Spirituality Insight

Yoga Vasistha

Yoga Vasistha is a spiritual instruction given to Rama by sage Vasistha. After settling down as King of Ayodhya Lord Rama is disgusted with the prospect of continuing his worldly duties. He approaches the sage seeking knowledge and the means to shed his mortal coil. The six books of the Yoga Vasishta chronicle the progressive states which Rama undergoes in his search for enlightenment and finally in shedding his mortal coil.

By Madhuri Y

YOGA Vasistha is believed to have been written by sage Valmiki. It is also known as Maha Ramayana, Arsha Ramayana, Vasistha Ramayana and Jnanavasistha. Translated into Persian in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is based on Advaita Vedanta, that is, there exists one reality and one God.
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BOOKS OF YOGA VASISTHA
The Yoga Vasistha comprises six books:
1. Vairagya Prakaranam is about Rama’s frustration with life and suffering, and states the need for dispassion.
2. Mumukshuvayahara Prakaranam describes the nature of people who seek liberation.
3. Utpatti Prakaranam speaks of the birth of all creation and the birth of spiritual inclination in Lord Rama.
4. Sthiti Prakaranam speaks of existence, the nature of the world and of Advaita or non-duality. It also speaks of free will and of the human creative power.
5. Upashama Prakaranam speaks of meditation, patience, the feeling of oneness and its power to liberate a person.
6. Nirvana Prakaranam speaks of freedom and liberation and of an enlightened Rama.

How Kacha Attains Liberation

VASISTHA narrates the story of muni Kacha who is the son of Brihaspati. One day, Kacha approaches his father and seeks the path of enlightenment and the means to separate prana from mundane cares.
Brihaspati tells him that the ocean of births can be crossed only by renouncing everything. Kacha retires to the forest to meditate. At the end of eight years, when Brihaspati visits him, Kacha asks him why despite renouncing everything, his mental pain has not subsided.
Advising him that he should give up everything, Brihaspati departs. Kacha now gives up even the bark of trees worn as clothes and all other essentials. After some years, he visits his father, prostrates and asks why he is unable to get peace of mind even though he has renounced everything.
Brihaspati responds that mastery over mind leads to renunciation. It is only then that Kacha can free himself of all pain.
Kacha understands that so far, he has been inquiring into what the mind is and had not been able to come to a conclusion. He finally understands that any effort to separate the body from the mind is useless because they themselves are different from one another. Even this understanding does not resolve his doubt regarding the mind. Once again, he seeks Brihaspati’s advice.
The guru tells him that wise people understand that the mind is nothing but ahankara, or the ‘I’. ‘I’ creates impurities in soul.
Kacha recognises that it is difficult to avoid the idea of ‘I’ and asks his father how it can be broken.
Brihaspati replies that the only principle is of the non-dual, the endless, the supreme jnana. He advises Kacha to meditate upon this steadiness and that he can free himself of all pain and attain true calmness. Ahankara is unreal and hence, when such effort is made, it perishes. It cannot grow in an atmosphere where one meditates upon the eternal. Kacha can then be free from the differentiations of I and He. He blesses Kacha with the ability to remain in supreme reality.
Kacha, after abandoning the idea of ‘I’ is able to meditate upon the supreme reality. He turns into a jivanmukta or one without vikalpas with nothing that could trouble his mind.
Vasistha has led Rama to a desireless state and finally to emancipation.

Bhagwan Parshvanatha

With the knowledge that attachment and desire for pleasures causes suffering, Parshvanatha retired to the forest at 16

By Madhuri Y

Parshvanatha was sixteen years old when his father told him that it was time for him to marry. But, Parshvanatha decided that enjoying pleasures increases the desire for more. He knew that the soul experiences sufferings due to attachment which in fact causes pain.

The desire for pleasures, he understood, causes greed, theft, adultery and all vices and crimes. Due to these acts, the soul is forced to take birth in lower forms and to suffer hell.

Feeling that he had wasted his life so far, he decided to shun pleasures. He went to the forest, became naked and turned into a monk.

He undertook the 12 meditations, he fasted and observed the 28 primary and the 94 secondary rules of monks. He meditated, eventually attaining liberation on the Parasnath Hills.

Parshvanatha preached four vows – non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing and not owning things. He is believed to have preached for seventy years in Kashi, Kosi, Kosala, Panchala, Magadha, Avanti, Anga, Vanga among other regions.

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Anuvratas (Vows of Limited Nature)

1 Ahimsa: Non-violence: Not causing intentional hurt. This is the principle behind their vegetarianism. Not causing unintentional hurt which involves drinking filtered water, not eating at night to name a few. Jains can use violence in self-defence though.

2 Satya: Truthfulness: Being truthful, conducting business with honesty. Not doing something when that inaction is dishonest is not allowed by this principle.

3 Asteya: Non-stealing: Not stealing, cheating or not paying tax.

4 Brahmacharya: Chastity: Having sex only with the spouse, avoiding sexual indulgence even with spouse and if possible, to give up sex after having a son.

5 Aparigraha: Non-attachment: Possessing only what they need, using surplus possessions to benefit others, living simply and not using too many resources.

Guna Vratas (Vows of Merit)

6 Dik Vrata: Limited area of activity: Restricting the area of travel to reduce the area in which they may bring harm.

7 Bhoga-Upabhoga Vrata: Limited use of resources: Limiting the use of items like food, clothing and other items to just what they need.

8 Anartha-Danda Vrata: Avoiding punishable sins: Not thinking or speaking ill of others, not being inconsiderate, self-indulgent or watching or listening to that which is immoral.

Shiksha Vratas (Vows of Discipline)

9 Samayik Vrata: Meditation: Meditating daily in one place for 48 minutes.

10 Desavakasika Vrata: Limited duration of activity: Restricting certain activities to specific times.

11 Pausadha Vrata: Limited ascetic life: Adopting the life of a monk for a day.

12 Atithi Samvibhaga Vrata: Limited charity: Giving to monks, nuns and the poor.

WORSHIPPING SURYA

Sun God Surya exemplifies blend of spiritual, mental and physical health hallmark of Hinduism.

Words: Madhuri. Y

Worshipping Surya endows physical and mental health, intelligence, long life, prosperity, confidence and fame.

It also guides one towards spiritual pursuits. Each mantra used in worship has significance of its own.

Aditya Hridaya Mantra

Surya son of sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi is also known as Aditya.

When Lord Rama felt fatigued fighting Ravana, sage Agastya gave powerful Aditya Hridaya mantra for Rama to recite.

Rama recited it three times before taking on Ravana with renewed vigour and defeating him.

Gayatri Mantra

Gayatri mantra is a prayer to the presiding deity of the sun, known as Savita or Gayatri.

It was traditionally shared by father with son during the latter’s upanayanam (thread ceremony).

Men and women recite the mantra today which calms the mind, enhances concentration and leads to good health.

Surya Ashtakam

Surya ashtakam originated from Lord Shiva and is believed to bring wealth and fame in addition to blessing with children who have none.

Surya Sahasranamam

While narrating how King Yudhishthira prayed to Surya, sage Vaisampayana recites the Surya sahasranama to King Janamejaya. It comprises the 1008 names of the Sun god. Reciting these names at sunrise brings patience, memory, energy and prosperity. It also protects one from grief and danger.

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SPIRITUAL LEARNING FROM CHRISTMAS

The birth of Jesus Christ – that is what we all celebrate as Christmas. But there is a reason why Jesus came to earth; it symbolises certain truths of spiritual life.

Words: Sangeeta S

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christmas is a festival which we look forward to. Festive season, vacations, parties, family gatherings, decorations, special food, cakes and much more…we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who symbolised divine consciousness. But among all the festivities it should not be forgotten that Christ was sent as a Messiah to rescue people from their sins. Christmas symbolises and teaches great truths about divine life.

Christ was born at a time when the world was going through a rough patch. Morality was forgotten, greed and hatred prevailed, superstition and hypocrisy became the way of life; in a nutshell there was no idealism. Christ was born in such a scenario and he later brought spirituality back into people’s lives; they were initiated to a new way of life which transformed the way of living completely. It can be summarised that with birth of Christ a new era dawned

Darkness to Light

Christmas signifies moving from darkness to light.

It is a reminder on how Christ came down to show us the path to divine and spiritual living. Basically all humans are divine; but often we get distracted and evil forces attract us. Conscious effort is required to keep within the realms of divinity and good forces. And to keep our consciousness alive we need to go through the life of Christ. One needs to live the life of Christ and for that each one has to give space to Christ within us; only when we are able to give birth to Christ within us, will we be able to live the spiritual life. The life of faith, selflessness and compassion…that is what Christ stood for. Christmas stands for devotion to God and service to mankind. You need to give up your desire for materialistic things and replace it with divine aspirations.

Humble Approach

The birth of Christ also signifies humble living. Jesus was born to poor parents in a stable. His parents were humble and of strong character; they were not wealthy. He was born in darkness and very few knew about his birth. The way he was born conveys the significance of being humble; divine learning comes to people who are humble. To reach the higher level you need to be simple and honest and willing to give up all worldly desires. It is not necessary that to reach a higher spiritual level you need to be born to wealthy parents. Just keeping alive the Christ spirit will take you towards spirituality.

Being Born Again

Christmas is all about a birth into a divine life. This was the secret that Jesus explained to Nicodemus centuries back.

You can’t be born again in body but you need to be born again in spirit if you need to attain the higher goal – the goal to reach the Supreme. Spiritual birth leads to the Supreme. If each and every person of this modern world takes a spiritual rebirth then automatically the world will get rid of greed and hatred and only then true and enjoyable Christmas can be celebrated.

Also one must keep oneself open to accept the divine when it comes. When Jesus was to be born the inns of Bethlehem were so crowded that the lord had to take birth in a stable. So don’t keep yourself so engrossed in worldly things that you don’t keep any space or time to welcome the divine when it comes.

Amidst all festivities while you enjoy Christmas do not forget to welcome the divinity within. Enter into a new life and make sure that Christ-spirit takes its birth within you. It is the time when you move from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom and hatred to love.

That is true Christmas.

Things to keep in mind

• Give beyond materialistic gifts – spread compassion by making people around you smile
• Forgive – Not easy but try doing it; all are humans
• Control your thoughts – make sure only positive thoughts enter your mind
• Don’t forget to enjoy – be happy on this special day and spread happiness
• Be grateful – look around for people who stood by you during your hardships and be thankful
• Value family and friends

SIGNIFICANCE AND LEARNING

Festivals play a very significant role culturally, socially and spiritually and therefore need to be celebrated with the right spirit

Words: Sangeeta S

Festivals in Indian culture have great significance and help us understand the deep and intense aspects of life. But only if the essence of the festival is understood and it is celebrated in the right spirit, that the right benefits can be reaped.

During ancient times festivals were celebrated with the people of whole city. Gradually as things changed it got limited to family. Usually the whole family would collect at one place and celebrate. With the fast pace world now things have started changing. For the new generation festival is something where you get a holiday and you can sleep late or maybe go for a movie. Now here we are losing the very essence of any festival.

Every festival in our culture comes with certain rituals and traditions and all these traditions carry lot of meaning. It keeps the enthusiasm alive in so many ways. Imagine if there were no festivals or traditions to follow life would be reduced to only sleeping and eating. Festivals bring lot of happiness, family bonding and celebrations and that is the reason every festival must be given due importance.

In India relations are valued. The sacred relation of brother and sister gets strong during the festivals of Rakhsha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj. The traditions have been handed down through generations and they help preserve the culture.

Bhai Dooj

The festival helps in sibling bonding as well as family bonding. The customs and rituals have been framed in such a way that they evoke a feeling of love and affection between siblings and cousins. The family get-together, merriment, feast, exchange of gifts, sisters praying for well being of brothers, brothers promising to stand by their sisters during any hardship…all add to a very conducive atmosphere for a great family bonding.

Apart from family bonding the festival of BhaiDooj inculcates in a person the love and respect for the opposite gender. The relation between human beings and especially between opposite genders has degraded. And that is the reason that these ancient traditions carry more significance as they symbolise loving relation between a male and a female.

Celebrating this festival since childhood makes a brother understand his sister and respect her as a woman too.

This further helps him develop respect for the opposite gender in general too. And in the similar fashion even the sister gets to understand and respect the opposite gender.It helps in developing mutual respect and understanding and a healthy society where men and women prove to be pillar of strength to each other.

Spiritual Learning

Spiritually BhaiDooj fills us with feeling of safety and protection. The soul gets pure and elevated as there are good wishes all around. We all wish good to others and even pledge to do good. Both brother and sister promise to stand by each other and all negative thoughts vanish. The good vibrations are in the air and can be felt by each and every soul participating in this festival. The festival of BhaiDooj is all about loving relationships that nurtures and protects.

Brother-sister-Raksha-bandhan

When sisters put tilak on the forehead of brothers it signifies being victorious. One gets free from negativities. Lord Shiva has his 3rd eye on his forehead which is very powerful; similarly it is said that everyone has third eye on their forehead between two eyes. Putting a tilak there helps you focus your energies and avoid negativities; of course you do need mind control also to stay positive. Tilak is a symbol of awakening one’s awareness and realizing our true identity as a soul and not physical body. Every thought, word and action gets elevated.

The exchange of sweets makes us happy and we realize that we have complete blessing of the divine and that the divine is our protector and liberator. One feels spiritually liberated and safe.

The festival has plenty of cultural, spiritual and social significance and must be celebrated with full enthusiasm and traditions must be followed so that the younger generation understands the essence of this festival and grows up to be responsible citizens.

BRIHADARANYAKA UPANISHAD

The devas and asuras are not beings, but represent the life that each of us lives. Their battle for supremacy is a fight to move away from worldly pleasures towards unification with the Supreme Self.

Words: Madhuri. Y

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Recognised as the most important Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad gives its teachings in three kandas, that is, sections – the Madhu Kanda, Muni Kanda, Khila Kanda. These sections comprise six chapters in total.

Chapter 1.Brahmana 3
Two classes of people descended from the Prajapati, that is, the Supreme Self – the devas (gods) and the asuras (demons). They are not the real beings that we read of in the puranas, but represent the good and evil choices that we make.

The gods and the demons represent the organs that help us sense the world, including the ability to speak and other acts and thoughts. Through these elements, the gods and demons show their inclination towards the sacred or the worldly objects and towards good or evil. These inclinations turn them into the divine gods or the evil demons.

Those who are influenced in their thoughts and actions by the scriptures become gods. Those who are influenced by their natural thoughts and actions which are directed towards worldly ends become demons. The gods are younger and they are fewer in number. This means that people who follow their natural inclinations are greater in number than those who overcome these.

Hence, the distinction between gods and demons is not one of the person itself, but of the kind of life they live.

In their struggle to gain mastery of the worlds, the gods, instead of relying on their own powers, decided to take the help of chanting to overcome the demons. The chanting takes place through the various organs and actions.

At first, the gods decide to chant through speech, but the demons overcome speech. It points to our ability to speak things which are good as well as evil, causing both help and harm.

When the eyes are asked to chant, the asuras overcome the eyes. This means we are capable of seeing good as well as evil. The same happens with the ears, taste, smell, touch and the mind too.
All that the gods have left now is the Prana Shakti within. Prana is the vital force that gives energy to the body; it does not belong to a sense organ. When prana starts chanting, the asuras attack once again, but they cannot overcome it. They were flung away and broken to pieces like a clod of earth is turned to dust when it smashes against a rock.

Thus, the natural inclinations within are overcome and the gods could become what they were. In this form, the 3rd Brahmana tells the story of the desire of the atma to unify with the Paramatma. The sense organs are incapable of bringing about unification, they are defeated by the demons in their efforts. Contemplation of the Prana Shakti alone can bring about unification.

Read our next issue to know more about Prana.

UPANISHAD

‘Madhuri is a writer of Children’s fiction and a ghost writer of nonfiction books. She is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and can be reached at:
ymadhury@urbanvaastu.com”