Monday, December 31, 2007

Swami Veda Lectures

For the first time since I have been here, Swami Veda gave a public lecture in both English and Hindi. I had heard him speak before on Christmas, when he wrote a poem he had written and said a few words of introduction to the program. However, today after meditation, he invited everyone to stay and spoke on the subject of atmavabodha.

Swamiji has an interesting style. He speaks slowly and deliberately, almost hypnotically, and repeats his speech almost word for word in Hindi afterwards. He has clearly prepared his thoughts in advance and rarely has to correct or add anything further in either English or Hindi. He also includes a guided meditation in the course of speaking. I noticed from his book, The Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, which seems to be based on a series of public lectures, that he did the same there. The overall effect is very powerful in a group of committed disciples--everyone is very attentive and goes deep into meditation when given the appropriate suggestions.

In fact, Swami Veda's entire system of Hatha Yoga, which is based on the teachings of Swami Rama, puts a great deal of emphasis on attentiveness to the body's responses to each movement. The idea is to create full awareness of the body's subtlest reactions, with the goal of making it suitable for the meditation of Raja Yoga.

Today, his subject of atmavabodha was about the relationship of words to meaning and of sleep to atmanubhuti. Perhaps because he recently gave two sannyasa initiations, he started by saying that upon receiving initiation mantras or the sannyas mahavakyas (tat tvam asi, aham brahmasmi, ayam atma brahma, prajnanandam brahma), it is common for someone to ask their meaning. He pointed out that all words point to some experience. The word cow is meaningful because we have the experience of a cow, or the experience of a cow is possible. Therefore, the Sanskrit word for "thing" is padartha, or "the meaning of the word." In the case of the mantras or mahavakyas, however, one has to look for direct experience rather than an explanation, because the words point to an experience that is without any object, i.e., consciousness without any object.

He went on to explain that every creature before going to sleep undergoes a process of atmavabodha, by retracting the consciousness from the sense objects. Falling asleep means consciousness with no object, no padartha. This is, of course, only analogous to the experience that one should seek in meditation, but the principle of consciousness without an object is the same. He thus counselled that when going to sleep, one should observe the process of separation of consciousness from the objects of the mind and senses and emulate this process while engaged in meditation.

9 comments:

Madhavananda said...

This Swami Veda looks a lot like you in some of the pics! I notice he's a Bharati. Perhaps you should take sannyasa from him, for the sake of traditions!

Harisaran said...

Namaste Jagat-ji,

Here is the reply by Mina for your answer to the question on The solstices and equinoxes

I wish you are well!

"Gaurasundara das" said...

It never ceases to amaze how people like Swami Veda (in fact, any guru) presume to talk about states of consciousness, sleep, meditation and so on when they have no recognised qualifications in the matter.

Needless to say, these comments about atmanubhuti (or whatever) are in complete conflict with decades of sleep research and neurological research. With the abundance of directly verifiable evidence at hand, people still go and sit at the feet of those whose only knowledge of states of consciousness comes from old dusty texts that nobody bothers to read anymore and have extremely little relevance today. Never ceases to amaze me.

jijaji said...

"It never ceases to amaze how people like Swami Veda (in fact, any guru) presume to talk about states of consciousness, sleep, meditation and so on when they have no recognised qualifications in the matter."

Not recognized by who? Buddhists, Christians or Pagans...
Please advise!
:)

Madhavananda said...

Gaurasundara, could you please be more specific on what it is that you find objectionable in what Swami Veda said about states of consciousness? Is it just the fact that he isn't academically educated in consciousness studies, or is there something you'd like to point out as being particularly wrong in what he said?

"gaurasundara das" said...

Sorry for the late reply. I only saw this comment while reviewing this post for a blog of my own.

Yes, my comment was related to the fact that Swami Veda does not have academic qualifications in consciousness-related fields. In fact, hardly any guru does. But still, they talk about it. I wonder why.

Madhavananda said...

The obvious answer might be that they don't recognize a need for having academic qualification for speaking on the matter.

Do you think that people should have academic qualification on any given matter before being allowed to speak?

If the Swami speaks drawing from old religious theories that some people have experienced in practice, then his speech will be valuable in that it can guide people in similar practice.

"Gaurasundara das" said...

Madhava: The obvious answer might be that they don't recognize a need for having academic qualification for speaking on the matter.

Which is why there are many quacks out there. :-)

Madhava: Do you think that people should have academic qualification on any given matter before being allowed to speak?

That all depends on the subject. If the matter is states of consciousness, for example, then yes, such talks should be supported by some modicum of scientific research/findings.

Madhava: If the Swami speaks drawing from old religious theories that some people have experienced in practice, then his speech will be valuable in that it can guide people in similar practice.

And if the old religious theories were wrong, they will guide people who are engaged in a similar practice along the wrong alleys and lanes.

"Gaurasundara das" said...

You'll have to realise that my original comment was not directed at Swami Veda personally (as I had mentioned), but towards the majority of gurus and sadhus who speak on things such as states of consciousness, when it is doubtful whether their opinions (or "experiences") would fly in today's scientific world.

Ever read the Yoga-vasistha? That's an example of a book that contains opinions that may not be supported by current research.