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Monday, May 30, 2005

Practical Vedanta

Session: 05-29-2005
Moderator: Raghav Kapoor
Participants: Sumeet Kaur Bhatti, Abhishek Bapna, Pratik Biswas, Somik Raha
Source:
Practical Vedanta

Key Messages

  • Religion must be intensely practicable.
  • Differentiation between religion and life of he world must vanish.
  • Intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness is the secret of work - which is the goal of Vedanta - Inactivity, in the sense of passivity is not!
  • The less passion there is, the better we work (Here, Abhishek described passion as detachment from the outcome)
  • There are two tendencies in humans - one to harmonize the ideal with actual, and the other to elevate the life to the ideal.
  • Vedanta, though it is intensely practical, is always so in the sense of the ideal.
  • It does not preach an impossible idea, however high it be, and it is high enough for an ideal.
  • "Thou art That"
  • The Vedanta teaches men to have faith in themselves first.
  • Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what Vedanta calls atheism.
  • The Vedanta recognizes no sin, it only recognizes error.
  • In Vedanta, there is no attempt at reconciling the present life - with the ideal; but this false life must go and the real which is always existing must manifest itself.
  • Most of us here have more time that we think we have, if we really want to use it for good.
And for the special benefit of Ajay here is an excerpt on animals from this lecture:

"For you must always remember that the one central ideal of Vedanta is this oneness. There are no two in anything, no two lives, nor even two different kinds of life for the two worlds. You will find the Vedas speaking of heavens and things like that at first; but later on, when they come to the highest ideals of their philosophy, they brush away all these things. There is but one life, one world, one existence. Everything is that One, the difference is in degree and not in kind. The difference between our lives is not in kind. The Vedanta entirely denies such ideas as that animals are separate from men, and that they were made and created by God to be used for our food. Some people have been kind enough to start an antivivisection society. I asked a member, "Why do you think, my friend, that it is quite lawful to kill animals for food, and not to kill one or two for scientific experiments?" He replied, "Vivisection is most horrible, but animals have been given to us for food." Oneness includes all animals. If man's life is immortal, so also is the animal's. The difference is only in degree and not in kind. The amoeba and I are the same, the difference is only in degree; and from the standpoint of the highest life, all these differences vanish. A man may see a great deal of difference between grass and a little tree, but if you mount very high, the grass and the biggest tree will appear much the same.
So, from the standpoint of the highest ideal, the lowest animal and the highest man are the same. If you believe there is a God, the animals and the highest creatures must be the same. A God who is partial to his children called men, and cruel to his children called brute beasts, is worse than a demon. I would rather die a
hundred times than worship such a God. My whole life would be a fight with such a God But there is no difference, and those who say there is, are irresponsible, heartless people who do not know. Here is a case of the word practical used in a wrong sense. I myself may not be a very strict vegetarian, but I understand the ideal. When I eat meat I know it is wrong. Even if I am bound to eat it under certain circumstances, I know it is cruel. I must not drag my ideal down to the actual and apologise for my weak conduct in this way. The ideal is not to eat flesh, not to injure any being, for all animals are my brothers. If you can think of them as your brothers, you have made a little headway towards the brotherhood of all souls, not to speak of the brotherhood of man! That is child's play. You generally find that this is not very acceptable to many, because it teaches them to give up the actual, and go higher up to the ideal. But if you bring out a theory which is reconciled with their present conduct, they regard it as entirely practical. "
  • All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything. All is One, which manifests Itself, either as thought, or life,or soul, or body, and the difference is only in degree.
  • Condemn none; if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way. Dragging down and condemning is not the way to work.
  • Most of our differences are merely differences of expression.
  • The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them. Instead of telling them they are sinners, the Vedanta takes the opposite position, and says, "You are pure and perfect, and what you call sin does not belong to you." Sins are very low degrees of Self-manifestation; manifest your Self in a high degree. That is the one thing to remember; all of us can do that. Never say, "No", never say, "I cannot", for you are infinite. Even time and space are asnothing compared with your nature. You can do anything and everything, you are almighty. This passage also captures the essence of Pygmalion Effect.
  • If a religion cannot help man wherever he may be, wherever he stands, it is
    not of much use; it will remain only a theory for the chosen few. Religion, to help mankind, must be ready and able to help him in whatever condition he is, in servitude or in freedom, in the depths of degradation or on the heights of purity; everywhere, equally, it should be able to come to his aid.
  • What scientist has known all that is in man? Millions of years have passed since man first
    came here, and yet but one infinitesimal part of his powers has been manifested. Therefore, you must not say that you are weak. How do you know what possibilities lie behind that degradation on the surface? You know but little of that which is within you. For behind you is the ocean of infinite power and blessedness.
  • Everything that makes for oneness is truth. Love is truth, and hatred is false, because hatred makes for multiplicity.
  • It is through the Self that you know anything. I see the chair; but to see the chair, I have
    first to perceive myself and then the chair. It is in and through the Self that the chair is perceived. It is in and through the Self that you are known to me, that the whole world is known to me; and therefore to say this Self is unknown is sheer nonsense. Take off the Self and the whole universe vanishes. In and through the Self all knowledge comes. Therefore it is the best known of all.
  • But what is the use of our standing on higher steps if we cannot give the truth to
    others coming afterwards?
  • Those of you who have read Thomas a Kempis know how in every page he insists on this, and almost every holy man in the world has insisted on it. Intellect is necessary, for without it we fall into crude errors and make all sorts of mistakes. Intellect checks these; but beyond that, do not try to build anything upon it. It is an inactive, secondary help; the real help is feeling, love. Do you feel for others? If you do, you are growing in oneness. If you do not feel for others, you may be the most intellectual giant ever born, but you will benothing; you are but dry intellect, and you will remain so.
  • Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ; feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. It is feeling that is the life, the strength, the vitality, without which no amount ofintellectual activity can reach God. Intellect is like limbs without the power of locomotion.
  • If there is sin, this is the only sin — to say that you are weak, or others are weak.
  • The theme of Vedanta is to see the Lord in everything, to see things in their real nature not as they appear to be.
Questions raised:
  1. Sumeet: Love has been described as the ultimate feeling, yet as far as passion is concerned - the lesser, the ebtter. How are the two reconciled?
  2. Praik: Why work.
Final Takeaways:
A list of practical things we can do to make our religion part of our everyday lives:
  1. Have positive auto-suggestions to create self-fulfilling prophecies.
  2. Passion needs to be controlled - having a peaceful, balanced mind is ideal.
  3. Plurality in acceptance is reconciled by accepting the overall oneness.
  4. There is no sin, other than the sin to acknowledge weakness of self or others.
  5. much the same. So, from the standpoint of the highest ideal, the lowest animal and the highest man are the same. If you believe there is a God, the animals and the highest creatures must be the same.

9 Comments:

Blogger R Raghu said...

My thoughts on the session on "Practical Vedanta"
About animals:
I agree that the ideal for human beings is not eating meat. This may not be feasible for many people today due to upbringing and bodily needs - therefore, having animals for food is fine if it is done right with respect to raising and killing them. But, if we say plants contain inherent life and also feel pain (as we know from J.C. Bose's work and references to it in "Autobiography of a Yogi"), should they be eaten? Where does this notion of *respect* for all life come in for vegetarianism? Nature itself decrees that some animals will eat other animals and some will eat plants. So, we could say that whether we are vegetarians or not, we still made a decision that some 'life' is ideal for food and other 'life' is not ideal for food.

Also, whether animals should/should not be used for food is only one question - by the same token, could we not say that using animals for experiments is wrong as Swamiji mentioned in his essay? If we say that, then most medical research, medical improvements and the current system of healthcare has a wrong basis from a spiritual point of view - as the system relies quite a bit on 'necessary' animal models and animal research. Almost every single drug or medicine out there must pass through animal trials first before they can be approved for clinical trials or use; tests of chemical toxicity and the effects of diseases are also done on animals. Most of us, very understandably, would not decline the modern healthcare system if we or someone we loved got sick.

So herein we find that we need help regarding practical life - what profession in the modern world can we say is free from corruption from a spiritual point of view? Isn't it silly to think that we can pursue "spirituality" in our spare time; isn't it hypocritical to say we are spiritual beings and then pursue activities and professions that spiritually have no benefit or are of a harmful nature. Shouldn't we as human beings make every single decision of our lives based on our spirituality - everything from what we eat, what we wear, where we live and the activities or professions we choose? In today's world, there are many obstacles to this, most notably our lack of understanding of our own mistakes; the difference between intellect, emotion and intuition. We can't live a spiritual life if we have lost the fundamental ability to listen and make decisions with our spirit (not intellect or emotion) - but then, how to listen to your spirit is something that an individual can learn only for himself/herself.

The concept of Oneness that is central to Vedanta:
This concept leaves me with questions. To love everyone and enhance the brotherhood of mankind and Nature is possible even without this concept of Oneness. If we are already perfected beings with infinite power, why the veil of imperfection and bodily limitation - is there an explanation in Vedanta about why/how (or maybe I should say '*what* is the process by which') we 'lost' this knowledge of Oneness to begin with? (can a perfect God be covered by imperfections? that seems silly). I understand that we can all use the Divine power in Nature for good or bad things, but I have stopped short of considering myself (and other humans) as Divine.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Somik Raha said...

Deep thoughts. A holistic approach to life is indeed the need of the hour.

On your question as to why the divine chooses to be imperfect, Vivekananda wrote that we do not have an answer.

The notion is that the moment you wake up, you are no longer bound. Then the question itself becomes irrelevant.

Logically, if you choose to have fun, delude yourself, or whatever, you can get away with it as you are Brahman. When choose to cease deluding yourself, then you are enlightened as to your true nature.

I think your final thought is an open question (do we need oneness to realize the divine within all of us). Sankhya philosophy might probably in line with it. However, consider that when you do bond with someone or some people, you are at heart finding some level of oneness. You may not call it Advaita Vedanta but that is what you are doing.

1:27 PM  
Blogger R Raghu said...

If there is no answer in Swamiji’s writings as to why we have imperfections, there is perhaps no answer given to this in all of Vedanta. I consider this question a very important one; a question, whose answer, is fundamental to understanding what the Vedanta tells us about ourselves. Logically, if we realize God, we must be able to answer that question of Divine ‘imperfections’, at least in our experience – it is only then that the question will cease to matter and become irrelevant. If one experiences the answer, then one can say that one knows it but it is an answer that is cannot be put into words. But, to say that we do not know the answer and leave it at that means that we have already disregarded the question – no question is too trivial to ask in spirituality; we may not all be mature enough to find, to understand or to experience the answer but I think it is till very important to ask every question, most especially the one about why imperfections exist if we are all meant to be Divine.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Somik Raha said...

Swamiji says that we are perfect. That is what Vedanta says too. The question to which he claims no answer is why we choose to think we are imperfect when we are perfect. Maybe this is a refinement over what I claimed earlier.

If you look at the question logically, who is the only one that can know why you choose to think yourself imperfect?

11:23 PM  
Blogger Anil K. Tewari said...

Why we are imperfect is a very significant question asked in the Indian philosphical tradition. It is not left unanswered. Rather, it was answered depending on the metaphysical position one holds. This question requires the answer to the question what we are. Whatever we are is the result of our previous deeds. Our deeds were less productive so as not to make us perfect. At the same time, perfection is not something which we achieve according to Vedanta philosophy. These two statements sound contrary to each other, but they are not. In fact, what we are is a manifestation of a grade of consciousness that could not find appropriate means to manifest itself fully. Meaning we are fully trasparent. We have to make us transparent so that our inner light does not get interupted while coming out...in our behavioural response. So the main problem is with the manifestation of our real nature which gets hindered by malafied deeds. That is why all the soteriological enterprise suggest to ordain our fickleness so that the real can come out.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Anil K. Tewari said...

Why we are imperfect is a very significant question asked in the Indian philosphical tradition. It is not left unanswered. Rather, it was answered depending on the metaphysical position one holds. This question requires the answer to the question what we are. Whatever we are is the result of our previous deeds. Our deeds were less productive so as not to make us perfect. At the same time, perfection is not something which we achieve according to Vedanta philosophy. These two statements sound contrary to each other, but they are not. In fact, what we are is a manifestation of a grade of consciousness that could not find appropriate means to manifest itself fully. Meaning we are fully trasparent. We have to make us transparent so that our inner light does not get interupted while coming out...in our behavioural response. So the main problem is with the manifestation of our real nature which gets hindered by malafied deeds. That is why all the soteriological enterprise suggest to ordain our fickleness so that the real can come out.

1:28 PM  
Blogger justgaurav said...

Hi
The idea is to be sensitive to anothers pain.To cause the least possible damage to the environment and beings in it.Life depends on life even while breathing you kill.The ideal is to be more sensitive more caring.A mango for example is to be eaten and the seed scattered and this helps in its reproduction many instances like this could be thought of if one is earnest.Arguments must follow practice.
Everything must be questioned but we also must be earnest enough to follow through and do all we can to understand.A child asks how does electricity really works but it can take him 20 years of work to know it really well.
Its heartening to visit your blog the discussion is good.Do forgive me if I offend you.
May all beings be blissful
bye
Gaurav

12:45 AM  
Blogger fish said...

Neurolinguistic Programming

In the early 1970s in America Richard Bandler, then a young college student studied the work of Fritz Perls and later Virginia Satir and found that he could reproduce their high-level therapy skills to a degree that even surprised him. Bandler seemed to have a natural ability to mimic (model) the language patterns by Virginia and Fritz.

At the University of California at Santa Cruz, Bandler who was well versed in the teachings of patterns in mathematics and computers teamed up with a college professor, John Grinder to help him understand the processes that were at work. Soon Bandler and Grinder, who used what he knew about patterns in linguistics, created a new model for personal growth called NeuroLinguistic Programming.

Bandler and Grinder had set out to model the hypnotic skills of Milton Erickson. They had astounding results. They built a communication model about human "thinking" and "processing" and used that model of how we see images, hear sounds, reproduces smells and tactile experiences in our mind to track and model the structure of subjective experiences.

Sounds very complicated but really it works very simply. Here is an example as used by Paul McKenna - probably the best & most successful hypnotist in the world.

Close your eyes and think of a negative memory. Become involved in the situation as best as you can. Feel the emotions that you felt, see the things you saw and hear the things you heard.

Now take that memory and project it onto a mental screen seeing yourself in the picture. Put a frame around the picture and view it as if it is an old photograph. Next drain all the colour from the picture and shrink the screen to the size of a matchbox.

Have the feelings associated with the picture decreased in any way?

Another good example of NLP involves Anchors. Have you ever smelt a certain perfume or aftershave and had it remind you of a certain person or situation? Gone to a certain place that brings feelings long forgotten flooding back? Or been in any situation that creates emotional responses that would not normally be associated with it? Well if you can answer yes to any of these then you have experienced anchors. Some anchors are associated with positive feelings and some with negative emotions. However, you should be aware that anchors can be consciously installed or already existing ones altered. Here is an example:

Think of a time when you were really happy. If you can't think of one then imagine something that would make you feel really happy. See what you would see, hear what you would hear and feel what you would feel. Really get into the picture and try to experience it as though it were happening now.

Now brighten the colours and make them richer. Increase the volume. Make the picture bigger, brighter, louder. That's it and more and more....

Now press your first finger against your thumb and fully experience your happy feelings. Do this everyday for 2 weeks and you will create an anchor that will instantly recreate these feelings. Whenever you want to feel like that again just press your thumb and first finger together and wham the feelings will come flooding back! Don't believe me? Just try it and see!!! personal-development.info

11:04 PM  
Blogger Herb Bana said...

NLP has so many uses these days whether it's goal setting, letting go of negative emotions or eliminating bad habits. They are primarily visualisation techniques which I find really interesting

6:31 PM  

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