Swami Veda Bharati (1933–2015) was a modern-day sage who combined his deep knowledge of the spiritual mysteries encoded in ancient Sanskrit spiritual texts with his personal understanding of modern life and its challenges, which enabled him to teach the techniques for bringing about spiritual growth and personal transformation to thousands of people around the world. The challenges of living in the modern technological world today are dominated by demands on our time, behavior, and skills that are unparalleled in human history. The development of extremely sophisticated “targeted” marketing techniques with a flood of alluring products, widespread multitasking, and a continual emphasis on doing more in less time have fragmented our attention and diminished our awareness of our interior selves. Despite these circumstances and challenges, Swami Veda succeeded in distilling timeless teachings through his own personal sadhana (spiritual practice) and shared the shortcuts for deepening meditation to aspirants around the world.
Mahamandaleshwar Swami Veda Bharati was born in Dehradun, India into a Sanskrit-speaking spiritual family and was raised in the centuries-old Sanskrit tradition. At the age of four, he learned the 4,000 mathematical rules of Sanskrit grammar described in Panini’s ancient text on Sanskrit grammar. By age 11, he could recite and explain the meaning of each of the 20,000 verses in the Vedas. He began touring extensively and giving discourses on the Vedas throughout India. Although he never attended school in India, in the 1960s he studied at the University of London, where he received BA and MA degrees and a D.Litt. degree from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. He taught South Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota between 1966 and 1973. After he met his master, Swami Rama, he was initiated into the highest rungs of Dhyana yoga (the meditative path). During nearly 70 years of his service to humanity, he was a tireless teacher, prolific author, commentator on ancient Sanskrit texts, insightful poet, expert on scriptures of all major spiritual traditions of the world, accomplished linguist, ardent promoter of interfaith harmony through emphasis on commonalities among religions, and methodical scientist who demonstrated the power of mind in scientific laboratories. Following are glimpses of his teachings, which he sometimes referred to as shortcuts to spiritual growth.
Emotional purification: Through emotional purification, one gradually strengthens positive emotions while letting go of the negative emotions. Through this practice, the mind becomes progressively sweeter, so that those who come in contact with us experience that sweetness. He cautioned against quick reactions to events around us, recommending slower, sweeter responses.
“Make everyone feel loved”: His resounding message to the sadhakas (aspirants) around the world was to cultivate an attitude that ensures that everyone they encounter feels loved. To graduating classes of yoga teachers he would say, “Your true certificate will be given to you by your students when they feel loved in your presence.”
Pleasantness of mind by practice of the Brahma Viharas: One of his favorite verses in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras was verse I.33 on the four attitudes for developing chitta prasadanam (pleasantness of mind), called the Brahma Viharas: maitri (friendship towards the fortunate ones), karuna (compassion toward those who are suffering), mudita (finding joy in the happiness and success of others), and upeksha (neutrality toward the wicked).
Two-minute meditations: Swami Veda emphasized meditating many times during the day, at home or at work as the opportunity presents itself, each time observing one’s breath and going within for a two-minute period. He explained that the commercial breaks in television programs are perfectly timed for these meditations.
Full moon meditation: Swami Veda urged sadhakas around the world to meditate on full moon evenings with others in their time zone. Meditating with a group connects one to the collective mind and fosters expansion of one’s consciousness. It was his wish that the full moon meditations should continue after he left his body.
Five pillars of sadhana: Swami Veda identified the five key practices that form the “pillars” of one’s spiritual discipline: stillness of body and mind, silence of mind, fasting, celibacy, and conquest of sleep (meaning reducing one’s sleeping time over time). These practices bring about a meditative transformation.
Swami Veda’s mission is characterized by his own words: “I have no ambition. I just have a very loving duty given to me in my spiritual heritage of the Himalayan masters who have passed down this duty from generation to generation, perhaps for thousands of generations: The world has misery, the world has suffering. Do what you can to reduce the pain. Do what you can to soothe people’s minds. Don’t just counsel, Mr. Therapist, … console.”
Swami Veda Bharati will continue to guide aspirants through the audio and video recordings of thousands of hours of his lectures and his vast body of books and essays (available at swamiveda.org and themeditationcenter.org), and through the many teachers within the Himalayan tradition whom he trained to carry on his teachings.
Author: Anil Saigal is President of the Himalayan Yoga and Meditation Center in Illinois, and a certified teacher in the Himalayan tradition of Swami Rama. He teaches meditation, yoga philosophy, and scriptures. Anil has been Swami Veda’s student and has served him in various organizational capacities during the past 18 years.
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