Saturday, December 10, 2011

vedanta class recap

For the last couple of years year I have been attending Vedanta Classes with My teacher Mala Daswani ( who was a student of Swami Chinmayanada) The classes have brought great insight into my understanding of the meaning of life.
Instead of just keeping the teachings to myself, I will try and share it with those of you who may be interested. Please bear in mind that this is my understanding of the class and is not a transcript of the class. Having said that, I feel that the knowledge gained through the interaction of the students with the teacher in invaluable and no reading can compare to actual attendance. But I will still post my recap.
As this is not from the first class, some may find the reading a bit disjointed. I apologise for any confusion.

The class started with a Recap of what is real and what is
unreal and then veered towards the power of belief.

Malaji shared with us the story of an aboriginal male who
was believed to be a 150 years old. He
came in contact with a skeptical American who could not believe that the man
was actually 150 years. According to conventional wisdom he should be dead, so
the American urged and convinced him to travel to the US to undertake some

The tests proved conclusive but the skeptism and the
disbelief of the doctors and the scientists somehow managed to permeate the
aboriginal male subject who eventually died because he was made to believe that
it was abnormal for him to be alive as it defied convention.

The point of the story was how our beliefs actually become
our reality. Till the man did not know that he was not supposed to be living
upto the age of 150 he was living healthily, but the moment he was made to
believe that he was a freak and was not supposed to be alive, he died within a
year of his exposure to the outside world and its beliefs.

The discussion then briefly touched the theory of parallel
universes and quantum physics. Parallel
universes theory suggests that there is no one reality and that at any time we
can choose to create our own reality by the thoughts we choose. I shared the story of Burt Goldman who has been
propounding the theory of parallel universes where he talks about how at any
one time there are more than one you existing in different planes and you can
take a quantum jump to meet your double who has the life of your dreams and
bring it into your current reality.

The discussion then led to the question of choice. How every
time we make a choice, there is an opposite choice that we do not make. So for
every decision that we make, there could have been an opposite decision.

Malaji, then spoke about the power of mantra and how the
right intention accompanied with the right act can bring about the desired
result. She shared with us how when some childless couples chant certain
mantras along with the body preparation have been successful in having children.
Mantras are sound vibration with intent and once we set intent in motion we can
reap the desired manifestation. She enunciated that manifestation only occurs
when we are in complete alignment with our intention and the action undertaken.
Knowing about a thing is not enough. For example, reading about surgery does not
make one a surgeon. Doing the act is what brings about the change.

The second session started with the homework about real and

I shared my observation about how at times I felt that there
was a part of me that I did not like. My seemingly dark and bright sides which
although I knew to be unreal yet appeared as real as possible and how I was
coming to accept both sides of my personality.
The key to accepting oneself was to embrace the whole in totality. (I
was however quickly told that this was not the homework and I still had to
decipher what was real and what was unreal in my personal experience.J)

Other people then went about sharing their observation and
understanding of what is real and what is unreal. One person mentioned how she
had managed to share with her daughter the concept of real and unreal and
managed to alleviate her anxiety about an issue that had been bothering her.

Mala ji commended the person on her ability and
understanding of what is real and unreal and how because of her awareness she
had managed to share that knowledge with her daughter.

We were reminded that real is that which is constant and
unreal is that which is fluctuating. Unreal is here today and gone tomorrow, there
is no constancy in it so why do we give it so much reality. The key is to
understand the subtle difference and act from the understanding of what is real
and what is unreal.

The next person shared her experience of a rather unpleasant
overseas visit where she was subjected to lot of discomfort and distress due to
the attitude and actions of third parties. She shared about the state of her
mind which became very agitated due to the outside forces. However her
understanding of what is real vs unreal is what made it easier for her to cope
with the difficulties she was faced with.

Malaji, reminded us that it is our sense of inner peace and
equanimity more than anything else that determines the outcome of our issues.
If we do things from an agitated mind the outcome will reflect the agitation
and if we look within ourselves to find a place of calmness and inner poise
that is what will be reflected in our outer dealings.

She reminded us that our desire to control stems from
insecurity and once we find within ourselves the true security of what is real
we can then allow the desire to control fall by the wayside. The whole issue of
wanting to control the outcome is a sign of insecurity and fear.

The key to knowing the difference between the real and
unreal is in getting the right education and being able to discern between what
really is propelling us towards growth
and what is pushing us back into darkness. The right knowledge is therefore
extremely important.

Often when we are put in uncomfortable situations that is
the time when maximum learning takes place. We gain wisdom and intelligence if
we are able to step back and look at the situation in a calm and detached manner.
A calm reflection is a result of practiced intelligence. An agitated mind is
not an intelligent mind, it is a reactive mind. A reactive person is not an
intelligent person, he/she is an emotional person and an emotional person is
incapable of making rational decisions.

We were reminded that people who cause us the most agitation
are also the ones who allow us to grow the most and instead of getting upset
with them we should thank them for giving us an opportunity for spiritual
growth. Because of their actions we have been made aware of a different
perspective and now we can look at a situation from a different angle. The
outside situation is always a reflection of what we need to see within

Another person shared how for her the knowledge of Vedanta
had made her reflect upon her life and introspect on the choices she had made
in the past and how having this knowledge she was today in a better position to
understand her own behavior and the associated insecurities.

Mala ji commended the person and told her that she should
applaud herself for making a choice whereby she was choosing to walk this path
where she was being propelled to look into her own behavior and make the
necessary modifications for her to lead a more fulfilling life.

We were reminded of our imperfections and our fallibility
and our desire to be perfect and how that becomes an impediment in our growth. Because we want to be liked and valued we
aspire for perfection. We believe that perfection equates to being valued,
loved and accepted. However the desire for perfection and the desire to
exercise control is what leads to more and more dis satisfaction.

The acceptance of being imperfect is actually much more
powerful and that is why the strong are quiet and the weak are loud. The less
secure one is the louder he/she is. The strong feel confident in themselves and
do not feel the need to be heard. The
essence of the discussion was to embrace ourselves in entirety – faults and
achievements, good and bad, and the bright and the dark side of our

Another person shared about how she believes that world is
largely a construct of ideas and that nothing really is real or unreal. She
explained that in her view it was easier to accept things as unreal and
therefore it was easier for her to cope with life when it did not go according
to her wish.

Malaji, went on to explain that sometimes we hide behind
language and our understanding to confirm our beliefs which may or may not be
correct. She asked us to re- visit what
we really understood by what was real and what was unreal.

The next person shared her dilemma at her understanding of
real and unreal in the context of a recent news article where a 13 year old boy
had been kept in a cage for over a year and how his sister was asked to beat
him and how he eventually died. This opened up a big debate on how we judge
others and how our understanding of good and bad is a product of our belief.

Although the actions of the father were considered
despicable, we were reminded to exercise control and discernment before
labeling a person as being bad and evil. Mala, ji reminded us to not pass
judgment based on what we are made to understand via the media. Also how do we
come to the conclusion that a certain behavior is bad and the other is
good? In no way does this imply that we
condone the bad actions or turn a blind eye towards inappropriate behavior. We
need to hone our discerning faculties and be compassionate to make better

She told us that in order for us to become compassionate we
have to open heart and practice forgiveness.

Someone then asked how does one feel compassionate towards a
person who has committed such a heinous crime as killing his own child? Malaji
asked us if none of us had committed an act that we were ashamed of. Most
replied in the affirmative but then went on to debate how one act was worse
than another.

According to Mala ji; the degree of the pain determines the degree
of atrocities we commit. How are we to know what drove the boy’s father to
commit such an atrocity. We do not know the circumstances that led to this
behavior. We are only seeing the act without knowing the motivation behind it.
Instead of anger we need to show compassion.

She shared with us that swami ji used to say that “If we all
truly lived the way are supposed to live all our hospitals, all our prisons
would be empty”.

It is the society that makes criminals. She elaborated that if the 13 year old boy who
had died had lived, may have become a
criminal. He may have grown up to become
a serial killer who in every kill may see himself killing his father who had
caused him so much pain. The society would then have judged him to be a
criminal and would want him punished. But if we really looked deeper we would
realize that all that the boy was doing was trying to appease his own pain by
trying to take revenge on his father.

She urged us to practice compassion and forgiveness instead
of anger and judgment.

Reject nothing in life, embrace it. This does not mean you
condone it.

In conclusion, we talked about opening ourselves to love and
allowing ourselves to experience the plethora of emotions. Instead of closing
ourselves down for fear of being hurt she advised us to open ourselves to the
possibility of being hurt and in the bargain gaining an opportunity to grow.

Love is the only answer and when it is backed by the power
of prayer we open ourselves and the world around us to umpteen possibilities of

As humans our potential to expand and grow is
immeasurable. How can we ever aspire to
reach God if we cannot even bring ourselves to forgive the people of this
world? Our job is to practice love and
forgiveness and open ourselves to experiencing and sharing love. It is not our job to pass judgment and
indulge in debates on what is right and what is wrong. We need to embrace it
all. We need to pray for peace of heart and mind of those we choose to condemn.
The moment we choose to condemn another
we are in effect condemning ourselves.
Therefore instead of damnation and condemning let’s all practice love,
peace and forgiveness. It is not our job
to worry about saving the world. Our job is about saving ourselves, because we
all are a part of that whole and once we raise our own consciousness, in effect
we raise the consciousness of the planet.

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