Ways of Wisdom
Ways of Wisdom
Perform noble deeds, good karma to shape.
Praise the Holy One, the Holy Land to reach.
This is the law we need, this is the law for men, who, blessed with earthly life, seek the life eternal.
Tirumantiram 195. TM
How Do We Overcome Life’s Obstacles?
Just as a small leaf can obscure the sun when held before our eyes, so can the past cloud the present and hide our divinity. With Vedic methods, or tantras, we remove impediments to reveal the ever-present inner light. Aum.
An ancient Upanishad defines twenty obstacles, upasarga, to spiritual progress:
hunger, thirst, laziness, passion, lust, fear, shame, anxiety, excitement, adversity, sorrow, despair, anger, arrogance, delusion, greed, stinginess, ambitiousness, death and birth.
Another obstacle is the intellect which, unguided by intuition, merely juggles memory and reason as a way of life.
The experience of these impediments creates reactions that combine with the sum of all past impressions, saṁskāras, both positive and negative.
Residing in the subconscious mind, these are the source of subliminal traits or tendencies, called vāsanās, which shape our attitudes and motivations. The troublesome vāsanās clouding the mind must be reconciled and released.
There are beneficial tantras by which absolution can be attained for unhindered living, including āyurveda, jyotisha, daily sādhana, temple worship, selfless giving, the creative arts and the several yogas.
The Vedas explain:
“Even as a mirror covered with dust shines brightly when cleaned, so the embodied soul, seeing the truth of ātman, realizes oneness, attains the goal of life and becomes free from sorrow." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Mythologically, Lord Skanda was born to protect the world. With peacock and fighting rooster in support, He confronts the demon Surapadma with His vel, then hurls His vajra, lightning bolt. We, too, must bravely face adversities on our path.
What Are the Hindu’s Daily Yoga Practices?
Devout Hindus perform daily vigil, called sandhyā upāsanā, usually before dawn. This sacred period of pūjā, japa, chanting, singing, hatha yoga, meditation and scriptural study is the foundation of personal life. Aum.
Each day hundreds of millions of Hindus awaken for the last fifth of the night, bathe, don fresh clothing, apply sectarian marks, called tilakā, and sit in a clean, quiet place for religious disciplines.
Facing east or north, the devotional pūjā rites of bhakti yoga are performed. Hatha yoga, hymn singing, japa and chanting are often included.
Then follows scriptural study and meditation, listening to the sound current and contemplating the moonlike inner light during brāhma muhūrta, the auspicious hour-and-a-half period before dawn.
The duly initiated practice advanced yogas, but only as directed by their guru, knowing that unless firmly harnessed, the kundalini can manifest uncontrollable desires.
Through the day, karma yoga, selfless religious service, is performed at every opportunity. Besides these yogas of doing, Hindus practice the central yoga of being—living a joyful, positive, harmonious life.
The Vedas declare:
“The mind, indeed, is this fleeting world. Therefore, it should be purified with great effort. One becomes like that which is in one’s mind—this is the everlasting secret." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Are Āyurveda and Jyotisha Used?
Āyurveda is the Hindu science of life, a complete, holistic medical system. Jyotisha, or Vedic astrology, is the knowledge of right timing and future potentialities. Both are vital tools for happy, productive living. Aum.
Āyurveda, rooted in the Atharva Upaveda, deals with both the prevention and cure of disease. Its eight medical arts, with their mantras, tantras and yogas, are based on spiritual wellbeing and encompass every human need, physical, mental and emotional.
Āyurveda teaches that the true healing powers reside in the mind at the quantum level.
Wellness depends on the correct balance of three bodily humors, called doshas, maintained by a nutritious vegetarian diet, dharmic living and natural healing remedies.
The kindred science of Vedic astrology, revealed in the Jyotisha Vedāṅga, likewise is vital to every Hindu’s life.
It propounds a dynamic cosmos of which we are an integral part, and charts the complex influence on us of important stars and planets, according to our birth chart.
Knowing that the stars enliven positive and negative karmas we have brought into this life, in wisdom we choose an auspicious time, śubha muhūrta, for every important event. An orthodox Hindu family is not complete without its jyotisha śāstrī or āyurveda vaidya.
The Vedas beseech:
“Peaceful for us be the planets and the Moon, peaceful the Sun and Rāhu." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Do Hindus Regard Art and Culture?
Hindus of every sect cherish art and culture as sacred. Music, art, drama and the dance are expressions of spiritual experience established in śāstras by God-inspired rishis as an integral flowering of temple worship. Aum.
Art and culture, from the Hindu perspective, are the sublime fruits of a profound civilization. Every Hindu strives to perfect an art or craft to manifest creative benefits for family and community.
The home is a spiritual extension of the temple. Graced with the sounds of Indian sacred music, it is adorned with religious pictures, symbols and icons. The shrine is the most lavish room.
Children are raised to appreciate Hindu art, music and culture, carefully trained in the sixty-four kalās and protected from alien influences. Human relationships are kept harmonious and uplifting through the attitudes and customs.
Hindu attire is elegantly modest. Sectarian marks, called tilakā, are worn on the brow as emblems of sectarian identity. Mantra and prayer sanctify even simple daily acts— awakening, bathing, greetings, meals, meetings, outings, daily tasks and sleep.
Annual festivals and pilgrimage offer a complete departure from worldly concerns.
The Vedas proclaim:
“Let the drum sound forth and let the lute resound, let the strings vibrate the exalted prayer to God." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Hindu Outlook on Giving?
Generous, selfless giving is among dharma’s central fulfillments. Hospitality, charity and support of God’s work on Earth arises from the belief that the underlying purpose of life is spiritual, not material. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Nowhere is giving better unfolded than in the ancient Thirukural, which says:
“Of all duties, benevolence is unequaled in this world, and even in celestial realms. It is to meet the needs of the deserving that the worthy labor arduously to acquire wealth."
Even the poorest Hindu practices charity according to his means. In this unselfish tradition, guests are treated as God. Friends, acquaintances, even strangers, are humbled by the overwhelming hospitality received.
We share with the less fortunate. We care for the aged. We honor swamis with gifts of food, money and clothes. We encourage the spirit of helping and giving, called dāna, within the family, between families and their monastic and priestly communities.
Many devout Hindus take the daśama bhāga vrata, a vow to pay ten percent of their income each month to an institution of their choice to perpetuate Sanātana Dharma. This centuries-old tithing practice is called daśamāṁśa.
The Vedas wisely warn:
“The powerful man should give to one in straits; let him consider the road that lies ahead! Riches revolve just like a chariot’s wheels, coming to one man now, then to another." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
May the Goddess of culture, associated with the models of other cultures, may the Goddess of wisdom in company with men, ordinary and intellectual, may the fire divine, and may the Goddess of divine speech with masters of language come to bless us and enshrine our hearts.
Rig Veda 7.2.8. rvp, 2355
In vain the foolish man accumulates food. I tell you, truly, it will be his downfall! He gathers to himself neither friend nor comrade. Alone he eats; alone he sits in sin.
The ploughshare cleaving the soil helps satisfy hunger. The traveler, using his legs, achieves his goal. The priest who speaks surpasses the one who is silent. The friend who gives is better than the miser.
Rig Veda 10.117. 6-7. ve, 851
Śilpani, works of art of man, are an imitation of divine forms. By employing their rhythms, a metrical reconstitution is effected of the limited human personality.
Rig Veda, Aitareya Brāhmaṇa 6.5.27. ei, 60
There are five great sacrifices, namely, the great ritual services: the sacrifice to all beings, sacrifice to men, sacrifice to the ancestors, sacrifice to the Gods, sacrifice to Brahman.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 126.96.36.199. ve, 394
Find a quiet retreat for the practice of yoga, sheltered from the wind, level and clean, free from rubbish, smoldering fires and ugliness, and where the sound of waters and the beauty of the place help thought and contemplation.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 2.10. upm, 88
Lightness, healthiness, steadiness, clearness of complexion, pleasantness of voice, sweetness of odor, and slight excretions—these, they say, are the first results of the progress of yoga.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 2.13. upr, 723
Vāsanā is divided into two, the pure and the impure. If thou art led by the pure vāsanās, thou shalt thereby soon reach by degrees My Seat.
But should the old, impure vāsanās land thee in danger, they should be overcome through efforts.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Mukti Upaniṣad 2. upa, 7
Gracious be the constellations struck by the meteor, gracious incantations and all magic! Gracious to us be buried charms, the meteors and plagues that afflict us. Gracious to us be the stars and the moon, gracious the sun and Rāhu, gracious be Death with his banner of smoke, gracious the powerful Rudras.
Atharva Veda 19,9.9-10. ve, 305-306
Works of sacrifice, gift and self-harmony should not be abandoned, but should indeed be performed, for these are works of purification. But even these works, Arjuṇa, should be done in the freedom of a pure offering, and without expectation of a reward. This is My final word.
Bhagavad Gītā 18.5-6. bgm, 115
Easy for all to offer in worship a green leaf to the Lord. Easy for all to give a mouthful to the cow. Easy for all to give a handful when sitting down to eat. Easy for all to speak pleasant words to others.
Tirumantiram 252. tm
So let my star be the sun or the moon, Mars or Mercury or Jupiter; let it be Venus or Saturn or the two snakes! All the planets and stars are good stars for us, all bring good luck to Śiva’s devotees!
Tirumurai 2.221.1. ps, 109
Plough with truth. Plant the seed of desire for knowledge. Weed out falsehood. Irrigate the mind with the water of patience. Supervise your work by introspection and self-analysis. Build the fence of yama and niyama, or right conduct and right rules. You will soon attain Śivānanda, or eternal bliss of Śiva.
Tirumurai (Appar). sw, 191
Moderately, moderately eat for your sustenance. Take pains at all times to assimilate knowledge. In your youth, learn the arts and the sciences. To the mean and the miserly be not attached. Foster, foster the friendship of well-nurtured people. Live in happiness, saying you are lacking in nothing. Look after, look after your brothers and kinfolk. Inwardly and outwardly let your life be the same.
Natchintanai “Our Duty.” NT, 178