Friday, 20 November 2015

What is Illusion?

दैवी ह्येषा गुणमयी मम माया दुरत्यया |
मामेव ये प्रपद्यन्ते मायामेतां तरन्ति ते
|| 14||
daivī hyehā gua-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
ām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te
~Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 14

My divine energy Maya, consisting of the three modes of nature, is very difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto me cross over it easily.

Shree Krishna says that Maya is very difficult to overcome because it is his energy. If anyone conquers Maya, it means that person has conquered God himself. Since no one can defeat God, no one can defeat Maya either. And because the mind is made from Maya, no yogi, jnani, ascetic, or karmi can successfully control the mind merely by self-effort.

Here’s a short story to illustrate this shloka.

Sage Narada once asked Krishna the meaning of Maya.

Krishna said, ‘It is better experienced than understood. Come let’s ride into the forest in my chariot.’

After riding deep into the forest, Krishna said, ‘I am thirsty. You look thirsty too. I can hear a river flowing beyond the trees. But I am too tired to walk there. You go to the river, quench your thirst and get some water back for me. But before you drink the water make sure you bathe.’

Narada walked to the river. It was farther than he had assumed it was. By the time he reached the waters he was so thirsty that he drank the water forgetting to first take a bath as instructed by Krishna. As a result he turned into a woman, a beautiful woman.

A man saw Narada, the woman, and fell in love with her and begged her to marry him. Narada was so enchanted by the flattery that he agreed. The two lived a happy married life and had sixty children. But then there was an epidemic that claimed the lives of her husband and her children. Narada was miserable. She felt she should kill herself. But then suddenly sorrow was replaced by ravenous hunger.

She smelt the sweet smell of a mango from the tree near her house. She stretched out her hand to fetch it but it was out of reach. So she dragged the corpses of her husband and children, climbed on them, plucked the fruit and was about to eat it when a priest appeared and told her to at least take a bath before eating the fruit as she had been contaminated by touching dead bodies.

So Narada entered the river to take a bath, keeping the hand holding the mango above the water, for she feared the force of the water would wash the mango away. When she emerged, she was a man once again but the hand holding the mango still had the bangles she wore as a woman.
Suddenly he remembered all that had happened. The priest who had asked her to take a bath was Krishna himself, ‘See how you forgot all about me and my thirst and my instructions to take a bath before drinking the water. See how once you became a woman you enjoyed the attention of a man and then the attention of your children. And when they died, you forgot about them to satisfy your desire for the mango fruit. This is Maya, delusion produced by desire that makes you forget everything except the pursuit of self-gratification.’

Having learned his lesson, Narada dipped the female hand with the mango in the water and it came up as a male hand; the mango turned into his lute.

P.S. (This story features in Devdutt Pattnaik's "Shikhandi". While he has used the story in context of Narada turning into a woman, here the same story illustrates the concept of Maya or illusion.) 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

How to remain Non- Attached?

Attachment often carries the burden of expectations. Expectations when fulfilled, form a positive association in the mind and lead to further expectations. Expectations when not fulfilled, causes grief. The grief can later take on a negative or positive connotation depending on the circumstances.

To give an example, you get attached to your partner. You begin expecting that he or she will act in a manner pleasing to you. If he/she does act in a favourable manner, you begin expecting a similar behaviour each time, adding more and more things to that list of expectations. It also makes you act in a similar manner towards your partner, so that the exchange of pleasant behaviour is continued. There could be a time when these expectations are not met. And then your mind begins to think of reasons why there has been a change, it also experiences grief, self-pity, and anger, and in some extreme cases could also lead to destructive tendencies.

So does that mean you should not get attached even to the ones you love?

The answer is NO.

But isn’t this easier said than done! How can one not get attached to the one we love? Getting attached is a natural tendency!

There is a famous quote of the Buddha which says,

“Non-attachment does not mean that you should not possess something, rather it means that nothing should possess you!”

Non attachment does not imply that you should be cold as a stone and devoid of all emotions. It does not mean that you should not love a person. It does not mean that you should be indifferent.

Non attachment means that you love somebody because you want to and not because you expect to be loved back. It means having emotions for a person, but not letting your emotions fuel negative and positive thoughts about that person. It means not allowing people and circumstances to have a control on how you feel. It means letting the person free and not interfering in the working of his/her mind. And more than that, it means, not letting the working of his/ her mind have an impact on you.

Attachment is a deterrent in helping you let go. It holds you back from forgiving, from letting the other person free, and in having a better control of your feelings and emotions. It makes you expect more from a person. It takes away the joy of the present.

Non attachment on the other hand, means not wanting to have control over everything, not having expectations and having the ability to enjoy your present.

When this form of non-attachment happens, you become free, because, your mind is no more attached to the outcome. You are in charge of your mind and emotions and they no longer control you, rather it is the other way round.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Non Attachment

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन 
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि-४७

                               Karmanya Vadhi-karasthe Ma Phaleshu Kada-chana,
            Ma Karma- phala hetur- bhurma Te Sangh-ostv- akarmani

This verse from The Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47, means-

You have the right to work, but you do not have right to its fruits,
Let the expectations of fruits not be the motive of your action, nor let your     attachment be to inaction.

 Such a beautiful Shloka! This verse brings out the philosophy of non-attachment. It urges us to do our work but not get attached to the results of our work. In a way, it calls upon us to be selfless and detached. On the other hand, it also cautions us not to work with the result in mind. And if the result is not expected to be fruitful, it urges us to still put in our best effort and not refrain from working hard. 

This seems like such a simple philosophy but yet it is the most difficult to follow. How can one be not attached to the results of their hard work?  Will you be motivated to work hard if you knew it was for nothing? You put in years of hard work, lose sleep over it, do your best to nurture it, and in the end you gain nothing out it. Perhaps you might get the “joy” of having worked so hard, but nothing more.

Surely a human being cannot be so detached, we may be compelled to say. But when we look closer, we have a role model right inside our homes. Yes, our Mother!

The efforts she puts in to give birth, and nurture her child is unparalleled, and yet all she gets out of it is a sense of happiness. The mother indeed is an ideal example of non-attachment.  

She does not tend to her child expecting him to repay her. Neither does she stop tending to him if she thinks it is an exercise in futility.  She knows that after years of hard work, she still will never have the rights to its fruits.  Irrespective of whether her child might look after her when she is old, or kick her out of the house, she will still do her best for him. She will leave no stone unturned to see that he gets the best education, the most nutritious food, and good health. Even when he shows signs of hostility, she will continue to do the best for him.

Sunday, 12 July 2015


 We have all heard the story of the famous ‘vastraharan’ of the Gopis of Vrindavan. The mischievous Krishna, the culprit as usual, steals the clothes of the gopis and refuses to hand them back! While some marveled at the ‘Lila’ or Illusion of Krishna, some were quick to accuse him of being prudish with women and misbehaving with them. But did he indeed act disrespectful of women? Or is there another dimension to the entire story of Vastraharan?

Here’s one perspective on the story-


The gopis of Vrindavan were splashing about in the river Yamuna and as usual their discussion had veered to their favorite – Krishna!

“Have you seen his beautiful eyes? See how they dance with mischief!” said one.

“Ah! How they sparkle!” said another excitedly, “and his lips are like the bud of the lotus, and when he smiles…. a thousand lotuses bloom in my heart,” she swooned and the others burst out laughing.

“I have made his favorite ladoos, dripping with pure ghee… just for him,” said yet another.

“I have strung together a beautiful garland of the finest and most fragrant roses for him,” said a dreamy eyed gopi.

“But I doubt that is any better than my garland of his favorite Parijata flowers,” smirked her friend.

“How cheap…is that all you brought for him?” said a pretty looking one, “I stitched him an expensive ‘pitambar’ robe made of the finest and the most expensive silks, and…” she said pausing for her friends to absorb the grand news and experience the pangs of jealousy, before dramatically adding, “…a necklace of the rarest gems.”

The other girls sighed at that, feeling saddened about not being able to afford the luxury of treating their Lord to such finery.

Their banter went on and on and they forgot all about the special ‘vrata’ they had intended to keep for Maa Katyayani.

Who could ever have enough of the Blue God?

A sweet laughter brought their animated talks to an end and recognizing the song in that laughter, they knew immediately who that could be. Expectant eyes looked around, dancing like thousand peacocks on a rainy day.

“Krishna!!!” they chorused in excitement as soon as they sighted him.  

“Aren’t you supposed to be hurrying up to offer your prayers to Maa Katyayani?” mocked Krishna perched on the branch right above them. “And here you are indulging in mindless gossip,” he chided them.

A collective sigh and a scream went out as they realized they had no clothes on.

“You are watching us bathe? How shameless!” they chorused, their faces turning the darkest shade of crimson. But deep inside their hearts, they were enjoying being watched by him as bathed naked in the river, each secretly wishing he had eyes just for her.

“Kaanha, do you know why we are offering our prayers today? So that, we may join you in holy union!” And they all burst out laughing again.

“So come out and pray then,” he teased back, “Let me see who offers the most sincere prayers.”

Suddenly one of them realized that the clothes that they had left on the banks of the river were gone.

“Kaanha did you steal our clothes?” she asked.

He waved out a couple of their clothes from the branch above. “Here they are. Come and get them,” he teased.

They pleaded and prayed, they begged and bowed, but he refused to budge. Finally, covering themselves with their bare hands they emerged out of the water one by one.

“Why did you make us do this Kaanha?” they cried in shame as he handed them back their clothes.

“You said you want to come to me, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, Kaanha, but do you want us to come to you naked?” they were still wincing at the humiliation.

“You don’t respect women at all, do you?” asked one, all fiery and angry.

“How dare you do this to me?” said another, draping the saree around her slender body, her pride hurt at having had to come out of the water naked.

Krishna laughed.

“When the soul approaches the Supreme lord, it must be stripped of everything. It must be bereft of all that is not part of its inner-self, all that is just an external covering, the ego, the pride, the anger, the shame, the deceit, the ignorance, the pretense of goodness, and impurity of body, mind and soul. It must stand naked and alone, with nothing to save the life within itself. And only then will divinity come forth as its savior.” 

He paused and smiled. “The clothes were merely symbolic, my sweet Gopis.”

Tears welled up in their eyes as they thought of all the caustic words they had stung him with. Their egos shattered like a house of glass hit by a bolt of lightning. Their pride quelled, their anger vanished, the shame no longer haunted them, and all their ignorance seemed to have washed away.

“Forgive us Lord,” they prayed, bowing before him in reverence.

It took a simple vastraharan to make the Gopis realise that the Lord belonged to everyone, and he did not want anything except their faith in him. He did not want their offering, the perfumed flowers, the food, the jewels, or the expensive clothes. All he wanted was their love.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Indu Yanage Govinda...

This song was composed by Sri Guru Raghavendra Swami who was considered a reincarnation of Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakasyapu and an ardent devotee of Maha Vishnu. The Lord took the form of "Narasimha" to vanquish Hiranyakasyapu and save his devotee Prahlada.

This song was sung by Guru Raghavendra Swami at the temple of Lord Krishna at Udupi and it is believed that the Lord appeared before the Guru after listening to his song.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The science behind chants

Vishnu Sahasranaama means the 1000 names of Maha Vishnu. It is one of the most powerful chants and for a lot of reasons. The Vishnu Sahasranaam is known to activate the 7 chakras of your body and the vibrations cause the stuck energy to be released. This reverses the diseased state of the body and return it to the natural state of resonance. So if someone has told you about miracles happening because of chanting, it has nothing to do with miracles per se, and everything to do with the balancing and alignment of the chakras in your body.  

When we listen to the Vishnu Sahasranaama, the sounds produced by the chants synchronise the left and right hemispheres of the brain and oxygenate the brain. The arrangement of words and the sounds produced by those words is so scientific, that the vocal harmonics stimulate and charge the cortex of the brain and the nervous system. Experiments have been conducted to prove all these changes and it has been realized that sound does affect cellular structure and energy.

Our ancestors were truly a knowledgeable lot! They knew how the chanting process benefits the body. They knew that chanting is not just spiritually but also scientifically beneficially. But it is not always possible to hand down scientific knowledge without dilution and exaggeration. I guess, that is how it acquired the form of superstition rather than convey the actual scientific benefit that could be derived from it.  

Reciting the Vishnu Sahasranaama is even more beneficial than just listening to it, because along with sound that your ears hear, you also use your mouth and tongue to recite it. There are about 72000 nerve endings in our mouth and each nerve ending connects to various parts of our body. 

The words in the chants of the Vishnu Sahasranaama are arranged in such a manner that they are not only meaningful but also touch most of the nerve endings in the mouth and stimulates the acupuncture meridians inside it. It thereby bestows a lot of health benefits to the person who chants it. The outcome of the chanting, therefore includes reduction of heart beat, relaxation and calming of mind, relief from stress and depression, and many other physiological, neurological and physical changes.

Here are a few stanzas from the Phalastuti of the Vishnu Sahasranaama which emphasise these very things-

ya ida śṛṇuyānnitya yaśchāpi parikīrtayet |
nāśhubha prāpnuyāt kiñcit sōmutreha cha mānava || 2 ||

He who hears or sings,
It all without fail,
In all days of the year,
Will never get in to ill being,
In this life and after.

rōgārtō muchyate rōgād baddhō muchyeta bandhanāt |
bhayān muchyeta bhītastu muchyet āpanna āpada || 8 ||

And he who is ill will get cured,
He who is bound will be free,
He who is afraid, will get rid of fear,
He who is in danger, will be safe.

durgāṇya titaratyāśu puruha puruhōttamam |
stuvan nāmasahasrea nitya bhakti samanvita || 9 ||

He who chants these holy thousand names,
With devotion to Purushottama,
Will cross the miseries,
That cannot be crossed
Without fail.

Jai Shri Krishna!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


We have all heard chants in some form or the other, we have heard priests chanting in temples and closer home we have heard our parents or grandparents chanting. It does not matter what religion you follow, which tradition or culture you belong to, each one of them have some kind of chanting as a spiritual practice. 

While some of us have picked up what was taught to us during our growing years, some of us have questioned the necessity or practicality of chanting. Some of us might have questioned our parents why is it important to chant, and in all probability we were told to do as was said and not question customs!

There is a huge difference between doing something because it imposed on us and doing something because you believe in it. This belief may be religious, spiritual, scientific or psychological- the means to strengthen your belief does not matter. When you chant because you believe that it will affect you in some positive manner only then does it make sense to take up chanting.
You might have often wondered if chanting and prayers are mere superstitions.  Well, all around the world studies and experiments have been conducted to probe into this very aspect. All of them have found that psychological, neurological, and physical changes do occur in the body as a result of chanting. More about this later.

So does that mean chanting is magic? Is it all hocus-pocus? Well, no, there is no magic in chanting! It is purely scientific.

 The Superstring theory of Physics supports the fact that everything in the universe is made up of sound and vibration including the human body. As long as the body is in a state of natural resonant vibration, we are healthy. Disease sets in when some part of our body vibrates at a counter frequency and blocks the energy to that part. Here is where the chants come into effect. Chants create vocal harmonics with a combination of sound and vibration and thus are known have a positive impact on our body.

Jai Shri Krishna!

To be cont…