Thus Spake Sri Krishna

Chariot

[dropcap2]All[/dropcap2] this personal effort and self-discipline will not in the end be needed, all following and limitation of rule and dharma can at last be thrown away as hampering encumbrances if thou canst make a complete surrender to Me, depend alone on the Spirit and Godhead within thee and all things and trust to his sole guidance.

Turn all thy mind to me and fill it with the thought of me and my presence. Turn all thy heart to me, make thy every action, whatever it be, a sacrifice and offering to me.

That done, leave me to do my will with thy life and soul and action; do not be grieved or perplexed by my dealings with thy mind and heart and life and works or troubled because they do not seem to follow the laws and dharmas man imposes on himself to guide his limited will and intelligence.

My ways are the ways of a perfect wisdom and power and love that knows all things and combines all its movements in view of a perfect eventual result; for it is refining and weaving together the many threads of an integral perfection.

I am here with thee in thy chariot of battle revealed as the Master of Existence within and without thee and I repeat the absolute assurance, the infallible promise that I will lead thee to myself through and beyond all sorrow and evil.

Whatever difficulties and perplexities arise, be sure of this that I am leading thee to a complete divine life in the universal and an immortal existence in the transcendent Spirit.

Sri Krishna (Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo)

Does Steve Jobs Do Yoga?

Usually the search terms that lead the handful of people to my site are fairly standard. But few days ago the title of this post led someone here. If that was you dear reader, then sorry I did not have a ready reply then and will address it now.

Before moving to the answer I will have to state some assumptions. By Yoga I take it to mean something more than the physical aspect of it. Not the smattering of breathing exercises done for physical well-being and balance in life. Yoga is a mystic yearning for the Divine, a perspective that acknowledges the superficiality of material forms and seeks to exceed it into the truth that sustains everything. Yoga is state that the Vedas and Upanishads describe and offer the roadmap for. Yoga is a world-view that sees the connectedness of things and more.

There are two parts to the answer, we move from the abstract to the precise.

All Life if Yoga…

..says Sri Aurobind0. So read that again. All life, not just the virtuous and the religious, all of life is Yoga. This statement, as with many of Sri Aurobindo’s statements, reveals both i) an immanent and essential truth and ii) an available end goal.

The former points to the fact that any life, literally anything, to exist would be impossible without the tacit support of the Divine. (This is a moral minefield when viewed from the stance of day to day life, let us not consider that aspect in this blog post. If you are interested we could return to it later.). The latter is the explicit affirmation of the possibility that all of life can be Yoga or an union with the Divine. Not just the supra-normal states of consciousness like various Samadhi states but even the mundane moments of our lives too can be in Yoga, can be experienced union with the Divine.

With this definition, not just Steve Jobs but even you and I are in Yoga!

Now that is sort of nice but it does not give a method to get to this state in the first place. And besides answers our original question with too abstract a framework. We can do better, so let’s continue.

Yoga is Skill in Works..

..says Sri Aurobindo. This is a more accessible definition and something we can work with. Like a Vedic or Upanishadic mahavakya this little thought’s illumination belies its size! Yoga is said to be skill in works. There is no mention of what works, it does not matter. I could be a serf serving the whims of a landlord  and following instructions to the dot or its modern day equivalent of sitting in a cubicle and following processes to the letter. And still could exceed the conditions of my birth, outgrow the mortal limitations placed upon me and grow into the consciousness of the Divine. All of this while performing the normal works of a human existence.

The divisions set up by society with the Chaturvarna or the Four Fold Caste System, that condemns me to a class of works determined by birth and heredity, though a sham and a corruption of the principle Manu had in mind, do not limit my potential to attain the highest states unavailable to the priest who chants litanies for years.

Skillful execution of work, like the pursuit of a moral living, has no end to its perfection. And beyond a certain threshold of skillful work one is invariably widened and soon see ourselves touching the borders of heaven. What began as work is transmuted into Yoga.

With this approach one would easily agree that Steve’s extraordinary skill for producing, or at least orchestrating the production of, beautiful things he most definitely is doing Yoga. Not in the sense of being seated in meditation and chanting a mantra but more like Arjuna who though in the thick of battle is in union with Sri Krishna due the skill of his craft and devotion to his dharma.

Relevance for India and Indians

The path of salvation through works is especially relevant for us Indians. To do this with all the rigor and perfection and devotion we can muster will yield both material and spiritual rewards. Long have we viewed yoga as something performed after we are old, the current material and moral poverty is a direct result of this world view. 1000 odd years of foreign rule and influence have destroyed our self-identity. It is time now to unshackle ourselves, not just with the mantra and deity but also with the skill that yields material abundance and strength.

Many Crucifixions

 

ChristCrucified

The Messiah is crucified but once.

Inventing Purpose

The unhurried ambling. The contemplative discourses at the cafe. Plain old ruminations. Whilst these qualities positively mark out an yogic aspirant or a poet, they spell utter disaster when indulged in by professionals. And I see a lot of them everyday.

For the record I define a professional as one who is relied upon to do a certain job, and is possibly compensated for it.

I see this as a problem of knowing ones purpose. Without purpose one lives as an animal. Works for the food, clothing and shelter. Breeds some, accumulates some wealth, breeds a little more. And leaves the world just as it was before.

Why is it important to know our life’s calling? Well, for starters, it acts like a catalyst that amplifies everything we do. It is a goal towards which we surely move even with the tactical diversions we might take. It is the salt of existence, tying together the various skills we bring together in living our lives and raises us to a higher harmony.

Without purpose one can go through the motions of doing everything but never accomplish anything.

The designer does not choose to think about designing beautiful things after entering office, he mulls about it every waking moment. The painter sees in his mind’s eye a masterpiece in every common view of life. The poet casts his many heartaches into sonnets that outlast the ravages of time.

It could be argued that these examples are beyond the ken of normal humanity, that these are souls that are born into genius. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It is possible to exceed ones station though born with no distinguishing signs that light up the skies, possessing only average skill, buffeted by an average job and backed by an average mind. Life and circumstance don’t have to define our calling, we can choose our purpose. Imperfect it might be, but still better than leading the life of an animal.

We are not required to be the messiah who redeems humanity. A little of ourselves to perfect is enough. Not to be one who stands on the borders of heaven vowing not to go forward until every soul is rescued from mortality. To awaken ourselves and a single other soul to the beauty and compassion and perfection of life is enough.

Purpose can and must be invented if it is not granted unto us.

To build something that makes life a little better for people. To break through the status quo by unceasingly pushing ourselves. To provide hope to a handful of people around. To be the possibility that the less fortunate can look up to. To be one the haughty fear to confront. Anything at all but the mediocrity that is given by default.

Trick is to do all this with humility, while curbing wayward passions and managing the weaknesses of flesh. After all, if the Master does turn up at the end of our journeys, we don’t want to look silly.

An Eternal Wilderness

Ivan_Kramskoy's_1872_-_Christ_in_the_Wilderness

A lot of us get by with the agenda life sets for us. An education, a career, family and the other assorted conventions get our attentions.

A few choose to question this default agenda. Attempt to intuit the mechanics behind this grand machinery, to understand the method behind this madness.

To a privileged few is given the wilderness. A barren interior landscape devoid of transient joys.

The inner monologue is the only company. And the ever present silent question that mocks us.

We stumble into the question at the most inopportune times. Life’s pressing urgencies carry no meaning here.

We contemplate, we wait and wonder in awe at the endurance of those who passed before us through the wilderness.

My Greatest Engineering Challenge

Putting man on the moon, sending a probe to the remote edges of our solar system, instrumenting the planet, reversing global warming, finding a cure for cancer and AIDS and every other scientific endeavor that engages our collective attentions are worthy problems as candidates for the title of Greatest Engineering Challenge Ever.

But all these pale into insignificance before the one true problem, at least according to me. That is the problem of purpose, that has confounded, baffled and defeated all but a handful of us since the first animal pondered cause and effect.

Problem of purpose forks into the following trinity of questions – Who am I, what am I here for and what do I become. Questions that have been mistakenly considered as axioms and resisted honest investigation.

As someone attempting to comprehend and practice the methods prescribed by Buddha, I have come to realize this emphatically – Introspection is a path littered with inner conflict. The notions and ideas that make up the sense of self are all placed in doubt. Self-identity is no longer a given. In the place of a homogeneous entity there is a mass of influences and impulses. It is a time of great confusion.

Contrary to general perceptions this decomposition of the sense of self and the analysis of its constituent parts seems to share an intimate affinity with the scientific method that is characteristic of modern sciences. And the elegance of this endeavor lies in the fact that the experiment and the experimenter are one.

We work on our own selves and help re-make ourselves anew. The methods and techniques of our experiments have an exactitude that is more unforgiving than a programming language compiler that barks a warning at the least deviation from the required syntax.

Of all that life churns out in its fevered imaginations, and of all the trials and tribulations I have had the opportunity to confront, this is my greatest engineering challenge ever.

Fragments of Aspiration – 1

Repentance, that alchemy of the heart
Transmuting vileness into a luminous submission
**********************
Deeper the mire, vaster the heavens
************************
There is a need for evil in the world.
Without it virtue has no reason to exist
In a way every aspiration wakes the shadow of its own ascent.
************************
The tyrant is but a tantrum thrown by the Ishwari
To compel her lord, the Ishwara, to waken from his musings.
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I would dissolve one day
Into a burst of rainbow hues
Become one with the pollen on a butterfly’s wings
Or plunge headlong as a blue fisher into a forgotten pond

I shall be a verse one day
A murmur upon every lip
Or throbbing as thought in a remote mind upon a snow-peak

I shall be austerity too
The death knell of desire in a hermit’s breast
Homecoming of the long wandering senses
Back once more at the feet of the Supreme Mother.

Tyrant’s Prayer

Now I see the tyrant’s crude prayer

The reckless hewing and slaying of lives

Offered as sacrifice to the World-Spirit.

Like ripped butterfly wings in a cupped palm

Of a proud toddler offered to a doting parent

Even the excesses of the tyrant have to be allowed their play. Ravana, Hiranyakashipu and Hitler are perhaps demanded by some occult evolutionary needs that we don’t yet understand.

But instead of taking that rocky philosophical route, I wondered what the standpoint of an Omnipotent Godhead would be to the Tyrant.

Since I obviously am not omnipotent imagining this was not feasible. But being a parent I could at least attempt to imagine how I would feel if my child were the tyrant. Now that was tricky but at least within the realm of possibility.

Children can be extremely cruel. It seems the moral sense has to be taught and groomed much like any other acquired skill. I, as a parent, do not rush to condemn but gently teach every transgression by the child. The stone thrown at the stray dog, the impulse to snare a bird and the rush to stamp the ant are the rough edges that will be smoothed out by moral training and example.

Now if a simple parent can willingly tolerate the pain caused to smaller life forms by their child, what about an Omnipotent and Omniscient Divine? One who sees everything. May be He sees the end result playing out in the way he wants it. Greater harmony, honey and wine perhaps? Lots more to be said here but I guess you get the gist.

All said, the Veda while talking about the Transcendent says that words, time and all things manifest or unmanifest fall away from It. And says It(or He) alone knows itself. And also add the statement, or perhaps It knows not. With that disclaimer I end this post.

More Labels on You, Dumber You Get

Often the route we take to arrive at a destination does not matter much. The destination justifies the paths we take.

Reason and logic always seem to have a dryness about them and always seem to be used and thrown out when the higher perceptions open up.

But there are times when even reason hews its way and arrives at perceptions of truth that is ascribed to more intuitive and spiritualized sight.

Today I had come across one such article by Paul Graham, called Identity. Paul speaks about understanding why politics and religion lead to “uniquely useless discussions” 🙂

So here is a terrific quote

What’s different about religion is that people don’t feel they need to have any particular expertise to have opinions about it. All they need is strongly held beliefs, and anyone can have those. No thread about Javascript will grow as fast as one about religion, because people feel they have to be over some threshold of expertise to post comments about that. But on religion everyone’s an expert.

And here is the closing statement..

Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.

I am not sure Paul had Yoga and Nirvana in mind when he wrote this post. But suffice to say that it is an noble attitude that will directly help anyone pursuing an inner life.

An extremely interesting post to say the least..do not miss.

The Benevolent Tyrant

anantavishnu

I had grown deaf to thy call, the flute was heard no more;
And thou dost come with the sword of the warrior.
No longer the promise of eternal embraces,
Now is the cold grasp of mortality.
But thou dost hunt with an infinite sight
And I have grown too large for any lair.
Thou art dire O Beloved,
But I know thy embrace shall cancel my opposites.
Come then, Benevolent Tyrant, I shall run no more.

To the aspirant beset with the travails of karma and circumstance, the world seems a veritable hell. All turns into a fount of his continued misery. The future is no more, only a painful lingering of the past.

One is reminded of an aphorism by Sri Aurobindo – 

I used to hate and avoid pain and resent its infliction; but now I find that had I not so suffered, I would not now possess, trained and perfected, this infinitely and multitudinously sensible capacity of delight in my mind, heart and body. God justifies himself in the end even when He has masked Himself as a bully and a tyrant.

Is the “justifies in the end” bit what we usually paraphrase and call as hope? Or faith?