We can assure you, Crix does not contain egg. President of SWAHA, Pt. Umadatt Maharaj and three of our members visited the Bermudez factory last week where we saw the storage facilities for all the company’s raw materials,as well as the mixing, baking and packaging of Crix.The allergen statement on the package has caused some confusion and the company is currently reviewing it. They are required by law to include egg in the allergen statement because one of their products, Indulgeums cookies, contains egg.Different machinery and utensils are used to make these cookies and strict food safety measures are in place to ensure that there is no risk of contamination.It was an informative tourfor us, where we were able to see that Crix is safe for vegetarians.
His Holiness Shankaracharyaji, the late Pt. Hari Prasad, is the founder of SWAHA Incorporated. He steered this organization forward as he aimed to cater to, care and provide for the multiple needs of the Trinidad and Tobago community, both on local and foreign grounds. Through SWAHA, a formalized structure of succession planning was instituted, which allowed for the smooth transition into a future where the propagation of enlightened ritualism, philosophy and action based on conformity of these rituals could be efficiently carried out.
Shankaracharyaji was the father of seven children, one girl and six boys. With close to seven decades of experience as a teacher and preacher of Hinduism, he trained many Pundits, including his sons. He initiated thousands of devotees from around the world. Shankaracharyaji departed the mortal coil on April 15, 2008
His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad assumed Spiritual Headship of SWAHA Incorporated in April 2008, with the passing of SWAHA’s founder. He is the eldest son of the late Shankaracharya Pt. Hari Prasad and Smt. Chandrawatie Prasad and has been pursuing the path of his ancestors, working to propagate the time-honoured traditions and philosophy of Sanatan Dharma throughout Trinidad and Tobago and internationally. He has been a practicing pundit for almost five decades and is the Guru of thousands of disciples. He oversees all SWAHA institutions across the country including religious Centres and Branches, Early Childhood Care and Education Centres, Vishok Bhavan Children’s Home and SWAHA Hindu College. In 2011 he received the national award of Public Service Medal (Gold) in recognition of his service to education. Paramacharyaji is the father of two and the grandfather of three.
The auspicious period of Adhik Maas begins on June 17 and ends on July 15, 2015 and with it comes additional opportunities of worship, as all are afforded an ‘adhik’ month or additional month to commune with Divinity. Most blessed indeed are a people who embrace these opportunities of prayer to increase their spiritual assets and strengthen the spiritual armour of their land.
In the Hindu scriptural text Vratraaj, Bhagavan Vishnu responds to Lakshmi Maataa on her questions regarding the greatness of Adhik Maas, also called Malmaas or Purushottam Maas. The Lord outlines the reason behind the extra month that affords all additional time to focus on the Divine. According to Bhagavan Vishnu:
- Whenever Sankranti does not fall within one month then the month is considered to be an adhik or extra month and Adhik Maas occurs. The lunar calendar year then has 13 months.
- When there are two Sankrantis or solar transitions within one month then it is referred to as a ‘kshaya’(lost) month and the year becomes a lunar year with one reduced month (11 months). The lunar year comprising of eleven months only is very rare. It occurs once in 140 years or once in 190 years. But the extra month or Adhik Maas comes every two to three years.
- Bhagavan Vishnu said that He is the God of Adhik Maas. He says, “There is no doubt that whosoever performs ‘shodas-opachaar’ and worships the holy ones in Adhik Maas, he receives all fulfillment.”
- In Adhik Maas all success come when regular injunctions are carried out, sandhya, shraadh, etc are done.
- Whosoever offers gifts, jap, havan, does self-study, Pitri-tarpan, ‘archan and ‘shubh- karam’ during this month, attains all fulfillment.
- The welfare of mankind is served well through the various rituals performed at this time.
- Sins of many life-times can be destroyed by sacrifice done in Adhik Maas.
- Worship of Surya Bhagavan during this period cuts all sins.
- To please Janaardhan, Kartik or Shraavan, Adhik Maas vrat should be observed.
- Vratraaj quotes from Bhavishya Puraan that says that whosoever does not worship the Lord with devotion, he is bereft of wealth, children, relatives and friends.
- Through the worship of Vishnu, Hari, Mahavishnu, Krishna, Raam, Keshav, Madhav, Achyut, Purushottam, Govind , all other deities are pleased.
Many examples are given in Vratraaj, of individuals who were redeemed through austere sacrifices and worship during Adhik Maas. On the other hand, according to Vratraaj, anyone who spends this period idly, suffers in the filth of sin, worry and poverty.
Indeed, the month of Adhik Maas is one that is most auspicious for worship. Truly fortunate are those who refuse to be caught up in the ‘Adhik-maas frenzy’ that propagates some kind of ‘shut-down’ of prayer, worship and the Divine.
SWAHA advises that pooja should continue normally at this time. Please be reminded that pooja is a most essential requisite in our lives. It has been prescribed as a regular mode of worship. It is an action that should never cease to be performed. Everyone should utilize the time in doing all actions that are conducive to drawing closer to the Divine. The Divine is one’s every breath. Can one exist without this vital ingredient of nourishment and existence?
The defining feature of the human condition is the inevitable fact of the birth and death of all life on Earth. Time waits for no one and it will waste away all ambitions, youth, glory, fame and name. Our ancestors, as the current generation understands them, are revered because of their sacrifices and the related results that we enjoy in the present time. Will our children view our contributions to religion, culture, society and the environment as worthy of recognition? Will there be a gap in history? Will our contributions ever be as great as those in our past?
Each day that goes by, we cement our place in the halls of history while we continue to revel in the ignorance of our impermanence on planet Earth. One man can change the course of history and another will not. To which group do we belong? If my ancestors have followed traditions for thousands of years and have flourished on such values, how can a new society banish them in a few decades? Progress should be slow and steady but sure.
Today, the movements of the cultural and religious tides are no longer caressing the shores; they are now bashing and eroding the foundations that our ancestors would have painstakingly built with sweat, blood and tears. It is foolish when a society that has changed shores adapts and adopts the negative and backward values of “civilized” societies. Current trajectories in religion, tradition, ritual and worship are creating pools of conflict and destroying entire communities because of ignorance. It is necessary when, annually, we reflect on our own identities and re-connect with our pasts that we think deeply of where some pockets of our communities are heading. It is necessary to rethink, recollect and reinvent ourselves to live in line with “dharmic” values. A belief system that is eternal is there for us to rely on to sustain us through dire times. Our children will remember us for what we have done to make their stay on this Earth a better place. Wake up, arise and become stalwarts in your own communities.
By Pt. Varistha Persad
Ancient Hindus have made many contributions to the world in the following fields: mathematics, medicine, astronomy, navigation, botany, metallurgy, civil engineering and the science of consciousness.
Following are some of these contributions by Hindus of ancient and mediaeval India, which have had a major influence throughout the world.
Invention of Zero: Hindus of ancient India invented “zero”, without which there would be no binary system, no computers and counting would be cumbersome.
The Hindu Numeral System: The present day decimal system, in use all over the world, was developed by Hindu mathematicians between the 1st to 5th centuries but was also in use in India since 500 BCE.
Aryabhatt (476 CE), Master Astronomer and Mathematician: Aryabhatt was the first to proclaim that the earth is round; that it rotates round its own axis and revolves round the Sun in its orbit in space. He declared this 1,000 years before Copernicus published his Heliocentric theory. Aryabhatt invented the value of PI to four decimal places, namely 3.1416 and the sine table in Trigonometry.
Patanjali (200 BCE) – Father of Yoga: The science of yoga has gained popularity because of its scientific approach and benefits as well as for its deep understanding of human psychology.
The ancient Hindus were also pioneers in amputation, caesarian and cranial surgeries.
Other pioneering ancient Hindus include:
- Brahmagupta (598 CE – 665 CE), master astronomer and mathematician
- Baudhyana (850 BCE), founder of the Pythagoras Theorem
- Bhaskaracharya II (1114 – 1183 CE), genius in algebra and astronomy and a contributor to world math
- Nagarjuna (100 CE), founder of chemical science
- Acharya Charak (600 BCE), father of medicine
- Sushrut (600 BCE), father of plastic surgery and the science of anaesthesia
- Varahmihira (499 – 587 CE), eminent astronomer
The role played by India in these developments is great and, for which, we have much to be thankful. Bottom of Form
From temple to temple the same forms of God can be found, although they may differ slightly in appearance. The artists or sculptors carve the forms in their own style, which accounts for variations in the way they look. Yet, the names remain the same. Indeed the name Shiva remains Shiva, regardless of the differences in appearance from murti to murti. Similarly, Vishnu remains Vishnu; and so it is with all names of God throughout the ages.
Indeed, the names of God are “mahaa mantras”. The name of God is superior to the form. Evidence of this statement can be found in scriptures where the repetition of the name brought enlightenment, freedom from struggles and salvation to many devotees. In Ramaayan, Shri Tulsidas explained that Shri Raam Himself liberated a few, but His name liberated countless. Again in Shiva Puraan it is recorded that Upamanyu, a five-year-old child was able to get the “darshan” (appearance) of Lord Shiva by continuous repetition of the “Panchakshara Mantra” that was taught to him by his mother. Child devotees, Dhruv and Prahalad, came face to face with the Divine through repetition of His name.
The question may be asked as to what kind of power lies behind these names of the Divine, these “mahaa mantras”. A breakdown of the word “mantra” may bring some answers. Mantra is comprised of “man” – meaning mind and “tra” – meaning an instrument. A mantra, then, is an instrument of thought.
The names of the various deities are in Sanskrit. Each letter relates to a particular “chakra” or energy centre in the body. By the recitation of the name, different energy centres are activated, from which the energy flows through the 72,000 “nadis” that crisscross the subtle body, awakening the inner force or “shakti” that enables greater awareness of one’s true nature. One may not be aware of these inner movements but the results are clear. Ratnakar was unaware he was repeating the name of Raam, yet, by doing so, he was transformed to Sage Valmiki, “Adikavi”, the foremost of poets.
Continuous repetition of God’s name purifies the mind of the one who repeats it; it also cleanses the environment wherever this is done. Mantras are meant to be practised. They are like seeds that need to be sown, watered and fertilised. The more they are repeated, the more effective they become. Mantras can be recited aloud, softly or in the mind. They can also be written.
As a tool of transformation, mantras are most useful in one’s life. It is one of the nine types of devotion outlined by Shri Raam to Shavari in Ramaayan. To schedule the act of mantra-recitation in one’s daily routine is to become engaged in a practice that will sustain, uplift and purify one’s environment as well as oneself. No doubt, the form of God has inspired many. The name, on the other hand, is a most potent instrument of thought.
It is said that the surest, safest and the easiest means of expiating sins in this age is repetition of the name of the Divine.
This month, our family life column deals with the biological or reproductive function of the family. The family is the institution that facilitates procreation, thereby enabling the continuation of the human race. In getting straight to the point, the family is also the institution that legitimises the mating relationship of a couple. The meaning of all of this in plain talk? The sexual relationship between man and woman must take place within the sanctity of marriage. To take it further, the understanding is that when reproduction occurs, new life comes into the arms of mother and father and hopefully a home that provides the basic needs of shelter, belonging, care, etc.
In the Hindu religion this has always been the norm, the religious and social directive. There are four stages of life for a Hindu; the second one, “grihastya” is the stage for procreation and reproduction. There is good reason for this wait, since a couple needs to acquire parental skills. Traditionally, the extended Hindu family taught most of these skills to its members. These skills were a natural part of one’s upbringing and elder members were very effective in implementing their socialisation and education responsibilities. Sadly, today many families fall short on this function, so much so that modern-day youth have to learn these skills from textbooks and tutoring in an area called Health and Family Life Issues.
There are many risks associated with young people undertaking reproduction before the appropriate time and circumstance. There is the physical/health risk of unwanted pregnancies, STDs, AIDS and cervical cancer. Our reproductive system is the group of organs inside and outside our bodies, which is responsible for the creation of new life. So, we need to take care of these organs for healthy reproduction. Then there may be negative social consequences for a young girl becoming pregnant out of wedlock. These include shattered dreams, parental fury, societal condemnation, loss of self-esteem and worst of all, the life of a child born to parents facing these issues.
Again, the role of parents is crucial in teaching their young about the biological function. Since young people today live in a more complicated, challenging society, parents may very well have to update themselves with the necessary ammunition to advise children, as far as their sexual behaviour is concerned. After much trial and error, modern society has discovered the best solution to negative sexual behaviour. The western world calls it abstinence. Hinduism always called it “bramacharya”, the underlying philosophy of this stage being abstinence from sexual activity.
Successful cooks religiously follow the stages of a good recipe. Nature itself unfolds in stages. The sun rises before it sets. Flowers are buds before they bloom. Evaporation must precede condensation before rain falls. So, Hindu parents must enforce the practise of adherence to stages of life when raising their children. Since the biological or reproductive function brings precious, fragile human life into the world, it is imperative that this stage be undertaken as per the teachings of our “dharma”.
By Mrs. Mala Persad