Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

What creates bondage?

Every living being naturally wants to move from bondage to freedom. On the physical or gross level ‘bondage’ is very easy to understand but on a subtle (mind) level it is a bit difficult to understand.

We can define ‘bondage’ simply as anything that restricts our freedom. On subtle level, freedom is lost when our mind gets torn between cravings and aversions, when it gets bogged down by past impressions and concepts, when it is troubled with fears and hatred, when it is burning with anger or withering in sorrow. All these things cloud our intention, attention, perception, observation as well as expression. We can’t function in a free & fair or natural way. This restriction of our mental freedom is ‘bondage’.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Freedom is your very nature. Only with freedom do joy, generosity and other human values blossom. Without freedom, attitudes become stifling, concepts become a burden, information is of no value and imagination becomes stagnant.”

It is strange but true that sometimes we get so much attached with our bondage that we try to nourish or strengthen the bondage. We do not want to abandon our sorrows, our fears, our cravings and aversions. We are afraid to move away from bondage even after knowing that it is the cause of our suffering. We identify ourself with the bondage. Bondage itself starts giving us a strange sort of security. But this is only a temporary phenomenon. With time (may be a few days or few years or few lifetimes) everyone has to move away from bondage to freedom. Natural direction of evolution of life is from bondage to freedom. Growth comes only when life moves from bondage to freedom. True happiness can come only with freedom.

If freedom is so precious, why do we lose our freedom in the first place? What are the reasons for our bondage?


Rishi Vidyadharji categorically stated that there are only three reasons for bondage.  Actually these can be called as three great illusions which result in bondage (or ‘Karma bandhan’).

  1. Attributing our happiness (Sukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  2. Attributing our unhappiness (Dukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  3. Thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav)

Rishiji explained that, happiness is a result of moving towards the ‘Self’ and unhappiness is result of moving away from the ‘Self’. However we usually fail to see this truth and due to ignorance attribute our happiness or unhappiness to some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ and this leads to bondage.

We perceive the whole world in our mind as nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ (Nama & Rupa). All the words we listen, all the books we read and all our thoughts are nothing but words in the mind. All the forms we see in outside world are in reality images in our own mind. All our memory and imagination is also nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ in the mind.

Suppose I eat a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (form) and think (words) that ‘Gulab Jamun’ has given me happiness, the image of ‘Gulab Jamun’ along with the thought of its sweet taste and associated happiness gets stored in memory. Repetition of same experience a number of times results in deep impression of association of thought of eating a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (words and form) with happiness. Everyone wants nothing but happiness in life. Hence, repeated association of ‘happiness’ with ‘Gulab Jamun’ results in craving for ‘Gulab Jamun’. Craving restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Similarly repeatedly seeing ‘unhappiness’ in some ‘word’ and ‘form’ results in aversion for that person/object/situation/place. Aversion also restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Thus, repeated association of experiences of happiness or unhappiness with some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ results in bondage.

The third cause of bondage is, thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav).

What is ‘doer ship’ (Karta bhav)?

If I perform a charitable act because I am righteous then I am doing it through ‘doer- ship’ because that action is born out of my identity (as a righteous person) in my mind. This will result in bondage. However, if I am performing the same action just because, That action is the right action to do at that time’, then I am not doing it through ‘doer ship’ and it will not result in any bondage for me.

Suppose I am a doctor and I do not give medicine to a patient in need because he has insulted me in past then there is ‘doer ship’ in my not giving medicine to the patient (non-action) because my decision is result of my prejudice against the patient. Hence this non-action will lead to bondage.

So, any action (or non-action) which springs from the ‘ego sense’ or ‘prejudice’ has ‘doer ship’ attached with it.

The actions of a soldier shooting in war or a policeman using tear gas during riots does not create bondage for them. This is so, because here the soldier or the policeman are simply performing their duty without any ‘doer ship’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “You will realize that I am not the doer only when you put your 100% in self-effort, not before. If you have not done anything, you are only sitting there with your hands folded, you can never realize that I am not the doer.”

So when we have purity in the heart (no aversion or craving), clarity in the mind (mind free from doer-ship and prejudice) and sincerity in our action (being 100%) then there is no bondage.


………to be continued…………….

In Pursuit for Happiness – I 

In Pursuit for Happiness – II


Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis


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.

download (1)

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