Saturday, January 02, 2016

94) Why most New Year Resolutions fail

First of all Wish all those who are reading this blog a Very Happy , Prosperous and Healthy New Year 2016 .
Before every New Year starts most of the people make grand New Year Resolutions with respect to improving their health , finances , career ,relationships etc etc and no doubt they will start working on these resolutions firmly for the first couple of weeks and then slowly the intensity will come down and die down in due course only to restart the whole process the next New Year and this cycle continues . Only very few are quite successful in maintaining their New Year Resolutions . 
Now the question comes : Why are New Year Resolutions not really effective for most people ?

The answer is simple : either people make Wrong New Year Resolutions and even if they make the right ones they set un-realistically high goals , much beyond their potential and slowly the realise the fact that they are no way near to the goals they have set and end up frustrated  . 

Only people with clarity make the right resolutions and keep also their goals realistic . Also clear people do not make one sudden resolution for the new year , they have been working on those goals before also and use New Year as a refernce point to evaluate those goals .

What constitutes Clarity ? People with well defined Value structure are very clear  and most people who are confused are those who do not have a clear value structure or have conflicting value structure . For eg I know of people who talk lot of spiritual topics , read spiritual books etc and always complain that they do not have time for their spiritual practice or to attend spiritual retreats etc but if you onserve them closely they are not as spiritual as they claim to be and they have deep attachment towards money , owning big property , cars etc etc . Nothing wrong in earning money , having a nice house or a flasy car but to achieve these things one must put in lot of time and energy and hence such people lack time and energy for their spiritual pursuits .But these people will not see their own inner contradictions and will keep blaming others for their lack of time for their spiritual pursuits . This is what is called as lacking clarity in one's value structure and if such people make high new year resolutions with regard to their spiritual practices then they will definitely fail .

So what is the solution ? They have to first be clear with their own value structure and be honest in accepting and acknowledging them . Nothing wrong in accepting the fact that one likes to make more money or have a bigger house , better car etc .  We have to make our own list with regard to our own value structure and the more clear we are with regard to our own value structure then the more clear and realistic we will be with regard to setting the appropriate goals  and also executing the same .

Now next question comes as to how to develop one's own value structure with clarity ?  The answer is only with daily honest introspection about ourself , our family , our outer goals , our inner goals , our lifestyle etc etc we can start developing our value structure and prioritising them accordingly .  This is not an easy task and each individual must learn to be honest with himself in discovering his / her real values and slowly keep working on them . Once you start  getting clarity with regard to your own value structure then you will become quite realistic in setting your goals accordingly .

So next time you get frustrated in finding not being able to maintain your New Year Resolutions then  instead of cursing yourself or others for the same better sit down and reflect on your value structure and rework your goals accordingly .

Saturday, December 26, 2015

93) Yoga and Vedanta - their respective role in the spiritual development of a person

We have today lot of Yoga Centres in many Cities all over India and all over the world . Various types of Yoga are offered - Sivananda , Iyengar , Ashtanga , Bikram , Vinyasa Yoga , Core Yoga , Dance Yoga etc and we also have many new age groups like Isha Yoga , AOL offering their respective Yoga and healing techniques . On the other hand we have lot of Vedanta Centres also coming up in various Cities and the popular are Chinmaya , Dayananda etc that Offer lectures on Gita and Upanishads . Very few Centres offer both i.e combine Yoga and Vedanta and only the Sivananda Organization founded by Swami Sivananda combines both these Sciences and that is why Swami Sivananda established the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy in Rishikesh in the early 40s and one of his Chief Disciple Swami Vishnu devannada established the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre world wide that combined both these sciences . 
Uusally the common belief is that Yoga is practical and Vedanta is Theoretical and that is why most young and middle aged people prefer Yoga as it gives them immediate practical benefits in the form of a healthy body , calm mind and better sleep  and senior citizens prefer Vedanta as it involves juust listening to the lectures . Unfortunately this attitude is very wrong . Both these Sciences are equally important for the balanced development of an individual ir-respective of whatever age he/she may belong to  and having a preconceived notion that Yoga is only for the Young to tone  their body and Vedanta is for the old to just listen is not a good attitude .
It does not matter which Yoga style you practice - as long as you do it with body and breath awareness , all forms of Yoga will help you develop a healthy body and a calm mind and that sort of individual is fit to listen to Vedanta . In Vedanta there is a shift from the body , mind to the atma or consciousness .  This is a very big shift and as we are always immersed in  either our body , mind it is not very easy to shift from the body , mind to the atma and so lot of immersion is needed to develop this shift in attitude  and for that shift to happen one needs a strong body and a clear mind to listen to the Vedantic Teachings and assimilate them slowly and steadily .
So  need of the hour is that those who have taken to a serious Yoga practice must also start attending Vedanta Classes and those who keep attending Vedanta Classes must also practice some gentle form of Yoga to keep their body fit and relaxed  and this integrated approach is very much essential for a balanced spiritual life . Vedanta is not possible without a proper Yogic foundation and Yoga is incomplete without Vedanta and hence treat both these Sciences with respect and do not dismiss the other .

Friday, September 25, 2015

92) The impact of Swami Dayananda's Teachings in my life

Pujya Guruji Swami Dayananda Sarswathi ( founder Arsha Vidya Gurukulam  and a great Vedanta Teacher ) attained Samadhi on the night of Wed 23 Sept 2015 at his Ashram in Rishikesh and I do not want to write about his life , achievements etc as they are easily available in the public domain and so  this blog post is more about what benefit I received from the teachings of Swami Dayananda .

I have never personally met Swami Dayananda or been part of his Vedanta Training Programs in his Ashrams and I have only attended few of his public talks but have read most of his books and what I am sharing here is based on the knowledge I gained through reading his books .

One thing I found in all of Swami Dyananda's Teachings be it a Vedantic Text or a general talk on a Vedanta related topic is that there is lot of depth and clarity in his teachings . Reading his books is not just reading any other spiritual book and unless and until one decides to spend time in studying and reflecting  seriously on what he has written one will not understand what he is trying to convey . Like everything in life even spirituality has become very superfical and many spiritual masters in the name of giving simple talks / advice end up giving superficial talks , advice and might be for a beginner such talks will be useful and appealing but for a serious spiritual aspirant such talks will hardly help him / her get calrity . Swami Dayanada's talks and teachings have depth as well as clarity but you will get clarity only when you are willing to go to the depth of what he is conveying . Very few people are willing to committ to such serious study of the scriptures and everyone wants a quick fix superficial intrepretation of the same .

For a long time I was going through many of the books written by many other great spiritual masters and while their intention was good they lacked clarity in what they were conveying . They were only giving superfical advice like BE GOOD ,DO GOOD , HELP EVER ,HURT NEVER, JUST ENQUIRE WHO YOU ARE , IT IS ALL IN THE MIND ,FORGIVE AND FORGET , DO NOT GET ATTACHED  , SURRENDER ALL TO GOD ,etc etc and were gving advice that was either BLACK , WHITE but these does not help much an aspirat who is in the world that has various shades of GREY between BLACK and WHITE  and hence confused by these sort of superficial advice and statements . I am not blaming those spiritual masters but only pointing it out that their well intentioned statements lack depth and does not have much use for the common man after some time .

Let me illustrate this with an example : The word MEDITATION is very popular and also many books are written about Meditation but very few books define what Meditation is and at the most they define Meditation either as Concentration or giving an abstract definition to Meditation like it is  supersensory experince that cant be described etc etc . But if you study what Swami Dayananda has written there will be a clear definition of Meditation like :"saguṇa-brahma-viṣaya-mānasa-vyāpāraḥ," and he will unfold step by step what the above definition of Meditation is and once you understand the same you will not confuse  Meditation with Concentration or get trapped in some mystical definition of Meditations .

The same applies to all other terms that are commonly used in spirituality but either wrongly or very poorly defined and elaborated and that is why inspite of so many spiritual publications many are still confused but once you study Swami Dayananda's Teachings properly in depth most of such confusions would be wiped out .

The word GURU means one who removes darkness and while I had various masters influencing my spiritual life at differnt situations in my life but as far as VEDANTA is concered I got clarity only through the teachings of Swami Dayananda that I received by reading his books and  also through the Sastangs of Swami Paramarthananda ( one of his senior most disciples ) I consider Swami Dayananda , Swami Paramarthananda to be my primary Vedanta Gurus .

Swami Dayananda is no more in the physical body but his teachings are very much available as books and CDs and everyone can still benefit from his teachings plus he has also trained an excellent group of Vedanta Teachers who are alwayss available  to guide serious students in the path of Vedanta and hence the Traditional Teaching Sampradya will continue .

I  Will ever be grateful to Pujya Swamiji for helping me develop more clarity in Vedantaas well as on Sanathana Dharma  and the best way I can show my respect to him is to study his works seriously and live the teachings in my own day to day life .

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

91) Limitations of Various Healing Technqiues and What is the solution for the same

The last few years especially in India there has been a mushrooming of lot of Healing Technqiues and these are conducted mostly  as 1 Day workshops or at the most Week End workshops and many of these Healing Technqiues has various levels in them Level-1 , Level-2 , Level-3 or Basic , Intermediate , Advanced etc and I was surprised to find that some Healing Technqiues have up to 9 levels of  Healing Courses . I have attended a couple of these Healing Workshops myself but though they appear different in content they are mostly common in what they produce as a result  of regular parctice which is a calm mind . All these various healing technqiues no doubt help our minds become calm and also feel bit energetic if we practice them daily for 30 mts of so ( most healing technqiues require us to minimum practice them for 30 mts ) and initially after attending these workshops many people get excited and start serioously practicing them and you can see a glow in their face and they are very enthusiastic and report good sleep , calm mind , able to solve some long standing problems that were struct and after this healing workshop they were able to identify those problems and address them . No doubt many of these Healing Workshops does help to bring in these changes in the initial days but the problem is after 3-6 months the same person is back to where he was before and in fact more frustrated with the extra  guilt that he is unable to practice those healing technqiues and he comes with a list of complaints - lack of time to practice the healing technique , even if he/she has time they are unable to focus and do it properly , the healing technique does not work for all situations  and then they have the doubt whether is there any fault in the Healing Technqiue or the fault is with them and so he/she enrols again for the next level of  Same Healing or switches to another Healing and again the same thing continues - bubbling with joy the first few days /weeks and then back to square one after 3-6 months . I have come across people spending more than 10-15 years trying various Healing Technqiues and yet remain frustrated and bitter and not satisfied . Where is the fault  ? Is the fault in the Individual or Is the fault with the various Healing Technqiues itself ? This blog post is basically to investigate that problem .
No individual is perfect and every individual carries a mind that is already filled with various mental conditioning through his birth , his family , his surroundings and  these mental conditioning prevents him / her from having a smooth run in all departments of their respective life . Some may be expert in their job but very poor when it come in handling  their personal relationships and vice versa and there is no quick fix solution for these problems . Each Individual has expertise in only one domain area and when he / she faces life that is multi dimensional then they find themselves challenged to address all these various dimensions effectively and when the fail to do so they end up stressed and finally enroll in these sort of healing programs to get some break and no doubt it does help them to address the problematic issue of their life for the time being but in the longer run these sort of healing technqiues will not help . Then what is the solution ? The simple answer is SELF KNOWLEDGE and that alone will help an invidual understand himself , the world and people around , the various situations and experiences he goes through and give him a broader picture to  understand himself , his value systems , his strengths , his weakness and also how he can reduce his weakness gradually and also build up his strengths . There is no quick fix solution for this SELF KNOWLEDGE and it involves a long period of  systematic study of Scriptures under an Authentic Teacher for a length of time and also reflecting on the same and slowly working out all the problamatic areas of his /her life step by step . This cannot happen in a single day or in a weekend and involves a long period of time as our mental patterns are so strong and bringing in the necessary changes will take a long time . Different people have different meaning for SELF KNOWLEDGE but here I refer to Vedantic Study of the Scriptures ( at least the Bhagavad Gita ) when it comes to SELF KNOWLEDGE .
But then are the various Healing Technqiues useless ? No They are not . They have a very good value but for them to be effective in the longer run they must be practiced along with the Systematic Study of the Scriptures ( at least the Bhagavad Gita ) for bringing in a very good psychological transformation in oneself .

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

90) Sucess in Yoga = Success in Yoga on the Mat + Success in Yoga Off the Mat

When the word Yoga comes many people imagine a person doing some complicated posture on a Yoga Mat and belive success in Yoga means ability to do a complicated posture and while doing a complicated posture is not an ordinray task and it does involve lot of  practice on the part of the individual to train himself / herself to do that complicated posture but that alone will not qualify for the full success as a Yoga Practitioner .That can be considered as success of Yoga on the Mat but what about that person managing himself along with others outside the Yoga Mat ?  Does he /she radiate the qualities as mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutras when it comes to their behavior outside the Yoga Mat ? This is where the big challenge comes and this is where real Yoga lies .I was motivated to write about this article when a relative   of mine went to meet a very prominent Yoga Teacher for a personal consultation and that teacher  no doubt had very great credentials and has been involved in a very rigorous training from a prominent Yoga School and also been Certified as a Teacher .  My relative was highly put off by the behavior of this Yoga Teacher and she felt that the Teacher's attitude right from the start was very negative , cold and indifferent .  She said while one can appreciate  a Professional's strictness towards their job but one must have some basic decency when it comes to dealing with people for the first time and she also said that this was not the first time she faced such a situation and she has faced a similar situation from a couple of other Highlly qualified Yoga Teachers and she asked me why do they behave that way .I told her that I cannot give a direct answer as I have never personally met those people and so cant judge their behavior based on his experience but can understand her frustration as why people who are highly qualified as Yoga Teachers behave so rudely and sometimes even unethically . This blog attempts to answer that question . 
According to me Success in Yoga = Success in Yoga on the Mat + Success in Yoga off  the Mat .
While getting success in Yoga on the Mat is itself a difficult task as one needs to spend many years in perfecting that art and Science of Yoga both as a practitioner as well as a teacher but the problem is that most people feel that success in Yoga on the Mat will automatically bring success Yoga off the Mat . It is not always so . It may bring in success or partial success or no success at all and in worst case it may make a person also a very negative person as success in Yoga on the Mat  can make a person loose his humility and can bring in the worst form of qualities in him / her ( The last 5 years have seen the fall of many prominent Yoga Teachers and Spiritual Teachers both in India and Abroad ) . Sucess in Yoga on the Mat though difficult  is quite a predictable journey as it can be studied in a predictable way and also demonstrated / evaluated in a predictable way  but success outside the Yoga Mat is not like that . Its journey can never be predicted , nor evaluated properly . It demands lot of honest inner reflection and inner work and most people are unwilling to put that sort of effort due to their over enthusiasm in establishing themseleves as successful Yoga teachers once they finish their Certification . They just stick to legal correctness and remain silent with regard to Moral correctness .  Nobody can be expected to be 100% Morally Correct in today's intense competitive world but there must definitely be some effort to increase one's ethical /moral percentage slowly and steadily especially when it comes to the role of a Teacher and that too as a Yoga Teacher / Spiritual Teacher and that is what Success outside the Yoga Mat comes . Unfortunately that is a less talked subject in many Yoga Schools leave alone being taught except for mentioning the word Yamas and Niyamas when it comes to talking about the Moral aspects of Yoga.and one of the books that deal heavily on this topic is the book "Bringing Yoga To Life - The Every day Practice of Enlightened Living " by Donna Farhi is one of the best books dealing on this topic and I have also kept the title of this blog based on the title of this book and in the absence of this aspect of Yoga being talked about in the Yoga Centres or Yoga Schools , I feel the few who are interested in developing success in both aspects of Yoga ( i.e Yoga on the Mat as well as Off the Mat ) must take it upon themselves to nurture he qualities needed for success in Yoga outside the Mat and one of the main aim of this blog is to focus more on developing success outside the Yoga Mat ( along with success on the mat ) as I feel that is where the real hard work lies and that is where the real sadhana lies and that is also the area that is least talked about  I  being  myself a traveller on this path and will keep sharing my insights on this topic at regular intervals. Before I counclude I wish to say that next time when you meet  a Highly Qualified  Yoga / Spiritual Teacher ( for training or consultation )  behaving rudely or unethically , do not be surprised .They are  qualified only to teach Yoga on the Mat but have a long way to go in qualifying themselves in matters related to Yoga off the Mat and so just appreciate / pay them them for what they are qualified for and use other sources to enrich yourself in matters related to matters outside the Yoga Mat .

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

89) Dr Krishna Raman's ( a Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher and also a Doctor ) Interview in Tamil

 Dr. Krishna Raman (of Krshn Yoga Clinic a Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher and also a Doctor ) in an exclusive interview on Sun Tv 's "Kaalai Vanakkam .Note the interview is in Tamil Language .

88) Never Compare Yoga Styles - take the best from each

Today the Yoga Scene is divided in to various styles - Sivananda Yoga , Iyengar Yoga , Ashtanga Yoga , Krishnamacharya Yoga , Power Yoga , Bikram Yoga , Satyananda Yoga  etc etc  . Each and every style has some thing unique to offer and also has something missing and so it is unfair to compare the various yoga styles and pick out which is best . 
I started my Yoga journey from the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga ( founder Swami Vishnu devananda ) and did all my major trainings ( TTC ,ATTC , Sadhana Intensive ) only in that style from 1998-2010 but from late 2010 onwards I started expreimenting with Ashtanga Vinyasa and also Iyengar Yoga and right now my own personal practice ( at the Asana Level )  is turning towards a combination of Iyengar and Ashtanga and I consider that my training at the Sivananda Institution as a good foundation on which I am right now building my Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa practice .The reason why I am moving to the Iyengar and Ashtanga Style of practice ( at the asana level )  is that I want my own asana practice  to be a form of art and I have found that Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga styles have that element of art and grace in them at the Asana level that I could not find in other styles and hence right now focusing on a combination of Iyengar ( to develop structural perfection in asanas )  and Ashtanga Yoga ( to develop the dynamic flow  )  for my own personal practice .  But Sivananda Style of Yoga is very holistic and goes beyond just developing expertise in Asanas .So basically now keeping the spirit of the Sivananda Yoga as the base I am focusing more on developing perfection in the Asanas using Iyengar , Ashtanga and other Yoga systems beyond Sivananda .So from now on many posts in this blog will contain inputs from Iyengar , Ashtanga Yoga practices  as well as from other Yoga styles especially at the Asana level for I beleive in taking the best from each system to improve my own Yoga practice both on and off the Mat .

Friday, June 19, 2015

87) The 2 ways in which Yoga has become superficial

In my last post I had mentioned that the biggest problem that is facing Yoga in the current ontext world over  is that it has become too superficial  and I will elaborate my reasons for the same in this post . Yoga has become superficial in 2 ways : 
1) It is restricted purely to a body oriented practice missing the other dimenions of Yoga :

Yoga is an integrated Science involving the body , breath , emotions and intellect but unfortunately it is projected only as body oriented science and the stress is mostly on having a slim and flexible body without focussing on the art of managing the emotions , developing the intellect and staying centered in stressful conditions . One can come across people who have a very slim and flexible body through yoga but very poor when it comes to emotional management .  Managing the emotions and developing the intellect are very slow process and it may take years also but it is very essential that one starts developing them side by side one develops one's flexibility through Yoga . Unfortunately this is the most neglected part in any Yoga training and I will elaborate it more in a separate post .
 The book Bringing Yoga to Life - The everyday practice of enlightened living by Donna Farhi
deals with this neglected aspect of Yoga  ( in fact that is the title I have given to this blog also ) and I suggest all people serious on the path of Yoga either as practitioners or as teachers read this book indepth and use it as a constant guide to help you lead a more integrated Yogic life .

2) Even in the body oriented practice it has become very superficial as the body oreinted practice also lacks mindfulness , depth , intelligence , grace and has become just another form of physical workout 

. No doubt Yoga has become popular world over and has spread to many countries and evey Major city has today lots of Yoga Centres but if you look at the way Yoga is being taught there , barring a few places in most of the places people do Asanas in a very mechancial and un-intelligent way . No doubt some form of Yoga practice is better than no practice at all but even Asana - the most visible part of a Yoga practice if taught in an a very mindful and intelligent way can help a person physically as well as emotionally and help a student take a deep interest in Yoga and make him/her slowly develop in to a better Yoga practitioner without quitting it half way either due to injury or lack of interest in pursuing yoga which are basically due to poor yoga teaching methods . Ir-respective of whichever style of Yoga one does - Sivananda , Ashtanga , Iyengar etc if there is lack of mindfullness in the way it is practiced / taught then such form of yoga will not help a person in the long run  and students will start quitting their practice in  due course either due to injury , lack of enthusiasm or lack of visibility in any tangible denefits in their yoga practice .
The reason why even Asanas are taught in a very superficial level is that today Yoga Teachers  are getting churned out in thousands after a few weeks or maximum 1 month of Yoga Training and this has led to the dilution of the Yoga standards world over . A couple of years back there was a Controversial article in the New York Times on Injuries due to Yoga . The problem of Injuries  is not due to Yoga but the way in which Yoga is taught by incompetent / insensitive people . While the incompetent people create injuries in their students through their ignorance , the insensitive people create injuries in their students due to their arrogance and ego even if they are competent .

The whole world is Celebrating  Sun 21 June 2015 as the First  International Yoga Day  and on that day let  evey Yoga practitioner , Yoga Teacher keep the above 2 points in mind and introspect  how far they have inclucated the above 2 points in their own Yoga practice . If they have not done so far let Sun 21 June 2015 be the starting point for them to rebuild their own Yogic practice putting the fundamentals in place .

More later .