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Table of Contents

Thursday, June 2, 2011 __________________________________________________________________________ 1 Q & A at Happy Living Family Camp - May 28-29 - PART 2 of 2 __________________________________ 1 Wednesday, June 1, 2011 _______________________________________________________________________ 3 Q & A session in Happy Living Camp - May 28-29, 2011 - PART 1 of 2 _____________________________ 3 Wednesday, May 25, 2011 _______________________________________________________________________ 4 Q & A at Bentonville, Arkansas - May 12, 2011 __________________________________________________ 4 Monday, March 28, 2011 ________________________________________________________________________ 6 Q & A with Vedanta Students at Krishnalaya on 26th March 2011 _________________________________ 6 Tuesday, March 22, 2011 ________________________________________________________________________ 9 Satsang with Swamiji on 19th March 2011 at Krishnalaya ________________________________________ 9 Sunday, March 13, 2011 ________________________________________________________________________ 13 Q & A Session with Vedanta Students on 12th March 2011 at Krishnalaya, Piercy ___________________ 13 Friday, March 11, 2011 _________________________________________________________________________ 16 Discussion with Prof. Bart Gruzalski on 'The Buddha' (continued) ________________________________ 16 Wednesday, March 9, 2011 _____________________________________________________________________ 18 Discussion on the book, 'The Buddha' with author Prof. Bart Gruzalski by Swami Ishwarananda ______ 18 Saturday, March 5, 2011 _______________________________________________________________________ 20 Q & A with Vedanta Students Mar 1-5, 2011 ___________________________________________________ 20

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Q & A at Happy Living Family Camp - May 28-29 - PART 2 of 2
Q: Can teenagers live a spiritual life? Swamiji: Why not? Spirituality is a self-correction process and early in life we start it is better. Teenagers should be taught that their actions have consequences. That will help them become conscious and vigilant about their actions, attitudes and aspirations!

Q: If we have to take life as it comes, doesn't that contradict creating our life? Swamiji: Guruji mentions in his book, Jeevan Sutrani that we need to face what happens in life and also create or plan well for the future. About what happens to you in your life you do not have much control. But, in future what has to happen you can surely plan. Most of our present experiences are influenced by our own past and therefore, without complain let us face the present and cheerfully work toward our future! There is no contradiction in this. Q: How long will it take for me to get the driving force to perform to my potential and how will I get it? Swamiji: All successful people in any field have demonstrated that emotional connection between oneself and one's own goal is the key driving force that can bring one's max potential to performance. Are you emotionally connected to what you would like to achieve? If so, you will be driving yourself to perform upto your potential soon. If not, be in the company of such driven personalities and emulate them. Q: We have some simple ways to control anger - count to 10 (an example). Greed - God provides us with enough. How about desire? This is much harder to control. Please talk about desire and ways to control it. Swamiji: Desire is caused by Samkalpa. In Sanskrit samkalpa is 'shobhana adhyaasa' which means 'fanciful imagination' of happiness upon a thing which does not contain it. We imagine happiness upon a thing becase we are in need of happiness. It only indicates that one feels unhappy and seeks happiness outside of oneself. This is due to lack of knowledge or ignorance about the Blissful Self. Therefore in Vedanta desire is considered to be caused by ignorance and desire is the cause of action. In a nutshell, Avidya-Kama-Karma is known as 'Anartha Parampara' or evil tradition! Only way to eradicate desire completely is to overcome ignorance about the Self or otherwise gaining the right knowledge of the Blissful Self! Q: Why do we (Indian community) discourage inter-racial relations? Swamiji: I hope you are not referring to relationship between humans and other species!!! A relationship should not be a mere fancy or hasty attraction only at the physical level. When a relationship is not well thought out, the whole life one will spending in adjusting with other person. Each one of is a product of our own past - education, upbringing, culture, tradition etc. If we are to build a relationship with someone who has a totally different background of culture and tradition, one has to become ready for constant adjustment, for one cannot just leave the past at will. When a child is born for such parents of different cultures, it will be difficult for her to choose one among the two as well! So, it is such uncertainties which are likely to happen, has led to apprehensions by the Indian community, I presume! Q: How can we streamline so that we have time to be more spiritual? Swamiji: Spirituality is not any particular activity. Religion prescribes rituals, worships etc in the form of actions to discipline us, not spirituality. Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad-Gita: 'yat karoshi

yadashnaasi...tat kurushva madarpanam' which means 'whatever you do, eat...everything you submit to me!' Spirituality is a process of shifting the attention. You look at a picture and if I ask you to start looking at the canvas on which the picture is painted...what would you have to DO? There is no action that you need to undertake. You just have shift your attention or focus. So is the practice of spirituality. Streamlining is to be done in the way you think. That is all! Q: When there is criticism constantly from someone, how do you react to it? What is the best way to handle? Swamiji: Only someone who is interested in you will criticize you, not a stranger! If it is something which you can use to improve yourself, then it is useful to you, invite it and not react to it. Yes, sometimes you feel hurt when you are criticized. But, eventually you should overcome that by acting on that instead of reacting. If someone is having the habit of criticizing you, then consider that as a sickly habit of that person. Just forgive and get going with your life. Be sympathetic toward such characters! Go to top

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Q & A session in Happy Living Camp - May 28-29, 2011 - PART 1 of 2
Q: How come some people are successful who do not believe in God? Swamiji: To be successful in the world one need not necessarily be a believer of God. He or she just has to believe in oneself. But such success need not necessarily stay long. When things change, such a non-believer continue to be strong or getting depressed? A believer of God derives strength from God which others do not.In Ramayan, during the war when all warriors in Rama's army were down, including Rama and Lakshmana, Vibheeshana got dejected and he asked Jambavan who was also wounded about the fate of Rama's army. Jambavan asked one question: 'Is Hanuman alright? If he is, there is no worry. He will revive everyone!' This is the strength of faith that Hanumanji had as true believer of God. Such a person not only remains strong in sorrowful situations and also helps others as well!

Q: Can series of bad results or circumstances deter or make you forget spiritual goals? Swamiji: They do. Very often we find that bad results makes people turn negative and develop disbelief in God. In such circumstances one should consciously seek company of good people (satsang). Unfortunately, when one has death at home, people say one should not go to holy places! In fact, that is the time one should go to such places to derive positive vibrations! Q: What determines length/time in achieving ultimate goal? Is it the method, intensity or purity of action? Swamiji: All of them. When I want to go from LA to Boston, how long it will take is decided by

what means by which I travel. Intensity expedites the journey as well. Purity of mind in action is highly essential for personal freedom which is the ultimate goal. For, freedom cannot be when your mind is polluted and divided by negative thoughts. Q: When arguing with your spouse how do you supress your ego and try to listen reasonably to your spouse? Swamiji: First of all why this question to me???? Anyway, it is because of ego that you argue with your spouse! If he/she is right there should not be any argument! In samskrit, arguments are classified into various types: Vaada is argument; samvaada is positive conversation to arrive at truth; jalpa is where one tries to prove one's point over another even if one'w own argument is wrong and vidanda vaada is to prove the opponent is wrong in whatever way possible! So, what is the kind of argument you are engaged with your spouse? If you are to prove him/her wrong, do you think it will end there? It will be start of new set of arguments for sure! And also you have to live with your spouse next day as well! Leave aside arguments and ego and find the truth of the situation. Q: It is said, 'you are your own best friend and you are your own worst enemy!' Please explain this in detail. Swamiji: This is mentioned in Bhgavad-Gita 'aatmaiva aatmano bandhuh aatmaiva ripuraatmanah.' One's own mind when under control is a friend, otherwise a foe! An enemy is one who constantly puts obstacles on your way, constantly discourages and works against you. If your mind is like that you have a constant enemy. Therefore befriend your mind by keeping it function under the guidance of a convinced intellect. Even if you are convinced, past habits can influence your mind. Therefore seek the right atmosphere to educate and inspire your mind. Satsang is important to keep the mind inspired! Q: How can I stop negative thoughts from coming into my mind during meditations? I always imagine the worst! Swamiji: Undigested thoughts are those that will disturb you in your meditation. It is like the undigested food that troubles your stomach. If you have not accepted a negative situation/interaction/event that will cause indigestion in the mind and as a consequence you will get negative thoughts during meditation. Until you become adept in calming the mind at will, avoid books, movies and so on that may create negative moods. Consciously engage in reading the life-stories of great thinkers, saints and inspiring anecdotes. Go to top

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Q & A at Bentonville, Arkansas - May 12, 2011

Swati: If you have committed the greatest sin, you become saint, what happens to the past actions? Swamiji: If a person has decided to change he has understood they have made a mistake- what is change- that I will no more be doing that and I have understood that ego is committing wrong sin- he knows the consequence of these actions is on ego not himself- ability to see himself independent of actions- future action will not experience the impact of ego- Lord Buddha said sorrows will not be avoided but suffering can be avoided. There is a clear choice between the two. Nagarajan- what are the religious spiritual texts? Swamiji: Self Enfoldment is the First Book. Spirituality is the process of self correction- This book tells us ways to correct oneself, followed by Kindle life, tatvabhodha, The Bhagavat Gita etc Nagarajan- could you elaborate your daily routine? Swamiji: Daily Schedule starts with worship of the lord and Gurudev -takes 2-3 hours, ,meet people, conduct study classes, preparing for upcoming programs, answering 50-60 emails on average and writing blog every day, researching, doing necessary physical exercise, an hour of meditation and nourishment to keep things going. Sundari- Is it possible to know if one has reached atman state? Swamiji: Yes. In the spiritual path, liberation is gradual- it is not sudden. It is a gradual stage of freedom, becoming light-hearted, of realizing from the hold of evil, more free, not caught up in own thoughts and entanglements. Angels fly because they take themselves very lightly- you leave prejudices. Don't get caught up in your prejudices and wrong notions. You see the wastefulness of futile thoughts, your mind is free. Enlightened master engages in actions by choice. And he can choose to leave at any time and enter state of peace. But for others it is very difficult to enter that state of peace. Satyan: When a person attains enlightenment how does one maintain it? Swamiji: Rama maharishi said it is like moon in broad daylight- same way mind of yogi- it is there for transactional purpose..not to disturb him. We are caught up with our thoughts- he engages the world by choice not by compulsion. Our case is opposite. Satyan: Why Ramana Maharshi gave moksha to his mother? Swamiji: He initiated her to enlightenment- Ramakrishna initiated Narendra to road of enlightenment- it was hard to surrender to the Guru completely...if you do you can also be led to enlightenment by your Guru Shivendra Bajpai- how do you teach religion in easy and simple way to children in this Country?

Swamiji: Religion has dont and dos. Children should be taught from a very early age the basic tenets of the religion. When they grow up they become more argumentative and the conversation becomes more about spirituality... When it comes to philosophy and spirituality, it requires more conversation. BK Vasan- Saddam, Osama were killed- what happens to their souls? Swamiji: They take another birth till they get out of the loop Satyan- Path of enquiry-how to go about it? Swamiji: It is very difficult and needs a lot of viragya. It is straight if your mind is pure. If there are agitations in your mind, then there are many ways to distract your mind and overcome them. Another way is to ask yourself wont you suffer the consequences of your own negative actions, isn't it destructive? You can go on the path of knowledge and overcome it. Path of yoga requires discipline. Path of self inquiry: you ask to whom is this thought? This thought is making me angry. Who am I? Is it not just illusion? But it requires the ability to let go. Whenever the mind gets distracted, bring it back immediately to ones Self. Go to top

Monday, March 28, 2011


Q & A with Vedanta Students at Krishnalaya on 26th March 2011
Manhar: What do the scriptures say about teachers who betray the sacred trust of students to further their own cause or agenda? Swamiji: They are like anyone else. They will be punished according to their acts. There is nothing specific about teachers. If they dont live up to their ideals, their own pursuit will be unfruitful. Nina: Its easy to intellectually understand that one goes from dedicating all actions to Him, to becoming one with Him. But after years of thinking of Bhagvan as a separate entity, how does one make the jump to non-dual thinking? Swamiji: It is difficult. For many people who have grown up in dualistic tradition, its difficult. It slowly happens. I read somewhere that one should start with I am His, then move onto He is mine, then He is me (Soham). Its like what Sri Hanumanji said, elaborating on his relation with Sri Rama, Identified with the body, I am Thy servant; as an individual I am Thy part; but as the pure Self, we are one. Thus is my firm conviction. (Deha-buddhya daso'ham jivabuddhya tvad-amshakaha, atma-buddhaya tvam-evaham iti me niscita matihi.) By devotion you get closer, you can have Him in your mind all the time. Nina: To many youth today, Gurudev is to us as Sri. Shankaracharya is to you. We read His

brilliant commentary, hear of His stories and know of His greatness, but have never experienced the power of His physical presence. If a Jivanmukta is beyond the body, how do we build a relationship with Him? Swamiji: A big piece is the literature they left behind. I was personally impacted with Swami Vivekananda. Even Guruji says that it was Swami Vivekananda who first inspired Him. We should live and understand the words of Mahatmas. For example, I know Sri Shankaracharya lived up to His ideal. We should try to emulate those ourselves. Masters never make you feel that the practice of Vedanta is far away. A relationship can be built by reading his commentary, listening to his talks, watching his videos. Every day I would listen to his talks as a CHYK. One hour every morning. That kept me going until I could get to know him personally. When you approach it that way, your relationship will begin with respect. Rita: Please define what Sri Shankaracharya means by a Sannyasis should give up ALL actions. Is Swadhyaya and Pravachan considered action? Swamiji: Swadhyaya (study of the scriptures) and Pravachan (teaching) are considered disciplines that a disciple should carry on in his or her life as mentioned in Taittiriya Upanishad (Svaadhyaaya pravachanaabhyaam na pramathitavyam) and other texts. It is action that will further connect you to the world, which will drive you to gain something from the world and continue to engage in samsara. In that way Meditation is not an action, learning is not an action, studying is not an action. Therefore Swadhyaya should not be given up by a man of renunciation. In most cases Pravachan is helpful practice too! Venu: Could you please explain how likes and dislikes become the cause of good and bad. Is it applicable to all situations, time and place? Swamiji: It is said in the commentary that likes and dislikes are gathered over a period of time and become the cause for good and bad. Not the direct cause, but indirectly, the cause of dharma and adharma. Likes may lead you to adharma. More specifically, a particular liking may lead you to getting it even through an adharmic means. For example, liking an object will force you to obtain it through wrong (adharmic) means, and conversely reading scriptures could lead one to liking heaven, this may lead to dharma. Dont create likes and dislikes while you get connected to the contact with the senses says Gita (Indriyasyendriyasya-arthe raga-dveshau vyavastitau, tayor-na-vasham-aagacchet tau hyasys paripanthinau) which, this will lead to dharma and adharma. Vishva: What is the significance of #3? Triads appear a lot in our scriptures. Swamiji: Specifically, there is really no particular reason. Yes, there are the 3 bodies, 3 states and 3 periods of time, BMI, Shivji is controller of 3 gunas, He has 3 eyes etc., there are lots, but there is no particular reason. There are groups of 4, 5 and 6 too! Vishva: Is the principal of doer-ship illusory, meaning the idea that we need to give up this sense of doer-ship?

S: Doer-ship is there, but its not real. Its like this do you dream? (Yes). Are you doing anything really while you are dreaming? (No) There is a lot going on in your dream - you are running, swimming, walking, etc., but you are not really physically doing anything. A story comes to my mind: King Janaka had a dream that he was a butterfly. Upon waking, the king asked his Guru - Ashtavakra, Did I dream that I was that butterfly, or is that butterfly now dreaming that he is a king? The Guru replied: Neither is true. You are not butterfly and he is not you, both are equally as false. From the standpoint of reality, even this satsang is not real. In chapter 2, verse 69 of the Bhagavad-Gita it says that That which is night to all beings, in that Self-controlled man wakes; where all beings are awake, that is the night for the sage who sees. In Advaita Makaranda, verse 11 it also says, The ego that sleeps does not know sleep. In the Atman that sleeps not, dream and waking cannot be; therefore I am the witness of the dream, waking and sleep states, and I do not have these conditions. From the wakers standpoint the dream is false, but from the dreamers standpoint, the waker is false. From the standpoint of the higher Self, doer is an illusion. Geeta: In one lecture you mentioned that Sri. Ramana Maharishi suggested the word SOHAM for meditation. Can you please expand? Should we be using it? S: I read somewhere that just for a short period of time every day, think of you as God. Assume that quality. Look at everything and youll find it is all YOUR creation. And the one who you dont like is also your creation! Everything you see; a dog, cat, human, leaves, sun, rain, think of that as yours. If you think yourself to be God, what complaints would you have? When you know everything is one, where is delusion and where is sorrow? (ko mohah kah shokah ekatvamanupashyatah Ishavasya Upanishad). This is SOHAM. If in meditation one can lift oneself to that point, everything looks so good. Theres nothing to own or reject. The eternality can be felt. This is the beauty of the meditation of SOHAM. Geeta: In mindfulness it is suggested to keep your mind where your hands are, or always try to be in the present moment. How helpful is it for a seeker? Swamiji: Gurudev would say, just give up the past, dont dwell on it. Few people worry about the future, but most worry about the past. When you see movies, watch TV or sports, you are in the present because you have forgotten your past at that time. Even reading a book or listening to music, you get lost, you are IN THE MOMENT. Why are people so crazy about sports? Because it makes them live in the present. Small children live in the present since they dont have a past to regret nor worries about the future they are always in the moment. As Bhaja Govindam says - baalastaavat kreedaa saktaha tarunastaavat tarunee saktahawhen they are young they play. That kind of state of mind can be emulated, where you enjoy doing anything and everything. This is the secret of Mahatmas they let go of their past and dont worry for the future. They live in the present. My Acharya was strict, stricter than me! We had tests every other week with no distribution of questions ahead of time. We would never know what to prepare for. Everyday there were 3-4 verses covered and we made sure we understood each one clearly. We formed a group and studied together. We got to know his mind and figured out what kind of questions He would ask. We also had to do so much seva, we used to wash our own clothes, dishes, gardening,

cleaning the lecture hall, kitchen, temple we hardly had time, maybe an hour here and there. We would study in between. Staying in the present is key to mindfulness. Jiten: The word Yajna has been used in so many different contexts. Whats the real meaning? Swamiji: The literal meaning of Yajna is sacrifice, where you offer without expecting anything in return. Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.. Go to top

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Satsang with Swamiji on 19th March 2011 at Krishnalaya
Maureen: What do you see as the biggest need of Chinmaya Mission that volunteers could help to fill? Swamiji: Most people living in this country people are lonely (perhaps due to lot of loans that they take up and they are 'loanly'!!!). To fill that loneliness they get into internet, TV, iPads, IPods, etc. We need to teach them how to be at ease with oneself and how to find joy without depending on things around us. The subject matter here is to find that freedom inside. Many parents ask me about how to bring up children in this culture. As their children become young adults, they seem to be not committed to life in terms of getting married, settling down and so on instead they become too career oriented. Parents are worried that their children do not follow the lifestyle which they have. Frustrated, the first generation of parents often want to go back to India, but they cant go or stay. Basically it is restlessness. If one can offer short courses, which provide hands on, practical hints, this would be the best thing to do. For example, the pranayama courses weve started or the 7 week meditation course I will complete when I am back in LA. People need these courses; they need some way of calming themselves down and being happy within. Meera: I have attended the Bhagavad Gita lecture series starting the 12th chapter. Ive noticed that many values mentioned sound the same. I wonder why God has repeated them so many times? Swamiji: Most of the scriptures are like that. Values are eternal. Repetition shows how important they are and how difficult they are, just like a parent repeats to their child over and over. As we grow, our desire remains the same, but the object changes. Anger or greed of an object may change, but the emotion itself remains with us. These values are timeless. Bhagavan cannot but repeat them. Jayendra: Vedanta and Hindu philosophy accept existence of the Atman. What is the Buddhist viewpoint on that?

Swamiji: They dont accept the existence of soul. They believe in karma. There are only 5 factors; body, feelings, sensations, minds temperaments and sensory consciousness. Ive inquired as to which one is constant and which goes to the next life. I am still unclear, but will continue to investigate. Geeta: Bhagavan Sri Shankaracharya tells us that Sarva-karma-sannyas is an important step in working towards Self Realization. How can we bring it to our own life? Can it be done gradually? Swamiji: So long as one has identification with the body, it is impossible to renounce all actions. As long as identification is there, karma will continue. We dont have to get rid of karma, but the goal is to get rid of this identification. Ego is of the nature of identification. Where you identify, your action will be. For example, if youre identified with your house, your work will be about your house, if youre identified with your family, your work will center upon your family. Our identification with the body is so much that all body related thoughts and actions will take place, like name, fame, respect, honor, etc. So Bhagavan says, identify with Me. Then karma will be dedicated towards Him. Vishva: Once seeker has decided that liberation is their primary goal, how important is continuous study of the scriptures? Swamiji: As Bhagavan Sri Shankaracharya says in Sadhana Panchakam, Study scriptures daily, (Vedo-nityamadheeyatam). If we dont consistently remember, we forget. Veda abhyas or swadhyaaya is very important aspect of keeping that hunger for liberation. Satsang is important or worldly things easily take over. Visva: Does this conviction precede or follow practice of karma yoga? Swamiji: If one is not interested in liberation/Moksha its unlikely he will do karma yoga. One would think, 'why would I give up results of my work?' Dont confuse a common man until he gets the understanding that work joy is limited. When he has matured, then for that sake he gives up action. He still may not understand it fully until mind gets purified. Visva: Often there is a strong attachment to the physical form of the Guru. Can you describe how this attachment evolves as a seeker progresses along the path? Swamiji: We say, hold onto Him who is detached from everything, for you to get detached from everything else. Attach yourself to a detached person to detach from all attachments. For the Guru, if he is a true one, there is no attachment for Him. Physical form of the Guru is a great thing. Remember what is said in Vivekchoodamuni; to get a human birth, the desire for liberation and a Guru are most rare. To get a Guru is a blessing, to learn from that Guru is a blessing. The difference between a teacher and Guru is a teacher teaches, a Guru guides. A Guru is one who takes you into his hands and guides you continuously. Not all students will find Guru in the teacher. Once the Guru comes into your life, your whole life goes through a transformation. Its like a storm that takes over. Once the Guru walks in, you dont exist. Let me share my story about Gurudev

I had no interest spirituality or religion. I had no intention of touching the scriptures, but once Gurudev came into my life, everything changed. I cant imagine my life without Him, I cant even think of life without Gurudev. My father went to an astrologer while I was studying in Sandeepany. He didnt tell the astrologer that I went to Gurukul. The astrologer looked as my chart and said, He must be in real trouble because he has sade saati - the curse of Saturn for 7 1/2 years! This will finish him off. If he survives, its a real blessing. Its either a terrible sickness or something bad. My father asked if there was any way I could get out of it. The astrologer said that the only one way I could avoid this is if I was under the guidance of a Guru. My father was shocked. He never willingly allowed me to go to Sandeepany, but after this experience, he never questioned it! The Guru is not a person, its the Lord himself having compassion for you and coming to you. After he walks in, there is a fundamental change in you. I no longer consider Gurudev as a human. The Buddhi of a realized master becomes Brahman. Gurudev was consciousness in movement. His presence was complete Brahman only. With that attitude you worship, you adore because you know that your very consciousness is only Him. Mukund: The Bhagavad Gita teaches us to deny fruits of action. Do you not then lose your intensive to work? Swamiji: There are 2 kinds of result of any action. Internal and external. Bhagvan says, if your actions are only for an external result, youre a Karmi. Gandhi is a great example of someone truly sought liberation. When India was celebrating independence he was spinning his wheel, as his actions were always for his own liberation. When you focus on the internal result, your focus will shift to purity of mind and this is great incentive. I always use this example: You and your son are both playing tennis. The sons intention is to win. Your intention is not to win, but to give him a challenge. If you lose youre happy. If he loses, he will cry because his intention is I must defeat my Dad. Mukund: Is it true that the more spiritual you get, the less material you become? Swamiji: Earning money is not wrong, so long as the purpose is clear. There are people who earn money so they can give more and share it with maximum people. Even corporations are serving people, because they employ so many. From a higher perspective, money is made and shared. Spirituality is not against materialism its the best combination. Bhagavan has said in Gita, 'yatra yogeshwara krishno yatra paartho dhanurdharah. tatra shree vijayo bhootir dhruvaa neetir matir mama' - Where there is Lord and man of action, there is prosperity, virtue, success etc. Where money is being shared and used for welfare of others, its a great situation. Some have become materialistic and intentionally forget about spirituality because they think spirituality is renunciation. Mukund: By denying pleasures doesnt one become more fatalistic? Swamiji: Taking care of the body and pleasing of the mind is not the purpose of life. Denial of the body & mind pleasures doesnt mean one is ready to die. I just sent out an e-satsang on destiny and destination. Destiny is not my destination; my destination is not my destiny. It cannot be destined to happen unless I do something. My eyes dont see without me, my speech wont speak without me, etc. I am the destination and I use the destiny to reach. This is called

purushartha, (self-effort). Nina: How do we know what our swadharma is and how do we match it to a profession? Swamiji: Swadharma is dictated by our gunas/swabhava. It takes time for us to know what our swabhava is. Dont just think that if you like doing something, its your swabhava. It is decided by your own analysis of your sattvik, rajasik and tamasik tendencies. Once you know what those are, find out if you can move from one area to another within your own profession. Do something similar to your current function, but more in tune with your swabhava. This is the best option. For example, if you are a lawyer and you are sattvik then support the good. Dont renounce a particular profession and do something else. Just fine-tune way you currently do things. Nina: Should we follow our swadharma if it impedes over our duty? For example, should one leave their high income job to be a low income musician if that is their swadharma, but it meant they couldnt appropriately provide for their family? Swamiji: No, nitya karma takes priority over swadharma Rita: You said in class: For whose sake are the indriyas functioning? Atma eva is the answer. But, since the relationship between Atma and BMI is a relationless relationship, can I assume that here Atma = Purusha/Kshetrajna? Swamiji: Yes. Manhar: Sacrifice, austerity and charity are purifiers of for wise. Those who work and perform action as sacrifice, are they not exhausting vasanas and at the same time purifying the mind? S: Yes. But just because you do sacrifice doesnt mean your will get purity of mind. It depends on your intention and purpose. Jiten: Please help me understand the subtle differences between these words; aatma saakshaatkaar, jivan mukta purusha, sthitha-prajna, gunaatiita, naishkarama-siddha purusha Swamiji: Naishkarama-siddha purusha is specifically where one has reached a state of actionlessness. Gunaatiita is still in the world of action. Applying the snake/rope example to all; a Jnana nishta sees the rope, not snake. A sankyan looks at the snake and doesnt give reality to it. Gunaatiita looks at it but doesnt have any problem with it, and a karma yogi takes the snake and offers it to the Lord. This is the difference. Venu: According to Vasishta Maharishi, the simple definition of vasana was given as desire without looking at the cause and consequence. How do we detect our vasanas? Can you please share your experience and the process that you used to detect and overcome your vasanas. This will inspire us. Swamiji: Vasanas are very subtle. Only in mediation you will realize your desires before they

become thoughts. There is a continuous cycle: Vasana -> intention -> desires -> thoughts -> actions -> reactions -> strengthening vasana . You cannot detect vasanas because they are in the karana shareera. Only as intention you will see them. The gross way of handing vasanas is from the reaction onwards. When you react you are adding more power to the vasanas and making them stronger. When you like or dislike, you are reacting. So dont react, move on. This is the grossest way to eliminate your vasanas. Subtler than this is through action. You should know what should be done and what shouldnt be done and also, how to be actionless. Move kamya karma, (desire driven action), away. Then comes dealing with the thoughts. Once a thought given reality, it will express in action. Give up the very thought. Meditation helps not give reality to thoughts. Desire you will find only when situations are manifest. Find situations where desire will unmanifest. The idea of happiness is that something is the cause of desire. Ask yourself, Is this causing happiness? Go into the intention. In deep meditation, one realizes that joy is not outside, but inside. This is now you attack vasanas. Nirmal: Being an Avatar of Vishnu, does Sri Krishna have the supreme power as indicated? Does the Shiva/Vishnu/Brahma trinity take us only to Brahama Loka? Swamiji: In Puranas there are powers of 3 kinds but in the Upanishads, there are no explanations of these 3. What this means is that Ishwara has 3 functions. Here Bhagavan Krishna is an avatar of that Brahman. Only Vaishnavites consider him as Vishnu. If you consider Him as Brahman, then theres no question of avatar. In the suktams, its all about Naryanan/Vishnu/Ganapati as Brahman. All is referring to Brahman only. Through the deity its only Brahman who is worshiped! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti! Go to top

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Q & A Session with Vedanta Students on 12th March 2011 at Krishnalaya, Piercy
Vijay Gupta: In Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 6 Krishna teaches us about 'formal' meditation process. It is said that Self realization takes place in meditation. Is it possible to obtain realization without 'closed-eye' meditation? How important is formal meditation? Swamiji: As Guruji wrote in Dhyanaswarupam, meditation is - to start with, stop doing what you have been doing. When one keeps engaging in regular chores, mind keeps preoccupied. Therefore, the instruction is - Don't do! However, when the mind is not engaged the body will go to sleep! So the appropriate instructions are given: Sit straight, stare at the tip of the nose, don't eat too much or too little, don't sleep too little or too much, don't engage in too much work and also don't remain lazy etc. These are all to make sure the body does not induce sleep while practicing meditation and also to keep the mind away from wandering. This will allow the mind to dwell on the Self.

Meera: Gurudev says in his commentary in BG.Chapter 16 that seekers should be cautious in the path. They may find some inner happiness and can get carried away and fall thereafter. Can you say more about obstacles on the path? Swamiji: There are always obstacles on the path. Look within and any trait that is not sattvik is an obstacle. Self-Study and Satsang are very important. We should always be around similar minded people, so everyone can progress together. Also in meditation you will know how much you have progressed by knowing how quiet is your mind. If it is not, understand that you don't have control over it. If there is significant reduction in thought-flow, then you have moved forward. Guruji used to say, 'see the smiling faces around you - are they happy around you or running away?. It is a tell-tale sign!' Early morning until you finish your puja, meditation, study etc DON'T TALK TO THE WORLD. The best time for sadhana is in the morning and until you complete that, the world should be considered as dead! For, once the mind engages in the world, it is difficult to bring it back. If you start your daily sadhana in the morning, you can face the world cheerfully for the remainder of the day!

Meera: Can we extend the time allocated to meditate? Swamiji: Gurudev says in his book on Meditation and Life, not to meditate more than half hour at a stretch. Inner quietude that you achieve in meditation is to extend it to the world that you interact. Once you achieve bringing stillness into mind, you don't need to engage in 'formal' meditation. For Sri Ramana Maharshi, who is so evolved it took 18 years...for Buddha according to Gurudev it was 24 years! What to say for us? We are so busy with the world, we can only find half hour every day to meditate...it will take 24 lives! We never know how long it will take! Jiten: When I host satsangs, how do I make sure it does not become a 'tongue tournament?' Swamiji: I will tell you what I have been doing. First thing I ask the host is 'who is the audience?' Without knowing the type of audience, you cannot know what topic to discuss. Practical tips for daily living such as how important is daily puja/japa/meditation etc. How to lead a good/noble family life with good values? How to handle youth of today? Your talks need not be heavy sounding. During the satsang, ask questions to the audience such as 'what you think about what is being said?' You can pick up their background and slowly move in that direction. Jiten: How do you make sure that they don't get into food/eating/gossip? Sometimes an hour satsang may turn into 20 minutes of discussion and 40 minutes of food! Swamiji: Sometimes we cannot avoid the social aspect, but make sure that you have an hour or more allocated specifically for discussion. Be strict with the timing and request the host not to engage in preparing food etc when the discussion goes on.

Meena: Revising Chapter 4 of Bhagavad-Gita, I realized there were so many things revealed about God and his incarnation. What is the context for revealing the four castes in that chapter? Swamiji: Different functions in this human society are divided based on 3 guna-s. The division is created to make the society function well. For accomplishing work by different people, there should be categorization! He says he created them as well remained as non-doer! Nina: There is a chart in Chapter 18 which shows four casts against 3 guna-s. It says Brahmana-s are 80% Sattvik, 15% Rajasik, and 5% Tamasik while Kshatriya-s are only 15% Sattvik, 80% Rajasik, and 5% Tamasik etc. Knowing we still have to act and engage in the world like Arjuna, does this mean we cannot reach a high level Sattvik state and as a result, the overall goal of Moksha? Swamiji: No, it just means we have to improve towards Brahmana like qualities. During his early years, Gurudev was giving a series of lectures in Chennai, and a group of Brahmana-s did not like Gurudev, a Kshatriya giving talks on Gita and Upanishads. They informed Kanchi Shankaracharya (Periyavaal) about this and asked him, his opinion. Shankarachaya asked them to bring Gurudev to him. When they both met, Gurudev came back and did not say anything. Later the curious Brahmana-s were told by Shankaracharaya, 'he is more Brahmana than any Brahmana you can meet!!' Even though born as a Kshatriya he developed Sattva and excelled in that! Rita: A while ago, you told us the steps to Moksha according to Bhagavad-Gita: Karma Yoga -> Chitta Shuddhi -> Jnaana Praapti -> Sarvakarma Sannyaasa -> Jnaana Nishta -> Atma Saakshaatkaar. I was looking through the verses in Gita only to find the ideas jump back and forth between Atma Saakshaatkaar and Jnaana Nishta. Where are these mentioned clearly? Are there specific verses in the order mentioned by you? Swamiji: Krishna did not decide this order! Later scholars found that this could be the theme. The steps mentioned are not the way he spoke - but it is the way it has been interpreted for better understanding. Venu: You introduced one day per week silence and it has been really helpful. What is the objective and next steps? Swamiji: The idea of observing silence is to see how your thoughts lead to action. Most of us speak without even thinking. When you observe silence, take that speech and absorb it in the mind. As said in Kathopanishad, 'yacchet vaak manasi praajnah'. Then, from the thought go to the intellect: 'tad yacchet jnaanam aatmani' . From there, go to the total intellect: 'jnaana aatmani mahati niyacchet' and from there to the Peaceful Self: 'tad yacchet shaanta aatmani'. What you do while observing silence is the first step of dissolving speech into the mind. This way you will be aware of thoughts before even you express them. Action arises when you identify with a thought. Thought identification is due to identification with 'I' thought. Eventually inquire as to where the 'I' thought arise from?' Ask 'Who am I?' This is the approach of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih! Go to top

Friday, March 11, 2011


Discussion with Prof. Bart Gruzalski on 'The Buddha' (continued)
Continuing on the topic of suffering...(Q by Swamiji, A by Prof. Bart Gruzalski) A: Ordinary suffering is suffering of change; subtle suffering is suffering of coming to realize that nothing is in our control. In the West, this is not accepted. For, free-will is a big thing here. Q: Freewill must be there or else there would be no spiritual practice. Freewill is there, but limited. It is like body getting hungry is no one's freewill - it happens. But what you eat is your freewill. 24 hours in a day is fixed but what you do in that time is your freewill. On the specific topic of Anatta (Non-Self), Buddha according to you, did not give any specific answer. He gave the example of fire and wood. When the wood is completely burnt fire is no more - it has not gone anywhere. So also with the self. How do we understand what the self is? Does the self exist as a thing. Sanatana Dharmis believe in the eternality of the self while the Materialists believe that there is no eternal self. What is the belief of Buddha? A: Anatta does not point to any metaphysical belief. When you notice any specific thing, it is not the same thing as Awareness (objectified); everything we take to be ourselves is not ourselves. There is a place where language cannot play a role. There is no place to go, only here and now! In terms of realization, there is nothing different between Buddha and Upanishads. Buddha never goes to negation of existence - he wants people to experience it. Q: Example of extinction of fire is given to indicate Nibbana or death? Among the five aggregates: body, feelings, perception, mental formation of sense consciousness, which one survives death? A: I don't know, but there is lot of evidence around reincarnation. Q: He disregards that the sustained existence of anything that remains the same. Vedanta says that there is a soul - Atman, the conditioned consciousness. A: Buddha does not deny that, but he does not say there is existence of soul. Q: So what is reborn? A: Rebirth has several meanings. We are born from moment to moment - how I am right now is different from what I was a second ago. He does not deny existence of something other than

these five aggregates. Some Buddhists believe some don't. Q: Since there is no specific mention of rebirth, what would be there other than the five aggregates? According to you, Buddha also talked about we being result of all of which we thought about. If we are product of thoughts, does that include past life? A: Buddha himself could remember 25 of his past lives, therefore there is no denial of reincarnation. There is some continuation which needs to be resolved. Q: Is it the sense consciousness that reincarnates? A: Sense consciousness is just consciousness of colors, touch, recognition etc. Q: On the topic of Right Understanding which is first among the eight-fold path, I understand that Buddha emphasized on experience rather than Intellectual pursuit. The next one, Right Attitude - is this instruction for common man or for the monks only? If one has to maintain Right Attitude, then a cop cannot catch a thief because that requires judgement. Right Attitude according to you in the book, is where one is not supposed to judge anyone. In the Hindu scriptures, especially in Dharma Shastras, duties of each class of people are clearly specified. Everyone's duty is different. For a Brahmin it is study and worship while for a king or a soldier it is protection of people. They are allowed to judge. How can Buddha say that Metta (loving kindness) should be practiced by all? A: You would follow the path of reasoning. You can still be a judge and punish without any illwill. It is similar to the way you would treat a child - he must be punished, but you are not punishing your child with anger and hatred; just with love and equanimity within yourself. Imagine a world's expert on 'grief'. He never had a personal experience. Then his parents died in an accident and he really experienced grief first hand. In his next lecture, he might say that he has nothing more to add than what he has been lecturing before. But he would say, 'now I understand grief!' This is Right Understanding - it is deep understanding. In the end Buddha says that there is the unconditioned, unformed. If it were not, we would get stuck in conditioned forms! Q: According to you, Buddha's instruction on Right Action is 'not to kill.' Whether you are killing yourself or making someone else to kill for you, both are unacceptable. If so, is meat eating allowed? A: Buddha said monks cannot eat meat. If something that has been killed for them of if they themselves engage in that act, they cannot be monks. Q: Does Buddha propagate non-killing? A: Strictly speaking, even vegetarians will face the same problem. In the production of grains, there are many living beings killed - bugs in the field, mice in the production plants etc. Gandhi said if you practice 100% ahimsa, you will have to just stop eating! I have question for you. According to Upanishads, does the conditioned soul ever become unconditioned?

Swamiji: Yes, that is the end goal. It takes many lives. But as you start 'unconditioning', you start to feel the freedom. You become more light and free as vasanas become less and less. You are not disturbed by externals. Eventually your conditioning wears out. Go to top

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Discussion on the book, 'The Buddha' with author Prof. Bart Gruzalski by Swami Ishwarananda
(Q from Swamiji, A from Prof. Bart) Q: We are happy to have you amidst us today Prof. Bart. At the time of writing this book, were you a professor? A: No, I had retired by then. I was a Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at North Eastern University of Boston prior to that. Q: I read the first part of your book, 'The Buddha' and the subject matter of Bhagavad-Gita is similar to what is said in the book - the cause of suffering and the four noble truths, one of them being: there is suffering! According to you, Buddha avoided metaphysical questions, i..e., Is the world real or not, what happens after death etc. he said old age, sickness etc are suffering. But what does he consider as 'suffering'? Pain? Anguish? Discomfort? A: The meaning of Buddha is someone who 'woke up'. He went with intent to solve suffering. It is achievable; but when you solve a problem, it doesn't mean you don't have physical, mental or emotional pain. We are still conditioned beings. What it means to solve suffering is to be able to abide with no aversion or hatred. Suffering is worrying, fear, anxiety, angry about our sickness etc. Q: He never said 'you are suffering'. He said 'there is suffering. But isn't it relative? For example, if I asked one of the students here to address the class from the stage, they would consider it suffering versus a professional speaker. Can't we say that birth is suffering for all? A: Suffering is common to all, but it is relative - what causes one to suffer will not cause another; but the odds are, the same kinds of things will cause suffering because we are all similar beings. Humans are more alike than unalike. This means that Buddha knew from his experience what general human problems/suffering would be. But suffering is ordinary, daily suffering. Causes are: not getting what you want, getting what you don't want, losing a loved one, doing this you

hate etc. It speaks to all people. He was trying to present what he understood a general way. You cannot understand this with just words! Q: This 'identification' according to Vedanta is the 'identification' with suffering. For example, I am feeling hot and uncomfortable; if i go to sleep, I no more feel uncomfortable because I no longer identify with feeling of hot. If a child is in the house which is caught on fire, the mother will go to pickup the child even if she gets burnt. If she saves the child, she is so happy even when there is burning wounds in her body! This means there is really no suffering of the burn, but happiness from saving the child. 'Suffering is worrying about something you should not worry about', says Bhagavad-Gita. Buddha makes the statement that 'there IS suffering', while Gita says it is relative! A: As you start practicing meditation, you will notice that it is not MY pain, or MY anger, but just pain or anger. In America, it is difficult to convey the Non-MYness (Irish - language translates 'I am angry' into 'the anger is ON me', 'the fear is ON me' etc). It is a difficult concept for North Americans to believe. Ignorance cause suffering OR taking things as ME and MINE. Q: As I read the book, I learned that according to Buddha there are 2 more causes for suffering: 1. Wanting to becomes something and 2. Wanting NOT to become something! - Doesn't this mean that change is unacceptable? A: It is not just the change; but my attitude towards change. It is not change that causes suffering, it is what can we bring to the change. Trying to attain things is a big thing in this part of the world, but once you start trying to attain something, it is hopeless! Q: On the topic of impermanence - anything that has a beginning has an end. There are certain things which have no beginning. For, when we talk about beginning we are taking into account the factor of Time. Per Adi Shankaracharya, only if you consider the time factor, 'beginning' has a meaning, otherwise not. A: It is a measurement of change. Idea behind impermanence is that all that has a beginning has an end. Everything we value in ordinary life: our relationship, our possessions, why we wake up etc - they are all the things that have an end. This can cause people to be upset. All that is mine, all which is beloved and pleasing will some day be separated from me. Now all we want to do is to weep for what we will lose. In Irish we have a phrase: 'In everything, there is but a little time'. It puts our attention on the moment Vs past/future. If you thing think, you will see the present beauty of leaves, nature etc. Q: On the concept of desire, Buddha says 'Don't annihilate desire, just abandon it.' Can you elaborate on this? As I understand when the desire is there, don't give importance to it. So, the

annihilation is an attempt to destroy it. Am I right? A: I was raised as a Roman Catholic and if there is an impure thought, and if I act on it I would go to hell. When you get an urge or negative thought, Buddha says don't repress it but don't act also. Don't identify with anger, but allow it to be witnessed and this allows the anger to diminish. I was raised to be angry, my father was angry man - one time when I was angry, I could almost see that anger and I had the insight that my father did not invent this anger, it was hereditary. I realized my father was just a guy who inherited this anger. Letting go means you don't act on it; don't repress it; just know it is not yours! Q: If you are to let it go, why go to the source of desire? A: Like it is said, in the Gita when you do an act, know that the act and the consequences have nothing to do with you; it is the same idea - doing your duty and not worrying about results. It is not trying to find the source it is that ignorance causes suffering. Ignorance about ME and MINE and who we are. It is not about finding where desire came from it is about solving for ignorance. Q: By knowing the cause of ignorance, aren't we trying to get rid of it? A: It is just about 'the way things are', being more aware in the moment. It is not about getting rid of ignorance, but trying to attain something. Go to top

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Q & A with Vedanta Students Mar 1-5, 2011
Mike: Swamiji, Buddha leaving his wife and child behind in search of Truth or Liberation....is not a tamasik Tyaga according to Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita? Ishwarananda: On a hasty look, it appears to be so. According to Lord Krishna, if one renounces due to delusion it is Tamasik and if it is due to fear of family burdens it can be termed as Rajasik. But in Buddha's case he has relinquished desires of worldly nature and renounced family in search of Truth. Therefore, it cannot be Tamasik or Rajasik. Nina: Swamiji, when we meditate on Truth or Self, we don't know what is on the other side...meaning, we don't know what we are going to experience. Therefore, what is the nature of the journey? Ishwarananda: It is like climbing a mountain and reaching the top, from where the view will be

unbelievably different. You cannot fathom it now. You must believe in the words of those who have gone and come back. The journey is of course most enjoyable when you have faith in those who have reached there and reported to you! Go to top