Happy Yoga Day!

No words can express my gratitude for the regular practice of yoga and meditation I have held on for years. There have been phases in my life where I have very very undisciplined otherwise, there have been phases of extreme depression and loneliness, and it’s only the daily practice of yoga and meditation that has been my anchor, my pole star, that has been a saviour preventing me from getting lost on a number of occasions. And the inner knowledge, control and ease that comes with years of regular practice is something priceless that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. I really wish more and more people practise and appreciate these techniques developed with much wisdom and handed down carefully over centuries.

Here’s something for people wanting to get started with yoga… the Surya Namaskar. Basically it’s a set of stretches anyone reasonably fit can practise, it’s a pretty complete exercise for the body, the breath and the mind when practised the right way.

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A story on persistence and faith

A man planted a flower seed in his garden. He looked after it, steadfastly weeding and watering the soil around it. A robust plant appeared — but, for years, no flower. He thought of destroying the plant, but finally decided: “My business is to look after the plant; it is for God to produce the flower. I will keep myself busy in tending the plant and not concentrating on my flowerless labors.” Years passed; he contented himself with the care of the plant and forgot all about the flower. One sunny morning, when a breeze was gently blowing, he smelled a strangely attractive fragrance. He ran to his plant and stood speechless in joy — there in front of him was the gorgeous flower! The aromatic beauty had always been present in the plant, a hidden potential awaiting the right moment of blossoming made possible by his labor of love.

The yogi should similarly keep himself busy nurturing his plant of Self-realization; if he is not impatient, he will find (one day when God in his infinite wisdom deems it proper) the amaranthine flower of eternal freedom.

— Paramahansa Yogananda (born on 5th January)

Photo by Hamed Saber

Meditation

The importance of meditation

The Lord is attained without the least effort; he is worshipped by self-realisation alone. … The self is not realised by any other means other than meditation. If one is able to meditate even for thirteen seconds, even if one is ignorant one attains the merit of giving away a cow in charity. If one does so for one hundred and one seconds, the merit is that of performing a sacred rite. If the duration is twelve minutes, the merit is a thousandfold. If the duration is of a day, one dwells in the highest realm. This is the supreme yoga, this is the supreme kriyā.

— Yoga Vāsiṣṭha (tr. by Swami Venkatesananda p. 255)

What is meditation?

Meditation is not a practice; it is not the cultivation of habit; meditation is heightened awareness. Mere practice dulls the mind-heart for habit denotes thoughtlessness and causes insensitivity. Right meditation is a liberative process, a creative self-discovery which frees thought-feeling from bondage. In freedom alone is there the real.

— J. Krishnamurti (source)

Meditation doesn’t imply merely sitting in a posture with eyes closed. Meditation, in essence, means heightened awareness, being intensely aware of the present moment. This heightened awareness comes about only when you are not making any effort. It comes about with the acceptance and awareness of the present moment as it is. If you are in such a state of pure awareness, you are in meditation irrespective of what you are doing. In Yoga Vasishta it is said that, “While doing whatever one is doing — seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, or talking — one should realise one’s essential nature as pure consciousness. Thus does one attain liberation.”

Of course, if you think that sitting in a posture with eyes closed helps you get to the state of heightened awareness, you can definitely practice that.

How to meditate?

When you sit down to meditate, tell yourself that at this time “I want nothing”. The second is to tell yourself “I do nothing”. The third sutra (principle) is “I am nothing”. Do not think that you have to meditate, just sit and be hollow and empty. You do not have to make any kind of attempt. These three sutras are very important.

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (source)

The dawn of wisdom

“I am the wisdom of the wise.” — Bhagavad Gita (Song of God)

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This blog is titled ‘The fire of wisdom’. What is wisdom? Is wisdom something to be gained? Is wisdom something that can be acquired? Is wisdom like a vegetable that you can buy from the market? Or is it like money that you accumulate and deposit into a bank account?

Wisdom, to me, is a state of being, the natural state of being. Wisdom is not something you acquire or accumulate. Buddha was called Buddha (the wise one) not because he acquired wisdom from somewhere else, but he simply removed the veil of ignorance and raised himself to his natural state of pure wisdom. Being in wisdom is your real nature. All you need to do is to uncover yourself and get rid of certain prejudices, misunderstandings, misconceptions, attachments that prevent you from realizing your real nature. The sun has always been shining behind the clouds. The cloud is temporary, but you think that being cloudy is your real nature. Sometimes, without your asking for it, the clouds of ignorance break up a little and you get a glimpse of wisdom, just for a moment, and you call that phenomena as intuition. But it’s not necessary to be at the mercy of the clouds. You can systematically blow away the clouds and let the rays of wisdom totally bathe you!

There are various methods to blow away the clouds of ignorance. Sheer devotion to God can raise you to the level of God who is nothing but wisdom. When you learn to enjoy unselfish work, you can free yourself from attachments that prevent you from being in the state of wisdom. Certain physical postures called yoga asanas, and exercises like pranayama can free you from inflexibilities and free the energies that gets clogged up in parts of your body and in nervous centres and you will be able to freely access the state of wisdom. Meditation and awareness can directly expose the dross in your mind and you can’t help but to rid of the dross, and then wisdom shines. Sparks of wisdom in the form of words coming through wise men and women can burn away a little ignorance in you, that’s what this blog mostly deals with.

There is no best method to disperse the clouds of ignorance. The best way is to use all these methods in varying proportions according to your circumstances. The important thing here to remember is that all these methods don’t deal with wisdom directly, they only help you clean up the impurities and ignorance. No master, no method, no book, no blog can ‘give’ you or ‘bring’ you wisdom. All they can do is make you aware of your ignorance and it’s upto you to choose wisdom or ignorance.

Wisdom is not personal. There is only one wisdom. It’s not my wisdom or your wisdom. There is only one sun whether you look at it from Antarctica or Australia or India or Mars or Jupiter. Wisdom is there for you to behold, but it’s not something you can hold on to. Wisdom flows. It’s like the present moment. When you try to hold on to the present moment, it’s already past! When you say ‘my’ wisdom, it’s no more wisdom, it’s only the residue. And wisdom is not in the future, you cannot anticipate wisdom. Wisdom IS. In fact, present moment awareness is a gateway to the state of wisdom… in fact, living in the present moment is wisdom.

Wisdom is not dependent on you. That you are currently experiencing night time doesn’t mean that that the sun has vanished. It’s always there on the other side. Just that you live in that half of the earth that is temporarily hidden from the rays of the sun, that temporarily goes through the phase of night. When you raise high above earth, when you come out of your comfort zone and float in space, there is no more night and day for you, you have transcended relativity, you are directly exposed to the sun of wisdom. It’s true that life on the dark side of the planet can be beautiful too. Living in the shadow, we have greatly been enjoying the beauty of moon, the twinkling stars, the meteor showers, and what not! But darkness is not eternal, the night has to give way for the day, sooner or later. And don’t you think we have lived in darkness for long enough? So long that we have totally forgotten that there are such things as sun and day. Don’t you think it’s time for dawn? Whether you are ready for it or not, the dawn is coming! Now, you don’t even have to raise high above the earth, you don’t have to renounce the the world. When the dawn comes, when sun of wisdom rises, it lights up everybody and everything right here on earth. Don’t worry that you will miss your stars and the moons. The sun is much more brilliant than the moon and all the stars combined, the day much more beautiful than you can imagine. The thieves that thrive in darkness — the dark forces — are so desperate now because these forces know that their times are coming to an end. The era of ignorance is coming to a close. Better prepare yourself for the dawn! Prepare yourself to bask in the glory of wisdom! 😉

As the rising sun dispels darkness from men’s eyes and discovers what before lay hidden, so the dawn of knowledge removes evil from men’s intellect and reveals the Atman. Then do men know themselves as the Atman, and the Atman as themselves. — Bhagavatam.

Photo credit: shoebappa