Vrata is when the mind is denied something it wants. It’s more like telling a child what they can’t have at a certain point. (eg, like eating ice cream at 6 am or 10 pm). The mind is like a child, continually desiring pleasant things at any time of day or life. This denial is a healthy spiritual aid if it is followed with proper understanding and it is sublimation, but when it is done without understanding it is suppression (the desire will explode at any moment). The mind thus sublimated by vrata must be directed towards the spirituality that leads to the mighty God.
Tirtham: It is common to hear that people follow thirty yatra. (Pilgrimage to holy places). (Sadly, now it has become a kind of vacation!) The idea is to go to spiritual places, meet with spiritual saints, argue, learn about Atman and anatman. Thirtha in Sanskrit means that which helps you cross the ocean of ignorance and confusion.
Danam – is sharing the results of your achievements with others – also called charity. This creates the mind of satisfaction, recognizing the needs of those around it and helps free ourselves from selfishness, greed and attachment to worldly objects.
Giving away something without expecting anything in return, be it time, knowledge, mentorship or emotional comfort with kind words or donation is Danam.
Today charity has become an advertising policy and turns the person into a hero for their contribution. So it’s not charity, it’s sales! (Get something for something)
Astamurtibhrt: We often hear that ‘Work is worship’ simply means that whatever we do in this universe, in this birth, should be considered as a contribution such as service to the Lord. For a mature devotee, the entire universe is a great temple.
The Lord is described as ‘astamurtibrt’, which means that he represents himself in the eightfold form of 5 elements (pancha mahabhutas), the sun, the moon and the jiva. It is present in all of these. There is nothing beyond these and He is present in each of them.
Karma yoga means union through ‘action, which means that every action we do must be divinized by our attitude of prayer. ‘Remaining even in success and failure and doing our duty with the attitude that with all our talents, abilities and knowledge we are serving the Lord’ is the worship of God. Karma yoga is a focused and punctual service to humanity in any form of action without expecting anything in return.
How is japa a very powerful method to achieve both ‘citta-suddhi’ (purity of mind) and ‘citta-ekagrata’ (single point of mind)?
Japa: repetition of the name of the Lord. The practice of japa consists in that, through the continuous and conscious repetition of a word or words, the mind becomes “citta-ekagrata” of a single point.
In western culture it is said as a positive affirmation. It is said with intense desire with deep feeling, work with dedication to achieve the dream. Japa is an effective technique to purify the mind, stay focused and single point to develop lasting concentration.
One may wonder, if that is the case, can I concentrate and wish for whatever I want in the material world. Sure, but that would develop an attachment to impermanent worldly objects, distracting one from spiritual progress. It will lead one more into bondage and the cycle of birth and death.
On the contrary, using the same technique to focus on the Lord, who is permanent Bliss, you will advance on the spiritual path.
The spiritual practice of japa ranks highly in all religions because it imparts the dual results of citta-ekagrata (mental concentration) and citta-suddhi (purity of mind).
The art of practicing vicÄra (research)
The negative emotions anger, lust, passion, desire, jealousy, likes and dislikes are all impurities of the mind that prevent a person from seeking the spiritual path. VicÄra is investigating the problem and can help eliminate these emotions.
Consciousness and knowledge are the very essence of the path of victory. In this method, we investigate what it is, the cause, how it is expressed and what the results are. It is an objective analysis of the emotion without labeling it without trying to get rid of it in a hurry.
When one is completely objective without attachments and understands the cause of it, the choice is an educated choice. Such a choice will put an end to mental impurities once and for all. Currently we cannot get rid of these negative tendency mental modifications because we are not aware of these mental impurities. Not only do we try to justify our emotions as a mode of survival, but we have also accepted them as a normal course of life, such as ‘I am human too and no one is perfect’. ‘It is normal for a man to get angry’ ‘Life is hard and you have to play the game.’
We have strayed too far from the spiritual path and it will take a lot of effort and time to make a U-turn and get on our way. VicÄ ra (inquiry) is a way of making that conscious effort to get back on track.
There are three simple steps that anyone interested in advancing on this path of victory.
ABC of vicÄ ra.
1. Always be aware of negative emotions when they arise in the mind.
2. Better not to label them as good or bad, positive or negative. Observe them AS IS.
3. Carefully understand them in their entirety, including the consequences of those emotions.
Try to keep track of your negative emotions; By studying those that need to be addressed, discover the origin, reaction and consequences.
Everything is effective only when we practice with due diligence and understanding. Doing them blind will not produce any results. There must be a commitment to having the discipline to follow the process consistently and achieve the desired result. This is much more necessary on the spiritual path to stay away from worldly distractions.
When one commits to following this vicra, his mind becomes pure with knowledge and understanding and frees himself from negative vasanas. He is then capable of deep meditation with a calm mind and updates the teachings of his guru. Then the Lord will save him from all dangers.