Tag Archives: Swami Chinmayananda

Ramayana: the Inner Spiritual Journey ~ Swami Chinmayananda.

[Excerpts from articles and letters by Swami Chinmayananda]

RAMAYANA – the poem was written by a man well-established in the Ultimate Reality, who was expressing through his work, the pure Advaita Philosophy, the contents of the Upanishads. The glory of the poem is that the ideal “states of living” are expressed – the ideal brother, son, king, enemy, friend and the ideal man living in society. But all this is mere paraphernalia. The core of this poem is utterly divine – which explains why the glorious story of Rama is so popular even today!

RAMA itself means “Sarveshu Ramante iti Ramah” — that which revels in every one of us, the pure Light of Consciousness, the Atman, the Self, the Atma-Rama. This spiritual essence in us, can come out only as a son of Dasaratha, one who has conquered all the ten indriyas – five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas. It will be born in you and reborn only in Ayodhya (yuddha means conflict, Ayodhya means where there is no conflict, meaning, where all conflict has ended). In that Ayodhya which is ruled by the self-controlled Dasaratha, RAMA is born.

This Rama, the pure Self, cannot enter into any active participation in life unless wedded to the mind. Sita (the mind) is ready. She was not born to Janaka by wedlock. While ploughing the land, he finds Sita. The mind appeared from the most inappropriate place ever. It is absurd to enquire deep into this. Later you find that the same Sita disappears into Mother Earth. From Mother Earth she came, to Mother Earth she went back. From where the mind comes, and where it disappears during samadhi, nobody can tell. This is Maya !!

Wedded to the mind when Rama returns, he finds that he cannot live in Ayodhya. For, once the mind has come, you start expressing through it. You have to enter the ‘forest of life’, self-exiled as it were. Some cause or other must emerge as one enters the ‘forest of existence’. So long as Sita was looking up to Rama, living in Rama, for Rama, by Rama, she never found any difference between Ayodhya and a jungle. But how long can the mind remain constantly centred in the higher divine potential in us? It has to become extrovert. And this is just what happened the moment Sita looked away from Rama. The golden deer was noticed. The finite, ephemeral, ever-changing objects, start pulling you towards them. The mind demands them. Rama may argue, and all the Scriptures might also argue, that it is all Maya, that it is not real, that it is only a Rakshasa. Yet even Sita, Rama’s own consort, will not accept it, and she will exile Rama in search of the sense-object. Once desire-polluted, you fall. Rama goes…. and Sita is left in Lakshmana’s charge.

Lakshman represents Tapas (austerity). He had no reason to go to the jungle. But he left of his own accord, and he lives in perfect Brahmacharya, even without sleep. It is perfect Tapas. But then, one cannot live in Tapas. The delusion of the other world will force you to give it up. The moment Sita hears the sound of Rama’s voice, she forgets Rama’s glory and might and becomes anxious about his safety. She even urges Lakshmana to go to her husband’s aid. And when Lakshmana assures her that the great Rama will never come to any harm, for there is none to match him in skill and valour, Sita severely rebuffs him. When the beautiful ideal woman Sita utters such malignant words, Lakshmana is shocked into silence. He goes away, drawing a line of demarcation round the hut, urging her not to go beyond it.

Once desire enters your bosom, as an ordinary individual you cannot constantly live in Tapas. But you can at least draw a line — thus far and no further. But once Tapas has been given up, such lines are of no use. You readily step over them. And when you do this instead of Dasaratha, you are confronted by Dasamukha, the opposite character. The latter is an extrovert as the former is self-controlled. The sensuous materialistic power persuades Sita to cross over the line because, as long as you are within the moral boundary, it cannot affect you. You go beyond it, and permissiveness starts, and Dasamukha ensnares you.

Dasamukha does not mean having five heads on the right and another five on the left, with one neck in between. What is meant here is that the five jnanendriyas and the five karmendriyas together constitute the Dasamukha. A totally extrovert man lives in the flesh, for the flesh, and by the flesh – it is the rule of the flesh. Such a man is a sensualist and a total extrovert. Materially he can become great as did Ravana who ruled over a prosperous land, Lanka. In Lanka, nobody worked, everybody was supported by the socialist government, and people from all over the world came to pay homage to Ravana, who was supremely powerful. But does materialism provide anything more than mere physical comfort? It is not a solution to the problem of life. Spiritual and cultural values alone can save the world. This idea is brought out in the Ramayana.

Sita was abducted and taken away. She was no more a citizen of Aryavarta, the hallowed and cultural land any longer. She will be given a place in Lanka, another island, no doubt very near, but altogether another land. Even there she was exiled. We are all at this moment “Sitas” in exile. Should we give in to sensuality? To gain back our original Ayodhya, what should we do? We should do exactly what Sita did. She realised she had fallen and to prevent a further fall, she firmly said ‘No’ to Ravana and remained in the garden under an Ashoka tree. Shoka means ‘dukha’, i.e., sorrow, Ashoka therefore means ‘not dukha’ (devoid of sorrow). You and I will have sorrow but we do not recognise it. This is the ‘Ashoka’ state. Under the “tree of non-recognition of sorrows”, when we want to remain steadfast in character, we will doubtless be tempted and put to a lot of strain. But in that Ashoka-attitude, we should remain steadfast, constantly remembering Rama.

Sita was constantly and vigorously thinking of Rama. And we cannot say that Rama did not respond. In the Ramayana, we will find that the scene is alternately changing — once Lanka is shown, the next moment Rama is shown in the jungle. This shows that there is a secret communication between them. The more intense Sita’s cry, the more frenzied does Rama’s search for her becomes. He weeps like an ordinary mortal, not because he is attached to her, but because of his longing to help a devotee.

The spiritual essence in man can kill and destroy Ravan, the ten-headed monstrosity of extrovertedness. It can do it with the army of monkeys. An educated man reading this should know what the monkeys refer to. The monkey has two qualities – asthiratwa and chanchalatwa – instability and restlessness. The thoughts in the human mind have these two qualities. They cannot remain – stable. The monkey cannot remain on one branch, it jumps from one branch to another and from tree to tree. If it gets tired and sits on a tree, it will still be restless. Thus, it cannot keep quiet even for a minute. So too, our thoughts. They can never remain quiet, but keep jumping from topic to topic. The army of thoughts is to be controlled. But, at this moment, Vali, who stands for lust, controls them. This has to be destroyed. And how? It can be only done from behind. From the front, every time it is your lust that wins, and not you. So, if ever you want to conquer this lust, you have to shoot it from behind the tree. Vali had such great power, that anytime an enemy approached him, half the strength of the enemy would drain away and Vali himself would become three times stronger. So, Rama had to kill him from behind. To whom should he then give the kingship of the monkey-clan – the “thoughts?” To whom better than Sugreeva? “Greeva” means reins, “Sugreeva” means well-reined, i.e., well-controlled. When the thoughts are under one’s control, the army is then available to cross the frontiers and reach Lanka to kill the ten-headed monster and bring back Sita.

When Rama regains Sita after having destroyed extrovertedness, the mind that is no longer extrovert is no mind at all. It (Sita) has to disappear. Without Sita, Rama cannot bring about “Rama-Rajya”. He cannot rule without a wife. Therefore, Kapila comes and offers him a Mithya Sita or Maya Sita. And with Maya Sita, Rama returns to rule Ayodhya, with a tranquil and poised mind in a state of perfection, having regained his spiritual status. Though he returns with a mind, it is not really there. It is like the sky which allows everything to remain in space without getting contaminated. So too, Rama, the Man of Perfection, allows the mind to remain in him, but is not affected by it. Since Rama functioned in the world outside with a perfectly controlled mind, the result had to be a RAMA-RAJYA !!!


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Temple: A Place to “fine-tune” the Mind ~ Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from letters and articles by Swami Chinmayananda]

God, the Lord is All-pervading, but to invoke Him we need an Altar. Even though Narayana pervades everywhere, He can directly be contacted in a TEMPLE. The Temple is a place conducive to ‘fine-tune’ your mental equipment in order to receive the Divine Message.

In every country it is a general practice to have monuments representing great national heroes. These monuments act as reminders and inspire the generations to live up to the ideals set by these heroes. Since ours is a spiritual culture, drawing sustenance and strength from the spiritual ideals lived and demonstrated by the avataras, it is our tradition to preserve and cherish the sacred idols of avataras in TEMPLES, for the idols represent the ideals they lived. TEMPLES served as holy halls of retreat for the masses. Their architecture provided an effective medium where the creative arts were fostered, and education for the cultural revival of the country was made available.

As a devotee visits a temple and in true spirit of devotion, kindled by the epics and puranas, is inspired by the vision of the idol he feels a thrill of joy and inner peace, inspite of the prevailing tensions around. It need hardly be emphasized how much more temples are necessary these days. They would serve as “speed-breakers” to soften our hectic blind rush-forward in life. They would also serve as source of inspiration and solace during times of depression and disappointments, which are mostly beyond our control. Building of temples was, therefore, considered as a sacred activity in ancient times, as sacred as any other community service.

Temples are the monuments of our Culture. Temple is a social centre and must become the place of cultural revival. A temple is a place of reverence (Sangam) where the love of the mind and respect of the intellect (Ganga and Jamuna) join together. Temples should function as the very heart of the community, responding most sensitively to all the changing needs of the society. The “Houses of God” in the past stood as intelligent guards protecting the needs of the community and therefore, they were extremely respected and revered and very devotedly served by the grateful members of the community. The love and care and the enormous sacrifice that they had made in building these edifices of beauty and grandeur eloquently speak volumes of their loyalty and gratitude. These are to be generated in their hearts by the service, both secular and sacred, rendered by the temples.

A Temple becomes famous not because of its elaborate architectural beauty nor its dimensions. When a large number of devotees continue to visit year after year, day by day, the center gathers a growing glory of divine presence. Within a community, such temples declare the beauty and culture possessed by the society. Temples are where large masses of people congregate and thereby develop in their thoughts and actions a RHYTHM, at once loving and divine. For centuries, temples and worship of the Deities held the Hindu society together, providing a common bond of love and devotion, creating among them a great sense of pride and brotherhood. Temples: community inspiration centres from where spiritual ideas and thoughts are spread out into the community.

To revive a true interest in the Temples, we must gain a clearer understanding of what are the significance of their “Divine Representations” (Deities) and in what way each one of them is suggesting some aspect of the Infinite Self within. No piece of stone in any temple can provide for the devotee his life’s goal of achieving happiness and peace. But, without an idol self-improvement ‘is impossible’. The method of superimposing a meaning upon an object is the technique called IDOL-WORSHIP. The idol is the means; self-discovery is the goal. To confuse the means with the goal is the Grand Trunk Road leading to sorrow. The idol serves the spiritual aspirant as a spring-board to heave himself out of samsara and plunge into himself. The IDOLS in temples are to remind the devotee of the IDEAL, the Supreme. To the earnest devotee, the idol appears as a living embodiment of his Lord.  All “poojas” are techniques by which you learn the art of putting the mind where the hand is working. However, it is necessary to remember that the idol is NOT God, but represents God.

TEMPLES are only places to discipline one’s mind. The mind must be perfectly tuned to receive the message of the Divine. The temple visits and worship should elevate the mind of the seeker and help him to keep his mind in a higher plane. A temple fulfils itself successfully in a “bhakta” when he comes to enquire into the nature of Godhood, the nature of himself, the structure of the world and the relationship between these three. At “this” moment the integrated personality of the “bhakta” though physically standing in front of the “sanctum sanctorum”, has grown to such a stature that he no longer can be contained within the confines of any Gopuram….

Just as a gymnasium is for the science of health, the temple is for the science of Reality. Temples are gymnasiums for the mind. You have to go there and apply your mind in it. Remember that it is a mental gymnasium. Surrender the mind in devotion unto Him. He will purify it and return it back to you immediately. You must go to the temple, and tune up yourself in order to get the message of the Divine.

In India, we don’t build a temple because we have money or we can collect money. It is always ordered or commanded by an Acharya. When an Acharya decides what deity or deities should be installed in the temple, thereafter there is no difference of opinion amongst the public. Temples are built by the members of the community, through a temple building committee. But every such temple committee is fulfilling the wishes of a Guru, or of an Acharya. The Guru accepts the plan, sanctions the administrative set up, decides upon the altar to be raised, and generally lays down the tradition to be followed by that DEVASTHANA. He watches over its conduct and appoints one or two of his people into the Executive Committee to be his eyes and ears in the day-to-day affairs and conduct of the temple.

Religion is to bring out the best in man by helping him to shed his animal passions still lingering in his mind which has evolved through the animal stage. This self purification is gained through devotion to the Lord, by everyone, through meeting and interacting in a common place like a TEMPLE, which serves more than the modern concept of a community Hall. Temple has to serve as a total schooling for the growing children. MAY WE USE THE TEMPLE IN THE CREATIVE FIELDS OF MOULDING THE CHILDREN AND THE YOUTH OF OUR COUNTRY.


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Bhagavad Gita Messages-2 by Swami Chinmayananda

GEETA is a universal text-book, healthy for all the various races and types of men living the variegated walks of life, each striving to maintain a variety of standards of life. For all men who are sincere and intelligent enough to perceive their own imperfections and courageously come to make a demand for a better perfection, in them are the fit students on whom Geeta pours out her best blessings. 

As a SCRIPTURE of activity and optimistic endeavour, GEETA unmistakably emphasizes the ultimate independence of man over his present weaknesses and even over his present circumstances. The secret strategy for the sure conqueror: “DEVOTION AND CONSISTENCY OF SELF-APPLICATION, FREE FROM ALL EGO-CENTRIC ATTACHMENTS WITH THE WORLD OF OBJECTS”, is the way chartered out in the GEETA.   

The originality of the GEETA is not “in what” it says, but “in how” it states. The call of Krishna is the divine call to man to discard his melancholy dejections at the face of life’s challenges and to come forward to play out his best “the game of life” with a firm determination to strive and to win.

The religion of GEETA ushers mankind to a wider field of perfections, which can be made available even while we are sweating and toiling at our alloted posts of duty. All through the GEETA we find brilliant strokes of the unforgettable picture of a mighty Man of Knowledge at the driver’s seat on a chariot, philosophically refilling a “flattened” mortal to brace up and face again the road to success! Never does GEETA at any point in its length, encourage man’s surrender to circumstances or even to his own present debilities and incompetencies. 

The concluding word of the GEETA is “my” (mama) and the opening word in the GEETA is “Dharma”.  Between these two words, the 700 stanzas are strung together as a garland of immortal beauty. And so, the meaning of the GEETA is “My Dharma”. GEETA explains the “nature of man – my dharma”, and the “Nature of Truth – MY DHARMA”, and how the TRUE LIFE starts when these two are harmonised together and come to play in one single individual. 

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Sri Dakshinamurthi: Chin-Mudra

Lord Shiva, in order to instruct the Rishis and the Seers, assumed the form of a Guru and sitting on the peak of Kailash, He turned southward to serve all seekers. The term “dakshina” means “that divine power of subtle perception which is generated in a fully integrated pure intellect”. This “dakshina-power”, when flowing towards the vasana-conditioned hearts of the disciples, is called “turned southward” and this is Shiva. The Teacher is none other than the Supreme, who manifests Himself in the divine form of Sri Dakshinamurthi to bless the struggling aspirant.

It is such a Teacher, who has become one with the Infinite, and has established his Oneness with the Infinite Substratum of the Universe who instructs an integrated and well-disciplined student in the Highest Truth through the SIGN of Knowledge, called Jnanamudra (Chin Mudra).

The auspicious SIGN demonstrated beautifully to the disciple the oneness of the inner Self and the Self everywhere. Jnanamudra (Chin Mudra) is generally indicated by holding the little, ring and middle fingers erect, straight and together, and the index finger bent to touch the middle of the thumb, so that a circle is formed between the index finger, palm and the lower-half of the thumb. This sign shown with the palm they called as the “Sign of Knowledge”.

This is indeed significant. The three fingers can be indicated to mean the gross, subtle and the causal bodies, and when they are completely disciplined and made single-pointed, the (individual) Self indicated by the index finger, that presides over the body of the seeker, gets itself detached and comes forward to meet the thumb, that represents the Self everywhere present. This experience that the “Self within” is the “Self everywhere” is the Infinite Experience, and the Infinitude is represented here by the circle formed between the index finger and the thumb – a circle which can have no beginning and no end.

~ Swami Chinmayananda

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