Saturday, January 2, 2016

Whom does God love? - Part 1

            Every believer wants to love God, in their own way. Everyone wants to profess their love. Most display it externally and even the few who do not, internally know about their love for God. But, this is not the complete story. Just like in a love story, one person declaring their love for the other is incomplete without the other person acknowledging it; one needs a validation of one’s love from God. Very advanced spiritual seekers are only focused on having this acknowledgement. One can find this in the lamentations borne out of deep bhakthi, be it in the case of Meera for Krishna or Bhadrachalam Ramadas/Thyagaraja pining for Rama or Ramakrishna Paramahamsa for Kali.

            Most religions will give a blanket statement that God loves you specially or will bind you to accept that God’s love is given. Only in Hinduism, we get some definite clues. Though there is no question that all of us loved and cared by God, just like we love all our fingers, yet still give special place for our ring on one of our fingers, there is a clear indication of God liking certain traits which makes us more endearing in HIS eyes. 

            In Bhagavad Geeta, Krishna, gives a clear insight into what qualities in a devotee or spiritual aspirant attract HIS attention. This list must not be construed as Ishvara not liking other people, typical to Abrahamic God’s likes and dislikes. The list enumerated merely aligns the individual to quickly climb the rungs of the ladder of spiritual progress. These are more like the common denominators Krishna finds in all evolved devotees or aspirants. Hence acquiring these traits will enable the individual to mirror the mindset of an advanced seeker. All these character aids will enable in the easier mitigation of Vasanas (Read more on Vasanas – A key to understand our past, present and future)

            In Chapter 12 of Bhagavad Geeta, Krishna enumerates these traits in the 7 verses 12.13-19, highlighting the characteristics of a Man of Perfection. Swami Chinmayananda deems these 7 verses as perhaps among the best stanzas of poetic expression.  Not wanting to dilute his brilliant commentary, I have included the following snippet from his book.

            “Generally hasty students of Hinduism have learnt to repeat the accusation leveled against Hinduism by the cheap Missionaries, that in the Vedantik concept of an Infinite, Unmanifest, All-powerful, Non-dual Truth, there is no scope for any ethical scruples and moral obligations. In no other religion do we find the highest moral instructions and the noblest ethical rules so convincingly laid down and insisted upon as to the very foundation of a seeker’s spiritual unfoldment, as in the Gita. And the Gita is the cream of the Upanishads.

                Moral rules and ethical codes of behavior are in Hinduism not arbitrary commandments thrust upon its followers by a Son of God, or by a Messiah. These rules of conduct are copied from the behavior of God-men who had attained the spiritual perfection and had actually lived among us. Seekers are those who are striving hard to attain the spiritual experience of those Saints and Seers. A devotee who is trying to attune himself with these Masters of Yoga should necessarily start at least copying their external behavior and mental beauties, which constitute the moral and ethical rules prescribed in our religion.” – Swami Chinmayananda

            The interesting element of this approach is very scientific, if one were to follow the recipe, the outcome is guaranteed and not one on mere blind faith.

            In this series, we will take the first couple of these selected verses together, to gain deeper perspective. Let us not make these traits as the sour grapes beyond reach, as they are all present in a dormant state in even the worst amongst us. Most of us have one or more already developed. Swami Sivananda has distilled the wisdom of all these characteristics and much more in his book, How to cultivate Virtues and eradicate Vices. I highly encourage getting this book and using it as a roadmap to traverse the minefield of the mind.

अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्रः करुण एव
निर्ममो निरहंकारः समदुःखसुखः क्षमी ॥ 12-13
संतुष्टः सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चयः
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्तः मे प्रियः॥ 12-14

adveṣhṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ maitraḥ karuṇa eva cha
nirmamo nirahankāraḥ sama-duḥkha-sukhaḥ kṣhamī

santuṣhṭaḥ satataṁ yogī yatātmā dṛiḍha-niśhchayaḥ
mayy arpita-mano-buddhir yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ

He who hates no creature, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment and egoism, balanced in pleasure and pain, and forgiving,

Ever content, steady in meditation, possessed of firm conviction, self-controlled, with mind and intellect dedicated to Me, he, My devotee, is dear to Me.

अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानांHates no creature –  The Man of Perfection is atleast predominantly Saatvic, if not risen above the pressure of the Gunas. A Saatvic person, according to Bhagavad Gita 18.20 sloka (Sarva-bhutesu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate Avibhaktam vibhaktesu taj jnanam viddhi sattvikam) has wisdom permanently seated in him to identify the omnipresent, the indivisible Almighty among all beings. Once such wisdom has dawned in the bosom of the individual, he/she perceives one as a part of a cosmic individual. Will the finger poke one's eye for pleasure? How will hating any creature be even a possibility when one perceives the Cosmos as one's conscious body extent?

मैत्रः  - Friendliness – The feeling of friendliness, a spirit of warm companionship is present, in equal measure in every step, in the behavior of a Man of Perfection. There is no ego of superiority or inferiority when such a person interacts. This is typically found amongst interaction with friends. We find friends may come from various backgrounds, but such a backdrop never exists amongst true friends. We have seen such examples with Krishna and Sudama, Krishna and Arjuna, Duryodhana and Karna. Perhaps this must be the number one character of any true relationship be it amongst spouses, other individuals or even nations.

करुण   - Compassion – The primary characteristic of this trait and also with the others listed is the prominent absence of Selfishness. Compassion is fellow feeling or the sorrow of the sufferings of another, according to Swami Sivananda. This is not the feeling evinced seeing the plight of one’s family or merely humanity, but it extends more deeper towards all living beings. Vallalar, a saint from South India, exclaimed வாடிய பயிரைக் கண்டபோதெல்லாம் வாடினேன் ("Vadiya payirai kanda pothellam Vadinen"). It roughly translates to his expressing anguish whenever he saw even a wilted plant. If one sees such a feeling strongly within a limited boundary of family, nationality, religion, yet fails to have even a trace of it outside, then such a feeling definitely does not quality as true compassion.

निर्ममो  - Free from attachment - The twin aspects of attachment are Raaga (Like) and Dvesha (Dislike). This aspect, just like the others are both a preparatory step (at the beginning of this preparatory step) as well as the end result. This attachment stems from the following trait described egoism. They usually work as hand in glove. Attachment paves way to strengthening of the vasanas (Read more: Vasanas – A key to understand our past, present and our future) and the increased frequency of vrittis (mental waves) and also of increased strength. Cleaving this attachment gives us an opportunity to break this Samskara-Vritti cycle, which is behind Samsara. Since attachment is not easy to get rid off, this is a process not a mere turn on or off.

निरहंकारः  -  Free from Ahamkara / Egoism -          Vedanta views EGO as a central aspect of Maya. Patanjali refers it as Asmita. Swami Sivananda calls it as Commander in Chief (of spiritual enemy forces). Initially at lower rungs of spiritual progress one may not even encounter this potent force. This is the self arrogating principle in man. Swami Sivananda views egoism of three kinds, the first two being beneficial and superior. The first is the Supreme, undivided ego, which is eternal and pervades the world. This is also referred in the Mahavakya, Aham Brahma Asmi – I am Brahman. This is Saatvic egoism, liberates man from bondage. Rajasic egoism is the one found is Jivanmuktas, highly evolved spiritual beings. This includes the knowledge of the Self. One is reminded of Janaka, of Upanishadic lore. He acted in the world, yet was aware of the Self.

            The third is Tamasic ego, found in all humans. This causes identification of oneself as the body. This is at the root of samsara. Unless this type of Ahamkara is quelled with the help of the other two ahamkaras, one finds one tossed in the turbulent seas forever. Great sages opine, this ego is also of two subtypes – gross (sthula) and subtle (sukshma). Identification with the gross body egoism is usually a big obstacle in spiritual path and can be overcome by destroying pride, selfishness, desires and identification as body. The subtle egoism is more powerful to overcome and more dangerous. This is associated with the mind. This is the ego a rich man feels, I am a good philanthrophist. It morphs as a feeling, I did very good meditation, I am a good Yogi. It becomes a subtle underlying feeling that I am a good spiritual person, I am a good moral person.

                If you kill the commander of an army, you can very easily subdue the soldiers. Even so, if you kill the commander- egoism in the adhyatmic battlefield, you can easily subdue the soldiers, viz. lust, anger, pride, jealousy, greed, delusion, hypocrisy, who fight for their master – egoism. – Swami Sivananda

            A Karma Yogin destroys egoism by self sacrifice. A Jnana Yogin kills egoism by self-denial, self-abnegation, through vichara, by using techniques of neti-neti. A Bhaktha sees the Supreme everywhere and views himself as a mere instrument in the hands of the Lord.

            A person free from egoism is literally at the doorsteps of moksha – liberation.

समदुःखसुखः    Balanced in pleasure and pain – Equanimity – This is a very oft repeated phrase within Bhagavad Gita. We find it as a central trait in spiritual evolution. Krishna refers in sloka 2-48 as समत्वं योग उच्यते (Samatvam yoga uchate). The pair of opposites – pleasure-pain, heat-cold, censure-praise, success-failure, honor-dishonor make the mind turbulent and go between extremes.  Rooted in Atman at all times, one can develop equanimity in outlook at all times.

                Swami Sivananda’s prescription – Constantly think of the “Samam Brahman” which is seated equally in all beings. Gradually you will develop equanimity. Eradicate desires, cravings, attachments, likes and dislikes. Cultivate discrimination, serenity, dispassion, self-restraint, self-control, self-denial. You will be slowly established in equanimity.

क्षमीForgiveness – To err is human to forgive is divine. This is an expression of compassion, to overlook an offence or debt. Pretense of forgiveness is the most common type. Real forgiveness is rare and must be aspired. There is no displeasure to the offender, offense or even a feeling of resentment. Kshama is an antidote to anger, per great sages. This is not akin to begging pardon, be it for interruption or behavior. Forgiveness is not an act of reconciliation to the current (in)ability to act and show moral anger. Just as a mother forgives her children’s mischief, not keeping score of how many times she forgave, forgiveness becomes a mere outward attitude of deep rooted compassion.
संतुष्टः Contentment – One of the greatest riches a mind can possess. Contentment is the panacea for lobha, greed.  Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty, declares Swami Sivananda. Peace of mind is tied to not the quantum of owning objects, but rooted in contentment. The doors of moksha are guarded by four sentinels – Santi, Santosha, Satsanga and Vichara. Getting one makes the other three follow. Santosha is perhaps the easiest to obtain as it is involving finetuning one’s attitude towards oneself.

            Contentment quietens the tossing of the mind due to desires. The Samskara-Vritti cycle gets altered as old samskaras do not get rejuvenated by contentment.

सततं योगीSteady in Meditation – As one advances from concentration to meditation, one reaches a higher state of steadiness in meditation. A quick check can be made by anyone. Take a steady posture. Close your eyes and bring to your mind’s attention, your most favorite object, be it a person, thing, idea or ishta-devata. Try to maintain focus on the thing that consumes your mind, for the next 5 minutes. Watch how often the mind holds the mental picture and how often it wanders. If this happens with our most beloved object and not an abstract one like Ishvara, it merely shows the fickleness of our untrained mind. 

            Steadiness in Meditation can be understood more with Patanjali Maharishi’s Yoga Sutras. Krishna’s mention of this trait is a good yardstick to measure the mind’s effectiveness is holding onto the object of meditation.

यतात्मा - Self-controlled – Self control is the ability to rise over one’s inclinations, desires, emotions, appetite, senses and mind. The following quote succinctly and precisely sums what self-control is.

            Forgiveness, patience, abstention from injury, impartiality, truth, sincerity, control of the sense, cleverness, mildness, modesty, firmness, liberality, freedom from anger, contentment, sweetness of words, benevolence, freedom from malice – all these combined make up self-control. It also consists of respect for the preceptor and mercy for all. The man of self-control avoids both adulation and slander. Depravity, infamy, falsehood, lust, covetousness, pride, arrogance, fear, envy and disrespect are all shunned by the man of self-control. – Swami Sivananda

दृढनिश्चयः Possessed of firm conviction – Firmness is steadiness, resoluteness, determination, consistency. It applies to the thoughts, beliefs, action, purpose, mind and soul. Unless there is a shield of firmness around all the imaginable good qualities, even they are subject to loss. Firmness has to be deeply rooted in correct knowledge, else it morphs into obstinacy. Firmness of purpose is central to a virtuous character and accompanied by wisdom.

मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिMind and intellect dedicated to Me –This is an interesting adjective that Krishna points the above four characteristics needs to be covered with – Contentment, Steady in meditation, Self-control and firm conviction. Contentment can also arise out of a tamasic resignation to fate which is not true contentment. We see many puranic asuras performing intense meditation practices, even having self-control and firm conviction to achieve some special boons. The antahkarana (mind and intellect), inner instrument, dedicated to the Supreme Being is slowly rid of all vasanas. This makes the antahkarana more purer and these characteristics shine like a jewel of the mind.

            We will see the remainder of qualities loved by Krishna in the upcoming segments.


References / Recommended Reading
·            The Bhagawad Geeta – Swami Chinamayananda
·           The Bhagavad Geeta – Swami Sivananda
·           How to cultivate Virtues and eradicate Vices – Swami Sivananda

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