Monday
Feb032014

Conduct Calm in Chaos

 

This is the 5th article in the series "What are you really acting out(in your daily life)?", summaries and contemplations on Chapter 2 of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar.

 

The 5 elemental energies are always shifting around us. Earth, water, fire, air, ether. Disruption, chaos, lift, destruction -- snow-- slip -- surprise.


Can we recall a steady state of balance in a chaotic world?


Adi Shankara’s “Nirvana Shatakam” (Six Verses to Nirvana (formlessness))  is a meditation through manas (mind, a lake of thoughts, processing station), buddhi ( most subtle aspect of the human manifestation), chitta (detailed memory-based programmed instructions - e.g. if hot, don’t touch), and ahamkāra.


One of my favorite offerings before entering studio practice….



The challenge we have is to function in a balanced manner so we can flourish as our highest selves in this lifetime. This requires navigating a constantly shifting external environment. Though at first that seems to be a vague mouthful, it becomes clear with intention and practice -- as we already have all of the information we need within ourselves.

It is a matter of beginning a journey towards becoming masterful of the internal realm -- towards a language of the subtle plane -- by developing or practicing techniques to soften and transform a modern world that is defined, trapped, and informed by external impressions as Identity.


What informs Identity?


The ahamkara function produces the “I - am” vibration we often use to name our world with. When the ahamkāra is a traffic cop -- a sieve of daily experience -- doing its best to digest the input and output signals, the system is said to be in balance: what is called  “steady- state” or “inner Peace” or Observer.

A state of peace demands constant navigation and practice throughout the day. When we are making: cooking, creating, dancing, gardening, chopping--anything requiring close attention--we understand steady states for passing moments. Awareness rises and falls. When we practice subtle techniques, tools for internal exploration, we can harness this awareness to strengthen and expand our life experience.


The pure “I am” aham vibration together with an attached thought (I am a boy; I am a girl; I am hungry; I am happy) triggers actions and expressions by the physical body, in the physical space. We begin to grow identities in this manifestation by associating solely with memories of physical experiences and divorcing them from the subtle plane of existence -- from getting to know our true nature as creation. 


Ahamkāra attaches itself to certain specific inputs, outputs and impressions in the memory (chitta), and overrules the detached awareness capability of the buddhi -- and what is called Ego (loosely) begins to rise. Our “I am” vibration is performed in the play of opposites.


We act the drama of likes and dislikes based on our attachments and formations to past experiences, and favor certain experiences as pleasure and others as pain.


The dynamic of attachment initiates imbalance. Imbalances take root and an autonomous ego identity forms. Identity deepens through persistence in time and identification with material objects.

“I was or did such and such five years ago so I am this now.”

“Someone did such and such to me and I liked it.”

“Someone did this to me and I did not like that.”

“I am the owner of this Thing so now that Means Something.”

“I do not have That so I Lack.” 

This is not to say that layers and multiplicity of performed identities (and histories of identities) as we understand them in our daily life, in our hyphenated categorical English interpretation, lack in importance and value. Pains and sorrows arise from histories repeated through linear space-time understandings large and small -- histories of trauma; colonization; violence; histories of invalidated identities; histories of superiority as well as inequality; unemployment or isolation; family legacies or what is named Failure.

Repeated repetitions of the sorrows held from the experiences of external identities express as illness, disease --Imbalance --  on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual plane.

As we begin to flesh out our subtle worlds as expansive places of interconnected energies, we begin to unlearn, re-understand, heal, observe the various roles we are playing in our waking life -- and transcend many barriers we might be holding against ourselves. 

 

As we balance within, and enter into an expansive healing process, we can welcome freedom and possibility in our life. We name ourselves Sacred. We name our land Sacred. We name each other Sacred.

 

Detail of "Floating Faces on Plywood" 4ftx10ft on display at the Athena Center@Barnard College, copyright Anuva Kalawar.

What Can We Do When We Stumble(in a chaotic world)?

The response to this question – how we should act when we stumble in the theaters of our life – is also quite specific in the Bhagavad Gita, and serves as one basis for Yoga and Advaita:


1. Practice humility.

2. Practice actions that do not cause injury to our self, others, Earth.

3. Let go of grudges and resentments.

4.  Value the fruits of each experience while not attempting to ensure the persistence of experience of transient physical pleasures.

The Bhagvad Gita states it is necessary to take a relatively introspective approach to life and focus on becoming aware of and discovering one’s subtle nature. We are asked to do so by being even-minded about pleasure and pain and what is desirable and disliked. This applies to all the roles we play in the myriad fields of activities we engage in: from being a child, a parent, partner, employee or leader, colleague, sibling, or friend.

Building the language and vocabulary for our inner worlds through expansive subtle practices such as breathing, yoga, and meditative technqiue, in addition to understanding and deconstructing the histories of identities we play in the outside world, allow us to reach and co-create a more open, flexible, blissful understanding and experience of our world.

Treat and transform trauma into raw fruits, sweet healings: Creation for a moment we haven’t met yet.

 

Advaita Life Coaching offers extensive guided meditations and visualizations in addition to mantra yoga (chanting), pranayama (breath yoga) and chakra balancing in the framework of a nourishing coaching process developed by Jayant Kalawar.

Ancestral yogic practice, pranayama, philosophy, and physical asana combined with precise understands of the modern physical, emotional, and spiritual climate in the 21st Century.

These powerful and transformative workshops can be in person, over Skype, email, or over the phone. We also host workshops and meetings in NYC and NJ. 

Support self-published, intergenerational, ancestral creation and healing in the 21st Century. Get your own copy of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar, and be calm within. 

Peace and thanks for reading!

 

Thursday
Jan302014

Meditation for Breakfast 

This is the 4th article in the series "What are you really acting out(in your daily life)?", contemplations on Chapter 2 of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar.


In the last meditation we moved into the plane of infinite subtle body--Manas, Chitta, Buddhi--and locating the compassionate Observer(Sakshi) in our daily lives and practice.  Chitta is our collection of physical memory: histories, legacies; traumas, milestones, imprints that inform identities. It is how we sensually understand the world, and how the world understands our bodies at this moment in space-time.  Manas is the lake of thought, which is informed by both our Chitta as well as our subtle body awareness and navigation -- called Buddhi.  Advaita life practice guides one towards becoming a compassionate observer or Sakshi, through developing our Buddhi capacity even as the physical Self consumes.

In the Advaita Life Practice, Kalawar interprets and describes our subtle body--slouched at a tiny desk, speeding up snowy stairs, enjoying a loopy brunch--as:

Earth energy (Prithvi)

Fire energy (Tejas)

Water energy (Jal)

Space/Ether(Akaasha).

The way we differentiate these terms from the physical, literal interpretation is to call them five elemental energies: space energy, air energy, fire energy, water energy, and earth energy. This is how the subtle body is described in the Bhagvad Gita.

These Five Elemental Energies are the functioning environment for the Advaita Life Coaching framework and methodology.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras add 10 basic body functions to this group of 5 elemental energies: 

Jnanendriyas (Inputs), or cognitive functions are: Hearing, Touching, Smelling, Tasting, Seeing. 

Karmendriyas (Outputs), or human action-functions are: Grasping, Moving, Eliminating, Speaking,  Reproducing.

We constantly produce physical signals and act upon them. Playing the piano, for example, is a combination of reading, hearing and moving functions. Together, the cognitive input (jnanendriya) and action output (karmendriya) functions are the core of the human manifestation.  We observe these ten basic body expressions and functions at any given moment.

This is just one of the ways we begin to acknowledge our subtle body. Once we get to know the properties of our subtle body, we are on our way to becoming Sadhakas--subtle strivers--in our Universe.

A Subtle Striver, a Sadhaka, is someone who is consistently working on building that awareness, and observes how these internal, subtle shifts impact our external, material life in each instant. Utilizing the framework that Advaita provides, we begin to meet exciting and shifting vocabularies of interacting with our environments.

The Advaita approach is experiential, empowering, and frees one through practice, striving, stumbling.

The first step towards practicing awareness of these basic energies is a sustained contemplative practice. We call this work Sadhana


|||Lady of the Crown, Anuva Kalawar 2013|||

Meditation for Breakfast

(a short special Advaita Life Coaching reflection on hunger and observation as you replenish over the weekend):

Take 8 slow breaths from the base of your spine to the top of your head -- from Mother Earth's red roots up to the Cosmos and soft violets. Relax in your seated position and reflect on the grasping energy that we call hunger.

Where does it sit within?

The subtle energy of hunger has a cycle of its own within our own bodies.

This could be hunger for food, hunger for information, hunger for experience, for regurgitated memories. See, feel where your hunger is holding you.

As we contemplate and guide awareness to that place, we begin to notice how the grasping energy impacts cycles of energies that drive our physical senses.

List and name the expressions and functions you are feeling and bring yourself to the present moment.

Remember that the Five Elemental Energies that are always flowing through you.

Contemplating our daily actions and activities, decisions and desires help us return to Sakshi, the observer, within ourselves. Here we untangle desires, fears, histories of identities. We let go of frameworks of considering ourselves and re-learn a multidimensional, subtle in-the-world, mindful way of considering our Self. We remember our creative potential. 

Take your time with Sadhana; take your time in striving. Meditation, breathwork (pranayam), yoga movement asanas, chanting are precious techniques that work to sustain prana, qi, energy -- the brilliant light that all people hold and deserve towards navigating and flourishing with our planet.

Advaita Life Coaching offers extensive guided meditations and visualizations in addition to mantra yoga (chanting), pranayama (breath yoga) and chakra balancing in the framework of a nourishing coaching process developed by Jayant Kalawar.

Ancestral yogic practice, pranayama, philosophy, and physical asana combined with precise understands of the modern physical, emotional, and spiritual climate in the 21st Century.

These powerful and transformative workshops can be in person, over Skype, email, or over the phone. We also host workshops and meetings in NYC and NJ. 

Support self-published, intergenerational, ancestral creation and healing in the 21st Century. Get your own copy of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar, and be calm within. 

Peace and thanks for reading!

Monday
Jan202014

What Constitutes This [Subtle] Body? 

A morning meditation/interpretation of Subtle+Material by Anuva Kalawar. I'll be posting the second half soon. 

This is the 3rd Installation of the article series on "What are you really acting out?" -- Chapter 2 of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar. Follow the links for the first and second installments. 

In the previous article, Jayant Kalawar discusses our capacity to understand the world through Buddhi (the function of subtle perception), which becomes Chitta and Manas. Chitta is our collection of physical memory: histories, legacies; traumas, milestones, imprints that inform identities. It is how we sensually understand the world, and how the world understands our bodies at this moment in space-time. Manas is the lake of thought, which is informed by both our Chitta as well as our subtle body awareness and navigation -- called Buddhi

The practice of becoming an observer through developing our Buddhi capacity--of becoming Sakshi -- one who watches and takes note as the physical Self consumes: dinners, drinks, sandalwood paste, honey, twangtwang tunes, conversations, even relationships. Sakshi is always present within us as we perform our days. She is the bird who observers the actor-action self relish thick fruit on the tree of experience, but does not partake in the experience itself.

An ancient story from the Mundaka Upanishad. This morning 2014, Copyright Anuva Kalawar

In our material space-time present -- using two physical eyes -- we recognize the theater of life, Leela, in three dimensions. As Samsarikas -- purely material experiencers -- we so often skid, name those three dimensions “Reality” and accept certain truths (success and pride as much as self-pity and inferiority; pleasure as much as sorrow) -- heavy and holding boundaries and limits. 

We are intoxicated by poisons and joys, moments embodied in material and perpetuated by wheels of thought. We internalize limits and even replay them in our minds, a lake of language calm or hot, projected time and again to become the physical world. 

How do we overcome the limits in our mind? How do we come to understand ourselves, our senses, intentions, capacities for healing and repair?

Can we be free in the 21st Century? Can we soften this Place?

As we develop our Buddhi (capacity for self-awareness in the material world)  through guided meditation and continuous practices, and become the compassionate Observer (Sakshi), we remember that we are made of infinite subtle vibrations. A dynamic collage as multidimensional manifestation. We meet ourselves as conductors with endless creative potentials. We remember vast and limitless beings. We recall strengths and gifts, red roots with Mother Earth, ready to navigate the labryinths of daily living. 

So now we have our Mind (Manas), Physical Experiences (Chitta),  our Self-Awareness (Buddhi). 

"Floating Faces on Vellum" 2010, Copyright Anuva Kalawar.

Who or what is digesting these experiences? My next post will include a small ALC guided observation exercise to uplift our subtle body awareness. 

Understanding our subtle nature, our subtle body, is a liberating and empowering exercise. Peace settles  when Buddhi (self-awareness) is activated and observation is at the forefront of every one of our actions small and large. Ripe and Present, we become effective in each and every one of our tasks. Passion grows positive action. Intention is fresh ice clear. Abundance manifests. Creation flows and Sacred becomes even in dust and puss. Subtle shifts impart actual changes in our worlds -- within our hearts, friendships, families, communities, classrooms, movements, canvasses, compositions. 

The Advaita Life Coaching process is an ongoing guide and modality for navigation and discovery within our various identities--at our work in this lifetime, relationships, in our communities--as well as our histories of identities repeated, regurgitated, remixed in as collective memory. We can bring the subtle world into the material plane, and honor all parts and moments of ourselves. We can achieve our endless and shining creative potentials. We will work to replenish and rejuvenate this spirit. 

The next article on Chapter 2 will ask --Now that I am aware of my subtle body, how do I become a subtle striver (Sadhaka)

 

Advaita Life Coaching offers extensive guided meditations and visualizations in addition to mantra yoga (chanting), pranayama (breath yoga) and chakra balancing in the framework of a nourishing coaching process developed by Jayant Kalawar.

Ancestral yogic practice, pranayama, philosophy, and physical asana combined with precise understands of the modern physical, emotional, and spiritual climate in the 21st Century.

These powerful and transformative workshops can be in person, over Skype, email, or over the phone. We also host workshops and meetings in NYC and NJ. Don’t hesitate to get in touch! 


Support self-published, intergenerational, ancestral creation and healing in the 21st Century. Get your own copy of the Advaita Life Practice, by Jayant Kalawar. 

 

Thank you for reading! Blessings and gratitude. 


 

 



 

Thursday
Dec122013

Is there a Dharma perspective on Homosexuality?!

Following headlines in the Indian press about the December 11th Indian Supreme Court decision to hold a 19th century British colonial law criminalizing consensual homosexual act as being constitutional, the question whether this follows from some ancient Indian tradition or belief has been making rounds in the social media, especially among the twitterati. One claim being made is that there is basis in Dharma traditions for such a law and quotes apparently from the Arthashastra by Chanakya (4th Century BCE) have been bandied around. Some of my friends asked me to opine whether there was an Advaita perspective on this. While I would like to contemplate on that particular question for some time before responding, I did some digging into the Arthashastra and came up with the following code in Book 4:

"When a man has connection with a woman against the order of nature (a-yonau), he shall be punished with the first amercement.

A man having sexual intercourse with another man shall also pay the first amercement."

Notice the punishment is amercement – i.e. arbitrary, left to the judge to decide based on circumstances. Compare this to some of the horrific specifics listed in the same section of Book 4 of the Arthashastra, for example, for someone committing adultery with a Brahmin woman:

"A Kshatriya who commits adultery with an unguarded Bráhman woman shall be punished with the highest amercement; a Vaisya doing the same shall be deprived of the whole of his property; and a Súdra shall be burnt alive wound round in mats."

Once a chapter and section of the Arthashastra is quoted to support a position, e.g. to criminalize homosexuality, in the 21st century, it opens up the whole chapter for review – and the role and interaction of Jatis is not too far behind, as you see in this case. Which would you selectively choose as being relevant in the 21st century? And who should do the choosing?

The subtler question to contemplate on is: when does a traditional text become a Sanatana (Eternal) Dharma text, rather than a temporal set of heuristics that play to a particular categorization of social experiences i.e. Jatis in power at a particular time (yes, Jati is a technical term for classification potential i.e. the ability to classify is recognized in Advaita Vedanta as one of the five human abilities that give rise to human language – the other four being Dravya (ability to experience physical sensations, Guna (potential to ascribe qualities and therefore differentiate experiences), Karma (ability to act in the physical world) and Sambandha (ability to form relationships with that which we experience in the physical world) )? In that sense can Arthashastra be considered to be a Smriti (that which remembers the Eternal Shruti, heard by the Rishis) limb of literature of Sanatana Dharma? If yes, what makes it so - what does it remember / memorialize from the Shrutis to make it into a Smriti? The Bhagavad Gita, for example, is considered a Smriti by Advaita Vedantins because it quotes extensively from Upanishads and answers philosophical questions threading from the mundane to subtle range of our experiences and imaginations.

This Book 4 of Arthashastra, on the other hand, comes across as a Criminal Penal Code perhaps appropriate for of a certain time. At best, perhaps, it is representative of a temporal Dharma text, articulated based on Sanatana Dharma precepts, as applied for a particular social configuration? If so, then do we need to go deep into the Sanatana Dharma precepts and use that as a basis to develop a corresponding Arthashastra compendium for the 21st century? 

By the way, if you are curious and have the time, the above quotes are from Book 4, Section 13 of the Arthashastra accessed at this link:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Arthashastra/Book_IV

 

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Sunday
Sep222013

Who really is the actor of all the roles we play in our lives?

Based on chapter 2 of The Advaita Life Practice by Jayant Kalawar now available at Amazon

In the previous post we looked at what it is that you are acting out – the multiple roles you play in your life. In this post we will contemplate on who it is who acts out the multiple roles we play every day of our lives.

Who learns what actions to perform in a role? Who is the experiencer in this process? Or, better yet, let us ask: “What is the nature of this experiencer, this actor, this learner?” It is through contemplation of these questions that we begin to access the subtle teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

The “Mundaka Upanishad” uses a powerful example to get us thinking about who we are. It asks us to picture a tree on which two birds are sitting: one is actively pecking and eating, and the other is simply gazing at the whole situation. When we act, we take the position of the eating bird; when we ask “who is it that eats?” we take the position of the observer bird. In actuality, we are always in both positions: as an actor or the eating bird and, as the one who observes the experiences and actions without getting involved, the observer bird.

The rest of this essay asks readers to put themselves in the position of the contemplative, observer bird, as the one that watches the actor bird eat the fruits on the tree of experience but does not partake in the experience itself. This observer position is called SAkshi.

When we begin observing and contemplating our roles, and the fields on which we play them, we can ask “what is the nature of the actor in our self in the various fields of activity we encounter?” Instead of answering this down-to-earth question directly, Sri Krishna, through the voice of the narrator of the Bhagavad Gita, gives us an indirect answer: When we comprehend the nature of our fields of activity we will, in the discovery process, begin to answer the question about who acts in them.

The first and the overarching postulate in the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is that our body is our basic field of activity and that our “I” arises on this field. Our experience comes from the “I” interacting with the operations of three subtle components of the human manifestation: Chitta, Buddhi and Manas.

In this postulate, the central actor is the ‘I’ vibration, represented in Sanskrit as Aham (I am) kara (that which does) and written as AhamkArA. Often when transliterated into English, aham is lazily represented as ego. To reemphasize, ahamkara is that which vibrates with the sound ‘aham’ and comes closest to ‘I am’ in the English.

The aham vibration comes out of the buddhi, the capacity for awareness – the other two being chitta and manas. Buddhi, the awareness function, is an aspect of the subtle universe extended into the human manifestation. Chitta is connected with the physical senses and space-time experience, and captures and processes physical and space-time experience into memories. It is the store-house of ‘if-then’ physical experience based memories and includes the faculties of language and categorization. Manas is the lake of thoughts. The three – buddhi, chitta and manas – form the link between Brahman, the subtle universe, and our human manifestation. The thoughts that occur in manas are produced as a combination of current physical experiences and the memories from chitta and, additionally, leavened by subtle wisdom from buddhi.

The ahamkara or the ‘I am’ vibration which emanates in its pure form from the awareness component 9the buddhi), at some point, begins playing a central role in attaching to the thoughts from manas. The ahamkara begins attaching itself selectively to these thought, which are influenced by chitta, and through this selective attachment – what the west calls – the ego identity emerges.

The pure “I am” aham vibration together with the attached thought (a combination of memories from chitta and current physical experiences) triggers actions by the physical body. It is in this way that the aham vibration is the actor, the physical body is the stage for the action, and the buddhi, chitta and manas become the backdrop in the theater.

The ahamkAra gains apparent independent identity by associating with the memories of physical experiences and distancing from the subtle, which is its true nature. The process by which the aham vibration attaches itself to thoughts of physical experiences and categories, in the manas and the chitta generates the scripts and the acting out of these scripts through the physical body.

To simplify further, let’s ask the question: How do we go about playing our various and active roles in the three fields of action: work, money and relationships? Our answer will be: With our bodies, of course! To further elucidate this complex concept, let’s use the currently popular Nintendo Wii Gaming system as an example. The apparent field of activity is the screen, but what happens on the screen is based on the movements of the fingers of our hands and feet on the Wii device. This is no different from how we use our bodies to act out our social roles. The rest is just a projection. In fact, it is a huge projection. In fact, it is a huge projection on to multiple screens in a complex experiential universe with billions of people and animals and insects and plants playing the leela of the “Universal Wii”, all at the same time; a giant dynamic collage that is constantly being projected on multidimensional screens of which we only see three in all its kaleidoscopic beauty.

In the next post we will contemplate on the question ‘What constitutes this body that is our field of activity?”

 Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.