Making the Universal, Personal: musings on Yoga-Vedanta

The series, published here as an essay.

By the tumoultous, mountainous antecedent of the Ganges — The Bhagirathi

Aham Brahmasmi | I am Brahman

Forget that you have dreams, forget that you have friends, forget that you are in love, forget that you have had your heart broken, forget that you are sitting or standing or lying down, forget that it’s hot or cold or humid, forget that you are hearing, feeling, reading, seeing, thinking.

One by one, strip everything away. Tell me then, what remains?


“In order to observe all that is changing, there must be something unchanging — this unchanging eye is the Atman.”


The Universal Soul

brahmarpanam brahma havir brahmagnau brahmana hutam|

brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma-karma-samadhina||

“The act of offering is Brahman, the offering itself is Brahman. The one who offers it is Brahman, the fire to which it is offered is Brahman too. When offered without attachment and in complete absorption of Brahman , that which is finally attained is Brahman.”

That which is evolving and verifiable is science. That which seeks is philosophy. That which creates is art. Yog-shastra is said to be an amalgam of science, philosophy and art. Yog or union, is the path to realize the Atman — the observer within each of us which is considered the only true, eternally blissful form of our manifest being.

Brahman is the eternal truth, the permanence, the absolute and pure consciousness that is the ‘soul’ of the universe.

The atman is a reflection of the universal soul within the individual. It is a ‘microcosm’ — a particulate manifestation of the cosmos. It is the true self within us.

When one withdraws from the body, mind and senses and transcends the limitations of time and space, one may experience the ‘truth’. This ‘truth’, the answer that comes from within us, is the one that will satisfy us forever.


On Ego & Action

sarvadharmaan paritajya, maamekam sharanam vraja| aham tvam sarvapaapebhyo, mokshaishyaami ma shuchah||

“ Surrender to me, act! Act without getting attached to your duties. I will release you, do not grieve or cling.”

At the Kurukshetra battlefield in the Mahabharata, Arjuna was immersed in his own heroism and how HE will be responsible for so much killing, for how HIS actions will bring HIM grief.

Krishna says,”Wake up, get up, and fight!

‘Fight’ is a call to action. To shake off apathy, self-pity, and inertia.

Detachment is not about renouncing action, it promotes Inaction in action and Action in inaction.

If I were to stay in bed, unmoving, knowing that others depend on me to get things done — it becomes an act with attachment, action in inaction.

If I were to get out of my car in a traffic jam and begin to guide other commuters out of it, unattached to any validation or recognition, simply being an instrument — that is an act with detachment, inaction in action.

When aware, action becomes without identification with being a doer — actionless. In ignorance of this truth, even inaction is deliberate.

To know Ego —

There is no bad ego or good ego. There is just ego. If my karma is in the world and that world, for now, needs me to identify with the ego, then I will. But I will be aware, I will observe. My identifications and I must not merge — must not become one. The motive of every action done without awareness is to control and/or to compare.

“The more identities we believe we have, the more we’ll be in pieces, not at peace.”

|| yoga karma sukaushalam||

Yog is skill in action. When decisions are taken overpowered by emotion, wait. With calmness of mind, act. When the mind is even, when decisions are taken with equanimity, the actions will be right. The consequence may or may not be right, but the action will not bind you — it is neither good nor evil. That action is yoga.

We begin from where we are — What can I do at this moment?


On Faith & Mortality

asatoma sat gamaya | tamasoma jyotir gamaya |mrityormaamritam gamaya||

“From ignorance, lead me to truth; from darkness, lead me to light; from death, lead me to immortality.”

The purpose of religion is to take you to the source. If it actually does that, be religious. If it doesn’t, be rebellious. For a long time, I chose to be rebellious because I never made the effort to truly see. Did you make an effort to understand something correctly, before you decided to misunderstand?

For now, I am not ready to seek what the Gita refers to as the ultimate goal. But I want to do good, be good.

I want to cultivate the qualities of steadiness, non-covetousness, absence of anger (even upon provocation), and consistent, unconditional compassion.

I want to be able to identify, distinguish, introspect and eventually let go of lust and anger.

If I identify my affinities without becoming them, then the body, intellect, ego and senses become tools I use instead of impulses that direct my thoughts and actions.

When faith comes into play, this conflict is overcome.

Faith is surrender; Surrender is detachment.

Doubt is ego; Ego is attachment.

Yoga teaches me that you don’t go forward when you unthinkingly try harder. An asana, a dream, those sticky parts of life — you inhale, exhale and surrender one step further.


On Love & Loss

purnamadah purnamidam purnaat purnamudashchyate|

purnasya purnamahdaaya purnamevavashishyate||

“That is full, this too is full. When I take from that to make this full, that still remains full. The brahman is infinite, the atman too is infinite. When you subtract infinity from infinity, what remains is still infinite.”

Being full of knowledge or full of love is the same thing. To know truth in everything and everyone, or to love everything and everyone — is congruent.

Any love built on fear will not last. A sorrow and fear is lodged deep within us. Of never acquiring partners, name or fame and then of losing partners, name and fame.

When there is no fear, we can love fully.

The traditional beginning of love is need/desire. When it is worked upon and moulded, it slowly becomes love.

There is no time. What is past is never the past. The present is not the present. These are but concepts. To be happy, I do not need to bring back the past. It stays with me. In fact, I can choose to let the good stay and the bad fade away.

Out of my attachment, my stubbornness, my ego, my insistence on having something special — where I thought that this would be a wondrous, beautiful thing, but it was always ordinary or had the potential to be ordinary — I robbed it off its magic. Only ordinary, common suffering remained. This suffering came from identification. Identifying with the past, a person, an imagined life. So I let it go.

People don’t ‘do’ things to other people. Their(our) actions are a product of who they(we) are. They may or may not end up hurting you — but hardly anyone intentionally acts with that motive. We act thinking of only one thing — our ego, its preservation, its vulnerability, its potential, its validation.

To unfold complexities within us — to understand ourselves better through conscious, deliberate, controlled unravelling — that is the purpose of yoga.


In essence, some lessons

Action — Start from now. This moment.

Mortality — However fancy the vehicle and however beautiful the journey, when we reach the destination we want to get out.

Truth — The answer that comes from within us, is the answer that will satisfy us forever.

Awareness — Continue to understand the self, through deliberation, action and unravelling.

Faith — Doubt is ego and ego is attachment. Have some faith.

Yoga — Inhale, exhale, surrender one. step. further.