The Monk and the man with PhDs

A man with eight PhDs – he was proud of his achievement – met a monk. The monk asked him, “Why have you been so foolish in life?” The man said: “But I have eight PhDs!”

“I have understood you; it is foolish to spend the best part of life reading instead of enjoying the birds, stars and the moon”, said the monk.

“You may have knowledge but not clarity; you may know a lot and yet understand nothing”.

What does one have to understand about life?

You have many centres: Intellectual centre, an emotional centre and a body centre. In each centre, there is a mechanical and magnetic part. The mechanical part acts like a machine while the magnetic part acts with ore awareness.

You have to transform yourself. Your mechanical movements and thinking have to change. Your mechanical emotions like jea- lousy and hatred have to be overcome. You can do this by bringing in more awareness.

Then a complete being will emerge. When you increase awareness, even poison can turn into medicine; and with no awareness, medicine can become poison.

Why are we so mechanical?

A king dreamt that he was a beggar. His guru, in his dreams, told him the truth that he was a king and not a beggar. Now was he to argue with his guru or just wake up?

The question of “why” cannot be answered. When did time begin? You cannot answer such a question. Which came first, egg or hen? There is a logical fallacy in the very question. Realise that we are mechanical. Bring in more awareness and see the life-transformation.

Even inert objects have life. Treat any object with loving awareness and it will guide you mysteriously. Your intuition and purity have to increase to receive this message. When you bathe, lovingly talk to water.

We may think that no one knows what we are thinking, but our thoughts produce vibrations that can be picked up by others at a subtle level. Once, one of Emperor Akbar’s ministers advised him to be careful about what he thought of others.

The minister said, “Thoughts are very potent. Let us try this experiment. See that man coming down the road? As he approaches, i want you to think angry thoughts about him and let us see what happens”. The emperor looked at the stranger and thought, “This stranger should be beaten up”. When the stranger drew near, Akbar asked him, “What did you think when you saw my face”. “Excuse me, emperor, but i wanted to beat you up and break your head”.

No words were spoken; no actions were done, but the angry thoughts of Akbar towards the man were picked up, and the stranger was tempted to react in a violent way. We may not say anything, but our anger may create a negative vibration all around through aggressive body language, facial gestures, and angry tone of voice. This not only affects the recipient of our anger, it also boomerangs on us, disturbing our peace of mind.

We can deal with anger in several ways. One way is to project the long-term consequences of our anger as a deterrent. Or set a goal and then realise the effect that anger may have in preventing us from attaining that goal. A third way is to use meditation to break the physiological response to anger.

Projecting the future consequences of anger can prevent us from acting with anger. Becoming conscious of this could help us respond nonviolently to situations, as did Gautama Buddha when someone abused him one day. Buddha listened patiently and since there was no reaction, the abuses stopped coming his way.

If we set a goal to meditate every day, then we can guard against intrusion on that time. Say to yourself: “If i allow this anger to take control, then it is going to cause me to waste sitting and thinking about how angry i am. How can i calmly meditate and focus on what i am seeing within?” To have fruitful meditation we need to overcome anger, but to overcome anger we need to meditate. It is not so much a catch-22 situation, however, as it is a cycle of success.

No matter what level of meditation we are at, the time we spend meditating can calm us down so that we do not respond to a situation of anger. Meditation provides us with a physiological response to control the anger. Our heartbeat slows during meditation, which has the corresponding effect of slowing down our brain waves. We enter a more relaxed state of body and mind. In such a state, anger has less chance to gain strength.

As we calm down and our anger subsides, we can increase our concentration in meditation. The more time we spend in meditation, the more practised we become in being calm and balanced.

I did a great deal of sadhana in cremation grounds. These are good for sadhana, for realisation. Whenever I saw all those dead bodies, I would tell myself that eventually, this was going to be my state.

There, gazing at the grounds, I would recollect Kabir’s verse: “What is so remarkable about his body?/ What is so remarkable about this mind?/ What is so remarkable about your wealth and everything else that you have?/ As you are watching these things, they fade into dust./ Look at your own life/ As you are watching it,/ it just withers away”.

We cling to wealth, we cling to the mind, but in the end, none of these matter; they leave us when we die.

We fear death for no good reason. We are going to die anyway, so why not accept it with courage? Very few are happy about dying. People know that they are going to die eventually but they never want to die right now, in this moment.

When a person is about to die, all his actions – good or bad, virtuous or sinful – appear as images before him. There are two paths after death. One filled with light and joy, and the other with darkness and fear. If you have been virtuous on earth, you will attain heaven. But just as the pleasures of this earth pass, so do the pleasures of heaven.

As long as one has a fund of merits one can enjoy these pleasures, but the moment one’s merits are spent one must leave heaven and be reborn. One who has committed many sins will suffer in hell. But once he has undergone the consequences of his bad actions, he is reborn.

When a person dies, he has to abide by the judgment of God. We reap the consequences of our actions that are governed by the law of karma. The ways of karma are unfathomable but the fruits always correspond to the actions.

When an individual dies, the soul leaves his body and adopts the next form according to his karma. In the case of great beings who have become one with the highest, the prana does not leave the body as it does with ordinary people.

The Upanishads say that during a saint’s final samadhi, the prana merges in the sahasrara and does not leave the body; for such a being the cycle of birth and death has come to an end.

One’s condition at the time of death is the result of one’s actions. Therefore, one must meditate. Bhartrihari said: ‘‘As long as the body is healthy,/ As long as old age is far away,/ As long as your senses are strong,/ You should remember the Lord’’. To wait until one is dying is like trying to dig a well when one’s house is on fire.

There are two things one must remember all the time; God and death. Whatever a person thinks of when he leaves his body, that alone he attains. Therefore, whatever is in one’s mind at the moment of death is significant.

Holy chants keep reverberating inside us. Those who remember God constantly in this way will attain the state of God at the time of death. They have no fear of death.

There are hundreds of popular institutions that teach us how to make our lives better. To make them more healthy, more organised, more productive, more stress-free and, hopefully, more happy. Interestingly, though death is such an important happening in our lives, we do not pay much attention to it and there is no institution that really teaches about death, what it means and how it affects us. There seems to be no takers for a course in the Art of Dying!

All of us fear death because death brings to an end our life on earth and also because we are apprehensive of what will happen to us after we die. To not get intimidated by fear of death we must know the art of dying.

What is death? Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that He is death ( kala ) in the form of Time (also kala ). Time consumes everything, from the tiniest atom to all those mighty universes in the material world. The Vedic concept of death is that it is an integral part and a recurrent happening in the continuous life of every living entity on earth. Krishna tells Arjuna in chapter two that there is no death for the jiva or soul, “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor these rulers of men. Nor shall all of us cease to be hereafter”. Death pertains only to the physical body and “… the soul merely changes bodies just as the body changes clothes”.

The Katha Upanishad explains the Vedic concept of death and Garuda Purana deals comprehensively with rituals pertaining to death, graphically describing the soul’s journey after death to its next birth.

Most believe death is the ultimate happening in one’s life. But there is more, depending on your karma. Each new birth affords us an opportunity to better our circumstances through performing good karma, which means following the injunctions laid down in the shastras . We, however, choose to fritter away our lives in mundane activities mainly to satisfy our sensual cravings.

Adi Shankaracharya says that one is very fortunate to have got human birth for it is the only vehicle by which one can attain the ultimate goal of life, moksha or liberation, and hence it must not be wasted in living a frivolous life. More fortunate is he who has a burning desire for liberation. And still more fortunate is the one to get a bona fide spiritual master to take him to this goal.

Krishna says: “Whatever object a person thinks of at the time of death, he attains to that object alone… Whoever thinks of only Me even at the time of death, attains to My state on abandoning his body. There is no doubt about this”. He once again reinforces: “He who, at the time of his death, engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord with full devotion, will certainly attain to Him”. This is possible only if one has Him constantly in one’s thoughts for which one needs to do spiritual practice or sadhana .

Some even crave a painful death so that they are forced to cry out to God, thereby remembering Him during the last moments. However, if your desire to be with Him is consistent and strong, it will manifest at the final hour so that you are united with Him.

We spent a tension-filled week in the office recently with many of us awaiting news of promotions and increments. As rumours snowballed, hurried meetings took place in corridors.

Some people were ashen-faced, others were jumping with joy. Some criticised the ‘system’, others consulted experts. I decided to escape to Haridwar and experience a peaceful meditative week.

The ashram was serene and peaceful. All one could hear was the chirping of birds. In the afternoon, a smiling boy of 25 came to clean our room.

He said he could not come earlier as he had to clean 50 rooms all on his own. Seeing my shocked expression the boy grinned and assured me that it wasn’t that bad a situation.

He revealed that he had joined just three days ago as a sweeper-cleaner. A month back, he was working as a motor mechanic in a private company but got laid off with many others.

Wasn’t that terrible, I inquired gently. “No, Ma’m. It’s all destined. I am young and hard working and I will find a good job again, God willing. Why should I worry?”

But a loss of Rs 5,000 wasn’t small, I pursued. “Money comes and goes, like this Ma’m”, he said and snapped his fingers. What a brave boy, I thought.

And here was I who had ‘escaped’to the serenity of Haridwar. Despite a string of academic degrees, achievements and experience we still panic because we are afraid we would not move to the next grade.

Life is in itself a laboratory that helps us observe and learn if only we keep our eyes and ears open. No wonder, a ripe mind like Dattatreya’s could learn from nature and make not one or two but 24 gurus from his wanderings.

These were: earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon, python, ocean, archer, moth, snake, bee, spider, firefly, fish, deer, hawk, honey-gatherer, child, elephant, sparrow and a courtesan, Pingala.

To learn from life and one’s experiences one must be open, receptive and flexible. Learning is a state of consciousness that enables one to learn from all situations if only one retains the innocence of a child.

Even a humble servant can teach us qualities of generosity, forgiveness, unselfishness and the strength to bear burdens.

Swami Chinmayananda said that the road sign ‘U Turn’ could be taken as an indicator that we ought to turn the direction of our life towards spirituality instead of trying to change others.

Ordinarily when we listen to saints, read scriptures and attend satsangs we examine and dissect the speech and actions of the saint, even if he is one’s guru.

Thus we shift from guru to guru, looking through the prism of ego. We are unable to understand the essence of teachings because we fail to become a disciple. So, even when Krishna Himself asks us to accept success and failure with equanimity once our job is done, we still get extremely miserable at failures and are elated at success.

To understand wisdom one need not listen to moralistic lectures, or intellectual sermons. All one needs is a childlike mind, a mind free of concepts and rigid ideas.

With such a flexible mentality, wisdom flows from every side; from road signs, servants, spiders, snakes, courtesans, children etc. Then all of existence becomes one’s guru because one is a disciple.

One would be able to face all kinds of situations and there would be no reason to run to sages for practical advice on how to manage one’s daily life.


Linking UP Above

A magazine I picked up recently had the following title on its cover page: “Towards a Spirituality rooted in Religion”. I said to myself: “Shouldn’t it be the other way round?” The word ‘religion’ itself derives from the Latin religare meaning “to bind” or to link. It signifies the outward manifestation of an inner attitude, the expression of our being “linked” to the divine which we have experienced deep at the centre of our being.

Rituals, it would seem are an indispensable part of religion and are often identified with it. They serve a useful purpose as a pedagogical tool, and are meant precisely to keep alive the initial experience from which they emerged. Experience precedes the ritual. Ritual however has no meaning once it is separated from experience.

Our spiritual experiences grow deeper in proportion to our experience of being loved and being able to love in return. The progressive and in the end complete loss of self in the act of Self-giving enables us to connect with the divine for whom the whole of creation is just the outpouring of the Divine self. Truly, in God “we live, move and have our being”. In love there is no room for fear. One of the characteristics of a genuine spiritual experience is therefore the absence of fear.

The experience of fear is so necessary for ‘self-preservation’. At the physical level it enables us to ward off dangers and minimise threats to life. Yet, we often continue to experience fear long after the threat has disappeared and sometimes even when there is no threat at all. When this happens there has been a subtle shift in the origin of our fear. It is the ego that is struggling to preserve itself. At the physiological level it manifests itself in stress. It is not surprising, therefore, that meditation techniques are prescribed as the antidote to stress. Stress abhors unpredictability and it is so easy for one to use the ‘predictable’ ritual to soothe the pain of the wounded ego. But the ego is not easily deceived. At this point religion parts ways with spirituality. Religion degenerates into magic. A spirituality based on such a religion is nothing more than a caricature. Meditation on the other hand as the art of learning to “pay attention”, becomes the link between the ritual and the spi-ritual.

In a New Testament scripture text that is familiar to most Christians, St Paul describes love, among other things, as ‘never quick to take offence’ and ‘keeping no score of wrongs’. Love gives one the freedom not to see another’s transgression as a personal offence. That knocks the stuffing out of the other’s aggression real or imagined. There is no room for fear because no threat has been perceived. One can then love in freedom. It is the practice of meditation that enables us to slowly begin progressively functioning not from our ‘ego’ but from our true Self. The true Self is God and God is love.

When religion is based on true spirituality, we are able to understand that differences need not cause divisions. Returning to our contemplative traditions and meditative practices is the surest way to eschew violence in the name of religion. It allows us to restore the original purpose of the ritual which is to enable us connect to the experience of God within. We need no security other than the awareness that we are in God and God is in us. Perfect love casts out all fear.

Christopher Mendonca

Three in One Philosophy

Aurobindo’s philosophy is called practical philosophy because its goal is both material prosperity and spiritual perfection of an individual. Integral Yoga is the name given to his technique for achieving perfection. It is called Integral Yoga because it does not aim at self-perfection alone at the cost of complete neglect of others. It is based on the principle that true individuality is not exclusive but inclusive. Aurobindo recognises that an individual cannot either advance materially or evolve spiritually in complete isolation. According to him society is needed at least “as a field of relations which afford to the individual his occasion for growing towards a greater perfection”. Society, though imperfectly, provides the conditions for human evolution from the present imperfect state to the distant perfect state, from mind to super-mind. Aurobindo in The Human Cycle states that there are three echelons of human existence. These are: the individual, community, and humankind in general. He argues that the ‘ideal law of social development’ should aim at harmonious growth of each of these. They have their own definite destinies, distinctive modes of self-consciousness, truths, their own laws of existence, needs, and laws of growth. Though all the three are autonomous, they are also interdependent. Like Plato, Aurobindo held that there is a parallelism between individual and community as one cannot be without the other. Moreover, the individual for Aurobindo is not merely an aggregate of ‘body, mind, ethical ideals and aesthetic emotions’ but more than all these put together. He is essentially spiritual Self. The individual and humankind are interrelated. The individual ‘is not himself, but in solidarity with all of his kind’. He has ‘to live in humanity’ and humanity is manifested ‘in the individual’. So, individual, community, and humanity are really one integral organic whole. However, Aurobindo argues that even in the most evolved state, the conceptual distinction between the three must be retained ‘for the purpose of mass-differentiation and the concentration and combinations of varying tendencies in the total human aggregate’. What is common to them is continuous evolution. Each evolves towards perfection according to its own true nature and dharma. Aurobindo argues that the evolution from within is far superior to external development. He says, “As free development of individuals from within is the best condition for growth and perfection of community, so free development of community or nation from within is the best condition for growth and perfection of mankind”. Aurobindo’s focus is on the eternal hope that human existence is full of possibilities. It is the conviction that ‘man is what he can be’ and that man has an unavoidable inherent tendency towards ‘self exceeding’, or ‘self surpassing’ the goals set by him in the past. Since the evolutionary process advocated by Aurobindo aims at a comprehensive change and not at the emergence of something new, it is laboriously slow. It is able to bring about a comprehensive change because of an element of ‘involution’. This process of evolution-involution operates at three levels. Only after the lower stratum becomes sufficiently complex, the higher form emerges. Even after its emergence the higher form does not reject the lower but transforms it radically. The newer and the higher form, in turn, expands itself and is ready to evolve into a still higher emergent form. The process goes on till consciousness becomes self-consciousness and mind becomes super-mind. The super-mind, thus, integrates in itself all lower forms of consciousness.

– The Writer Teaches at Delhi University , India


Before reading the next paragraph, please answer this three-part question:

What is the single most significant thing you could begin doing regularly that would: (1) Make you more effective at your work? (2) Create a better atmosphere for your family? and (3) Enrich your spiritual life?On the assumption now that you have named three specific things that would make your life better, let me pose one more question:

Can you defend your choice to omit any of these three things from your schedule this week?All of us have urgent things that will have to be attended to before this day ends – phone calls, appointments, sales calls, deadlines, interruptions, etc. But some of us will also do our versions of the things you named earlier – like planning next week’s big presentation or making three extra calls, telling someone “I love you” or helping children with homework, or taking time to read and pray for a few minutes.

The difference in people who tend to life’s really important things and those of us who simply react to whatever happens in a day and live the scripts others write for us is called

discernment. Maybe you prefer to call it setting priorities or putting first things first.

It is absurdly easy to fall into the activity trap. That’s when you think that being busy is the same thing as being productive. We humans can equate having done huge amounts of unimportant things with having done something that is actually significant. They simply aren’t the same.

Moving quickly and efficiently is important only if your movement is in the direction of some worthy goal. Since you took the time at the start of this piece to name three specific steps toward noble ends, why not take some time now to figure out how to include them in today’s schedule for yourself?

You may need to cut out some waste and cancel some unimportant things, but you will be better for it. You will have started to practice discernment between the things in life that really matter and all the second-rate distractions we let get in the way of doing them.

You likely know the writings of Stephen Covey. His

7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold widely and helped many people toward a clearer view of career, family, and personal life. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule,” insists Covey, “but to schedule your priorities.”

Rubel Shelly

Rubel Shelly is a Preacher and Professor of Religion and Philosophy located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In addition to church and academic responsibilities, he has worked actively with such community projects as Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, From Nashville With Love, Metro (Nashville) Public Schools, Faith Family Medical Clinic, and Operation Andrew Ministries. To learn more about Rubel please go to:

Walking the pathless path

Sometimes a lesson has to be repeated for thousands of years, not because it wasn’t learned the first time but because new people arrive on the scene.

The lesson I’m thinking of was Siddhartha’s, a prince on the Nepalese border of northern India. He dropped everything and hit the road, becoming the original, or at least the most famous dharma bum. He travelled from master to master with his begging bowl, seeking enlightenment. As Gautama the monk he became impressively austere. Instead of a loving wife, a warm bed, and feasts, he tried the opposite: solitude, sleeping by the wayside, and subsisting on whatever scraps of food he could beg for.

It’s still an appealing choice, because we equate austerity with virtue. If the stress of a chaotic world is too much, perhaps harmony lies along a different, quieter, more solitary road. But the moral of Siddhartha’s tale led a different way. Leaving home didn’t bring enlightenment, nor did austerity, poverty, starving his body, or trying to force his mind to be still. Instead, Siddhartha became someone entirely transformed – the Buddha – when he hit upon a new road, the one called “the pathless path”.

The pathless path isn’t a straight line; it doesn’t even lead from point A to point B. The journey takes place entirely in consciousness. A mind overshadowed by fears, hopes, memories, past traumas, and old conditioning finds a way to become free. This sounds impossible at first. How can the mind that is trapped by pain also be the tool for freeing itself? How can a noisy mind find silence? How can peace emerge from discord?

The Buddha offered his answer, which is a variant on an even more ancient answer from the seers or rishis of Vedic India: transcend the personal mind and find universal mind. The personal mind is tied to the ego, and the ego is forever swinging from pleasure to pain and back again. But if you look at awareness when there is no pleasure or pain, when the mind is calm while simply existing, a fascinating journey begins. You have made the first step on the pathless path.

This is not to dismiss the other path, the one that takes you away from home into a retreat, ashram, meditation centre, or holy place. They have their own atmosphere; seekers have stopped there for a long time; therefore, the mind can breathe a different kind of air, so to speak, an air of tranquillity and peace. When you arrive at such a place, two things usually happen. You soak up the peace, enjoying the contrast with your busy life at home. At the same time you notice how loud your mind is, how much chaos it has absorbed. So these holy places cannot do the work for you. They can only suggest what the pathless path is about.

Kabir sang of spiritual travellers: “There is nothing but water in the holy pools./ I know I have been swimming in them./ All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can’t say a word./ I know, I have been crying out to them./ The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words./ I looked through their covers one day sideways./ What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through./ If you have not lived through something, it is not true.”

These lines don’t deny the worth of spiritual journeying, but they tell us that there is no substitute for first-hand experience. Where you go to find it is irrelevant. The true seeker after truth discovers, sooner or later, that truth was seeking him all along.

Are we really Living?

Seconds, Minutes, hours, Days, Years, pass by , You’re born , admitted into a school , a religious school too perhaps if your family insists, bombarded with thoughtless thoughts into your head, to make you think the way they think.

Soon you graduate, go to college, then a university, find a job after you graduate, work hard enough to get promoted, get married, have children, Start saving for their education, send them to a school, retire, now you think about living , when most of your life is over……

I Was having a conversation an hour ago with a friend who asked me ” are we really living? ” and I could not answer even though I knew the answer , that “we’re not” , basically we all are tied up in a system , where from the time you open up your eyes , you are made to think the way the society thinks, the rest is all a sin or forbidden.

Poems, Movies, Songs, Acts, have been on display for centuries trying to portray the frustration of living in a world filled with beliefs, superstition, faith,rituals, ceremonies, law & order, taxes & competition, etc, which just makes you hypnotized.

Everyone of us is like a mini program , or like a software being executed, where we calculate our status bar of life and try to push it near the end of each stage attaining the virtual ultimatum.We have started behaving like robots, and those of us who try and think a bit different , are looked at like viruses in the society , who are either quarantined or eradicated or embedded in such forms into the society where the societal parasite just lures onto one’s life making him/her a victim of a torturous life which he cannot escape.

Assuming that death is the only finite explanation of escape from this whole system , just like uninstalling a software from a system.

One may argue by saying that every human does have a so called “Free-Will” but can one live with it ? Is an ongoing debate. One just cannot live without a bank, insurance, etc etc.. and then is soon tied up .

Well there is no finite explanation to this , but I would like to end this topic, with a quote by Kurt Cobain – “We’re so trendy we can’t even escape ourselves.” , I hope this explains a lot for what I tried expressing.At the end of the day, we end up talking & discussing for hours and years about stuff , but very few take a stand, let us all be different for a while. Let’s Live!