Questions

Questions scare us. Most of us have had sleepless nights thinking about which questions the examination paper will hold or which question the interviewer will ask. The latter is more scarier. Because whether the answer is right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is that the answer is in sync with the interviewers line of thought. Now how can we know what is in the mind of somebody and what does he really want to know. That is another difficult question.

In the great Mahabharata war, Dhritarasthra had asked such a question. We all know that Dhritarashtra was blind but he was desirous of knowing what is happening n the war. Vedvyas who also happens to be his uncle blesses Sanjaya who happens to be Dhritarashtra’s adviser with divine eyesight. which means that even though Sanjay is far away he is able to ‘see’ what is happening  in the battlefield. Dhritarashtra is very happy with this arrangement.
So the Bhagavad Gita which means the song of the Lord begins with Dhritarashtra asking Sanjaya
dhrtarastra uvaca
dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre
samaveta yuyutsavah
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya
Dhrtarastra said: O Sanjaya, after assembling in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruksetra, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do, being desirous to fight?
It seems that Dhritarashtra just wants to know what is happening on the battlefield but that is  not so simple. He is more concerned with his sons. He being guardian of his brothers son; he should have been impartial but he was not. At every point we  can see his selfishness,- when Draupadi was disrobes, when the game of dice took place…every moment his partiality can be seen.
So in this shloka Dhritarashtra doesn’t really want to know what is happening… he really wants to know whether his sons are winning.
But technically he knows what the result will be because he says ‘Dharmashetre. So in dharmashetre nothing wrong happens, truth wins. So it is evident that Pandavas will win because they are on the side of dharma.
Sanjaya like a clever interviewee knows what is in the mind of Dhritarashtra. And instead of answering directly he dodges the question. He tells about the military formation, the might of both sides and so on.
Its only at the end when Krishna has finished advising Arjuna and Arjuna has fully surrendered that Sanjay answers the question by saying
yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mam
Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.
So what a clever person Sanjaya is. He is diplomatic, sharp, well versed in language and yet delivers the message subtly
 
That is how we have to answer interviews too, confuse the interviewer a little dodge a little, scrutinize some more and yet deliver the message.
Interestingly the Bhagavad Gita also gives us tips on how to ask a question. But it is more related to questioning your guru
tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah (4.34)
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
So a golden message given here, be submissive. It’s only when the egos are down that anything can be learnt.
There is a story which comes to mind. When Raavana is about to leave his body, Shri Ram advises Lakshmana to go and approach him ans get some knowledge. Lakshmana goes and stands near his head. Raavana refuses to acknowledge him. Lakshmana goes back to his brother and says that Raavana didn’t acknowledge him. Ram laughs and sends him back saying that he should stand near his feet with his palms folded and enquire submissively.  Lakshmana does so and is blessed with Raavanas wisdom.
translation of shlokas courtesy asitis.com
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School Diaries- I

It was a normal day albeit with a difference. Instead of a single class that day I was taking two classes. The first was for the sixth and seven graders. The second was for the fourth and fifth graders. I prefer to have two batches; you can alter and be more personal. You can go down to the level of the children. The only problem is the over enthusiasm of children.

When it is a combined class we assemble in their auditorium, there is a degree of formality. Students are quieter but when classes are divided, delivery is better, interaction more so but handling the enthusiasm of children is a task.

And so I took the seventh shloka of the twelfth chapter of the Bhagvad Gita. First we went word by word then we divide the shloka into four parts. Recite each part and then combine all the four.

And  so  it went:

tesam aham samuddharta mrtyu-samsara-sagarat
bhavami na cirat partha mayy avesita-cetasam

First I say a line then they repeat. After a couple of times I ask them to repeat by themselves. And then the cacophony starts. When one says tesam, another has already reached mrtyu. One is confused, the other looks blank.

Then I raise my hands and stop them. Then to the count of three, they start again. No mean task handling 200 children. And if you ask a question, they are so witty and so eager that you are bowled over.

So we finished recitation and then go the translation. Now this is the funny part. While some are interested in understanding the shloka…some by then are fed up of sitting. (I sometimes ask them to get up and stretch and exercise but that makes them so eager that making them sit again is a problem).

So normally after translation I tell a story related to the shloka. That helps in understanding. So this shloka and the previous one tells that those who surrender to Him, He sees that they do not return to this material world again. So I told the story of Bhakt Prahlad.

Normally everyone knows about Prahlad and Hiranyakashipu. The point was how the devotion of Prahlad won over Sri Vishnu and so when Prahlad needs Him; He is there for him.

But then blame it on our education system or our beliefs, we tend to be skeptical and term these stories as mythology. So normally I will also tell the story of an Indian Origin girl from South Africa. The story happened just a couple of decades ago. The girl is playing with a ball while her father is observing from the second floor of their building. She throws the ball which goes to the road adjacent to the ground. She runs to catch it. The father notices a speeding truck, he calls out to the girl who doesn’t hear him. So he jumps from the second floor window but he is no Akshay Kumar… he breaks his leg.

The girl who is about to pick the ball. notices the truck but freezes on the spot. The father notices the girl going on the bushes on the other side of the road. Coincidentally a police car is following the truck, The police notices the girl lying on the bushes, they pick her and rush to the community clinic. The girl is unconscious. The doctors fear that there is brain damage and rush her to a bigger hospital. The girl gains consciousness and says Narsimha saved her. The South African Doctors are afraid that the girl has indeed damaged her brain. By that time her parents arrive there. And then the girl tells them what had actually happened.

The girl is about to pick the ball when she notices the truck. The only thought that comes in her mind is to pray to Narsimhadev and she recites,

ugram viram maha-vishnum
jvalantam sarvato mukham
nrisimham bhishanam bhadram
mrityur mrityum namamy aham

And she just surrenders to the Lord. The Lord arrives and picks her up and keeps her on the bushes.

The doctors don’t believe her. But then she says its hurting a little on my neck. On observation its found that they are nail marks. The tissue from those marks are sent to the laboratory. And indeed it comes to be known that the marks are nail marks of a lion-man.

When I told the story of Prahlad there were skeptics. When I told this story there was pin drop silence.

After the class a boy comes and asks, ‘Mataji why nobody saw Narsimhadev. Why could only the girl see him’.

I said, ‘In the battlefield of Kurukshetra Krishna had shown the Virat Swaroop in front of everyone but only Arjuna could see. Why?’

He shrugged.

‘Belief’, I said, ‘You can believe or not believe but it’s often faith that paves the way’.

He understood. Gave me a smile and touched my feet.

I can’t describe how satisfied I felt at that moment. If from a crowd of 200 one could understand the gist…that was enough for me.

It’s a different thing that 150+ students followed him and touched my feet while I kept protesting.

 

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Devotional Service daily

Some time back we had done a play with kids, It was more of an exercise for children to understand how we can practise bhakti on a daily basis.

What happens is though the philosophy is clear to us, we don’t really know how to practise. So this was a small exercise as to how to really practise bhakti.

The response was good. This was a musical play and the children actually enjoyed presenting it and later on some of the kids came and told that now we have actually understood how life should be. Needless to say the satisfaction that I got that day was immeasurable.

————————————————————————–

Actor 1: Devotional service do they say….but how to do that; do tell me. They are so many things to do, how do I do it in a day…

Actor 2: So many?? They are just 9, you forgot or what? Prahlad Maharaj said:

             śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
sakhyam ātma-nivedanam 

So easy..

Actor1: I know, I know But how to do that in a day. How do I do that in a simple way??

( All together moving in circle Hmm, hmmm)

Actor 3: Sravanam…. Means listening. I can listen carefully to what matajis say. I can attend lectures in temples too.

Actor 4: We can read devotional books and listen to  each other’s notes on it

(All together hmmm)

Actor 4:Kirtanam thats singing. Thats easy. Hare Krishna, hare Krishna ( all together singing maha mantra moving here and there)

Actor 5: We can sing in school, at temple and at home too. Hare Krishna, hare Krishna….

(all together)

Actor 5: Vishnu smaranam…….always remembering Vishnu. How to follow that in a day?? Remembering the Lord in every way…., how do I do that?

(All thinking….how to do that, how to do that)

Actor 6: I know I know Vishnu Smaranam means remembering Him always, right?

Actor 3: Say then: How will you do that?

Actor 6: ‘Get up in the  morning, Go to the altar and say; ‘Thank you for this wonderful day Krishna’

(All together: Thank you, Thank you)

Have your bath and then say thank you Krishna for I have water and a nice place to take bath in

(All together: Thank you, Thank you)

Before having your breakfast thank the Lord for the yummy food that you got

(All together: Thank you, Thank you)

Before going to school Thank the Lord, for because of Him, you can go to school

(All together: Thank you, Thank you)

Actor 7: Hmmm So in this way we can remember Him always

Actor 6: Yes, Yes

(All together: Thank you, Thank you)

Actor 1: Pada Sevanam. How do I serve Lord’s lotus feet when I have not met Krishna yet

(All together . Hmm)

Actor 7; I know I know. Parents, Grand Parents, teachers aren’t they our well wishers and in a way God for us

Actor 3: yes of course

Actor 7: So we can help them, we can serve them…

Actor 4: ( Clapping) And we can do even Pada Sevanam to them

( We can do that, we can do that)

Actor 2: Arcanam…Deity worship…how can we do that

Actor 8 ; You know I have a laddoo gopal. I dress him up and care for him, I serve him food and clean His altar. He is my best friend and He brightens up my day

(  In Background Serve the deities, yes serve the deities)

Actor 9: Vandanam means singing nice prayers to the Lord. I know how to do that

(All together: How, how)

I have made a nice prayer, would you like to listen to that.

(All together: Yes, Yes)

Oh my Lord, Oh my beautiful Lord

You are my sunshine, you are my breathe

You are my inspiration,

You are my best friend

With you to guide me, with you by my side

I am a happy person and so very confident too

so Be with me

( All together Be with us, be with us)

Actor 10 ; Dasyam, Sakhyam; servitorshio, friendship how to do that. Neither am I Arjuna who has Lord besides Him always. Neither am I Hanuman that I can serve Him firsthand. So how do I follow that, how do I do that?

( How do we do that, how do we do that)

Actor 11: I know I know

(how how)

Like a friend follows his friends advice, like a servant follows his masters orders; we can follow what Krishna has said in the Bhagvad Gita. For he is my dearest friend and he is my beloved Master

(Oh yes, Oh yes)

Actor 12: Atma nivedanam…how do we do that

Actor 13. Oh that. That is easy. When he is our dearest friend and when he is our beloved Master then what is the problem to Surrender to Him. Whatever I do… whatever I say is everything for Him

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare hare

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare hare.


The whole play was enacted with the help of various instruments like keyboard, cymbals and mrdanga. The audience of young children was enraptured

Hope the children remember the lesson throughout their lives

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Slices of life #2

Mornings are usually hurried. Apart from the personal ablutions there is aarti to be done, breakfast to be made, bhoga to be offered and the son to be readied, fed and dropped to school.

It was in this confusion that I discovered that the gas cylinder is empty. And though I have a spare but I did not know how to break the seal of the full cylinder and attach the regulator. Google baba didn’t help me. No, it did actually but in my confusion and hurry it didn’t hit the right notes.

At this moment I ran and rang the bell of the neighbours. She came and opened but she too didn’t know how to do it but she sent her husband. He came changed and went all in 2 minutes flat. And we were right on track.

Its at these moments I send a silent ‘thanks’. The migration from Bahrain to here was not easy but smooth. At every other step there have been difficulties but at every step there has been someone (Some known; some unknown) who have stepped forward and helped. While it reinforces my faith in humanity. I send a prayer to the Lord for being there always with us.

ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham (BG 9.22)
TRANSLATION
But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.
I am not a great devotee but at every step I feel how He is there to protect us.
There is a true story of a brahmana who lived his life by begging( madhukari). Madhukari brahmins are supposed to beg only at five houses. Regardless whether they get something or not. Very often he and his wife would starve because they would eat only what they got in alms.
Once  when he was reading the above shloka he said how it can be vahamy aham. How can the Lord carry what we lack and he scratched that word because he thought it was used wrongly. Shortly he had to leave for his madhukari. After some time, his wife heard knocks . She opened the door to find two young boys carrying bags  of foodstuff. They said, ‘Master, has sent us with alms’. She was happy to finally see some foodstuffs in the house. ‘But who are you two’, she asked. ‘We are students’, they said. At that point she saw some marks on the back of the younger boy. ‘What happened, what are the marks on your back’, she asked.
‘Master beat me, thinking that I am wrong’, he said
She felt bad, she said, ‘Sit I will prepare some food and serve you’.
In some time the brahmana arrived and said, ‘No one gave alms today’.At that point his wife realised that the boys had disappeared.
She said, ‘But your students came with some alms’
‘Which student, I didn’t get any today, he said
The wife told him what happened and he shed tears for then he understood that the Lord had come Himself to make him understand the meaning of this shloka. Slowly he went to erase the scratch marks on the word ‘Vayamy aham’.
Such is the lord. He protects, he preserves and He loves without any limits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

epped forward

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Her father’s daughter

Searching Self

Radha was irritated. Very Irritated. She wanted to speak to her father but did he have any time for her other than his chanting and his devotional service. Nah, it was only them for him.

‘Why can’t he hurry up?’, she asked her mom.

‘And why didn’t you ask him yesterday, you had the whole evening to ask him?’,  said her mom.

‘I forgot’.

‘Then wait’, said her mom

‘I mean, why does he have to do all this?’

‘Radha, is it wrong to give a little time to the maker? The rest of the day he devotes to us, isn’t it? ‘, said her mom

‘Yes, I know, karma, bhakti, service, I know, Please don’t start all that again’, complained Radha.

‘Radhaaa’, he  was about to lecture her when Shankar, her husband and Radha’s father stopped her.

‘It is alright Savita, leave her, so what did you want from…

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Slices of life #1

‘Mataji, mataji’… a girl  maybe in the sixth standard came running behind me.

‘Yes, I said as I patted her back, her face glowed. It often amazes me how a small gesture encourages children and makes them happy.

‘How many times should I say, “Om” before I begin my studies’, She asked.

‘As many times you feel the need’, I said. She looked at me confused. I continued, ‘Ideally three times but if you are more disturbed you can say ten times’, I said.

She smiled, mumbled a thank you and ran away.

I love working with children. The love and dedication that they show is seldom to be seen in adults.

I love the way they make you theirs. Last week for example, it was raining heavily. The auto driver took me as far as possible amidst the school compound. But when I got down balancing my sari with my bag and wallet, some coins fell. Immediately two boys came running forward saying a good morning to rescue my coins.

As I sit on the podium I can feel their curiosity, ‘What is she going to tell today’, and their excitement rubs off on me. And we begin a new session.

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The shloka which I am reminded of by their curiosity

ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam
ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah
ascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti
srutvapy enam veda na caiva kascit
TRANSLATION
Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all. (BG 2.29)
_____________________________________________________________

 

#slicesoflife

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The impermanence of it all….

As I stand idling on the balcony, a sudden wave of nostalgia hits me. I remember the good old times spent in Bahrain. The sevas I was fortunate to have; the classes attended all memories wash over me.

It is not easy, fifteen lovely years especially the last eight are not easy to forget. As I long for some company I remember my sisters at the temple or the ladies in my bhakti vriksha who had become like my daughters. As I cook in the kitchen I remember who likes the particular dish that I am preparing or how it was cooking in the temple kitchen particularly on Saturdays for the Kannada Bhagvad Gita class. As I clean my home my mind conjures up images of the mass cleaning on fridays after breakfast in the temple.

Memories can sometimes bring a smile on your lips and yet sometimes torment you with a sweet ache in the heart.

The last twenty-five years I have been like a nomad, flitting from place to place. enjoying each place and yet not getting attached to any. Bahrain in that way had been special. A place where I started my marital life, made a home, had a child; experienced the highs and lows that life brings with it and yet I always used to remind myself that it is temporary, one day I will have to leave it all.

Today where I am placed I love it. I am independent, I don’t have to wait for anybody to pick me up if I have to go somewhere, I have family close by, the weather suits me and yet a tiny piece of my heart has remained in Bahrain.

And then I remind myself that the change was inevitable. One day or the other it had to be.

 

The most important lesson that I have learnt in this whole relocation is how easily we forget ourselves. I knew that life in Bahrain was temporary. One day I had to move and yet I got attached.

Similarly even though I know that this body is just an outer covering I/We get attached to it, to the relations attached to that body . Even though I know that this relations are of this body, I still get angry if their opinion is different than mine or I am carried away by someones praises.

If only I could remember that none of these are permanent…..one moment we are praised; another criticised, it is just the duality of this world.

While in Bahrain there were so many sevas. Sometimes cooking, sometimes preaching, sometimes cleaning, sometimes dressing and so on. And each seva used to give so much bliss. If I could just remember that bliss and carry on ultimately waiting for that day when I would be able to personally serve the Supreme Lord….now that would be blissful indeed.

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ‘si me
.
TRANSLATION
Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (BG-18.65)

 

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