SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

The Child- The Heart of the Issue of Child Marriage

As the Senate debate focuses on child marriage, topmost priority must be given to the child, who is the key factor in this entire issue. I appeal to all involved in this debate to do the conscionable thing and place the child first among all considerations.

Once again SWAHA, a major Hindu body of Trinidad, reiterates its position of adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years. I wish to re-establish the fact that the issue at hand is not a religious matter as far as Hinduism is concerned. Even though the rituals carried out in the marriage ceremony identify with Hinduism, there are no Hindu scriptural injunctions that dictate the age at which an individual must marry. Child marriage evolved from the culture and traditions of an Indian landscape centuries ago. This was embraced and found support there and then but it is irrelevant to Trinidad today, where our young girls are indicating their choices in no uncertain terms.  A clear example is the excellence in academia displayed in the last few years by our nation’s girls. They have been topping the scholarship charts, inclusive of recent President Scholarship winners, Shivrani Prabhudial and Priya Maharaj. Could they have scaled such heights if married at 14 years of age?  The signs are clear! Our young girls wish to be qualified.  Please allow them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.

I wish to re-emphasize the severe handicaps that are created through child marriage. Such a condition is a barrier to a young girl’s educational, physical and mental health. It is denial of the child’s fundamental rights and strangles any hope of empowerment. It opens the child to vulnerability to abuse of all forms, to psychological scarring as well as economic dependency.  Not to mention the negative impact on infant health. I ask, is this the type of development and future we want for our citizens?

The answer to this question is evident from the responses posted on social media where our young and old have made it clear that marriage at such an early age is a violation to the youth’s rights and a threat to their future. Their claim is that child marriage is a definite deterrent to natural maturity.

As the debate on this burning issue of child marriage continues, it is my sincere hope that the child’s welfare is not compromised for anyone’s vested interest. The child should not be a pawn in the game of political affiliates. It is my opinion that any rational thinking decision-maker will have the child at heart and allow him/her normal growth and development.  In the interest of our children and our future, it is necessary that good sense prevails and that full support be given to adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years.

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad

Spiritual Head

SWAHA

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Sacrifice – the Key to a Successful 2017

His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, Spiritual Head of SWAHA, recommends the pursuit of sacrifice for success in 2017. In his New Year’s message which was delivered at SWAHA’s Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali, Paramacharyaji presented the possibilities for this year based on the ongoing trends locally and worldwide. He also offered guidelines to making the year a most auspicious one of protection, progress and fulfilment. Here is an excerpt of his address:

Challenges of 2017

We have just left behind another year with the hope that 2017 will bring new beginnings, new hopes and aspirations and renewed resolve to improve our lot. However, we must be prepared to look beyond the surface of situations in order to survive the escalating physical, social, mental and psychological trauma that could envelop us at every step of our lives. Increasing personal safety challenges, financial shocks, unfair treatment of our children are just some of the issues that could have far-reaching effects for us. The financial problems could send many reeling. Many may become suicidal. Many of the problems we may encounter could lead to increased pain, suffering and destruction.

Cause of our problems

Man is propelled by desires which push him forward. It is natural that we all need material possessions but quite often, we allow these things to possess us. One desire leads to another and yet another. The flame of desire spreads far and wide. The list of wants increases faster than the means to acquire them. Desires unfulfilled lead to anger, which leads to loss of reason and ultimately to self-destruction.The triple gates of desire, anger and greed lie at the core of our problems and bring about our downfall. These qualities are at the base of confusion, corruption and the many other outfits of crime. We are the creator of our problems. No one but ourselves must be blamed for our condition. Because of greed, we want more and bind ourselves further in the noose of destruction. We are never satisfied. Contentment is sorely lacking among us. I ask, when is enough really enough?

Success through 2017

However, there is hope that this year can be a successful one. As long as we recognise that we are responsible for ourselves then we can overcome the hurdles ahead. As long as we stick to the spiritual path, close to the Divine Being, we will not be crushed by the throes of worldly challenges. Here are some guidelines to help us:

  1. Be positive. Think positive and make an effort to free yourselves from these diseases of desire, anger and greed. We need to practise sincere discipline and sacrifice. These help us to develop our powers of discrimination and enlightenment that guide us towards making correct choices and to analyze situations critically. Endowed with these qualities, we get our perspectives right and rid our lives of the problems that suffocate us daily. We must apply a concerted effort to control anger, desire and greed and free ourselves from the shackles that enslave us to a degenerating quality of life.
  2. Get close to the Divine. Those who stay close to the Supreme are protected; they are safe. Those who stray can be easily crushed. Build your vibration and build an armour around yourself strong enough that you are protected from all the winds of fury. You cannot change the world but you can change your world.

Success depends on each of us, not on the religious leader or God. If we care about ourselves and our children, we will make the sacrifice to ensure that we survive yet another year.

A blessed year to all.

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The Benefits of Soorya Fast

The human being is a microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic universe in which we exist. Just as there are nine main planets or ‘nau grahas’ in the solar system, similarly, within the subtle body, situated along the spinal cord, from the spine to the head, there are nine chakras or energy centres, seven of which are major ones. Their function is mainly to regulate the flow of energy through the body, both physical and subtle. Harmony within this inner universe keeps the energy centres energised, thereby enhancing levels of creativity, vitality and self-awareness.

Reflecting light energy on the planets in the outer macrocosmic world is the sun, the king of the ‘grahas’, the ruler of the planets. This energy increases or decreases with changes in the sun’s activity and planetary movement. The effects of such astrological occurrences directly influence the rate at which energy is assimilated in man’s physical and subtle bodies. There may be the disturbances in the human vibration system, obstructing the free flow of energy within the body, resulting in the disruption of body rhythm, mental and physical imbalance and general disharmony in bodily functions. Debilitating health conditions may follow.

Such conditions, quite often, defy the best medical diagnostic instruments since the symptoms are spread beyond the physical body. Spiritual diagnosis based on astrological and other calculations, however, clearly reveals the source of the imbalance.

Through fasting and the sincere worship of Soorya Bhagavan, the chief among the ‘grahas’, inner balance and rhythm are restored. Through the medium of ‘mantras’, performing ‘havan’, and making various offerings, the process of ‘bhoot shuddhi’ or purification of the five principal elements which comprise the body (air, water, earth, fire and ether) takes place. Consequently, the ‘anaahat chakra’, the centre of bio-energy of the heart, is re-energised and a greater sense of connectedness with one’s own self is experienced.

This ‘anaahat chakra’, which is associated with the thymus, induces equilibrium, peace, compassion and charity. Under such circumstances the effect of restoration of the free flow of energy throughout the physical and subtle bodies is felt. With greater assimilation, the generating speed of the chakras increases and mental stability returns. With re-energisation, there flows an increase in vitality, dynamism, rhythm, creativity and self-awareness while optimum health is also achieved. The sun of divine wisdom rises within and shines once more.

Constant, steady practice of the worship of Soorya Bhagavan is most conducive to bringing about an increase in the energy flow in the body. A protective shield is built that protects one from both internal and external influences. One is able to illuminate one’s outer world through increased enthusiasm, perception and courage. Enveloped by a rich ambience and a prosperous inner environment he diffuses his light to the external world.

Spiritual Head of SWAHA , Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, has advised  that a twelve-Sunday Soorya Fast should be done by every Hindu  this year. The worship of Soorya Bhagavan is most efficacious in strengthening one’s resolve to overcome the difficulties of 2017.

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SWAHA Sangre Grande ECCE Kids Walk for their Rights

The recent headlines of tragedies involving several of our tender, young and vulnerable children have brought tears to many and have evoked anger in some. For others, such news has stirred a need to create widespread awareness of the requirements of these youthful citizens of our nation. One educational institution in Sangre Grande has decided to embark upon a project whereby the public would be reminded of the rights of every child and their need to live normal lives.

With this in mind, the staff and students of SWAHA Sangre Grande ECCE Centre recently held a SWAHAthon in the community of Coalmine. The theme chosen for the walk was ‘The Rights of a Child’. Holding up placards, the tiny tots, aged three and four years old, sent a powerful message that children have the same general human rights as adults and that they need special care and protection. With their tiny footsteps they led the parade and encouraged all to recognise, respect and have regard for their rights.

Some of the placards provided stern reminders to the community of these tender and vulnerable citizens. Some of them read: ‘I have a right to life and to live’, ‘I have a right to be protected’, ‘I have a right to express myself’.

Pt. Balram Persad, Director of Education in SWAHA, explained that all children are forms of God on earth and as such, should be treated with the highest regard. He said that childhood is a time of evolving capabilities and our little ones must spend this period of their lives in an environment where they are given the opportunity to unfold and bloom. Recognition must be given to their unique developmental needs. They are the future.

As the students held up their placards and marched with tiny footsteps, their innocent faces signalled to everyone that they should be allowed access to all their rights if they are to survive and develop fully. At the ECCE centre, Senior Teacher Mrs Vashti Rampersad, other staff members, Ms Indira Mohammed, Ms Stacy Patteia, Ms Nisha Nowbut-Jaggarnath and administrator, Ms Patricia Nanan, ensure that their charges engage in activities that facilitate their physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social development.  Indeed, such positive news amid all the reports of child abuse offers hope for our children and for the future of our nation.

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Managing Anger

In the fiercely competitive, materialistic world in which we live today, challenges, stress and tension have become the norms of daily life. People going through anxious moments are a common sight, whether in the home or in the streets. We quickly become a slave to the emotion of anger. Left unharnessed, it leads to total ruin.

According to the principles of Sanatan Dharma, anger is considered a deadly enemy that must be harnessed and controlled.

Indeed, anger is a gateway to hell; it leads to destruction. This point is made by Shri Krishna in verse 21 of Chapter 16 of Bhagavad Gita, where the Lord says:

“There are three gates leading to hell: lust, anger and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.”

Shri Krishna also speaks of the consequences of anger in verse 63 of Chapter 2. He says:

“From anger arises infatuation, from infatuation, confusion of memory, from confusion of memory, loss of reason, and from loss of reason one goes to complete ruin.”

So how do we manage this negativity? In order to control our anger it is important to look at its root cause. Merely treating the symptom is not enough. Sometimes, anger is a negative emotion manifested from frustrated attempts to enjoy sensually in the material world. Such anger must be checked and controlled, for it is a symptom of ongoing material hankerings. Just as treating a fever alone would not cure a disease, treating anger without understanding it to be a symptom will not extinguish the unwanted behaviour. In such instances, to conquer anger, we must first ask how can conquer lust.

Bhagavan Krishna has explained the three aspects of anger in the Bhagavad Gita: the causes of anger, the consequences of falling prey to this emotion and the solution to curb it.

 

He says in Chapter 2, verse 62: “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust, anger arises.”

Lord Krishna explains in the above verse that getting angry is a four-step process. They are:

  1. Contemplation of a sense object.
  2. Development of an attraction for it.
  3. Development of the desire to possess it.
  4. Development of anger when the desire is unsatisfied.

The problem first arises when the senses come in contact with the sense object. Therefore, the easiest solution must be to control our senses and nip the problem in the bud. By focusing less on the material aspects, attraction and desire would also be diminished. The possibility of becoming angry is therefore reduced.

This process takes time but constant awareness is necessary. Here are a few simple practices that we can use the next time we are tempted towards erupting into angry reactions:

  1. Be patient when others display anger towards you.
  2. Take a walk away from the situation for a few minutes.
  3. Practise ‘kshamaa’- forgiveness. Not everyone is at your level of understanding.
  4. Practise ‘dayaa’- compassion. Understand that others may be carrying a baggage of woes which can take the form of domestic, financial, health and other problems.
  5. Practise ‘pranaayaam’. Take a few deep breaths. This helps to restore some degree of inner ‘shaanti’ (peace) which would provide you with a clearer vision of the situation and a more stable reaction.

Understanding that everyone is fighting a battle of some kind should help us to treat all with respect, kindness and love. Being aware that each of us are sparks of the Divine should also guide us towards a more humane approach. In this way we would have little or no expectations of others in our daily interactions.

Additionally, control of the senses helps us to avoid attachment and unnecessary cravings. We would have less mental baggage to carry and would be far away from the gateways of hell. Consequently, there will be fewer disappointments leading to anger.

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Yudhisthir and The Dog

The Pandavas were firm in their resolve to renounce their kingdom. They began the ascent of a mountain as part of their final journey in life. Yudhisthira, a kind and dutiful king, led the way followed by Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Draupadi. A dog also accompanied them through their journey. This dog was Yudhisthir’s faithful companion. Wherever he went, the dog followed him. On the road to heaven, the dog followed him there too.

Yudhishthir tried to send the dog home. “Go home, ‘mere pyaare dost’. You cannot come with us,” he said to his dog, but the dog continued walking behind him.

He tried in various ways to send home the dog but ‘kuch nahin’! The dog just would not budge. He spoke to his dog, “The road to heaven is a long, long way from here. ‘Lambaa raasta. Bahut mushkil.’  It’s a long and very difficult journey. The road is tough. You will feel tired, hungry and thirsty. Go home, I say.” The dog stood still. He continued following him. ‘Aagey chaley.’ They both went.

The journey was becoming tougher and tougher. As they climbed higher and higher it was becoming colder and colder. The air was freezing. One by one, Yudhishthir’s brothers collapsed and died. But Yudhishthir did not stop.  The dog walked behind him.

Suddenly a bright flash of light appeared before him. He stopped. ‘Kaun hai?’ Who could it be?  He then recognised Indra, the king of the heavens, standing in his chariot before them.

“I have come to take you to heaven, Yudhisthir,” spoke Indra. “‘Aawo. Rath chadho.’ Climb into my chariot.”

“Really?” answered Yudhishthir, much to his surprise.

“Yes, you are the only person I have ever allowed into heaven without changing your human body. Come on, climb in.”

Yudhisthir was stunned. He asked, “But where are my brothers and Queen Draupadi?”

“‘Sach hai.’ True. They died. They could not make the final journey,” replied Indra.

“But I cannot go without them,” was Yudhishthir’s response.

Indra was quick to reply. He said to the disturbed king, “Don’t worry. ‘Chintaa mat karo.’ They are already there in ‘swarg’. They are waiting for you. All those whom you love are there waiting for you.”

“‘Sach hai?’ Is that so? Then I will go with you.’ Yudhishthir looked down at the dog and said, “Come , ‘mere pyaare’ puppy. ‘Aawo aawo’. Get into the chariot.”

“What!!” shouted Indra. “ A dog? A dog in my chariot?  A dog in heaven? Oh no! Never! ‘Kabhi nahin!!’ There are no dogs in heaven. You will get into the chariot and leave the dog behind.”

Yudhisthir was not ready to do such a thing. “I cannot do that,” Yudhisthir replied. “On this terrible journey, my dog has been my dear and faithful friend. He walked through the rough road.  My brothers died. One by one they left me. My queen went too. But this dog has always been at my side.”

Indra was furious. He shouted to him, “Are you mad? ‘Paagal hai?’ You have to go to heaven in your bodily form because you are great and good, but there is no place in heaven for men with dogs. The dog has to be left behind.”

Yudhisthir remained firm saying, “Well then. I shall not go to heaven without him. He depends on me and as long as I live I shall look after him. I shall do what is right. To abandon him now would not be right. I would never leave him, if even to please you, Indra.”

Indra tried in many ways to persuade him to change his mind. He said, “Now think for a moment. He is a dog. He kills and eats other animals, doesn’t he? Is that right? He is a wicked dog and he will go to hell!”

Yudhisthir stood still as Indra continued, “Yes, you will go to heaven and he has to go to hell.”

“Then I shall not go to heaven without him,” Yudhishthir said again.

Indra had the answer for the king. He said “Well, now, you cannot take him to heaven with you, but if you wish, you can exchange with him. He can go to heaven instead of you and you can go to hell.”

“Agreed, agreed,” cried Yudhisthir. “Let the dog go to heaven. I shall go to hell.”

As soon as these words were spoken by the great king, the dog suddenly changed his form. He was ‘Dharma’. Yes. ‘Dharma’. Righteousness. Truth. Goodness and duty.

“Oh great king,” Dharma said, “you are indeed an unselfish man. You love people and you love animals. Your heart is full of love for all. You can safely take your journey to heaven. I will always accompany you there. Your heart is full of love for all.”

O friends, we have learnt a most useful lesson. We should always treat everyone and every animal with respect, for we don’t know which form God will take when he comes.

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The Best Gift

Rohan did voluntary work for an organisation that fed and clothed the hungry and poor of his community. Once, a project was being organised where books and other school supplies were being collected for the children of needy families.

Rohan decided he would seek help from Sethji who lived in a huge mansion with an army of servants. Greeting the rich owner of a fleet of cars, Rohan explained the purpose of his visit, “Sethji, any help from you would be most welcome. We wish that all children in our community would have, at least, the basic necessities for the start of the new term of school.”

However, the rich man was as miserly as he was rich. He would not part with even a single cent. No matter how much Rohan tried to persuade him, Sethji refused to accede to his request.

Eventually, Sethji lost his temper. He reached into a corner, picked up an old broom and threw it at Rohan. Receiving the broom graciously, Rohan thanked Sethji profusely for the gift. Seeing that Rohan was not the least bit angry, the rich man felt ashamed of his behaviour. He apologised for his misconduct and said, “What I do not understand is that even though I threw a broom at you in a fit of anger, you accepted it as though it were a valuable gift.”

Rohan replied, “Sir, the broom is welcome wherever it is used. In itself it is unclean, but it cleans away all the dirt from the place where it is used. The broom has earned the world’s eternal gratitude. This I have accepted as your contribution and I consider it as the most valuable gift that I have received. I cannot thank you enough for it.”

As Rohan turned to leave, Sethji caught his arm and handed him a purse. “Bhagavan be with you as you continue to help the needy,” he said repentantly. “From now on, all my money is at your disposal.”

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