Category Archives: Lessons

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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The True Connection

When friends and family first came to know about our interest in spirituality, we were rubbished off. The common excuses given were ….now is the time to enjoy, so why are  you into bhakti. The second was you are young for this. You can start when you are old and have nothing else to do.

People generally do not understand that how much fun we have in our devotional life. We sing, we dance , we chant and we have nice prasadam. There is a sense of fulfillment and a feeling of belongingness. What else do you need. Surrounded by my god brothers and sisters, I feel loved and secured. There is no competition but a common goal-Krishna. What else do we need?

In the Bhagvad Gita 8chapter fifth shloka Krishna says:

anta-kale ca mam eva
smaran muktva kalevaram
yah prayati sa mad-bhavam
yati nasty atra samsayah

TRANSLATION

And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

So if I do not do any devotional activity throughout my life but at the end hope to utter Krishna, is it possible. It is said when the soul quits the body it is extremel painful lie some 10000 scorpions biting at the same time, so will I be able to utter HIS name. Yes, I can only if I have practised chanting his name, my whole life, can I utter his nime at the final moment. Doesn’t practice make us perfect?

In the third chapter of Bhagvad Gita 38th shloka, Krishna says

dhumenavriyate vahnir
yathadarso malena ca
yatholbenavrto garbhas
tatha tenedam avrtam

 TRANSLATION

As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, the living entity is covered by different degrees of this lust.

 

Though this shloka talks about different degrees of lust, it can be covered to our need for spiritual connection.

As an embryo surrounded by everything abominable our condition is so piteous that we actually pray that this is going to be the last birth and we will try our best to return to the original home.

So devotion is inherent in us. It is hidden just like the fire is hidden amidst the smoke. A little poke can rekindle it.

Our devotion is hidden just like the dust covers the mirror. And how do you bring devotion…in this yuga by chanting. Chanting can clean the dust of anarthas (unwanted elements) and reconnect you to the Lord.]

So chant and be happy and reconnect with your original father.

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The yearnings of the soul

Life seems to be a tightrope walk. The one in the corporate ladder has projects and deadlines,  parents struggle between, career and home. So where does it leave the spiritual aspirant?

Tight Rope Walker Stickman Clip Art

Life is a tightrope walk for them too.

Some time back one acquaintance had remarked, ‘It is good for you that you don’t have distractions. I mean, you don’t have parties to attend, you don’t have social image to adhere to, you can just care for your family and that’s it’.

For a second I felt guilty and incomplete. I mean I was standing in front of a career woman and what am I?

But then reality stuck. And I told her about my schedule. And she said, ‘how can you manage so much?’

But thats the beauty of a spiritual life. I won’t say I lead a pure life…I still have miles to go before I reach that landmark.

I have often heard from some seniors and the visiting dignitaries that time stretches in holy dhams. The 16 rounds of japa you struggle with each day to finish can be done quite easily and with better concentration in any holy dham. I am yet to experience that but then time does seem to stretch when you do something which your heart desires and yearns.

Some five odd years back when I had heard someone saying that japa is what the heart craves for; the soul wants its permanent identity; I had rubbished the whole idea. I was young and happy with my life. Caring for my child, writing and saas bahu serials were enough to keep me happy. But then in a desolate moment, I sat down and chanted. No, I didn’t have a japa mala or the beads to chant; I just chanted. And thats when everything changed. I was happy. I didn’t know why but I was happy. It was much later that I could understand that I was just responding to the call of my heart. And that is why I was happy.

And the journey became better and better. Along the way I lost a little of obsessiveness while gaining a lot of peace and happiness. Not a bad bargain, eh?

Earlier the tightrope was between social obligations, housework et all. Today it is between japa, reading and sevas. So which one is better. Definitely the second. Because I can do it all and still have time.  I am happy and can make others happy too.

So what is the moral? The moral is do what your soul craves for. Make yourself happy and when will you be happy……. when you attend to the yearnings of the soul.

Image source: downloadclipart.net

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