Spirituality, the Science of the Soul
A compilation carried in the December 2014 issue of THE VEDANTA KESARI
(brief explanation of Sanskrit words given at the end – nytanaya)
‘The Sublimest Science of All’
‘That science is the greatest which makes us know Him who never changes!’ The science of nature, changeful, evanescent, the world of death, of woe, of misery, may be great, great indeed; but the science of Him who changes not, the Blissful One, where alone is peace, where alone is life eternal, where alone is perfection, where alone all misery ceases— that, according to our ancestors, was the sublimest science of all.1
Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them.2
Each science requires its own particular method and instruments. An astronomer cannot show you the rings of Saturn by the aid of all the pots and pans in the kitchen. He needs a telescope. So, to see the great facts of religion, the methods of those who have already seen must be followed. The greater the science the more varied the means of studying it. Before we came into the world, God provided the means to get out; so all we have to do is to find the means. But do not fight over methods. Look only for realisation and choose the best method you can find to suit you. Eat the mangoes and let the rest quarrel over the basket.3
Spiritual facts are to be gathered mostly from the superconscious state of mind. Let us put ourselves into the same condition as did those who claim to have had special experiences; then if we have similar experiences, they become facts for us. We can see all that another has seen; a thing that happened once can happen again, nay, must, under the same circumstances. Raja-Yoga teaches us how to reach the superconscious state.4
All knowledge, therefore, secular or spiritual, is in the human mind. In many cases it is not discovered, but remains covered, and when the covering is being slowly taken off, we say, ‘We are learning,’ and the advance of knowledge is made by the advance of this process of uncovering.5
Rising Above the Senses
If you ask why man lives, you will be told it is to enjoy the senses, to enjoy possessions and wealth. He cannot dream of anything beyond even if he is told of it; his idea of a future life would be a continuation of this enjoyment. He is very sorry that it cannot continue all the time here, but he has to depart; and he thinks that somehow or other he will go to some place where the same thing will be renewed. He will have the same enjoyments, the same senses, only heightened and strengthened. He wants to worship God, because God is the means to attain this end. The goal of his life is enjoyment of sense-objects, and he comes to know there is a Being who can give him a very long lease of these enjoyments, and that is why he worships God.
On the other hand the Indian idea is that God is the goal of life; there is nothing beyond God, and the sense-enjoyments are simply something through which we are passing now in the hope of getting better things. Not only so; it would be disastrous and terrible if man had nothing but sense-enjoyments. In our everyday life we find that the less the sense-enjoyments, the higher the life of the man. Look at the dog when he eats. No man ever ate with the same satisfaction. Observe the pig giving grunts of satisfaction as he eats; it is his heaven, and if the greatest archangel came and looked on, the pig would not even notice him. His whole existence is in his eating. No man was ever born who could eat that way. Think of the power of hearing in lower animals, the power of seeing; all their senses are highly developed. Their enjoyment of the senses is extreme; they become simply mad with delight and pleasure. And the lower the man also, the more delight he finds in the senses. As he gets higher, the goal becomes reason and love. In proportion as these faculties develop, he loses the power of enjoying the senses.6
Unfortunately, too often we make the world the end and God the means. We find people going to church and saying, ‘God, give me such and such; God, heal my disease.’ They want nice healthy bodies; and because they hear that someone will do this work for them, they go and pray to Him. It is better to be an atheist than to have such an idea of religion. As I have told you, this Bhakti is the highest ideal; I don’t know whether we shall reach it or not in millions of years to come, but we must make it our highest ideal, make our senses aim at the highest. If we cannot get to the end, we shall at last come nearer to it. We have slowly to work through the world and the senses to reach God.7
So, man has to give up the plane of matter and rise to other spheres to seek a deeper expression of that Infinite. In this way the various ethical laws are being moulded, but all have that one central idea, eternal self-abnegation. Perfect self-annihilation is the ideal of ethics. People are startled if they are asked not to think of their individualities. They seem so very much afraid of losing what they call their individuality. At the same time, the same men would declare the highest ideals of ethics to be right, never for a moment thinking that the scope, the goal, the idea of all ethics is the destruction, and not the building up, of the individual.8
While the Western man tries to measure how much it is possible for him to possess and to enjoy, the Eastern seems to take the opposite course, and to measure how little of material possession he can do with.9
The first sign that you are becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful. When a man is gloomy, that may be dyspepsia, but it is not religion. A pleasurable feeling is the nature of the Sattva. Everything is pleasurable to the Sattvika man, and when this comes, know that you are progressing in Yoga. All pain is caused by Tamas, so you must get rid of that; moroseness is one of the results of Tamas.10
Religion Is Realisation
Religion is not going to church, or putting marks on the forehead, or dressing in a peculiar fashion; you may paint yourselves in all the colours of the rainbow, but if the heart has not been opened, if you have not realised God, it is all vain. If one has the colour of the heart, he does not want any external colour. That is the true religious realisation.11
The spirit is the goal, and not matter. Forms, images, bells, candles, books, churches, temples, and all holy symbols are very good, very helpful to the growing plant of spirituality, but thus far and no farther. In the vast majority of cases, we find that the plant does not grow. It is very good to be born in a church, but it is very bad to die in a church. It is very good to be born within the limits of certain forms that help the little plant of spirituality, but if a man dies within the bounds of these forms, it shows that he has not grown, that there has been no development of the soul.12
Beyond that, beyond the senses, men must go in order to arrive at truths of the spiritual world, and there are even now persons who succeed in going beyond the bounds of the senses. These are called Rishis, because they come face to face with spiritual truths.
The proof, therefore, of the Vedas is just the same as the proof of this table before me, Pratyaksha, direct perception. This I see with the senses, and the truths of spirituality we also see in a superconscious state of the human soul. This Rishi-state is not limited by time or place, by sex or race. Vatsyayana boldly declares that this Rishihood is the common property of the descendants of the sage, of the Aryan, of the non-aryan, of even the Mlechchha. This is the sageship of the Vedas, and constantly we ought to remember this ideal of religion in India, which I wish other nations of the world would also remember and learn, so that there may be less fight and less quarrel. Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming. Ay, my friends, until each one of you has become a Rishi and come face to face with spiritual facts, religious life has not begun for you. Until the superconscious opens for you, religion is mere talk, it is nothing but preparation.13
Some Core Concepts
Freedom is the test of the higher being. Spiritual life begins when you have loosened yourself from the control of the senses. He whose senses rule him is worldly—is a slave.14
The bondage of sin and impurity in the uncultivated savage is to his consciousness very small, for his nature is only a little higher than the animal’s. What he struggles against is the bondage of physical nature, the lack of physical gratification, but out of this lower consciousness grows and broadens the higher conception of a mental or moral bondage and a longing for spiritual freedom. Here we see the divine dimly shining through the veil of ignorance. The veil is very dense at first and the light may be almost obscured, but it is there, ever pure and undimmed—the radiant fire of freedom and perfection.15
No amount of force, or government, or legislative cruelty will change the conditions of a race, but it is spiritual culture and ethical culture alone that can change wrong racial tendencies for the better.16
Ethics always says, ‘Not I, but thou.’ Its motto is, ‘Not self, but non-self.’ The vain ideas of individualism, to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power or that Infinite Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up—say the laws of ethics. You have to put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, ‘Myself first.’ Ethics says, ‘I must hold myself last.’ Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not construction, of the individual on the material plane. That Infinite will never find expression upon the material plane, nor is it possible or thinkable.17
The more advanced a society or nation is in spirituality, the more is that society or nation civilised. No nation can be said to have become civilised only because it has succeeded in increasing the comforts of material life by bringing into use lots of machinery and things of that sort.18
All quarrels and disputation concerning religion simply show that spirituality is not present. Religious quarrels are always over the husks. When purity, when spirituality goes, leaving the soul dry, quarrels begin, and not before.19
Without faith, humility, submission, and veneration in our hearts towards our religious teacher, there cannot be any growth of religion in us; and it is a significant fact that, where this kind of relation between the teacher and the taught prevails, there alone gigantic spiritual men are growing; while in those countries which have neglected to keep up this kind of relation, the religious teacher has become a mere lecturer, the teacher expecting his five dollars and the person taught expecting his brain to be filled with the teacher’s words, and each going his own way after this much has been done. Under such circumstances spirituality becomes almost an unknown quantity. There is none to transmit it and none to have it transmitted to. Religion with such people becomes business; they think they can obtain it with their dollars. Would to God that religion could be obtained so easily! But unfortunately it cannot be.20
Spiritual Knowledge is the Highest
Spiritual knowledge is the highest, for it saves from many and many a birth; the next gift is secular knowledge, as it opens the eyes of human beings towards that spiritual knowledge; the next is the saving of life; and the fourth is the gift of food.21
Spiritual knowledge is the only thing that can destroy our miseries for ever; any other knowledge satisfies wants only for a time. It is only with the knowledge of the spirit that the faculty of want is annihilated for ever; so helping man spiritually is the highest help that can be given to him. He who gives man spiritual knowledge is the greatest benefactor of mankind and as such we always find that those were the most powerful of men who helped man in his spiritual needs, because spirituality is the true basis of all our activities in life. A spiritually strong and sound man will be strong in every other respect, if he so wishes. Until there is spiritual strength in man even physical needs cannot be well satisfied.22
We want everything but spirituality. What is meant by want? Just as we want food. Luxuries are not wants, but necessaries are wants. Religion is a necessary thing to very few; and to the vast mass of mankind it is a luxury. There are a hundred things in life without which they can live, until they come to the shop and see a new and artistic something and they want to buy it. Ninety nine and nine tenths percent of mankind comes to religion in this way. It is one of the many luxuries they have in life. There is no harm in this. Let them have all they want; but they are entirely mistaken if they think they can fool God. He cannot be fooled. They will only fool themselves and sink down lower and lower until they become like brutes. Those therefore will become spiritual who want [spirituality]— who feel the necessity of religion, just as they feel the necessity of clothes, the necessity of work, the necessity of air to breathe.23
Unselfishness is God
The difference between God and the devil is in nothing except in unselfishness and selfishness. The devil knows as much as God, is as powerful as God; only he has no holiness—that makes him a devil. Apply the same idea to the modern world: excess of knowledge and power, without holiness, makes human beings devils. Tremendous power is being acquired by the manufacture of machines and other appliances, and privilege is claimed today as it never has been claimed in the history of the world. That is why the Vedanta wants to preach against it, to break down this tyrannising over the souls of men.
That which is limited is material. The Spirit alone is infinite. God is Spirit, is infinite; man is Spirit and, therefore, infinite, and the Infinite alone can worship the Infinite. We will worship the Infinite; that is the highest spiritual worship.24
What is needed is Chittashuddhi, purification of the heart. And how does that come? The first of all worship is the worship of the Virat—of those all around us. Worship It. Worship is the exact equivalent of the Sanskrit word, and no other English word will do. These are all our gods—men and animals; and the first gods we have to worship are our countrymen. These we have to worship, instead of being jealous of each other and fighting each other. It is the most terrible Karma for which we are suffering, and yet it does not open our eyes!25
This is what was meant by all the great preachers of ancient times, when they taught that God is not the world. There is one thing which is the world and another which is God; and this distinction is very true. What they mean by world is selfishness. Unselfishness is God. One may live on a throne, in a golden palace, and be perfectly unselfish; and then he is in God. Another may live in a hut and wear rags, and have nothing in the world; yet, if he is selfish, he is intensely merged in the world.26
Another condition [for success in Yoga] is chastity. It is the corner-stone of all practice. Married or unmarried—perfect chastity. It is a long subject, of course, but I want to tell you: Public discussions of this subject are not to the taste of this country. These Western countries are full of the most degraded beings in the shape of teachers who teach men and women that if they are chaste they will be hurt. How do they gather all this? . . . People come to me—thousands come every year—with this one question. Someone has told them that if they are chaste and pure they will be hurt physically. . . How do these teachers know it? Have they been chaste? Those unchaste, impure fools, lustful creatures, want to drag the whole world down to their [level]! . . 27
Chastity is the life of a nation. Do you not find in history that the first death-sign of a nation has been unchastity? When that has entered, the end of the race is in sight.28
The chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will-power. Without chastity there can be no spiritual strength. Continence gives wonderful control over mankind. The spiritual leaders of men have been very continent, and this is what gave them power.29
This thirst after body is the great bane of human life. So the first sign of the establishment of purity is that you do not care to think you are a body. It is only when purity comes that we get rid of the body idea.30
The Yogis claim that of all the energies that are in the human body the highest is what they call ‘Ojas’. Now this Ojas is stored up in the brain, and the more Ojas is in a man’s head, the more powerful he is, the more intellectual, the more spiritually strong. One man may speak beautiful language and beautiful thoughts, but they do not impress people; another man speaks neither beautiful language nor beautiful thoughts, yet his words charm. Every movement of his is powerful. That is the power of Ojas.
Now in every man there is more or less of this Ojas.31
The ‘Ojas’ is that which makes the difference between man and man. The man who has much Ojas is the leader of men. It gives a tremendous power of attraction. Ojas is manufactured from the nerve-currents. It has this peculiarity: it is most easily made from that force which manifests itself in the sexual powers. If the powers of the sexual centres are not frittered away and their energies wasted (action is only thought in a grosser state), they can be manufactured into Ojas.
Meditation—‘this marvelous Touch of the Soul’
How some people give all their energies, time, brain, body, and everything, to become rich! They have no time for breakfast! Early in the morning they are out and at work! They die in the attempt—ninety per cent of them—and the rest when they make money, cannot enjoy it. That is grand! I do not say it is bad to try to be rich. It is marvellous, wonderful. Why, what does it show? It shows that one can have the same amount of energy and struggle for freedom as one has for money. . . then along with it, there must be meditation. Meditation is the one thing. Meditate! The greatest thing is meditation. It is the nearest approach to spiritual life—the mind meditating. It is the one moment in our daily life that we are not at all material—the Soul thinking of Itself, free from all matter— this marvellous touch of the Soul!32
The greatest help to spiritual life is meditation (Dhyana). In meditation we divest ourselves of all material conditions and feel our divine nature. We do not depend upon any external help in meditation. The touch of the soul can paint the brightest colour even in the dingiest places; it can cast a fragrance over the vilest thing; it can make the wicked divine—and all enmity, all selfishness is effaced. The less the thought of the body, the better. For it is the body that drags us down. It is attachment, identification, which makes us miserable. That is the secret: To think that I am the spirit and not the body, and that the whole of this universe with all its relations, with all its good and all its evil, is but as a series of paintings—scenes on a canvas—of which I am the witness.33
He who says he is the body is a born idolater. We are spirit, spirit that has no form or shape, spirit that is infinite, and not matter. Therefore, anyone who cannot grasp the abstract, who cannot think of himself as he is, except in and through matter, as the body, is an idolater. And yet how people fight among themselves, calling one another idolaters! In other words, each says, his idol is right, and the others’ are wrong.34
But a morality, an ethical code, derived from religion and spirituality, has the whole of infinite man for its scope. It takes up the individual, but its relations are to the Infinite, and it takes up society also—because society is nothing but numbers of these individuals grouped together; and as it applies to the individual and his eternal relations, it must necessarily apply to the whole of society, in whatever condition it may be at any given time. Thus we see that there is always the necessity of spiritual religion for mankind. Man cannot always think of matter, however pleasurable it may be. . . That is to say, the mainspring of the strength of every race lies in its spirituality, and the death of that race begins the day that spirituality wanes and materialism gains ground.35
This is spirituality, the science of the soul.36
Glory Unto the Great Souls!
The bees look for the flowers. Open the lotus! The whole world is full of God and not of sin. Let us help each other. Let us love each other. A beautiful prayer of the Buddhist is: I bow down to all the saints; I bow down to all the prophets; I bow down to all the holy men and women all over the world!37
[Great souls] They do not come through bondage like we do. . . They come out of their own free will, and cannot help having tremendous spiritual power. We cannot resist it. The vast mass of mankind is dragged into the whirlpool of spirituality, and the vibration goes on and on because one of these [great souls] gives a push. So it continues until all mankind is liberated and the play of this planet is finished.
Higher and nobler than all ordinary ones are another set of teachers, the Avataras of Ishvara, in the world. They can transmit spirituality with a touch, even with a mere wish. The lowest and most degraded characters become in one second saints at their command. They are the Teachers of all teachers, the highest manifestations of God through man. We cannot see God except through them. We cannot help worshipping them; and indeed they are the only ones whom we are bound to worship.38
Religious knowledge became complete when Tat Twam Asi (Thou art That) was discovered, and that was in the Vedas. What remained was the guidance of people from time to time according to different times and places, according to different circumstances and environments; people had to be guided along the old, old path, and for this these great teachers came, these great sages. Nothing can bear out more clearly this position than the celebrated saying of Shri Krishna in the Gita: ‘Whenever virtue subsides and irreligion prevails, I create Myself for the protection of the good; for the destruction of all immorality I am coming from time to time.’ This is the idea in India.39
Glory unto the great souls whose lives we have been studying! They are the living gods of the world. They are the persons whom we ought to worship. If He comes to me, I can only recognise Him if He takes a human form. He is everywhere, but do we see Him? We can only see Him if He takes the limitation of man. . . . If men and . . . animals are manifestations of God, these teachers of mankind are leaders, are Gurus. Therefore, salutations unto you, whose footstool is worshipped by angels!
Salutations unto you leaders of the human race! Salutations unto you great teachers! You leaders have our salutations for ever and ever!40 •
All quotations from the nine-volume The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda,
Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, India
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Brief Explanation of Sanskrit words used in the compilation
In the order in which they appear
(collected from many sources by nytanaya)
Sattva. – One of the three Gunas (qualities)(Everything in world reality is made of three gunas, in lesser of greater proportions: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) . Characterized by calmness, purity and wisdom. Sattva is lucid, white and placid. Sattva predominates in discriminative intellect.
Guna – Lit., “quality.” In Hindu philosophy there are three gunas which constitute prakriti, or nature: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Tamas is characterized by dullness, stupidity, inertia; rajas by activity, restlessness, and passion; sattva by calmness, purity, and wisdom. These three qualities are found in varying proportions in the external world and in all created beings.
Sattvika man – a man whose predominant guna is Sattva.
Yoga — Lit., “yoke”—the act of yoking or joining together. Yoga is union of the individual soul with the ultimate Reality. It is also the method by which this union is achieved. There are four yogas: bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; jnana yoga, the path of knowledge and discrimination; karma yoga, the path of detached work, and raja yoga, the path of meditation.
Tamas — One of the three Gunas (qualities)(Everything in world reality is made of three gunas, in lesser of greater proportions: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). Tamas is that part of nature that is impure, dark and inert.
Rishi — A rishi in its most ancient Vedic sense was a seer and an inspired poet. The original rishis were those who saw or called forth the eternal verses of the VEDAS. The Vedas were not seen as written by anyone; the rishis were conduits for them. Most of the Vedic MANTRAS include the name of the rishi who recorded them. Seven of these ancient rishis are seen as the starting points for the orthodox BRAHMIN lineages: Kashyapa, Atri, Vasishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, and Bharadvaja.
Pratyaksha — Knowledge by direct perception. One of six (or more) explicit paramanas. A pramana is a criterion for valid argument in Indian philosophy. From its earliest days Indian philosophy sought to delimit the grounds upon which valid argument could be made. Different philosophical schools varied widely as to which grounds they accepted, but they all had from one to six or more explicit pramanas.
Examples of pramanas are pratyaksha, or direct perception; ANUMANA, or inference; and SHRUTI, or scripture. The CHARVAKAS, the Indian materialists, believed that only direct perception or pratyaksha was valid and there is no point in trying to draw any conclusions by analogy or any other way. The MIMAMSA school, on the other hand, saw shruti or the Vedic scripture to be the most important pramana. NYAYA-VAISHESHIKA, the most philosophical
school, strongly relied on inference, or anumana.
Vatsyayana – Writer of Kama Sutra (Aphorisms on Love) consisting of 1250 verses on love and sex
Rishihood — sageship (like workmanship)
Aryan — In the VEDAS, the earliest Indian texts, the SANSKRIT word Arya had the sense of noble or worthy person. It was used by the tribes or peoples who recited the Vedas to distinguish themselves from other peoples.
Mlechchha. People external to the Aryans
Vedas — Veda is derived from the word, vid, “to know.” A Veda, then, would literally be a compendium of knowledge. In Indian tradition the four Vedas (sometimes collectively referred to as “the Veda”) are the ancient scriptural texts that are considered the foundation for all of Hinduism. The four are the RIG, SAMA, YAJUR, and ATHARVA VEDAS.
Vedanta — Vedanta, literally the end or conclusion (anta) of the VEDA, is the most important philosophical
school in Indian tradition. It is a wide and capacious field that includes those who adhere to a strict non-dualist (ADVAITA) perspective, those who believe in a non-dualism with certain reservations, and those who believe in the type of dualism (DVAITA) that states that God and the human soul will never be one. The one basic requirement of Vedanta is that it rest upon the three basic texts: the UPANISHADS, the VEDANTA SUTRAS, and the BHAGAVAD GITA.
Chittashuddhi – purification of mind –
Virat — Macrocosm; the physical world that we see; the Lord in His form as the manifested universe.
Sanskrit — Sanskrit (/ˈsænskrɪt/; Sanskrit: saṃskṛtam [səmskr̩t̪əm] or saṃskṛta, originally saṃskṛtā vāk, “refined speech”) is the primary sacred language of Hinduism, a philosophical language in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, and a literary language that was in use as a lingua franca in Greater India. It is a standardised dialect of Old Indo-Aryan, originating as Vedic Sanskrit and tracing its linguistic ancestry back to Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-European. Today it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand. As one of the oldest Indo-European languages for which substantial written documentation exists, Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies.
Karma — Action. It is of three kinds: Sanchita (all the accumulated actions of all previous births),Prarabdha (the particular portion of such Karma allotted for being worked out in the present life), and Agami (current Karma being freshly performed by the individual). It is the Karma operating through the law of cause and effect binding the Jiva or the individual soul to the wheel of birth and death.
In a broad sense it includes all actions – that is action done by heart(and mind), action done by mouth (speech) and action done by body (limbs). (nytanaya)
Yogi — A yogi is a practitioner of yoga. The term “yogi” is used broadly to refer to sannyasi or practitioners of meditation in a number of Indian religions. Yogi, or Jogi, since the 12th-century CE, while meaning those dedicated to Yoga practice, has also referred to members of the Nath Siddha tradition of Hinduism. Alternatively, a tantrika is also called as yogini in Tantra traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.In Hindu mythology, god Shiva and goddess Parvati are depicted as emblematic yogi-yogini pair.
Ojas — Vigour; spiritual energy; vitality; the spiritual force developed through the creative power of celibacy Yoga Sadhana.
Dhyana — (Dhyāna) in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism means contemplation and meditation, though their technical context is different. Dhyana is taken up in Yoga exercises, and leads to samadhi and self-knowledge. The various concepts of dhyana and its practice originated in the Vedic era, developed further in the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain traditions, partly independently, partly influencing each other, and have been influential within the diverse traditions of Hinduism. It is, in Hinduism, a part of a self-directed awareness and unifying Yoga process by which the yogi realizes Self (Atman, soul), one’s relationship with other living beings, and Ultimate Reality. The term Dhyana appears in Aranyaka and Brahmana layers of the Vedas but with unclear meaning, while in the early Upanishads it appears in the sense of “contemplation, meditation” and an important part of self-knowledge process. It is described in numerous Upanishads of Hinduism, and in Patanjali’s Yogasutras – a key text of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy.
Avataras — Descent; it is a coming down of the Divine into the human plane; incarnation. but more accurately as “appearance” or “manifestation”
Ishvara — is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman (Highest Reality), ruler, king or husband depending on the context. In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism. In Shaivism, Ishvara is synonymous with “Shiva“, as the “Supreme lord over other Gods” in the pluralistic sense, or as an Ishta-devain pluralistic thought. In Vaishnavism, it is synonymous with Vishnu. In traditional Bhakti movements, Ishvara is one or more deities of an individual’s preference from Hinduism’s polytheistic canon of deities. In modern sectarian movements such as Arya Samaj andBrahmoism, Ishvara takes the form of a monotheistic God. In Yoga school of Hinduism, it is any “personal deity” or “spiritual inspiration”.In Advaita Vedanta school, Ishvara is a monistic Universal Absolute that connects and is the Oneness in everyone and everything.
Tat Twam Asi (Thou art That) — a Sanskrit phrase, translated variously as “That art thou,” “That thou art,” “Thou art that,” “You are that,” or “That you are,” is one of the Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Sanatana Dharma. It originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, in the dialogue between Uddalaka and his son Śvetaketu; it appears at the end of a section, and is repeated at the end of the subsequent sections as a refrain. The meaning of this saying is that the Self – in its original, pure, primordial state – is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena. Major Vedantic schools offer different interpretations of the phrase:
- Advaita– absolute equality of ‘tat’, the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, and ‘tvam’, the Self, Atman.
- Shuddhadvaita– oneness in “essence” between ‘tat’ and individual self; but ‘tat’ is the whole and self is a part.
- Vishishtadvaita– identity of individual self as a part of the whole which is ‘tat’, Brahman.
- Dvaitadvaita– equal non-difference and difference between the individual self as a part of the whole which is ‘tat’.
- Dvaitaof Madhvacharya – “Sa atmaa-tat tvam asi” in Sanskrit is actually “Sa atma-atat tvam asi” or “Atman, thou art not that”. In refutation of Mayavada (Mayavada sata dushani), text 6, ‘tat tvam asi” is translated as “you are a servant of the Supreme (Vishnu)”
- Acintya Bheda Abheda– inconceivable oneness and difference between individual self as a part of the whole which is ‘tat’.
Shri Krishna — is a Hindu deity, worshipped across many traditions of Hinduism in a variety of different perspectives. Krishna is recognized as the complete and eighth avatar of the God Vishnu or as theSupreme God in his own right. Krishna is one of the most widely revered and popular of all Hindu deities.Krishna is known by many names such as Kishan, Makhanchor, and Kanha. Krishna is often described and portrayed as an infant eating butter, a young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, a young man along with Radha or as an elder giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna’s story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana.Worship of the deity Krishna, either in the form of deity Krishna or in the form of Vasudeva, Bala Krishna or Gopala can be traced to as early as the 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as Svayam Bhagavan, or the supreme being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the Bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favourite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna. Since the 1960s the worship of Krishna has also spread in the Western world and in Africa largely due to theInternational Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Gita — Means Song; conventionally refers to the renowned sacred text “Bhagavad Gita”; a philosophical text.
Hindu traditionalists assert that the Gita came into existence in the third or fourth millennium BCE. Scholars accept dates from the fifth century to the second century BCE as the probable range.
The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Lord Krishna. Facing the duty as a warrior to fight the Dharma Yudhha or righteous war between Pandavas and Kauravas, Arjuna is counselled by Lord Krishna to “fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty as a warrior and establish Dharma.” Inserted in this appeal to kshatriya dharma(chivalry) is “a dialogue … between diverging attitudes concerning methods toward the attainment of liberation (moksha)”. TheBhagavad Gita was exposed to the world through Sanjaya, who senses and cognizes all the events of the battlefield. Sanjaya isDhritarashtra‘s advisor and also his charioteer.
The Bhagavad Gita presents a synthesis of the concept of Dharma, theistic bhakti, the yogic ideals of moksha throughjnana, bhakti, karma, and Raja Yoga (spoken of in the 6th chapter) and Samkhya philosophy.[web 1][note 1]
Numerous commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita with widely differing views on the essentials. Vedanta commentators read varying relations between Self and Brahman in the text: Advaita Vedanta sees the non-dualism of Atman (soul) and Brahman as its essence, whereas Bhedabheda and Vishishtadvaita see Atman and Brahman as both different and non-different, and Dvaita sees them as different. The setting of the Gita in a battlefield has been interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human life.
While Gita popularly refers only to Bhagavad Gita, there are many ‘Gitas’ in Indian literature. These include:
• Anu Gita, narrated once again by Krishna to Arjun, but after the war, when Arjun’s brothers, the Pandavas, have firmly established their rule after defeating their cousins, the Kauravas.
• Uddhava Gita, also known as Hamsa Gita, from the Bhagavat Purana, in which Krishna, before leaving earth and returning to his heaven, Vaikuntha, summarizes the wisdom of his life to his companion Uddhava.
• Vyadha Gita, from the Mahabharata, in which the butcher sings a song to explain to an arrogant hermit that being a householder, performing one’s duties, and serving others, is perhaps as important spiritually, if not more, than renouncing the world and serving only oneself.
• Guru Gita, from the Skanda Purana, in which Shiva sings in response to a query by his consort, Shakti, about the meaning of one who facilitates spiritual growth.
• Ganesh Gita, which is part of Ganesha Purana, where Ganesha as Gajanana explains to king Varenya the truth about the world.
• Avadhuta Gita, in which the mendicant Dattatreya, first guru to all Tantriks, sings about the nature of reality.
• Ashtavakra Gita, in which the hermit Ashtavakra, following a question by king Janaka, explores the nature of the soul.
• Ram Gita, in which Ram comforts Lakshman when he returns to the palace after abandoning Sita in the forest.