Category Archives: Lessons

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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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.

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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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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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Gowri and Ganesh

Pardon me if I sound foolish but till now I had thought that Ganesh Chaturthi was Ganesh’s birthday. See I told you, I know you must be thinking what a fool she is.

Ganesh Chaturthi has always been special. It meant gorging on varieties of food and of course a holiday. Years back in Bhilai we used to go to a family friend’s place who celebrated it in their home. It meant that all konkanis got together that day and amidst the rituals, we chatted and ate.

Mumbai Ganesh Chaturthis were also special. It meant celebrating at the sisters place. And on the ‘visarjan’day going to Saath rasta simply because we could see all the idols. And of course we feasted that day too.

Now it is more about going to the ancestral home (if we are in India). If we are in Bahrain it means preparing a feast at home and then going over to the festivities at Maharastra Mandal. In short this festival is special and we make the most of it.

But I am digressing!!

One day Gowri that is Parvati decides to go to her maternal place but then it is ‘Shravan’. It is raining and of course Shravan is a sacred month, which has a lot of rituals involved. So Shiva advises her not to go.

Then comes Bhadrapad. And Gowri again requests her husband for permission to go home. Now as it is known Shiva loves Gowri a lot and cannot bear separation from her.( One of the reasons that unmarried girls are asked to perform Austerities on Monday-Shiva’s day’ so that they get loving husbands as Shiva) So he says no. She says I cannot ignore my parents. It has been so long since I met them, I have to go and meet them. After a long and loving debate, Shiva agrees to send Gowri

But on one condition. On the fourth day Ganesha would come to her parents home to take her. She agrees.

While coming down o Bhumi she comes as water and that water mixes with the soil. So that is why a symbolic idol is made of clay or mud and she is worshipped on the third day of Bhadrapad. So she comes down to bhumi for three days from the first to the third day of Bhadrapad. And on the third day she is worshipped and a feast is prepared. The married ones are given gifts of ‘sowbhagya’ that is bangles, cloth, kaajal etc and the unmarried ones are given some gifts too.

The point to note is that Gowri festival is about celebrating the married daughter coming to her maternal place. Unlike to the stories which we hear that a daughters place belongs to her husband’s place. Gowri festival celebrates the arrival of the daughter to meet her parents. It is a day of rejoicing, meeting and of course food.

And then it is the fourth day of Bhadrapad and Ganesha arrives to take his mother back and it is a double celebration. Firstly the grandson has arrived, secondly it is Lord Ganesha. so celebrations galore. But the grandparents want to spend some more  time with the daughter and the grandson. So they entice him with some more of the yummy food and He agrees. And this goes on till the fourteenth day and Shiva cannot take it anymore and threatens to destroy the world.

And so the grandparents along with the neighbours, friends and relatives take both of them and leave them near the waterways and they leave as they came-in liquid form. And that is why the idols are immersed in water.

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The Gateway of Hell

Suma and Kirti were the best of friends. They had sailed from kindergarten to primary to middle and then high school. Suma was always better in studies and dramatics. While Kirti was an average ‘all-rounder’ if you may say so. But each would help the other in all the activities; studies or otherwise.

Sometime in Grade 9, Kirti got all A1’s in all subjects. As it was surprising everyone lauded her except for Suma, she could not digest it that how a person whom she taught could fare better than her. And then while Kirti worked hard and won accolades in studies and sports, Suma got jealous and more jealous and eventually she started losing her grades AND her peace of mind.

At every opportunity, Suma saw to it that she reminded Kirti how she was nothing and it was she who had groomed her. Kirti did not understand why Suma had changed and why she was being so angry and abusive on her.

The final straw was when they were cycling to school, Suma deliberately came on Kirti’s side and Kirti fell on to the thorny grass shrubs bordering the edges of the road. Though there was not much damage to the cycle or to Kirti, the internal damaged were more. The thorns grazed her here and there, and her skirt was torn but what was damaged was the trust and love between the friends which could never be repaired.

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Isn’t there a Suma in each of our lives. You may wonder how a mentor can become so jealous. Can a teacher be jealous of a student, a mother of  a child? Yes it can be. It is possible. Didn’t Ashoka kill his own brothers? Didn’t a well-known singer apparently see to it that her sister didn’t shine. There are numerous examples.

The Bhagvad gita says

tri-vidham narakasyedam
dvaram nasanam atmanah
kamah krodhas tatha lobhas
tasmad etat trayam tyajet

TRANSLATION

There are three gates leading to this hell–lust, anger and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.(Bhagvad Gita 16.21)

Everyone tries to satisfy their lust and if they cannot then there is anger and greed. Now let us not go by the crude meaning of lust. Lust can mean an overwhelming desire for power, success, knowledge etc. But how does this lust arise.

How does a child derive happiness. By being with her parent. Remember how when we were small doing petty errands for our parents would fill us with joy. But then we grew up, started earning got married got stuck in the rigmarole of life and so on and then never felt the same joy as we felt when we did doing those petty errands.

Same is the position of jiva . The jiva was happy serving the parmatama but then it got a little selfish and wanted to enjoy on its own. So Parmatama created the  material world for or enjoyment. But as soon as the Jiva came into this material world it forgot his love for the Parmatama. That love was converted to lust with the aid of the senses. Bhagvad Gita 2.62 and 2.63 says:

TEXT 62

dhyayato visayan pumsah
sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah
kamat krodho ‘bhijayate

TRANSLATION

While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

TEXT 63

krodhad bhavati sammohah
sammohat smrti-vibhramah
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso
buddhi-nasat pranasyati

TRANSLATION

From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.

So from lust anger arises. Anger makes us forget the realities of life and takes us away from our maker.

So the real culprit is our senses. The eyes make us see what we should not, ears make us hear which should not be heard, we speak hurtful words, we eat that which is not to be eaten and all this culminates into lust. Lust for power, for possessions. But how to control senses? That has already been discussed at Yatra earlier. (Check here)

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Sakha-my friend

My friend was upset and I asked her why. Where upon she told me how a common friend had hurt her. But isn’t that common. Each and every person hurts us at one or the other time. Needless to say, we too have been the offenders many a times. It is not that we deliberately try to hurt anyone but it is just that our perceptions are different. The way we act to situations or think in situations may be unlike others. In the process we may hurt others. And it is just possible that others may not understand others or others understand us. And this happens in all relationships and not just friendships.

Aren’t their times when you feel that your spouse is the greatest boon that you have received in life and the very next moment you may feel like throttling him.

Same with parents. Parents may have your best interest in mind but many times they may fail to understand you.

So what do we do? Be morose that this world is a dull place where no body understands anybody??

The trick is to be friendly with all and yet be aloof. because all friendships serve some means. Very few have genuine caring.

The only true friend is the Lord. He is one who will give you everything and yet not interfere in your life. He is the one who really UNDERSTANDS.

In the Bhagvad Gita Chapter 9 text 18 the Lord says

gatir bharta prabhuh saksi
nivasah saranam suhrt
prabhavah pralayah sthanam
nidhanam bijam avyayam

TRANSLATION

I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed.

So when the creator himself says that he is the best friend; what else one needs.

Srimad Bhagvatam says that a human has four defects:

  • imperfect senses
  • propensity to cheat
  • commits mistakes and
  • is illusioned
  • So you see these defects are inherent in us. So how can we hope to be everlasting friends to others. When we ourselves are not perfect how can we be perfect friends.

Krishna on the other hand is perfect. None of the above defects exist in him and so he is dependable. But the issue is are we ready to depend on Him?

 

 

 

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Garuda

Recently my son presented a small paper on Garuda. Following is a copy of it. Needless to say we learned a lot.

Garuda ia Vishnu’s divine vehicle. Garuda is a giant eagle, having a human body and senses and bird-like forehead, wings, beak and nails. He wears a crown on his head like his master, Vishnu.

Garuda’s father is the sage Kashyapa and his mother is Vinatha. Once his mother and his step mother had an argument in which his mother lost. As a punishment his step mother Kadru made his mother Vinatha her servant. This made Garuda very angry. But he very humbly asked his step mother how he could he get his mother back.

Kadru replied that he could have his mother back if he brought nectar from the heavens. Hearing this Garuda immediately left for Amravathi, the place where Indra lives. Indra’s armies of Gods tried to stop Garuda but he defeated them. There were other divine forces also which tried to stop him from reaching the divine well holding the nectar or amrita. But he defeated them all. He brought the nectar with him to his step-mother, Kadru but without handing over the nectar, got his mother, Vinata, released. Vishnu had noticed whatever that happened and was impressed by Garuda’s honesty.  Garuda had not once touched the nectar that he was carrying for so long. Vishnu requested Garuda to become his vahana or vehicle, to which Garuda agreed but put  two conditions. One that he be held higher to Vishnu and second that he will never die.

Vishnu granted his two wishes. Vishnu placed Garuda atop his flagstaff to fulfill his wish of being placed higher than Vishnu. Thus every Vishnu temple has such a Garudadhvaja in front. Garuda works as the carrier of the Lord; therefore he is considered the transcendental prince of all carriers.

After this in many of the Lord’s pastimes, Garuda has been his companion

He flew with the Lord where Gajendra was offering his prayers.

He was with him when the Lord along with Satyabhama fought Narkasura

It is said that the two wings of Garuda, who carry the Lord everywhere, are two divisions of the Sama Veda known as brhat and rathantara.

In one of his pastimes, the Lord very easily lifted Mandara Mountain with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda. The Lord sat on the mountain and was carried to the by Garuda, who placed the mountain in the middle of the sea.

There is a small story about a sparrow and Garuda. A sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean did not even consider her appeal. So the sparrow decided to dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small beak, and everyone laughed at her. The news of her activity spread, and at last Garuda heard it. He became compassionate toward his small sister bird, and so he came to see the sparrow. Garuda was very pleased by the determination of the small sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuda at once asked the ocean to return her eggs or else he would himself take up the work of the sparrow. The ocean was frightened at this, and returned the eggs. Thus the sparrow became happy by the grace of Garuda.

Thus as we can see Garuda was very mighty but he was equally a humble and a kind devotee who was always eager to serve the Lord

 

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