"This human body is the greatest body in the universe, and a human being the greatest being. Man is higher than all animals, than all angels; none is greater than man. Even the devas (gods) will have to come down again and attain to salvation through a human body. Man alone attains to perfection...In the animal the man was suppressed, but as soon as the door was opened, out rushed man. So in man there is the potential god, kept in by the locks and bars of ignorance. When knowledge breaks these bars, the god becomes manifest." - Swami Vivekananda










PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | January 2007  






     It is true that, in order to develop deep faith and love for God, one has to turn away from all things worldly and make God alone ones goal in life. In this way, in spite of being busy due to the call of various duties in life, one can continue with contemplation of God at all times. In fact, much depends on how we spend the time outside the hours allotted for prayer and meditation. If periods of activity were also well utilized for contemplation, our ability to pray and meditate during allotted hours would be more effective.


     It is not work which makes it difficult for us to meditate. It is attachment and ego-consciousness which together carry our minds away from God. But once we have fixed God as the goal of life, the mind will return again and again to God in spite of distractions.


     It has been said, Take care of the means, the ends will come of themselves. Instead of paying attention to the path we are treading, we keep our minds occupied with the results yet to come. Thus our attention is split and, as a result, full concentration is not achieved.


     The Gita says clearly: One who has renounced attachment to the results of karma, who is ever contented and totally non-dependent - such a person, even though very actively engaged in work, in reality does not do anything. (4)


     One seeks solitude only to quieten the turbulent mind. But once the mind is well-controlled, it does not matter whether one is in solitude or in a crowd. What we need to do is to develop the power to withdraw the mind and establish it in the Divine - the Atman.


     Now, what is the way to bring the mind under control? The Gita, as well as Patanjalis Yoga Sutra, prescribes abhyasa and vairagya: (repetitive) practice and dispassion; or in other words, withdrawal from the many and concentration on the One. Without this, and with an uncontrolled mind, it is impossible to ascend the ladder of yoga, says Sri Krishna in the Gita.


     We may be engaged in work which demands our full-attention, but we keep on worrying even when the hours of work are over. If we can regulate our daily life with fixed hours for work and meditation, the mind will gradually get accustomed to think of higher things at particular hours. Sri Ramakrishna says: When you are engaged in many things in the world, do them with one hand and with the other hold on to God. But, when the work is over, take hold of God with both hands.


     The different Upanishads prescribe methods for seeing Brahman everywhere and realizing ones Self everywhere through various meditations on Brahman. Further, it is accepted that progress on the path of realization occurs in stages - this being a ceaseless expedition from the smaller to the greater. Common objects of our everyday world are also not excluded from the sweep of this all-pervasive vision. The Taittiriya Upanishad prescribes meditation on food, vital force, mind, and other things as Brahman. Considering all this, Swami Vivekananda reached the conclusion that at least in the age of the Upanishads meditation on Brahman was thus harmonized and identified with life and as a result the whole of life became transformed into one single meditation.

- Swami Gambhirananda


     When a person has spent some time practising meditation in solitude, to test how much success has been achieved, he or she will have to come into the crowd in active city life and see how the mind reacts. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; our success in the control of the mind will be measured in terms of our reactions in an irritating atmosphere. In a favourable situation anyone can feel and taste a little success in meditation. But until it is proved in an unfavourable atmosphere, we cannot be sure of success.


     Many wonder why the Lord chose the battlefield for teaching Arjuna - and his successors for millennia - the profound truths of spiritual life. But if we think for a while, we can understand that the battlefield of the world, wherein we are fighting this battle of life, is perhaps the best place to test our spiritual sensibility. Mam anusmara yudhya ca; Remember Me and fight, says Sri Krishna (8.7).


     The warfare inside our bodies and minds goes on endlessly. Only when peace is restored can really effective contemplation be possible. For this purpose viveka and vicara - discrimination, and reflection on the world around us - are necessary. But for most people, the paths of karma yoga and jnana yoga are difficult. That is the reason why Sri Ramakrishna has prescribed the bhakti marga as preached by Narada. This is the path of love, the art of loving God. This is possible only when we try to remember God more and more till love sprouts in our hearts. Whatever we may be doing, the object of our love should occupy at least a corner of the mind. Thus contemplation of God, in spite of an active life in the world, would be possible.


     No doubt, practice in solitude is necessary in the beginning. Later, when the mind gets trained to separate itself from its surroundings and remain fixed on God, it is not difficult to be in an active world and still be a contemplative. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that a sapling needs to be protected from cattle by putting up a hedge around it; similarly a sadhaka needs to practise in solitude for a while. When the mind has learnt to flow towards God in a natural way, there is no more need for solitude.


     Another method of converting all work into worship is to do everything for God. 'Yadyat-karma karomi tat-tad-akhilam sambho tavaradhanam; All my actions, O Shambhu, are Thy worship'. (5) Ramprasad, the great devotee of Mother Kali, says: 'O my mind, take going to bed as salutation (pranama), in sleep meditate on Mother, and think of eating as an offering to Mother Shyama...'


     Thus can activity and contemplation be harmonized, by making God the focus of our lives and then carrying on with our day-to-day activities, dedicating the fruits of our actions to God.






     1. Bhagavata, 9.19.14.
     2. Bhagavadgita, 5.710.
     3. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Second Conversation.
     4. Gita, 4.20.
     5. Vyasa, Shiva-manasa-pujana-stotram, 4.



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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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