Thank You and Goodbye 2020

2020 has had it’s fair share of challenges and gifts too. Nobody could guess that a pandemic like Covid-19 would bring the world to its knees and it seems that most of the world hasn’t been able to stand up again.

My mum from the UK was able to visit us in the US and spend time with us. It was before the pandemic and she returned to the UK before the world came to a standstill. It was wonderful for her to see my life here and it was nice to have her blessings! I just wished I worked from home more at the time.

This year has allowed me to move to a new position at my workplace which I am grateful for. My new team is great and I appreciate them a lot. Earlier in the year, I was facing redundancy due to a restructure but my new manager saw my skills and brought me onto his team.

Working from home has allowed me to become healthier, take care of what I eat and has also given me the time to meditate more, read more, exercise more and most of all, spend time with my wife Manisha ji more. We watched films, TV shows together and read (different) books together. We cooked together and I loved those moments, I felt like I was in the first year of my marriage again. It has also allowed us to spend time with our niece, Ekta, who is an absolute joy to be around. Spending time with the extended family has definitely been important for us.

But a bigger shoutout to my wife, who is on the frontline as a nurse. Not only is she working in a critical time, she is also studying for her Master’s and the way she has balanced this is truly remarkable and inspirational. She is an absolute gem and looks after me a lot. She also allows me to be lazy at times, which I definitely appreciate. Most of all, I love making coffee for you in the morning because I see the joy that it brings to you!

I have gained new friendships in this time and strengthened existing friendships . Two new friendships have been one where spiritual concepts are looked into deeply and we try to discover ways to further our spiritual journey. These conversations have been beneficial for me. In fact, overall my friendships have got stronger as we focus on spending time with each other. Before the pandemic, we could be together but our phones would be in the way. This time, I noticed we talked more, we interacted more, it was more personal. I really value all of my friends.

Let me thank you all for reading my blog, reading my work on Instagram, I truly appreciate your support and may this community grow stronger.

But 2020 has had it’s challenges and one of the challenges for me was when my youngest brother in the UK was in the ICU with a rare lung infection, he was on the brink of death. Being here in America, it was tough to not be there with my parents, my brothers to deal with this. Positive thinking did help but I was also ready to face the reality if my brother didn’t make it. I am thankful for the healthcare workers, the doctors that put everything into saving him. Thankfully, my youngest brother is at home and we have weekly catch up calls, which never happened before. So even though this was a challenging time with ups and downs, we made sure that we got the best of the situation. I am so thankful that my youngest brother recovered and is alive and well.

There have been deaths this year, some people I knew personally, some whom I didn’t know but my friends or family had lost someone and I felt the pain of loss that they were going through. This was definitely a difficult year in processing death. Losing people is hard enough but in the midst of a pandemic, we have had to evolve our ways in saying goodbye. I take this moment to pray that anybody that has lost somebody in their family, in their friend circle, may they be given strength and acceptance. I also encourage them to seek professional help if needed and to let go of any taboo that surrounds it.

So as we go into 2021, let’s start it on a powerful note. I started this morning with listening to the Gayatri Mantra and spent some time contemplating on this.

Aum
Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat

Aum,
Physical, mental and Spiritual existence,
That, which is Radiant Light and most Beautiful, 
I meditate upon That which is Illuminating and Divine,
Enlighten our intellect. 

To understand the above, let’s dwell on it. Aum symbolizes the Ultimate Impersonal Reality – Brahman. So in the beginning of the mantra, this is what we focus on. Then we acknowledge that Brahman has It’s existence on the physical, mental and spiritual dimension. As we contemplate on It’s Fullness, we see That as the most Beautiful and Radiant Light. It is referred to as Tat (That) so it remains Impersonal, it remains Formless. By acknowledging It’s radiance and beauty, we lead ourselves to meditating on That, which illuminates everywhere and is divine in nature. We then ask Brahman to enlighten our intellect so that we can embrace wisdom. It is wisdom that enlightens our intellect and that wisdom itself is Brahman.

With this prayer, I thank 2020 and welcome 2021.

Ultimate Reality

The highest wisdom known is to understand the Ultimate Reality. This Ultimate Reality has no form, no shape, no color, no dimension, no sound, no space, no time, indivisible etc. The biggest question is whether we can call this God, especially when a personal god is more or less invoked in the traditional aspects of religion?

The personal god is not just in traditional religions but has found its place in spiritual circles. You may call it the universe, it is still the personal god. To this god, we place our faith, our devotion as long as whatever we want is received. If it isn’t then there are two options. One is that we lose faith and become atheist sand settle in the belief that there is no god, or second is that we say we don’t have enough faith and that is why god didn’t give it to us. In fact, we make god into a transactional deity where He, the patriarch dishes out rewards and punishments. Why do some get more or less? Well, build up your faith is always the clarion call!

So back to the original question, can we call this Ultimate Reality – God? I don’t think we can. It is interesting that in Hinduism, they see the need for the personal God so this is called Ishwar or Saguna Brahman. The Hindu mystics were smart enough to understand that the majority will not have time to contemplate, to wonder, to pay attention and to focus on what Reality is but in fact, they are drawn to their primal fears and desires – therefore, Ishwar or Saguna Brahman deliver this. But remember – Sat Chit Ananda (Truth Consciousness Bliss) – cannot be experienced here! The Truth or the Reality experienced is only a part – it isn’t the whole. Saguna Brahman is also subject to destruction as it is part of the Universe. Consciousness is experienced by all, but here we are talking about Pure Indivisible Consciousness as the Ultimate Reality. This is only partly experienced. Therefore, bliss cannot be attained with the completeness of Truth and Consciousness. We can experience happiness, extreme happiness but not bliss.

So the ones who contemplate on this Ultimate Reality, who wonder about it, who want to see it as it is, without our interpretation, without our thoughts, without our emotions, we find that they experience Sat Chit Ananda. This Ultimate Reality is referred to as Nirguna Brahman and this means Brahman without attributes. This is the Purest of the Pure. Right now, I can feel It’s presence that seems infused into everything, yet distinct from everything too. I can feel that there is bliss and if I must use the analogy of the ocean, I am only at the shore, and haven’t gone to it’s depths yet. Some of you, may have gone there and are there right now and can feel the uncreated, unbreakable, undiluted bliss. This Ultimate Reality cannot belong to any religion and can only be personally experienced, therefore a spiritual group or organization will not be able to contain such a Force. It’s impossible because once the spiritual group loses focus on this Ultimate Reality, which it inevitably will because people are too attached to primal fears and desires, they will lose focus on where to direct their contemplation. This Ultimate Reality doesn’t care for praise or criticism – therefore It doesn’t negotiate. So we cannot win this like we can do with the personal god. This Ultimate Reality is always here, within us, we just need wake up to it. It doesn’t need to do anything, we need to discover it by contemplation, by inquiry, by discussion and by meditation.

So, after discussing this with you, I find that Nirguna Brahman cannot be referred to as god because that will give it unrealistic expectations that It will not follow. This can only be referred to as the Ultimate Reality and is literally defined as having no form, no shape, no color, no dimension, no sound, no space, no time, indivisible etc. If we are to truly experience the essence of spirituality, it is only with understanding and knowing this Ultimate Reality without any duality within us – the observer.

Elevate your Self

Following from yesterday’s post, I wanted to continue with discussing Allama Iqbal’s poetry, specifically from the poem ‘Dayar-e-Ishq’.

Khudhi Ko Ker Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Pochay Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
Elevate your Self to such great heights that before issuing every decree of destiny, 
That God should ask you, 'Tell me, what is your wish?' 

Here Iqbal is really instructing his son on what to do. The best thing to do in life is to elevate your Self. What is this Self? Who is it? Where does this Self reside? In the some of the Upanishads, they didn’t see the soul and God as two different things but called it the Self, obviously with the capital ‘S’. This was to make us, the listener/reader understand that the true Self is not our ego but the limitless, indivisible, formless existence that witnesses through our senses. Here Iqbal is referring to this true Self. Before I go on, I want to make sure that I clarify what I term as the ego in a quick sentence. The ego is the accumulation of everything that I think is ‘me’ like ‘I am my body’, ‘I am my mind’ or anything subject to change, decay or death. As I have established what the ego is and what the true Self is, the poem further expresses to reach great heights. There is nothing higher than living an awakened life that is in awareness of our true Self.

In fact, here Iqbal really sets an interesting tone that by reaching such great heights that whenever destiny has to be written, or shall we say the results of our karma is to be issued, that God has to ask us what our wish is, what our desire is, what will satisfy us. It’s such delicate poetry that it can be interpreted in many ways. From the point of view that I look at it from, is that once there is oneness with the Formless, then you are literally writing your destiny. This isn’t some new-agey nonsense that whatever you wish for will be manifested. As you are the Self, the Formless, you will be honest in the result of your own karma. Also, anyone who reaches such great heights, most likely will not make mistakes. But sometimes, we do make subtle mistakes and an elevated Self will notice this and will be fair in its outcome.

This line just stood out to me because it contains oneness with one Self – which is the same as oneness with God. How many of us can attain to such heights? Who knows? But one sure thing is that we need to practice. Simply saying nice words, thinking nice thoughts will never be enough but sincere concentration and meditation on the Formless will elevate us. We can do it and it all depends on how important it is for us to reach that life-transforming moment.

Approaching the Great Teacher

Earlier in the morning I was reading a book on J Krishnamurti and came across some beautiful lines:

Awake, arise, having approached the great teacher, learn.

The road is difficult, the crossing is as the sharp edge of a razor.

Katha Upanishad III

These words had an impact this morning. Some of us are fortunate to have a Living Spiritual Master, some of us are fortunate to have had a Spiritual Master in the past. We approach a Spiritual Master to learn something new, to gain some wisdom, to learn the practice of Spirituality that could lead to awakening or enlightenment. When we approach the Spiritual Master or the Great Teacher, do we simply just regurgitate what we have learned without seeing the implications of practice? Therefore, our repetition isn’t a sign of wisdom or understanding. The real words of the Spiritual Master is when practice defines and becomes the foundation of wisdom. This means our failures, obstructions, confusions, doubts all have a part in what is constituted as wisdom.

The attitude to learn is one where we are happy to admit that we do not know and acknowledging the long path ahead of us. As the lines of the Upanishad guides us further that the road is difficult. If we simply think that we are in a state of bliss because we have received a teaching, then that isn’t bliss but inspiration. We can feel inspired and sometimes we mistake this as bliss. Feeling inspired gives us a high that dies down after a couple of days and bliss is a continuous and unbreakable high according to the Sages of the East. Therefore, when we recognize the difference between the two, we can get closer to what is considered to be bliss. We must use that inspiration to move us forward fearlessly.

The crossing is as sharp as the edge of a razor. Do we truly feel this? That one wrong turn then we could be back to square one in our spiritual journey or we come to realize we didn’t move as far ahead as we thought we had. Do we understand that when we cross from knowledge to a practical application that it could destroy everything we know about ourselves. The body that we thought we were, the thoughts and memories that made us who we were, suddenly holds little value in life as we find ourselves at the pinnacle of true understanding. When we practice and realize that we are formless beings and are nothing but a manifestation of the Formless, are we happy to live by this wisdom? Can we live by this wisdom 24/7? These are questions to really ponder about.

Are we ready to arise and awake? Are we ready to approach the Great Teachers and admit we need to know more and that we need wisdom to awaken us? Are we aware of the difficulties that our mind will face once we receive knowledge from the Great Teachers? And can we confidently cross the ocean of materialism unscathed by the sharp edge of the razor called the ego?

Spirituality is the device not the app.

Sometimes I do wonder if Sunday is any different for me as any other day. The reason why I say this is because I attend spiritual discussions on this day for 90 minutes. However, every morning in the week is spent on spiritual contemplation for a couple of hours. I do some reading and think about the meaning behind certain lines, sometimes I enter into a zone upon contemplation of those lines from an ancient scripture or a book based on spirituality.

I find that spirituality is incredibly important but not as an app on the phone that you can just go on whenever you please. Spirituality is the smartphone itself, it is the device. Without it, nothing else can function. That is the importance of spirituality in my life. It is embedded into my life and has a presence all the time.

A conversation about anything will always have my attention, for respect and dignity of the people I am around and sometimes, these conversation can be of great importance to everyone. I have sometimes felt a little bored but I remind myself to be attentive and to be present. Then there are spiritual conversations, genuine ones that inquire to go deeper into the nature of the Ultimate Reality, to understand spiritual practices, how to imbibe them and what are the pitfalls that could be faced. These conversations always have my peak interest and attention. At times, I feel like I need to say something and I do but I always realize later that I could have sat back and been silent and see where the conversation would have gone.

Our attention to spiritual practice and our determination for spiritual practice is what makes us spiritual. Just because we believe in a god, or believe in a scripture, or attend some discussions or worship doesn’t make us spiritual. However, it does make us religious. Then again, would the devout religious practitioner want such people who claim to be spiritual? Therefore, these people are seen to be seemingly lost, I don’t know if I can conclude them to be lost but they certainly are not serious enough to know if they can be spiritual – to awaken to the Ultimate Reality that is Nirankar or Brahman. Therefore, the ones who will be labeled as ‘spiritual’ will be the practitioners who work daily with numerous practices to become Aware of Awareness and eventually dissolving into that Formless Awareness, that is the Ultimate Reality – Brahman. Some may view the above as a little too harsh and may disagree but let’s discuss further. It is through healthy conversation that we can understand what it is to be spiritual, to be religious or to frankly be confused on what one wants to be.

Please, I implore to know your views and please write in the comments section.

Innermost Essence

This morning was spent on contemplating the changes that have occured in the last 4 years. A lot has happened in between and not only have things affected me on a personal level, but it seems the country, continents and the world at large has gone through a lot too.

In May 2016, when my Spiritual Master left His body, the brightest Light in my world had disappeared and I continue to miss His persona, His compassionate teachings and His understanding nature. My experiences with Him were always pleasant and one that moved me forward in my spiritual journey. In fact, it was having close contact with Him that truly helped. It was having the ability to discuss my ego and the way it would trap me and it often finished with a good belly laugh after recollecting the experience. When He would finally speak His one or two sentences, they would become pointings to guide me spiritually and they stood the test of time. I used to have a lot of questions too, I dare not repeat some of them here but He answered them gracefully and understood my doubts fully. He made space for me to deal with them. He never advised me to let go of my doubts but instead instructed for me to keep pursuing the doubt so I carried on learning.

I do believe that behind every doubt lies a great teaching. Doubt is like a veil that hides the Light of the Teaching. You have to use your hands to remove the veil, you must have faith that you will get to the Teaching. You simply cannot surrender and expect the veil to move by some hand of God. Therefore, it requires an element of strength and determination that one would work on delusions and ignorance so the Light faces no obstruction.

There is a gift that my Spiritual Master gave and the Spiritual Masters that have followed Him have continued to give – that is to show the way to the Inner Light of my atman (innermost essence). It is understanding that this innermost essence must be discovered daily, I must abide by it as much as I can and be aware of it as much as I can. This innermost essence is formless, shapeless, colorless, boundless, limitless etc.

4 years on with the continuous guidance from my Spiritual Master(s), I have found that this innermost essence is shining brighter whenever I focus and concentrate on it. The question is my availability to this practice. The ability is already given when one is blessed with Brahm Gyana (Knowledge of the Ultimate Reality). Even a minute spent available to this wonderful blessing is most beneficial. Yes, the Spiritual Master will always be the brightest Light and will be there to guide but it is us, as individuals that have to awaken that same Light within us. It is my delusion that this Light, that is the brightest ever just shines with one individual, when really it is within every being. To say it is not, I would be implying that the first spiritual sages thousands of years ago and the philosophy built upon their teachings till date is wrong. Day by day, this feeling grows stronger that each being is divine and all are the same One Light. All that is needed is the vision to see this Light within everyone and understand that no veil can extinguish it.

Cliff Edge

I have withheld all my thoughts at the cliff edge of my mind,
A step further and the emptiness will be filled again,
Many times I have gone over the cliff,
Trashing myself into an ocean of thoughts.

Why do I lose the beauty of an empty mind?
Why do I not allow the song to continue?
Where the Sacred Aum surrounds me,
Yet my thoughts seem to drown me.

I've let thoughts win each time,
Not that this is a battle on my side,
Each time I seek for the Sacred Aum,
More noise seems to appear at the Gate.

Acting like a great host - I let the noise in,
Suddenly my house is frantic with chaos,
I often stand by and watch this drama unfold,
And again I enter into the Sacred Aum.

When the noise has finally entered into a melody,
When the heaviness of thought enters a lighter state,
When sorrow dissolves into an intoxication,
I am bliss, transforming into Formless Awareness.

Spiritual Opposition

I received an interesting response from a dear friend of mine, whom is a Professor and a spiritual teacher for many of us and it was about if families always accept that you are a spiritual person? Do families always embrace those that start walking on the spiritual path or move ahead in it?

I did write yesterday that your family members know about your reality, whether you are truly spiritual or not. However, it definitely isn’t always embraced. My dear friend pointed me towards a very interesting direction here. Sometimes, your family or close friends can become a hindrance to your spiritual path. There is a great amount of internal fear in being spiritual and the reason is that it allows you to be comfortable with being alone. However, family and close friends may fear that they will lose you if you fully embrace your aloneness and they use their imagination of you moving into a cave and meditating until you die. They may fear about how they will live – food, shelter, transport, their smartphone etc. They may also fear that you will not need them anymore as much as they need you. They may start to fear your independence and within them, they also crave for that independence but they don’t necessarily want someone else have it, even if it is their own beloved family and friends.

It is known in my family that my conversations will end up being spiritual in some sort of way. For me, spirituality isn’t an app that I check now and then or a piece of clothing when it feels like I have to. Spirituality for me is an everyday and every moment part of my life. In fact – it is my life. I can’t live without it. It has totally consumed my mind. This is not always embraced. I know I am left out of social events with friends because of my spiritual nature. If I am at an event, most talk has to be on a superficial level and I get bored. Even if spirituality is discussed on a superficial level, it is tiring for me.

In the past, my family have not been supportive of my spirituality and there was always worry that because I was not materialistic enough, I wouldn’t hold a good job or want to earn good money. However, I have shown my family that I have all of that spiritual seeker within me despite moving up in my career along with buying a house and even moving to another country for a better life. However, there is something in me that is always wishing the ascetic lifestyle. I would love to be a monk and what I have learned in the past few months is that I can be living in the world, in the midst of materialism, in the midst of social change and be a monk within. Untouched by the world and its drama, yet acting in it fully. It has taken me a long time to get to this place in life.

I feel that the opposition to my spirituality has not touched what others have gone through. Some are definitely called hypocrites and claim that it is all a show – a pretense to claim these beings are spiritual. Again, this is stoked by fear. If we see that someone is able to live out spiritual oneness, we attempt to discourage them with hurtful jibes. However, these people carry on in their spiritual life, no matter what their close friends and family say. They know the purpose of their life.

Many Gurus saints or bhaktas have faced opposition from their close ones too. From Guru Nanak to Kabir to Rumi to Tukaram to Mira Bai. Their passion and love for the One, for their realization was overwhelming and I assume for their family members torturous. Who would like that their family member starting loving God more than them? Or at least that is how it is perceived. Tukaram used to get a good old scolding from his wife. Rumi’s children were jealous of his relationship with Shams. Not every spiritual person, not every mystic is able to please their close friends and family.

There is a reason why I have, what can be termed as a normal life. I have a wife, eventually we will have kids, we have a home, a car, a job, a Netflix account and social media accounts. At the same time, my weekend is more or less devoted to spirituality, to my own individual practice as well as in the week. I read scriptures on a daily basis. Any free time I get and I will have my iPad out, reading on the Kindle app. I also do spend quality time with my wife, we go on date nights now and then. My spiritual life is perfectly balanced. However, some may say that one command from my Satguru (True Master) can change things? I may be asked to preach, if my Satguru truly desires so. This will not change my lifestyle but my lifestyle should become exemplary. Yes, my diary will change it’s focus but the monk within can still reside in the hustle-bustle of this world.

Not everyone has it easy and I guess this is my post to say that it is okay if you are condemned for being spiritual. Atleast, you know deep in your heart that you are doing the right thing for you. How can we care for others, if we ourselves are in turmoil? We should never dampen that spiritual zeal to further enhance our spirituality. If you feel you are being challenged in your spiritual journey, let me know. Let’s talk about it.

Love.

Being Nothing

The Truth is always revealed about us eventually and if you have a family, it is even quicker. Your family recognize any inauthenticity before you even utter the first word. Your actions, your body language, your intentions speak before anything else. That is why that if we truly want to be spiritual then the first people who will declare it is our family. For example, my wife will be the first to tell you my reality. That is the way it is.

We often seek to pretend to be something we are not in our social circles or when others are around. When we are with our own then our real nature shows. If we are truly kind and considerate then that shows. If we are mean and horrible then that will show. We cannot fool those that live with us each and every day.

We like to show the world that we are something else. We want others to have a certain image of us and we play upon that image. Yet, the spiritual path, the path of wisdom is all about destroying the image. We do not need to be labelled, or put into a box of a certain kind. We are to be free from such notions. The path of the wise is about becoming nothing and this is the biggest fear we fearfully hold. Being nothing is linked to death. With death, we know that nothing will happen to us. Inside we know it. For example, even if you believe in heaven, you are still nothing on the Earth now. This can create a sense of fear of us. The highest spiritual attainment for the mind is to become nothing, to become empty and this is the truest victory. It is only at this point that we understand that we are actually Fullness. We are Imageless. We are Formless. We are beyond even the sense of nothingness, emptiness or void.

Too much of our life is about what we are trying to portray instead of revealing what we truly are. It is the ascetics, the monks, the spiritual householders that truly look to reveal what they really are. Vedanta calls this Brahman – the Ultimate Reality. How many who claim to be spiritual, who claim to be sharing wisdom, who claim to follow religious rituals are in touch with the Ultimate Reality that is within them? Not just within, it is around one, beyond one and the Ultimate Reality is the Gyana (Knowledge) that is understood beyond the mind. Therefore, this can only be shown and known when one accepts what they are. Once one is able to silence the mind so that it can be programmed as being Brahman then they are Brahm Gyani (Realized Being). It is the Realized Being that is living the Ultimate Reality as the Ultimate Reality.

I am very fortunate that I am able to discuss this with close friends, my wife on a almost daily basis. One thing that has really helped me is seeing Brahman, or Nirankar (the Formless) in my wife. In the morning, when I bow down to touch her feet for blessings, I truly feel that the Ultimate Reality in her and in me too is Greater. This is the birth of real respect. This is the beginning of being authentic. This is the flowing river of love. It creates mystics. For if you can see love in the eyes of your beloved one, in your parents, in your friends then wisdom is at your beck and call. What is the point of wisdom, if it doesn’t create respect for others? What is the point of wisdom, if one is not open-minded towards all.

I do want to talk about spiritual intoxication and maybe will tomorrow. How do you practice spirituality in your day to day life? I would love to know.

Love.

What is Spirituality?

The definition of spirituality is aplenty. Some say that it is about becoming a human being, some say that it is to transcend desires, some say that it is to give comfort and peace. Many definitions but the main question for me is whether spirituality is a door that once you walk through, you can never walk back?

The way I see spirituality is very simple but ultimately complex at the same time. Spirituality is the realization of the no-self. Once one attains the state of union, there is no longer two. If there is only one, there is no need to say so. Once we give this formless, or shapeless no-self – the idea of self, even the label, we end up losing what it actually is. It is clear through Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta that there is no-self at all. The mind is not the self and the body is not the self. The only thing that remains is something that if spoken about, it would be destroyed of all it’s essence.

Many people claim to be spiritual but they have some affiliation with some concept and I guess what I am trying to say is that if there is affiliation with one, then there is a possibility of infinite affiliations. If there is no affiliation, no attachment to anything – philosophy or thought, we will find that it encompasses it all. In my head, this all makes sense and I don’t know if this is making any sense to you. I really do find that defining spirituality at its core is a dangerous path because once it is defined as a path, we can create multiple diversions.

Once we discover this no-self, I do find that we end up seeing everything as it were a great theatrical play in motion, this time the characters fail to understand that it is all an act. They have become their characters. The method is now madness. When we are able to step back and observe, the no-self within us in untouched by any of the experiences perceived.

Ultimately, what is the Formless to itself? absolutely nothing and I think this is the fear that we have, we are afraid to be nothing even if it means it leads us to be the nothing that is in everything.