Man is on a constant exploration to know about himself, about the environment in which he/she is placed and about the wonderful universe of an infinite range. Human brain, by its evolutionary context, has such pliability that by an earnest application of its wide-ranging faculties knowledge will be revealed to it, transcending the barriers of time and space. Profound knowledge about the various aspects of life and universe was thus revealed to the ancient seers of India, the indomitable explorers of Truth, and this forms a science of human evolution applicable to all times. Here, we are exploring into these fields of knowledge with an intellectual perspective of the modern age. This page mainly contains the information being conveyed through our periodical bulletins to the members of the booksintegral@yahoogroups.com. We invite you to be a Member of this Group by sending a message to booksintegral-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and receive these informative bulletins regularly.

What is the significance of the form Lord Ganesha?

Let us begin with a brief exploration into the auspicious form Lord Ganesha. Later, in the course of our inquiries we shall find that the profound form of Sri Ganesha signifies a highly evolutionary theme on how the universe originated from the Supreme Reality and on how man can evolve to the higher spiritual dimensions realizing his divine possibilities.

Ganesha's form is a figurative representation of Pranavam (OM), the causative primeval vibration of the Divine Intelligence-Energy combination, the dynamic Source of the infinite phenomena of the universe.(Lord Ganesha is represented as the Son of Lord Shiva - the Supreme Intelligence - and Goddess Shakthi - the Supreme Energy - aspects of Brahman, the Supreme Reality.) Therefore, propitiating Sri Ganesha before the beginning of every important action or event is activating this most powerful Intelligence-Energy divine dynamism. For harmony, peace and progress let us all invoke Lord Ganesha, the Divine Dynamism in us.

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A FEW WORDS ABOUT US AND OUR REQUEST

Our publications, as you might have observed, integrate India's spiritual insights and the modern scientific worldview which is gradually veering towards the spiritual wisdom. The effort is to promote an updated awareness of the spiritual heritage dispelling the wrong notions and misconceptions about this broad-based culture, which has evolved through ages of free and bold enquiry and explorations by the seekers of Truth.

The modern man, especially the new generation trained in a background of scientific and technological education is seeking more information about the rational basis of this heritage of universal outlook. Brought up with a scientific vision, many people have their genuine doubts, to which they often fail to draw convincing answers from traditional logic alone. Fortunately, today's scientific perspective is coming to terms with the spiritual insights of India and this trend is an effective means to inculcate in them a deeper awareness of the super-scientific character of the spiritual wisdom. Its modern reassessment and presentation would inspire them to imbibe the values for a harmonious and progressive life. India's spiritual vision is ever modern; but this has to be presented by integrating it with the intellectual trends of today. We are dedicated to this need.

Communications from readers highlight that our books give convincing information in a way that clear even the doubts of the skeptics, and the westerners who are not well informed about Hindu philosophy, yet inquisitive. After reading the book, 'Power in Temples', Mr. Thomas R. Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to India, wrote to us: "The book has given me many insights into Indian culture and the relationship between science and religion."

Our effort is to promote the life-enriching message by supplying the books direct to the readers at reasonable price. The heavy discount to be given to the distributing agencies often does not allow moderate pricing of books, which obstructs the wide propagation of value-oriented literature. We are trying to supply well-produced books with substance at low price, providing the discount direct to the readers. A print order for a large number of copies would also help us to reduce the price. Your co-operation by ordering for the books and inspiring the like-minded to order would help us achieve this goal. Just send us an e-mail message at <sri@integralbooks.com>, filling in the Order Form.

While the educational system lags behind in promoting faith in spiritual values, our effort by providing a convincing scientific orientation to ancient insights is making successful progress in creating this cultural impact. Vast fields of knowledge of India's heritage that can guide mankind to a deeper and liberating awareness about life and a greater civilization remain unexplored. We shall try to bring them to light and inspire their re-discovery.

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Questions of a Western Inquirer
On Shiva & Shakthi and Our Answers

We receive letters from inquisitive readers seeking answers to questions on Indian culture and the spiritual heritage. Most of these questions are from people belonging to different religions and nationalities who have a background of scientific and technological education. Disenchanted with the tantalizing waves of materialism and disturbed by the misconceived theology, many of them are seeking a philosophy of life satisfying to their intellect and that helps them realize the greater possibilities of life. No wonder they are attracted to the spiritual vision of India towards which is veering the worldview emerging from the latest scientific perspective. Some of the letters reflect the deep concern and indignation at the gross misrepresentation of this unique heritage by vested interests on flimsy grounds and urge us to present an in-depth view of its salient features. We begin a periodical bulletin "Questions Answered" with a few questions we received on 'Shiva' and 'Shakthi' and their answers. Srikant, author of many popular books on Indian culture and spirituality, will be answering these questions. If you would like to continue to receive these informative bulletins, kindly inform us.

1. Shiva and Shakthi have many forms and aspects, but what are their supreme aspects/forms?

First of all, let us examine the meaning of the Sanskrit words, Shiva and Shakthi. Shiva broadly means Supreme, Unconditioned, Auspicious Reality or Intelligence and Shakthi means the Supreme Energy of that Reality, which can bring about infinite conditioned manifestations from that Reality. In this context, Shiva and Shakthi are not to be considered as two personalities with certain defined forms, but have to be taken as One Supreme Source with two aspects - the Source of all phenomena, forms and personalities.
2. Am I right to assume that in their supreme forms, Shiva and Devi reside on Mount Kailash, engaged in their eternal divine sport (lila)?

They not only reside on Mount Kailash but also in more than ten thousand crores of galaxies in the universe we know and in the universes we do not know, because they are the supreme Source of all the conditioned phenomena. This higher meaning of Shiva and Shakthi can be grasped by a study of the great texts, the Upanishads. However, as for the common masses it is difficult to understand the more abstract laws and truths of the universe contained in the Upanishads, the ancient Rishis, the great explorers of Reality, gave shape to interesting stories symbolically representing the subtle facts that govern the phenomena and manifestations. The great texts known as the Puraanas represent the subtle knowledge contained in the Upanishads through these symbolic stories. It is in the Puraanas. Shiva and Shakthi are represented in the forms as we see often in pictures. Only when we deeply study a mathematical formula or symbol we can get an idea of its significance. Likewise, when we study a divine form, its deeper significance will be revealed to us, conveying to us to greater knowledge of the subtle laws they represent. (In this context, you may refer to our publications under a common title 'Alphabet of Reality', which reveal the significance of Divine Forms. Please visit our website: www.integralbooks.com ) These forms are designed in such a way by the sages that a concentration on them through worship and meditation would help us realize the divine faculties within us that will lead us to greater understanding about ourselves and our relationship with Reality.

In fact, Mount Kailash, mentioned in the Puraanas, itself symbolically represents a subtle area in the human brain, described as the seat of Shiva, the Supreme Reality. The great sages of yore gave topmost significance to the human brain and the spinal cord as the field of man's further evolution to greater dimensions of consciousness. The sages represented the Divine Polarity, Shiva and Shakthi in the cerebro-spinal column - Shiva as residing in the brain and Shakthi, in the lowest region of the spinal cord, causing the manifestation of the human body. (We need not here go deep into this profound Yogic science.) The sages also symbolically represented their knowledge of the divine polarity in the very geographical condition of ancient India - the place Kanyakumari in the extreme south as the seat of Goddess Kanyakumari (Shakthi) and Mount Kailash in the extreme north as the Seat of Lord Shiva. (For further information please see pages 24 & 25 of our publication 'Power in Temples: A Modern Perspective')

3 Are the supreme forms of Shiva and Shakthi eternal or is there a concept that they also vanish in the great destruction at the end of all universes (Pralaya)?
You are asking whether Shiva and Shakthi are eternal. When you talk about eternity you have to bring the factor of Time in the picture. But time is only a relative measure of the changes that occur in the phenomenal world and their impact on our limited consciousness. (This point also need not be elaborated here.) Therefore, time originates from phenomena and phenomena are conditioned manifestations of Shiva and Shakthi. It naturally follows that Shiva and Shakthi are beyond time, being the very Source of time. If you like to refer to this transcendental Being as eternal, it is quite all right.

They never vanish during the great destruction, because destruction is applicable only to the phenomena. Even this word 'destruction' is not right here. The Sanskrit word is 'Pra-laya'. 'Laya' broadly means 'absorption', not destruction, which means the phenomena are not destroyed, but reabsorbed into Reality till the next manifestation occurs.

(There is well-connected knowledge regarding all these facts in the ancient texts, which unfortunately are not brought to the attention of mankind by our educational systems. Research in this direction and presentation of these facts would certainly help refine and impart a greater cultural dimension to the human mind. Our publishing mission is trying to do some educative service in this direction. Please visit our website: www.integralbooks.com )

4. What about their paradise on Mount Kailash? What about their servants and entourage? Do they exist eternally, or do they vanish too?
The first part was answered in the second question. The servants, entourage such as gana-s of Shiva and Shakthi have symbolic significance. In fact, everything is eternal in Shiva and Shakthi and nothing is actually destroyed. This realization, the sages say, liberates man from all limitations and establishes him in the Supreme Bliss of Reality.


SRI AYYAPPA - PHILOSOPHY AND WORSHIP

The pilgrimage to the sacred shrine of Sabarimala is today attracting people the world over. The major pilgrimage season begins from the middle of November and extends up to the 3rd week of January. The gensecy@saranamayyappa.org, of Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham has sent us some communications from those who wish to know the salient features of the philosophy of Sri Ayyappa worship. And we receive questions from inquisitive young people about the relevance of divine forms and their worship. This bulletin of booksintegral@yahoogroup.com touches these points of inquiry

The indomitable sages of ancient India who explored deep into the nature of the universe and the meaning of life discovered the subtle facts that govern the manifestation of matter and life. By activating the highest faculties of the human brain they experienced that it is from a basic Reality, an Infinite Intelligence latent with Energy, the material world and the world of life emerged into expression. They called the Reality, Brahman. They traced the interconnections, subtle and gross, involved in this manifestation of the universe from the subtlest Fact. The Upanishand-s and the Purana-s reveal these basic interconnections.

The Master Minds of yore conveyed their knowledge through different mediums such as the symbolic stories, forms, diagrams, etc. They designed them in such a way that the knowledge would be revealed to the seekers who explored them, and solace and spiritual strength would be bestowed on those who imbibed the values they conveyed.

The basic Reality transcends all forms and qualities, but from It emerge infinite forms and qualities, which are the mediums of Its manifestation. The sages revealed that human beings conditioned by a world of forms and qualities can intelligently utilize these mediums to transcend their limitations and to bring to expression the higher human potentials. Man, they revealed, is designed by Nature to evolve to greater stages of understanding and freedom transcending the suffering and fear caused by his limitations.

The Divine Forms
The great Rishis through their explorations discovered that there are Divine Powers of Brahman that cause and control the phenomenal manifestations. They conceived the special characteristics of these Divine Powers by giving them appropriate symbolic forms and they are the Godly forms. Thus the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, known as the Trinity, represent respectively the spiritual powers behind the manifestation of the universe, its maintenance and re-absorption into Reality. Their meaningful forms, insignia, etc., are pregnant with profound knowledge about the subtle facts behind the manifested universe. These divine forms represent both the conditioned and unconditioned - personal and the impersonal - aspects of Reality
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Sri Ayyappa
Lord Ayyappa or Dharma Shastha represents a combination of spiritual powers symbolized by the forms of Lord Vishnu, the Power that maintains the universe and Lord Shiva, the Power that periodically re-absorbs the manifestations into Reality. Lord Ayyappa enshrined in the Sabarimala temple combines both these aspects of Brahman. In the Puranic lore, as usual, this fact is presented in an interesting and symbolic story form. As Sri Ayyappa represents both Vishnu and Shiva in one Divinity, He is worshipped both as Protector and Deliverer.

The Universal Vision
Sri Ayyappa aspect of Brahman is endearing to thousands, especially because the special attributes of Lord Ayyappa and His worship transcends the many man-made limitations as caste, religion, creed, class distinctions, nationality, etc. An extensive period of self-disciplines prior to a pilgrimage to Sabarimala is prescribed for yogic practice and for the cultivation of a vision of equality and sense of oneness with the Supreme Reality. The purpose of man's spiritual striving is to evolve from the conditioned state of existence by raising the level of consciousness gradually to its unconditioned and infinite Freedom. This is practised in Sri Ayyappa worship. After the wearing of the rosary as a mark of entering the spiritual disciplines one is expected to make an effort to transcend the limitations of one's personality and its restricting expressions and moods. People, even his parents, no more call him by his name, but reverentially address him as Swamy or Ayyappa. He addresses others also as Swamy and he is supposed to consider not only man, but also beasts, trees and everything else as essentially Divine. When he visits any temple or any place of worship he chants 'Swamiye saranam Ayyappa'. He considers the Deity in any temple as a different form of Lord Ayyappa. He is supposed to look at everything, whether living or non-living as the manifestation of the one Truth - Lord Ayyappa. The donkeys that carry the goods up the mountains to Sabarimala temple are Kazhutha Swamy-s for him. (Kazhutha means donkey). Even the human excreta are referred to as Bhu-Swamy. The Advaitic vision that there is nothing other than the manifestations of the one transcendental Reality is to be observed to the maximum extent possible during this period to recondition consciousness from its various limitations. Our publication "Sabarimala: Its Timeless Message" presents the profound philosophy of Sri Ayyappa worship and the unique pilgrimage. ( Please visit the website: www.integralbooks.com)

The spiritual striving, which is a natural instinct of man, is an evolutionary effort to identify the limited personality with the supreme unconditioned Reality and thus transcend the limitations to evolve to higher dimensions of consciousness and freedom.
We are that blissful Reality but we are often ignorant of it. The spiritual training removes the mist of ignorance. As the practice advances, one begins to feel the gradual emergence of a Divine Personality within. This emerging spiritual dimension guides one through the life's pilgrimage and gives an increasing sense of joy and freedom.

Sri Ramakrishna says: "Know there must be manifestations of God in places where countless people have practiced austerity. From time immemorial numberless devotees and men of realization have come to these holy places to have the vision of God. Therefore, God though equally present everywhere, manifests Himself especially in these places in the same way as water can be had anywhere by digging the ground, but where there is a tank or a lake, one has not to dig for water, but can get it whenever one likes." The shrine of Lord Ayyappa in the depths of the Sahya mountain ranges is such a unique place.

TWO VITAL QUESTIONS
Inquiries regarding two problems, received from a reader in a gulf country regarding 'peace of mind and happiness' and 'reincarnation' and our views.

Problem 1: Peace of mind and happiness do not solely depend on anything worldly. But in this world it is almost impossible to achieve this state of mind, as one will always be tossed about though one may not have many desires to fulfill. Especially when a person is working for somebody he will be subjected to stress and strains. This will naturally drag him into many unwanted thoughts and actions, which will ultimately boomerang, on him. If you can advise citing some books for guidance it will be of great help.

Our Views: We have to accept the basic fact that like all other living beings man is conditioned by many limitations. But his major and most significant asset is the fact that Nature has bestowed on him the faculty of the freedom of choice. This biological breakthrough, which he has acquired in his evolutionary context, equips him to make an effort to perfect himself. Other beings cannot do this. It is in this context the laws of Self Management revealed by the Bhagavad-gita assume invaluable importance. These are scientific laws of human evolution that would lead man to peace, happiness and freedom.

In fact, work (karma) in the human context is the creative fuel provided by Nature for this evolutionary advancement. And this depends on how he applies the freedom of choice to make use of his work to perfect himself. For this, the Bhagavad-gita suggests that one should love one's work and make the best effort to ennoble and perfect it without allowing the mind to get obsessed with the results. Naturally the result will be good. The cultivation of such a disposition increases the sense of inner freedom. Lasting peace and happiness are nothing but the sense of freedom from inner tensions and limitations. This is achievable by perfecting oneself by trying to perfect one's work. Through this Karma Yoga one can even embrace the supreme Bliss of Perfection, which is man's ultimate biological destiny. The Bhagavad-gita points out that even a little progress made in this direction liberates one from great fears that pester one's existence. The effort to perfect one's work increases one's capacities; work no more becomes a burden. As the Gita points out that even intensive and difficult work done with this disposition becomes rather a rest, a no-work, the karma-sanyasa that leads to Perfection. What Gita says is not high philosophy but a practical law of man's biological evolution. As one cultivates this disposition one will experience that even the environment itself is changing and one will not feel that one is working for 'somebody', but working for one's own perfection. And it will be followed by drastic changes in the attitude of others towards him. Stress and strain give way to the joy of inner expansion. Please read the book 'As a Man Thinketh' by James Allen and his other works. It will lead one to a deeper understanding of the profound science of human Perfection in the Bhagavad-gita.

Problem 2: The second question that haunts me is this: It is said that everybody is a re-product or reincarnation of his/her earlier birth. If that were so how the population is increasing day by day as in earlier days only a few people existed on this globe. Is it that people, or for that matter other creatures (plant or animal), are reborn only as a result of their earlier unexhausted vaasana-s, the subtle impressions? If that is the case, no increase in population should take place.

Our Views: This, of course is a problem that agitates many. Man naturally gives much importance to numbers, but in the boundless Nature that evolved from the Timeless Reality there is no number fixation, but only infinitude. The ancient spiritual wisdom of India and the latest worldview of modern science agree on this point. The great and powerful hymn, Sri Lalithaa-sahashra-naama-sthothram describes Divine Mother as anantha-kodi-brahmaanda-jananee, the Mother of infinite crores of universes. According to modern science, our solar system is just one among the thousand crores of solar systems in our galaxy. And there are such ten thousand crores of galaxies in this universe! So our globe is one among the infinite number of such globes in the universe. However, the great Rishi-s discovered that the background of this infinitude is One, and every one of us is basically that One.

This Intelligence-Energy Oneness expresses Itself as the infinite crores. One among its infinite rays becomes a solar system, another a plant, another an animal, another a man. In the world of life also there is this infinitude. Because of our limited vista of knowledge we think that life is confined only to our globe which is just one among millions of such globes in the universe, possibly holding infinite number of living beings.

According to the Soorya-Gita, an ancient text on Karma theory, the laws of Karma vaasana-s do not bind the living world upto the stage of man. Only from the stage of man these laws are applicable. This is quite understandable because as mentioned in the Problem No1, man alone enjoys the freedom of choice and therefore he himself creates the nature of his vaasana-s, the impressions formed by the charactristics of the work performed. Nature itself directs the evolution of the living world below the human beings and at the stage of man she bestows on him the responsibility of his further evolution by giving him the freedom of choice. That is why Soorya-gita says that the theory of Karma is applicable only from the human stage. Thus, the world of life is in a continuing evolutionary process, with out any fixation of numbers, and as the lower beings evolve into the human stage the laws of Karma-vaasana-s become relevant. Biologically man is equipped with the possibility of embracing the supreme Bliss and Freedom of the unconditioned Oneness by a wise use of his faculty of the freedom of choice. Therefore, this is all a continuing evolutionary process and there never occurred the creation of a fixed number of human souls. Another factor involved is our concept of Time, which we usually tend to consider as serial and fixed. The ancient treatises as the Yoga Vasishta and other texts give us a different view of the Time factor. Study and research would bring us deeper insights into such salient questions. .

However, this is a subject that cannot be elucidated in a few sentences. If the modern world cares to discard the lethargy and its pre-occupation with selfish conflicts and wars and direct its attention to explore the profound fields of knowledge we inherit from India's ancient explorers of Truth, it would pave the way for a greater human civilization.