Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 4.

sunset-yogaYou may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 3.

So lets’ take the plunge in trying to realize P. It would be, by no means, an easy journey – or even the journey where anyone can guarantee that you would eventually realize P; nevertheless, the rest of the benefits I mentioned in my earlier blogs do apply ūüôā Further however, note that since P is all about consciousness, your thoughts, belief, zeal, discipline and strictly adhering to this text into practice would go a long way in realizing certain stages towards realization of this important knowledge itself.

Now, this P has different names in different regions of the world, so I would expand it to the name as established since ancient times in my country – India – and this name is ‘Praann‘ (this is the nearest English equivalent to the way it is pronounced). Please note here that the name itself has nothing to do with the religion Hinduism and hence it is religion-agnostic, though references of it may be found in such religious texts.
Why I revealed this name now is because the practice to realize Praann is named as ‘Pranayam‘. The root of these words lies in the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit’, which I will not cover here though. The word Pranayam is composed of two words – Praann (consciousness) and Ayaam ([to realize by] self) – and hence, the practice.
Note – Praann does not mean ‘life’ as it typically is construed certain Indian languages, but is a broader concept of consciousness itself. Further, I would mention below certain terms that come from Sanskrit, and these are not to be construed as any religion-specific totems, practices or tricks.

The practice of Pranayam
The practice has eight stages as follows, whereby the first four needs to be practiced simultaneously in a physical manner. The rest four are more of realization states or stages, achieved mentally, which the fourth one leads to. Even though it may at first seem that you can directly jump on to stage four, it will not help in reaching any of the states we aspire to.

1. Yam – the daily general practice of being good to others; helping people at times of need; giving proper time to your family, work, and yourself; and not playing bad politics. Why is this important? Because, this will help you to be more stable and emphatic mentally. From a practice standpoint, you need to simply be good as you perceive “goodness” to be.
2. Niyam Рthe daily general practice of having a bath, taking limited quantity of food while you eat (and not gulping or gorging), having mild exercises for general fitness and getting a sound sleep every night. Why is this important? Because, of the reason that since pranayam is all to do with your mind, your mind needs to be calm and stable. From a practice standpoint, a good time to do pranayam would be early morning (4:00am is ideal; however, even 6:00am would work if you can find a calm place without noise and distractions). For such time, a basic minimum of brushing your teeth and washing your face with water would be the prerequisite.
3. Aasan – since the practice of pranayam would at first seem to be both physically and mentally taxing, it would need you to sit in a proper posture to reduce any bodily strain while you practice it. Aasan refers to such posture. From a practice standpoint, you sit with your head and back straight – comfortable and not stretched – legs folded, hands stretched with the back side of your palms kept on your knees; palms being open. Alternatively, follow the sitting position of Lord Buddha (as you find in pictures and idols).
4. Pranayam – this name is same as the overall practice as this is the most important step through which you connect to your inner world (what this means will become apparent as you practice). I will expand on the actual practice in my next blog, as it also incorporates not only physical actions but also what you should think while practicing it.
5. Pratyahar – it is a state in which you do not feel your body’s existence, however have a feeling of ecstasy which is purely a personal experience. It is a stage you can practically achieve.
6. Dharana – it is a state achieved when you mentally pick up any object and try to give a form, shape and behavior to it. This requires a lot of concentration, and would able to visualize the object as if it is a part of you (or the other way round).
7. Dhyan – it is a state achieved when you concentrate on this object and seem to control its form and behavior mentally; this and the previous step get more refined with practice as you start realizing multiple objects and in turn, multiple spheres of knowledge.
8. Samadhi – it is a state achieved – and the last one where you achieve higher consciousness – with no bounds to the degree of knowledge that you gain through continued practice; true yogis are said to attain it. All the branches of knowledge – mathematics, pure sciences, religion, vedic, the knowledge of past and future, occult sciences – are realized and attained. Unbelievable, but as I said earlier – do not say it’s nonsense unless you yourself have practiced it.

Now, before I go on to explain the above, an acknowledgement is deserved at this point. Whatever I am writing here through these blogs form a part of the larger texts on lectures by Swami Vivekananda on the concept of Vedanta. He had been a practitioner of this, and has successfully demonstrated the knowledge not only in India, but also across the world.
However, there is a propensity for any person following the religion of Hinduism to claim this as a ‘Hindu practice’, which is gravely erroneous. Vedanta is a philosophy (leading to a set of practices, including pranayam) irrespective of any religious group, and defines the universal human/non-human identity. And to know it, you do not have to become a member of any religious cult or group. It is more science that religion as the word “religion” is¬†construed today.

I will expand the steps in my next blog, so you may watch out for the actual practice lessons subsequently! More blogs will follow to talk about the ‘science’ behind Vedanta, and why the philosophy is important to your work and life.

 

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Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 3.

sunset-yogaYou may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 2.

By the way, did you practice the the exercise I talked about in the above blog? (Assuming you have gone through it before you read on)
Note that only reading theory does not help anyone. It is important to practice and apply the theory to fully appreciate what it is being having the experience, and is the essence of any field we work on; it may be applied science, applied mathematics, et al. Else, it is akin to reading a book on how to ride a bicycle without even trying to ride one!

Let us go back to P, and how it applies to us. This P, that manifests the entire consciousness with floating energy centers (read the very first blog of the series to understand). Now where are these energy centers manifested? In absence of any creation, they can be visualized to float in empty dark space. However, once bodies get created by them, they manifest in those bodies. Now, different bodies have different capacities to hold these energy waves (they exist as waves of an yet-immeasurable magnitude). Living organisms are simply bodies that can hold these wave forms to a greater degree; and these are called ‘souls’. But anything material has a finite existence, hence what we term as ‘death’ is actually of such material body, with the energy wave being released to the field of P.

Now in a human body, where does this soul reside? It resides somewhere along the spinal cord up to the brain. So, how do we say this? If I talk about empirical experiments, it can be quite clearly understood; mentioning this here (though it exhibits brutality), as a pure theoretical or logical reasoning may not be very convincing for us to appreciate given that we understand things better when we can visualize them:

Empirical proof of soul’s existence. If you cut off an arm or a leg of an organism, the organism still ‘lives’ on (not considering an infection to develop which we will cover separately below). But, if you cut off anywhere on the spinal cord, or any damage by say an accident happens over it, the organism will ‘die’. This happens as the spinal cord (or may be, brain) becomes incapable of holding the energy waves (similar to how atoms hold, and based on an external force emits, an electron).

So, what is an infection? Infection has to do with an external agent acting on the specific part of a body. When an infection spreads in a way that the nervous system anyhow gets impacted (thereby affecting the spinal cord or brain), the body again will die. Even in case of heart attack, where the root cause may be apparently stoppage of blood circulation, it is really about stopping the blood flow – hence resulting in lack of enough oxygen – to the brain that damages the system. Note that we can still talk about the electrical system of the brain, however in that case any of the energy fields – electrical, magnetic, etc. – has originated from P.

Now, why I am talking about this impact and influence of P on the human body?
Because, given that the humans are the highest forms of organisms that has the capability to ‘think’ without being solely or primarily instinctive (as animals) – given that for lower animals there’s an inability to ‘think’ at such varying degrees of complexity as us – realizing P and being able to control it at any degree results in an ability to control your health and overall well being, your enduring happiness and lastly realizing the purpose of being a human itself; which ultimately leads to the release of bondage into the salvation state of P. This is the last benefit that I hinted at in my earlier blog.
(I am not going to cover the reason why we humans only have the ability of ‘higher thinking’ unlike lower animals)

So, is realization of P the ultimate objective of being a human?¬†Is it not (owning) a BMW, or (going to Paris to see) the Eiffel Tower, or a Macbook, or a great marriage, or a nice holiday, or even a great sex life, or a global recognition in your work?¬†Answer – No; it’s only salvation. This is covered in the earlier blog mentioned above; but then, if the question is, why should you try to achieve something which does not lead to any ‘result’? Because, human (or any living organism’s) intellect, being bound to this consciousness (P), is bound to ultimately realize this in one of the ‘births’ or forms the soul will take (I am talking a little about rebirth here, whether you believe it or not, which can easily be inferred if you have read through this blog series till now).

Then, how do we realize, or at least start realizing, P? Through a form of meditation that connects you to the larger P using the part that is inside you – the soul. That form of meditation will take you through the path of the aforesaid benefits anyway, which though are not the ultimate aims except for the salvation itself. Yes, you do not need any further exercise or weight training or brainstorming to keep fit, if your thoughts is controlled through this form of meditation towards realizing P. Keeping fit simply becomes a milestone or by-product on the path towards salvation.

If you have still kept the faith this far, read on the next blog which explains this technique.
Note that this is not specific to any geography, religious practice (we tend to think in those terms when we talk about meditation), rituals, class, creed or sex.

PRACTICE SESSION – for 15 minutes; 1 week or more
Continuing with the earlier practice (as per my last blog in this series) – hoping that you are able to concentrate enough for 10 min now – we will change it a little as follows:
1. Breath slowly; and while you do it, inhale and exhale deeply with your stomach expanding and contracting respectively
2. Instead of thinking of four things (as earlier covered) and imagining throwing them on to the dark infinity, think of any one static and easily perceived object of your choice (it can be a burning candle, a lotus or any other flower, or even say a pot) – and concentrate on it for sometime so that no other thought comes to your mind
3. As your thought is fixed on that object for a while, imagine throwing it into the dark infinity and only think of this darkness till you open back your eyes

Note – it may not be so easy at first, given that there would be other distracting thoughts coming up in your mind while you practice initially.

Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 2.

sunset-yogaYou may read the first part of this blog here (in case you have not covered it yet): Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 1.

Further, starting with this blog I would provide you a small exercise or practice (note that unless there’s a practice, realizing a theory generally does¬†not hold good), which of course is up to you to work through.
By the way, at this point you may think that what’s the point in getting into such serious discussions, where there are more fruitful, or rather fun-filled surprises in pursuing other things in life. But believe me, there’s a fat chance that this notion may change as you read through this series.

So we start the next discussion with the basic premise of the existence of the entity ‘P’ or the energy field of consciousness.
Now, before we go back to how this P has anything to do with the larger questions I had put up in my last blog, let us see why we do a given action at all (I am underlining the actions in the following examples). For example, why would you feel that doing something else is more fun that reading this blog? Or, why would a thief love to steal? Or, why would you buy a macbook while you still have a good old laptop? Or, why do people aspire to get a BMW? Or, why would you suddenly want to run away to a green meadow in the event of huge work pressure, or a quarrel with your better half?
Some say it’s for a higher value. Some say, it is more about getting a better bang for the buck. Or, it gives either more fun or more comfort.

Now if you really think on the above reasons, it all leads to a feeling of ‘freedom’ or ‘salvation’. Else, there is no other definition of value, fun, comfort, or bang for buck. Taking the above examples; doing other things rather than reading this blog, or getting a mac or a BMW, or stealing, or running away to that far-fetched meadow, brings in such a feeling. But then, is that feeling temporary or an enduring one? You will find that it is temporary; stealing feeds the thief but puts him into a bondage of fear. Running away to a meadow leads to another bondage of the worry of being lost, or being hidden. Obtaining anything material such as a macbook or a BMW again leads to a bondage in taking responsibility of such possession.

In fact, anything we do actually is to find freedom, find salvation – may be from a living being, a non-living entity, a state of mind, or simply a feeling or experience. Whereas the first two are quite visible, the latter are subtle and do not have a visible existence. But still all these four factors make up the world we experience everyday. (By the way, did you watch the animated movie, “Inside Out”?)

So what is that enduring salvation?
The answer lies in realizing the very entity from which all these feelings, material possessions and everything that you see, hear, smell, touch or taste sprang up. And yes, you possibly guessed it right – the entity P; collective consciousness of this entire universe – omnipresent and inside you.

But why try realizing P? Are you not already conscious or ‘in control’ anyway?
Two reasons – (a) firstly, you are not that conscious that you feel you are; if that was the case, why are you not feeling the flow of blood, let alone control it, that incessantly circulates in your body? Or, why does your ear not catch the loud music outside while you are deeply engrossed in reading a nice article (not this, of course!), (b) Every action that you do leads to an experience; this experience is a result, either good or bad, that acts as a bondage to which you again respond with another action, and so on; so your behavior is already set in a pattern. Therefore, the only action that is left to be done which can free you from any bondage is something that does not lead to any result; and that is the realization of P, given that P does not lead you to anywhere further, there is nothing more to achieve beyond it, and there is no answer to ‘why P exists’ because P exists and does not exist at the same time (remember Schrodinger’s theory in high school physics?)

The doubt in your mind. Till now, it was nice reading, but then here is the point where¬†you will either believe or not believe whatever I have told you. But then, it was you who wanted to find the answers. And that made you read this far, isn’t it? If still interested, read on … (or come back from a coffee break)

There are three more benefits in trying to realize P (note that I am not saying that you will be yet successful though, but it’s worth the try) – (a) there is no harm in trying; unless you have tried, there’s no point in saying that you believe or you don’t believe something, (b) it helps you realize that you are not a lone isolated entity but a part of this entire collective consciousness that does not die [so in principle, you conquer, rather ‘stop worrying about’, death], (c) <I won’t talk about this last benefit yet>

NOTE – Whatever be your experiences in trying to do this, it would be your own personal experience. Hence, share only with someone who practices the same. The realization of P is very personal, and takes time, but it does happen (let us start with this basic belief, right? As I said, do not discard this as weird before you have tried doing it)

PRACTICE SESSION – say, 10 minutes; for 1 week or more
You can practice this either at the start of your day (that is what I do) or before you go to sleep. Whenever it is, it will be good if you eat light and try to do this regularly.
1. Sit straight on a flat surface, breathe normally and close your eyes.
2. Think of four things that you have recently encountered – an action-based feeling that you strongly felt (may be hitting your boss hard on his nose, or a strong desire to flirt with someone), a certain state of mind (sadness, happiness, anger, or whatever), an action, good or bad, you actually did to someone or something (say, scoring a goal on the soccer field by kicking the ball hard, or giving a penny to a beggar). Try for a few seconds to concentrate on each of these.
3. Next, pick up each one of them in your mind and imagine throwing it into an infinite darkness, supposedly that P. Imagine it to be vanishing off in entirety, and try hard not to kind of remember it. Go to the next one and repeat.
4. Once done for all four, think only of the infinite darkness that ate up all you thoughts a few minutes back. Then slowly come out of this thought itself and open your eyes. What or how did you feel?
(Note that at first, it can be very hard to even sit straight and concentrate … and slowly it improves with practice)

That’s not the end … if still interested, my next blog on this series will be coming up soon.

Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 1.

sunset-yoga“Get up!” and that’s how one fine day your mom woke you up from the bed. Just a fraction of a second back, you were having such a nice dream! … and you woke up startled.
Now think of this; you were (or you may say that your mind was) in a different world – a world you created in your dream – and suddenly there was a ‘request’ from your mom that made you destroy that world, you came out of it, and then your waking up was the ‘response’ to the request. So you see, the human mind is capable of creating worlds and destroying them. So have you ever thought consciously of this incredible power within you? You have the capacity to control your senses so that you can activate and shut them off at your will, and yes – it this phenomenon can be extended to starting and stopping any of your body processes. (Can be proved theoretically through mathematical induction which I won’t cover here). So why such unprecedented powers came to us from the day we were born?

But the larger question is – what is it that we humans are supposed to be destined for? Why we are what we are? Is there a reason why all these capabilities (and intelligence) are with us, and if we can practice using all that at our own sweet will? In that case, can we control death?

Still interested? Read on to discover. However, I won’t tell you where this blog, and the next few in this series will lead to.

Let us see where it all started. How do you think the universe got created? Big Bang?
Whenever we read about such theories on the creation of the universe, we confine ourselves to thinking that the term ‘universe’ in this context is constituted of the bodies such as stars, planets and black holes. However, the infinite dark space that eternally can be thought of to exist, within which this narrow notion of the ‘universe’ got created, is the actual constant universe. Hence, this definition renders universe to be a constant eternal infinity. So now the question is, how did these material things – stars, planets, et al – came from? (And then, how we came into existence?)
Given that ‘something’ had to be created from this ‘nothing’, let us hypothetically presume that there still existed ‘something’ that has been quite inconceivable, at least to the human mind; something we cannot visualize. Let us call this ‘P’. And if I go by the principles of classical physics, P has the property of infinity, extends in all directions, and exists for eternity in time without a start and an end; its behavior should consist of the ability to initiate tiny vibrations, at least inconceivable to any human-made instruments, that leads on to creation of a primeval energy field. This field somehow (and this transformation is interesting) takes shape into larger vibrations and use the dark ‘non-matter’ to start creating matter … and the first quarks (some weird minute particles, in case you are not ¬†conversant with this term in physics) are born leading to the first electrons, protons and neutrons, and subsequently to atoms and molecules, and so on.
Now, the matter gets complex shapes, such shapes exhibit complex behavioral patterns, and leads on to life forms exhibiting such patterns in terms of self-actuating intelligence. And then, we are born.
Considering our original confined thought about the term ‘universe’, this expands – meaning, it forms several complex forms and bodies – reaches a peak complexity, and eventually¬†contracts and every matter ‘dies’ leading back to the state of P. There is a waiting period, and then the process starts again. (This is quite well corroborated by today’s understanding of science)

Now what this all has to do with us?
Given the above properties and behavior of P and given that P follows certain patterns of behavior , which can be corroborated by any chain of scientific explanations to hold true, it leads to the fact that P in fact represents some kind of ‘consciousness’ or ‘thought pattern’. And hence, any matter created as explained above, manifests some degree of this consciousness (may be quite less or possibly none for a planet or star, somewhat less for a dog or horse, quite high for you, me or Einstein). Humans – as we are – can be thought of as at a higher level of such consciousness which we can term as ‘intelligence’ or ‘ability to think in orders of relatively higher complexity’.
Hence, we as humans have the ability to find out the answers to the larger questions I asked above. And that is what we will try finding out, which would be the all-encompassing knowledge we strive for throughout our lives, given the possibility that it would open up different other threads of knowledge that we seek; not to mention, answering why I am having a bad time the last few months? why am I working in this profession (or why not in something else)? why I am getting (or not getting) married? what to do next? ….. and the list goes on and on.

A further note on P.
Consider P to be a energy field, spread across infinitely. Visualize this field as a collection of innumerable points in a three dimensional matrix fashion (similar to a lattice structure that we learnt about in high school physics class). These points may be thought of as energy centers – where this energy, called ‘consciousness’, is likely to be of higher intensity than the rest of the embedded space (though it is a kind of continuum; similar to the concept of an electron cloud; in case you are again a student of physics) – which are kind-of floating in space, hence flexible; hence it is somewhat like free flowing water in that respect. Different bodies in the universe are built in different patterns such that each has a varying capacity to ‘hold’ a given energy center with a given intensity. This explains why say, a stone is not that capable of holding consciousness whereas a ‘living being’ can hold it to an appreciable degree. However, the ‘death’ of a body (say, when a dog dies) leads to release of the point of consciousness that it was holding, and is then available for another body that is born to hold it. That means, P (i.e., its constituent energy centers) never dies!

Wait for my next blog on this topic. In the meantime, do leave a comment and yes, ask me questions.

Who Blessed Me, Always

She laid on the hospital bed with her eyes taped by the nurse so as to avoid them from bulging out. The monitor counted down her pulse and heartbeat second by second; I awaiting helplessly to hold on to the hands that had blessed me, always. The previous day she had stared at me, with both her hopelessness as to her failing organs and the hope that she would come back to us at the same time; which she tried assuring me by slowly tilting her head, albeit without any expression let alone a smile which I longed for.

My mother died. The soul that once supported the body of the old lady whom I knew as my mother – at sixty seven that she was, I still wanted her to hold on – had left.

It has been more than two weeks now. I tried explaining to myself on what more could I have done that would have saved her; probably have taken more care of her, with all her constraints and possibly her own free will in not taking enough care for herself¬†for reasons beyond my perception. For a moment I was angry with myself, and then my dad for not having done enough somewhere; but then whom could I complain as he himself has been lying since two months in another hospital, in coma, oblivious to his better half’s fate.

And my thoughts still kept going back to that old lady – her questioning eyes, her hopeless eyes – eyes that seemed to be asking me if I could save her somehow, oblivious to anything that was going on inside her.

I took refuge in the texts of ‘Advaita Vedanta’, the treatises of Swami Vivekananda. And I am still grappling with trying to accept the truth that defines us, our karma, our destiny; and how I should perceive the unfathomable abyss¬†of feelings that life has thrown at me and hence, lay before me to come to terms with.