What Supports the Bhaktha and his Yoga?

The heart is another country. Especially so for the bhaktha, he who has set foot on the path of devotion.

Bhaktha and the Beloved

To the bhaktha, a lover of God, there is a sense of otherness, much like mortal love perhaps but here there is no hankering for a time-born being, no disturbance of the senses, no propensity to debase oneself by indulging in sensual gratification. Often the bhaktha faces downturns, old impulses return to claim their ancestral place, and they protest with vigor and vehemence. But to one whose inner being has woken up in however little a measure and tasted the unmixed delight of Divine intoxication, there can be no lasting fall..there is only a delay until the ultimate embrace with the Divine Beloved.

But until that final embrace occurs there are glimpses, whether frequent or rare, brief glimpses of the Divine. Like milestones strewn around on a highway, these markers arrive to provide solace to the soul on its long-winded journey. They arrive in a multitude of shapes, forms and ways. If there is any method at all, then it is one based on His infinite freedom and our ability to receive it.

A Curious Phenomena

All these little moments/events share a specific character in that they occur anywhere and everywhere. It seems as if they have no limitation of time or space or form. The Rishis and God Lovers of the Hindu tradition had observed the nature of this peculiar Power and Phenomena minutely.

The Rishi’s Habit

What the Rishi observed within or without, he named it. He knew that a Power or Phenomena when named, could be spoken about, could be meditated upon, could be invoked and even made manifest within an individual’s consciousness. This is what they did, the Heroes of the Hindu tradition. They watched and watched with eyes, ears and every sense available. When they reached the limit of the senses, they observed the instrument that observed, the mind. When the chaos of mind was stilled, they found even rarer phenomena. This climb, this reaching out to hidden territory, this journey and adventure within they named Yoga.

Alone and Not Alone

The Rishis found themselves, not unlike the scientist who peers into atoms and builds his models of String Theory or Quantum Physics and who is baffled by the inability of common untrained men to understand them, alone in their pursuit of the Unknown. Even in the crowd the God Lover, the Rishi, is alone. But even in this solitude amidst sense-driven men, the Rishi observed something that always was with him. That could wake up at the most common moments and let him know he was not alone, that the goal of his journeys was always nearby.

The Ever Present Guide

The Hindus had to name this phenomena. What was it that was everywhere? What stayed with them in waking and in dream? What climbed the soul’s stairs into rarer and rarer heights along with them? The name had to be personal, after all this was the Guide who ventured with them into territories no map could capture. And it had to describe the idea that the Phenomena was everywhere. To the Rishi, to name something was automatic..the Power they wanted to name always suggested what it aught to be called.

Sarvavyapi, they ended up calling this Phenomena. Sarva-vyapi, or Sarva-Vyaapi as its pronounced in Sanskrit. Sarva is ‘everything’. Vyaapi is ‘one who pervades’. Put together Sarvavyaapi is “One who pervades everything”.

The Sterile Heaven of Icarus

The nearest western equivalent would be Omnipresent. As with most things spiritual, the western heart had yet to soar into heights of bhakthi yoga. Icarus who tried to soar heavenward was made into a parable to not have men aspire too high. The Tower of Babel was struck because men aspired to heavens. The West was content to abandon ancient freedoms of the Greek spirit for something new. And the word Omnipresent, so remote and sterile.

Swaha

Sarvavyaapi, One who pervades everything. Sarvavyaapi pervades you and I, pervades all that is manifest whether perceived by us or not. May that Sarvavyaapi guide us, as He guided the Rishis of the Veda.

If Sri Krishna Were to Appear

This post will not resonate with those who have not felt Bhakthi, if so apologies and I request you to return later. 

I have wondered for almost two decades now, how would it feel to be in front of the Divine. To stand in front of Him, the goal of our toils and the heights of our aspiration. To see Him with bare eyes, not as intuition, not as an experience where the little self vanishes. But here and now, to see Him as one would a dear-most friend. Or as the realization of every tear shed over many lives, of every longing that wracks the heart, or the becoming of every song ever sung.

Of all the paths to the Divine, the one of Knowledge taken by the thinker, or the one of Works undertaken by the toiler or even the road taken by the royalty..the Raja Yoga they call it, the most sublime of all paths to the Divine conceived by the Hindu race, is the path of Devotion and such a mighty conception it is. To give the heart its complete realization, to consider every strain of love and longing that the human heart gives itself to and make it an instrument of Yoga. God as Father, as Ishwara. God as Mother, as Shakthi in Her many manifestations. God as Child, as Skanda or Muruga in the Tamizh Bhakthi path and so on..so many ways of adoring the Divine.

But right at the top of the devotional path is to see God as Beloved, as Sri Krishna, the one who captivates souls, the one who makes Meera sing songs of anguish, one who makes a Chaitanya roam with a kirtan on his lips. Sri Krishna, the one to whom even the most fallen send their adoration, to whom mortal hearts sprout speech only to utter, “My Beloved, My Lord, My Master”.

So I have wondered, what would I do if He appeared in front. Would I jump in joy, would I rush into His embrace never to return..oh what would I do I wonder. What I have realized is this though, if Sri Krishna did appear I would break down, not in relief it is all over but rather ask through tears what makes Him put souls through everything, for what purpose.

What is the point of this post? Well, I came across a picture that, to me, captures that anguish of seeing Him and silently asking, “Why?”. See the picture. Have not embedded it in the post because I wanted to set context.

Vedas, Upanishads and Us

Vedas and Creation rescued by Varaha

Our retelling of an episode from the Kenopanishad, raised a query on why we dipped into so remote a past of the Hindu tradition, what these works are and what we aim to accomplish by it.

Vedas

The Vedas constitute the bedrock of Hindu thought, culture and living. Every small and mighty edifice of this ancient race is infused through and through with the roar of victory voiced by Rishis more ancient than known history. Vedas were man’s first and perhaps the most profound attempt at Immortality. As with works of posterity whose origins and motivations are a mystery to the brief memory of men, there is a great cloud of ignorance that surrounds popular perception of the Veda. Like the proverbial blind trying to cognize an Elephant, each brings the limitations of his perception to interpreting and understanding the Veda. Add to it people whose goal in life was to show up the Hindu race as uncultured, because Hindus do not follow their particular strain of barbarism and you have a perfect storm of ignorance that makes any objective understanding of the Veda impossible.

Ambition Deficit

Part of the blame would have to lie with Hindus themselves, who due to ignorance, lack of courage and no great ambition kept the Veda on so high a pedestal as to keep it out of reach to the common man. The understanding of the Veda does not have to be via 2nd and 3rd hand translations, transcriptions, commentary and so on. We could reach out to the Veda indirectly via a simple Google search or go the direct route by aspiring to the immanent Divine. Both can act as catalysts to churn our consciousness and give birth to powers and potentialities that are unmistakably part of us, yet add immeasurably more than what we can imagine. This process of churning takes a moment or many lifetimes, depending on the intensity and purity of purpose we bring with our aspiration.

Upanishads

What about the Upanishads then? Well, the Upanishads constitute a later development that built upon the Veda. While the Veda is a mass of intuitions, a collective roadmap to immortality as discovered by the ancient Rishis. In contrast the Upanishads were the intuitions chopped and packed into neat parcels of logic that the reasoning mind would understand. The Veda was poetry of the spirit, the Vedic Rishis travelled as the Gods on their cars of intuition, while the Upanishadic Rishis chose reason as their vehicle to explore trails of consciousness.

Rishis and Seers

We know little of the Vedic & Upanishadic Rishis, apart from what was built around their names in the Puranas and Itihasas. The actual names have come down to us though- Angiras, Bharadwaj, Kanva, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Grtsamada, Agastya, Bharata. At times, when the passions of our trivial lives are quelled we hear these names echoing through our being. Each name marking an emperor of the spirit. Each name an adventure of the soul into immortal realms. Each name the reminder of a victory won through the luminous heavens of our being. Each Rishi a guide and preceptor to the aspiring soul of us.

Authorship

The Rishis did not consider themselves authors of the mantras they wrote, they were merely agents, transcribers who had the inner realizations and sang of it in verse. As such they are the undiluted essence of a particular experience. Hence the Veda is called Shruti, that which is heard. It was Sri Aurobindo who in modern times recovered and relived the essence of the Veda, as did the Varaha avatar to save earth from destruction by Hiranyaksha.

How to read Vedas and Upanishads

One has but to read these works. Not with the modern infantile mind that expects all to be given on a platter. The Veda and Upanishad demand a certain discipline of the being. After all if you were a scientist building a cyclotron, you would expect every machinery to be precise to the thousandth of a milli-meter. So it is with understanding of the Veda and Upanishads. Some would even say the mere act of reading the thoughts of a Rishi is an Yagna. No need for detailed paraphernalia, the instruments of external ritual. What the Veda wants is that inner engineering to be in order.

Aim of Kali’s Brood

The goal of Kali’s Brood is to re-acquaint Hindus to the living heart of their tradition. We will do this by providing snippets from the Vedas, Upanishads and other key works. We will get to the heart of its spirit and inner experience. This body of knowledge is not restricted to Hindus alone, it waits for all those who will open themselves to its vast synthesis of man, life and his immortal destiny.

Blade of Grass – Episode from Kenopanishad

Om – May our journeys be auspicious!

Prelude

The time is right. Through many roads you and I have arrived here.

Now we shall do the ritual that reveals.

Preparation

Three things are required.

Eyes that see things that have no form. Ears that hear unsounded meaning. And a mind that learns from silence.

Begin

Let us begin now, this story shall be our Guru.

Long long ago in a realm different, yet very intimate with ours, there was a war. The Gods had won this round. Smug in victory they celebrated in their thoughts, the ancient ones – Indra, Vayu and Agni.

The Unnamable watched their thoughts. It took a form and appeared in front.

Agni

“What is this?”, wondered the Gods. “Agni, go forth and inquire”, they said. Agni rushed in front of It.

And That enquired, “Who art thou? What is thy power?”

“Agni am I. I am fire that burns Night. The many I burn away”, said the God.

“Then burn this”, replied That. And set forth a blade of grass, a mere tendril, in front.

Agni, with a crown of flame, rushed in. The blade stood drooped as ever. Not a blemish on its pale green skin.

“This being is hidden to me”, said crest fallen Agni.

Vayu

The Gods said, “Vayu, go forth and inquire”

Vayu moved swiftly in front of it. And That enquired, “Who art thou? What is thy power?”

“Vayu am I. I am breath that animates. The many I cast aside by my breath”, said the God.

“Then move this”, replied That. And set forth a blade of grass, a mere tendril, in front.

Vayu, with wings of wind, rushed in. The blade stood drooped as ever. Still as stone from earth’s deeps.

Crest fallen, Vayu returned, saying, “This being is hidden to me”

Indra

Now, the Gods said, “Indra, wisest among us, go forth and inquire”

Indra, mounting a chariot of thought, moved in front of it. And lo, the Being dissapeared.

Indra waited in a thoughtless prayer. In place of the Being, now he beheld Uma, daughter of higher realms.

Uma

“Who was that Being?”, Indra prayed to the Mother of them all.

“That is the Brahman”, She replied.

Brahman

“Agni burns with fire lent by the Brahman. Vayu animates with breath lent by the Brahman. Beyond words and thought is the Brahman, the source of all that is and is not”.

Indra learnt of that which cannot be learnt. And Uma, the Mother, had revealed it to Indra.

Swaha

Subtle are the ways of the Highest. Be vigilant. Watch for the unnamable. The Mother awaits us at the heights.

We shall part now, until the next whirl of time brings us together.

Om tat sat.

[Note: Our next post will explain the symbolic nature of this Upanishadic story and outline its relevance to aspiring souls.]

Anjaneya – The Beginning

Anjaneya

This was in a time before men were as now. More kin to animal than man. More raw instinct than thought. Every inflection of mind indulged without an overarching plan beyond the impulses of life. Mind was as a tail, twitching, dangling, swinging. All becoming was what She ordained. The leap from a branch to another, the teeth baring grin, the litany of postures were all Her. We knew everything it seemed.

I was the first. Out of my mother’s womb, I was bathed in glowing mane. Anjana, I heard them call, it would be while before I understood speech, but I knew..Anjana, it was her, the one who had consented to yield me, forever I would bear her name. Behind just one name which I would know much later.

Of all simians I could stay in place. Unmonkey-like they said, sick, will be nothing, will not see as many summers as fingers in our hands. I knew not why, this was within, this is what I was. I could stay still. Had no need for trees, or to jump..I saw a vaster forest in my mind, hints of wildness and power that fellow simians longed for, I saw unlimited monkeyness possible within..my antics were within. Where my brothers were content with meagre leaps between trees, I leapt to the Sun thinking it a ripe fruit. I was different.

It would be many years before I heard that name. A mere rumor, that travelled on the whims of men. A man who was more than man. God they said. Who in his stillness was more than all the chattering of men. Like me I thought. It was born then, an ardor, a flame within..and I wanted to see him. I, a monkey, a mere simian had loved something without seeing. The name, the syllables would soon be more than my mother. I said it once again in my mind, savoring each inflection of sound, “Rrraamaa, Rrraamaa”.

With those first utterances I would be bound to him forever. He Sri Rama and I Anjaneya, son of Anjana.

Paintings credits – Paritosh Sarda

A Story by Sri Ramakrishna On Aspiration

In response to a query from a devotee, Sri Ramakrishna tells a story on how we should aspire to the Divine. This is my retelling of that story, in response to question on why I had said that the Sadhana we perform is paltry.

There was once a widow with a young son. With no earning member the family, they had to subsist on the generosity of villagers.

The boy was soon of school going age. There was an operational hassle, the school had to be reached by going through a forest. Those who could afford had their bullock carts or other helpers to ferry the kids to school and back. Our little boy had none of these, so naturally he was scared and reluctant.

The mother then does what every soul with no recourse amongst the living does, she kneels and holds him close to her and says, “Do not fear my dearest, you have a brother, Krishna is his name. Call him when you are afraid”.

For the mother, her child is all that makes life worth living. The love she bestows upon him sustains her. She fears as every mother that something would befall him. But what else could she do? She who would gladly give her life to let her child grow, gives him up at the feet of Sri Krishna.

The boy takes his mother’s word to heart and starts his trek to school. The unfamiliar always evokes fear. A barefoot, barely clothed 6-7 year old is no different. It is soon dark in the dense jungle and the path barely visible. The first tendrils of fear clutch him. Every play of shadow and rustling of trees are promises of horrors that would soon fall on him.

The Fates slay heroes, a child is no match and he is soon broken.

Crying and knowing his mother would not hear even if he called, he remembers what she told about a brother. He does not know this brother, never seen him and sees none around. But the fear soon overwhelms and he cries out, “Krishnaaa, Krishnaaa”.

No answer.

Was his mother wrong, does he really have a brother? But he knew his mother never lied.

So he cries out again, fear choking him, cowering amidst the forest clearing, “Krishnaaa..O Krishnaaa”.

And suddenly, from behind a tree comes out a stranger, a young lad of 9 or 10 years, clothed like a shepherd, a peacock feather stuck in his head. Smiling, he walks to the boy and says, “You called”.

Sri Krishna in Forest

I have found a lot of times that is all there is. That cry, that single cry of the entire being. And the answering grace from the friend of man and the goal of our journeys. The prayers we offer, the sadhana we perform is paltry. We cover ourselves in rituals, mantras and prayers, all of which are ineffective without that cry. Sri Krishna can indeed walk in front wherever you are reading this. What is needed is the cry, everything else is pittance.

Sri Aurobindo Speaks of Scriptures actually Relevant for Future

Sri Aurobindo speaks about which religion, philosophy will be relevant, survive and actually help the spiritual path.

Only those Scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind. The rest remain as monuments of the past, but have no actual force or vital impulse for the future.

The recent episode where priests refused entry to a so-called low-caste in Orissa. I f**cking rage in fury when I hear the term low-caste. What the f**k is low caste anyway?! Don’t the idiotic priests in Orissa know “Sarvam Kalvidham Brahmam”, “All that exists is the Divine”? Every thing, every damn thing is the Divine..to discriminate against fellow men in the name of caste is effin horrible. Of course, I don’t want you to let the marauding barbarian who wants your wealth, land and women inside your house. Discriminate men on the basis of their intent and deal with them, but bloody caste..destroy that crap.

Hinduism is said to live in its traditions and some would argue that this untouchability thing is a tradition. But honestly how many of thousands understand what a tradition is? How many have realized any truths within themselves? Traditions handed down by posterity is immediately treated with veneration..without once questioning what the truth is, whether the truth has come to us undiluted, or whether we actually realized the truth of a tradition ourselves. Bottom line test and know for yourself before accepting a tradition.

Of course Hinduism is infinitely better than other major religious systems, you know which, because it enables an infinite variety of form and practice. But for a few hundred years, the so called upper caste priests have lost the plot. A Brahmin was supposed to be a man of knowledge, a knower of Brahman. We all know the majority are no longer knowers of Brahman. Which means they cannot be arbiters of tradition, as in the Orissa temple case, nor should we give them the veneration deserving to a knower of Brahman. Conversely we should also not pour spite on them as the Christian Missionaries, Marxists and Pseudo-Atheists like the Tamil Nadu, India based politicians do.

Sorry, back to tradition. Some people talk of tradition as if it has been forever. But that is not the case, every tradition..the most hallowed and mundane tradition had been seen within by a Seer/Rishi and shared with common people. Remember, every damned tradition was founded that way. What mattered was the spiritual realization of the person who founded the tradition. Remember no committee sat and discussed what followers will read from then on, no council of descendants argued stuff..just one guy had the realization and shared with followers. If it worked for the followers, the tradition got handed down or else it died naturally. Nothing could be more beautiful or ideal than this arrangement. But we have not had major realized souls like Swami Vivekananda or Chaitanya or Meera lately to drive home truths with the force of their realizations. Now we have media savvy folks, semi-realized folks and so on. Infinitely better than the Abrahamic systems of course, but not good enough for Hinduism.

So what am I getting at? Nothing, just that spiritual realization alone matters. Tradition if it helps us get there sooner then fine, else create a new tradition. We Hindus are not fanatics, we have no perverse need to convert people compulsively like the missionaries do to barely known spiritual truths. Or to enforce semi-moral strictures with the sword. We are descendants of Rishi Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Valmiki and the numberless realized souls of Sanatana Dharma. Let us live and act that way. Hare Krishna!