Sunday, December 4, 2005

Chapter 1



The purpose of writing this book remains a mystery to me. I am merely an average human soul going through the tribulations of samsara. So, why should I write about my “spiritual journey”? How is this “journey” defined? Surely, millions of us inhabiting this world are at various stages on the path to self and God realisation. The ultimate goal for most seekers is, of course, attaining that perfect peace of mind, in our individual lives beset by so many personal financial, and mental problems.

Religion is the starting point for most people as they strive to find inner calm. Each religion is unique in the sense of specific codes of conduct to be followed, rituals to be performed and deities to be worshipped. For many, the study of scriptures and adherence to the fundamental tenets of their religion is enough to bring about a transformation in their own lives and the adoption of a world vision. Others still might prefer the intellectual stimulation afforded by scholars well versed in the shastras and Vedas – their logic being that God is the very essence or “sat” of the entire universe.

Most of us progress in our spiritual quest for supreme inner peace by small degrees, small steps. Each step is unique to every individual soul just as the experiences faced by each one of us in life are varied and inimitable. Progress, nevertheless, is faster for those who realise early on in their journey that peace and fulfilment can never be attained through impermanent, material objects, pleasures and human attachments. It is of course quite easy to write this: it is another matter altogether to condition our minds into this kind of reasoning. Life as we know it is all about interacting with people, dealing with issues and difficult circumstances. Some people we find ourselves liking, others we tolerate, and others still we hope to avoid altogether. Dealing with people, situations and events is a source of stress; in addition, our own desires, likes, dislikes and personal traits manifest themselves as huge stumbling blocks that impede our progress towards the detached state of mind so highly regarded by our
spiritual teachers.

In our Hindu religion, we have so many colourful deities, endowed with superhuman qualities. Praying to either one ishta devata (favorite deity), or by approaching a clutch of these Gods for various quick solutions to our problems, might seem a very tempting, easy way out.
Yet only some might be lucky enough to have their prayers answered, others may not be so lucky. True spiritual progress can only be attempted when both favourable and unfavourable outcomes are treated with equanimity: firstly, by regarding God as an entity apart from oneself, and later, by making that huge mental leap to the incontrovertible truth that God is indeed in you, is you, just as he is in every blessed object, sentient and non-sentient being in this world. If one is capable of so much love, devotion and faith
for his own personal God, how can he not share that love and extend it to everyone around him - especially when he knows they are made of that same God-like material? This is what the Vedantins preach. The truth is always very simple. For peace of mind to be attained, we have only to change our vision and priorities. Happiness can never be dependant on any object or human being – even a Guru. The preceptor is only a guide who exposes all our negative qualities so that we can deal with them, so altering our own true nature and attaining a closer union with God. These are some of the truths I came to acknowledge as a traveller - on my personal path towards self realization.

I should emphasise that I had never considered myself as a disciple of any Guru or “Holy” seer for the simple reason that I had never actively sought out such a person for help of any kind. Yet, if I am indeed writing these words today for a reason, they are the direct result of strong mental suggestions from a guru I have been exposed to from childhood. His name is Shri, Shri Shanthananda Avadutha Brahmendrar.

Shri Santhanada Swamigal (1920- 2002) belongs to the Avadutha tradition of Dattatreya. He is the third Guru in this. Math was founded by “Judge” Swamigal. The second in this line was Swayamprakasha Saraswathyavadutha Swamigal, the preceptor of Santhananda Swamigal. During his lifetime, Swamigal was instrumental in setting up various temples in South India and fostering the development of Vedic studies. He performed countless yagnas for the peace, harmony and welfare of humankind.

The temples he founded are : The Bhuvaneswari Adhistanam at Pudukkottai, Om Shri Skandashramam at Salem, Senthamangalam Dattagiri Ahsramam, and Om Shri Skandashramam in Tambaram. He obtained Maha Samadhi on May 27,

As fellow spiritual seekers moving along different routes towards the same goal, I invite you to share some of the extraordinary experiences I have had as a traveller. Unwittingly, even unknowingly, I have been firmly placed on the path of bhakti and am continuing to progress along this path with the blessings of my Guru . How did I progress from being a rather indifferent disciple to a totally committed one? The answer is now obvious. It has been revealed by the very pattern in which my life and interest in art has unfolded. Looking back over my life, there remains no doubt in my mind that in all the encounters I have been fortunate enough to have with him, Shri Santhanada Swamigal has reached out to help me on a subconscious plane. Even though he is no longer physically alive, I have been made aware many times - through visions and strong mental vibrations - that His spirit is indeed everywhere for those who seek him. He was and still remains an eternal and truly great soul whose significance I was ignorant not to realise or fully comprehend during his life time. My Guru was instrumental in placing me firmly on the path of devotion or Bhakthi and has guided me to my ultimate resting place, Sri Bala Peetam at Nemili.

Friday, November 4, 2005

My Spiritual Diary: Foreword


Hinduism says divinity is both within oneself as oneself and outside oneself as creation, in both its gentle and fierce aspects.

We have to love and appreciate both, just as you, as an individual are capable of anger, as well as love.

In the Rudra hymn to Shiva, he is described as both the Lord of Disease as well the Doctor who Cures, thus called Vaidyanatha. He is said to be the Lord of all Thieves and Bandits and also the Destroyer of Evil and Sorrow.

We all have divine aspects deep inside us but it is covered up by many accumulated surface habits as well. That is what leads to some contradictions in every personality.
The goal of self-introspection is to remove the accumulated layers of bad habits and thoughts and polish ourselves, in order to find that pure divinity inside us.
There is only one Divinity, called in Hinduism as the Brahman: the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer; causing the never-ending cycle of birth, life and death.
In Hinduism, we pray to a multitude of Gods because they are just embodiments of certain aspects of human nature.

For example, by concentrating on Kali one gets over anger and jealousy. By concentrating on Lord Muruga and understanding the symbolism of elements used in his depictions, one gets over mental problems and becomes wise. Saraswathi helps us to think before we open our mouth and utter any word. Lakshmi teaches us to respect wealth.Treating Divinity as outside of oneself, and not understanding the symbolism of age-old depictions of this Divinity can get one stuck in a rut of doing rituals blindly to gain material ends and seek the favor of the Gods.I like to think about what I am doing intensely and analyze my actions. I try to weed out the bad and stick with the good habits.
I find that prayers, spoken out, or Japa - meditation, help to both sharpen the mind and aid concentration. By mentally thinking about the form of a deity and reciting his/her names, I am able to prevent the mind from being disturbed by vagrant thoughts.
Gradually, I find that one is able to look within oneself, to the source of all thoughts.
I have written that my visit to the Salem temple and my meeting there with my Guru had had an electrifying effect on me. This is true.

Recently, I read that what he had done for me was to arouse that divine spirit lying dormant inside me. This is called the Kundalini energy. By tapping this enormous stock of divine energy within oneself, one can achieve whatsoever one desires.
It sometimes leads to an outpouring of poetry, art, and in my case, the paintings I have included here.

It is hard for me, even now, to think that I, who had never been able to really draw that entirely well, can now sit and churn out these paintings with such ease.
When I sit for meditation and concentrate all my energies on that spot in between my eyebrows, I find I can immediately shut off all external thoughts and enter a realm of total bliss.