Summary of VSC discussions on 24.09.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (24.09.2014) we had our study circle discussions. We started by chanting Shantimantra and Acharya Upadesha. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we continued reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda‘, Chapter 13 – The itinerant days: The northern tirthas. After meeting Pavhari Baba, Swamiji was eager to learn from him the yoga for attainment of The Ultimate Reality. But the Babaji showed no disposition to pass on the knowledge for which Swamiji craved.Swamiji was becoming restless day by day, immersing himself more and more into spiritual sadhanas for the attainment of samadhi. But he had forgotten what his Master had told him, “You have now tasted the highest realization. For the present it shall be kept locked up and the key shall be with me. You have work to do. When you have finished that, you will enter into this samadhi without a break.” But in his intense eagerness and longing to learn the yoga from Pavhari Baba, he decide to get initiated by him. This did not go well with some of his brother disciples who considered it as disloyalty to Shri Ramakrishna. However, Swamiji’s motto was clear: to learn Raja Yoga from Pavhari Baba.  However, just before he got initiated, he got a vision of Shri Ramakrishna, who looked intensely into his eyes, without a word. Many times Swamiji had decided to continue and get initiated, but everytime he had the same vision of Shri Ramakrishna. It was not long before he understood that his Master was the fulfillment of spirituality, and a soul blessed by Him required no other spiritual help. He was filled with self reproach. Very soon, he left Varanasi and decided against going to any other saint for help. His love and devotion for Shri Ramakrishnaincreased many folds. His mind was no longer distracted, and was able to give himself over to single minded devotion.
         We also discussed about:
(a) Pranayam and its effects: from our own experiences?
(b) What are the difficulties in Jnana Yoga and its difference with Bhakti Yoga?
(c) What are the characteristics of a Bhakta?
 
We also listened to an audio lecture on Bhakti Yoga. We ended the class by chanting the Shantimantra ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha...’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.

Summary of VSC discussions on 17.09.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (17.09.2014) we had our study circle discussions. We started by chanting Shantimantra, Acharya Upadesha and Durga Shuktam. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we continued reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda‘, Chapter 13 – The itinerant days: The northern tirthas. Swamiji went to Varanasi first, where he met Pramadadas Babu, a great Sanskrit scholar, and with whom Swamiji had many discussions in later life regarding Sanskrit scriptures. From Varanasi, he visited Ayodhya, Lucknow, Agra, Vrindavan. On his way to Haridwar, he met Sharat Chandra Gupta, who was initiated by Swamiji, and who later joined the Baranagore Math as Swami Sadananda. However, these pilgrimages by Swamiji were marked with many obstacles. Sometimes he or his brother disciples fell ill. But his heart always longed for this wandering life of a monk. This portion also describes the meeting of Swamiji with Pavhari Baba, the famous saint of Ghazipur. Pavhari Baba spent most of his time in meditation and austerities. His daily diet consisted of a handful of bitter nimba leaves or a few pods of red pepper only, and hence the name ‘Pavhari Baba’ , meaning ‘air eating father’. Swamiji was greatly struck by his personality and later wrote about Pavhari Baba: “A great sage, indeed. It is all very wonderful, and in this atheistic age, a towering representation of marvelous power born of Bhakti and Yoga. I have sought refuge in his grace, and he has given me hope – a thing very few are fortunate enough to get.”
         We also discussed about:
(a) What does the Shastras say about inter-class marriage, i.e. marriage between Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras?
(b) Story of King Vikramaditya
(c) Imbalance in society due to selection of profession based on monetary benefits rather than our Gunas.
 
(d) Why is it necessary to preserve anything that has evolved organically?
(e) Is Indian culture synonymous with Hindu culture?
(f) Does diversity lead to conflict?
We ended the class by chanting the ShantimantraPriyatam pundarikashaha...’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.

Summary of VSC discussion on 03.09.2014

Dear all, Wednesday evening (03.09.2014) we had our study circle discussions as usual. We started by chanting Shantimantra, Acharya Upadesha, Durga Shuktam and Narayana Shuktam. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we took up the reading of the book ‘My India, The India Eternal’ by Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji had warned Indians not to imitate the Westerners, as they are exclusive in their way of life, and hence, intolerant. Indian way is the complete opposite of this, and hence, we don’t find any Mongols, Greeks, Huns and other races distinctly in India. They have all merged into the Indian identity. ‘Live and let live’ has been India’s policy for eternity. Our diversity is visible not only in the varied ethnic groups forming the Indian population, but also in the various sects of religion as well. The unity lies in the respect and love each community nurtures for every other, and that is where we all are rooted. He also stated that the aim of politics in India should be to serve, and not to rule. This portion also describes Swamiji’s meeting with Jamshedji Tata, one of the most fortuitous meetings in the history of India. Tata was on his way to Japan, while Swamiji was going to USA. The concept of building a research institution in India bore fruit from this conversation, and manifested itself as The Indian Institute of Science. Tata invited Swamiji to become the first director of the Institute, however, the latter’s response is unknown. We also discussed about: (a) The analogy between the development of cuisine, language and religion in a region. Just some food for thought: Is the standard recipe of a dish the authentic version, or should the organic version developed by the people over years be deemed as authentic? How does this apply to religion? (b) The essential message of the Vedas, and how various philosophical disciplines developed from this same source? (c) Why does the Vedas seem to be all inclusive, and it is nearly impossible to refute any claim made in the Vedas? Answer: There are inbuilt safeguards against any argument, and we discussed this at length. The safeguards apparently seem trivial, but are very powerful when assimilating various cultures into a grand way of life. The diversity of Indian culture can be attributed to this. (d) The story of the fight between Jarasandha on one side and Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna on the other. This story explains the sense of Dharma an individual should nurture. We ended the class by chanting the sloka ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha…’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday

Summary of VSC discussions on 27.08.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (27.08.2014) we had our study circle discussions as usual. We started by chanting Shantimantra, Acharya Upadesha and Narayana Shuktam. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we took up the reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda‘ in which we started Chapter 13: Itinerant days in Northern India.
          This portion describes the strong desire of the young monks to lead an itinerant life of a Hindu ascetic. As the proverb has it, “A wondering monk and flowing water do not become dirty.” However, it was not possible to be together in the Math in such a case. So, there was always a group at Baranagore Math when others were on pilgrimage throughout India, and thus a continuity was maintained. Swamiji, however was worried about his brother disciples, as facing the life of a wondering monk was new to them, and that they might suffer due to extreme hardships.  When Swamiji went on pilgrimage in February 1890, he returned in 1897, when he came back from the West. As a wandering monk, he had a staff, a monk’s water pot, a copy of The Gita and The Imitation of Christ. Also he did not assume any fixed name during these days. 
           While at Varanasi, Swamiji was once chased by a group of monkeys. He started to run. But a fellow monk asked him to face the monkeys. When he did so, the monkeys ran away. The moral of the incident is that when we face life with such courage, the troubles go away. At Varanasi, Swamiji met the great saint Trailanga Swami and Swami Bhaskarananda.
 
            We also discussed about:
(a) Is realization instantaneous or gradual?
(b) What happens when a person realizes and becomes a Jnani? What changes follow and how do they follow?
(c) Categories of Jnani according to Advaita Sampradaya: Brahmavid, Brahmavidvara, Brahmavidvariya, Brahmavidvaristha
(d) Classification of Guru: Adhamaguru: Brahma Jnani; Madhyamaguru: Strotriya; Uttama Guru: Brahma Jnani + Strotriya
(e) Usage of English language for Shashtra discussions: Chaitanya as Consciousness – started by Swami Vivekananda
(f) Schematic representation of the interrelationship between Dvaita, Vishishta-Advaita and Advaita philosophies
(g) Do we have a free will according to science?
 
            We ended the class by chanting the sloka ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha…’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.

Summary of VSC discussions on 20.08.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (20.08.2014) we had our study circle discussions as usual. We started by chanting Shantimantra and Acharya Upadesha. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we took up the reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda’ in which we finished Chapter 12. This portion continues with the description of the life at Baranagore Math and the hardships these young disciples of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa had to face in the path of spiritual illumination.
           After this, we started reading the book ‘My India, The India Eternal’ by Swami Vivekananda. In the introduction, Swami Lokeswarananda describes the relevance of Swamiji’s teachings in the present context. Man-making was the mission of Swami Vivekananda, as the level of average men and women determined the greatness of a country. One or two great personalities, like the Buddha or the Christ may indicate the potential of the race, but that was not enough. In the social context, he wanted the working class to be the leader of the society. Although he foresaw the occurrence of revolution in Russia or China, he did not want the same fate for India. He wanted the change to be gentle and gradual, like evolution. There should be no destruction. The working class should be brought to the level of the intelligentsia, and not the other way round.
          The only way to raise the masses was through education, as it helped in character building. Education should be free, and children from weaker sections should have greater access to resources. And, at the heart of this education should lie the eternal spiritual principles of renunciation and service. This is because the Indian heart was by nature spiritual, and one cannot denounce his inherent nature without causing his own downfall. He also criticized the caste system, which started as an institution for division of labour, but later turned into a tool for oppression. For the eradication of poverty, he believed, that we should follow the West for judicious application of science and technology. But in no other area of life should we imitate the West. He wanted the best of all to be incorporated into the Indian way of life. He wanted India to attain same material progress as the West, but maintain its love for moral values. He envisioned a society with the Islamic body (from the equality point of view) combined with the spiritual progress as described in Vedanta.
         Two of Swamiji’s predictions, regarding India’s independence and The Russian revolution have proven to be right. We are waiting for the third, when India will surpass her former glory and rise to higher levels pf peace and prosperity.
 
         We also discussed about:
(a) Conflict between materialism and spirituality
(b) Caste problem, sati custom, etc – whether they are social or religious evils?
(c) Difference between Karma and Karma Yoga
(d)The basic principles of Sanatana Dharma, as summarized by Gokul Sir in an article and subsequent discussions.
We ended the class by chanting the sloka ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha…’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.
 

Summary of VSC discussions on 13.08.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (13.08.2014) we had our study circle discussions as usual. We started by chanting Shantimantra and Acharya Upadesha. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we took up the reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda’ in which we continued Chapter 12.
          The monastery was at Baranagore from 1886 to 1892 and at Alambazar from 1892 to 1897. It was moved to the garden house of Nilambar Mukherjee at Belur and finally moved to Belur Math in December, 1898. The Master was worshipped with extreme devotion and elaborate rituals at the Math, and He seemed to be alive, ever ready to bless his children. Service of the Master through the daily rituals and other chores related to their daily subsistence was taken care of by Shashi, and thus was given the name Swami Ramakrishnananda. It was Shashi who would drag the boys from their meditation in case they forgot to eat. There are instances when japa and meditation started at 3 a.m. in the morning and continued till 4 – 5 p.m. This portion also describes the celebration of Shivaratri at Baranagore Math.
         We also discussed about:
(a) Swami Ranganathanandaji
(b) Importance of prayer, japa
(c) Various steps to attain meditation. Just like we cannot sleep at will, but need to make preparations for attaining it, the same applies to meditation.
(d) How one should lead his daily life to attain meditation.
(e) Significance of pilgrimage
We ended the class by chanting the sloka ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha…’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.
On a different note regarding meditation, I got a nice article on Gokul Sir’s website :

Summary of VSC discussions on 06.08.2014

Dear all,

           Wednesday evening (06.08.2014) we had our study circle discussions as usual. We started by chanting Shantimantra and Acharya Upadesha. Then we sang the devotional song ‘Murtamaheswara…’. After this, we took up the reading of the book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda’ in which we started Chapter 12.
          This portion describes the days after the Mahasamadhi of Sri Ramakrishna. The young disciples were perplexed at his demise, although they had been preparing for it for a long time. But, they felt a tremendous drive and strength for spiritual realization. Thakur’s subtle presence guided them through all the hardships that was to come.
          We also find that a fight had broken out between the householder devotees and other young disciples including Swamiji regarding the possession of the Master’s belongings and ashes. Many of the householder devotees had forsaken these young boys and asked them to return to their homes. But these young disciples received constant support from The Holy Mother. She constantly prayed to The Lord to take care of Her children. One day, Shri Ramakrishna appeared before Surendranath Mitra, the devotee who used to partly bear the expenses of the Cossipore garden house to asked him to make arrangements for His young disciples. Finally, a house was found at Baranagore to establish a Math, Although the house was in a dilapidated condition, it was cheap and would serve their purpose. Swamiji played active role in gathering all the boys to this new Math.
          During this time, The Holy Mother with all the young boys accompanying Her visited Antpur, on an invitation from Matangini Devi. We later find that here, at Antpur, their resolution  to renounce the world grew ever strong. On an early morning, in the third week of January, 1887, they all underwent the scriptural ritual for initiation into Sannyasa.
         We also discussed about:
(a) Why Avataras have come in later Yugas as teachersinstead of warriors?
(b) Where is the Karma stored?
(c) The story of Aurangzeb and Guru Teg Bahadur.
(d) Stories from Yogavashistha.
(e) The 5 step approach in spiritual journey: Give-serve-love-meditate-realize.
       We ended the class by chanting the sloka ‘Priyatam pundarikashaha…’. We look forward to your presence next Wednesday.