“Guru pad pankaj seva teesri bhakti amaan – The third type of devotion is selfless service to the guru’s lotus feet without any desire or pride.” These words of the Lord Shri Raam to Shavari in Shri Raamcharitramanas show clearly the significant role of the spiritual teacher in the life of the spiritual aspirant. Indeed, according to the tenets of Sanaatan Dharma, the guru’s role is most substantial, often acting as the intermediary between the soul and the Supreme. The Guru Gita aptly describes the guru as “dispeller of darkness” (from ‘gu’, darkness and ‘ru’, that which dispels). He is one who, in his attainment of self mastery, has realized his identity with the omnipresent Spirit. Such a one is uniquely qualified to lead the seeker on his or her inward journey toward perfection.
Hindu scriptures regard the guru along with the mother and the father as the most venerable teacher of an individual. The maxim, ‘Aachaarya Devo Bhavah – The teacher is God’, speaks volumes of the necessity of the guru in one’s life.
In Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna speaks to Arjuna of the importance of finding a guru. He says: “Acquire the transcendental knowledge from a Self-realised master by humble reverence, by sincere inquiry and by service. The wise ones who have realised the Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.”
The ‘guru-shishya’ tradition is one that focuses on the transmission of teachings from a guru to a ‘shishya’ (disciple). In this relationship, subtle and advanced knowledge is conveyed and received through the student’s respect, commitment, devotion and obedience. The spiritual teacher beholds God’s presence in everyone and guides the shishya on the road of self realisation. He prescribes the ‘saadhan’ or spiritual discipline and instructs the student in the use of the ‘mantra’ (sacred formula) to assist in his meditation and in the journey towards attaining his ‘saadhya’ or goal. This goal, the ultimate one in man’s purpose on earth, is the attainment of the state of self realisation.The conscientious student eventually masters the knowledge that the guru embodies. The example of the guru who, though human, has achieved spiritual enlightenment, leads the devotee to discover the same potentialities within himself. He is a living embodiment of scriptural truth. Without doubt, the real way to freedom lies in following one who has traversed the forest of the world process and can lead one safely to God.
Speaking of his guru, Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Only he who knows God can show others how to know Him. When I found such a one, my Guru Swami Sri Yukteswarji, I realized that God doesn’t teach through mystery, but through illumined souls. God is invisible but He becomes visible through the intelligence and spiritual perception of one who is in constant communion with Him. There may be many teachers in one’s life, but there is only one Guru.”
About the importance of the guru, Swami Vivekananda says: “This insufficiency of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul. The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru – the teacher and the person to whom the impulse is conveyed is called the shishya – the student.”
As Hindus observe the auspicious occasion of Guru Poornima on July 12, it is hoped that all shishyas reflect on the importance of their gurus on their own development and express their gratitude to them.
“Trinidad is a blessed land but we need to focus on the positives to ensure the rich legacy of our forbears lives on,” advised SWAHA’s Spiritual Head, His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, as he delivered the feature address at the annual Indian Arrival celebrations held at the JFK Auditorium at the University of the West Indies recently.
“Blessedness – The Fruit of Gratitude” was the theme of this year’s celebrations that marked the culmination of a month-long festival of cultural activities, highlighting the talent at various SWAHA institutions. Stage presentations focused on the theme as the many locally composed songs reflected on the intense selfless sacrifice of the early ancestors 169 years ago and the priceless lessons they bequeathed to a people for sustenance and uplift. The occasion also saw the presentation of awards to outstanding performers in areas of performing, creative and visual arts.
Paramacharyaji made a stirring plea to the hundreds of guests present to rise from their slumber and seriously consider the impact of their choices on the level of blessedness and beauty of the nation. He emphasized the need for the collective effort of all citizens in ensuring that principles, values and moral behavior are firmly upheld. In quoting from Shri Ramcharitramanas, Paramacharyaji presented the recipe for sustained blessedness for a people and country. He outlined the key ingredients in such a recipe as follows:
- Practice of intense devotion should be carried out by the citizenry.
- Material wealth must be dispensed in charity.
- The intellect must be engaged in the work of enlightened activity.
- Sincere regard and respect must be accorded holy ones.
- The administration of justice must be initiated by leaders.
- Honour and dignity must be bestowed upon all mothers, sisters and daughters.
He laid bare the many benefits of carrying out the above principles as well as the negative effects accrued by the failure to abide by them. According to him, “Every religion speaks of devotion and in our country of religious diversity, the flow of sincere and intense devotion from all sides will certainly redound to the benefit of the entire nation. Cessation of this flow in its pure form, however, stagnates the quest towards civility, respect and regard for each other.”
He continued, “Truth and straightforwardness must be the watchwords of all leaders. Religious leaders are the watchdogs of society yet many have fallen because of unprincipled behavior. Some wear the garb but do not live up to their roles genuinely. Principles must never be compromised if we are to attract sustained blessedness in our lives.
“Even our wealth acquires increased value when it is used for constructive purposes and for the benefit of others. However, with the mad rush to build material resources, everything today is measured in dollars and cents. In the rat race of life, greed appears to far outweigh man’s need today.
“Enlightened activity is conducive to prosperity, hope and wellbeing. However, when egoistic attitudes take precedence over principles, the result is degradation, disgrace, exposure and loss.
“We need to exercise the right options and do our part in adding to the blessedness of this land that was fertilised by the sweat, toil and rich heritage of our ancestors.”
SWAHA extends condolences to the family of the late Dana Seetahal whose life was snuffed out in such a gruesome manner. The horrific circumstances under which such a prominent and well-regarded citizen should find her end are a clear signal that the life of every individual of our nation is under threat at every moment. Intense fear and insecurity have gripped the country to the core with no immediate signs of relief apparent.
Such circumstances beg many questions that many may superficially answer by laying blame on weak systems of protection, various authorities and other bodies that hold the reins of power. However, deep analysis indicates clearly that the root of all the atrocities that we are victims of, or are witnessing today, lies in ‘karma’, that is, our very own actions. Nothing happens without a cause. It is a universal law that every action produces a reaction, without fail. Bright and bold, it is there for all to see that our country is paying the penalty for previous collective actions of individuals and the society as a whole. We are reaping the fruits of seeds planted in the past. The cumulative effect of previous misdemeanours is just beginning to bear fruit.
No need to delve far, the daily abuse and disrespect inflicted by human upon human, laws, institutions, environment, principles and duties are horrendous. Most certainly, this is a reflection of a lack of spirituality.
Of course, the resultant effect of such atrocities we have seen through the ages appears in three types of pain, namely, bodily discomfort, environmental disturbances and natural disasters. The gruesome infliction of pain by humans upon their fellow human beings is symptomatic of a diseased society. But it has only just begun. Even the excessive heat, bush fires, smog, floods, oil spills and other environmental and natural occurrences spell out the effects of our misdeeds. Nature is speaking to us, but who is listening?
To get out of this abyss of continuing misdemeanours and pain, there must be a return to spirituality. Therein lies our only hope. This is a call to the entire nation to leave behind all negativities and surrender to the Divine will. The scriptures of all religions demonstrate the restorative and transformational powers of Divine intervention. A change of attitude is critical to the safety, security and wellbeing of our homes, families, communities, our people, our nation.
True surrender implies following injunctions, avoiding prohibitions, developing a deep sense of conviction and self-surrender, total dependence on the Divine, full faith in Him only and practice of the quality of humility. These characteristics provide the only safe armour of life.
The collective effort of all may not cause the criminals to fade away instantly, but, in effect, it will ensure a sense of morality in the society, the creation of positive role models for youth, devotion to duty and the strengthened belief in God. It will serve to create positive ‘karmas’ that will redound to the benefit of our near and dear ones, ourselves and our beloved nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Let us free ourselves and our land from the clutches of insecurity and a fearful existence. Hope lies in surrender to the Lord.
By Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad
Karma literally means “deed or act” but it more broadly describes the principle of cause and effect. The theory of karma is based on the cosmological law that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. Every person is responsible for his or her actions, speech and thoughts, so each person’s karma is entirely his or her own. Everything that happens in an individual’s life is as a result of karma or the seeds that one plants and these seeds are of two types, namely, virtue and sin.
The scriptural text, ‘Shiva Sanghitaa’, describes the three classes of karma that ought to be performed by individuals as they wend their way through the corridors of this lifetime on earth. These classes are:
A) ‘Nitya karma’ – daily actions
B) ‘Naimittik karma’ – occasional religious observances
C) ‘Kaamya karma’ – optional acts.
A. ‘Nitya karma’ consist of daily duties. Basically there are five injunctions that are prescribed as daily duties but which do not yield extra blessings. In reality, they constitute repayment of debts of gratitude. One who fails to carry them out, incurs sin. Briefly explained these debts are owed to:
- God - as repayment by daily worship, such as offering ‘jal’, lighting ‘deya’, offering flowers, incense, ‘chandan’, performing ‘aarti’ and other similar actions.
- Rishis - They are fathers of ‘Dharma’ who have provided many scriptures for our own enlightenment. Daily reading of these texts is a requisite of all.
- Pitris (ancestors) – They have handed down a body of laws, practices, values and systems, which future generations need to carry out. It is a daily responsibility of all to maintain these traditions, enhance them, if possible, and ensure that they are propagated.
- Society – We are all beneficiaries of the society we live in. In return, we need to serve mankind, repay and continue to build standards without expectations. We need to provide service selflessly, seeking no rewards or remuneration.
- Lower forms of creation - taking care of animals, providing homes, nourishment and comfort to these animals and caring for them as pets are some ways that man can carry out this mandatory injunction.
B. ‘Naimittik karma’ – Many religious celebrations have been prescribed by our scriptures that provide opportunities for added blessings and for increasing one’s spiritual assets. These are occasions such as Nav Raatri, Maha Shiva Raatri, Raam Navami, Janam Ashtmi and other such festivals. Even ‘shraadh karma’ is an occasion that adds affluence to one’s life spiritually. Like ‘nitya karma’, one who fails to carry out these injunctions incurs sin.
C. ‘Kaamya karma’ – Such actions include worship that is based on desire. The various ‘poojas’, ‘kathas’ and ‘maha yagyas’ are different kinds of ‘kaamya karma’ that can be carried out and which bring additional blessings to one’s life. Again, failure to carry out these also is sinful.
It must be remembered that one’s destiny lies in one’s own hands. The level of failure or success that one receives depends solely on oneself. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each individual to carry out the injunctions and avoid all prohibitions as sanctioned by the scriptures. These are the stepping stones that lead to oneness with the Divine.
If a Hindu leader refuses to speak about politics to his congregation and prepares sermons that are more likely to shy away from the reality of their existence, then that leader and his following becomes disconnected and incapable of making any real change for the betterment of society. What better example to use than the principles and values portrayed by Shree Ram in the ‘Ramcharitmanas’ where one can find ideal leadership skills, sound politics and successful decision making that benefits all subjects.
Shree Ram has faced many challenges that mirror the political landscape of today. If we put the ‘Ramcharitmanas’ on a pedestal and angle our discussions on a few ‘kathas’ and ‘khands’ then we can never appreciate the essential decisions that had to be made and the tremendous sacrifices that Shree Ram and his subjects had to undergo for eventual happiness. Even the political decisions of Ravan lend some food for thought as to the very thin line leaders walk on when surrounded by or personally affected by immorality.
It is safe to say that there is no political quandary in the present day in which an exact or similar equivalent cannot be found in the ‘Ramcharitmanas’. Why then is our political climate so uncomfortable and unpleasant to bear? As society progresses, religion and values regress. It is an unfortunate outcome of developing economic systems and infrastructure that the intangible value systems and core philosophical constructs become neglected. Any machine without a relevant user manual will cause the operation of that machinery to fail. Our religious texts and perfect leaders found in them should be the foundation for any society to build on; sadly, they are used as umbrellas to shelter from the rain whilst most ineffective during a storm. We need to adhere to our ‘Dharma’ and in so doing every aspect of our life will flourish whilst we deal with living in a country as special as Trinidad and Tobago – a country our ancestors built with blood, sweat and tears; a country we must strengthen for our children.
By Pt. Varistha Persad