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Archive for April, 2010

Work for work’s sake

Another important teaching of Hinduism is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is a guide to a way of living life and has a whole philosophy and structure beyond it.

But its most important teaching can be summarised and followed without worrying about the whole aspect of this path.

This teaching is: work for work’s sake, ie, while working, pay attention to the work itself and not to the results that it may bring about.

This is a very important lesson. When doing something, we are usually not concentrating on our work itself. Our minds wander off, or we may be thinking of the results of the work that we do.

But, Karma Yoga says, we can only be sure of the work that we do and not of the results. There are an infinite number of factors that can affect the results of our work, so that we can never be sure of the results. The results are not in our hand.

Therefore it teaches us not to think of the results. At any time we should be thinking only of what exactly we are doing at that moment and of nothing else. The action that we are doing may be something like our professional work, our studies, etc. or it may be simple household work, or something like eating or taking a shower.

Whatever the work is, karma yoga says that we should be paying attention only to the work that we are doing. This is specially important when we are doing something critical.

By paying attention to the work itself, we can be assured that we will do the best work possible under the circumstances. When our concentration is on the work itself (more…)

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Meditating on Beauty

Another way to attain inner peace and fulfillment, in Hinduism, is to meditate on beauty.

Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram, is a Hindu saying. It means, the Truth is Shiva, and Shiva is beauty. In our appreciation of beauty, we can find the highest truth.

Meditating on something beautiful is an important meditation used by many Raja Yogis in their search for truth. Thus they would meditate on a crystal, precious stone. This was a quite common form of meditation. Or sometimes it might be just a simple intricately shaped stone picked up from a stream.

Swami Vivekananda recounts meeting a sage who resided besides a grand waterfall, and from dawn to dusk would gaze on the waterfall saying, ‘ how beautiful! how wonderful!’ This was his meditation.

Now meditating in search of the ultimate truth may not be possible for all of us as we would hardly be able to make all the sacrifices required for this.

Yet we can achieve something at least of the inner fulfillment that can be achieved by such meditation. For this we just need to learn to appreciate beauty.

This beauty is all around us. It is around us in the flowers, in the trees, in  paintings and sculptures. Even the commercially made knick knacks we keep in our drawing rooms have a whole story to tell of beauty.

The secret is to meditate on this beauty. Meditation is nothing but thinking, when we think intensely and continuously of something, that itself is meditation.  When we recieve a bouquet of flowers, we say, ‘how beautiful!’, then put it in a vase and forget about it.

But we can easily turn this into a meditation on beauty. Every single flower is beautiful, and the secret of its beauty is locked up within it. We can take up a single flower and gaze on it, and examine each of its intricate parts, noting the beauty inherent in every part. This itself is meditation. (more…)

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Sukha Pranayama

There is another simple technique, a part of Yoga, which can be used as a stress busting technique and to add positively to our overall happiness.

This is called the ‘Sukha Pranayama’. Sukha means happiness, pranayama means control of Prana. Prana is an esoteric concept of Hinduism, for now we can take it to mean control of breath.

So Sukha Pranayama means the exercise of controlling our breath which gives us happiness.

It is really very simple. We can do this at any time and place, any number of times we wish to do during the day.

It consists of sitting up straight so that our back is very straight. Preferably we should sit in the Padmasana posture, a Yoga pose which is actually quite simple and consists more or less of a cross legged sitting position. We can sit in this way, but it doesnt matter if we are sitting in a chair in the office or lying down in the bed. This is not a strenuous exercise and any posture will do, the only essential is that our back should be straight. This is considered necessary for the flow of ‘Prana’ along our spine.

We then breathe in slowly in and out. We should draw the breath in first as slowly and evenly as we can. There is no need to put stress on ourselves by drawing it too long, this is not a test. We should just try to be comfortable. After drawing it in, we then expire in the same way, slowly and evenly.

The main point of interest is not the breathing in or out but the gap in between the two breaths. This period is called ‘Kumbhaka’ and it is very important for Pranayama, in fact this is the most important period in Pranayama. The aim is to prolong this period between the two breaths.

In Hindu logic and Yoga, it is always the gap between two opposite movements which is the most important, such as the gap between the night and the day. Such moments are considered to be very ‘still’ movements, and (more…)

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Ethics and Morality

Following ethics and morality in our daily life is another Hindu belief for happiness.

The laws of ethics and morality as described in the Yoga sutras are the the ayams and the niyams: the do’s and the dont’s.

The basic rules are pretty much the same as in all religions and cultures, like truth, kindness, non-violence and non-discrimination,  and the control of passions like lust, greed and anger.

There is not much that is unique in these ethical rules by themselves, they are found throughout the world and it is not these laws themselves which are special. It is the reason why they are advised which is different than in other cultures.

Although we have all heard about the virtues of these ethical rules, we may not be all convinced that they work under all conditions or that they bring happiness. We are all guilty of having broken the rules quite often.

But the reason that Hindu religion says they bring happiness is a bit special: it says that breaking these rules ‘tie a knot in the heart’. If we stick to the rules, our heart remains free as it were, and this is what keeps us happy.

Now what are we to understand by ‘tying a knot in the heart’?

To understand this, let us take a look at a modern invention, the lie detector. Now you may know already how a lie detector works. Basically the person being questioned is hooked up to a series of machines which measure his heart rate, BP, sweating, etc.

The machine works because when a person tells a lie, his heart rate, BP and sweating goes up, while there is no change when we tell a lie.

This gives an important clue as to why sticking to ethics and morality can make us happy and what the Hindu scriptures mean when they say breaking these rules tie a knot in the heart. It is basically this disturbance that occurs inside us whenever we do something not according to ethics or morality that is meant by ‘knots’. It is more than likely that not just telling lies but other transgressions also affect us in the same way.

Perhaps this originated during our evolution, as beings who had such effects were more likely to stick to such rules which meant an overall benefit for the society.

But what this means now for us is, that as long as we stick to this ethical rules, we will be at peace internally. There are then no ‘knots on our heart’. This then increases our happiness.

Thus ethics and morality is advised in Hinduism, not just as a religious doctrine, but for practical purposes also, in aiding our search for happiness.

If you wish to read more on the search for bliss in Hinduism,  you can look up my book, The Circle of Fire- the Metaphysics of Yoga. You can also look up here for different articles on my website, also in sections like discussion.

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