Who are we?
That is a perennial question asked by all philosophers and seekers of life. The question can be best answered at two different levels.
At one level we are all Pure Being, the unbounded absolute infinite Consciousness that pervades the universe. At another level, we are all discrete and unique beings, differentiated by mind, body, ability, DNA, ethnicity, and so on.
- At the first level we are pure unbounded existence while the second level we are doing and thinking machines or entities clothed in our physical bodily existence.
- At the first level we see ourselves as living in bliss consciousness, while at the second level we seek happiness in exchanges of mental and physical products with other entities.
- At the first level we are eternal spirit – unborn and undying. At the second level we are born and then we die. At this level, we can become afraid of death. So we worry about many things, become greedy, and save resources to better guard against death.
- To live at the first level, we transcend our mind and senses using any of many techniques such as meditation. Living at the second level seems simple and easy, as we can access our mind and body through the use of our ordinary senses and supporting instruments.
- At the second level we are all separate and each defined individually by our ego- consciousness, while at the first level we are all one together as nature and defined by our eco-consciousness.
This is a primary distinction in life. Ignorance of this basic piece of knowledge of who we are is a source of many challenges in living life properly. How we see ourselves depends upon our state of consciousness. From an ego consciousness, we appear to be this body and mind and others, just as others too have their own body and mind, and we interact with them to exchange materials ideas and so on. However, we all have a higher self. Not knowing it is the first and biggest fallacy. There are techniques to learn about the higher self just as there are techniques to learn the bodily and mental self. Our trained and disciplined mind is the biggest instruments for learning about the higher self. What we pay attention to grows in our consciousness.
However, this distinction may be of little interest to the poor who do not get even two pieces of bread every day. Meeting their basic physical needs becomes their primary challenge in life, and they do not have the time or energy to transcend. Similarly, this knowledge may be of little interest to the super rich for whom material abundance and physical pleasures have become intoxicating, and who do not believe in the transcendent. This knowledge is perhaps most useful for the middle-of-the-roader , the seeker of a blissful life, free from pain and miseries. If interested, one can learn more at tm.org.
A good friend recently said,”do not give me this bliss s**t”. It is all a mind game, he said. Another good friend said, “you say you live in bliss, but I don’t see you so.” Both of these people are longtime friends from India, intellectuals with PhD degrees, who are comfortably settled in the US.
To the first friend, I said that there are over 700 scientific published studies that show the benefits of meditation, and that one can enjoy good health, happiness and bliss. That did not convince him. So, I spoke from personal experience, and how my moksha experience led me to write my book ‘Moksha’. That did not convince him. Come to our town and if you do not feel peace in your heart, I will pay you a substantial sum of money. That got him going. In essence, he said that Moksha is a very big thing, and it cannot be achieved by a simple process. He said he had been meditating off and on, and he did not get any benefit. His mom meditated all life and did not reach anywhere near there. I said it also depends upon the strength of desire, and one cannot will the desire. He said that desire alone cannot produce anything. So, I felt best to let go of the argument, and let him take his own time to be ready.
To the second friend, I said that bliss is an intensely subjective experience, and there is no way another person can experience it. One just have to believe it or feel it. Also, that bliss experience can come and go, depending upon continued practice of meditation. I also said that I was given the Maharishi award recently for bringing bliss to the community. I could see that he did not believe my story on Moksha and therefore had not bothered to read my book even though he had it.
I feel that most people are completely conditioned to no-pain-no-gain theory. If bliss is that good, it must take a lot of time and expertise and effort, they argue. However, bliss is an effortless accomplishment. Bliss is our true nature. One does not need a complicated process to achieve it. However, one does need a strong desire for it, which would overshadow other worldly desires. I feel that not everyone has the desire to escape the stresses of modern life, and reach out for their god-given gift of bliss. The book is an attempt to inspire that desire in others.
A really enlightening but imaginary conversation.
God: Welcome to God’s house. What do you want?
Bernie: Please make me the democratic candidate for President.
God: That is a good idea. But why do you want to become President?
Bernie: The country is up for sale. All politicians are corrupt. They are busy filling their own pockets. We have to save the country. We have to give hope to the people.
God: That too is a good idea. But do you really want to become President? It is a tough job.
Bernie: I have been a mayor. I can run the country too.
God: Ok. How will you run the country? The entire political establishment is against you.
Bernie: This is a political revolution. It will throw up new leaders. The Constitution does not give any political establishment the right to power forever.
God: Logically you are right. But your revolution will create a lot of uncertainty. Who knows what will happen. Even we Gods see a danger in this. People may even refuse to follow us.
Bernie: People power is absolute. Anything is possible.
God: What if robots take advantage of this power vacuum? They can snatch power from the people!
Bernie: Right now, there is little chance of that happening. But you are right. Anything is possible.
God: Will have to think some more. Meanwhile ask for something for you personally.
Bernie: I have heard these days you are easily giving away long life to people. I am already 73 years old. Give me 30-40 more years, so I can take this revolution pretty far.
God: So shall it be.
Identity (of the self) is a fundamental concept that one develops about oneself that evolves over time. A fixed identity composed of name, relationships, and belongings keeps one locked in small self.
How can one proactively evolve or transform one’s identity? First step would be to locate and unfreeze the current identity. Research has shown that there is a part in the brain that is responsible for one’s memory and identity. That part is hippocampus (seahorse-shaped) in the middle of the brain. To transform one’s identity is to change the flexibility of that part of the brain.
Yagyas such as AtiRudraAbhishekam when done properly are a great way for self-transformation. Ashwamdetha yagyas are another way to achieve that. Coming from the Vedic tradition, the Ashvamedha is a ritual used by great Indian kings to expand their imperial sovereignty. A stallion would be released to wander for a period of one year. Whatever area the horse would cover in a year, unless challenged, would belong to the king. Then the horse is sacrificed.
There are two ways to explain the change in identity: Imagination and Transcendence.
Ashwamedha yagyas lets the king’s horse roam freely to as far as it can. Similarly, if the mind is free to imagine itself in the most expansive terms, it could be the broadening or expansion of identity. All of that territory becomes the mind’s. That is the way to understand it from an object-referral method.
Ashwamedha yagyas is also seen as the sacrificing the horse. Sacrificing the specificity-oriented mind to give way to a wholeness-oriented self, is the self-referral way of explaining self-transformation. That identity of specificity has to be erased and identity of wholeness has to settle in.
Transcendence is the forgetting of specificity and stepping into wholeness. Transcendental Meditation is an effective and proven method for self-transcendence. While both are complementary concepts, Self-transformation through transcendence may be more desirable than self-expansion through imagination.
I had the good fortune of visiting the Brahmistan of India a few weeks ago. It is located at the geographical center of the country of India, a two hour drive from the city of Jabalpur. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s movement owns a large tract of land, where a beautiful and blissful residential and Transcendental Meditation facility has been established. A large number of Vedic Pandits meditate together at this location to spread peace around India, and indeed the world. The Pandits also do Vedic chanting here. In particular, everyday they do a Rudra Abhishekam, homage to Lord Shiva every day. The chanting in this particular location is special, with 1331 (being 11 x 11 x 11) highly trained Maharishi Vedic pandits chanting together. Thus it is called Ati Rudra Abhishekam, (Ati means Extremely Large). It was Maharishi’s dream project, and it got fulfilled a few years after he passed on.
My daughter and I went to the Brahmistan knowing that Ati Rudra Abhishekam is a highly transformative event. Just listening to and witnessing this live chanting can have a powerful and liberating effect on oneself. We were taken to the huge meditation hall and we were seated comfortably on sofas. All the pandits, young and old, sat on the floor, while a few pandits sat on stage doing the actions of bathing the shivlingas with milk.(see picture)
The chanting began with an hour-long obligatory oblations to many gods as well as donors. Then began the real Rudra Abhishekam chanting by the almost 1500 pandits present in the room. It was a very deeply resonant experience for me. In just a couple of minutes, my head grew heavy and woozy-doozy, and my eyes naturally closed. I was neither awake nor sleepy, and began to have amazing perceptual experiences. I ‘saw’ a giant crane, like the ones used in constructing tall buildings, pick me up by my head from the well of a tall building, and place me on the side of the building. I felt liberated from the confines of my physical body. This is the state or the feeling of ‘moksha’.
I had never had such a vision before. Such visions are rare but powerful indicators of a quantum leap into higher wisdom, say my learned friends with whom I have shared this experience. Where do we go from here though? How do we use our liberation and higher states of consciousness for the maximum good? Do we evaporate into air like camphor, and spread like a fragrance that is always there everywhere? Do we become like a sun and emit powerful light in all directions at all times?
This leads into my Billion Buddha Project … to ensure that at least a billion people wake up to their true divine infinite powerful creative nature and live a naturally and effortlessly happy life. Enlightening others to this reality is the theme of the rest of my life.
A few days ago, I had the good fortune of visiting the Truman Presidential Center and Library based in Independence, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. It was an amazing experience spending a couple of hours there. In the past, I have visited similar centers for President Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Arksnsas; President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta, Georgia; and President Lyndon Johnson in Austin. President Truman’ story was quite different and simply inspiring.
Truman had been a fresh Vice-President for just a couple of months when the super-popular President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) died in April 1945. This fairly young President at that time made the momentous decision of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the World War II. The jury is still out on whether this was the right decision, but he saw it very clearly and had no regrets even much later in his life, as he saw its as a way of saving many more lives.
Truman oversaw the formation of United Nations Organization, which endures till this day.
Truman crafted the Marshall Plan to deliver aid to Europe and help the vanquished countries of Germany and Italy and Japan rebuild; this helped stave off the real possibility of Communist guerillas take over Italy, Greece and and many other countries. He chose to name the plan after his Secretary of State George Marshall who was a very popular man and thus the plan would win Congressional backing and release of funds. He even innovated and resisted the Russian blockade of Berlin by supplying them exclusively through airplanes, till the Russians gave up. This ‘Berlin Airlift’ would mean more than a quarter million flights!
Truman fought the Korean War against the Russians. After a bit of back and forth victories by the two sides, he let it become a Cold War, a stalemate, rather than make it a hot war by attacking China who had begun to back North Korea. He relieved the super-popular hero General Douglas MacArthur when he began to defy the President, after the President refused to accept his advice of attacking the Chinese.
He was not quite as successful in getting his domestic policies on healthcare and others pass. However, the great postwar growth of the American economy happened on his watch!
‘The buck stops here’, said this diminutive ordinary man who would become a consequential President under extraordinary circumstances. Truman does not get nearly as much respect and adulation as the other Presidents. May be it was because he was considered to be a creature of Democratic Party bosses, and had little political base of his own. However, on the basis of his overall accomplishments, I think he should be up there with the likes of Abraham Lincoln.
Be Here Now: Art of Happiness
I watched this well-presented video on the new science of happiness by a professor from Harvard medical school. It showed that neither wealth nor accomplishment nor fame nor beauty nor youth makes a person healthy. Living constantly in a sunny weather or on a beach will not bring happiness either.
Not surprisingly, what makes people most happy is to be present, to be here now! We are happy when we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing at the moment. Whether we are washing dishes or teaching a class, we should be aware of and pay full attention to what we are doing in the moment. There is no need to hold on to any experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant, of the present or of the past. ‘This too shall pass’, Buddha said. Holding on to positive feelings is just as counterproductive as holding on to negative feelings. Just let go, and enjoy life every moment!
Gratitude and Forgiveness are other habits that bring happiness. We should be grateful for what we have: our functioning body, sane mind, caring family and friends, …everything. I am grateful to the people who invented the internet and manage it, for making available a platform where to share this message with all. I am grateful to those who raise the food and deliver it so we may nourish our body. And so on.
Forgiving others also makes us happy; it releases us from the unnecessary burden of holding on to grudges. Forgiving them makes us not suffer. Forgive them because they may not even be aware that they have done any harm to us, while we may be stewing in anger and hate and thus wasting our time and energy and life-force.
Compassion for others also brings happiness. Happiness has that paradoxical quality: the more we chase it, the more it will flee from us. The more we care about others’ well-being and happiness, the more we are likely to become happy.
May all Beings be happy!