Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why Was I Born in the Place in Which I Was Born?

Why was I born where I was born? I have been looking at, and not judging, the Karmic influence on people of countries where religion molds their every thought and emotion in contrast to countries where this depth of history is not present. It has nothing to do with which is better or worse, bad or good...it's just something I have been looking at. It is absolutely possible to look at something without judging or criticising it, without putting it into a category, just looking at it, carefully.
In the US, where every religion is present, there are no dominating religions, and cultures and traditions change with every generation, people don't have the 'weight' of history that can give them depth, yet this same history/culture/tradition can bog one down and cloud one’s minds. But, instead of using this ‘weightlessness’ to our advantage, we run around searching for some kind of foundation, 'something to believe in'. We become like chickens, i.e., birds with wings that cannot fly, continuously pecking the ground for bits of something here and there. On the other hand, in countries where religion, culture, and tradition are deeply rooted into people's everyday lives, people tend to lose their free will to think. We get so attached to our roots we become like horses with blinders, only seeing what is just in front of our noses. Instead of using the depth of our history to dig further, we sit pompously on the crumbling mound of dirt we call our home convinced it is the only place of truth and beauty in the world. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sri Adi Shankaracharya Sadācārānusandhānam Verses 31

It is a beautiful, rainy day here in Chamonix. Rain puts me in an introspective mood (more than the usual reflective mood in which I seem to be abiding lately.) This Adi Shankara​ verse of the day is quite appropriate. Thanks again to Vidyabhaskar(aka Rentsch Bhāskar Chris​) for the magnificent translation. 

Sadācārānusandhānam Verses 31

"In the bliss of reality,
in the sky of consciousness,
illusion is like a cloud
the mind is like lightning
the feeling of 'I' is like thunder
and thoughts are like the downpour of the rain.”

Śankara Bhagavatpāda, 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hastamalakiyam - Sri Shankaracharya

An incredible Sanskrit scholar from Switzerland, Rentsch Bhaskar (Vidyabhaskarji), whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago, thanks to Siddharthaji has been translating some of Sri Adi Shankaracharya’s lesser known texts. I have been fortunate enough to be gifted with some of these translations. The poems written by this great sage are breathtaking. They are so beautiful, I am surprised no one has taken the time or made the effort to translate them into English until now. 
Since Vidyabhaskarji has been so generous as to share them with me, I feel I must share them with all of you.
This next verse is Hastāmalakīyam, a rather difficult text that Vidyabhaskar ‘has been struggling with for a while’, as he told me. 
Here below is the background info he gave me about this amazing verse and the verse itself. I hope it moves you as much as it does me. 
Hari Om. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Eka Shloka Shankaracharya - Omkarananda Ashram Switerzerland

As suggested to me by my vedanta teacher, Siddharthaji, a couple weeks ago I went with a friend of mine to visit the Omkarananda Ashram in Winterthur, Switzerland. It is a beautiful place with some of the most amazing statues I have ever seen. Such a perfect place for meditation and inner reflection.
I had the great pleasure of meeting some interesting people there: Swamini Vivekanandaji, Vidyabhaskarji, his son Amar, and Swamini Padma Chaitanya. I am eternally grateful for their hospitality. 
Vidyabhaskar is of Swiss German origin however he is an exceptional Sanskrit scholar. His translations of Sri Shankaracharya’s poems are the best I have ever read. He manages to capture the essence of the words in English, which is not an easy feat considering the complexity and depth of the Sanskrit language and the profundity with which Shankara Bhagavatpada expressed himself. 
Vidyabhaskar gifted me with some translations he made of some lesser known works of Shankaracharya. Here below is one of them. It is so painfully beautiful, it brought a tear to me eye. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mahabharata and me, 2

Mahabharata (and me, two) This is one of my favourites stories. In the great Indian epic the Mahabharata, of the five Pandav brother, Yudhishthir, is the embodiment of all good qualities. One day while living in exile in the forest, Yudhisthir finds that while attempting to drink water from a lake, all his brothers have been killed by a mysterious Yaksha (a celestial entity). When Yudhisthir arrives, the Yaksha challenges him to answer all his questions or else face the same consequences as his brothers. These questions-answers are like Vedic sutras. There are so beautiful in their simplicity, and so true. 
There are many more questions of the Yaksha Prashana (Yaksha’s questions) but I have listed quite a few here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and, above all, I hope they give you food for thought as they do to me. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Expect the Unexpected 2

Eliminating expectations: As is everything in this Path we have chosen, it is difficult and simple at the same time. It has nothing to do with 'reaching a certain level of understanding' although at times, the metaphor of climbing to the top of a mountain does seem adequate. This is what I have come to understand. Every time you feel disappointed, totally eliminate what you perceive to be the outer cause of your disappointment and then look at the disappointment itself, caused only by you and you alone. Then separate it from yourself, analyse it, and then meditate deeply on it. It might take days, months, or even years but when you do see it clearly, it will pleasantly surprise you. It doesn’t mean that the little spark of false joyous expectation will never rise up again, it’s just that the next time, you’ll recognise it, and you’ll stop it in its tracks. And we should be careful not to create situations that increase the expectation of something. We are given as much as we need. If we unnecessarily ask for more than we need, we will be disappointed. At that point, admit it and try to move on as gracefully and as quickly as possible. One shouldn't try to squeeze blood from a stone. When moments of expectation do arise in me, I stop them with a laugh, and then I say out loud to whatever god-form inside of me is closest to the situation at hand, “Hey, whatever happens, I’m cool. I can handle it and I know that whatever the outcome, it’s the best thing for me. I promise I will act accordingly and not be bull-headed. I will listen and be fearless. Anything You hand out will be appreciated.” 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Expect the Unexpected

Expectation inevitably leads to disappointment. Better not to expect anything but to take what arrives with an open heart and gratitude. And if you must expect something, expect the unexpected. Hari Om.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Boundaries are Illusions


Boundaries are illusions. They do not exist. We create them in and around us deceiving ourselves into thinking that they will give us security when the opposite is true. They imprison us. Instead of fearing the unknown vastness of space in and around us, we should fear the boundaries for they are the real nemesis. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Subjective or Objective? Vairagya....

Subjective or objective? I was re-listening to one of Br. Siddhartha Krishna’s (my teacher) Upanishad classes as taught at the Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra in Rishikesh and, in this particular class, the subject of subjectivity and objectivity came up. Listening to the class for the second time, it got me thinking about this topic because if the difference between subjective and objective is not fully understood, then lack of vairagya will inevitably be the result. 
So what exactly does it mean to be objective? I thought about this for a while and if we want to avoid giving examples, which could further confuse us, I think that objectivity has certain simple qualities. First of all, there is a ‘truth value’ to it. Therefore, if there is a truth value to it then if there is a disagreement, someone will be wrong. To establish this, there must be a method for determination, such as sight, sound, or touch. Example: Fire is hot, it will burn you. If someone disagrees, you can tell them, ‘touch the flame and you will see’. This is objective. It is not a matter of opinion (opinions are a waste of time…but that is for another post!)
If something is subjective, the total opposite will be true. There will be no one truth and people can disagree without being wrong. A subjective claim is a matter of preference. 

I think everyone will agree that everything has an objective value to it.
Why is this important to us? Because, it is at the base of vairagya. We must try to be as objective as possible. If you give something more value than what it objectively has, you end up clinging to it.You give it a subjective importance that can only lead to attachment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our wavering emotions....

'Said the weather-cock to the wind, “How tedious and monotonous you are! Can you not blow any other way but in my face? You disturb my God-given stability.”
And the wind did not answer. It only laughed in space.'
Kahlil Gibran
How we so quickly and readily blame others for our own wavering emotions and unsteadiness! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mithya...Illusion


Mithya मिथ्या Illusion. Barriers of fear we create in our minds that can seem so real, they paralyse us for lifetimes on end. We talked about this is one of the Upanishad classes as taught by Br. Siddhartha Krishna. Mithya is like the mist, the fog. It's there because you can see it, yet you can't see through it; it blinds you and this creates fear. What is in there? What is on the other side? The fear of the unknown immobilises us. However if one has the courage and the faith to walk through it, head held high and heart steadfast, he or she will immediately realise that it wasn't real. There was nothing to be afraid of. The fog will dissipate and lift, allowing clarity to prevail. Just take that first step or if necessary, that Hanuman leap of faith. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Aloneness and Solitude

Aloneness is our natural state of being. This is how we come into the world and how we will depart from it, thus it seems to me that it is the only path to pure consciousness. Personally, the moments of greatest joy and sorrow that I have experienced in my life were in complete solitude. Pure bliss, in both extremes.
People fear solitude because it is difficult to distinguish between loneliness and aloneness. Aloneness is a blissful, fulfilling state. It is our natural state of being. 

Loneliness is a dark place and it is often in the midst of people that the deepest loneliness is felt. Loneliness is the ego screaming its insecurity, like a dog whining and begging to be pet.

The Dharma Endeavour

Staying on the path of dharma is a constant struggle. I have recently finished the Mahabharata and this book clearly teaches us how easy it is to forget what one has learned and fall prey once again to the ‘demons' in our minds. In fact, at the end of this great epic, it is only Yudhishthir (the eldest of the five Pandavs brothers) who makes it to the top of Mount Meru (Vaikuntha, the highest heaven) while the other 4 Pandav brothers and their wife Draupadi, die on the way and end up in Nark (hell). Even the great Arjun ends up in Nark because of his conceit. After Krishna leaves their lives, they forget their dharma, thus turning their backs on the higher wisdom they had thus far acquired. 
Thank God we are able, from time to time, to see glimmers of Light which instills hope within, but most of the time we are swimming in a pool of darkness. As Kalidas wrote, 'Laughing, I watch the fish drowning in water.’ 
That is what we are, fish drowning in water, birds falling from the air.

We are in our own element yet we see it not, hence the constant struggle.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Purnam, Completeness, Fullness, OM

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते I
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते II

OM Purnam-adah Purnam-idam Purnat Purnam-udacyate 
Purnasya Purnam-adaya Purnam-evavashiyate

OM Completeness is that, completeness is this
From completeness, completeness comes forth
Completeness from completeness taken away
Completeness to completeness added
Completeness alone remains

If the understanding of this completeness, this fullness, this infinity, could be assimilated and totally known, there would be nothing else to do or say. Everything else - the books, the asanas, the questioning, the searching - everything would immediately become superfluous, redundant, unnecessary. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Love and Suffering


Whom among us has not felt that almost unbearable pain that occurs when our beloved has left us, ‘disappointed’ us, or simply does not reciprocate the love? It can be so painful, you feel as if you want to tear your heart out of your body. Physical pain cannot come even close to emotional pain. It’s terrifying because you feel as if you have no more control over anything. The person you thought you were, is no more. You do and say things you never thought you would do or say. And all the time, you just want the pain to go away. Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? It is. Yet, we can’t wait to fall in love again. It takes great courage to really love someone, fearlessly and unconditionally. If we can truly love one person in our lifetimes, then we can love everyone. Relationship love is a gift from God because it forces us to look at ourselves. That kind of love has the capacity to burn away the falsity created by the ego. Unfortunately, as soon as the pain ends, we forget what was revealed and we yearn to get back on that rollercoaster. And then the vicious, illusion of love repeats itself until one day, you realise that Love has nothing to do with how our five senses perceive it. Love doesn’t begin and/or end. It is a constant flow, independent of all outer perceptions. At that moment, one gets off the rollercoaster ride of one to one ‘relationships’ and begins the lifelong Love relationship within him or herSelf, with The One. But the only way to really know this, is to go through it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Mahabharata (and me, part one)


I decided to embark on the ‘adventure’ of getting acquainted with this legendary text, The Mahabharata, for two main reasons, one, because I have read the Bhagavad Gita (the ‘Song of the Lord’, one of the chapters in the Mahabharata) and found it to be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, and two, because I spend a lot of time in India so I wanted to understand the people and their culture better. What better way than to read their most treasured book? In fact, it was this latter reason that gave me the final ‘push’ to buy this book. 
I was in for a surprise, a very pleasant surprise indeed.
At first, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the words themselves. The stories told can be described with a myriad of words: moving, fascinating, poignant, amusing, appalling, frightening, uplifting, shocking, devastating…everything..it’s all in here. My first thoughts were, ‘oh so now I know why the Indians think like this, or they behave like that…interesting…intriguing…’ And then, the more I listened to this great epic, the deeper it took me. These are not just mere stories relating to one group of people, these stories relate to everyone. I began to realise that everything and every character, human, animal, plant, half-human/half-demon, all demon, those of this world or another, were all allegories. Allegories of what goes on in the mind. And the metaphors! Every story is full to the brim of metaphors expressing all possible emotions. The allegories and metaphors weave through the complex net that is life. Example: it seems to me that the forest the five Pandav brothers and their wife Draupadi are exiled to, is not just a forest. It is a metaphor for the mind and everything the mind must go through to purify itself. The fact that they are five brothers is not simply for the enrichment of the tales, my understanding is that they represent our five senses of perception and action, and, of course, they could only have one wife amongst them because she is Prakriti Herself, the one through which the five senses are activated. So, if these allegories and metaphors reveal the deepest archetypes of the mind, then they represent my own mind. 
I had an ‘epiphany moment’. Every tale is an allegorical narrative of my own life, of my own thoughts and emotions. Through these tales, every aspect of a human being is revealed. 
This is no ordinary book full of tales.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reverse attachment?


I have been trying to sell my flat for about two years now. Not because of any financial difficulty or because I don’t like it, nor do I have specific plans of moving someplace else. I am not necessarily in a hurry either. It’s simply that over the past few years, I have been systematically reducing and/or eliminating all of my belongings. As the great Krishnamurti once said, ‘To have inner order, one must first have outer order.’ So, the less clutter on the outside will facilitate the decluttering on the inside. I need to feel lighter and freer. The problem is, this flat doesn’t seem to want to leave me…so what is this? Reverse attachment? :-)))) How do you explain to a house that’s it time to let go? 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Acceptance vs. Tolerance

In recent times, I have seen the word ‘tolerant’ used quite often in a positive sense. Personally, I don’t think this word is very positive because it denotes a sense of ‘even though I don’t like or understand you, I will put up with you’. It gives a sense of condescension that I find disturbing. I think instead of being tolerant towards others, we should be more accepting.

Acceptance is better than tolerance. Acceptance takes you to a higher form of understanding. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Studying Hindi, learning a new language

One of the things I enjoy most is studying languages. A few years back, I took it upon myself to learn Hindi. This is, by far, the most difficult language I have ever studied because it has very little in common with any of the other languages I am familiar with. To start with, the alphabet is completely different (devanagari) so every single word must be memorized. It’s not like, when you know Italian, you can somehow connect with the other Romance languages, Spanish or French. Of course, there are many differences amongst these languages, too, however, at least, the alphabet is the same and the root of these languages is Latin. Needless to say, learning Hindi has proven to be quite a challenge. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Milk products, Vegetarianism, and Veganism

About cheese and milk products....I have been a vegetarian for many years. I had also stopped eating cheese a long time ago, not only because it is not good for the  health, but also because most cheese, I would say 85%, is absolutely not vegetarian because it is made with rennet (Rennet is a complex of enzymes produced in stomachs of ruminant mammals, meaning the traditional source of rennet comes from the stomach of slaughtered newly-born calves. ….bleh….). There are, however, cheeses made with non-animal rennet. 
Vegetarian cheeses are manufactured using rennet from either fungal/bacterial sources (microbial), genetically modified micro-organisms, or, as in the tasty Indian paneer, lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids are used. 
When I first started seeing vegetarian cheeses on the market here in Europe, I was thrilled. I am not that much of a cheese-eater anymore, but at least I knew that if I wanted to have some cheese or use it in the dish I was cooking, I could do so knowing that I wasn’t responsible for the slaughtering of a newly-born calf. Or so I thought….

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gender Discrimination

I talked about this topic on my radio show and I thought it was really interesting so I wanted to share it, and my thoughts, with you.
In Sweden, the government passed a law to change its grammar, meaning, they have added a third, completely neutral form of pronoun. So, instead of having just the usual he and she, there is a third pronoun for those who do not want to be classified according to their gender. And not only did they decide on this, they also passed a law that states that schools can no longer give a ‘gender’ to toys, meaning, there will be no more of the, far too usual, ‘this is for girls, this is for boys’ nonsense. Not only is this limited to schools, but it is the entire Swedish society that behaves according. In fact, even the color of baby clothing is neutral… no pink for girls, blue for boys. 
Sweden is fighting to eradicate gender discrimination and create a society in which gender doesn’t matter.
Personally, I think this is a great idea. A refreshing idea. 
So if a boy wants to play with a doll and dance, he will be free to do. If a girl wants to kick a ball and climb a tree, no one will say anything to her to make her feel uncomfortable. 
The conditioning begins at such a young age and it creates so many problems. If a child can at least be himself or herself at home and at school, it will give her or him so much more confidence when he or she goes out into the world.
I, myself, was a pure tomboy. I never liked dolls much. Barbie gave me the creeps. I much preferred climbing trees or playing sports. I used to climb on top of the garage, and then have someone call my Mother so she could watch me jump down. She encouraged me and told me I could do anything the boys did. None of this ever made me doubt my femininity.