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Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, Not a Deer but a SEER BE

Published in Esamskriti 18. July. 2020
https://www.esamskriti.com/e/Yoga/Worldwide/Vasudhaiva-Kutumbhakam,-Not-A-Deer-But-A-Seer-1.aspx


There was a dilemma in my mind as I wrote this blog post that it should not come out as a rant but as a study of the subject of this philosophy in present day context. As always I have followed a stream of thought in my mind and anyone is welcome to disagree with the prognosis I have attempted to arrive at.

This thought process started when I heard this beautiful rendition of an ancient chant performed by The London Symphony and various artists. The process of the thought though went from feeling mellow at the auditory experience of this divine chant to the intellectual interpretation in today’s context to a realisation far beyond in the spiritual field, in course of a few days from the first moment of thought contact. 

(You can listen to the performance by clicking on the mantra below)

अयं बन्धुरयं नेतिगणना लघुचेतसाम्।
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥ 
-(महोपनिषद्,अध्याय४,श्‍लोक७१) 


Meaning of the mantra.

“This one is a friend; this other does not count, is for the small-minded. For those of a magnanimous character, the entire earth is one family.”- Mahōpaniṣad, VI.71.

My mind marvelled at the antiquity and the depth of the Sanatan philosophy in which is rooted the modern day ism of the hindus. At a time when the world is talking of “lives” matter, of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, of environmental degradation; this wisdom of the earth as family was prevalent on a land thousands of years ago, expressed simply and succinctly in a language as ancient as the thought. 

But what is more of a marvel is that both the language and the philosophy is still a living phenomenon as a prayer and an adage even today.
Also to be noted the shlok says vasudha meaning earth and not just manav humans. 

Called one of the loftiest Vedantic thought, this shlok is etched on the entrance of the Indian Parliament. Many Vedic chants show this inclusiveness in their realisations. More on this in another article. 

Modern Usage

The term “Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam,” the world as a family, is a popular saying often repeated by present day Gurus and Saints and even politicians in India as they try to showcase the all-encompassing nature of the Hindu religion to the world, the politicians to emphasise the secular nature of the country. 

In their eagerness either due to real innocence or carelessness or craftiness, they forget to warn their followers of the pitfalls of such a philosophy applied without filters in today’s sectarian world.
However, this sentiment of caution had been expressed in a story from the Hitopadesha I had heard as a child and which came to mind when I heard this music and was mulling over the philosophy behind it. 

The Hitopadesha is a compilation of stories for children, drawn from the more ancient Panchatantra written by Vishnu Sharma dated 1200 BCE to 300 CE. The Panchatantra were written as lessons to teach the art of ruling- (raj) niti- to three princes, who were sent by their father the King to a Brahmin in the forest. 

In order to make it interesting to the young princes the stories involve animal figures and were woven together to educate the children in the intricacies of politics and ruling a kingdom. It talks of friends and foes, of making allies and causing dissent amongst enemies for benefit, of war and peace, of loss and profit from alliances and results of hasty actions. 

As an adult I went back to read the original unabridged version and was quite literally blown away at the elaborate detail with which the lessons were taught. Atreatise on politics, it is worth inclusion as text in school and college curriculum, which will of course get labelled a move towards Hindutva, seeing the state of the country today.

The later Aesops fables, the Arabian Nights, Grimms fairy tales and many western ballads draw from the Panchatantra for their inspiration. 

The first known translation is into Persian and Arabic around 750 CE, while one version reached Europe in the 11th century. Versions are also found in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand. The french teller of fables, fabulist La Fontaine acknowledged his indebtedness to this work.

“Sanskrit literature is very rich in fables and stories; no other literature can vie with it in that respect; nay, it is extremely likely that fables, in particular animal fables, had their principal source in India.”- Max Muller, On the Migration of Fables (source Wikipedia for this info).  Max Muller is credited with systematically trying to demolish the Hindu education system replacing it with the Christian Missionary schools, one of whose product is me. Obviously his intent to subvert the Bharatiya mind has sort of backfired with many like me now able to express better our rooted sentiments about Indic philosophy, in English language!

Lesson of the Panchatantra/Hitopadesha

However, coming back to the present chant of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam, in the story the wily jackal quotes this very shloka to befriend the naive deer. 

To calm the trepidation of the deer and gain confidence the jackal keeps repeating that we can be friends, for after all we are all one family, that people who think otherwise are mean spirited. The motive being to lead the deer to the pack to be killed and devoured. 

The crow, a former friend of the deer keeps warning the deer who foolishly follows the jackal in a euphoric state of bonhomie. In the childhood recital of the story the deer escapes through the intervention of the crow. 

The lesson of this story was to beware the princes of foes befriending them by quoting and professing a philosophy of inclusiveness with an ulterior motive of defeating them.

India and Earth family

Leading from there I thought of India in present day scenario, struggling to upkeep her image of a secular country and society. Battered by narratives of pseudo liberals and a far left determined in its hatred of Hindu thought and philosophy, by majority and minority appeasement politics, struggling still to free herself from the emotional burden of 700 years of Islamic rule and then over 400 years of the French and Portuguese in certain parts and the British in the rest of the country. 

A country that gave refuge to the persecuted Parsis, the family of Prophet Mohammed and the Tibetans to name a few, is today being called to prove her inclusiveness! I was moved to tears at this thought.

In this context the story of the jackal and deer needs to be more understood, I felt. 

When in the name of Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam (secularism) forces with an agenda (the jackal) lead the good at heart and easily misled folks, who are majority of people, (deer) and the wise seers (crows), who keep warning and are either ignored and called names or are in fact labelled anti peace forces and conspiracy theorists, it is time to take note. 

I feel one reason for India’s being conquered time and again has been an adherence to this deep rooted mind set of Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam and the dilemma it creates in the mind of its people.

This was the first extent of my process of thought how when the philosophy of a country and its majority people is inclusiveness, has to deal with narratives that are fashioned to prove otherwise by forces whom they have to be warned of and somehow exclude from this earth as all-embracing family philosophy.

A very difficult task indeed and which could cause a mental psychotic breakdown in the sensitive or make them put their head in the sand and refuse to engage or keep on embracing the fox as they are torn apart.

As I practice and teach Yog Sadhana and heart centre expansion, unconditional love is a by-product of the yog sadhana as the human transforms into the divine.

It is a moot point to understand how to amalgamate the qualities of a warrior with a lover without losing either.

But I am emboldened when I think of our texts like the Bhagavad Gita which extol to fight to protect the weak, to uphold dharma, of personages like Adi Shankaracharya who came at a time when the Buddhist outlook, it was felt was robbing the Bharatiya mind-set of its warrior like qualities. May be foresaw the future, I wonder! 

The invasions and the long stint of being ruled by foreigners subjected Indians to genocide and systemic conversions and economic loot, to famines, taxes and subjugation of our culture? Our Sikh Gurus started preparing well in time for the great fight, gurus like Swami Samarth Ram Das took heed and started training soldiers and warriors for the war. 

There was no dichotomy in being a spiritual practitioner, warrior and saviour.

As a result of which India is one of the only country to have survived with its indigenous culture and ancient customs still alive and thriving, visible from the shlok, the subject of this blog. The rest of the world crumbled under Islam and Christian conquests. 

Deer and Jackal in the Marketplace

Then cruising along this thought stream my mind came to the field of the market of ideologies, spirituality and religion. 

The simple seekers (deer) who are led on a merry dance by charlatan saints, priests, gurus, granthis and maulvis, by mentors and influencers (jackal), do include any others I may have forgotten here! Promising the followers everything from a state of eternal bliss, to virgins in heaven, to a promised land, an egalitarian society. In their greed for name and fame they quote vasudhaiva kutumbhakam or its equivalent! The seer who warns the seekers of the ulterior motives of such charlatans is often shamed and brought down. (That does not mean everyone who is brought down is a seer!)

As a deer today, the danger may not be about being killed but you may be recruited, inducted, radicalised or indoctrinated into the ideology or religious belief system of the jackal, whoever it might be, left or right. Without being aware you become a means for attracting more deer to be slaughtered or recruited.

The corporate world is not free from this phenomenon either; the world seemed to me to be divided today, into deers and jackals with very few seers, people with the ability to see with clarity.

In our personal inner spheres too the senses, and the mind (deer), led outwards by sensual and material attractions (jackal) and our vivek buddhi – the discerning intellect seer (crow) can keep warning us in vain.

At a time like this how can one be sure one is the deer and not the jackal?

When the deer sees without doubt, the jackal for what IT is, the deer becomes the seer. 

For me, this clarity of perception only comes as our biases and conditioning is cleared. This can be achieved in many ways, the path of Yog Sadhana being one of them. It is the heightening of our intuitive perception that cuts through the obvious and the apparent and can get to the core motive of the other, and yes of oneself. 

Constantly introspecting to see if one is a deer being influenced by a jackal or a jackal recruiting other deers. A seer is a person who is neither but has the wisdom to be aware of both.

The seer, in my realisation, is always rooted firmly in the soil of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam, seeing the earth as one family and embracing all. And though the seer, warns about the fox, can see clearly the motive and agenda and can take any action to deter the jackal from devouring the deer, emotionally, physically and mentally, there is no hate for nor fear of the jackal in the action.

Until this final realisation comes, one swings like a pendulum or seesaw between deer and the seer unless one is the jackal, in which case we are part of a larger pack and may require an immense effort to self-extricate and get away or paying heed to a seer may help us do that. 

In conclusion, for me, applied introspection in every situation is the way to identify our roles as deer, jackal or seer.


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Kriya Yoga~ speedy, scientific and practical? OR esoteric, secretive and mystical? Part 2

“Yog”, says Yogiraj Siddhanath my Satguru, “is an inner ascent through evermore refined and evermore expanded spheres of mind to get to the godessence that is at the core of our own being.”

And Kriya Yog as discussed in an earlier blog is a lightning path that takes us to this godessence at our core- faster!

As always the points put forth are my own arrived at by realisations through practice and inner and outer study and learning, anyone is welcome to disagree and have other points of view. These blogs are an attempt at studying my own thoughts and are used as playful recreation, shared with those who may find them helpful.

In part 1 of this same topic we had discussed the beginning of Kriya Yoga as we know it today; its introduction to the modern world, around 1861 to be exact, by Lahiri Mahasaya; the Kriya Yoga lineage starting from Mahavatar Babaji to Lahiri Baba and branching out through his various disciples and their disciples to present day teachers; understanding why Yogiraj Siddhanath calls Mahavatar Babaji, Shiv Goraksha Babaji. Also briefly discussed was the process of entering the stream of this practice today.

In this part I would like to touch upon the actual practice itself, drawing upon what I have learnt and understood from my master, my own realisations from my practice and from sharing it with others over many years, from this and other lives past. And how while being a practical and scientific method of speedy recovery Kriya Yoga also unlocks an esoteric, secretive and mystical world to its dedicated sadhaks.

Kriya Yoga is a subtle pranayam technique practiced in the central Sushumna channel in the spine. Yogis and Rishis in ancient Bharat discovered early on the connection between the breath and the mind and how it can be used to holistically heal the human body of its ailments while taking the practitioner towards the yogic goal of Self realisation.

The Kriya Yoga practice- speedy, scientific, and practical

Though earlier the emphasis in science was physical and applied, science moved swiftly towards the empirical, once the influence of the mind on the body became apparent in studies of psychology. At first, the role of the breath was confined to oxygenation of body cells, but science today is fast discovering the importance of breath in treating many cardiological, respiratory and neurological diseases at a deeper level. The use of breath work in the psychiatric field, for hypertension, for children with ADHD syndrome and people suffering from PTSD amply reveals the connection between the mind and the breath in controlled environment of science. Yoga at the level of asanas/postures and pranayama/breathwork is a field of much scientific research today and is being accepted as means of post trauma healing and recovery from surgery and mental health issues. Even the mulabandha a technique of applying a yogic lock and an important part of Kriya Yoga is practiced under the name of Kegel exercises to improve the pelvic floor muscles. Meditation with medication is a new mantra now.

Kriya Yoga is universal, easy to learn, simple to practice and is available to all; it does not need any prerequisites. It can be practiced sitting on the floor or on a chair. There are no age restrictions, no restrictions on diet or require any kind of lifestyle change. The results of Kriya Yoga, if practiced with regularity are apparent very quickly. Each step in Kriya Yoga is conducive to a good physical, emotional and mental health.

In the primary practice of Kriya Yoga a rythm is established between the incoming and outgoing breath that in turn effects the brain waves and the agitated waves of stress and tension start to slow and the mind responds by calming. This systematic breathing is conducive to lowering blood pressure and hypertension. It gives a much needed rest to the organs in the body; the heart and the lungs along with the rest of the body are deeply oxygenated and decarbonised preventing premature decay of tissue.

The spine is used as the medium of transport for the inhaled and exhaled breath. The gentle friction of the regulated and concentrated breath calms the central nervous system, popularly called the command centre. Like the stroking of a parents hand on the back of a child, the practitioner is immediately relaxed and feels supported. A harmony is formed between the brain and the body, the benefits are too numerous to count. The central nervous system is a conduit between the brain, the cerebellum, the cerebrum and the nervous system that regulates the functioning of the whole body. The practice is conducive to stimulate and regulate the vagus nerve achieved by controlled breathing and holding of the breath. The Kriya breath, by its very nature, balances the left and right brain hemispheres.

Certain steps of Kriya Yoga work upon the various plexuses aligned along the spine. The plexus are a hub of intersecting nerves situated along the spine and simply put, communicate information from the body to the brain. A healthy non corrupted exchange of information is necessary for a healthy functioning of the organs and the various biological systems of the body, respiratory, digestive, lymphatic, excretory et al. A special mention is required here of the glandular or endocrine system, and though working on all the glands, the pituitary, pineal and the hypothalamus receive an immense amount of care and attention in the practice and are responsible for the overall feeling of quiet and joy that results from the practice of Kriya Yoga.

A quick look at the diagram below reveals the scope and expanse of the nervous system and its reach into every portion of the human body.



The physical stretches in the practice elongate the muscles and make room around the organs for better absorption of the oxygen for better health.

Quantum physics is another field that is studying the deep correlation between matter and energy and may one day be able to bring the mystical and the scientific together on the same board. At present Kriya Yoga does this in a wonderful way for the practitioner.

The Kriya Yoga Practice- esoteric, secretive and mystical

For me the scope of Kriya Yoga from scientific to esoteric is beautifully explained in this verse from the Shikshavalli (initiation of students into an education system in the Vedic times), the first chapter of the Taittreya Upanishad,

नमो ब्रह्मणे ।नमस्ते वायो । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्मासि ।त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्म वदिष्यामि ।ॠतं वदिष्यामि ।सत्यं वदिष्यामि ।
namo Brahmaney. namaste Vayo (vayu). tvameyva pratyaksham Brahmaasi.
tvameyva pratyaksham Brahma vadishyaami. Hritam vadishyaami. Satyam vadishyaami.


Here the student while bowing to Vayu, the diety of air, one of the panch bhutas (earth, water, fire, air and space) proclaims it to be the perceptible and tangible aspect of Brahman -the ultimate reality. The student continues to proclaim this as right and truthful. A simple verse repeated by rote by many but with a very deep understanding for practicing kriyabaans who understanding the connection use the tangible Kriya breath (the inhaled pran vayu and the exhaled apan vayu) to access and merge into the Brahman- the ultimate reality in the Kuthasta Chaitanya.

The fact that I cannot share the technique or completely reveal the practice here is the esoteric nature of this practice. Though meant for everyone there is a unique code of sharing between the teacher and the student. From the time of Lahiri Mahasaya a discipline has been established of sharing the actual technique in the environment of the Guru-Shishya Parampara. That is, the technique is taught in a sacred environment; a dakshina- fee, not necessarily monetary, as prescribed is charged; and the knowledge is passed on from the teacher to the student in a special and sacred manner with an oath of secrecy. The mystique of this technique is maintained even in the ancient texts that though obliquely referring to this practice does not ever reveal the whole method. Of course, now one can find all of it exposed on the internet and in books. Bur serious practitioners still prefer to receive it from a Guru and there is a reason for it.

After observing how science is in the process of discovering and adopting yogasanas and pranayam for benefit in the field of healing trauma, here is what I understand the rishis and yogis discovered through inner study and practice. The yogis went a few steps further and discovered that the breath is not only invested with oxygen but is infused with the even more subtler pran, called the life force energy by the western world today, that permeated every breath taken by a living being, whether human, animal or plant. In fact they realised that the whole universe was held together by this intelligent force of pran and by connecting with it a yogi could become part of this universal source! A giant leap from unified field theory to practice, methinks with amusement.

The Kriya practitioner goes beyond the perceptible breath and becomes aware of the 5 Pran or vayus in the body which are referred to as the pran, apaan, samaan, vayan and udaan; though inherently same, these descriptions are according to the function they perform and all of them are infused with the intelligence of the Pran the life breath. In Kriya Yoga also called the Kundalini pranayam, the tangible spine is let go of and the practing kriyabaan enters into the subtler central Sushumna Naadi and as the practice improves penetrates even further into the Vajra, Chitrini and Brahma naadis. These lead to heightened states of awareness and are subjective to individual practitioners, their level of concentration, grace of the Satguru and karmic load. In the advanced stages of practice the Kriya practitioner achieves the task of transmuting the body of flesh into a body of light.

The inhaled and exhaled breath become the subtle pran and apan. The kumbhaks, antari and bahiri and the three bandhs combined with purak and rechak are used in prescribed ratio to bring all the 5 pran to flow seamlessly towards the divine indweller.

Interpenetrating the plexus in the physical body are the subtle chakras in which the Kriya yogi experiences the deeper truths of existence, personal and cosmic. The practice dissolves past karmas while emboldening the practitioner to face present karmas, with grace. Remember karma here refers to both, those perceived as positive or negative.

Called the lightning path by Yogiraj Siddhanath and the aeroplane path by Yogananada, the practice of Kriya Yoga expedites ones journey towards the inner guru exponentially. In the esoteric practice of the Kriya Yoga as the student immerses in the inner cosmic body they realise the microcosmic body as the reflection of the macrocosmic universe.

Since none of these realisations can be computed by science, are individual in nature and are extremely hard to share or explain they remain in the realm of esoteric and mysterious.

The Role of the Satguru- enlivening the pran

A compassionate and healing Light
A Hamsa in its splendid flight
Away oh darkness! Fly oh night
The yogi comes in radiant might.
– Yogiraj Siddhanath

In the Indian context a lot of importance is given to the role of the Satguru in ones spiritual unfoldment. A living guru seen as a necessary ingredient in the shishyas inner journey towards the realisation of the Self. This is not because one cannot achieve significant progress on ones own but because at certain points in the journey a special wisdom or information needs to be imparted according to each individual seeker, a key so to say to unlock a door to further progress. One size here does not fit all. Though many seekers are happy to progress at their own pace reading and following innumerable techniques given in many of our texts and treatises; learning from many and adapting the techniques to their own liking, the training done under one true guru overrides lifetimes of wandering, is my understanding.

In the Kriya Yoga lineage, the living Satguru transforms and enlivens the pran in the disciples spinal channel giving a boost to the disciples progress along the path. Simply put, the pran is enlivened to become capable of penetrating the kuthasta and taking the seeker to the highest of samadhi. This pran is referred to as the marut pran. For this service the disciple is forever beholden to the guru with whom they often travel from lifetime to lifetime until final salvation.