The following discourse was recorded on the occasion of Krishna Janam Ashtmi 2009:
Lord Krishna was still a very young child with a broad smile and chubby cheeks as he played with the other children in Gokula. One day while he was in the courtyard with his brother Balram and others, He heard the voice of a woman in the street crying out, “Fruits! Sweet fruits! Come get your sweet and juicy fruits!”
Krishna heard this call and wanted to buy some of them but he had no money. His eager eyes noticed, however, a huge heap of rice grains stocked nearby. He collected a handful of grains in his tiny fists and ran to the street. On the way, most of the grains fell out of his hands. He came to the fruit seller and holding out his hands he said, “O dear lady, take these grains and give me fruits in exchange.”
The woman looked at the adorable face of the young child and was carried away by his beauty and charm. The tinkling of the anklets of his feet was sweet music to her ears. This experience of coming face to face with the Lord Himself was one that she would never forget. She said, “O my child! You have come to purchase fruits in exchange for grains. All the grains have fallen down on the way, but still you may take whatever quantity of fruits you like.”
So saying, she filled his small hands with as many of those fruits as he could hold after he had dropped into her basket the few grains. When the woman went home and looked into her basket she could not believe her eyes. All the grains had turned into precious jewels.
The woman never had to sell fruits anymore since she got all that she needed in her life. Most valuable to her was the image of the Lord that was imprinted on her mind forever. By performing this miracle Lord Krishna showed that anything offered to Him with love returns to the devotees increased a thousand fold.
On August 3, 2014, the birth anniversary of Sant Tulsidas will be celebrated in commemoration of the life of this most renowned personality of Hindi as well as world literature. Although he lived over five hundred years ago, the message of his life is an evergreen one. The example left by this literary giant is most instructive to all of mankind caught up in a world riddled by challenges of various kinds.
From street child to sage poet, from ‘adham’ (unworthy) to ‘aadi kavi’ (foremost of poets), from a life of ‘vishay’ (worldliness) to one of ‘vimukt’ (liberation), Tulsi’s experiences were such that they propelled him to become an outstanding devotee, an example for all. Surviving under the most impoverished conditions, he went from pillar to post until he met his Guru Naraharidas. This encounter was one of the turning points of his life as his Guru steered him on the path of ‘gyaan bhakti’ (enlightened devotion) and ‘shuddh karma’ (pure action). From Shri Narahariji this willing ‘shishya’ (disciple) acquired knowledge of various Hindu scriptures.
Later on, Tulsi was married and his world became totally consumed by his love for his wife, without whom he could not bear to live for a moment. Realising the depth of his attachment for her, Ratna, his wife, suggested to him, ‘Raam bhajo, saba kaam tajo.’ (‘Give up everything and seek Raam.’). This advice was an impetus that sparked off a sudden shift from worldliness to an intense desire to seek God. That bit of advice from his wife marked the initiation of Tulsi’s spiritual quest, which drove him to travel from place to place, searching through several experiences and encountering countless obstacles on the way.
His journey to his Lord spurred him on to compose several poems. The most popular was the writing in ‘Avadhi’ of the Shri Raamcharitra-maanas. This writing was met with stiff opposition from other Sanskrit scholars who condemned the text and tried to destroy it. However, his faith stood strong as the book received the stamp of the Divine Himself.
Some of his other writings include: Dohavali, a collection of Dohas, consisting of 573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha verses mainly in Braja with some verses in Avadhi. There is also
Kavitavali, Gitavali and Vinaya Patrika - a petititon of humility.Also, the very popular Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman Ashtak and Hanuman Baahuk were composed by this sage poet.
Tulsi’s quest for the Lord grew in intensity with every illness, every disappointment or challenge that confronted him. Until the very end of his life on earth Tulsi’s faith never floundered. In like manner, we too must immerse ourselves in a spiritual milieu, not brooding over the impermanence of life, while straddled amidst the many physical, material and social challenges. Despite the perceived dehumanising environment in which we could find ourselves at times and the apparent chaos that may surround us, we need to be receptive of all possibilities and realise the higher purpose of our existence. With the guidance of one’s Guru, who is like the gardener of our lives, we need to pluck out all weeds of negativities, water our lives with sincere ‘bhakti’ and prune good habits. In this way, we would, like Tulsidas, reap the fruit of spiritual prosperity.
August 29, 2014 will mark the auspicious occasion of Shri Ganesh Jayanti, signalling the commencement of the spiritually charged and celebratory period of Ganesh Utsav. This period is marked by 11 days of devotion to Shri Ganesh coupled with celebrations in the form of dances, plays and other such performances. Temples and community streets are decorated with banners and streamers, which dance in the wind as if they themselves are enjoying the festivities for Shri Ganesh. Clay murtis are paraded through the streets of the nation accompanied by masses of devotees on foot and in motorcades, all carrying in hand ladoo, coconut, prasad, fruits, pushpam and doob mala to offer to Shri Ganesh. The beat of tassa drums, the resonance of bhajan and kirtan from music trucks all impact the mind and senses as we feel the presence of Shri Ganesh in our beloved nation.
The question can be asked, of course, why do we enjoy this period of Shri Ganesh Utsav? Many would attest to the power of Shri Ganesh in their lives and therefore, this occasion provides an opportunity for devotees to express their gratitude and give recognition to a Hindu Icon. Yet others are bhaktas by nature and enjoy the heavy vibrations that emanate from these celebrations. They are able to connect to the spirituality of the occasion and experience a sense of divinity not felt on an average day. For some devotees, the occasion is marked by a variety of activities, including rituals, which gives to them an opportunity to make sacrifices of a physical and tangible nature to Bhagwan Ganesh.
Regardless of the motivation for engaging ourselves in Shri Ganesh Utsav, we can be assured that blessings come our way from such engagements. Shri Ganesh is Vignaharan (destroyer of obstacles) and Gyaandaata (giver of wisdom). When we say that Shri Ganesh is the destroyer of obstacles and the giver of wisdom, is it that he would personally come and relieve our distresses? It may be that we can make Bhagwan appear through intense devotions; however, such outcomes are far beyond the reach of the average person. Therefore we should see Shri Ganesh not only as the giver of these benefits but as principles, which when applied to our lives, bring about these positive outcomes.
When we look at the physical form of Shri Ganesh certain features stand out. We see the large flapping ears, small eyes and the unique trunk that covers the mouth. These physical features represent certain practices, which when applied to daily living, bring about certain benefits. The small eyes say to us that our vision should be controlled; only see God and good. The flapping ears say that we should close our ears to that which is negative; only listen to that which is uplifting. The covered mouth tells us that we should be very guarded in our intake and output using the mouth; eat Sattwic bhojan and speak positive and uplifting words.
The message that can be gleaned from the form of Shri Ganesh, therefore, is control of the gyaan indriyas (senses of perception). When we can control the senses then we earn spiritual wealth (shatsampati). These forms of spiritual wealth are powerful weapons to battle the possible threats of daily living and so protect our lives.
Therefore, while Shri Ganesh is indeed Saguna Brahma (a personal form of God), beyond this he is also a personification of ideal principles. As we prepare for and celebrate Shri Ganesh Utsav 2014, let us all ensure that along with the rituals and celebrations, we gain a deeper understanding of our beloved Shri Ganesh. Swaha’s drive is to guide us towards a greater sense of enlightened ritualism.
Jai Shri Ganesh.
By Pt. Jaidath Maharaj, Spiritual Leader, Swaha Gyaan Jyoti Mandali
Have you ever considered the obsession that young people have with Facebook? At present this category of social media has almost topped the list of most popular medium of expression among the world’s youth. Facebook is one of the most searched items on the World Wide Web. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But like most youth, I too log onto Facebook every morning when I awake and every night before I go to sleep. Additionally, countless times during the day I find myself ‘Face-booking’. This trend almost consumes the 24 hours of the world’s youth today.
Though Facebook may appear to be harmless on the surface, we should stop to consider the negative effects that this fad has on or spiritual, physical and mental health as well as on our personal identity. As a young Hindu, I have realised that we neglect important facets of our lives that can redound to our own detriment later on. Just to list a few things that may suffer because of our cyber-cravings:
- We forget our daily duties. We forget to thank God every morning.
- We forget that early morning is ‘jal-offering time’, to worship Surya Bhagavan. Instead quite often we use that time to feast our eyes on Facebook. Yes, Facebook is the newest Bhagavan in town, it seems!
- Physical health suffers with the continuous eyeing of the phone/computer screen.
- We lack the development of creativity, physical recreation, problem-solving skills and discriminatory abilities.
- Being surrounded by oneself, loneliness and depression may set in.
However, a proper time schedule can solve many of the above-listed negativities. Engage yourself in your daily duties. Start reading the holy scriptures, worship a little more often, become more involved in your religion as well as community activities; you will be amazed to see how much you can learn from your ancestors and also your peers. I have even learnt a great deal from many of my co-workers about my religion. Hence, instead of coming home and wasting unnecessary time on social media, I research a little more about stories relating to the Shiv Purana and other religious books. In addition, visiting a home for children or the elderly can remind you how important life is and just how lucky you are to have certain things in your life. Thank God and keep engaging yourselves in charity. As the great Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see.”
By Purnam Heeraman, Mathematics Teacher II
SWAHA Hindu College
This past academic term was indeed a very fruitful one for the students of Swaha Hindu College (SHC). With the encouragement of the dedicated teachers and the diligent students, we were able to attain success in a number of competitions.
Firstly, Upper Six student Monique Lake, entered the Integrity Commission Competition, which was themed, “Do the right thing always.” Monique came first in the Monologue category and she was also given the opportunity to meet the President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Anthony Carmona, where she was accompanied by the Principal of SHC, Pt. Gyandeo Persad.
Additionally, SHC took part in the annual Secondary Schools Sanskritik Sangam Competition and students were once again successful in a number of categories. Form Two student, Shannon Hardath placed first in the Art category, while Mae-Ana David and Krystal C. Chandree, both Form One students, placed second and third respectively in the Essay Writing competition.
Excited Summer Cooper, a Lower Six student who is also the president of SHC’s Interact Club, received the Lucille S. Antoinne Scholarship, which is awarded to students who are actively involved in Leadership Roles and Humanitarian Service. Summer was awarded the scholarship by Dr. Antoinette, a neurosurgeon who now resides in Hawaii.
“Prem! Wake up, you have to go to school!” Mother called out to her son, Prem.
He lazily stretched his hand, sat on his bed and stretched slowly, saying, “Ugh school again today ?”
Just then he heard his aajaa calling him from the nearby bedroom, “Prem beta, paani. Bring some paani for me to take the tablets.”
Slowly, Prem got up and brought the water to his grandfather. Then he heard his mother calling out to him again, reminding him to do his regular morning chores.
Prem was fuming. “This hour of the morning and is only do this, do that, come here, go there. Like is only I living in this house?” Prem continued to grumble to himself while neatening the bed.
His grandfather noticed his anger and tried to cheer him up. “Beta, day now break and Surya Bhagwan seeing that face in front him? What is that? You ent have a better face to present him? You lucky you get up with two eyes, two ears, a mouth that does wuk good. Look at Boboy dong de road. He ain’t have two foot. Look at Shilling from behind the bridge. And when last you see Toonkie? Is break he break he back and he cyar walk. And just yesterday ah bounce up Footsie by the shop. You know how he get gangrene and he foot cut off. And then….”
“Aajaa, just hold yuh horse right dey. Gimme a break nuh,” Prem spoke angrily to his grandfather.
Then, Aajee who heard him added her piece: “Boy, you remember I did tell you about Hanuman? He was the great bhakt of Shri Raam? He ever complain? Tell me! When tomorrow come you will do Hanuman puja in the temple. You going to sing Hanuman Chalisa 108 times. You supposed to be following Hanuman example. He lift up the big, big mountain. He never complain. He cross 800miles of ocean to reach Lanka. He never complain. Look at the sky that give us rain. The rivers give us water. Remember that nice bhajan, ‘Nadiyaan na piyay kabhee apana jala, vrikshana khaayay kabhee apanay phala.’ The rivers never drink their own water, nor do the trees partake of their own fruit. Instead of frowning and grumbling, what about saying ‘thank you’?”
Prem immediately got the message. “Bahut bahut dhanyavaad.” He cried as he spoke to his grandmother. He realised that without showing gratitude you are nothing less than an animal or some form of the lower kinds of creation. He realised that ‘Dhanya Dhanyavaad de – blessedness is the fruit of gratitude’.
By Videsh Sookram
Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali