Sunday, October 20, 2019

What is Meditation

Ultimately, meditation is silence and presence of the mind. When your mind is at once silent and present, you are deep in meditation.

Doing Nothing – meditation is the art of doing nothing. You don’t have to do anything per se, you don’t have to get anywhere. You simply have to be in the present moment. It takes a great deal of practice to teach your mind to be alert and yet do nothing. In that moment, that moment when your mind is doing nothing and you are perfectly aware of it, gushes forth the fountain of bliss.

What Meditation is Not

"What have you gained from meditation?” someone asked Mahavira, founder of Jainism, a contemporary of Buddha and equally enlightened. 

“I have gained nothing actually,” the sage said smilingly. “But, I’ve lost much including my anger, pride, lust and misconceptions.” 
Start with the premise that meditation is not about gaining anything. The notion of gaining or losing is a rather material (and not spiritual) way of thinking. Spirituality is not bothered with losing or acquiring. The right action for the greater good of our universe is its only concern.

What I mean to say is that the bliss promised from meditation cannot come from just meditation alone. It is not a substitute for love, compassion, humility, empathy and other virtues. Meditation is simply one of the methods to mould yourself into the person you wish to be, a process that can help you discover your primal state of peace and bliss. Meditation is a way of life.

What meditation will do to you is give you the grace and mindfulness to ease through life.

Meditation is your personal journey, an intimate one. It is only about you. It does not change anything directly in others. Meditation remodels you so that you become a catalyst of positive change, not in your own life but in the lives of most of those who are connected with you. This is the only way meditation affects the lives of those around you. Gradually, the light in you starts to transform you. The way you think, act or react changes and that change, often (not always) brings a change in those around you. 

These worthy rewards from meditation come from doing correct meditation and correct meditation alone.

When Thoughts Become Things

Why are we sometimes forced to behave in a manner which is contrary to our nature? It may seem that external circumstances propel us. The truth is we imagine our life a certain way and when things don’t pan out how we envisaged, we feel sad, frustrated or depressed. Our restless mind then prods us to act so we may get what we want. Note two important words here, ‘imagine’ and ‘want’. Imagination is nothing but pursuit of a train of thoughts. When we contemplate on a thought, we are basically imagining. And when the same thought stays, it becomes a desire or an emotion. For, a want is a desire which again is a lingering thought.

Patanjali gives the most beautiful definition of tendency in his Yoga Sutra. 
Psychic imprints, resulting from karma, accumulated
over many lives condition the mind and cause one grief.

Every action leaves behind a residual trail. Whatever we do with speech, actions or words, leave an imprint on our mind and in our lives.

Action, further is of three types and each one leaves behind an imprint based on its type. Physical actions may produce tangible residue whereas verbal and mental karma create psychic imprints. The residue of karma may fade over a period of time (sometimes lifetimes) but it doesn’t completely get destroyed unless you consciously work on erasing the imprint. Our actions don’t condition us, their residue does.

Physical Karma — Tangible Residue

All physical actions requiring touch are physical karma. Physical karma leaves behind physical residue.

Verbal Karma — Psychic Imprint 

An instruction, statement, question, or anything else you utter is verbal karma. All verbal karma leave behind psychic residue.

Mental Karma — Emotional Imprint

The subtlest and most powerful of the three karma is a mental karma. It leaves behind a longer trail, a form of psychic residue that I call an emotional imprint. It’s the hardest to erase. The origin of all karma of any type is a thought. Pursuit of a thought is mental karma. It has an immediate impact on your mental state, a lasting impact on your consciousness and an everlasting effect, however subtle, on your mind.


Memory plays a pivotal role in correct meditation. When you are able to retain only a part of your memory – that is, the object of meditation – you move towards achieving the tranquil state. However, memory is also your greatest hurdle in meditating correctly. Primarily because your memory is an accumulation, a storage tank, of your psychic imprints.

It is not possible to empty your memory store. However, it is possible to drop the thought as soon as it starts to emerge. That leads to a state of non-recollection. When you hold your mind in the tranquil absorptive state, afflictions from psychic imprints start to fade.

Watch what you do, say, and think, transformation will begin automatically. 

A mind that has gone empty fills with love naturally. An empty mind is not a devil’s workshop. A restless mind is. An empty mind is infact a meditator’s nirvana. A mind that holds no grudges against anyone, no desires, no expectations is a hotbed of noble intentions. Good meditation naturally leads to that exalted state.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

When Desires Become Expectations

Even though our desires are endless and we remain busy chasing them throughout our lives, it is not their pursuit that is burdensome. It is our belief that our desires must be fulfilled or that our happiness depends on the fulfillment of our desires. This creates a baggage of a different kind. It’s the heaviest load but an invisible one. We remain unaware of its weight as well as oblivious to its continuous build up.

Expectations are those desires you believe you have the right to see fulfilled.

Expectations are not just what we have from others or what they have from us. They are of three types in fact, and all three arise when we fail to drop the thought that seeded it at the first place.

From Self

The expectations we have from ourselves are at the root of our grief. The troubling thing is that not all these expectations are right. Most of these have been handed down to us by our society, teachers, parents, peers, religion and so on.

From Others

Our second big load of expectations come from our relationships with others. We justify the expectations we have from others believing that we rightfully deserve to be treated a certain way; whether it is in the form of reciprocation, love, things, words, gestures.

The beauty and love in most relationships gets crushed under the weight of expectations. If the two partners in a relationship could lower their expectations they have from each other, love in such a relationship will only flourish. 

Expectations put pressure on the one you expect from, all the while increasing your own burden of expectations. When these expectations are not fulfilled, they give you grief and disappointment proportionate to the magnitude of your expectations.

Others from You

Anybody you know has some form of expectation from you.

From the perspective of a meditator, an expectation is merely a desire we are holding onto. Our ego thinks we must see through this lingering thought. When ego clings to a desire, it transforms into an expectation.

When we are unable to let go of our thoughts, some of them become emotions, and then we attach emotions to our desires and expectations. This is where a thought is transformed into a potent force nudging us to take action. Emotions are the giant killer waves that knock the surfer off his surfboard. They influence the nature of and intention behind our actions. And action, I may add, is the final stage of a thought, for the life of a thought ends where action starts.


All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage… If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. - The Dhammapada 

When thoughts become desires

When we are mindful of our thoughts, actions and desire, they subside on their own.

Just like moisture is inseparable from water, and, heat from light, desires are inseparable from mind. For desires are but thoughts ‘un-abandoned’. And, thoughts are just that – thoughts. They are neither good nor bad, neither sublime nor ridiculous, neither right nor wrong. All such labels are mere designations you have given them based on your conditioning. Intrinsically, thoughts are all the same – identical. It is what you do with the thought that matters than the actual thought itself.

Once you understand the nature of desires, your life is simplified. While desires cannot really be classified, to aid ease and understanding, I am categorizing them for you. They are primarily of four types:

Physical Desires

All forms of sense gratifications are pure physical desires. You envisage a pleasant outcome from the fulfillment of these ones. Such anticipated pleasure prompts you to hold onto the thought of satisfying your desire. As a result, your actions, emotions and intelligence work together to attain that fulfillment. These desires can be insatiably active or eternally latent in you, or sometimes both. Whatever you enjoy through the body is basically sense gratification.

Emotional Desires

The term ‘emotional needs’ is a misnomer. Emotions are a product of the conditioned mind and as such mind has no needs. The sight of a slaughterhouse may trigger a negative emotion in you, whereas it may be positive for the business owner and neutral for the machine operator. It all depends on how you are conditioned.

Intellectual Desires

A conditioned mind, outwardly focused, when temporarily satisfied from the fulfilment of physical and emotional desires, gives birth to intellectual ones.

Fulfilment of any form of desire, be it physical, emotional or intellectual does not offer lasting fulfilment either. They continue to bind you predominantly because you have simply engaged your mind elsewhere rather than settling it.

Transcendental Desire

Realizing that you can’t just be running around fulfilling your desires to have glimpses of happiness, one day you sit down to take a hard look at your life. Now you are searching for the meaning of your life. You refused to be tossed around in the endless pursuit of desires. This reflection is the seed of the finest form of desire – transcendental desire.


Good meditation teaches you how to drop your thought. The moment you drop your thought, desire vanishes in thin air like a dewdrop upon sunrise.

You don’t have to be alarmed when desires come knocking, they are only natural. They are attractive fruits on the mind tree, sumptuous, luscious, shiny fruits waiting to be plucked. How many can you clip or pluck after all or can you? One day you’ll need to get to the root. And the root of the desire tree is aptly called mind. Expectations are the illegitimate children – with desires as their step-siblings – of an ignorant mind and conditioned self. If you get married to a desire, be ready to pay child support for a very long time to come. They keep us entangled. They keep us engaged in meaningless pursuits for a long time, till one day it’s too late to change the course of our lives.

We don’t have any control over our thoughts. Any thought can come and hit us from any direction. But what we do have control over is whether we want to pursue that thought or if we want to turn it into an action.

And by action, I’m not just referring to physical actions but mental ones too. When we cling to a thought or follow its track, we are performing a mental karma, and that, in turn, is the seed of all physical actions.

Whenever you are bothered by any lingering thought, simply ask yourself the following three questions and watch it become feeble in no time: 

  • From where has this thought originated? 
  • Where is it traveling?
  • Where has it disappeared? 

As you ponder on these, you begin to understand the anatomy of a thought; basically, its emptiness. They are empty. Thoughts have no definitive point of origin, no set course of travel, and no specific site of disappearance.

In the ocean of your mind, when it comes to the waves of thoughts, you have three choices: 

  • first, surf and accept the highs and lows; 
  • second, watch the waves and put up with the constant sound of the sea; 
  • and third, move away from the ocean altogether. 

The lifespan of every thought, however good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, is exactly the same. It emerges. It manifests. It disappears. These are the only three stages in the life of a thought. If you don’t recall a thought or if you don’t pay attention to a thought, it must disappear on its own.

Thoughts that you do not let go leave an imprint on your mind. That imprint is the residue. Meditation is the process of washing away that residue. It is the cleaning of your slate and keeping it that way. When we fail to abandon our thoughts, they assume different forms. They can become desires, expectations or emotions.

Maitreya: World-honored One, how does this cultivation [of meditation] produce the great insight? 

Buddha: Good son, when they [aspirants] become aware of the six supports, they attain insight into the nature of thought. 

The first is that they know well the arising of thought. 
The second is that they know well the abiding of thought. 
The third is that they know well the departure of thought. 
The fourth is that they know well the increasing of thought. 
The fifth is that they know well the diminution of thought. 
The sixth is that they know well the methods. 

They know well the arising of thought, for they truly know the differences that engender thought in its sixteen activities, and this is what is meant by knowing well the arising of thought

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 465

Since at all times and in all places the unmistakable Self [‘I am’] alone shines eternally as the one Thing, except That, all other things at all times and in all places have to be dismissed as false.

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 504

The uninterrupted shining of Self, the life of life, as the natural consciousness ‘I-I’ in the heart is the nature of God’s giving unbroken upadesa to the worthy disciple.

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 340

Just as one flame appears to be many lights when it is lit in many lamps, so it is the one Self alone which appears to be many different individuals [jivas] when It is seen through many different attributes [upadhis].

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 506, 507, 508

506. For the highly mature souls who seek the supreme sat-chit-ananda in order to free themselves from the scorching heat of birth [and death], it is by the enquiry into only the word ‘Thou’, which [out of the three words ‘That’, ‘Thou’ and ‘Art’] denotes the nature of the individual soul, that the glory of Liberation is attained.

[Sadhu Om: We should remember here Sri Bhagavan’s instruction in verse 32 of 'Ulladu Narpadu' as to what an earnest and sincere disciple should do when he hears the Mahavakya ‘That Thou Art’ from a Guru. As soon as he hears the phrase ‘That Thou Art’, the disciple’s attention should turn to know ‘What am I?’ This is the real aim with which the Mahavakya was revealed. The one important word that stands in the above Mahavakya to turn the disciple’s mind to Self-attention is ‘Thou’. Therefore this verse categorically asserts that out of the three words, ‘Thou’ alone should be taken for scrutiny by a worthy disciple. The following two verses also emphasize the same idea.]

507. Only in order to turn inward the minds of less mature aspirants, which will be favourable for the aforesaid enquiry, [the Vedas] added the other two words ‘That’ [tat] and ‘Art’ [asi] to the word ‘Thou’ [tvam], thereby forming the Mahavakya ‘That Thou Art’ [tat tvam asi]. Thus should you know.

508. Verily the enquiry done within oneself to know the real import denoted by the word ‘Thou’, ‘What is it?’ [‘Who am I?’], is the proper means to know the correct import of the other two words also.

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 519

It is very rare to get full faith in One [God or Guru]. If such a faith blossoms in the heart [due to past merits], do protect and nourish it, since it is similar to a new-born baby, without spoiling it by giving room to any doubts or suspicion, just as, if one possessed the Kamadenu, one would bring it up with great care and love.

[Michael James: The Kamadenu is a divine cow which will give one whatever one desires. Likewise, complete faith in God or Guru will bestow anything and everything upon a devotee. Such is the wonderful power of faith.]

Friday, January 27, 2017

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 362, 363

Only when one’s own Source, the Heart, is known through enquiry, will the false first person, ‘I’, fall down; and only when that false first person falls abashed, will the true First Thing, Self, spring forth in all its Glory.

('Guru Vachaka Kovai' 362)


When the insubstantial ghost, the ego – which rises from the darkness of ignorance and whose dance is itself all this universe – is enquired into, it disappears like the bridegroom’s friend [in the story], and when it disappears, Self, the Sun, rises up tearing away the darkness of ignorance, Maya.

('Guru Vachaka Kovai' 363)


Commentary on 'Guru Vachaka Kovai' 363:

Sadhu Om: "A stranger once entered a marriage-house and posed before the bride’s party as the bridegroom’s best friend; and with the bridegroom’s party he posed as if he were a member of the bride’s family. Thus for five days he passed his time happily, eating well and bossing the servants, but on the last day when enquiries began to be made about him, he disappeared. Similarly, the ego rises and poses both as Chit [Consciousness – the nature of Self] or as jada [inertness – the nature of the body], though it truly belongs neither to Self nor to the body. Thus it enjoys its special position until it is enquired into, whereupon it disappears."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 473, 474

473. Seated in the Heart of everyone as Heart, the Lord will ordain everything according to one’s destiny [prarabdha]. Therefore, if we unswervingly abide in Self, our source, all will happen unerringly.

474. Those who have the strong faith, “He who has planted this tree will water it”, will never be distressed. If he [who planted it] sees the tree drying up, let even that pathetic sight be only his burden.

Michael James: Devotees with great faith in God never feel concern for the needs of their life, because they are so sure that God will never abandon them. Even when it happens that they are not provided with their needs, they do not feel that they are afflicted; they simply endure with it patiently, feeling that it is only God who has to suffer by seeing them troubled. Hence on all occasions they are happy. This verse thus assures that for such devotees there is no misery at all in life.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 149

The experience of Vedanta is possible only for those who have completely given up all desires. For the desirous it is far away, and they should therefore try to rid themselves of all other desires by the desire for God, who is free from desires.

Sadhu Om: The term Vedanta is commonly understood to mean a particular system of philosophy, but its true meaning is the experience of Jnana which is gained as the conclusion [anta]ofthe Vedas. The desire for sense objects, which are all 2nd or 3rd persons, is directly opposed to the desire for God, and so it is quite clear that God is not merely one among the many 2nd and 3rd personal objects, but that He must be the Reality of the 1st person. Therefore, we should understand that discarding all desires for 2nd and 3rd personal objects and having love for Self alone is the true
devotion towards God.

Verse B13 [731] also asserts this same point.

Attending to Self is devotion to the supreme Lord, because the Lord exists as Self.

Guru Vachaka Kovai - 150

The Wise, who know that all worldly experiences are formed by prarabdha alone, never worry about their life’s requirements. Know that all one’s requirements will be thrust upon one by prarabdha, whether one wills them or not.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sadhana - Sakshatkaram

The day before yesterday a learned man who came from Madras, began at 3 p.m. to question Bhagavan thus: “Was there a period at any time when Bhagavan did sadhana?” 

Bhagavan said, “Sadhana? Sadhana for what? What is there to do sadhana for? Sitting like this is itself sadhana. I used to sit like this always. I used to close my eyes then; now I keep them open. That is the only difference. What is now, was then also. What was there then, is also here now. Sadhana is necessary only if there is a thing other than ‘I’, Self. Sadhana is required only for one who does not look towards the Self which is permanent, but is deluded by looking at the body, etc., which are transitory and delusive; but not for one who sees the Self and so does not see anything else different. And what else is sadhana for?”

Someone asked, “Then why is it that many books say that no one can attain jnana without a Guru?” 

Bhagavan said, “Yes. For those who, because of the action of their minds, are deluded into believing that they are the bodies, a Guru and sadhana are necessary to get rid of that delusion.” 

Another person asked, “People say that those who have received upasana can attain the physical manifestation of their favourite God and other blessings by sadhana. What is the meaning?”

Bhagavan said, “That which is present at all times is sakshath (manifest). The person ‘I’ is always present (sakshath). Then what is karam? That which is the cause is karam, so sakshatkaram (manifestation) means the knowledge of that which is true, that which is permanent and that which is the cause of everything is one’s own Self. And they say that God will descend from somewhere and manifest Himself if the Self which is ever existing, creates a shape according to its own desires, and meditates on it. You give up the Self which is existing at all times and at all places, and do sadhana with the hope that some God from somewhere will manifest Himself. They say that God just descends and again just disappears. You give up the Self which is always existent and strive for this transient vision, obtain boons and thus multiply the mental struggles and strivings. There will be no trouble at all if one simply remains as one is,” said Bhagavan.

Though Bhagavan was teaching us so clearly that sakshatkaram means only the good state and the good ideas beyond the owner’s thoughts, I felt it a great pity that we were not able to understand it. While I was thus thinking, someone asked, “That state of exalted thought and existence which is above the owner’s mental plane is natural and possible only for people like Bhagavan, but is it possible for ordinary people like us without sadhana?” 

Bhagavan said, “Certainly it is! Sadhana is necessary but for what purpose? His Self is there at all times and at all places. So there is no need to try and get it from somewhere else. Sadhana is only to get rid of the bodily and other illusions which are in the way of the self standing up as Self. This delusion arises only by thinking that this bodily world is real, instead of looking at the Self, which is real. Sadhana is only to get rid of this illusion. Otherwise, why should there be sadhana for the Self to attain its own Self? He who has realised his own Self does not recognize anything else.”


Bhagavan: “When some devotees sang in terms of Advaita, some commentators twisted the meaning, interpreting it in terms of Visishtadvaita. That is all; it is nothing else. That is also the opinion of all the ancients. After all, what exactly is meant by Visishtadvaita? That which is Visishta (distinguished) and best is Vishnu. That is Ishwara, Sadasiva, Brahma and all.

That which is, is only One. Some Vaishnavaites give it a name and a shape and do not admit that there could be any Sayujyam (absorption in the Supreme Being) except by way of living in the same world (Salokyam), in the same vicinity (Sameepyam), and the same form (Sarupyam) as the Supreme Being. They say, arpana, arpana (offering, offering). How can there be arpana unless there is a thing called ‘I’? Complete surrender cannot come about unless one knows who one is.


It is mere delusion to think of arpana (offering), so lightly. Arpana means that the mind gets merged in the self and becomes one with it. It means that it should become devoid of all vasanas. And that will not come about unless there is self effort and God’s Grace. God’s force cannot get hold of you and drag you into itself unless you surrender completely. But where is the question of our surrendering? The self itself is to be surrendered. Until one can accomplish that, one should go on struggling unceasingly. It is only after trying again and again that one may, finally, succeed in the effort.

Once you succeed, there is no going back. That is the proper course. What is the use of merely repeating the word arpana, arpana? Except that you give some money while repeating the word arpana, what is the effect on the mind? In this Thiruvaimozhi itself there are some songs in the Advaitic cult sung by some devotees after attaining Self-realisation. Nammalwar is one such devotee. He sang that a mother praised her daughter who attained Self-realisation in a form that looked like condemnation. 

The gist of those songs is, ‘This child says, I am Siva, I am Vishnu, I am Brahma, I am Indra, I am the sun, I am the five elements and I am everything! It is that Vishnu who sits on her head and makes her talk thus; otherwise she would not have these aberrations. It is that Vishnu who has changed her thus.’ That is the purport of these songs.” Those songs were read out and Bhagavan explained the meaning.