Sunday, May 9, 2021

Vedantic Principles in Daily Life - Notes on a talk by Swami Sarvapriyananda

 Vedantic Principles in Daily Life - A talk by Swami Sarvapriyananda

Talk on 2 May 2021 Conducted by KHNA Michigan

H. H. Swami Sarvapriyananda is no stranger to Vedanta students all over the world. A Harvard alumnus, as per the secular education standards, his lectures in social media are captivating.  Once we come across his no-nonsense approach to spirituality and religion, our attention would be riveted to his thoughts. The recent lecture by him for the KHA Michigan was also full of insights and practical wisdom. He conveyed to us the Vedantic principles in a lucid but focussed manner. Here are my notes:

My Notes from the lecture:

Activity- Selfish or unselfish?

An unselfish activity is more satisfying than a selfish activity in the long run. In turn, an unselfish activity is the most ‘selfish’ activity in the sense that it will improve our own life if self-improvement is our goal.

Karma Yoga – Is it practical?

Typically, people say, 'we do not have time to pursue spiritual practices as we are busy with our daily chores of life.' Karma yoga is all about engaging in our daily activities with an attitude of service to God or a higher goal. He narrated an incident at Lucknow airport where a security officer wanted to know how to practice spirituality in their work life. As this person was a Hanuman devotee, Swamiji told him to conduct his work, treating all the customers coming his way with an attitude of worship to Lord Hanuman.  There is no special time required. Make your work, worship. Have reverence to all people around you as you revere your own Guru! You do not need to seek a special time for spiritual practice, practice all your life’s activities as spiritual!

Importance of Focus and Flow

Swamiji emphasized a lot in his lecture about the need to develop focus in all activities we undertake. One-pointed attention is important, and it is imperative to avoid distractions. ‘Intermittent attention’ leads to lower quality in work and people notice that. Success and failure depend on the small incremental quality achieved in our activity compared to others in the same field. This incremental quality is achieved through focus and daily practice. “Quality of life depends on what you pay attention to and how much attention you pay to it.”

Reference books: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; This book about positive psychology refers also to Patanjali. The Flow is a state of deep enjoyment while at work.

Deep Work, by Cal Newport: Gives insight to concentration and one-point attention.

Improving the Quality of Meditation

It depends on the quality of our attention. Initially, our minds will be wandering here and there. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says, ‘it can be improved with daily practice (abhyasa) and ability of renounce (vairagya) what is not important.’ Mind is like a mighty elephant controlled by a tiny mahout, the intellect. But with daily practice, the mahout can direct the elephant to walk in the desired path. However much we practice rowing a boat, it is important to untie the rope of the boat from the shore, if we want to go anywhere using that boat. Worldly attachments do hinder one’s progress in spiritual practice. It takes courage to cut asunder such ties.

Love- triangle: Three apexes of the triangle are:

1. Love, not desire: It is important to develop 'love for all,' and not desire for anyone and anything. 'Desire for God' is the only exception in this. Pursuing to satisfy a desire is akin to looking for happiness in the wrong place. 

2. In real love, there is no ‘give and take’. There is only give. Real love is like the love of a mother towards her infant child.

3. Love knows no fear – Do not fear God, Love God. Love knows no rivalry- no need to be protective about your love towards your God (concepts)!  Try to realize all godly ideas through the notion you have about your favorite God.

Bearing the situations of Life:

By paying attention to the positive part of our life, our mind can transform our life’s experience to heavenly feel and vice versa.  “I cannot bear it” attitude about life and our surroundings is to be countered by the “They are also bearing you” thought.

God – Is God needed to practice a good life?

Is there any difference in doing good with or without the concept of God or spirituality?  Take the word ‘God’ out of ‘Good’! You will get a big O, an emptiness. Yes, there is value in performing good deeds with or without the concepts of God to guide us. But there is a potential for feeling an emptiness at the end if we do not have the notion of a higher goal. This can lead to questions like ‘what am doing?’ and ‘whom am I doing this for?’. This can lead to the ‘Who am I’ inquiry. First, the attitude may be having a ‘God for my Life,’ but this must be transformed into ‘my Life for God, the universal consciousness,’ is the essence of Vedanta. Aham Brahma Asmi – I am that – I am that consciousness (Brahman)!

Why should I care?

If everything is God or Brahman, why should I care about anything, including the protection of my body? God must take care of me, right? This is where clarity of thoughts becomes key to spiritual growth. Self-protection is always needed. It is not selfishness. In order o experience the divine, our body is the only instrument we have. By self-inquiry, we come to know that we are not the body; we are not even the mind. We are the awareness consciousness that experiences the activities of our body and the mind. So, it is important to take care of our bodies and minds. “Do not abuse the horse you are riding, if you cannot dismount from it safely.”

9 May 2021

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