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Thread: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

  1. #1
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    Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste HDF,

    I know I need to read more of the Hindu scriptures...having read the Bhagavad Gita and only bits and pieces of the Ramayana, I know I've only scratched the surface of all the literature Hinduism has to offer. I know I need to read more in order to fully grasp more of Hinduism's concepts, but...well, a couple of factors intimidate me.

    First of all...there's a lot of scriptures. And some of these scriptures contain volumes of text (like the Mahabharata). I should probably devote more time to reading these scriptures so I can catch up little by little, but that brings me to the second factor. I admit it, as a product of a technological generation my attention span is quite small when it comes to reading books. I start to read a book, and within minutes of the first chapter my mind starts to wander and I get more easily distracted, like the dog from that movie Up by Pixar. Sometimes I even get sleepy when I try to read.

    I'm just wondering if there's some way I can counter these two factors to try to get into reading more Hindu scriptures? I'm not suggesting that people recommend "dumbed down" versions for me, but maybe just some advice on how to pay more attention and get more knowledge from these scriptures.

  2. #2

    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste webimpulse,

    I have had similar problems. One method I have found that particularly helps is to focus on small chunks one at a time, instead of rushing through and reading hundreds of pages at once. There are versions of Vasistha Yoga that are designed so that you read one piece per day over the course of a year, for example. Hindu texts are well made for this sort of reading - stories within stories, anecdotes within anecdotes, and strange symbolic motifs that need to be dwelt upon and thought about. Upanishads also are often short and pithy and designed for reflection.

    For instance, read the story about how Ganesha got his elephant head, or how Kumbhakarṇa was defeated, or the story of how Ramanuja evaded the plots of his murderous guru, or and so on. These tales have some self-contained meaning and are not particularly long or arduous to read. Then spend the rest of the day with these ideas in your head. After a while you will get into the habit of doing your small amount of reading each day, followed by reflection.

    You can read longer texts this way, or you could be more of a magpie and look around at different texts. For the former, books like the Brahma Vaivarta are perfect, and thankfully it is online - https://archive.org/stream/brahmavai...ge/n5/mode/2up

    I know Wendy Doniger is not popular here (and her later books are indeed crude and offensive) but some of her earlier translations are worth picking up. Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, for example, contains lots of interesting pieces from diverse sources that are short enough to keep you engaged.

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste Webimpulse

    As your name suggest, Web-Impulse will not help much, you are right. However, the solution is to find what interests you, more than discipline. Discipline will follow.

    If one experiences a short attention span, they should not read Upanishads, shrimad bhAgvatam or GItA simply because they are supposed to.

    The better thing to do is to
    a) walk away from this lifestyle of gadgets more and more as much as possible. (I know it is difficult in today's world and unfortunately a very basic part of life. )
    b) Find something like RamayaN that interests you. The KRshNa-book is another example, but even that may be heavy reading for some. If a person expects something on the lines of a mundane novel or some material-world literature they are not ready for spiritual pursuits.

    What draws you towards spirituality? is the first question.
    Why do you think one should read more scriptures?
    More is not necessarily better. One limb of the bhakti-dont's given by Rup-SanAtan GoswAmis is -- do not just read too much scripture to be a scholar. Focus on what you can digest.

    Someone here mentioned curiosity - I think it was Kalicharanji. This is so very true. Many have experienced this.

    Once in the radius-ring, curiosity will drive the sAdhak (seeker) like a tornado, hurricane wind. Then, no seperate exercise of concentration will be needed for the investigation.

    athato brahma-jidnyAsA || (thus begins the Bramha sUtra of VedaVyAs).
    Now, then, one should be inquisitive about what Brahman is. Investigate.

    Sometimes the curiosity may be a result of situations, problems, or making sure the philosophy fits what you want - proximity with BhagavAn or peace or whatever it is. You do not want any loop-holes in the system you create for yourself, for your future existence.

    If after years the storm quietens, one worries, am I slipping? What happened? Have I lost what was cultivated? No you are not slipping, you have arrived at a conclusion. Your search has ended. Suddenly it is all quiet. Now what? maintenence and sustenance.

    Hare KRshNa ~
    Last edited by smaranam; 26 November 2014 at 02:18 PM. Reason: bolded out the real message since it appears that no one read it
    || Shri KRshNArpaNamastu ||

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste,

    Generally, it is better to listen to audio or video discourse by a Saint who has done a lot of Self Study for many years. Since a saint has studied Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, etc, hence while giving a discourse, he will connect it with Upanishads and other literature. He will give example from other texts like Panchadashi or if he is a Vaishnava / Shaiva he will connect from related Grantha.

    This will help a lot. As Smaranam ji has said, it is better to change lifestyle. Now-a-days, people rely on e-books. It is better not to read e-books, but have a Hard Copy in Black and White

    First of all, you will have to set a target that you WILL dedicate daily 20 - 30 minutes for studying. Repeat the same audio or no of pages for 3 days and then move on to next audio or pages. Initially discipline is necessary. You must be strict with yourself and do not ditch it for moving out with friends or for watching TV. Your friends may keep calling you, but you should make it clear to them that you will not join them until you finish this stuff.

    Concentration will come naturally. Do not worry. Amount of interest is important and not your concentration. Even a dumb person is fully involved in a climax scene while watching a movie or TV serial. Even the body position will not change you are not aware of anything that is going around you. Only after the scene is over you will become body conscious.

    Maybe initially, you may need some asana like Ek padasana to keep your mind steady.

    OM
    Only God Is Truth, Everything Else Is Illusion - Ramakrishna
    Total Surrender of Ego to SELF is Real Bhakti - Ramana Maharshi

    Silence is the study of the scruptures. Meditation is the continuous thinking of Brahman which is to be meditated upon. The complete negation of both by knowledge is the vision of truth – sadAcAra-14 of Adi SankarAcArya

    namah SivAya vishnurUpAya viShNave SivarUpiNe, MBh, vanaparva, 3.39.76

    Sanskrit Dict | MW Dict | Gita Super Site | Hindu Dharma

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Vannakkam Web:

    In my opinion, it's not in quantity, but in quality. Better to read one verse, understand it, and apply it, rather than read the entire Vedic collection. Of what value is a massive amount of reading if you remember none of it, and nothing really sinks in. The only value is being able to state that you'd read it, and that's not actual value at all ... just ego value.

    This is why in reading groups, one verse will be read, and then a discussion held. A long time ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a Gita Reading Group, of maybe 6 like minded people. (They were actually the same kind people that let us share the same space they had rented, which later became the temple I'm involved with.)

    The day I was there they discussed 3 verses, taking turns reading them, then discussing the meaning, how to apply, etc. I also asked an elderly devotee what they did when it was complete ... her answer was simple ..."We start over."

    So it's not a matter of reading, but a matter of studying. In the teacher/student relationship, the student is often asked to 'say it in your own words.' Then one can tell if there is any real understanding.

    Best wishes.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    Vannakkam Web:

    In my opinion, it's not in quantity, but in quality. Better to read one verse, understand it, and apply it, rather than read the entire Vedic collection. Of what value is a massive amount of reading if you remember none of it, and nothing really sinks in. The only value is being able to state that you'd read it, and that's not actual value at all ... just ego value.

    Aum Namasivaya
    +1 I concur

    OM
    Only God Is Truth, Everything Else Is Illusion - Ramakrishna
    Total Surrender of Ego to SELF is Real Bhakti - Ramana Maharshi

    Silence is the study of the scruptures. Meditation is the continuous thinking of Brahman which is to be meditated upon. The complete negation of both by knowledge is the vision of truth – sadAcAra-14 of Adi SankarAcArya

    namah SivAya vishnurUpAya viShNave SivarUpiNe, MBh, vanaparva, 3.39.76

    Sanskrit Dict | MW Dict | Gita Super Site | Hindu Dharma

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste,

    May I add there have been recent studies showing how the internet, and especially search engines (like Google) are ruining peoples attention spans and thought patterns. Many people who could once read/love books and absorb them with ease; now struggle to read a page without the mind fluttering constantly like a ADHD child. Of course the actual study is far more comprehensive.

    Just some food for thought. I think everyone elses advice to distance yourself from gadgets when delving into these things is A1.

    On the same note, it is also true, that video and audio, are easier to maintain interest with. As a young man who loves technology I'm sure you idle on youtube watching random videos a lot. What I ocassionally do is watch a scholar or guru giving a lecture in a university or in his adobe; these are far more analytical and scripture orientated than the 2-5 minute clips you might find about spirituality or the DIY ones made by amateurs at home.

    Sometimes I unwind 30-60 minutes before bed while watching a lecture. Yesterday it was a lovely man who had been trained by a guru for several years in the wilderness giving a commentary on the Upanishads. In Kanpur.Far more potent for a newcomer than reading the Upanishads by oneself!

    Also, do not limit yourself to scriptures, there are some beautiful books that make hindu philosophy easier to digest and that link scriptures together in a beautiful manner. Good luck!

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    namaste,

    From my vantage point it seems to make sense to consider which house one wishes to enter. If you are in a neibhorhood ( sanatana dharma) with many houses (schools) then one needs to make a choice. If there is no choice/preference then any house will do, no?
    So, it seems to me it would be a good use of one's time to get a map of this neibhorhood. That is, what schools (houses) make up the neibhorhood. Learn a bit about them. Then one has sufficiently fueled their interest to pick a house ( school of thought ) to pursue. From there one's interest will assist in the selections.

    Now where can one get this map ? One book ( a 2 volume set ) that I often recommend is the 6 systems of Indian Philosopy by Kapoor.
    http://www.amazon.com/Systems-Indian.../dp/8177558870

    Now what of this attention span ? Patience and persistence is one means. Yet , as I see it and have experienced, grooming one's awareness i.e. expanding one's container of awareness, assists in attention span. It grooms one pointed-ness. This one-pointedness is the root of remaining focused. But even more. It also fuels comprehenion that compliments interest; then one has tightly coupled interest to comprehension and the ability to remain focused on the subject at hand is a by-product.





    iti siviam
    Last edited by yajvan; 29 November 2014 at 01:25 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

  9. #9

    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Quote Originally Posted by Webimpulse View Post
    I admit it, as a product of a technological generation my attention span is quite small when it comes to reading books. I start to read a book, and within minutes of the first chapter my mind starts to wander and I get more easily distracted, like the dog from that movie Up by Pixar. Sometimes I even get sleepy when I try to read.

    I'm just wondering if there's some way I can counter these two factors to try to get into reading more Hindu scriptures? I'm not suggesting that people recommend "dumbed down" versions for me, but maybe just some advice on how to pay more attention and get more knowledge from these scriptures.
    Namaste Webimpulse,

    We have, what we can call, "the circle of interest": a certain number of things that we have interest in and we like to explore.

    But one cannot continue to focus for too long on one of the interest areas alone, because the other areas start screaming for attention. Far from being a problem, this is necessary for a well-rounded growth.

    Then another thing; when we complete once going round them (the cycle may be of one day, one week, one month or even a year) we feel satiated, tired, and simply go to sleep.

    But when the sleep is over, we start over again, on the next "cycling" round the same circle.

    But that isn't the same circle, if you observe close enough: you are moving in a helix. Which is a circle and a line at the same time.

    So no need to worry, if the progress isn't linear enough. Because that approach (linear: one chapter of Gita in one month ==> ten chapters in ten month) is only good for academics and getting marks and passing exams (that's also necessary, if only to show one's capacity for discipline: we know students are trained mainly for the Industry, so the most disciplined get the best grades).


    KT
    Things to remember:

    1. Life = yajña
    2. Depth of Āstika knowledge is directly proportional
    to the richness of Sanskrit it is written in
    3. Āstika = Bhārata ("east") / Ārya ("west")
    4. Varṇa = tripartite division of Vedic polity
    5. r = c. x²
    where,
    r = realisation
    constant c = intelligence
    variable x = bhakti

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    Re: Reading Hindu Scriptures with a Short Attention Span

    Namaste,

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    One book ( a 2 volume set ) that I often recommend is the 6 systems of Indian Philosopy by Kapoor.
    [url]http://www.amazon.com/Systems-Indian-Philosophy-Subodh-Kapoor/dp/8177558870
    For those interested, Post #10 of the following link has a summary of the 6 Systems of Indian Philosophy,

    http://www.yogaforums.com/forums/f37/the-six-systems-of-indian-philosophy-7974.html

    Also here,

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/hindu-ph/#H3

    Pranam.

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