Light the Lamp Within You

Karthigai Deepam in Tamil and Karthika Deepam in Telugu, this festival of lights signifies lighting the lamp within. This post details the story behind this festival and the also the inner meaning conveyed

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Why should we not learn yoga from a book or dvd?

The other day my yoga teacher shared an interesting experience. A woman from a club called him to conduct a yoga awareness session ACOGYT (Awakening Call of Golden Yoga Tradition) for her members. She had a strange request. He shouldn’t talk during the session as their members can’t understand English. He was requested to directly teach the practices. Wondering how to conduct an introductory awareness session without talking, he arrived at the venue. Ten minutes into the session he figured that most of the members can understand English. He went ahead with the session in the typical ACOGYT way predominantly interactive with some practices interwoven to make it experiential.

By the end of the session, the audience was enthralled. They were all physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychically charged. The organiser approached him in the end and apologised, ‘I didn’t know you speak so well. I didn’t want my members to get bored. Please do not take it otherwise. Thank you so much for the wonderful session’.

Similar is the experience during several ACOGYT sessions – even sceptic and uninterested members among audience end up getting involved and inspired. This is because as an expert trainer he knows to connect with his students / audience.

Yoga is a powerful tool to positively influence, integrate and harmonise all facets of human personality – physical, physiological, vital, mental, emotional and intellectual. This requires the teacher connects with the audience. We normally start any yoga session with the prayer – “Sahana vavatu, Sahanau Bhunatthu, Saha viryam Karavavahai, Tejasvinavadheethamasthu, Mavidvishavahai”. Through this prayer both the teacher and student seek to connect with each other.

Learning Yoga is about connecting with the teacher

Each individual is unique and has different needs. Same practice administered with varying levels of intensity can have varying effects on the physical and mental level of the student. A good yoga trainer understands this well and gives necessary inputs gauging the needs of the student.

Moreover, yoga deals with energy levels of the student. A yoga trainer invigorates the student during a session by connecting with each of his students.

Caught up with the new trend of e-learning and distance learning one is frenzy about learning yoga from a book,  a TV show or DVD. These can definitely not help achieve the objective of Yoga? Yes, one can use these for additional inputs to be clarified later with the teacher.

If you are serious about learning yoga the right way and benefit most from Yogic wisdom, you need to get hold of a good trainer nearby, and not pick up a book or DVD from a nearby store.

Stop spreading nonsense in the name of Yoga

Do we want to benefit from Yogic Wisdom? or Do we want the capital houses to exploit us in the name of Yoga?

Yoga is a treasure-house of time-tested wisdom handed to us by our ancestors. It can make one’s life meaningful, happy and holistic.

Several traditions of Yoga are in practice today. About a century ago, Yoga was restricted to sages and saints in caves and forests. It was not within the reach of common man. Some people had the opportunity of getting into the depths of yoga. They were blessed with varying experiences. They were convinced that Yoga can be a great to tool to make our lives better. Based on their experience and understanding several traditions and approaches to Yoga emerged to suit varying needs of people. While some traditions focussed on one or two aspects of human personality, some like Satyananda Yoga followed a holistic approach. While some focussed primarily on research, some simply followed what is said in scriptures without going for empirical validation, rare few followed an integral approach.

With emergence of repeated empirical evidences and experiential proofs from across the world on efficacy of yoga, it started gaining popularity. It has reached a stage today where maximum countries in UN had pledged their support to declare June 21st as World Yoga Day. A proud moment in the re-emergence of a great wisdom to make the life of humanity saner, happier and peaceful.

Or is it really so?

Has Yoga become a name or buzz word to make a quick buck in the market place? Has the term Yoga lost its sanctity in the hands of capitalist houses?

No-Nonsense Only Yoga

Are the multitude of yoga trainers emerging in the market place aware of the scope and depths of yoga? Or are they simply trying to make a quick buck by learning a dozen of asanas to proclaim as yoga trainers?

Worse still is the trend to give some nonsense by adding yoga as a suffix to what they have to offer. I was shocked to read in last week-end edition of Times of India about some emerging trends.

People are trying to popularise drugs and smoking in the name of ganja yoga, spreading nudity in the name of nude yoga and what not… Not to mention about some other forms of business products emerging in the name of yoga – Power Yoga, Swimming pool Yoga, etc.,

Can we stop the spread of nonsense in the name of yoga? Probably the question should be how can we stop spreading nonsense in the name of yoga?

Regulating the spread of nonsense in the name of yoga is each one’s responsibility. It is not a service one is doing to Yoga but to themselves and their fellow beings. One has to do a basic research or study, validate the claims of yoga trainers and studios with freely available popular knowledge, exhibit caution and restraint from getting attracted and lured to marketing gimmicks.

Yoga is a valuable science that can make our lives better and let that be so…

Happy YOGA Life…

The story of an Intelligent Monkey & Foolish Crocodile

“Ankur, you look so tensed. What’s the matter?”

“Oh! Rishi. You have come at the right time. One of my friend has to complete his project. The target date is fast approaching and there is a lot of work to do. I promised to help him. But am not sure, if I can. Can you help me?”

“I am reminded of the story of the cool and relaxed monkey.”

“Sorry Rishi, I have no time for stories now.”

“But, I thought you wanted my help.”

“This is unfair, Rishi.”

“Honestly, I am trying to help you.”

“OK. Tell me the story” asked Ankur.

Once upon a time, there lived a monkey on a tree that bore juicy apples near the banks of a river. One fine day, a hungry crocodile swam up to that tree looking for food. He saw the monkey on the tree and asked if the monkey can offer something to eat.

The kind monkey offered him a few apples. The crocodile enjoyed them very much and asked the monkey “can I come again for some more”.  The generous monkey happily agreed.

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The crocodile returned the next day. And from that day their friendship grew. They started discussing everything under the sky, like all friends do. The crocodile told the monkey about his wife living on the other side of the river. The kind monkey offered him some extra apples to take home to his wife. The crocodile’s wife loved the apples and made her husband promise to get her some every day.

Meanwhile, the friendship between the monkey and the crocodile deepened. The crocodile’s wife started getting jealous. She wanted to put an end to this friendship. The crocodile’s wife thought to herself that if the monkey lived on a diet of sweet apples, his flesh would be very sweet. So she asked the crocodile to invite the monkey to their house.

The crocodile did not like the idea and refused. But the wife was determined to eat the monkey’s flesh. So she thought of a plan and pretended to be very ill. She told the crocodile that the doctor said that she would recover only if she ate a monkey’s heart. If her husband wanted to save her life, he must bring her his friend’s heart.

The crocodile was now in a dilemma. He could not decide what to do. The crocodile’s wife pleaded to save her life, as without her the crocodile would become very lonely. Finally the crocodile decided to invite the monkey home. He offered the monkey a ride on his back across the river to his wife. The monkey happily agreed. As they reached the middle of the river, the crocodile began to sink. The frightened monkey asked, “What’s happening?”

croc2

The crocodile said “Sorry friend.  My wife is ill and the only cure is a monkey’s heart. So I will have to kill you, to save my wife”

The monkey was shocked. He couldn’t believe that his good friend would do this. He had to act quickly to save his life. He knew getting tensed is not an option. In a relaxed tone, he said “What a wonderful opportunity you have given me my friend, to save your wife’s life. I am very happy and glad you chose me for this job.” He waited for a moment and acted as if he has forgotten something. He said, “Oh! I have left my heart on the tree. Can you please ride back to the tree, so that I can bring my heart and give it to your sick wife?”

The crocodile felt bad for cheating such a good friend. He expressed surprise and ignorance that monkeys can keep their hearts separately. The clever monkey said, “We are given this ability, to keep our hearts safe while jumping from one tree to another.”

The crocodile who didn’t understand the monkey’s plan, swam back to the tree. The monkey ran up the tree to safety.

He told the crocodile “ Oh foolish crocodile.  My heart is very much with me.  I will never trust you again or give you fruit from my tree. Go away and don’t come back again.”

“Hmmm… Ok. Now I get the message. You mean to say, I need to stay relaxed and alert to help my friend. If I get tensed, I will only spoil the work further”, said Ankur.

Rishi smiled.

Ankur thanked Rishi for the timely advice and flew away singing happily…

Fortune at the Top of the Pyramid

Economics is about optimising utilization of limited resources available to generate maximum returns. We are aware of the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Numerous approaches and theories have emerged to tap into this fortune.

What about the fortune at the top of the pyramid?

Yes!… It is a myth that Top of the Pyramid is small. There indeed exists a huge fortune at the Top of the Pyramid. It is the least tapped fortune and available only to humanity. This fortune is subtle and hence not obvious to all.

The next big leap in global economic growth is determined not by optimal utilisation of natural resources, but by optimal utilisation of human potential. Natural resources are already over-exploited. The most effective and economic utilisation of human potential is to tap into this subtle, untapped creative potential of human mind.

A very minute percentage of people tap into this wisdom and they emerge as true leaders influencing humanity and the world for generations even after their physical demise from this world.  How do we tap into this abundance?

Evolution of Human Brain

Courtesy : Images downloaded from various sites on the internet

If we look at the structure of the human brain, the base – reptilian brain and the paleo mammalian brain attributes to a small fraction but is responsible for majority of the life processes, limbic and sensory functions. This is related to the highest point of brain development and evolution in reptiles. In aves and mammals the next part called as cortex is also developed. At the highest point of evolution comes Man.  In man neo-cortex is also highly developed.

Maslow's Hierarchical needs

Maslow’s Hierarchical Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and human evolution places physiological needs at the bottom followed by safety, love and self-esteem, with self-actualization placed at the top of the pyramid.  Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, etc are the attributes related to self-actualization.  These attributes need use of neo-cortex.

As shown in the Maslow’s hierarchical triangle – majority function at the basal levels of physiological and safety, for which one needs to use only the reptilian brain. Some evolve towards use of the cortical brain which corresponds to the attributes like love, acceptance and self-esteem. Rare are the few who tap into the potential of the neo-cortex which is the largest part of the brain. Experiments or studies mention that great achievers like Edison, Ramanujan, etc., utilized hardly 10% of the brain. Now it is for us to assess the immense potential lying untapped in average man.

Ancient Indians, sages and seers have developed techniques and tools to tap into the potential of the neo-cortex and gave to the world the basis for all the technological, political and economic advantages the world is enjoying today. Thus India has contributed to the world by producing giants in all fields – astronomy, astrology, science, mathematics, medicine, architectural, poetry, artistry, economics, administration, warfare, education, etc.

Let us take a deeper look into this by understanding the Chakra Pyramid…

The Chakra Pyramid

The Chakra Pyramid

Yogic psychology describes six major chakras contributing to different attributes of human activities. The base chakras – mooladhara and swadhishtana can be related to functioning of safety and survival and make use of reptilian brain.  Anahata and Manipura taps into the cortical potential.  Vishuddhi and Ajna chakras tap into the potential of neo-cortex.

The chakra pyramid depicts the extent to which one functions at different chakra levels. Here again, majority function at the level of base chakras. The potential of chakras at the top of the pyramid are least utilised. The beauty is these chakras do not function independently. Opening up of any one chakra has spillover effect on other chakras and help one to develop and evolve to tap into the maximum inherent potential within.

The Swadhishtana and Mooladhara chakras contribute to the hunger, fear, sex – the basic existential instinctive urges common to all living organisms.  The Anahata is related to love and power helping one to gain acceptance – the sense of belonging and development of positive self-esteem. Vishuddhi and Ajna chakras make one creative, spontaneous and intelligent contributing to self-actualization.

Now let us take a comparative look at the three pyramids…

Majority function at the level of base chakras, try to fulfill their physiological and safety needs which demands functioning at the level of reptilian brain. Few evolve to the level of Manipura and Anahata chakras fulfilling the needs of self-esteem, power and love utlising the cortical brain. Rare are the few who tap into the potential of Visuddhi and Ajna chakras, strive for self-actualisation tapping into the immense potential at the top of the human brain pyramid – the neo-cortex leaving a huge fortune untapped at the top of the pyramid.

The immediate question that arises in one’s mind… “How to tap into this fortune at the top of the pyramid?”

Music of the Fishes

A very pleasant cool morning breeze, birds chirping around, first rays of morning light emerge from behind the clouds to say hello to their lotus friends in the still lake.

Ankur and Rishi are on a stroll along the pathway by the side of the lake. Rishi glances towards the east, mesmerised by the beautiful painting on the morning sky takes a deep breath, eyes closed in tranquility… says “Thank You Lord for another wonderful morning!” and settles down enjoying the musical movement of fishes in the still lake.

“Whaw! that’s a wonderful sight, Rishi? We could not see all these fishes and colourful pebbles last night.” exclaimed Ankur

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“You are right” agreed Rishi

“It is really pleasing to see this. Even though we were enjoying all the fun last evening, the tranquility and clarity of the morning lake is more enjoyable. What do you say Rishi?”

Both their glance fell on the water sporting boats, etc., at a distance on the other side of the lake.

“Last evening we were all blind to the beauty of the lake. We were busy with the sporting equipment, boats, etc., We could hardly see the bottom of the lake, what with the waves and mud spread all over.” explained Rishi

“Can I say, similar was the state of the mind. We were happy enjoying all the sports, games and activities around blind to the beauty and stillness of the mind.” asked Ankur

“You are right. The senses then were completely involved with the outer beauty, blind to the inner stillness and tranquility.” completed Rishi.

“Is this the reason we feel real happy and fresh early in the morning?” Ankur inquired further

“Just as the waves die down, mud settles and fishes come out to the top happily in the morning… thoughts die down and stillness of the morning calm makes the mind filled with peace and tranquility. In this state mind emits more alpha waves, has clarity and is more receptive” clarified Rishi

“Alpha waves! what are they?”

“Scientists have identified that our mind emits various kinds of thought waves. Alpha waves are the kind of waves which denote clarity and calmness. In this state the mind is clear, able to go into its depths, highly intuitive, creative and receptive. It is God-like or we may say closer to God”

“Is this the reason early morning hours are called as Brahma Muhurtham?”

“You may say so.”

“Then, this state exists even after doing Yoga Nidra. Then, is it right to call the period after doing Yoga Nidra also as Brahma Muhurtham

Rishi smiles and nods in agreement.

“If we are able to keep the mind in alpha state for most part of the day, children can study well and get good marks, adults can be more effective in their work, everyone can be aware of why they are doing what they are doing and there will be more harmony and peace around.”

“You are right, Ankur” Rishi smiles.

“Then, why aren’t people like that?” asks Ankur slightly disturbed.

“That is a much deeper and broad subject. Let us discuss that on some other day. For now… You can decide and be in an alpha state.”

Ankur smiles and gets immersed in the music of the fishes… Happily…!

Being Humane – Man is not an emotional being

Man is an emotional being is the adage. This statement indicating man is emotion is a myth and contradicts established facts. Let us see why and how…

Lower beings driven by instincts become the emotion and does not identify themselves as distinct from emotion. A dog does not think and choose to feel sad or joy as it cannot be aware of its emotions. Humans however have the distinctive ability to be aware of their emotions.  They can feel and be aware that they are happy, joyous, enthusiastic, jealous, angry, etc., This ability to distinguish the emotion from oneself even while experiencing the emotion is a determinant factor for one’s Emotional Quotient.

In one of the lectures, Swami Mitrananda of Chinmaya Mission mentions that “man is wise before facing a crisis, he is also wise after the crisis, but while in the midst of the crisis he is otherwise”. This ability – to be wise while in the midst of the crisis determines one as emotional, intelligent or otherwise.BeingWiseTo have an ‘insight’ one has to develop the ability to master emotions.

Emotions can be broadly classified as head emotions and tail emotions.  Emotions like joy, empathy, love, compassion, etc are head emotions while feelings and emotions like anger (krodha), craving desire/lust (kama), greed (lobha), delusion (moha), pride (madha), envy and jealousy (matsaryam) are considered as tail emotions.

As long as one does not become the emotion but be aware of the emotion one will be able to handle the emotion appropriately.  When properly placed and handled, emotions on either side can be used in a positive way and when one comes under the clutches of emotions negative consequences ensue.  Hence, we are not calling them as positive or negative emotions but head and tail emotions based on the position of the chakras from where these emotions are aroused.  A single incident can arouse positive emotions in one while negative in the other depending on the energy levels from which the individual functions.

Emotion in yogic science is explained as energy in motion.

Psychic science and yogic science agree that…

“Potential energy triggered by the instincts or higher sources connects with the inner experience and the memory of inner experience to arouse an emotion.  The emotions thus aroused further get reinforced and embeds in the mind-body complex, conditioning one’s personality.

For handling emotions effectively and shape human personality one need to get to the root level – at the level of instincts, memories of inner experiences and at the level of new-experience-input into the mind-body complex through senses and intellect”.

Development of awareness – physical, energy, thoughts, feelings, emotions is the first step in handling emotions. The next step is to submit to the directions of the well-developed intellect (insight) for choosing the appropriate response.

In the absence of awareness one becomes an emotion, comes under its clutches and is not in a position to take the help of the intellect in choosing the appropriate response. In such a situation one simply reacts which is equal to functioning at the level of animals.

Development and exercising of free will – a unique ability in humans, is possible when the energy levels are high and one functions under the direction of the intellect to make appropriate choices. By intellect the reference is not to the gross intellect but to the highly developed intellect or subtle intellect which is by nature in harmony with the heart.

Hatha yoga practices like asana and pranayama develops awareness at the gross – physical and vital levels.  This paves the way for developing awareness at the subtler levels in the mind – feelings, thoughts and emotions, through the practices like Yoga Nidra, Antar mouna, Value meditation, Pratipaksha bhava meditation, Sakshibhava meditation, etc.

Playback meditation followed by Daily-SWAN-journaling are integrated practices which brings together time-tested ancient Indian Wisdom and 21st century tools to suit the needs of 21st century global citizen in nurturing  a healthy self-image. A positive self-image helps in handling the emotions better. As one handles the emotions in a better way, the positive self-image is further reinforced which in turn helps in better handling of emotions. This is a virtuous cycle leading one to become a master emotions and function humanely proving man is not an emotional being.

Notes of caution for the quick-result oriented 21st century citizen…

  • We have a huge mental garbage dumped in our system and it takes time for it to be cleared. One needs patience and perseverance to cleanse the same and master the emotions. In this process, it is not important to not fall – because it is part of the process. What is important is to rise up again each time one falls.
  • There may be short-cut solutions which address the symptoms and hence their results are also short-lived. Any solution which addresses the root-cause will take time to produce results, but will be long-lasting.
  • Each individual is unique and needs guidance from experts to learn the appropriate practices as suited for his situation.
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