Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Society, Spirituality

Episode 36: Vedic Living — Interview with Akshay Kanade

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Krishna and the Cow

“Veda”

means “knowledge” and

“Sanatana Dharma”

is a more accurate term for “Hinduism”. Why? “Hinduism” was a colonial term given to ‘those living near the Indus River’, and, as another point of gentle contention — there is not a real basis for the Aryan invasion or civilisation, so that is most likely based on colonialism, too. (However, we still use it in our episode, as it’s a familiar term and also is still embraced by many). But, for the record…

“Sanatana”

means “eternal”

and “Dharma”

means “natural way”.

Thus, Hinduism is not a religion nor even the best terminology to use. Anybody, regardless of race, class, caste, career, gender, or global location on the map can follow the “eternal, natural way”! Lao Tzu also wrote the Tao Te Ching, which is indeed the “eternal, natural way”. Buddha also found the “eternal, natural way” and taught it for 40+ years. So there is a harmony amongst all dualistic so-called divisions that simply seek to emanate the same message, brought forth through different languages and cultures and times.

—————

Akshay Kanade was born in India and now lives in New York City. How can a man working on Wall Street live in tune with the Vedic mind, body, and spirit? This seems quite tricky from my point-of-view, as a modern woman living in London! It is said that the main attributes that use up Prana the quickest are forcefulness and speaking. Ask anybody living in the city how gentle they are to themselves and to others, with actions, speech, and mind. It’s commendable that we can still live this way in 2019. Akshay talks with me about his ventures with Sanatana Dharma and shares the breadth of his knowledge with us.

He outlines that there are four main goals of living the eternal, natural way:

Dharma – hard to translated directly, but is can be said: as living a moral life with duty; doing what one is supposed/meant to do with dilligence. It upholds both the individuals in society and the entire universal cosmos.
Artha – economic and material well-being as a baseline for every human being
Kama – wishes or passions of the senses
Moksha – liberation from the cycle of birth and death

This ties nicely into the Dharmic literature, as a whole, being a basis for human living. They are considered “Apaurusheya” or “authorless”. The literature fits into either of these two categories:

Shruti – “Heard” or “Perceived as an eternal sound” and written down immediately once heard

Shruti literature includes The four Vedas – Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda; Upanishads; Brahmanas; and Aranyakas

Smriti – “Remembered” or passed down through a disciplic succession and eventually written down

Smriti literature includes: The Mahabharata; Ramayana; The Puranas; Sutras; Panchararatras; Dharma Shastras; and more

Within the Vedas lie texts on Ayurveda, or the science of keeping the body in good health and balance. Ayurveda is still being refined until today and encompasses: regulating diet, meditation and psychiatry, admistering correct medicines, massages, and advice on personal lifestyle/habits.

Akshay and I even touch on whether or not the gods, goddesses, and historical figures in the Dharmic literature were real figures. History is always up for debate, so, you can decide; yet Akshay gives compelling evidence that Lord Ram, for example, was indeed real based on archaeological evidence.

Without giving too much away, please listen to our episode! If you can be so kind as to leave a review on iTunes, this would really help our show move forward.

*Akshay has innumerable resources available for Vedic living and Dharmic learning, so please get in touch with him on LinkedIn.

 

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 29: What is Advaita Vedanta? — Interview with Swamini Brahmaprajnananda


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As Swamini’s guru most eloquently put it: ‘In psychology there is no solution to the human problem. In Vedanta, there is no problem.’

Swamini was classically trained as a modern psychologist and moved her consciousness forward, based on the limits she saw within this framework. Thus, she trained under her Advaita Vedanta guru and master, H.H. Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji — renowned as the best teacher of his time until his death in 2015.

Advaita Vedanta is an ancient body of wisdom which has two functions: to realise God/Brahman fully and to live day-to-day life well. Advaita aims to realise non-duality and also relies on the Vedic Upanishads as core guides to truth and realisation. Thus, we see these two functions in action: direct recognition of God and also living a wise life.

As a follower of Advaita Zen (also called neo-Advaita), I have gained a deep intellectual understanding of non-duality, the formless, emptiness, and being. However, the experience or manifestation of these has been few and far between, leading me on a more gradual approach to enlightenment via the Buddhist path — because I found that I was still suffering, or experiencing dukkha (dissatisfaction) in my everyday life.

As a seer of this, Swamini points out to us what neo-Advaita lacks in terms of longevity for the awakener, which my direct experience has also taught me. She elaborates on these points in our episode with ease and grace:

1. Neo-Advaita lacks lineage, gurus, and disciples
2. Simple reliance upon the Netti-Netti method (Not-this, Not-this)
3. Based on the individual human being only, without a larger context
4. De-emphasis on the importance of a guru, prepatory practices, and maturity of the student/seeker
5. No scriptural basis, as scriptures point out ‘what cannot be figured out by my own perception or logic alone’

We also go over Hinduism in relation to Advaita and whether Buddhism and Advaita share the exact meaning in the face of spiritual awakening, where I believe that they do and Swamini believes they do not… unless we interpret the Buddhist Dharma in the correct way

Listen, enjoy, and send your questions to me at curiousbodhi@zoho.com and find Swamini at www.discoveratma.com and on The River of Wisdom Podcast.

 

Buddhism, Guided Meditation, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Society, Spirituality

Episode 23: Just Walk! A Guided Meditation

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Busy or not… we can all meditate!

Walking meditation has a long tradition, and it isn’t something I just made up right now on the spot — and I thoroughly enjoy this practice, living in a busy city. Walking meditation has always been common in Zen Buddhism and throughout India, with a plethora of practitioners of different religious / spiritual / and traditional backgrounds. It is used to break up long bouts of sitting practice, known as Zazen, or as a practice on its own.

Wildmind Meditation explains it particularly well:

”Anything we do can become meditative, including eating, driving, washing, cleaning the house, and of course, walking. Historically, Buddhist monks in India would make walking an important part of their daily practice, remaining mindful as they walked around performing the daily tasks of life such as fetching water or going to the bathroom, as well as when on the alms round as they begged for food by going from door to door, and as they simply walked from one place to another as they crossed the country. It was natural for them to make the simple act of walking into an opportunity to develop mindfulness and lovingkindness.”

Since everything can be a meditation, theoretically, then we can also turn the simple act of walking from place to place or setting the intention to do this into our days. It becomes very pleasureable just to walk and notice bodily sensations, getting used to being back in our bodies when often our minds are overwhelmed.

Try this method with me and tell me how it goes!

Buddhism, Death & Rebirth, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 22: The Cycle of Birth, Death, & Caffeination

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It occured to me that I am in the cycle of birth, death, and caffeination. The first two are inevitable, and the second is my choice.

Coffee is like a grounding force inside my consciousness: as black, without sugar, maximum three and minimum one cup per day. It’s an ironically bitter, valuptuous, force that gets us legally high and becomes a staple in the day of multiple days.

We all have at least one idea or perception that we cling to, forcefully, as if it’s our last breath. Like that man who laid down to die with £20 in his hand, hoping he could still spend it.

In this episode, we go over some of the pitfalls of waking up — including why we don’t automatically fall into that state of non-dual awareness we are after.

The episode and my blog, here down below, are different. Here, this blog goes lightly into the deep edge of how the mechanism works to keep us from waking up. My episode goes hand-in-hand, speaking more personally and intuitively about this mechanism, so have your go at both!

As always, here we go…

The mind is a big player in the game of life, and she has been switched on since our birth, creating our physical and mental perceptions, our ideas about life, abstractions, responses to pain and pleasure, and pretty much every other facet of our personality we take for granted. This is the bubble of “me”, and everybody lives in their own; indeed, a person from the UK has mightily different values from somebody residing in the Amazonian jungle! For example, I have had the belief instilled in me that hard work pays off, and we must work hard for our money. Deep inside there somewhere is also the basic belief that if I’m not busy enough, then I’m not worth enough. The first is completely cultural and came from an idea my parents had from their parents whereas the second is personal and family-orientated (meaning that not all people in the UK follow that basic belief). So beliefs and perceptions can range widely from the societal level down to the personal level, and each individual becomes completely unique in their viewpoint of the world and themselves to try to make sense of what is going on their “screen”.

The screen of consciousness is not normally seen as a screen but as a true and accurate projection of what’s taking place. Whether that be sight, sound, emotion, or a recurring situation (potty training your kid, perhaps, or going to the gym like it’s a religion), we believe it’s all real and we’re in control of making the whole thing up.

That’s partially true. We have decided to make it all up, but not from “our self” — but from the standpoint of Awareness itself — which is responsible through all our life changes from birth until death. But we don’t recognise that. When we’re in the thick of it, we carry all our projected baggage and see mostly endless rows of bags: essentially, the construction of the self.

The easiest portion of ourselves to cling to is our body — if we have any doubt we exist, we can rely on our body to confirm that we do. (Deep sleep, comas, and being under aneasthetic cause loss of awareness of the body lead us to believe we don’t exist for a while. Think about that!)

So our brain sort of hallucinates a basic self-image into our consciousness that stays with us for a matter of time — until it changes, eventually. Maybe once we viewed ourselves as a serious person and now we’re a relaxed person. We had a different self-image when we were 16 than when we were 26. It’s all relative and constantly changing, but if we can’t see that that is the case, then we can “get stuck” in ideas about ourselves that no longer serve us. It happens all the time.

But I believe that consciousness is always looking to expand its awareness, capabilities, and smash down limitations of the mental, physical, and spiritual realms; we let go from time to time. It’s just that the ultimate smash-down is the death of the ego itself. And that is not going to happen overnight. So we have to be aware of the fact that there will be limitations and setbacks. This is a natural part of the awakening process, so don’t give up!

Maybe that’s why Buddhists says it might take lifetimes…

Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 17: Hinduism is not a Religion: Perspective with Karthik


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In this episode, I talk with Karthik, a native Indian who now lives in London. He believes that Hinduism is not a religion; it is more of a lifestyle, where one really chooses who and what to worship or not at all.

Hindus obtained their name from the River Indus, denoting a group of people who lived around the area. The Greeks actually gave this name to the Indians living there, and ever since, more and more people referred to these guys as “Hindus” and even called India “Hindustan” for a while. The name stuck.

I ask Karthik about this, and he agrees with me that “India is still proud to be the ‘Land of the Hindus'”.

Karthik comes from the state of Tamil Nadu: the city is Madurai, nicknamed the City of Temples and the Athens of the East. His family also studied the Tirukkuṛaḷa book considered one of the greatest works in ethics and morality, known for its non-secular nature; yet many are unfamiliar with the text in the wider world. He also tells us the way his family personally practices Hinduism and some magical stories about some of the gods; but the gods are not what Hinduism is really all about. You have to listen to our podcast to be let in on the secret.

Here’s one hint, though: there’s a saying in India, “First honour your mother… then your father… then your guru… then God.”