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17 December, 2008

Are you stressed?

       Stress and strain plague life today. Stress-related disease is reaching epidemic proportions, exacting a heavy toll on the quality of human life. Stress Management courses have mushroomed everywhere. These course trainers often remedies and solutions to stress without reaching the root of the problem. Prescribed treatments such as time management, regular exercise, healthy diet and other such disciplines may help to reduce stress in the short term. But they do not provide the real solution to the suffering masses. They have been tackling the problem from the wrong end. They believe that stress arises from external factors, environments and situations. The true key to stress management is self-management. "It is difficult to find happiness in oneself", says Arthur Schopenhauer, "but it is impossible to find it anywhere else." Yet people, continue to seek, happiness everywhere except in oneself.


      Stress signifies a state of mind. Internal agitations create stress. Not external disturbances. People throughout the world live with the conviction that factors outside themselves produce stress. So they focus all their attention and correction on outer forces to correct this malady. External treatment cannot cure internal disease.

      To solve the problem of stress you must find the source. Where exactly is stress located? Once you locate it, you will know exactly how to deal with it, reduce it and ultimately get rid of it.

      Stress is said to be "Internal". Internal refers to the inner personality of a human being. Your mind and intellect together constitute your inner personality. They define your individuality. You are what you are because of your inner personality determined by the quality of mind and intellect. Your physical body is only the outer personality which serves as an equipment of action. Therefore, a study of the nature of the mind and intellect becomes most important.

      The physical body executes action. The MIND comprises impulses, feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. The INTELLECTUAL constitutes the thinking equipment, which reasons, discriminates and judges. Your MIND and INTELLECT determine your actions. Stress arises in a person when his mind overpowers his intellect. When his desires and attachments override his intellect. When the intellect loses control over the mind's desires the person becomes disturbed. Stress is the mental agitation causes by UNFULFILLED DEIRES. Thus, a person can live stress-free by training the intellect to maintain control over the mind.


      The mind comprises emotions. It behaves like a child. The intellect conducts itself like an adult. One cannot afford to let the mind govern the body. The mind has direction or dimension. The intellect alone can direct, govern and control the mind. If the intellect is not available for guiding it, or not powerful enough to control it, the mind can go berserk and devastate the personality. The desires of the mind overpowering a weak intellect can destroy an individual.


    The human mind can cause enormous damage to you. You must fully understand how it behaves.

      The mind has a natural tendency to ramble to stray away from any fixed point of concentration. It is prone to worry over the Past memories or to become anxious of the future results. It seldom remains in the present. Most people dissipate their lives pondering over their past and anticipating their future. Their mind remain ever agitated .

      They suffer from strain throughout their life. In striking contrast, little children, bubbling with energy, keep acting ceaselessly, the whole day. It seems paradoxical that adults, with far greater strength than children, have much less energy to act. This paradox sterns from the fact that children have no worries of the past or anxieties for the future. Children live in the present. Adults torment themselves with past thoughts and future desires.

      Another distinct property of the mind is that it produces innumerable desires. Desires breed like bacteria in a mind which lacks direction and governance of the intellect. The mind incessantly craves for whatever it does not possess. Hence, the mind is compared to fire. Fire is insatiable. Fire consumes any amount of fuel it is fed. Fire is never fulfilled. Likewise, the human mind is never satiated. It is ever infested with unfulfilled desires and riddled with anxiety.

      Still another quality of the mind is its attachment to objects and beings which it already possesses. Your mind craves for what it does not possess. The moment your mind possesses anything it cultivates attachment. Attachment is a deadly disease of the mind. People develop extreme attachment to family, to partners, to home, to wealth and to power. Thus indiscriminating attachment causes tremendous stress in their lives.


      When a person possess innumerable desires and attachments his mind suffers from constant agitation. It is never at rest. It remains always worried and anxious, discontented and disturbed.

      As you reduce your desires and attachments, your mind becomes more stable and less agitated. But you allow your mind's stability to be disturbed by external agents. A disturbed mind takes time to settle down.

      You ought to diagnose this aspect of the mind's nature. Changes, challenges and conflicts are all part of the world. You must look at them as a sportsman views his challenging opponent. The stiffer the competition, the greater the fun. Sometimes you win, sometimes the opponent. Take things sportingly. You then enjoy every bit of life. Life becomes a beautiful game.

      A person who frees himself entirely from desires and attachments reaches the highest state of evolution. His mind remains at complete rest -- in perfect equilibrium. Never disturbed by the world. The best and the worst of circumstances can never upset his mental peace and happiness.


      Desires render a person dependent upon the world. More the desires, more the dependence. With the reduction of desires, you become more independent. Independence is the insignia of a human being. All other creatures lack this quality.

      Plants are wholly dependent upon the natural environment around them. Animals are less dependent than Plants, yet very much controlled by the environment. Only a human being can live free from the influence of an ever-changing world.

       A person infested with numerous desires need abundant material wealth to keep himself happy. As he drops his desires the need for material wealth diminishes. Thus, a person of very few desires remain content living by frugal means.


     The mind produces endless desires. The intellect alone can control them. When the intellect controls your desires, they become disciplined and determined. They then assume the form of an aim, ambition, aspiration a goal or an ideal in your life. If, however, the intellect loses its control over your desires, they turn into a craving, lust, greed or avarice. In that state, your mind becomes more disturbed, more stressful. Therefore, your intellect must constantly exercise its control over the endless desires projected by your mind. You will then reduce your stress and strain in life.


     When your intellect does not exercise its control over your mind, desires develop into their different permutations. Thus, desires can take different modifications. All of them generate mental agitations causing stress in human lives. Desires are the root cause of all your troubles. You must locate and control desires at their very source. If you fail to do so, they develop to monstrous proportions. The way to control and discipline your desires is to work for a higher ideal in life. Analyse your present activities.


     You do not care to assess the kind of environment that you contact, the type of climate you live in, the nature of people you relate to, and so on. Because of this lack of proper assessment, you develop unreasonable expectations from your contacts. Your mind has its demands and you want the world to cater to those specified demands. You feel everybody must serve the whims and fancies of your mind. You expect everything to fit into your mental pattern. This attitude of expecting the entire world to bow down to your personal likes and dislikes is most unreasonable. Unreasonable expectations cause disappointments in your life. And disappointments cause stress.

       The solution lies in correctly analysing and assessing the people, environments and situations you face. Begin with those who are closest to you. Your immediate partners both at home and at work. Observe closely their outer conduct. Try to ascertain their inner nature. Having found that out decide whether or not you want to live with them. If you decide to continue with them, you must accept their nature and behaviour. Thereafter, its foolish and futile to grumble and complain about them. How can you expect them to be different from what they are? How can you expect a hysterical boss at the Office to be calm and composed? How can you expect a nagging wife to be sweet and docile? How can you expect your bubbling teenagers to be mature and calm? How can a mother-in-law be a mother? To whom would you attribute these 'faults'? To them who are helplessly expressing their own inner nature? Or to you who expect them to live apart from their basic nature? You are asking for the impossible. And when things do not go your way you feel disappointed. You grumble your life away. All these erroneous expectations add to your stress. So let people live their own lives! What cannot be cured must be endured.

       The lack of assessment does not stop with people only. You fail to assess other things as well. The country you live in, the community you associate with the company you work for, the climate you are placed in etc.


     People feel stressed because they brood over their past. They regret---what they have done or not done, what had happened or not happened--over the past. Their minds are cluttered with memories of the past. They remain ever agitated. Spouses regret all their lives for having married. Those who chose to remain single regret their choice till the last days of their lives!

       You must realise that the past is fait accompli. To disturb your present life with past memories is tantamount to suicide. You cannot mend the moments you have already lived. You must learn to concentrate and consecrate your actions to the living present and not the dead past. Do not retrace your steps and regress to your past. Past is past. Let it die. Use your past experience only to the extent of steering your present actions. For example, your arrogant behaviour in the past has caused you endless problems. But do not dissipate your energy worrying about the past. Instead, apply your present energy to share your future.


     Besides worrying about the past, people commit another grave mistake of living on future hopes. They focus their thoughts on the unborn future. They seldom live in the present reality. Your craving for future gains prevent you from enjoying whatever you do have in the present. You place hope in the future. Thus, throughout your lifespan you merely entertain and accumulate multifold desires. You procrastinate your actual enjoyment. Consequently, you experience a great deal of mental agitation and stress. The key to life: Focus your attention on the present. Count your blessings. Compare your state to those who possess far less than you …."I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet." Be satisfied with and learn to enjoy whatever you are provided now. While you "enjoy" present possessions you may plan and programme to achieve greater heights of prosperity. To find satisfaction and enjoyment in the present lot does not mean developing complacency. You must revel in the present and aspire for the highest.

      Talk to the man owning a scooter. He scrumbles too, believing that his happiness will be complete when he purchases a small car. Hopes never end. None finds satisfaction in one's own possessions. Each of them merely craves for greater prosperity. Do not fall into the snares of future prospects. Learn to be content with your present lot and then plan to go higher.

      Learn to be content with your present lot and then plan to go higher.


     Ego is self-consciousness. It is part of your subtle body which constitutes your inner personality. When you consider yourself distinct and separate from others, you are said to be "egoistic." As long as you have an ego your mind will be disturbed. You will be under stress. Reduce your ego, you become free from mental agitation. Ego manifests in three distinct ways:

1. I am supreme.
2. I alone exist
3. I-am-the doer

       In the first case person believes himself superior to one and all. He has no regard or respect for others', knowledge and experience. Extreme pride and vanity consume any trace of mental peace within him. Such a person's mind will ever be disturbed.

       In the second phase, a person live selfishly centering every interest towards his own welfare. Such a gross, selfish and self-centred attitude produces mental agitation and suffering. In the entire world you will not find a selfish, self-centred, person peaceful and happy. Conversely, you will never find an unselfish person mentally agitated and unhappy.

       In the third phase, a person with this egoistic concept takes his duties as a burden upon his shoulders. He becomes attached and excited about his obligations to the world. He hurries and worries about his work. Your foremost obligation in life should be to merely do whatever you ought to do. That is the beginning and end of all your obligations. You need not brood over or worry about your self-created duties and responsibilities. Your real duty in life is to keep yourself mentally self-sufficient, self-poised and self-pleased.


   Most people suffer from complexes. They have either an inferiority or a superiority complex. Rarely indeed do you find a person free from both. Why do you feel yourself inferior or superior to others? Why do you have to compare yourself with others? Why do you not just be yourself? Learn this lesson from nature. Does the tortoise feel itself superior or inferior to a hare? Or the hare feel the same way? Every animal on earth is proud of just being itself. Man alone compares, compares and compares, causing his own suffering.

      You are capable of knowing yourself more than anyone else. Others can only surmise upto a point. Who will know all about you? Your possessions and person, your wealth and vigour, your character and conduct, your emotions and feelings, your thoughts and ideas. You alone qualify to be your own judge. None else. And yet you care so much for the opinion of others. You get flattered when someone puts you higher than where you are. You feel dejected when another condemns you to a lower status. What a strain you go through balancing yourself between the immature opinions and indiscriminate comments of every Tom, Dick and Harry!


The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter "Little prig."
Bun replied,
"You are doubtless very big:
But all sorts of things and wealthier
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."

-- R.W. Emerson

      The above simple poem entitled "The Mountain and the Squirrel" points out this weakness of complexes among human beings. The mountain had a quarrel with the squirrel. They called each other names. The mountain bragged about its bigness. That it carried forests on its back. The squirrel admitted its smallness and countered brilliantly, "But you cannot crack a nut". The poem makes it clear that everyone has place in this world. None more important and none else. All beings and things in this world are like spokes in a wheel and God the hub holding everything together.

       The ignorant do not visualise the human race as a heterogeneous variety of personalities. Much less do they realise that every person's nature is best suited for his own evolution. You must understand your present personality and position in life is ideal for your self-development. Not recognising this great gift of nature you compare with others and suffer from complexes. You are not any less or more important than others in this world. You have a part to play in your life. Identify your part and play it well. Your present state and stature is most conducive for your growth. Realise that. Make use of your own talents to discover inner peace and happiness.


       The subject matter, upto this point laid the accent on reduction of stress. This is because people need to reduce stress before they attempt its elimination, stress reduction is more practical than its elimination. To eliminate stress completely you need to put in enormous effort. The following section explains this process. You can eradicate stress completely only by realising your supreme Self, by knowledge of Self. As long as you remain ignorant of the self, you will entertain desires. Unfulfilled desires cause stress. Just as on waking up from a dream, the knowledge of the waking state eliminates all desires and consequent stress of the dreamer and the world. The dreamer becomes fully liberated from the thraldom of the dream world only on reaching the waking. Similarly, you will gain absolute liberation from this world through Self-realisation alone.

Source: Article by Swami A.Parthasarathy, India.

13 December, 2008

Sense-objects a Trap: Man Bound.

Adi Sankara, author, is very appropriately reminded of the various examples provided by nature where certain species meet their death due to extreme attachment to one or the other of the five senses in the following Verse:

The deer, the elephant, the moth, the fish
And the honey-bee—these five are annihilated
because of their salvery to one or the other of the
senses such as sound etc., through their own
attachment. What then is the condition of a man
who is attached to all these five?

- Verse 76: Vivekachoodamani.


The deer is always fascinated by melodious sound and the deer hunter signs to charm the deer. Attracted by the melody of sound, the deer has no awareness of the danger it is in, and turns in the direction of the music; the hunter soon makes it his target. The elephants, especially in the matting season, become extremely attached to the sense of touch; rubbing against each other and walking without caution, they fall into the pits got ready to catch them. The moth is enchanted by form and attracted by the brilliance of the flame. It flutters towards it with an agonizing impatience and gets burnt. The fish, ravenously hungry at all times, in its gluttony, swallows the bait, is caught and thus meets its end in the stomach of fish-eaters. The poor honey-bee, attracted by the fragrant smell of flowers, pursues its industrious vocation, collects honey from the flowers and hoards it in its hive, until at last, heartless man set fire to the hive in order to loot the honey-wealth of the bee.

Thus, the author gives us five typical examples wherein each has met its doom because of its attachment to one or the other of the five senses. Most dramatic it becomes when the author concludes with the exclamation, “What then is in store for man who is attached to all these five?”

When a man of ignorance, having neither discrimination nor detachment, vulgarly runs after sense-objects for his temporary nerve-ticklings, he becomes a sad victim of his delusion, and meets a calamitous end for he has allowed himself to be bound by the five strong ropes.

Reverentially called Bhagavatpada Acharya (The teacher at the feet of Lord) and Adi Sankara (roughly "the first Sankara"), Sankara (approximately 788-820 CE) was the most famous Advaita philosopher who had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism through his non-dualistic philosophy. He advocated the greatness and importance of the important Hindu scripture known as the Vedas (most particularly on the Upanishads, also known as Vedanta)and gave new life to Hinduism when it was suffering due to the increasing influence of Buddhism. He was born in Kaladi, a small village in Kerala, India. His teachers include Gaudapada and Govinda. Reverentially called Bhagavatpada Acharya (The teacher at the feet of Lord) and Adi Sankara (roughly "the first Sankara"), Sankara (approximately 788-820 CE) was the most famous Advaita philosopher who had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism through his non-dualistic philosophy. He advocated the greatness and importance of the important Hindu scripture known as the Vedas (most particularly on the Upanishads, also known as Vedanta)and gave new life to Hinduism when it was suffering due to the increasing influence of Buddhism. He was born in Kaladi, a small village in Kerala, India. His teachers include Gaudapada and Govinda.
Excerpt from the Talks on Sankara’s Vivekachoodamani by Swami Chinmayananda.

07 December, 2008


At the bottom of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far from the sun. They did notice that every once in a while one from their colony seemed to lose interest in going about with his friends, and clinging to a lily stalk, he gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more. “Look!” said one of the water bugs to others. “One from our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she’s going? Wasn’t she happy here? Where do you suppose she went?” No one had an answer. Finally one of the water bugs spoke up, “I Have an idea. The next one of us to climb up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell the rest of us where he went and why.”

As providence would have it, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, and up and up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen onto a broad lily pad above. When he opened his eyes, he couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come over his old body. His movements revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from his new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself above the water. He had become a dragonfly.

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. Every now and then, the new dragonfly landed happily on a lily pad to rest. It was then that he chanced to look below, at the bottom of the pond. He was right above his old friends, the water bugs! Then the dragonfly remembered the promise. Without thinking, he dived down. He hit the surface of the water and bounced away. He winged off happily into his wonderful new world of sun and air. After experiencing the freedom of his new surroundings for some time, he again landed to rest on the lily pad, of course, having realized….. “If I had not chosen to outgrow the colony of water bugs, to which I was so attached, I would ever become a dragonfly. Now that I have become a dragonfly, even if I want, I can never go back to where I came from. Even if I somehow manage to go back, the colony of water bugs – my old friends – will no longer be able to recognize me in new form…. they won’t understand me. I have to wait till one of them also becomes a dragonfly, for, only then will they understand what has happened to me.”


The law of life is ‘When the lower is pushed, the higher delights’. When the body is pushed beyond its perceived limits the mind delights. When the body tells you ‘I can’t walk one more block. I can’t run another lap. I can trek no more,’ and then when it is pushed beyond its perceived limits and when it walks that additional block, runs another lap and treks further – the mind delights. Against the pleading of your body when you do a few more push- ups or few more reps of the bicep curls or another dozen squats – the mind delights. When the lower – the body is pushed, the higher – the mind delights.”

Struggle, suffering, challenges, testing period, tough times – in fact, all these are vocabulary of a man who is seeing only the lower being pushed without recognizing how the higher delights in the process. You are saying the caterpillar is being pushed. I am saying the butterfly is born. Every time man is pushed and got delights… for, it is through this push, man is created. Align yourself to this spiritual truth and so much of your life will change.

Source: Excerpt from the article published in “Frozen Thoughts” April 2008.