Mind and intellect according to Vedanta philosophy

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The word Vedanta is composed of Veda – knowledge, as well as the name for holy scriptures of Hinduism, and anta – the end. It means ‘the end of Veda’ and might be said to represent essence of Vedic knowledge, supreme religious philosophy and wisdom. Philosophy of Vedanta is based on later Vedic texts, hymns and writings of which Bhagavad Gita is the most well known.

In Chapter 6, Verse 6 of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna makes the following statement about the mind:

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.”

Uncontrolled mind has potential to mess up a person’s life due to following characteristics of the mind:

1. it is full of likes and dislikes
2. it has a tendency to slip into the past or the future
3. it generates endless desires
4. it develops attachment to objects and beings.

The mind comprises impulses, feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. If we are not in control of the mind, we will be controlled by the mind, having life full of endless stress.

Many people are living their lives in the past or in the future and are often faraway from present time. They are either worried about the past or anxious about the future. While preoccupying themselves with their past mistakes and loses or pondering about what will tomorrow bring and how will they survive in the future, they are missing to enjoy life in present time.

Whole our life style is a hoax, created to prepare us for something but that something never comes. We spend our lives running after something but we don’t know what that something is. We go to kindergarten which prepares us school, then we go to school which prepares us for high school, high school prepares us for university, university prepares us for work.

When we start working we are looking for promotion, one day when promotion comes or doesn’t come we dream about pension when we will finally have enough money and free time for those things we always wanted to do. And when we are finally in pension we are too sick and too old to enjoy life and we fill frustrated with our lives.

We are trying to make money and seeking higher social position. We suffer from desires and we are trying to satisfy them. Satisfying desires is impossible. Attempting to satisfy desires is like trying to put out the fire by feeding it more wood – it will just burn stronger. While satisfying desires is impossible, not satisfying them makes us angry, desperate, frustrated and stressed.

We come exhausted from work, we sit down and watch TV and brainwash our self with advertisement which are telling us that we are not good, that our clothes are not good enough, telling us we need newer and smarter smart phone, better car.   

We meet someone we think we love but we know so little about love. We get married we grow attachment for our spouse, we get children and we grow attachment for them, we buy a house and we are attached to that house. Out of attachment we start having fear of losing our dear objects and beings.

Love is not attachment. Love is understanding and sharing, it is feeling peace and harmony in the presence of our spouse. Love has nothing to do with falling in love although this falling in love is being sold to us through movies and literature as something we should strive for.

Learn to love your children like nurse in the kindergarten loves them – she is taking care of them, she is teaching them things, feeding them, making sure they are safe. But when the time comes that they move on, she lets them go. She loves them without attachment.

In short, living life while being under dictate of the mind, with all its faults, is slavery. While waiting and hoping for some better future to come, while constantly ‘preparing’ ourselves for something, we miss enjoying life. Life passes by us like water in the river is passing by the trees on its banks. We need to learn how to live.

Mind is being granted too much importance and attention. Countless therapies from psychoanalysis to all kinds of self-help practices are developed promising to improve our mind, rise our IQ, teach us how to achieve our goals and satisfy our desires, while the best thing you can do about your mind is to learn how to ignore it.

We are making great efforts to ‘improve our minds’ while totally ignoring our higher echelon of reason – intellect. One of the smartest people I knew was alcoholic. He had brilliant mind, extremely high IQ, very creative professional respected by his peers. Of course he knew drinking alcohol in excess is not doing him any good, but he was drinking himself to death. Great mind, poor intellect.

While the mind is set of impulses, feelings and emotions, intellect is thinking, reasoning, judging. When intellect guides the mind, the person is considered as wise. Intellect is not intelligence as you can see from countless examples of intelligent people doing stupid things.

Nourish and cultivate your intellect and learn how to use it. Develop your intellect by observing the world and the people around. Never accept anything for granted. Learn to observe things and make your own conclusion. Don’t blindly believe everything you are being told in school or in your church, temple or a mosque. In Vedanta Sutra it is written:

“In cases of Scripture conflicting with Perception, Scripture is not stronger. The True cannot be known through the Untrue.” 

While Veda represents holy text, revealed by supreme authority, Vedanta teaches us that even the Scripture shouldn’t be accepted we find it to be contrary to our perception, to our common sense.

Collecting data and acquiring knowledge will not develop intellect. Nothing wrong with being knowledgeable and well informed, intelligence and knowledge provides you the means to make a living, but it will not develop your intellect. To develop intellect you need to observe, question, think, reason and make judgments and conclusions for yourself. Never accept things for granted. Accept only the things that are logical and reasonable.

In living your life try to be objective, try looking things from outside and above, as impartial observer. Examine the motives of your actions. Are you acting based on your likes and dislikes? Desires? Learn to recognize chaotic impulses of the mind and stay above it, refuse to obey it. Ignore the noise which is telling you that you should be like everybody else. Do you really need the newest smart phone, is it a real need or is it created by advertisement which are everywhere around you?

Instead of setting up for yourself only material goals, try setting up for yourself an ideal of what you can be and try achieving it. Learn how to enjoy in life instead of running through it too fast to notice beauty around you.

These were few thoughts I wanted to share with you. If you liked any of it, decided it make some sense to you, I would recommend getting a book by Swami Parthasarathy or reading Swami Vivekananda’s works online. Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi is also a reading I would highly recommend.

I wish you all the best in developing your intellect with the help of Vedanta philosophy and learn how to live stress free and fulfilling life.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Symbolism of Ganesha

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By Resham Sengar
What do we really know about Ganesha? That we ought to chant his name prior to any important work or prayer, he is bestowed with a head of an elephant, and is often portrayed with having a large belly and not a taut mid riff like other Gods.

But the fact is that these unique body parts describe Ganesha`s character and the qualities that humans should adopt for spiritual growth.

An elephant has the ability to uproot strong trees and even pick a fine blade of grass. Therefore, Ganesha`s trunk symbolizes that a wise being has the ability to be strong as well as skilled to identify good from bad much like the white swan which can segregate milk from water.

His large ears mean that he listens to the prayers of every single person devoted to him. His four hands too have an amazing meaning attached to them. His lotus bearing hand symbolises enlightenment.

Another hand that holds a hatchet symbolises that enlightenment cuts off all bonds of attachment with the material world.

The third hand carries sweetmeats which imply the sweet gains reaped by practicing good deeds. As Bhagwadgita makes it clear that a person should always focus on the karma and not the fruits of it, Ganesha is never shown enjoying the dessert he holds in his hands, thereby making it clear that he is not attached to the outcome of his good deeds.

His fourth hand is seen in an `Aashirwad Mudra` or the blessing pose. This means that an ideal person always wishes for societal well-being. Ganesha is also depicted with his one foot down on ground and the other one resting on his knee. This symbolizes that the enlightened person lives on earth without any attachment to material life.

The reason why Ganesha rides the back of a rat is because rat stands for greed and the mind of a wise being should control his senses rather than getting controlled by them. An ideal person should master his senses to enjoy a wholesome existence is the message Ganesha gives.

A person embodying such qualities becomes the near and dear of the Supreme God — Shiva and Parvati — the parents of the Universe and of course, our dear deity Ganesha.

Benefits of Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation yoga asanas

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By Anwesha Mittra/Times of India

Suryanamaskar can do to your body what months of dieting cannot. And it can do to your mind what no spiritual discourse can.

Not surprising, the world is going crackers over this ancient yogic tradition of worshipping the rising sun. What with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham and Kareena Kapoor endorsing it over gym workouts and bizarre diets.

From improving your posture, strengthening muscles to whittling extra inches around the waist, the benefits of Suryanamaskar are many, provided you adapt it the right way. A set of 12 fixed, cyclic postures define Suryanamaskar which when performed repeatedly at an easy pace can bring a sense of well being, almost immediately. However, those with a heart condition, arthritis or slip-disk, need their doctor’s consent before starting the routine. Suryanamaskar’s surging popularity notwithstanding, jumpstarting a schedule is most definitely not the best thing to do for a fitness novice. If you have been gravely out of form in a way that you haven’t stretched your muscles in ages, first give your body some time to open up, which you can do with some flexibility and stamina-building exercises before embarking on the more arduous ‘Suryanamaskar’.

And once your body has registered a certain fitness level, you can begin with a set of three Suryanamaskars in the first instance and increase it to five then ten and more depending on your stamina. Anymore than clocking up numbers, it is important to get each posture right, for the very essence of this yogic ritual lies in perfecting every move. To say the least, it can be an uphill task for beginners. But our expert-backed warm-up exercises are sure to make Suryanamaskar less strenuous and ever so graceful.

1. Neck: Breathe in while you turn your neck to the right and breathe out as you come back to the starting position. Again, breathe in while turning your neck to the left and breathe out in the centre. Repeat this movement thrice. Rotate your neck first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

2. Arm and shoulder: Stretch your arms out in front of your chest and move your palms up and down, then sideways. Further on, rotate your fist clockwise and anti-clockwise. To relax your arms, place your palm on your shoulder and move your shoulders first clockwise then anti-clockwise.

3. Knee: Bend forwards with your palms resting on your knees, join your knees and move forwards and backwards. End the routine by rotating your knees clockwise and anti-clockwise.

4. Stomach and back: Interlock your fingers over your chest and slowly raise your hands upwards while you breathe in and stand on your toes. Return to Position 1 as you breathe out. Repeat this cycle three times.

5. Legs and waist: Stretch your legs wide in standing position, touch you left toe with the right hand, then the right toe with the left. Keep your knees straight while you do so. Repeat a few times.

By now your body is suitably warmed up to begin the Suryanamaskar routine. Here is a step-by-step account of the 12 postures. Don’t try this routine on a mat, you are better off on the bare floor or on the grass.

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The story of another Western Hindu

Maria Wirth, Western Hindu and author of blog on Hinduism which you can find on www.mariawirthblog.wordpress.com

Maria Wirth, Western Hindu and author of blog on Hinduism

Another interesting story of Maria Wirth, a person born and raised in the West who embraced Sanatana Dharma as her religion. Maria has a very inspiring blog which is truly worth visiting.

HOW I ESSENTIALLY BECAME A HINDU

By Maria Wirth

“Can you imagine – in Europe there are people who believe there is no Bhagawan (God)!” Baba Ramdev, a highly popular yogi, said this to a sea of thousands of Indian schoolchildren with an expression of genuine wonderment on his face. I saw it on TV and it made me smile.

He is right. In Europe there are people who believe there is no God and I almost had become one of them. It is quite normal there. Yet for most Indians this is unbelievable: ‘Don’t these Europeans have any reasoning power? Can’t they come to the conclusion that there must be an invisible power and intelligence at the base of this vast universe and actually in our own bodies made up of billions of intelligent cells, as well? ‘They certainly have a point.

However, most Indians are not aware why many westerners believe there is no God. The reason is that we in the west have, if I may say so, a different God. Right from childhood we are ‘taught’ about the Christian God who is declared to be the only true God: a male, superman-like entity, watching over us from an unknown place, who is greatly favouring Christians, is jealous of other gods and actually quite unfair, because he sends all those who don’t join his Church, eternally to hell. Eternally! Already as a teenager, I lost faith in this God and together with it, thankfully, the fear of hell.

In 1980 I stopped over in India on my way to Australia. At least, that was what I thought. I did not break my journey in India for spiritual reasons, as I did not associate Hinduism with anything worthwhile. In school I had learnt that Hinduism is about an unjust caste system and plenty of (false, since Christianity has the true one) gods, and not knowing better, I had believed it.  However, during this stopover, I stumbled on India’s ancient tradition and was amazed at its depth. I appreciated that intelligence was used in trying to establish the truth about this universe and no unverifiable dogmas were imposed. Swami Vivekananda’s “Jnana Yoga” was the first book I read. He stands in a long line of Rishis who have dedicated themselves since time immemorial to an intensive, disciplined, inner search for what is essentially true. Their findings don’t contradict modern science:

The basis of every appearance in this universe, including our own person, is the same one Essence or Presence – real, infinite, eternal, formless and nameless. All forms and names are like waves on the ocean. The waves may think that they are separate from the ocean. They may not even see the ocean but only other waves. They may cling to their (temporary) form and be terrified to lose it, but ultimately all waves are nothing but the ocean and nothing is lost when their form subsides. Similarly, though we may consider ourselves as separate from the whole and cling to our impermanent person, our essence is pure, limitless awareness and nothing of substance is lost when form and name are lost. The purpose of life and its fulfillment is to discover who we really are, the rishis declared.

This knowledge made immediately sense to me and was actually a source for great joy. It was in tune with my vague intuition that, if there is a God, he must be the basis of everything and not a separate entity.

Early during my stay in India, I met Devaraha Baba and Anandamayi Ma, two renowned saints of that time. I had never met persons like them. There seemed to be nobody there behind their eyes and their presence felt beneficial. “It is because they are enlightened”, someone explained to me. “God shines clearly through their form, because there is no ego to block that.”

“God”- this word had been missing in my vocabulary for long, but it comes up frequently in India among those who speak English, young and old, and strangely, here I did not sense any hypocrisy as I did in Germany. Indians use “God’ for the many different Sanskrit terms because it is the English term for the creator of the universe and they generally don’t realize that the Abrahamic God is different and requires believing in unverifiable dogmas. In India, the concept of God is much vaster and based on a genuine enquiry. The outcome of this enquiry is that God and one’s self are basically the same. ‘This Atman (Self) is Brahman (God)’, declare the Vedas. It all made sense. The question however was now how to feel or experience this truth as real.

Anandamayi Ma, a saintly woman from Bengal who died in 1982, advocated Bhakti – love for the Divine and asked us to be always – 24 hours a day – aware of His (‘His’ does not imply ‘male’) Presence. “You are always in His loving embrace”, she said. It sounded authentic; however I was also drawn to Jnana, (knowledge), to Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism.

I genuinely tried to be aware of my innermost Being and to develop love for it. In the morning I resolved to be ‘the whole day’ aware, and while brushing my teeth, I had already forgotten about it. It was not that easy. The rishis knew that and gave many helpful tips – tips that are often missing in the western new age scene, which has heavily borrowed from the Hindu tradition, often without acknowledging it.

One important point is the refinement of one’s character. To be able to sense these subtle, yet very real realms of awareness, the mind and intellect have to be refined. The term “Arya” in the Vedas is not referring to a race. It means ‘noble”. Whoever lives a noble life is an Arya. “Let noble thoughts come to us from all corners” is a prayer from the ancient Veda. And further, “Brahman permeates the biggest and the smallest”. “See God in everyone.”  “Respect nature”, and so on.

I became quite naturally a vegetarian. I could not partake anymore in this colossal bloodbath all over the globe, hidden from our eyes, but very real for each one of those poor creatures that are slaughtered without mercy. I tried to get up early, though I usually fell short by a couple of hours from the time, one gets up in ashrams – 4 a.m. I practised yoga and meditation, and tried to catch any negative thought/ emotion before it could lodge itself in my mind. Wishing well for everyone and doing what feels right, was the basic motto for my life. I enjoyed singing bhajans and even more listening to and reciting myself Vedic shlokas. I tried to follow for us westerners rather unusual rules, like ‘the freer you give from what you have (knowledge, wealth, etc.) the more you will receive’. I stopped being overly concerned about ‘fulfilling my desires’ that – so we were taught in psychology class in Europe – was paramount for mental health. I trusted Indian wisdom more than western psychology. There were times when all this was easy and many unbelievable coincidences happened, indicating that there is indeed a ‘God’ making his caring Presence felt.  There were also many dry times, when it was difficult and I almost despaired at being neither here (immersed in worldly matters) nor there (knowing the truth).

Meanwhile 33 years have passed in India and I still have not been in Australia. I feel at home in Hindu Dharma. When somebody asks me, “are you Christian?” (which happens frequently), my answer is, “I am Hindu”. Have I discovered that underlying Presence that is claimed to be our essence?

Yes and no. Yes, because I had glimpses of a different state of awareness that feels special and yet completely natural. When this state occurs, life is immensely worthwhile, never mind whether pleasant or unpleasant things happen on the outside.

No, because shifting into this state and remaining in it, is not in my control. It is only occasionally ‘granted’.

Apart from discovering that there is indeed a different, blessed way of being, there are many other benefits that India granted. Death lost its sting to a great extent. I released that belief in rebirth is more than a belief – it is logical and scientific research supports it, too. The law of Karma also makes much more sense when it is stretched over many lives and it helps to accept one’s present situation and the differences between humans. This acceptance is not fatalism. It is in fact helpful in bringing about a change in the situation, if so needed. Thoughts lost their power to a certain extent, as there is a witness at the back watching them, though their flow has not stopped and so far, does not even seem to be stoppable. The most important aspect however is: I developed great trust in That what upholds me and everyone or should I say, trust in Bhagawan?  Actually, I could not imagine living without it.

I am very grateful to India’s wisdom. It is all-inclusive of every human being without putting any prior conditions. “The whole world is one family”, it declares. It does not straight-jacket the mind by demanding belief in incredible dogmas, it does not require a membership card to be saved, and it gives great support for a happy life. Hindu Dharma is not a belief system but is based on natural, universal laws and in my view clearly the best option mankind has for living together in peace and harmony.

By Jura Nanuk

Superman Pose (Viparita Shalabhasana)

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Borrowed from THE ART OF LIVING

The Superman Pose is similar to a flying superman high in the air. This is where this yoga posture gets its nickname. Sanskrit name of this asana is Viparita Shalabhasana.

viparita = inverted/ reversed; shalabh = locust; asana = pose/posture

It is pronounced as Vip-a-RHEETH-uh shah-lah-BHAAHS-uh-nuh

This posture is particularly helpful in strengthening your lower back muscles.

How to do Superman Pose?

  1. Lie on your stomach with your toes flat on the floor; chin resting on the ground.
  2. Keep your legs close together with your feet lightly touching each other.
  3. Now stretch your arms out to the front as far as you can.
  4. Take a deep breath in and now lift your chest, arms, legs and thighs off the floor.  You resemble a flying super hero – Superman! Spread the smile on your face – superheroes are always happy, especially in flight. Rather than making an effort to raise your hands and legs more, make a gentle effort to stretch your arms and legs away from your torso. So, feel the pull that is occurring at both ends. Ensure that your elbows and knees are not bent.
  5. Keep breathing with awareness; keeping your attention on the stretch.
  6. As you exhale, gently lower your chest, arms and legs.

Benefits of Superman Pose

  • Stretches and strengthens the muscles of the chest, shoulders, arms, legs, abdomen and the lower back
  • Tones the abdomen and lower back
  • Massages the spine and keeps the back supple
  • Helps stretch the chest
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Also works at the mind level – when you take off, you can’t but stay in the present moment. Even if you want to, you can’t think about any problem!
  • Can be a good workout for the abs and stomach

In the Padma Sadhana sequence, Superman Pose (Viparita Shalabhasana) forms the fifth pose, after Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).

Contraindications

Do not practice this yoga posture if you have had an abdominal surgery recently or if you are pregnant.

Yoga practice helps develop the body and mind bringing a lot of health benefits yet is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a trained Sri Sri Yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor and a Sri Sri Yoga teacher. Find a Sri Sri Yoga courseat an Art of Living Center near you. Do you need information on courses or share feedback? Write to us atinfo@srisriyoga.in.