Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramahamsa Yogananda

Paramahamsa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur (1893-1951), spent a lifetime in yogic practices trying to get humanity to express the beauty, nobility and the divinity
He was the founder of the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, . Born to a spiritual man who worked in a high position in Nagpur- Calcutta Railway and a mother who was an embodiment of love and generosity. Both were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya and initiated young Mukunda into the kriya yoga.
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Rs. 125, 499 p
Paramahamsa Yogananda was deemed to be born to bridge the divide between the East and West by the many gurus who blessed him and guided him - to balance the material and spiritual centres. After his birth in Gorakhpur, young Mukunda showed his early desire to understand the spiritual aspect and even ran away to the Himalayas in search of God. After meeting many saints and yogis such as the Perfume saint, Tiger swami, Levitating saint Nagendranath Bhaduri, the saint with two bodies, Master Mahasaya, Jagadis Chandra Bose, the sleepless saint among others he found his guru in Sri Yukteswar Giri in Serampore near Calcutta. He continued his spiritual journey with his guru and also completed his graduation. Being initiated into the Kriya Yoga by his guru Sri Yukteswar who was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya who was himself initiated into it by the deathless saint Babaji Swami Yogananda established a centre in Ranchi before going to the USA to spread the practice of Kriya Yoga there.

Some of the lines in the book that I'd like to view again.
"To be one with God."

"..never allowed the  ego principle to consider itself a causative force. By the perfection of his surrender to the Prime Healing Power, the master enabled it to flow freely through him." - On healing

"The ego principle is the root cause of dualism, separation between man and creator, brings humans under maya, by which the objects falsely appear as the object and the creatures imagine themselves to be the creator."

"The body is manufactured and sustained by the mind. Habit bound body thwarts the mind. Mind is the master, body the slave."

'By indomitable persistence in thought, of health and strength, I overcame the handicap. I see tigers as pussy cats. What stronger people lacked is the cool confidence and mental strength I had when facing a tiger." - Tiger swami

"Don't mistake the technique for the goal."

"I left a few rupees for a cosmic empire of endless bliss."

"The divine order arranges our future more wisely than any insurance company. The One who gave us air and milk form our first breath knows how to provide day by day for his devotees."

"Plants ave a varied emotional life." - Jagdis Chandra Bose

"The borders of physics and physiology are vanishing."

"Pursuit of truth with infinite patience."- J.C. Bose

"Metals are subject to fatigue...regain efficiency."

"God realisation through a single concept of Cosmic Beloved."

"Absolute is without qualities (nirguna) and inconceivable (acintya)'

'The shastras consist of Shruthi (what can be directly heard), smriti (what must be remembered), purana (ancient allegories) and tantra (rites and rituals)'

"Kriya yoga quickens man's spiritual evolution. Incarnating ego requires a million years to gain liberation from maya, shortened through kriya yoga."

"Is the whole world going to change for you? Change yourself... be rid of the mosquito consciousness." - Sri Yukteswar Giri

"The super consciousness regardless of the multitudinous distractions, never absent from this earth. In the first state of samadhi the devotee shuts off all sensory testimony to the outer world.'

"In the presence of a man perfected in ahimsa, enmity does not arise."

'Wanton loss of a human body is a serious transgression against the karmic law.'

"Medicines have limitations, the divine creator's force has none. Believe that and you shall be well."

"It has been your thoughts that have made you feel alternately weak and strong. You have seen how your health has exactly followed your subconscious expectations. Thought is a force, even as electricity or gravitation. The human mind is a spark of almighty consciousness of God. Whatever your powerful mind believes very intensely, would come to pass instantly."

"All creation is governed by law. The principles that operate in the outer universe are called natural laws. Subtle laws rule the hidden spiritual planes and the inner realm of consciousness"

"The active expression of virtue gives rise to the keenest intelligence."

"Every individual in the world has an inalienable right to his free will."

'Wisdom is the greatest cleanser."

"The body is a treacherous friend. Give it its due, no more.. Pain and pleasure are transitory, endure all dualities with calmness, trying at the same time to remove yourself beyond their power. Imagination is the door through which disease as well as healing enters. Disbelieve in the reality of sickness even when you are ill; an unrecognised visitor will flee."

"So long as you breathe the free air of earth, you are under obligation to render grateful service."

"Tender inner weakness, revolting at mild touches of censure, are like diseased parts of the body, recoiling before even delicate handling."

'Roam in the world as a lion of self-control, don't let the frogs of sense weakness kick you around."

"Sexual instinct has been implanted by Nature solely for propagation of the species. Conserve your powers. Be like the capacious ocean, absorbing quietly all the tributary rivers of the senses."

"Wisdom is not assimilated with the eyes, but with the atoms.'

"Discovering Lord within, we perceive him without.'

'As soon as the devotee is willing to go even to the ends of the earth for spiritual enlightenment, his guru appears nearby."

"It is the spirit of God that actively sustains every form and force in the universe. Those who attain self-realisaton on earth live a similar two-fold existence - performing their work in the world, they are yet immersed in an inward beautude."

"Ever-new joy is God. In meditation one finds His instant guidance, his adequate response to every difficulty.'

'Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm.'

'By deep concentration, a master is able to detect the thoughts of any man, living or dead.'

'Foundations of Hindu music are rages or fixed melodic scales. The 6 basic ragas branch out into 126 derivative raginis and putras (sons). Each raga has a minimum of 5 notes - a leading note (vadi or king), a secondary note (samavadi or prime minister), helping note (anuvadi or attendant) and a dissonant note (vivadi, the enemy).'

'Each of the basic ragas has a natural correspondence with a certain hour of the day, season of the year and a presiding deity who bestows a particular potency. Hindole raga - dawn in spring - universal love, Deepaka raga - evening in summer - compassion, Megha raga - midday in rainy season - courage, Bhairava raga - morning of August, September and October - tranquility, Sri raga - autumn twilight  - pure love and Malkounsa raga - midnights in winter - valour.'

'The sound alliance between man and nature. Nature is an identification of Aum. The human voice is the most perfect instrument of sound.'

'All parts of creation are linked together and interchange their influences. the balanced rhythm of the universe is rooted in reciprocity.'

'The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasise fate - the result of past good and evil - but to arouse man's will to escape from his universal thralldom. '

'What he (man) has done, he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are now prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation because he has created it, by his own actions in the first place, and because he possesses spiritual resources that are not subject to planetary pressure."

'The wise man defeats his planets - which is his past - by transferring his allegiance from the creation to the creator. The more he realises his unity with the spirit, the less he can be dominated by matter. The soul is ever free, it cannot be regimented by the stars.'

'By prayer, will power, yoga meditation, consultation with saints, astronomical bangles - adverse effects can be minimised.'

'The deeper the self realisation of a man, the more he influences the whole universe by his subtle spiritual vibrations and the less he himself is affected by phenomenal flux.'

'The starry inscription at once birth is not that man is a puppet of his past. It's message is rather to a prod to pride, the very heavens seek to arouse man's determination to be free from every limitation. Man's freedom is final and immediate if he so wills, it depends not on outer but inner victories.'

'The point between the eyebrows, is the seat of spiritual vision.'

'Ability to enter at will the breathless state (sabakalpa samadhi) and by attainment of immutable bliss (nirbikalpa samadhi).

'Anyone who practices a scientific technique for divine realisation is a yogi.'

'A swami belongs to the monastic order, may conceivably follow only the path of dry reasoning or cold renunciation.'

'Yoga restrains natural imbalances of thoughts.'

'Yoga system  is a 8 fold path. Moral conduct - yama, Religious observance - niyama, Right posture - asana, Control of life's currents - pranayama, Withdrawal of senses from external objects - pratyahara, Concentration (holding the mind to one thought) - dharana, Meditation - dhyana, Superconscious - samadhi : leading to Kaivalya or absoluteness.'

'Those who habitually speak the truth develop the power of manifesting their words.'

'Kriya yoga - Kri - to act,, react, the union with the infinite through a certain action or tite
It decarbonates the blood and oxygenates it. Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control and meditating on the Aum. It is the process through which human evolution can be quickened.'

'The meditation expert becomes externally free who seeking the supreme goal is able to withdraw from external phenomena by fixing his gaze within the midpoint of his eyebrows, by neutralising the even currens of apana and prana within the nostrils and lungs, and to control his sensory mind and intellect, and to banish desire, fear and anger.'

'To remove the veil of maya is to uncover the seat of creation.'

'The law of miracles is operable by any man who has realised that the essence of creation is light. A master is able to employ his divine knowledge of light phenomena to project instantly into perceptible manifestation the ubiquitous light above. the actual form of projection is determined by the yogi's wish and by his power of will and visualisation.'

'The whole cosmos is a projected thought of the creator. All earth's molecules are held together by the will of God.'

'The secret of improved plant breeding apart from scientific knowledge, is love.'

'Dualities are ever present on earth - disease and health, pain and pleasure, loss and gain.'

'Truth is exact correspondence with reality.'

'God is love. His plans for creation can be rooted only in love.'

In the end, there is a chapter where Sri Yukteswar Giri returns to talk to Swami Yogananda after his death. Resurrected, he tells him that he is now in an astral planet and gives many answers to Swami Yogananda on the human soul's evolution and progression, life and death.

"The human soul has three bodies - the causal body (ideas), the astral body (emotion and feeling) and the gross physical body (senses). On earth a man is equipped with his physical senses. An astral being work with his consciousness and feeling and a body made of lifetrons (prana). A causal body remains in the blissful realm of ideas. My work is with the astral beings who are preparing to enter the causal world.'

'Friends of other lives easily recognise one another in the astral world. Rejoicing at the immortality of friendship, they realise the indestructibility of love, often doubted at the time of sad delusive parting of earthly life.'

'The recurring cycles of astral and physical encasement are the ineluctable destiny of all unenlightened beings. Scriptural definitions of heaven and hell sometimes stir man's deeper than subconscious memories of his long series of experiences in the blithesome astral and disappointing terrestrial worlds.'

'Man as an individualised soul is essentially causal bodied. A matrix of 35 ideas - 19 elements of astral and 16 of gross physical make this 35. The 19 elements are mental, emotional, lifetronic - intelligence, ego, feeling, mind, 5 instruments of knowledge, 5 instruments of action and 5 instruments o life force.'

'The fleshly body is made of the fixed, objectified dreams of the Creator. When man's desire to live is severely shaken by disease or other causes, death arrives. The heavy overcoat of flesh is temporarily shed.'

'The soul is encased in astral and causal bodies. Cohesive force holding these is desire. The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man's slavery.'

'When desirelessness is attained through wisdom its power disintegrates the remaining vessels. The tiny human soul emerges at last it is one with the measureless amplitude.'

'When a soul finally gets out of the 3 jars of bodily delusions, it becomes one with the infinite without any loss of individuality.'

'The karmic debt / desires of men must be worked out before continuous stay in astral worlds.'

'Two kinds of beings live in the astral spheres. Those who still have earthly karma to dispose of and who must therefore reinhabit a gross physical body in order to pay their karmic debts could be classified, after physical death, as temporary visitors to he astral world rather than as established residents.'

'Beings with unredeemed earthly karma are not permitted after astral death to go to the high causal sphere of cosmic ideas, but must shuttle to and from from the physical and astral worlds only, conscious successively of their physical body of 16 gross elements, and of their astral body of nineteen subtle elements. After each loss of his physical body, an undeveloped being from the earth remains for the most part in the deep stupor of the death-sleep and is hardly conscious of the beautiful astral sphere. After the astral rest, such a man returns to the material plane for further lessons, gradually accustoming himself, through repeated journeys, to the worlds of subtle astral texture.'

'Normal or long-established residents of the astral universe, on the other hand, are those who, freed forever from all material longings, need return no more to the gross vibrations of earth. Such beings have only astral and causal karma to work out.'

'The interpretation of man's three bodies is expressed in many ways through his threefold nature. In the wakeful state on earth a human being is conscious more or less of his three vehicles. When he is sensuously intent on tasting, smelling, touching, listening or seeing, he is working principally through his physical body. Visualising or willing, he is working mainly through his astral body. His causal being finds expression when man is thinking or diving deep in introspection or meditation, the cosmical thoughts of genius come to the man who habitually contacts his causal body. In this sense, an individual may be classified broadly as 'a material man', 'an energetic man' or 'an intellectual man.'

'A man identifies himself about sixteen hours daily with his physical vehicle. Then he sleeps, if he dreams he remains in his astral body, effortlessly creating any object even as do astral beings. If man's sleep be deep and dreamless, for several hours he is able to transfer his consciousness, or sense of I-ness, to the causal body; such sleep is revivifying. A dreamer is contacting his astral and not his causal body; his sleep is not fully refreshing.'

On his return from the USA Swami Yogananda meets several personalities - Therese Neumann, Ananda Moi, Giri Bala, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharshi, Rabindranath Tagore and others.

The book resonates with many ideas. Of human will, discipline, the power of the mind, right routines and practices. It goes far beyond that of course, the small introduction into astral plane and causal life by the resurrected Sri Yukteswar Giri throws light upon many inconceivable aspects. Love, surrender, belief, truth, reality are words used to go past the suffering of duality of life. Many examples of miracles are given through the saintly people he meets including materialising human bodies and other things, predicting futures, healing illnesses and even reviving the dead. To disbelieve something that we cannot see or comprehend is foolish and all one can do is try and start where one can - in the daily practice of life and in conquering inner victories over the mind. It has taken me a long time to start and complete the book. It is certainly a book that will mean different things each time one reads it. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Anjali - Diwali Mela

Daksha school has this annual Diwali mela where children and their parents put up all sorts of stalls - games, products, food, quizzes etc and raise money that is used for a deserving cause. It is an evening of fun for parents, children and visitors alike and the children manage to raise almost a lakh of rupees. It is what I think is a highly creative idea - one that is so efficient that it gets everyone involved and gets everyone having fun.

Anjali has been part of this mela for so many years and we all show up every year with her aunts and uncles and have a good time. There are normally some small games where you answer riddles, or play some cricket, or shoot something, or answer some math problems and you make off with a smiley for doing well. If you are tired of the stalls, then you can head to the food stalls taht serve everything from pizza to pav bhaji, mirchi bajji to bhel puri, laddus to junnu and on and on. Some nice masala tea is also on sale.

Anjali, Mansi and Brahmani, the usual suspects, came together this time for the Diwali mela stall. Initially they planned to sell newspaper bags. Then for some reason they came up with a novel idea - a used book stall where they sell old story books, comics and novels for half their price. (Another smart idea - efficient - less work, more scope for business.) They quickly went about collecting books from their own collection - Anjali got some 25 from her collection and ten asked her cousin Shaurya and he gave away another 25. Between Mansi and Brahmani and her, they got about 100 books. I told her she could sell 'The Men Within', '50 Not Out' and 'This Way is Easier Dad' for whatever price she wanted.

Books were collected and transported to school. Banners and captions made "A house without books is like a body without a soul - Cicero' was the selling point. On Saturday, the 14th of October, I dropped Anjali off at 1 and then joined the mela with Pooja (her cousin) at 330. The moment we entered we met Radhika, the vice Principal and then Anita, who were unanimous in their praise for the book stall idea. 'They already sold 40 books,' they said. Wow!

We wandered over to the stall and we could see they were doing brisk business. The books were attractively priced and were selling quickly. Radhika had picked up 'The Men Within'. Chandana aunty was made to pick up 'This Way is Easier Dad' and Achi Reddy bought '50 Not Out' so all of my books were sold out. Comics, Goosebumps and several other books. It was easily one of the popular stalls because even after they wound up at 6, children were dragging their parents over to pick up a book or two. Anita introduced me to a couple of parents who had read 'This Way is Easier Dad'. I met another parent who was dragged there by her son who is an avid badminton and cricket fan and we discussed the books and the inspiration behind them. So with several other parents who stopped near the stall.

Pooja and I went around playing games - memory game, reading quiz, KBC (by Harsh, Rishabh, Yaswantt), target shooting - and many more. We ate bhel puri, pav bhaji, pizza, junnu, cut mirchi and drank masala tea. Anjali wanted her own money to spend along with her pals. Nalini and Abhishek joined us and at the very end, Abhinay joined us too. When the final count was the done the books stall had a bumper sale of Rs. 3310 which is three times what they normally make every year. 'It will be a standard item from now on,' said Anita.

It was a very tired Anjali who came away with us and well she deserved a good meal so off we went to the faithful Zaika and polished off some marag and biryani before heading home. Well done Anjali, Mansi and Brahmani. Well done Daksha. Brilliant job. Love it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Anjali - On Gratitude

So we are doing a fine Whatsapp gratitude course started by Shobhs and all it does is that it reminds us through a message, a quote, a practice, to be grateful. Considering how ungrateful I generally am, I decided to sign up for the course and its been three months since and I have signed up for all three and even sponsored one person each time. One of the things we do is to count three things to be grateful for at the end of the day and since I am telling stories or stuff to Anjali at bedtime, I also carry this exercise and ask her three things she is grateful for that day. She normally starts with the school, her teachers who did something specific, the help, driver uncles etc or the cricket academy, Mallaiah (who she finds fascinating), Ann, Ann's cats, Maya and others.

It looks like the idea is seeping into her more and more. (Not to say that we taught her gratitude since there have been several cases where she has explicitly shown me how to be grateful to maids, the government, electricity etc when she was much younger - without signing up for courses like I am doing now.) The other day our maid bought home some milk pudding made by her sister Manga. Apparently Manga had decided to send us some of it in a box. Anjali was quite taken in by the gesture. 'She works for us and and is giving us this pudding Nanna,' she said amazed. I am glad she noticed that. I asked her is she wanted to give her something in return. 'I have chocolates,' she said. 'We can give her that.' She is on the job now - Manga is not easy to trace.

Yesterday she came to me with this happy look on her face. 'Today I really felt gratitude Nanna,' she said in that tone which said she was not able to fully express what she was feeling. 'I wa sin the school bus when it suddenly stuck me that the watchman uncle at Brahmani's apartments was helping us by keeping her safe, that the driver uncle was doing his best to take us back home safe, the roads, the school...I really felt very full..'.

That's exactly the feeling I get...very full..when I am grateful for what I have in my life. For the people who sustain me, keep me in comfort.

I am glad Anjali is aware and is able to sustain that attitude on her own. I know I have been very ungrateful for the blessings in my life and I am glad I have slowly been nudged by many sources to find this one key that makes my life easier - gratitude. Like Suresh told me yesterday, we cannot go wrong when we have an attitude of gratitude. We are automatically nicer to people, meet them with better vibes and they cannot but be nice to you in return. It's completely win-win - grateful if you win, grateful if you lose. Learning mindset, gratitude, radical forgiveness..they all merge into this feeling. And I believe it leads to the bigger portal - humility and surrender.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Apocalypse Now - Movie Review

The 1979 Francis Ford Coppola's anti-war movie is over 3 hours long and stretches languorously across the time frame. We follow a US captain Willard (Martin Sheen) who has been given the job of terminating renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) of the US Army who is believed to have gone insane and who is running his own private empire. The film travels up the river in a boat and shows the Vietnam war and its horrors and realities as we go upward to Cambodia where Kurtz presides. Along the way we meet all kinds of people and see all sorts of sights.

The boat assigned to the classified mission is commanded by the diligent and rule bound Chief and he has his helpers Mr. Clean and Chef. They are joined by the surfer Lance who is on dope. Clearly every single outpost shows US soldiers at the end of their tether and wanting to go home. They are surprised to find the boat heading the other way - up to Cambodia. A napalm attack, then Clean dies in another attack, then Chief dies and finally the boat with Willard, Chief and Lance arrives at Kurtz's location. It is full of bodies, hung on trees, spaced out young soldiers. Willard meets Kurtz, (who is hidden in shadows and I understood why only after I read that Brando showed up overweight while he was a green beret colonel)  who is clearly insane and in an anti climax kills him pretty easily and walks away through the throng of hundreds of Kurtz's supporters - perhaps as the new king.

Kurtz recalls a memory, of little children who are inoculated, and whose inoculated arms are cut off by the army, which causes a deep horror and perhaps the unhinging of an otherwise intellectual mind. It ends with those words..horror..horror.

Sheen is intense. Brando is a let down. Harrison Ford appears in a short cameo in the beginning. George Lucas was supposed to direct the film but he dropped it to direct Star Wars.

It's the kind of a movie that makes sense to the people in the arena, the pointlessness of the war, the brutality and like Krutz says, the horror. The movie itself was a product of many difficulties - a set being burnt, Sheen almost dying of a heart attack on location and Coppola's editing of the 1.5 million feet that he shot that postponed the release because he had so much material to edit from. Coppola himself invested 30 mn into the movie, used tracks by his pals the Doors in the movie, suffered seizure, breakdown and threatened suicide, and pretty much faced ruin. Something has to be sacrificed while making a masterpiece.     

Newton - Movie Review

A upright and rule-bound election officer tries his best to conduct a fair and proper election in the naxal infected forest area of Chattisgarh. He is protected by police and the military, none of whom want to be around in the godforsaken place any longer they can help it  because there is a threat of an attack. Also the tribals don't seem to care anyway who wins and who loses. But Newton (an improvisation of Nutan) has other ideas.

It is a nice, honest film and it gave an insight on how elections are conducted and how much pressure there is on young officers trying to do their duty despite the many obstacles they face. It's slow, linear and works on expected lines. But then it is honest and entertaining. This is Amit Masurkar's second film (he dropped out of Manipal Engineering College to pursue film making)and it was India's nomination for the Oscar's in the Best Foreign Film.

Raj Kumar Rao is as usual very dependable and the rest of the cast perfect. The highly dependable Sanjay Tripathi plays the cop in charge (his story is equally fascinating - a farmer's son who worked n his farm and who discontinued after the 11th, played the role of girls in festivals, moved to Patna to pursue studies then Delhi and National School of Drama) - he can play the cold blooded butcher in Gangs of Wasseypur and the gentle station master in Masaan.

Nice Link - How Smartphones Hijack Our Mind

  • Less empathy. more anxiety, less knowledge. check smartphones a whopping 80 times a day, 30000 times a year...intellect weakens as brain grows dependent on the gadget...studies conducted
  • Concentration and problem solving, cognitive capacity and fluid intelligence affected by proximity to phone (gets worse as phone is nearer and better as phone is far away and inaccessible, whether phone is in sight or out of sight)
  • When phone rings and people cannot answer their BP increases, pulse quickens, problem solving decreases
  • When phone is in hand low interpersonal closeness and trust, empathy and understanding
  • Delusions of intelligence when actually they know less
  • Give the mind more room to think