Life! Ah, that wonderful opportunity given to every single being – human or otherwise – to learn, do, know, share, care, enjoy and cherish through active engagement and experiences of every moment of our existence. What can one say about the marvellous Game of Life, with ample twists and turns that can rival any nail biting live sports event, other than the fact that most of us just meander through the Absurdity of Existence, without ever realising the true value of Living Life!
From birth, the start of an Endless Beginning called Life (which isn’t in our hand), till death, the Middle of the Endless Beginning (which obviously isn’t in our hand either, unless we’re suicidal – even then the probability of ending Life is less than Fifty-50), we appear to be forever in limbo, either completely ignorant of this precious gift or totally unaware of the magnificence of the Dance of Life, all around us, every moment of our existence, just waiting for us to experience it, as it is. We invariably fail to learn the A-Z of Life and instead sweat and toil to live the Life as expected by others. What a wasted opportunity, for the Present becomes Past in Future in the blink of an eye and there’s no guarantee that realization may happen in the birth to follow, immediately after or the innumerable ones thereafter.
Fret not, before you throw up your arms in despair and scowl “Holy cow, how the heck do I know the mo(o)ral of the Life story!” and conclude in typical human hurry “No we can’t!“, for Swamy has woken up to the fact that there’s a much simpler way, at least to make an attempt at comprehending Life the way it is, without the need for a convoluted theory or complicated formula, which is what we invariably end up discovering or inventing for anything and everything to do with Life. This insight on how to Light up your Life came to Swamy, when he was part of a series of events in the past few weeks that have opened his eyes wide with amazement (not bewilderment as many might expect or even pray for), at the sheer simplicity of it. It’s certainly not something he could lay claim to as a personal discovery, but just an awakening of the Element of Truth that has happened within, when it was time for it to happen.
Many a knowledgable soul among Swamy’s keen blog readers (a perplexing tribe that never fails to read but perennially stops short of commenting or sharing!) may’ve known about the four paths to realization, i.e., Bakthi, Gnana, Karma and Kriya or Raja yoga (nope, Swamy’s own SISA yoga won’t find a place in this elite list ever, despite you wishing for it – here are 8 reasons why wishing is just wishful). There have been many a realized being in this planet, whose lives evidently portray that each of these paths do work, like Skill Pills for Mukti, and are really the means to an end – the same end that’s also known as the ultimate and only Truth. Here are just a few of the many, who realized the Truth through 5-Why of Life and chose to light the path for any.
Disclaimer: The mapping of the extraordinary beings whose names adorn the following sections of this blog post with the four paths of Yoga is purely Swamy’s own interpretation based on his limited knowledge and not to be misinterpreted in any way as a decisive conclusion. The list isn’t conclusive either for there are many realized Masters who’ve never revealed themselves to the world!
Prabhupada Baktivedanta Swami, the founder of ISKCON or Hare Krishna movement professed the path of Bakthi yoga that has millions renunciate their material way of Life and melt in Krishna consciousness. Swamy can never forget the sentence an ISKCON Swami (formerly an IT professional from Russia) told at the magnificent Palace of Gold temple at West Virginia, USA. When asked how he ended up as a priest at the Krishna shrine, he said, “Krishna is more beautiful than ‘C’ (a computer programming language)!” Surdas, Ramdas, Kabir, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a multitude of Nayanmars and Aazhvars are all proponents of this path, which exemplifies the simplicity of seeking the Truth through this path of devotion, for any and every being.
Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi, the renowned saint of Thiruvannamalai, is probably the most popular renunciate of the Gnana yoga path that the world has known. “Who am I?” was his simple sutra, which when contemplated upon, while continuously looking inward, will eventually lead the seeker to realize the Truth. While appearing deceptively simple – the nature of Truth is such – many seekers have said this is the hardest path for realization. Jiddu Krishnamurti, whose works are in publication extensively around the world even now, and Nisargadatta Maharaj whose book I am That is considered a seminal treatise of the Truth, are the other famous proponents of this path of intellect.
Lord Krishna, who is invariably – and inevitably – the center of the Bakthi yoga universe, is also the greatest proponent of Karma yoga, which is available to all in the form of that immensely popular and widely read, interpreted and quoted immortal scripture Bhagavad Gita. His enchanting Life, in its entirety, is said to be the best possible evidence available to any seeker on the sheer stupidity of the maya of Life, the way we know and live it, and the magnificence of Life, the way it is meant to be lived. Revered beings such as Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi are also exponents of this path, whose Life is their message to seekers. Swami Chinmayananda, a non-believer turned seeker with the grace of his Guru Swami Tapovanam, and Swami Sivananda, who guided him to his Guru, also belong to this path of action.
The last but not the least (in fact, it is probably the most) of the four paths is Kriya yoga, practiced and transmitted by many an enlightened Master from time immemorial in this once great nation, where seeking Mukti was the sole purpose of every single soul, once upon a time. Also known as Raja Yoga, this is considered the path of the kings among seekers, though once a seeker, one soon realizes there isn’t any difference between a prince and a pauper. Starting from none other than Adi Yogi Shiva himself, this path has been illuminated by many Masters across millennia, the Siddhas including sage Patanjali and Agastya muni, Gautama the Buddha, Paramahamsa Yogananda (and his Guru lineage starting from Mahavatar Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya to Sri Sri Yukteswar), Swamy’s Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, have all attained enlightenment through this magnificent path of energy that requires utmost diligence through unwavering focus and practice. In fact, Paramahamsa Yogananda includes Jesus Christ too as an exponent of this mystic path.
Interestingly (or intriguingly – to us lesser mortals), many illuminated souls are also bridges between two or more paths or can even thought to be as a confluence of the many paths leading to the one Truth.
Adi Sankara, who singlehandedly revived this nation’s culture Sanatana Dharma, within a brief lifetime of 32 years can easily span across all four paths. He’s established Jyotirlingas and Shakti peethas for both Bakthi yoga (temples as places of devotion) and Kriya yoga (temples as consecrated spaces for energy processes); produced a voluminous work of verses and interpretation of scriptures that span both Bakthi (chanting for daily rituals and singing verses in praise of the divine) and Gnana (contemplation of truth through interpretation of sutras) yoga; performed incredible deeds at a superhuman pace, within an impossibly short duration as if there’s no tomorrow, exemplifying the power of Karma yoga.
Gautama the Buddha, who renounced a princely Life to meditate and contemplate upon the misery (and mystery) of Life, got enlightened through Gnana yoga. But he also created a step-by-step process based on his realization – the Dhammapada – for any seeker to realize the Truth, through diligent (almost dry) daily practice, which in essence is Kriya yoga. He’s said to have had thousands of enlightened beings around, all attaining realization through his path, during his lifetime itself!
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a contemporary Yogi, Mystic and visionary spiritual leader who founded Isha Yoga (Yoga of the Divine) to guide any seeker on the Kriya yoga path to self-realization, is a living Master who has created and put into action one of the finest examples of the blend of the four paths. Sadhguru has created the one-of-its-kind Dhyanalinga yogic temple (over three lifetimes), a perennial source of energy in the primordial form of Linga, at the foothills of Velliangiri mountains (also known as the South Kailash) through the ancient process of Prana Pratishtha (created by Agastya muni, one of the seven direct disciples – Saptarishis – of Adi Yogi Shiva), with the sole purpose of aiding any soul seeking liberation through transmission of powerful energy. He has also consecrated the Linga Bhairavi Devi temple, to aid the seekers of the Bakthi yoga path. His many publications – videos, discourses, books, blogs, et al – are handy guides offering striking clarity on all things about the Truth of Life for seekers of the Gnana yoga path. The multifarious activities – rural upliftment through free health and education, environmental nourishment and recharge through Green initiatives and cultural revival through promotion of arts, crafts and festivals, that happen within and outside the Ashram through the Isha Foundation, primarily through volunteering of meditators and seekers, is the best example of Karma yoga in action.
There are many who continue to draw parallels between Sadhguru and Osho (Bhagwan Rajneesh), for both of them have shared extensive insights into many aspects of spirituality that were considered mysterious and mystical, from their own personal experience of the Truth, thereby simplifying the seeking of those who long to realize the Truth. Both have also devised the technology and techniques to put into practice the ancient science of Yoga, said to have been unraveled by Adi Yogi Shiva, who in turn transformed into Adi Guru Dakshinamurthy to share his knowledge and wisdom with his significant half Shakti first and the Saptha Rishis (who in turn spread them far and wide across the planet) later. The essence of this science was then documented by Yogi Patanjali in the form of Yoga Sutras.
Coming back to where this post has originated (and compelled by the need for this to be concluded – as this is just a blog post and not one of the many books that Swamy contemplates to eventually write and publish), i.e., the eye-opening experiences of Swamy in the past few weeks, happened in a series of events or programs in which he volunteered or participated.
First was a 7-day Isha Yoga program conducted in his neighbourhood. Second was a 4-day Leadership development program conducted by two Lions of their domain – RamCharan and Sadhguru. Third was a couple of highly competitive international sports events that his son (a professional Chess player of some repute) was part of. Fourth was the final stage of a Coaching certification training program. And fifth was a Marathon run in which he has participated, along with a few friends, fellow seekers and his significant half.
For the first event, Swamy has volunteered for the entire duration of the program for the first time (he has done so for only a day or two in the past). Having been initiated into the spiritual path on March 1, 2009 (that has progressed till the 7-day Samyama program and Kailash-Manasarovar yatra this year), through the same program conducted at his workplace, it should’ve been quite normal to be part of that program again, albeit in a different role. Having to wake up before dawn for seven straight days, complete the daily practices and then rush to the program venue for volunteering should’ve been taxing, but wasn’t. It was a ‘be there and do what(ever) is required at that point in time’ kind of activity, with no material benefits for the effort, which should’ve been demotivating, but wasn’t. Inexplicably, instead of being disenchanted at the prospect of performing simple tasks at the behest of the Swami (an ordained Brahmachari from Isha ashram) who conducted the program and his co-teacher (a resident of the ashram), Swamy ended up realizing the bountiful nature of his Master’s boundless grace by just being present during the program, doing any and every activity that was requested of him. Unsurprisingly, he has resolved to volunteer for more such programs in the future!
For the second event, which was paid for and attended by luminaries from many industries and professions, Swamy volunteered expecting to be part of the core group that hobnobbed with the who’s who of Indian business world. In typical Isha way (Sadhguru’s deflating-the-ego-balloon acts have to be experienced to be believed), he was asked to be part of the Dining team, that served food for all the participants, three times a day for four days. Now, dining doesn’t mean only serving food, but also moving, organizing and cleaning food, thrice a day. Invariably, most of the time post serving food, one won’t get to taste many of the delicacies served to participants but has to settle down for whatever is left and other simpler food that are made exclusively for the volunteers. The physically tiresome activity was the least of the bother, while being amidst a bunch of cheerful volunteers that included bubbly Isha Home School senior students, radiant ashram residents and the majestic presence of the Master himself on many occasions during the four days. At the end of it, what dawned upon Swamy is the fact that being useful doing what’s needed at any point in time is a lot more precious than being valuable based on one’s professional experience, only during some points in time.
For the third set of events, Swamy was a mere observer – of a decade long journey gaining acceleration at a crucial point in time, decisively driving towards the desired destination. Jr. has just secured his first IM (International Master – a title awarded to professional Chess players with an ELO rating of 2400 and 3 such norms, gained in as many or more top level tournaments) norm with some more altitude to scale, but his game has suddenly transcended to an altogether different level, boosting the confidence of the collective family that includes his beloved Mother with a steely determination and fierce focus and talented + committed Coach who seeks to scale the peak of Chess eminence through his ward. As the long cherished dream of an entire family that chose a different path for their offspring (amidst many a raised eyebrow that rose in utter disbelief of what was perceived to be a mindless act of thoughtless souls) nears its culmination in the form of Swamy Jr. earning the coveted title of GrandMaster in the game of Chess, Swamy couldn’t help wondering how it was all made possible through selfless sacrifice of all those who’ve been part of the eventful and exciting journey.
For the fourth event, Swamy was part of a group of enthusiasts, who’ve embarked on the journey of learning and qualifying to be Coaches, who can help clients discover the path to their destiny, by seeking and discovering the answers to all their question within. Unlike a Mentor, who guides by sharing the essential answers by digging deep within one’s own vast experience, a Coach is barred from offering readymade solutions from personal experience. Being a Coach is mastering the art of active listening and astute questioning (something that every human loves to do, but isn’t really capable of doing with the requisite finesse or panache) and tying oneself down willingly to just that. In a way, it is conditioning oneself to forget what one knows well, for the duration of each coaching session at least, and help the client unearth precious gems of Truth, hidden deep within his or her own self.
For the fifth event, a popular annual Marathon race in the city of his residence, Swamy participated despite a battered knee that wouldn’t allow him to run (the result of a sports accident and the aftermath of its [mis]treatment and corrective surgery by two doctors from the opposite ends of the medical spectrum during his high school days). He chose to participate for supporting Isha Vidhya – an education initiative by Isha Foundation for providing free matriculation education to rural children – and simply walked the 10 km distance instead (his significant half also walked alongside for the first few kilometres). At the end, what mattered was just being part of the event supporting a noble cause and not the longer time taken to complete the race.
As an astute reader (all those who care to read Swamy’s post indeed are ;), you may’ve already noticed the common thread tying the five events that appear disparate but are beaded together intricately (ahem, not for nothing is Swamy considered an exponent of the art of connecting the dots – oops.. time to say yes to no and deflate the “i”nflated ego :O). It is the act of being selfless, for a cause (a personal or common goal), giving wholeheartedly whatever is required to further the cause, while thinking less and less of one’s own self. Like a lamp; a candle; a ladder; a flower; a fruit; a tree; a dog; a cow; mother earth; the sun; every Guru that has graced this universe showering their boundless grace ever so benevolently on any who was in need; and so many other such magnanimous ones that exemplify the utter pointlessness of being selfish, especially in the illuminating light of being selfless, not for the sake of others, but for the fact that one can be so and there is always a need for the ones who choose to be so.
In essence, all the five events had the same thing in common. Less of the self, which is as close to being totally selfless (something that animals – not just pets, mind you – have mastered from time immemorial, despite their perceived handicap of having one less sense than us humans) that a normal being can get to. And this self becoming less and less significant obviously happened in stages, over a period of time. That inevitably led to the realization that Less is More, when it comes to knowing Life the way it is. The less one thinks of oneself, the more the joy of helping others is, that could bring Joy Drops streaming down while doing so. And volunteering is one of the best (and possibly the easiest) ways of giving oneself totally to others’ cause, thereby offering oneself the opportunity to grow From Ordinary to Extra Ordinary. Volunteering is the way to experience the enchanting non-linear nature of Life, by offering one’s own Life as a Service (LaaS - for the jargon oriented and challenged alike). That, my dear reader, is The LaaSting Truth of Life!