On Dec 23, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:|
I am so glad I made it last night, for we were treated by the presence of Haricharan Das. The irony was not lost upon me that the Wednesday focused on Bertrand Russell's reflections was also the Wednesday with the most mention of God. :)
Hari shared many stories, which have been beautifully captured by Richard Whittaker far better than I could possibly attempt. Instead of recounting them here, readers can refer to In the Company of Saints. I will instead focus on Hari's philosophy.
He started out by saying that feelings of goodness are not enough. There must be action, otherwise the feelings are just entertainment. When one is moved to help others, one must get up and do so. Bravo! He also clarified at the beginning that he uses the word "God" to denote "reality as it is" and encouraged people to replace it by whatever word they preferred.
He shared about Gandhi - the man was shot dead, and with his last few breaths, he uttered the name of God. Hari reminded us how at the slightest difficulty, we forget God altogether, and instead uttery "Oh no!" or "Why me?" It is only possible to die with God's name if like Gandhi, we've practiced living with God's name.
He shared how he got into his spiritual quest through his candle flame story (see Richard's interview). That made him realize there were things that he really did not know. He emphasized a ruthless determination to get to the truth that is a hallmark of the spiritual quest. To me, this is the essence of science. I would be committing intellectual fraud if I claimed to be a scientist, and yet, closed my mind to phenomena that I did not understand. Reading Richard Feynman (in The Uncertainty of Science) last night, I came across the following:
"When the scientist tells you he does not know the answer, he is an ignorant man. When he tells you he has a hunch about how it is going to work, he is uncertain about it. When he is pretty sure of how it is going to work, and he tells you, "This is the way it's going to work, I'll bet," he still is in some doubt. And it is of paramount importance, in order to make progress, that we recognize this ignorance and this doubt. Because we have the doubt, we then propose looking in new directions for new ideas. The rate of the development of science is not the rate at which you make observations alone but, much more important, the rate at which you create new things to test."
My professor, who is uber-rational, taught me a thing or two on scientific attitude. He used to organize a group called "Beyond Rationality," which we restarted, where only topics that could not be discussed in a classroom could be brought in. The requirement of the participants in the group was to come in, neither as a believer, nor as a disbeliever. In my mind, that required presence and openness. So, when someone claimed that his sister had an eerily lucky hand in her die rolls whenever they played board games, that would invite questions like "What about when she rolls the die for other people?" and not "Are you taking grass?" Hard to put a label on the third attitude (neither a believer nor a skeptic), but sufficeth to say that it is possible to come from that space, and experience the learning that results.
Hari kept using the word "mysticism" and this brought up an interesting question after-hours on the connection between mysticism and science. Mysticism is the science of the future that we haven't caught up with. It was not that far back when thunder was the weapon of the Gods. Today, it is the play of the clouds rubbing against each other. To explain this phenomena to one who does not possess the language of electricity or physics is like explaining a mystical subject. Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda firmly rejected all mysticism not by dropping down to the level of intellectual dishonesty and ignoring phenomena, but by encouraging us to raise our level of science with a ruthless determination to penetrating the deepest mysteries of the universe. I think that was also the essence of Hari's talk yesterday.
One question that came up was how to balance service with spirituality. Hari said they were no different. To serve others selflessly was the highest spiritual practice. Another question was on music and stillness. Hari said that music and stillness were both valid paths to reach God. Art was also a valid path - the first thing he sees in art is the "I" of the artist perceiving the universe, a deep spiritual act. There are many dimensions beyond that which takes the viewer even deeper.
To a question on what people with no Guru should do, he responded that everyone had a Guru at their personal level - their own conscience. At another level, nature is also our Guru - it teaches us so much. We find layers of Gurus. He talked about having one root Guru who guides us and blesses us to be able to gain knowledge from several other Gurus, but this root Guru is the one who opens the door for the disciple directly to God (or reality). He also said that liberation is the destiny of all - it is not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when," and to him, the mercy of God was in the infinite cycle of birth and death where we get to try again and again.
To a question on whether women could be gurus, he responded, "Of course! There is absolutely no difference between men and women in terms of spiritual ability. The only reason we don't hear about women teachers is because men control the press." When asked if his day job in painting was a mystical experience, he responded, "No, it is hard work."
What touched me the most was his total acceptance. In response to a question, he said, "God(Reality/Truth) opens many doors for us. When the door of teaching opens for me, I go and teach. When it closes, I do what is in front of me. It is all God's work." Later on, I asked him why he closed his ashram. His response, "Oh, the lease expired." That's it. He didn't fight it, or try advertizing campaigns. So he now paints houses to pay the bills and shares his journey with whoever asks for it. That blew me away.
Another gem: "The Universe is putting on a galactic show for our benefit, which is on all the time. We somehow choose not to see it." Recalling Feynman (same essay as quoted above),
"... there are the atoms. Beautiful - mile upon mile of one ball after another ball in some repeating pattern in a crystal. Things that look quiet and still, like a glass of water with a covered top that has been sitting for several days, are active all the time; the atoms are leaving the surface, bouncing around inside, and coming back, What looks still to our crude eyes is a wild and dynamic dance."
Interestingly, Hari does not prefer to share much about his mystical experiences. He shared in the interview and last night that people draw wrong conclusions and turn away. He prefers to focus on meditation and practical questions, from his own experience and the knowledge of the Yoga Sutras. One gem was "Treat your heart like your home. When you keep it clean, (good) guests will come." That was the message of his life - he kept purifying himself and found himself in the company of saints. Another thing I liked about him - he did not engage in false modesty. He told the truth as best he could.
Upon requests to share an unbelievable story, he shared about a time when he knew a person whose Guru was not alive. This person had a deep connection with her Guru and told Hari that she was talking to him. Hari decided to test it, as it was too crazy to believe. He walked into his library, picked a book, opened a page, and then asked this person to share the contents of the page by asking her Guru. The next thing he knew, she rattled off the entire page.
When someone later on went to him for advice, he shared, "People look at me differently - as a guru, teacher, friend, painter, etc. I cannot control what they think. But I can control my practice. So the most important thing is that no matter what other people think about you, stick to your spiritual practice." During his talk, he also emphasized not caring about what other people think, and the importance of settling on any one practice that we can go deep in, and not be forever sampling at the surface level.
After-hours, when pressed further about the need for a Guru, he said something very interesting. When we practice by ourselves, and start to gain benefits, it is easy for us to lose our minds and think that we are big achievers. That stops our progress. When we have a Guru who we see as a manifestation of God, we have something to compare to, and will keep ourselves humble. The essence of what he said, in my mind, is universal, in that, when we surround ourselves with saintly people who serve as an example for us, they are in a sense taking the position of a Guru we look up to, and compare ourselves to whenever our ego tries to rise up.
The penultimate question in the circle was from CFDad, who asked about Gurus who would perform miracles to impress disciples. Isn't that a distraction? Hari totally agreed, and called it magic, distinguishing it from mysticism. He opined that most people were not trained to distinguish between the two. Magic to him was about self-aggrandizement, inflating the ego. Mysticism was about relinquishing the ego, letting go of all and going toward reality/truth/God. Interestingly, he also said that "yogis know the difference, but are too kind and don't say too much. Ultimately, the kingdom takes care of it." And he laughed, as he often did last night.
To me, a sign of spiritual depth is how someone laughs. Haricharan Das laughs like a man who has found his peace.
On Dec 23, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:|
Sanjeev, you raise some very interesting (and important) questions.
Some random reflections.. At the end of the day, we live in action. So, it matters little if I believe in the pink fairy in the sky or am a devout atheist, as long as my decisions don't change. It seems to me that with your worldview, you value much the same things as I do - that is what counts. This is even more fascinating if one reads Russell's passage - it is deeply spiritual in the truest essence. Russell is asking us to think about what makes life meaningful. Feynman was no different, and both were proclaimed atheists. Feynman writes that it does not matter how we arrive at our scientific theories, as long as we do. One could have been soaking in a bathtub when the bulb went on, or one might have been riding on a bus when an aha moment appeared. No one really knows what inspiration led our scientists to come up with their imaginative theories. The realm of science only begins once the theory is in front of us and we can test it.
However, I guess that we need to talk a bit more about "mysticism". For instance, it was difficult for me to believe the story regarding the column of light that he saw in his Guru during his birthday celebration. I would like to be proven wrong.
To tackle the major premise itself - I am not convinced of the helpfulness of craving supernatural experiences. Many crave such experiences and then become imbalanced, sometimes even after getting it. That may also be the reason that Hari had to really be coaxed into sharing such a personal story (it certainly was the reason why I didn't consider it important to share earlier).
The rest of this post is on the minor premise - whether we can then claim any of this to be a science if we cannot experience what someone else claims to have experienced. You and I can watch the same movie, and have a very different experience. To expect to have the same experience is to have an unrealistic expectation, simply because we have different starting beliefs.
But then, how is this a science?
I have found two ideas helpful. One is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Conflating the two would be a mistake of logic. Including this principle in our reasoning would help us expand our field of examination.
The second comes from Swami Vivekananda's remarkable introduction to Raja Yoga:
"The teachers all saw God; they all saw their own souls, they saw their future, they saw their eternity, and what they saw they preached. Only there is this difference that by most of these religions especially in modern times, a peculiar claim is made, namely, that these experiences are impossible at the present day; they were only possible with a few men, who were the first founders of the religions that subsequently bore their names. At the present time these experiences have become obsolete, and, therefore, we have now to take religion on belief. This I entirely deny. If there has been one experience in this world in any particular branch of knowledge, it absolutely follows that that experience has been possible millions of times before, and will be repeated eternally. Uniformity is the rigorous law of nature; what once happened can happen always.
The teachers of the science of Yoga, therefore, declare that religion is not only based upon the experience of ancient times, but that no man can be religious until he has the same perceptions himself. Yoga is the science which teaches us how to get these perceptions. It is not much use to talk about religion until one has felt it. Why is there so much disturbance, so much fighting and quarrelling in the name of God? There has been more bloodshed in the name of God than for any other cause, because people never went to the fountain-head; they were content only to give a mental assent to the customs of their forefathers, and wanted others to do the same. What right has a man to say he has a soul if he does not feel it, or that there is a God if he does not see Him? If there is a God we must see Him, if there is a soul we must perceive it; otherwise it is better not to believe. It is better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite."
"In the first place, every science must have its own method of investigation. If you want to become an astronomer and sit down and cry "Astronomy! Astronomy!" it will never come to you. The same with chemistry. A certain method must be followed. You must go to a laboratory, take different substances, mix them up, compound them, experiment with them, and out of that will come a knowledge of chemistry. If you want to be an astronomer, you must go to an observatory, take a telescope, study the stars and planets, and then you will become an astronomer. Each science must have its own methods. I could preach you thousands of sermons, but they would not make you religious, until you practiced the method. These are the truths of the sages of all countries, of all ages, of men pure and unselfish, who had no motive but to do good to the world. They all declare that they have found some truth higher than what the senses can bring to us, and they invite verification. They ask us to take up the method and practice honestly, and then, if we do not find this higher truth, we will have the right to say there is no truth in the claim, but before we have done that, we are not rational in denying the truth of their assertions. So we must work faithfully using the prescribed methods, and light will come."
Based on this logic, the question is whether we have setup, conducted and finished the experiment properly to be in a position to judge its outcome. Those who feel they have done the experiment properly and have not received the results are totally justified (and perhaps morally obligated) to denounce the claim. In the context of last night's assertion, if we clean our heart, and the good guests don't come, then we can rightly proclaim that that assertion was wrong.
Now, just for fun, here's a kicker - compare the following:
Swami V in Introduction to Raja Yoga:
"The end and aim of all science is to find the unity, the One out of which the manifold is being manufactured, that One existing as many."
Feynman, in The Uncertainty of Science, writes the following about Michael Faraday's discovery that led to electrochemistry:
"He had discovered that the thing that determined the cominbations of iron and oxygen which make iron oxide, is that some of them are elctrically plus and some of them are elctrically minus, and they attract each other in definite proportions. He also discovered that electricity comes in units, in atoms. Both were important discoveries, but most exciting was that this was one of the most dramatic moments in the history of science, one of those rare moments when two great fields come together and are unified. He suddenly found that two apparently different things were different aspects of the same thing. Electricity was being studied, and chemistry was being studied. Suddelny they were two aspects of the same thing - chemical changes with the results of electrical forces. And they are still understood that way."
What I find fascinating about all this is that I can be an atheist on some days of the week, and this unity principle still does not leave me alone - it is there, dancing its dance :). The biggest irony of all is that the secular humanists, although usually against organized religion, proclaim this underlying unity as the basis for their moral philosophy. Hmm.. so what was the debate about again? :)
On Dec 24, 2010 Pancho wrote:|
My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all.
We had another incredible Wednesday at the Kindness Temple and the presence of a surprise guest. Hermano Somik, once again, has done a great job
summarizing many of the highlights --if not all of them! A poem flowed through me on Thursday, right after I read Hari's interview
done by hermao Ricardo. Then, I mixed it with these three points.
1. A Harmonious Life.
2. "Yes" and "Thank You" :-) the Guru is Everywhere.
3. Nonviolent Roses
1. A Harmonious Life.
Bertrand Russell has been one of the most influential philosophers of my life. His love for humanity and critical thinking helped me to move one step forward in the path of finding truth during my years in the so called "scientific community". The bold Russell-Einstein Manifesto
against the atomic bombs, converted him in one of my "gurus". But perhaps what captivated me the most, was his way to connect the heart and the mind:
"A good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge."--Bertrand Russell
It is unbelievable how in the intellectual arena many times we forget about the heart. He had a great secret of Nature to share with the rest of us, so that we can cultivate our citizenship of the World. And I did. Now, that the guru is dead, his quote can be improved by saying:
"A harmonious life is one inspired by love, guided by knowledge and experienced by wisdom."
2. "Yes" and "Thank You" :-) the Guru is Everywhere.
It was very touching to witness the great devotion and love that Hari feels for his Guru. He shared with us:
"If you have the fortune of living with a Guru, a true master, at the end of the day, you only have two statements: 'Yes' and 'Thank You'. 'Yes' to his instruction, guidance and mission and 'Thank You' for the opportunity and his infinite blessings."
Someone asked Hari where people with no Guru fit in his philosophy of life. He answered that we all had a Guru at our personal level: our own conscience
. At another level, Nature
is also our great Guru. In this way we have many layers of Gurus. I found this spiritual translation very useful and it reminded me something I shared in a Wednesday about the principles followed by Mother Nature
"Is organized bottom-up; rewards cooperation; promotes diversity; is about interdependence; is about resiliency. And there is a very important part we cannot forget. It is the part where we say thank you. It is the part in which we remember to be mannerly towards the rest of the natural world, to say thank you for the ideas that they gifted us with."
I tried to ask Hari about these principles adopting a very cool visualization he used but my metaphor didn't seem to work. He said something like "we all are like tiny light particles moving towards a very luminous body as bright as billions of suns. We should feel humbled by the power and beauty of this immense light that is so much powerful and brilliant than a tiny particle with light. That's how we should feel about us and our Gurus." I felt somewhat compelled with this scenario, and I asked what were the "Maxwell Equations
" that govern the path of these particles? In other words, there are multiple paths for massless photons and charged particles to move towards or from, let's say, a star. But the speed of light is constant; an accelerated charged particle will create a magnetic field and light; a magnetic field, in turn, will affect the trajectory of fellow charged particles and so on. The group of particles and photons might disappear from any given moment, but the principles, those are eternal.
I made this comparison to bring up that Gurus are powerful and inspiring because they are the embodiment of the principles of life. And still, there is a natural limitation: we all are in these sacks of cells. As I argued in this other Wednesday
"In our awakening phase, first, one might be loyal to a creative-courageous individual, but that loyalty should, in due course, grow into commitment to principles, where the intermediate phase, the bridge, could be a commitment to the community of like-minded/hearted people. That is, for (r)evolutionary purposes, respect for an individual, must be replaced by respect for a group of individuals. If there is no love, respect and commitment for the posse, there would be dissensions and unresolved conflicts within it. Loyalty to an individual should thus advance to commitment to the community of the like-minded/hearted and from that to commitment to the principles. Perhaps this is what the Buddhists mean when they say: 'I take refuge in Buddha. I take refuge in sangha. I take refuge in Dharma.'
Love for an individual or for a group is shaky. There most eventually be a commitment to principles. Then, the fractal of Nature and the Universal Love will take care to spread the principles from the infinitely small to the infinitely great. That's why, from my perspective, we are part of this exciting movement that started ~3 billion years ago on this Planet, where life has learned over billions of years the advantages of cooperative, locally rooted, self-organized enterprise, in which each individual organism is constantly balancing between individual and group interests."
I think/feel that the solution of this Guru(less) paradox comes when we walk the walk. When we embody the principles of life and master the art of practicing them in a moment-to-moment basis. That's why I say that the Guru is everywhere! Take a look at that beautiful heart of (y)ours! ;-)
3. Nonviolent Roses
Blooms fostering divine physics and harmony
one pollen grain at a time
kind-fine dust of merits.
True satyagrahis who feel intensively the Universe of Love
and act accordingly in profound positive influence.
Without action, without scent, our supreme beauty is incomplete.
That’s why our roots are ruthless honesty, ruthless courage
to clean the home of our heart-mind flowers
and be ready to host saintly pollinators.
Leaves of internal prosperity, no false thoughts
catching, in stillness, the unconditional gifts of billions of suns.
Our sharp resilient thorns of holly satyagraha
are tributes to challenge injustice
and its greedy hands: ignorance and totalitarianism.
Some might try to harm us
attack our soft colorful petals and even violently crush us
but in the process, as Nonviolent Roses,
How could our sweet indomitable fragrance not be offered?
How could we not be kissing their lungs and minds
with a fearless smell to remind them about our exquisite oneness
and the indestructible flow of the human spirit?
It is our nature not to like them but to love them.
Let’s intoxicate them with pure love and critical inquiry!
The immortal nectar will be absorbed in their blood.
We might become generous molecules in the stream or Service and Truth.
Sooner or later, Beloved Angel, we will reach their heart
and there will be no “they” anymore
We can never be crushed because
the aroma of courage, love and compassion
is our signature, legacy, testament and last breath:
“we love you, we forgive you, we bless you…
we are one.”
May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.
On Jan 3, 2011 Haricharan Das wrote:|
Dear Friends I just found your forum. I must first say Thank You to All for your very kind
reception on Wed. Dec. 22, 2010 and ask your kind permission to say a few additional
words in your forum.
I very much enjoy your spirited dialog.
There are many points to be clarfied, but I'll just address a few for the moment
A persons Reality is based on their experience, But have you experienced everything?
So we must say honestly, My experience is incomplete.
Incomplete knowlege or experience can not give a complete picture.
The student of the supreme truth must honor their experience, But always hold the word
possibly or better yet, Perhaps in their mind.
This openess can lead to unimagined possibilies.
This prudent openess honors the fact , that our understanding is constantly evolving.
There is truly very little black and white in life. Much depends on your present level of
perception. Each of us, does the best we can, with what we have. Considering this type
of openess, it may be wise to soften our hard / harsh judgements about life's various issues.
My Guruji Sant Keshavadas would always say " every saint has a past and every sinner has
We must be mindful of our limitations, the senses - the ego - the mind itself.
As vastly powerful as the mind is, Yet the Reality / God exist beyond the mind.
Another topic, to my surprise,that is reoccurring is Mysticism.
Mysticism is the natural events, and experiments taken, as one thoughtfully approches God.
This process is intrinsically bound to the sacred heart / the inner heart.
The more selfless the pursuit, the greater the mysticism.
Dear Friends, I hope my few simple words aids in bringing deeper insight to these very subtle
topics. With good fortune I pray to engage your many questions personally in the future.
With Great Respect,
On Jan 5, 2011 Pancho wrote:|
Many thanks for your kind message brother Sanjeev. As you will see soon, I'm only a fierce mirror reflecting the light of the universe. What you are seeing/reading is no other thing but you ;-) This is my job: to live in radical joyous shared servanthood, and the way that I do it, is through finding the incredible inspiration inside each one of us. When the time comes, I'd be delighted to attend to the Wednesdays hosted by you so that we can connect further at the SOULlular level. Certainly, I promise to be an attentive guest _listener_ ;-)
As a matter of fact, I got so inspired by hermano Hari's profound messages that poetry flowed through me, two poems out of two messages! I see it as another evidence of being a fierce mirror: depending of the paradigm, a mirror tries to mimic, reflect, copy or collaborate with the image in front of it. So, this is the collaborative poem co-created by this space (astronomical thank yous hermano Hari!):
In an Instant Time is Eternity
True Love, Willing Bird,
how to know if I will recognize you?
A horrible answer, never.
Excruciating torture, tomorrow.
The worst of all, yesterday.
What the soul yearns, Now.
May your song fly in-between heartbeats and breath!
And then, I see the whole Universe in your eyes, Beloved Angel,
in an instant,
in all that present greatness,
have no choice but to see your sorrow, your beauty, as you see mine
in an instant.
Reality is based on our experience
but have we experienced everything?
our experience is incomplete.
Words fall weightless
and awe is all there is
And so we feel the beginningless silence
of our still hearts
and then I feel the whole Universe in your touch,
in an instant,
in all that tenderness,
beyond the mind
the hands were cold
but our rubbing spirits on fire
the smell of stars and reality
in your hair
my favorite star in the whole Cosmos
the star of your love,
the Universal Love,
because it illuminates my life
stronger than billion suns
it is always within
the sacred heart
evolving the present
level of perception
and when the light of galaxies
will be extinguished
thousands of millions of years from now,
I will keep loving you, Beloved Angel.
An infinite chain of Nows,
and exactly the same.
And so we love you, Beloved One,
in an instant,
time is eternity…