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True Friendship

Source: https://www.ramakrishna.org/activities/message/message4.htm

WHO IS OUR TRUE FRIEND  ?

True Friendship Is Rare

In his last message, Sri Krishna says: “Brothers, wives, fathers, and friends, who were very near and dear to the heart, are all instantly alienated and turned into foes by even an insignificant sum of money. Even the least amount of money upsets them and inflames their anger, so that they immediately part company, and all at once abandoning cordiality they rival and even kill one another.”  The Bhagavad Gita (VI.5) tells us that a person’s “own self, endowed with discriminative knowledge, is the only friend. So-called friends and relatives are in reality the enemies of the aspirant; for, being objects of his affection and attachment, they create bondage.” In the light of that knowledge, as Sri Ramakrishna says: “When a man is seized with the spirit of intense renunciation he regards the world as a deep well and his relatives as venomous cobras.” The same message is repeated by the Master in a song: “Remember this, O mind! Nobody is your own; vain is your wandering in this world. Trapped in the subtle snare of maya as you are, do not forget the Mother,’s name. Only a day or two men honour you on earth as lord and master; all too soon that form, so honoured now, must needs be cast away, when Death, the Master, seizes you. Even your beloved wife, for whom, while yet you live, you fret yourself almost to death, will not go with you then. She too will say farewell, and shun your corpse as an evil thing.”

A true friend is a person who inspires us in the path of God, shields us from all vices and temptations, intercedes on our behalf with God, and prays for our spiritual welfare. On the other hand, the friend whose company makes us forget God, and arouses in our mind worldly propensities, can never be called a true friend, however pleasant or likable he may be. There is hardly anything more ruinous to the soul than the company of such a friend. The downfall of a person, in all countries and all ages, is caused by the company of such bad friends. Bad company is the breeding ground of all sins and vices. This is so, as Narada says in his Aphorism 44: ” Because it causes lust, wrath, delusion, loss of memory, loss of reason and finally, total wreck of the man.” The Mahabharata points out: “You have no desire for a thing till you know what it is like. It is only after you have seen it, or heard of it, or touched it, that you get a liking for it. Therefore, the safest rule of human conduct is not to take, touch, or see whatever is likely to taint the imagination.” So Narada says, “By all means, avoid bad company.” Bad company fans the flames of passion: “These propensities, though at first like ripples, acquire the proportions of a sea, by reason of bad company.” Sri Krishna in his last message says: “A mental wave is never produced by anything that has not been seen or heard. So the mind of a man who controls his senses is gradually stilled and is perfectly at peace….Thus the wise man should shun evil company and associate with the holy. It is these who by their words take away the attachment of the mind.”

The Three Friends of Man

The wisdom of Vedanta says: Never trust a friend who has not been tested. The following story, The Three Friends of Man, beautifully describes who can be trusted as our true friend. In a small village there lived a pious man, virtuous and honest. One day he received a summons from the king to appear before him for judgement. The king was known for his eccentricity, unpredictability, and cruelty.   The pious man became very much disturbed and afraid. He had never done anything wrong or unjust, so how could he receive a summons like this, he wondered.

The pious man had three friends: his best friend, his next best friend, and his least intimate friend. He went to his best friend, explained his fear and distress to him, and asked him to come with him to the king’s court. His best friend, standing inside the front door of his house, heard the whole matter and said: “I am afraid I cannot accompany you to the king’s court. I can only say good luck to you, my friend,” and he closed the door in his friend’s face. The pious man became terribly disappointed to realize that one whom he had always regarded as his best friend would desert him and leave him out in the cold.

He then went to see his next best friend, told him the whole problem, and made the same request of him. This friend said: “I know you to be a good man and I could never imagine your doing anything wrong. I’ll accompany you up to the palace gate, but I do not intend to enter the palace and stand before the king, because he is unpredictable and eccentric and may decide to put me in jail along with you.” The pious man became disappointed for the second time.

Sad at heart and disillusioned about human goodness, he went to his least intimate friend, from whom he never expected any help. When this third friend heard of his problem, he said to him: “I do know you to be an honest man and also I am certain that you are incapable of doing anything wrong. Don’t worry, my friend, but go home and come leisurely to the court of the king. I am going ahead to testify to the king about your honesty and goodness.” The pious man was greatly surprised at this pledge of support from a friend to whom he had never paid much attention.

The pious man in the story represents a human individual in distress, the king, death and the summons, the call of death. The palace gate stands for the graveyard. The “best friend” represents money and possessions, which say goodbye to person at death and never come out of his house to accompany him. The “next best friend” represents relatives and friends, who accompany him only up to the graveyard and then leave his dead body there. The “least intimate friend,” to whom he never paid much attention, is the memory of his good deeds, performed with selflessness for the benefit of others. The memory of his good deeds becomes his sole support in his fearful, solitary journey hereafter. Such a memory is his only true and trusted friend. The Bhagavad Gita (II.40) solemnly declares this fact and says: “in this [selfless action] no effort is ever lost and no harm is ever done. Even very little of this dharma [selfless action] saves a man from the Great Fear.” The memory of a good deed is like the messenger of Truth that escorts the soul to the realm of Truth. (Concluded)

Swami Adiswarananda

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Hindu prayer in English for non-Indian seekers / sadhaks

Intro : I have composed this prayer for non-Indian seekers of Hinduism in English. It is important to know that Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) is a complex mix of many profound theologies, philosophies, schools of thoughts, etc. Contrary to popular opinion among Westerners, Hinduism is not polytheistic. It may be considered as henotheistic and panentheistic. Profound philosophies like Advaita Vedanta, Achintya Bhedabheda, Vishishtadvaita, Tantra, Vedic texts, etc. form the base of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). "Sanatan" means eternal and "Dharma" means moral order. Because Hinduism is henotheistic, its scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. While concentrating on one form of God, the devotion of a Hindu sadhak rises to such a level that for a particular period of time that form of God is worshipped as Supreme. There are a plethora of schools of thoughts in Hinduism which can be described as being monist, monotheist, henotheist, panentheist, etc. Different sects have different interpretation even though all of them are united as a single Hindu family. While making this humble attempt to compose an English Hindu prayer, I would like to clarify that I do not intend to disrespect any school/sect and I indeed respect and endorse all of them. All these sects/schools are like pearls tied together with a single string of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). Therefore like most Hindus, I respect all deities/names/forms as manifestations/representations of the same Supreme Divine. Most Hindus consider different forms as signifying different attributes/qualities of the same Supreme Divine. Thus, Hindus are secular in the sense that we see even non-Hindu names, terms and forms of God (of different religions of the world) as that of the Supreme Being itself. I recommend reading the Bhagavad Geeta (Advaita Vedantic interpretation) to understand the true essence of Hinduism.

Prayer

I begin by reciting the sound Om (ॐ), which is the divine cosmic sound containing all vibrations of the Multiverse and symbol of the cause of the Multiverse, essence of life, Brahman (God principle), Atman (soul), and Self-knowledge (Swabhaas).

I bow with folded hands (Namaste/Namaskar pose) before the One who is worshipped first (Pratham pujya) Lord Ganesha, remover of all obstacles in the path to righteousness (Dharma) and god of auspiciousness.

I bow with folded hands before Swamy (Lord Of Lords), Lord Vishnu, preserver of the Multiverse and Swayam Prabhu (God itself).

I bow with folded hands before Father Lord Shiva, destroyer and transformer of the Multiverse (Sanhaarak), Pashupatinath (Lord Protector of all beings), Rudra (mightiest of the mighty) and who is the essence of the world (Sansar saaram).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Adi Shakti (Parvati/Mahakali/Parashakti), protector of righteousness (Dharma) and force underlying the whole Multiverse.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Saraswati, embodiment and bestower of knowledge, music, art, wisdom and learning.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, wife of Lord Vishnu and bestower of wealth, fortune and prosperity.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Krishna, who is the embodiment of love and is Swayam Prabhu Purna Purushottam (God itself complete with all divine qualities).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Radha, supreme goddess of blissful devotion and soulmate of Lord Krishna.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Ram, who is the perfect ideal person (Maryada Purushottam).

I bow with folded hands before Gurudev (teacher/guide/expert/master) Lord Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion, knowledge, power, excellence, part incarnation  of Lord Shiva (Shivaansh) and supreme devotee of Lord Ram.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Narsimha, incarnation/avatar of Lord Vishnu and he who strikes terror in the minds of non-religious and non-righteous (adharmi).

I bow with folded hands before Lord Venkateswara Swamy, manifestation of Lord Vishnu and destroyer of sins.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Vithoba (Vitthal/Panduranga), manifestation of Lord Krishna and guide towards the Supreme.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Mururgan (Kartikeya/Shanmukha/Swaminath/Skanda), son of Lord Shiva and god of war.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Brahma, creator of the universe.

I bow with folded hands before Brahman (pronounced “Brahm”), the highest universal abstract impersonal formless genderless pervasive infinite eternal true blissful principle/reality underlying the Multiverse and also existing apart from it.

Thus bowing before all the divine forms of the Supreme, I end by reciting Om (ॐ), concentrating upon Om (ॐ) and dissolving my whole being into Om (ॐ).

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-Ribhu Vashishtha

Effect of past karma

Source : The Hindu

The Kapilopadesa explains in detail the full sweep of the sway of samsara. The greatest wonder is that though the jivatma is endowed with the senses, mind, intellect and an inherent sense of good and evil, he is unable to transcend the cycle of births.

Sastras say that each one’s experiences of joy and sorrow are the result of past deeds good and bad and that heaven and hell are in this world, said Sri Kesava Dikshitar in a discourse.

The degree of experiences caused by old age, sickness, death, etc, varies in people but is unavoidable for all who are born in this world. Human nature is such that no one desires the fruits of bad deeds and all want only the fruits of good deeds.

But they do bad deeds easily and are not keen to do good deeds.

Yet all wish to live comfortably without sorrows and are quick to wonder why they experience sorrows and tend to think it is not what they deserve.

The Lord, who is not bound by any karma, empathises with human sorrow, in the Aranya Kanda when, as Ram, He cries out in despair on losing Sita: “I think there can be none in this world who is a greater sinner than me; that is why I am facing this kind of sorrow and grief that overpowers my mind and intellect easily. I am sure that in my past births I must have followed my desires and not abided by the rules of sastras. The effect of that is now being felt by me now. Sorrow after sorrow follows me.”

Ram does not highlight His commitment to dharma and truth, nor His devoted worship of Lord Ranganatha. This is to enable the jivatma understand and accept that his suffering is the result of past karma and that he should learn to seek to rid himself of this bondage.

He needs no help

Source : The Hindu

The Krishna Yajur Veda describes the Supreme One as animishah. That means He is vigilant in protecting His devotees, said V.S. Karunakarachariar in a discourse. Did not Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram keep watch over Ramanuja and guide him to safety when his life was in danger?

The Veda also says that He conquers without any help. He does not need help to destroy the army of sins that each one of us has. Lord Krishna’s words “maam Ekam” should be recalled here. He does not expect or need anyone’s help in vanquishing our sins. No wonder the Veda calls upon us to seek His help.

“Yudho naraha”, the Veda calls out, meaning “Oh you men who are engaged in battle.” What is the battle we are engaged in? We hanker after material possessions and are never satisfied with what we have. To fulfil our desires, we resort to wrongful means. That results in a constant battle with our conscience which tells us we are wrong. Therefore, we are all people who are always engaged in battle.

We also have to battle with our indriyas. In his Tiruvaimozhi, Nammazhvar presents a verbal picture of our battle with the senses. A commentary compares Nammazhvar’s cries to those of Sita when She was a prisoner in Lanka. So whose help should we mortals seek? We should seek the help of the One whom the Vedic mantra refers to as “ishuhastena,” that is the One armed with an arrow. Who else can this be but Ram?

Ram also fits the description of One who makes us cry to Him for help and then saves us. When Sugreeva and Vali fought, He did not save Sugreeva at once. His excuse was that since both looked alike, He did not want to hit Sugreeva by mistake. It was not as if Ram could not have killed Vali immediately. He wanted Sugreeva to express his helplessness and beseech Him for help.

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.