Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Concept of Tridosha, ´three doshas´ Part 1

Definition of dosha

In Sanskrit, dosha means ´fault´, ´disease´. It has been defined as “doosyati iti doshah.” The literal meaning of this is “that which contaminates is called dosha.”  

The term ´dosha´ comes from the Sanskrit root ''anything which gets disturbed from causative factors'', ''factors which can be disturbed or which can disturb each other''. So doshas may be considered the agents which cause imbalance in the body as well as experience it, even while they are absolutely essential to life. The doshas were originally so called only when disturbed. When balanced, they were called 'dhatu', tissues.


Observation of nature, seasons, times of day, sun and moon, animal behavior, the effect of certain foods and of foods grown in certain climates, of optimal health and of illnesses and recuperation, of youth, middle age and old age, of rejuvenation and longevity demonstrates the validity of the Tridosha concept. We clearly see that the movement of the earth in relation to the sun during the course of the day and the year affects light and dark, temperature, climate, physical strength, feelings of energy or tiredness, and appetite. We are constantly influenced by time, place and our own daily decisions and habits in terms of sleep, food and physical and mental hygiene.

According to Ayurveda there are three factors, energies or humours (made, naturally, from the same five properties which make up the universe) which form and drive the workings of the universe: Vata (formed of ether and air) Pitta (formed of fire, and to a lesser degree, water, and Kapha (formed of water and earth properties). Note that the factors which can be disturbed are the unstable properties of air, fire and water, ie Vata, Pita and Kapha, whereas space and earth are considered to remain stable.  We must remember that the doshas are not air, fire or water themselves, but rather represent the qualities associated with them.

The concept of 10 pairs of opposing qualities (gunas) comes into play here. What are the intrinsic qualities of ether, air, fire, water  ad earth? Are those qualities inherent and indivisible? Can they exist independently?  We can´t properly understand the qualities associated with the five properties (and therefore the doshas themselves and how to balance them) if we don´t understand the concept of gunas.

heavy                           light
slow, sluggish,dull        quick, penetrating, sharp, active
cold                             hot
unctuous, oily              dry
smooth                        rough
solid                            liquid
soft, mild                     hard    
stable, static                mobile, moving
tiny, subtle                   gross
translucent, clear         cloudy

Note, for example that the opposite of ´dry´ is not ´wet´, but ´unctuous´. Therefore the dryness associated with Vata dosha is not necessarily the dryness of the desert, or of dehydration, ie a lack of water. It is rather a lack of juice, unction, lubrication or oil. Dried out Vata skin is not soothed by bathing, but by oiling, just as a creaking door hinge needs not hydration but lubrication!

We should also bear in mind that while these qualities have a physical dimension, they also have a non physical, mental, emotional or subtle dimension. The light and quick qualities associated with Vata dosha, for example, work on the level of swift communication, understanding or speed of light creative ideas. In Vedic cosmology, ´Vayu´ (the ´blower´ of  Vata) is the Lord of the Winds and his steed is a gazelle.

As these paired qualities describe our perceptual experience of the physical world, it is along these continuums that we find therapeutic balance. Excessive cold is balanced by heat, as excessive lightness is balanced by weight.

As they form part of an energetic system, these qualities exist both ´inside´ our bodies, minds and spirits as well as ´outside´ them. The doshas are responsible for three specific areas of functioning. However while they have specific sites in the body (certain organs for example) where one rather than another dosha predominates, they exist in all parts of the body down to the individual cell and their functions are carried out on the cellular level. They are inter-related throughout the body and cannot function properly in isolation from each other. 

As Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the energies within the body responsible for structure and function (anatomy and physiology), and ´as above, so below´, we can consider Vata, Pitta and Kapha as organizing principles in general, that is in the external world of matter, and in the subtle world of mind, spirit and soul. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are not so much physiological ´types´ as related energies which move the world and everything and everyone in it.


The word Vata derives from the Sanskrit root ´Vah´ which means to carry, to move. Vata dominates the central nervous system, reaching every part of the body and brain. In fact the sub functions of Vata are related to ´prana,´ that is ´breath´. And ´winds´ are the impulses travelling through the body at speed of light, as well as the wind we can see moving grass, trees, or sand.

Rough, quick, light, cold, dry, clear, subtle.


The word Pitta comes from the root ´Tap´, to heat, to undergo austerities and is connected to the body´s metabolism, digestion and transformation, i.e. processes which involve changes of state brought about by heat. Just as the course of the sun determines the growth or transformation of nature, heat alters the nature and digestibility of food. In fact transformational processes never stop happening in every cell of our body.

Intense, hot, oily, liquid, sharp, mobile


The word Kapha is derived from the root ´Ka´ meaning water and ´pha´ which means to flourish. Kapha comprises the physical mass and structure of the body, its tissues and organs, and is responsible for lubrication and cohesion in the body. Just as dry powdery flour needs water to become a mass, our body needs lubrication to become a unified, cohesive structure. Lubrication is also necessary to keep the brain balanced in the skull, and our joints from wearing away.

Stable, static, heavy, cool, soft, moist, cloudy, dense.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Five properties - as above, so below

 Yat pindam Tat Brahmandam (As the body is, so is the universe/creation)

The human body is the microcosm of the universe, made of five substances, ie the properties of akash (space), vayu (air), tejas or agni (fire), jala (water) and prithvi (earth).

Akash has the loosest bonds and the most space between molecules. Prithvi has mass, is tangible, dense matter, but we must remember that all properties are present in all cells and everything that exists. Cells consist of space, chemicals, processes of transformation and matter.

According to Vaisesika, like increases like, opposites decrease and we can only absorb what is like us. While nothing that exists in nature can be completely alien to us, food which is more similar to us, eg meat, proteins and fats, is better absorbed. Vegetables don't help us grow so much or build so much muscle, though they can replace what is lost and give energy (carbohydrates) fibre and micronutrients.

The Charaka concept is that ''there is nothing in this world which is not medicine'' so everything is useful when used at the right time. In diarrhoea, for example, liquids are lost, so must be replaced, ie whatever is lacking must be built up. When one is overheated, cooling foods must be used to reduce the excess.

Coca cola is considered to be made of air and ether (therefore a ´vayu´ food) and  affects bones and teeth badly by leaching calcium and other minerals from them. It could not be considered suitable from a nutritional point of view, but even coca cola could save a life in the case of dehydration. Although not optimum nutrition, in the absence of good food even processed food may be better than nothing, at least giving enough energy to allow the body to function.

Food is categorised as having the same five properties.

Akasha (ether) is present in all the spaces and lumens in our bodies, mouths, noses, the digestive tract, hollow organs (i.e., lungs, bladder and stomach) and the respiratory tract. You can't see it, only through it, ie it's what there is between denser matter, though it does usually contain a mixture of chemicals in the form of gases. It has the most air between molecules and a quality of nothingness.

Psychologically, ether represents expansiveness and freedom but is also associated with isolation, emptiness and fear. It is subtle, light and helps mobility (sukshma, laghu, sara)

Vayu (air) represents movement and communication in the body. Heartbeats, the movement of blood in our veins, breathing, blinking,the  movement of enzymes and hormones, the digestion of food, etc. all require air. Air has a lot of space between molecules.

Psychologically, air is the flow of our thoughts and desires (messages, communication) but is also associated with anxiety, nervousness and fear. Air is subtle, mobile and light, penetrative, active (sukshma, sara, laghu and tikshna)

Agni (fire) represents heat and movement and is responsible for metabolism and body temperature. This means digestion of food as well as information, sensory experiences and emotions. Fire is present in our digestive tracts as hydrochloric acid, agnis, the function of our brains where information is processed and is present in our eyes where we perceive light. Visible fire, has hydrogen like property, heat, for example sun is made of hydrogen.

Psychologically, fire is the light of intelligence but is also anger, hatred, criticism and competitiveness. Fire is hot, sharp and spreading (ushna, tikshna, sara-chala)

Jala (water) is present in all liquids in the body. Blood, mucous, perspiration, saliva, plasma and other secretions are mostly made of the water element. The fire element is also present (as hydrogen). Water is cool, heavy, liquid (shita, guru, drava)and it is also cohesive, ie it is what joins matter together, and it has strong bonds. Waterdrops naturally run together and it is difficult to separate water into droplets for example.

Psychologically, water is love and compassion but is also slow and lethargic.

Prithvi (earth) is what makes our bones and muscles strong, giving them stability and solidity. The minerals in our bodies are made of the earth element.  Earth has the least space between molecules, ie it is the most dense and its bonds are stronger and harder to break.

Psychologically, earth is support and grounding but is also greed, attachment and stubbornness. Earth is heavy, stable, dense and hard (guru, sthira, sandra, kathina) Compared to ether and air, it is gross (sthoola).

Akash (ether) and Prithvi (earth) are unchanging, whereas Vayu, Agni and Jal are unstable. This is crucial to our understanding of what ´doshas´ are (literally ´that which goes out of balance´)

It should be remembered that in talking about panchabhutas, we are talking about the properties of the physical universe (prakriti, matter) which forms, transforms and dissolves. However mind and soul, along with time and direction, do not consist of panchabhutas, but of purusha, ie the indestructible and the eternal. Together the nine gunas, mind, soul, time, direction, ether, air, fire, water and earth make up everything in the universe.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Timeless theoretical principles of Ayurveda

Ayurveda operates on the theory of homology versus heterology, ie sameness and difference or distinction. Samanya (homology) is the common sense and timeless principle of ´´like increases like´´ and Vishesha (heterology) is the complementary principle that  countering a quality with its opposite will reduce it. Fire burns up water for example, but water can also douse fire.

The human body - like everything else in the universe -  is made up of five fundamental properties of matter: space, air, fire, water and earth, panchabhautika. These five properties are in harmony with nature's eco system through the mechanism of Samanya and Vishesha. The state of equilibrium with everything in nature working perfectly is called Samya and is the principal feature of Swasthya, health. Swasthya literarally means ''self in place''. In other words health is our natural state and birthright. Vaishamya is the basis of disease, Vyadhi.

Dr G Shrinivasa Acharya puts it like this in his excellent reference book. Panchakarma Illustrated: ''Ayurved advocates a range of promotive, preventive and curative measures in terms of judicious life-styles, diet and medictaion to restore the eco-balance.''

When we look around us at nature we can see the prevalence of perfect dynamic systems, for example the way plants grow their leaves in alternating patterns to ensure maximum exposure to sunlight and how forest systems similarly ensure that all plants receive the nutrients they need.

However, manmade systems, subordinated to financial considerations, and lacking respect for natural law tend to lack the same perfection. Millions of people have poor mental and physical health, lacking even the energy to carry our their daily tasks or to enjoy their lives. When we recognise that we are part of nature, not separate from it, and that perfect health and vitality is our birthright, the solutions become obvious. If disease and unhappiness is caused by our deviation from nature, then solutions comes from aligning ourselves with her.

All the five properties are necessary and perform their functions within every cell of the human body as long as they are in balance. However, if, for example, we live in a fast'paced chaotic way, travel and entertain too much, stay up late, have no sensible daily routine of work, rest, food and leisure, think and talk too much to no purpose, we may find the air function (Vata, comprised mainly of space and air) becomes aggravated. Its natural qualities are quickness, lightness, dryness, coldness and activity, so by the principle of Samanya, foods, actions, thoughts, speech and behaviours which have the same properties, will increase the air function. Certain times of day and seasons also increase the qualities of Vata.

Over time, if not corrected and balanced, that increase becomes problematic, resulting in minor and, later, major health problems. Aging itself increases Vata, leading for example to decreased bone density, stiff and creaking joints, muscle wastage, insomnia, mental confusion and neurological problems, quite apart from dry, dehydrated skin and wrinkles.

To reduce Vata therefore we look for its opposites and  try to introduce them back into our lifestyles and bodies. Quickness must be countered by slowness, lightness by weight, coldness by warmth, dryness by lubrication, activity by rest. Spontaneity needs to be balanced by routine and structure, a plethora of ideas by application and practice.  The quick brilliance of the Vata function, governing communication in the brain and body and all voluntary and involuntary movements, when aggravated leads to chaos, disintegration and degeneration. It needs the warmth and vision of fire and the cohesion and stability of water and earth.

A dehydrated plant cries out for water, after too much time in the sun we need the shade of a tree and a cool breeze, damp clothes need heat to dry, dry grains need water and fire to become edible rice,  a dry throat longs for a drink. Our bodies instinctively understand the timeless Ayurvedic principles of Samanya and Vishesha. If only we would remember to listen to them!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vedanta, continued -Sankacarya

In answer to the question 'who am I?' Vedanta talks about Panchakosha, the five layers, Who are we really? Vedanta has the following to say about our concepts of ´personality´ by defining what human identity is not:

1. Anna mayakosha is 'the food body' ,ie  'what's made up of food'.  This is the physical body and many think that this is who they are but this is definitely not who we are. 

2. Prana mayakosha is the body of 'sensory organs'. This is the power of the senses, the I is who is listening, seeing, performing physiological functions. This is not who we are either.

3. Mano mayakosha is 'the mind body', receiving impressions and reacting. This could be pain responses, and knee-jerk emotional responses, anger, hurt, sadness etc.  We are also not our thoughts and feelings.

4. Vigyan mayakosha /Buddhi mayakosha is 'intellect' 'cognition', finding what is right and wrong, the discriminating director of the mind. Though closer than Manomayakosha, in that it can see the cause of emotional reactions and choose a more measured response, this is not who we are.

5. Ananda mayakosha is the body 'beyond intellect' where the blissful personality arises. Even this is not who we are!

So who are we really?

 ''I am existence,'' says Sankacarya. ''I am Shiva – the life force – and permanent Brahm consciousness.''

When Sankacarya's students asked him who he was, when he was nearing death, he answered like this:

When dying who am I? 
I am not the mind, nor intelligence nor ego
nor am I the organs of hearing, nor that of tasting, smelling and seeing.
Nor am I the sky, nor the earth, nor fire, nor the air
I am the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

Nor am I the vital breath, nor the five vital airs
nor am I the seven tissues of the body, nor even the five layers.
Nor am I the organ of speech, nor the organs for holding, movement and excretion
I am the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

Nor do I have hatred, nor attachment, nor greed, nor infatuation
nor do I have passion, nor feelings of envy and jealousy.
I am not within the bounds of virtue, wealth, desire and liberation
I am the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

Nor am I bound by merits, nor by sins, nor by worldly joys,
nor by pleasures, nor by sorrows, nor by mantras, nor by sacred places.
Nor am I bound by sacred books, nor scriptures, nor by praying and sacrifices.
I am not the enjoyment, nor an object to be enjoyed nor the one who enjoys.
I am the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

Nor am I bound by death and fear of it, nor do I have death because I was not born,
nor by the rules of caste, race and its distinctions, nor do I have father and mother,
nor do I have birth, nor do I have relations nor friends,
nor do I have a spiritual guru nor disciples.
I am the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

I am without any variation and without any form. I am present everywhere as the underlying sub-stratum of everything and behind all sense organs and mind. I do not get attached to anything, nor do I get free from anything because I am ever the ever pure blissful consciousness. I am Shiva itself.

Sankacarya was walking all over India when he met a prominent scholar of Mimansa, a 60 year-old married man, Mandanmishra, who claimed only Mimansa and the carrying out of rituals could offer liberation. Sankacarya, as a 25 year old monk, cleverly went to beg for a debate (knowing that the Mimansa householder must not refuse to give to who begs). They agreed that Mandanmishra's very intelligent wife, Sharda, would be the judge.

After 21 days of debate, in the final stages, Mandanmishra concluded: ''It is actions which give you liberation.'' Sankacarya agreed that actions could bring liberation but pointed out that they may also be a trap.  He used this example: like a parrot inside a cage who sings for its lord, receives food, feels happy, thinks it's very good and then forgets to fly even when the cage door opens, humans can get so involved in the entanglement of rituals, they forget about the search for freedom. ''If you have wings, why don't you fly now?'' said Sankacarya. Why wait to the age of seventy or eighty and risk forgetting that life is about finding liberation? While Karma is not a waste, it is merely an entrance door, not the goal. We must fly out of the cage to find a freedom more blissful than anything in this world. Finally convinced, Mandanmishra asked to become a disciple and so did his wife Sharda.

Sancacarya did not oppose Mimansa or say that its practice was wrong though. The beauty of his personality was to encourage others ''you're doing fine''. Mimansa is not bad, it's just that Vedanta goes beyond Mimansa. Once, walking with his students, he saw a grammar teacher who was stressed out and angry, teaching unruly children and he wrote another poem:

'Phuj Govindam (worship god) worship Govinda oh fool
The rules of grammar will not save you from the jaws of death!'

Then he saw other stressed people and wrote the following:          

'Oh fool give up your thirst to amass wealth!
Be content with what comes from your actions already performed.
That is the way to freedom.'

Then he saw men fighting over prostitutes:      

''Many people get drowned in delusion,
going wild with passion and lust by seeing a woman's naval and breast.
Oh fool, see clearly, this is just another modification of muscle and fat!

Fail not to remember this again and again in your mind; this is the way to freedom.

The life of a person is as uncertain as a raindrop trembling on a lotus leaf.
Know that this whole world will always remain prey to disease, ego and grief.

So long as a man is fit and able to support his family, see what affection all those around him show! But when his body totters in old age, it becomes hard work for others even to have a word with him. 

When a man is alive and in good health, his nearest and dearest show so much love and affection! But when the soul departs from his body, even his wife runs away, afraid of the corpse.

Childhood is lost in playfulness, youth in attachment to the opposite sex, career and money. Old age passes by thinking over past actions and this is the big surprise - that even at this stage a person thinks that something good will happen!

Who is your wife? Who is your son? How strange is this Samsara! Who are you? Where have you come from? Where will you go? Please ponder over these questions and truths: you will find freedom!

Do not be arrogant because of wealth, friends, beauty and youth, each one of these are destroyed within a minute by time. Free yourself from this illusion of Maya, and see the timeless truth.
Day and night, dusk and dawn, winter and sping, come and go, time plays and life passes away.

But I have a big surprise: the storm of desire never leaves!

When you lose your teeth, your mouth will look like an elephant's mouth.
The stick you hold aloft so proudly will shake in your hand.

Behold the man who sits warming himself at the fire ceremony.
At night he curls up by the fire, eating from the beggar's bowl.
He is a puppet in the hands of passion still!

Born again, dead again, to stay nine months again in the mother's womb...
It is indeed boundless suffering to cross this Samsara world

Oh Brahm! Make me free of all this!

Wealth is not welfare, there is no joy in it.
A rich man fears even his own son.
This is the way of wealth everywhere.''

I gratefully acknowledge this translation from the Sanskrit by Dr Arun Sharma of Ayuskama, Dharamshala

6. Vedanta

Vedanta translates as 'the last part of the Vedas' or 'final truth', although Vedanta philosophy actually comes from the Upanishads. The major proponent of Vedanta was Sankacarya (literally 'Sanka the scholar'). Sankacarya´s father was a scholar who died when Sankacarya was six years old. Sankacarya had already been learning the Vedas with his father, saw suffering and fighting, and wanted to leave this world and know the truth at a very young age. When he was nine/11 years old he blackmailed his mother to become a monk. He was so attracted towards monk-hood that he threatened to jump into a crocodile-filled river to get his mother's permission. His teacher was called Gaudapada. Sankacarya studied and taught, then wrote commentaries (Brahmsutras) based on Vedantic philosophy. Mimansa and Vedanta have many similarities, especially the belief is that everything (in nature) is divine. However Vedanta eschews Mimansic rituals, believing that once the truth (that all is one) is understood, rituals are unnecessary.

Vedanta explains the Vedas in the light of knowledge. It is of common interest to all Vedic schools to find 'absolute reality', the answers to questions such as the nature of the self, what happens after death, what the senses are, what is known and unknown, and where all physical and mental phenomena in the body originate. It is of even more interest to understand the nature of the self (who am I?) than the nature of God.

All other Vedic philosophies are Dvaita (dualism), differentiating between God and creation as well as matter and energy. However,Vedanta sees no difference between God and self, or between matter and spirit or matter and energy. Advaita (monism) is always highlighted in Vedanta.

The Vedas were written or compiled between 10,000 and 5,000 BCE. Around 2000 years ago, 500 years after the Buddha's lifetime, (the Buddhist era lasted around a thousand years) Buddhism overtook Mimansa and blocked its practice. However it probably continued to be practised at home during this period and later emerged again.

Hindus kept Tantra out of mainstream society, though shamanistic rites are still practised in esoteric sects, eg cemetery rituals, sacrifice rituals. Tantra is another Indus valley philosophy but has remained a minority practice

The concept of self or Atman according to Vedanta is quite different from Nayaya - the self is all-pervading, highest truth, beyond mind, cause, effect, space. It cannot be experienced by the sense of mind, as it is an unconditional reality that has no beginning or end, is within and without the body at the same time, it is untouched by external changes and mutations, always the same, permanent, changeless and immortal. Further, it is not subject to Karma, which is another product of Maya (illusion). Mahatma and Atma are the same and witness all changing phenomenon.

Mind consists of the flow of thoughts and emotions, underneath a permanent unchanging reality that remains constant and is witness to all phenomenon. There is no difference between the self/soul and God.  Absolute reality is existence. Thoughts, emotions and moods arise and pass away but  ''one who is witness to all these changes is beyond the reach of mind, ego and intellect''.

The self provides vital energy for the functions of mind, body and intellect. When brain and mind are at rest during sleep, there is still a self which experiences the resting state of mind. Dreams are mind, but who sees resting or knows he or she is dreaming is the self which can see the truth. For mind the dream seems real and true, just as everyday life seems real to us. It is the permanent self which experiences the mental state of dreaming and awakening, but which is beyond mind, ego and intellect.

Atman is like an ocean of consciousness and the physical appearance of an individual or this world is like a wave in that ocean. The waves appear and disappear. ''Those who think that waves are different from the ocean are ignorant''. Even the wave motion is also an illusion. Ultimately everything merges back into the ocean – absolute reality. Drops lead to rivers and rivers lead to the sea.

''Life is a continuous existence from eternity to eternity, in the beginningless and endless journey of the self''.

It is us who wants to live here in this world. We can stop playing the game and be free at any moment, just as God is free. We create the game and play it and therefore we can stop it when we want to.

When enlightenment comes, then ego vanishes away, and the existence of the body (but not the self!) is in danger. This does not matter for an enlightened being, some people call it the side effect of being enlightened.

Concept of Supreme Brahm

Sankacarya says whatever exists is Brahm and whatever doesn't exist is also Brahm- nothing exists separately from Brahm, it is inside and outside and also in the middle! If we perceive differently, it is due to ignorance and Maya. Maya is also part of Brahm, given that there is nothing which is not. Atman and Brahm are identical –like the forest and the trees. Brahm is the state of reality which even destroys the  concept of death.

It is the imagination of the mind, through the senses, that gives colour, touch, sound, vision, smell and taste. as well as meaning to experience. Brahm is hidden from the ignorant, but those who see things in reality as reflections of Brahm live in Brahm consciousness, free from all suffering and pain.  Everything is Brahm consciousness and in that sense permanent.

Rice is Brahm. There is no killing when eating grains, whereas there is more pain and pleasure if you kill animals for food. What arises from Brahm goes back to Brahm. Enlightened people can't be outside of this existence, there is nothing else. We are always creating a little suffering, even if we live consciously, because we sacrifice others to live ourselves, creating a chain of suffering. Brahm is supreme consciousness, everything comes out of it or goes back into it and so everything is divine. When everything is divine, there is no higher God. When you don't see the difference between yourself, God and animals you can't kill or hurt anything. There is no need for Mimansa rituals if everything is equally divine, because there is nothing separate to you and nothing to do puja for.

Practising Vedanta is like the Sanyasin stage after householder stage in Mimansa and impossible to practice in ordinary life, as it goes beyond all illusion to true non-attachment. When we step back to observe our 'happiness' and our 'suffering' we can see that, although it feels very real, it is only  relatively true, it is not absolutely true, not ultimate reality. Vedanta doesn't accept the theory of the bondage and liberation of the soul.  Brahm is cause and effect on the physical level but we are all free at every moment. Neither is there absolute good or bad. In a pure state, only love exists.

Vedanta doesn't accept the reincarnation journey, because once absolute reality is understood we are beyond Maya, including Karma.  Brahm is not affected. There is no concept of a good or bad soul and few people are bad for everyone. We are always free, although we cannot see the reality. Vedanta says love motivates everyone, whether in the form of attraction or mixed with desire. However the purest attraction is pure love and the cause of everything.

However, we want to play the game. The world creates Maya and we playing the game with ourselves. Maya is cause of desire, the illusion of separation, the illusion of self- protection, making a difference between you and others. We don't want the illusion of suffering, but we want the illusion of happiness! If you want to live in this world, you have to live with Maya. Maya helps us to live here, because without ego and illusion it's impossible to live and function in this world.

The Upanishads say ''fake truth is a wheel covered with the golden disk of Maya.'' If the goal is absolute freedom, we must realise absolute reality – that whether we live or die doesn't really matter. In Maya there is time and space, in Maya there is karmic debt. When the knowledge is there karmic debt is burnt. 

''If you have wings, why don't you fly now?'' Sankacarya points out that although making good karma for the next life is a good idea, why have a next life at all if freedom is available now?  We don't want to see the reality and are fearful rather than blissful at the prospect of death. Death is a good moment to be free from the fear of death...

Absolute Brahm appears in many forms and is infinite, the power of becoming finite is Maya. What we see is Maya not Brahm, although Brahm is what is there. If you have a superconscious mind then you can see that everything is, in reality, Brahm. Maya is the tangible 'reality' ie the multitude of forms we see around us. However, absolute reality is one.

''The infinite, the eternal truth, Brahm pervades the whole universe, the visible and invisible. If the visible is taken away, what is left is Brahm.'' The visible is also Brahm but we can't see that. When we see the world we always see Maya, so we can't perceive Brahm. When asked who Brahm was, Sankacarya answered ''Aham Brahmsami - tat tvam asi'' (I am that (Brahm) and you are that too)
When you realise this you will never harm anybody nor is there need for worship.

Vedanta was the first to say matter and energy is not different. (Einstein said matter and energy are not different) Sankacarya argued with Buddhism. If there is reincarnation how can you say that everything is impermanent? The soul must surely go on.

According to Vedanta, we're here only to realise we don't need to be. We should be here as God, in fact we are God and should be living as God. Life and death has no meaning. Vedic philosophies are about the nature of the self and the search for freedom from life, the self and suffering, while Western philosophies tend to search for the meaning of life, the self and suffering. Whereas the Vedas ask 'who am I?', Western philosophies tend to ask 'why am I here?'  From a Vedantic point of view the whole purpose of human life is to get liberation. Animals can't get liberation, so to have human life gives us the possibility of liberation. Vedanta says life is going from eternity to eternity, a journey towards realisation /understanding and there is no suffering.

''The preferable or the pleasurable? The intelligent, having considered them, separates the two. The intelligent select the electable in preference to the delectable. The non-intelligent selects the delectable for the sake of protection of the body.''

''If the killer thinks in terms of killing and if the killed thinks he has been killed both of them are ignorant because Brahm does not kill and  is not killed''

Brahm cannot be known through much intellect, nor through much study or hearing. It can only be known through personal experience through clear and peaceful mind. '' Know yourself'' . You have to seek your self as all realisation is purely personal and experiential: it cannot be taught to others.

''He is hidden in all beings and hence he does not appear, he is seen through the pointed clear intellect (sattva)  of he who can see the truth.''

''The unintelligent people follow their desires, leading to the widespread death. Having known immortality in the midst of mortal items, intelligent people don´t pray for anything here''.

Prayer can be an obstacle in the sense that when we pray we are accepting dualism, seeing God as higher and more powerful and ourselves as lower and weaker. In a way, we give over responsibility to others. Praying may denote a fearful, rather than free, attitude to life. Vedanta calls for self-responsibility- we are 100 % responsible for what happens to us,/how we perceive what happens to us. We are entangled in karma, but we could be free in a moment.

Even if partially followed, Vedanta could improve the health and strength of our minds. If we are not seeking absolute freedom, but our goal is just to have a good life and a good rebirth, it would still help to clarify and improve our thinking and health.

 ''The entangled man sees the outer things and not the inner self. The rare discriminating man, desiring immortality, turns his eyes away and then sees the indwelling self.''

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

5. Mimansa, continued

 There are two important teachings of Mimansa:

1. Concept of Duty

Firstly Mimansa stresses the concept of duty, and says that while people are concerned with their rights, they are not so concerned with their responsibilities and obligations. The Law of Duty is a network of responsibilities for family, society and nation. However, people are usually attached to family, society and nation because or fear or attachment, rather than following the concept of the Law of Duty, which is to do actions because they are the right thing to do.

When one acts with full understanding, respect and knowledge, when all one's actions are performed for the sake of peace and harmony and centred on self-realisation, then following the Law of Duty is a kind of self-realisation. One should maintain one's duty with Dharma. Family responsibilities are not an excuse to break the law or take advantage of others or be selfish ´´because of my children´´ : everyone has family responsibilities. This perspective helps one to see clearly and leads to self-realisation. Moral relativism leads to confusion: Mimansa offers time saving clarity as whatever breaks the Law of Duty need not be considered.

When performing duties, common sense should also be used to avoid a waste of time and money. For example, parents usually want to give their children a good start in life and to see them succeed, but do not always give them the moral education necessary for the children to develop into all-round successful people. Buying a child a place at an expensive college, rather than inculcating good study habits and self-discipline may be counter-productive. We sometimes see that children born into rich, successful and indulgent  families have little drive or direction and may lose their way in later life. It is a better idea to help the child understand that actions (karma) lead to consequences (phalkarma 'the fruit of karma') some of which may be predictable and to take as much responsibility as possible for his or her own life and happiness,

Those who seem to have many opportunities and an easy life may never get happiness and freedom, but suffer and remain fearful, missing their chances for self-improvement. Yet for those who struggle, there may be greater satisfaction and more real progress. Depending on one's Karma one may have to struggle more to progress in the world. Not everyone seems to get what they deserve – Buddha and Ghandi did not have especially easy lives, for example, but look at the impact they had and continue to have on the happiness and enlightenment of others! Heroes are not made from those who compromised their Dharma for their own personal ends, but those who struggled exceptionally in their single-minded pursuit to obtain knowledge and liberation. It is difficult to find the goal of human life and it is common for us to assume our limitations are greater than they are. We may think our possibilities are small. However, spiritual, political and business leaders are not put off by difficult circumstances, or lack of opportunity and persist in creating the conditions for their own success.

We cannot know the Karma of a person from the outside; those who appear privileged and lucky may be wasting their opportunities and suffering internally, while those who appear to have little going for them may make enormous progress materially and spiritually by acquiring and acting on spiritual knowledge. We should not misuse the concept of Karma in order to selfishly refuse help to others who are struggling with difficult circumstances with the excuse that they need to ''go through their phal karma'', but focus on doing our own Karma (actions) to the best of our ability,

Sometimes adolescents don't know what they really want, but are excited by something – they need parental wisdom. Parents should use intelligent suggestion rather than force when advising and guiding their children. A saying has it that until the age of 14 children should be guided by reward and punishment. However from the age of 14 a child ''must be managed like a friend.''

2. The Concept of Rituals

Mimansa appreciates divinity in everything, so external rituals are done to deepen inner meaning, resolve or appreciation. Rituals provide a context in which one receives the full opportunity to understand the value of ritual or external objects. Rituals are a matter of paying respect and showing gratitude, not of asking for particular boons. The main goal of rituals is to make all the actions one does conscious and thus spiritual.  By performing these rituals, one develops the attitude of living in God consciousness, so that in every moment one is conscious of the divine. This creates a certain mental attitude. In doing it you feel and enjoy the presence of divinity, even when blessing food, eating food, etc. so life becomes like an ongoing, unbroken meditation in which mind and body are harmonised. One can reduce the effect of past actions through Mimansa, by performing good actions in this life.  How you behave, how you get up, how you take a shower, how you prepare food, all these can be ritualised in order to increase awareness. (For example there's a mantra for use in the Ganges, where water is offered to the sun. There is also a mantra for conception, for use while trying to conceive.)  

Sources of Valid knowledge

Mimansa accords with Nayaya in that the following are sources of valid knowledge:

1. Direct observation, perception
2. Inference
3. Comparison
4. Testimony

But recognises two more sources:

5. Postulation – hypothesis
6. Non-perception (if you don't see it it's not there)

Presumably non-perception means that we can make deductions from the absence of certain characteristics, for example the absence of certain symptoms pointing to a particular illness would aid diagnosis by a process of elimination 

The concept of soul in Mimansa is more practical than philosophical. Like Vedanta, it conceives of the soul as eternal, all-pervading, infinite consciousness, but concerns itself with action rather than reflection.  It offers ordinary citizens a guide to everyday rituals as a way of approaching the divine and achieving spiritual liberation.

Major teachings for good life/realisation

1. Selfless action
2. Non-attachment
3. Self-control
4. Daily schedule and rituals
5. Social awareness as a citizen
6. Sense of equality with others
7. Unity within diversity
8. Gratitude
9. Seeing eternity within the ephemeral

Sunday, March 2, 2014

5. Mimansa (Purva Mimansa)

Mimansa means  'analysis' 'study' 'freedom through the performance of duty'

Mimansa teaches the Vedas through rituals, and posits the attainment of freedom through the observation of duty. It can be seen as a practical and instructive first step towards Vedanta: this complementary duo can even be seen as two interdependent halves of the same philosophy, Mimansa being Purva Mimansa ('the first half of analysis') and Vedanta Uttar Mimansa ('the second half of analysis'). In a sense their relationship can be compared to that between Karma Yoga ( 'union through action' and Gyan Yoga ('union through knowledge') respectively.

Mimansa offers ordinary families (householders) the opportunity to follow a lifestyle designed with Dharma, instructing how and when to perform specific rites from the cradle to the grave. Rituals are performed which are positive for the health of the individual, family and community, for example pre-conception purification rituals and sensible guidelines on the care of new-born babies and toddlers. Mimansa assumes there is a logical life sequence and offers a life plan based on stages of physical, mental and spiritual growth. Thus rituals become basic tools with which to organise a life.

Mimansa also explains the qualities (and purpose) of myriad gods and goddesses, and generally offers a social and community perspective on ritual celebrations and worship. If everyone were to follow Mimansa rituals, the society would run smoothly. However the rituals are not an end in themselves, including Puja ('worship'), but a starting point to focus the mind on liberation, a kind of practice for Vedanta. After all, absolute liberation, as Vedanta has it, would go beyond ritual and Karma to supreme oneness.

Mimansa sees divinity everywhere, in the tree, the cow and the snake, as well as in symbolic representations of divine qualities, such as gods and goddesses. This is reflected in Indian society as a whole where authorisation must be sought to cut down the Peepal tree or where rivers are considered divine. As one saying has it, ''all gods live inside the cow''. Mimansa has rituals for celebrating aspects of nature such as the sun and the moon and even for women and men themselves. 

''Yatra nariyastu pujaante ramante tatra Devata''
(Where woman is worshipped, there the Gods are found).

Although Mimansa has sometimes been criticised as having too many gods and goddesses, a closer look reveals that Mimansa advocates 'Unity in diversity' and all are aspects of one divine reality.  This is not the worship of idols but finding the purpose of each and every god and goddess as an aspect of the divine. In fact, rituals should be done to honour all deities, and thus every aspect of the divine.  (Although the attraction to a particular divinity, for example devotion to Krishna by 'gopalis', may become a form of Bhakti Yoga, union through love.)

The 16 sanskaras (rituals) pertaining to certain stages of life are as follows:

1. Garbhabdhan 'conception' literally 'implantation of the fetus' (one month's preparation - pancakarma for both parents, abstinence, giving food to the poor, wearing of white clothes, ritual and mantra for moment of conception)
2. Punsvan (second/third month) rituals to determine the health and sex of baby
3. Simantonatan (within first 6 months, the annunciation of pregnancy, wearing of beautiful new clothes, worship of mother with gifts and food)
4. Jatraram (birth) rituals regarding baby's warmth, safety, bathing etc, taste of local honey
5. Namkara (naming) On the 11th day the baby is given a personal family name, after one year a  formal 'good' name
6. Nishkaram After 4 months of staying within the home, the baby is taken out for the first time
7. Anaprasthan (food) After 6 months of receiving only breast milk the baby receives supplementary food
8. Mundan At the age of three, the child's hair is shaved for the first time
9. Karanbedh At the age of five, the child's ears are pierced and he or she is given silver or gold studs.
10. Upnayan 'preparation' Between the ages of 7 and 9 the child is prepared for leaving hom to go to the teacher's house for study, celibacy etc
11. Vedarambha 'starting knowledge' Between the ages of 12- 25 the child stays at the teacher's house/study ( or goes to school)
12. Sampravantan at 25, the adult leaves the gurus's house after completing education;graduation;rejoins the world
13. Vivaha /Grihastha 25 -50 householder duties, marriage and bringing up a family
14.Vanprastha – 'service' 50 + service to the community
15. Sanyasha – 'indifference'  60/70 +'retreat' 'preparation'
16. Aniuyeshta 'after death'  the body should be respected and allowed to disintegrate into any of the 5 elements, fire, etc

Not only the rituals but the Dharma of different life stages should be respected. For example, the householder should not turn away those who approach his house in need of money or sustenance. He or she is not to decide who is deserving, but to give what they can. It is not important whether the person is really in need; better to give to nine people mistakenly than deprive one person in need. On the other hand, it is important not to take what one doesn't need. For those who decide to leave home and do Sanyasha, it would be a matter of indifference whether the householder gives or not, food being accepted when offered and not missed when not. An example of this is Sankacarya being repeatedly bitten by a scorpion which he gently put away from him. For a Sanyasin the body no longer matters and he or she is beyond Dharma and Karma. The only Dharma of a Sanyasin is Moksha and the realisation of the true nature of life, love.

While Mimansa teaches that ritual practice is essential, Vedanta goes beyond all practice and says that the truth is available at every moment and can be realised in an instant.