In our Hindu culture, there are four types of Rin (obligations/debts/duties) that a person acquires and must repay in his lifetime.
Pitru-Rin* (Parental Debt) – Parents are responsible for our birth and upbringing. They take care of us and raise us with love and devotion. A mother often addresses her son as ‘raja beta’ – my prince. She effectively gives the royal status to the child and is content with being a slave to him. The father guides and supports him through his formative years. To repay this debt, the children are required to take care of their parents in their old age, when they are infirm and need help.
Brahama-Rin (God’s Debt) – We are indebted to God who gave us life. When a baby is born, it has no biases, no hatred or negative feelings towards anyone and has no bad habits. As we grow up, our ‘negative’ quotient tends to rise. To repay this Rin, all that the almighty asks of us is to come back to Him with the mindset that He sent us with – impeccably clean, serene and free of any negative values/thoughts/associations. It behooves us to not acquire any more, and to reduce the already present negativity in our lives, so as to reach the stage where we can repay God’s Rin by returning to Him, with the soul in pristine condition.
Dev-Rin (Debt towards the Deities) – Different deities give us food, water, fire, air and provide many other necessities of life, for us to be able to live a normal material life. To absolve ourselves of this Rin, we are to donate items of sustenance to the less fortunate ones amongst us.
Guru/Rishi-Rin (Obligations towards Teachers/Sages) – This is our obligation to the Sages who gave us the scriptural knowledge, to the Acharyas who translated it for us, and to the Gurus/Teachers who taught/trained us in different fields of knowledge/spirituality. The debt is repaid by disseminating the acquired knowledge/traditions, both in the realm of matter and spirit, to as many people as possible.
*Alternately, Pitru-Rin is considered to be a Rin towards ALL of one's ancestors, and is repaid by conducting various rituals like annual Sharaadhs etc.
A person's quest for spirituality starts simply with his visiting a temple. To facilitate the process of his spiritual growth, some temples require their devotees to adhere to a dress code. The temple walls are decorated with religious symbols and images. The 'puja' itself consists of singing of hymns, bhajans etc. followed by a 'parvachan' or a class on religion/spirituality; with 'Aarti' being the final offering to the gods.
There is a psychological reasoning behind all this. The dress code, all the temple decorations, the aroma of incense, the fresh flowers, the nicely dressed deities on the alter; are all meant to create an atmosphere conducive to a spiritual experience. They are the first step of a process meant to alter the state of one's mind, to bring it to a state where the internal turmoil subsides for a duration. The spiritual vibrations of the temple atmosphere lift the the soul to a level where it becomes capable of connecting with the divinity. It essentially prepares the person for what he has come there for.
In our everyday existence, we hide our innermost feelings and wear a shield against any intruding thoughts. Every bit of information is thoroughly screened by our rational mind before it is accepted or rejected. But if we are to learn anything from a spiritual master, the sieve has to be temporarily put away. Subliminal thoughts have to penetrate the mind in their entirety, without being filtered or diluted in any way.
The second step in creating the proper state of mind is to remove the filter separating the ears from the brain, to give our defense mechanism a rest. This is done by singing bhajans and hymns. The mind, through this exercise gets into a voluntary receptive mode. It is then, that the brain can be programmed with the noble thoughts - be they to sing the glory of the Lord or ways to deal with our everyday problems in a conscientious manner. A spiritual master can be most successful in the healing process of a mind beset by the badgering of the trivialities of life; he can convey the scriptural philosophy on virtuous living, only to a receptive mind. And the mind is made most receptive when its guards are taken down, when it stops fighting the sensory signals coming in, when there are no obstructions between the sensory perceptions and memory cells.
The decoration of the temple with divine symbols and images, the incense, the flowers, enforcing a proper dress code, singing of the hymns and bhajans are all a prelude to the ultimate goal - to submit oneself to the reprogramming of ones brain with the doctrines of noble living.
The Vedas say, 'All intelligences awake with the morning.' "Being awake is not just being physically up and around but being men tally vigorous to celebrate another day of living " observed Thoreau, "The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred million to the poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?"
As we grow older, some of us get lost in the monotony of life. We tend to lose our zest for living. As Thoreau observed, "the morning ceases to be the most enjoyable season of the day". We are awakened not by our newly acquired force and aspirations from within but by some electronic gadgets. It is not the undulations of celestial music that wake us up but the prolonged chatter of a radio. And that is very sad; because it signals the decline of our excitement for life.
To quote Henry David again, "A person who is physically, mentally and spiritually awake in the morning and who keeps pace with the sun; for him the whole day is a perpetual morning. It does not matter what the clock says or what the people around him say, morning is when he is awake and there is dawn in him. And if he can keep the spirit of early morning with him throughout the day, then he has lived through, not a day but a long morning". One must be drunk with living and not ever let himself be resigned to life. If one finds oneself at a dead end, he should develop some new avenues for the release of his creative energies. It does not have to be a money making endeavor. One has to develop a state of mind in which he is alert and buoyant throughout the day and the whole day becomes one long morning.
"Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again". Keep the spirit of Goddess USHA alive in you.
Hindu religion is based not on believing a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realizing the Divine. It is based not merely on being loyal to a faith but on striving to become one with the infinite. And there is a definite progression that a seeker goes through. A beginner might need symbols or pictures to focus his attention, and to stop his mind from wandering while in prayers. But if he is earnest about his spiritual development, he would soon progress to a stage where he would not need any props for performing his sadhana to reach the infinite. In his quest for the eternal, he would advance from material worship to mental worship and then on to the highest stage where he can realize the divine.
One must not be content with accumulating scriptural knowledge. That is just the beginning of a long journey. The discovery of inwardness is the essential basis of spiritual life. The scriptures could point out the road but each man must travel it for himself. Reading about a past buddha's communion with God is not going to result in your communion. It can excite you and inspire you to have the same experience. But in the end you must travel alone. You must find your own salvation. "For thousands who talk, one can think; for thousands who think, perhaps one sees and understands". Use the talking and thinking stages as stepping stones to rise to the ultimate level of experiencing the Divine.
Those of us who lead outward lives without being touched to our inner depths, do not understand life itself. We believe that we do our duty to religion by accepting the letter of faith and making a token cash donation to the temple of our choice. This results in our spiritual dependence and forces us to accept what others say about the religious truth. But once the individual in his freedom of spirit pursues truth and builds up a center in himself, he has enough strength and stability to deal with all that happens to him. He has the ability to fight back and retain his peace even when he is faced with adverse conditions. Liberation comes by experiencing the truth on your own. It comes not from accumulation of information, but from inner transformation.
Gautama Buddha said to his disciples, "Be a light unto yourself." Find the truth, build your own light and let it shine your path. Remember, the goal is not to find out how others attained bliss but to use that knowledge to attain it for yourself.
Buddhism has at its core a psychology little known to the adherents but quite familiar to the Buddhist monks. 'Abhidharma' or the 'ultimate doctrine' has as its basis one of the most systematic psychologies of the world and elaborates Gautama Buddha's penetrating insights into human nature. This is the practical psychology that devotees apply to discipline their minds and hearts in order to attain a more ideal state of being.
According to Abhidharma, the human personality is like a river that keeps a constant form, seemingly a single identity, though not a single drop is the same as a moment ago. Each successive moment of our awareness is shaped by the previous moment, and will in turn determine the following moment. Each mental state is composed of a set of values, called mental factors, that combine to define that mental state. One's mental state at any given moment is a function of the biological and situational influences, in addition to a carryover from the preceding psychological moment.
The mental factors could be healthy ones or unhealthy ones. Good mental health depends on our ability to plant healthy factors in our mind so that they can inhibit and suppress unhealthy factors. The central healthy factor is 'Insight' which implies an ability to 'clearly perceive an object as it really is'. 'Mindfulness' is the 'continued clear comprehension' of an object. The two of them together 'perceive' and 'hold' clarity in one's mind and are sufficient to suppress all unhealthy factors.
The formal Western psychology, which is only about a hundred years old is merely a recent version of the human endeavor undertaken centuries ago in India. Modern psychology has rephrased the Buddhistic philosophy by saying that 'we should balance the negatives in our lives by the positives. We hould try to keep everything under proper perspective. We should remember that what is an obstacle for one person is an opportunity for another; what one man calls a stumbling block is used as a stepping stone by another.'
There is a humorous story which illustrates the concept of keeping a positive attitude. Two hunters were offered a bounty of $5,000 for each wolf that they could trap alive. For days they searched the mountains and forests in their area looking for the elusive prey. Exhausted one night, they fell asleep dreaming of getting rich one day. In the morning, one hunter opened his eyes, only to find that they were surrounded by wolves with flaming eyes and bared teeth. He nudged his friend with great excitement and said, "We are finally rich".
In the history of mankind there have been a few famous people and vast multitudes of ordinary folks, and the true winners among them have been the ones who kept a positive attitude toward life. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Don't waste yourself in rejection, but chant the beauty of the good".
Neutralizing the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts was good advice some 2500 years ago, and it is good advice today. Crush a negative thought today and replace it with a positive one. Experience the peace and happiness that flows from this process. Go ahead, do it now!
Yogas of India
Yoga means 'to yoke' with divinity. It is both a system of discipline for control of mind and body, and a system of belief.
There are many types of yoga for spiritual advancement. And the goal of all of them is the same - to close the gap between our professed faith in God and the manifestation of that faith in action, to close the gap between advocacy of spiritual life and a firm commitment to it. It is a vehicle that bridges the gap between talk about morality and moral conduct. Yoga helps us to inculcate a spiritual discipline which elevates us from mere verbalization of our faith to an active demonstration of it.
Man - The Ultimate God
Sadhna connotes the successful achieving of a desired end. It is the instrument for the attainment of Siddhi (perfection). The first step in sadhna is the desire for liberation (mumukshutva). Man alone possesses the desire to attain perfection. The gods are already divine and the animal kingdom does not have the desire for perfection. Only man has the conscious urge to expand without limits, to reach out and touch the stars.
Based on his study of the Hindu scriptures done in India, Troy Organ, a professor of Philosophy at Ohio University, wrote, "Man is a real living, growing entity while god is an ideal being. Man and god are identical in essence, but different in form. Man is real potentiality; god is ideal fulfillment. Man is to be fulfilled as god is fulfilled, but not like god's fulfillment, for god's fulfillment is a static fulfillment -- there are no possibilities in gods. Man is to be perfected beyond god, for he is to be perfected in dynamic reality. The attainment of god-realization is not the ideal goal of human life. The Upanishads claim that the Self, the Atman, not god is to be realized. Various gods de-mythologized are merely the symbols of the full realization of human potentialities."
Self observation leads to awakening. An Awakened man, a man who has pushed himself to the limits of possibilities, one who has achieved perfection in dynamic reality under the constraints of time and space, represents the highest value. That is why the Puranas say that the life of man is desired even by gods of heaven, since it is only through a human incarnation that final liberation can be achieved.
Our purpose on this planet is not just to populate the place and in the words of Gibran, 'to fulfil life's longing for itself', but to awaken and actualize the potentialities present only in man. And when a man attains Siddhi through Sadhna in dynamic reality, he becomes one with Brahman. He becomes the ultimate god.
In the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishan says that he who along with his struggle for survival remembers Him and chants His name is the biggest ascetic. He clearly puts a spiritually devoted householder ahead of any other group of people. This is very well illustrated by the following incident.
It is said that once Sage Narad and a common householder entered the court of Lord Krishan almost at the same time. Lord Krishan chose to see the householder first. Now Sage Narad considered himself to be the foremost devotee of the Lord. So being passed up in favor of a common householder really hurt him. So much so that when he had an audience with the Lord, he complained about this incident. The Lord decided to teach the Sage a lesson. He handed him a pot full of 'ghee' and asked him to put it on his head and to go around the world without spilling a drop of it. This, the Sage was able to accomplish without any problem. So when he came back to the Lord after going around the world, the Lord commended him on his feat and asked him as to how many times did he chant His name during the trip. The Sage said that the Lord must be really joking for he was so busy balancing the pot of ghee that he could not afford to be distracted even for a single instant. Lord Krishan told him that the house holder had to juggle a thousand responsibilities that go with being a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a breadwinner and still found time to chant His name. Sage Narad on the other hand, had only the task of balancing a pot of ghee, and could not find time to chant His name. Therefore the householder was leading a more spiritual life than the Sage. The Sage felt humbled and recognized the greatness of a householder.
Householders are the backbone of the human race. They are the ones who grow the food we eat, design and manufacture consumer goods and appliances needed to make life livable, and provide health care to get us back on our feet when we get sick. They are the ones who nourish the society with their hard work since they have a vested interest in seeing that their children inherit a better world than the one in which they were raised. In short a householder is the most important element of the human race and spiritual householders are the beings most loved by God.
Feed your body with good nutrition; your soul, with inspiring words, songs and human connections.