May 7, 2023

Book Review: Head, Heart & Hands by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

 This book is rather a booklet of 60 pages that consists of discourses given by the author.

He talks about how a Yogic journey focuses on enhancing the abilities of the mind, opening up the heart and bringing creativity to the hands. Not much depth, given the size of the book. But it gives a preview that kindles the interest of the reader to go deeper.

The first chapter focuses mainly on spiritual awareness. In simple terms, it is a personal effort to improve the quality of life. The author emphasizes the importance of observation and modification of normal behavioral patterns of life.

"Spiritual awareness comes not with meditation, but with cultivation of understanding" - I was wowed by this simple and profound thought.

Transformation is possible when we transcend our samsaras - our default patterns. Association with sense objects and the material world makes us feel attached and comes in the way of such transcendence.

In the second chapter, the author focuses on the two opposing concepts of Yoga and Maya. While Yoga unites you with the source, Maya creates more distance between you and the source. He then elaborates on the four faculties of ahamkara (ego), buddhi (intellect), chitta (memories) and manas (rationality), which form the part of the great mind (mahat).

Association with sense objects leads to desire, which then leads to craving and then becomes an attachment, as the intensity of the desire deepens.

After establishing this initial context, the author talks about managing the mind through practices earmarked for each of the four faculties.

He refers to an invisible heart (or the spiritual heart), which beats to the nine major sentiments (Bhava) triggered by the mood of the mind. There is a brief mention of the nine steps of Bhakti Yoga. It made me curious to learn more about these steps as outlined in Ramacharitamanas.

From the context of Hands, he brings out concepts and examples from Karma Yoga, creativity and the principle of focusing on the process and not the outcomes.

At the end of the book, I felt like having watched a teaser and waiting for the full movie­čÖé And I love such a feeling when I have more topics to read up or research further.

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