Category Archives: Spiritual Sadhana

28-Day Meditation Challenge !!

Dear All,

Hari Om.

On 30th Jan, I received a newsletter in my Google Inbox. I subscribed two years back to Sharon Salzberg website. Sharon is founder of Insight Meditation Society in Masaachusetts and conducts workshops & retreats all over North America, focusing on developing “Loving Kindness” or “Metta”. The Loving Kindness meditation is something I have been thinking of taking up myself too.

So, when I opened the newsletter, it read “28 day Meditation Challenge”. I felt intrigued and read the post. It is an invite for all interested seekers to take up 28-day meditation challenge. Actually Sharon Salzberg has written a book called “Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation. A 28 Day Program.” The 28 day meditation challenge is actually derived from the week-by-week meditation practice outlined by Sharon in her book.

I went through the First Chapter which was available for Download on their website. Since Sharon Salzberg’s background is Vipassana meditation and the Metta or Loving kindness that is derived from it, this book also follows Vipassana in essence. For those of you who have taken Vipassana meditation course before or who have been doing meditation regularly, this 28-day meditation should be smooth.

For others who do meditation regularly, you may feel that taking this practice up is not necessary; but nonetheless, it gives an opportunity to get insight into Vipassana and Metta meditation if you want to explore. For others who are new to meditation or for those who want to meditate, I think this is a good opportunity to start the practice and set aside sometime daily for this practice.

Please click on the below link for the Sample first chapter in the “Real Happiness” book.

You can find more information on the 28-day Meditation Challenge here:

Almost 3-4 years back, I came across a nice website called BuddhaNet which is a resource of good materials related to Buddhism and downloaded a very useful book on Metta Meditation. I read and re-read it at that time and liked it immensely and was all set to practice. But ufortunately I did not sincerely practice.

You can download it by clicking the image below:

I have signed up for this challenge. My objective was not to get too fussy with the details of meditation technique, but I want to use this opportunity to sit, observe and improve my awareness. I missed my meditation today 😦 but I hope to continue till end of this month.

If you take up this challenge, Good Luck !

Yours,
In Service of The Lord & Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari

Insights and Inspiration by Swami Venkatesananda

Dear All,

Hari Om.

I came across a Daily reading from the works of Swami Venkatesananda and liked it. I thought I will share that article with all of you:


“Any motivation in the practice of yoga becomes almost immediately counter-productive. Indeed, it is obvious that it is some sort of a motivation that brings the student to yoga in the first place. But a wise teacher would do well to point out immediately that yoga is the antidote to the ills caused by motivation and a goal-oriented life, and therefore seeking a goal for the practice of yoga defeats its
purpose.

People are ill, physically and mentally, because instead of living they are constantly struggling for something. Living does not involve struggle, contrary to popular misconception. The simplest form of living is joyous and blissful, and life is intelligent, wise and alert enough to avoid pain and unhappiness instantly. It is some sort of twisted motivation that causes pain and suffering, and then rationalises such pain and suffering even to the point of exalting them.

Right from the very beginning of the practice of yoga the student discovers that the intelligence in the body is capable of meeting every situation that arises in life from moment to moment. This is the purpose of the yoga asanas (postures). During pranayama the yogi again discovers the great power and vigilance of the life-force which is beyond the ego-sense and which alone enables us to live. In meditation the yogi discovers (uncovers) self-ignorance. Then, self-knowledge (knowledge as the self or self as pure knowing) alone is. This is kaivalya, freedom, liberation – which ever is and should, therefore, be treated neither as the goal nor as an idea.

There is not even a rejection of pain, but the realisation that such rejection makes pain painful! It is not pursuit of pleasure, but the realisation that it is the pursuit that makes pleasure pleasurable (and as its inevitable reaction, painful). When there is neither rejection nor pursuit, life is liberated from the haunting shadows of ignorant notions. There is enlightenment. All life becomes divine life.”

Yours,
In Service of Lord & Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari

Sandhya Vandanam in Daily worship

Dear All,

Hari Om.

In our tradition, there is a ritual of “Upanayanam” or thread ceremony when a boy is initiated into Gayatri Mantra and is taught the process of Sandhya Vandanam – invoking the Divine and peforming oblations at dawn, mid-noon and dusk. I think most of the men in Indian Hindu families perform this, though now-a-days the situation might be different. Sandhya Vandanam, if sincerely performed, is an integral part of Sadhana and reconnects one with the Divine. We need to understand the essence of any ritual which we perform, otherwise it becomes monotonous and routine and limits the benefits we may reap out of it.

I was reading a book last year called “Brahmanubhuti”. It is originally in Hindi written by Puja Sri Swami Akhandananda ji Maharaj – a great renowned sage and contemporary of Swami Sivananda ji Maharaj. It is a collection of articles focusing on Vedanta, Sadhana, Spirituality, Brahman etc. This book has been translated into Telugu by Sri Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati ji.

I don’t know where the Telugu or original Hindi book are available. You may need to contact the Swami Akhandananda Maharaj ashrama in Vrindavan for Hindi copies, or contact the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam if they have copies of the telugu books.

When I last met Swamiji, he blessed me with that book. I really liked it.


In this book, there is a chapter dedicated to “Sandhya Vandanam”. It is a very valuable chapter which in detail covers the process of Sandhya Vandanam, its purpose and necessity and also inclused some techniques and secrets that Pujya Swamiji himself has learnt from elderly saints etc. If you want to learn the intent of the ritual or expand on your knowledge of Sandhya Vandanam, it is very beneficial to read this chapter.

Part of SandhyaVandanam is the prayer called “Aghamarshana Suktam” which literally means prayer to destroy impure and sinful tendencies, mistakes etc. It is a very powerful Suktam which invokes Divine blessings and which when recited daily removes impurities from one’s mind and makes it pure. This prayer is an important part of Sandhya Vandanam.

I was inspired after reading the book to learn the Aghamarshana Suktam and recite it daily. Though as a woman I don’t have the Sandhya Vandanam ritual, I can still chant it.

I am still learning the Suktam and I hope in this year, this Suktam will form an integral part of my daily prayers.

You can download the Text (PDF) by clicking below and also listen to the rendition of this Suktam:

Yours,
In Service of the Lord and Gurudev,
Aparna Hari

 

Inspirational Spiritual Calendar

Dear All,

Hari Om. Namaste.
Happy New Year to all of you !

I have taken up a personal project of preparing a Spiritual calendar with daily inspirations, spiritual techniques and instructions which we can use for growing spiritually and strengthening our sadhana. I am very happy to have completed this project and bring before you this calendar which I think will be very valuable to all the sincere spiritual seekers.

I mainly gathered the wisdom from Swami Sivananda ji’s books “Precepts for Practice”, “Divine Nectar” and “Concentration and Meditation” books which I think are extremely valuable. I have tried to put the daily wisdom as I thought would be fit for all of us.

All the images I have used in this calendar are public and open source, so there are no copyright violations.

I am attaching the whole calendar here. Click on the below image to download the PDF. (Please be patient as it is a file of 43 MB and may take some time to load).
Download Spiritual Calendar here:

You need to do some work to make these PDFs into a physical calendar that you can put it on your desk or mantelpiece and flip it daily. This calendar format is meant to look in this way.
Sample Appearance of the Calendar:

You can give this PDF to any printing company who have experience with making calendars (spiral bounding) and ask them to prepare it for you.
Or, for your personal use, you can follow the below simple process to make one:

1. Print the full PDF with 2-sided printout (color or grayscale, according to your choice). Totally you will have 31 sheets.
2. Cut each page along the lines that you see on the printed paper. Each paper (with 2-sided print) should give you 6 pieces of paper after cutting along lines (that is 12 sayings).
3. You need to have certain materials to punch holes in each cut paper.
4. Arrange with “Daily Inspirations” page as 1st and “happy New Year” page as 2nd, and then “Jan 1” as the 3rd page, then continue arranging.
5. Have a thick cardboard backing for these pieces of paper so that it can support the calendar to stand.
5. You need to spirally bind all these pieces together.

I know it sounds like a lot of procedure. You can follow the procedure if you have the capability and materials with you. It is easy to get it done if you are in India. In US, I think you can take these printed sheets of paper to OfficeMax or some company like that and they will charge some money to make this for you.

I hope you like this calendar and make use of it.

In Service of the Lord and Gurudev,
Yours,
Aparna & Hari

Non-Difference of Siva-Kesava

Dear All,

Hari Om.

While I was perusing the Divine Life magazine, I came across this Drama – YES, I said it right, a Drama 🙂 that contains the concept of Non-Difference or absence of difference between Siva and Kesava. This drama is an Act-1 among the three Acts to illustrate the glory of Swami Sivananda.

The Hero in this Act is the renowned Sage Sri Appayya Dikshitar, in whose lineage after some generations Swami Sivananda ji was born.

I felt reading of this material was very apt in context and time for me because the previous day I had a very brief conversation with our Temple president. He was narrating to me how he approached a Vaishnavite priest to take up a position in the temple here, and the priest seems to have mentioned “I don’t touch Siva. It is forbidden.”

Hmmm….With my family, religious and scriptural background, and by fortunate association with Saints and Swamijis, and due to inclination towards the literature of the likes of Sri Swami Sivananda, Sri Swami Dayananda (Of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam) and Thakur Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, I have learnt that names and forms of the Divine are personal aids for each seeker, while the essence is the same. Thakur’s parables actually contain a story illustrating this.

My reflection:
Division, once it starts at some point, never ends, like a giant miotic division of cell. It is an ad-infinitum process of dividing up everything and we can never stop. And to see differences is the normal way. As Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati humorously puts it, the Barber Murari (a character in his humors) who is illiterate and has no knowledge of Vedas is highly aware of the differences. Then, what additional wisdom has one gained by the study of Upanishads, Vedanta, Religios scriptures, when one vehemently upholds the differences as real ?

I think it will be a struggle for a Saguna devotee, attached to one form, initially to transcend over the form. But that does not deny the truth that the names and forms are only incidental, while One in essence. Respecting other forms of the Divine is called for until we progress in our spirituality and become more wise.

As I have learnt from Pujya Swami Dayananda ji :

Dvaitaaddhi Bhayam Bhavati – द्वैताद्धि भयं भवति — From the sense of duality indeed, fear arises।

I hope you read this Drama, enjoy it and appreciate the message:

Click to open this Drama

Yours,
In Service of the Lord & Gurudev,
Aparna

Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course by Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Dear Friends,

Namaste!

I wanted to write a brief note about an amazing book that I recently completed studying. It is the Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course, a set of 4 volumes with commentary by Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Pujya Swamiji) of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. Pujya Swamiji’s lectures during one of the 3-year residential Vedanta courses conducted by the Gurukulam were transcribed and published in the form of this Home Study course. The lectures are also available in audio format.

Pujya Swamiji’s presentation was an eye-opener to me and brought about a profound improvement in clarity of understanding the Gita and life on the whole, according to Vedic vision. That moksha is the one goal of human life is Purushartha-nischaya and there are two lifestyles leading to that goal – Karma Yoga and Sanyasa. The moksha sastra dealing with the nature of Self is explained following the teaching methodology of Vedanta as a pramana. Developing virtues in oneself through clear understanding rather than setting ideals as distant goals seemed a practical way to improve oneself without disappointment.

Based on Sri Sankara’s bhashya, Pujya Swamiji’s home study course is elaborate and leaves no stone unturned in delivering the sublime and profound raja vidya. It is truly a blessing that in modern times we have written, audio and video media that give one sitting at home access to the secrets of Upanishadic wisdom taught by teachers of Vedanta. A century ago this would not have been possible. Of course sitting at the feet of the Guru to acquire this knowledge is the best. But if one cannot do that, Bhagavad Gita Home Study course published by Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in book and audio formats is a wonderful resource to acquire and quench one’s thirst for knowledge.

Some useful links:

1) Arsha Vidya Gurukulam bookstore: http://books.arshavidya.org
2) Arsha Vidya Satsangs, a collection of free downloadable audio lectures of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam teachers (Swami Tattvavidanandaji, Swami Pratyagbodhanandaji, Swami Viditatmanandaji and Pujya Swamiji): http://www.avgsatsang.org
3) Arsha Bodha Center website containing many audio lectures of Swami Tadatmanandaji: http://www.arshabodha.org/teachings.html
4) Downloadable audio lectures by Swami Paramarthanandaji: http://www.vedantavidyarthisangha.org

Om Tat Sat
With regards,
Hari

Spiritual Enrichment Program at Milwaukee – December 2009

Dear Friends,

Hari Om!

H.H. Swami Prakashanandaji of Chinmaya Mission is visiting Milwaukee from 15th to 18th December 2009. During this time, a series of discourses are arranged at Jain Temple Lecture Hall in the HTW premises. The topics are “Sadhana Panchakam”, a composition by Sri Adi Sankaracharya and “Vision of God according to Bhagavad Gita”.

Tuesday, December 15
Topic: Sadhana Panchakam, by Adi Sankara
6:45 PM – 7:00 PM – Introduction
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Lecture I
8:15 PM – 9:15 PM – Lecture II

Wednesday, December 16
Topic: Sadhana Panchakam, by Adi Sankara
6:45 PM – 7:00 PM – Introduction
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Lecture I
8:15 PM – 9:15 PM – Lecture II

Thursday, December 17
Topic: Sadhana Panchakam, by Adi Sankara
6:45 PM – 7:00 PM – Introduction
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Lecture I
8:15 PM – 9:15 PM – Lecture II

Friday, December 18
Topic: Vision of God according to Bhagavad Gita
6:45 PM – 7:00 PM – Introduction
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Lecture I
8:15 PM – 9:15 PM – Lecture II

Venue:
Jain Temple Lecture Hall,
Hindu Temple of Wisconsin,
N4063 W243, Pewaukee Rd,
Pewaukee, WI 53072

For more details, contact:
Raju Ramamurthi & Jayanthi Raju: 262-957-7299
Anil & Jayshree Aggarwal: 262-796-8255
Hari & Aparna: 262-227-0991

Please click here for a downloadable flyer of the program.

With regards,
Hari and Aparna

Remembrance of God is the greatest fortune

Hari Om!
Om Namo Narayanaya!

After a long gap during which we also enjoyed a month long stay at Sivananda Ashram in India (more on this will be posted soon), here is a post to share a very inspiring talk given by Guru Maharaj Pujya Sri Swami Chidanandaji:-

What is good fortune and what is misfortune? Who is our friend and who is our enemy?

Man is the only living being endowed with discrimination and who has inherited vast knowledge through scriptures – the Vedas, Puranas, Srimad Bhagavatam, Panchadasi, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Narada Bhakti Sutras, Sandilya Bhakti Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, BrahmaSutras, etc – which are filled with so much wisdom. Add to it the wisdom teachings of many, many sages down the centuries. In our own times, there are the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Dev, Swami Ramdas, our own Gurudev, Ma Anandamyi, etc.

How much guidance we have got! If we don’t use this for our good, then who is to blame for it? Having all this and not utilizing it – it is our fault, not somebody else’s fault.

Vipado Naiva Vipadah, Sampado Naiva Sampadah !
Vipada Narayana Vismrutih, Sampat Smaranam Narayanasya !!

Misfortune is forgetting God – that is the real misfortune. Constantly remembering God and not to forget Him – what is greater fortune than this? This is indeed the greatest fortune. Other things are neither good fortune nor misfortune. These alone are the greatest good fortune and the greatest misfortune – Remembrance of God and forgetfulness of God.

Who is your friend? Who is your enemy?

He is your greatest friend, well-wisher, relative, companion, helper – who creates in you a taste for repetition of God’s name, even from your childhood. Srimad Bhagavata Maha Puran says that He is your father, mother, companion, best friend, helper, well wisher – who creates within you, a taste for the name of God even from your childhood. There cannot be a well-wisher greater than such a person, because in this Kaliyuga, repetition of God’s name is the greatest way.

Jaake Hruday na Ram Vaidehi !
Tyajiye Koti Vair sam Yadyapi Param Sanehi !!

That person, in whose heart God is not seated – here he mentions Lord Rama and Sita, the daughter of King Janaka Maharaj or Videha. That person who has not kept God and awareness of inner presence of God -even if he is your best friend, cast him away, leave him, renounce him, as though he is a million devils or enemies – who is intent upon doing you harm; who will destroy you, hurt you, harm you. Such a person, even if he happens to be your best friend, if he diverts your mind to miscellaneous enjoyments saying – lets go to the club or the cinemas, lets go and have a nice evening snack in the restaurant, etc. Any person who diverts you towards earthly activities, whose fruit is not attainment of God – discard, renounce, give up such a person as though he were a million enemies put together. Even if he happens to be your most intimate friend, because slowly he will color you in his own color. He will make you like himself.

This is a miniscule wisdom teaching out of many that we have received from various saintly sources. I think this one is from Sant Tulsidas.

Having provided you with these nuggets of spiritual teachings, gems of wisdom, I shall end the service of this morning, but Spiritual teachings are only useful when they are remembered; when they are kept in the heart and so remember them and benefit from them by applying them in your own life – subjective inner life as well as objective outer life in this world. Even if you have many lakhs of rupees in the bank and you do not make use of it, then you are as good as a poor person or a miser. A miser has money but he will not spend; a poor person has no money so he cannot spend. To either of them money is not of use in life. In the same way for spiritual teachings. Therefore, spiritual truths and guidance must be actively and constructively utilized. It is for living; you must apply it in your daily life by thought, word and deed.

Hari Om! Om… Om… Om!”

Yours in service of God and Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari

Rama Koti Booklet UPLOADED !!

Dear All,

Hari Om !
Jai Sri Ram !

With inspiration from Lord Rama, we have made a bookler for writing Rama Koti. Writing the name of “Rama” and continuously engaging in Rama Nama Smaran is the easiest path to Happiness, Peace and Bliss.

This Rama Koti booklet that we are uploading here on our website can be a very good companion even in office. During Lunch break and other times, we can easily write the Divine Name and that’s why we created this so it can be a helping tool for many spiritual seekers.

You need to have a Double-Sided Printer for printing this booklet

1. Download Rama Koti Booklet

2. Go to File –> Print –> (Select the Printer which can print both sides) —> Properties –> Check the Box for “Flip Pages Up”

3. Since this is already in the booklet form, you need not select any booklet printing (Make sure that Booklet Printing is “Off” in the Printer options).

4. After the Rama Koti Booklet is printed, you can fold the entire printout into half, and in the middle, you can staple it with normal staple gun.

5. Your RAMA KOTI booklet is now ready for Likhita Japa.

We hope we write and remember His Name for our liberation.

Yours, In Service of the Lord and Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari

Satsang with Swami Brahmarupananda ji at Milwaukee 26-28 Sep, 2008

Dear All,
Hari Om !

Swami Brahmarupananda ji is the Head Minister-In-Charge of the Vivekanda Vedanta Center in Greater Washington DC. Swamiji kindly accepted a humble request by Dr Anil Aggarwal ji on behalf of Spiritual Enrichment Program (SEP), Milwaukee to come here and give us an opportunity of three-day satsang of learning “Kathopanishad” under him. This will be from 26th September – 28th September, 2008 from 6:30-9:00 PM.

Personally, Hari and I have learnt three Upanishads – Kena, Kaivalya and Chandogya Upanishad, along with a Summary of All Upanishads under Pujya Swamiji. We are very fortunate to have come in contact with Swamiji, whos is very kind, humble, loving and eager for his students to learn and practise.

Swamiji also comes to Ganges twice in a year and conducts three day retreats there.

Please find the details about the three day-satsang at Milwaukee here:

Yours, In Service of Lord & Gurudev,
Aparna & Hari