Saturday, November 26, 2005


Recently Puttabarthi Sai Baba the saint who's ashram is near our office reached the age of 80. When I was discussing this with a couple of colleagues, one of them said that personally he does not believe in 'God men' like the Sai or the Pope or others. I told him that it was a mistake from our part to worship human beings as Gods (its this blind hero worship that gives rise to dangerous cults led by con men) but still genuine saints deserve to be held in esteem for the sacrifices they make on a day to day basis to maintain their discipline and use that self control as an example in our own lives. I asked him whether he can perform the simple sacrifice of staying without salt in his food for just a week.

There are several countries in this world that have contributed several things. There are countries that have produced athletes, others have produced warriors and conquerors and still others have produced businessmen and entrepreneurs. India’s greatest contribution is that it is the land of saints, philosophers and spirituality.

In today's world where the emphasis is on a luxurious life filled with every vice imaginable and propagated by every form of the media, it is most difficult indeed for any human being to lead the life of a saint making their sacrifice all the more commendable. Its a miracle for the Sai to remain a saint and that too in a city of pubs and vices like Bangalore. No wonder he stays in Whitefield and never goes to MG Road :-). Yes they do slip up and they do make mistakes and they do sometimes fail in their discipline. After all they are human beings. Its like having a pot of milk with just a drop of poison in it. We do not appreciate the pot full of milk but just point out that it is now poisoned. Such is the life of saints today. My colleague understood the internal struggle men of faith have to put up to maintain their discipline. He also admitted that its only of late that he had lost faith in today’s saints while he really appreciated the contributions of various saints in the ages gone by.

After the discussion I had with my colleague one of the questions was left unanswered in my mind. Why should saints make these sacrifices. Why should they undergo such self-denial. Isn’t it unnatural for a human being to deny himself/herself so much? When I asked my colleague whether he can stay without salt, I asked myself, when salt is available in abundance and cheaply, why should I deny myself?

The Origin of Value Systems

There are two things that separate human beings from the rest of the species on this planet. One is called self consciousness and the other is our ability to write down our experiences so that future generations can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. Ideally these two aspects should lead human beings to better lives and better happiness as time goes on if only we follow the words of the wise.

The wise men of the past have indeed written down their experiences and learnings and it is these that we today call the scriptures or the Vedas. These people of experience were called “Seers” which was formed from “See ‘ers” which meant “people who could see” or visionaries. Its these seers who were later called Saints.

Based on their experiences they found which actions led to long term happiness and which actions gave short happiness followed by sorrow. Its based on these experiences that value systems were formed. Any value system’s basic intent is to help make us healthy, wealthy and most importantly wise.

Some of these values taught to us over the years include respecting our parents, teachers, elders and God and following their advice in all walks of life because they are our genuine well-wishers. Simple living, high thinking, self control, cleanliness in mind and body, respect for life, patience, forbearance, love and devotion and a contented mind are all various values given to us from generation to generation because our ancestors have realized their value.

Being pleasant in the words we say, not carrying tales of others behind their backs and avoiding vices like wine, immoral women, meat and gambling are all encouraged because they lead to long-term happiness.

Unfortunately as time goes on, fewer and fewer people continue to follow these traditions and values and fail to gain from the learnings of past mistakes and continue making the same mistakes again and again. Even worse they make fun of those who do try to follow traditions calling such people “old fashioned” without realizing that those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Even this was foreseen by our forefathers who divided the cycle of life into 4. The Krita Yuga where 100% people follow traditions, the Treta yuga where 75% follow traditions, the Dwapara Yuga where 50% follow traditions and the Kali Yuga (today) where only 25% follow traditions. Even within our own families we are more likely to see our grandparents had some traditions of which our parents follow maybe 75% of which we follow only half and our children may only follow a quarter.

The Necessity of Saints

This alarming erosion of values may mean that soon such values which have been passed on from generation to generation may soon be lost altogether and one day when we wake up from the illusion of short term happiness we live in, we may not be able to find the answers we seek for long term happiness. To ensure that the sayings of the wise are not lost forever, its important that at least some people continue to follow these traditions to set an example for others.

When we are hurt, or in doubt or in fear, or in complete loss of hope who do we turn to? Even when a patient in a hospital is beyond help, a doctor always tells his relatives to pray because miracles do occur. At these times if we do not have a temple or a church or a priest or faith in God to help us in troubled times, to console us , to guide us to give us hope again and to hear soothing words of wisdom imagine the impact such a situation can have on us. It is for this that the existence of wise people following traditions really matter.

So coming back to the original question. Why should I deny myself?

Leading a life of tremendous rigour, practicing prayer and abstaining from social evils takes tremendous discipline which cannot be achieved today that easily by a normal man. It takes discipline of the mind and the body.

In many ways leading such a life is like being an Olympic athlete. It requires tremendous sacrifice, discipline and determination. To control the body an Olympic athlete needs adrenalin and testosterone which he triggers by tremendous amounts of exercise and dieting. Similarly to make sure that a Saint is not affecting by physical desires which are caused by hormones, they too have a special diet which is mostly vegetarian and special fruits that reduce desire like papaya, pineapple and other herbs. They totally abstain from meat, spicy food, too much salt and oil and needless to say alcohol to ensure the hidden animal in them does not come out. They also control their mind using meditation, prayer and Yoga which are all accepted by today’s Medical professionals. Why is it that we do not laugh at an Olympic athlete but only make fun of a saint’s way of life?

Yes there are scandals within sainthood just as there are scandals of doping among Olympic athletes. But why do we still celebrate the Olympics? Its because it shows what a human being can achieve if he sets his mind on pushing the boundaries of his body. In similar ways a Saint’s life shows what human beings can achieve if we push the boundaries of our body, mind and soul.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The journey within

"The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books - a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."
_Albert Einstein

Recently I had a discussion on a forum why people stop believing in God over a period of time. Most of us believe in God not necessarily because of our own experiences but because our parents told us so, our family, our community and our upbringing shape our beliefs over a period of time. By the time we are grown, we are so sure about our beliefs without even knowing why such beliefs came into being in the first place. Its because of this that we have lost the reason why we are following certain traditions. We follow them because its a rule in the house and not because of the spiritual benefits they actually provide. Many say Shlokas or perform Pooja as a routine without really enjoying the spiritual benefits they were meant for.

Seeing this their children simply start feeling there is no value to these traditions, no value to these rituals and start asking is there God?

There are atheists who are just as strong believers in "no God" but there are also those who believe in God just as strongly without knowing why. There are those in-between who try to experience God who we term as Seekers. The problem is that these Seekers want to believe in God but do not know how to get in touch with him.

The Evidence of God

There is nothing wrong in requiring evidence before accepting something, nothing wrong at all, but are we open enough to accept that the evidence when it presents itself may not be in the form that we seek? The question is do we have the mental maturity to understand the evidence when it presents itself?

For example assuming God appears before us, how do you accept this being is really God? How do you know God for example did not appear in the bus you just travelled home? What if God doesn't really look like what the pics depict him as? What if God is a she or appears in the form of an animal or plant?

How would our reaction be if someone appeared before us and told us he/she is God? I am not a christian myself, but I heard that the last time someone claimed he was God (or atleast related to him) he ended up being nailed to a cross. Lemme imagine what would happen if God came into Times Square, initially everyone would be filled with disbelief and then people would ask him to do miracles to prove himself, then people would sell TShirts and caps in his name, pluck his hair and teeth out to sell as relics and god forbid make him appear in Oprah. They would make a hollywood film "Its a God's life" starring Tom hanks (or somebody). Some would say that God is just an alien descended from outer space with superior science to perform the "miracles" and declare a holy war against the false believers. There would be a huge Media outcry for a few months and at the end of it all it would be back to normal service and we would once again forget God ever existed (unless you want him to keep appearing and disappearing on your beck and call like a Genie in a lamp). All this is even assuming that God is a Physical entity that exists outside you. All these events would take our attention away from what God is really all about.

The saying goes...

What you see is a lie
What you hear is a lie
The truth lies in what
you experience for yourself.

By not appearing before us, God gives us the freedom and opportunity to seek him and visualize him in whatever way we choose and not forcing one way on us. By not performing miracles he makes us take responsibilities for our own actions (so what if I don't study, there's always God). The mistake we all make is to seek him so hard outside when he is right there within you (ahambrahma) with all the answers. The question is do you really know how to look within you?

The Spiritual aspect and the Sixth Sense

Every human being is made up of these aspects.

Physical - based on our 5 senses
Mental - Thought processes, logical reasoning, creative thinking (Your IQ)
Emotional - Your Emotions (there are 9 major emotions), Love, anger, fear etc., (Your EQ)

For all this you use only 8% of your brain called the Conscious. 92% of your brain is the untapped subconcious. Your spiritual aspect develops the more you tap into your subconscious and the more you dwell and meditate and rise above your consciousness with a heightened sixth sense. One way (and the best way for me) is through meditation.

If you just sit in a meditation pose for a while with eyes closed nothing is going to happen. You will get fidgety, start thinking about your stress factors or the bills you have to pay and you will see that your mind is racing and thinking of a million things even when you seem calm. When your mind is in so much turmoil, how can you connect with God? Most people can't even sit in a meditation pose and concentrate for more than 5 minutes. This is because your brain is in "active" mode or the brain wave patterns are in hyper gear. The other mode is your sleep patterns which are also of no use in this discussion. You need to achieve a state between conciousness and unconsciousness, a state between active and asleep or the "alpha" state of brain wave patterns as it is called Scientifically or the "Samadhi" state as it is known spiritually for your meditation session to be fruitful. (Search the net yourself or look up your science library for more info on the alpha state). In this state you will find that your mind is clear and empty like a baby when its born and you will suddenly feel loose and free not attached to your body. Its in this state that your spiritual aspect and sixth sense is in the maximum presence and slowly you will find yourself concentrating more and more and going deeper and deeper within yourself.

There is no hocus pocus or mumbo jumbo or crystal ball or equipment that is needed, all that is required is you. If needed, learn from a yoga master or doctor how to enter the alpha state and then proceed to explore yourself, not guided by anyone else. With time you will see that you become a deeper and more insightful person and as time goes on you will learn more about yourself, answers to your questions will come flooding to you. You will start sensing the presence of God in the small things in life. The people around you will see you become a wise, calm and mature person and the people who sit next to you will feel peaceful and relaxed in your presence. Then one day when you are mature enough to understand, what you seek will be revealed to you in a unique way which can be only understood by you.

Always remember, if ever you feel God is not there with you,
it really means you are not there with God.