Tag Archives: Transcendence

Stop before you Start!

18 Aug

Stop before you Start! 

~ the amber light for all spiritual aspirants, to pause before they start the journey

So you’re bitten by the proverbial spiritual bug. As soon as you’ve listened to a mesmerising Master eloquently explaining what enlightenment is, on YouTube, and soothingly assuring it’s a possibility for everyone – that includes, ahem, you! Or when you’ve seen your BFF lose weight miraculously, a mere month after s/he started a new yOgA practice, which s/he learned in your workplace itself. Or when you simply couldn’t put down the book on the methods for self-realisation that you picked up at the airport (at double the cost of Amazon, no less) during one of those pointless business trips. Or when your fav celebrity – one of the many, obviously, since there are one too many now – gushed about how her recent initiation into mindfulness has transformed her as a person overnight (though there is no proof of any such transformation, other than her own assurance to famished fans like you)!

Anyway, one or all of the above happened to you within the last fortnight and you’re all fired up to start the journey to know. Umm, you don’t know yet what you really want to know, but who cares about such nuances anyway. If your fav celebrity got transformed, you, her die-hard fan, too will most certainly get the transformation. And how could the bestselling book be wrong, you ask yourself. And the weight-loss too is a dangling carrot that’s hard to ignore. And, if in doubt, you can always check with the YouTube Guru, who seems to know about everything under the sun! So you can hardly wait and are all set to press the ignition button.

Wait… wait… wait… Hold on for one moment please. Consider this the amber light that may actually prevent you from wrecking not only your #MakeInIndia superbike by jumping the Red, but also potentially wrecking those around you – on the road or at home or even at work, for that matter. Please Stop, just for a moment, before you Start that journey, which might be inevitable, who knows.

The long journey to self-realisation is a lonely pursuit. And a very selfish one!

What the h#!!?,” you may baulk. “Aren’t there millions of seekers, like me, who are on the path, being part of so many spiritual organisations!,” you might marvel. Yes, but…

IMG_20170712_093824There may be many fellow seekers along the path, or on a different path, to the same destination. They may even be part of the same spiritual organisation that you chose to be a part of and may do all the same programs that you do and do all the daily practices that you are supposed to do.

But, rest assured, each journey is different and every seeker has to pursue the journey alone, even if s/he is part of a group of seekers. And because you are aligned with a group of seekers who are all guided by the same Guru doesn’t mean you are all going to work together for everyone’s enlightenment. Tsk.. tsk.. Self-realisation is such a self-explanatory term that one should never get lost in any imagination about it’s self-centered nature. There is no getting around the hard-to-swallow fact that it’s about you and you alone.

sp1.jpgIf I become a better person, as a result of my spiritual practices, won’t the people connected with me be thrilled?,” you may wonder. Indeed, they will be. And the weight loss would certainly earn a few more admirers as well. But…

There will be many spectators along the path – loving family, caring friends, acerbic critics, unqualified self-proclaimed masters, et al. All of them are but mere spectators, who haven’t started (or concluded – especially the half-baked masters) their own journey yet. In fact, many of them won’t even have a clue about the existence of such a journey. They are so entangled in survival that they may not even be interesting in knowing about it, let alone support you in pursuing it. So, don’t be surprised if the beloved ones end up being the befuddled ones, not being able to comprehend what’s going on with you, i.e. the person they thought they knew all along!

I’ve got a fantastic Guru guiding me man… someone so popular that everyone from politicians to celebrities to industrialists line up to be at his events that happen all over the nation!,” you may protest. Well…

Guru_Swamy3

If you’re blessed, you may actually have a Guru (Spiritual Master, not the head of some religious establishment), with boundless compassion to guide seekers like you, shining the light along the path. But even s/he isn’t going to literally hold hands, till you reach the destination.

Not only that, the Guru will strip you clean of all the pretensions of your very existence, including the facade of personality that you’re hiding behind, in order to eke out a living in this man-eat-dog mad mad world that’s hell-bent on self-destructing the only planet it has got to live, so far, in this vast, still expanding, universe. Be assured, it won’t be a pretty sight, when you’ve no other choice but to look at yourself, in all your true-self g(l)ory… eeew! And that’s exactly what a real Guru does to you, because Guru is the light that annihilates the darkness of your hilarious ignorance, which you presumed to be intelligence, until the tables are turned, upside down.

adiyogi41s.jpgAll right, now that your iMax sized imaginary world of spirituality is shaken a bit with shattering Dolby Atmos sound, you better pause for a moment at this Amber sign (umm, Amber is the warning sign, in case you routinely fail to notice or jump at the sight of it on the roads), before speeding away into the unknown, but not uncharted, long winding path of spirituality.

Oh hey, you’re totally free to proceed on the well-known path of religion, which is the always available alternative, which most humans find very comfortable to tread, during any part of their existence. But that’s not going to take you to where you may actually want to go, since, most unfortunately, all the savvy preachers, heavy tomes and slick videos and impressive social media posts won’t bother differentiating one from the other, i.e. religion from spirituality. They are distinct and almost diametrically opposite.

The journey to realise the Truth isn’t a fun tourist trip that anyone curious can undertake. It’s a challenging yAtrA (pilgrimage) that not many get to complete, within a lifetime.

Yet, it’s been diligently undertaken by many, willingly, from time immemorial. And most of them did (and still do) have a Guru to guide them along.

Of course, anyone can start it. Even you, who loves whistle-worthy silly dialogues like “ரிஸ்க்ன்னா எனக்கு ரஸ்க் சாப்பிடற மாதிரி!” (“Taking risk is just like eating rusk for me!”) can. No one’s going to stop you from starting. And no one’s going to be there to ensure you sustain it. Or even complete it. You’ll be on your own. All the way, from start to finish. Hard to swallow but hey, that’s how Truth is.

Fun fact: The spiritual journey neither has a fixed schedule nor predetermined levels of difficulty.

RealizationBoth the length and difficulty of the journey is determined by you, not anyone else. So, if at all you don’t make it all the way, or you take a very long time to make it – may be a few lifetimes, the only being you can blame is yourself. And the “I told you so!” spectators will still be around to rub some salt on your wounded ego.

Along the path, there will be…

  • a number of tempting side attractions that will distract you from continuing the journey.
  • many a roadblock that will test your resolve to continue the journey.
  • a multitude of moments when you will be so exasperated that you just want to drop everything and run all the way back to where you started.

Naturally, there will be a number of fellow seekers too, who will pat you on the back, saying “Well, we’re on the same boat sis (or bro)!” hoping to cheer you up.

With plethora of content and myriad media to consume it, there are any number of aids available to a seeker, who should know how to utilise them, to progress further, along the path. The YouTube video that ignited the fire in you is one of them. That overpriced book full of practical methods is another. And it’s quite possible to be so enamoured by such aides that you may be stuck right where you are, without even realising it. After all, more videos and books are getting published every day. From everyone who thinks s/he has figured it all out!

CDD9-3And, if and when you make it to the destination, in this birth or another, you may be utterly baffled to realise that the journey is indeed the destination and you didn’t even have to undertake the gruelling journey in the first place, to realise what has always been there, right within you. Bummer!

Yet, upon the conclusion of the journey, you will end up immersed in the state of eternal bliss, overflowing with compassion, just like those who have attained self-realisation, before you. From time immemorial. And here’s the best part. There’s absolutely no obligation whatsoever for you to even share the experience with anyone, let alone shine the light of your hard-earned gnAnA (wisdom).

For every Agasthya Muni or Adi ShankarA or RamaNa Maharishi or Sadhguru, there have been thousands of other realised beings who simply chose to remain in the state of bliss, finding no compelling need to share it with anyone else. It’s certainly possible for you to be like one of them. Seems like a very tempting bargain, eh!

GuruPurnima1All said and done, there is a reason why there have been and are only a handful of realised beings and Masters, even as the human population kept on growing relentlessly. They are the only ones who walked the path all alone, all the way, consciously avoiding the distractions, and reached the ultimate destination, with or without the guidance of a Guru. They are the ones who have seen the glorious light of Truth, shining forever, within themselves. They are the truly blessed ones who had the glorious darshan of the Ananda ThANdavA (dance of bliss or ecstacy), with their eyes closed. And only a few of them, in an outpouring of compassion, chose to guide others along the path, as Guru.

So, before you choose to get on the path of spirituality, which btw – just to reiterate, because it’s extremely important to know – has nothing to do with religion, simply because someone known to you has done so or some social media post has fired you up, do take a moment to assess yourself. And be honest with yourself in accepting the fact that you may not be ready yet.

20120625_143222The humility to accept your lack of readiness to even begin the spiritual journey in pursuit of Truth, is indeed the starting point of the enchanting journey to everlasting realisation of the Self! Your humble acknowledgement of “I don’t know,” will eventually become such an unbearable thirst that it can be quenched only by the one(s) who has been there and seen that. Who knows, s/he may happen to you in this lifetime itself (don’t ever try going around shopping for a Guru – it just doesn’t work that way), to nudge you along the path.

Well, the Green light is on. It’s up to you now to Pause your Start or Continue unwaveringly. Happy journey fellow seeker!

May Grace be with you for a purposeful Life overflowing with Joy.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

SG1

Swamy aka @PrakashSwamy is a seeker (full-time may sound funny, but that’s a fact) whose seeking was on-and-off from his teens (when a maternal uncle took him to a Transcendental Meditation program) and switched gears upward in 2009, when his Master Sadhguru (Mystic, Yogi and visionary founder of Isha Foundation, awarded the Padma Vibhushan by Indian Government in 2017 for the remarkable social endevours of his spiritual organisation) initiated him into the ancient Kriya of Shambhavi Maha Mudra. A few more advanced Isha Yoga programs followed, culminating in Samyama, the 7-day Silence program, in 2013. With Shivanga, the yatra to Velliangiri Mountains, aka Kailash of the south and the yatra to Kailash itself (in Tibet) happening in the same year (2013), Life, as he knew it until then, took a decisive turn. Swamy eventually bid farewell to his lucrative, and reasonably successful, corporate career in 2015, which he assures is a planned retirement, to pursue the VAnaprastha phase and experience Life, the way it is, with a definitive purpose – of attaining self-realisation.

UpaGuru1Swamy considers himself twice-blessed, since, apart from being guide by the boundless Grace of his Master, from within, his ongoing journey is also being actively guided now by his Upa Guru Shri Sohamanandaji (the other bearded one, in the above pics), who is kind enough to not only to dispel his ignorant assumptions about spirituality from time to time, but also to take him along on the life-altering yatras to spiritually charged spaces such as Pancha Bhuta Sthalas (sacred spaces of Lord Shiva, associated with the five elements) & Sabarimala (both in South India) and Char Dham, comprising of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedharnath and Bhadrinath (on the mighty Himalayas). These days, in his own words, Swamy’s existence – one day at a time -is focused only on “Read, Write, Meditate!,” not necessarily in that order.

Oh, in case you are curious, Swamy hasn’t attained self-realisation, yet.. ha.. ha.!

img_20161225_080543.jpgYou may enjoy knowing more about Swamy‘s spiritual journey and experience of Life the way it is in his poetry (Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymns – 218 and counting…), blogs, quotes and social media posts (links to all given below).

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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NATYA – a simple formula for success

25 Oct

On Vijayadasami day (Oct 22, 2015), considered auspicious for Vidhyarambham (initiation of learning, of all kinds, including performing arts) in Bharat, Swamy was invited to be one of the chief guests for a classical dance event. While Swamy doesn’t have any claim to be associated with dance in any way (he at least actively listens to many kinds of music, including the classical, and even sings & plays percussion instruments, though not formally trained in either), he chose to accept the invite as a mark of respect for the tremendous amount of effort that goes into learning an art or craft (or even sport for that matter, which Swamy has witnessed up-close-and-personal as he’s been part of the quest to raise Jr as a sports – Chess – champion) by all beings involved – the learner (usually an eager child), the learned (the teacher, trainer, coach or Guru, who trains many eager children), the learning enablers (usually parents and a few near & dear) and the learning itself, which is an excruciating, arduous & invariably long process that inevitably consumes a significant part of the childhood. But on any day, Swamy would gladly vote for children spending time learning a performing art, craft or sport, instead of wasting long hours pointlessly in rote learning.

wpid-20151022_181121.jpgThe event Swamy was invited to was a Salangai Puja, to mark the elevation of learners of classical dance from beginner to intermediate level, by letting them wear the salangai on their legs (around the ankle) for the first time, after a few years of learning the basics of classical dance – Bharatanatyam, in this case. The learners will continue to learn for a few more years under the Guru before they can do the Arangetram, i.e., first (typically public) solo performance, announcing to the world that s/he is ready to perform the dance independently anywhere.

SP31Four children – Adhira, Shailaja, Shivadarshini & Srujana – from Siva Natyalaya (the popular dance school of Mrs. Bhuvanadevi Karthikeyan located at Madambakkam, near the famed ancient Shiva temple) were elevated by their Guru to the next level on Vijayadasami & Swamy was one of the chief guests (the other two – Mrs. M.R.Lakshmi & Mrs. Krishnakumari Karthikeyan – were eminent persons from music & dance arenas respectively). This blog post is an excerpt of Swamy’s speech at the salangai puja (not his first public speech but certainly the first at a performing arts or cultural event).

NATYA – a simple formula for success

SP4Swamy’s speech at Siva Natyalaya’s Bharatanatyam Salangai Puja (சலங்கை பூஜை) event in Chennai on 22-Oct-2015 (the speech was in Tamizh தமிழ், which Swamy is quite conversant with, as it happens to be his mother tongue தாய்மொழி)

Namaskaram. After seeing my profession on the invitation (in chaste தமிழ், no less), you must’ve been wondering about what I really do for a living and what relationship do I’ve, if any, with dance!

பிரகாஷ் ராமஸ்வாமி – முழுமை வழிகாட்டி, மனித உள் ஆற்றல் கண்டறிதல் மற்றும் பேணி வளர்த்தல் வல்லுநர் 

SP14I too have wondered the same way about the dance part, as unlike the other two chief guests here – one from the classical music world (learning from none other than the great Semmangudi himself) & the other from the classical dance world (whose grandfather learned from the legendary Balasaraswathi), I’ve nothing to do with dance. Music has been a part of my Life but dance not so much. But as I also write (blogs now, books soon), it’s natural for me to ponder about things and wonder about connections between seemingly unrelated things. When I thought about me & dance, it dawned upon me that there indeed is a powerful connect. And that is Adiyogi (Swamy pointed to the bronze Nataraja statue on the stage that was decked up with flowers for the auspicious occasion).

SP2As someone on the spiritual path for the about 6 years now through Isha yoga, we’re deeply reverential to Adiyogi. Shiva is considered the first yogi in the yogic culture. Incidentally, he also happens to be the Lord of Dance, i.e. Nataraja. His famed dance is the Tandava – in Ananda & Rudra forms – and he’s also known as Thandavakkon in Tamizh because of this. So, now you know the connection between Swamy and dance (the audience chuckle). 

SP9Once that became clear, I’ve thought about what to say in this forum, where eminent persons from music & dance arena are there and children are performing the traditional Bharatanatyam dance beautifully with able guidance from their Guru & the accompanying musicians. Since children are familiar with formulas in many subjects they learn at school such as maths, physics & chemistry, it would be appropriate to give them a simple formula for achieving success in their quest to become eminent classical dancers. And that simple formula is NATYA. Very easy to remember (as the term itself means dance) and hopefully to follow & practice as well.

SP10N is Nada. Nada means sound. The universe that we’re part of is said to have originated from sound –  the primordial sound AUM. Recently, NASA scientists have managed to make the sound of Sun audible and it incredibly sounds as AUM (which isn’t surprising for our ancient culture as the many sages & enlightened beings have figured it out many centuries ago). All Creation is said to be just sound and the creator is also known as Nada Brahma. For dance too, the basis is sound. We’ve seen how beautifully the word Pankajam in a song was depicted as blossoming of lotus by the children. When we hear the word (sound) and see the depiction through gestures or mudras (movement or expression), we can connect with it easily and can comprehend better. 

What’s critical in this relationship is the alignment – between sound and movement in the case of dance. It could be something else for other types of Life pursuits. Alignment with a source, principle, goal or purpose. If your action is in alignment with a purpose, the result will be beautiful and the expreince will be joyful.

SP12A is Agnostic. In these turbulent times of religious intolerance, agnostic is a very sensitive world. But agnostic doesn’t just mean non-believer. It also means someone who is not biased – towards good or bad, like or dislike, progressive or regressive and so on. Shiva is also known as Aghori, someone for whom nothing is ghori or horrible. He accepts everything as it is. The people surrounding him are always depicted as demented beings, but he loves them the same way he would love any other being. He’s as comfortable being in the graveyard smeared in ash, wearing skeletons as he’s in his magnificent Somasundareswara form (worshipped in the famous Madurai Meenakshi temple, in Swamy’s home town). That’s why he symbolises Life the way it is. 

As a learner of dance (or anything for that matter), you shouldn’t be biased towards one or the other. I like this adavu or I don’t like that jathi. This song is more beatiful to perform than that song. I prefer that accompanying person to this one. Your focus should remain just the dance itself (performance or action). And you’ll just accept everything else around it as it is. Nothing is good or bad, no likes or dislikes. Everything just the way it is. That’s being agnostic.

SP21T is Transendence. Loosly translated (as Swamy was speaking in Tamizh – a far deeper, more delightful & meaningful classical language), it is elevating oneself from the present state to a state that’s many levels above or beyond. In the yogic path, it is achieving the state of Samadhi – an eternal state of bliss, which enlightened beings are said to be in, all the time. 

In dance (or any performance or action), Transendence is not just for the dancer (to go from a learner to a spectacular performer) but for the spectators too (going from hmmm to wow). You should reach a level of performance where there’s no stage, no accompanying artists, no spectators, not even the dancer but just the dance. That kind of a dance would bring tears flooding from the eyes of anyone blessed to be present. Tandava certainly would’ve done that to the sages and celestial beings who may’ve witnessed it, as Tandava is the dance of transendence. Both at cosmic and atomic level as creation is also known as the dance of Shiva.

SP28Y is Yearning. Not earning, which unfortunately is the focus of many star performers in any performing art today. Without yearning for something, it’s not possible to achieve the state of transendence. The sages who’ve become enlightened have performed yoga or tapas for many years. The saptarishis have spent not one or two but 84 years in preparing themselves to receive the grace of Adiyogi, who after observing their diligent preparation has become the benevolent Adi Guru (first Guru or Master) as the benevolent Dakshinamurthi to transmit his yogic knowledge to them, several thousands of years ago.

SP23As a dancer (or anyone performing a purposeful action), you must have immense interest and expend tremendous effort to be someone that people line up to see, not because you follow the principles of dance to the T but because being part of your performance lets them transcend to a different level. That’s how you’ll be known as a Balasaraswathi, Rukmini Devi, Padma Subramaniam or Alarmelvalli. In classical music, Bho Shambho belongs to Maharajapuram Santhanam. One can’t think beyond Madurai Mani Iyer when it comes to rendering Ka Vaa Vaa. Suprabatham is synonymous with MS. The same holds true for Kanda Sashti Kavacham and Sulamangalam sisters. Such astonishing levels of achievement is possible for you too, if you truly yearn for it.

SP17A is Absolute. Adiyogi is depicted as either an ascetic in a blissed out state of meditation or ecstatic state of tandava. He’s not partially in either state but absolute in both states. Whenever you perform dance (or any other purposeful action), your intent, focus and intensity has to be absolute. Such a state is not possible if you are performing for others. The performance or action will naturally flow from within and encompass all those who are touched by the performance or action in some way, only when it is absolute. If every moment of our Life is absolute, there’s no other choice for us but to be joyful.

So, that’s the simple formula of NATYA
Nada – action in alignment with a purpose.
Agnostic – accepting Life the way it is, without any kind of bias.
Transendence – elevating oneself & others from the mundane routine to an eternal state of bliss.
Yearning – immense interest and effort to achieve peak performance.
Absolute – intent, focus & intensity to achive transendence.

SP35Nataraja’s (Shiva in the form of Lord of Dance) dance Tandava is said to depict or embody the 5 thatvasSrishti (ஆக்கல் அல்லது படைத்தல்), Sthiti (காத்தல் அல்லது பொறுத்தல்), Samhara (அழித்தல் அல்லது மாற்றல்), Tirobhava (மறைத்தல் அல்லது மாயை விளையாடல்) & Anugraha (அருளல் அல்லது விடுவித்தல்).

It’s easy to see the NATYA formula is directly associated with the 5 Tandava thatvas (தாண்டவ தத்துவம்). But if I start explaining that now, the organisers may open their Netrikkan (third eye), as we’re running out of time. So, let me conclude by requesting you to use the NATYA formula for success in your pursuit of Dance. May Nataraja’s Grace be with you for a purposeful Life of dance overflowing with Joy.

The following is an extension to the speech (not shared at the event due to paucity of time), connecting the dots between NATYA & Tandava.

SP29Nada = Srishti (creation or Shiva as the source of creation) – Life of creation (humans inclusive) in alignment with the creator.
Agnostic = Sthiti (existence or Shiva as the preserver of creation) – Accepting Life the way it is, without any personal bias.
Transendence = Samhara (transformation or Shiva as the transformer of creation) – Elevating oneself (& others in one’s presence) from the mundane routine to an eternal state of bliss
Yearning = Tirobhava (maya or Shiva as the master who plays with the ignorance of his creation) – Having immense interest and willing to expend any amount of effort to know the Truth or purpose of Life.
Absolute = Anugraha (enlightenment or Shiva as the Guru who benevolently enables one to achieve and remain in the state of eternal bliss) – Having absolute clarity of intent/purpose, total focus and burning intensity to achive self-realization.

SP34As there is Nada Yoga (yoga of sound), there is also Natya Yoga (yoga of dance or movement). Dance, when performed as an offering to the ultimate (Shiva as Nataraja) and not as a mere performance, has the potential to let the performer transcend to the state of bliss. Just the way being in the mere presence of a realized being (like Sadhguru) can elevate a seeker to a different state of Life experience (beyond the known physical, limited to the five senses), being present during the perormance of a dancer whose dance is an offering to the Lord of Dance can and will let the participants transcend to a different level of experience – akin to being present during Nataraja’s Tandava itself.

NATYA(Oct-15)May Adiyogi’s grace be with you to immerse yourself in and experience the joyful dance of Life!

@PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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