H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 30 March 2009

Sentiment and Resentment

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

Re-sentment means, literally, to feel once again in a certain way. In such cases one remains trapped into psychic bubbles created in the past, making thus sense only in the past and having nothing more to do with the present. To feel resentment means, therefore, to go back to past events with our feelings. This is really a big mistake; if we act like this we will have no chance of success, as the only way to get some benefit from every experience is to become emotionally detached from anything that happened and to take care of the effects in our present time. The solution to our problems is to be looked for in the present; the past doesn't exist, apart from its effects today; the future is not yet manifested, so we can worry about that only in case it will turn into present. People usually live as prisoners of the past and at the same time they are projected in the future. Our ego likes to keep the past alive because in the past it keeps its false identity alive, but it also likes to run towards the future hoping to find some pleasure in order to survive (that's what the ego thinks). Generally people look at the present with the eyes of the past, or just as a means to conquer a future goal. Those who live in the present with the awareness that the only reality is their “here and now” are very few. Realized souls, instead, live in the present and visit the past and the future only to face necessary, practical aspects of their present life.

In the XVI century astronomy went through an amazing turning point known as Copernican Revolution (the solar system was conceived as theocentric and heliocentric); the comprehension that the present is the only reality could now represent another astonishing turning point. To remain prisoners of the past or to project ourselves in the future are both two ways of evasion, but those who act rightly today have no reasons to be worried about tomorrow. Due to a powerful psychic law, people who do good today, will probably do the same in the future, and those who do evil at present, will do so also in the future, unless they put into action their potential evolutional drive.

When they say that someone is like this and someone else is like that, it has to be understood that one becomes of the nature of his own actions. Who does good becomes good, who does evil becomes evil; one becomes virtuous by a virtuous action and bad by a bad action” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, IV.4.5).

Resentment is never good; not even when we feel it for real iniquities we have undergone. It prevents us to live well and sometimes looking for unfairnesses turns into a real dependence, for we become addicted to resentment and if there are no objective injustices we end up imagining some. This is the feature of an insane mind. A wise person sees an injustice (towards him/herself) and reduces it to zero by tolerating the offender's behaviour thanks to his/her mature understanding: those who commit an injustice do it pushed by strong conditionings and are therefore already damaged enough, so they don't need a further punishment.

When someone gets the habit to play the victim, it is rather simple for him to find the “evidence” of the injustice, or to convince himself that he was wronged, even when what happend was just an innocent, trivial circumstance. If resentment becomes usual, it inevitably takes to self-pity, one of the worst feelings one can feed: those who let themselves go to this kind of feeling spend all their energies trying to justify their lacks and defects, often blaming others for that. In this way they lose the chance to invest such energies to think positive, look for the solution and practically apply it to solve the problem.

There are people who feel good only when they think themselves wronged and we can suppose that this perverse mechanism is the root of the so called masochism. Resentment and self-pity, of course, go hand in hand with a negative image of ourselves: a victim created to feel unhappy. But resentment is not provoked by others, by events or circumstances; it is generated by our emotional answer to the situations. We have the power to choose the best answer, especially if we understand that resentment and self-pity always lead to defeat and unhappiness. Someone stuck in the feeling of resentment can't be confident, autonomous, able to guide his life and to become responsible for his own destiny. On the contrary, his life will be guided by others who will tell him what to do and the way he has to feel. And when he will meet a person who makes him happy, the moment it all will be over he will feel resentment.

If you think you deserve eternal gratitude, esteem or some kind of award, the time you don't get it you will be resentful. But resentment is just the way to failure: nobody owes you anything, you are the protagonist of your life, you only are responsible for your happiness and success. 

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Influence of Conscience

By Paramatma Dasi

On March 22nd and 23rd, in the Aula Magna of the Bhaktivedanta Foundation, took place the sixth Seminar of the CSB Counseling three years Course.

Dr. Andrea Boni (Anantadeva Dasa) and Dr. Priscilla Bianchi (Paramatma Dasi), respectively Coordinator and Director of Studies of the CSB Counseling School, spoke on the theme The Influence of Conscience on the Individual and on the Environment: Reality as a manifestation of our Desires.

The purpose of this Seminar was mainly to explain and prove how the individual's conscience models the reality around us, and how thoughts and desires, ideas and dreams, are at the base of physical events that show up in our life.

The human brain, explained Andrea Boni – who talked from a quantistic-scientific perspective – is programmed for our evolution. It is a sophisticated “instrument”, which is 1000 times faster than the fastest computer of the world and contains as many neurons as the stars in the Milky Way (about 100 billions). The human brain has an amazing plastic capacity, which allows it to remodel its synaptic structure depending on the experiences lived by the subject.

However our awareness of the information processed by the brain, is very little and there is a high risk to develop a narrow vision of reality, like the one of the frog in the well, as the ancient tail explains, retold by the speaker. With reference to it Dr. Boni talked about fragmentation and wholeness, considering cultural and social implications. But if all is relative, what is reality? Reality is connected to a superior order of things and mainly to conscience. Our reality consists of multiple, infinite possibilities; the one that “collapses” is the reality on which we will direct our attention. Among the various themes considered, a rather important one was the relation between observer (conscience) and observed, discussed also with the help of explanations and examples taken from the quantum physics and Patanjali Yogasutras. Conscience is the creator of reality, and the self (atman) is the protagonist of life, even if when it is embodied must deal with the archetypal forces of Nature (gunas), which determine its present and future situations. The final part of the conference held by Andrea Boni suggested the hints for the continuation of the complex and fascinating theme, carried on and integrated, on the following day, by Priscilla Bianchi, according to a phylosophical and psychological view.

To begin with, the urgency to become aware and to learn how to handle our inner processes is a must: this was explained by Priscilla Bianchi, who often referred to the Indovedic sources. The existance of universal and psychological laws driving our lives and creating physical reality is something we have to understand very clearly. Our mental images and contents determine reality around us and produce corresponding emotions.

Everyone attracts what is “connected to” with one’s own thoughts and desires; this is confirmed by the law of attraction, well known to the ancient vedic knowledge and commented by Priscilla Bianchi also by quoting Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita's wisdom. To modify the situations outside, we have to make a deep work inside us with an intense act of will. After going through the five categories of man’s needs (as explained by Maslow), Dr. Bianchi concentrated her speech on the six phases of will-power, enriching her explanations with stories and practical examples. The same as the morning before, many and various questions were asked by the audience that attended the Seminar with special attention.

The afternoon workshops centered on exercises of role-playing, visualization and group discussion, which helped a lot to improve students' ability to listen to themeselves and to others.

Next Counseling Seminar will take place on April 18th and 19th, always in the Aula Magna of the Bhaktivedanta Foundation.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Dharma, the essential foundation

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

(From the book "Vedic-Puranic Cosmogony")

Modern man is confused, without precise and stable reference points that allow him to sail peacefully through the waves of life. He is full of anxieties and fears that seem impossible to overcome, fragile and unstable in his psyche, and pitifully exhausted by neurosis of various nature and origin, that drain much energy from him, by secretly absorbing them. He is also sadly isolated and constantly tossed around and dragged to unknown directions by tragic and uncontrollable events and aberrant ideas imposed on him by stronger and violent individuals who, like a storm of powerful winds, sweep him away and his fragile ship wrecks... its unrecognizable remains drifting away at high sea.

The Man of Tradition, who builds his life on a traditional set of values, had and has a cosmogonic vision: he sees and understands the universe, and is therefore able to point out, precisely and safely, his own position in the vast expanse of the cosmic manifestation. The so-called modern man, on the other hand, has lost these references and paradoxically, although he made giant steps in the field of technology and especially in the sector of communication, finds serious, indeed, almost insurmountable, difficulties in communicating with others and even with himself.

Having gradually lost the organic vision of reality, the consciousness of its solid wholeness, of the connections between the parts and the whole, he engrossed himself in an obstinate and repeated study of fragments, of micro-realities cut off from the whole. Although he has become capable of inventing microscopes and other very powerful instruments of research1, he finally has to acknowledge, with surprise, dismay and even a bit of frustration, that material nature keeps escaping from his futile efforts to know it, as if mocking him. In fact, Nature is comparable to a series of Chinese boxes: as soon as we discover one aspect we immediately see another, contained inside the previous one.

Modern man, therefore, risks suffering an overwhelming confusion, full of anxiety, a subtle and pervasive “malaise” that is becomes increasingly bitter and deep (especially in the youngest generation). His condition becomes more serious as it becomes apparent that there are no satisfying answers that can explain his vast reality. Certainly the various religions are not giving such answers, as often they are employing their enormous energies and resources more in search of wider popular support than in giving satisfactory answers to the painful questions on the meaning of the entire cosmic process. In fact they focus most of their interests on the mere anthropological sphere - on man and his problems. In their reductively anthropocentric attitude, they try their best to elaborate a policy for man, down to the smallest details and with complicated (and often unrealistic) economic and social plans, while neglecting the simple basic truth that man, when he is not able to locate himself in his socio-cosmic context and does not know himself because he is not able to perceive himself in his essence or transcendental reality, will not be able to trace a feasible project for his own development and growth2. It is therefore necessary to indicate with the greatest precision possible the cosmogony or universal design, and the escatology or ultramundane goal of existence.

The Vedas offer an extremely wide picture of the universal project, starting from the description of the four objectives of evolved human life3; dharma, artha, kama and moksha. To attain these goals, a good quality person organizes in the best possible ways his efforts and resources. The art of life consists in attaining these goals and living them in a balanced way, making them all - one after the other or simultaneously - a successful realization.

Dharma is the Cosmic Order, God's Law, the Will of the Lord, the harmony and tuning of and with whatever vibrates, the force that sustains all, the life principle and the laws that support it. Without dharma, the planets could not remain in their orbits, and we would not even be able to breathe without a connection with dharma.

Dharma is also religiosity, without which it would be impossible to execute any action; it is the acquisition of a minimum level of piety and good sentiments enabling us to face life, and that will be expanded at the utmost; anyway, it is necessary to have at least a minimum quality for an individual to be able to live amidst people, in creation and all creatures.

The Sanskrit word bhuta, in this context, indicates the created being; in fact the root bhu means both ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, but if we add the suffix ta it comes to mean ‘created’. Since the soul is immortal4, who is created? The bodies are created, while the life principle, the atman, is not created: it is not born and it does not die.

All creatures are born and die only apparently; in fact what is born and dies is the bodies, those wrappings made of matter (prakriti) inhabited by the immortal beings, and which always remain distinct from the being in all circumstances. In Bhagavadgita Krishna states that the eightfold matter5, that we perceive as forms and names, is separated from Him6; and we could add, from us, too: organs, tissues, cells are in fact aggregates of matter that is separated from our real being. Dharma is absolutely required to bring clarity in this alienated environment where confused masses, overwhelmed by a terrible crisis of identity believe they are bodies, and totally identify with prakriti.

Dharma offers some fundamental directives called yama and niyama7, to live consciously in any place, but especially in those places where the atmosphere has become “incandescent” due to passion (rajo-guna) and darkened by ignorance (tamo-guna)8.

When the consciousness of the self is developed in the proper way, according to dharma, the individual becomes dharmya, a bearer of dharma or supporter of dharma, and at the same time he is also ‘supported’ by dharma

In a passage of Mahabharata9 it is strongly stated that one who supports dharma is supported by dharma, while one who tramples upon dharma becomes crushed by dharma.

The support of dharma enables us to attain the second goal: artha or economic prosperity, which does not have any negative meaning in itself10, unless it involves a gross behavior that drags its author into brutishness and makes him forget his prescribed duties that are supposed to lead him to spiritual realization. The shastras11 recommend to pursue this goal, because it is necessary to earn the resources required to take the path of perfection. When the union of the Divine will be stable and final, only at that time we will not need any specific efforts to pursue artha: the Lord will provide directly.

Everything depends therefore on building one's existence on the principles of dharma, the celestial rule, the divine law, the highest Order that supports all. By careful observation of the natural cycles, we can detect the presence of this divine Order: trees blossom again and again each spring; days and night follow each other regularly; the sun never leaves its orbit - because if it changed it, deviating of even a small distance, everything would catch fire, water would evaporate, all plants would disappear and all living entities who depend on water for survival would also die, including the human beings. It is dharma that supports the sun and all stars and planets in their orbits and makes life possible on the planets. The source of dharma is the Supreme Being who, through dharma, stipulates a rightful pact with all the creatures, without favoring or disfavoring any of them. It is in fact only according to the way we relate to dharma that we will have to face the positive or negative consequences of our good and bad actions. This is the fundamental principle regulating the law of karman, the strict eternal law of remuneration of actions.

Therefore the man of Tradition pursues the tangible and practical development of the fundamental principles of dharma, constantly and sincerely striving to apply its theory in daily life, as he does not recognize any real importance to the philosophical activities in themselves, when they are separated from reality and unable to deliver the living being from the fundamental problem of bodily existence -- his own suffering. He thus seeks an intimate and genuine internalization of the laws of dharma and their genuine expression in thinking and in speaking to others, in commenting on events and changes that happen in society and nature, and in his own actions as well.

After attaining artha on the basis of dharma, we attain kama, a term that indicates in this context the search for pleasure and joy. If these pleasures are developed from artha, pursued with one's own means instead of others' means, and through means based on dharma, or moral, ethical and spiritual rules12, we attain joy, a sense of satisfaction that follows the experience of pleasure. To be more precise, we should say that the research of pleasure ceases to be an obsession and he then becomes free from the mental conditions that pushed him to make wrong choices in the pursuit of sensory stimulations. When they are obtained in harmony with the Divine Order, the so called pleasures are potentially able to make him thoughtful and reflective, leading gradually to detachment from material attachments, allowing him to dedicate himself, serenely and lucidly, to pursue the fourth goal that is characteristics of the evolved man: moksha, the final liberation from illusions, from identification with matter and mundane attachment, the sources of suffering13.

Therefore, giving man a wide, universal frame of knowledge, not only on the spiritual dimension but also on the variety of the cosmic manifestation, is necessary to reveal to him dharma and its fundamental laws. All this immediately offers him the essential instruments to determine, plan and build, day after day, his own future. Offering such instruments constitutes the highest humanitarian activity that benefits not only man, but all creatures and well as the environment, as micro and macro sphere.

A vision of the universe that is based on a strongly and openly anthropocentric conception would be a disconcertingly reductive proposition, implying a drastic limitation on the capabilities and potential of spiritual realization.

Man does not have a central position. The Vedic-Vaishnava conception of the universe is theocentric: God is the motor of the universe, and everything is taken care of due to the supreme and sweet will of God. And if all creatures, and especially man, would put the Lord in the center of their attention and care, of their thoughts and words, whatever they wanted to attain would come almost spontaneously, with much less difficulties in proportion to the concentration on the contemplation of God; and all actions performed in this way would benefit not only humans, but as we mentioned, all creatures.

On the other hand, if by some kind of anthropocentric obsession or other species feticism, man would be induced to consider only his own species as worthy of care and attention, he wouldn't even be able to maintain the health of this planet and would become the cause of continuous and serious ecologic crises, since the environmental balance can only be maintained if we work for the benefit of “all” creatures, allowing each one of them to freely express its own nature.

Usually man is considered the sovereign of creatures, but the real Sovereign is God, who also rules over man. Man has the duty to guide less intelligent and evolved creatures. This means giving a role to each of them without taking undue advantage of anyone, otherwise the result would be exploitation instead of guidance.

It is therefore urgent and necessary to seriously revise the concepts of progress and evolution, sociology, well-being and economy, and even history.

Thinking that human beings are the only rightful citizens of this planets is much too limited a concept; we should extend the habeas corpus to animal species as well. We speak so often about love: why should we limit love to mankind only? Putting mankind in the center of the universe is a typical mistake of modern philosophy.

1 We refer here not only to reductionism, but also to the “specialization” that is so typical of cultural life in the West today.

2 This does not mean that we want to negate the entire ethical and spiritual values preserved and supported by the historical religions (this would be contradicting the need to respect the reference to a traditional knowledge we had already mentioned) or to diminish the importance of their activities on the social level; however we feel the need to complete and refine the fields of action tending to the integration between religious thoughts, starting from the deep knowledge about consciousness offered by the Vedas.

3 In Sanskrit, chatur-purushartha.

4 See Bg II.20: For the soul there is neither birth nor death. Existing, it never ceases to exist. It is never born and never dies; it is eternal, primeval, without beginning and without end. It does not die when the body dies.

5 See p. 74.

6 See Bg VII.4.

7 These rules are found in all astika Schools, accepting the Vedas as revealed Scriptures, especially in the Yoga-darshana, the School traditionally considered to be founded by sage Patanjali, author of the famous Yoga-sutras, fundamental text of that School.

8 Two of the three gunas; see section ‘The three gunas and karma’, p. 83.

9 Adi Parva, chapter 60.

10 Traditionally, money and wealth in general are a manifestation, in the world of elements, of Shrimati Lakshmidevi, eternal consort and internal energy (antaranga-shakti) of Shri Vishnu, the God-Person.

11 Literally ‘precepts, teachings’, especially those contained in the sacred texts, both Shruti (Revelation) and Smriti (Tradition). Shastra is for Shruti what the tree is for its seed. [The main Schools of thought in the context of Vedic Tradition delineate the method to acquire knowledge by indicating three main cognitive instruments (pramana): pratyaksha (sense perception), anumana (deduction) and Shabda (aurally received teachings from a Tradition or Authority). Of the three, the third is traditionally considered the most authoritative method, sufficient in itself to attain knowledge, both physical and metaphysical.]

12 Where ‘moral’ are the actions in the world of elements, while ‘ethical’ is the concept of good and bad, and ‘spiritual’ is the will power that directs action towards liberation (moksha).

13 According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava School of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu there is a further stage, even beyond liberation: this is prema, love for God, also defined as param-purushartha (the supreme goal for human beings).

Monday, 16 March 2009

How to Realize Dreams - Part II

By Paramatma Dasi

Wednesday, March 11th, at the Aula Magna of Centro Studi Bhaktivedanta Foundation, Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu held the second session of his course titled “How to Project and Make your Dreams come true”.

By briefly going back to the topics discussed in the previous session, the speaker continued and further developed this theme that is complex and determinant for everyone’s life. It is essential to understand, as it is stated in the Upanishads, that what we become is in accordance with what we desire. People’s minds and hearts – Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu explained – are filled with images that work against them and fulfil their negative prophecies. The psychic structure, in fact, does not distinguish if the person is dreaming, thinking, fearing with his eyes open or shut, rather it elaborates images that pass through the mind and “lay out a plan” according to them.

Automated, rigorous and repetitious thoughts clip the wings of creativity and planning and of the capability of dreaming and realizing ones dreams. Trust, faith and mainly fervent devotion, on the contrary, produce serenity, courage and Love for God’s Creation and His Creatures.

Our fears may be justified (with an objective cause), or unjustified. In the latter case they are often due to indecision, doubts and habits that are trigged in the individual behaviour. Such fears induce the subject to create alibis to hang on to, favouring the development of psychophysical illnesses and most of all, obstructing the realization of dreams.

As already explained in the first session, even constructive day dreaming needs planning. However, it is not enough. Priority is another fundamental ingredient. Too many dreams, maybe even in contradiction with each other, cannot be planned at the same time. If we did so, we would only feel deprived of our energies and we would not obtain what we desire. A dream which has good chances to become reality should be well defined, have an evolutionary orientation and a plan for realization, which can be integrated on the way. The engine power, in any case, consists of intensive desire. If desire is weak and lukewarm, even the less relevant obstacles will prevail.

In this occasion, as in the previous one, the time spent entertaining questions and answers was very intense, and became an opportunity to develop relevant topics. Among the discussed and developed subjects were: taking advantage of failures to start a new journey with more clearness and vitality, unconscious fears, dreams, karma and divine willpower, wishing for dreams realization and pessimism, states of consciousness and reality levels, and at last, the variable influence of the planets on human beings.

The evening finished with a happy ending, a delicious dessert, and with the proposal to meet at the next appointment on Wednesday, March 18th at the same place, at 8,30 PM, for the third and last session of this course.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Food as a Complementary Practice for Spiritual Life

By Matsyavatara Dasa

In accordance with Indovedic literature, what we eat does not only determine who we are, but can also determine what we want to become. By choosing our diet carefully, we can thoroughly change our approach to life, our feelings and our relationship with others.

Food provides nutrition at all levels and nourishes both, the body and the mind. The wellbeing of the individual and its entire psycho physical constitution depends on the quality of this food. Furthermore and mainly, food should be prepared and cooked as a mean to sharpen our consciousness and its superior qualities, in order to favour a higher ethic-moral and spiritual elevation.

Therefore choosing a diet is as important as cooking. Our suggestion is to offer whole food products served in a sufficient quantity and use appropriate cooking methods to keep these products healthy and well-balanced.

A proper diet should be vegetarian and in accordance to the rules followed when food is offered to God (neither meat, nor fish, nor eggs) and should also be harmonized with the fundamental principles of a healthy nutrition. Most of the times, because of distraction and for the little importance we give to alimentation, we tend to indulge in feeding ourselves for our sense gratification, with the result of a mere superficial pleasure. Bad habits like eating fried food, too much sugar, the same kind of grains and cereals, a lot of spicy and fat condiments, make us ill, unsatisfied and certainly not brighter. This is unproductive on a spiritual level too, because such type of a diet does not favour our efforts in the practices to elevate our level of consciousness.

How to Realize Dreams - Part I

By Paramatma Dasi

Wednesday, February 25th at the Aula Magna of Bhaktivedanta Study Centre, took place the first lesson of the course “How to project and make your dreams come true”, held by Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu, CSB Founder and President.

The man of today, centred on pragmatism and exteriosity, seems not to have any time left to dream. Dreaming, poetry, creativity are activities which take time away from concrete things, the ones which really matter. Nevertheless behind the concreteness of the world we run after, there is no comprehension of the subtle and more important dynamics that hide unseen. We should give the right consideration to our inner dynamics because desires, ideas, thoughts and dreams are the basis of physichal events that will show in our life later on.

Although while talking about dreams, we usually think of an unreal or even evanescent world, we should reconsider the reality of dreaming from a different point of view, which is the way to convert dreams into reality. Transfering dreams from a sensitive dimension to an empirical dimension is a kind of alchemy - Matsyavatara Prabhu explained - this alchemy may be possible if we learn to dream by making projects. Dreaming and projectuality: are they in contrast with each other? Of course not, even more, they need to be tightly joined if we want our dreams to descend from a platonic world of ideas and become part of our reality.

Dreaming is persecuted by a killer that can wear differen masks: fear. Although fear is but a ghost of the mind, it may ruin the life of many people, in a concrete way, by making them withdraw, abstain from the activation of personal projects, foresee dreadful consequences, for istance, critic, desertion, solitude, desease or others.

The person inhibited by fear becomes mediocre, insecure or unproductive, and cannot realize dreams.

In order to prevent the sabotation of our dreams because of fear, we have to intensify our desire, to light it up, to make it intense, vibrating and match it to our perception of feeling. In this way it is possible to activate energies able to make all that we desire come true.

Dreaming with your eyes wide open is possible and it works efficiently, with the help of an active vizualization, visualizing the way we would like to live, who to live with and how.

A vibrant meditation focused on our ideal model will enable us, with time, to bring us where we would like to be.

This practical and involving lesson, carried on naturally with a stimulating exchange of questions and answers, in the meanwhilel other themes were developed like illusionary dreams and dreams our mind will be able to realize, sharing a dream for two and join the same life style, how to overcome fear and transform reality by adopting the right process.

The whole event with the projection of images, the explanations, the exchange of thoughts between the speaker and the public, and the dessert in the end, offered to all the participants a very pleasant and interesting evening, rich of teachings. By joining the ancient tradition of the Veda and modern psychology, they create solid and working basis to start feeding our strongest dreams and our deeper instances.

Further details and explanations will be given in the second lesson, on Wednesday March 4th, at the main office of CSB at 8,30 PM

Monday, 9 March 2009

About Sublimation

By Matsyavatara dasa

Sublimation is the art of transferring our impulses to a superior level. It can therefore be defined as the art of transformation of the psychological contents.

It is fundamental to apply our willpower on superior ideal levels because if such strength goes downward, the result will not lead us to achieving our projects of cultural, psychological and spiritual growth. Instead it will lead us to dissatisfaction and we will risk many incidents in our path.

The process of sublimation happens at the highest level through prayer and meditation. It could also be favored by the aesthetic experience. Think of music or dance that is expressed through the body, mimic and rhythm. They could seem like simple aesthetic exercises, but, through them, a kind of energy of negative and sometime destructive nature, deriving from rancor, violence, hostility, etc., can regenerate into ecological and positive energy if what we do is done as an offer to the Divine.

The art of raising our psychological energy to superior levels is of great beneficial value.

Through this art, the levels of individual egoism can gradually be overcome through increasingly better evolutionary levels. It can spread from a personal level to a family level, from a group level to one that is increasingly extended to the entire social structure, until we give priority to the wellbeing of all creatures of any species.

The expansion of benevolence toward all the living beings leads to a cosmic fraternity and to the rediscovery of God as an origin, seed and sustainment of the universe in all of its forms and life manifestations.

Every experience should be considered as a precious opportunity for better oneself without distinction between friends and enemies because every creature should look at itself as a fragment of God like he would be able to look at a turf of dirt and at a gold nugget with impartiality (Bhagavad-Gita VI.8). The psychological tradition of Bhakti offers theoretical and practical instruments to acquire this capability and attitude toward life, by reaching that high level of consciousness that allows us to face in a constructive-evolutionary way, any event, even the most painful one without being emotionally overcome.

Managing ones emotions is much more difficult than managing ones thoughts. On contrary of our thoughts, emotions are psychological impulses produced by the interaction of external and internal stimulus that do not pass through the rationale process. Therefore they are not mediated, not sufficiently controlled by the buddy (intellect). As a flood of a river, they overflow from our subconscious level to the exterior.

Often, ones comprehension of the importance of sublimation is blocked at a merely rationale-theoretical level, without a significant exercise dedicated to its realization with the result of a flow of emotions that becomes unstoppable from the subconscious which work in a opposite direction that the individual would like to pursue.

To overcome such inner discrepancies and realize substantial improvements of the personality we should operate at the deep psyche level through instruments of meditative visualization and active imagination and overcome the merely emotional-intellectual level by reactivating the consciousness of the Self and ascending to consciousness and spiritual vision.  

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Human Being and His Energies

By Matsyavatara Dasa
(from Psychology of the Life Cycle book)

The Vedic science of health, compiled thousands of years ago, considers the human being as a complex combination of biologic, psychic and spiritual energies. Thus it gives great therapeutic importance not only to drugs and surgery, but also to the diet, to the ethical behavior of the individual and to the influence of the mind on the body. The weakening of the immune system, the development of disease, the healing process and finally the conscious and serene acceptance of the passage we call death are the result of the constant interactions of the complex body-mind-spirit.

Our aim is to deal with the relationship of the human being with death and the process of dying so that the concept of the phenomenon becomes less tragic and the patient can re-interpret this reality from a desperate and negative vision to a positive and constructive vision.

Considering death as a necessarily and absolutely negative fact is an extremely serious prejudice. By studying the greatest philosophical, religious and spiritual traditions of the Vedas we understand that death, as it is generally intended, does not exist as such, but only as a concept and a cultural conditioning. It is the last taboo and almost certainly the most serious misconstruction of human history: a tragic fundamental mistake because, as we will see, death should rather be considered a beneficial opportunity for evolution.

Since you will be presenting this idea to your patients, you should be the first to embrace it, and we will try to offer you many reasons why this should happen.

Does death have a purpose? Who is dying? Are we sure we are dying? Are we just a physical aggregate or something more than that? These questions have been pondered by sages and not only, in the course of thousands of years. The various religious traditions and the greatest philosophical schools have answered that we are much more.

The psychological assistance of a terminal patient certainly does not exclude the duty of physical treatment, but in these cases psychological assistance is even more essential, complex and delicate. It consists in giving value to the person, stimulating him in making plans, helping him to overcome appearances and to avoid being swept away by negative emotions generated by the wrong concept that everything really ends with death.

It is very important to understand that a psychological cure is effective when it works from the inside, when it comes from a process of self improvement – rather than being given by someone who is outside.

During some lectures at universities, several students have asked if the placebo effect could be the actual agent. First of all we need to recognize that a placebo effect would be positive anyway, because it would improve the psychological condition of the patient. However, in this case it is not a placebo effect, because we are not trying to induce a superficial belief that suits our purpose. We want to attain, through adequate study and practice, the consciousness of a reality that is increasingly solid, concrete, deeply rooted in our being, and that brings us to a better understanding of our deep identity, called atman in the Bhakti-Vedanta psychology. This atman is not material, and therefore it is not conditioned by space and time.

At a deeper level, we cannot tolerate the idea of dying because intimately we know we are not dying. However, when we are not making a distinction between the deep self (ontological and inalienable) and the psycho-physical body (that is ever changing and temporary) we stubbornly try to keep the body alive, although this cannot be achieved by any means.

While atman is the real identity of the subject, of a spiritual, eternal and unchanging nature, the ahamkara or historical ego is the distorted perception we have of ourselves because of false identifications.

For centuries (since the times of Romanticism) German culture has been amply in touch with Vedic literature. In this text we will use the terms “self” and “identity”, but not in the same way they are used by the school of Jung. As “self” we will define the atman, the deep identity, the gravity center of the personality, and as “identity” or '”ego” we will intend the transitory personality, the changing identification, the false ego, which is the origin of almost all the disturbances of personality.

Vedic psychology teaches that first of all, we need to recognize conditionings, so that we may gradually come to de-structurate them. This is essential not only in order to cure and assist the patients in a terminal stage, but it is also beneficial for the doctors, the nurses, all the medical staff, and also for the relatives and friends of the patient who are involved and gravitate around the terminal patient himself.

How can we get rid of the masks and rigidity induced by psychological conditionings, by the professional habit and by the socio-professional environment? As we will see later on, there are some techniques of Yoga psychology that can expand and raise our introspective ability and meta-cognitive.

According to the rishis, the ancient Vedic sages, the identification with the psychic structure, its impressions, emotions and thoughts, is the first serious mistaken perception. This limiting consciousness that identifies solely with the psychic contents that float on it, is comparable to mistaking a river with the objects that float on its waters – whether corpses or bunches of flowers.

A very essential point we need to understand: the individual is not the mind. To most Western psychologists, especially in Germany and in the United States, the mind is the subject, while in the Vedic tradition the mind is the object. We have a mind, but we are not the mind. We have emotions, but we are not those emotions. We have a physical body, but we are not that physical body. This understanding will be extremely useful not only at the moment of death, but also in all those crisis situations that everyone should expect to happen again and again during the span of our lifetime.

When we are able to become emotionally detached from the psycho-physical perceptions we will discover that the accidents we encounter in the course of our existence can be veritable blessings in disguise rather than tragedies. We only need to interpret, elaborate and welcome these events as opportunities. Even death can turn into the extraordinary opportunity to take a leap towards a much higher quality of life and attain a fuller, happier and more luminous dimension of reality.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Psychology of the Life Cycle

How to live a traumatic event as an opportunity

for growth and evolution (from the preface of Psychology of the Life Cycle book)

By Matsyavatara Dasa

The three key words in psychological help to terminal patients and their family members are: Welcoming, Assisting, Accompanying.

Welcoming means to make oneself available to the person, by opening one’s arms as well as one’s heart and mind.

Assisting means to operate gently, remaining always open to empathy, listening to the needs and the mentality of the person.

Accompanying means to walk by the person’s side rather than in front, sometimes even walking behind in humility and love, to encourage his or her progress. Accompanying is to gently coax the person towards his destination, with kindness and warmth, empathy, compassion and generosity.

In this book we will not discuss the case of patients who can recover to a state of physical health. We will rather focus on the assistance to patients in their terminal stage, from the perspective of the Bhakti-Vedanta psychology1 that is certainly extremely valuable for the Western world, too. Our approach is holistic, free from the defect of fragmentation between medicine, psychology and spirituality.

I have been studying psychology for over 30 years, achieving specializations and exploring various Schools of thought, with particular attention to the classical Indian civilization, that created a very advanced Science of health (Ayurveda) and an important School of psychology (Upanishads, Vedanta, Bhagavad gita, Yogasutra and Puranas), very likely the first in the history of mankind.

This civilization, considered by many as the original culture of the world, is based on the Vedas, the most ancient texts known to mankind, universally appreciated and recognized by many as an authoritative source of physical and metaphysical knowledge, unifying the sciences of matter and spirit. This ancient knowledge, several thousands of years old, has been preserved, transmitted and renewed in time through the exegetic work of the various traditional Schools, and today it is highly respected in the West, too, amid a growing academic and scientific interest. It expresses a mature vision, characterized by advanced discoveries in the various fields such as medicine, philosophy, psychology, sociology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. It also offers surprisingly modern information and therapies that integrate the most cutting edge discoveries of contemporary science.

The Bhakti-Vedanta tradition offers information and methods that heal the individual on a global level, in all his/her anthropological aspects: physical, psychological and spiritual, substantially and effectively helping the development and the harmonious integration of personality, the tuning of the subconscious elements with the ego and the self. It offers an integrated, profitable and totally satisfying connection between sentiments and thoughts, intuition and reason, deep subconscious issues and operative rationality, up to the concrete and global experience of the visualization of the higher levels of reality (the self consciousness).

We will study the issue of terminal disease by considering not only the physical instrument (the body) but especially the psychological instrument, and the emotional blockages, guilt complexes and depressive states that often afflict those who are facing such an important step. We will also study the spiritual aspect not in an abstract, but with applications in the immanent reality of the individual.

Thus we will approach the person on an integrated way, in a wide and global perspective, including the rituals of physical and spiritual preparation to the transition, and the psychological needs of the patient to prepare for the “journey” of the soul after death.

The phenomena of birth and death have been analyzed by some great minds of the ancient and modern Western civilization:

“So-called birth is merely an old thing that takes a new form and clothing... The soul is always the same, only the form is lost”.


"The doctrine of metempsychosis is neither absurd nor useless... Being born twice is not more astounding than only once".

Voltaire (1694-1778)

“Not the flesh is real – it is the soul that is real. The flesh is but ashes. The soul is the flame.”

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

“The actions in previous lifetimes give the direction to the present lifetime.”

“The dreams of our present existence are the environment where we elaborate the impressions, the thoughts and sentiments of a previous lifetime...”

Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910)

“And calculating your life, you are the residue of many deaths....”

Walt Whitman (New York 1819-1892)

“I have no difficulty imagining that I have already lived through past centuries, and pondered over questions I was unable to answer. Therefore I had to be reborn because I had not been able to complete the task I had received”.

C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Ph. D. in medicine and specialized in psychiatry, wrote several books about her experiences with terminal patients in hospitals. As we see in some of her most intense and moving pages, death is nothing but a sublime and sweet passage, and everyone of us can experience it in that way, leaving behind all regrets for this earthly life, the fear of detachment from loved ones, and the unknown that is waiting for us Beyond.

Brian Weiss, American psychiatrist, he is famous for his accounts of the amazing stories of his patients’ previous lifetimes, reconstructed by regression therapy. He uses techniques of spiritual psychotherapy to help the healing at physical, emotional and spiritual levels.

Raymond A. Moody, jr., American philosopher, physician and psychiatrist, studied Philosophy at the Virginia University, where he graduated in 1969. After teaching Ethics, Logics and Philosophy for three years at the North Carolina University, he started to study medicine and graduated at the Georgia Medical College. In 1975 he wrote a very famous book, “Life After Life”. Before him only Elizabeth Kubler Ross had presented the topic is a similarly rigorous way, sticking to simple experience as much as possible.

In the Bhakti-Vedanta tradition each science is considered as closely interconnected with all the other disciplines in an organic project of training and therapy. In this context, it aims at a larger vision of man and the world, necessary to develop a balanced and deeply conscious life.

Our discussion will not be a mere abstract description, detached from the personal character of the expounder and of those who may be using it. Above all, we want to offer a concrete perspective on life, and the best effect will be obtained when our suggestions will be received in the spirit of broadening one’s awareness through theoretical and practical learning.

We will discuss Bhakti-Vedanta psychology with comparisons and connections to Western psychology, and propose instruments for a better awareness which can help our daily practice and as well as the cure, assistance and accompanying of terminal patients. Not only for the patients’ benefit, but also for our own benefit: amazingly, the lessons on the subject of death are extraordinarily useful for personal development at large. In our case, success is death in a state of psychological well-being.

It is rightly said that, when teaching is done seriously, with competence and love, the teacher will learn and grow as much as the student. Similarly, one who assists and accompanies a dying person will have the opportunity to live an extraordinary experience of personal growth. Indeed, we cannot understand or plan life if we have not understood death.

1 Bhakti-Vedanta psychology does not use psychotherapeutic techniques, but practices teachings and exercises for the development of a spiritual vision of man and the cosmos. It does not limit itself to the solution of psychological discomforts but aims at rising awareness, so that the individual becomes able to rediscover his original nature beyond the acquired beliefs, the artificial identities and the false behavioral patterns that restrict the potential and the noblest aspirations of the living being.