Who Am I – Answers in the Vedic Scriptures

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If a person is seeking to purify themselves of what that is unnatural, then the question of “what is natural for me?” arises. To know what is natural for you, you must first know who you are.

To completely know a object, there are three essential aspects that must be known: What is its essence? What is its position (in relation to others and the whole)? What is its function?

The same is true for knowing yourself – you must realize the answer to these three vital questions.

If someone were to ask me these questions many years ago, I would only have been able to answer them on a superficial level. I would only have been able to answer in terms of the body and mind. I had an incomplete understanding of my self, of who I am, and so was basing my life choices on a false idea of myself. This led to me experiencing a constant underlying sense of uneasiness, anxiety, bewilderment, imbalance. I could not solve this problem until I became aware that a deeper understanding of my identity was possible, an Absolute  understanding.

I needed to understand not my temporary identity, but eternal identity. I needed to know who I am eternally, always, regardless of external circumstances.

For this level of understanding, I needed to look to a higher authority.

The Vedic scriptures are unique in many ways. They are written in the ancient Sanskrit language, which is an extremely complex and highly polished language. The Vedic verses have a particular form and meter that has them fit together so precisely that any alterations would immediately stand out. Thus, the Vedic scriptures remain in their pure and original form even to this day. Secondly, they contain very detailed information about the nature and make up of the living being, the material world, the spiritual world, and the Original Source of all. These were certainly not the only factors that led me to look for answers in the Vedic scriptures, but they are perhaps the most compelling ones for many people.

Some people become interested in the Vedic scriptures and what they have to say due to positive experiences with kirtan and other practices from the yoga system. This was more the case with me. I experienced first-hand the profound positive effects of kirtan and japa yoga and became very interested in knowing more about these practices, where they came from, and any other useful related information.

So it was in the Vedic scriptures that I began to look for the answers to my essential questions about life in general and about my life, in particular. And as my consciousness gradually became more clear through yoga meditations like kirtan. japa yoga, and Gauranga breathing, I began to really understand what I found there. The intellectual understanding came first, but it was not until I was able to reach a deeper understanding through my own personal realization that I was able to apply the answers. My actual identity – the answer to the question of who am I – began to unfold itself within me and with it came the meaning and connection I had longed for all my life.

In the future articles we will discuss both the answers available through authoritative sources such as scriptures and great saintly persons, and also practices which enable a person to realize this knowledge on a personal level. Both are important and helpful in the quest to live a life in harmony with one’s true nature, a life of actual and lasting joy and fulfillment.

Switching to a Vegetarian Diet

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Vegetarian eating has become increasingly popular in today’s world, which has made it easier and much more convenient for people to switch to a vegetarian diet. Because more people are choosing to eat vegetarian, more vegetarian options are available in grocery stores, restaurants, cook books, schools, and elsewhere in mainstream society.  A vast wealth of vegetarian information, ideas, products, and recipes are now available on the Internet.

Why the switch? People are switching for personal health reasons, environmental health, ethical, theological, and even financial reasons. (This excellent Vegetarian Times article goes into more detail about why many people make the switch.)

In the ancient yoga texts, it is explained that the type of food a person eats cultivates a certain type of consciousness. Vegetarian food (which in the yoga system includes dairy, but not eggs) is said to cultivate a Sattva type of consciousness. Sattva mode of consciousness is the “mode of Goodness.” It is a calm, peaceful, harmonious state of consciousness. When in Sattva mode, one can cultivate a more peaceful and harmonious lifestyle and can more readily grasp higher wisdom. This is not to say that simply eating a vegetarian diet will automatically put one in a peaceful state of mind and body, but switching to a vegetarian diet (especially a whole-foods diet) can greatly assist a person in cultivating a more peaceful and harmonious life.

If switching to a vegetarian diet is something you are wanting to do, here is some advice for making the switch.

Write down your reasons. Figure out why you, personally, are choosing to switch to a vegetarian diet and write your reasons down on paper. Post the paper in your kitchen (or in your personal space) and also make a copy to carry with you. If there are times when you are tempted to give up or go astray, re-read your reasons – remind yourself why it is important to you to be doing what you are doing and allow yourself to honor your higher aspirations. If transitioning to vegetarian with your whole family, this is an activity you can do together. Make a colorful poster together or inspiration book with hand-drawn pictures. You can even do a blog or Facebook page of your journey to encourage and inspire  others.

Be realistic. Are you the type of person who can make drastic changes easily? Or are you more successful with gradual change? Are you making the switch by yourself or are you transitioning as a family? If you are choosing the gradual approach, you may want to start with one or two days per week of eating vegetarian then gradually increasing the number of days per week until you are eating completely vegetarian. Another gradual approach is to remove one animal the first week, then one additional animal per week until you are eating completely vegetarian.

Keep your eye on the big picture. In the larger scheme of things, you probably want not only to be eating a vegetarian diet, but a healthy vegetarian diet. However, in the beginning, be especially easy on yourself. Take advantage of vegetarian food in restaurants and the amazing variety of pre-made vegetarian food at local grocery stores to assist you in staying on track. If treating your family to their favorite meatless pizza a couple times per week, using premade meat-substitutes, allowing kids to top foods with ketchup or grated cheese, or having a  ice-cream sundae celebration at the end of each successful week of vegetarian eating makes it easier for you to maintain and more fun for everyone, then it’s healthful in the bigger picture. Experiment with easy vegetarian whole foods recipes and healthy condiments along the way and make your own recipe book full of the well-liked ones. Remember, especially in the beginning, make it as easy as possible. You can fine-tune your eating as time goes on. 

Make the switch with a friend. If possible, find a friend or even a Facebook buddy to make the switch with you. Not only will you be encouraging to each other, but you can share ideas, recipes, and maybe even dinner once a week at your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant.

Learn the plant sources for your essential nutrients. Some people are concerned about not getting enough protein or iron or B-12 in their diets on an animal-free diet. If you are concerned about not getting enough of a particular nutrient that you were previously getting through animal sources, simply do a little research on the Internet. Whatever nutrients you can obtain through eating animals are also available through plant-based sources. You can also take whole-food supplements or buy vitamin-enriched vegetarian foods.

Keep it simple. Stick to quick & easy recipes, especially in the beginning. There are plenty of easy vegetarian recipes available for free on the Internet. And there are many vegetarian meals that can be made with the same basic ingredients – such as rice & beans, pasta & tempeh, tofu & veges – then just add a tasty sauce and viola, you have a delicious new meal. Take advantage of pre-made sauces or make your own!

Have fun! Think of it this way, by switching to a vegetarian diet, you are walking into a whole new world of culinary delights. Explore, experiment, and enjoy!

Remember to nourish yourself spiritually. If you are nourished and happy on a spiritual level, it will help you to make healthy choices for your mind and body. When we are satisfied in our hearts, feeling full of love and peaceful in our hearts, we are less likely to be swayed by cravings for foods and activities that are undesirable. Fill yourself spiritually every day and you will find it much easier to be satisfied on other levels.

Here are a few more web resources to encourage and inspire you:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

No Meat Athlete 

Zen Habits

People have been eating healthy vegetarian diets since time immemorial – you can, too. 

My Own Quest to Live Naturally

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Although living naturally has always been my true goal, it was not the focus of my life for much of my life. For most of my life, I did not even think about what is the goal of my life. I lived primarily by the directives of my mind and body, and by the ideas about life I formed through my own personal experiences and what I learned from others. It was not that it was all bad, but taken altogether, it made for a life that was fraught with misery and struggle – especially in my adult years. From deep in my heart, I felt I was being guided to something better, but I was so confused and bewildered by my experiences, that I continually felt off balance, anxious, and unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. It was like being lost at sea with no land in sight. I intuitively knew land was there somewhere, but had no idea how to find it.

Until around age thirty or so, mostly I was focused on changing my external environment to try to find the harmony and happiness I sought inside. Then I was introduced to introspection and the idea that it was not the external environment that was the problem, rather, it was how I was relating from the inside to my external situations that was causing so much misery and disharmony in my life. I stopped trying to change everyone and everything outside of me, and instead started paying attention to what was going on inside. When I became aware that I was experiencing some kind of mental/emotional suffering, I would apply different techniques to try to change my mind so that I would at least be at peace with whatever was going on. I had some measure of success with this, and was happy in comparison to the misery of before, but still felt generally confused and bewildered by my experiences, off balance, anxious, unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. I knew I was heading in a better direction than before, but was still pretty lost.

Then I had the extreme good fortune to come in contact with kirtan and bhakti yoga – and this is where I began to understand where I had gone so far off track and how to begin the trek back to recovering my natural state of being.

Purifying the Body, Mind, and Heart

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When we talk about purification, oftentimes people think first of purifying of the body. This is helpful – for we live in the body, it is our vehicle and if it is clogged up with junk, pollution, we certainly will be plagued with problems.

But there is also the mind – there is no harmony in a healthy body if there is pollution in the mind. Yes, purifying the body will support purification of the mind as they are intimately connected, but purifying the body alone will not purify the mind. So any system of purification aimed at recovering one’s natural state of being, must include purification of the mind.

And what about the heart? The peace, joy, and harmony of our true nature cannot be experienced when the heart is filled with miseries and misgivings, with selfishness, greed, and envy. In yoga philosophy these hardnesses of the heart are known as “anarthas” and are very difficult to remove. To live naturally, we must certainly address all these areas, however anarthas of the heart – which affect both our mind and body health – are the root cause of the suffering condition. Removing these anarthas must be the central focus of an effective purification process, as our heart is the center of our consciousness and we will not be free to experience the natural joy of our being without this level of purification.

Fortunately, there are methods accessible to everyone and freely available that address all these areas. In fact, one such purification system, the Vedic yoga system, has existed since time immemorial and has assisted countless hundreds of thousands of people throughout the ages to realize their natural state of harmony, joy, and peace. The yoga system is far more expansive and comprehensive than most people are aware of. Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise (asana). Yoga is, in fact, a complete system for realizing and living one’s true natural state of being. Because the yoga system was designed to be applicable to people throughout vast spans of time, called “yugas,” different applications of it were recommended for specific ages. The current age we are living in is called “Kali Yuga.” In the next few articles, we will begin to discuss the yogic process recommended for the Age of Kali and why it is so appropriate and accessible to people of this day and age.

Why Natural Living?

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The focus of this blog is Natural Living. Seeking to live naturally is very popular these days, but why?

When we talk about living naturally, we are talking about recovering a state of being which is natural to us. When something comes natural to us, it is free and easy, harmonious, relaxing, spontaneous, and joyful from the very core of our being. We know intuitively that this is how our life should be – that, as living beings, living should come naturally to us.

But it does not. We struggle through this life, trying to find happiness, trying to find peace and harmony, but the happiness and peace we find is fleeting at best. So, what are we doing wrong and how how can we change the way we are living so that we can be living naturally. How can we purify our lives of that which is unnatural so that we can recover our natural state of being, our natural state of peace, joy, freedom, balance, and harmony?

This is the quest of those who seek to live naturally. To live naturally, we must understand what about our lives is currently unnatural and simultaneously engage in a process which frees us from this artificiality.