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Art of Living Wisdom

Art of Living Navrati decoded


Did you count the divine audience? We have heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talk about this! Many have even captured them in their picture frames. Some try to explain it as a scientific phenomenon. Some even call it a “blue-star” syndrome. Some more even take the liberty of ignorance to dismiss it as a superstition.

Yet the phenomenon of “angels” or divine energies being spotted during various spiritual activities blessed by Sri Sri continues to intrigue those who seek to know the real truth about this creation. It is impossible to dismiss this intriguing phenomenon of angels, after finding out what a Naadi Expert decoded just after this year’s Navratri celebrations at the Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore.

Naadi is an ancient science that decodes the past, present and future of an individual as foreseen by sages in ancient time and recorded in palm leaves. There are very few experts who have the knowledge to decode the inscriptions.

I wish modern science could testify this 7000 year old Akashic records and corroborate the revelation of all devas, devis and sages assembling at the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore for the Navratri celebrations!After the Chandi Homa, the Naadi Expert checked the palm leaves and decoded the following conversation between Kaushik Muni and one of his disciples.

Astonished by seeing that all sages, saptarishis, devas and devis including Bramha, Vishnu and Mahesh were present in Art of Living Ashram for all the nine days of Navratri, the disciple asked Kaushik Muni to throw light on it. Hear it from the horses’ mouth:

Disciple: All of you are sitting here for all the nine days. Are you not responsible for rest of the world? Don’t you have to go anywhere else to fulfill your responsibilities? There are places with famines and floods which need your attention, but you all are happily sitting here.

Kaushik Muni: We go everywhere, but here the yagnas have been done for all of humanity and without any selfish motive and without any deceit in the heart. The poojas here have been done for the benefit of whole world. That is why we come here.

Disciple: If someone does a small puja with same devotion, will you go there also?

Kaushik Muni: Even if it was a small yagna, we would have come here because it was done with selfless motive for benefit of whole world. So we would have come to bless so that it reaches the whole world.

Disciple: But you were not even invited here?

Kaushik Muni: But we were welcomed nicely and taken very good care of.  Also, here the pundits don’t do the yagnas as a profession, but with a pure heart. The fruits of yagna have reached even those who are not here physically but have remembered Gurudev, They have all been blessed. Many calamities have been averted; the hearts of people with violent and negative tendencies have been transformed.

Listening to this fascinating conversation etched on thaliyola (palm leaves) 7000 years ago with iron nails in Vatteluttu, the ancient Tamil script, it becomes official and absolute truth that not just millions of mortals across the globe, but even subtle beings called variously as angels, devas, devis and sages are also drawn to purity and authenticity of Sri Sri’s spirituality.

How often we have seen the unseen hands of divinity playing out in our lives. Surely, we don’t need to be told about it by a Nadi expert. Yet, it’s nice to know even the divine comes running where we go!

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Music, Navratri & Sri Sri


Music, to put in a gross way, is a group of musical notes of different frequencies or pitch arranged in a particular pattern and rhythm. However, this gross description is incomplete as it is limited only to the subjective aspect of music. In reality, music is a means of finding the Self.

The purpose of music is to transport the listener (and the musician) beyond the mechanical sound of the notes to the inner silence, another realm of one’s being. That’s why music is also known as nadyoga. Through music one can attain the transcendental. It is an important aspect of life like bhakti, gnana and karma. A nadayogi focuses on nada as the absolute brahman of which this entire creation springs out.

The finest aspect of music comes alive every year during the annual Navratri celebrations with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore.

The evening before the day of Maha Chandi Homa a musical bliss dawns when Sri Sri plays Veena, the instrument of Goddess Saraswati. It is an out-of-the-world experience by itself. One can literally feel that the strings in one’s heart are being played that resonates throughout one’s life. Sri Sri’s Veena rendering is followed by the offerings of devotees in the form of dance, music (instrumental and vocal), Vedas, ancient scriptures,stotras in praise of the Mother Divine!

It’s not just a divine rendition of Veena, but elevating music as a form of worship. Goddess Sarawati is worshipped on the last three days of Navratri as the sattvic expression of Devi, known to bring self knowledge.

The Goddess, who is worshiped as the deity of music, is depicted to have a veena, the symbol of music, in one hand and a book, the symbol of knowledge, in the other. Knowledge is the subject of the left brain. Knowledge is not complete without music, which is the subject of the right brain. Music balances knowledge. For the journey of life to be complete, both music and knowledge are essential.

During the sacred Navratri celebrations at Bangalore Ashram, music is intricately intertwined with the invocation and worship of Shakti – the pure energy.

The ancient scriptures say, ‘Shruti is the mother, and laya is the father of music.’ Shruti is translated as pitch and laya is translated as rhythm. But they are much more than pitch and rhythm.

Shruti and laya are not separate. They merge into each other and have to remain indivisible throughout for music to exist. Laya, the rhythm, is in the soul of the universe. Everything in this creation changes, and this change follows a very precise rhythm. The universe itself revolves in a rhythm.

Laya is the attribute of music that is beyond the tangible rhythm of the music. Laya means to let go, to unite. Laya is complete cessation. It is the merger of all the different rhythms at the levels of one’s body, senses, mind, intellect, memory and ego to the one consciousness, the non-dual brahman. It is through this laya that the notes in the music are absorbed into the ‘swara’.

Music ‘happens’ when swara takes over! There the music, the musician and the listener, if any, with all the instruments cease to exist as individual entities, and dissolve into the one brahman, the nada!Swara is subtler than and far beyond the subjective sensation of the musical notes. Swara translates the subjective ‘anubhava’ to the objective ‘anubhooti’.

‘Swa-ra’ in Sanskrit means, ‘that which illumines itself’. It cannot be obtained through mere practice or penance, nor can one be trained to get it. It has to dawn by itself! And when it dawns in the musician, it shines forth itself through his music.

It is the swara and not just the technical correctness of the pitch or the quality of tones or the voice of the musician that makes music transcend and transport one to its destination.The sound that is beyond the finest vibration, the seed form of all the sounds is the state of absolute stillness, the nada, which can only be attained, not perceived through the physical ears.

Posted by Dr Manikantan Menon; Dr Mani promotes ‘Holistic well-being’ thru a blend of Ayurveda, Music and Indian Spiritual Knowledge & Yogic Practices

 
 

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Art of Living : Navratri For Who’s and Who’s


For the uninitiated, it is a time to dance, party and socialize in a grand way! For the Master it is a time to set an example of honoring the practice of silence! For the seeker it is a time to go within and let go of identifications with the modulations of the mind! For the ashramites it is a time to brace themselves up to handle the chaos of the crowds with their wit and patience!

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

That which brings rest at three levels is ratri.  Someone caught up in blaming,  regretting the past, hankering  for pleasure or anxiety of their future well-being is unable to really rest despite having material comforts. For such people Navaratri could be translated as Nava( no)-ratri(rest)- that the lifestyle and attitudes they are pursuing is not bringing them any deep rest.

However, for a seeker who has tasted something deeper than the transient sensory charms of the world, it is a time to honor that which moves the senses. A scenery is charming because it captures the mind, stops it from running around. The same scenery which for the bhogi is a habitual channel to run away from oneself, for the seeker-the yogi is a channel to return within.

What is the energy, what is the power by which the eye is able to see? The power by which we are able to connect to the world outside? The ancient Rishis called this the Shakti-the divine energy which is a part of the Brahman, the absolute. Manifesting as the play of the three qualities- the satvic, rajasic and tamasic tendencies,  this energy brings about the cognition, activity and ignorance or forgetfulness respectively.

Of course when we first hear about the tamasic energy manifesting as ignorance the reaction would be that of aversion–wanting to move away from that. However, Navaratri is the time to honor even  that. Slumber, procrastination, delusion, inertia, ignorance — if one consciously decides to honor them it is not hard to see the value they bring to life! Honoring these aspects directs them toward what is life supporting. For example procrastination is a blessing when it comes to reacting to an insult! Not knowing all that is going on in people’s minds is a blessing, else imagine the amount of noise one would experience sensing the thoughts of everyone around!

Without this tamasic energy one would not be able to sleep-as anyone who has been excessively worried and anxious sometime has experienced. Without the rajasic energy, it would be impossible to be active at all, there would be no movement! Lord Buddha as he got enlightened, just stayed silent in ecstasy as the rajas, tamas had completely subsided. The angels had to request him, nudge him, cajole him into speaking, traveling and sharing the light for the benefit of the seekers.

All these three energies are divine – and yet if one does not honor the divinity of them, the truth, the infinity which moves them, it is impossible to fathom them. In other words, on a day one feels dull and lethargic, taking a few moments to acknowledge that this is not really something that is their own but just the tamasic energy manifesting can free one! Just taking a little time to honor it — which is not same as indulging or encouraging it — and knowing that this is just a play of the divinity, of the timeless, of something much much larger! The moment this shift happens one is able to be light and playful again and not caught up in identifying oneself with the effects of these qualities!

Navaratri is the time to consciously honor these three aspects of the Shakti, which sustain life, just remembering their divine origin, their true source which is the pure untainted consciousness  brings deep rest. All the meditations, ceremonies, rituals are aimed at this. May this Navaratri move you from the limited to unlimited, from bondage to freedom!

Watch the live webcast of Navratri Celebrations 2012 in presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from Art of Living International Center, Bangalore: http://www.artofliving.org/navratri-webcast

Posted by Dr Birjoo Vaishnav

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Art of Living Review, Art of Living Wisdom

 

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All are Mother’s forms


Many years ago, I read this wonderful story in a Chinmaya Mission book.

Once, when Vinayaka was very young, he went out to play. Finding no one around, except a cat, he tried to play with her. But the cat seemed in no mood to play. Vinayaka tried to coax her by caressing her and offering her food, but she would only run away from him. After many futile attempts in getting her to play with him, Vinayaka lost patience. In a fit of rage, he hit her so hard that she fell a few yards away and  was bruised badly. Finally, Vinayaka thought that it was a waste of time and ran inside to his mother.

When he went inside his mother’s chamber, he was aghast at what he saw! Ma Parvati had bruises all over her body. Vinayaka was so sad at seeing his beloved mother in this condition that he started weeping. Ma Parvati drew him close and calmed him down. Vinayaka, crying desperately, asked: “Ma! What happened? Who did this to you?? Just tell me the name!!” Ma replied compassionately: “Darling, who can dare to hurt me? I can burn anyone to ashes by just one look. It was you who did this to me and hence, I didn’t oppose. I love you very much, my son!”

Vinayaka was baffled! How can this be? Still sobbing, he said: “What are you saying, Ma? How can I even think of hurting you? So much so that I did not even come near you all morning!” To this, Ma Parvati, with the shine back on her beautiful face, replied: “I know dear that you love me so much and wouldn’t think of hurting me. But in the morning, didn’t you hit the poor cat who didn’t want to play with you?

From now on, know that, everything and everyone that you see is my own manifestation. Whatever you say and do finally comes to me!!”

Vinayaka was stunned. Although young, he was very sharp. Ma Parvati didn’t have to say anything more. Vinayaka apologized to her. He had realized that ‘All are Mother’s forms’. 🙂

The non-dual Brahman expresses itself as ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakruti’. Prakruti is the manifested creation and that is what we call ‘Divine Mother’. The entire creation is One being! Everything and everyone is a part of the Divine Mother.

Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi are all different aspects of the Divine Mother. She loves variety and intends that we enjoy the diversity rather than be fanatics! The knowledge of the divine mother puts to rest the inferior tendencies of the mind like greed and jealousy. We stop abusing food, wealth, power, natural resources, even our own bodies, because everything is a form of the Divine Mother.

Navratri, for me, is the time to adore and pamper the Divine Mother. And in turn, get pampered! 🙂 It is the time to relax and enjoy the beauty around and inside us.

As our beloved Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is in silence at our Art of Living Banglore Ashram, let us take time off to remember this gift of knowledge and abundance that we have received by His grace.

Jai Guru Deva!

PS: This time of the year, it is Fall season here in Utah and the Divine Mother is busy flaunting her sense of fashion. 🙂

Fall colors in the mountains of Utah, USA.

 

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Art of Living with one’s own mind


Usually we think of scientists as people narrowly focused on their specialities. What would a scientist have to do with spirituality?

Richard Feynman

Well, one of the greatest physicists since Einstein, the famous Richard Feynman was fascinated by the workings of the mind and experimented with different meditation techniques. His experience with hypnosis and the power of belief is very insightful in to how our mind often fools us. Here is his story in his own words!

On Wednesdays at the Princeton Graduate College, various people would come in to give talks. The speakers were often interesting, and in the discussions after the talks we used to have a lot of fun. For instance, one guy in our school was very strongly anti-Catholic, so he passed out questions in advance for people to ask a religious speaker, and we gave the speaker a hard time.

In the great big dining hall with stained-glass windows, where we always ate, in our steadily deteriorating academic gowns, Dean Eisenhart would begin each dinner by saying grace in Latin. After dinner he would often get up and make some announcements. One night Dr. Eisenhart got up and said, “Two weeks from now, a professor of psychology is coming to give a talk about hypnosis. Now, this professor thought it would be much better if we had a real demonstration of hypnosis instead of just talking about it. Therefore he would like some people to volunteer to be hypnotized. I get all excited: There’s no question but that I’ve got to find out about hypnosis. This is going to be terrific!

Dean Eisenhart went on to say that it would be good if three or four people would volunteer so that the hypnotist could try them out first to see which ones would be able to be hypnotized, so he’d like to urge very much that we apply for this. (He’s wasting all this time, for God’s sake!)

Eisenhart was down at one end of the hall, and I was way down at the other end, in the back. There were hundreds of guys there. I knew that everybody was going to want to do this, and I was terrified that he wouldn’t see me because I was so far back. I just had to get in on this demonstration!

Finally Eisenhart said, “And so I would like to ask if there are going to be any volunteers . . .”

I raised my hand and shot out of my seat, screaming as loud as I could, to make sure that he would hear me: “MEEEEEEEEEEE!”

He heard me all right, because there wasn’t another soul. My voice reverberated throughout the hall–it was very embarrassing. Eisenhart’s immediate reaction was, “Yes, of course, I knew you would volunteer, Mr. Feynman, but I was wondering if there would be anybody else.”

Finally a few other guys volunteered, and a week before the demonstration the man came to practice on us, to see if any of us would be good for hypnosis. I knew about the phenomenon, but I didn’t know what it was like to be hypnotized.

He started to work on me and soon I got into a position where he said, “You can’t open your eyes.”

I said to myself, “I bet I could open my eyes, but I don’t want to disturb the situation: Let’s see how much further it goes.” It was an interesting situation: You’re only slightly fogged out, and although you’ve lost a little bit, you’re pretty sure you could open your eyes. But of course, you’re not opening your eyes, so in a sense you can’t do it.

He went through a lot of stuff and decided that I was pretty good.

When the real demonstration came he had us walk on stage, and he hypnotized us in front of the whole Princeton Graduate College. This time the effect was stronger; I guess I had learned how to become hypnotized. The hypnotist made various demonstrations, having me do things that I couldn’t normally do, and at the end he said that after I came out of hypnosis, instead of returning to my seat directly, which was the natural way to go, I would walk all the way around the room and go to my seat from the back.

All through the demonstration I was vaguely aware of what was going on, and cooperating with the things the hypnotist said, but this time I decided, “Damn it, enough is enough! I’m gonna go straight to my seat.

When it was time to get up and go off the stage, I started to walk straight to my seat. But then an annoying feeling came over me: I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t continue. I walked all the way around the hall.

I was hypnotized in another situation some time later by a woman. While I was hypnotized she said, “I’m going to light a match, blow it out, and immediately touch the back of your hand with it.

You will feel no pain.”

I thought, “Baloney!” She took a match, lit it, blew it out, and touched it to the back of my hand. It felt slightly warm. My eyes were closed throughout all of this, but I was thinking, “That’s easy. She lit one match, but touched a different match to my hand. There’s nothin’ to that; it’s a fake!”

When I came out of the hypnosis and looked at the back of my hand, I got the biggest surprise: There was a burn on the back of my hand. Soon a blister grew, and it never hurt at all, even when it broke.

So I found hypnosis to be a very interesting experience. All the time you’re saying to yourself, “I could do that, but I won’t”–which is just another way of saying that you can’t.

Posted by Art of Living Blogger Dr Birjoo Vaishnav 

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Art of Living Review, Art of Living Wisdom, Others

 

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All the way to Persia… Ganesha is Everywhere


Ganesha Chathurthi has arrived, the festival to invoke the Divine Lord Ganesha and his blessings for  prosperity and happiness. Lord Ganesha is a fun-loving, dancing, frolicking divinity and has been symbolically and graphically illustrated and modelled in different forms, from riding on His vahana, vehicle, the mouse Mooshika, to the modern day figurines, showing Him speaking on the phone, typing on the computer etc. Interestingly, all these caricatures seem to suit Him well and only go to make Him dearer and more loveable.

Who is Ganesha?

His name Ganesha, has two components, Gana plus Esha.

Esha means “the lord of”.

Gana stands for count, numbers, multitude. Which is why, the subject mathematics in the Indian knowledge system is known as “Ganitham”. The name Ganesha denotes Him to be the lord of multitudes and numbers and the faculty that is needed to count, deal with multitudes, is knowledge, intellect. It is this intellect which can help man overcome obstacles as man’s obstacles primarily stem from his mind.

Ganesha is also called Vigneshwara, the one who removes obstacles. And to channelize our mind, our thoughts and energies in the right direction to ensure successful completion of any task, we pray to Vigneshwara before we embark on any important activity, before all beginnings.

With this intellect to discern good from bad, knowledge and strength to overcome obstacles and act wisely and purposefully, it is but natural man will live the knowledge of Art of Living and be endowed with prosperity. Hence Ganesha is also considered to usher in prosperity and good luck. And to embody the humility that should go with all these wealth and wisdom, He is also called Vinayaka or the humble, approachable one.

This concept of praying for mental strength, wisdom, prosperity and to ward off all obstacles before embarking on any important activity, transcends many cultural and geographic boundaries and is not confined to India alone.

Janus and Ganesha

In ancient Rome too, the pre-Christian era had a divinity known as “Janus. Janus was a divinity who was propitiated to, during all beginnings. Images of Janus were also installed on doorways as a guardian. This Janus had two faces, one to look at the past and one to look at the future.

The God Janus

Janus and Ganesha both seem to be associated with two faces.

Ganesha had a human face before He got an elephant face. There are many interesting similarities between Janus and Ganesha including the aspect that phonetically their names are also similar. Janus is also a divinity associated with numbers, which is why, the first month of the calendar is named January after Janus.

Ganesha, Ganesha Everywhere

It is not only in Rome, but in different other parts of the world, that we find the knowledge, appreciation and reverence to the concept denoted by Ganesha.

We have sculptures of Ganesha in Central America, Persia, Afganisthan, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia and in many other South-Eastern Asian islands.

Kangiten Ganesha, Japan

Depiction of Ganesha as Warrior in Persia

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and forms the major part of the south eastern archipelago. The currency, the Rupiah note of Indonesia too, has an image of Ganesha, depicting him as a divinity for numbers and knowledge.

From this example, we can see that the concept of Ganesha was prevalent far and wide from faraway Central America to Europe to Asia, more than 2500 years back itself.

This commonality and the prevalence of the concept of Ganesha across the world, brings to our attention that Ganesha is not just a Hindu divinity in the limited sense, but a divinity of knowledge and numbers, not just of India but of the multitudes across the world.

Ganesha with all His multitude of forms, symbols and stories, is a concept, Tattva, epitomising the winning formula for a good mind, intellect, knowledge, strength and prosperity, which is the direction we all need to progress in.

Sharing here a beautiful talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar where he unlocks the symbolism of Ganesha Festival

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan. They may be contacted through www.bharathgyan.com . Email: bharathgyan@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Art of Living Wisdom

 

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God listens and takes care


As a child, I remember my mother teaching us to sing this Gujarati prayer every evening, “Sau nu karo kalyan, Dayalu Prabhu, Sau nu karo kalyan”, which means, “Oh kind God! Bless everyone for their welfare, wellness!” Right from the time I started to learn this prayer we said this every single evening, along with some other Sanskrit Mantras.

I must have been around 10 years old, when I asked her, “Mom, why do we have to tell God to do good to everyone? Isn’t God kind and compassionate enough? I thought God loves us all.” My mother laughed and said, “Prayer is talking to God my dear.  God knows everything, we remind ourselves of this while praying, that God is always there to take care of all…” This question stayed in the mind for some time. I grew up and forgot about it, while still saying all prayers every evening.

Recently, I was teaching an Art of Living’s course for children(Art EXCEL) in a small village in Assam, in the middle of heavy rains and floods. We had 200 kids on this course and some of them would cycle 10kms one way, to reach the course venue. During this course, I would feel so lucky to teach such committed children. One of the days, while the children were meditating, it started raining very heavily. The meditation got over and all kids shared miraculous experiences. It was evening and time for closing the day. It kept raining.

Due to the heavy rains, none of the parents could come to pick up the children. Here I was, stuck inside a hall, jam-packed with 200 kids. It was now getting dark and rain started flooding the outside area, to an extent that if had continued for even 10mins more, there would have been water in the hall.

At this point a little girl walked up to me and asked, “Why are you not smiling, any tension?” I said to her, “It’s raining so much, how will you all go home, I am concerned?”

This kid smiled back and told me not to worry. I saw her running to the window. She stood there, looked at the sky, closed her eyes for a minute. Then this little angel ran back to me and with so much conviction she said, “Now you please smile, the rain will stop because I have prayed to the clouds to stop the rain.”  Within five minutes the rain reduced and eventually stopped in 10 minutes.

This is when I remembered my mothers’ words, “Prayer is talking to God!”  I always heard this and somewhere knew it as well. There is some Divine force that runs everything, knows everything and is always there with all of us. My journey with Art of Living has me very certain of this benevolent Divinity through many  beautiful experiences.

Author Hetal Mehta is a versatile and dynamic Art of Living Teacher

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom

 

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