Wednesday, October 19, 2016

True Transformation

Once upon a time there was sage living in his ashram. One morning, while he was offering his prayers to the Sun god, a small mouse fell in his hands from the sky. It was being carried by an eagle and badly wounded. The sage felt pity on the mouse and transformed it into a human girl to protect it from the eagle. He took the girl to his ashram and nurtured her as his own daughter. The daughter grew up in the ashram and attained ripe age for marriage.

The sage wanted to marry his daughter to the most powerful person in the world. When the sage thought about the potential bridegrooms, he realized that the Sun is the most powerful in the whole visible world around us. So, he asked his daughter, "Dear, I want you to marry the most powerful person in the world. And I see that the Sun is the most powerful in the whole world. Are you willing to marry the Sun god?" The daughter replied, "You are right father, but a small cloud could obstruct the power of the mighty Sun. Isn’t the cloud more powerful?" The sage replied, “OK, so will you marry the cloud god?” “But father, when the wind blows it could easily scatter away the thickest of the clouds. Isn’t the wind more powerful than the clouds?”

The sage asked again, “so, you want to marry the wind god?” “No father. Please think about it. Even the most powerful winds are blocked by a mountain. Isn’t the mountain mightier than the wind?” reasoned the daughter. “So, how about you marry the mountain god?” “Don’t rush father! I agree a mountain is mighty. But a small mouse can easily dig a tunnel through the mountain. Isn’t the mouse the most powerful creature in the whole world?” The disappointed sage said, “My child, I transformed your body from that of a mouse to a human and raised you for so many years in my ashram, but I couldn’t transform your mind. You better be a mouse and live your own life,” and transformed her back into a mouse.

Similarly a Guru offers protection to the disciples in distress and raises them as his own children. A Guru’s one and only desire is to liberate the disciples from the shackles of illusion and make them attain the ultimate peace and bliss that he constantly experiences. But we, the disciples fail to follow his directions and instead desire and seek the most mundane pleasures. We pester the Gurus for things like promotions, marriages, children, wealth, health etc. while they seek to liberate us from this whole cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It doesn’t matter if we live in an ashram, dress like devotees and perform all the religious rituals. As long as our mind does not transform and progress on the path shown by the Guru, there is no use of the bodily transformations.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The power of organs

Our mind and the sensory organs are very powerful and when not properly controlled, they pose a great threat to our spiritual progress. Our Guruji SriBabuji Maharaj used to explain this through a story. Once sage Jaimini, a disciple of sage Veda Vyasa was reading through a book, still in the works, by his guru, when he found a verse denoting the power of the organs – "Balavaan indriyagramo, vidwansamapi karshati", meaning "the organs are so powerful that they even attract the well learned scholars." Jaimini, who was so proud of his intellect and renunciation, thought the guru must have written it by mistake and wanted to correct it. He changed the verse to "Balavaan indriyagramo vindwansam naapi karshati", meaning "even though the organs are so powerful, they cannot attract a well learned scholar." When sage Vyasa returned to his hut and noticed the changed verse, he just smiled and left.

One night when sage Vyasa was out of the ashram, sage Jaimini was alone in the hut. It was raining heavily outside with gusting winds. He heard a knock on the door and answered it to find a very beautiful woman wearing a wafer-thin sari completely wet in the rain. He welcomed her inside out of compassion. Her beauty in the dim light was making him mad. Her sweet voice and the natural aroma made him lose his control over the senses. He couldn't hold back anymore and tightly embraced her, rubbing his face all over her cheeks. He closed his eyes in ecstasy and suddenly felt a beard against his face. The shocked Jaimini opened his eyes to find the guru in his tight embrace. Sage Vyasa just smiled and left. Overcome with shame, Jaimini corrected the verse back to its original form.

Lord Krishna suggests two tools to control the powerful organs and mind in the Bhagavad Gita. The first one is practice. Suppose we suddenly decide to meditate for an hour every day. The first day it will be hard to sit and control our thoughts and we get pains all over the body. The second day will be ten times worse. But if we continue our practice, it slowly gets better over time and we will be able to sit comfortably and contemplate upon the universal truth. The second tool is detachment. Why do we get attached to things or people? Because we don’t know or realize their true nature. Suppose you get attached to a person because of their beauty. When you realize that the beauty is only skin-deep and the body is actually made up of bones, flesh, blood and all the slimy substances; that realization automatically leads to detachment. Similarly, if you are attached to your smartphone thinking you have a great tool to help you, when you realize that it's the phone that made you its servant and not the other way round, and that the phone is constantly leading you to stress and servitude, you automatically get detached to it.

Thus, even though the organs and mind are so powerful in deceiving us, practice and detachment through realization can be of great use in overcoming them. But, for realization you need constant reminders from the guru as we have seen in case of sage Jaimini.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The food wastage myth

There is a photo widely circulating in the social media that advises the people to stop wasting milk by pouring it on a Shivling or other statues of Hindu Gods and instead give the milk to a poor child. Many ordent hindus are also sharing and circulating this message without thinking twice. No religion advises people to rob the poor and offer instead to God. In fact, there is this legend of Swami Rama Tirtha carrying the holy Ganga water from Kashi to Rameswaram to be poured on the Shivling there, and using it instead, midway, to quench the thirst of a dying donkey.

But is the milk poured on a Shivling or God's statue really wastage? These statues are made of special stones with medicinal values and also sanctified and enriched daily by the devotion of thousands of people who worship them and also the waves of Mantras chanted in the temples. The milk thus poured on these statues attains miraculous healing powers. And it's usually not wasted either. It's distributed among the devotees. I personally know people who were cured of terminal cancer and other diseases just by consuming such holy milk.

Compare that to the food wastage we Indians commit by other means everyday. How much food is wasted in our extravagant marriages? Why do we serve tens of varieties in the marriages just to show-off? No sane person can eat so many varieties in a single meal and most of this food gets thrown in the garbage. The supermarkets reject or throw out many vegetables and fruits just because of minor blemishes or deformities.

How much food is wasted in borrowed festivals like the Tomatina Festival? How much food is wasted by the movie industry in filming the fight scenes, just to create a visual effect? How much food is wasted in the high-end restaurants that don't allow you to serve a second time in the same plate? How many gallons of milk is wasted to pour on the statues of political leaders or the cutouts of cine heroes? How many eggs and tomatoes are wasted for throwing at the leaders or actors people don't like?

Instead of asking these difficult questions, some people take the easy route of targeting the Hindu customs, that ultimately try to benefit the ecosystem and preserve the harmony of Nature, by projecting them as superstitions or unnecessary wastage. Please wake up to this fact and start thinking rationally and protect our way of life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The cosmic dance

Yesterday our daughter was dancing to a poem, the meaning of which goes like this - "every dance consists of three essential parts- the bodily poses, the lyrics and the attire. For lord Siva's dance the whole universe is the body, all the literature in the world is the lyrics, and the moon and the stars are part of the attire."

How true it is! There is not a minuscule place in this whole universe where god is not present. People think "I am doing this. I wrote that. I can sing many songs. I have this much wealth," and the likes while unnecessarily nurturing their egos. The same person feeling so proud, can't even move a finger when God withdraws his energy from the body. The person suddenly becomes a mere body and disintegrates within hours. 

But when one realizes the cosmic dance, he loses all the ego and becomes part of the God. Rather, realizes being part of God. Then, there is no place for greed, sorrow, disappointment, etc. in that person's life. There is only the eternal and boundless joy of the Lords cosmic dance, that fills his heart and spills out spreading it's way through the hearts of all living beings surrounding him. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Get out exactly as you got in

In the Panchtantra there is a tale. A fox was roaming the forest for a long time searching for food. It could not find any and starved for days. It became so thin like a skeleton. One day, to its surprise, it found a tree hollow with lots of different kinds of food. It immediately jumped in and started devouring the food. It ate so much that the belly bulged like a pumpkin. 

Tired of eating, it slowly slipped into sleep. When it woke up and tried to get out, the tummy doesn't fit through the tiny opening. It didn't know what to do. A rabbit was passing by and noticed the struggle. It asked the fox what the problem was. 

The fox said it wanted to come out of the tree hollow, but was not fitting through the opening. The rabbit asked, "How did you get in in the first place?" The fox replied, "I was starving for days and became so thin that I could squeeze in." The rabbit replied, "Then, starve again until you become thin enough to get out. Get out exactly as you got in."

We too came into this world with a blank mind. But we kept feeding information into the mind through our five senses, so much that it bulged enough to give us constant pain. If we really want to get out of the cycle of rebirths, we need to get rid of the bulge by starving our minds. We cannot attain freedom until we get rid of all the worldly imprints from our minds. Meditation is a great tool in cleansing the mind. But it can only help when we stop feeding unnecessary things newly into the mind. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Look within

Jeeva slowly opened his eyes. It was all dark. He doesn't remember how he ended up here and what was this place. In a few minutes his eyes got adjusted to the darkness and he could see things around him.

When he saw the delicious sweets he started feeling hungry. He tried to reach for them, but couldn't move that far. Unable to stand up, he tried to crawl to the sweets tray. He could only go near it but couldn't touch it. He looked around and found a TV. He thought at least he could have some entertainment and forget about the hunger. But, the remote was nowhere to be seen.

He started looking around to see if someone could help him. There was no trace of any human presence. He tried hard but couldn't control his emotions or cravings. He kept looking around for someone or something to help and didn't understand why he was not able to move much.

While looking around he suddenly glanced towards himself and realized the reason for his inability to move. His feet were tied to the wall with an iron chain. He tried to untangle himself from the chain, but unfortunately it was secured with a lock.

He started searching for the key. He looked all over the room, but couldn't find it. He was struggling a lot to get out of the bondage, but that was not possible without the key. As he finished searching the whole room, he felt something in his pocket. To his surprise, it was the key he was looking for and he was free at last.

We too are bound in this dark world and without realizing it we keep yearning for all things around us. And eternally feel sorry for our inability to get what we want. Once we stop looking around and start to look towards ourselves, we realize that we were bound by the illusion called Maya. And the key to open the bondage is also within us. It's the knowledge of the self - Aatma Jnana. It cannot be acquired from outside. It can only be achieved from within. And once we find the key, there is nothing in the world that can bind us.

Monday, April 18, 2016

South facing home

I keep hearing from many Indians in America that one should not buy a south facing home as it is against Vaastu. I wonder where this all started, as I have never heard this while in India. And I haven't seen one single village or town in India that doesn't have any south facing homes at all. If the belief is true and most of Indians believe in it, all the Indian towns and villages should have a U shaped structure with a vast opening on the south side. But, as all of you know, that is not the case.

Then, why the highly educated Indians in America are spreading this superstition? What I understand is people fear the South because Lord Yama is the presiding deity of the southern direction. As you know, Lord Yama's full name is Yama Dharma Raja. When one follows his Dharma, he has no need to fear Yama. Lord Yama is a true impartial and unbiased judge. And when two parties go to the judge on a case, they both respect the judge, but the guilty party is the one that fears the judge.

Moreover, there is no greater heaven than your happiness and no worse hell than your sorrow. One should not strive to go to heaven or hell. Both the heaven and hell are temporary in nature same as the day and night. Once you finish paying-off your Karma in heaven or hell, you will be forced back to the earth to continue acquiring new Karma, just as one will be forced out of a hotel after spending all his money. Lord Krishna clearly stated this in Gita - "ते तं भुक्त्वा स्वर्गलोकं विशालं| क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्यलोकं विशन्ति||" - "Those who spend-off their good Karma in experiencing the luxuries of the heaven, will come back to the earth."

One should instead strive to raise above the Karma, as advised by Lord Krishna, by doing their rightful duties (Dharma) while leaving the result to Him. And coming back to south facing homes, a home in which people pray to God daily is as holy as a temple, no matter which direction it faces. And a day on which one wakes up praying god is an auspicious day, no matter what the calendar says.