SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

SWAHA Dharma Jyot Scholarship Winner- Varun Ramadhar

Bvarun-receiving-the-trophy-for-best-all-round-student-from-vice-principal-of-naps-dev-gosineorn in the heart of south Trinidad, in a rural village in South Oropouche, Varun Ramadhar was attracted to temple life as a child. At age two, he was already a full-fledged member of SWAHA Dharma Jyot Mandali, attending and participating in many activities like his mother, Rookmin Khadoo, a member of the temple’s executive.

Varun’s academic brilliance shone from his pre-school days at Mt Carmel Private School where he emerged class valedictorian. He continued in this vein of excellence as a student of Avocat Vedic School, where he placed among the top 200 students in the SEA examination. This outstanding performance earned him a place at his first-choice secondary school, Naparima Boys’ College.

At secondary school, Varun continued to excel in every sphere of academia, despite challenging times.

Despite having to deal with the trauma of losing his Dad, Ramjeewan Ramadhar, a mere nine months prior to writing his CSEC Examinations,Varun gained nine grade ones.He went on to pursue CAPE at this noble institution. His success continued as he acquired a national scholarship (additional)in Mathematics this year.

Varun graduated at the top of his class at Naparima College, attaining the most prestigious award, ‘The Naparima College Gold Ring Award for the Best All Round Student’. He is currently pursuing his degree course in Mechanical Engineering at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.

Varun’s success was not limited to the academic arena only. He is a sport enthusiast who represented Naparima College at various levels in cricket. As a child-participant in SWAHA Swadeshi story-telling and poetry competitions, Varun’s natural talent bloomed over the years. He provided stiff competition to his competitors and was always among the winners, shining brighter each year that he took the stage. His knack for public speaking, moulded by his participation in this competition, led him to the Chambers of the 13th National Youth Parliament as a youth member.

With an eye for upliftment of the village, Varun initiated Dharma Jyot’s very own youth group. He demonstrated that with a solid spiritual base, one can conquer any challenge or obstacle standing in one’s way.

Varun attributes his success to faith in God, hard work and determination. He expresses heartfelt  gratitude to all who assisted and supported him over the years.

No doubt, Varun is an example of true excellence. He was able to successfully balance his school-work with temple activities. SWAHA congratulates Varun and wishes him all success as he continues to blaze a trail of outstanding performance in various fields of endeavour.

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The Bhagavad Gita- mine of mysteries

The auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti will be observed on December 10, 2016 to commemorate the anniversary of the writing of the Hindu scriptural text, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. This text, more popularly referred to as ‘Gita’, was compiled by Sage Ved Vyaas over five thousand years ago on Mokshadaa Ekaadasi in the month of Maarghsheersh(November-December).

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita literally means ‘divine song of God’ and is an extract of one of the world’s longest epics, the Mahaabhaarat. It can be found in the Bhishma Parva of this epic and details the conversation between Bhagavan Krishna and the Paandav prince, Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra at the commencement of the war between the Paandavas and the Kauravas.

Beholding the warriors of the Paandav and Kaurav armies arrayed for battle, Arjuna became faint-hearted and refused to fight. Bhagavan Krishna, his charioteer, delivered potent teachings, convincing him that it was his duty to defend his army and that he ought to stand up and fight. Sanjay, through divine vision conferred upon him by Ved Vyaas, described to the blind king, Dhritarastra, all that was taking place. This dialogue between the Lord and Arjuna, as narrated by Sanjay, comprises the Gita.

This divine discourse, written in Sanskrit, comprises eighteen chapters and seven hundred shlokas (verses) and contains words directly emanating from the lips of Bhagavan Krishna. Many profound truths have been revealed in this text. The practices leading to self-realization, Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action) and Gyaan (knowledge) Yoga have been explained by Him at great length.

One of the practices that has been emphasised throughout the text is the necessity of performing one’s duty. This is borne out quite clearly as the first two words of first chapter are: “Dharmakshetre kurukshetre”-the field of activity is the field of one’s duty. Later in Chapter Three, Bhagavan informs that whoever does not do his duty is sinful, while the individual who performs his actions without attachment attains the Supreme.

Some other subjects discussed in  depth are: the nature of the soul, the sattvic(pious),rajasic (materialistic) and tamasic (sluggish) characteristics, the importance of selfless action, devotion to the  form and formless God,  the different forms of sacrifices ,to name a few.

There is no doubt that this text is a mine of mysteries, an in-depth study of which can lead to a revelation of some of the most sublime truths and a clearer understanding  of the all-pervasive God. On this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, a suggested resolve to strengthen the practice of Rishi Yagya is to engage in the daily study of the Gita.  Chapter 18, verse 70 of this text states “Whosoever studies this sacred dialogue of ours in the form of the Gita, by him too shall I be worshipped through wisdom-sacrifice; such is My mind.”

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A Call to Action – The Environmental Revolution Preparing for 2017!

environmental-advantagesAs the year 2016 quickly comes to a close and as we reflect on the year gone by, while setting personal goals or family/business/community/organization goals for 2017, let us not forget to include and prioritize our social and cultural responsibility as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, Global Citizens and very importantly, as devoted Hindus to be the Pioneers of the Environmental Revolution through our actions.

Be more mindful of how precious resources such as energy and water are being utilized in your daily lives by following the tips mentioned in the previous articles and through continuous research which is luckily now easier more than ever.

Start recycling your waste if you haven’t been doing so already – You may have heard several announcements being made in your communities asking you to recycle your tetra packs, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass bottles, placing them at certain approved collection points. This is definitely a great initiative and has made it easy for anyone to recycle. It is about time we get more serious about the level of waste being produced by such a small island. A WORLD Bank report has placed tiny Trinidad and Tobago on top of the world in terms of generating garbage per capita. World Bank statistics show that the twin-island nation generates 14.4 kilogrammes of municipal solid waste per capita per day – 12 times the world average of 1.2 kg. While foil paper, plastic bags and other items may be difficult to recycle, most of them can definitely be REDUCED,REUSED or even RELINQUISHED.

Share the awareness with your family and friends, at your temples, community centers, schools and workplace through engaging conversations and fun group activities.

Become an inventor!

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We are in the age of invention. Globally there has been an increase in innovation, creativity and inventions from simple at home creations such as the Solar Bottle Bulb which was invited by Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian. He invented a light bulb that works without electricity. Just a two-liter plastic bottle filled with water and bleach and each may have his/her light free.The Solar Bottle Bulb is attached via a hole in the roof and uses the refraction of sunlight through the water and is equivalent to a 40-60 watt lamp! The bleach is used to clean and maintain the transparent bottle. It is an entirely ecological invention – says the BBC – and is illuminating the world. It is already in use nearly in a million homes, mostly cabins and homes in the suburbs of poor people.

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CARIRI is one institute that comes to mind when it comes to innovation and invention. You can check out the Idea Advisory Service (IAS) Program. Who knows, your simple invention can improve the lives of many in our country and even the world.

And remember ….

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Do enjoy the creativity which the New Year brings and together, hand in hand, let’s create a healthier, happier place for all! Change begins with you.

Lydia Singh

SWAHA – Vice President

BSc. Eng, PMP

Ambassador for the International Living Future Institute

Trinidad + Tobago

 

 

 

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Do Your Duty – The Message of Bhagavad Gita

gita-132The observance of Gita Jayanti is a constant reminder to all mankind, regardless of creed or race, of the need to intensify one’s efforts at performing actions that will lead to freedom from bondage. Such advice was espoused by Shri Krishna throughout the Bhagavad Gita as He urged Arjuna to yield not to inaction but to perform his dharma and to do so dispassionately and selflessly. Today, five thousand years later, with the quickening pace of an evolving dynamic world, of changing lifestyles, standards, norms and relationships, such a message is needed more than ever.

It is instructive to note that the very first syllable in the Bhagavad Gita is “dhar” and the last, found at the end of Chapter 18, is “ma”. From the combination of these two syllables, the word “dharma” is obtained, which encompasses the entire text of the Gita. Loosely translated, dharma refers to duty, which essentially, is the innermost constitution by which an individual lives. As members of society we assume various roles at different points in time, with varying responsibilities and interactions. We also acquire and practise particular ethical and moral values. As such, the sum total of all these comprises our dharma.

We are assured that our actions are dharmic as long as they are done selflessly, without material desires, without the need for securing a return of fruits, without some material or personal motive, mental or self-gratification.

Dharma performed conscientiously, and without attachment, leads to the ultimate goal of self-realisation, says Bhagavan Krishna in Chapter Three, verse 19 of Gita. On the other hand, failure to act according to these guidelines results in “daihik taap” (bodily discomforts), “bhautik taap” (environmental disturbances) and “daivik taap” (natural disasters).

A close examination of our environment, the workplace, houses of worship, schools, home, even our very own lives, physical and otherwise, holds up a mirror to our collective actions. Quite often we find ourselves in roles of either victim or offender of the gross collapse in discipline and lawlessness that pervade our land. Corruption in several strata of society, dereliction of duty and disrepect for human life has become the order of the day. Dollars come before duty. Empathy towards our fellowman has become a rare virtue. So, too, are acts of charity in this global village, despite the many high-tech innovations that have broken barriers of distance and communication.  Subsumed in the pursuit of materialism, there has been a definite swerve from the path of dharma.

On this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti which will be celebrated on December 10, 2016, SWAHA implores all to  ensure that the pillars of Sanatan Dharma of satyam (truth), soucham (cleanliness), dayaa (compassion) and daan (charity) remain firmly cemented on the ground of sacrifice, firmness and fearlessness and plastered by right action. To this end, the daily reading of Bhagavad Gita is recommended. By performing this Rishi yagya, we will enrich our lives. Indeed, this instrument of the Gita should help to draw up the blueprint for the attainment of self-realisation.  It is worthwhile to note that what we are is Bhagavan’s gift to us. What we make of ourselves is our gift to Bhagavan. May Shri Krishna fill our lives with the ecstasy that comes from dharma.

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad

Spiritual Head

SWAHA

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Where is the love? SWAHA Kartik Nahaan Celebrations

15025642_1223717547698859_7076910520121026527_o‘The world is torn apart today by hate, greed, acrimony, corruption and other negativities. Where is the love?’ This was the question posed by Spiritual Head of SWAHA, His Holiness Paramacharya, Pt. HardeoPersad, as he delivered his Kartik Nahaan 2016 message to the huge crowd that gathered at TDC Resort Manzanilla  to celebrate the occasion.

Kartik Nahaan is a major Hindu festival that marks the culmination of a series of month-long auspicious observances in which intense sacrifice and austerities are carried out for inner purification and enlightenment. At Manzanilla, collective worship was performed on the sea-shore by hundreds of devotees who joined with SWAHA members of the various centres and branches located throughout various communities in Trinidad. Devotees were led in worship by Paramacharyaji , Pt. Ishwar Madho Maharaj and other pundits with the chanting of Sanskrit mantras, kirtan and bhajan. Following this, a cleansing bath in the ocean was also done to signify inner purification.

In his address, the Spiritual Head reminded all that the cleansing bath should ensure the washing away of negativities from one’s life and the embracing of purity and all the attendant qualities that go with it. These should be the armour one should carry at all times as one moved forward in life. He reminded the congregation that the Divine is privy to every  thought of ours, and a witness to all that is said and done and as such, purity and truth must be maintained at all times, not only at Kartik Nahaan. He offered the elixir of a successful life to all present by sharing the principle of truth, which is the force of cohesion that sustains life. From truth blessedness flows into one’s life, he maintained.

Pt. Balram Persad, in his delivery, provided a formula for the transformation of lives which is much needed worldwide. He implored all, ‘O people, just become a little more kind. It is the lack of this virtue that is creating havoc in our lives and in the world. It is the need of the hour in personal, family, environmental, civic and even political pursuits.’ Punditji outlined some benefits that accrue from being kind. These include good health and happiness, overcoming depression, increased productivity, improved mindfulness and a life filled with love and meaning.

A telling testimony of kindness was highlighted at the celebrations as Ms Bhanu Dwarika and her family made a donation of land in Debe for the establishment of a religious centre, Ayurveda Garden and a multi-purpose hall. Such a demonstration of kindness, Punditji remarked, creates positivity all around.

Pt. Maniedeo  Persad also extolled the value of kindness as he commended Ms Dwarika on her generosity and pledged that SWAHA would indeed spread such a principle through the medium of the proposed establishment.

After intense attention to the outpourings by the various Spiritual Leaders of SWAHA on the need for inner resolve and re-commitment to living principled lives, devotees headed to the inviting waters of the ocean for the ritualistic bath, a symbolic act of inner cleansing.

As Kartik Nahaan celebrations concluded and devotees prepared for their homeward sojourn, a breeze of lightness, piety, harmony, peace and serenity wafted across the eastern air. It was as if Mother Nature was giving her message as well to all: ‘O people, recognise the Divine presence at all times. Practise sincerity and purity and allow the flow of blessedness into your lives and your environment.’

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Pinda Daan

23874875485_297ed55f31_z“Pinda Daan! Pinda Daan! Duties! Duties! Duties! How many times must I be reminded of that,” remarked Vikram to his father, Narjun.

‘Vikram! Mind your manners!” replied his younger brother Betal.

Bital and Vikram were two sons whose father was a devout Bhagavan Vishnu Devotee. They lived in the little village of Kelly in a small dirt house. Their mother had died from cancer five years ago and the boys had to be more obligated to their duties.

Vikram, unlike his father and brother, was very lazy and wasted his time doing sinful activities. He never helped his brother in his daily duties and always complained when he was asked to do something. One day their father became very ill and while lying in bed, he was worried about his sons’ relationship with each other. He loved the both of them very much and wondered which of the two should receive his blessings. Narjun summoned both sons and informed them about a rare lotus flower that could help his condition. He sent the both of them to find the flower at the banks of the Caroni River which was located five miles away. He told them that the one who finds the flower first will receive all his blessings and land. Narjun informed the boys that they must set off before sunrise the next morning but must ensure that their duties are fulfilled before leaving.

The next morning, as the rooster crowed, both boys got out of bed to get an early start on their journey ahead. Before leaving, the younger son, Betal, knew that his duty was to offer prayers and incense to Lord Vishnu in their mandir. He also ensured that his ailing father was well taken care of and had everything he needed for the day. However, his brother, Vikram, was not loyal to his duties and was more concerned on getting the flower before his younger brother. Secretly, he packed a bag and left quietly through the darkness without telling his father or brother goodbye.

Vikram travelled for a mile on foot through the dense sugarcane along a dirt road. Eventually he came across a farmer and his beautiful wife on a donkey cart. They had made an early morning harvest and were heading back home. As Vikram approached the couple, he couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the young woman was. However, her husband was intoxicated.

“Sita Ram bhai,” the man slurred. He then introduced himself and his wife, “My name is Ajamil and this is my wife Indira. What yuh doing out here this hour?”

Vikram replied, “Meh pitaji send meh to get some stuff.” Indira smiled shyly and Vikram was charmed by her beauty. He thought to himself, “She must be around my age. Wuh she doing with dah old man?”

Vikram was clever for his age and somehow he managed to fool the drunken farmer into leaving his wife alone. The boy seized the opportunity and grabbed Indira’s hand and ran through the canefield like he never ran before. Indira didn’t seem to mind as she later told him about her abuse when Ajamil becomes drunk. While walking, Vikram questioned her about the things she liked. It so happened that she mentioned the lotus flower first. A smile was lit upon his face and he excitedly questioned her about where he could find it. He promised that he would get one for her without mentioning his true intentions. Vikram left Indira waiting under an unusually large Tulsi tree and headed towards the bank of the Caroni River next to the cremation site.

Betal was about a mile behind and did not see his brother anywhere in sight. His intentions were for the both of them to get the flower together so that they can both receive their father’s blessings and wealth.

Vikram finally spotted the flower. It was beautiful and seemed to be glowing blue. As he was about to pick the flower, he heard a strange voice calling, “Turn back, your father needs you.” Betal also heard the voice from where he was. He immediately knew that something was wrong and headed back home. However, Vikram  ignored the calling because he wanted his father’s riches and blessings first. Without stopping to think, he picked the blue flower and placed it in a calabash pouch. It was already evening and it was getting late. Betal made it home just before sunset and his father, Narjun, welcomed him home. He stretched out his hand and gave him his blessings and wealth. Narjun told Betal to continue fulfilling his duties and being devoted to Lord Vishnu. He also mentioned to him about his brother’s sinful ways. He told him that he must continue being kind to Vikram and ensure that he does his duties and to encourage him to change his sinful ways. Sadly and peacefully he passed away.

It was already dark and Vikram was hustling home with the blue flower. He did not know that after his father’s death the flower became cursed and had turned red. While walking through a dark lonely track, out of nowhere, a red demon suddenly appeared in front of him. It had two heads and eight hands. At the sight of this, Vikram froze with shock and fright. The evil thing harassed him and chased him around for hours until he cried and cried promising to change his sinful ways. He then ran home thinking that his father was still alive. As he pushed open the wooden door, Betal, his younger brother, noticed that his hair was wild and his eyes were blood red.

Betal exclaimed, “What’s wrong bhai?” Vikram did not reply. Instead he gazed at his deceased father and fell to the ground crying. Betal ran to his aid and comforted him. Vikram murmured, “I only wanted to get the flower.”

He opened the calabash pouch and instead of seeing a blue lotus flower, he saw a note which read, “God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right, even though I think it is hopeless.”

Simran Sookoo

Form 2 Student- SWAHA Hindu College

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Shankaracharya Pt. Hari Prasad: Crafting the “21st Century Spiritualist!”

shankaracharyaIn wake of the unchallenged and game changing contributions and sacrifices of spiritualists of the previous centuries, how can the masses judge and allow their future leaders a space in their hearts, minds and spiritual lives that will bring forth even greater changes in society and the future of the world?  The answer lies in the complexities of the simple statement, “History is our guide to the future.”

Shankaracharya, the late Pundit Hari Prasad did great justice to his title. The coincidences that led to his birth, life and inevitable departure from this mortal coil present a story for appreciation by the masses and a huge slot in history. Ironically, such a man lived as simply as one can in this modern world. He would care not for any recognition and would even be a bit annoyed if his name was called more than his master-God. His life was a great sacrifice and his hardship very few could endure. I am cautioned to continue but for the reader who was unfortunate to meet and converse with such a man; he was no less than a God in my opinion. His legacy speaks for him and about him. His blood and sacrifices are alive in his offspring and SWAHA. His energy has merely transferred to his family; biological and organizational and as such, one comes to understand his great vision.

Crafting a spiritualist using his example would debar literally hundreds of thousands of “self-proclaimed” men of the cloth. However, no competition is necessary; his life stands as example for the wise to choose. A spiritualist of the century now and to come deals with modern realities and circumstances with moderation and lives a life that stands firm in Dharma and its principles. How are we choosing role models and spiritualists to guide our lives? The lives of our children, the future of society. Morality and integrity in public and private life should be the uppermost factor in choosing Gurus and mentors. In essence, the quality of our leaders shall determine the future of the followers. Our spiritual leaders represent the last straw for upholding the values of society.  Let truth prevail! Satyamev Jayate!

As we mark the birthday of Shankaracharya on December 11, 2016, we  should resolve to unstintingly follow his example as we walk along life’s pathways.

Pt. Varistha Persad

Teacher 111

SWAHA Hindu College

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