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Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 7 – Jnana Vijana Yoga
What is Supreme devotion?
Let me start with an example. We go to the athletic stadium, try to get a comfortable seat and watch the players, be it a game of cricket, soccer or basket ball. We jump and clap with excitement when the team that we like scores and feel bad when that team does not perform well. Our emotions and enthusiasm is all based on those players, situations. We are either happy or unhappy. We never stop to think that all these things, the game, the team, their training, the ground, the tickets, coordination, organization is all done by someone behind the serene without which none of this would be possible, including our happiness, which is also temporary and never gives full satisfaction. We aspire to go the next game again and again.
There are multiple teams and leaders like playground maintenance, ticket counters, advertisers, parking arrangements, players, meeting their needs etc. People need to go to the concerned team to get what they want. Ultimately the entire team, all teams take directions as puppets from the upper management who overseas the entire process.
Similarly in the spiritual world, or path, the deities could be approached for what we need. We interact with the world through our senses and believe that this world that we experience through senses is real. We totally ignore the supreme Lord who showers the blessings on all, including these deities.
God is unmanifested, attributeless, nameless, formless, partless infinite who created the world through maya, his shakti.
For many God is a concept, belief or a theory, some see God as incarnations as Krishna or Rama, Jesus or Allah, others as avatars as Adi Sankara, Ramana while others see God as deities in temples, some as natures and elements. Some don’t believe in God, some compare my God to your God and creating divisions but an attempt to know God AS IS is extremely rare.
God is ONE and without a second. He is everywhere and in everything. Just knowing one aspect of God is not knowing God fully. He is the viswarupam, that is He is present in everything that the five senses can and cannot perceive in full. He is seen as different aspects individually. We need to know God in His entirety.
God is the inner Self, present in all bodies from ant to elephant, from mosquitoes to the life between the rocks, from fish deep under the ocean to the eagle flying high up in the sky to all human, planets with their rhythmic movements and everything that exists in the entire universe. He is Sat-Chit-Ananda. The mere existence of a rock is Him, the Chit, Knowledge that exists is Him and the Ananda, the experience of Bliss is Him.
The ‘Is-ness’ is Him.
The atman, the inner Self, the ‘I’ in all body is Him. This Self knowledge and being one with Him is the supreme devotion. When there is only One, there is no two therefore there can be no fear or anger or hatred. Only love for the Self and that love is God.
There simply is no plurality. One and only ONE exists. This is supreme devotion.
What should we keep in mind while worshipping a deity?
Coming from a business background, this is how I see the deities. In any business, we have the president, his CEO, CFO, COO then there are purchasing, sales, marketing, warehousing, inventory, transportation, accounts and finance departments. They all have specific responsibility and accountability. Each one can give a detailed information and cater to the employees and customers needs pertaining to that specific department. They are restrained to that particular role based on their qualification and experience but they all operate under the guidance of the top three, who gets their power from the president.
Nirguna Brahman is like this president of the entire cosmos, universe. He alone runs the entire show. The trigunathmika, maya operate because of this Nirguna Brahman and the deities are the saguna brahman with forms, getting powers from the supreme.
All other deities are like the front line leaders, department heads to whom the laborers go to. These deities will fulfill our wishes like getting a job, get married, have a baby, pass the exams, take care of health as a devotee asks for them. Devotees prayers are answered.
The devotees often don’t approach the Nirguna Brahman, just like an employee is happy and satisfied with his day to day work and pay check and doesn’t approach the president. When we approach the president, we might become his partner based on our intensity, education, qualification, and the desire to be with such a talent.
Similarly, we have to have the intensity to see, experience the supreme Nirguna Brahman who is the only One present and expressing in different names and forms.
All deities are also the expressions of the Supreme Lord with limited powers. They all have their own territory and they all get their powers from the supreme Lord. So, we need to move beyond these deities, though this is an earlier step to move forward. Deities are finite with limited powers. There is only One infinite God.
As we keep on asking for worldly things, we are asking solutions to our problems and continue to be in this state. We should keep in mind that we need to get into the enquiry mode asking for, ‘who am I’ which can lead us to the Self knowledge and further on to Realization of the supreme Lord, which the purpose of human birth rather than solving the day to day problems and dragging this human life till end.
How does different categories of devotees progress.
Devotees can be arti, artharti or jijnasu, and can progress from one state to the other. Bhagavatam gives examples of such devotees.
Gajendra, a devotee of God, an elephant, was in the water and a crocodile strongly held his foot. He tried to release himself and finally called for God’s support. At that time he exhibited artharti, by seeking personal gain. When the Lord appeared, he swiftly asked for the release from maya. He moved from artharti to jijnasu.
Another example would be Dhuruva asked for a secured position in the world while later regretted for not asking for unwavering devotion. Was an artharti and he could have been a jijnasu.
Arjuna was a jijnasu whereas Sanatkumara and Naradha were Jnanis.
I also think that when Draupati raised her arms and asked for help in Astinapura to protect her integrity, she was an artharti.
How long does it take to know God? What prevents us from knowing God?
This is like asking, how long will it take to eat a meal? That depends on how hungry the person is. Comparing an individual who is starving for fews days to a person fasting one meal to the one eating a lunch after a heavy breakfast. The speed at which they all eat varies.
How long does it take to to know for an individual that he was dreaming? Once he is awake, he knows it right away!! Similarly, the moment one gains this knowledge, one knows God.
The intensity at which an individual seeks God varies from an individual who seeks none other than God, to a person who calls for him as a business partner for personal gain, to the one who thinks of God only when he faces a problem in life.
The faith, the passion, the commitment, the thirst, the consistency in seeking God should be as ferocious as the one who is gasping for breath under water.
Therefore it varies from person to person as to how long it takes for an individual to seek God. It can even take many births to know God. It might happen in an instant or in a single life based on one’s eligibility.
One thing is very certain that it is not impossible to seek God if one truly commits to that goal. When we worship deities, the Supreme Lord satisfies our needs thus establishing our faith strongly in that deity. This supreme Lord is also called ‘Karmaphala dhata’ He gives the results of our actions, based on our vasanas.
The devotees without knowing that One supreme Lord is satisfying their needs, they believe particular deities are answering their prayers. They continue to follow the rituals towards those deities with full faith. Thus, their desires are getting fulfilled, based on their own karmas, vasanas by the supreme. (7.22).
People pray to deities for worldly possessions or progeny or for worldly gain. All that we get through such prayers from these deities are temporary and also we, the seeker is temporary to enjoy them. We forget that everything is ephemeral. Not only they have an end to enjoy them, they also do not give us the complete satisfaction.
When we eat a good meal, we can’t eat more than what we can and we wonder whether we would get such a meal for the next meal. We are not happy when we eat less or overeat. Never satisfied!!
As we keep on getting them over and over again we are caught in this cyclical samsara. This temporary happiness achieved by worshipping finite deities prevents us from questioning the existence and its source, the supreme.
How do you explain the concept of many deities in Hinduism?
There is electricity in the house and all the appliances work in perfect condition. The fan is spinning, the iron is working, the fridge is on, the bulb is glowing, the heater is on etc. Each one performs its action due to this electricity. When there is no power nothing can work. We can get the breeze from the fan, the cold drink from the fridge, the light from the bulb and the heat from the heater only when there is electricity.
Similarly, all the deities with different shapes, sizes, genders operate due to the presence of the divine supreme Lord. Each deity caters to the individual needs of the devotees, drawing the power from the source, the supreme.
The devotees prayers are answered but those are not permanent, giving complete contentment. Devotees get what they ask for. It is up to them to seek the supreme Lord.
What role does maya play in preventing us from realizing God?
Maya is not a separate entity but the other side of Lord. Ardhanareeswarar reflects this. Maya is His Shakti, His power, also called apara shakti.. This maya is also called thrigunathmika, a combination of three gunas sattva, rajas and tamas.
Let us start with the three terms commonly used ~ Sat, Asat and Mithya.
Sat is that which is real and exists in all three states, past, present and future, This does not refer to time but before during and after realizing that it is nit a snake but a rope.
Mithya is that which appears but not real.
Asat is that which does not exist.
The normal example in Vedanta is a rope and the snake. Say we see a rope at dusk on the street, we often mistake it to a snake. The rope here is real, the snake is mithya. We cannot say that the snake did not exist. It did exist in the mind, and triggered the emotion of fear. So there was an appearance, though might not be real, which we know later after analysis. Therefore it is mithya.
Similarly, the supreme Lord is Sat, exists in all three states. How do we know He exists? He is in our body when we are awake, while dreaming and in deep sleep. Because of His inner presence we are able to say, ‘I slept well’. Who slept, who knows who slept and woke up?
Now when we dream, everything in that dream appears to be real, as long as we are in that plane of existence. Once we wake up, the dream is gone. This is an example of appearance (mithya. The dream is not non existent (Asat), for it did exist before but it was only an appearance. Mithya does not last forever. They have a beginning and an end.
Similarly, the entire universe is an appearance, everything has a beginning and end. It is the expression of Lord, (who is beyond the senses) but the world that we experience through our senses is only an appearance, not real a difficult concept to comprehend. But we don’t see that way. We think it is truly real. This appearance is due to maya or shakti, also called apara shakti. The more we get attracted, attached to it, lured by its glamor, the more it seems real.
While driving, we come across mirage on the road. Once you know there is no water, then you’re convinced that it was only an appearance of water. Then when we see it again, we won’t be fooled by it appearance.
Likewise knowing of Self, is the knowledge of God. The Self and the supreme Brahman are one. Only this knowledge can help us discriminate the real from unreal. Until then, we are caught in this samsara, an everlasting cycle of birth and death.
God (Nirguna Brahman) is both para and apara together. Para is the divine consciousness and apara is all the inert. They are like two sides of the same coin. Para can exist without apara but not the other way. Apara is leaning on, dependent on para shakti. Lord appears as this world and in all beings. Lord here is not to be confused with the form of Krishna or Rama but the supreme Brahman, the attribute-less.
All avatars, all deities, all lokas, all happiness, sorrows, accomplishments, titles, strength, power, authority are all nothing but unreal, are His expressions as an appearance.
With this maya around, we all are lured into believing the unreal as real and get attracted to the glamorous, impermanent lives and get attachment to them. We pray to the deities asking for impermanent things, which do not satisfy us fully.
All our bodies also are para and apara, the Consciousness and the body, mind, intellect, all our vasanas, likes and dislikes, desires and emotions. They all exist only because of para shakti. We are all born with likes and dislikes and our desires take us towards the likes or repel from the dislikes. Therefore we really do not go deeper into anything. This is the illusionary effect of maya.
This lack of discrimination between the real and unreal, created by maya prevents us from surrendering to the supreme Lord.
What are the salient points covered in Chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita?
This chapter starts with the superiority of jnana marga which Sri Krishna highlights from the position of Supreme Brahman. The Lord highlights the greatness of knowledge (jnana)and wisdom (vijanam). By knowing this he says the devotee would know that beyond which there is nothing else to know.
Then he describes the supreme brahman as para and apara, para as Consciousness, (Brahma swaroopam), and Maya,Jagat (apara). He explains that He is both the material and instrumental cause of this entire existence, the cosmos, galaxies and everything.
He then describes His devotees are four types of them – arta, artharti, jijnasu and Jnani, differentiates the Jnani from Ajnani and confirms that Jnani is the best, superior devotee of them all for he is one with God.
When anything needs to be accomplished, say we travel from point A to point B, we use a vehicle, may it be a cycle, bus or an airplane. When the destination arrives, we don’t hold on to the vehicle. It was only a means to the end. That’s how people worship God to get something, whereas for a realized person (Jnani), Nirguna Brahman is the destination. He doesn’t need anything beyond or from Lord. Therefore he is a superior devotee.
He also mentions that all His devotees worship different forms, concepts and theories of God and get temporary, unfulfilling results, yet do not approach the supreme Lord. They are satisfied with the temporary worldly attractions due to maya and their past impressions.
Verses 24-26, He describes the para prakriti, Brahma swaroopam. V 27-28 how devotees can attain moksha since all are born with the likes and dislikes, which is maya. V 29-30, he confirms that when a devotee goes through step by step in sadanas to jnana marga finally understands Brahman and with firm understanding, worships Him, the formless (Aroopam),
Finally, He says that He expresses himself as Brahman, Atman, Jagat/Adiboot, Iswaran/cosmic person, Action of creation, Action of all. Lord says that for every action has a result that one gets later (consequences) Karmaphala but as far as Self knowledge, the phala is instantaneous. Such a realized person is called Jivan Mukti and even if he leaves this body he is then called Videha Mukti.
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, emphasizes that God should be known in all His facets and know that there is only ONE, that expresses as many. He needs to be understood in totality.
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