Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Sloka 10

Hrit sthale manah swasthathaa kriya
Bhakthi yoga bhodaascha nishchitam

Word meaning
Manah swasthathaa – fixing the mind
Hrit shtale – in the heart
Kriya – is action.
Bhakthi – This is only Bhakthi,
Yoga – Yoga,
Bhodah cha – Knowledge or Jnaana also
Nischitam – definitely.

Sloka meaning
Fixing the mind in the heart is action, Bhakthi, Yoga and knowledge definitely.

This Sloka can be said to be the essence of Upadesa Saram as well as of Maharshi’s teachings.

The four main paths that lead to the ultimate reality or realization are the Bhakti Yoga, Jnaana Yoga, Raja Yoga or Yoga, Karma Yoga. There are even more yogas or paths mentioned in the Upanishads but these are the main four accepted by all people and put forth by Swami Vivekananda during his lectures and speeches.

Maharshi has explained the Bhakthi Yoga and Karma Yoga in the last slokas. In this sloka, Maharshi is putting the ultimate reality that all these paths terminate in just one action of fixing the mind into the heart or merging the mind into the heart. This merging or destruction of the mind into its source of spiritual heart or the Self is the final step to realization. A person might be following any path but still he has to have this last step of merging the mind into the real Self.

In the next slokas Maharshi explains the other two main yogas of Raja Yoga and Jnaana Yoga.

A brief analysis of these four yogas will be helpful in order for a person to choose the path that he is most suited to. One should but remember that even though a person might be following a path mainly, but still there will be mix of other paths while he is proceeding towards the reality.

Adi Sankaracharya was a follower of Jnaana and mainly propagated Jnaana through commentaries, small works and through devotional works like Bhaja Govindam and all. But Sankaracharya’s life history tells us that he did Parakaaya praveshanam or entering into the body of another person which is part of Raja Yoga as put forth by Patanjali in his yoga sutras.

Sage Narada was an ardent devotee of Narayana but the Bhagavatham and other Upanishads tell about the high knowledge that Narada had achieved and even preached. Even the Narada Bhakthi Sutraas contain knowledge in the form of devotion.

Therefore, any person who is very near to the ultimate reality will find that mix of all the different paths is happening (with knowledge or without knowledge). But, these diverse paths have different attitudes and are suited for different types of people. Hence a person should follow the right path according to his nature and with the guidance of his Guru.

Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga is one of the most suited for almost all the people. This path is suited for most people because people are so attached to action that they cannot ever refrain from doing action. A person gets really worried while standing in a queue to get darshan of the Lord in a temple – because he cannot stand still without doing any work. Because of this attitude of many of the people, karma yoga is the most suited for normal people. This path tells that one needs to do action, but without any sense of doership or egoistic attitude and without any expectations of the fruits of the action and as an offering to the Almighty.

All problems arise out of karma when Ego sense arises. This Ego makes a person think that he is the doer and thereby he expects the results of an action. Expectations are the cause of sorrows and sufferings. When a person attends an interview, he expects to be selected. Therefore, if he doesn’t get selected, he becomes sad. But on the other hand, if he gets selected, he becomes happy. This only shows that happiness and sorrow depends on expectation and thereby to the attitude of a person. This relative happiness that one gets is temporary and limited alone because once he gets selected, he becomes happy – but after a year if he is not promoted he becomes sad. The same person who got happiness from the job gets sorrow from the same job.

But, when a person expects nothing – he remains unaffected by the fruits of the actions. Since he is unaffected, actions don’t taint him. He doesn’t have any egoistic attitude that “I am the doer”. Through this unexpected action, his mind becomes pure and unattached to things.
A mind is said to be impure when it craves for things and therefore is attached to things. But when the mind doesn’t crave for any results and is unattached, it becomes pure.

Such a pure mind alone is capable of merging into the source of the Self or the spiritual heart and thereby realize one’s own real nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss Absolute.

Bhakthi Yoga
In the Karma yoga importance is given to the unexpectation of fruits (this non-expectation can occur easily if a person offers it to the Almighty), but in Bhakthi Yoga importance is given to devotion and surrender to the Lord.

The Lord or Almighty is all-pervading, all-knowing. Such an all-knowing Lord is thought about for each moment. The devotee never forgets the Lord (not even for a second). All his actions are directed towards the Lord. The Lord is given prime importance and the Lord is considered as the ultimate goal to be achieved. Therefore, the devotee is completely immersed in the thought of God alone. He sleeps God, eats God and drinks God. Therefore, the devotee merges into the God. At that time, the devotee realizes that there was no difference between God and me, but both are the same only. He realizes that I am the God whom I was praying.

This is what Maharshi explained in the previous slokas that higher than the contemplation of a God different from oneself is the contemplation that I am God.

Ultimately, in bhakthi yoga too, the devotees reaches the state of Para Bhakthi where the difference between God and the devotee vanishes. Here it is important to note that even though the devotee merges into God, the existence or the Self of the devotee doesn’t vanish (as is normally thought amongst vaishnavas and other bhakthaas). Here what is meant by merging is that the devotee loses his individuality and realizes the eternality and totality of Consciousness which he had thought to be limited and individualistic. This same Consciousness is the very essence of God also. Therefore, God and the devotee are not different in essence. But their difference is seemingly existent in names and forms – and other qualities like knowledge, all-pervasiness.

Raja Yoga
This path is also known as simply Yoga. This path is very much different from Hatha Yoga where emphasis is mainly given on bodily and physical strength alone. Here, it is control of the mind. Upanishads proclaim that when the mind is controlled, the prana is controlled. When prana is controlled, it is control of the Self and merging into the Self (one’s own real nature). This merging is temporary realization of one’s own eternal nature.

It is the mind that is the cause of all bondage and sorrows in this world. Therefore, through control of the mind, the entire world formed out of thoughts is controlled. When the thoughts are controlled, there remains nothing except the thinker which is the Self or pure Consciousness, one without a second.

This path of Raja Yoga as propounded in the Upanishads and put forth by Maharshi Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras is also called Astha Anga Yoga or Eight-fold Yoga. This yoga has eight different steps of Yama, Niyama, Asana etc.
This path is highly practical. A person who follows this path can know the different stages in realization and this has been beautifully put forth in the Yoga Sutras.

Maharshi will be dealing with Raja Yoga in the next 5 slokas.

Jnaana Yoga
This is the path of knowledge as propounded in the Upanishads or the Knowledge portion of the Vedas. This is one of the easiest and most important path to realization.

This path has been propounded by Adi Sankaracharya and other great acharyas. Maharshi explains this path in 15 slokas from 15th sloka to the 30th sloka.

The Upanishads proclaim that any path a person is following, he reaches a stage where he has to realize the ultimate reality through the knowledge about himself. This is what is termed as Enquiry into one’s own nature or Vichara.

The path of Jnana is considered one of the most important because all other paths will lead one to this path only where a person realizes the ultimate reality of the world.

The Upanishads proclaim that there can be relief from sorrow only by knowledge about one’s own nature. All the sorrow are not real, they are illusory creations alone which seem to exist due to ignorance. Therefore, the only solution to this illusory sorrow and sufferings is the real knowledge that there is no suffering.

Each person is the Self or pure Consciousness alone, one without a second. This reality has been forgotten due to ignorance. This ignorance has to be removed and can be removed only through knowledge about one’s nature. When this ultimate reality of one’s own nature is known, then all sorrows, all dualities vanish – and the pure Self or Consciousness alone remains.

The nature of the Self and the reality of the world has been realized by saints from time immemorial. These saints have put their experience in the Vedas which is not a creation of the saints but which are just discoveries of the saints. Vedas are immortal and they are the very words of God or Brahman. Through the study of the Upanishadic or knowledge portion of the Vedas, a person realizes that I am not this body, I am not the mind – but I am the Self or pure Consciousness of the nature of eternal Bliss. The dual world that is being perceived is unreal because everything that seems to exist is only the Self or Consciousness. Without the Consciousness, there is neither any world nor any objects.

The spiritual Heart
Maharshi in this sloka mentions that all paths are one and the same only. They lead a person to the ultimate reality alone.

What is the ultimate reality??? Is the ultimate reality realization of a God sitting in heavens or in the Himalayas?? Is realization leaving this body and going to Vaikunta or Himalayas????
Maharshi answers that ultimate reality is not different from one’s own very nature. The Self or pure Consciousness alone is the ultimate or absolute reality. Even God is nothing but Consciousness alone. God is one’s own very Self. Realization is not liberation after death and going to heaven or Vaikunta but realization is realizing one’s own eternal nature of Consciousness.

This Self or Consciousness can be realized as residing in the spiritual heart termed as Hridayam in Sanskrit. This heart is not the physical heart which circulates blood and does other operations. Hridayam is that from which the thoughts spring. All thoughts have the ‘I-thought’ as their substratum. All thoughts arise after the ‘I-thought’. This ‘I-thought’ is what is called as Ego or Ahamkara. Only when the I-thought is born, all other thoughts spring up. This is the reason why in deep sleep, since a person doesn’t have any individualistic idea or I-thought or Ego (Ego is identification with the body and mind), there are no thoughts. And since there are no thoughts, there is pure bliss inherent in the Self & this is being experienced or rejoiced by the person.

Since, ‘I-thought’ springs up and dies off, it requires a source. This source is the spiritual heart or hridayam. This is the place where the Self or pure Consciousness resides (without any impurities). It is very easy to understand that if the Consciousness is there, then only I-thought and other thoughts arise. Therefore, the I-thought should have its source in Consciousness. This Consciousness resides in the spiritual heart of each person.

Now one should not think that Consciousness resides only in the spiritual heart. Because spiritual heart is neither within nor outside. Since a seeker is very much attached to the body, a place is told from where the I-thought springs up and the place where God and Consciousness reside. This Hridayam is neither outside nor inside because there is no place where Consciousness is not present.

Consciousness or the Self is beyond time, space and causation. Therefore it cannot be limited to any place. But since the mind is extroverted, it needs to be fixed to a place and the place or thing to be fixed is the spiritual heart or the place of source of I thought – the place where Consciousness remains without any impurities.

The Consciousness or the “I” that we experience now is mixed with the Ego and other things. It seems to be limited by the body and mind. But hridayam is where the Consciousness remains without any limitations (because here in this place, there is no Ego and hence no thoughts – only when thought is there impurities come and they veil the real Consciousness and Bliss of the Consciousness).

The Katha Upanishad says about the Self and its place
“Anoor aneeyaan mahatho maheeyaan atma asya janthor nihitam guhaayaam”

The Self is subtlest of the subtle and big than the biggest – it is present in the intellect-cave or heart-cave of all beings.

This heart cave is what is called Hridayam. Another term for this heart is Guha or Cave. Similar to things hidden inside a cave, this Self or pure Consciousness is hidden inside the spiritual heart. When a diamond or ratna is kept inside a cave, the light of the ratna comes out of the cave and illumines things outside the cave. Similarly this Self or pure Consciousness present inside the heart illumines all the objects in the world.

Krishna mentions in lot of places that “God resides in the heart of all beings”. The heart being mentioned here is the spiritual heart which is the source of all thoughts, all objects – everything in the world. This spiritual heart is the place of Consciousness and of God also. This only means that God is the same as Consciousness alone.

When the mind which is full of thoughts is fixed on the spiritual heart, that is in God or in the pure Consciousness which is one’s own very nature, ignorance veils are removed and eternal bliss of the Self is rejoiced. Thus the person gets liberated from sorrow and sufferings. This alone is Para Bhakthi, this alone is Yoga (or removal of the thoughts from the mind), this alone is ultimate action and also Jnaana or knowledge.

This sloka can be said to the very essence of the whole work of Upadesa Saram where the four paths to the ultimate reality is propounded. In this sloka, Maharshi summarizes the final step to all the four paths which is nothing but fixing of the mind unto the ultimate reality of Consciousness or God.

Maharshi explains Yoga or Raja Yoga (control of mind) in the next 5 slokas.


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