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Center for Action and Contemplation

Hinduism: Weekly Summary

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Summary: Sunday, August 12-Friday, August 17, 2018

If anything is true, then it has always been true; and people who sincerely search will touch upon the same truth in every age and culture, while using different language, symbols, and rituals to point us in the same direction. The direction is always toward more love and union—in ever widening circles. (Sunday)

The ancient, diverse Hindu tradition led to the overwhelming consensus and conclusion that the Atman (True Self/Individual Consciousness) is the same as Brahman (God). This is summarized in the well-known Sanskrit phrase Tat Tvam Asi, loosely translated as “Thou art That.” (Monday)

Hinduism emphasizes concrete practices (yogas) which allow practitioners to know things for themselves. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit for the yoke which unites the seeker with the Sought. (Tuesday)

Hinduism speaks of four distinct stages to a person’s life. Western cultures tend to recognize and honor only the first two stages at best. (Wednesday)

Advaita implies that the proper or spiritual way of understanding things is outside the realm of comparison or judgment. The contemplative mind sees things in their unity and connection before it separates them as not completely one, but not two either. (Thursday)

The Bhagavad Gita calls the active person to a life of interiority and soul discovery. How can we do “pure action”? Only by gradually detaching from all the fruits of action and doing everything purely for the love of God. (Friday)


Practice: Pranayama

Raja yoga, one of Hinduism’s four paths to enlightenment, follows eight sequential steps, including pranayama (controlled breathing). Ginny Wholley, Mindfulness and Yoga Teacher, offers this description of pranayama.

Prana is life’s force or energy. Pranayama is willful changing of one’s energy, often through the breath, using variations of inhalation, exhalation, and sometimes holding the breath. From God’s breath we were created, and from breath, life continues.

Prana as breath is inhaled into the body, carrying with it the essence of the life. Within our being it is transformed, as well as transforming. Exhaled, it carries our essence, our unique energetic print; it is all one breath. [1]

I invite you to follow Ginny’s simple steps for the pranayama practice Ujjayi, ocean-sounding breath:

This breath is slow, deep, and deliberate. Focusing on the sound is an effective technique to quiet the mind. It is very helpful in reducing mind chatter and preparing for meditation or relaxation.

Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground and your hands relaxed on your thighs.

Close your eyes or lower your gaze.

Through your nose, slowly breathe in and out while partially restricting your throat.

It may help to imagine your throat as the size of a straw. This breath creates an audible sound, at least to you.

An alternative image is to exhale out through your mouth as if you are fogging a mirror, making a long “haa” sound. After trying it this way, close your mouth and repeat the exhalation through your nose.

Put it together slowly, drawing the breath in and out of your nose.

Imagine you are on the shore. The water draws back into the ocean on the inhalation and rolls onto the shore as you exhale. Use your breath and limitless imagination to hear the ocean sound. [2]

[1] Ginny Wholley, unpublished work, 2015. Learn more about Ginny’s work

[2] Ibid.

For Further Study:
Bede Griffiths, Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, selected by Thomas Matus (Orbis Books: 2004)

Bhagavad Gita (translated by either Stephen Mitchell or Eknath Easwaran)

Raimon Panikkar, Christophany: The Fullness of Man (Orbis Books: 2004)

The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, compiled by Beatrice Bruteau (Quest Books: 1996)

Image Credit: A Hindu Woman in Yoga Asana Meditation (detail), Lucia Puertas, 2010, river Ganges, Varanasi, India.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The Bhagavad Gita does not counsel that we all become monks or solitaries. Rather, the true synthesis is found in a life-long purification of motive, intention, and focus in our world of action. The Gita calls the active person to a life of interiority and soul discovery. How can we do “pure action”? Only by gradually detaching from all the fruits of action and doing everything purely for the love of God. —Richard Rohr
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