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Focus on Sadhana and Ahimsa

Sadhana is regular serious practice with a goal of changing oneself and also our daily vigil. The deepest part of ourselves has always been God. What are we trying to change? Ahimsa is the cardinal virtue. Being perfect is not realistic. As long as we're improving we should be content.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning. As we know, today is January 5th, Gurudeva's birthday. Jai Gurudeva. Also, the 32nd birthday of Hinduism Today. You may not have recalled that. 32 years old. It's getting up there ready for a mid-life crisis pretty soon. Just joking but the... Interesting, I'm not sure if it's true in all religious organizations but in ours it takes 36 years to really get something established. Sounds like a long time, 36 years. Kadavul is in it's thirty-eighth year now so it's well established.

We're honoring the 36th anniversary of Gurudeva's vision of Lord Siva on San Marga this year. 36 years ago, 1975 was Gurudeva's vision. So somehow it's 3 twelve year cycles, 2 eighteen year cycles. Somehow it's a magical number in our work that 36 years, something is really solid.

Had an interesting talk with some of our members recently. And about their children and Saravananathaswami was talking to some of the youth themselves and found that it's a common trait among youth, when they think of being a member, being part of the fellowship, that they look around at the mission members. And to them the mission members are the group, the fellowship. And though that's true; it's secondary.

And an analogy is useful to private music lessons. Whatever instrument it is. You have private lessons once a week; you're studying. Are you focused on all the other students? No! You may not even know who they are, right? You're not focused on the teacher's other students. You may meet them at a recital or meet them in certain gatherings but you're focused on two things. You're focused on getting as much as you can out of your lesson. Why? Cause you're paying for it or your parents are. And your practicing. Those are the two things you're focused on if you're studying music with a private teacher.

Well, Gurudeva's teachings are the same. That's the point of focus is: When teaching is going on to absorb it and otherwise, we're practicing what we've already learned. We're focused on our practice.

We were, published Gurudeva's writings on sadhana in the January issue of Hinduism Today. So I was reviewing them. It's interesting to see that Gurudeva used the word sadhana in a couple of ways. In the general sense of regular practice, serious practice, with a goal of actually changing oneself. But also he sometimes used the word sadhana to refer to the daily vigil. So, you must do your sadhana. And in the context it was clear he meant your daily vigil. That gives us a clear idea of how Gurudeva was looking at it. And the most important part of our practice clearly is personal worship, on a daily basis, ideally at the same time. The same time is very helpful sometimes in modern life that's not possible but when it is it makes a big difference.

The monastics, as a group, have their own vigil from 5:30 till 7 o'clock. That's our hour and a half vigil on a daily basis as I'm sure all of you know. It's at the same time and it's interesting. The mind just finds it easy to sit there for an hour and meditate from 6 to 7 in the morning. But if you were to try and meditate from 2 to 3 in the afternoon or 5 to 6 in the afternoon it would be harder. Somehow, because it's at the same time every day, your mind, habit mind is used to it. Makes it a lot easier.

Gurudeva defines sadhana on our rededication as: "To walk the path of sadhana, personal change through self effort with the Kailasa Parampara as my guide."

When we talk about change, when you think about it, what are we trying to change? Cause from the deepest level, the deepest teachings, there's nothing to change, right? We go within ourselves deep enough and we find the part of us that's always been God, that's never changed. Gurudeva describes it that way: "Find that part of you which has never changed." Well, clearly, that's not what we're talking about when it comes to change. We're talking about our outer nature.

And in that regard I often explain the three phases of the mind: instinctive, intellectual and intuitive. When I'm presenting things, of course, you know them, so I won't belabor you with that explanation. But, of course, it's the instinctive and the intellectual mind and what goes along with it the ego and it's pride that we're trying to change. Trying to make it more spiritual, more like the soul nature. And it's only because our soul is inside a physical body that we have an instinctive and intellectual mind. Otherwise, we wouldn't have anything we needed to change. We'd just be fine the way we were.

There's a number of concepts that help us remember what we're trying to change or perfect in our instinctive and intellectual nature. The Yamas are a particularly useful list especially for children and youth, the Yamas. For those who are more advanced in Gurudeva's teachings he's written up certain principals in the form of vows or vratas. So I thought I'd read the ahimsa vrata because it's, has more in it than we all may remember. That's why it's good to review these things, these principles on a yearly basis because we forget them. We forget some of the details. And it can be reviewed in the spirit of: Is there something in here that reminds me of something in myself I really should try and change? That's the spirit of it.

Ahimsa Vrata:

"Non-injury in thought word and deed known in Sanskrit as ahimsa, is the cardinal virtue and is essential to living the Sanatana Dharma and progressing on the path of sadhana. "

It's defined, ahimsa is defined in Nandinatha Sutras 56 through 65 in detail.

Ahimsa means: "... not killing Siva's divine creatures, including bugs and rodents, when they do not threaten life, health or safety. Additionally, devotees are admonished to not harm human beings in all ways, including not beating them physically, abusing them mentally or emotionally, including verbally, should they misbehave or disobey, but guiding all through the gentle, thoughtful principles of Positive Discipline. This extends most importantly to the devotees family, including his or her spouse or children."

Finally, there is emphasis on the on "... the importance of not verbally criticizing others behind their backs, but maintaining one's own dignity as well as that of other's by praising them abundantly at every opportunity and avoiding or politely walking away from conversations that descend into such degrading social practices as backbiting and gossip. To this end the, the following ahimsa maha vrata is provided for the devotee to sincerely vow to uphold..."

"I believe in You, the one Supreme God, Lord Siva and the Gods of our Saivite faith, and in the Saiva Dharma. In love and trust I recognize Your goodness in providing for my every material and spiritual need. I accept the principle of ahimsa as the cardinal virtue, the highest commandment of the Sanatana Dharma and the method by which I may acknowledge my compassion, my karuna for all living beings. As an act of dedication and an expression of my striving to see God Siva everywhere and in all beings, I am resolved this day to uphold the three-fold principle of non-injury in thought, word and deed by not killing living creatures that do not pose a threat to life, health or safety, not physically or verbally abusing my spouse or children or any living being, and avoiding the degrading social practices of backbiting and hurtful gossip. I am resolved this day to continue the regular practice of interacting with my family, friends and associates according to the wise principles of Positive Discipline."

I remember a few years ago talking to one of our devotees. And he was kind of discouraged because he recently had got kind of upset with his children, there's four of them, and spoke out harshly. So, he was all discouraged. And feeling he wasn't doing well at upholding Gurudeva's teachings. Obviously, taking it very seriously. So, I pointed out to him that it's unrealistic to think you're supposed to be perfect. Doesn't say that anywhere in Gurudeva's teachings. You can read them all very, very carefully. Gurudeva never says: You should be perfect. Always uphold everything perfectly. That's the goal. He doesn't say that.

He says what? Says we should change, right? Personal change. Change in this case means improve. That's a realistic goal. Being perfect isn't realistic. For as long as we're improving, taking these points seriously. No gossip, no backbiting, not speaking harshly to our children. As long as we're improving then we should be content. Otherwise, we're going to get discouraged. And improvement is seen over a period of years, not a period of weeks or days. We need to look back a few years ago and if in some of these traits, that we're trying to harness in the instinctive and intellectual mind, we've made good improvement, then, we know we're on the right track.

If we haven't made any improvement then we're not taking it seriously enough. That's the idea.

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
Karma is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction governing maya. Anava is the individuating veil of duality, source of ignorance and finitude. Maya is the classroom, karma the teacher, and anava the student's ignorance.