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Amma’s stories on Devotion, Faith, Effort, Surrender and Divine Grace – Part 3 (7 More stories)

1.  How golden shower tree came in to being

[Amma: “The ‘Vishu’ signifies beginning of a new year when we submit all that we have to God and  pray for his blessings. Surrendering to God brings us all prosperities. The golden-shower flowers (Konnai), cucumber and a pot full of coins represent beauty and prosperity. The blooming of golden shower trees everywhere during this period is such a feast for eyes. When nature is rich, it reflects richness in our lives too. There is a folklore associated with the Golden shower tree and the Vishu festival:”.]

Long ago, there lived a brahmin boy who was deeply devoted to Lord Krishna. He would get up early in the morning and go to a nearby temple daily for worship of his beloved lord. He would do archana with flowers.

The boy’s family lived in utter poverty. His mother was always sick and bedridden. Some times, he would cry his heart out to Lord Krishna about the pitiable state of his family.  One day he returned home after completing his prayers in the temple. He was feeling very hungry and was extremely tired too.  He lied down on a mat for resting and soon went into deep sleep.

He had a dream. Lord Krishna came to him and smiled at him enchantingly. He played the flute to entertain the boy. He stroked the boy’s face and back with his hands to soothe him. Then Krishna took out a little bell from his golden waistband and put it in the boy’s palms. Krishna disappeared immediately.

The boy woke up immediately. He was surprised to see a little golden bell in his palm. He could not believe his eyes. With unabated excitement, he ran to his mother and said. “Ma, Krishna came to me in my dreams and gave me this golden bell!”

His mother did not believe him. She was angry at him thinking that he might have stolen the golden chime from the ornaments of lord Krishna at the temple and chided him for his misdeed.

The boy felt extremely upset and he threw away the bell. It fell under a tree in their courtyard.  What a surprise! The tree immediately blossomed.  It bore bunches of flowers in golden color, each looking exactly like the little golden bell that the boy threw away. It was indeed the ‘Konna’ tree (Sarakkondrai – Golden Shower tree)!

Seeing this, the mother was struck with wonder. Then a divine voice was heard. It said: “From now onward this tree will bear these golden yellow flowers every year on this same day. Those who look at it first in the morning will be bestowed with all prosperity. ”

From that day, the boy’s family started prospering. The mother got cured of her illness.  The day was called ‘Vishu’ and this day signifies the arrival of divine blessings to those who pray with sincere and pure heart.

(Source: Tamil Oliyai Nokki – Vol 3)

2.  Real devotion (1)

Once a king, who was a great devotee of Shiva built a magnificent temple for Lord Shiva. He made elaborate arrangements for the ritualistic consecration of the main deity. The date was also set for the ceremony.

On the day before the consecration ceremony, Lord Shiva appeared in the king’s dream and said, “My son, I am very satisfied with your devotion and all the efforts you have put to construct a nice temple for me.  However, I am sorry that I will not be available in your temple tomorrow at the time of the consecration ceremony.  I have to go to another temple’s consecration ceremony arranged at the same auspicious hours tomorrow, because that temple and all the preparations done for the ceremony are far more grander than yours”.

Lord Shiva also told the king the name of the devotee (Poosalar Nayanar) and his address in a village where the consecration of the temple built by him was to take place the next day.

The king woke up at that moment. He thought, ‘Is that temple far more grander than what I have built? Then I must have a look at it’.

The next day morning, surrounded by his royal entourage the king went to the village. To his surprise, he did not find any new temple there. He inquired about the person (Poosalar)  that Lord Shiva had mentioned to him in the dream and went in search of his house. Another surprise awaited him there. It was actually a very dilapidated hut.  As the king peeped inside, he saw a poor man in tattered clothes sitting there and immersed in deep meditation.

The king felt amused. “Oh! Is this poor man the great devotee that built a temple?” he thought. He prayed to Lord Shiva to clarify his doubt.

At that time,  Lord Shiva blessed him with a vision by which he could get a projection of what was going in the poor man’s mind in his deep meditation.

What he saw in the vision was a great, grand temple, far more wonderful than the temple built by the king. People holding thousands of pots of Ganga water were performing abhishekam to the deity in the temple. He could here blowing of conches and loud chanting of vedic mantras. Many saints and sages and celestial Gods were present there to watch the holy ceremony. In the Shivalinga being consecrated, Lord Shiva was present and he was blessing all the devotees gathered there.

On seeing it, the king’s pride crumbled.  He understood the intensity of devotion the poor villager had on Lord Shiva. He fell at the feet of Poosalar with reverence and humility.

[Amma: “Children, we must indeed establish and consecrate God in our heart. Not understanding this, most of us give too much importance to external austerities and aggrandisement of worships and rituals. Our heart must be filled with devotion and purity. Mind should become one pointed on God; then God will shine there for ever.”]

3.  True faith

Once a man was travelling with his wife in a ship.  Oneday, there was a sudden change in climate. The sky was covered with thick dark clouds. It started raining and soon the wind started blowing very powerfully. The ship started swaying dangerously on account of the storm.

All the travellers in the ship got extremely scared. They started shouting and crying.  While the man’s wife too started weiling out of fear, the man was keeping his cool.  He was trying his best to comfort his wife but he could not succeed. All his efforts to assuage her anxiety and tension did not yield any result. The man lost all his patience.  He opened his baggage, took out a pistol and holding it at her temple he shouted, “I am fed up with your cries. If you don’t stop immediately, I will shoot you”.

The wife was least disturbed by seeing the pistol nor by his threat.  She said, “Do you really think I will get scared by your threat? No way!”

“Are you not afraid seeing this pistol, with my finger ready to press the trigger?” asked the husband.

She said, “I know that with a single shot the pistol can kill me. But as long as it is in the hand of my beloved husband, I have the least fear about it. I know pretty well that you will not think of doing even a minor harm to me!”

The man said, “In the same way, I know pretty well that the control of this storm is in the hands of God whom I always worship.  I have complete faith that God will not do anything harmful to me. That’s why I am least disturbed about this storm; whatever comes I will face it boldly, because I am under His protection always”.

[Amma: “Children, whatever difficult situations we come across life, we must have the firm faith that God’s hands are behind it; if we have that conviction, then we can face the situation without any fear. This does not mean that we don’t have to make any effort on our part. Whatever we could do within our capacity, let us do it; anything beyond it, leave them to God’s will and accept whatever He deems fit. If we develop such an attitude, we can always live with mental peace in our life”.]

 (Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

4.  Real devotion (2)

Once a king, went to a forest for hunting, along with his soldiers. While chasing some wild animals, he lost his way and got separated from the accompanying soldiers. As he started searching for the path. it started raining heavily. The king got drenched fully; he started shivering in cold. Finally, after walking for long, he located a small Krishna Temple. There was also a hut adjacent to it.  He went to the hut; an old priest and his wife were staying alone in the hut.

They welcomed the guest and offered him a towel to dry himself. They offered him simple clothing so that he could remove his dress soaked in rain.  They offered food to the king and offered him bed to sleep for the night.

Early next morning, the soldiers came there in search of the king and were very happy to see him there in the hut safe and alive. The king was extremely pleased with the care and comfort offered to him by the old couple. He wanted to present them with 100 gold coins. The old priest politely refused to accept it.  He said, “God is giving us whatever is essential for us to lead a peaceful life.”

The king was extremely surprised to hear this. He said, “You both are now old. What will happen if you fall sick? I will do one thing. Let me build a new house for you. I will engage someone to take care of you and serve you”.

But the old priest again refused to accept any of them. He said, “We have no thought or worries about falling sick.  Our God, who is verily Dhanvantri (Vishnu’s form as God of Medicines)  is always with us and protecting us.”

Despite being poor, the face of the old couple glowed with contentment and unfailing devotion to God. The king bowed his head in admiration of their conduct and took leave of them.

 (Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)

5.  Not from books

Once there lived a doctor, who was quite an experienced person who commanded lots of respect from the his patients for his treating skills.

One of his junior doctors called him over phone and said in a frantic voice, “Doctor, I need your urgent advice. Here is a boy who has swallowed a small ball; he is in deep trouble and find it difficult to breathe. I have tried my best to pull out the ball but I could not succeed. Please suggest me some solution; it is very urgent”.

The doctor said, “Do one thing; pick up a feather of a peacock and start tickling him”.

The junior could not believe his ears. “Doctor, are you sure this is the treatment?  I have never studied such a thing in the medical books!”

The doctor said, “Go ahead and try what I said. Don’t delay” and he hung the phone.

Having no other recourse, the junior doctor did what the senior advised.

After a while the senior doctor’ phone rang again. The junior spoke in an excited voice: “Doctor! What a wonder! I did as you said; initially the boy was looking scared; then once I started tickling him, he started giggling and laughing and gradually the ball came out! Doctor! Where did you read about such a treatment?”

The Doctor said, “If I have no other recourse to solve the problem, I always try something simple and also out of the way. It is my maxim” .

[Amma: “Even if we are not able to do any great things, just as the boy was saved by a little thing in this story, we can always do something small within our capacity and it can lead to great things”.]

(Source: ‘Amrit Ganga’ Telecast – Season 1 episode 6)

6.  Unconditional compassion

Once a man was walking across a dense forest alone. The man saw a tiger watching him from a distance. He got scared and started running. The tiger too started chasing him. In order to save himself, the man quickly climbed over a tree.

The tiger came near the tree and stayed put there, hoping to catch hold of the man somehow or other.

There was another shock waiting for the man at the treetop. He saw a huge bear sitting there! He was extremely scared. What to do now? Should he remain on the tree and get eaten by the bear or jump down from the tree to escape the bear but get caught by the tiger?

Seeing him shaking in fear, the bear spoke to him: “O man! Don’t be scared. I will not kill you. You are my guest.”

The tiger was still waiting below. The man felt very tired and was about to fall asleep. It was getting cold too.  The bear said, “If you sleep off sitting there in the branch, you may fall down and the tiger will eat you. Come and hug me to ward off the cold and then sleep. I will keep awake across half of the night. Then during the second half of the night, you keep the vigil and I will sleep.”

The man had no option but to agree. He hugged the bear and felt very warm. He slept off peacefully.

Noticing this, the tiger said to the bear, “ Never trust a human being. Humans are highly selfish and have no sense of dharma.  They never hesitate to kill ferocious animals like us for the fun of it. At least we animals kill only for the sake of food and it is our dharma. So, I suggest you to drop the man. I will eat him and satiate my hunger.”

But the bear refused. It said, “He has taken refuge in me. I cannot betray him. You better go away.”

The tiger did not move. It opted to wait.

During the second half of the night, the bear woke up the man and then it started sleeping.

The tiger, noticing it, said to the man: “You are a fool. Never believe this bear. He is not feeling hungry now and that’s why he has not killed and eaten you. But he is sure to consume you for breakfast tomorrow. I suggest you roll the bear down; I will eat him for dinner. I will go away from here after eating him so that you can run away safely from here”.

The man believed what the tiger said. Without any hesitation, he rolled the sleeping bear from the tree top. But the bear woke up mid fall and held on to a branch and started climbing back towards the man. The man, who saw this, was extremely frightened; however,  the bear said to him “You had sought refuge in me, I wouldn’t harm you. Even though you betrayed me, I forgive you. You can leave from here tomorrow after the tiger moves away“.

[Amma: “This is the nature of mahatmas.  Once they offer refuge to someone, it is unconditional.  Even if the person who came into his fold by surrendering to him betrays him, the Mahatma does not forsake him. He bears no ill will. “]

7.  What’s God doing?

[ Amma: “We should have śraddha in each action. That śraddha is a part of the prayer; it makes the prayer complete—śraddha as well as proper effort.”]

Once a devotee of God was driving his car on a country side. The road was in a bad condition with lots of potholes and also very narrow.  The car’s wheels got stuck in a muddy pit.

The man came out of the car.  He did not know what to do. He decided to pray to God for help. He took out his meditation mat from the car and walked up to the top of a small hill nearby. He spread his mat on a flat rock, sat in padmasana posture and started praying to God with closed eyes. He prayed deeply to get the car out of the pit.

After a while, he opened his eyes a little  to see whether the car has come out of the pit by God’s grace. Seeing it had not, he immediately began blaming God, “What’s the point of praying to you?” he said angrily.

Suddenly, a voice resounded from the skies, “Son, try pushing the vehicle as you pray.”

 

(From Amma’s New Year Satsang 2021)

8. The new Mandapa

There was one very famous Temple complex in  a town, which was a holy place of pilgrimage and also historically very old.

There was a mandapa (multi-pillared pavilion) in the temple complex which was centuries old and was in a very dilapidated condition.   The temple administrative committee was concerned that it was becoming an unsafe place for people to use it as the structure may fall at any time and cause damage.  However, considering the holiness of the place and its archaeological significance of the structures, there were differences of opinion amid the committee members on what to do with it.  Finally, a draft resolution was made by the committee taking into account all the view points of the members. It read:

1) It is decided that as the existing Mandapa is very dilapidated, it will be demolished.

2) A new mandapa will be built in the same place in line with the architectural features of the old mandapa.

3) The stone pillars, statues and carvings from the old mandapa will be carefully dismantled and they will be utilized for the new structure.

4) Considering the holiness and history of this sacred place, the old mandapa shall not be disturbed.

So, it became obvious that no purposeful action could be taken based on the resolution of the committee!

[ Amma: “There is no point in making grand resolutions unless the hurdles in implementing them are removed.”]

(From Amma’s New Year Satsang 2021)

 

 

Amma’s stories related to Sadhana for sadhakas (Spiritual practices for Earnest seekers of God/ Self) – 14 stories

1.   The subtle vasanas

Once a spiritual aspirant who was a mendicant went for begging his food. A family invited him for lunch and served food to him in a silver plate. After eating the food, the mendicant washed the plate himself. Then he left the place and walked away. He carried the silver plate too along and the hosts did not notice it.

After going away for while, the mendicant suddenly realized that he had taken the silver plate with him instead of returning it to the hosts.  He felt shocked about himself. He never had any tendency to steal in the past. Feeling remorseful, he rushed back to the host’s house and returned the plate, profusely apologizing for his slip. He said, “I really don’t know how such an awful desire to slip away with the silver plate ever came to my mind unknowingly. I had never stolen anything in my life”.

The householder unquestioningly accepted the mendicant’s confession and bid him good bye. However he felt intrigued. What could suddenly cause a Sadhu to get a fleeting desire to steal? He called the cook, who was a recently appointed person. He started asking probing questions to the cook. Upon this inquiry, he came to know that the new cook, ever since he saw the silver plate, wanted to steal it and this thought occupied his whole mind when he cooked the food that day.

Amma:  The thoughts of a person cooking food in a subtle way goes into the food and it has the potential to affect the person eating the food. That is why it is advised that a person cooking food should do mantra japa while cooking so that good vibrations enter into the food.

(Tuesday Satsang 30/8/2016)

2.   The effect of company

Once a young man, who had no interest in seeing movies, was visited by his friend. During their course of chitchatting, he visitor said, “Have you seen such-and-such movie recently? It is a great picture! What a story, what a classic acting and photography! If you have not seen it so far, you have really missed something in life!” The young man listened to it and did not react.

After a couple of days, the friend visited again and this time too he spoke very highly of the movie and urged him to go and see it.

In a couple of more visits too, the friend kept on talking about the movie. The young man by now got very intrigued; he felt tempted to go and watch the movie.

He went to the theatre and watched the movie with curiosity. Indeed it was spectacular and he got very much attracted to it. He watched the movie a couple of times and gradually developed desire to watch other movies too. He started frequenting other theatres and soon became such a regular movie goer that the number of pictures that he watched every week outnumbered his friend, who originally tempted him to watch one movie!

Amma:  That is the effect of a company. Company with holy persons is the true satsang and through satsang one can develop good samskaras and habits. If the company is bad, one will only get into evil habits.

(Tuesday Satsang 30/8/2016)

3.  Single pointed mind

Amma:  Whatever excitement you get in Amma’s presence is indeed a focus on Amma. Instead of mentally getting disturbed on so many other things, your excited thoughts are only focused on Amma and it is good.

Once a Woman went to a Fair with her child. The fair was extremely crowded. There were plenty of stalls selling a variety of garments, food, ice-creams, snacks, fancy items, toys and so on. Music programs, dance and drama were going on several open venues and people were excitedly moving around in all the places, watching and enjoying. While the woman too was excitedly looking around and watching everything, she suddenly noticed that her child has last the grip of her hand. The child got separated from her in the milling crowd.

The mother was shocked when she realized the situation. She started frantically searching around for her child, crying out her name. ‘Where is my child? Where is my child?’ – this was the single thought that occupied her mind now and none of the goings-on the fair could distract her attention any more.

Amma:  If the entire focus becomes the guru, then all the worldly attractions fall away on their own.

(Monday beach Satsang 22/8/2016)

4.  The count of leaves in the tree!

Amma: For every earnest spiritual aspirant, getting self-realization is a very long drawn process. It requires lots of patience and effort. One cannot afford to slack efforts and abort one’s goal midway.

Once two spiritual aspirants were doing  sadhana under a banyan tree for quite some years. The Celestial Sage Narada happened to pass by one day. As Narada had his daily contacts with the Lord Narayana, the aspirants were eager to know from God when they would attain God-realization. They appealed to Narada to inquire about it when he would meet Lord Narayana the next time. Narada agreed.

A few days later, Narada came by. One of the aspirants eagerly asked whether Narada spoke to Lord Narayana and got the answer.  Narada said that he did and what Narayana told him was that this person would require as many births as the number of leaves found in the Banyan tree to attain his self-realization. The person who heard this was devastated. He felt highly infuriated. “I have been doing severe sadhana for so many years and still Narayana says I will require so many births? Oh! Then its all a waste of time. It’s all a mere humbug then; I would rather go back to the world and enjoy it instead of wasting my time here” . He left the place fretting and fuming.

Now the other aspirant posed the same question and Narada gave the same reply. Upon hearing it, the second aspirant was full of joy and started dancing in ecstasy! “O! Is it true that Lord Narayana indeed said that I would get my salvation after these many births, for sure? Oh! I am really lucky then! I am indeed blessed!” So saying, he continued to jump around and dance.

At that very moment, the second aspirant got his self-realization instantly.  Such was the reward he got for his mental attitude and patience.

5.  Be kind hearted, but have common sense first!

Amma:  It is not just enough if you are a good and kind-hearted person. You should apply your mind and act with presence of mind and shraddha; otherwise, your act of charity may become futile.

This is a real story happened in the Ashram as narrated by Amma:

Brahmacharnini L- in the Amritapuri Ashram is an extremely kind-hearted person, who loves to run to the help of anyone needing help and succor.

One day, a physically handicapped old man came to see Amma and was walking up the stairs with difficulty with his crutches. Brahmacharnini L- was so overwhelmed with the suffering of that person that she wanted to extend a helping hand to him and make him seated.

Saying “Aiyo paavam” (Oh what a pity) she received one of his crutches. While the man was struggling to stabilize himself with a single crutch, our Brahmacharini, in an excited state to somehow help the person to stabilize, extended her hand, saying another “Aiyo”  and took off the other cruch too, without applying her mind to catch hold of the person before removing the other crutch!

Right infront of her eyes, the old person, with nothing and none to support him collapsed on the floor, while our Brahmacharnini could only help crying out a big and louder “A-I-Y-Y-O…”

[Amma was at her mimicking best when she enacted all this with her actions and voice. The whole crowd burst into laughter!]

* * * *
This is yet another real story that happened in the ashram, as narrated by Amma:

Some time ago, a mentally disturbed person came to the Ashram with a purported desire of settling down as a  householder in the Ashram. His worried wife and mother too were there together with him in the darshan queue.

Even before he could open his mouth before Amma, the wife wanted Amma not to concede to his request because she has lots needs and desires to be met in the outside world. Amma reassured her that She would never take people just like that and started probing deeper into the man’s troubles. It was reported that he seemed to behave as though mentally disturbed, after a recent bout of fever, but Amma suspected a deeper and long existing ailment in him that caused his quirky behavior.  Amma suggested a thorough medical check-up for him and assured them that everything will be alright sooner. Amma made him sit behind her for a while.

After Amma retired to her room at the end of darshan , the person suddenly got very violent; he was shouting at his wife, started spitting at her and behaved uncontrollably.  Lots of people gathered around, including some brahmacharis, who wanted to intervene with good intentions.

One Ashram resident, assuming that the man was under fits, started frantically searching for a iron piece to be given in his hands (as there is a common erroneous belief that people affected by fits get calmed down when they grip a piece of iron). And lo, he could only locate a knife and without thinking a second time, he thrust the knife into the hands of the man in fits!

More chaos! (When Amma narrated this with her gestures, the whole gathering at the Beach Satsang was rolling with laughter). Then a group of brahmacharis somehow managed to pin down the violent man and snatch the knife from his hands.

And there, adjacent to the man was Brahmachari S, who was always known for his calmness and serenity, who was never seen expressing anger or outward emotions. And people saw him for the first time with eyes bulging out in anger and tell-tale facial expressions of pain, anguish and rage. Reason?

In an over enthusiastic attempt to prevent the man from spitting at others, he had put his hand over his mouth and the man caught the bramhmachari’s fingers with his teeth and was applying his full jaw pressure on the fingers; Brahmachari S- could not do anything to wriggle his fingers out from the man’s vice-like grip of the jaw and that pain and anguish came through his facial expressions.

[Amma, in her inimical way, with a doze of exaggeration perhaps, was emoting the facial expressions of the brahmachari to the utter entertainment of the crowd!]

Finally, when the Brahmachari managed to get his finger freed, it was bleeding and he had to be rushed to the hospital to have a few stitches and a bandage over the finger!

[Amidst all these fun and frolic, Amma made sure to drive home the point that one requires viveka Buddhi to handle such situations. How foolish it was to thrust a knife in the hands of a mentally disturbed person! How inappropriate it was to close the mouth of the person who seemed to be under the grip of fits!]

8.   In search of a soul mate

Once a young, beautiful and intelligent western woman wanted to get married to a person who would be most suited to her taste, preferences and temperaments. She searched for such a mate for years but she could not come across any male who could win her heart. She dropped the idea of getting married; she was still feeling restless in her heart; in order to get some peace of mind through mental diversion, whe undertook a travel across the globe visiting several countries.

She came to a distant eastern country on sight seeing. She took a room in a hotel in a large city in that country. One day, while she was eating in the restaurant, she chanced to meet a western guy. They started talking to each other. She developed a liking for him. They decided to meet again. As they started interacting more and more, both of them developed a mutual liking which soon blossomed into love.

As they exchanged details about their personal lives, she came to know that he too was from her home town from her own country. Inquiring further, they came to know that they had been living in the same street at neighboring houses all these years! Despite such a close proximity, they never had come across each other in their home town!

[Amma: Children, you may also go on searching for God everywhere, but you won’t find him because he is indeed unimaginably closest  to you! As long as you are steeped in ignorance, you think he is somewhere too far off in the heavens. Remove your ignorance. Get rid of your body consciousness and go beyond it. Awaken and remain in pure awareness. Then you will realize that God is closer than the closest to you.]

9.   Brainwashing

Once there was  a grand feast at night arranged by a rich man in his mansion. Several guests had arrived and the party was going in full swing. All the arrangements had been made impeccably and everyone was enjoying the good ambience and the food.

While the feast was going on, an uninvited person somehow managed to come into the mansion and join the gathering. He caught hold of the host and started talking to him. He said, “What sort of feast is this? It is so lacklustre and boring; Nothing is good or pleasent here….” He kept on criticizing and complaining about the food, arrangement etc. He was an extremely impressive and tactful talker. Through his forceful and persistent talking, he succeeding in confusing the host and making him to believe that the food was indeed horrible  the arrangements were poor.

Forgetting that it was he who hosted the feast and made all the arrangements, the rich man, who was so far enjoying the whole thing, started feeling very negative and he totally agreed with the views of the uninvited intruder. “Yes; you are right; this place is really disgusting; come, let us move out of here” he said to the stranger.

“That’s right. Let us go out. I shall host a grand feast exclusively for you tonight. By my honored guest. I will show how a really grand feast shall be”, so saying the visitor took the rich man along with him to his place. On the way, the person kept on bragging how his feast would consist of the rarest of all exclusive delicacies, grand decor, impeccable ambience and so on. The rich man was mesmerised by the visitor’s talk.

Finally they reached the visitor’s house. It was a godforsaken place, totally in disarray, dirty and ugly. No one else was there in the house. But the visitor kept on talking, trying to impress the rich and make him believe that they were indeed in a grand palace, wonderfully decorated. He insisted that all the preparations of food were going on already in full swing and the feast would start very soon.

Nothing happened. The rich man regained his senses. He understood that the visitor was indeed a mentally deranged person and a maniac. With lots of difficulty, he managed to interrupt the incessant talking of the mad person and said, “Stop, stop! This is enough”. The mad person’s face turned pale, “Why? what happened?” he asked in a jittery voice.

The rich man said, “What a fool I have been to come with you to this dirty place! I was actually giving a wonderful feast to my guests and all were indeed enjoying it thoroughly. My own mansion was so beautiful and wonderfully decorated for the function! How happy I was there before you came? Why the hell I forgot all about it and came behind you like an idiot!”

So saying, he started walking away from the house. The mad man tried his best to stop him but the rich man pushed him aside and rushed back to his mansion.

The feast was still going on and no one seemed to have noticed his absence for a while. With great relief and he joined the gathering once again.

[Amma: We are all like the host in the story. We have forgotten who we really are.We are blessed to enjoy creation and life in our own place. We are the source of the joy, like the host. But not knowing it, we allowed our ego, the uninvited guest, into us, who successfully hoodwinked us and made us lose our sensibility. Like sleep-walkers, we lost our awareness and went behind our ego; thus we lost the joy of the feast — our life.We forgot our true self — Atman and we became a pupper to our ego.

We should awake from our intoxicated state and realize that we indeed are the ‘host’ — the root cause of creation. Once we understand the wily machinations of our ego, we will understand that we have gone to a wrong place. We will immediately come back to our own house, where bliss is ever present.]

(Arul Mozhigal- vol 9  p 90-92)

10.  Dig deep at one place

Once there was a famous devotee. A man from the next village heard about him and therefore came to see him. The visitor waited outside the front yard of the house as the devotee was performing his worship inside the house at that time.

The man peeped inside and noticed that the devotee was sitting in front of his pooja shrine and doing the worship of Lord Ganesha. The visitor, seeing this dug a hole in the ground. The devotee then started worshiping his Guru. The visitor, now dug a second hole. After finishing the hymns praising the Guru, the devotee then started worshiping Lord Muruga. The visitor dug a third hole.

As the devotee then proceeded to worship Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali and so on, the visitor too dug one hole each corresponding the the God worshiped.

After finishing the puja, the devotee came out and he was surprised to see so many holes at his yard. He shouted at the visitor: “What is this? Why have you dug so many holes in my yard?”

The visitor said, “I wanted to get some water and so I dug one hole. Since I didn’t get water there, I dug the next one and the next and so on. I have dug everywhere but could not get any water. Had I dug at one place deep enough, I would have got the water by now and need not have wasted my time”.

The devotee understood immediately. Had he surrendered to  any one of the Gods wholeheartedly and concentrated worshiping him, he could have become a liberated soul by then.

[Amma: The Gods and Goddesses have diverse forms, but in reality all are one. The various names and forms are only to help us in our spiritual practice to suit our diverse tastes. Each one can choose a deity according to his taste and mental make up which will serve as the ladder to reach the supreme.]

[Source:’Awaken Children’ – Vol.2 ]

11.  A Mahatma among you

Once there was a Mutt where a saint lived there as guru; several disciples were living with him in the mutt and practicing spiritual austerities. They were extremely sincere, earnest and focused in their spiritual practices. An excellent, spiritually surcharged atmosphere was present in the Mutt that attracted countless people from near and far to the mutt. People found peace and solace in the ambience of the mutt.

The Guru passed away. The disciples felt orphaned and were in grief for some time; however, they continued to stay in the mutt and continued with their spiritual austerities.  However, as time passed, gradually their enthusiasm and commitment to spiritual life and practice started waning and then deteriorated considerably. The arrival of visitors seeking peace and spiritual guidance from the mutt too deteriorated and then stopped. Now new spiritual aspirants joined the mutt. The inmates of the Mutt felt very disturbed. There were lots of fights among themselves. Love and devotion dried up in their hearts.

The eldest of the disciples felt very bad about the sorry state of affairs at the mutt. He deeply felt the urge to revive  the relevance and reputation of the mutt. He came to know that a Mahatma was living in a forest adjacent to the mutt. He felt he should go and seek his counsel on this matter.

He went to the forest and prostrated before the Mahatma. He explained the current state of affairs of the mutt to the saint and sought his guidance.

The saint smiled and said, “One among your present residents of the Mutt is indeed a Mahatma. But he is intentionally hiding his true status; he will not express it outwardly.  Since no one ever understood him and extended love and respect to him, your mutt has come to such a sorry state”. Immediately after saying this, the Saint closed his eyes and went deep into samadhi. Hence the visiting disciple could not get any more information on who that Mahatma among them was”. He prostrated before the saint and walked back to the mutt.

On his way, the disciple kept on wondering who that Mahatma could be, living in cognito among them. “Could it be that sanyasi who does washing of clothes? No. He is extremely short tempered. Is it the sanyasi in charge of the kitchen? Oh! He does not even know how to cook properly….” the disciple kept on mentally analysing and judging each resident in the Mutt but he was only finding faults in almost all of them. “But the saint said that only one among all these people is the Mahatma. Since I am only looking at each one’s fault, I am not able to grasp who that Mahatma is.  As the saint said, it is quite likely that the Mahatma could be intentionally showing weird behavior in order to hide his saintliness from others’ eyes” he thought.

After reaching the mutt, he called the meeting of all inmates and announced what the saint had said. Everyone was very surprised; they looked at each other’s face to see the signs of a saint! At the same time, each of them consciously knew that he is not the person fit to me a Mahatma. Everyone else too looked to be faulty enough not to fit to the mold of a Mahatma! The discussed among themselves but could not decipher the mystery.

Finally they resolved to themselves that since it is not at all right to insult a saint who could be one among them, it is best to treat each one with respect and love.

The put their resolution into daily practice. By trying to love and respect one another, they were also looking at the good things in others and started wondering whether the person in front of them could be a Mahatma. In this process, soon they started loving each other.  Gradually, their evil and negative tendencies started dissolving. They came to a stage where each one could see a Mahatma in each other. It became so strong that soon they could see Godliness in anything and everything. They all became jivan muktas (liberated while living).  The very atmosphere of the Mutt thus underwent a sea change. Outside people started noticing the divine glow in the face of the inmates.  People gradually started visiting the mutt again to benefit from the company of holy people.

[Amma: “This story tells us that love and liberation are interdependent. For the love to spring up, the mind should be freed of ego.”]

(Source: Arul Mozhigal- vol 8 Tamil)

12.  The sign of dawn

Once a Guru asked his disciples: “How will you know that the night has ended and dawn has happened?”

One disciple said, “If you can identify whether a person coming at a distance is a male or female, it means it has dawned”. The guru did not give his nod of approval to this answer.

Another disciple said, “If you can identify whether a tree at a distance is a mango tree or a neem tree, it indicates it has dawned”. For this answer too, the guru did not give his approval.

The disciples wanted to know the correct answer from the guru. The guru said, “Only when you can see every man as your brother and every female as your sister, one can say the darkness of the night has ended and the light of the dawn has come. If this attitude does not come, even if it is midday, you are still in the darkness of the night only.

The disciples now understood the inner meaning of the Guru’s question and the answer too.

[Amma: “Children, this is an important story to remember. Only when you are able to love one and all on equal measure, you are blessed with the light of realization.“]

(Source: Arul Mozhigal- vol 8 Tamil)

13.  Usage that never was

Once there lived a sage, who gave an instruction to his wife soon after they got married: “Whenever I sit to eat, make sure to keep a needle and a cup of water next to me”. The wife did so. She did not ask for the reason. It became a routine that the wife never missed across many years of their married life.

The husband got old. Death was nearing him. Then he asked his wife, “Do you wish to ask something from me?”

The wife said, “I have nothing to ask from you. But I am curious to know about a matter. You had instructed me to keep a needle and a cup of water next to you whenever you sat to eat and I have been ceremoniously doing it all these years. May I know the purpose for which you asked them to be kept?”

The husband said, “Suppose while you serve me or while I eat, if a grain of rice falls outside the plate, I thought I should pick it with the needle, wash it in the cup of water and put it on my plate; But as both of us were extremely cautious, there was not even a single occasion when a grain of rice fell outside the plate; hence there was never a need for using them!”

[Amma: “Children, notice how much awareness the couple had while eating to prevent even  a single grain of food from falling outside the plate! It is persons with such a high degree of shraddha who have turned out to be saints!”]

14.  Meditating – Oh, really?

[Amma: “My son,  Once you sit for meditation, yous should make your whole mind dwell on God.  YOur mind should not wander to external things. Only your personal God should occupy your entire mind. THat much of dispassion is needed”.]

Once a Sanyasi was sitting in meditation. At that time,  a man rushed right in front of him, making noises that disturbed the sanyasi.  The sanyasi did not like it, as he felt disturbed by the commotion.

After a while, the man returned by the same path, with a little boy.  Seeing him, the sanysi said angrily,”Didn’t you notice that I was meditating here? Can’t you have some self-restraint in not disturbing me in this place?”

The man replied politely, “Sir, I am sorry that I did not notice you”.

“Why? Are you blind?” asked the sanyasi.

“My son was missing for quite some time; he had gone to play with other boys. I was disturbed and started wondering whether he had fallen into the adjacent pond; my mind disturbed in such a though I rushed in search of him and that’s how I missed you sitting here in meditation; I am sorry about it”. But the Sanyasi was unrelenting.

“Mind you, it is totally an unacceptable behavior to disturb me while I am meditating” said he.

The man replied, “Sir, you were immersed in meditation and yet you saw me running in front of you. At the same time, I was running in search of my son but did not see you. I wonder why you did not have even that much of attachment I had on my son on the God you were meditating! What sort of meditation is it? If you don’t have patience and humility, what is that you will gain by meditation?”

(From Upadesamritam-2 Tamil)

15.  Nothing is useless

[Amma: “In nature, everything has its place and relevance.  One should know the place and value of each and utilize it accordingly.  If used so judiciously, one will know that nothing is useless. If we realize this and act, we can convert natural wastes to natural manures. If we act with discernment, what is considered a waste will find a reuse”.]

Once a disciple went to Sri Buddha and asked for a new cloth to wear as his old one had been soiled on account of long usage. Buddha immediately agreed. After some time, he asked the disciple, “Is the new cloth good enough for you? Do you need anything more?”

The disciple said, “Yes, Master, the new one is fine. I don’t need anything more”.

“What did you do with your old cloth?” asked Buddha.

“I am using it as my bed spread, Master”.

“Does it mean you threw away your old bed spread?”

“No master; I am using it as a curtain cloth for my window”.

“What happened to the old curtain cloth?”

“As it had soiled too much, I am using it as a cleaning cloth in my kitchen”.

“What happened to the old cleaning cloth?”

“Since it had torn too much, I have teared it into thin pieces and using those pieces as a wick for my oil lamp Master”

Buddha felt very satisfied with his responses. He smiled and blessed his disciple.

(Source: Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 3)

Introduction to Meditation – Preparation, Methods and Practice

Meditation is a disciplined practice to attain control of the mind, by way of limiting the flow of thoughts and then ultimately leading to a state of consciousness with cessation of thoughts. The goal of meditation at a “lower” level is to attain physical and mental well being. At a “higher” level, it is to realize God or the Atman – one’s true inner-self.

The Hindu system of meditation has only one fundamental goal – God realization or realizing the Atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives. But this quest of the ultimate goal is never easy; for an earnest aspirant, it may even take several births to attain it. Such a “higher goal” could at the best be the bastion for only a woefully small minority of people.

But the effort put in meditation never goes a waste; meditation calms down the mind, improves one’s mindset and mental well-being and enhances one’s physical health too. It is by grasping these benefits that meditation has evolved into a ‘science’ to offer these fringe benefits, namely the physical and mental well-being for the benefit of the majority.

Before going into the ways of learning meditation, some basics about the mind and its relationship with the body have to be understood.

The mind – body relationship

The mind is known as the subtle body. All our emotional dualities – pleasure and pain, peace and restlessness, anger and compassion, love and hate etc are all caused by the unceasing activity and oscillations of the mind. The mind has its existence only in the form of flow of thoughts. The more turbulent the flow of thoughts is, the more are the fluctuations of emotions. The less the flow of thoughts in the mind, the more peace and tranquility does one get. If the mind could cease its activity altogether, one transcends the dualities of pain and pleasure, the relative and the absolute – a state known as “Ananda” or bliss or Samadhi.

It is a known fact that gross (physical) body functions as a slave of the mind. Physical activeness, fitness or sickness has its intrinsic connection with the mind.

The converse is also true. The condition of the gross body affects the condition of the mind. The vital force that controls the body is known as Prana, whose gross function is breathing. Functioning of the mind and prana (breathing) are intrinsically interlinked. When the mind slows down, breathing slows down; conversely, when breathing is controlled, mind is controlled. The control of the breathing by disciplined practice is known as Pranayama.

Lured by the umpteen “schools” that profess teaching easy ways to do meditation, many think that it is akin to learning some form of fitness exercise – learn the basics and procedure and then go meditating happily ever after! Nothing could be more naïve than that!

Mind is compared to a male elephant in heat; mind is compared to a monkey which can’t sit in a branch ever for a short while. Our mind is a storehouse of accumulated impressions (called vasanas) and the moment one sits to meditate, the store-house opens and one faces a flood of thoughts that can thwart one even from doing even a semblance of meditation! Whatever be the “easy” way to meditate, be forewarned that it may take even years for the “less-prepared” ones to calm the mind for 10 full minutes.

Holy bath for external purity (Niyama)

The 8-stage Yoga – Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga

The Eight-steps in Patanjali Yoga are:

  1. Yama (Self control/ morality)
  2. Niyama (Disciplines)
  3. Asana (Physical Posture)
  4. Pranayama (Breath control)
  5. Prathyahara (withdrawal of mind from senses)
  6. Dharana (Focusing mind on a single point)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Attainment of Unity with Divine)

 

Sitting in Padmasana (Lotus posture) and doing Pranayama

The Hindu system of 8-stage meditation guidelines (known asAshtanga yoga) as professed by Saint Patanjali (in his Yoga Sutra) places meditation at the 7th out of 8 stages, the last one being,Samadhi. All the 6 stages preceding meditation are only preparations that make one qualified better to succeed in meditation.

The first two preparatory steps are known as yama and niyama. If the goal of meditation is the “Higher one”, it goes without saying that these two steps are extremely important.

Yama covers non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness. Niyamacovers internal and external purity, contentment, austerity, study of scriptures and a sense of surrender to God.

Assuming that the goal of meditation is only the “lower one”, even then certain basic disciplines are important to get benefits of meditation. They are:

(a) Moderation in intake of food
(b) Moderation in sleep
(c) Moderation in indulgence in sensual pleasures and physical activity.

Excessive eating or inadequate eating and excessive sleep or inadequate sleep will act as hindrance in practicing meditation. One should not undertake meditation when the stomach is full. At least 2 to 3 hours should have passed after eating when one sits for meditation.

Moderate and simple stretching exercises (which are calledYogasanas) can make the body conducive for undertaking meditation.

 

Choose a nice and calm place for meditation

The sitting posture (Asana) must be comfortable. Sitting on a flat surface over a soft mat or a folded blanket (but not too thick a cushion), cross legged in the posture known as “Padmasana” (Lotus posture) is the best. But, for westerners not used to sitting cross-legged, sitting on a bench, hanging the legs down is acceptable. Sit erect, with the spinal chord and neck vertical. Place your hands on your knees or clasp your fingers and place your palms near your stomach.

The choice of place for undertaking meditation should be calm, free from possibilities of disturbance, unobtrusively ventilated and comfortable. Certain holy places (certain mountains and hills, certainriverbanks, forests, temple premises and places where the mortal bodies of great saints were laid to rest) are very conducive for undertaking meditation.

Meditation is best practiced at early morning known as Brahma Muhurtha(after 4:00AM till sun-rise), noon, evening (at about 6:00, around sun-set) and at mid-night.

We have already discussed aboutPranayama, the breath control. It is generally said that Pranayama helps one to prepare effectively for meditation. Kriya Yoga is one popular method for Pranayama. Pranayama involves slow breathing in, holding and slowly releasing the air from the lungs at controlled timings. There are also schools of opinion which do not insist on practice of Pranayama. 

Sri Sri Ravishankar — The Hindu guru who is popularizing the Pranayama Technique ‘Sudarshan Kriya;

A word of caution about Pranayama

It is extremely important that pranayama must be learned from a properly trained and trust-worthy Guru. It should be practiced strictly under the direct guidance of the guru in the initial stages. Uncontrolled and unguided practice of pramayama has potential dangers of creating troublesome side effects. Any attempt to practice it in excess (of one’s physical capacity) must be shunned.

Considering such risks, there are some spiritual traditions that do not emphasize the need for practice of Pranayama. Saints like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, Ramana Maharshi, Mata Amritanandamayi and the like do not really give undue importance to the practice of pranayama.

Some techniques of meditation offered by different Gurus

When we come to procedure, it’s here that we come across myriad options and schools of practice. Hinduism insists that one should learn meditation from a qualified Guru.

Some of the various methods professed by different schools are:

(1) Meditate on the form of your favorite God

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says practice of intense love on ‘ishta’ (favorite/ personal God) and meditating on Him is the easiest way.

This is the most widely suggested method for Hindus, who have the natural flair for establishing a loving relationship with physical forms of God. Bhakti (devotion) is the easiest to way to relate to God according to Saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Know your Ishta (favorite God) first. If it is ,say, Krishna, keep a picture of Krishna before you, intently watch Him, close your eyes and meditate on his form within your mental eye. if you can’t get His whole form, even meditating on his lotus feet or his glowing face is quite fine. Let all other thoughts except your ishta’s form be wiped away from the mind.

2) Do Mantra Japa and immerse yourself in the thoughts of God

Papa Ramadas – The saint who strongly recommends Mantra Japa

Learn a Mantra (generally the holy name of your favorite God beginning with Om) from your Guru, repeat it by concentrating on the God-form or on the sound or on the meaning of it. In the recent past, Papa Ramadas was a great votary of the efficacy of Mantra. Naam (the Mantra of god), Dhyan (Meditation) and Seva (service) are the ways he recommended for spiritual progress.

Mantra Without God Form

As per the school of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, A Mantra can also be just a syllable, without relation to a God (as practiced in “Transcendental Meditation“).

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became extremely popular in west as he could offer TM as a meditation technique for people with no interest in religion or spirituality.

 

 

 

 

Maharshi Mahesh Yogi – The saint who took TM to the west.

 

 

“Who am I?”

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi

For that, meditate with an inquiry: “Who am I?” Inquire by negation “I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the ego…” Proceed till mind settles in its inner most recess at peace. If a stray thought comes up, “Ask where from has this thought come?” The reply is “from inside me”. Then look deeper and go to the source of the evolution of the “I” thought in you. Kill all thoughts in the same way as and when they emanate and establish yourself in thoughtless state.

According to Ramana Maharshi, this is the “straight path” practicable by all needing no external support like pranayama, bhakthi (devotion) on God, worship of divine forms or chanting of mantra.

4) Relax-Chant Om-Delve deep-Watch your breath (Ma-Om) and Meditate – the IAM Technique

The Integrated Amrita Meditation(IAM) technique evolved by divine mother Mata Amritanandamayi can be learned free of cost from qualified trainers from Mata Amritanandamayi Math. According to the IAM technique, the watching of the breath is coupled with “Ma-Om” mental chanting while inhaling and exhaling. Certain prescribed Yogasanas too are to be practiced before doing meditation. (To be learned from qualified trainers only. See introduction to IAM technique in the video below).

Integrated Amrita Meditation (IAM) – benefits

Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swami of Shrinkeri Sarada Math. According to his biography, Lord Shiva himself taught him Kundalini Yoga in his dreams and made him visualize all the Chakras, the presiding deities of each chakra and experience Samadhi.

5) The Kundalini Yoga

(7) Awaken the “Serpent Power – The “Kundalini” and imagine its traverse through various nerve centers (Called Chakras) along the spinal chord (This is the “Tantrik Method”, never to be practiced without Guru’s guidance).

And there are more and more techniques….

What we discussed above are only a few techniques offered by great masters of Hinduism. There are so many other techniques evolved by so many other Hindu and Buddhist monks being practiced by different schools of religions and sects. Ultimately, a sincere and earnest seeker will surely end up in the right school and technique for meditation by the will of God.

Conclusion

All these techniques are aimed at withdrawing the mind from running behind sense objects and turn it inwards (known as pratyahara by Saint Patanjali – the 5th stage) and then making the mind focused on single point (known as dharana – the 6th stage). Remaining steadfastly focused is dhyanam (7th stage). When mind transcends even this stage and remains in thought-free awareness, it is Samadhi(8th stage). Some say that all these three – pratyahara, dharana and dhyanam put together is meditation.

Though these guidelines may look too simplistic,practicing them to perfection is not an easy task. One has to practice with perseverance, never losing heart and never slacking on the preparatory disciplines. In the beginning, one may try to sit in meditation for 5 minutes and gradually increase the period to 15 minutes and more. Experience will tell you that duration of sitting many a time will be beyond your control.

What is the sign that you are really doing meditation and not simply watching the plays enacted by your mind? When mind is truly focused or truly stops, it transcends time. One tell-tale indication of successful meditation is this: When you open your eyes after meditation thinking that some 10 minutes would have passed, but you find that almost 20 minutes have gone. Yes! You have succeeded in meditation. Another indication is: your erect posture will remain so when you open your eyes; you would not have stooped nor slouched from your position. Drowsing to sleep is a normal problem faced by many beginners! If done rightly, you will feel very refreshed, peaceful and contented when you wind up your meditation session.

To repeat, the preparatory disciplines are quite important in succeeding in meditation. Surprisingly, you will also find that as you practice meditation with perseverance, your capacity for self-discipline also improves; you will find that you are able to gain control over your sense organs and also the mind’s tendency to hanker behind sense-pleasures.

Know your goal; learn from a qualified Guru and practice with determination to succeed in meditation.