Category Archives: Spirituality

Vedas are eternal

Source : The Hindu

The Cosmic dance of Lord Siva is significant from the point of view of the Sanskrit language, said Krishna Ganapadigal in a discourse. The Lord holds in one of His hands a damaru. This is a small drum, shaped like an hour glass. When the Lord paused in the middle of His dance, He shook His damaru. It is said that He shook it fourteen times. Each time He shook the damaru, a sabda was produced. The Sanakadhi rishis, who watched His dance, absorbed the sabdas. The fourteen sabdas became fourteen sutras. Panini, the great grammarian, wrote his Ashtadyayi based on these sutras, which owed their origin to the sabdas emanating from Lord Siva’s damaru. Thus Lord Siva is the origin of Sanskrit grammar.

Every word has a meaningful root in Sanskrit. And the same word can have different meanings in different contexts. While we know ‘anna’ as referring to cooked rice, in fact it can be used to refer simply to food, and not necessarily only to rice.

Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas. The Vedas were taught orally, a student learning from a teacher, who in turn would have learned from an earlier one and so on. Can you trace this Vedic instruction right up to its origin? It cannot be done, because the Vedas are eternal, without a beginning or an end.

In this respect, they are very much like the Supreme One Himself. The Vedas lay down what constitutes righteous conduct. The Vedas also talk about what happens in the various yugas. Thus the Vedas are not just records of past knowledge, but they also talk of the future. They are the repositories of all kinds of knowledge. None can claim to have complete mastery over the Vedas. This is seen in the life of sage Bharadwaja, who could not master the Vedas, despite his life being extended up to three hundred years.

Commitment to dharma

Source : The Hindu

The subtleties and practical features inhering in the dharma codified in the sastras is best revealed with clarity when the Lord upholds it during His incarnations, said Sri Kesava Dikshitar in a discourse.

Rama is hailed as the very embodiment of Satya and Dharma, deemed to be the highest worth in this world. Rama is proud to state He always speaks the truth and only the truth. There is no room for any second word in His life; and no way for slackness in upholding dharma. He tells Kausalya that there is nothing higher than dharma in this world and that truth is rooted in dharma. It is important that He should honour Dasaratha’s word to Kaikeyi as it is consonant with dharma.

Valmiki emphasises Rama’s commitment to truth and dharma when Lakshmana faces a stiff battle with Indrajit. Lakshmana finally succeeds in killing him only after he sends an arrow with the prayer that if it is unquestionable and absolutely certain that Rama stands for Truth and Dharma, this arrow should kill Indrajit.

Krishna avatar is replete with unique instances that showcase His Visesha dharma as the impartial distributor of the fruits of individual karma. Krishna tells Arjuna that the war he faces is a fight for the cause of dharma, and an opportunity for him to uphold his Kshatriya dharma. Arjuna need not hesitate to kill his preceptors Bhishma, Drona and others. They may be virtuous and upright, but they have swerved from dharma by siding with Duryodhana who is steeped in adharma and will have to face the consequences. The same Lord is the very essence of compassion when He goes in person to offer solace to Bhishma at the time of his death. He graces Bhishma with the knowledge to explain dharma to posterity and He, along with the Pandavas, listens to the exposition. He finally grants Bhishma salvation.

Spirit of service

Source : The Hindu

The esoteric teaching about the true nature of the jivatma and its eternal relationship with the Lord as that of servant and master is skilfully interwoven in the Ramayana. The jivatma who realises the significance of this bond is inspired with the yearning to serve the Lord who is the embodiment of all auspicious qualities that the human mind can recognise — perfection, compassion, prowess, goodness, etc, and even much more beyond all these. Lakshmana, Vibhishana and Bharata, for instance, seek Rama’s feet knowing that their true worth is fully realised only when involved in selfless service to the Lord, pointed out Sri V. Karunakarachariar in a discourse.

Each of them desires this cherished reward of acceptance by the Lord to serve Him in their respective subservient roles. The spirit of service inherent in Lakshmana is revealed when he literally clasps Rama’s feet and seeks permission to serve Him and Sita during their stay in the forest. He promises that by doing so there will be no taint to the dharma He upholds. His desire to serve Rama will be fulfilled and He will also benefit by his service. The way shown by Vibhishana is also somewhat similar.

He is frank about his position. “Ravana treated me as a vile slave and put me to shame before all. His sharp words pierced my heart through and through. So, I have cast behind me wife and child, wealth and luxury, and sought refuge with Rama.”

Vibhishana teaches the way by which the hurdles that prevent one’s efforts from seeking refuge with the Lord have to be overcome. Bharata, in his state of total renunciation, is the very embodiment of nobility and is steadfast in his service to the Lord in thought, word and deed. The privilege to serve the Lord has to be diligently earned by each one through selfless love, devotion and admiration for Him.

Uprooting sins

Source : The Hindu

The discussion between Parikshit and Sage Suka in the Bhagavata Purana on how the force of sin can be expiated by ritualistic karma also known as prayaschitta karma brings to the fore many interesting issues in this regard, pointed out Sri Kesava Dikshitar in a discourse.

Parikshit wonders about the efficacy of such expiatory karmas since people continue to commit the same sins in spite of themselves. The analogy of the elephant that throws up mud on itself even after it has been washed and bathed is quoted to show how it is difficult to eradicate habits that are ingrained in each one. Suka says that ignorance is the source of all karma including acts of expiation. Expiation can certainly wash off the effects of a particular karma but not the tendency to commit the acts again as long as one remains ignorant of one’s self.

By practising austerities, cultivating virtues such as kindness, truth and compassion, and engaging in disciplines like meditation and worship, a man of righteousness and faith can overcome even great sins committed by thought word and deed.

The comparison of a forest fire that can easily destroy all the reeds in a trice is pertinent here since it also implies that the vasanas are not eradicated in toto just as the roots of reeds can sprout again with the advent of rains.

So Suka refers to the more appropriate illustration of the sun that removes the mist totally without any trace to show that the practice of devotion to the Lord as most efficacious in uprooting evil tendencies.

Krishna’s advice also focuses on the urgent need for each one to unravel the mystery surrounding one’s existence. This exercise alone can lead to an understanding of the purpose of one’s life and of what is eternal and permanent and turn one’s mind to remain devoted to God at all times.

In Good Faith: A secular ethics for our times -Dalai Lama

Source : Indian Express

Time is always moving forward and no force can stop it. At every moment, we have the option of using our time constructively or negatively. The choice we make will determine whether our world becomes a peaceful one or continues to be engulfed in conflict and tension.

All human beings are basically the same, whether Easterners or Westerners, Southerners or Northerners, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, from this religion or that, and whether they’re believers or not. Emotionally, mentally and physically (except for minor secondary differences in appearance), we are the same. We all have the same potential to undergo both positive and negative experiences. Common sense shows us that negative actions always bring pain and sorrow while constructive action brings us pleasure and joy. Therefore, it is important to recognise that each of us has the potential to transform ourselves into a better, happier person, leading to a better and happier society.

The way such a transformation can take place is through adopting a positive mental attitude. We need a new way of thinking that includes provisions for developing our inner world. For centuries, humanity has invested greatly in developing society in material terms, on the basis of science and technology. This has resulted in remarkable improvements in the living standards of people throughout the world. Despite these scientific and technological achievements, however, many problems remain as people continue to cherish an outdated mental attitude.

In the field of international relations, for example, even countries that cherish freedom, democracy and liberty still rely greatly on force and violence. Using force may seem attractive and decisive, but it is counterproductive in the long run. For one thing, violence is unpredictable. Your initial intention may be to use limited force, but once you have committed violence, the consequences are unpredictable. Violence always creates unexpected complications and a violent response.

Violence is also not realistic in today’s world, since every being is so intertwined. Under these circumstances, to destroy your neighbour is actually destruction of oneself. In order to solve a problem, you have to appreciate what is at stake for your opponents. You have to take care of their interests as well as you can, and in that light, try to find a solution. What we need is a kind of inner disarmament. If we cultivate that and an awareness of the effects of violence, then the very notion of military activity will become outdated. We can then think seriously about how to physically disarm. Fortunately, on the issue of nuclear weapons, there are already programmes for dismantling nuclear warheads. We could go further and seek the total destruction of nuclear weapons. Then, the long-term target could be to aim for a demilitarised world.

There is also the mistaken belief that economic growth alone might result in a happier society. But current inequalities in economic development, resulting in a huge gap between the rich and the poor across the globe, as well as within nations, is a source of tensions and practical problems. Unfortunately, not many of us are able to see the reality of our situation, and as a result a great difference separates our perceptions from reality. On the basis of our misconceptions, we adopt attitudes that compound the problems in society.

The future of humanity depends on the adoption of a positive mental attitude by the current generation. This is why education is so important. Knowledge is like an instrument, and whether that instrument is put to use in a constructive or a destructive way depends on motivation. Modern education is very sound, but it seems to be based on a universal acceptance of the importance of developing the brain. Not enough attention is given to the development of the person as a whole, and to encouraging a clear sense of values and a warm heart.

My hope is that our educational systems will pay more attention to the development of human warmth and love. It is important to address moral questions related to the whole life of an individual, including his or her role in the society and in the family. All the way from kindergarten up to university. Through this, there is the potential to make oneself a happy person, to have a happy family, and to live in a happy society.

Parents have a special responsibility to introduce their children to the benefits of basic good human qualities such as love, kindness, and a warm heart. It would also be very useful to introduce children to the idea that whenever they are faced with a conflict, the best and most practical way of resolving it is through dialogue, not violence. If we introduce the idea of dialogue to children at an early age, through their schools, we can train students to discuss different views. In this way, the concept of dialogue will gradually be instilled in them. This is important because there will always be conflicts and disagreements in human society, and dialogue is the appropriate, effective and realistic method of truly resolving them.

Through such education, we can foster the idea that human beings are social creatures, that our individual interests rest on society and that it is in our own interest to be warm-hearted good neighbours to each other. This relates directly to what I think of as basic human values — that is, a sense of caring, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of forgiveness, based on a commitment to the oneness of humanity. We could call these basic human values “secular ethics”, since they do not depend on religious faith. And by “secular” here I mean that whether we embrace religion or not, which is a personal matter, these values still hold true. The very purpose of life is to find happiness, so there is no point in neglecting those very values that are directly related to making us happy.

There is good reason to develop these basic human values, because I believe that human nature is basically gentle. I believe that we are only occasionally aggressive and that generally our lives are very much involved with love and affection. Even the cells in our body work better if we have peace of mind. An agitated mind usually provokes some physical imbalance. If peace of mind is important for good health, that means the body itself is structured in a way that accords with mental peace. We can therefore conclude that human nature is more inclined to gentleness and affection.

On the mental level, too, we find that the more compassionate we are, the greater our peace of mind. In my brief lifetime, I have found that the more I meditate on compassion and think about the infinite number of sentient beings who are suffering, the more I develop an immense feeling of inner strength. As our inner strength and self-confidence grow, fear and doubt are reduced, and this automatically makes us more open. Then we can communicate more easily, because when we are open, others respond accordingly. On the other hand, when we are filled with fear, hatred or doubt, the door to our heart is closed and we relate to others with suspicion. The sad thing about this is that you can develop the impression that other people also harbour suspicions about you, and the distance between you and them increases. This ends in loneliness and frustration.

Younger generations have a great responsibility to ensure that the world becomes a more peaceful place for all. This can happen so long as our modern educational system involves educating the heart along with the brain.

Sita’s compassion

Source : Faith - The Hindu

Sita is always inseparable from Rama, but gets separated when she gives in to a momentary temptation to possess the golden deer. She undergoes untold suffering as she is tormented and threatened by evil forces.

Sita’s life of captivity in Asoka Vana mirrors that of the jivatma caught in the cycle of birth, having lost its moorings and hence its awareness of its true nature and allegiance to the Lord. Sita teaches by her example the way of firm faith in the Lord’s protection, without yielding to the pressure of trying circumstances and seeming delays in the matter of being saved, pointed out Sri V. Karunakarachariar in a discourse.

In spite of many attempts to unsettle her faith, she never even for moment forgets Rama. She spends her time meditating on Rama Nama, hoping and praying that one day Rama will surely come and rescue her.

She only sees Rama everywhere and at all times and hence Ravana fails to make any dent on her faith in Rama. She does go to the edge of despair but is saved by the timely arrival of Hanuman who brings tidings of Rama to her.

In playing the role of the divine mother incarnate, Sita stands tall in her compassion towards all jivatmas irrespective of their faults and sins. It is extraordinary that she feels for Ravana, her tormentor.

In her eyes he is pitiable for his arrogance, ego and his adharma. She even advises Ravana that he can still live in peace and prosperity and save himself from terrible death if he only befriends Rama. She asks him if he cannot see Rama as the very embodiment of dharma. Anyone who takes refuge in Him can rest assured that he will be free from sorrow, pain, fear and grief.

When Hanuman wishes to kill the rakshasis after Ravana’s fall, Sita is sympathetic towards them and dissuades him.

The Gopis of Vrindavan

Source : Faith - The Hindu

Attaining oneness with Brahman is the ultimate goal of human existence and scriptures discuss the difficulties in this spiritual path. First of all, they say, Brahman is beyond their grasp, and they openly accept their inability to define this ineffable presence which nevertheless abides without any reservations in all aspects of creation. That is why it is said that trying to reach Brahman through sastras is difficult and confusing, while the path of love to Krishna can lead to the same realisation, pointed out Srimati Prema Pandurang in a discourse.

Gopi is a bhava not bound by any personality or gender. It is a concept of pure and selfless love for Krishna where karma, jnana and bhakti blend seamlessly. What greater fortune for them than being lured towards salvation by the child in Brindavan who comes to steal their hearts in the guise of stealing butter? Their very way of life that is centered on Krishna is constituted of that “yagna, dhana and tapas” — strictures laid down in the scriptures for all beings, which the Gita states are the only means by which the atma can be purified.

Though engaged in their household duties and commitments, their hearts and minds are one with Krishna. Worldly attachments and pulls are set aside when they rush to experience the call of the flute. In the realm of bhakti, all differences between individual bhaktas are dissolved and only friendliness prevails. All are conscious of the Supreme Lord and His munificence and compassion alone. There is a desire to celebrate His glory rather than be bogged down with the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ that are difficult hurdles in the spiritual path. The love of the Gopis towards Krishna and their experience of Krishna are seen to be synonymous with the state of “Brahmanubhavam,” the highest state of realisation that all aspire for.