Diseases – Part 2

Continued from Diseases – Part 1

Sage Patanjali in his yoga sutra (1:30)  says:
vyâdhi-styâna-sanåaya-pramâdâlasyâvirati-bhrânti-daråanâlabdha-bhûmikatvânavasthitatvâni cittavikæepâste ‘ntarâyâï
vyâdhi = sickness
styâna = apathy
sanåaya = doubt
pramâda = carelessness
âlasya = laziness
avirati = sexual indulgence
bhrânti = false
daråana = vision, perspective
alabdha = failing to attain
bhûmikatva = developmental stages
anavasthitatvâni = inconstancy, instability
citta = consciousness
vikæepâï = distraction, stirring up
te = these
antarâyâï = obstacles

Sickness, apathy, doubt, carelessness, laziness, hedonism, delusion, lack of progress, and inconstancy are all distractions which, by stirring up consciousness, act as barriers to stillness. These are not isolated individual problems tampering the steadfast quality of the citta. Instead, these are all connected and evolve from one to another.

Prevention of disease and thereby distractions, is always better than their respective cures. For a cure, is a process of reverse engineering from analyzing the effect to reach and identify the cause. It is an overhead, it is time consuming, because the effect, may not be a benign one and would steadily or rapidly aggravate whilst the analysis is in progress. Or even if the effect is a benign one, it might not be an irreversible one. Even if it is irreversible, restoring the human body or mind to its original state needs time, this is time required in addition to the time already invested in reaching from the cause to the effect.

Systems like Yoga, pranayam, meditation and others are programmed for nipping the bud of distractions in their early stages. Simple body language techniques reveal,when we think about some event in the past, we tend to look downwards. We access the temporal lobe of the brain. The temporal lobes are involved in the retention of visual memories, processing sensory input, comprehending language, storing new memories, emotion, and deriving meaning.

Similarly a person who is thinking about the future, or the next step of action focuses upwards towards the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and motivation.

Most yoga, meditation and mind control mechanisms are well aware of this natural tendency of the human mind. They are scientific approaches to preventing the mind from wandering and improving concentration.

Research in Ayurveda, goes deeper into analyzing the chemical composition of these lobes and regions of brain at the time of duress, distraction and depression; as well as the chemical composition of the brain in states of ecstasy, happiness, calm and meditation.  Certain Ayurvedic herbs are powerful anti-stress agents and also help induce a sense of well-being and calm.

Having said all that, the benefits of eating full timely meals, avoiding over indulgence, exercising and adequate rest should not be underestimated. They are almost necessary prerequisites for any further developments, physical or mental.

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Nāda: The MicroCosmic and MacroCosmic Rhythm

Most of us can remember a fundamental concept taught to us in school when we learned of Molecular Motion, States of Matter and Gas Laws:

“All molecules are in constant motion. Molecules of a liquid have more freedom of movement than those in a solid. Molecules in a gas have the greatest degree of motion.”

We now know that even atoms and sub atomic particles are in constant motion. Everything from within the microcosm to the macrocosm is in perpetual motion. Incidentally, this concept has also been integral to the authoritative religious texts in Hinduism. Some intuitive findings of the ancient seers or Rishis, of India,  are based on the premise that the entire cosmos and all that exists in the cosmos, including human beings, consists of sound vibrations, called nāda. This concept holds that it is the sound energy in motion rather than of matter and particles which form the building blocks of the cosmos.

Dr. Robert E Svoboda maintains, in his article THE SOUNDLESS SUSURRATION OF THE KINDLY HEART ” Viewed from the perspective of creation, nada is “that which expresses,” the sound current from which manifestation occurs. From the perspective of dissolution, however, nada is the resonance that follows bindu, the last point that the experiencer holds to before relinquishing all sense of time and space. The transcendent bruit that is nada begins to reverberate through one’s self-awareness as soon as all differentiating thought disappears. Nataraja straddles the bindu fence between creation and destruction, everlastingly awash in the nada tide that He Himself engenders.

Nothing in the universe moves but Nataraja; all else that shifts position, form or condition does so solely through His whirl. Nataraja is the perfect embodiment of a Vedic formula for compressing Reality into words: satyam, rtam, brhat (“the true, the harmonious, the vast”). Reality exists (it displays truth, satyam), it has a natural order or rhythm (rtam) which is self-perpetuating and self-correcting (it is harmonious), and it is all-pervasive, extending beyond the farthest reaches of the human imagination (it is vast, brhat). Nataraja’s form expresses the solidification of resonance, the congealing of music and dance into form. The word ambara can also mean “garment,” and chid-ambaram thus also means “clad in consciousness,” in the same way that a naked sadhu is sometimes spoken of as being dig-ambara, “sky-clad, clothed in the ten directions.” Awareness covers the Lord of Dance, it surrounds Him as it emerges from Him. Alone at the center of the cosmos, He is the embodiment of the consciousness that gave the cosmos birth. Within the human microcosm Nataraja relentlessly dances a tarantella of blood and lymph at the heart-center, thumping out the rhythm of heartbeats endlessly disseminating oxygen and prana, the life force. Like the heart, which sits at the core of the chest, the center of any space or image, in or out of the body, should be relatively empty of matter but full of prana. Any central area is a “heart,” a chid-ambaram that should reflect and express ultimate nature, ultimate sound and rhythm by concentrating prana there. Prana, mind and breath all work together, in the internal and the external universe alike.”

The power (Hara) of the unmanifested absolute (Shiva), when manifested becomes the dynamic cosmic energy (Shakti), much like potential energy transforming into kinetic energy, from inertia to motion. The sound of this energy when “expressed” as Svoboda says, creates matter in various forms and size, ranging from atoms to galaxies to universes.

In the human form, the energy itself, first, manifests into thousands of ethereal energy channels or meridians (72,000) that carry the nada in and out of the body. It is my supposition, that these channels are thus called the naadis.

Inherent, within the nada, are laya and taala, the tempo and the beat. It is no wonder then why human beings are inherently perceptible to music at any age. Rhythmic vibrations, interspersed with silence, pattern within silence and silence within pattern. Space within matter and matter within space, matter that is nothing but energy bound in certain vibrations. We and the whole universe is nothing but these vibrations within and without.

 

5 Reasons why Running is as good as Meditation

I consider, running to be as powerful as meditation, I would say it is the best form of active Zen meditation.

1. All Running needs is our body and some determination

 All that we need for running, is a completely operational body (all limbs intact) and some initial determination to counter any inertia or laziness. A treadmill is not necessary, nor is a professional running track.

Although running outdoors has its own advantages, we can even run on one spot, inside our house, without having to wear any running shoes or gear.

2. Running improves circulation, improves health and improves mental health

Running utilizes 16 different muscles of the body, classified under 3 types of muscles (primary, supporting and auxiliary). It is a powerful exercise to boost blood circulation to the body and to the brain. The Cerebral Blood Flow constitutes 15% of the blood flow to the entire body.

Our blood carries all the nutrition in an assimilable to each cell of our body. Our skin, organs, muscles, cartilages, bones, tissues, membranes, nerves, and tendons, are made up of cells. When these cells are nourished, our body is nourished. Toxins and free-radicals are duly flushed out. The body is healthy. A healthy body is free from distractions. The mind within the healthy body is less distracted and more focused. A mind focused on a singular objective is a mind in meditation.

3. When Running the focus automatically shifts on breathing

It is noticed that when we run regularly, our breathing becomes regulated and deeper, our concentration shifts towards breathing and fills the lungs to their designated capacity. In spiritual practices, regulation of breath is a precondition to further advancement. Is it not meditation then, to have the mind and body together watching the inflow and outflow of breath? Inhaling through the nose twice and exhaling through the mouth twice in the same like letting out steam, helps establish a rhythmic pattern while running. This pattern helps build repetition and establish a mantra like effect on the mind.

4. Running exercises both the left and right brain

The human brain is divided into two distinct cerebral hemispheres. Due to contralateral (criss-cross) wiring of nerves, the right hemisphere of the brain, controls the muscles in the left side of our body and the left hemisphere of the brain controls the muscles in the right side of our body. Running is among a few other exercises which coordinate both the right and left major limbs and muscles of the body, thus employing both hemispheres equally, for a prolonged duration. This is just the physiological advantage. The esoteric advantage is that, the Ida and Pingala naadis (energy meridians), start clearing and get equal attention, thus facilitating a faster spiritual growth.

5. Running elevates Serotonin and Dopamine activities in the brain

Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine is a hormone in the pineal gland, the digestive tract, the central nervous system, and blood platelets. A hormone is a substance our body produces that regulates and controls the activity of certain cells or organs.

Dopamine in the brain,  functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior.

Some sources say that prince Gautama, after he renounced all worldly possessions, he went on to meditate beneath a tree. For his daily meal he had a bowl of freshly condensed milk and rice for seven consecutive days. On the seventh day the consumption of pure milk induced high levels of serotonin and dopamine in his brain. This catapulted him instantly in a very deep state of trance, following which he attained enlightenment, becoming the Buddha!

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we can neither vouch for the purity of the milk nor the rice. We do not often practice strict penances, limiting our meals to rice and milk only.

Irrespective of whether we want our lives to model the Buddha’s or not, when we run, we elevate the serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain, promoting healthier brain and body activity. In the esoteric sense, the brain of a person in a meditative trance is shown to have maintained optimal levels of serotonin and dopamine.

There are other exercises that are equally good, but they require additional accessories (skipping), or need a certain space and facility (swimming), or place a heavy premium on body nutrients and hormones (sex).

How much should we run?

It is always safe to exercise within our physical capacities. Studies reveal that running for 30-40 minutes at a pace of 4-5 kmph, 3-4 times a day promotes optimal health.

Why run and not walk?

A walk if brisk or fast is permissive, however, running is a more engaging for the mind and body, because of the kines-thesis and dynamism involved.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

The Zen koan of the sound of one hand clap, by Hakuin Ekaku is very simple to understand. In fact it is so integral to our existence that it has been there all along, but we have never bothered to really listen.

Ofcourse it is something to be experienced, and one cannot be articulate enough to describe it in its entirety, and all that. Let us assume that we all know how to clap and we all more or less can relate to the sound of two hands clapping.

Let us come back to it later. Now, haven’t we all been deeply involved in listening to a song that we like.So deeply involved that we could not possibly think of the world, not even ourselves?

Now what if I got as deeply engrossed as that, say, when I am listening to the sound of my teeth chewing food, or water falling on my head during a bath, or my fingers touching the keyboard while I type this post, or the listening to the sound of my breath leave my nostrils. What if I was deeply engrossed every time I sense using my eyes, hands, ears, mouth and nose, so much so that I suddenly realize, that these are not really five different senses, its just one sense. A deeper faculty of observation that employs the bodies organs to feel or sense.

What if I suddenly realize, that it is my nature to observe. Further, when I am deeply engrossed in the observation there is nothing else but the observation. When I am listening to the music, there is only the music. There is no me. I am also the music. The listener and the listened are one. The observer and the observed are one. There are no two hands, there is just one hand.

In effect, when the hands are folded and palms touch each other, without making a sound, it is also a prayer. The highest form of prayer is absolute silence. Silence of thoughts.

 

Expectation, Belief and Love

Belief is nothing but relentless expectation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expectation, it is in fact a very honest human construct. Human beings can never be devoid of belief, the very effort of negating all beliefs (nihilism), is also a belief. It is very simple to understand this principle.

We are bound within causality of this universe. Every effect tangible or intangible is not without cause. The reason I believe that god can disappear and re-appear is because, I “expect” him to achieve this with tremendous ease. There is an idea and then there is a belief in possibility of this idea. But where does this idea come from ?

Either there has been substantial evidence of such an event in the past, which makes me expect a recurrence.
Or, I simply am the first to imagine such an event and expect it to manifest some point in time. In this case it is also a certain intuition a more inherent form of expectation. Something inseparable from my existence.

In either case, the root premise is expectation. So much so that belief itself is Ego! Expectation is nothing but the self-individuation, the projection of existence in this material frame , the reflection of our awareness in this world. As long as the ego remains, expectations will remain, beliefs will be formed, destroyed and reformed. Only when the ego dies, expectations die.

Love is nothing but the death of ego. Love is not an emotion, say like compassion. It is merely a state, a very high state of the mind. Ego is the barrier between the higher mind and its smaller projection that we struggle with in our day to day life. The Ego dies and connects us to a something gargantuan, something beyond measure.

सुनता हैं गुरु ज्ञानी : Sunta Hai Guru Gyaani by Saint Kabir Das

 

A philosophical masterpiece by the mystic, saint Kabir das. This bhajan, has been sung beautifully by Pt. Kumar Gandharva
सुनता हैं गुरु ज्ञानी गगन में,
आवाज हो रही झिनी झिनी – (धृ)
 
पाहि लीयाये नाद बिंदु से,
पीछे जमया पानी हो जी
सब घट पूरण बोली रह्या है,
अलख पुरुष निर्बानी हो जी ll 1 ll
 
वहां से आया पता लिखाया,
तृष्णा तौने बुझाई ..
अमृत छोडसो विषय को धावे,
उलटी फाँस फंसानी हो जी ll 2 ll
 
गगन मंडलू में गौ भी आनी
भोई पे दही जमाया…
माखन माखन संतों ने खाया,
छाछ जगत बापरानी हो जी … ll 3 ll
 
बिन धरती एक मंडल दीसे,
बिन सरोवर जूँ पानी रे
गगन मंडलू में होए उजियाला,
बोल गुरु-मुख बानी हो जी ll 4 ll
 
ओऽहं सोऽहं बाजा बाजे,
त्रिकुटी धाम सुहानी रे
इडा पिंगला सुखमन नारी,
सुनत भजन पहरानी हो जी ll 5 ll
 
कहत कबीरा सुनो भई साधो,
जानी अगम के बानी रे..
दिन भर रे जो नज़र भर देखे,
अजर अमर वो निशानी हो जी … ll 6 ll

To be a like a child … and not childish!

” There is a great difference between being like a child, and being childish”

A child is often used as an example by many spiritual leaders, self-management advocates in their books and speeches. We often hear them say “be like a child” or “do not let the child within you die” and so on. What does it mean?Before we attempt to question the meaning of the metaphor, let us first analyze the need of such a statement. A child is closer to the beginning of life, it is a simpler version, less thought crowded and more observant version of a grown up. It is also very submissive to life The use of this example prompts us to be simpler in life.

Most children try to do or actually do the things they are told not to. So does this mean “be like a child”. Yes! and No!

Most children act without a prior thought to the consequence of the action. Does this mean “be like a child”. Yes! and No!