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25 August, 2013

Acceptance Meditation

       In the world, we have several relationships - in the family, outside the family etc.,  But according to our (sastras) scriptures all those other relationships are incidental which can maximum last for 100 years.  Whereas, there is one relationship, which is eternal relationship and that is with the Lord, the Creator, with Bhagavan which we consider as the primary relationship.

       Everyone of us is a Jiva from vyavaharika dhrishti.  Every one of us as Jiva is related to Iswara, Iswara being the cause of everything.  Between the Jiva and Iswara, there is a karya karana sambandha.

       The Lord is the universal parent and we are all the children.  As Ardhanaareeshwara He is both the father and the mother.

       And therefore this one relationship is the most stable relationship, and therefore we have to nourish and preserve this stable relationship.  And not only this is the most stable relationship, this is most reliable relationship also, which we can depend upon in our day-to-day life.

Spiritual benefit of bhakti [Devotion]  

       In and through all the functions that we celebrate, we want to nourish this bhakti or this relationship with Iswara.  This nourishment of Bhakti has got two-fold benefits.

      One is the spiritual benefit.  This kind of puja will give purity of mind and gradually we will get a desire for liberation, which is our primary goal.  And thereafter the very same bhakti will give an opportunity to pursue moksha, an opportunity to gain spiritual knowledge.  This is the spiritual benefit of the bhakti that we nourish.

       In addition to spiritual benefits, we do have some worldly benefits also.  Even if a person is not interested in moksha, still bhakthi is worth nourishing, because it has got some practical benefits also.

       I would like to discuss,  some of the practical benefits of nourishing bhakti in our hearts.  I would like to share some thoughts with regard to one practical benefit.  All of us, as human beings have a basic psychological problem.  It is in the form of an attitudinal problem, which is natural and which is universal also.

Attitudinal problem

       We have got mental or psychological resistance, when we have to face difficult situations in life.  By mental resistance, what I mean is - we don't have a willingness to go through the situationWe have got unwillingness to go through difficult situations.  And it is natural because, if any difficult situation comes in life, we consider, look upon it as a threat to life, for our own life.  The conscious mind, backed by sub-conscious mind perceives a survival threat.  The moment there is a difficult situation or there is a possibility of a difficult situation, instinctively there is an emotional resistance in the form of - I am not willing to go through this difficult situation.

       This natural resistance to face difficult situations in life is a very serious psychological problem all have.  Why do I say it is a serious problem?

       Because, in life there is one fact, which we all have to acknowledge.  The fact is every human being has to necessarily confront difficult situations in life.  It is law of life.

       It is an integral part of life - that every living being, every human being will have to confront difficult situations in life.
       If a person is very skilled, very wealthy, very capable and takes lot of precautions in life, perhaps he can reduce the frequency of the difficult situations.  Perhaps, he can reduce the intensity, the duration of the difficult situations.  But, he can never never can avoid difficult situations - 100%.

       All our puranic stories of Dharmaputra, Nala, etc., are meant to reveal this fact.  Life means "difficult situations are integral part".  Not only emperors have failed, even [Lord] Bhagavan - when he comes in the form of avatara - whether it is Rama or Krishna even the avatara confronts difficult situations. Therefore, What is the law of life?  One has to confront difficult situations. What is our emotional problem? Our unwillingness to face difficult situations.

These two are the laws of life.

       I have to face difficult situations.  My natural, emotional attitude is - I am not willing to confront difficult situations.  These two diagonally opposite situations create a lot of problems in human life.

       One has to face difficult situations in life.  But our natural, emotional attitude is - We are not willing to confront difficult situations.  These two diagonally opposite situations create lot of problems in human life.  Difficult situations are bound to come - is one law.  My mind is not willing to face it is another.

       Whenever there is difficult situation, either it has arrived or there is a possibility of arrival - The moment that looms in front of my mind, parallely along with the arrival of the difficult situation or the possibility of the arrival, internally within my mind - the emotional resistance also rises.

       Therefore, at any time, when a difficult situation comes, we have to confront two problems simultaneously. One is the external difficult situation, the other is internal mental resistance - unwillingness of the mind to go through the situation.

      Difficult situation is external problem.  Mental resistance is internal problem.  Thus, parallely, every time a difficult situation comes, I have to face two enemies simultaneously.

       Unfortunately when these enemies are there, we generally notice the external enemy, but we don't recognize the internal enemy of resistance, which is perhaps more powerful and dangerous than the internal one.

Adverse consequences of Mental resistance

       This resistance is a serious mental problem because, it causes several adverse consequences.  Only when we understand the consequences, we will know how serious this internal problem is.  When I don't know how serious it is, I will never try to remedy that.

Emotional resistance

       One problem the emotional resistance produces is, it magnifies the difficult situation.  It becomes a magnifying glass and the magnitude of the difficult situation is enlarged.

1) First adverse consequence - 

Magnification of the external problem

       The magnification of the difficult and the pain, is directly proportional to the resistance.  Greater the resistance, greater the magnification both of the difficult and pain.

       So, the first adverse consequence of our inner enemy is the magnification of the external problem.

2) Second disadvantage of resistance - 

Obstruction of problem solving skills

      The second disadvantage is when the problem or the difficult situation is magnified multifold, naturally my mind perceives a larger than life problem and therefore the mind is overpowered by the magnified problem.

       The mind is overwhelmed, overpowered and it gets paralyzed.  A paralyzed mind cannot use its resources, its skills to handle the difficult situation.

       Thus the second problem is resistance obstructs my problem solving skills.

3) Third consequence of resistance - 

Negative thinking

       The third consequence is - resistance always generates negative thoughts about the future.  Even though we don't know the future, when there is mental resistance, I look at the difficult situation, what all events will happen I don't know.  But my mind becomes highly creative, negatively.

       I imagine future negative events in all directions.  Any direction of thinking my mind goes - it generates negative events.  All are worst types of negative events.

      Therefore, resistance is the cause of thinking negatively.  The negative thinking is directly proportion to resistance.

       There is an important law.  Negative thinking attracts negative events.  The mind has got such a power, it is called sankalpa shakti, which we are applying negatively.

       Mind has got tremendous power - that any thought will attract an event similar to that thought.

      Any thought when it is repeated several times, that repeated that will attract the event and an event similar to the thought.

       Positive thought will attract positive event.  Negative thought will attract negative event.

       Resistance generates negative thoughts.  And by my own negative thoughts, I attract negative events.  Somebody looked at the astrology [jatakam] and said, it is bad period.  Because the astrologer has said, one keeps on repeating that this is bad period and negative event should happen.

       I do this meditation [dhyanam].  Whether the planets brings the event or not, by my sheer thought, I crystallize the negative event.  Like the cloud seeding by Silver iodide - which can crystallize the clouds and bring rain, we crystallize the possibility of negative event and make it happen.

       This is called self-fulfilling prophecy.  I myself repeat the thought and make sure that astrologer is right.  I validate the astrologer by my cooperation with negative thinking.  Thus, resistance produce negative thinking, attracting negative events.  This is the third danger.

4)  Fourth danger of resistance - STRESS

       The fourth danger is resistance generates stress. When I am not willing to go through difficult situation in keeping with the intensity of my resistance, a tremendous tension or stress is created in my physical body and in my mind also.  Generally it is experienced, all over body and everything is stretched.  This is stress generated by resistance.

       We think stress is generated by difficult situation.   Unfortunately, stress is not generated by difficult situation.  Stress is generated by resistance to difficult  situation.

      Now a days, we are reading continuous stress will create several health problems viz., short term health problem, long term health problem, physical health problem, psychological health problem, reversible health problem, irreversible health problem.  All because of stress medically proved and the stress is generated by not by difficult situation, stress is generated by resistance.

      Therefore, we should understand our unwillingness to face difficult situation in life is a powerful internal enemy which strengthens the external enemy also and it creates several problems for me. Like anti-national people within the country who are supporting the terrorists outside.

This is the fifth column.  Resistance is like the fifth column.  It magnifies our external enemy, weakens our  skills  and creates all this negative problems.  Therefore, I should understand that my primary enemy in life is resistance.  Resistance meaning my unwillingness to face difficult situations which is inevitable in life, which is the law of life.


      To remember these problem, we can remember these four points.

1) Magnification
2) Obstruction of the skill.
3) Negative thinking.
4) Fourth one is stress.  

    Take the first letters to remember, MONSTRESS.

N-Negative thinking and
STRESS - Stress


       Hence, resistance generates a MONSTRESS.  The word "MONSTRESS" word is only refers "male gender", there is no female gender word for word "MONSTRESS".  This is the consequence of resistance.  Therefore, if the quality of our life has to be improved and if we want to avoid health problems caused by resistance, we have to address this problem.

How do I solve the problem?

      Very simple, you have to bring the opposites.  If there is darkness is the problem, what is the only solution, light the opposite has to be brought in.

     If unwillingness to face the difficult is our problem, what is the opposite of that.  The opposite of unwillingness is WILLINGNESS to face the difficult  situations, as a life's package.  Life includes whether we like it or not, difficult situation.  Therefore, I should be  intelligently, skilfully, willing to confront the problems.  Therefore, I have to generate deliberate thoughts of WILLINGNESS.

     Because, unwillingness is a habitual thought which is there.  Unwillingness thought, you need not entertain.  Why?  We are naturally "not willing".  Therefore, willingness is not going to naturally come, we have to deliberately practise saying "in life, difficult situations will be there and since it is an integral part of life, I am willing to go through difficult situations".

  This practice of  willingness  not one thought.  The willingness thought must be also be repeated several times.  Therefore, I will call it as meditation of this particular thought. This willingness thought is called ACCEPTANCE.  The opposite of resistance is ACCEPTANCE. The opposite of unwillingness is WILLINGNESS.  Therefore, acceptance meditation we all have to practise regularly to neutralise the psychological problem of resistance.

      Acceptance meditation has to be practised to neutralise the the weakness of resistance.  This acceptance meditation must be regularly practised, whenever difficult situation is arriving at that time, acceptance meditation should be practised more vigorously.  Because, only at that time, resistance is going to come up.  Therefore, whenever difficult situations are arriving or they have arrived, we have to practise acceptance meditation.  If that is not practised, what will happen? Resistance will come.  If resistance will come, who will come.  MONSTRESS will come.  Do you want MONSTRESS to come.

      This acceptance meditation we can practise effectively.  If we practise this as a Bhaktha.  This is where bhaktha and bhakthi is going to be very handy.  While practising the acceptance meditation, I medidate as a Bhaktha and I invoke the Lord and creates an utmost fear of Bhakthi by certain thoughts which will promote a healthy attitude.

What are the those thoughts that will create an ideal Bhakti atmosphere?

       I will mention three of them to create ambiance.

       To mediate that, "I am willing to go through the difficult situation", I need an  ambiance  of Bhakti.

First Thought pattern

      The first thought pattern is, as a bhakta I note that the entire universe is the creation of Bhagvan.  Bhagvan is an intelligent creator.  He has created a wonderful universe.  Everything in the creation is meaningful and purposeful.  I intensely appreciate and acknowledge this.

      If everything in the creation is meaningful and purposeful - as a part of the creation - Bhagwan himself has kept difficult situations also, which is an integral part of the creation.

       If difficult situations are also, integral part of the universe, therefore created by God, that also has got a meaning and purpose.

      Every difficult situation for anyone, at any time has got a purpose and meaning, whether the meaning is explicit or hidden, whether I can recognize this now or later, I am convinced as a Bhakta - Every difficult situation is meaningful and purposeful.  Therefore, I accept the purpose, validity and necessity of difficult situations in life.  This is the atmosphere I have to create.

Second thought pattern

       The second thought pattern is - whatever difficult situation I face, it is all the result of my own past karma.  The situation is karmaphalam.  As a bhakta I know that Bhagvan [Lord] is in-charge of distributing karmaphalam.  The department of karmaphala daanam is presided over by Bhagvan.  He is defined as karmaphala dhata.

       As a bhakta, therefore I know that every difficult situation is given by Bhagvan Himself as a karmaphalam - not by the local people.  As a bhakta, whatever comes from Bhagvan - it has got only one name - it is not called difficult situation or comfortable situation - it is a blessing.  Iswara Krupa - whatever comes from Bhagvan.  I never have unwillingness to receive it.  There is no resistance at all.  I accept the difficult situation.

       It does not mean that I should not take-up remedial measures.  I am going to take-up remedial measures and I also know that the difficult situation will pass away.  Until it passes away, I have to go through that.  Until that, my attitude is - (natural resistance will come), but my deliberate approach is "I am willing to go through the difficult situation, until it passes away".

       It is there, I am accepting the difficult situation.

       So, the second thought pattern is - Accepting everything as Iswara Krupa.  Whatever difficult situations I go through until it is remedied, I am willing to go through it.

Third thought pattern

       The third pattern is - because of my devotion to the Lord, I have got the most stable and reliable relationship - through that I can draw any amount of strength and therefore with the strength that I borrow from the sacred relationship - I am confident that I will be able to come through the situation and I will be able to become purer, stronger and wiser.

       I am confident that every difficulty has got a hidden blessing.  And the blessing is that I will come out purer, stronger and wiser.  Like a washerman, when he washes a cloth, what all things he does - rubbing against his hand, he will beat and all those things.

       We can say that the washer man is torturing the cloth.  But, we say that the washer man is cleaning the cloth.  It is the difference in perception.  Similarly when I come out of this washing machine called difficult situation - I will come out purer, stronger and wiser.

       And having thought these three points - therefore because of these three reasons I am willing to go through the difficult situation, I don't know how long it is going to last, if it is a treatment, the treatment may cure the disease in a day, in a week, in a month or in a year.

       I don't know how long I have to go through.  Let the treatment proceed, until it goes through, I am willing to go through it.

       And the beauty is as even I practice this acceptance meditation, we find that the resistance will become weaker.

       And you can physically and emotionally feel the monstrous disappearing from the system, as even willingness thought is repeated, unwillingness thought will go away.  As even unwillingness thought goes away, monstrous disappears.  The churning sensation in the stomach, which one can literally feel, at least you take a tablet, fever will subside only after 20 minutes.  But, acceptance meditation will remove this churning of the stomach instantaneously.

       You can practise this acceptance meditation and feel the result.

Acceptance meditation

     Acceptance meditation is surrendering the resisting will.  Acceptance meditation is sarangathi dhyanam.

Sloka from Mukunda Mala

       For practising this acceptance meditation - we have got so many beautiful slokas and prayers.  One is from Mukunda Mala.

naasthadharme navasunilaye naive kamopabhogeyadyartbhavayam bhavatu bhagavan purvakarmanurupametatprarthyam mama bhahumatam janma janmaantarepitvatpaadamboruhayugagataa nischalaa bhaktirastu

This is a beautiful prayer.  Only relevant portions are referred to here.

       yadyat bhavyam bhavatu bhagavan - that is our slogan - let whatever happen.  Bhavyam means the difficult situation, which I have to  necessarily  go through.  I will willingly, without any complaint go through that.

       Not only I should verbally say that, my facial expression also should not get changed when I am talking about that.  I avoid facial changes, the language is also not negative, bodily expression is also not negative, there is a difficult situation - I am willing to go through it without any grudges.  I should learn to talk about that, without frowning.

       I should hold on to Bhagavan's feet.  I should be confident in my Bhakti, Calmness, Cheerfulness and Confidence - all these three are part of Karma Yoga. I should have the confidence that I will go through the situation successfully and come out purer, stronger and wiser.  So I remain calm, cheerful and confident.

Sloka from Sri Rudram

       If we read Sri Rudram, we find a greater statement there. Difficult situation is not Iswara Krupa.  Difficult situation itself is Iswara!

       Sri Rudram says, "World is not created by Bhagavan; World is nothing but Bhagavan himself in the costume of things and beings".  Therefore, difficult situation is not something coming from Bhagavan; difficult situation itself Bhagavan.  So, I have no resistance, I will  successfully  go through it.

     Another sloka in Sivananda Lahiri.  Sankaracharya says, "Lord Shiva is Panchamukha:  Panchamukha: word is used in double meaning.  One meaning is Lord with five heads.  (Lord Siva has got five heads).  Another meaning is a lion.  The word pancha has another meaning wide.  Panchamukha: means - a wide mouthed animal, a lion.

       Panchamukha: (Lion) always lives in mountain aves.  And panchamukha:  siva also lives in caves - the heart cave of beings.  If lion is with me, why should I be afraid of facing other local animals?

       When panchamukha Siva is there, why should I fear?

       Adisankara gives various descriptions - all of them have got two-fold meanings.  One description is for Siva, another is for lion.

karalagnamruga: karindrabhango
girisho vishadaakritishca ceta:
kuhare panchamukhosti me kuto bhi:

       Why should I fear?  I am Bhakta, I willingly go through the difficult situation.  I am not at all afraid.  Monstress can never come near me.  I can certain come out of it.  And I will come out purer, stronger and wiser.

Sloka from Bhagavad Gita

       The third sloka is from Bhagavad Gita itself.

macchittaha: sarvadurgaani matprasaadaat tharishyasi

      The one who keeps the Lord in the cave of the heart, will cross over all difficult situations.

       Using these verses [slokas] or independently, when I practise this acceptance meditation, I am solving the internal problem.  The general mistake that we commit is, we always focus on the external situation.  We never address the resistance problem.

       If we are giving fifty percent of our time for solving the external problem, we have to give fifty percent time for acceptance meditation.  Whenever any problem comes, forget the problem and spend one hour exclusively for acceptance meditation.  Then work on the problem for one hour.  Again practise acceptance meditation.

       We have to attack the external enemy, as well as the internal enemy.  When internal enemy is tackled, there is no magnification of the problem.  Once resistance is gone, the de-magnification takes place.  That is called shrinking of the problem.  For this, there is a sloka (verse).

Ghoshpatikritavaaraashim mashakeekritaraakshasam.


       For Hanuman, ocean became puddle of water.  De-magnification took place, because he doesn't have any resistance.  And all the rakshasas of Lanka became  mosquitoes!  For killing mosquitoes, do you strain yourself.

      By practising acceptance meditation, all problems become simple.  We can cross over any problem.  Therefore, Bhakthi is useful for acceptance meditation.  It will remove all resistance.  Once resistance goes, monstress goes away.  Once monstress goes away, our life will become healthier.  Thus, Bhakthi has got a practical benefit also.

Source: Talks delivered by Swami Paramarthananda.

17 August, 2013

In Indian Culture... Why do we celebrate Lord Krishna's birthday?

In Indian Culture...
Why do we celebrate Lord Krishna's birthday?

       Krishna was a dynamic incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  He was an Avatara.  An Avatara is one who is attuned to the supreme Consciousness from birth.  Krishna's incarnation brought about a profound and powerful influence upon Indian thought and life.  There is no aspect of Indian life, culture and civilisation which does not receive his revitalising touch.  India's philosophy and religion, mysticism and poetry, painting and sculpture, music an dance articulated Krishna's theme and thought.  Every aspect of Krishna's life and deeds has a mystic symbolism indicating a sublime truth.  Some of them are explained below.  They should set a direction to the reader for deeper study and discovery of the allegorical significance of the entire story of Krishna.

Krishna meaning

       Krishna in Sanskrit means dark.  Krishna represents the inner Self, Atman.  The Atman is dark in the sense that it is unknown to man as long as he is involved in his terrestrial experiences. Man's  knowledge  is limited to the realms of perceptions, emotions and thoughts.  He gains these experiences through his three equipments of body, mind and intellect.  He knows not the Atman within.  The body, mind and intellect by themselves are inert and insentient.  They constitute the material aspect of man.  The Atman is his spiritual being.  The Atman is the living principle in man which transforms his inert matter into a living being.

Krishna in blue colour and wears yellow clothes

       Krishna in blue colour and wears yellow clothes. Blue colour has always been associated with infinity.  The sky appears blue.  So does the ocean.  Yellow colour  represents  earth.  When sand is introduced in a colourless flame, the flame turns yellow.  The blue form of Krishna clothed in yellow therefore suggest the infinite Reality reduced to finite human being.

Krishna's incarnation

       The incarnation of Krishna represents the descent of God on earth.  This idea of the limitless, formless Reality being constricted and restricted to a limited, human form is again suggested by Krishna's birth in a prison.  The divine child was however not confined to the prison.  No sooner was Krishna born the prison doors miraculously flung open.  The guards could not hold the child back.  The child's father, Vasudeva, carried him out of the prison in spite of the severe restrictions imposed on him.

      This episode is meant to convey that the infinite Being can never be really restricted or limited to the human form.  A Godman is ever free and liberated.  The Atman in a man is limitless.  Only his body, mind and intellect are limited finite.  These material equipments have a beginning and an end.  They cannot restrict the Atman.  The Atman is eternal, all-pervading, infinite.  Krishna represents that Atman.

       Krishna was born in Mathura.  His uncle, Kamsa was a tyrant.  Kamsa imprisoned his father and usurped the throne of Mathura.  He reigned over Mathura.  His minister Chanura was equally wicked and cruel.  Under the rule of these two tyrants Mathura suffered greatly from confusion and chaos.  Krishna destroyed both and restored peace and order in that land.  The word mathuram means sweetness.  The land of Mathura represents the personality of man.  Man's essential nature is his Atman.  His real nature is ever sweet, peaceful and blissful.  But when the evil forces of ego and egocentric desires usurp man's personality he suffers from stress and strain, worries and  anxieties He is agitated and sorrowful. He loses his blissful nature.  To regain the lost bliss man as to destroy his ego and egocentric desires and establish his identity with his supreme Self.

Puranic Story

       There is a Puranic story which speaks of Krishna killing a mighty serpent with many heads.  It lived in a lake poisoning its water.  The entire village suffered because of this dragon.  Krishna ultimately crushed down its heads.  But as he crushed them other heads sprung up in their place.  Krishna ultimately crushed all the heads and vanquished the serpent.  He danced on its crested head playing the flute.  The wives of the dragon paid homage to the Lord.

Allegorical significance

       This story again has an allegorical significance.  The lake represents the mind.  The dragon and its many heads the ego and egocentric desires.  The ego and egocentric desires poison the mind and make its world miserable.  When man turns his attention inwards, when he contemplates and meditates upon his Atman, upon Krishna he overcomes his ego and egocentric desires. Thereafter he revels in the bliss of Realisation.  the sense-objects of the world become subservient to such a man.  This is symbolised by the wives of the serpent paying homage to Krishna.

Krishna playing a flute

       Krishna is often represented as playing a flute.  The enchanting music emanating from the flute of the Lord is the bliss of Godhood enjoyed by the Man-of-Realisation.  The flute is hollow but it can produce enchanting music.  So too when man empties himself of his vasanas and desires the Divinity within him flows out with enchanting bliss.  Man has to give up all his claims upon his body, mind and intellect, give up all his egocentric connections, all thoughts of 'mine' and 'thine', rise above them all and chant Om (Krishna), to remove all selfishness from the flute of his body and fill it with the divine breath of om.  Man becomes God.

Krishna with Gopis

       The milkmaids of Brindavan were called gopis.  These gopis were enchanted by the divine music flowing out of Krishna's flute.  They danced in their  ecstasy  around Krishna.  The dance of the gopi is known as rasa-lila.  

      Krishna again represents the Atman, pure consciousness while gopis represent thoughts.  Atman in man is the enlivening factor by which he becomes conscious of his thoughts.  Thoughts by themselves are insentient.  In the presence of Consciousness thoughts gain sentiency or consciousness.  Thoughts dance around the Atman as it were.  But the Atman is ever-immaculate.  It is unaffected by the thoughts around it.  So is Krishna pure, immaculate.  He remains detached and unaffected by the dancing gopis.  Losing this allegorical significance of the rasa-lila much criticism has been levelled against Krishna's association with the gopis.  

     The gopis were in fact deeply devoted to Lord Krishna.  They remembered Krishna  throughout  the day in all their activities.  Their limbs were ceaselessly engaged in their obligatory duties while their minds were constantly attuned to the Lord.  To dedicate oneself to a higher being and work in the world without ego and egocentric desire is karma yoga.  When man works in a spirit of karma yoga he gets rid of his vasans, desires. This idea is suggested by Krishna stealing the butter which the gopis had churned and collected in their pots.  The desires for realisation of the Self alone  remains.  The last  trace of desire gets eliminated by itself through single-pointed meditation upon the Lord.  

       In verse 66 of Chapter XVIII of the Bhagavad Gita the Lord gives man this assurance:

"Abandoning all dharmas, take refuge in Me alone, I will liberate thee from all sins, grieve not."

       There is yet another beautiful incident in Krishna's life indicating his absolute state of detachment.  It served as an eye-opener to the two wives of Krishna when they began to  doubt  his association with many gopis.

Sage Durvasa - Nitya upavasi

       One day the great sage Durvasa camped with his many disciples on the opposite bank of river Yamuna where Krishna lived.  Krishna wives saw the sage and prepared a lot of sweetmeats to take to him.  In the evening when both the ladies with their trays of delicacies approached the river it was flooded.  They could not cross over to the other bank to make the offering to the sage.  They returned and sought krishna's help.  Krishna asked them to go back to the river-side and pray to Mother Yamuna (the rivers in India are deified as goddesses), "If sage Durvasa is nitya upavasi please show us the way".  Nitya means eternal, permanent.  Upavasi means one who fasts.  So nitya upavasi is one who is always observing fast.  The ladies did not understand the implication.  They  followed Krishna's advice and prayed to Goddess Yamuna.  The goddess granted their prayer and instantly the waters subsided.  They crossed over and offered sweets to the sage.  The sage ate every bit of the food and returned the empty trays.  A nitya upavasi!

Krishna - Nithya brahmacari

       Krishna's wife took the sage's blessings and reached the river bank to return home.  Again, the river was flooded preventing them from crossing over.  This time they sought the help of Durvas.  The sage advised them to go back to the river bank and pray to goddess Yamuna, "If Krishna is a nitya brahmacari please show us the way".  Nitya brahmachari means permanent celibate.  The ladies followed the advice and prayed to the Yamuna.  To their amazement the waters subsided forthwith enabling the to cross over to the other bank.

Significance of the Durvasa Story

      The significance of this episode is obvious.  Durvasa was totally free from mental attachment to any type of food.  He had absolutely no desire or craving for them.  Eating to him was a ritual, an obligatory function.  Such a person though eating eats not.  A man of perfect detachment "even though acting acts not"  (BHagavad gita Chapter IV, Verse 20).  Durvasa belonged to that rare category.  He was ever mentally detached from food.  Hence, he was called a nitya upavasi even as he was eating like any other man.

       The same principle applies to Krishna.  It is not man's physical expression but his mental impression that determines his attachment or detachment to the world.  Krishna's association with the gopis did not in any way affect his total detachment, his mental resignation from them.  He was ever maintaining an inward dispassion and disinterest even as he was closely associating with the gopis.  His mind was ever in a state of Brahmacharya celibacy.  Hence, he was called nitya brahmacari. 

Krishna eaten mud

       In his childhood, Krishna is said to have eaten mud on an occasion.  His mother Yasoda chided him.  Krishna denied having eaten mud.  Yasoda would not take his word.  She asked him to open his mouth.  The child did so.  Yasoda was  wonder-struck  to see the entire universe within the child's mouth.  This episode has a deep philosophical implication.

       Krishna is the Infinite, Omnipresent, Omnipotent Reality. The Reality alone exists.  Nothing else does.  The universe is nothing but the same Reality, though seen differently by men with limited vision.  Yasoda was one of those who could not see the supreme Being in Krishna.  She only saw her child in him.  But in truth Krishna is that all-pervading Reality which includes the earth as well.  The earth is a part of the Reality which Krishna is.  Krishna therefore gave the right answer to his mother when he denied eating earth.  How can Krishna (Reality) eat mud (Reality)? Krishna was therefore speaking the Truth.  when Yasoda insisted on knowing the truth Krishna had to reveal it by opening his mouth and showing the universe in Him.

Krishna as a baby sucking his own big toe

       Man's essential nature is the supreme Reality.  The world is also nothing but Reality.  Yet man finds the necessity to run after the world of objects for his pleasures.  Is this not an absurd situation--Reality in the form of man  craving  to enjoy Reality in the form of the world?  This absurdity of man's pursuit is subtly implied when Krishna as a baby is showing sucking his own big toe.

Krishna holding a staff & jnana mudra in hand

       Lord Krishna is also described as a holding a staff in one hand and showing a symbol of wisdom, jnana mudra with the other.  A staff is used by a cowherd boy to drive the cattle to the pasture lands for grazing.  The jnana mudra is a symbol made by holding the little, ring and middle fingers erect and bringing the index finger to touch the middle portion of the thumb.  This again has a philosophical meaning.  Krishna represents the Atman in man.  Atman is the Life-Principle which enlivens his body, mind and intellect.  Without the life spark man cannot act at all.  All actions are possible because of the life spark.  Actions broadly classified fall under two distinct heads - actions that are degrading and devolutionary and those that are elevating and evolutionary.  Man can make use of the Atman to evolve or to devolve.  Atman is neutral.  It helps man to pursue whatever direction he wants.

       The first type of actions is indicated by Krishna holding the staff.  The cattle represents the sense organs.  The sense organs constantly feed upon the sense-objects of the world.  Eyes go to colour and form, ears go to sound, the tongue to taste etc.,  the sense-objects are the  pastures  for the sense organs.  Man spends all his life driving his sense organs to their respective fields of enjoyment for sensual pleasures.  He uses his Life-Principle   merely to indulge in sense gratification.  That seems to be his main occupation in life.

Jnana Mudra

     The other type of actions, indicated by the jnana mudra, leads man to Self-realisation.  the index finger represents the ego.  It is the pointing finger which creates duality, plurality.  Man develops his ego by his association and identification with his body, mind and intellect, with his gross, subtle and causal bodies, with his sattvika, rajasika and tamasika gunas.  This idea is indicated by the index finger remaining in contact with the other three fingers. The thumb  represents  represents the Atman by virtue of the vital role it plays in all actions.  The index finger bending towards the thumb to form a circle shows the ego's detachment from the three bodies or gunas and total surrender to the Atman.  When man does that he reaches his Infinite state, the state of Self-realisation.  This Infinitude is indicated by making a circle.  The circle has no beginning or end.  That which has no beginning or end is said to be infinite. Krishna gives this choice of action to man, that is to spend his life time in merely gratifying his senses or to transcend the limitations of his body, mind and intellect and reach the state of Realisation. Krishna is a mere witness, a sakshi.  He does not interfere with your choice.  He merely presents the truth for you to decide your course of life.


       In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna surrenders to Krishna completely and seeks his advice.  Krishna gives him the entire philosophy of life in the eighteen chapters of the gita.  Towards the end of the last chapter he declares to Arjuna, "I have declared the highest wisdom to you, reflect upon it and act as you choose to".

Source:  Excerpts from the book on The Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals by Swami A Parthasarathy

06 August, 2013


(14.01.1875 - 04.09.1965)

BIRTH (January 14, 1875)

       The son of Lutheran Pastor, Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875 - September 4, 1965) was born in a small village in Alsace, then part of Germany, into an Alsatian family that for generations had been devoted to religion, music and education.  His father and maternal grandfather were ministers; both of his grandfathers were talented organists; many of his relatives were persons of scholarly attainments.

     Dr. Albert Schweitzer was one of history's most amazing personalities - a scholar, a gifted musician, a doctor who devoted his life to the service of the poor and neglected people - a white European who saw the image of Christ in the faces of the black people belonging to the forsaken tribes of Africa.  

Childhood Life

       As a child he was forcibly escorted to the piano by his old aunt, who told the small boy, "You must not give-up practising! If you really want to play well, you must burn midnight oil.  You never know what you can do with your music, one day!"

       The little boy took her advice to heart.  He practised his music lessons tirelessly - though, at that time, neither the old aunt nor the young boy really foresaw what he would be able to accomplish with his music.  The little boy, Albert Schweitzer, not only built one of the most famous hospitals in the world, but he also became a well-known musician, and used the power of his music to heal the sick and the ailing!

       Truly, Dr. Albert Schweitzer was one of the most amazing personalities of the modern age - an  intellectual giant and a musical genius, who chose to become a servant of the poor.

       Born to affluence, he sacrificed a life of comfort and luxury to serve the black people of Africa.

       Son of a pastor, Albert Schweitzer was born in Kaysersbeg, Alsace, Germany, in 1875.  A gentle and quiet boy, he was loved by everyone.

       He was a sensitive child who learnt his lessons in life seriously.  He tells us of an incident from his boyhood which left a deep impact on him.  When he was out riding with his friends, he was overcome by a sudden impulse to "show off" his prowess before his friends.  He whipped and spurred his horse, driving the animal at a breakneck speed.  When he dismounted, he was shocked to see how drained and exhausted the horse looked.  He would never ever forget that look!

       On another occasion, he was riding a horse-drawn sleigh, when a vicious dog sprang at the horse's head.  Wishing to protect his horse, Albert whipped the dog to drive it away.  The whip lashed at the dog's eye, and the dog rolled on the snow, groaning in the agony of pain.  The howls and groans of the wounded dog haunted Albert for weeks, after the incident.

       Albert could not forget these incidents.  The realisation dawned on him at a young age that it was a dreadful thing to cause pain.  "I have no right to inflict suffering or pain on any living creature," he told himself firmly.

       Albert felt he was truly blessed to have a happy family, a comfortable home, good health and good friends.  He was popular and well-liked in his school and the neighbourhood.  But he did not take it all for granted.  Instead, he would constantly ask himself, "What have I done to deserve this?"

       The answer came to him from within:  'To whom much is given, of him much is expected."  Thus was laid the foundation of a life of selfless service and sacrifice.

       Having obtained a doctorate a theology, Albert became a pastor, like his father.  In his leisure hours, he continued to practise his music, which had always been his passion.  He became a maestro, a gifted organist.  He even acquired a doctorate in music, specialising the organ, his chosen instrument.

       A serious and profound scholar, it was not long before he acquired a third doctorate in philosophy.  At a young age, he started teaching those subjects to students at the University.  He wrote books on religion and philosophy, and also brought out a biography of the great musician Bach, whom he loved and admired greatly.  He astonishing creativity and versatility were admired by everyone.

Marriage Life

       In 1912, when he was 37 years of age, Albert married Helene - truly a soul-mate - who shared his spirit of selfless service.  She was a great source of strength and support to him in his life of intense activity and creativity.  She helped him in all his effort. 

       Gifted with a brilliant intellect and a probing mind, Schweitzer also aspired to grow in the life of the Spirit.  In his life of intense activity, there was also a sense of utter simplicity: he always travelled in a third-class carriage; he always carried his own luggage.  He was a firm believer in the culture of manual labour.

      When Albert saw the way blacks were being treated and read about conditions in Africa, his conscience was stirred.  His life took a new turn.  He felt that Jesus was calling him to a life of service and dedication.  He longed to do something for the African people - to share their burden, to help them, to make their life better in any way that was possible.

       "I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to end."  And putting his belief into practice, Albert surprised his friends and family considerably by going back to college for a third time - at the age of 38.  This time he acquired a fourth doctorate to become a real and proper doctor - a doctor of medicine.  Not to be left out of his efforts, his wife took up training as a nurse, so that she could assist him in all his endeavours.

       More than one University offered Dr. Schweitzer a chair - but he declined all their offers politely.  He said, he had been born in this world not to make money, but to serve humanity, for the love of Jesus.

       Even the people who had admired and respected him, failed to understand his aspirations.  Some people called him quixotic, others called him eccentric.  One man even remarked that too much learning had made Albert mad!

       "They tried to dig firsts into my heart," Albert said of them later.  But all their digs and insults did not deter him from his purpose.  He packed his bags for Africa, turning his back on a lucrative career, and a life of security and comfort.

       He choose the backwoods of Lumberene to set up his mission of mercy.  Lamberene was completely cut off from civilisation, and had no medical facilities to speak of.  Undeterred, Dr. Schweitzer began to see his patients on an open plot of ground - a clearing adjacent to his dwelling.

       It was not an easy life, administering even basic medical care in the African bush.  Conditions were tough.  It was exhausting to work under the scorching tropical sun.  Every evening, there would be a thunderstorm, and all the medical equipment had to be taken indoors.

       Dr. Schweitzer realised Lamberene desperately needed its own hospital - at least a small one to start with.  Malaria, dysentery and leprosy were rampant among the natives.

       Dr. Schweitzer did not belong to any church or voluntary organisation; he had chosen to work on his own - and that meant added responsibility.  Unfortunately, many of the natives were not friendly, helpful or appreciative of his work.

       Practically alone, Dr. Schweitzer carried on his work, helping and healing the people.  In his spare time, he set about building a hospital.  While the building was being constructed, he carried out surgical procedures in a windowless, leaking, poultry shelter!

       It was a tough job constructing a hospital in the African backwoods.  He would go to the forest and fell down the trees, chop the wood and carry logs on his shoulders to the site where the hospital was to be built.  Toiling all by himself, log by log, he single handedly raised the walls of his hospital building.

       One day, while struggling with a heavy load of wood, which he could not manage, he spotted a black man lounging in the woods.

       Politely, he requested the man, "Brother, can you give me a helping hand with this load?"

       "Hey misters," came the haughty reply, "can't you see I'm an educated man?"

       Dr. Schweitzer smiled and said, "I am happy, I am not educated!"

       Many of Dr. Schweitzer's friends felt that he was throwing away his talents and his special training.  Some of them even travelled to Africa to  persuade  him to come back to the land of his birth.  "Why should you work here among these Africans?" they asked him.  "What can a great and gifted man like you get out of all this painful struggle and hard labour?"

       Schweitzer's reply was simple.  "What does it matter where I live, provided I can do good work there?  I appreciate your concern for me - but I have made up my mind to stay here and look after my African brothers and sisters."

       The obstacles and challenges he faced were numerous.  He had to contend with poisonous insects, wild animals, a difficult tropical climate and unknown infections; the natives were not easy to treat, for their faith was in black magic and witchcraft; and they were not really appreciative of the efforts of their benefactor.  But Dr. Schweitzer did not give up his efforts.

       After a few years, he went back to Europe for a brief period, to raise funds for his work.  He gave organ recitals and delivered public lectures for fund raising purposes.  Huge crowds gathered to see him and hear him, and he was able to raise as much money as he needed to complete his hospital construction.

       When he returned to Lamberene, the half-completed hospital had been overrun by the ever-spreading jungle.  Grass and brushwood had grown over the walls and a thick growth covered the building.

       Dr. Schweitzer had begin all over again - but he never gave up his efforts, never gave in to despair.  He was a man with a mission - a man with great determination.

       Over the years, he won the respect, affection and admiration of the natives.  The rest of the world was not far behind in recognising and appreciating his spirit of selfless service.  Honours and awards were heaped upon him.  But he turned away from all public adulation, choosing to carry on with his mission of healing.

Compassion towards animals

       Dr. Schweitzer's compassion also extended to animals.  He protested, again and again, against the cruel treatment men meted out to animals.  "Let no one shirk the burden of his responsibility to animals," he said.  "Think of the cries of the animals who are stuffed into railway trucks and thirst for water!  Think of the pain we inflict on them in our cruel slaughter houses!  We are guilty, and must bear the blame!"

       In 1945, a British Newspaper wrote in commemoration of his 70th birthday:  "If sainthood consists in making a virtuous life attractive, Albert Schweitzer is a saint of our country."

Nobel Prize Award in 1952

       Dr. Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.  On his 80th birthday in 1955, he was awarded the Order of Merit, one of the highest distinctions of Great Britain.  With all the funds he earned from his own  royalties and personal appearances, fees and donations received from all over the world, he expanded his Hospital in Africa, which, by the early 1960's could take care of over 500 in-patients.  The Nobel Prize money of $33,000 was used to set up a special leprosy center at Lamberene.

Death (September 4, 1965)

       He worked in Lamberene till the last day of his life (September 4, 1965), and was buried near the hospital at Lambarene which he had built so much loe and care.

      Let us pay homage to this great soul - acclaimed preacher,concert organist, internationally renowned scholar and an intellectual genius, who devoted his life to serve those less fortunate than himself!"

      Let us remember with love and admiration, this multi-faced personality who was one of the most loved and respected men of our times!

Sayings of Albert Schweitzer

  • "The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others."

  • "compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth, if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind."

  • "Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate."

  • "Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid."

  • "Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It is the only thing."

  • "The tragedy of life what dies inside a man while he lives."

  • "We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness."

  • "The stronger the reverence for natural life, the stronger grows also that for spiritual life".

  • "Start early to instill in your students awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others; that is as important to pass on to them as knowledge."

  • "The most important thing in education is to make young people think for themselves."

  • "The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything.  He who has learned this knows that it means to live."

Some Books by Albert Schweitzer

  1. Out of my Life and Thought
  2. Quest of the Historical Jesus
  3. Reverence for Life
  4. Philosophy of Civilization
  5. Memoirs of Childhood and Youth
  6. Mysticism of Paul the Apostle
  7. The Light within Us
  8. Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus Messiahship and Passion
  9. The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer
  10. Animals, Nature and Albert Schweitzer
  11. Peace or Atomic War?
  12. Pilgrimage to Humanity

Source: An excerpts from the book on "Sketches of Saints known and Unknown" by Dada J.P.Vaswani.