Remembering Swami Chinmayananda

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“If I rest, I rust” is one of most exalting quotes of Swami Chinmayananda, which I often listened during my school days at Chinmaya Vidyalaya. Today I am able to recite a few stanzas of Bhagavat Gita, thanks to those numerous Balavihar (open session on bhajans) that I attended during the school academics. Back then these sessions seemed vexing and were a convenient place to gibber. I never realized that these were intended to sow in the seeds of spirituality, a much needed accompaniment as we progress in life. I had the privilege of seeing Swamiji when I was in class 3. Memory of that time can be flimsy but that pious figure , clad in saffron dhoti, a saffron cloth covering one side of the bare chest, the pointed silver colored beard, spectacle and eyes equally brightening, etched deep in my mind.

I still recollect the story narrated by Swamiji to us students on that rainy day. It was the story of a king and his ministers. The king had two sets of ministers, left wing and right wing. During an extreme summer season water scarcity became an acute issue in the kingdom and people flocked to complain. King took a decision to dig new wells in the kingdom. King called upon his left wing ministers and asked them to oversee the digging of the wells. Due to the peculiarity of the land, the well had to be dug very deep to get the water. The ministers got the work done in a weeks’ time.

When the rainy season arrived the same people popped out with another issue to the king. The mud that was taken out during the digging of the well had piled up in every nook and corner and eventually clogged and congested the entire city. King ordered his right wing ministers to deal with it. These ministers took the mud and closed up the very wells that left wing ministers had dug. See the comedy of errors. Neither the king nor the ministers were wise enough to handle the situation. The message which Swamiji wanted to convey was the importance of being wise. When we do not make the full use of our mind and intellect, they lose their efficiency and the outcome either fallible or ludicrous.

On the day Swamiji attained peace on 3rd Aug 1993; our school organized a silent procession through the town. Various functions were held and in one of them the then principal of our school Mr. Kunhambu Nair gave an emotional speech on various facets of Swamiji’s life. One among them was Swamiji’s involvement in freedom struggle. Before embracing asceticism, Balan, the erstwhile name of Swamiji, took part actively in freedom struggle and was jailed. Due to unhygienic condition of the jail Swamiji caught typhoid and was chucked into the outskirts of the city. Perhaps this part of his life remains obscure to many.

Chinmayananda means ‘filled with the bliss of pure Consciousness’. Swamiji was a teacher who essentially lived to spread Bhagavad Gita. Swamiji had a expressive style for reciting Gita. Through various publications and discourses Swamiji explicated Gita in a way the common man could easily follow it. Recently I got added to the Chinmaya Vidyalaya group in Facebook and when I started reading his teachings I realized the irony. I was associated with Chinmaya Vidyalaya, an institution established by Swamiji, for more than a decade but never really tried to understand his teachings in deep. May be it is now time to give a start and follow his pedagogy.

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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – Book Review

Siddhartha — In pursuit of Enlightenment

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. Wisdom cannot be passed on. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught.” Vishal Sikka quoted this line from the book Siddhartha by Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse during his key note lecture in the SAP TechEd conference. The lines quite impressed me. When I read the book for the first time I could not comprehend it fully. But recently I read it again, with a fresh appreciation I realized that the book renders a much needed spiritual insight to our digressed mundane life.

Siddhartha & Govinda

The book is not about Buddha, but of a young Indian Brahman, Siddhartha, who along with his friend Govinda is in pursuit of enlightenment. Siddhartha at his young age nurses discontent and starts to feel that the love of his parent or love of his friend, Govinda, would not bring him joy forever. Siddhartha tells Govinda one day that he wants to become Samanas (ascetic) in search of spiritual illumination. Siddhartha seeks permission from his father to leave the house but his father refuses. Adamant on his decision Siddhartha stands whole night without moving an inch.

Cognizant that his son’s mind has already left him, with a heavy heart his father gives him consent to leave. Siddhartha and Govinda then lead the life of Samanas indulging in the routine of sacrifice, chanting, and meditation. Siddhartha realizes that even with this he is not going to attain the salvation he is seeking. Then they hear about Gotama, the exalted one, and his teachings. Longing to hear Gotama’s teaching they leave the Samanas.

Buddha

It is fascinating to see how beautifully Hesse handles the rendezvous of Gotama and Siddhartha. Siddhartha and Govinda meet Gotama in a village and are blessed to hear his teaching from Gotama himself. Govinda realizes that he has reached his destination, decides to join Gotama and requests Siddhartha also to join along with him. But Siddhartha doubts whether Gotama’s teaching is of much help to him. Siddhartha meets Gotama and the conversation between them is one of the very interesting sections of the book.

Siddhartha says to Gotama” You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And — thus is my thought, oh exalted one, — nobody will obtain salvation by means of teachings! Gotama acknowledges Siddhartha’s concern and gives his consent to leave with a message “You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!” Excited that he has met someone who has reached the helm of enlightenment and knows that is the state of mind he wants to achieve Siddhartha moves on.

Awakening

As Siddhartha walks through, he ponders a new sensation. A feel of high, a proud state of standing along without teaching and without teachers, a supple willingness to listen to the divine voice in his own heart and suddenly Siddhartha realizes that he has reached a bright state of being awake. He looked around, as if he was seeing the world for the first time. The world around him seemed beautiful and colorful and Siddhartha emerged more a self than before.

But each time Siddhartha obtains a new knowledge it only kindles a new thirst in him and this time was no different.

Siddhartha tries a new path and this time he had to pay the price.

Sansara

Siddhartha falls in love with a courtesan Kamala and had to become a merchant to suit the lifestyle of Kamala. Though initially lust, richness, money doesn’t affect Siddhartha but eventually he succumbs to the vicious circle of Sansara. Slowly the disease of the soul, which rich people have, grabbed hold of him.

OM

With the help a ferryman, Vasudeva, Siddhartha gets back in the path of enlightenment again. It was a daunting task for Siddhartha whose mind was week and in depraved condition. Vasudeva steers Siddhartha in the right direction and ask him to just listen to the river. Siddhartha become nothing but a listener .And when Siddhartha was listening attentively to this river, this song of a thousand voices, when he neither listened to the suffering nor the laughter, when he did not tie his soul to any particular voice and submerged his self into it, but when he heard them all, perceived the whole, the oneness, then the great song of the thousand voices consisted of a single word, which was Om: the perfection. Siddhartha gets enlightened.

Siddhartha & Govinda

Towards the end of the book, Govinda meets his friend Siddhartha, both old now, asks him what his findings of life was. Siddhartha express his thoughts as mentioned below.

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else…

The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided…

To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect…”

Why should you read this book?

What I have written above is not even a glimpse of the book. The book is aesthetically written and definitely going to impress you. Vishal Sikka quoted the lines from the book in the context of using technology. According to him the great purpose of technology should be to achieve wisdom, to transcend our abilities, our senses and get closer to our potential and limits of humanity. This is just an illustration of how enriching the book is. There is this part in the book where Siddhartha gets into the ordinary life but fully detached from the fruits of his deeds which is a fascinating read. In the last episode Govinda gets a cosmic vision in Siddhartha which is equivalent to Arjuna’s vision of the cosmic form of Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Throughout the course of the novel using various facets of life of the protagonist, Siddhartha, the writer passes on very simple but profound messages to the reader which is why I recommend this to be in your reading list.

Road Repair – Inconvenience is Not Regretted

Imagine a patient is undergoing a surgery and on successful completion of the operation doctor tells him “well the surgery was successful, but find somebody to stitch your cuts, its not my job”.  This is exactly what is happening to our roads in the city. Authorities whether they are from water , electricity, telephone , broadband or mobile companies, all are merrily digging up the roads for their respective repair works and vanish without restoring back the road . Not that we don’t have enough pot holes, these digging  leaves tributaries on the road adding further to the traffic snarls .Below is the picture of one such excavation done at the exit gate of my office by some authorities. Its been more than a week and no civic authority has patched up the road.

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Also there is another corollary to this , the moment a new road is laid or patched up the very next day you can find people digging up the road. May be people get some peculiar happiness or Nirvana while doing these digging which they don’t get while laying up the road. We are very very far from becoming a smart city. Nevertheless these inconveniences remain as parts and parcel of our life and  we are also happy to live with it.