Art of Living Courses, Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Rishi Vidyadharji beautifully revealed the mechanics of happiness. He told that, “Happiness (Sukh) is moving towards the ‘Self’ or uniting with your ‘Self’ and un-happiness (Dukh) is going away from the ‘Self’”.

Naturally question arises in the mind, why moving towards the ‘Self’ gives us happiness? What is the nature of this ‘Self’?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Self is the consciousness that everything is made up of. That is you, and everything around you.”

To understand the nature of this ‘Self’ one should understand the five aspects of the Universe.




Five aspects of the Universe

According to the Vedanta, each object in this universe or the entire universe as such has five aspects:

  1. Asti : Asti is ‘is-ness’ or that it is.
  2. Bhati : Bhati means knowingness/expression – it knows and expresses.
  3. Preeti : Preeti means Love – it Loves.
  4. Nama : Nama is name or word or words.
  5. Rupa : Rupa refers to forms.

The first three aspects viz. Asti, Bhati and Preeti belong to this universal consciousness or the ‘Self’. The last two aspects viz. Nama and Rupa are said to be the gross aspects of this Universe.

Even though words have been used to explain the meanings of Asti (it exists), Bhati (it is self–effulgent) and Preeti (it loves); words fail to convey the actual truth. These three aspects of ‘Self’ are beyond explanation. Words can only create some concepts in mind but these aspects are beyond any concepts.

Sometimes during deep meditation you may be aware that you ‘exist’, but you don’t know who you are, where you are, what you are. This particular experience is the result of the aspect of consciousness called as ‘Asti’.

The ‘Self’ expresses itself through millions of ways. The whole Universe is organized and works according to certain rules because of the aspect of ‘Self’ known as ‘Bhati’. ‘Bhati’ is the basis of all the knowledge and expression in this world, it is the basis of all scientific discoveries and the basis of all understanding.

‘Preeti’ is unconditional, unblemished, infinite, divine Love. This aspect of ‘Self’ is the basis of all other distortions of love we experience in our daily life. It is love which moves the world.

Nama and Rupa are said to be the gross aspects (or the aspects of matter).

Mind gives labels to all that it perceives through its five senses. These labels are nothing but word(s). All our thoughts are also words. Almost all our memories are nothing but words. This particular aspect of the Universe is called as ‘Nama’.

Eyes perceive the world through so many forms or images. Whatever we perceive through our eyes gets recorded in memory as some image or form. All these forms and images we perceive is ‘Rupa’.

Usually Nama & Rupa go hand in hand. All our perceptions, thoughts, memories, imagination and all the mental garbage of the past, present & future is nothing but words and images or Nama and Rupa.

‘Self’ existed even before the creation, it is existing in the creation and will exist even after the end of this creation. ‘Self’ is not bound by space and time whereas Nama and Rupa  belong to the space-time continuum.  In the Nasadiya Sukta(also known as the Hymn of Creation – Rigveda 10:129), it is said that the first thing to manifest from the ‘Self’ was a ‘desire’ which was the primal seed of the whole manifest creation. That ‘desire’ is nothing but a vibration or Nama which was the root cause of manifestation of gross Universe (space-time continuum). Hence Nama and Rupa are said to be the aspects of the gross or the aspects of the matter.

The ‘Self’ is all pervading universal consciousness. Everything emerges from it, sustains inside it and gets dissolved in it. The world as we see it, is in fact existing inside this ‘Self’. ‘Self’ is the substratum of this world and much more than that. The entire Universe exists as one organism or one system because of this all-pervading ‘Self’. Everything and everyone in this Universe is connected with each other at some subtlest level because of this ‘Self’. As individual human beings, we exist in this ‘Self’ and are connected with each other through this ‘Self’. For every one of us, the ‘Self’ is very personal because it is at the core of our existence; and at the same time the ‘Self’ is Universal as it is the same for everyone.

Different Religions call this ‘Self’ by different names like ‘God’, ‘Divine’, ‘Bhagwan’, ‘Allah’ etc. However, all religions unanimously agree that, it is omnipresent (all pervading), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (almighty, supreme).

If the ‘Self’ or God is all pervading, then it must be present in you and me also. Then why don’t we get a direct experience of this ‘Self’ or God? Why don’t we display that supreme power, infinite knowledge and all pervasiveness of the ‘Self’?

Direct experience of ‘Self’ is not possible because we are totally caught up in Nama and Rupa and the ‘Self’ is beyond all Nama and Rupa. A thick veil of illusion created by Nama and Rupa keeps us away from experiencing this universal consciousness. Maya or illusion is getting caught up in Nama (words) and Rupa (images). This thick veil of illusion is ever changing, but the ‘Divine’ underlying it is the unchanging truth. Even in deep meditation, when the veil of this illusion is very thin or non-existent, it is not possible to experience ‘God’ as a separate entity because the experiencer, the faculty of experience and the object of experience all are one only.

Preeti or the unconditional love is the basic nature of this ‘Self’. Hence the ‘Self’ can be experienced only as a fountain of divine love and joy deep inside us. However during our mundane existence we are not able to experience this pure Love because of the thick veil of ignorance around us. Whenever and wherever this thick veil of Nama and Rupa is lifted (or thinned down even for a moment) we experience that pure divine love emanating from the ‘Self’ and we become instantly happy. Love (Preeti) is the only reason for our happiness when we move towards the ‘Self’ and it is also the reason for our unhappiness when we move away from the ‘Self’.

Every living being longs for this love and happiness. Ignorance is seeing happiness in Nama and Rupa. Wisdom is knowing that love is our very existence and happiness is our birth right.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Love is not an emotion. It is your very existence.”




…. To be continued……………

 In Pursuit of Happiness – Part-I


Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Finally the wait was over. After a couple of misses, I was able to join the much awaited Advance Meditation Course by Rishi Vidyadharji at Vasad Ashram and it was worth all the wait. Around 115 fortunate souls did the course along with me. For me, those seven days were like complete overhauling on Physical, Mental & Spiritual level. During the last couple of days of the course, I was smiling without any apparent reason. Bliss was in the air! I was feeling much lighter, younger and happier; as if, I had offloaded a huge unwanted burden from my shoulders.

I have no words for Rishi Vidyadharji.  He is simply amazing. Rishiji displays a unique blend of wit with wisdom, dedication with dispassion, knowledge with lightness and physical fitness defying age.

Here I am attempting to share some of the precious knowledge pearls shared by Rishiji. I wish to clarify at the onset that, I am not sharing the exact words of Rishiji. I am trying to share Rishiji’s wisdom through my limited power of perception and expression. It is a challenging task to express something which is beyond words. Some places analogies have been used to convey the truth but analogies have their own limitations. They can convey only certain aspects of truth and not the entire truth. I hope that whatever I am sharing here can at least serve the purpose of giving some pointers towards the reality.

Give highest priority to ‘Swadhrama’

I was a bit shocked when Rishiji told that “Don’t try to make anyone happy. Your first and foremost duty is to be happy yourself. That is your ‘Swadharma’. Give highest priority to your Swadharma.

I thought, “Is he teaching us to be selfish?”

But after a bit of introspection and little explanation by Rishiji, I realized that whatever he was telling was an irrefutable fact. I don’t even have control over my own mind. How can I have control over others mind? Isn’t it foolish to take responsibility of someone else’s state of mind?

Most of the times, I don’t even take responsibility for my own state of mind. I think that I am happy or sad because of some person, situation or place. I fail to realize that my own mental conditioning and attitude is responsible for the way I respond to outside situation. No person, situation or place can make me happy or sad. If my mind is bitter, I can’t find joy anywhere in the world. If my mind is sweet, I can find joy everywhere. My own internal mental environment is responsible for the way in which I act or react to outside influences. I realized that I am responsible for the state of my own mind and no one else.

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It is my duty to see that people near me are comfortable, but I can’t make them happy. If I think that I can make someone happy, it is an illusion. At the most, I can show someone the way to happiness. It is up to them to find their happiness. Usually we fall in this trap of trying to make others happy and in the process lose our own happiness and also fail miserably in our so called noble mission of making others happy.

Rishiji gave an apt example of safety instructions which the Air Hostess gives regarding wearing the Oxygen Mask during emergency. First one should wear his/her own Oxygen Mask and then help others to wear their Oxygen Mask. Same is the case with happiness.

Happiness is contagious. The company of a happy person makes others happy. So just be happy! Be happy, because it is our ‘Swadharma’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has given a beautiful definition of ‘Swadharma’. He says, “Any action that uplifts us is our Swadharma…..Growth comes when we follow our Swadharma.”

In the Bhagavad Geeta (3.35), Sri Krihna tells that: ‘Swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah’ – It is better to die following one’s own ‘Swadharama ‘ than to follow ‘Paradharma’. The path of ‘Paradharma’ is full of unknown dangers.  

To be happy in true sense, the first and foremost thing to do is to take responsibility of our own mind. But this is easier said than done. Taking responsibility of our own mind requires extraordinary level of awareness and self-effort.  Only with regular Sadhana, Seva & Satsang can one get that heightened level of awareness and energy which can help us to become a true master of our own mind.

What is Happiness?

‘Viveka’ is knowing what is happiness (Sukh) and what is un-happiness (Dukh).

Rishiji beautifully explained the mechanics of happiness. He explained that, “Happiness (Sukh) is moving towards the ‘Self’ or uniting with your ‘Self’ and un-happiness (Dukh) is going away from the ‘Self’”. 

‘Yoga’ is a scientific way propounded by our ancient sages to unite with our true nature or the ‘Self’.

The word ‘Bhoga’ implies enjoyment derived through sensory pleasures. 

You can reach the state of happiness either through ‘Yoga’ or through ‘Bhoga’.

Happiness through ‘Bhoga’ will physically & mentally exhaust you in due course of time whereas happiness through ‘Yoga’ will rejuvenate and energize you.

Happiness through ‘Bhoga’ is limited by the power of senses while happiness through ‘Yoga’ is boundless.

The path of ‘Bhoga’ is the path of short term gain and long term pain whereas the path of ‘Yoga’ is that of short term pain and long term gain.

‘Bhoga’ leads us towards bondage whereas ‘Yoga’ leads us towards freedom.

‘Bhoga’ is seeing happiness in ‘words and forms’ and ‘Yoga’ is seeing it in the ‘formless’.

Seeing happiness in the ‘words and forms’ (‘Nama’ and ‘Rupa’) is an illusion and seeing it in the ‘formless’ is the reality.

Suppose you are a lover of sweets and you are served a delicious ‘Gulab Jamun’. The moment you start savoring the delicious sweet, your whole existence gets effortlessly focused on the sense of taste. Your mind, intellect, memory, ego, everything is almost dissolved in that moment. So you are very near to your true nature or your true ‘Self’ and hence you become happy. Your true ‘Self’ is the real source of love and happiness. As you go near your ‘Self’ naturally you become happy.

However, you may not be aware that this happiness has resulted because of your closeness with the ‘Self’. Usually you attribute your happiness to the ‘Gulab Jamun’ (name & form).  Your memory records that eating ‘Gulab Jamun’ has made you happy. After repeating this experience a couple of times, the impression that ‘Gulab Jamun’ gives happiness gets firmly established in the memory. Next time when you are unhappy, the memory will say, ‘If you eat Gulab Jamun, you will become happy’. Your mind starts craving for the ‘Gulab Jamun’. Now, if you don’t get ‘Gulab Jamun’ you become unhappy. The deep impression in mind that ‘Gulab Jamun’ will make you happy, has now become your bondage.

Here again, not getting the the ‘Gulab Jamun’ is not responsible for your unhappiness. It is your craving for the ‘Gulab Jamun’ which has taken you away from the ‘Self’ and this distance from your ‘Self’ has resulted in your unhappiness.

‘Bhoga’ can give only the glimpse of happiness which is radiating from the source of happiness inside (i.e. our true ‘Self’) but ‘Yoga’ unites us with this very source of happiness.

Now, what is this so called ‘Self’? Why uniting with this ‘Self’ gives us unbounded happiness?

……..To be continued ……………..

Jai Gurudev !

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has said “ Prayer is talking to God and. Meditation is listening to God“. When we listen with total faith and alertness, meditation can truly offer solace to our inner turmoil. Such revelations can both make our hair stand stiff on our arms as well as melt our heart in gratitude, at once!


This morning as I was getting ready to teach the last day of a course in the Bangalore ashram, I checked my bag to see whether my iPod that contained the course materials was in place. I could not locate it in the usual place. I checked again emptying the bag. No sign of iPod. Panic! Recollected the last time I used it. It was before lunch break the previous day. My God! How could I have been so irresponsible? I chanted ‘ Karthiveerarjuna’ , a mantra that has the ability to retrieve misplaced things. To no avail. Even though it was a bit early, I left the room in the hope that someone would have found it and I would be given my Ipod once I reached there. All the volunteers had already gathered at the course venue and a brisk enquiry followed about anyone finding the iPod the previous day. To my desolation, the answer was ‘No’. My mind went into a whirlpool of mixed emotions.

The strongest feeling was one of faith. I knew I would find my iPod.


But the monkey mind went into all sorts of ‘ What ifs’. ‘  How will I conduct the sessions today’, I wondered, agitated. I felt worthless, not worthy of my Master’ s love. ‘ What kind of an instrument are you if you cannot take responsibility?’ My conscience poked me mercilessly. By now, I was feeling totally dejected and low. Volunteers around me were cheerful and recounted stories of ‘ Lost and Found’. My mind was torn apart, yet I was aware of holding on to my faith strongly. I prayed to the higher power, ‘ if I have integrity in my SEVA, Let me get my iPod before the session begins’.

I detached myself from the group and sat down to meditate with a single thought reverberating in my mind. IPod.

I prayed deeply. Fifteen minutes past , I heard a voice telling me ‘ Just  look inside your bag. It has not gone anywhere else’. With a smile I quickly completed three rounds of nadishodhan pranayama and eagerly put my hand inside the front pocket of my bag. Lo! There It was. There was no need to even search for a single second! My hands touched the gadget that contained infinity as naturally as one touches ones own skin, the moment my hand went in the pocket. How could I have missed checking the front pocket in the morning?

Or did I search for it and not find it? I frankly don’t know! It is a mystery and I am content to let it be a mystery.

Such miracles happen  when we connect with the source in meditation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s words ”  Faith is a great wealth that gives you immense strength. Hold on to it” is ambrosia in our life.

What will the divine not do for a devotee with a rock solid faith?! Tears of gratitude brimmed in my eyes.

Happily I walked into the course venue to start my session, on time, with my iPod!

Jai Gurudev.

Leela Ramesh