Autumn snapped her bag and bunked on her bed. She sobbed thinking of her unexpected meet up with Anand. Her memory remains fresh on her first meet with him… It was 27/02/2015 half past 6 in t…
Source: Lust – Part 3
Autumn snapped her bag and bunked on her bed. She sobbed thinking of her unexpected meet up with Anand. Her memory remains fresh on her first meet with him… It was 27/02/2015 half past 6 in t…
Source: Lust – Part 3
If we have injured space, the earth, or heaven, or if we have offended mother or father, from that may Agni, fire of the house, forgive us and guide us safely to the world of goodness.
Atharva Veda 6.120. VE, P. 636
The Art of Forgiveness
The Vedas are full of verses which speak of the Divine within man, and therefore Hindu Dharma today implores us to let go of grudges, resentment and especially self-contempt. Most people today are working harder to correct the faults of others than they are their own. It is a thankless job. It truly is. Most are trying to recreate the relatively real world into being absolutely real. Another thankless job. The wise implore us to accept things as they are, to be happy and content at every point in time. They tell us: do not be discouraged in seeing the failings of others. Rather, let it help awaken your understanding of them as to where they are in consciousness and the suffering they must be going through. If others harm you in thought, word or deed, do not resent it. Rather, let it awaken compassion, kindness and forgiveness. Use it as a mirror to view your own frailties; then work diligently to bring your own thoughts, words and deeds into line with Hindu Dharma.
The secret is that we have to correct all matters within ourselves. We have to bear our karmas — the reactions to our actions — cheerfully. And what are the apparent injustices of life but the self-created reactions of our own past actions in this or a former life? The person of perfect understanding accepts all happenings in life as purposeful and good. We must be grateful to others for playing back to us our previous actions so that we can see our mistakes and experience the same feelings we must have caused in others. It is in this way that we are purified and trained not to commit the same adharmic acts again.
All the great ones have preached the art of forgiveness. First we must learn to forgive ourselves, to accept ourselves as we are and proceed with confidence. Many people live their whole lives immersed in guilt. It’s a way of life passed on from generation to generation. It’s like a passive fear, different from a threatening fear. Certain religions push people into fear and guilt. Therefore, if they don’t feel guilty, they don’t feel that they are being religious. Mary Baker Eddy once said God is love and was viciously attacked for it by the Christian community of her day, who believed with a vengeance that God is wrathful, fear invoking. Families who live in guilt pass it on to their children. People who live in a state of guilt don’t give a lot, they don’t produce a lot, and they don’t move forward spiritually very far.
New energy is released for a healthy future when we forgive ourselves. Yes, forgiveness is a powerful force. We must start with ourselves, for as long as we hold self-contempt, we are unable to forgive others, because everyone else is a reflection of ourself. We react to what we see in them that we are not ready to face up to in ourselves.
It is a great power to be able to look beyond ourselves and see others as they really are, how they really think and how they really feel. When we are wrapped up in our own individual ego, this is hard to do. We surmise that those we know are exactly like us, and we find fault with them when they are not. But eventually we break the shell of the ego — an act symbolized by smashing the rough, dark brown coconut in the temple, revealing the beauty of the pure, white fruit inside which represents our pristine spiritual nature. It takes a hard blow to subdue our ego, and this is never without pain. But we can remove the ego’s hard shell painlessly through absolute surrender to Hindu Dharma, absolute surrender to our own soul, to God within us. External worship and internal worship, external surrender and internal surrender, bring about the softening of the ego and the unveiling of spirit.
What is resentment? Resentment is pranic force, subtle energy, that is congested. What is love? Love is pranic force that is flowing and uncongested. When someone performs an injustice toward us, he is giving us a conglomerate of congested prana. If we were able to look at it in the astral world, we would see it as a confused mass of disharmonious colors and shapes. If we are unable to remain detached, we become upset and resentful. Instinctively this prana is held by us and only released when we find it in our heart to forgive the person. At the moment of true forgiveness, the congested prana is transferred back to the person who harmed or insulted us.
Now we can see that when we resent or hold something against someone, we are actually astrally connected to him and, in fact, holding back the karma that will automatically come to him as a result of his harmful act. If we forgive the offender, we release the congested energy. Then the unfailing karmic law begins to work. In other words, his actions will cause a reaction back on him, and we won’t be involved in the process at all. That is why the Tirukural, a wonderful book written 2,200 years ago, tells us, “Though unjustly aggrieved, it is best to suffer the suffering and refrain from unrighteous retaliation. Let a man conquer by forbearance those who in their arrogance have wronged him” (157-8).
However, it would not be wise to accept the transgressor back in your life until true remorse is shown and resentment on his part is dissolved through apology and reconciliation. Otherwise, wisdom indicates he might just commit the same hurtful acts again. I was asked recently what we mean in sutra 270 which says monastics forgive hurts quickly and inwardly, but not outwardly until the offender reconciles. The devotee who asked the question said he has taken a lot of physical and emotional abuse, as well as verbal abuse, from his family. He had forgiven them inwardly but wanted to know what their relationship should be, now that he had reached middle age. We forgive inwardly because we know the experience is the result of our karma that we have put into motion in the past. But we hold a friendly, firm wall between ourselves and the offenders, which means a friendly distance, because we know that it is their kukarma, too, which must be reconciled with apologies and with the assurance that the offense won’t happen again.
To be affectionately detached — that is a power. That is a wisdom. But detachment does not mean running away from life or being insensitive or passively accepting harm to yourself or loved ones. When we have the ability to let go, through forgiveness, we are warmer, more friendly, more wholesome, more human and closer to our family and friends.
Just the opposite happens if we remain attached by resenting what happened in the past. Take the example of a teenager who sees a promising future ahead of him, then experiences begin to happen in his life, some of which are unpleasant. If these are not resolved, negative prana begins piling up within his subconscious mind, vasanas are made, and the future begins to diminish from view. Year after year, as he grows older, the past gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the future gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Finally, there is so much resentment that the once joyful adolescent grows into a depressed and bitter adult. Eventually he develops cancer and dies lonely and miserable.
To have a happy future with your family and friends, don’t ignore difficulties that come up between you. Sit down with them and talk things over. Stand on your own two feet, head up and spine straight and bring it all out in the open. Let them know how you feel about what they said or what they did. Especially in Asia, so many things are swept under the carpet, not talked about and left to smolder and mold there. But now, in today’s world, we must clean up the mess in order to go along into a happy future. The basic foundation of Sanatana Dharma is ahimsa, nonhurtfulness, physically, mentally and emotionally. We must always remember this.
Forgiving Is Health Giving
We recently learned that the oldest person in the world is a 118-year-old lady in Canada, who happens to be vegetarian. She is quite up in the news and in the Guinness Book of Records. In a study of her life and that of several others over age 110 it was asked, “How have they lived so long? Why are they still living? What is their secret?” The answer is that these elderly folk are optimistic. They see a future, and that keeps them living. They are easy-going, good-humored, contented and have a philosophy of forgiveness toward what anybody has done to them along the way. They are successful at flowing with the events of life and do not hold on to a lot of resentment or congested pranas. It is when hate and resentment become a way of life that we begin to worry and wonder what life is all about. Forgiving others is good for your health.
The wise have given a remedy, an effective penance, prayashchitta, that can be performed to get rid of the bundle of past resentment and experience forgiveness and the abundance of divine energy that comes as an aftermath. Write down in detail all the resentments, misunderstandings, conflicts and confusions that you are still holding onto. As you complete each page, crumple it up and burn it in a garbage can or fireplace. When the mind sees the fire consuming the paper, it intuits that the burden is gone. It is the emotion connected to the embedded experience that actually goes away.
Resentment is a terrible thing. It affects the astral body and then the physical. When there is a health problem, there may well be a forgiveness problem. Resentment is crippling to the astral body and the emotions, because when we resent others, we can’t get them out of our mind — we are definitely attached to them. Resentment is equally distributed worldwide. Workers resent their bosses. Bosses resent the owners. Owners of companies resent the government. This is modern society today. This is all-pervasive ignorance, and ignorance added to ignorance makes ignorance stronger. One resentment adds to another in the subconscious mind.
We must begin the healing by first forgiving ourselves, by claiming our spiritual heritage, gaining a new image of ourselves as a beautiful, shining soul of radiant light. Then we can look at the world through the eyes of Hindu Dharma. The Yajur Veda expounds, “He who dwells in the light, yet is other than the light, whom the light does not know, whose body is the light, who controls the light from within — He is the soul within you.”
When this vasana daha tantra, subconscious purification by fire, is complete, you will never feel the same again. After this spiritual experience, religion, Hindu Dharma, will be foremost in your life. All other activities — business, social and family life — will circle around your newly found ideals. Many of the wealthiest people on our planet have kept their religion first, their family and business second and other activities third. Their timing was always right. They were magnetic and happy. Others were happy to be near them.
Everyone has willpower. It is inherent to the makeup of the physical-astral-mental-emotional body. The center of willpower is the manipura chakra, located at the solar plexus. Unlike other energies, the more willpower we use, the more willpower we have to use. Actually, by exerting our willpower, we store up new energy within the manipura chakra. This happens when we work a little harder than we think we can, do a little more than we think we can do. By putting forth that extra effort, we build up a great willpower that we will always have with us, even in our next life, the next and the next. Willpower is free for the using, actually.
When we relate willpower to actions and compare actions to dharma or adharma, we find that adharmic, or unrighteous, actions bring uncomfortable results, and dharmic actions bring comfortable results. If we act wrongly toward others, people will act wrongly toward us. Then, if we are of a lower nature, we resent it and retaliate. This is a quality of the instinctive mind: “You strike me once, I’ll strike you back twice. You make a remark to me that I don’t like, and I will put you down behind your back. I will make up stories about you to get even and turn other people’s minds against you.” This is retaliation — a terrible negative force. When we use our willpower to retaliate against others, we do build up a bank account of willpower, to be sure, because we do have to put out extra effort. But we also build up a bank account of negative karma that will come back on us full force when we least expect it. When it does, if we remain locked in ignorance, we will resent that and retaliate against the person who plays our karma back to us, and the cycle will repeat itself again and again and again.
Those living in the higher nature know better. Belief in karma and reincarnation are strong forces in a Hindu. South India’s Saint Tiruvalluvar said it so simply, “Worthless are those who injure others vengefully, while those who stoically endure are like stored gold. Just as the Earth bears those who dig into her, it is best to bear with those who despise us” (Tirukural 155-151).
Nevertheless, we see society tearing itself apart through retaliation. Respectable organizations retaliate against their leader, against each other. Countries divide and retaliate. Political parties retaliate. Vindictive law cases are professionally handled retaliation. To retaliate means to pay back injury with injury, to return like for like, evil for evil, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. It seems to be a part of humankind, though it is a negative part of humankind. It does not have to prevail. It is not spiritual. We would say it is demonic. We would say it is asuric. We would say it is unnecessary behavior, unacceptable behavior, a wrong use of willpower. People who have a lot of will can, if they wish, retaliate very, very well. They can ruin another person. But remember, the force will come back on them three times stronger than they gave it out, because their strong willpower will bring it back with vigor. This is the law.
Deciding on A Better Way
The wise person chooses his actions according to dharma, which is quite specific as to how we must behave. Those who connive to retaliate after a misunderstanding comes up should know they are carving a destiny of unhappiness for themselves by digging a pit of remorse, self-condemnation and depression. They will fall into it in the far-off future.
Some might ask, “Does nonretaliation mean that one should not protect himself, his family, his community?” We are talking about revenge, not self-defense. To oppose the actions of an intruder to one’s home or community at the time of the intrusion is very different from tracking him down later and vandalizing his home in retaliation. We cannot hurt another without getting hurt back in the future through some other way, generally through other people not even associated with the person we hurt. Those who offend us or commit crimes against us, we can be sure, will receive justice in an unerring manner through the law of karma. If the matter is a serious one, we can seek reconciliation through the laws of the land. In criminal cases, justice can be sought through the courts. It is not wise to take matters into our own hands and be the instrument of punishment, for by doing so we reap the same negative karma as the offender. Retaliation on a wide scale can be seen in cases of mob violence, terrorism and guerrilla warfare.
Therefore, it is wise to cultivate the powerful force of compassion, of righteous response, forgiveness, of admitting our own mistakes, of not lying our way out of a situation just to make ourself look good or putting others down so we can stand taller, so that we can save face. That is a face you would not want to save. It is a face not worth saving.
Those who accept the truth that retaliation is not the proper way to live, but are unable to stop trying to get even, are on the road to correcting themselves, especially if they feel remorseful about their impulses and actions. Through divine sight the soul perceives unwise actions, performed when in the lower nature, as a hindrance to spiritual progress. Penance received from a guru or swami and well performed by the devotee propels the soul into its natural state of bliss. All help is given by the divine devas to those seen performing a sincere penance. Gurus of every lineage receive the verbal confession of devotees and give out the appropriate penance, prayashchitta. They recognize divine absolution, knowing the penance has been fulfilled, when the inner aura is as bright as a new-born child’s, the face happy and the testimony about the results of the penance discloses true atonement.
The Dalai Lama’s Example
Speaking of nonretaliation, the peace-loving Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is setting an extraordinary example of not striking back at antagonists. He has campaigned relentlessly for political assistance for his people’s cause since 1959, when at age fifteen he fled across the Himalayas and into India for help. Even today he approaches the Chinese with care and respect, though he never forgets China’s armed takeover of his nation in 1957 and the extermination of 1.2 million Tibetans by 1972. This humble being has never failed to exemplify the dharma of compassion, advocating “the kind of love you can have even for those who have done you harm.” He once wrote: “My enemy is my best friend and my best teacher, because he gives me the opportunity to learn from adversity.”
If there were anyone who could justifiably lash out in a vindictive way, it would be the Dalai Lama; but he has chosen a higher path. We listened to him appeal for Tibetan autonomy over the years at international conferences in Oxford, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago, where he never deviated from his posture of love, trust and compassion, with full confidence that the divine law will finally manifest a righteous outcome, an agreeable solution. He also acknowledged that this persecution is a karma that his own people set in motion in the past. He is setting a noble pattern in the international arena, where spiritual people can forge, and are forging, new principles for a global dharma.
On an individual level, all can strive to give up the urge to “get even,” heeding the Vedic admonition, “Here they say that a person consists of desires. And as is his desire, so is his will. And as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap” (Shukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5. UPR, P. 272). Every belief creates certain attitudes. Our attitudes govern all of our actions. Belief in karma, reincarnation and the existence of an all-pervasive Divinity throughout the universe creates an attitude of reverence, benevolence and compassion for all beings. The Hindu or Buddhist who is consciously aware within his soul knows that he is the time traveller and may incarnate, take a body of flesh, in the society he most opposed in order to equalize his hates and fears into a greater understanding which would result in the release of ignorance. The knowledgeable Hindu is well aware of all these possibilities. The mystery is no mystery to the mystic.
Ahimsa, which the Dalai Lama exemplifies so courageously, is certainly not cowardice; it is wisdom. And wisdom is the cumulative knowledge of the existing divine laws of reincarnation, karma, dharma and the all-pervasiveness and sacredness of things, blended together within the psyche, the very soul, of the Hindu.
Realize That God Is Love
Siva is Love and Love is Siva. People often ask, “How can I worship God if I can’t see God?” There was a young man who had formed an intense dislike for his father because his father disciplined him strongly when he was growing up. Every time the young man thought of his father, it was through feelings of resentment and confusion. Whenever his father was around, the son avoided him, and sharp words were often exchanged. However, his father put him through college, paying all the expenses. When the young man broke his leg playing football, the father visited him in the hospital every few days and paid the medical bills. But still the young man resented his father for what had happened years ago. He could not see that his father really loved him. His inner sight, feeling and emotion were blinded by his bitterness about the past. This story illustrates how mental barriers disable us from seeing people as they really are. And if we cannot correctly see the people around us, how can we expect to see God? We are often blinded by our “ignore-ance” — our great ability to ignore.
People who question the existence of God because they cannot see God must take the word of those who do see God. When they cannot do even this, they are obviously lost in their own delusions and confusions, unable to even see the love or accept the love of those who are closest to them. They most likely misjudge everything through their limited vision, clouded by resentments built up over the years.
We all see people with our two eyes, and we see into people with our hearts. When our heart is pure, holding no resentment, we can then see with our third eye. Someone having problems in seeing God should begin by worshiping his mother and father as divine. He can see them with his eyes and within his mind. This sadhana will clean up the person’s heart and bring his thoughts, speech and actions into line with dharma. Then one day he will see that God Siva truly is the Life within the life of everyone — of the whole universe, in fact.
The word love describes the free-flowing interchange of spiritual energy between people, between people and their things, between people and God and the Gods. Our scriptures clearly tell us that “Siva is love, and love is Siva.” Therefore, our free-flowing love, or bhakti, is our own Sivaness in manifestation. Expressing this love is a profoundly auspicious and beginning form of living with Siva that is complete, in and of itself.
According to one’s deeds, according to one’s behavior, so one becomes. The one who does good becomes good, the one who does evil becomes evil. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action and evil by evil action.
Shukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.5. VE, P. 759
We Mold Our Own Future
Every action that we perform in life, every thought that we think, has its reaction. We may or may not be conscious of the reactions that will result from what we are doing or thinking. Many people spend a great deal of time acting only with the purpose of covering up the reactions to prior unsatisfactory actions of their own making. Hurt or puzzled, they often ask, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to attract that? What did I do to cause that? Do I really deserve this? It doesn’t seem fair!”
Were they to become enlightened and find the ability to live in their own intuitive, superconscious mind, they would see in that expanded state of consciousness all of the ingredients that came together out of the forgotten past to create the conditions through which they are passing in the now. They would observe that every action is like planting a seed. The fruit of that seed, harvested perhaps years later, is reaction. Like the seed, actions remain vibrating in the mind until fulfilled. It is not possible to trace past causes to current effects through analyzing or through the ordinary processes of reason, which result in uncertain conjecture. Only superconscious insight can accurately portray the chain of cause-and-effect relationships as a picture of what is.
Thus the wheel of karma continues, on and on and on, creating and recreating. The wheel of karma is simply the mechanism of the mind’s action — your mind, everyone’s mind. Through the study of the wheel of karma, which is a meditative study, you realize that you have created everything that is happening or has already happened to you. Everything that is coming your way in the future you will have created. Everything you will acquire your own wants will have brought into being. You are right now a sum total of millions of thoughts, feelings, desires and actions — all of them yours. Circumstance is not responsible for your condition, for you have made your circumstances consciously and unconsciously. There are no outside forces imposing themselves upon you. Whatever you attract to yourself of the world, though it seems to be external, is but a manifestation of your own inner nature. Yo u are the author of all of your creations; and yet in the inner recesses of your being you are already the finished product at the same time. To understand this fully, you need yoga.
The study of yoga is reserved for the few who have the courage to seek the depths of their being, for the few who can overcome their experiences and their desires in deep meditation. Now, you may meet in your own subconscious, as soon as you sit down to practice meditation, all of the worldly desires latent within you, including several of which you perhaps have no conscious idea. If your meditation is successful, you will be able to throw out the unnecessary experiences or desires that are consuming your mind. When you do this and you travel past the world of desire, you will begin to break free of the wheel of karma which binds you to the specific reaction which must follow every action. To break free of this wheel of karma, you must have a strong, one-pointed mind. Your only key to help you attain this one-pointedness, this steadfastness, is your devotion to God, your devotion to the realization of the Truth. Few people remain steadfast enough under all circumstances and tests that life offers to realize the many causes and effects that are linked together in their lives. It is easy to study the law of karma and to appreciate it philosophically, but to realize it, to apply it to everything that happens to you, to understand the workings of it as the day goes by, requires an ability to which you must awaken.
Attachment, desire, craving, fear of loss — these are the self-created ropes that hold man in bondage to his lower states of mind. It is because man chooses to live in the ignorance of unfulfilled craving and unsatisfied desire that he suffers. How many of you have suffered over something that was anticipated and may never have taken place? You will remember then waking up out of the dream of your suffering and finding that things were all right after all, and that through your experience something within you remained the same.
The Cause of Joy and Sorrow
Somewhere the idea was born that man should live in states of happiness and joy all of the time. But, in the first place, happiness and joy depend upon unhappiness and sorrow, even to be recognized or appreciated. If man would only know that whatever emotion transpires within him foreshadows its opposite. Secondly, suffering is a greater intensity, a higher vibration, than happiness. You do not learn much from your happinesses; you learn from the states of suffering, which awaken the higher consciousness of your soul. But suffering has no value for its own sake. When the mind recognizes it is suffering over something or other, it is time to practice meditation, to see into the causes, to expand your consciousness a little bit more so that you will grasp the workings of life and its karmic laws. Then you will attain to a greater intensity than either joy or suffering has to offer. You will view the wheel of life, of cause and effect, objectively. And you will not so quickly identify yourself with the lower emotions or the objects of your own mind’s creation.
Then there are the people who, like a fish caught by a fisherman, grasp onto the hook, who step on the spiritual path, but spend their time flip-flopping in the water, tugging at the line, swimming first one way then the other, never really approaching the surface. Why? They live in their ego, that’s all. Their consciousness is limited. The ego is just a trifle dumb. Have you observed an egotistical person? He is just a little dumb, isn’t he — not aware of the layers and layers of wisdom within him.
It is the wise man who recognizes the importance of controlling the forces of his mind. His life is a struggle to make his philosophy real, to gain control of the cycles of experience which have tied him to the wheel of karma. You don’t escape the chain of cause and effect by just sitting with your eyes closed, trying to keep awake, trying to meditate. The genuine practice of yoga involves meeting new challenges each day, having new realizations each day, becoming the boss of your mind, not allowing it to flop around at the end of the line. This type of diligent concentration will definitely change you from the inside out. You will begin to realize, more and more, that you are the creator of your life and every aspect of it.
But your incarnation on this planet is not complete until you have exhausted the wheel of karma, and it will not exhaust itself unless you gain control of it. The wheel of karma, of cause and effect, the world of form, is apparent only when you look at it. You only attain the natural state of your radiant inner being when you step off the wheel of karma. It is not natural for man to live bound to the lower states of mind, ignorant of the fact that God dwells within. But the hearing and understanding of this truth is only the first glimmer of the dawn, a preliminary awakening. The rest, the final realization, is up to you. It is up to you and you alone to penetrate the veil of illusion and realize the Self, the Absolute, beyond desire, beyond the experiences of the mind. It is up to you to realize God.
How to Face Your Karma
If difficult things are happening to you and your mind is disturbed because of them and you have mental arguments within you because you can’t accept your own karma, go to the feet of Lord Siva in your mind, go to the feet of Lord Siva in the temple with your physical body, and beg for the intelligence to place yourself firmly on the path of Sanatana Dharma.
Though it is true that we must work through all aspects and phases of past actions, there are ways of becoming excused from the punishments that drastic actions of the past impose upon the future. These ways are grace, sadhana, tapas and atonement through penance and the performance of good deeds, thus acquiring merit which registers as a new and positive karma, alleviating the heaviness of some of our past karma. Through seeking grace and through receiving it by performing sadhana and tapas and the doing of penance, the karmas are in themselves speeded up. The going through and meeting and reaping of rewards as well as displeasures embodied in past karma in the present is accelerated through these self-imposed actions. Therefore, the sages say, “Bear your karma cheerfully.” And as the seeking of Self commences, the karma unfolds in all of its hideousness and glory, to be seen before the single eye and not reacted to by even a tremor within this physical and astral nerve system. The yoga must be that strong. Each time you blame another person for what has happened to you, or cast blame in any way, tell yourself, “This is my karma which I was born to face. I did not come into a physical body just to blame others for what happens to me. I was not born to live in a state of ignorance created by an inability to face my karma. I came here to spiritually unfold, to accept the karmas of this and all my past lives and to deal with them and handle them in a proper and a wonderful way.”
Humility is intelligence; arrogance is ignorance. To accept one’s karma and the responsibility for one’s actions is strength. To blame another is weakness and foolishness. Let’s begin by not advertising our ignorance. If you must blame what happens to you on your friend, your neighbor, your country, your community or the world, don’t advertise it by speaking about it. Keep that ignorance to yourself. Limit it to the realm of thought. Harness your speech and at the same time work to remold your thinking and retrain your subconscious to actually accept this basic premise of Saiva Siddhanta.
Take Full Responsibility
If you take responsibility for all that happens to you, then you will have the power to deal with your karma through the grace of Lord Siva. He will give you the intelligence to deal with it as you worship Him in the Siva temple, contact Him within as the Life of your life and find Him in meditation. Let’s take an example. Say I am holding a plate of rice and curry and I pass it to you. All of a sudden the plate drops on the floor between us. I blame you, and you blame me. I don’t want to be responsible for dropping the rice and curry, and you don’t want to be responsible either. So, we blame each other. The rice and curry is scattered there on the floor. No one is going to clean it up until one of us takes responsibility and says, “I’m sorry I dropped the plate of rice and curry,” and gets down on hands and knees and cleans it up. In the same way, only by taking responsibility, by recognizing what we have done as our own doing, can we begin cleaning up the results of our actions. Those who do take responsibility for their own karma have all the help in the world.
Pride, arrogance and an ungiving nature are characteristics of those who don’t believe in the law of karma. These are qualities of those who do not take responsibility for their actions. They blame everything on someone or something other than themselves. This includes their mistakes and every unpleasant thing that has ever happened to them, is happening to them or may happen to them in the future. They live in the fears and the resentments born of their own ignorance.
Only through being born in a physical body can you experience certain kinds of karmas which cannot be fulfilled or experienced in your etheric/astral body. Therefore, between births those physical-body karmas live in seed form. Only in a physical body do you have all of the chakras functioning that will allow those karmas to manifest and be dealt with. Each birth is thus a precious window of opportunity. For heaven’s sake don’t blame your karma on somebody else and seek to escape from what you were born to deal with. That is the height of foolishness. Stop blaming and criticizing others, and take a good look at yourself. Stop excusing yourself and trying to make yourself look good in the eyes of others. Then a sense of strength will come up within you, a sense of independence and peace. Mental arguments will stop. Arrogance will vanish. Pride won’t be there anymore. You will be a full person. All of your chakras will function properly. Your nerve system will quiet down, and intuitively you will be able to bear up under your karmas and deal with them positively. If it is your karma to be poor in this life, you will be rich by living within the income that you have. You will be content by having desires that you can afford. We make ourselves discontented, we make ourselves unhappy, we make ourselves useless creatures on this planet by allowing ourselves to live in an ignorant state.
Good and Bad; Like Attracts Like
What do we mean when we say there is no good and no bad, only experience? We mean that in the highest sense, there is no good and bad karma; there is self-created experience that presents opportunities for spiritual advancement. If we can’t draw lessons from the karma, then we resist or resent it, lashing out with mental, emotional or physical force. The original substance of that karma is spent and no longer exists, but our current reaction creates a new condition of harsh karma to face in the future. As long as we react to karma, we must repeat it. That is the law.
Good or bad is just a door, going one way or the other. So I say, “There is no good, there is no bad; there is just a swinging door.” Good deeds siphon the collective good deeds of other good deeds. When the door swings the other way, mistakes siphon the results of past mistakes. Hatreds, the accumulated results of hating, are pulled up from way down there. Thus, one of the major keys to understanding the importance of good conduct relates to the release of seed karmas. Performing dharma — acting with correct thought, word and deed — siphons the results of previous patterns of behavior from the past and causes those seeds to sprout in this life. Like attracts like. These patterns then aid the individual by bestowing clarity of mind and a life in which yoga can be performed and truth sought. In the practice of yoga, the negative seed karmas can actually be burned up without ever having to be lived through.
Conversely, adharma — wrong thought, word and deed — siphons the results of past misdeeds, like attracting like. These seed karmas begin to bear bitter fruit, resulting in a miserable life and state of mind. The individual is immersed in confusion, wrong patterns of thought and is, of course, in no position to practice yoga, follow dharma or realize truth. He is simply immersed in samsara.
In His own way, Siva is bringing you into realization, into knowledge of yourself and of Him. He has given you the world of experience. Study your experience. Learn from your experience. If it is painful, that is also good. In the fires of experience, which are both pain and pleasure, you are being purified. It is Siva’s duty to bring you forward into the fullness of yourself. In doing so, you must go through much pain, through much joy. Both register on the scale as the same intensity of emotion. It is what caused it that makes one more pleasurable than another. Don’t be afraid of experience, and don’t be afraid to go through your karma. Go through it with courage.
Of course, you can minimize reactions to unhappy experiences by performing selfless service, which will create good karma. This is what you have to do to progress your spiritual life. Moksha — enlightenment and liberation from rebirth — is the ultimate goal of all souls. The exit is through the crown chakra. Go forward without fear.
Three Kinds Of Karma
Karma is threefold: sanchita, prarabdha and kriyamana. Sanchita karma means “accumulated actions.” It is the sum of all karmas of this life and our past lives. Prarabdha karma means “actions begun; set in motion.” It is that portion of sanchita karma that is bearing fruit and shaping the events and conditions of the current life, including the nature of our bodies, personal tendencies and associations. Kriyamana karma means “actions being made.” It is the karma we create and add to sanchita in this life by our thoughts, words and actions, or in the inner worlds between lives. While some kriyamana karmas bear fruit in the current life, others are stored for future births. Each of these three types can be divided into two categories: arabdha (“begun, undertaken;” karma that is “sprouting”), and anarabdha (“not commenced; dormant”), or “seed karma.”
In a famed analogy, karma is compared to rice in its various stages. Sanchita karma, the residue of one’s total accumulated actions, is likened to rice that has been harvested and stored in a granary. From the stored rice, a small portion has been removed, husked and readied for cooking and eating. This is prarabdha karma, past actions that are shaping the events of the present. Meanwhile, new rice, mainly from the most recent harvest of prarabdha karma, is being planted that will yield a future crop and be added to the store of rice. This is kriyamana karma, the consequences of current actions.
Prarabdha karma determines the time of birth, which dictates one’s astrology, which in turn delineates the individual life pattern by influencing the release of these karmas. Three factors are fundamental: the nature of one’s birth, the length of life and the nature of experiential patterns. Dormant sanchita karma, while not directly being acted upon, is a weighty and compelling force of potential energy, be it benign or gross, good or bad, slothful or inspirational. It is this dormant karma that explains why two people born at the same moment, and who thus have the same astrology, differ in their talents and tendencies. It is this held-back force of sanchita karma that the yogi seeks to burn out with his kundalini flame, to disempower it within the karmic reservoir of anandamaya kosha, the soul body.
Astrologers who understand karma well emphasize that one can influence his or her dormant sanchita karma. Further, one does have power over karmas being made, kriyamana. But karmas set in motion, prarabdha, are binding. They form the gridwork of life and must be lived through. Facing them positively is the key to their resolution. Fighting them through resentment and the release of other negative emotions only creates more unseemly sanchita karma for the future. The law is: we must accept and bear our karma cheerfully.
Intricacies Of the Law
On resolving karma, our friend Tiru M. Arunachalam wrote, “Nonattachment to the fruits of action stops kriyamana from accumulating. Prarabdha is experienced and ceases with this birth; and sanchita is burnt away by the diksha of the guru.” It is the satguru who holds the power to mitigate and redirect a person’s karma. The guru always sees the good in a person and encourages that goodness. With his authority, this automatically mitigates the detrimental areas the person could fall into because of his past actions.
Naturally, karma also determines the circumstance of one’s life in the Antarloka after death. The infallible law of karma continues for disembodied souls between births, though many karmas can only be fulfilled in physical incarnation. Thus, Earth is called Karma-kshetra, “arena of karma.” Karma is also binding, to varying degrees, for those who have attained moksha and are living in the Antarloka and for those who have attained residency in the Sivaloka until vishvagrasa, ultimate merger in the Primal Soul, Parameshvara.
Prarabdha karmas fructify in a given lifetime, fortified by the ripe karmas that are experienced in the in-between. Some of what is learned in the Antarloka is used in the next birth, to know how to best face the prarabdha karmas as they manifest. Some of what is learned will only be used in future births. Karma made in the Antarloka, positive or negative, is added into the big sanchita basket; and, of course, some of it also bears fruit.
All karmas are either ripe or unripe, ready or unready. Of the prarabdha karmas that one is born with, some are immediately released, and others will be ready only in later years of life. This is why if a person commits suicide, the repercussions are drastic, because he has blocked and interrupted the fulfillment of the prarabdha karmas that he had set about to consume in this birth. Then it is like a stringhopper in the inner worlds that must be unraveled when he arrives there unexpectedly.
The prarabdha karmas, as they ripen, open up as you go on through life. Similarly, of the kriyamana karmas created, some are ripe and some are not ripe. Some immediately bear fruit and are consumed in this life. Others go to seed and enter the big sanchita karma bank to be experienced in future births as prarabdha karma. Whatever is not experienced and resolved in the current life is taken by you to the inner world as a basket of seeds. A mystical person who knows he is going to incarnate again can work on these seeds consciously.
A slayer of an embryo is like the slayer of a priest.
Krishna Yajur Veda 6.5.10
Conception And Birth
I am often asked, “What is the point at which a soul enters into a new incarnation?” Many advanced souls choose their parents long before conception, electing to live in their homes, especially if the parents worship. Especially if they were relatives in a past life, they want to be born back into those families to work out their karmas. Therefore, a soul may become connected with his mother-to-be long before conception. An unreligious couple that does not seek the inner forces at the moment of conception or slightly before, depending on wherever they are — in a hospital or hotel — may attract and draw into the process of incarnation anybody who is magnetized to them. I call this “potluck off the astral plane,” even the lower astral. Someone could die in a hospital and, in a motel three blocks down the street, be immediately conceived. If the husband and wife had been fighting and arguing, this could magnetize a child that would not help the family, but instead would disrupt the household. The difference between the two situations is that one family is thinking of the Divine at the time of conception and the other is living an ordinary life with no contact with the inner, spiritual forces.
In either case, when the fetus starts to move in the womb, the soul simultaneously enters and occupies physical life, fully incarnates, or enters flesh. That’s when the soul is totally “hooked in,” around three or four months. It’s there before, hovering near the mother, but not fully connected. The 2,200-year-old Tirumantiram of Rishi Tirumular tells us in verses 453-455 that from the moment of conception a soul is associated with the growing physical form of the infant. He says that at the instant of conception, as vital fluids are released and flow from both parents, the embryo is formed; the twenty-five tattvas rush in and lie concealed within its third eye, ajna chakra. At this point, life begins. For nine months, the embryo, then fetus, develops physically, and the soul that will inhabit the physical form gradually awakens to First-World embodied consciousness, becoming more or less fully conscious of its new physical form at birth.
It is good to understand that the soul exists in the macrocosm within the microcosm. It has no need of traveling to or from; it is where its awareness is. Outward forms, even physical bodies, do not depend on the soul’s awareness being present constantly, just as you are not dead when you are asleep. As you might say, “I was not in my body,” after you find yourself day dreaming, in the same sense, the soul is not constantly in the infant body while it is growing in the womb.
The life of the body is odic, and it runs on by itself. The spiritual energies and presence of the soul dominating the physical, emotional and mental elements is what makes us human. As Rishi Tirumular says, the moment life departs the body, the cherished friend becomes merely a bad smell. The soul’s association with the body — the “nine-holed bag of skin” — is life. It begins at conception and continues until the moment of death. In summary, the soul is psychically connected and increasingly aware of its physical body in the womb throughout the pregnancy, just as the soul is connected with the physical body outside the womb until the moment of death.
At the time of birth, the previous astral body is still there. The new astral body grows within the child, and the old astral body is eventually sloughed off. It’s not immediate. Like moving into a new house, it takes time to get settled. A newborn baby sometimes looks like an old person right from the beginning. This is because it has an old astral body. As the child gains its new identity, a new astral body is formed from the ida of the mother and the pingala of the father, and that development is enhanced by harmony between the parents. It is a slow transition.
Just as the former physical body finally disintegrates, its old astral body does also. It takes time for these things to happen. For older souls it takes a shorter time. Still, it’s a gradual transition. As one astral body develops, the other goes. Once in Virginia City I inwardly saw a young girl running around dressed in the old Western style clothing as an adult, and I knew that this was her old astral body. A child may be able to remember who he was in his last life until the old astral body dissipates.
When Does Life Begin?
The question of when human life begins is often asked with the modern-day controversy over abortion in mind. In speaking of this delicate subject with my devotees, I have explained that conceiving a child is like planting a seed in the ground. Although you may not see anything for a while, there are life forces building which will one day appear before your physical eyes, emerging out of the microcosm into the macrocosm, or First World. If you interrupt or cut off that process, for whatever reason, the consequences fall to you, according to the law of karma propounded by our Saiva faith.
Abortion is definitely a concern, not only to wives and daughters but to husbands as well. The aborted child, if allowed to live, may have become the husband’s heir, a preeminent member of society, and tenderly cared for him and his wife in their elder years. But they will never know and will always wonder, wonder.
Abortion is a concern all over India, where it is legal. Doctors there and elsewhere have developed an inexpensive version of the French “abortion pill.” Many see this as a blessing for India’s population problem and a safer alternative to the thousands of surgical abortions performed each month, from which many women die or suffer infections. It is perhaps a good time to reflect on another side of this issue, on the karma and on dharma.
Wives often please their husbands by aborting an unwanted girl — which she is blamed for, when, in fact, it is the male sperm that determines the child’s gender — but secretly wonder, “Who is she? Who was she in her past life? Will she find another womb to incarnate through? Would she perhaps have become a Florence Nightingale, Madame Curie or Anandamayi Ma, a saint like Auvaiyar or Mirabai?” The subliminal subjective sadness that abortion brings, with all the “maybes” that lie unanswered, in itself is a sign from the soul that abortion is wrong; a new bad karma, a kukarmaphala, has been created. It did not have to be, but it was. After all, the still, small voice of the soul sometimes speaks loudly when a wrong is committed, and doesn’t stop talking until a counterbalancing punya, merit, is achieved and solace sought for.
Atonement For Abortion
Built within the great Hindu religion is the process of atonement. What is the prayashchitta, the penance, to be done to atone for abortion? One that works very well in this modern age is to adopt a child, raise it with tender loving care, believing this soul is akin to the aborted soul who sought to take refuge within one’s family. This, then, atones. Mahatma Gandhi utilized this principle when one day he counseled a Hindu man who said he had slain a Muslim in revenge for his son’s killing at the Muslim’s hands. He was deeply troubled about his crime. Gandhi advised him to adopt and raise a Muslim boy as penance for the deed.
One becomes his own psychiatrist by utilizing the psychology that when something has gone wrong, it has to be fixed. Why would it have to be resolved? Because the persons involved don’t feel good about the action, or karma. Resolution is not only mending and healing, it is eradicating the memory of the event — not actually a total forgetfulness, but the emotions that come up with the memory are eradicated. This can be done in various ways. Write to the person who was aborted and burn the letter in a fire. Explain how sorry you are, how miserable you are feeling, and attest that you will never do it again. This is a great way to unload a subconscious mind that is filled with guilt.
Accepting reincarnation, punarjanma, we acknowledge souls existing in subtle form in astral bodies waiting to incarnate through a womb. When that womb is disturbed, this is recorded as a sense of eviction for the conscious fetus; and it has similar empty effects on the potential mother’s life and all those connected to her in the family. It is a kukarma that affects all, is felt by all and must be paid for by all.
So, we can see the consequences. This does not mean that anyone is cursed or that there is any “mortal sin” involved. Hinduism is a free-flowing religion. It threatens no everlasting it preaches no mortal sin, as a transgression that, if unexpiated in this one and only life, would deprive the soul from closeness to God for eternity. Hinduism accepts life the way it is, even its flaws and frailties. It teaches us the right path but knows we may not always follow that path and thus gives the remedies to correct whatever bothers us at every stage of the great journey to moksha, liberation from rebirth.
Abortion brings with it a karmic force of destruction that will come back on the mother and father who set it in motion. They may be denied a dwelling. They may be denied a noble child. They may beget a child who will persecute them all the days of their life. The parents, the abortionist and the nurses will suffer difficulties in attaining another birth, perhaps by experiencing as many abortions as they participated in while on Earth. The price is high for abortion, much higher and more costly than giving birth, raising and educating the child and establishing him or her in life.
Life must go on. It is said that children often bring great fortune to their parents. They pay their own way. Nevertheless, abortions do happen, have happened and will happen in the future. Men and women who have participated, and their doctors and nurses, are involved in the deep kukarmic consequences. The action’s reaction, which is karma, must be resolved in some way for a peace of mind, a quiescent state, to persist. The Hindu religion forbids abortion because of the laws of personal dharma, social dharma and ahimsa — noninjury to any living creature, physically, mentally or emotionally.
The Sanatana Dharma states that abortion is sanctioned only if the life of the mother would be lost by the birth of the child. Hindu scripture speaks strongly against the deliberate attempt to kill a embryo/fetus, telling us life starts at conception, when the astral body of the newborn child-to-be in the Antarloka is hovering over the bodies of the mother and father. The Kaushitaki Upanishad (3.1) counts abortion among such heinous sins as killing one’s parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2) lists the fetus slayer, brunaghni, among the greatest of sinners.
Our research among scholars and swamis tells us there is nothing within Hinduism that opposes contraceptives or birth-control methods. However, if conception occurs, the man and woman have already taken on the karmic responsibility. It is dharma’s path to then open the doors of their hearts to receive the incarnating soul. A miscarriage is something different — an unintentional action of nature, shall we say. Try again and the same soul may come through.
What about rape, incest, adultery or premarital pregnancies? Mothers are the life-givers of the planet. Even in these most terrible conditions, scripture gives no permission to injure, and certainly not to kill. However, it would be a sin upon the child to be born and kill his mother in the process. This is why abortion to save the life of the mother is the one and only exception which tradition allows. Yet, even that exception must not be resorted to lightly by some clever doctor or a husband falsely saying, “She might die,” or “My wife’s life is in peril,” or by a devious wife herself claiming, “I am going to die if I don’t abort this child.” It must be an honest and competent diagnosis, not for the sake of money, not for the sake of saving face in the community, not for the sake of repudiating an infant girl. It must be an honest diagnosis made by compassionate, dharmic doctors.
The central principles at work here are ahimsa, noninjury; the energy of God everywhere; the action of the law of karma; the strict rules of dharma defined in our holy scriptures; and the belief in reincarnation. These five make a Hindu a Hindu and make not committing abortion an obvious decision.
Questions On Suicide
Another very serious issue faced today in every society is suicide. The percentages are too high to ignore the problem that exists in far too many Hindu communities. Well, we can advise, as many elders do: “Don’t kill yourself.” After all, they became elders by avoiding such extreme solutions. But do those who are all wrought up with emotion and confusion listen to such advice? No. Many die needlessly at their own hand. How selfish. How sad. But it is happening every day. Suicide does not solve problems. It only magnifies future problems in the Antarloka — the subtle, nonphysical astral world we live in before we incarnate — and in the next life. Suicide only accelerates the intensity of karma, bringing a series of immediate lesser births and requiring several lives for the soul to return to the evolutionary point that existed at the moment of suicide, at which time the still existing karmic entanglement that brought on the death must again be faced and resolved. Thus turns the slow wheel of samsara. To gain a fine birth, one must live according to the natural laws of dharma and live out the karma in this life positively and fully.
Suicide is termed pranatyaga in Sanskrit, “abandoning life force.” It is intentionally ending one’s own life through poisoning, drowning, burning, stabbing, jumping, shooting, etc. Suicide has traditionally been prohibited in Hindu scripture because, being an abrupt escape from life, it creates unseemly karma to be faced in the future.
However, in cases of terminal disease or great disability, religious self-willed death through fasting, prayopavesha, is sometimes permitted. Hinduism is not absolutely black and white in this matter. Rather, it takes into account the broader picture. How will this affect the soul? How will it affect humanity? How will it affect one’s future incarnations? All that must be taken into account if a wise and compassionate, right decision is to be made on so serious a matter.
There are very few extraordinary situations in which self-willed death is permitted. It is not enough that we are unhappy, disappointed, going through a temporary anguish, such as loss of loved ones, a physical injury, a financial loss or the failure to pass an exam and the fear of an angry thrashing from parents when they find out. That is called life. It is not enough that we are filled with sorrow. None of these reasons is enough to justify suicide, and thus it is in such cases an ignoble act. It is not necessarily even enough that we are suffering a serious, terminal illness, one of the thousands that beset human beings on this planet.
Expiring By Fasting
In their love, their wisdom of the meaning and purpose of life, the rishis, the divine lawmakers, provided an alternative for extraordinary human suffering. They knew that excruciating suffering with no possible end in view is not conducive to spiritual progress and that it is best to have a fully conscious death in a joyous, religious mood, meditating or listening to scripture and sacred songs to the Gods. So, the Vedic rishis gave, in rare circumstances, the anguished embodied soul a way to systematically, nobly and acceptably, even to loved ones, release itself from embodiment through fasting. They knew, too, that life is more than a body, that the soul is immortal, that a proper exit can, in fact, be elevating. Death for Hindus is a most exalted human experience, a grand and important departure, mahaprasthana.
The person making such a decision declares it publicly, which allows for community regulation and distinguishes the act from suicide committed privately in traumatic emotional states of anguish and despair. Ancient lawgivers cited various stipulations: inability to perform normal bodily purification; death appears imminent or the condition is so bad that life’s pleasures are nil; and such extraordinary action must be done under community regulation.
The gradual nature of prayopavesha is a key factor distinguishing it from sudden suicide, svadehaghata, for it allows time for the individual to settle all differences with others, to ponder life and draw close to God, even to change his mind and resume eating, as well as for loved ones to oversee his gradual exit from the physical world. One begins this highly ritualized practice by obtaining forgiveness and giving forgiveness. Next a formal vow, mahavrata marana, “great vow of death,” is taken before one’s guru, following a full discussion of all karmas of this life, especially confessing one’s wrongdoings fully and openly. Thereafter, attention is focused on scripture and the guru’s noble teachings. Meditation on the innermost, immortal Self becomes the full focus as one gradually abstains from food. At the very end, as the soul releases itself from the body, the sacred mantra is repeated as instructed by the preceptor.
To leave the body in the right frame of mind, in the right consciousness, through the highest possible chakra, is a key to spiritual progress. The seers did not want unrelenting pain and hopelessness to be the only possibilities facing a soul whose body was failing, whose only experience was pain without reprieve. So they prescribed a kindly way, a reasonable way, especially for the pain-riddled, disabled elderly and the terminally diseased, to choose a righteous release. What wonderful wisdom. No killer drugs. No violence. No involvement of another human being, with all the karmic entanglements that inevitably produces. No life-support systems. No loss of the family wealth for prolonged health care or into the hands of unscrupulous doctors. No lapsing into unconscious coma. No loss of dignity. No unbearable anguish. And no sudden or impulsive decision — instead, a quiet, slow, natural exit from the body, coupled with spiritual practices, with mantras and tantras, with scriptural readings, deep meditation, reflection and listening to favorite religious songs, with joyous release, with all affairs settled, with full self-awareness and with recognition and support from friends and relations. But don’t try it unless you meet up to the qualifications and, above all, have community support.
From our cyberspace congregation through the Internet came a question about the thirty-one-day period of seclusion that a family observes following a death or a birth in the family. The traditional practice is to not go to the temple, to not visit swamis and gurus, and to put white cloth over the Deities in the shrine room. An understanding of the esoterics behind traditions is very important in order to fulfill them. When someone is born or dies, a door, to either the higher or lower inner worlds, is opened for all who share a psychic bond, depending on where the soul has come from or has gone. For thirty-one days a psychic passageway of vulnerability persists, which is particularly magnetic in instances of death. “Still,” the devotee asked, “isn’t a birth especially a happy, sacred event? If so, why can’t we go into the shrine room? Why can’t we go into the temple?”
Yes, birth is a very sacred and happy event for the entire family and should be regarded as such. However, it is also a very inner time for the family. Inner worship, meditation, singing songs, doing japa are totally acceptable. A primary reason behind this tradition is to protect the health and well-being of the newborn. Secondly, it is observed so that the baby can become adjusted to the big experience of birth, which is a tremendous experience for the soul, to come into a physical body. During this first month, the astral body of the child is getting accustomed to its tiny new physical body and is experiencing leaving that body and reentering that body. This is an important time of astral, physical adjustment for the newly born. Often when a baby is crying uncontrollably, we can assume that the astral body is out of the physical body, trying to reenter. Also, to bring a newborn child during his first month to a temple would be unwise, as everyone would crowd around, relatives and strangers and friends, breathing into his face, and the baby could contract a disease. Thirty-one days is given to keep the child protected from disease and allow him or her full entrance into the physical body.
The observance of the thirty-one day period immediately after a death in the family is the same traditional practice: closing up the shrine room, putting white cloth over all the Deity pictures and refraining from visiting temples, and from approaching swamis or other holy persons. Cases of a birth and a death are mystically very similar, in that the door of the inner world is open. We want to help that door close, not keep it open by worshiping in the shrine or going to the temple. Spiritual practice is curtailed to avoid the pitfalls that could result in inadvertently drawing forth the energies of beings of the lower worlds rather than the higher.
Visiting the shrine room at this time would also open the door for uncontrollable crying by members of the family. Crying upsets the astral body of the departed one, because he or she is still connected to the loved ones, and yet is having happy experiences. So, during this particular time of thirty-one days after a birth or death, slowly the inner doors of the higher world as well as the lower worlds are allowed to close.
This does not restrict relatives and friends from bringing food to the family, which is very helpful, because the natural routine of the home has been disrupted. Especially in the event of the death of a dear family member, there are many, many things to do — funeral arrangements, disposing of clothing and belongings, attending to wills — so it helps if the family is free from its usual chores and religious duties. After the period of retreat, which does not exclude, of course, personal meditation and japa, worshiping within, normalcy may recommence.
Let there be no neglect of Truth. Let there be no neglect of dharma. Let there be no neglect of welfare. Let there be no neglect of prosperity. Let there be no neglect of study and teaching. Let there be no neglect of the duties to the Gods and the ancestors.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittiriya Upanishad, 1.11.1. BO UPR, P. 537
What Is Dharma?
One of the great joys of Hinduism is dharma. What is dharma? Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to a seed — the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny. Dharma means merit, morality, good conduct, religious duty and the way of life of the wise person. When people fulfill their dharma, they fulfill the very purpose of their life; and when they act against their dharma, they create new karmas. Just as we are born in a physical body with a certain outward appearance, our dharma is a certain accumulated pattern. We are expected to live through this dharma during a lifetime, understanding that all persons can be in their rightful place, doing their rightful dharma at the right time. The Hindu has this understanding. It’s inbred. It offers a certain contentment in knowing that there is a rightful place for each soul in this vast universe.
Dharma is determined by the accumulated patterns of karma, the samskaric reactions to the experiences of karma throughout all the past lives, the sum of impressions that make up the seeds yet to be sprouted, which must be worked out through prayer, meditation, sadhana or tapas if they are not beneficial, but allowed to sprout if they are beneficial. These seeds, all collected together, make up the dharma of each individual. There are some who do not yet have a precise dharma. They have not collected up into themselves enough merit or demerit. Their options are great. They are still making — through their actions — impressions within their own minds in order to gather them together, to firm up their own mind to form a dharma, to fall into a certain kind of pattern.
Dharma is the heritage of all Hindus. It is working for the divine beings in the Second World and the Gods within the Third World. Hindu Dharma is working for the Gods, as opposed to working and living for our own personal wants and needs. Performing one’s dharma properly is working in harmony with the divine plan of the universe, as laid out by the Gods.Working for the Gods, being their employee, their servant or their slave, and not working for one’s personal self, must be the prime occupation in life, whether the Hindu is a farmer, merchant, soldier or a king, a peasant, a sadhu or a rishi. All work done in the right consciousness, performing the right dharma, is in service of the Gods and is work of the Gods by the servants of the Gods. Working for one’s religion, for the Deities and the devas, should be our occupation twenty-four hours a day, every day, during our waking hours on the physical plane and on the inner astral plane and higher mental planes at night. We should continue this work with an unbroken continuity.
To better understand the vast concept of dharma, look upon it as the natural process by which the inherent perfection of the soul is unfolded and realized. An acorn’s natural pattern is to grow into a mighty oak, but the pattern for a rose is different. An acorn will never try to become a rose bush. Our good friend, Sita Ram Goel, once said, “Now I was made to see dharma as a multidimensional movement of man’s inner law of being, his psychic evolution, his spiritual growth and his spontaneous building of an outer life for himself and the community in which he lives.” In contrast, by performing an incorrect or adharmic pattern in life, the soul reaps more karma and is retarded for perhaps an entire lifetime. We call it righteousness and goodness and virtue when the dharma of a particular lifetime is performed correctly.
Unfolding a Clear Pattern
The dharma of a person’s life is set prior to birth according to the accumulated impressions of all previous lives. It is set as the most perfect path toward spiritual perfection in this life. A life spent in creating a new karma through not fulfilling the ordained pattern of dharma temporarily retards the soul’s evolution. This retardation may not appear until future births, seemingly bypassed but not actually bypassed.
To avoid the potential catastrophes of karma, each Hindu must perform his dharma, live according to the natural Godward path. By following this important pattern of spiritual unfoldment, the devotee benefits and, in turn, benefits all others and, most importantly, serves the Gods and earns good merit, earns their grace and then deserves their boons. When spiritually awakened, the Hindu offers his every thought, word and deed in a consciousness of the Divine. All work is done for that high purpose.
To know one’s dharma is a clear path. To be uncertain is a path of confusion. There is one God who knows the patterns of all humankind, whose superconscious mind is so intricate, encompassing and spanning the yugas of time, that each path for each individual is known, memorized and recorded indelibly in the inner ether of the akashic matter of His mind. Through the worship of this God, Lord Ganesha, the venerable pope of the Hindu religion, the individual’s dharmic pattern in this life is unfolded from within. It becomes clear. It becomes known. It is difficult for the modern, twenty-first-century Hindu to consciously know the correct dharma, but this can be made known to him through the worship of Lord Ganesha.
If someone is not fortunate enough to have been born into a family that perpetuates the Sanatana Dharma, then he must perform sadhana and offer repeated prayers to this first God, Lord Ganesha, whom all Hindus invoke before the other Gods and before any task is undertaken, this God whose knowledge remains supreme, penetrating most deeply through every avenue of the devotee’s mind. Once the dharma is clear, is known, it must be faithfully performed throughout the life most willingly, thus destroying the seeds of karma through living out the pattern without creating a new karma, through performing good service, accruing good merit in fulfillment of the totalities of all of our multiple life patterns. This then makes the next life and the one after that joyous, brings good births well earned and well lived, through the graces of Maha Ganapati, Lord Ganesha, who sits upon the four-petaled lotus muladhara chakra within the spine of every person.
As the divine being rises within and consciousness expands, a kundalini coil is released and a certain power awakens from deep within. At the same time, conscience awakens, and the mind emerges into the muladhara chakra, there to meet Maha Ganapati, Lord Ganesha, through whose eyes and mind the devotee enters into the joys and happinesses within the Hindu religion, the birthright of all humans. This is how the Sanatana Dharma perpetuates itself and progresses from generation to generation, from age to age. Of course, once well settled into dharma, through Lord Ganesha, we will meet the other Gods. They will help maintain and fulfill our life in all avenues of culture and appreciation of that culture. It is only when each individual finds his own particular pattern in life, and clings to this pattern, that good future births are assured.
Help From The Gods
What is a bad birth, one might wonder. It is being born into an area of the mind below the muladhara chakra where the instinctive nature reigns supreme, where the intellectual nature runs amuck by pursuing dead-end sequences of thought and desire. This is considered a bad birth. It is where no consciousness of God or of the Gods exists, where there is no known pattern for life, no dharma, and where little or no knowledge of the laws of karma and reincarnation survive. This is a bad birth when within the chakras of our being, the centers of nerve force, thought and emotion, values of external existence remain supreme, and the many, many pitfalls of suffering, anguish, confusion, tears and sorrow all exist. These areas of consciousness in the lower chakras below the muladhara can reap birth after birth and are considered by the Hindu as births to be avoided. They are avoided through finding and then following unrelentingly one’s dharma life after life.
The Hindu dharma is the clear pattern within the mind, earning the right to see the cumulative patterns of the karmas and the impressions of all past existences molded into a one pattern to be lived out in this life to the benefit of all patterns. Such a life is the fulfillment of all previous efforts and thus erases the uncomplimentary deeds and adds beneficial ones, so a next birth can be most rewardingly great and useful to the whole of mankind. This is the evolution of the soul, and the duty of the great God Ganesha and of the Mahadevas who protect the soul, of the devas who guard and guide the soul and of the rishis and seers, saints and satgurus who are the guardians of mankind in this First World existence.
They assure that, little by little, this pattern unfolds through the performance of good dharma, through earning good karma. It does not take a deep understanding or a tremendous intellect to find one’s perfect pattern among the many patterns of life. For Hindu souls, it does require being born into or gaining formal entrance into the Hindu religion, being properly introduced to the Gods and bearing the name of one of the Gods as one’s own legal name. Then authority is given to make clear the pattern for this life, to receive the blessings and the protection of the benevolent God Ganesha, protector of human evolution. This is one of the most basic benefits for all Hindus, for then we can serve the Gods well and work through our karma toward a greater dharma through working for the Gods.
We have one duty to perform, which is to pass our religion on to the next generation, the next and the next. And how do we do this? How is this done? It is done by causing the children to memorize the precepts of our scriptures. Our Saivite scriptures are the heritage of the children. They own those scriptures. It is our duty to give them the scriptures. Among others, we now have the Tirukural in the English language, entitled Weaver’s Wisdom. It must be memorized by them, by each and every one of them, along with the hundreds of Vedic verses in Hinduism’s Contemporary Catechism, Dancing with Siva. The teachings of our other scriptures should be familiar as well. That establishes them in their dharma. The sooner we get our scriptures into the minds of the children, the better we build the children into fine citizens. Crime is very expensive for any nation. Crime is very expensive for any family, for they suffer and the individual suffers. Nothing is gained by crime. Good citizenship comes from a good religious education. A good religious education starts with memory, and it is fulfilled in the realms of reason when the child is older and able to discuss his religion with his elders. We must educate the youth. We must educate them well in the Saivite Hindu religion. Start with the Tirukural. Lord Murugan will help you. God Ganesha will open doors and give you wisdom of how to proceed. Lord Murugan will give you the willpower — He is the God of Will — to perform this one supreme duty, and duty is also dharma, to pass our Saivite religion on to the next generation, the next and the next.
Forces of Adharma
We all have our dharma to perform, each and every one of us. The child has his dharma to perform as a child. Unless the child has early training in his religious life, his religious patterns are not set firmly. It has to be taught to respect the dharmic mother and father as the first gurus. Parents teach mainly by example, and sadly some only teach what not to do rather than being religious models for their young. They don’t understand that example is the most powerful and lasting lesson a parent can give to a child. Later the schoolteacher is the guru, and still later the satguru is the guru in the strict sense. The satguru more than often has to undo the erroneous, often angry and violent, examples given by parents and schoolteachers to the young ones, who thus learn of hurtfulness and anti-religiousness and immoral practices. It is up to the satguru to help heal the minds of the young of the fear and suppressed anger they naturally hold against parents who have inflicted emotional and bodily injury on them until they were physically big enough to resist.
There are a lot of influences in the world which deny dharma, which deny the Gods and which ignore the temples. You must never allow these worldly forces to affect you or your family, now or in the future. Don’t let anyone take your religion away from you. We have to keep developing religion in our mind. We have to keep learning the language of our soul, which is one definition of religion. When religion leaves our mind, something comes in to replace it. What comes into our mind to replace the vacuum when religion goes? Greed, jealousy, hatred, anger, past regrets, despair, self-condemnation. We cease to feel good about ourselves. We are always discontented and restless, and we are always unhappy, jealous, angry and fretful. These are some of the lower emotions that replace religion when we allow religion to leave our mind.
There are many people in the world today intent on taking your religion away from you. Saivites have the greatest and philosophically most comprehensive and deeply experiential religion in the world. Saivites have moved their religion forward for five to ten thousand years. At no time in history has the Saivite religion not been on this planet. The Tamil people especially have moved the Saivite religion forward, year after year after year, through bhakti. And it is your religion. It is in your DNA, and no one can take that religion away from you. But you must steel your mind, make your mind strong through knowledge, through religious education.
Charting A Course
When we set our dharma through the personal course of selecting a profession, we have to be very sure what we want to do through life; and it has to be in accordance with either stri dharma or purusha dharma to the best of our knowledge, and all of our family and relatives have to agree. For when we follow dharma, we are content; everyone in the community is happy.
Now, in this technological era, we have many choices of dharma. What would be some of them? To become a doctor would be a dharma, which is helping people, healing people mentally, emotionally and physically. To perform the dharma of a doctor, not just eight hours a day, but twenty-four hours a day, we have to be healing. Then the great healing forces from the great Gods of our religion come pouring through us, whether we are a medical doctor, an ayurveda healer, a nutritionist, a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a neurologist, or whatever we choose in that field as our dharma. This becomes our total pattern to be lived out in this birth.
What upsets dharma and makes karma? When we make karma, we either make negative burdens for ourselves, or we make helpful and useful karmas that bring us merit. For a youth to choose to be a doctor and then, in the middle of his career, decide he doesn’t want to do that anymore, and make another choice in the middle of his life that he is going to now be a businessman and run a drugstore because it is more profitable to go into business — that would be abandoning dharma and making karma, karma which would have to be lived through, perhaps in another life. When that doctor made his decision to become a storekeeper, he started a new dharma, or a new karma, for which he was not trained from youth. He is, therefore, vulnerable to making many mistakes, because he has wandered off the pathway of dharma.
Why is the world in such a mess? Because people are not following dharma. They are adharmic. They are not following the path of dharma. They are following the path of karma, both bad karma and good karma. So, in our religion, the Saivite Hindu religion, we are bound to follow the path of dharma the best that we can understand it. We know it is unwise to do otherwise. And who teaches the wisdom of following the path of dharma? The grandfather, the grandmother, the father, the great uncle, the elders of the community, the family guru, the temple priest — they know how the dharma should be followed for a healthy, thriving society. When we make our choices in life, those choices should have the support of the family and the community. Then we are in the path of proper dharma, and it is easier for us to become successful in it since everyone is behind it. It is a difficult world in which we live, but we can go through it without being harmed by it by following the path of svadharma, the perfect personal pattern of an individual’s life.
Dharma is something that only the Hindu religion, the Buddhist religion, the Jain religion, the Sikh religion and other Eastern religions know about. They know about the path of dharma. The other religions don’t know too much about that path. But we know about the path of dharma — our duty to be fulfilled in this life, for family, friends, relatives, deceased relatives, community, guru and temple. We have, each and every one of us, a duty to this temple we are sitting in this morning, to see that it is cared for, supported and kept clean. That is one of the duties of our dharma. We have a duty to the community. We have a duty to our mother, duty to our father, duty to our guru, a duty to the world also. And good, religious people make good citizens of the world.
We hear a lot about human rights these days. It was in Sri Lanka in 1949 that I encountered the Eastern vision of human rights, learned that duty is greater than privilege, service is superior to security. Hindu Dharma is religion, duty and justice woven together, I discovered. I sometimes explain it as a simple box of controls which holds the actions of this life and those that preceded it and their corresponding reactions. Just what is the Hindu view on human rights? It is the right of all humans to be free enough to experience their experiences and learn from their ability to overcome, without holding resentments or indulging in anger, giving out harsh words, their misdeeds, sins and other wrongdoings and reactions to their former actions. From a mystical point of view, what happens to us is important, but not as important as how we react and respond to things, good or otherwise, that happen to us. The human rights of Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were terribly abused, yet they were not destroyed. Let us work for the most humane of human rights, but also teach that their absence in life need not destroy us. Greatness is in accepting whatever comes with open arms. All this abuse — which does exist despite the wishes of so many that it did not — can be a blessing when embraced by a pure soul. And we each have within us the power to accept, a power no one can deprive us of under any conditions.
The Caste System
I am often asked about varna dharma — the social structure of four classes and hundreds of subgroups — commonly known as the caste system, established in India in ancient times. Is the caste system still valid today? Caste — or at least discrimination on the basis of caste — has been thrown out of the culture of India, but people still hang on to it as an ego structure. The high caste people love to hurt the low caste people, so to speak, by ignoring them, treating them roughly. That’s not the way it should be. In many areas of the world the caste system is distorted, and also very strong. If you find the high caste people in your society ignoring and not wanting to speak with and associate with the lower castes, those are nasty people, and those are people you should avoid. Spiritual people, even ordinary kindly people, would never think of behaving that way.
The original caste system was based on behavior, as it is now in countries where there is no overt caste system in effect. Those who beat their children, those who become angry and jealous, those who live in fear and those who feign humility are all of the lowest caste. Those who value memory and reason and use their willpower to benefit others — who control themselves and run an orderly home, support the temples and are respected by the lowest castes — are of the business caste. Those who protect the dharma and preserve the scriptures — who protect the temples and all the people, those who are respected by the other castes — are of the princely caste. Those who commune with the Gods and are priests in the temples — who are the disseminators of the highest knowledge and respected by all the other castes — are the priestly caste. These four groups make up a complete society anywhere in the world and at anytime in history.
The original caste system had these four divisions. The divisions were all based on the ability of the individual to manage his body, his mind and his emotions properly. If he stopped fulfilling the dharma of his caste, society would recognize that he had moved from one caste and was now in another. The original caste system was based on self-discipline through education and through personal sadhana. The original caste system was based on the unfoldment of the consciousness within each individual through the fourteen chakras.
People everywhere naturally divide themselves up into castes. We have the workers. You go to work, you work under somebody else — that happens all over the world — that’s the shudra caste. We have the merchants, who are self-motivated. That’s the vaishya caste. We have the politicians and the lawmakers and the law-enforcement people. That’s the kshatriya caste. And then you have the priests, the ministers, the missionaries. That’s the brahmin caste. Every society has these four castes working within it in one way or another. In today’s world, if one is not fulfilling the dharma of his born caste, then he changes castes. For instance, if a brahmin husband and wife are working eight to fifteen hours a day in a hospital under others, they are no longer of the brahmin caste, because they are not performing the duties of the dharma of that caste. They are workers, in the shudra caste.
We can see around us the deterioration of the system which has been abused beyond the point of recognition. Members of the brahmin caste are now beating their children, abusing their wives. Members of the kshatriya caste disrespect the laws of the land. Members of the business caste are deceptive and dishonest. All are confused, living in anger and in jealousy. No wonder their families break apart and their businesses fail. In the eyes of the Gods, most of those who adhere to the caste system that exists today are low caste. This is because they live in lower consciousness. They look at the world through the windows of the chakras below the muladhara. These undeveloped humans are struggling through the lower chakras, trying to get out of the dark worlds of the mind. Let us not be deluded about what the sapta rishis had in mind when they casted humans according to the soul’s unfoldment in one or more of the fourteen chakras. We should totally ignore the Hindu caste system as lived in India today and, through example, show a better and more wholesome path for modern society.
What happens if we follow dharma? The Gods, like our Supreme God Siva, Lord Murugan, Lord Ganesha and all the great Gods, reward us by giving us a good birth in the next life. A good birth is to be born into a family that follows dharma, that is loving and secure. We are also rewarded by being able to stay in the blissful Devaloka for a long time between births. We remain in that heaven world, in our etheric body, to enjoy, learn and gain knowledge and gain advancement for our soul as we prepare for the next birth on Earth.
So, there are great rewards for following the path of dharma, and there is equally great suffering for us if we follow the adharmic path, the path of adharma which creates kukarma. When we abandon dharma, we open ourselves to confusion, to self-condemnation. We are open to low-minded feelings, to jealousies and antagonisms and uncontrollable emotions. Dharma helps us to control our emotions, and our mind also. Do you want to live in these lower emotions, out of insecurity, to arouse hatred, jealousy, greed and all the negative states of mind? Of course not. By following the ancient path of dharma, we avoid all this suffering and mental pain and bring ourselves into positive, creative and productive states of consciousness, bringing us ever closer and closer to the holy feet of God Siva.
We are in a technological age now. This technological age is fast moving. There are many temptations. There is television. There is the Internet, and soon things beyond Internet. There are things to see that children should not perhaps see at a young age. We must get hold of their minds early, at five years old, at six years old, at seven years old and cause them to memorize, even if they do not understand, the couplets of the Tirukural and the shlokas and Vedic verses of Dancing with Siva. Later on, they will be grateful to you as parents and as elders. Still later on, these children will bless you, and the blessings of the children will be very comforting in your old age.
We must teach our children that the soul is immortal, created by Lord Siva and destined to merge into Him in its absolute fulfillment. We must teach them about this world we live in and how to make their religion strong and vibrant in a technological age every day and tomorrow in their life. This is especially important for those Saivite families who live beyond the borders of India and Sri Lanka. Those of you assembled here this morning are heirs to a rich and stable religious culture. If you stay with your religion, the future of your children is less uncertain. They will go to universities in other parts of the world. They will be exposed to the influence of other religions. They must be so sure of their religion, so knowledgeable in its tenets, that they can explain it intelligently to anyone and allow them to accept or reject the tenets of the Saivite Hindu religion. Send them as missionaries out into the world, fully informed about Saivism, our great God Siva, Lord Murugan and Lord Ganesha, and you will be doing a great benefit for the entire world.
All Saivites throughout the world, the united Saivites of the world, are linked together in a bond of love — Sivasambandham. God Siva is immanent love and transcendent reality. Our religion tells us that the mature soul must lift up and take care of the young soul. Our religion tells us that we must go through the natural experiences of life and be responsible for our actions. Our religion tells us that there is no mortal sin, only experience. Our religion tells us that if we have bad experiences, they are the result of previous actions we have caused. Our religion tells us that if we cause an action toward another that hurts another, we can atone by doing penance and cure the agonizing mind. Our religion tells us that we come back into physical bodies again and again until we are the master of our mind, body and emotions and realize that we are a brilliant soul filled with light. Our religion tells us that because we love God Siva, we love one another, for God Siva loves all of us. Our religion tells us that God Siva is like a father and a mother, not a vengeful God, but a God of love who helps us. Always come closer to Him. Right now among the young Hindus in Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka there is a big spiritual revival of the great love of God Siva. They know that they need their religion to help them on through life.
Just as a caterpillar, having reached the end of a blade of grass and approaching another one collects itself, even so this atman, having discarded the body and overcome ignorance, approaching another one collects itself. That to which the heart is attached, toward this the subtle body moves together with its action which still adheres. Attaining the goal of whatever actions he performed here on Earth, he goes once more from that world to this world of action.
Shukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.3 & 6 VE, P. 759
The Doorway Called Death
There is a lot to be said about death and reincarnation. Most people are afraid of death because it is the most dramatic experience that has happened to them during a lifetime, as it put a stop to a lot of aggressive prana going out through a physical body. At transition, this prana has to contract immediately and go to seed. What is death? The realization is that nobody dies. You can’t say a human dies because he must now live in his astral body rather than his physical body. We live in our astral body twenty-four hours a day and in our physical body only sixteen hours a day. That means for eight hours each day we are already “dead.” When the soul departs the physical body at death, one chapter of life has ended and another chapter of life has begun. It is a total continuum, except that after departing the physical body, the being is full time awake, because on the astral plane we don’t have to sleep.
There are helpers in the inner world who assist those who have departed their physical sheath through their new adjustments, as well as assist with preparations for their reentry into flesh — reincarnation. These helpers are well trained, efficient, courteous and kindly. They are similar to those found performing the same services in this physical world, the doctors, nurses, psychologists, religious workers — aiding souls as they enter or exit the earth plane. In the physical world, hospitals now even help you to die. Or accidents may occur or old age simply comes. In any case, the assistance is there through the medical profession, the mortuaries and so forth to care for the dying and take care of the remains. These are all well trained, kindly people doing their jobs. The soul meets them again at birth when reentering the flesh, in the hospital and in the home. It is the loving care of such workers that assists the mother through the many years ahead until the child is fully grown. A doctor or nurse will perform the same professional duties when disembodied, continuing along, doing the same kind of things they did during their last physical life. The process of reincarnation is a revolving cycle.
Those who abide permanently in their astral body are not alone. They are with other people, some who remain on the astral plane permanently, some who are just visiting. It is a fuller life, not lesser. People die on the astral plane, too. When they take a birth, their old astral body has to be disposed of. Those on the astral plane have to “die” there to come here, and later they have to “die” here to go there.
The mind does not need a physical body to function properly. Nor do the emotions. Nor does the soul. A disembodied person is totally functional in every respect. Suppose a seamstress dies. On the astral plane, she may keep making dresses, but with a difference: she would now have all the fabric she ever wanted. But she would probably continue this same activity. She would not become a carpenter. However, it is not possible to experience the karmas of this physical world in the inner worlds. For this, a physical body is needed. When the time comes for acquiring and entering a physical body, proper parents must be chosen, an environment and country. This can be time-consuming and is sometimes disappointing on the occasion of miscarriage or abortion. But negatives aside, when the first cry and mother’s gentle hug is experienced, this is reincarnation.
Mourning and Fear of Death
People wonder about their past lives, but it doesn’t really matter who you were in your past lives. It is the cumulative creation of what you’ve done in the past which has manifested in what you are in this life that should concern you. Knowing how these things are going to manifest in the future is a forewarning that can improve the quality of the next life. Therefore, though possible, it is irrelevant to know what nationality, station in life or occupation one was in the past. What is relevant is the knowledge of accumulated deeds of all the past lives, especially those that will manifest in this life.
People who don’t truly understand reincarnation fear death. Fear of the unknown is part of the human psyche. To understand reincarnation, you have to understand and accept the existence of the astral body and have an intuitive knowledge of the soul. Then you understand that reincarnation is as natural as a child becoming a teenager and a teenager becoming a young adult. Reincarnation records are kept in the sahasrara chakra of every individual. They are readable by inner-plane helpers and by trained psychics. The sahasrara chakra is in the akasha. Every soul is packing his dossier right along with him.
Devotees ask, “When someone dies, what should be the attitude of loved ones?” Because the fear of death is so much a part of social consciousness today, as ignorance prevails in these matters, sorrow rather than joy is often experienced. In not understanding life in its fullness, many cannot help but misunderstand death. The attitude should be one of joy based on beliefs that come from the knowledge of karma and samsara. Experience of joy and a total release of the loved one would come from a pure understanding of the processes of life.
A better word than death is transition, passing into a new form of life — life into life. It is similar to moving to a new country, having completed all of one’s tasks. Death is a closing of the door on deeds well done, on all beneficial karmas. Karmas performed in ignorance will be faced at a later time. Death is also the opening of a new door to a place where the good and the bad, the happy and the sad experiences are forgotten. Should we not be cheerful and joyous that our loved one has earned a new start, having completed another step on the path?
Inordinate grief, sorrow and loss are felt by those who do not understand the Sanatana Dharma. They are dwelling in the world of darkness. Those who live in the worlds of light understand intuitively. They are happy that the person’s karmic cycle has ended. You have to realize that the person who is dying is going on a joyous journey, and he knows it. He is still going to see his loved ones who are still connected to their physical bodies when they sleep at night, and he is not losing anybody. So, one or two close loved ones in the vicinity at the time of death is enough consolation. Even if no one is with him, he is fine. He is going on a journey. He has the fullness of everything. Why should you mourn for the person who is, at the death experience, having the highest moment of his life?
Mourning at death, for example, is not a part of the Chinese culture. They send money and paper houses and write letters to the departed through the fire ceremony. Morbid mourning is not a part of every culture, as it is among those heavily influenced by Christian beliefs. We must remember that Hindus are often so influenced. Dying is not a super traumatic experience anymore, as people move around the world so much, wives are working and families are not that close. But the fact is that the departed person does not go away, has two bodies besides the physical — astral and soul — and is always there, existent. Whether he is living in his astral body, his purusha body or is in San Francisco or Paris, he is always there.
Ancestor worship is a form of communicating with departed ancestors, seeking to be guided by their advice because they have a broader vision, a superconscious vision. They are not bothered by the mundane affairs of eating and sleeping and family intrigues. They know how to bring the collective family along to its next phase of development. They will eventually, of course, seek to reincarnate in the same family to work out their prarabdha karmas. One reason for the Hindu shraddha ceremonies is to help the departed soul be reborn in the same family. Similarly, we would want our monks to come back to the same monastery and keep coming back until they fulfilled their highest aspirations. The Hindu wants to be born back into the same family, even in the same house, and families want to bring relatives back as well, so the karmas can be worked out consistently, lifetime after lifetime. This is one reason that on the nakshatra of the death, certain rites are performed to court the departed person back.
In many Hindu traditions, after the death of a loved one, shraddha ceremonies are performed on the death anniversary for twelve years. Therefore, each family that shares in ancestral worship or ancestral communication is, in a sense, a tribal group within a sectarian portion of the religion. Who better would know the solutions within a family than someone who has lived in it? If the ancestor has already reincarnated, the whole family would intuitively know it. Then they would seek advice from another ancestor, perhaps through a psychic channeler. If an ancestor reincarnated outside the family, they would also be told. Those who practice ancestor worship generally seek for channelers outside their community, from those who don’t know their family.
In the fifty years of our Saiva Church, we have documented birth to death to birth again within the lives of our devotees and close initiates. A continuum of birth to death to birth to death, a continuum of karmas in unbroken continuity — that makes up a spiritual, alive religious organization.
The greater the maturity of your soul, the longer you can stay in the inner planes. Some world-of-darkness people come back immediately. They die in one end of the hospital and are born in the other end. The average person would usually reincarnate somewhere within the twelve-year cycle. If the family realizes the person is coming back and prays for that to happen, he or she would have to come back within twelve years. Once they realized the person is back, they would stop doing the ceremony and be off doing other things.
At this time in the Kali Yuga, the races of the world are relocating to improve genetics and to recreate families with better genes by intermarrying between races and in different localities. It is a time of breaking up, a time of destruction. But the new race coming out of this into a good genetic body will be the industrious spiritual leaders for a better world which will recreate itself around them.
Life in the Inner Worlds
The world is quite blissful from the perspective of someone who has reached a high stage of maturity, and life on the inner planes for him is even more blissful. This is because all of the lower chakras, the instinctive and lower natures, are totally inoperable. So, it is a wonderful, self-perpetuating time, a time of rest and healing, of meeting others known on the Earth who have experienced the same level of bliss. For some it may be a time of communicating with those on the Earth, learning how to channel messages to them. This sojourn in the in-between is similar to sleep, which is an earned time of rest for the physical body. After death is a cosmic sleep for all the inner bodies.
Even someone who has committed the most heinous sins and played the part of the destructive element of Siva’s great dance would, after death, experience the Narakaloka only for a limited period, until he again enters flesh and continues his mischief or repents, performs sadhanas and lifts himself up into the Devaloka. However, by no means should death necessarily be taken as a form of liberation from rebirth. It is for the vast majority an in-between period of preparation for the next life, a time to gain faith and strength to face the impact of the already-developed good, bad and mixed karmas of previous lives.
Within the inner worlds, there are realms far more subtle than the astral plane. Advanced souls residing on the astral plane are able to access those higher worlds at will, there to learn from and receive blessings from rishis and great devas. For most, in order to do this, the astral body would not “die,” but simply be left behind temporarily. Similarly, here on the physical plane, you can go into meditation and get “beamed up” into the higher world in your purusha body. Your physical body and astral body are temporarily left behind. However, there are beings in the inner world who reside fully in these higher planes in their mental body, having dropped off their lower astral body long ago. But the law is that after death you won’t be able to go any higher in the inner worlds than the level you had attained in a physical birth, because it is only in physical birth that all twenty-one chakras are available. In physical birth, the lowest ones become attainable, and the highest become attainable as well. Whatever your attainment on Earth is, you carry that with you into the astral worlds unchanged. Whatever your accomplishments are of living in the gamut of the chakras, lower or higher, you can’t go lower and you can’t go higher in the inner planes. That is why you need a physical birth.
I was once asked about atura sannyasa, renouncing the world at the moment of death? Personally, I think that is like icing a stale cake. People do it, it is possible, and it may quiet a person’s mind if he wanted to do that, but it does not mean a lot. Perhaps he will be a sannyasin in his next life, but maybe he will not. If you are going to be a sannyasin, you have to try to live the life.
Occasionally a great soul will know before his grand departure, his death, that he will not be reincarnating again. In this case the astral body has to be totally absorbed by the causal body while he is alive in his physical body. That means all the lower chakras have to be closed off. When this has occurred, the soul body takes over the physical body and there is very little astral body present, just a shell. Eliminating the astral body and the chakras it is attached to is accomplished through yoga and tapas in a physical birth. This is a process that goes on in the First World. To fulfill these various laws relating to the chakras and the soul’s unfoldment, it is very important that we have a physical planet at a certain distance from a sun, with edible vegetation, fertile soil, breathable atmosphere, a benign climate and gravity, all suitable for human life. You have seven chakras below the muladhara in the world of darkness. Through dharma and following the principles of Saivism, they are to be slowly closed off and systematically put to rest. The nature of the chakras is what makes one individual different from another, other than the personal vibratory rate.
Creating on The Astral Plane
The astral plane is within this world as its etheric counterpart, and when you drop off the physical body, you are in it. You are in it now but are not aware of it as yet. It is a world just like this one. You can travel from country to country on the astral plane. While I was studying in Sri Lanka in 1948, my teacher living in America used to come and visit me in the astral body. When I returned to America, people from Sri Lanka used to come on the astral plane and visit me in America, and I would see them in their astral bodies. While I was in Sri Lanka, I introduced a yogi from the Himalayas to my teacher in America, and they met on the astral plane. The next day, the yogi came back and described my teacher perfectly and told me of their conversation. After I returned to America, one day my teacher asked, “Who was that yogi that I met on the astral plane?” and then described him perfectly, and told of the same conversation as well.
If we did not use the astral body on a daily basis, we could not move the physical body. It is not the physical body that moves; it is the astral body that moves within it. When we step out of the physical body in the astral body, we cannot move the physical body until we get back inside it. While conscious in the astral body, we are more on the astral plane than on the physical plane. Only when the astral body and the physical body are connected do we seem to be in a physical world.
Because the astral plane is of a higher rate of vibration, or a more intense rate of vibration, prana flows within it a little freer and faster. We have everything there that we have on the physical plane. However, things there are manifested by the mind quickly, whereas on the physical plane they are created more slowly. This is because the physical body needs the muladhara chakra in order to function, and this brings us into a different dimension of time. The first chakra is not so dominant on the astral plane. Therefore, we are in reason and in will. If we want to build a house, we just think about it, and a house becomes constructed within a matter of minutes; whereas it takes a matter of months on the physical plane.
On the astral plane, we see other people — other people that have died and do not have a physical body and people that do have a physical body but have just left it for a time. They have left their physical body sleeping and they are traveling on the astral plane. Therefore, it is a more populated plane than this Earth, but there is more room in it, being of a lighter substance. Then, too, uninhabited land on Earth and the oceans are used on the astral plane.
Why do we sleep? The mental body, which we dream in, is within the astral body and functions through the astral brain of that body. Through certain hours of the day during the waking state, the astral body uses the physical body, and the mental body works through the astral-body brain and the brain of the physical body. There is also another body to be considered, and that is the soul body. This body is what we touch into at least once through the sleeping state, and that gives not only a release of the karmas, often karmas that have been concluded, but also a new flush of energy into the astral, mental and physical bodies. So, we touch into the Divine through sleep. We must remember that the astral body doesn’t need sleep; nor would the physical body need as much sleep if the Divine hookup were always perpetuating or flooding through the energy.
It is a twenty-four-hour cycle of consciousness. Our individual awareness simply moves from physical consciousness into mental, emotional or astral body consciousness, or soul consciousness in the case of deep sleep, where nothing is ever remembered. People wonder why they don’t recall their dreams. It is as difficult to recall a dream that happened last night as it is to recall what you were thinking about between 12 noon and 4PM three days ago. Now, should the dream last night have been a fantastic departure from your personal reality, you would recall it. If your thoughts three days ago between 12 noon and 4PM were a fantastic departure from your personal reality, you would certainly recall that. It is the process of recall that is being challenged, not the connection between the sleep state and the waking state.
We do not usually remember our astral experiences, because the astral brain and the physical brain are of two different rates of vibration. Therefore, when we return to the physical body after being in the astral body during sleep, any knowledge that we have gained on the astral plane begins to seep through into the physical plane during a period of four days afterwards. This knowledge accumulates, and we call it an inner knowing. Ideas seem to come to us from within, but actually we did learn and discuss them previously on the astral plane.
Awareness, The Traveler
Reading and analyzing dreams from the shumif perspective, of awareness flowing through the mind — the inner mind being stationary, and awareness being a mercury-like substance that is aware in various states — will keep the aspirant emotionally and intellectually detached from areas of consciousness, or mind, which he becomes conscious in as he travels here, there and everywhere, as he does through the day. We therefore know that we need not be emotionally or mentally attached within our dreams to everything that happens. In the very same way we are not mentally and emotionally attached to even two-thirds of what we see and experience in our waking state on television or when we are walking about in public. Therefore, the shumif perspective, once it is well set within the subconscious, aids in understanding dream consciousness juxtaposed to waking consciousness and seeing them as one and the same. Pure awareness, nif, never sleeps. This mercury, mirror-like substance travels here and there, guided by the will of the perceiver. It is the venerable eye of the purusha. It is constantly aware, from the moment of the creation of the soul; and at the soul’s final merger into Siva it experiences super, super, super, superconscious totality. Most people who meditate do not enter the astral plane during sleep. When they sleep at night, they go deeper within than the astral, into superconsciousness, in the beautiful body of the soul. There they communicate with other people who are also in their body of the soul.
On the astral plane, talking is done through thoughts. It is the world of thought. On the inner plane of the soul, intelligence is transferred from one to another through light vibrations. This is a beautiful form of communication. The body of the soul can also appear on the astral plane and communicate with those who are functioning in their astral bodies, even though the body of the soul is a more refined body. It is these two bodies that are predominantly used on the astral plane. The intellectual body is used primarily through the day when we are awake, as is the physical body. Man carries his intellect into the astral as well.
Modern man does not use his physical body as much as his ancestors used to. He sits and walks and occasionally exercises, and that is about all. That is why much of his energy has been transmuted into the intellect. Our astral body, body of the soul and intellectual body all are very definite forms in the inner ether. They are used most by the evolved, educated, modern man. To understand these bodies, we have to forget the way we usually think about things and think about them differently, from a new perspective. Then insights are gained.
Some people do at times see what we call ghosts and wonder what they are. They are astral beings without a physical body. Only rarely are they able to have any effect on anything in our world and are generally harmless. A ghost is a person, a soul, just like all of us, that has lived in a human body and died, and is now in the part of the astral plane called the Pretaloka.
The word ghost generally has unfavorable connotations attached to it such as scary, haunting, perhaps even fear, for most people do not fully understand what a ghost is. From the ghost’s point of view, he feels very much alive, living in the inner world which this outer world mirrors. Ghosts, more often than not, see us, but we don’t see them, except very rarely, and they feel hurt when not included in family gatherings, and sad at being mourned for. Often the realization that they have “departed” comes to them slowly, but comes especially when they find they can now walk through closed doors, even walls.
There are certain astrological times, such as Halloween, when ghosts are most easily seen. I was in Singapore on one of those days when all the Chinese people were in the street sending prayers through fires to the inner world. The prayers were printed and purchased and then burned in piles on nearly every street. The astral doubles of the prayers were collected by astral helpers trained for the job, then given to the departed relatives to be read by them. When we asked about the event, we were told that this was the time of year when ghosts make their visitations. And actually, in the early morning, upon awakening in our hotel, the mathavasis and myself saw ghosts walk through the walls, stare at us in our beds, then pass on through a wall into another room to investigate the other guests. This was a shared experience, for we all saw the same ghosts. We talked about it at breakfast. Some found it a little bit scary, as the astral beings were all draped in white, which was, of course, their pranic body covering their astral body. They looked white because they still maintained an odic body made of ectoplasmic substance.
Possession and Mediumship
Ghosts are mysterious, unknown and not understood by most people and therefore feared. They usually stay close to a familiar place in the physical world and are occasionally seen or felt by people who knew them, especially if they have just recently passed on. At the time of passing, their astral body hovers over their physical body until they become aware that they have died. Inner-world helpers eventually explain to them the facts of death and take them deeper into the Devaloka to do what they have to do to prepare for another physical birth. In unusual cases, the astral person remains in a favorite area of the physical world for an extended length of time, making his presence felt by people in the Bhuloka. This is what is meant by the word haunting.
On rare occasions, we may experience one or more ghosts in our presence. When this happens, we must project love, while visualizing pink and light blue. This will help them, and they will eventually realize that all is well with the life they left, and be able to continue their evolution, released from the static state they have been experiencing. This is the great siddhi of love. Everyone has this power. Few use it.
In one sense, we could say that the devas of the Devaloka are also ghosts, for they are discarnate entities, too, the difference being that they are helping the Gods of our religion and are fully functioning at their duties in-between physical births, completely aware of who and what they are. The places they inhabit most frequently are the hundreds of thousands of great temples of our religion, the homes of the Gods.
When an Earth-bound soul claims a body of a physical person, this is known as possession. In most cases that soul is very upset at not having a physical body, because he has things to do, desires. Such a soul finds somebody who is susceptible, who is on drugs or half out of his body for some reason, takes over that body and uses it for a while to satisfy his desires. In Asia they have dances, songs and temple rituals, and in America they have electrical shock treatment, to get rid of the unwanted astral entity. It’s the same primitive process, called exorcism.
Mediumship is another matter. There is no conflict. It is communication by arrangement and can be accomplished on many different levels. One is clairvoyantly, where pictures and impressions are received. Another is clairaudiently, where actual words are heard. Still another is vocally, where the entity temporarily uses the voice of the medium to speak out a message. Mediumship is a temporary arrangement and, to be safe, it should be a definite arrangement. This is to protect the medium from astral Earth-bound entities who might do harm to him or, through him, to others. Even once that arrangement is set up and certain inner codes are established, communication does not happen all the time, or even at will. My advice for those who are intrigued with channeling is, if you want to channel something, channel your own superconsciousness. Any channeling without the code and the authorization from your teacher is a sure road to the asylum. Without such precautions, if some trauma were to come up in your personal life, some emotional disorientation, you could have lower-plane people talking to you twenty-four hours a day and not be able to turn it off. The first person comes talking to you, then the next — people trying to talk you into committing suicide because they want to see you fully on the other side. Precautions are always taken by psychically trained occultists to protect themselves and others from such intrusions.
Sin of the mind, depart far away! Why do you utter improper suggestions? Depart from this place! I do not want you! Go to the trees and the forests! My mind will remain here along with our homes and our cattle.
Atharva Veda 6.45.1. VE, P. 48
Controlling The Forces
There are three kinds of adultery: physical (the worst); emotional (very distressing); and mental (the secret kind). Physical adultery breaks up marriages, destroys homes and creates distraught children. Even if it is forgiven and the couple reunites, it is not forgotten. There is always wondering, “Will it happen again? Did it happen last night?” Emotional adultery is quite common. In the workaday world, husbands often become more attached to their female employees and associates than to their wives. Working wives become more emotionally attached to their boss and fellow workers than to their husbands. It is understandable. After all, she spends more waking hours with men at work than with her husband.
I was asked, “How should a Hindu man relate to women in the workplace and maintain his religious life?” Very carefully, very carefully. It’s important that you remember that you have a path to follow and you are in the workplace to do your job, be friendly to everyone equally, not having favorites nor any likes or dislikes. Behavior should be professional. Professional behavior is detached behavior yet friendly behavior. The Tirukural reminds us, “The chivalry that does not look upon another’s wife is not mere virtue — it is saintly conduct” (148).
Mental adultery — that’s the secret culprit. Who knows what anyone is thinking? But the feeling is one of drifting away into a fantasy world, of deciding to become or not become emotionally or physically involved with someone other than one’s spouse.
But most devastating, most insidiously devastating, is mental adultery through pornography. The visualizations, the fantasies, the changes in sexual habits it produces and the secrecy all bundled into one creates a distance between spouses, unless of course they are enjoying the same pornographic episodes. A verse in the Atharva Veda implores, “Sin of the mind, depart far away! Why do you utter improper suggestions? Depart from this place! I do not want you! Go to the trees and the forests! My mind will remain here along with our homes and our cattle” (6.45.1. VE, P. 489). It is hard to believe such verses were composed thousands of years ago. Human problems haven’t changed that much, have they?
The Sanatana Dharma is the oldest religion in the world. Therefore, its followers are the oldest people in the world, having fully explored sex (the Kama Sutra is the oldest known erotic text) and learned how to control it; established a system of sanctified marriages and found out how to keep interpersonal relations going unhindered. India’s culture spread all through Asia, and because of it one rarely sees any affection shown in public — kissing, hugging, hand-holding, touching or feeling. One might wonder how such a large population can be accounted for!
Hindus know that the sexual force is an energy, either under control or out of control. When controlled, it creates peace, well-being and health and provides a mental, emotional, physical balance. When out of control, just the opposite is the case: confusion, secrecy, stress, fear of discovery, lingering guilt, which creates misunderstandings and unresolvable situations.
The Psychic Ties of Intimacy
Adultery is in the news today, not only in national but also international scandals. Television plots give permission for “sneaking around.” It is not uncommon, and many don’t give it a thought, for husbands to visit “ladies of pleasure” and pay for their services during their wife’s monthly retreat or many months of pregnancy — and, of course, on business trips. Yes, those business trips!
The South Indian ethical masterpiece, Tirukural, advises, “Among those who stand outside virtue, there is no greater fool than he who stands with a lustful heart outside another’s gate. Hatred, sin, fear and disgrace — these four will never abandon one who commits adultery” (142, 146).
The adulteress has a karma to bear that affects many generations of her relatives and friends, for she is psychically connected to every man with whom she has had intercourse. A mystic could see a fog-like psychic tube connecting their astral bodies that will not disintegrate for many years. The adulteress may have many of these tubes, especially if she is a woman for hire. A man is connected in the same way to all women he has been with. It is through these psychic tubes, which are like the umbilical cord connecting a baby to its mother, that the energies flow, and the karmas as well — good, bad and mixed.
A husband and wife who were both virgins at marriage have only a singular psychic tube through which energies pass between them. If their relationship is pure and they are intellectually and emotionally compatible, they automatically control their karmas of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Their children are lovingly raised, because they are never entangled in family feuding. There is no fight involved, because no intruder has established a new psychic umbilical cord with either spouse, which would cause disruption between them and impending havoc to the children.
Once an astral-psychic tube is established between a man and a woman through sexual encounters, it becomes a telepathic channel, conveying thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is an important connection for married couples, tying them intimately together. Those who are married and stay faithful to their life companions know that it is possible to feel the spouse’s moods and emotions and even read his or her thoughts, all of which are conveyed through this psychic laser beam or subtle astral pranic channel. For those who have had sexual encounters with several of the opposite sex, the psychic connections become confusing. Small wonder they experience stress of which the cause eludes even the best psychiatrists. It would be like watching four, five or more TV programs at the same time, all day long and especially during the night.
The Costs Of Adultery
Now imagine a married woman working with men in a hospital or an engineering firm and a husband working as a computer programmer among women. Each is attracted to someone of the opposite sex, maybe because of karmas from a past life. Their emotional pranas move out of their bodies and connect with their workmates. Compatibility is established. Talking and laughing together become easy. When the “big happening” happens, as affairs so often do, the physical-mental-emotional-pranic exchange of energies forms an astral tube (nadi) which connects the two for a period of at least twelve years.
Through this nadi, the information conveyed is as subtle as: she sneezes and he coughs; he gets angry and she becomes pensive and sulks for no reason. Certainly no high-minded telepathic communication is happening as it maybe once did when the pranas were just forming a connection. Now, because they are psychically attached and pulling on each other in their secret affair, they become antagonistic toward each other. That’s why they say sexual intercourse outside wedlock ruins a relationship. They still have to work in the same office together and attend the same meetings, which were quite different when the flirting first began. Then when one, or both, turns a roving eye toward someone else, a feeling of jealousy comes up, and rejection. A good TV script, perhaps, but a disaster in real life.
Now let’s think of the adulterer’s wife, at home doing her daily chores, taking care of the children. How does she begin to feel? She becomes listless, uninspired, as he draws on her energies to feed the adulteress. The home becomes an empty place. She and the children are alone in a barracks, between walls that do not hold in love and compassion and kindness.
Indeed, adultery is one of the great wreckers of human relationships. Don’t dismiss it as irrelevant on the spiritual path, the path to liberation, or at least to getting a better birth in the next life. What is the healing when adultery has happened? It is necessary to perform some kind of penance that will sever the psychic tubes: maybe walking on fire or sleeping on a bed of nails for three days and nights, or performing kavadi with fifteen spears pierced through the flesh — three well-known public penances. One of Hinduism’s ancient lawbooks, the Manu Dharma Shastra, prescribes intense fasting, which in modern times would be fifteen to thirty-one days, under professional care. In the absence of true reconciliation, the best resolution is to live with the spouse like brother and sister under vows of celibacy. Those who don’t do something to mitigate the kukarmas and break the astral ties of adultery will suffer through the lives of their children, who will follow the patterns that they secretly set.
Adultery can be stopped on the mental plane. In fact, if it is not stopped there, watch out. It can be stopped on the emotional plane. Husbands, beware of secretaries more beautiful than your wife. Wives, beware of employers who may be more exciting than your husband. Pornography adulterers, you can turn off that computer and stop the pornography on the mental plane.
Finally, beware of the siren, the professional seducer, who is there, always there, when the wife is incapacitated or when the husband is on a business trip. They appear in many forms. There is always a price to pay. They may break up the marriage. Children may lose their mother or father. Guilt supersedes and far outlasts all temporary pleasure. Fidelity and infidelity are part of the human experience. The choice is yours which part of the human experience you want to experience
The Abyss of Pornography
Live and learn, live and learn. We learn something every day, and it is not always what we want to learn. Sometimes it is good for us to know, and other times not so good. It is difficult for us to speak of certain subjects. They are too sensitive, taboo, delicate and private, and so we avoid them. But it is necessary to understand and cope with these matters; and if father and grandmother are not speaking about them, then others must. Pornography is one. Not that it is bad in the sinful sense. Hinduism is too tolerant of sexuality to make such pronouncements. We can say it is neither good nor bad, but we can also say it does place big obstacles in relationships, including unexplainable misunderstandings leading to arguments. And it certainly can and does interfere with serious spiritual effort and progress. Those on the path of sadhana are admonished not to indulge in graphic, explicit sexual imagery, and if they are involved already, to give it up, just give it up. The porno path is a downhill path to be avoided. It is ever enticing but never fulfilling. I recently was told that pornography is addictive. I always understood that alcohol, tobacco and certain drugs are addictive, but to find out that pornography is addictive, that was something new for me.
Veterans on the porno path say it is more fun, more stimulating, more exciting and more satisfying than the wife waiting in the other room. This lonely life of low self-esteem centered around pornography slowly becomes habitual, an addiction that is difficult to overcome. Looking at the results in a porno addict’s life, we can see that sex on the Internet is engrossing, all consuming. They become reclusive, tight lipped, secretive, drawing away from humanity. After a cybersex session and expenditure of energies, the voyeur becomes sharp, even demanding, with his wife and the children. Guilt manifests in numerous ways. It has been my observation that addicts develop chronic lower back problems that cannot be cured by chiropractors or even be rightly diagnosed. When the lust, which is sex without love, takes over, the lower nature is unnaturally stimulated, not unlike a plague that has fallen upon us. I am told that one-third of those who use the Internet do so to view pornography, have phone sex and visit lewd chat rooms. “What is this world coming to?” elders exclaim. Well, cybersex has arrived for adults, young adults, children and, yes, some elders, too.
An even more serious problem is with sons and daughters who become addicted to this kind of vicarious stimulation. Most parents in the modern Hindu community work and get two paychecks every payday. They have little or no time at all to give to their children. The duty of watching after the children is often delegated to a baby-sitter, and the older children baby-sit when they are able. What goes on behind those closed doors, when the shades are down and the computer is on, nobody knows, and nobody is telling. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” seems to be the policy in most homes. Pornography is a secret thing, but all that is seen is carried forward in the mind as vivid images and then recreated in dreams and daytime fantasies long after the computer has been turned off.
During this past year, I have been delving into the lives of those among my international congregation who are addicted to blue movies, Internet sex sites and all the artificial modern means of stimulation. To say the least, interesting discoveries were made. The most hurtful of them all is a mature and sexually experienced man, accustomed to pornography, marrying an innocent virgin girl who absolutely cannot perform the way he expects and who is then humiliated, beaten or burned, divorced and traded in for another. This crisis is often blamed on dowry. Or it’s claimed she really wasn’t a virgin, so he had to send her back to her family. One would only know the truth about his actions from an unabashed and totally honest confession by the young man. There is much to be said for early marriage, before the boy is exposed to the sexual fantasy world and all its temptations, before he develops habit patterns that absolutely cannot be broken by the seven matrimonial steps around the sacred fire. Parents should question their children’s personal life before arranging a marriage.
Psychologically, pornography is closely linked to adultery. Maybe the other woman is not warm flesh and bones, but she is an unforgettable, reoccurring image within his mind, taking up the mental real estate. She appears quite alive in his dreams — more beautiful, more accomplished, more seductive, more enchanting, more alluring than his wife.
Dad never shares his pornographic books, magazines or World Wide Web addresses with his teenager, and neither does mom. But the children are allowed to become addicted on their own, with free, unchaperoned time at the keyboard. Does this make any sense to you? It certainly doesn’t make sense to me.
Breaking the Addiction
I was told, and didn’t want to hear it, that pornography is here and there and everywhere on the Internet. Its advocates rationalize that it helps boys and girls establish their sexual identity even at a very young age. That, to say the least, is a very much debatable point. It robs them of their innocence, their childhood. That is for sure. Men and women, men and men, women with women, trois, quatre, cinq, how to kiss and how to do many other things — it’s all there. Question: do you know what your children are doing at home when you are both at work or out receiving an award for some social outreach beyond your family? Are they surfing porno sites on the Web? Even in the highly ethical families of my international congregation, this is sometimes happening.
In the old days, pornography was available in the big cities only. Separate areas with sex shops and prostitutes were called red light districts, areas decent people would never be seen in, and this alone kept pornography under control. During the First World War, soldiers were made to feel at home with posters of pin-up girls. These were girls in bathing suits, well covered up by today’s standards, but healthily endowed. In America before the turn of the century, the skirts did not show the ankles. Then they did. A big uproar! Moralists said showing ankles made women more sexually attractive to the men. Then up and up went the skirts, to way above the knees. Have you ever looked at knees? Some say they are the ugliest part of the human body.
I could go on and on. My job as satguru to so many souls in many countries is to break up addictions. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. The phenomenon of porno addiction was very new to me, and we needed a prayashchitta, penance. So, we asked Sri Sri Sri Pramukhswami’s senior sadhus the remedy to be used. His Swaminarayan Fellowship is one of the strictest orders in the world, if not the strictest. They said to look at a girl and follow her movement for five seconds as she walks would require a fast for twenty-four hours. This is a self-imposed penance among their 654 sadhus which can be applied to pornography. They well know, as our wise scriptures say, that sex manifests in eight levels, each one leading to the next: fantasy, glorification, flirtation, lustful glances, secret love talk, amorous longing, rendezvous and intercourse. So if the brothers see someone not eating breakfast, lunch and dinner for one or two days, they know he is trying to get control of the sexual forces and transmute them into tireless creativity
When your husband seems distant, preoccupied, not at home even when he is there, sits pensively in his shrine room, won’t eat his dinner, breakfast or lunch for several days while consuming a sattvic diet of fruit and yogurt, do not live under the illusion that he is going to become a sadhu. He may just be trying to break the cycle of his addiction to pornographic viewing, thinking and dreaming. Know that he still loves you, and never, ever question him about his self-imposed sadhana. Rather, choose the best of fruits. And if you find all those unspeakable pictures in the garbage can, along with a couple of X-rated videos and CDs, don’t throw your findings up in his face, even if you are perturbed and angry with him. That might become his excuse to again pursue his addiction and perverse enjoyment, possibly without you in his life.
Pornography is not only on the Internet. In hotels, we are told, four- and five-star, there are channels on cable TV that guests buy to watch hard- and soft-core pornography. Is this fun for the whole family? No, it is not. The cable channels on regular TV also bring all this into every home. It even flows through the telephone. Watch the bills. They might be telling a story of buying fantasy sex.
It may be argued that Hindus invented pornography, considering the compromising images carved in certain ancient temples. But this is out in the open. The whole family can stand and see — the six-year-old, the ten-year-old, mom and dad. Recently the Spice Girls, a famous band from the UK known for their sassy, sexy ways, planned to perform in front of India’s Khajuraho Temple, known for its erotic imagery. Hindu activists responded that this was unthinkable because “Eroticism without spirituality is nothing but pornography.”
Defenders of free expression say pornography is a disease-free diversion. There is no danger of venereal disease. We might agree, but must say that the consequences mentally are even more devastating, bringing “dis-ease” that no doctor can cure, for which there are no quick remedies, no drugs. Enough said. A word to the wise is sufficient, but a thousand to the fool is not quite enough.