Friday, 1 January 2016

कर्म (Karma ) January 2016 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami

"The Gita is considered one of the three basic texts for Brahma Vidya or Vedanta along with the Brahma Sutras and the Upanishads. Several renowned philosophers have written commentaries on them like Ramanuja, Sankara and several others following their own orientations. But Gita is also a yoga sastra. It is common to find that at the end of each chapter the subject matter is referred to as in Brahma Vidya and in Yoga sastra (Brahma vidyayam yoga sastre  ...). My Guru Sri Krishamacharya would say that the Gita is a yoga treatise as well and there is a lot of common ground between Patanjali's Yoga sutra and Lord Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita. He would point out that the Bhagavatgita refers to two levels of yogis, the one who is desirous of becoming a Yogi and the other the consummate yogi marching towards the goal well saddled in yoga". 
From Ramaswami's Newsletter article on Karma below

A long intro to this newsletter from Ramaswami concerning the recent floods in Chennai that Ramaswami was caught in while teaching one of his Vinyasa Krama workshops. 
Ramaswami's Newsletter article on karma is halfway down the post

Warm Greetings from Chennai. Wish you a prosperous and peaceful new leap year. Here is dasa santi mantras (10 peace chants from the yajur veda) that can be chanted at the beginning and end of an activity (purva and uttara shanti)--  In the beginning of a new year too
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA6YguVYJ0c
I learnt this chant from my guru Sri T Krishnamacharya

I am in Chennai now. Early October when I was planning a four month visit to India, I was told that Chennai was experiencing unprecedented drought (anavrishti).  I was told that there was no corporation (Municipal) water flowing to my home in Chennai. The 75 year old well in my house had become dry for the first time ever. I was advised to remove silt from the well and deepen it and get a more powerful electric motor.  Desperate. I spent a small fortune to have these things done. But then it rained as never before. When I arrived in mid November, the city had received in a few days time the entire year’s normal rainfall. I had difficulty engaging a taxi in the airport as the taxi owners refused to ply the cabs as many areas in the city were flooded. I managed to get one, assuring them that the place I was going to was not very bad.
Then I started teaching the 100 hr  Vinyasakrama Yoga program organized by my friend, Saraswathy Vasudevan--a senior teacher of the Krishnamacharya tradition at her Yoga Vahinni in Chennai. Then the torrential rains came beck with more ferocity (ativrishti). It was raining heavily for almost a week. The city was completely inundated. Part of the city floated and  some other part was sinking. The reservoirs which were virtually dry just a few weeks back surplused abundantly. Huge quantities of surplus water were let out of the reservoir amidst torrential rains-- a sad script for disaster. Water entered into the homes--some up to 15 feet-- of many, forcing people to go to terraces of the buildings or use boats to get to safer places. Many unfortunate souls were not that lucky. Water entered and filled sometimes three stories of buildings.  A few were caught unawares and drowned in their own homes. Massive dislocation and distress resulted. The city is now limping back to normal, still  mass rehabilitation work  is going on. We in our house escaped with minimum disruption. The program went on with just one day’s cancellation. Towards the end of the program a few from other cities left for home recalled by panicking relatives in far off cities and some who were marooned in their own homes ( marooned in one’s own home?) could not make it to the classes. But the program went well thanks to the perseverance of the participants and the organizers.

I did not send the usual monthly letter for December as I had no electricity at home for almost a week. Could not work on my computer and was busy lifting bucketsful of water from the well and sump as there was no electricity.
 I had  earlier decided to suspend the 200 hr TT program and substitute with the shortened 100 hr program as I found that many were finding it difficult to come for 5 weeks at a stretch. I am scheduled to repeat the program I did in Chennai  in several places during 2016. The first one is in New Delhi in January 2016. Then one in Canada in April and at LMU in August 2016. I may do the same program in Madrid in September  and also perhaps in New York City if I can find some housing during the program for 15 days-- maybe in March.

My friend Ravi Shankar a senior teacher of Krishnamacharya tradition attended my program in Chennai. With his permission I am reproducing his message about the program hereunder
“It was hugely rewarding experience to undergo the 100 hour Vinyasakrama Program under your guidance. I learnt something new  and important during every hour of every one of the 14 days. The explanation of the Yoga Sutra was so clear and lucid and consistently linked all through that my doubts were dissolved even as you spoke. The pranayama sessions were even more useful as this is an area where not much authentic information is available. To have the analysis of the work done when doing the different pranayama techniques together with the teachings of SRI Krishnamacharya was invaluable. The Vinyasayoga sequences, your stories, the reference to Upanishads and not least the chanting were all wonderful to experience. Your patience in answering all the questions was another standout feature of the whole program. It felt so appropriate to chant and practise ’dingnamaskara’ sequence, as we had all come from different parts of the world to listen to and learn from you, in the tradition of your great teacher, T Krishnamachari”
With thanks
Ravi Shanker
Yoganidhi


I also taught a two day workshop “Yoga for Internal Organs” at Yogavahini in Hyderabad in December 2015.
For January 2016 I will be doing the following programs

1. A five day program in Dubai at 136point1 Yoga Studio from January 3rd to 7th--20 hrs of Vinyasakrama yoga  asanas, 5 hrs Pranayama and 5 hrs of Yoga for Internal Organs
Here is the link

http://136point1.ae/dt_catalog/the-art-form-of-vinyasa-krama/


2. 100Hr Advanced Vinyasakrama Yoga Program at Mini Shastri’s Omyoga from January  16th to 30th  2016 Here is the contact e mail
omyogastudio@gmail.com
Phone: +91 9891580147

In 2016 in addition to 100 hr programs I am scheduled to teach a few shorter programs as well. A five day workshop in  Valerie Schneiderman’s
The Yogashala  at Ridgefield CT (May 9 to 13, 2016)

http://www.theyogashalact.com/ 

and at Sara Doyle’s Blue Point yoga in Durham, North Carolina (May 23 to 27, 2016)

http://bluepointyoga.com/workshops
I may also go Germany for 4 or 5 days in August  2016

And in September (Sep 16 to 18 2016) I will be teaching two texts 1. Kathopanishad and 2. Hatayoga pradipika at Suddha Weixler’s Chicago Yoga Center in Chicago
http://www.yogamind.com/index.shtml#schedule


Karma
The Gita is considered one of the three basic texts for Brahma Vidya or Vedanta along with the Brahma Sutras and the Upanishads. Several renowned philosophers have written commentaries on them like Ramanuja, Sankara and several others following their own orientations. But Gita is also a yoga sastra. It is common to find that at the end of each chapter the subject matter is referred to as in Brahma Vidya and in Yoga sastra (Brahma vidyayam yoga sastre  ...). My Guru Sri Krishamacharya would say that the Gita is a yoga treatise as well and there is a lot of common ground between Patanjali's Yoga sutra and Lord Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita. He would point out that the Bhagavatgita refers to two levels of yogis, the one who is desirous of becoming a Yogi and the other the consummate yogi marching towards the goal well saddled in yoga. Lord Krishna uses the terms yogaarudha and yoga aarurukshu in this context.
आरुरुक्षोर्मुनेर्योगं
कर्मं कारणमुच्यते।
योगारूढस्य तस्यैव
शमः कारणमुच्यते॥
ārurukṣormuneryogaṁ
karmaṁ kāraṇamucyate|
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva
śamaḥ kāraṇamucyate||

Yoga Arudha is the one who has the skills to mount the horse of Yoga to reach the goal of yoga, Kaivalya or Brahmanirvana. But those who do not have the yogic capability of say Samadhi or Samyama should develop the skill. Such yogis who would like to ride the horse of yoga should learn first to mount that yoga horse. While the vedantins usually refer to the Bhagavat Gita as made up of three sections, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga, the classification of yogis as per their preparations or Adhikari Bedha is equally important. The yoga sutras elaborately deal with this difference in the capabilities of yogis and give different means to develop the appropriate yogic skills. So we have Kriya yoga and Ashtanga Yoga for the yoga sadhakas and samadhi yoga for the accomplished  yogi--similar to yogaarurukshu and yogarudha of  Krishna’s Gita
All Rajayoga students know that the means of attaining cittavritti nirodha the ultimate goal of yoga is  by abhyasa or practice (on the 24 prakritik tatvas) and vairagya or developing dispassion towards all the prakritic tatvas.
 अभ्यास वैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः।
abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaH

In the Bhagavat Gita, Arjuna expresses his reservations about controlling the mind. He says that the mind surely is restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate. To restrain the mind, therefore is deemed impossible as controlling the wind.

चञ्चलं हि मनः कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवत् दृढम्।
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम्॥
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavat dṛḍham|
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyoriva suduṣkaram||


The Lord in reply would agree with Arjuna about how hard it is to restrain the restless mind. However it is not impossible. Echoing the teaching of Patanjali, the Lord would say that by practice/abhyasa (of appropriate Yoga) and developing desirelessness (vairagya) the mind could be restrained.

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम्।
अभ्यासेन तु कोन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते॥
asaṁśayaṁ mahābāho mano durnigrahaṁ calam|
abhyāsena tu kounteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate||

Then both the Gita and the Yoga Sutras deal with action or karma. Karma is life. Karma is usually divided into two classes, one good the other bad, or good actions and bad actions. Good activities are known as sukrita and the other group is known as dushkrita. All scriptures and puranas encourage one to do good karmas and eschew bad karmas. Why so? Obviously because good activities give good and favorable (anukula) results and bad activities lead to disagreeable (pratikula) results. Good  and bad activities are also known as dharma and adharma, or white and black actions or punya and papa karmas. The scriptural activities (like doing Ashwamedha or Vajpayee yagnyas or rituals) and  actions meant to  help other creatures (like giving charity, digging wells, planting tress for public welfare and constructing free rest houses for pilgrims) are punya karmas or dharma and those that are forbidden (nishedha) by the Vedas ( the five heinous crimes the mahapatakas and lesser sins)  and those activities that harm others are known as papa karmas. Further doing one’s duties or Sukrita is considered good and not doing one’s duties is considered papa. Scriptures add that prescribed activities in the scriptures are dharma and those that are forbidden as papa karmas. And it is generally said dharma leads one to reach more happiness in this life and move upwards to different heavens and better births in the life after. Patanjali succinctly puts it  “the results of action will be happiness or unhappiness (hlada paritapa) depending upon the accumulation of good or bad activities/karmas (punya apunya hetutvaat)”

There is a beautiful mantra in the yajurveda extolling the virtue of doing punya karma and eschewing papa karma

यथा वृक्षस्य संपुष्पितस्य दूराद्गन्धोवात्येवं पुण्यस्य कर्मणो    दूराद्गन्धोवाति यथासिधारांकर्ते अवहितामवक्रामे यद्युवेयुवे हवा विह्वयिष्यामि कर्तं पतिष्यामीत्येवं अमृतादात्मानं जुगुप्सेत्॥
yathā vṛkṣasya saṁpuṣpitasya dūrādgandhovātyevaṁ puṇyasya karmaṇo    dūrādgandhovāti yathāsidhārāṁkarte avahitāmavakrāme yadyuveyuve havā vihvayiṣyāmi kartaṁ patiṣyāmītyevaṁ amṛtādātmānaṁ jugupset ||

Paraphrasing. Just as the fragrance of a tree in full bloom is wafted by the breeze from a distant place, the sweet fragrance of meritorious deeds (punya karma ) --the good name that accrues-- spreads to a great distance, even up to the heavens.
 Then there is this illustration of the opposite karma. The razor edge of the sword is placed across a pit. “ I  am placing my feet on it, I am treading over it, so saying, if I walk over it, I will be extremely perturbed by the thought of deep hurt or falling  into the pit.” In the same manner if a person is exposed to overt and covert sins, that person will suffer doubly. Pain while committing the forbidden activity like walking on razor and the undesirable consequences (phala) like falling into the pit.--, therefore one must endeavor to guard oneself from both, in order that one may attain immortality.

This mantra commends the merits of doing dharma or white deeds, and censures doing black or adharmic deeds. The vivid and poetic imagery is simply arresting. Good deeds are their own recommendations. They cannot be hidden for they will declare themselves as the strong fragrance reaches distant places because of its nature of being carried by breeze’ It is the puranic belief that a man remains in heaven as long as the good deeds done by him on the earth are not forgotten by the people around. This analogy can also be found, it is said in Dhammapada, a Buddhist classic. The second chilling analogy stresses the need for being aware of the nature of adharma or black deeds. Wrong deeds are to be abjured for twin reasons. Attempts to conceal adharmic deeds will be hazardous as walking on razor’s edge. Even if one could thrive on hidden wickedness, his fall into the pit of papa consequentially  is certain. The good path of dharma alone is the right path. So one should do dharma activities and eschew adharmic deeds says the above Vedic mantra.

But then many activities do not fall fully into the category of good deeds or bad deeds. Patanjali and several Upanishads refer to activities that may be considered as misra or mixed. Some good deeds do good to some and harm some others. Patanjali says that the normal activities people do may be classified into three groups, dharma or white (shukla), adharmic or black (Krishna) and then white and black or mixed (shukla-krishna). Most of  us in our lives experience ups and downs as our prarabdha karma is a mixed bag of good and bad deeds done earlier on--even as the proportion of each may vary. Here is puranic story where a deed is both white and utterly black. Those under 14 should not read this story!



 “ Renuka was known for her chastity and devotion to her husband. Such was her faith, that she was able to fetch water from the river in a pot of unbaked clay, with the pot held together only by the strength of her devotion.
One day while at the river, a group of Gandharvas (celestial handsome rock stars) in a chariot passed by in the sky above. Distracted a bit  with desire for only a moment, the unbaked pot she held dissolved in the river. Afraid to return to her husband, she waited at the river bank, uncertain of what to do next. Meanwhile, Jamadagni. (her sage husband) noticed his wife had not returned. Through his yogic powers, he divined all that had taken place and was enraged. The rishi called his eldest son, handed him an axe and asked the boy to behead his mother. Horrified, the boy refused and so Jamadagni turned him to stone. He then asked each of his sons and as they refused, one by one, he turned them to stone. Finally only his youngest son, Parashurama was left. Ever obedient, the boy beheaded his mother--filial piety.
Pleased Jamadagni then offered two boons to Parashurama. The boy asked that his mother be brought back to life and his brothers  be returned from stone to flesh. Impressed by the affection for his mother and brothers on one side and devotion to his duty of  a son, Parasurama, Jamadagni granted his request, considering that both his wife and disobedient children had paid for their indiscretions and disobedience.”

When I heard the above rather gruesome story of Parsurama, when I was young it was disturbing. How can one harm one’s own mother? I was told that it was just a story, and I should look for any message. It  is an instance of mixed activity. Doing the father’s bidding is a duty a white karma. However killing especially one’s own mother is a heinous crime, an utterly black deed, a papa. So this activity of Parasurama is an example of a mixed deed, papa and punya. In fact most of the activities that we do is a mixed bag  of good and bad aspects .as explained earlier.

Well, the message is that one should endeavor to do good or dharma deeds and eschew adharmic or bad karmas. Almost all the religions say this even though there may be difference in the list of what constitutes good deeds and bad deeds among them. The Vedas say that doing dharma helps one reach the various heavens and avoid going to the other less desirable places. It also says good karma helps one to  attain more happiness in the following rebirths. Patanjali says good and bad deeds lead respectively to happy or unhappy future lives
ते ह्लाद परिताप फलाः पुण्याप्ण्य हेतुत्वात्।
te hlāda paritāpa phalāḥ puṇyāpṇya hetutvāt|

 The discussion of karma should end here, but the Lord, Lord Krishna demurs

He would advise his disciple Arjuna to eschew both good and bad karmas, and engage in Yoga.

After all this discourse about doing good deeds, Why so? Because engaging in good activities leads to favorable  reincarnation, and birth after birth--  an endless cycle. Both good deeds and bad deeds are binding and lead to rebirth. All activities good, bad and mixed bind and compel one to be born again and again. This cycle has to be broken and one should endeavor to liberate oneself from this endless vicious cycle of birth and death and accumulated karma bundle is the cause. Every creature some time or other in the seemingly endless life cycles would desire to break out of this vicious cycle and be free, moksha.

All the three karmas, white, black and mixed are cause of endless rebirth. Is there any other kind of karma which will not lead to rebirth

Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to engage in yogic activity (yogaya yujyasva).. Why so?  Because Yoga is the best of all activities and is non-binding. The 50th sloka in the II chapter of the gita urges Arjuna to engage in Yoga and Yogic activities. Patanjali in addidion to the three types of karma enunciated earlier adds the fourth perhaps the most importanat one as follows.

1 White or dharma or punya activities leading to heavens and happy future birth
2. Black or sinful activities leading to non-heavenly abodes and pitiable future births
3 Black and white or mixed karma leading to future births of variable experiences
4. Neither black nor white which are yogic activities. What are yogic activities? They are those enunciated in the most authentic and authoritative yoga texts, the Yoga Sutras.

These yogic activities do not lead to future births, nor to heavens or other places but lead to immortality, the very nature of oneself. In that state there is no activity, no karma. This is variously mentioned in nivriti sastras like yoga and Vedanta as kaivalya, nirodha, naishkarmya, nirvana, brahma nirvana, moksha, nirvikalpa samadhi etc

The Gita sloka under reference is given below (BG II 50)
बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृत दुष्कृते
तस्मात्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कोशलम्॥
buddhiyukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛta duṣkṛte
tasmātyogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kouśalam||

With focused intellect (buddhiyuktah) give up both good and bad activities (sukrita dushkrita).
Then engage (yujyasva) in Yoga (Yogaya). Of all activities( karmasu, 4 types of activities) Yoga is the superior (kausalam)

Krishna while giving the discourse on Samkhya to make Arjuna understand the true nature of himself commends him to give up (ultimately) both good and evil activities and concentrate on Yoga so that he would ultimately achieve kaivalya and break the cycle of birth and death for ever which the other types of activities sukrita and dushkrita (and the mixed) will not be able to achieve

The above sloka especially the last quarter ( yogah karmasu kausalam) is more popularly translated as “yoga is efficiency in action“. While it conveys a great message, taking the whole sloka into context it is clear that Krishna wants Arjuna to ultimately give up all activities (sukrita and dushkrita) and use karmasaya free yogic activities. Efficiency in action alone may not be  yoga. Doing bad karma efficiently will not be yoga. The terms sukrita and dushkrita can also means fruits of good and bad actions and one may argue that Lord Krishna is suggesting giving up the fruits of action. Again the fruits of action will always follow action at the appropriate time- I may not escape the consequences or fruits of my good and bad actions. Further if that were possible I can do horrific crimes, but can not escape the consequences even if I mentally renounce the results which is not what karma theory is about.

Then where can we find  activity being divided into four groups? Here is the sutra from Patanjali in YS IV


कर्माशुक्लाकृष्णं योगिनः
त्रिविधमितरेषाम्॥
karmāśuklākṛṣṇaṁ yoginaḥ
trividhamitareṣām||

It says “For all non yogis the activities may be divided three ways, White, black and mixed (trividham itareshaam), but yogi’s activities (karma) are neither white nor black. But what are yogic activities? Patanjali has written about it in his Yogasutras succinctly and beautifully and comprehensively.

Among all the karmas done in this universe yoga karma is alone wholesome and nonbinding.

And the Lord advised his friend to become a yogi.
तस्मात् योगी भवार्जुन।
tasmāt yogī bhavārjuna|
“Therefore, Arjuna, become a Yogi.”

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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