Reading of Serenity

Readings for Serenity

In Readings for Serenity Mira has translated passages from classic Sanskrit works on spiritual subjects. The forty-eight readings give a perspective on all aspects of living:

Life
The Human Being
Ultimate Reality
Knowledge
The World
Experience
The Mind
The Conquest of Mind

(Life)

Analogies

Deeds and Death
Like the waves of great rivers, there is no turning back of one’s previous deeds;
Like the tide of the ocean, the approach of one’s death is hard to avert.
The Embodied Soul
Like the lame, bound by fetters composed of the fruits of good and evil;
Like a prisoner, lacking independence;
Like one in the realm of Death, beset by many fears;
Like one intoxicated with liquor, drunk with the wine of delusion;
Like one possessed by an evil spirit, going astray;
Like one bitten by a huge snake, bitten by the objects of sense;
Like utter darkness, blind with passion;
The World
Like a magic net, consisting of illusion;
Like a dream, false in appearance;
Like the interior of a plantain tree, frail;
Like an actor, changing costume every moment;
Like a painted scene, falsely delighting the mind.

And therefore it is said, “Objects of sound, touch and the like reside in a mortal man like calamities. Through attachment to them, the elemental self does not remember the highest state.”
Maitri Upanishad 4.2-3

(The Human Being)

The Mighty Tree

Like a mighty tree, indeed, is a man;
His hairs are the leaves and his skin the outer bark.

From his skin blood flows as sap from the bark;
Therefore it flows from pierced [skin] as sap from a tree that is struck.

His flesh is the sapwood, his sinews are the fibres, undoubtedly;
His bones are the inner wood and his marrow is like the pith.

When a tree is felled it shoots up from its root again with a new form;
From what root does a mortal rise when he is felled by death?

Do not say “from semen”, for that is produced from the living.
Like a tree sprouting from a seed, after death it is soon born again.

If a tree is pulled up by its root, it will not sprout again.
From what root does a mortal rise when he is felled by death?

[You say:] Already born, he is not to be born [again],
[I ask:] Who could create him again?
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.28.1-7

(Ultimate Reality)

The Transcendent Form

I see You everywhere, infinite in form,
With many arms, stomachs, mouths, eyes;
I see neither end, nor middle nor yet the beginning of You,
O Lord of all, Whose form is the universe.

With crown, mace and discus,
Shining on all sides, a mass of splendour,
Immeasurable, bright as the sun and blazing fire,
Hard to behold, I see You all around.

You are indestructible, the transcendent truth to be known,
You are the sublime repose of this world;
You are the immutable guardian of the eternal law,
You are the primaeval spirit, I hold.

Without beginning, middle or end, of infinite might,
With numberless arms, with the sun and moon as eyes;
I see You, with mouth like incandescent fire,
Burning this universe with Your blaze.

This space between heaven and earth,
Is pervaded by You alone, and all directions;
Seeing Your marvellous, fearsome form,
The three worlds tremble, O Majesty.
Bhagavad Gita 11.16-20

(Knowledge)

Two Kinds of Knowledge

There are two kinds of knowledge to be learnt, the higher and the lower, so those who know brahman say.

Of these, the lower comprises the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, the Atharvaveda, phonetics, the code of rituals, grammar, etymology, metrics and astronomy. Then the higher is that by which one realizes the imperishable.

That which is invisible, imperceptible, unclassifiable,
Colourless, without eyes, ears, hands and feet,
Eternal, supreme, ubiquitous, most subtle, undying, the womb of creation,
The wise see all around them.

As a spider spins and draws in [its web],
As plants emerge from the earth,
As the hair of the head and body [grows] from a living man,
So the universe here issues from the imperishable.
Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.4-7

(The World)

The Three Strands of Matter

[Krishna instructs Arjuna.]

Sattva, rajas, tamas,
The attributes innate in matter,
Bind to the body, O Strong-Armed One,
The imperishable bodiless one.

Of these, sattva, being stainless,
Illuminates and is harmless;
It binds by attachment to pleasure,
O Sinless One, and by attachment to knowledge.

Know that rajas has the nature of passion,
Arising from desire and attachment;
It binds the embodied one, O Kaunteya,
By attachment to action.

Know that tamas born of the ignorance
Deludes all embodied beings;
It binds, O Bhârata,
By negligence, indolence and sleep.

Of three kinds is faith
Inborn in embodied souls,
Sattvic, rajasic
And tamasic; listen!

Faith, O Bhârata, is in accord
With the mindset of each one.
A man is made of faith;
As his faith is, so is he.

The sattvic worship gods,
The rajasic, jinn and demons;
The rest, tamasic folk, worship
Spirits and the hordes of ghosts.

Men who practise awful penances,
Unsanctioned by holy writ,
Who are full of hypocrisy and ego,
As well as driving lust and passion,

Indiscreet, torturing the insentient
Set of elements in the body,
And thus Myself, dwelling in the body,
Know them to have devilish intent.

Now, the food favoured by all
Is also of three kinds,
And so is sacrifice, austerity and gift;
Hear of their divisions.

Enhancing life, goodness, strength, health,
Happiness and pleasure,
Succulent, oily, substantial and agreeable,
Are the foods liked by the sattvic.

Pungent, sour, salty, over-hot,
Sharp, dry and burning
Are the foods desired by the rajasic;
They cause pain, grief and sickness.

Undercooked, insipid,
Putrid, stale,
Leftover and unfit for sacred use,
Is the food liked by the tamasic.

Sacrifice offered as prescribed,
By those not yearning for its fruit,
Thinking only, with resolved mind,
That sacrifice must be done, is sattvic.

But that which is offered, O Great Bhârata,
With the objective of its fruit
And motivated by hypocrisy,
Know that sacrifice to be rajasic.

If not ordained, with food omitted,
Without prayers and the priest’s fee,
Devoid of faith, a sacrifice
Is considered as tamasic.

The gods, the twice-born, mentors and the wise –
Worship of these, purity, rectitude,
Celibacy and non-violence
Are called austerity of body.

Words that do not cause distress,
Are truthful, pleasant and of help,
And iteration of the sacred texts
Are called austerity of speech.

Serenity, gentleness,
Silence, self-control,
Purity of intention, all these,
Are called austerity of mind.

This threefold austerity,
Practised with utmost faith by men
Not coveting the fruit, but disciplined,
Is considered to be sattvic.

Austerity hypocritically performed
For esteem, prestige and adulation
Is proclaimed here to be rajasic,
Fickle and ephemeral.

Austerity performed as torture of oneself,
With a deluded understanding,
Or with the aim of ruining another
Is declared to be tamasic.

A gift given because it should be given,
To one to whom no debt is owed,
To a fit recipient, at fit place and time,
That gift is recognized as sattvic.

But that given for a favour in return,
Or else motivated by the fruit,
And with vexation,
Is recognized as rajasic.

A gift given out of place and time
And to the undeserving,
With disrespect and scornfully,
Is declared to be tamasic.
Bhagavad Gita 14.5-8; 17.2-22

(Experience)

Choices

The good is one thing, and the pleasant quite another;
They both, with different object, bind a man.
Of these, good ensues for one who takes the good;
One who selects the pleasant misses the goal.

Good and pleasant both approach a man;
Considering the two, the wise discriminate.
A wise man selects the good above the pleasant.
A fool selects the pleasant, for worldly weal.
Katha Upanishad 2.1-2

(The Mind)

Chariot and Horses

Know the Self as the chariot’s owner
And the body as the chariot itself,
Know the intellect as the charioteer
And the mind as the reins.

The senses are the horses, they say;
Sense objects, their coursing grounds;
With body, senses and mind conjoined
It is the enjoyer, the wise declare.

An ignoramus,
Ever undisciplined in mind,
Has senses that cannot be controlled,
Like a charioteer’s rogue steeds.

But a sagacious man,
Ever disciplined in mind,
Has senses that can be controlled,
Like a charioteer’s good steeds.

An ignoramus,
Unmindful and ever impure,
Does not reach that [highest] state
But returns to the round of life.

But a sagacious man,
Mindful and ever pure,
Attains that place
From which he is not born again.

With understanding as charioteer,
And with his mind as reins, a man
Reaches the journey’s end
That is Vishnu’s supreme abode.
Katha Upanishad 3.3-9

(The Conquest of Mind)

The Procedure of Yoga

Holding the body erect its three parts [chest, neck, head] aligned,
Fixing senses and mind in the heart,
The wise man should cross by the boat of brahman
All rivers generating fear.

Suppressing his breaths here, his movement restrained,
With attenuated breath he should breathe through the nose;
Like a carriage yoked to vicious horses
The wise man should alertly hold his mind in check.

In a level, clean [place], free of pebbles, fire and sand,
Through such things as sounds, water and abodes
Agreeable to the mind, but not offensive to the eye,
In a secure refuge without wind, should he practice.

Mist, smoke, sun, wind, fire,
Fireflies, lightning, crystal, moon,
These forms are the precursors
Bringing the revelation of brahman in Yoga.

When earth, water, fire, wind and space are refined
And the fivefold quality of Yoga [subtle smell, etc] sets in,
There is no disease, old age or pain for one
Who has gained a body made of the fire of Yoga.

Lightness, health, absence of greed,
Clear complexion and melodious voice,
Sweet smell, slight urine and stool,
Is the first setting in of Yoga, they say.

As a mirror besmeared with grime
Shines brightly when it is cleaned,
So the embodied one, seeing the soul’s real nature
Becomes single, with aim fulfilled, and sorrow-free.
Svetashvatara Upanishad 2.8-14

Readings for Serenity forms a section of Health through Yoga (Thorsons 2002) It is unavailable at present except in libraries and from Amazon; a new publisher is being sought.