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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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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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A Good education

( Some months back the two sections of of our Friday school performed a skit. It was not anything revolutionary. The idea was that the student translate whatever they have learnt on stage. We also wanted each of the students to be on stage; some of them had never had that exposure. So each got a part even if it was a minor one)

Ananya and Arun are watching Television. Their mother calls out ‘Ananya, Arun……can you please get me some youghurt from the cold store?’

Ananya: Arun, you go

Arun: Why should I go, you go

Ananya: Why me, you go

Arun; Why me always, you go

Mother coming to them and saying, Why do you have to fight for that why don’t both of you go? The walk will do you good.

Ananya and Arun both together, ‘BUT’

Mother., “GO”

On the street Arun sees a posh car, he shouts, ‘WOOOOOW, I want that’

Ananya sees a girl walking with a pretty dress and whispers I want that’

[ Children run around with different things in their hand cars, dolls etc while Arun and Ananya keep shouting I want this, I want that] Two boys go around holding a placard  (WANTS)

Back home Arun says ‘Amma you know I saw such a nice car, why can’t Appa have such a car, why that stupid Toyota’.

And Amma’, Ananya says, ‘ I saw such a beautiful dress, I want that’.

[Background score I want this, I want that. Mother holds head in hands]

Mother: Listen, I forgot to tell you yesterday when we went out, we got some books for you both, come read

Ananya and Arun; Wow Akbar Birbal….Tenaliraman.

Ananya, I want to read Tenali Raman

Arun; No, I want to read it

[Chorus Me, Me while mother looks worried and walks off stage ] (Two boys holding SELF CENTRED)

[Children walk off stage while mother is with her friend Shiela

Mother:‘You know Shiela, I am worried

Shiela  ‘Why?’

Mother: ‘My children are ever so demanding. They forever want something or the other. And they fight so much; I don’t know how to handle them’

Shiela;‘Hmm, children keep seeing new things and it is natural that they want those things’

Mother:‘But all their demands can’t be met right but both don’t understand’.

Shiela:‘Happens all the time, don’t we adults too sometimes become demanding. It happens because we give importance to ourselves and want to be our boss’

Mother is all confused.

Shiela:‘If we come to know that there is someone superior who gives us what we need, we will be happy and satisfied

Mother; You mean God, right

Shiela nodding her head: Krishna. Why don’t you send your children to Madhav garden they will learn a lot of values there and of course they will get some good association.

Mother nods her head

[Girls dancing to Sunder Gopala, Ananya tries to barge in. The others just make place for her. They dance a little while Ananya tries to match them.

Later in the class, Mataji introduces them

Mataji ; We have two new children, Ananya, Arun

Everyone smiles at them

Mataji: Ananya, Arun I am sorry but I don’t have more copies of this book. Can you please share with others

Arun snatches the book from his neighbour

Neighbour; Hey you don’t have to do that, we can always share

Arun: Share, can we? (Two boys holding SHARING IS CARING)

Chorus of

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsina (
 BHAGVAD gITA SHLOKA 4.34)

 

TRANSLATION: 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.

Ananya: Does it mean I can ask questions?

Mataji: Yes but your questions should be intelligent. And you should ask the right person(Two boys holding ASK…….ASK)

Arun: Sub….submiss…what is that?

Mataji: Submissively that is humbly (Two boys holding BE HUMBLE)

[Silence in class and everyone is contemplating] (Placard SILENCE IS GOLDEN)

Obedience to teacher, nature, Lord is important because they know what is best for us.(Placard  OBEY)

Chorus:

matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah
agamapayino ‘nityas
tams titiksasva bharata

(BHAGVAD GITA 2.14)

TRANSLATION O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.

Ananaya: What does that mean?

Mataji: it means that nothing is permanent. Ananya tell me when you get a new toy or a book. Will you always play with it or read it.

Ananya; No, I get bored with it and want something new again (Placard Chanchalam hi mann)

Mataji smiling: Yes sometimes we like something, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes not. Best thing is not to get excited but to keep a balanced mind always.

Voiceover; And in this way, Ananya and Arun get a new start. Whether they become better or not, only time will tell because isn’t it said A man is known by the company he keeps. If both keep learning from the scriptures with good association, they will get good values.

( A post after a long time on the auspicious occassion of Gita Jayanti)

 

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Some theories broken

Amita heard the bells in the pooja room accompanied with the streams of Vishnu Sahasranaam on the music player. She grimaced and pulled the quilt high above her head and slept. ‘When will this drama stop’, she thought to herself.

Her parents Mrs. and Mr. Shastry had always been very devout. But from the  time her father had retired, more so. As soon as she could, she had moved out of home. She worked for a publishing company as a sub editor and she enjoyed her job. But her mission for this visit was important. She had to tell her parents that she had found her soul mate.

****************

Late night when she finally went to her bed, the events of the day flashed before her eyes. She had mustered enough courage to tell her mother about her choice. Her mother was surprised but calm. She in turn told to her husband i.e Amita’s father. Her father was shocked. He told just one line. “and this is the reward  we get for giving you independence”. But her mother calmed him down. She asked, ‘Are you  really sure that he is the one for you’. She said yes. And then things just ran ahead. Her parents had contacted Varad who in turn contacted his parents. And now they were supposed to come down for a talk.

****************

Fifteen years had passed since then. She and Varad had got married according to a Vedic ceremony. She had wanted a court wedding. ‘Cheap and best’, she had said. But her parents had put their foot down. ‘In a vedic ceremony you take your oath for better or worse taking agni (fire) as a sakshi (witness). And that is the best witness than we signing some useless paper,’ her father had said.

Fifteen years of living together and so many times they had been ready to call it quits. But every time, they had gone back and worked on their marriage. Fifteen years and a lovely daughter. A daughter who was as headstrong as she was. But strangely she possessed some qualities of her grandmother. ‘Genes I suppose’, Amita thought.

Fifteen years and her own publishing company. ‘Not bad at all’, she thought. But then she often thought that she had missed the growing up years of her daughter. She and Varad rarely spoke except over phone calls. All these years her mother in law took care of Aparna; her daughter and the home but then suddenly she had a heart attack and expired.

She was finding it difficult. To run a household, a publishing company and of course handling a teenage daughter was tough. And on Varad’s suggestion, she had asked her mother if it was possible for her to come and live with them. Her father had expired some years before and her mother lived alone. Her mother had not agreed at first. Her routine, her home was precious to her. But then Varad had promised her that her routine will not be objected to. And for Aparna’s sake, she had agreed, But Amita was tense. In all these years she and her mother had moved far. Amma’s habits still irked her. ‘I suppose the morning calm will be broken now with the loud vocals of MS’, she thought.

******

It was more than a month since amma had arrived. And strangely the house was calmer now. No chaos, no friction. Aparna was happier and strangely there were no ‘morning sounds’.  Amita could not resist herself and went to her mother’s room. Only to find that the Suprabhatam was kept at a low volume and her mother busy with her morning pooja.

She signalled Amita to sit down. She joined her once her rituals were over. ‘Why amma, why did you keep the volume so low’, Amita asked.

‘Because you don’t like it’, amma replied.

‘But then back home you kept it on high’, said Amita

‘But then that was MY home, this is yours’, amma said.

Amita felt ashamed. ‘No Amma, this is your home too.

Amma just grinned.

For the first time Amita noticed how easily amma adjusted to any circumstance. She thought of herself, what a rebel she had been. And yet amma had been patient. Chiding her, guiding her but never losing patience. And she though of her own conduct with her daughter. But then Aparna was a brat, worse than she had been.

‘Why the worried look’, her mother asked.

For the first time in her life Amita decided to confide in her mother. ‘Aparna amma….she lives in her own world of friends and illusion. She doesn’t ever speak to me freely nor…….’

‘Have you ever tried speaking to her Amu’, amma asked, ‘What I have seen is that you don’t ever have time for either her or Varad, For that matter even your relationship with Varad is superficial. I must admit that though I never liked Varad at first but he has proved to be a better person’

‘You didn’t like him but you agreed upon my marrying him’, protested Amita

‘You would have married him even if I had said no’, Amma said simply. ‘You have always been a confused person Amu, all your decisions have been because you wanted to rebel and nothing else’.

‘What do you mean?’, shrieked Amita

‘You dropped out of science stream becausee your appa wanted you to do it. You got into publishing be cause you could be out of the house for a long stretch. You married Varad because you wanted to show that you could make your own decisions….I could go on and on but lets leave it like that’.

‘So you mean to say that I do not have any good points’, said Amita

‘Did I say so? No, I didn’t. You are good in so many ways like you are charitable, if you make a decision; you stick to it,  and so on’.

‘The problem between you and Aparna is that you never spend any time with each other. And she behaves in such a manner just to attract your attention’, said Amma

‘Amma, I don’t have time to attend to her brattish behavior’, said Amita

‘You have to decide then, what is more important. Your important ‘jobs’ or your family and relationships’, said Amma

‘Why is it that a woman has to take such decisions and not a man’, shrieked Amita

‘Let us not bring gender issues now Amita. Point is that Varad is doing everything to give a stable home to Apu but she needs a mother’, said Amma, I would not have brought all this up because you have always made it clear to me that your life is none of my business but then a young life is at stake and I have to protect her’.

‘And frankly Amita stop being selfish now. Think about others too. Or you will be left alone. Don’t think Varad will be patient forever. If he decides to leave you, imagine how lonely you would be’, said Amma

Amita got the shock of her life. Amma meanwhile got busy with her morning rituals.

Days passed. Amita tried to bridge the gap but now Varad and Aparna were so unused to her that they did not know how to reciprocate. Amma gently guided them saying every one should get a second chance.  Apu was calmer, the lines on Varads face reduced.

 

Amita came to ammas room one day, sat with her watching her doing the pooja. A strange peace descended on her.

‘Amu, you wanted to speak’, asked amma

‘Yes amma. Amma the conversation which we had last month, why had you not spoken to me like that earlier. Maybe I would not have to struggle so much now.’

‘Ammu everything has a time and place. IF I had spoken to you earlier, would you have listened to me?

Amma had a point, Amita nodded.

‘And ammu we cannot change anybody if he or she is not willing. Even the Lord does not interfere if you are not ready to take his help. Remember Draupadi and her disrobing. The Lord could have stopped  Draupadi from going into the assembly but he didn’t. Only when she raised her hands and cried out for him that he rescued her’

‘Amma how are you so patient and tolerant’, asked Amita

Amma gave a toothy grin. I never was patient Amu until I started to follow the Lords dictate. It’s very easy to follow then to lead Amu. And everything is given in the Gita, you just have to follow what is given’, said she

‘Give me an example’, asked Amita

‘Well in the second chapter of the Gita text 14, the Lord says:

matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah
agamapayino ‘nityas
tams titiksasva bharata

TRANSLATION

O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.

So you see once you accept the fact that ups and downs are normal in life, you become calm and accept life as it comes, amma said with a grin.

Amita that day could understand that her mother was not just a blind follower of rituals but her understanding of the science of spirituality was much vast, much more than what she could ever aspire for.

 

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A train journey

I had a conversation sometime back with an acquaintance who just rubbished my quest for spiritualism. Which reminded me of this post written in 2011. Posting it again…please do have a read

I took the train this time while going to Goa from Visakhapatnam. Yes, plane would have been better, but it was both time-consuming as well as expensive. ( yes time-consuming; there is no direct flight and I had to go to Hyderabad, then from there to Mumbai and then to Vasco. In each airport I had to wait for 4-5 hours for the next flight and each time there would be security check and luggage to take care of. Train was a better option).

My co passengers were good. The compartment was clean. And my son made some friends. What more could I want.

There was this girl P, studying in the first standard who was playing the most with my son, well-behaved and neat and had this cute smile which gladdened me.  But it was her mother whom I admired the most. The way she was handling the kids was wonderful. And the patience she had…she went on answering the kid’s questions without asking why you have so many questions and without raising her voice. Just wonderful!!

The kids settled down for their afternoon siesta. She took out a magazine to read and I took out my chanting beads. After some time she asked me,

‘So you are religious?’

‘No I am into spiritualism,’ I replied.

‘Huh? Meaning?’

‘Spiritualism has a broader spectrum. It leads to the Absolute truth. Religion is the path we choose. ‘

You mean Religions like Hinduism, Christianity etc are just paths to know the Absolute truth.’

I smiled and returned back to my chants. She was quiet for some time contemplating. It suited me fine, I wanted to finish my rounds before my son woke up.

‘What do you do apart from chanting?’, She asked.

‘Read. Attend discourses, Discuss with my fellow travelers.’

‘What discourses do you attend?’

‘Discourses on the Bhagvad Gita and Bhagvatam primarily.’

‘Do they help you ?’

Oh yes. Bhagvatam has the entire history right from the time the universe was created, It has science, geography everything. And The Gita tells us how to conduct life.’

‘These classes err discourses are in the morning?’

‘NO, in the evening.’

‘So your husband looks after him’, she said pointing at my son’

‘No both of us attend these classes. Sonny stays with me, does his coloring or practices his writing. I f he is bored there is always somebody to look after the kids.’

‘So your husband too likes such stuff’, she asked.

‘Yes we started on this journey together. Its always better to be on a path together isn’t it, otherwise it becomes difficult.’

She nodded. ‘But you said there is always somebody to look after the kids, you mean like a babysitter?’

Yes I said.

‘But to leave your kid with a baby sitter for SUCH classes….Why? I mean is it necessary. Isn’t it much better to spend time with you kid then attend such lectures.’

‘You are in full-time job isn’t it which means that after school your daughter spends time with a baby sitter or maybe a creche’

She nodded.

‘You do this job because it satisfies you and fetches you good money’.

She nodded again.

‘Attending such classes satisfies my intellectual curiosity and fills me with infinite peace and joy’, I replied.

We parted with a hug. I had learnt a lesson (on good parenting) and she too I suppose had learnt one.

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GAURANGA!!

The ‘look’

I caught a glimpse as I turned,

I retraced my steps,

I saw,

and then I stared.

The beauty,

The twinkle in the eyes;

The mischief;

All held me.

I stood there,

transfixed,

The world moved,

Around me.

I stood,

Nothing shook me,

Nothing touched me,

As I gazed.

Your beauty;

arrested me,

Your gaze;

Beckoned me.

And I have been

Mesmerized ever since.

That was my first encounter with Krishna. The more I read or heard of him, the more enchanted I became. It is just about four years back that I came to know of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

When Krishna was about to leave this planet (when He came as Himself in Dwapar Yuga); Rukmini was teary eyed. She said that who would take care of the people, who would guide them. For the next yuga was Kali; the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. And then Krishna had replied that he would come again in Kali as his own devotee and would show how to really live.

True to his words in 1486, there was born a brilliant son at the house of Jagannath Misra and Sachidevi in Navadvipa. It was poornima and whats more, there was a lunar eclipse. While the people bathed in the Ganges to the sound of Krishna and Hari, the boy whose complexion was of molten gold was born. He was born underneath a Neem tree and so was nicknamed as Nimai.

Nimai grew up to be Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was also known as Gauranga because of his complexion. And he practically showed how a bhakti yogi should live. He made it clear that the yuga dharma of Kali yuga is sankirtan i.e. congregational chanting and wherever he went he encouraged people to take up chanting.

I just pray at the Lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that wherever I am, whatever situation I am, I may be able to follow, the path which he has laid down.

Happy Gaur Poornima to all!!

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Understand-Women in Vedic times

Vedic Civilizations had well designed towns/cities. But the essence of the town/city/village was the temple. Usually the temple was situated on a hill or just at the center. The sannyasis usually lived near the temples; the vanaprasthas who had not yet gone to the forest to meditate or who had and returned lived in the next ring. The grahastas lived in the last ring. The grahastas not only looked after their own families but were also responsible for the vanaprastis and the sannyasis.

Inside the grahastas home too there was a well laid ‘structure’. Men looked after the earnings and the outside world. Women looked after the running of the household, children etc. But do not think that the women were not respected. Men and women had clear areas of functioning and they did their jobs well. Husband and wife usually could meet only in the late evenings. And it was not that the husband commanded and the wife obliged. No. For matters regarding the running of home like how much expenses was needed for the house etc the husband asked the wife’s opinion.

The wife on her part had full control in running of the house and had no need to ask her husband permission whether to punish her child for a mistake or what to cook for dinner. I hope you understand what I mean here. The woman had full independence in her domain. Unlike today’s society where in responsibilities are crisscrossed, there is argument, doubts and accusations, the Vedic civilization had clear cut roles for both Man and Woman.

On this women’s Day I would like to tell each one of you that Vedic civilization always respected a woman and will always respect her. Never think that you are second fiddle, never think that you are a doormat. You always were special and you will always be.

 

Note:

Grahasta- A marital lif. A person after completing his education then settles to a grahasta life to raise a family and earn.

Vanaprastha- A person after completing the duties of family becomes a vanaprasthi or advances to the vana or forest to search for the ultimate truth.

Sannyasa is the last ashrama of life where in a person has renounced a material life completely

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