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ABC of sattva-guna

Saturday, 16 March 2019 / Published in Articles / 10,389 views

By Muniraja dasa

Many of us struggling sadhakas know that overcoming laya, sleepiness, during chanting, hearing and meditating is not always an easy thing. Some devotees struggle year after year, regularly wandering in a realms of tamo-guna and sleep while Srimad Bhagavatam-class, japa and gayatri.

Surrendering to Krsna and guru and having their mercy, developing service attitude are the essence for increasing our taste and first appreciation to the process of chanting, but there are several commonsense external things which are also very helpfull for developing the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. Then we can at least stay awake.

There are no hard and fast rules for chanting the holy name, but many rules and regulations are very helpfull for attentive chanting.

SLEEP

Krsna instructs that one should not sleep too much or too little. Young and enthousiastic devotees sometimes artificially sleep too little, and elders sometimes think that since they went for mangalarati for many years, it is not that important to wake up early anymore.

Srila Prabhupada however instructed devotees to wake up latest 04.00 am, and said that if one cannot wake up early in the morning one is not serious about spiritual life.

According to ayurveda hours before midnight are double time effective for recharging our mind and body during the sleep. From 8pm to 2am is better than from 10pm to 4am.

I recall hearing one time mentioning that by avoiding eating at night time, going to bed one hour earlier and waking up one hour earlier than normally one can easily make revolutaniory change in one`s state of mind.

When one wakes up one should wake up determinedly, not moving one`s alarmclock 6 times, shifting back and forth between sleep and semi-sleep for 45 minutes.

Sleeping during the three sandhyas, namely sunrise, midday and sunset is not recommended since they are powerfull times for spiritual practises and one should take advantage of them. Srimad-Bhagavatam also mentions that Lord Siva along with his ghostly associates is wandering around on a time of sunrise and sunset and one may get influenced by sleeping that time.

SIT PROPERLY

Since we spend a good percentage of our lives sitting in Bhagavatam class and with japa, there is no loss to spend some time for finding an ideal sitting posture. There is a famous statement from Srila Prabhupada: “Sit properly!” Keeping your spine straight and long is very helpful for staying alert. When your spine is straight, pranas flow naturally. In yoga classes it is often stressed to keep shoulders a little back. Then your bearing is good and spine straight. You can do exercise, look your shadow while you sit either with shoulders front or a little back, see the difference in the posture of your back. But shoulders too much back is not good either. Yoga-experts maybe consulted for more details.

Backing up our lower back to the wall while sitting maybe helpful for someone, but leaning to the wall in a lazy way usually increases sleepiness.

One should sit on an asana, it is stated in sastras that if one chants without asana energies flow out from the body. Sastras especially mention wool, silk and kusa-grass as good material for asanas. Pillows or bedsheets are not recommended.

Keeping a little dais below your sitting bones maybe helpful for good posture also.

And of course if you anyway feel sleepy while sitting, then just walk peacefully.

PRASADAM

First of all, don`t eat anything cooked by non-devotees. I recently heard how person had lamented to his guru, how his mind was so difficult to control even after years of chanting. His spiritual master simply said: “Stop eating grains cooked by non-devotees!”. Person followed the instruction and there was great difference in his abitility to concentrate after that.

Prasadam is transcendental, but if we honor large quantities of prasadam in the evening time it usually means difficulties for morning program. Large quantities of waste products or undigested foodstuffs in our body also effect our state of mind, and may increase sleepiness and make us dull and morose.

Too much sugar or grains in our daily diet, especially white flour can also increase sleepiness.

CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS

Chant in a clean, nicely ventilated room. Wear tilaka on 12 places of your body and chant the tilaka mantras aloud (not whispering or in your mind). Srila Prabhupada mentioned that if we don`t chant them aloud, our bodies continue under karma. Have clean devotional clothing while chanting. It is also stated that beadbag is place for Krishna’s lila`s, it is polite towards Krishna to have a clean beadbag, one should wash it minimum once a week, no loss to wash it daily.

In general developing cleanliness is very conducive for sattva-guna. Unfortunately during kali-yuga all good qualities are reducing day by day. Especially in western countries where people don`t have any idea of basic points of cleanliness it is sometimes challenge to teach them to devotees also. Devotees who have never lived in community of other Vaisnavas maybe unaware of many basic points, and elder devotees who move out from close association of other bhakti-yogis may little by little become loose in their standards.

OTHER TIPS

When you anyway feel sleepy during your japa or in Bhagavatam class you may try some of following points:

-drink some water
-wash your face with cold water
-take a walk outside
-stand on your head for two minutes(in temple it may cause some confusion…)
-during class one may stand up

Your servant Muniraja dasa

Yukta vairagya or using everything in Krishna's service
Final reminder for submitting Vyasa Puja offerings

6 Responses to “ABC of sattva-guna”

  1. muniraja dasa says :

    We forget to add this part. Ys Mrd

    GLORIES OF COLD BATH

    ” The scriptures descripe the benefits of taking a clod bath early in the morning. Such a bath can purify even a sinner, for it has the power to wash away all external and internal contaminations. Whereas a warm water bath cleanses physically, cold water revitalizes the subtle body, removing the influence of sleep and dreams as well as of evil-minded persons. The cold bath also gives strenght, sensivity, longevity, effulgence, and purity. Taking an early morning cold bath increses one`s knowledge and determination and affortds peace of mind. It removes unhappiness, lamentation, degradation, and bath thoughts. In short, it counteracts all the ill effects of sin.(Pancaratrika Pradipa)

    According to our knowledge, Srila Prabhupada took chilly baths also.

    However, cold doesn`t nesessarily mean freezing, and if one is sick, elderly, or in cold climate warm bath may be good option.

  2. amalagaura says :

    Can you give reference for Shrila Prabhupada mentioning chanting the tilak mantras out loud and not whispering them?

  3. kontala says :

    Some remarks about sitting:

    It is a good idea to keep the sitting bones at the level of the knees or higher. For most people, sitting cross-legged without support results in having knees higher. Consequently, it won’t be possible to relax the abdomen and keep spine straight at the same time. Either elevate the sitting-bones with a support or lean your lower back against the wall. Then lift the spine and sternum up.

    Of course, there are postures where this won’t apply, like kneeling or lotus-posture (this requires quite some flexibility in the hips, otherwise it may result in a knee- or ancle-injury). While sitting cross-legged, the comments above may be helpful.

    For anyone coming from a sitting-on-a-chair-culture, sometimes it is more practical to sit on a chair, than try to learn to sit on a floor. The chair should be straight, yet a slight forward-tilting is acceptable.

    In order to maintain a good posture, it is helpful to sit closer to the front-edge of the chair, otherwise the lower spine tends to collapse. The heels should be firm on the ground and directly underneath the knees. Before starting the japa, you can separate the sitting-bones with your hand. Move them to the side and back a little, this helps to elevate the spine.

    While lifting the sternum and opening the chest (rolling the shoulders back), there are two challenges:

    1. Some people are able to roll the shoulders too much back (then the shoulder-blades tend to draw nearer towards each other). This will nicely open the front side, yet close the back-side. Clavicles should move away from the middle-line. Shoulders move to the sidea and down, slightly back. Upper back should be kept broad as well. This guarantees optimal intake of breath.

    2. while doing 1., don’t let your abdomen fall forward. Opening the chest brings a slight backward-bending impulse to the spine. This fine for the sternum-area, which is very stiff. However, it may increase the natural curve on the lumbar area. In the long run, too much lordosis in the lower back is not healthy. Don’t let the abdomen fall down. Try to lift it up, without straining the abdominal muscles. They should be relaxed. You can achieve this by observing the front-side of the pelvis. Keep it lifted, and direct your coccyx downwards.

  4. muniraja dasa says :

    We have heard Srila Prabhupada mentioning the point that body continues under our karma, if one does not chant tilak mantras, we must do some recearch to find out the quote.
    Friend of us who helped to edite this small writing of ours added the point “not whispering nor in the mind”, as far as we know Srila Prabhupada didn`t mention this specifically.

    Thank you Kontalaji for details about sitting

    ys mrd

  5. Madhavananda says :

    Thank you, Muniraja-ji, for a good article, and a very important one at that – one of the few I’ve read here as of late. Yes, staying awake is very helpful indeed for a great number of reasons, and sattva-guna is one of the essential elements in building a foundation for sadhana. Yet alas, its cultivation is often sorely lacking among the broader Vaisnava community. Let me offer a garland of notes at the feet of your worthy yet brief gloss on the topic.

    On sitting, I’d like to note that – while asanas and an erect spine in general are very beneficial for conquering sleepiness – some asanas are more beneficial than others. Drawing from my experience, asanas that automatically help in erecting the spine, such as vajra, vira and gomukha, allow a tired body to stay in posture more easily than asanas such as padma, siddha and so forth in which keeping the spine erect requires more endeavor, especially from a new practitioner.

    When seated, one should curtail the mind’s urges to change postures or to roam hither and thither – one of its dearly cherished occupations. There is really no need as such to move around, or even move your hands or your head an inch’s worth, unless direct bodily concerns, such as your leg’s becoming stiff or an ant’s roaming about your face, merit action. The longer one sits still in one posture, the better in building a capacity for meditation.

    Sitting on a pure mattress and in a pure environment as a matter of routine creates a samskara of pacification of the mind. With a pure asana, pure clothes – even clothes specifically reserved for the time of sadhana – are a given. The mind becomes habituated to attaining calmness under particular circumstances. The effects of the elements of nature can also be harnessed for our benefit. Sitting towards the east in the morning and the day, and the north in the evening, essentially following the course of the sun which has a tremendous influence on the mind, aids in attaining clarity. Indoors, facing sources or light, and especially daylight, creates peace, while sources of light behind and darkness ahead creates unrest. The introspective sadhaka should recognize the dynamics of the mind and take advantage of its predictability in building a life of sadhana.

    Sitting in a proper asana and engaging in focused meditation is instrumental in the maintenance of brahmacarya, as with that one’s sexual energy is sublimated and employed as an aid for concentration, memory and a host of other virtues – while in the absence of sublimation the energy rages free and eats the sadhaka, who is yet to purge all desire from his heart, from within. Maintenance of brahmacarya is essential in a progressive devotional life geared towards internal realization.

    On conquering sleepiness, sufficient oxygene cannot be emphasized enough. Keep the area ventilated. As a quick fix for sleepiness, deep pranayama is helpful. Kapalabhati in particular invigorates the body. In general, remember to breathe properly. All too many devotees do nothing but inhaling and exhaling through the mouth during their japa, which is a guaranteed method for disturbing the flow of prana and thereby your mental balance.

    Especially with increased quantities of japa, from one lakha upwards and so forth, a change in the japa technique is vital in maintaining health over a longer period of time. I generally recommend upamsu, or muttering japa, instead of the literally “out loud” japa for people who wish to substantially increase their chanting. When chanting becomes more of an internal affair than a matter of broadcasting, it yields great benefits in the realms of withdrawal (pratyahara) and meditation (dhyana).

    The importance of proper eating cannot be emphasized enough. As in the Chandogya (7.26.2): AhAra-zuddhau sattva-zuddhiH sattva-zuddhau dhruvA smRtiH smRti-lambhe sarva-granthInAM vipramokSaH – “From purity of eating ensues purity of existence, from purity of existence perpetual meditation, and from attainment of remembrance deliverance from all bondage.” Not taking foodstuffs from non-devotees is a vital first step towards purification of the self. The second step is in increased awareness of foodstuffs we prepare for offering, for ingredients also come in many flavors, many tainted with rajas and tamas, and some sattvika ingredients bearing adverse influence when used in immoderate quantity or combined unwisely. Sattvika ingredients must also be kept ritually pure, lest tamas enter into our preparations.

    Beyond considerations on ingredient purity, one must pay attention to factors such as the cook’s and the pujari’s state of mind while preparing and offering. If these factors are neglected, the preparation – even if in sattva in terms of its ingredients – will bear an ill effect on our consciousness. As in Caitaya-caritamrita (1.12.50-51): viSayIra anna khAile duSTa haya mana, mana duSTa haile nahe kRSNera smaraNa, kRSNa-smRti vinu haya niSphala jIvana – “Eating the foods of the enjoyers, the mind becomes corrupt. If the mind is corrupt there is no remembrance of Krishna, and without Krishna’s remembrance the life goes in vain.”

    Mauna. Silence. Shut up. Succinctly, that’s the gist of it. Only in silence can God’s voice be heard. Idle chatter – especially at the time of sadhana – is detrimental to focus, it shatters the mind into a thousand directions. Speak only when truly necessary, otherwise remain in silence and find shelter in prayer and in chanting the names. A day of observing complete mauna while chanting the names from the morning until the evening is a liberating experience indeed, something everyone should experience at least once in their lives, if not on a regular basis. The obvious perhaps goes without saying, then – don’t watch mundane films, don’t listen to mundane music, don’t read mundane books. Rather, hear the words of Sri Caitanya to Raghunatha Das, the essence of his instructions on sadhana (CC 3.6.236-237):

    grAmya-kathA nA zunibe, grAmya-vArtA nA kahibe /
    bhAla nA khAibe Ara bhAla nA paribe //
    amAnI mAnada haJA kRSNa-nAma sadA la’be /
    vraje rAdhA-kRSNa-sevA mAnase karibe //

    “Hear not those village talks, speak not of the town’s affairs,
    Do not eat well, and do not dress in fine garments.
    Becoming humble and respectful, always take Krishna’s name,
    And serve Radha and Krishna in Vraja in your mind.”

    Without general purity of conduct, awareness of the pure and the impure, the offered and the unoffered, and their mutual influences in all circumstances, equilibrium of the mind is a mirage far removed from the sadhaka. External purity gives rise to internal purity. Beyond outer purity, if there is no cultivation of integrity in behavior, honesty, transparency and the rest of the behavioral virtues we read of in the scriptures, there is no question of prospects for attaining sattva.

    Then, may we all take firm steps onward towards the acquisition of throrough sattva, the first great foundational level on the stairway from here to perfection.

  6. Akruranatha says :

    It is awe-inspiring to read the realizations of devotees who are becoming so free from natures modes of passion and ignorance.

    “When oh when will that day be mine?” I guess if I keep hearing and chanting, trying to chant attentively without offense, maybe someday I’ll get there, in a future life perhaps. . . .

    When Sriman Subhananda blooped, he wrote an essay explaining why he was leaving ISKCON. (I hope he comes back soon. His thoughtful and friendly manners were so nice. As with all blooped devotees, it is only a matter of time, and for all I know he may already be practicing Krishna consciousness again somewhere.)

    He gave about five reasons for leaving and explained each one. I do not remember all of them, but I recall he cited a “negative attitude about sex” and a “mysogynistic” culture as two of the reasons.

    (I suppose a “positive” attitude about [illicit] sex is probably the world’s leading cause of blooping, or at least the immediate instrument maya often uses in her work of kicking out and covering over. He must have been pretty far gone in that direction before writing the article.)

    Anyway, a third reason he gave was entitled, “Where are all the pure devotees?” He figured, “People have been practicing Krishna consciousness for 20 years, and they still were not becoming great devotees like Srila Prabhupada, the six goswamis and Haridas Thakur.” He concluded the process must not really work.

    Aside from the obvious answer that becoming a truly first-class devotee is not some cheap thing that we should expect to happen quickly, (and the sad truth that many of us were not even actually following the process strictly), I am glad to see that there really are many devotees in ISKCON who are advancing very nicely and getting a real taste for sattvik lifestyle and deep appreciation of the holy names.

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