between India and Pakistan. And the saying goes, “Everything is fair in war and love.” Pakistan had been refusing to take back the bodies of their soldiers because they were stuck with the statement that the Pakistan army was not fighting in the war. The lines between vikarma and karma start getting blurry in this situation. One has to be aware of not only what you see but also of what you do not see. There is this famous puzzle that clarifies the point a little further. A Brahmin is walking by. He sees a cow running. He keeps walking when he meets a butcher carrying his big knife. The butcher asks the Brahmin if he has seen a cow going by. That was his cow and she had run out of his butchery. She (the cow) is due to be killed, and he is going to kill the moment he finds her. The Brahmin is in trouble now. Lying is a vikarma and so is killing (specially of a cow). The Brahmin is in a bind. The butcher is telling the Brahmin that all he has to answer was yes or no. Did he or did he not see the cow. The Brahmin wants time to think. The question for him is not the cow but which vikarma to choose. The emphasis in the east is not so much on the karma or vikarma but more on the status of the subject behind the karma, the doer.
Talking about the doer, this is now time to address Karma Sanyas and Nishkam Karma. Again Bhagwadgita is the main source of all understanding of karma and hence I will quote here from Gita. But before the quote let us analyze why Gita became the source of understanding of karma yoga. Krishna has a situation, a unique situation. The Mahabharata is on. The forces are ready to fight and the warrior Arjuna does not want to fight. He suddenly is caught up with his intelligence and futility of war. What all is bad about war suddenly confronts him in the battlefield. Krishna is not teaching in the plains of Himalaya or in an Ashram to sadhus and sanyasis. The situation is intense and outcome to be is crucial. He had to explain all about karma yoga to get Arjuna to decide what was right for him to choose. Many a times Arjuna has asked Krishna to tell him what is right. He wanted Krishna to decide for him. Krishna never obliged him for that. He instead chose to clear all the doubts and questions that Arjuna had. Ultimately Arjuna decided on his own. Coming back to the quote from Gita:
Sanyasah Karmayogasch Nihshreyyaskarawobhau
Tayostu karmasanyasat karmyogo vishishyate. (5..2)
Karm sanyas and Nishkam karma yoga both are both good for liberation. But, of the two karmayoga is easier to follow and thus better.
It should be understood here that Krishna is talking to Arjun. He is a soldier. For Arjuna, who is a warrior, karma yoga is easier to follow than karma sanyas (some people call it renunciation-it does not reflect accurate meaning). The same may not be true for a painter or a poet. In fact, Arjuna actually is talking the language of Karma Sanyas. He says, “what is the use of the war, why should I kill all these people that I know?” But, Krishna actually could see through Arjuna. His personality was not that of a Karma Sanyasi, He had always been a Kshatriya. Arjuna was trained rigorously to become the best of all the warriors. He was a master archer. He had won Draupadi in a competition. A man of competition all his life is suddenly talking the language of karma sanyas.
Let us first take up the issue of karma sanyas. The truth of karma sanyas is based on the realization of the fact that the usual mundane karma ultimately leads to no where. The person can see that by building a house, getting married, having children and gathering belongings has taken him nowhere towards the realization of his self (Atma) and the parmatma. You keep coming back and getting entangled in the same rut and at the end, you carry the garbage of bodily experience, the samskara, only to return back to start all over again. This realization drives you towards the Sanyas from these routine mundane Karma. It is a result of certain kind of awakening. The awakening is similar to drawing a line in water. No mark is left in the water. The line is obliterated the moment the hand that draws the line moves forward. In reality whatever we do is nothing more than drawing line in the water as far as existence is concerned. All our actions in the past, in this life and previous lives, have not taken us anywhere. It is the awareness that actions do not take you anywhere that leads to the sanyas from karma. It appears that the person has renunciated, it appears that the person has stopped working. But in fact the actions have dropped from such a person. Even this person eats, drinks and walks. The difference is in the quality and the status of the subject behind. He is the awakened one. He does not engage in the same kind of karma. We do karma for ourselves where as the awakened one engages in any karma for others out of compassion. Mahavir lives on, not because he has any clinging to life, but because the universe wants him to live. He in fact used to put conditions to his living and the whole existence used to meet those requirements. He worked even on the animals to get them further in the search of truth. There are sayings that animals used to come to him in his teachings. This is a result of compassion, the karma flowing out of his being for the benefit of the existence.
I recently went to a museum where several people came to visit. Amongst them were many children, children of the age of 4 and 5 years old. Adults were all listening to the guide and reading the writings on the plates. They appeared to be trying to appreciate the art and beauty of the paintings. They all looked interested. Watching the young ones was fun for me. They were running around. Sometimes just picking up pebbles and putting them back. At times they will go over the benches and other time under the benches. Energy was flowing out of them. There were no plans, no blue prints. They did not question whether there was value for money or whether or not the trip was enjoyable. They did not bother about the weather forecast or how they will be going back. If you analyze their karma, there is nothing to analyze. They are children. But there is much to learn. We are children for the existence. We stand on a piece of land and claim it is ours. We are willing to die for it. The existence looks at us and laughs. If it could talk in our language, it would say to us, “Many others have made the same claim many times before.” This realization by an individual is what makes the possibility of karma sanyas, the individual decides not to engage in the same karmas again.
Now, if every one realized that it is not worth staking claim on a piece of land and followed the path of sanyas (renunciation) then how would the world run. The balance will be maintained as long as there is no counterclaims. But it is easy to disturb the balance. A situation like in the past when Mahabharata happened or now when the India Pakistan disagree on Kashmir is more of a practical question in real life. Renunciation is not the answer. Krishna knew that it is not worth staking claims on a piece of land but he also had to balance the counterclaim of the Kauravas. Arjun actually was trying to do the renunciation. He did not have the realization but was choosing to leave the battlefield. This is where Krishna interjects the notion and details of Nishkam Karma Yoga.
Nishkam karma does not focus on Karma, it focuses on the aspect of the anticipated result. Karma Sanyas wants you to understand the futility of doing any karma. It wants you to be aware of the dream like status of any karma. It is often useful when you face a situation that looks critical to you. It is quite upsetting and you do not know how to handle it. You can look back and find a similar situation in your life in the past. Those are just like dreams and all that is left is memory.
Nishkam karma requires you to forget about the result. The expectation of results and desires are inter twined. You develop a desire, you go for an appropriate action and you get a result. Nishkam karma says that you stay in the middle, no desire, no results. Just the karma.
Krishna in Gita goes on to make the point about the results of a karma. He says:
Karmanyewadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana
Ma karmaphalheturbhurma te sangostwakarmani (2..47)
You have a right to perform the karma but not to the fruits of action. You have no control over the fruits of action. You should not be desirous of the result and you should not be interested in not doing your karma.
This sutra is the key to nishkam karma. You have the right to do the karma but not to the result. This does not mean that there is no result. And this also does not mean that there is no path to get results. Karma is the only way to get any result.
I do the work, the karma. Work flows from me. The result comes from the whole, the samasti. There may be divine hands in the production of the result. You may have heard quite often that a certain person is lucky. He made less effort in the work but got results much more than expected. The luck factor actually is that unseen hand that either compounds the results to make you lucky or reduces the results to make you unlucky.
The importance in Nishakam Karma is on the trust. The trust on the existence or to the Parmatma. When the trust is total all the results are provided by the unknown. This has to be understood. When the shradha is total, the trust is absolute it is the Parmatma’s responsibility now to give the results, the results happen. This is sometimes referred to as you do karma in samarpan to the Parmatma. You become the flute through which the Parmatma is playing the tune.
Even if you do not believe in Parmatma, if you do not have your focus on the result all you have is your karma and the total energy goes to the karma. The result has to happen better and total as well. It is interesting that people who have too many desires are the ones who do the least karma. And then it is not a surprise to know that these are the people, the people full of desire that end up getting the fewest results. And these are the people you will find complaining against God. They are never happy
Most desire and result oriented karma are done to achieve happiness, but in the end the happiness seems to be eluded all the time. Happiness in desire/result oriented karma is always in the future. The present is unhappy. The happiness is in the future. The truth is that you will always be in the present and future will always be in the mind. Once you start being happy in the present the future has to bring more happiness. You do not depend on something else to come and give you happiness. How many times you have been on vacation. The dream was to go to the perfect vacation. Hawaii was the dream. Now you are in Hawaii. You go to check in and find that the hotel does not have the room that you wanted. Suddenly you are miserable. You raise hell. You make your point, make phone calls and before you know it is not only you who is unhappy but your family, the travel agent and the hotel employees; every one involved is unhappy. No, it is not the room or the meals or the manners that is the cause of unhappiness in this instance. It is as if you are looking for the unhappiness and the room is an excuse waiting to be the cause. The dream vacation has come but you have the habit and momentum of remaining unhappy. Nishkam karma is based on this realization, that the expectation of results of a karma is the cause of unhappiness. Does it mean that there should be no planning. Planning and expectation of results are two different things. Planning, budgeting or forecasting is different than the painful desire and expectations that drive your being and literally inhibit you from giving your full energy to the work.
Another interesting thing follows as a shadow of Nishkam karma. Once there is no interest for a result there is no frustration. When there is no interest in the result no work is small and no result is too small. Not an indifference, but a steady state of happiness in whatever the result is. A deep acceptance arises inside. The acceptance of whatever may happen in result is so fulfilling that the individual gets to the steady state of happiness; some call it anand and others call it bliss. Have you wondered about the fact that all misery arises from not accepting the isness. The wife is trying to change the husband and the husband is trying to change the wife. They both have done research about each other before marriage, every thing has been figured out. Happiness is bound to happen. Then the marriage takes place. The next thing you know is that change has to happen. You can experiment it any day or every day. Decide that today you will accept everything as it comes. This does not mean that you do not take appropriate action. Let us take the worst case scenario. Your house is on fire. If you do not accept it to the extent that you go mad you cannot take any action. Take a deep breath and then accept the fact that the house is on fire. In medical terms it is said that you may fall into denial phase specially if you hear a bad news typically “you have cancer.” However, once you accept the fact that the house is on fire, after you have taken a deep breath, you can try to get the support services available to deal with the fire. It is quite obvious in this instance that the appropriate action is to accept and then respond. But, in smaller situations at home, the ones with your son , the ones with your daughter, you fail to realize that taking a deep breath is the trick for happiness.
Nishkam karma yoga is the preferable one not only for Arjuna but also for most of the people of today. The reason in both is the same. Arjun was an extrovert and today’s world is mostly extrovert. Sanyas of karma is not natural to an extrovert personality. An extrovert is interested in the karma, he does not see the futility of karma easily. It may be easier for him to see that the results can be more than he can ask for and that his productivity may increase if he does not waste his energy in influencing or manipulating the results. If you go back to the Upanishadic times, the equations were different. A king in those times will go to a poor Brahmin and touch his feet for his blessings. The introvert was on the top and the extrovert respected the quality of his interiority. Situation is totally different today. Even the Swami today is known by his association with a politician. The extrovert is at the top now. The sadhus are valued because of the ministers company they keep but not vice versa.
Another reason why this Nishkam karma yoga is of more value in today’s world is that this gives an alternate theory to the age of competition and productivity, frustratrations and burn outs. James Moore has written a book entitled The Death of Competition.. In this truly epochal work of business strategy, Moore boldly demonstrates that for many vibrant companies the future is now; that today’s great enterprises no longer compete for product superiority or even industry dominance. He thinks that what matters now, and from now on is total system leadership. Beyond the death of competition lies the advent of something new and better. But what is it? Moore envisions a future characterized by organized chaos. Now, time is not very far when the writers will soon be seeing the benefits of Nishkam karm yoga. Organized chaos is very close to unpredictable results. Focus on the karma not on the result. The question of competition does not arise.
Competition has its good points and its limitations. It seems that there has to be several tiers of systems and understanding suited for different level of existence. Arjun was the one who could be a candidate for Nishkam karma yoga. His excellence would flourish under these circumstances. Bhim may be a different story. For him a challenge by Duryodhana may produce a better result. Remember, Krishna, Buddha or Ram cannot be produced by the method of training or competition. They are unique flowers. Patanjali and Einstein also are in similar boat. Competition can produce average, the superior is out of the reach of competition. People like Tiger Woods (the champion golfer) have noted this point too. He feels and teaches others to think to produce their own best rather than compete with others. Why be limited by the limitations of others. Excel with yourself. This in many terms is similar to doing karma according to your swadharma.
Let us next examine the root question. Why one is bound to do karma. And, what pushes you or me to engage into one karma or the other? This is dealt with by Krishna in Gita in the following sutra:
Satwam Rajastam Eeti gunah prakritisambhavah
Nibandhanti mahabaho dehe dehinamavyayam (14..5)
Satvaguna, rajoguna and tamoguna which are part of prakriti bind the body to the soul.
And all karma are a result of these three modes. This is very subtle to understand. That is perhaps one reason why this comes up in detail towards the end of Gita. What is visible is karma and its results. You can comprehend Rama fighting with Ravan but what gunas are working behind the scenes is not that obvious. For understanding purposes you can look at anger. You know a man whether he is angry by looking at him. His posture is different, he is screaming, his eyes are raging, he is screaming. But, it is difficult to see anger itself. If you could look inside the person, anger can be seen surrounding the preson. It is an energy that has its own roots. Awareness and witnessing is the art of getting to know this energy. Once one becomes aware of the gunas (modes) of prakriti (nature) behind the karma, then it becomes possible to transcend the modes and go to what is termed gunateet (beyond the modes). Then whatever karma flows out of you (in this state of gunateet) is similar to Nishkam karma and there is no question of deposit in the virtual account.
Prakriti pushes a person to do different karmas by a combination of the three gunas. Satva guna is purer than the other gunas and it frees from all sinful actions. Those situated in this mode develop knowledge and become conditioned by the sense of happiness. The mode of rajogun is born of unlimited desires and longings. Because of this, one is bound to material, fruitive action (sakam karma). The tamoguna relates to the inertia. The results of this mode are madness, indolence and sleep. The mode of satvaguna conditions one to happiness, rajoguna to fruits of action, and tamoguna to madness.
All the gunas are important. A guna is neutral meaning that in itself neither they are bad or good. For example a stone is lying on the surface. It is not moving; it is in a state of Tamoguna. You pick up the stone and throw it. A movement is created by the energy imparted to the stone by you. This is the property of rajoguna. While the stone is traveling in the influence of the imparted energy, tamoguna is working to bring it down to the state of inaction. Rajoguna is movement. The thing that drives us to go to meetings, do a yatra and write books are all the properties of Rajoguna. The tamoguna is essential as well because this is what brings us to rest. What is paramount is the balance. The balance is in part the property of the Satwaguna. Satwaguna alone sometimes is not so effective. Budha’s teachings for example were from the properties of Satwaguna. For these teachings to become propogated the energy of Rajoguna is needed. And, that happened when a king like Ashoka got influenced. He used the methods of a king (Rajoguna) to propagate Budhism as is known today. All in all none of the three gunas are in itself good or bad; they have their own utility and their own importance.
All these three gunas are represented in different proportions in different individuals. We have just made a preliminary introduction to the topic of gunas here mainly to impress on the fact that there is prakriti behind any karma that a person does. One who becomes aware of this property of prakriti also understands the basics of the Nishkam Karma.
We have covered samskara, and how karma affects the samskara and how samskara influences karma. Through all this lies the thread of Dharma. Dharma is the thread which goes through the karma, samskara to give it the shape of the mala or a garland. You can also perceive it as the center of a circle. At the periphery is the samskara, the karma and the series of births and deaths. The center which has never moved is the Dharma.
A man should do karma according to his swadharma. A doctor’s swadharma is to heal and he has the means to heal or hurt. The medicines that he uses to heal can also be used to kill. His dharma does not allow him to kill a person using the overdose of a medicine. A soldier’s dharma is to kill the enemy. If he starts healing the enemy and the doctor starts killing then the swadharma is being violated. This is a very simplistic model but conveys most of the meaning of the word.
Dharma, in the broader sense, on the other had is a little more difficult to comprehend mainly because of the break in Parampara that we talked about earlier. We have the words but the words have lost the meaning. Let’s try to put some clues together.
There have been several ways that Dharma has been expressed in the east. Satyamev Jayate is one such bold statement and it has been the hallmark of India’s identity. It is part of the Ashoka pillar (stambh) and simply means that truth is eternally victorious. We stand on the side of and fight for this truth and believe in the fact that when you stand for the truth, along side you stand all the forces that protect it. It is worth exploring this and understanding it better by drawing upon our ancient history which we are so proud of. We have not fought wars for borders and boundaries but for the re-establishments and protection of this truth. Mahabharata was not fought for any personal or national interest, it was fought for values, call it dharma. Dharma is not the same as religion. Dharma is not an institution. A student’s dharma is to study, a soldier’s dharma is to protect and so on. In some ways it is your true nature, your inner self, and your conscience. There are two beautiful expressions of dharma, Sat Chit Anand and Satyam Shivam Sundaram and there is one statement of this dharma, Satyamev Jayate. These three words of wisdom (mantras) belong to the universal spiritual consciousnes and not to any organized religion..
We are what we think we are
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world
In the east we realized and believed that the most powerful thing in the world is thoughts. The source of these thoughts is also important. A Hitler or a Stalin use the power of thought in a different manner than a Buddha, Nanak or Mahavir. Thoughts bring about certain concepts some of which are contemprary and some are eternal.
There are some concepts and words which have a composite meaning. They mean a lot of things simultaneously. If the word gets out of use for a long time then the meaning gets lost too. People do not see a practical utility of the word. The world runs perfectly without the concept or the use of the word. It can always be given a contemporary but wrong meaning. And, that may be the final blow. Dharma is one such word which was in common use for several centuries. There were division of people on the lines of dharma; one the dharmic (one who follows the dharma), and the othr were adharmic (one who rejects the dharma).
The word Dharma has been in use from ancient times. Budha used to say “Aeso Dhammo Sanatano. The largest collection of Budha’s sutras is called Dhammapada. Mahavir says:
Dhammo mangalmukkitum, Ahimsa Sanjamo Tavo
Deva vi tam namasanti, jass dhammo saya mano
Dharma comprising of Ahimsa (nonviolence), Tapa (austerity) and Sanjam (discipline) is the ultimate well-being. The one who is constantly engaged in the above mentioned Dharma is respected even by the gods.
It is of utmost importance that we understand the meaning of Dharma, the context it was and should be used. These are the bricks and mortars of our whole Indianness. There are differences in different thoughts and sects in India, but all agree on Dharma. We can argue if there is God or not, whether murthi puja is right or wrong but we do not differ on the concept of Aeso dhammo sanatana.
Let me use a contemporary example. What do you understand with the word ‘Basic Human Rights.’ Every one seems to understand it. Newspapers keep reporting of violation of basic human rights in China, India, Africa and where not. Really, what do you know about this concept. What are human rights? Did you know that the basic human rights consists of 29 articles as declared by General Assembly in 1948? The first article says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…” Whoever says that this is true. We all know that all human beings are not born free but that is not the point, the point is the word has composite meaning, and is in common use.
On the other hand Dharma is again a word used universally in the past and has composite meaning. Gita starts with the shloka:
And one of the boldest statement of Krishna in Gita says:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata
Abhiyunarth madartheyam sambhavami yuge yuge (4..7)
Whenever there is decline of Dharma, and the rise of Adharma, I embody myself for the upholding of the Dharma.
We had wars for the upholding of Dharma. Dharma was placed on a higher pedestel compared to human life. Life happens again, but what is its use if the Dharma is not upheld. It is a very interesting logic and the people who talk about so called basic human rights may not like it.
So what does Dharma mean. As I implied earlier Dharma means many things. It means the ultimate law, the logos. By ultimate law is meant that which keeps the whole universe together. Invisible it is, intangible it is – but it is a certainty. Otherwise, the universe will fall apart. Such a vast, infinite universe, running so smoothly, so harmoniously, is enough proof that there must be an inter-current that connects everything. We are not islands; the smallest grass is connected to the greatest star. There is a relationship. Destroy the smallest grass leaf on your farm and you have touched something of immense value to the existence itself.
In existence there is no hierarchy, there is nothing small and nothing great. The greatest star and the smallest grass leaf exist as equals; hence the other meaning of the word Dharma. It also means Justice, the equality, the non hierarchic existence. Dharma knows no classes.
The third meaning is righteousness, virtue. Existence is very virtuous. Even if you find something which you cannot call virtue, it must be because of your misunderstanding. The existence is absolutely virtuous. Whatever happens in the universe is always right. The wrong never happens. It may appear wrong to you because you have certain idea of what right is, but when you look without any prejudice, nothing is wrong, all is right. Birth is right, death is right. Beauty is right and the ugliness is right.
Dharma also means and has been used as God. It also means discipline-different dimensions of the word. One who wants to attain truth will have to discipline himself in many ways. The word discipline means the capacity to learn, the availability to learn. The word comes from disciple. Disciple means one who is ready to drop his old prejudices and is willing to learn.
Dharma also means the ultimate truth. When mind disappears, when the ego disappears, then what remains is the ultimate truth. Something certainly remains but it cannot be called something or anything, Buddha calls it nothing. Nothing is easy to misunderstand and therefore it is better expressed as no-thing, it is not a thing. The ultimate law is not a thing. It is not an object that you can observe or perceive. It is your interiority, it is subjectivity. This is another meaning of Dharma, the interiority, the subjectivity, the truth. Truth is subjectivity. The difference between fact and the truth is that fact is an objective thing where as truth is subjective. In medicine the students are taught the difference between symptoms and signs. Symptoms are what patients report, he has a pain, he describes the pain. Pain is subjective and there are big dilemmas as how to assess pain and compare it from one patient to another. Signs are objective. Patient is tender at one spot on touching, the area is swollen. The swelling is obvious but the to the observer but not the pain. Pain is a common experience, but pain threshold varies from one person to another. It cannot be shared, or transferred and is difficult to express and it definitely is not a theory or a hypothesis. When it happens it is real. Truth is a different matter but there are some qualitative similarities. Truth is never a theory or a hypothesis. It is always an experience, your experience. Hence my truth cannot be your truth. You have to find your own truth. Truth is unshareable, untransferable, incommunicable and often inexpressible.
Before we get in to the details of individual samskaaras, let us explore some basic facts about karma, the karma that we do in our daily lives, the sakam karma. In the earlier part of the book we explored among other things the subject of Nishkam karma. Here we will try to take up the sakam karma that we did not bring up earlier. Sakam karma simply means that you do a karma with the result in mind.
In fact the whole concept of Samskara is based on the debits and credits of sakam karma. Nishkam Karma is what we all ought to be doing, but most of us live in the world of Sakam Karma. If all of us were to do Nishkam Karma there is always a zero balance and there would be no need to open the virtual account of Samskara. Normally, at the time of death the body dies and all the desires, chain of bodily experiences and impressions of mind take the form of a seed which carries on as samskara. This is the driving force for finding another body and once the body is found in form of a new birth, the seed start sprouting. The past Samskaras start acting out. You also start accumulating new Samskaras. You start from where you left off in your past life. This is your journey from life to life.
But, in the real world most of us do care about the result. By default we can not decide not to do karma. Every one who is living has to do karma. Also, every Karma produces a result. But, the result is not in our control. In this case it is easy to comprehend the Nishkam Karma in theory. If the results are not in your control, leave the results in the hand of the Parmatma. But, the Hindus went into the basics of how Sakam Karma influences the Samskara, how the results can be influenced by Sakam Puja and so on.
Before we look at the basics of Sakam Karma, let us examine the incidents of Mahabharata. Kaurav and Pandav are fighting. Duryodhana has a stronger army. Bhisma Pitamah, Dronacharya, Karna and many such well trained warriors are on his side. It is impossible to defeat one of them. How can any one defeat all of them. Arjuna and all were trained by Dronacharya and Bhisma Pitamaha who were on the Kaurava side. They were fighting for an outcome of winning the war.
On the other side, Arjuna was well trained. He spent years practising and sharpening his skills. He spent one year doing tapasya to please Shiva to gain more powers. Krishna himself was his sarathi (charroteer). Hanuman was on his pataka (flag pole of the charriot). Arjuna with all his excellent training goes numb in the beginning of the Mahabharata. He with does not want to fight. He is ready but not quite ready. He starts talking the language of Karma Sanyas. Krishna interjects. Arjuna has achieved every thing possible by his sakam karma. He has gone through rigorous training. He has done his Tapasya for power, he has got the support of devtas . Now what is left. Krishna now gives him the ultimate sutra of Nishkam karma. To excel he not only needs the readiness by training and the divine hand but also a full one hundred percent and more of his fighting skills. This is only possible if Arjuna can take his mind off the possible results. There was no calculable possibility of Pandavas winning to start with. If he just went by equations, he would not have been able to fight fully because there was no predictable victory for the Pandavas. Krishna has been Arjuna’s sakha (friend) long before Gita happened. He could have told Arjuna about nishkam karma before, while Arjuna was in training. No, that was not the time. Arjuna had to have the training. He had to go through the rigors of life. Once he was ready to take off, the ultimate formula was given.
In the real world and in real life, life does not start with Nishkam karma. That is a possibility. That is the best. It is important to understand this issue. When one is full of desires inside and always is looking for results, it is not appropriate of talking about Nishkam Karma. It is appropriate to know and understand the Sakam Karma as it is and then work towards Nishkam Karma.
So how does sakam karma work. What are the basics of Sakam Karma and how can you possibly influence or affect the results. For this undrstanding let’s look at the shloka that is the cornerstone of Nishkam karma again:
Karmanyewadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana (2..47)
You have the right to the karma but not to the result.
This shloka does not say that you do not get a result when you do a karma. You do karma and you get result. That is why this shloka is not only the key to Nishkam karma but also fundamental to the Sakam karma. There is an unknown factor between the karma and the result. The same karma does not produce the same result a second time even for the same person. For a different person the result of the same karma can be totally different. If you change the time and space for the same karma results can be dramatically different. This means that the results of any karma is unpredictable and there is no reproducibility.
And this is where, Hindus made the breakthrough. Not every one can surrender to parmatma and do the Nishkam karma. That is ideal but not in everyone’s grasp. So, there are techniques developed which may influence the results. The danger of these techniques is two fold. The techniques (may have been lupta today) can be misused for a bad outcome by a mischievous mind. The technique is a technique. Ravana can use mantra and tapasya to get the same powers that anyone else can. When he gets those powers to influence results and outcome, he uses it the way he wants to. It is like the atomic weapon falling in to the wrong hands.
The other risk is that if mantras, and tapasya can get the desired result, it can give a false sense of security. Why bother making an effort to do the karma? It can lead a whole generation to become lazy. A complacency can arise. People can become dependent on these techniques. This can lead to many fake Swamis and Sadhus claiming to produce magical results for an individual. The important point to realize is that these techniques do not replace the need to do your Swadharma. A karma has to be done. If you have to pass an examination, you have to prepare. A mantra or a puja can help but can not replace the books.
Many technologies were developed on these lines. We seem to have lost the keys and in some instances the locks themselves. The significance of astrology, mantras, murti, mandir (temple), tirtha (places of pilgrimages) have all been debased or lost over hundreds of years. There are many keys in life which can open doors of treasures, even today, but unfortunately we neither know anything about these treasures nor about the locks which may be opened. And, if we do not know either about the treasures or the locks, then what is left in our hands cannot even be called a key. It can only be a key if it opens a lock.
The key has left a sort of lingering fragrance in the unconscious mind of man. The impressions are hiding in our unconscious (part of samskara that we carry along) and therefore there is a possibility of bringing it to the surface. Effort is required in this direction. A renewed interest in these techniques is essential. That is the only way we can reinvent the hidden mysteries of these techniques. The knowledge we obtain by reinventing will be the building blocks of future developments.
These techniques form important steps during the performing of different essential Sacraments. In most sacraments, astrology is used to find out the most auspicious time for the event. Devtas are invoked to participate and bless during the event. Some of the Sacraments are performed in temples or in certain teerthas. Therefore, some understanding of these techniques is essential before we get into the vidhis (how to) of the Samskaras.
Astrology – A Science of Cosmic Oneness
Astrology is perhaps the most ancient subject and also in a way the most ignored. It is the most ancient because astrology has been in existence as far back as we have been able to investigate the history of mankind. Astrological inscriptions have been found on bone remnants from the Sumerian civilization which existed twenty-five thousand years before Jesus. Bone remnants have been discovered with astrological inscriptions and with an outline of the moon’s orbit in the sky.
But in India this science is even older. In the Rigveda reference is made to a certain constellation of the stars which could only have occurred several (ninety-five) thousand years ago. Because of this, Lokmanya Tilak concluded that the Vedas must certainly be even more ancient: the constellation of the stars as the Vedas describe it could only have occurred at a certain moment ninety-five thousand years ago; so that particular vedic reference must be at least ninety-five thousand years old.
That particular vedic reference could not have been added at a later period. Other, younger generations would not have been able to work out a constellation that existed many years before. But now we have scientific methods which we can use to discover where the stars were at a particular moment in the distant past.
The deepest laws of astrology were first discovered in India. In fact it was only because of astrology that mathematics was born. To make astrological calculations, first mathematics was needed. The digits used in arithmetic were invented in India — the numbers one to ten, which exist in all the world’s languages, are basically Indian in origin. And throughout the world the decimal system has been accepted: the decimal system was born in India, and it slowly spread throughout the entire world. The numerals one to nine, prevalent in all the world’s languages, came into existence only because of the influence of Indian astrology.
Astrology basically believes that your birth and future are affected by the planetary positions. It believes that you are not an island unto yourself. You are part of the whole. Your being affects the entire universe and the universe affects you. It is necessary that we understand some basic matters regarding the concept of astrology. First, it is necessary to know that, from a scientific point of view, the whole solar family is born out of the sun. The moon, Mars, Jupiter, and the rest of the planets, including this Earth, are all organic parts of the sun. Slowly, life on Earth came into being — from plants to man. Man is an organic part of the Earth; the Earth is an organic part of the sun. It is like a mother who has a daughter, who in turn also has a daughter, and in all three of them the same blood flows. Their bodies are made up of similar cells. The scientists use a word “empathy” meaning shared sensitivity. Those things that are born from the same source have a sort of shared inner experience.
Out of the sun the Earth is born, and out of the Earth our bodies are born, and far away, the sun is our great grandparent. Whatsoever happens on the sun creates a vibration in every cell of our bodies. It must be that way because our cells are all born out of the sun. The sun appears to be a great distance away but it is not so far. In every element of our blood and in every particle of our bones live the atoms of the sun. We are part of the sun, so it is no wonder that our lives are influenced by the sun. There is a sort of intimate relationship between the sun and ourselves. If we understand this relationship rightly, we can enter into the dimension of astrology.
There are various types of astrology practiced all around the world today. As far as its application in the performing of essential samskaras such as marriage is concerned, it is used in at least two parts. The matching of horoscope of the bride and groom helps compare the qualitative aspects of the two. What is not obvious by meeting the persons involved or by their family history may be very obvious to an astrologer regarding the possible behavior patterns and the future of the pair. A good astrologer can see if the two are compatible now and will stay compatible in the future. How applicable it is today is not the subject of discussion here and we will not address that part. The other application is to find an auspicious time (when the planetary positions are favorable) most suitable for the event.
Mantra – the science of sound
Mantra is another technique to affect the results of your karma and they are in themselves not good or bad. They can, however, be misused if the person behind has otherwise intentions. Remember that a mantra is a secret technique to achieve more power. A mantra is not in itself spiritual. Some mantras can indeed lead you to be spiritual. Om can bring you closer to the anhad nad, hu can work on certain centres to awaken your chakras. A spiritual person uses mantra for different purposes than a non spiritual. Many of the rituals and sacramnts (samskaras) that we are going to describe use mantras to invoke certain kind of gods.
The mind can become powerful if you focus its energy. It is just like the sun’s rays falling to the ground. If you focus those waves, those rays, through a lens, fire can be created. Those rays were falling all spread out but now they have been narrowed down through the lens. They have become one-pointed, concentrated; now fire is possible.
The mind is energy, in fact, the same energy that comes through the sun, the same subtle rays. Ask the physicists. They say the mind has a voltage of electricity, that it is electrical.
If you can focus the mind through a lens, the mantra is a lens, and you go on repeating Ram, Ram, Ram, or Om, Om, Om, just one word — if you go repeating and repeating and repeating it, and the mind’s whole energy is centered in that one word — it becomes a lens. Now all the rays are passing through that lens. Narrowed to one point it becomes powerful, you can do miracles. Just by thinking you can do miracles.
Mantras can aslo be used in puja to achieve a wanted result. This often is called a Sakam puja. Often a mantra chanted at a certain time in a certain place has a compounding effect. For example, there are many sadhaks who do durga path at the time of Navratri in Kamakhya. This has been going on for centuries. The whole atmosphere is charged in Kamakhya at that time.
Sometimes it is difficult to understand how mantras can produce results. The same people who question such techniques use other techniques to get results. In the west there is always the talk of positive thinking and how you can get ahead by thinking positve. There are courses in the USA where it is taught that if you want to become the chief, start thinking and behaving like a chief and that will take you there.
Vincent Peele has written a book on positive imaging. This is one step ahead of positive thinking. Positive imaging is like dreaming. Construct your dream and fill it with the desired result. A patient is going to have a surgery. He starts dreaming that he is having surgery. His surgeon is doing the surgery and the surgeon is doing great. There are no complications. Bleeding is minimal. The patient is now recovering and the recovery has been wonderful. Now, this person is trying to influence his outcome and also the behavior of not only the surgeon but the whole operating team. And, Vincent Peele is convinced that positive imaging works in getting close to the desired result.
Hindus went a step further. The science of sound. Most mantra sounds do not have any meaning. If there was a meaning, perhaps it will loose its effects. There are provisions of how to do mantra jaap and when and where to do them to obtain a given result.
Mantras can also be used to do Nishkam puja. Then the sound is used to transgress mind. The vibrations of the sound goes to every cell of the body. The mantra is internalized by making it a continuous phenomenon. Now you do not have to chant Om,Om from outside. Your whole existence is echoing with the sound. In such a state mind is bypassed. It simply is dropped. There is no desire to achieve any thing. If there is no result or goal in mind the mind is no more needed.
Mantras as mentioned above can be used to achieve powers. And then it can be used to show your powers. People who are doing miracles using powers of mantras are magicians, not spiritual. They are even anti-spiritual because they are spreading magic by misusing the powers they have achieved in the name of religion, which is very dangerous.
So if you are a man of mantra miracles you can say to a tree, “Die,” and the tree will die; you can say to a man, “Be healthy,” and the disease will disappear, or, “Be unhealthy,” and the disease will enter — many things you can do. You can become somebody, and people will recognize you as a man of power but never a man of God.
Mantras have a neutral status, they were not developed only to affect the result of a given karma. Mantras are and can be used in spiritual journey to get to a point from where the jump can happen. The whole technique of mantra and its japa in an appropriate place can create an atmosphere where the jnana can happen.
However, in the performing of samskaras mantras are used to invoke differnet gods and piters and also to bless the participants. Mantras are essential parts of all samskaras.
Mandirs – the laboratories of the past.
Hindus did a lot of experimentation. Mandir was the laboratory at one time where people could go in and experiment with meditation, with mantra chanting and so on. Different mandirs were sites of different experiments and experiences. A shiva temple has a different discipline than that of the Dakshineswari temple in Calcutta. A Jaina temple has different locations (often on mountains-away from water) than a Vishwanath temple which is on the banks of Ganga. Some people claim that the Vishwnath temple we see is not the real Vishwanath temple. The real temple is kept hidden from the access of a commoner. As if it exists in a different dimension that is accessible only in certain states of meditative mind. The real Gangotri similarly is said to be accessible only by the travel of your astral body. The physical body cannot reach the real souce of Ganga.
Before we learn more about temples let us explore where science is heading today and what lies in store for future of Science. Man of today knows a lot about matter. He has amassed a lot of power, specially a destructive power. Unless a man knows himself all his knowledge lacks authenticity. In the hands of an ignorant man nothing can be creative, but even ignorance can become a creative tool in the hands of a knowledgeable one. If a man can understand himself, can master himself, only then will his other achievements have real merit. Unless this happens he is simply digging his own grave.
That’s what we are doing. We are digging our own graves. Previous civilizations were destroyed by external attack; ours is threatened by a great internal danger. If the civilization of the twentieth century is annihilated, it will be by suicide. This is what we will have to call it, if there is anyone left to call it anything. It is possible this final war may never be written into human history. It will take place outside history’s ken, because it will destroy all of humanity. Those who came before us made history, we are preparing to unmake it.
We are in control of infinite material power, but we know nothing of the depths of the human heart, we know nothing of the poison and the nectar that lies hidden there, side by side. We know the atomic structure of matter but nothing of the atomic structure of the soul. And this is our great misfortune. We have achieved power, but no peace, no enlightenment.
There is great power in the hands of the unenlightened, of the unawakened. But these are the people who should not be allowed to possess power; if it is misused, power can wreak great evil. Our whole search has been for power. And this is man’s mistake. He is in danger from his own achievements, from his own successes. The world’s great thinkers and scientists should be made aware of the pitfalls of this preoccupation with the question of power. It is just this sort of blind, thoughtless investigation that has brought us to the brink of the present crisis. The aim should be peace, not power. And if the aim becomes peace, then the focus will be on the mystery of man himself, not into the secrets of nature. There has been much research and exploration into unconscious matter, but the time has come when we must concentrate on man himself, on his mind.
The science of the future will include the science of consciousness, and will not be limited to the science of matter. This change musts occur before it is too late. Those scientists who are committed to the investigation of the inanimate are orthodox men, with minds bound by tradition and convention. Men of awareness must come forth to alter the direction of scientific research. Science must strive for knowledge of man himself. In their efforts to master the material world modern scientists have attained results unprecedented in human history; there is no reason they cannot be equally successful in achieving the same insight into man. Man can be known. He can be mastered; he can be transformed. I see no reason to be discouraged. We can come to know ourselves, and on this knowledge we can build a totally new consciousness.
This has been the science that Hindus worked on. Places were developed which could be used as center of peace. You could pass by a temple and feel the energy of peace. Peace and calmness dawns on you. It was easy for a person to go into meditation inside a temple. There was a time when the Mandirs were alive and the keys were known to fit the locks, one knew how to use the temple. All the mantras have no literal meaning but they have a pragmatic value and we used to make our children absorb them at a very early age. They would learn the use of the temple without ever even being aware of what they had learnt. They would learn the art of entering the temple, how to sit there and how to make use of the sacred precincts. Whenever there was an emergency or any difficulties, people would run to the temple and then return home having regained a sense of balance and tranquillity. Each morning they would go to the temple, where else. But all of these were not taught to them – they incorporated it at a very early stage in childhood.
At the entrance of the temple we find big bells or gongs. You enter the temple and ring the bell. The sound of the bell is close to the sound of Om. Moreover, if you are chanting a mantra and your mind is wandering, a bang on the bell wakes you up, centers you on the mantra. You enter the temple. You are going up the steps and your mind is in the marketplace, you enter the temple and before you enter you ring the bell. It brings your total being to the temple. The sound of the bell along with your centering and that of other beings creates an atmosphere which sets out the waves of peace and tranquillity. And this going on years after years, Concentration of the energy, what more can you ask for.
The dome of the temple is a mini sky. If you chant a mantra in the open sky, your mantra may escape easily away from you. The dome of the temple creates reverberations of the mantra. The effect is compounded. Several other people chanting mantras there. A place for experimenting. A place for going deeper inside yourself.
Temples have small doors specially for the main center. Did the people who designed temples did not know about cleanliness. How can you keep the area aerated. They knew and developed other methods. They worked on alchemy. These are the same people who have performed the ultimate alchemy by getting Ganga to flow. Ganga water is no ordinary water. Similarly they found that the mantras have a cleansing effect. That is how these temples stayed clean for thousands of years. They kept the center of the temple with small doors to preserve the energy which has been focused there from different experiments.
One of them is the prana pratistha. The statues in side temples are not just pieces of rocks. With special mantras there have been invocation and institution of life energy in them. The light in a temple comes from ghee lamps. The quality of light and its effects on the eyes coming from a kerosene oil, perhaps more economical, is not the same as that emanating from a ghee lamp. Try doing a tratak dhyan on a kerosene lamp and then on a ghee lamp. The soothing effects of the ghee lamp is obvious. Similarly, a sandal paste on the forehead (near the third eye) has not only a cooling effect but also a balmy effect. All these things were not just accidents. They have been the work of many people over a period of time to get to the mature stage of usage.
Many of the samskaras (sacraments) are performed in Mandirs. Sometimes, a mother or a father makes a vow of visiting a temple if certain desired result is obtained. Our whole life at one time centered around temples. If you are happy you go to the temple. If you are sad you do the same. It is our duty to find out the details of how we can re-energize and rediscover the mysteries and science of the temples. Why do we have 12 jyotirlingas. Why Ujjain is the tantric city. There are many such issues which we have to focus on. Research is needed in this area and it is a challenge for us to take upon this task.
Murti Pooja – The bridge between the manifest and the unmanifest
Murti pooja is one example where our knowledge base has eroded, and that led to attacks on the whole concept from inside and outside. We have the key, we have the technology but we do not have the locks or we do not know how to use the key. And, then what is expected happens. The so called intellectuals who can criticize any thing they do not understand started going against the system. The people who continued with Murti pooja (and thank goodness they did) did not have the intellectual logic to defend it. On the other hand people like Kabir, who never need a murti pooja, said:
Pathar pooje Hari Mile
To Main pooju pahar
If God can be achieved by worshipping a piece of rock
Then I will worship a mountain
Kabir is right from where he is speaking. Once you have reached, and you choose to speak the language of the enlightened one, there will be a problem. Kabir does not need a murti. Budha does not need a murti. But, they have already reached. When Budha got there, he stayed maun for several days. He did not find anything new. What he found has already been there. He could have said, “There is nothing to find.” But, he talked for forty years. He kept giving techniques, techniques like Vipassana and others. Krishnamurthy, instead started saying that you do not need to do anything. Now, that is true for him. And nobody has reached without doing anything. Even in Krishnamurthy’s case the whole theosophy school was behind him to get where he got.
The attacks from outside are easier if there are doubts inside. People who literally worship a Rock (Kaba) started criticizing statues. They were obsessed with statues so much that they took upon themselves to destroy the statue system. Now, that is totally absurd. Without understanding the whole system, they decided that they should destroy the statues. But, when you are guided by blind faith, you do not need brain anyway. Similarly, people who carry a cross around their neck and kill draculas using the cross, have intellectual nerve to try to criticize one of the most scientifically developed technique in the world. All because, we started having doubts.
Everyone is not a Kabir or a Krishnamurthy. They need techniques to get there. Meditation, Tantra, Mantra are techniques that can be used by different strata of people.Different people have different personalities and different aptitude. One method is not suitable for all. And, that is one reason why so many different techniques have been developed. They all do not get to the same place. The ultimate may be the same but there are many techniques which are meant to have certain manzil, certain destination.
We call this Sakam Pooja. Like Sakam karma, there is Sakam pooja and there is Nishkam pooja as well. The murti puja has been used for both the sakam puja and also to get further to the enlightenment. As we mentioned above, Mandir is a laboratory, murti is the energy source. Pran pratistha is the technique that brings the life energy to the murti. Differents mantras invoke different energy fields (devta) in to a particular murti. The dispersion of the energy is limited by the small doors as entry and exit. The dome shape of the top helps reverberate the chanting of mantra and purifies the space, mind and body of the temple and individuals. The ghee lamp, the fixed times of aarti and puja all that is part of a science and not a false fixed belief.
Many examples have been used in this book to try to convey our meanings. They are simplistic models and should be taken as such. The whole basis of idol worship or murti pooja is the relationship between the mind and the cosmic mind. What is needed is a just a bridge between the two. The murti is an attempt to create that bridge. Only something that is manifest, like the form of a murti, can become the bridge – because for most of us it is not possible to establish a direct link with the formless.
For example, we can say that telephone is not needed for communication because a telepathy would be better. There are no wires, no telephone bills and no need to carry a cellualr solid interface. In theory it is great, in practice, for now it is not possible.
No matter how much one may talk about the formless and the unmanifest, it is mere talk, and does not really convey anything to you. Whatever experience your mind has are all experiences of form and shape. You have no experience of the formless and the words cannot create any resonance in you about that which you have no experience of. You will go on talking about the formless and continue living with the form. So, if you want to establish a relationship with the formless, you will have to establish a relationship with the formless, you will have to create something which on one side has a form and on the other is formless. That is the secret of the murti, the idol.
Let me explain this another way. A mother has her son in the war front, away from her, say in the USA. She has a grand child too who she is very close to but has not seen him for many years. The son goes back home to visit his mother. She asks him about the grand son. The son describes how the grand son has grown up and is 5’7” already and is very handsome. What does the mother ask for. You guessed it right, a photo. She looks at the photo and starts crying. The photo is the manifest, in a sense it ia an idol, a murti. She sees the photo and the photo has disappeared. The grand son has appeared. It is real, the tears are the proof. Not only the grand son has disappeared but in some sense the grand mother has also disappeared. Only the emotions appear. The manifest is gone, the unmanifest has descended
Put differently, worship is the art of making the murti disappear. It is the art of slowly dropping the manifest and entering into the unmanifest. When you go to the temple you see only the murti, because you are not able to see the worship itself. If you see Meera in a temple, you see Meera and the murti of Bhagwan Shree Krishna, but for Meera both the murti and Meera are dissolved in the bhakti, the worship has happened.
Not only we developed the science of putting murti in temples but we also developed the science of disposable murtis. The murti is made for several samkaras and in several annual pujas like Saraswati or Durga puja. The worship goes for hours or days. Once the worship is over the murti is dissolved in water. It is gone. The murti was used just as a bridge, in the worship the murti disappears so does the worshipper. The murti has done its purpose and is ready for visarjan. Ganesh is invoked in gobar How significant is gobar. It is not even a stone. The question is not what the manifest is, wheter it is gold or gobar is not the question. The question is whether it acts as a bridge for you or not. Does it bring the tear of joy in your eyes the same way that a photo of grandchild brings to the grand mother’s eyes.
Cosmos, Consciousness and the science of souls
All the concepts of Samskara is based on the fact that we have a life with the physical body and the impressions and experiences that we have go with us in a seed form when we die. This is what we call our samskara. The question obviously arises as to what happens to us when we die. Our physical body obviously dies and is cremated on our death. The soul (Atma) lives on. Where is the Atma after death? What are its movements? What happens to those who get enlightened? All these questions arise and the Hindu mind has tried to answer these questions by a very systematic and scientific mind. Before we get into our Hindu thinking let us examine how the physicist of today are coming close to where the ancient Hindus have worked on.
One thing is very clear from the findings of science today is that our senses are not sensitive to majority of the reality around us. There is very strong argument that the universe in our immediate vicinity is far more complex than we can imagine. One has only to compare the amount of man’s knowledge obtained by his unaided senses with the enormous increase provided by the development of such devices as telescopes, microscopes, radio receivers and X-ray machines, to realize how very limited we are. Telescopes, microscopes and similar “magnifying” techniques form a continuous and open-ended chain of development. The urge to see farther and smaller has always existed, and is fundamental to the extent of being instinctive. No matter how powerful an instrument is built, there will always be some object of interest which is barely visible, and so an awareness of things still beyond its range and an incentive to improve it. On the other hand, such developments as radio communication and X-ray examination required the positive discovery of radio waves and X-rays before they could even be contemplated. Only then could the requisite technology be developed so that they could be used to gain further knowledge. One would expect any “extra” dimensions to come into this category, and there could well be other equally fundamental “unknowns.”
Until an initiating discovery is made, it is extremely difficult to conceive of their existence, speculate on their characteristics or imagine the consequences. The dimension that the ancient Indians worked upon was the possibility of parallel universes. They have been described as Mrityalok, Pitrilok, Devaloka and Brahmaloka. These are the descriptions of the different lokas which have some sort of dimensions. The physics applicable to one Loka probably is different from another one. This area has to be revisited from a modern scientific approach.
Science is almost getting there from a different approach. In our ancient scriptures including Gita it is said that Brahma’s one day and one night is equal to thousands of years of our existence. This is not very dissimilar to the theory of relativity of Einstein. Isaac Newton thought that time was like an arrow. Once fired, it could never return. Einstein, however, thought that time was more like a river, which meandered and speeded up or slowed down near galaxies and stars. The new wrinkle on all of this is that scientists today believe that the river of time may have whirlpools, or have forks.
Einstein has been looking for the “Theory of Everything”. For over half a century scientist have been puzzled over why the basic forces of the cosmos – gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces – require markedly different mathematical descriptions. But, if we see these forces as vibrations in a higher dimensional space, their field equations fit together like pieces of jigsaw puzzle, perfectly snug, in an elegant, astonishingly simple form. This is what Michio Kaku writes in his book, “Hyperspace.”
Hyperspace is the theory of higher dimensions. It states that dimensions exist which are beyond length, width, height, and time. In higher dimensions, there is “enough room” in which to describe all of the interactions found in nature (electricity, magnetism, gravity, and the nuclear forces). This means that in hyperspace (especially in its latest form, as superstring theory), one may eventually be able to unify all the known laws of physics into an equation perhaps no more than one-inch long. This may complete Einstein’s age-old dream of finding the “theory of everything,” which may describe everything from black holes, the big bang, galaxies, down to the lilies of the field.
Because this theory is a theory of everything, it may eventually answer questions that have puzzled scientists for thousands of years, such as, What happened before Creation? Can you go backwards in time? Can you visit the stars? Einstein’s theory of general relativity allows for both the possibility of time travel and wormholes. However, we would need an incredible amount of energy to open up holes in space and time. The Planck energy, for example, is 100 billion billion times the energy typically found in a hydrogen bomb. To understand the vast energies involved, scientists like to categorize civilizations in space into 3 types. A Type I civilization has harnessed truly planetary power. They control the weather; they mine the oceans; they control earthquakes; they get energy from the center of the earth. A Type II civilization has exhausted the energy of their planet. They get energy directly from the solar furnace called the sun. They “mine” the sun. A Type III civilization has exhausted the power of a single star. They harness the power of a galaxy. By contrast, we are a Type 0 civilization! Perhaps a Type I or II civilization will have the power to manipulate space and time at will.
Where are these higher dimensions? These higher dimensions are all around us. Imagine carp swimming in shallow pond, just below the lily pads. They spend their entire lives swimming in 2 dimensions, not realizing that just above their universe lies the 3rd dimension. Every point in their two dimensional universe is in contact with the 3rd dimension, yet they cannot conceive of the direction called “up” or “down”.
Similarly, many scientists believe that we live in 10 dimensions. The other 6 dimensions are invisible to us, just like the 3rd dimension was invisible to the fish. Scientists believe that at the beginning of time, the universe was 10 dimensional, but it was unstable. The universe (like a soap bubble) split in half, splitting into a 6 and a 4 dimensional bubble. The 6 dimensional universe collapsed, thereby inflating the 4 dimensional bubble, which became the big bang. Thus, our universe is expanding as at the expense of the 6 dimensional universe, which collapsed. Therefore, the 6 dimensional universe, although it is all around us, is too small for us to enter. Can ghosts or people live in these higher dimensions? At the turn of the century, many theologians thought that ghosts lived in these higher dimensions, since they would have power beyond our imagination. In fact, all these feats are possible if a person actually did live in these higher dimensions. Unfortunately, as we now suspect, the energy necessary to access or enter these higher dimensions is the Planck energy, which is far beyond anything that we can master without present-day machines.
Has there been a Type III civilization before our current times. If you read ancient Indian scriptures it makes you wonder if they were able to have control over the natural forces. They have talked about their concept of the “Theory of Everything” as well. The problem has been in the language. It is always difficult to understand a language and literature of a higher civilization by a lower civilization. If we are the Type 0 civilization and the shastras were written by Type III civilaization, problems are bound to arise. How can we then understand that the earth will grab the wheels of Karna’s charriot at the crucial moment of his fight with Arjuna. We have no control on the planets, how could anybody then have these powers?
We feel that the difficulty the scientists today are having in explaining the theory of everything may be because they have limited themselves to the four physical forces – gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. It may be easier to find a theory of everything if Consciousness was included in the equation. Every matter and a being has in it some level of consciousness. A human being is more conscious than a plant. A stone is mostly unconscious, thereby meaning it has minimum consciousness. The range of consciousness is from unconscious to subconscious to conscious and the from superconscious to cosmic consciousness.
We mentioned the theory of 10 dimensions and the big bang as described in earlier paragraphs. Is there something beyond all the dimensions, which has no dimensions? Our scriptures talk about this dimensionless eternal existence – the unmanifest. This can also be called Cosmic Consciousness and Hindus call it Parmatma. When the atma (individual consciousness) merges with the cosmic consciousness one achieves enlightenment in mystic terms.
What then is the physics of this space. The equations of this cosmic consciousness has not been worked out by the physicists of today but there is an equation described in Ishavashyopanishad about it:
Aum purnamadah purnamidam
That is the whole
This is the Whole
From wholeness emerges wholeness
Wholeness coming from wholeness
Wholeness still remains.
The purna or the Whole is not the same as infinity, but if you use it as a mathetmatical symbol the above sutra means that
Infinity + Infinity = Infinity and
Infinity – Infinity = Infinity
From the unmanifest comes out the manifest and at the end of the cycle (night of Brahma) every manifest thing dissolves into the unmanifest. There has been other expressions of this unmanifest. The sound of this domain is the sound of silence. That which remains is Aum. This is also called the anhat nad (unstruck sound) by some and the sound of one hand clappings by others. The light in this domain is the light of thousand sun shining at the same time and is the light without any source. When Arjuna had the opportunity to see Krishna’s Virat roop, this was a glimpse of this unmanifest’s expressible possibility. No wonder Arjuna’s heart poured out and he sang:
Twamadidevah purushah puranas
twamasya vishwasys param nidhanam
Vettasi vedyam cha param cha dhama
twaya tatam vishwamanant roopam (11..38)
Thou art the primal Deva, the Ancient Purusha, Thou art the Supreme Refuge of this Universe, Thou art the Knower, and the one thing to be known; Thou art the Supreme Goal. By Thee is the Universe pervaded, O boundless Form.
Some call it shunya (Zero, vacuum or nothing) and the others call it purna (Whole, Everything or infinity). The science today has come close to these observations. The empty, vacuum and fullness can be expressions of the same thing. According to our current understanding of physics, every region of space is awash with different kinds of fields composed of waves of varying lengths. Each wave always has at least some energy. When physicists calculate the minimum amount of energy a wave can possess, they find that every cubic centimeter of empty space contains more energy than the total energy of all the matter in the known universe! Space is not empty. It is full, a plenum as opposed to a vacuum, and is the ground for the existence of everything, including ourselves. The universe is not separate from this cosmic sea of energy, it is a ripple on its surface, a comparatively small “pattern of excitation” in the midst of an unimaginably vast ocean. “This excitation pattern is relatively autonomous and gives rise to approximately recurrent, stable and separable projections into a three-dimensional explicate order of manifestation,” states Bohm. In other words, despite its apparent materiality and enormous size, the universe does not exist in and of itself, but is the stepchild of something far vaster and more ineffable. More than that, it is not even a major production of this vaster something, but is only a passing shadow, a mere hiccup in the greater scheme of things.
From this Cosmic consciousness comes out the whole creation of different dimensional universe. Different parallel universe as described from Brahmaloka to Mrityaloka (where we live). Every loka in the parallel universe is bound by the laws of time (relativity) or call it spacetime, but the Cosmic Consciousness lies beyond this spacetime equation. Big bang or no big bang, the cosmic consciousness remains unaffected. This is described by Krishna in Gita:
Maamupetya tu kaunteya punarjanma na vidyate (8..16)
All the Lokas (parallel universes), O Arjuna, including the Brahmaloka are subject to the return, but, after attaining me, O son of Kunti, there is no rebirth.
In Mrityaloka we exist in form and shape and this is the three dimensions space that we are familiar with. If you add time as dimension then it becomes a four dimensionsal space. Then there is the Pitriloka and Devaloka where the souls after death reside. Mantras are techniques to invoke them and bring them closer to us to take part in any sacraments that we do. They are invoked for the purpose of blessings and their help in ones life.
The big question of time travel has been dealt with by a different approach. Normally travel for us means travel in distance. A machine like a car, a train or an aeroplane automatically comes to mind. And, that is why there is so much appeal to H.G. Wells time machine, even though it is a fiction. Physicist still dream of a machine and a warp speed. Einstein proclaimed that a travel faster than speed of light is not possible and we have got stuck with that. Now that theory is being challenged but still it is difficult to imagine for a machine traveling even at the speed of light.
Hindus worked on the seven chakras, vortices of energy distributed throughout out the body, the lowest chakra being the Muladhar and the highest being the Sahashrar. Each chakra is also connected and associated with seven different bodies. We will discuss the first four bodies at this place merely to explain the theory of travel in time and space. The physical body that we all know about is the first body and its corresponding chakra is the Muladhar chakra. We all know the limitations of our physical body. Its sense have a limited range of light and sound perceptions and also has the effect of gravity which is measurable in G units. The size of the physical body is also limited by its physical structures and dimensions.
The second body is called the etheric body and usually is the same size as the first body. The second body is like collection of vapors. The etheric body lives for 12 days after the death of the physical body and then withers away. The etheric body can increase in size and also shrink. When a man is afraid the second body shrinks in size and when one is happy it expands. In meditation one sometimes experiences that the body has expanded and filled the whole room or even the whole atmosphere. These are the expressions of the second body that are being perceived by the conscious mind. Sometimes the dreams of the second body can also be seen and remembered. The second body can leave the physical body and travel around as well. If you have dreamt of traveling in air, it probably is the dream of the second body. The travel is not limited by the speed of light, but it is only possible in the current time. The etheric body does not travel in past or future. There is a very interesting story in Sunderkand of Ramayana.
Hanuman is on his way to Lanka. The devatas send Surasa to test if Hanuman is brave enough to go to Lanka and if is he the right coice for the job of finding Seeta. Surasa comes and says to Hanuman that she is hungry and opens her mouth. Hanuman increases his size to twice the size of her open mouth. This goes on until there is no more space. Then Hanuman becomes miniature and goes in her mouth and comes out from her nostrils and then asks for her permission to proceed ahead. The problem here is of language. This whole phenomenon is of the etheric body and nothing to do with the physical body.
The third body is the astral body. This is just the collection of vibrations. But it has a kind of a shape. It has its boundaries. This body has the freedom to travel in the past but not to the future. There are some seekers stuck in this state of third body. The experience is subtle but very enjoyable. They can visualize your past very clearly. I have encountered one Tantric who used to love me. He will call us on telephone and tell us what we have been doing. He was well respected but his future predictions never came true. This is the body that we talked earlier that can travel to the real Gangotri and see the source.
The fourth body is called the mental body. The fourth body can travel into the past and the future. In an acute emergency, sometimes even an ordinary person can have glimpses of the future. If Jean Dixon (fortune teller) could predict the assassiantion of John F. Kennedy, this is from the glimpses of this fourth body. It is usually mentioned that Balmiki rishi wrote the Ramayana before Rama was born and it so happened that Rama lived his life exactly as writeen by Balmiki. Now, it is possible that that Balmiki could go out in the future with this mental body and see the whole story of Rama as it was going to happen. This is speculative but not worth discarding at the first glance. After all, Aadi Shankaaracharya story of transferring his soul into the body of a king who had died is a story that is around the 500 A.D. His body was kept alive for several days until he came back to his body. The technology was available not so long ago until the linkage (parampara) started fragmenting.
Yes, time travel is possible. But probably an awareness of a different body and its travel in a wave form is more of possibility than inventing a physical time machine. It is not always the distance or a wormhole that you have to pass through, it is a perhaps a transcendence to a different space or even a different dimension. If you want to travel with the physical body then you require Planck energy, but, if you have to travel through astral body, the physics of vibrations will be different. Yes, it is difficult to communicate with the Piters and the Devtas as we are. But, there is a possibility that mantras and other similar techniques can be of help. These concepts have to be explored further. To change to from a type 0 civilization to type I or II will only happen if type of civilization we have to have new discoveries or re-discoveries of some sort.
In all samskaras (sacraments) we invite the Piters and Devatas to come and join us in the event. The good souls usually do not come on their own. They have to be invited. There are many different kind of good souls. Each with different personalities and properties. Indra has different characterstics than Ganesha. The Hindus have devised this technology and they chant different mantras to invoke different gods for different purposes. In most sacraments Ganesha is invoked in the beginning and then others. Similarly, out in that space is your ancestors, which can also be invoked and invited so that they can cast their blessings to you.
Krishna instructs and encourages this technique in Gita in chapter 3:
Devanbhavyatanena te deva bhavyantu vah
Parasparam bhavyantah shreyah paramwapsyath (3..11)
Cherish the devas with this, and may those Devas cherish you: thus cherishing one another, ye shall gain the highest good.
In all the Samskars (sacraments) we chant mantras to invite these benvolent souls to help us in our jouney from Life to Life. Now, with all these basic understandings, we will get into the samskaras proper in the next chapter.
SAMSKARAS – THE SACRAMENTS
Every culture consecrates the milestones of life with ritual and festivity. In India these rites of passage, called Samskaras, are celebrated in the home and in the temple, marking our spiritual journey on the earth. Hindus celebrate life’s crucial junctures by holy sacraments, or rites of passage, called samskaras, which impress the subconscious mind, inspire family and community sharing and invoke the Gods’ blessings.
For the Hindu, life is a sacred journey in which each milestone, marking major biological and emotional stages, is consecrated through sacred ceremony. Family and friends draw near, lending support, advice and encouragement. Through Vedic rites and mantras, family members or priests invoke the Gods for blessings and protection during important turning points, praying for the individual’s spiritual and social development. There are many sacraments, from the rite of conception to the funeral ceremony. Each one, properly observed, empowers spiritual life and preserves Hindu culture, as the soul consciously accepts each succeeding discovery and duty in the order of God’s creation. There are 16 popular samsakara and these include the rites of conception, the three-month blessing, hair-parting, birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding, ear-piercing, first learning, puberty, marriage, elders’ vows and last rites. The Naamkaran, Graduation, Vivaha and the Antyeshti Samskaras are popular and of greater relevance and therefore we will limit our discussion to these in this book.
The place of yagya should be neat, clean and pure. It should be pure in ground, air and its vicinity. This should be free from any kind of disturbance. It is important to realize that cleanliness alone is not enough. There is emphasis on purity and absence of disturbances. These relate to what effects impurity may have on these processes. The purification and the clearance of disturbances can also be helped with chanting of certain kind of Mantras.
A Yagyashala or a yagyamandap is made with specific measurements. This is place where the sacrament is performed. It should be cleaned with brush every day and decorated appropriately. It is obligatory that everyone prays to the divine through the performance of yagya for the well-being of all. For this purpose of Homa (Oblations) are offered. The dimensions of the yagyakunda usually depends upon how many Oblations are going to be offered.
Small pieces of certain specific wood are cut into for the purpose of wood fuel. These are then placed in to the middle of the yagyakunda after making sure that they are clean and not infested with worms. There are four kinds of articles for the Homa which include articles with fragrance (kasturi or musk, keshar or Rotileria tinctora etc.), of strength (ghee, milk, fruit etc.), of sweetness (sugar, honey date etc.) and of herbs (somalata, paan etc.). Then a prasaad is prepared for offering.
All these are common to most Samskaras. Now we will take up individual sacraments or rites of passages and discuss the basis of our thoughts with some details of the process as well.
When a child is born there is need of an identity and that is the reason a name is given to him. It is the beginning of a journey, a journey of life. As everyone is aware of an identity is helpful. Even when you go on a journey in an airplane, you need to have an identity check. A name is useful. Not only you need an identity check, your luggage also needs to have a tag. Once that particular journey is over and you have collected your luggage the identity of luggage is not needed. The luggage is with you and there is no need for a tag any more. Similarly, with the end of ones’ life which is end of a visible journey, the identification looses its meaning until you start your next journey of life again. You and you samskaras go with you at the time of death. You do not have a physical body with a physical address at that time.
When a child is born he comes without a center of his own. For nine months in the mother’s womb he functions with the mother’s center as his center; he is not separate. Then he is born. Then it is utilitarian to think of oneself as having a separate center; otherwise life will become very difficult, almost impossible.
Man has no center separate from the center of the whole. There is only one center in existence; the ancients used to call it Tao, Dharma, God. Those words have become old now; you can call it Truth. There is only one center of existence. There are not many centers, otherwise the universe would not be really a universe, it would become a multi-verse. It is a unity, hence it is called the “universe”; it has only one center.
But this is to be meditated upon a little. That one center is my center, your center, everybody’s center. That one center does not mean that you are center-less, that one center simply means that you don’t have a separate center. Let us say it in different words. You can make many concentric circles on one center, many circles. You can throw a pebble in a silent lake: one center arises from the fall of the pebble and then many concentric circles arise and they go on spreading to the farthest shore — millions of concentric circles, but they all have one center.
Each can claim this center as his own. And in a way it is his center, but it is not only his. The ego arises with the claim, “The center is mine, separate. It is not your center, it is my center; it is me.” The idea of a separate center is the root of the ego.
To survive, and to struggle for survival in the fight of life, everybody needs a certain idea of who they are. And nobody has any idea. In fact nobody can ever have any idea, because at the deepest core you are a mystery. You can’t have any idea of it. At the deepest core you are not individual, you are universal.
For example, you have a name. That is a fiction. You came without a name, you did not bring a name with you, the name was given to you. Then by constant repetition you start becoming identified with it. You know your name is Rama or Rahim or Krishna. It goes so deep that if you fall asleep with several other people and somebody comes and calls, “Rama, where are you?” nobody will hear except Rama. Rama will say, “Who has come to disturb my sleep?” Even in sleep he knows his name; it has reached to the unconscious, it has seeped through and through. But it is a fiction.
But when I say it is a fiction I don’t mean it is unnecessary. It is necessary fiction, it is useful; otherwise how are you going to address people? If you want to write a letter to somebody, to whom are you going to write?
A small child once wrote a letter to God. His mother was ill and his father had died and they had no money, so he asked God for fifty rupees. When the letter reached the post office they were at a loss — what to do with it? Where to send it? It was simply addressed to God. So they opened it. They felt very sorry for the little boy and they decided to collect some money and send it to him. They collected some money — he had asked for fifty rupees but they could collect only forty. The next letter came, again addressed to God, and the boy had written, “Dear Sir, please next time when you send the money, send it directly to me, don’t send it through the post office. They have taken their commission — ten rupees!”
It will be difficult if nobody has a name. Although nobody has a name in reality, still, it is a beautiful fiction, helpful. Names are needed for others to call you, ‘I’ is needed for you to call yourself, but it is just a fiction. If you go deep into yourself you will find the name has disappeared, the idea of ‘I’ has disappeared; there is left only a pure am-ness, is-ness, existence, being.
And that being is not separate, it is not yours and mine; that being is the being of all. Rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, all are included. It is all-inclusive, it excludes nothing. The whole past, the whole future, this immense universe, everything is included in it. The deeper you go into yourself, the more and more you will find that persons don’t exist, that individuals don’t exist. Then what exists is a pure universalness. On the circumference we have names, egos, identities. When we jump from the circumference towards the center, all those identities disappear. The ego is just a useful fiction. Use it, but don’t be deceived by it.
The namakarana occurs in the temple or home, eleven to forty-one days after birth. The baby’s name, astrologically chosen, is whispered in the right ear by the father, marking the formal entry into Hinduism.
Graduations are important landmarks in one’s life. You acquire knowledge and knowledge is power. Your future depends upon how you apply this knowledge and not only does your future depends upon this applied knowledge, but the future of whole humanity depends on you. You may not feel that you are so important, but you do not really know that you are not. What does a seed know how big a plant it is going to grow up to. You contribute to the society you live in, wheter this is going to be a positive contribution or a negative one depends on you.
By bringing in the Graduation Samskara in your life, the family and the society wants to assure that you get the best of the devas, piters, the society, family and friends on your side. As soon as a graduate reaches the site of samkara, hymns in the prayer to God should be recited collectively and every one should extend a hearty welcome to the graduate. Then he should move to the Vedi of the yagya and occupy his seat. The graduate shuld offer ghee in the yagya. There shuld be prayer after the purna-aahuti and then the teacher (Acarya) gives advice to the graduate. It is important that the graduate understands his moral rights and a code of conduct that is suitable for his family, friends and society. At the same time he should also be made aware of possibilities of his personal growth and his history.
Satyam vada | Dharmam^ cara | Swaadhyaayaan maa pramadah. | Satyaanna pramaaditavyam | Dharmaanna pramaditavyam | Kus’alaanna pramaditavyam | Bhutyai na pramaditavyam | devapitr.kaaryaabhyaam^ na pramaditavyam | Maatr.devo bhava | Pitr.devo bhava | Aacaaryadevo bhava yaanyanvadyaani karmaan.i taani sevitavyaani no itaraan.i | yaani asmaakam^ sucaritaani taani tvayopaasyaani no itaraan.i |
Always speak the truth. Act according to Dharma. Never be lazy to follow the dictates of dharma, Truth and welfare of all; Never neglect the acquisition of prosperity, yagya havan (Deva-Karya) and respect to your parents making them always happy so that they feel proud of you; love and respect your mother father and Guru.
Graduate, you are embarking upon the field of activities of life. You have a great responsibility towards your family, society, nation and the entire humanity. We wish every success for success in whatever field you move. After these, the teacher, parents, re;latives and friends should bless the graduate by showering flowers and chanting:
Whether or not you believe in marriages being made in heaven, marriage in every culture and civilization is the most celebrated event in ones life. Hindu culture celebrates marriage as a Samskara – sacrament, a right of passage when two individuals start their journey into the Grihasthashram – the life of a householder. It is the beginning of a divine union of two individuals. Vedic ceremonies facilitate this union to begin the enriching experience of a householder,s life. Through these ceremonies we seek the blessings of Almighty God and our ancesters as well as the best wishes of friends and relatives for the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being of the individual.
Of all the Hindu sacraments, Vivaha or marriage is considered to be the most central one. Hinduism rightly emphasizes the importance of the life of the householder. The sacrament of marriage impresses upon a person that earthly life is not to be despised ; rather it should be consciously accepted and elevated to the level of spiritual experience.
The underlying Vedic philosophy in a Hindu marriage is that the multiplicity of creation becomes possible when purush unites with prakriti. The conceptual vedic metaphor therefore of a man-woman unity is Ardhnarishwara – half Shiva and half Parvati in one image. Ceremonies performed at a wedding reflect this highest ideal of ardhnarishwara.
The core of a Hindu marriage lays emphasis on the two essential values, harmony and growth.
Harmony, beginning with one’s inner self and encompassing the entire creation, remains at the heart of all the ceremonies performed in a Hindu marriage. It is believed that true peace for any individual is only possible when harmony prevails around as well as within.
Growth in a householder life is considered an opportunity for two individuals committed to merge their individual “I” consciousness (Ahankar) and evolve their “We” consciousness (Vayamkar). Vedic rituals and ceremonies invoke divine will for the growth of the couple.
Gauri putro ganadhyaksho vighnaharta vinayakah
Vaivahik vidhawam mangalam viddhatunah
Any auspicious event like a marriage always begins with the prayers and offerings to lord Ganesha. Ganesha represents the cosmic intelligence and wisdom. He is the Lord of all new beginnings – the provider of wisdom. His name is invoked at the commencement of all undertakings and is inscribed at the beginning of all literary works and invitations. Ganesh is the keeper of the threshold, the remover of obstacles, master of the mind and son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The bride and bridegroom exchange garlands made of fragrant flowers, pledging to love and respect each other. The fragrance of th flowers signifies the fragrance that will envelope the couple throughout their lives.
In Vedic law, kanyadan is considered to be the highest form of a pious duty performed by the bride’s parents or the maternal uncle. The concept behind kanyadaan is that the bride is a form of the Goddess Laxmi and the groom is the Lord Narayana. The parents are facilitating the union of Goddess Laxmi with Lord Narayana.
The selection of an auspicious day and time – which is determined on the basis of the most propitious configuration of the cosmos for a marriage – signifies that each one of us is an integral part of the entire cosmos, and an integral cosmic law governs us all. Hence auspicious time of marriage is believed to enhance in the life of the newly wed couple.
The place of marriage ceremony (mandap), is considered sacred in a Hindu marriage. The mandap represents the entire world where nine poles represent the nine planets. The guardians of the eight quarters of the world that are represented in the nuptial canopy are:
Indra – God of the celestials (East pole)
Agni - Fire God (South east pole)
Yama - God judge of human actions (South pole)
Nivriti – God of death (South west pole)
Varuna – God of water (West pole)
Vayu – God of wind (North west pole)
Kubera – God of the riches (North pole)
Isana – God Shiva (North east pole)
The center pole or Stambha signifies marriage. Vedic ceremonies are performed within the mandap, a symbol of the universe, where the newlyweds are blessed by all the guardians of the world.
Agne vratapate vratam carisyami
Tatte pravravimi tacchakeyam
Agni, the ceremonial fire, symbolizes the aspects of purity and sacrifice in life. Vedic ceremonies are traditionally performed near this small fire, which serves as a witness. Fire is believed to have a priestly role and a threefold composition – his nature being the anthropocosmic that is divine, human and earthly at the same time. Agni is Aadhidaivik, aadhyatmic and aadhibhautic. It signifies purification with qualities of heat and light.
Paanigrahan literally means accepting the hands. When the groom takes the right hand of the bride in his right hand, he takes her as his wife. The following mantra is recited by the groom while he accepts her hands.
• my beloved! I pledge to look after you throughout life even when you are old
• Apart from looking after you through the whole life, I pledge to perform all the duties appropriate for the head of the family.
• I consider you to be a gift of the lord. I shall look after you faithfully. Live with me happily for the whole life of a hundred years or more along with our entire family.
• You are my better half. We shall obey the commands of God and He shall provide us with a blissful abode.
• Let all the elements f nature, whether fire, the sun, or the earth, as well as the warriors and scholars of the realm help in promoting and protecting our family
• We shall strive for the happiness and prosperity of the family. We shall mutually appreciate the beauty of our inner emotions. I promise not to hide anything from you nor shall I enjoy anything stealthily.
These verses are specially written in a traditional form for the couple, are recited by the priest, as well as the family members of both bride and groom. These verses are often composed by family members and invoke Lord Ganesha, Istdevta (personal deity, Kuldevta (family deity) and ancesters, so that all of them may come and bless the couple.
Saptapadi – sevenfold vows taken by the bride and bridegroom – one of the most ancient aspects of a Hindu marriage. It is an essential and crucial part of the ceremony that validates a marriage. This sacrament is performed before the homa fire in a wedding hall or temple and is occasioned by elaborate celebration. The Grihya Sutras pronounce, “One step for strength, two steps for vitality, three steps for prosperity, four steps for happiness, five steps for cattle, six steps for seasons, seven steps for friendship. These are the seven mantras that the bride and groom take together around the ceremonial fire.
1. Sharing: We promise to share the duties and welfare of the family. We will respect each other. We will take care of each other’s well being, both material and spiritual.
2. Family Dharma: We will share each other’s joys and sorrows with courage and strength. Together, we will protect and provide for our family.
3. Harmonious Life: We take an oath of trust and loyalty to each other. We believe this will ensure prosperity, joy of life, and longevity. Our great standards of morality will allow us to raise children with noble character.
4. Growth: We will develop a love for beauty, art, literature and will fill each other’s life with the fragrance for human values: love compassion, understanding, sacrifice, and service.
5. Restatement: Let us reconfirm our four vows of purity, love, family, duties, harmony and growth.
6. Spiritual Development: and Social Obligations: We will conduct our lives according to the principles of Dharma. We will perform all acts of righteousness. We will continue the great traditions of our Dharma and pass on these Eternal values to our children. We will ensure the continuation of our great Hindu heritage for the benefit of all humanity.
7. Eternal Bond: Now with these seven steps, we are related as husband and wife and our bond is eternal. Let our love and friendship become eternal. We have accepted each other in the presence of God, our ancestors, our parents, our relatives and friends; we will abide by our Vedic scriptures.
Let us assure each other of our unflinching love. Let our thoughts, decisions and actions be one and in unison. Let us be kind, loving, considerate, good and open hearted to each other. Let us share our material and spiritual wealth. Let us become as complimentary to each other as thought and speech are to each other.
Before we get on with the last rites, let us look into how death is looked upon by the Hindus. It should be realized that Death is the only certainty in life. Most people are afraid of death. Hindus tried to understand the mystery of death and have done a lot of work towards this end. After all this is the end of the journey of life. But another journey is about to start. If there is strong desire to fulfill unfulfilled desires, the soul will take another birth, the Samskara being the driving force. If one has gone beyond desires then the soul is freed at this time and is not bound by the laws of Karma. The person has achieved a zero balance and has no driving force to bring him back. Such a person has achieved what is called as Moksha, Nirvana or Enlightenment.
Thus, the journey after death can be two fold, one is the path of return and the other is path of no return. This makes the whole journey of life all the more interesting. In a way, the whole journey of life is a preparation to which type of death do you want to achieve. Most people do not want to discuss Death. You decide whether or not you go on to the journey from life to life or from life to eternity.
What then is the art of dying? How can you influence the outcome after death? These are questions that Hindus have tried to answer. One described technique about the art of dying is to develop your consciousness to the level that you could go into the death with a total awareness. This has to be understood well. Most of us become unconscious before the death comes. The death comes in sleep or in coma. You are never able to face the death as it is. Meditation is one technique which develops the awareness and the courage to face the death without becoming unconscious. There are techniques in Tibet whereby a beating drum keeps a person awake as far as possible to help them dye with awareness. Every one knows that Socrates was poisoned. What was interesting about his death was the fact he was up and walking after he drunk his poison. His disciples were worried. They requested Socrates to lie down and take it easy. Socrates told them that he did not want to miss the opportunity. He wanted to be awake and aware as far as possible. He kept describing his feelings until his speech gave up. So being aware is one key to the art of dying.
The other part is what Krishna has touched in Gita as follows:
Antkaale ca maameva smaranmuktvaa kalevaram
Yah. prayaati sa madbhaavam^ yaati naastyatra sam^s’ayah. (8..5)
yam^ yam^ vaapi smaranbhaavam^ tyajatyante kalevaram
tam^ tamevaiti kaunteya sadaa tadbhaavabhaavitah. (8..6)
And he who at the time of death, meditating on Me alone, goes forth, leaving the body attains My Being; there is no daoubt about this.
Remembering whatever object, at the time of end, he leaves the body, that alone is reached by him, O son of Kunti, (because) of his constant thought of that subject.
Again Krishna describes these two paths. It is clear that you have to be awake to be able to meditate on Krishna or have any meaningful that may affect your life when you start your journey again. One thing worth focusing on is the emphasis that is on the what bhava (thoughts or wishes) a person has at the time of death.
Many people believe that whatever they do in their life does not matter as long as they remember Rama or Krishna at the time of their death. They seem not to understand the shloka very well. Krishna has emphasized the point that the bhava (thoughts and wishes) at the end of life is important but this is mostly the bhava that the person has had all his life. A person has been having thoughts to kill his wife all his life will most likely have the same thought at the end of his life. A person that has been praying all his life to Rama or Guru Nanak will most likely have thoughts corresponding to that.
Another Concept we use for this last moment of life is the concept of qŸæ ((Path or recitations), a Gita path or a Ramayan path. Path is not the same as reading or studying a book. You keep reading the verses aloud. It is not important to understand the meaning of the verses. A certain state of existence of the persons is needed, there is a certain trust, shraddha that goes along with this path (qŸæ)). The whole scenario produces an atmosphere and a milieu where the departing soul can find solace and find it easier to have the right kind of thoughts or bhava that we described.
After working on the art of dying Hindus tried to understand what happens immediately after the death of a being. The first thing that most of the souls comes across is the utter shock and disbelief. It does not want to believe that the body is dead. The Etheric body is still around for approximately 12 days. So, naturally, there is emphasis on the fact that through rituals and the Antyesti rites, the message is conveyed to the soul that this journey of life is over and the soul should head for his next journey. The body is cremated, the fire is offered by near and dear. The burning of the body gives a clue to the soul and it starts believing about the death of the body. The mantras of the Antyesti Samskaras have messages to the soul about what it should be doing and how to go about further on. The whole prakriya (the process) takes 11-13 days.
Since a Hindu consecrates his entire life through the performance of various sacraments at suitable stages, at his death, his survivors consecrate the event by death rites for his future good and spiritual felicity. Though performed after a man’s death, this sacrament is no less important, because for a Hindu, the value of the next world is higher than that of the present.
It is customary to drop Ganga-water and Tulasi leaves into the mouth of the dying person. The body is carried on a bier by the nearest relatives and friends of the deceased. It is then either cremated or buried according to the custom of the community. If cremated, the ashes and the bones are later on collected and immersed in the sacred waters of the nearest river. If buried, a mound is raised over the remains as a mark of remembrance Shraddha or offering to the dead also forms an important item of the last rites. It is performed on the eleventh or the thirteenth day after death and consists of Homa, Pindapradhana (obsequial offering of rice balls) and feeding the Brahmanas.