Tag Archives: Swami Dayananda Saraswati

The brain from top to bottom

Among the subjects which are indirectly connected to the vision of Vedanta and therefore worth exploring are the brain, the human behavior, the emotions and the nature of consciousness.

I found the following website to be an amazingly rich source of information on these subjects. It is called ‘The brain from top to bottom’ and is an initiative affiliated and funded by the Canadian Institute of Health, Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and addiction.

It includes different subject matters from the most recent ‘The emergence of consciousness’ to ‘Emotions and the brain’ and ‘Pleasure and pain‘ to cite a few of them. What is remarkable is that the topics can be explored at different levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and organization (social, psychological, neurological, cellular, molecular).

As an illustration, one can go to the different sub topics for ‘The emergence of consciousness’ at the psychological and beginner level : What is consciousness, Philosophical positions on consciousness, Theories of consciousness in cognitive sciences, Flaws in classical model of consciousness.These sub topics can be explored at an intermediate or advanced level.

To know more about the sense of I, the self, the unconscious and consciousness according to Vedanta, you can view and download the pdf article ‘Psychology in Vedanta’ by Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

TED Talk : The profound journey of compassion

A TED talk on compassion by our teacher Swami Dayananda Saraswati

http://www.ted.com/talks/swami_dayananda_saraswati.html

A transcript of the talk can be found at the same link. Do not hesitate to share your comments on this video and your views on what compassion is for you !

You can see more videos on the theme of the Charter for Compassion at http://www.ted.com/themes/the_charter_for_compassion.html and the Charter for Compassion website at http://charterforcompassion.org/

What is limitlessness ?

This is the first video of a series we are planning to post soon on our website Discover Vedanta, the Yoga of Objectivity. Even if it can be slightly improved technically, it is worth watching because of the  striking simplicity and elegance of its content.

When one hears for the first time from the Upanishads ‘you are limitless’ it may seem preposterous. Watch how Neema Majmudar unfolds in a brief and powerful manner the vision of Vedanta about ourselves, just by looking into the word  ‘limitless’ (anantam in Sanskrit).

Notes :

1. All our thanks to Dino who shot this video last year in South India during our intensive retreat !

2. In case you’re having trouble playing a video on You Tube and it gets stuck at one point (and will not continue to load), or plays in a choppy fashion: please go the You Tube help at http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=74662

Some insights into karma

Tangled web of life

What a tangled web we weave... http://www.flickr.com/photos/pandiyan/110413900/

This post addresses the following questions about karma: “How to understand that there is an order of karma governing our lives? And how is it possible that billions of actions of human beings are interconnected across time and space? Is there an entity called ‘God’ who is ‘computing’ these actions to produce results we come across in our lives in the form of the pleasant and unpleasant situations (punya and papa)?”

Let us start from a broad perspective. The vision of the Upanishads is that all that is here is Isvara (which is all knowledge and power). The Upanishads do not say that there is God on one side and the world on the other side. It does not say that after having created the world, God stands separate from it, looks at our actions, and decides to reward or punish us accordingly. This idea implies that God, being outside the world in a remote place called heaven, watches over our actions and gives us moments of joy and suffering according to our behavior.

The vision of God in the Upanishads is totally different. It says everything is pervaded, sustained, permeated by Isvara, like a clay pot is pervaded by clay. It unfolds that every form resolves into another form (pot to clay, atoms, particles etc…) and ultimately there is only one “all knowledge and power” which arranges these particles and atoms in a given order so that this so called universe with varied names and forms can come about. When it is clear to me that there is only “all knowledge and power” which manifests in every form to make it what it is, from the infinitesimally small bacteria to the unimaginably large stars and galaxies, including myself and the events that occur in my life, it changes my understanding of the world fundamentally.  Let us see how at so many levels, the entire universe can be seen as this knowledge and power manifested in many different orders.

As our teacher Swami Dayananda says,

“There is a physical universe that follows a physical order which governs the position of stars, galaxies, planets etc. Even a dual phenomenon—the dual behavior of an electron, for instance—is a part of that order. The physical order also covers my physical body, my mind and my senses.

There is also a biological order because of which there are living beings in this planet. Even in another galaxy, life forms would follow a biological order. There is a physiological order because of which there is illness and health. There is genetics which connects our bodies with generations which past before us- from our great grand father to father etc. There is a psychological order as well. Your anxiety, worry and fear—all these follow a certain order. There is an unconscious in everybody, and that follows a psychological order. Our own psychology is dependent upon people we have met and interacted with and the type of mental framework they enjoyed. Every person’s behavior is within that order. A person cannot behave differently, unless he or she wants to change. Then there is also a cognitive order. The fact that we are able to know, or not know, any given thing reveals an epistemological order.

In addition to presence of all the above orders that are known to us, Upanishads reveal that there is an order of dharma, an order of right and wrong. This order is commonly sensed by all of us; we don’t require someone to preach to us that we should not hurt others. Every being is aware of that. I know very well that I do not want to be hurt by others, and that others do not want to be hurt by me. That I want others to speak truth to me is very clear, and that they expect the same thing from me also is clear. That I don’t want to be taken advantage of, taken for a ride, is very, very clear to me. And I know others expect the same. Law of dharma is the matrix that provides the necessary basis upon which human beings can conduct transactions and interact with the world. The order of dharma is necessary because we are not totally programmed. Being self-conscious, we have the freedom to choose. Our capacity to chose is guided by law of dharma which gives us the understanding of what is right and wrong. That also is part of the order. When you are acting against that order of dharma, there is a corresponding karma. There is papa—a result of your improper action. When you act in accord with dharma, you get punya, which would result in conducive situations. If you understand that there is a law of karma, then you are within order.”

It is true that the dimension of order at the level of karma and dharma seems more difficult to appreciate than the other orders. To comprehend these two new dimensions, what is needed is only to extend our understanding of the physical, biological, etc. orders to karma and dharma. The order of karma and dharma ‘connect’ all our actions, past and present, to those of billions of other human beings and provide us results in form of pleasant and pleasant situations that unfold everyday in our lives. There is here an incredible knowledge and power at work.

In fact every order, be it biological, psychological connects so many variables and events which occurred since the beginning of the universe around 14 billion years ago to give the present state that we are all experiencing. If order in every discipline connects events of millions years to give us the result of today, then when the Upanishads tell us it also includes karma and dharma, it is something that is very plausible, since it does not contradict reasoning and conforms with the way every other order works. I have no way to verify it, that is true, because I have no access to details, as people ask, of the way the whole thing is ‘computed’. But it is a possibility I can be open to, since it makes a lot of sense.

When this vision sips into me, and I am more in touch with realities of existence, then my perspective of life can change totally. As Swami Dayananda says,

We don’t say God is infallible; we say the infallible is God. To say that God is infallible is problematic; it is based on a belief in God, a faith in God. One politician in India lost his wife. She was a great devotee of Ganesha. When she died, he said, “I don’t believe in God anymore.” Why? “He took away my wife.” That type of faith is shallow. You should not merely say that God is infallible. You have to see that the infallible is God, because he is in the form of order. No order is fallible. The physical order is not fallible. The biological order or psychological order—any order—is not fallible. That is why it is order. Therefore, we say the infallible is God. This cognitive change, this shift in the scales of your vision, gives you a capacity to relax. You can relax into the order.

The apparent disorder and turmoil in my life becomes in order. My feelings of helplessness are in order as well. I can relate to the “all knowledge and power” which is manifest in the form of the universe and pray: ‘Isvara, grant me the capacity to understand how the events coming to me, unexpected, unwanted for are within an order that is not separate from you’. This gives me the courage and the serenity to accept situations as they unfold, because I know they are the result of an infallible order. It further enables me to assess the situation more objectively, and then act according to what I can do.

Surya Tahora & Neema Majmudar

To know more, some links to Vedanta, the Yoga of Objectivity:

[1] The equation ‘You are that’, the cause of the universe

[2] The equation ‘You are that’, the nature of ‘that’

[3] Article in pdf format, The vedic vision of God

[4] The crux of Vedanta, Orders of reality

Other links :

[1] Part 1 of Death, Rebirth, and Everything in Between- A scientific and philosophical exploration by Carter Phipps, What is enlightenment magazine.

Reality & responsibility

Interconnectedness

Interconnectedness ( Flickr - Dave Gates)

A prevalent assumption about Vedanta is that since it says the nature of the reality of the world is mithya (not absolutely real), it thereby encourages human being to discard any activity in the world and even disconnect oneself from it. The other misconception is also that Vedanta is a tradition which is concerned only with one’s personal liberation and therefore very egoistic. How true are these assumptions?

First of all, this understanding of mithya has to be corrected. Mithya does not mean false or illusory and therefore devoid of value, but is an ontological term revealing our understanding of an object in terms of its reality. Vedanta does not say the whole universe is an illusion, and hence one should run away it; rather it emphasizes that  the world is nothing but the manifestation of  one and non-dual reality, appearing as many because of all- power and all- intelligence (Isvara).

Second, Vedanta repeatedly affirms that in order to gain the knowledge of the reality of oneself, one should grow as a human being in terms of compassion and widen our narrow perspective of things. The initial view of ourselves as a individual separated from everything and confronted to a hostile world of events and people is to be replaced by the view that all that is here is Isvara, manifesting in the form of an order at all levels (physical, biological, psychological, dharma and karma, etc.) thereby connecting at a very fundamental level all living beings within the entire universe. As a result of understanding interdependence and interconnectedness of everything,  an individual is expected to grow to become aware of what is to be done by him in different situations he is placed in and contribute whatever is in his or her domain of influence to this world,. This clearly entrusts human beings with more responsibility towards the universe rather than disconnecting him from it.

Also, as one becomes more objective and grows as an individual, one become much more efficient and lucid in one’s actions. Because actions do not stem anymore from a subjective and egoistic view of the world driven by accomplishments of mere personal ends but out of one’s understanding of what is.

Thus, the person who is pursuing freedom, as well as the one who knows the reality unfolded in Vedanta, can very well be involved in various activities meant for the well being of others. As Bhagavad Gita V-25 says:

Sages whose impurities have been destroyed, whose doubts have been resolved, who have self-mastery (and) who are happily engaged in the good of all beings, gain liberation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who is an unparalleled teacher of Vedanta, is a living example of the person who has proper assimilation of the teaching, conducts in this world. Besides being a teacher, his is involved in various activities such as social service, promotion of peace and dialogue between religions at a global level, preservation of Indian culture and traditions, etc. The most significant areas in which he has been working for more than 40 years are summarized here below:

  • Teaching of Vedanta
  • Research and Publications
  • Establishing organizations for providing education and health care for people in rural India
  • Several initiatives to bring world thinkers together to promote peace and harmony within India as well as internationally.

Go further with the following links to Discover Vedanta, Being alive to what is

[1] Article in pdf format, The vision of Vedanta

[2] Maturity & knowledge, The individual and the total

[3] Maturity & knowledge, How life become a means to gains maturity & Being in harmony with the universal ethical order

[4] Action and result, What is karma yoga?

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For those who want to have more details about the work our teacher is engaged in at various levels, I have inserted here some excerpts of an interview of him, done on 7 Sept 2008 in Saylorsburg by Dr. V. Swaminathan. (Source : http://www.arshavidya.in/) :

VS: Swamiji, this is an incredible amount of work! Let us begin with teaching, that being an area very dear to you. Can Swamiji please speak about his work in this area and about the Gurukulams set up in India and overseas?

Swamiji: I have been teaching Vedanta for almost fifty years now. Currently, I teach courses and hold camps for about 5 to 6 months each year and also deliver public talks in a number of cities in India and overseas. As a student I recognized that for a mumuksu to study Vedanta is not simple – one needs a good teacher, a place to stay, bhiksha – each one of these requires grace. Therefore, I created facilities for a three-year program of study at Rishikesh, Saylorburg, Anaikatti and lastly in Nagpur. The long-term study program has a syllabus that includes study of Vedanta prakaranas, Bhagvad Gita, Upanisads and finally chatussutri. All these imply the study of Sankara Bhashya in the original. Along with these studies, the Sanskrit language is also taught with Paninian grammar. Besides all this, there are daily meditation and satsangas (which are often question and answer sessions). I along with my students have taught ten of these three-year programs (eight in India and two in the United States) and many of my students from these programs are now teaching all over India and abroad. My students are totally free to pursue what they like after the course. I encourage them to share their knowledge and be contributors wherever they are.

In addition to these, the Arsha Vidya Centre for Research and Publication based in Chennai is publishing a number of books on the teachings. About 20 books have been published so far. There are different series of books, like the series on ‘Public Talks,’ ‘Moments with oneself,’ ‘Vakya Vicara,’ ‘Mantras and Stotras’ and ‘Upanisad’ series. In addition to these series, there are other books like ‘Visnu Sahasranama,’ ‘Collection of essays’ etc. published else where. All these books are available at the bookstores in our Gurukulams and so are a number of DVDs, CDs and tapes on various topics.

Q: Swamiji, can you tell us about the AIM for Seva, a unique movement initiated by you and its activities and the necessity for such a movement?

Swamiji: Ours is a culture in which there is no place for competition. A child inherited the profession of its father. The competition was only how well you are able to do whatever you did and what your commitment is. Therefore it is a spiritual society. The duties called svadharma, were well defined. Duties remain the same for everyone. The inner composition, disposition alone undergoes transformation.

Competition means you have to follow norms. Without rules there is no competition. Whether it is a game or business, you need to follow rules. The rules have to grow upon you. The competition that we see now is thrown upon us. Therefore people are insecure and you find the symptoms of the insecurity in terms of grabbing and hoarding and taking advantage of each situation. This is a society which is unknown to us, and now it is seen to be very rampant.

Therefore, I thought we should create a new chemistry. In our culture there is such a thing as daanam, sharing, caring. We are caring people. We do not throw our elders to old age homes. We have homes and we keep them with us and we respect them. Therefore, we have to emphasize some of these very important values in our own being and these values have to surface. For this, a movement is necessary. You need a movement and therefore I started this movement called, All India Movement for Seva.

I started doing various things in the villages around Anaikatti, Coimbatore, where we have our Gurukulam. I was looking for one thing that can really initiate this movement. I asked one of the women in the village, ‘What do you expect us to do? What do you want?’ She said, ‘Please start a home for the children. We want our children to study. Now we cannot send the children to school because the school is 5 miles away. Since there are wild animals around, we cannot send the children to school. Please start a home.’ That struck me as this is what we should do. Our Chairman was Sri R. Venkataraman, ex-president of India, and he said that we will start one Student Home (Chatralaya) in every district to begin with. That was the commitment with which we started. There are now almost 62 Chatralayas in 13 states.

Then we started schools, hostels, hospitals, mobile medical services. There are 5 hospitals located in Tamilnadu, Gujarat, U.P and Bihar. We are even running a Government hospital and it is functioning well. In Mathura there is an eye-hospital. 7 Health care centers are functioning in Tamilnadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Mobile Out Reach Programmes─where a mobile unit equipped with medical facilities visits the villages─are functioning in Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. There are Day Care Centres for children below 5 years. In Anaikatti alone there are 170 of them. Bengal is the only state where we do not have anything.We hope that we will be able to do something there also.

As part of Tsunami activity, 3 desalination plants have been set up in Pazhaverkadu area near Chennai. We have also provided boats, fishing nets, new homes and also renovated old homes for fishermen. Kofi. A. Annan – Secretary General, UNO recognized our activities and AIM for Seva was mentioned in his report. All this has happened within these few years. So we have a good track record within a short span of a few years. I could do all this because of my disciples.

I have told all the acharyas of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha that in their name I am doing all these activities of AIM for Seva. They should also do this work. Individually they are all doing now. There is a certain awareness that has been created and we need to do this work.

Any movement needs to reach a critical point and from that point alone it will take off. I think we are somewhere around. The new chemistry has to come – CARING. Just to CARE. Why? Because there is no other way a person can really mature. The whole process of maturing implies the transformation from being a consumer to a contributor, even though one continues to be a consumer. The one who contributes more than what one consumes is a grown up person. Otherwise, the person is still a child. Therefore one has got to discover oneself as a contributor and that inner transformation has to take place. That is India. Giving is India. We have to therefore, emphasize this caring – programmes of caring. We should get the people involved because, the problems are so enormous. Even the people who see the problems cannot do anything, because they are emotionally paralyzed. They cannot think of doing anything. Therefore we have to create an avenue for the people to pitch in. It maybe small help, but when there are a lot of people pitching in, then that becomes a movement. So that’s the whole vision. All our sadhus are also engaged in this work. There are also a lot of people who are quietly doing small things individually. But all of them have to be brought together in a movement. This is the movement.

VS: Can you shed some light on your activities in the area of education?

Swamiji: I established the Dayananda Educational Trust to provide quality education to the economically backward sections of rural Tamil Nadu, particularly Manjakudi and surrounding villages. The Trust has enabled a model for rural education. Nearly 3,500 students attend schools/college daily and we provide in one campus pre-grade to post-graduation education. Both the school and college offer co-education. The trust has also under it the management, two other schools in nearby villages (Semmangudi and Mudikondan). Overall, the schools and college serve the need of ~ 200 villages within a 30 km radius. By and large the student body consists of 1st generation students. We have both commuting as well as residential students. The schools and college are run with high efficiency.

The facilities include a hygienic canteen and adequate toilet facilities. Over the years, there is a steady increase in the enrollment of girls in the college, indicating the progressive empowerment of women. More parents are sending their children to schools and there is a greater awareness of the importance of education leading to economic well being and improved standard of living. Further, there is also an increased awareness of health, hygiene, and nutrition in families through students. The Manjakudi schools and college are indeed a good model for replication in other similar rural areas.

I should also mention about Krupa, an institution for the mentally challenged that was established in 1998. The Dayananda – B.D. Goenka Seva Trust is managing the institution. Krupa was started with the aim of helping mentally challenged children to get proper care and give their parents a better quality of life. Krupa is an institution of caring. It has 25 residents currently and the aim is to grow the number gradually.

VS: Swamiji, you have been participating and taking a lead role in several global initiatives for promoting harmony among religions and world peace. Please tell us about them.

Swamiji: I have been participating in several global initiatives to further the cause of peace between nations. Some of these include:
The International Inter-religious Encounter, held at Monterrey, Mexico, Sept 2007
World Youth Peace Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 2004
World Youth Peace Conference, Kyoto, Japan 2003
Dharma Conference in New Jersey, July 2003
Conference on preservation of religious diversity held at New Delhi
(inaugurated by Prime Minister Sri A.B.Vajpayee and attended by the Dalai
Llama among others)
Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, Geneva,
Switzerland, Oct 2002
World Council for Preservation of Religious Diversity Bangkok, June 2002
International Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity in Delhi, 2001.
Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations in 2000 in which I led the
Hindu delegation
The fifth Global Peace Initiative of Women convened in Geneva by Ms. Dena
Merriam held in Jaipur, India during March 2008
Upcoming Hindu-Buddhist meet in Cambodia under the auspices of the World Council of Women religious leaders in Feb 2009

VS: (…)Swamiji, Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about the important activities you are currently engaged in. I am sure people will find this very informative and will come forward in larger numbers to support these initiatives. Pranams Swamiji.

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