I think that International Yoga Day is a laudable initiative to bring emphasis and attention on Yoga. I wrote about it last year too, calling it the Independence Day of the Human Spirit.
Yoga is ‘cessation of the activities of the mind’, as defined by Patanjali in the first phrase of Yoga Sutra. Yoga has 8 limbs. Asanas is one of them. Meditation is another. Asanas prepare the body and mind for meditation. All good meditation centers avoid televisions and aggravating foods that would interfere with the practice of inner peace and quiet.
I have met Swami Ramdev. His vision is almost unfathomable. Have visited Yog Gram too. I want to go to Coimbatore to see Satguru’s center; have heard great things about it. Have met Sri Sri RaviShankar a few times and learned his technique too. At our own campus (set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) in Fairfield Iowa, everyone meditates daily for long periods for the dual purpose of self-development and world peace. I have also been to many Vipassana centers and done their 10-day courses. Every guru has a different meditation technique. They say there are 108 ways to transcend!
No guru is without detractors who would call their followers as a cult, sometimes somewhat justifiably. Ramdev made yoga popular. He propped up Narendra Modi in his bid to become Prime Minister of India. And he is giving foreign companies a run for their money. He has completely upended marketing practices. He is a big part of India rejuvenation. … despite all his faults.
Unshackle yourself from the lessons of past lived experiences. They are not nearly as normal as one typically believes them to be. They are a product of the times and of our own perceptual apparatus. We are conditioned by the received distilled wisdom from well meaning family and friends; and by what we read, especially in the younger ages when we lack the power to critically examine and reject an incoming lesson.
In the abstract we know that we are infinite, invincible and blissful. In practice we feel bounded, weak and miserable. The path from the practical to the ideal seems long, arduous, uncertain and unachievable. Most people give up on the ideal. The new way is to disrupt yourself. Do not settle for the unsatisfying and the unfulfilling.
Drop the baggage of past experiences. It has to be a visceral process. The experiences are embedded in the core of our mind and body. But perhaps not in our souls. We can reclaim our souls. We can do what we deeply desire. We can also do what we deeply fear: jump into the deep end. We reveal ourselves to ourselves thus.
The relative future is inherently uncertain. But that can be an exhilarating ride. If only we can drop our expectations. That is scary. Without great expectations, nothing great can be achieved. Is that so? Truly so? Charles Dickens wrote so. He is widely considered the greatest English writer, at par with Shakespeare. Did he write from special wisdom or did he just articulate what he lived in the sweatshops of his times.
Disrupting oneself can mean having altered expectations. Or even no expectations. Could set us up to be light as a feather. And float nicely in the winds of the times. It does not guarantee survival. Or a long life. But we don’t know. It guarantees blissful life. Or at least an authentic life. Of a fleeting hundred moments or a hundred long years. How does it matter? The soul does not die. It was never born. The body was made up from the elements. It will merge into the elements anyways. Sooner or later i.e.
Disrupt yourself. That is the New Way of living. Expect nothing. Achieve everything. Including blissful fulfillment.
What am I?
This is a better question than ‘Who am I’. Many wise people suggest asking ‘who am I’ as a way to deflate ego, develop humility, and become more agreeable with others. However, the most reasonable answer to this question is a bunch of roles. Like being a human being, citizen, father, son, worker, etc. But then the suggested answer would be that I am a soul!
The question ‘what am I’ is a more direct way of knowing oneself or perceiving oneself. The correct answer would be ‘pure existence’. i.e. I am pure existence, which is an awareness of existing, or just pure Being, in no particular framework of any kind. I am pure Consciousness, which is conscious of itself. I may have many names and roles and assets and talents and feelings and whatever else. But I in itself is just pure existence, or awareness or Consciousness.
Meditation helps me become aware of my being pure awareness. Everything else falls away like scales from eyes. Nothing matters. What am I? Same as What is You! Same as What is everything else. We are all the same … overall Awareness, the Consciousness.
The right question goes a long way!
In the last couple of weeks, I had long fulfilling conversations on spirituality and Moksha with two young people in their 20s. Both are Computer Science students, with one doing a bachelor’s degree and the other doing a master’s degree. One is a male and another is a female. One is a student on my own university campus and the other is on another university where I had recently visited to give a technology seminar based on my Data Analytics book. Both students happened to be from Hindu backgrounds, but neither is from India.
Both said that they were deeply spiritual people, and they were always concerned about how might technology and spirituality co-exist. I said I was a living example, and they felt reassured. Of course, there are many other IT people who have even become full-time spiritual people. I also said that spirituality is all encompassing, and it includes everything including technology, management, society, and all other fields. In fact, spiritual technologies can accelerate the path to moksha.
Both also said their conversations with their classmates and friends were not too fulfilling since others could not communicate with the others at the level that they found fulfilling. One described the conversations as being more about questions and answers about manifested things, and it was difficult to describe to their friends their deep spiritual experiences that had changed their view of the world. The charm they found in their inner journey was very enjoyable, but not necessarily describable. The other student was curious whether spirituality could help technological solved problems more creatively.
I wished them great progress in their spiritual journey. Enlightenment is very easy to achieve if one innocently wished for it, but does not obsessively try hard to find it in the world outside. It will come when one is ready. This is the same message I gave my two friends in the summer when they said that don’t give me this Bliss s**t.
America is finally coming to grips with its diversity. For the last 50 years America has become much more diverse. The Immigration Act of 1965 opened America’s doors to immigrants from all countries in the world. Now there are immigrants from India, China Ethiopia, and many other countries that are not Caucasians or Christians. They have developed deep roots in this country, and have succeeded by dint of their talent and hard work. The image of white Christian America is ending. The replacement image is much polyglot and inclusive.
This demographic trend has proved threatening to the white Christians who kinda owned this country for the last couple of hundred years. This sense of unease turned into anger with the election of Barack Obama, the son of one such Kenyan immigrant student, to the presidency of the country.That was a transformative moment for America and a scary moment for the status quo. Donald Trump was among those who stoked that fear and anger by questioning the legitimacy of the President by absurdly refusing to accept that denying that Obama was even a US born person. That made this angry or uneasy demographic segment beholden to Trump. This demographic segment constitutes the solid one-issue base of voters that has given Trump 38-40% poll numbers for the last one year. This base is now losing its last fight in this 2016 election. However, Donald Trump will not fade away after this election. He will remain relevant for as long as this base continues to be angry, and till it accepts the transformation of America.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are coming fast. They are coming in the form of Robots and Deep Learning machines etc. Elon Musk has even called AI the existential crisis for humanity. Steven Hawking has wondered what would happen it the AI developed a will of its own, a will that is at odds with the will of humanity. Those will be interesting times. They will be as challenging to all of us, as the current times are challenging to those who ruled the roost in America till a few decades ago.
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.
Vedas for Ultra-modern Living … notes by Dr. Anil Maheshwari
Maharishi University of Management (MUM) hosted the 11th conference of WAVES (World Association for Vedic Studies) over the first weekend of August 2014. Over a hundred papers and presentations were made by speakers from around the world. Many scholars came from India, while many others were from the US including many professors from MUM itself. The range of topics covered was vast: covering entire Vedas, to specific topics like Ayurveda and Sanskrit, to specific concepts like maha-vakyas. The presentations were theoretical as well as empirical, intellectual as well as experiential. The event provided an extraordinary international Vedic experience.
Here are a few key observations.
- MUM is a unique and powerful laboratory for ultra-modern Veda-based healthy living style. Speaking with several visiting scholars, I discovered that there seems to be no other place like this in the world. The visitors enjoyed being at MUM even if for a few days. They enjoyed the good sattvic vegetarian food, chanting by Vedic pundits, Gandharva veda music, and the overall high quality arrangements. There are indeed many villages in India where people still do Vedic practices like Rudra-abhishekham on a daily basis. However, they seem to do it because that is as an ancient family ritual, and not as a part of conscious Vedic living.
- The founder of MUM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is considered up there among the Vedic greats such as Sankara, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhi, and the like. One after the other, the speakers extolled the greatness of Maharishi from the Vedic knowledge and practice perspective. It was a dream come true for many of the speakers to come to Maharishi’s place.
- Not surprisingly, most of the Vedic scholars worldwide seem to be of Indian origin. The Vedic researchers at MUM are also Indians at heart, whom I affectionately call ‘white desis’. A lot of the Vedic scholars in India seem to be located in the Sanskrit departments in major Indian universities, and some in philosophy departments.
- Many of the papers presented by visiting scholars were theoretical in nature, analyzing and synthesizing the Vedic texts. On the other hand, many of the presentations from MUM speakers were around experimentally validated applications of Vedic knowledge and experiential technologies (such as Transcendental Meditation® ) to human welfare … such as to physiology, psychology, neurology, sociology, business, and the like.
- There were many engaging presentations, and some of them completely wowed everyone. One Indian scholar synthesized all the Vedas to present a guide to daily living. Another Indian scholar showed how the mahavakyas, esp ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, could be applied in the social context to promote cooperation. A visiting scholar from the US presented on how Ayurveda can be used for kaya kalpa. Another visiting scholar from the US enthralled the audience with many thought experiments at the intersection of Vedic legacies and new technologies. A powerful presentation from MUM showed a Unified-field based framework integrating the physical world and the world of Atman or Consciousness. Another MUM presentation showed how Transcendence is the effective path to human development after adulthood.
The conference created new possibilities for sharing of authentic Vedic knowledge around the world. It also gave the world a taste of how Vedic knowledge and practices could be adapted for living the ultra-modern life!