Sunday, January 29, 2017


It is very dangerous these days to talk about morality. We would accept any moral injunction as long as it is what we wish to hear. The moment we hear something that rejects our position, we feel immediately revolted and try to find reasons to escape the rule. Some moral teachers also preach unnecessary or foolish things in the name of morality. So, people develop a strong aversion to any moral-talk. They would laugh and say, "Here comes the saṃskārī, who will lecture us on culture and morals! Let us escape." Others may choose more violent methods. 

However, morality is the basis of spiritual life. Today, spiritual movements gain traction because people face difficult situations in life and do not know how to cope with them. They are under stress. They want to escape that situation. Some people are truly curious about themselves. In either case, the starting point of many spiritual excursions is the misplaced sense of ego which wants to enhance itself in one way or the other. How can I become better? How can I become more successful in life? etc.

In a society where choices are limited, people are content to settle for whatever is available to them. But, when there are many choices, the mind becomes distracted. It develops jealousy and dissatisfaction. The mind that has many choices is never content. It never allows the individual to live. It is always comparing and optimizing. It is always frustrated. There are smiles on faces of ordinary people but the rich man is frustrated and tense. 

We choose spiritual paths to become better; we need one more accomplishment. These spiritual paths have their own set of moral dictates. Then, one starts following them taking resolution to remain steadfast. But, after the honeymoon period, the effects vanish. For a brief period, the stories of other people return one to focus on the discipline. After a period of time, even that becomes shallow. The mind becomes frustrated. Some spiritual traditions openly declare that no morality is needed, and there also one is frustrated very soon. Freedom is a very tricky thing.

Morality cannot come from rules or books or from the desire to accomplish something. These are dangerous ways to justify one's methods. Anything can be justified quickly. 

A spiritual life is the true basis for morality. Morality is that which enables a spiritual life and raises the consciousness of the individual. It does not constrain the individual and lead one to suffering. It is not an ancient dictate. 

Absence of morality is not freedom. It leads to a society where the members are not interested in a spiritual life. They are busy doing the things that all animals are doing. But, they think they are doing it in a glorified way. That is why there is plenty of wealth and also plenty of poverty. If an alien were to come from a different planet and look at all the wealth in this planet, and then look at all the hunger and poverty, he would be very surprised. This is clearly immoral. People say that they want their money to do something. Of course it should. Far be it from me to say that we must simply divide up all the wealth and be content. Let money do something; let there be investment, profit, etc. In fact, we cry, "Please let it do something." The results must add up to a better life, to lesser hunger, lesser disease, more time for spiritual pursuits and knowing oneself. We have to come out of the life of a beast and know ourselves. That is the goal of life. What kind of values lead us to that life? The answer to this constitutes morality. 

If teachers merely say, "do this, do that", no one would be prepared to listen. They must show how it leads one to a more spiritual life. The individual also would do well to not simply discount morality and claim liberty. There is no liberty in being the victim of emotions and passions. It is a very injurious way of living, even to physical health. One must go deep and understand why the system is so. 

Without morality, there is no spirituality. In Śrīvacanabhūṣaṇam, Svāmī Piḷḷai Lokācārya says that an enlightened master should demand and instill spiritual morals before admitting one as a disciple and revealing the esoteric mantra. 

For these spiritual morals to evolve, the simple, direct and most effective reason is love for Nārāyaṇa. Love or Bhakti or Prāvaṇya is the state of excellence of consciousness. Viṣṇu is the purity in what is pure, and can purify any individual who seeks His refuge; He is our deepest self (Paramātmā); we are His mode, His expression. When this love, Bhagavad-bhakti, Bhagavad-prāvaṇyam, takes root, spiritual morals will develop automatically . There is no need to keep pointing and saying, "do this, don't do that". All spiritual morals find purpose and direction through the love for God, the cause of all causes, our deepest Self and Master. 

The best spiritual morals are restraint over external senses and the mind. Note that restraint is not control. Restraint comes from the loving state of God-consciousness. This is an important point. When one has reached this stage, the master reveals the message of esoteric mantra. It is hidden till then not because it is some orthodox way of keeping secrets, but because it makes sense to the listener only then. When it makes sense, one attains God and attains the highest abode. 

Spiritual morality is important not because it binds but because it liberates, not because it restricts life, but because it fills it with meaning. Then there is no frustration, no sense of emptiness or loneliness, no confusion in purpose. It is all very clear. 

Friday, January 27, 2017


Let us talk about ownership today - the next big thing after relationship. 

We have a legal system that gives us a sense of ownership over goods and property. We get paid money for work. Some people try to one another in gaining possessions, wealth and money. 

Let us go beyond this socio-legal construct of ownership and ask the question, "Do we really own anything?" 

Note that this discussion does not imply that the socio-legal construct is useful. Of course, it is! A civilization that respects ownership is better than one that doesn't. 

However, is there anything real about ownership? 

In some countries, there is great importance given to private ownership. In other countries, government ownership is deemed correct. In some places, the land can belong to anyone. In other places, the land belongs to the people or sons of the soil. 

Is there anything real about any of these various forms of ownership? Does the land not belong to plants and other animals? Do they have a right to ownership?

If we agree that there is nothing radically different in humans from other forms of life, and that we are continuous as biological forms, why is it that our philosophies of ownership do not respect animal habitats and territories?

These questions are easily answered by the evidence of locks, doors and other safeguards put in place to protect property. Deep down, we realize that our property does not belong to us. Everything we own can be taken away given appropriate social conditions. We can lose our houses, money, possessions, why, even the body. 

There is no essential bond between I and my property. What is mine can easily come in to the hand of some one else. Losing a pencil is non-different from losing something expensive. Both are manifestations of the same principle: in reality, outside our constructs, we do not own anything. 

The extreme case is this: I assume this body to be mine and use it to fulfill my needs and wants. However at death, this body will come into the possession of someone else. It may be buried or burned as they deem fit. 

No, this is not the extreme case. 

The extreme case is that even I do not belong to me. Even if I turn super-spiritual, I cannot will my salvation. I cannot choose whether to be born and become associated with a particular body,  

In the Śrīvaiṣṇava Viśiṣṭādvaita system, the unquestioned illusion that one belongs to oneself is considered the root cause of all theft. 
A verse asks, What theft is not committed by one who has stolen oneself?  In truth, everyone and everything belongs only to Nārāyaṇa.

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The root cause of all suffering is also this illusion of independent individuation. Once again, we say to the detractor, "You can argue that you have no faith in Nārāyaṇa, but you cannot deny that you do not possess anything in reality. What is your's today becomes another's tomorrow. Things that belonged to others are given to you. You have no choice of the body you choose to dwell or become born into. You have no control over the fact of your existence. You can call it nature, universe or universal spirit. But, we are all in its bind. We can choose not to be attached to things. But, we cannot will away that which produces attachment. Needless to be emphasized that we cannot will away or obtain things by mere wish."

So, this is truth. This is a fact. We do not own anything, not our bodies, not even our deepest selves. Let the legal contracts exist for peaceful coexistence but not to bind us in illusion. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Today, relationships have become a big deal. Several people have problems in their relationships. Nowadays, it is very worrying to see people having difficulty getting along peacefully with each other. Our people are trained in physics, mathematics and several other sciences. However, they are not trained to live in harmony with others. 

The fact that we are unable to live in harmony is apparent by the extent to which we pollute air, water, soil, food, everything. The culture of consumerism has led to unwanted desires and excess consumption. Every instance of excess consumption must be counted as sin. It amounts to destruction. Here, destruction does not refer to the destruction of natural resources alone. It is also destruction of oneself. Excess consumption creates desire and habit. It conditions the mind and make it very weak. 

But we digress. 

What does it mean to live in harmony?

Before answering this question, let us analyze the trend that many relationships take. Initially, the relationship starts wonderfully. Everyone is happy and looking forward to the strengthening of the relationship. But as time progresses, things start going bad. Then, everyone is looking forward to escape from the relationship. What is going wrong here?

There is no such thing as unconditional love or a relationship free of all considerations. If such thing exists, it exists only at very superficial level for a very short period of time. In all associations, we are always seeking something special in the other person. We want to enjoy happiness by coming into contact with some trait of the other. That is why Svāmī Nammāzvār says kaṇḍapōdu paṭṭadallāl kādhal maṭṛu yādumillai. Love is always conditional upon some trait or position of the individual.  In the absence of the condition, the love would disappear. There is no other form of love that exists between people. 

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However, the other person has no obligation to meet this expectation. We can implement constructs and when they struggle to survive, enforce them with law. We can make various forms of contracts. But, always remember! Those who sign that contract sign it because they have something to gain due to which they find the terms acceptable. Or, they at least think that they have something to gain. When that expectation is not met, people start seeking ways of escaping that setup. The association becomes one of torment, of abuse. This is not to discount instances of blatant abuse, but in several cases, it is apparent that people feel abused when their expectations are not met. "It is not fair!!!"

There is a deeper reason for the relationships or associations to break down. It is not just that there are bad people around us. The fundamental reason for relationships to struggle to survive is very simple: they are not natural. These relationships and associations are not part of our essence. They are artificial and created by us. Whatever is artificial must be defended and reinforced with great effort, and even then, if the circumstances are unsuitable, artificial constructs will fall apart. There is no actual bond that binds people together. The bond must be nurtured by the mind. Therefore, there must be no assumptions, no taking for granted. What is deemed advantageous at first, turns devastating later. The very same trait that was attractive once is boring or hazardous now. 

We can come up with slogans like "be who you are", "associate with people who accept you as you are", etc. But, all this is just nonsense. A person keeps changing all the time, and people accept you as you are not because they are indifferent to who you are but they like some traits. There is no reason why they will continue to find the same traits favorable or that the traits will even remain the same. There is no necessity to retain the relationship or association. 

In Śrīvaiṣṇava Viśiṣṭādvaita tradition, all forms of relationships and associations formed between individuals is called aupādhika or that which is resulting from upādhi or circumstance/condition. It is not the natural state of things. 

The only natural relationship is that with Nārāyaṇa which is in the essence of things. 

Now, someone can say that he/she don't believe in Nārāyaṇa who is uniquely understood in your tradition or the person is an atheist. 

Even then, this point remains. Such a person can at best only discount the existence of the natural relationship. The fact of all other associations being artificial cannot be denied.

Also, such a person cannot deny that there is such a thing available to our experience which is called universe or nature at whatever level of description: immediate experience, mathematical representation, some universal spirit or being etc. It also cannot be denied that whoever we are, we are part of this universe. In fact, we are one particular configuration within the universe. We are born out of this universe, and we go into it. Therefore, the only relationship that is natural and necessary is definitely the one with the universe or universal being, and everything else is created in it through interactions between its different modes. These associations are not necessary and part of the essence. But our relationship with natural is not conditional or drawn from circumstance. 

So, whatever one's ideas may be about the nature of reality, it is clear that there is only true relationship and everything else is artificial. The artificial ones are created and are prone to destruction. 

The only way to nurture an artificial relationship is not to do plenty to maintain it. All the members in the association must awaken to the truth of reality. Then, there are no false expectations, no surprises, no disappointment, no illusions. There is only existence in truth and in harmony. Harmony is the both the functional state and goal of all relationships. Otherwise, there is only attachment.