“Goals provide a sense of direction and purpose" - Goldstein, 1994
According to Goal Setting Theory, individuals are known to exert more effort and thus achieve higher levels of performance on a task, when the goals are perceived to be difficult and specific. Commitment to the goal, belief that a goal can be accomplished and a faith that the individual has the requisite skills are necessary for goal accomplishment.
In religion and mythology, a demon is a supernatural being, usually malevolent being. In Hindu mythology, gods are known as ‘suras’ and the demons or "non-gods" are called “asuras.” In the earliest Rig Veda hymns, the term asuras (Sanskrit: असुर), were used for any supernatural spirit, irrespective of the fact whether the spirit exerted good or evil influence, for example, the deities, Varuna and Mitra, were referred to as asuras. In the later part of Rig Veda the term came to be applied to the enemies of the gods. In the Atharva Veda, and in the Epic literature, the asuras are demons, giants and goblins, symbolizing evil, darkness, drought and hampering sacrifices and rituals. Asuras as supernatural beings are also referred to in traditional Buddhist cosmology.
Watch a Sand Art depiction of one of the mythological tales featuring demons and the Hindu "Monkey God", Lord Hanuman.
According to the Hindu theory of reincarnation and transmigration of souls, human beings that with extraordinary bad karma are condemned to roam as lonely, often evil, spirits before being reborn. These roaming evil spirits, known as vetalas, pishachas, bhoot) can be called demons, by virtue of their evil temperament.
The Holy Bible identifies demons as fallen angels under the command of Satan, causing death, illness, lost power, demonic possession and influence. The power of Satan is summarized in Psalm 109:6-13 – “He can blind true religion, shorten life (where God permits), remove people from authority, can kill, can persecute children, remove wealth, turn everyone against you, he can cut off posterity to the second generation.”
Magic is the art of altering things using supernatural means or through knowledge of occult natural laws, unknown to science. The Atharva Veda contains mantras or magical spells that can cause both good and bad alterations. The Indian word mantrik means "magician" or a person who knows mantras, spells, and curses that can be used for or against forms of magic.
Tantra is the practice of ritual magic performed by a tantrik. Many ascetics after long periods of penance and meditation are alleged to attain a state where they may utilize supernatural powers. Siddhars of South India are said to have performed extraordinary miracles.
A BBC feature unveils the secret behind the yogic powers to levitate as displayed by many Indian sadhus and yogis.
"Letting go means falling so deeply into yourself that you lose awareness of the physical body, until all that is left is empty space. In that empty space, the mind is completely still; there is no time, no memory, and not even a trace of personal history. And the deeper you fall into that space, the more everything will continue to fall away, until finally all that will be left is you. When you let absolutely everything go—body, mind, memory, and time—you will find, miraculously, that you still exist. In fact, in the end, you discover that all that exists is you!" - Andrew Cohen
Free will is individual choice, an intrinsic motivation to select one option out of random possibilities, and the adherence to that choice. Greek thinkers classify human nature into three parts: reason, will, and appetite. Reason is both theoretical and practical. Will can be that pushes away (anger) and that which pulls toward (desire). “Free will" is defined as a "rational appetite." When a person uses theoretical reason to discern what is fulfilling, and then acts according to practical reason, he has a free will, or a will capable of overriding and reorganizing the appetite.
In 1884, William James described a two-stage model of free will where the mind develops random alternative possibilities for action, and then the determined will selects one option. Thinkers lije Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper, Henry Margenau, Daniel Dennett, Robert Kane, Alfred Mele, and Martin Heisenberg expanded this two-stage model, to reconcile the concept of free will with the existence of chance or fate.
Non-possession is an ideology that holds neither any individual nor any material thing is in possession of anything or anyone. Satyagraha, is a philosophical system based on the concept of non-possession and put into practice as part of his nonviolent resistance by Mahatma Gandhi.
When Isaac Newton stated in the third law of motion, ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’, he was recognizing the hidden force of karma on human lives. According to the Law of Karma every positive action or thought generates a merit worth reward, while every negative action or thought generates a demerit or a sin, worthy of punishment. Each individual has to reap the results of one’s actions – “As you sow, so shall you reap” and the personal consequences of one's actions are in proportion to the good or bad intentions towards others.
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” says the well-known proverb. Once put down in writing, a thought, an opinion, cannot be erased, and cannot be taken back. Hence, a wise man does not commit anything to writing that he can regret later; he contemplates and thinks, and maintains poise instead of needless expression of opinion.
A similar parallel is drawn in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
“And then a scholar said, Speak of Talking.
And he answered, saying:
You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings
But cannot fly.”
Intelligence often manifests as an eagerness to execute, to speak, to commit, and to prescribe. Skill, and acquired know-how can sometimes wrongly create the impression, or a false sense of always being right. While skilful and clever people do well in their respective areas of work and involvement, perseverance is no less a virtue to acquire. Being patient and careful in the fulfillment of one’s daily duties, as opposed to being restless and impulsive can be more rewarding. As the famous English poet John Milton, advocates in the sonnet, “On His Blindness”
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
“One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.”
— Bhagavad Gita
Detachment is an inner state of calmness and of remaining uninvolved emotionally and mentally with the day-to-to activities. It enables a person to accept the good and the bad equally, because they enjoy inner balance and peace. The opposite of detachment is upādāna or attachment, and is the inability to practice or embrace detachment. Attachment is the main obstacle towards a serene and fulfilled life.
The lotus is a symbol of non-attachment owing to its ability to survive in muddy waters.
"It is not enough to conquer; one must know how to seduce." - Voltaire.
Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian commentary on the art of seduction that includes singing, and costumes, aphrodisiacs and the art of making love. The commentary centers on the fact that physical love should encompass the feeling of give and take, of mutual satiation and should not lead to any feelings of being taken advantage of.
Human attachment or moh and related emotions are necessary for individual or group survival. Bonding is the process of attachment that develops between romantic partners, close friends, or parents and children and is characterized by emotions such as affection and trust, and the investment of time and efforts on the parts of the people involved. In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato argued that love directs the bonds of human society.
Detachment as a practice hinders the development of attachment, and prevents the growth of love and affection. Attachment to a person or place is essential to be able to partake in the daily responsibilities perpetuated by human bonds and to maintain the continuity of social life.
The first love story of the world was found in the Rig Veda and the first comprehensive work on love was written in India with Kamasutra becoming one of its offshoots. Love techniques were perfected over centuries and sculpted on the walls of temples of Khajuraho and Konark." - Love in Ancient India by M L Varadpande.
Kāma shastra refers to the tradition of works on Kāma: love, eroticism, or sensual pleasures. The Kama Sutra, originally known as Vatsyayana Kamasutram ('Vatsyayana's Aphorisms on Love'), was written Between the 1st and 6th centuries BC. This commentary on the kama shastra, or 'science of love', explored the scope and intent of human desires, and sensuality, and was a technical guide on how to please a sexual partner within a marriage. The Sixty Four Arts of Kama Sutra encompassed the concepts of intimacy and the bond in love making.
Love in Ancient India, a book by M L Varadpande, chronicles the story of love which is considered an Indian creation. "The first love story of the world was found in the Rig Veda and the first comprehensive work on love was written in India with Kamasutra becoming one of its offshoots. Love techniques were perfected over centuries and sculpted on the walls of temples of Khajuraho and Konark."
“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”- Marcus Aurelius
Inner peace is a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to remain unperturbed (still) in the face of discord or stress. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss, happiness and contentment. In Eastern religions, inner peace is considered a state of enlightenment that may be cultivated through prayer, meditation, and yoga.
John Gloster-Smith, a teacher, group facilitator, coach and writer, working from a Humanistic and Transpersonal perspective says in his blog post titled, Where is your Sanctuary, “In another sense, the place of sanctuary is also within me. I find this is a great place to notice my still point within me, where I feel at one, peaceful and contented.
In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato argued that love directs the bonds of human society.
In modern psychology, attachment of one individual to another individual is known as affectional bond. John Bowlby in his work on attachment theory elaborated the five criteria for affectional bonds, and a defined a sixth criterion for attachment bonds. Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, described the characteristic of affectional bonds as follows:
1. Persistent, not transitory.
2. Involving a particular person who is not interchangeable with anyone else.
3. Involving a relationship that is emotionally significant.
4. Involving a desire to maintain proximity or contact with the person with whom the individual has an affectional tie.
5. Involving a feeling of sadness or distress at involuntary separation from the person.
An attachment bond has an additional criterion, that is, the person seeks security and comfort in the relationship.
The potter's wheel, is a machine used in the shaping of round ceramic ware, was invented in Mesopotamia between 6th to 4th century BC. In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the deity Khnum was said to have formed the first humans on a potter's wheel. A similar parallel is drawn in the Holy Bible, Isaiah 64:8 – “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Reference to the potter’s wheel is also made in Jeremiah 18:3 – “So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.”
The metaphor of the potter’s wheel is also seen in "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam." In FitzGerald's translation, a number of quatrains are collected into a Book of Pots:
“And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried—
“Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”
Inertia comes from the Latin word, iners, meaning idle, or lazy. Isaac Newton defined inertia as follows: “The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which everybody, as much as in it lies, endeavors to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.”
From a metaphysical perspective, soul inertia is when a person becomes complacent in his material existence, unable to accept change, or break the shackles of mundane matters. Inertia of the soul prevents a person to seek higher goals of self-realization and salvation.
Sir William Jones, in an essay published in the Second Volume of Asiatic Researches, argued that India was the cradle of chess, the game initially played as Chaturanga. The game comprised four angas, or members of an army - elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers. Astapada meaning eight steps, which was also used to describe this game in ancient India, was named on the eight steps (squares) which the modern chessboard, has. The modern chessboard is checkered with 64 (8 x 8) squares in all, with eight squares on each side. The old English word for chess is Esches.
Wander Linde in the Geschichte and Litteraturdes Schachspiels suggests that the game originated among the Buddhists. According to the Buddhists, war and slaying of one's fellow-men is a criminal act and hence chess was invented as a substitute for war. The ancient Persians are said to have learnt this game from India and from Persia, where it was known as Shatranj, it reached the Greco Roman world.
The earliest known dice in the world come from a backgammon set from Iran, from about 3000 BC. Dice was used in the Indus Valley Civilization that existed around 2500 BC. Gambling with dice has its reference in Indian Rig Veda. The famous Indian epic Mahabharata holds reference of a grand dice game between the clans, Kauravas and Pandavas and its consequences. By 300 AD, Indians played Pachisi on a board of cotton cloth, and threw six cowries shells to determine the moves. The pieces that moved around the board were made of wood.
Pleasure gardens or vatikas in Ancient India were primary spots of recreation, with many personal gardens being maintained by royals and the rich, for visitation and indulging in sensual enjoyment with spouses, lovers and consorts. The art of gardening is mentioned in Vatsayan's Kamasutra. Many travellers have mentioned elaborate gardens in their writings on ancient India.
The earliest Buddhist monasteries evolved from orchards and pleasure gardens that had been donated to the Buddha. The most famous of these were the Bamboo Grove (Venuvana) and Jīvaka’s Mango Grove at Rājagaha (now Rajgir) and Prince Jeta’s Park at Sāvatthi.
The Mahaparinirvana Sutta mentions how the Buddha described the serenity of Rajgir, while residing at Griddhkuta (Vultures’ peak) - "Pleasant, Ananda, is Rājagaha, pleasant are these places. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed. Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it."
"I think that the kind of pleasure I would consider as the real pleasure would be so deep, so intense, so overwhelming that I couldn't survive it." - Michel Foucault.
Foucault, a French philosopher and historian is noted to have said, "Complete total pleasure... for me, it's related to death."
Passionate love or Eros, dominated by sensual desire and longing, was studied and refined as a concept by Plato, in his famous work Symposium. Plato said Eros helps the soul remember beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth.
Sigmund Freud referred to Eros in terms of libido, and as the life instinct innate in all humans. Eros is the desire to create life, favours productivity and construction and battles against the destructive death instinct of Thanatos. In early psychoanalytic writings, the instincts arising from Eros are also shown as opposed by forces from the ego.
Destrudo was a term introduced by Edoardo Weiss (1935) to denote the energy of the death instinct that opposes the life instinct of Eros.
"The fear of death has been rated as the most common and the second worst fear that troubles us…The fear of death is largely due to four reasons. Firstly, the fear of the unknown, secondly, the fear of losing our loved ones, thirdly, fear of pain and suffering and/or being alone at the time of death and finally, the fear of ceasing to exist or the finality of death."
- The Question about Death and Death Anxietyby Anubhuti Rattan
Gautama Buddha recommended frequent contemplation on death as an inherent reality. Death is as natural as birth, and a process in the life of all living beings.. Contemplating on death enables the individual to shed the sensual lure of worldliness.
From psychological perspective, it may not be totally hypothetical to say that fear of death motivates religious commitment. Fear of death is also known as death anxiety, and the concept of afterlife emerged to alleviate this fear.
A songbird is any one of the 4000 species of perching birds with vocal organs developed to produce diverse and elaborate bird song. The bird song is used to communicate sexual intentions and territorial presence.
The rare song bird in the golden cage is a symbol for the trapped human soul, restricted by the desires and longings of the material world, ensnared in the cycle of birth and death, isolated and separated from its Cosmic Self, from the Supreme Being, the Brahman.
The death of the song bird further signifies the futility of its existence, of the failure to free oneself from samsara, of the tragedy of birth and death and ensnarement in the golden cage. The death of the birth fills Siddhartha with a sense of loss because he identifies with the purity and goodness of the songbird, the rarity of his Self, that he has allowed to dissipate, frittered away in the lust for wealth, wine and women.
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."- Eleanor Roosevelt
Many individuals who pursue goals related to the acquiring of wealth, education and pleasures are not ultimately satisfying because they miss out on the real purpose of life and the ensuing satiation. Passages 2.1-2.11 of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Holy Bible highlight this dilemma of the common man, by emphasizing on the futility of pleasure and possessions.
One of the greatest thrusts of all religious books and major religions of the world is on finding the real or rather higher purpose of one's life. A teacher or spiritual guide can help a person to find and relate to the real purpose of his life. The ultimate purpose, of course, is to attain moksha or salvation.
Saṅsāra or Saṃsāra (sanskrit: संसार) literally meaning "continuous flow," is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation dominated by the law of karma. Samsara also refers to the condition of life, and the experience of life.
The ebb and flow of samsara brings fleeting pleasures into the lives of ordinary men, entrapping them in the mirage of material possessions and sensual pleasures, making them desire worldly life and rebirth. However, these pleasures and this state of being in the samsara is ephemeral, and escaping this continuous flow through by attaining moksha or salvation is the main aim of every spiritual being.
The Bhagavad Gita states:
"As a person puts on new clothes and discards old and torn clothes, similarly an embodied soul enters new material bodies, leaving the old bodies."
Bandits were a class of robbers in the Indian subcontinent, who plundered in armed mobs. The term was also used for the pirates who roamed the Ganges between Calcutta and Burhampore.
Bandit Queen is a film based upon the life of Phoolan Devi, a notorious female bandit in modern India. The story is also available in paperback - India's Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi by Mala Sen. For history of bandits in India read, Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of Thuggee by Kim A. Wagner. Another interesting article is available on Tabish Khair's book, The Things about Thugs on the Mid-day website.
The first time Vasudeva meets Siddhartha, he only wants to cross the river. Years later, Siddhartha searches for knowledge from the river, and Vasudeva guides him in his attempts to hear the sounds of the river. Siddhartha himself becomes a ferryman, a guide, a conduit for seekers, after he attains enlightenment, and his guide, Vasudeva, retires into the forest.
In terms of the geographical locations in which the story of Siddhartha is set, the coconut is actually a rarity. The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall (150 cm to 250 cm annually). It can survive in saline water and high humidity. Traditional areas of coconut cultivation in India are the Southern states of Kerala,Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar.
By referring specifically to the coconut tree, Hesse wants to indicate the universality of the possibility of self-realization, and awakening anywhere around the world.
In Hindu scriptures, suicide is referred to as, atmahatya, or "murder of the self". The Sanskrit translation is svadehaghata, "murdering one's body," and atmaghata, "self-murder." Suicide is considered a deplorable act in Eastern religions, and an hindrance to spiritual growth and salvation, pushing a soul behind on the evolutionary scale. Human life is said to be attained many rebirths in different life forms, and is the only chance for a soul to escape from the cycle of birth and death. It is believed when a person who commits suicide, he wanders the earth as a ghost, as a consciousness without body, until he completes his allotted lifespan. Dancing With Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism by Satguru Sivaya has a chapter on svadehaghata.
Judaism and the Catholic Church consider death by suicide is considered a grave or serious sin. The chief argument is that one's life is the property of God, and to destroy that life is to wrongly assert dominion over God’s gift to the world.
A verse in the fourth chapter of the Holy Quran instructs; "And do not kill yourselves, surely God is most Merciful to you." It is interesting to note that Buddhism does not condemn suicide, but states the reasons for it. Marilyn J. Harran wrote: "Buddhism in its various forms affirms that, while suicide as self-sacrifice may be appropriate for the person who is an arhat, one who has attained enlightenment, it is still very much the exception to the rule."
"That which is not present in deep, dreamless sleep is not real.”
- Ramana Maharshi, States of Consciousness.
Apart from the three states of sleep, wakefulness and dreaming, there exists a fourth state or turiya. The Mandukya Upanishad defines turiya as:
"The fourth (i.e. turiya) is NOT a state. It is the background on which dream and wake arises and disappears. Turiya is just another term to describe pure awareness. It is also called the Nirvikalpa."
A similar explanation is found in the Key to Theosophy, 165, "After the dissolution of the body, there commences for it a period of full awakened consciousness, or a state of chaotic dreams, or an utterly dreamless sleep undistinguishable from annihilation, ... These are the post-mortem fruits of the tree of life. Naturally, our belief or unbelief in ... that immortality as the property of independent or separate entities, cannot fail to give colour to that fact in its application to each of these entities.”
Certain yogic practices talk about "being asleep while awake and awake while asleep" - an enlightened person in the waking state is unaware of the Ego and the illusions of the memories and desires, and when sleeping is still aware of the Divine and does not sink into self-oblivion.
"Then, as you pass into deep, dreamless sleep, you still remain conscious, but now you are aware of nothing but vast pure emptiness, with no content whatsoever. But 'aware of' is not quite right, since there is no duality here. It's more like, there is simply pure consciousness itself, without qualities or contents or subjects or objects, a vast pure emptiness that is not 'nothing' but is still unqualifiable."
- Ken Wilber
Siddhartha’s deep sleep and awakening symbolizes the end of the Ego, and the stirring of the consciousness to a higher frequency that is in tune with Nature, and the Universe.
Deep and Dreamless Sleep is a 2006 movie that retells Dante's Inferno as a New York City love story.
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." - Bhagavad Gita
The word reincarnation comes from Latin and literally means, "entering the flesh again". In Greek philosophy, the closest term describing reincarnation is metempsychosis and it corresponds to the common English phrase "transmigration of the soul.” As evident the terms connotes reincarnation after death in a new physical form of human, plant, animal or any other tangible object, and emphasize on the continuity of the soul (and not the flesh.)
The Buddhist concept of reincarnation rejects the idea of soul, and spirit, and only accepts the "stream of consciousness" as a link between all forms of life, and across five or six realms of existence, including the human, any kind of animal and several types of supernatural being.
- Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha
The four great places of pilgrimage, as mentioned by the Buddha are, Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar.
Read a free booklet on the concept, tradition and history of Buddhist pilgrimage - http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/buddhistpilgrimage.pdf