‘Aagay Chalay’ Towards Independence

On August 31, 2015, our nation celebrates 53 years of independence. As with all national festivals, and as citizens of this ‘Janma-bhoomi’, our birthplace, this occasion should be a time to reflect, to refine and rebuild the national character.

Independence or ‘swatantrataa’ is a concept of Hinduism that defines man’s true nature, the state which each of us should strive to achieve. As such, true independence should be the vision of all and we should begin by taking a solemn pledge to work for the uplift of our land. Hinduism provides the perfect recipe for nation-building that far transcends all infrastructural designs, that mends the cracks of the nation’s persona, bridges the gap between all disparities and leads to final liberation.

The pillars of Hinduism are a good place to start this reconstruction. Destitute are we as a nation when it comes to upholding duty, maintaining values and the rich traditions left by the ancestors of our multi-cultured nation. We need to dearly safeguard these ideals. As workers, can we not reach to work on time, do the job we are paid to do, work for the hours we have been assigned, treat our colleagues and clients lovingly and compassionately and take sick leave only when necessary? Can we not maintain the rules of our land and not break them, allowing the systems to work rather than succumbing to bribes?  Maintaining truth is a simple but strong pillar of production.

Shri Raam expressed his love for his birthplace when he said, “Blessed is the land where Ganga flows.” The lesson is for all of us to take pride in the land where we live and maintain it. Hindus are environmentalists; we revere nature but how much do we apply this principle in caring for this earth, one of our five mothers?  Despite the many strides being made at different levels to raise the bar of sanitation, the floods reveal the truth of our actions. Cleanliness, it is said, is next to Godliness.

Hand in hand with truth and cleanliness are the pillars of genuine compassion and charity, of which there is a dearth. This may be a possible reason for the spike in delinquency today, especially among our juveniles. The many acts of violence committed against the young, handicapped and vulnerable in our society speaks to an absence of service towards the greater welfare of humanity. Such paucity in the milk of human kindness can only lead to spiritual indigence. Freedom comes with ‘manushya seva’-service to man.

Most certainly our nation has made significant strides through its 53 years of independence; but have we been abiding by our watchwords of discipline, tolerance and production?  No doubt, sincere practice of these words will lead to freedom! We need to end the blame game for all the woes in the land and look inwardly.  We must get rid of the prejudice and close-mindedness that widens the gap with our neighbours. Maybe we can each start by putting God and country at the forefront of our lives.

Rise above the feelings of ‘what is in it for me’. Be like the rocks used to build the bridge to Lanka. Let all actions be like offerings of peace, unity and goodwill. Only then will our nation, like the Goverdhan Mountain be lifted to the heights of mental advancement by the hands of Bhagavan Krishna.

Getting on the ‘Innernet’: Connecting with the Self

For many Hindus, Self-realization is God-realization. “The air inside an empty jar is the same as the air outside the jar,” wrote the sage Shankarcharya. “In exactly the same way, your Inner Self is identical with the Self of all. Smash the jar and the air inside it will merge seamlessly with the air outside. Smash the illusion that you exist apart from God and you will merge with that Divine reality.”

The jars we are locked into are the physical, subtle and causal bodies. The physical body is smashed at death. The subtle body is smashed at rebirth. However, the causal body, the subtlest vortex of energy with which our Inner Self reincarnates, is smashed only at the moment of final liberation, when the Inner Self merges with the Divine Self.

Just as your five fingers are not really separate because they are linked to the same hand, so the Self in you and the Self in me and the Self in the person ahead of you in line at the bank are not really separate because they are linked through the Supreme Self, the Consciousness of God.

When you harm someone else, you are literally harming your own Self. When you love someone else, you are loving your own Self. At the innermost level of our being we are all intimately linked. Apollonius of Tyana was amazed when he arrived in Kashmir and found yogis who knew everything about him. “How can you possibly know me?” he demanded. “We began by knowing ourselves,” was their reply.

By Pt. Vasistha Persad

Guru’s Words of Wisdom

In commemoration of Guru Poornima 2015, we are reminded of the sound advice and deep inspiration of our Gurus. Outlined below is some of the sage counsel of the Spiritual Head of SWAHA, His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad. These words are guiding lights and directional posts for us as we manoeuvre our way through the corridors of life.

  1. Go within and unfold spiritually.
  2. Your devotion should be spontaneous, not mechanical.
  3. Humility conquers the world.
  4. Never be satisfied with what you have done. Whatever we do is very trivial in comparison with what has to be done.
  5. Never compromise principles in the path of duty.
  6. Become proactive. Be logical, be practical and keep your mind on the Divine.
  7. Celebrations and festivals have been given to us so that we may find ourselves.
  8. I may not be able to change the world but I can change my world. When my world changes, the world changes.
  9. We cannot expect to be happy if animosity engulfs our lives.
  10. Meticulously pluck out the weeds of vices from within. Only then can we taste the substance of peace and stability in our lives.
  11. God never intended for man to be unhappy. We do that injustice to ourselves and each other.
  12. When our actions are not in uniformity with our thoughts, that is hypocrisy.
  13. Sometimes when we exercise our rights, we are not necessarily right.
  14. A devotee magnifies his limitations before the Lord.
  15. Religiousness creates fanaticism. Spirituality brings liberation. Aim towards spirituality.

Guru’s words are mantras. Let’s follow his advice.

Gurur Vaakyam: The Power of Guru’s Words

“Dhyaan Moolam Gurur Murtih

Pujaa Moolam Guruh Padam

Mantra Moolam Gurur Vaakyam

Moksha Moolam Guruh Kripaa”

The root of meditation is the Guru’s form.

The root of worship is the Guru’s feet.

The root of mantra is the Guru’s word.

The root of liberation is the Guru’s grace.

Everything in this world can be achieved by the grace of the Guru or the spiritual guide of one’s life. The word ‘Guru’ means ‘One who removes the darkness of ignorance and brings light’. Everything is possible through the intercession of this being who illuminates the world of his ‘shishya’ (disciple) by his words, his example and grace.

Scriptures and history books are replete with examples of ‘Guru bhaktas’ who attained to the highest states of spiritual illumination because of their unceasing contemplation and ‘sraddha’ (faith) in the Guru’s words. Outlined below are a few who achieved their lifelong goals through an unstinting faith in ‘Guru-vaakyam’.

  1. Sant Tulsidas: Orphaned from a baby and growing up as a street child, this young boy met his Guru, Narhari Das, who initiated him into the powerful mantra of ‘Raam-naam’. He brought up the young child on a diet of Hindu scriptures. The young shishya was advised by the Guru to study and chant Raamaayan, which he did. After many years Tulsidasji finally wrote Shri Raam-charitra-maanas in Avadhi which received the stamp of Bhagavan Shiva Himself. Today, the name Tulsidas is heard worldwide and this scriptural text is one of the most read Hindu scriptures.
  1. Shavari: Also an orphan, Shavari was initiated by Matangji Rishi who advised her to chant her Guru-mantra and contemplate on the name ‘Raam’. He also told her that she would have the ‘darshan’ of the Lord some day. After many years of austerities and faith in her Guru’s words, Shri Raam came to Shavari’s hut in the forest during His exile.
  1. Sutikshan: This devotee was asked by his Guru, Sage Agastya, to bring Shri Raam to his hermitage so he would see the Lord. Sutikshan maintained his worship for many years seeking the darshan of Shri Raam. One day the Lord paid him a visit, during which Sutikshan requested that Shri Raam accompany him to his Guru’s home. The Lord acceded to his request.
  1. Kaak-bhushundi: In a previous birth he was a devotee of Lord Shiva who refused to worship any other form of Divinity, despite the Guru’s teachings. Once while offering worship to Lord Shiva, the Guru entered. He refused to acknowledge His presence and afford him the necessary respect. Such a display of arrogance and egoism earned him a curse of Lord Shiva who consigned him to live lives of lower forms of creation. Because of the Guru’s compassion, he pleaded on his shishya’s behalf. After several births, the shishya came to the home of Shri Raam as a crow. The Lord granted him, a bird, the ‘darshan’ of Shri Raam.
  1. Sage Surdas: The blind singer, Surdas had a chance meeting with Sant Vallabhacharya who, by his words of advice, teachings and foresight, put him on the path of spirituality. Today, many bhajans of Surdas praise Shri Krishna and are still quite popular worldwide.

Indeed, the role of the Guru is essential to everyone’s spiritual development. Most certainly, the Guru’s words bring all nourishment, sustenance and fulfillment.

Educating Our Children in the Family

Continuing from last month, we look at providing a strong Hindu environment for our children. We are all familiar with the old adage, “You can’t straighten a crooked tree.” With this in mind, it is crucial that parents educate their children about Hinduism from a tender age. There are two extremely important reasons for this: Firstly, psychologists are of the view that children learn and retain the most from the ages two-five. Therefore, we parents who subscribe to the view that “the chirren too small yet; leh them play”, must now change our thinking.

Early speech of young children should include the words, ‘Om’, ‘Sitaram’, ‘Shanti’,  as well as simple ‘kirtans’ and ‘mantras’. We can also inculcate in them actions like rising early, offering ‘jal’, bowing to the feet of God and parents. Taking them to the temple is a must because this is the place where they can engage in Hindu activities, especially if little of this is being done at home. Children may start off playfully shouting ‘mantras’ and ‘bhajans’, but soon enough their practices will blossom into serious meaningful living. I will share two examples that I find beautiful that describes actions of two children under six years. On the occasion of the birthday of one of them, the mother asked, “Do you want to go for pizza or to the movies?” The child responded, “I want to do a ‘pooja’.” The second child gets up earlier than the adults, races to the yard to get her share of flowers to offer to God, even if it involves leaving none of the limited supply for the rest of the family. I remember Shankaracharya saying that if we are greedy, we should be greedy for God’s blessings. This little child is already following this principle, without even hearing such advice

Secondly, there are five aspects of ourselves or who we are. Three of these are: physical self, social self and ideal self.  Our physical self is not only our body but also includes a picture of ourselves we carry in our mind called our ‘body image’. Parents can strongly influence their children’s body image to reflect that of a Hindu simply by dressing their young in Hindu attire for appropriate functions  and making them proud to sport their ‘raksha’, ‘sindoor’, ‘bindi’ and so forth. Constant and sustained reinforcement of a Hindu ‘look’ will help our children to get a positive physical reflection of themselves and to also mentally perceive their physical appearance in a positive way.

Body image helps our children to develop their identity. Identity gives us our place in the community, the society, the world. Projecting a Hindu physical identity for our children might be a deterrent to the many culture ‘bandits’ out there who may just realise, “I won’t get through with this one so easily.” If we as parents help our children to develop a positive Hindu body image, we will be saving them from the unpleasantness of the identity crisis that so many of our Hindu youth today are experiencing.

Next month’s column will continue with our social and ideal self.

By Mrs. Mala Persad

Be Careful What You Wish For

The afternoon sun blazed the land. The hot wind blew as the roosters signalled evening and a small red robin flew overhead. A young girl with brown hair and eyes named Amrita walked home after having a bad day at school. Amrita walked up the stone path to her two-story modern house. She slammed the door upon entering, making her presence known.

“How was your day Amrita?” her mother asked calmly.

“Bad!” she grumbled.

“What happened?” her mother questioned.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she growled.

“I understand that you had a bad day but that is no reason to take that tone with me young lady,” her mother told her sternly.

“Sorry,” Amrita mumbled, standing up and walking to her room.

At dinner time, Amrita, her mother and her father were silently eating their food until her father spoke up.

“How was your day, Amrita?”

“It was bad,” she said, looking down at her plate of hot sada roti and bhagi.

“Do you mind telling us what happened?” he asked.

Amrita was silent until she sighed, “Fine, but don’t be mad. I meet up with some of my friends almost every night and we hang out but Madhuri saw us last night and told everyone at school and now everyone thinks we’re freaks. Please don’t be mad.”

“Amrita, do you know how dangerous that is!” her mum said, with a stern look of disapproval.

“This is why I don’t tell you guys these things because you always say it’s too dangerous,” Amrita said angrily.

“We only want what is best for you,” her dad said.

“What is best for me? Then you’ll let me go out with my friends. I want to live my life. Sometimes I wish you would just disappear so I can do that!” she shouted.

“I don’t have time to deal with this. We have a function to attend but we are calling your ‘chachi’ to keep an eye on you…and I never want to hear that you sneaked out again. ” her mum said. Amrita growled and ran up to her purple-coloured room. Moments later, her ‘chachi’ arrived but Amrita didn’t come out of her room. Amrita’s ‘chachi’ got suspicious and checked on her every now and again to make sure she was still there. At midnight Amrita was still awake in the dark house but she was wearing different clothing, a pair of jeans and a floral top. Then, suddenly, a small pebble hit her window. That was her friends’ signal for them to go hang out. Amrita climbed out of her window and ran off with her friends.

The next morning Amrita was dressed and ready for school but when she got downstairs there was no sign of her parents or her ‘chachi’.

“They are probably still sleeping,” she said to herself and walked out the door. Amrita was walking home from school when she noticed dark clouds in the sky and as she approached the door of her house there was a black cat on the front mat.

“Shoo!” she said to the cat and it ran off.

“I’m home!” she yelled cheerily as she walked through the door but heard nothing in return.

“Mum? Dad?” she said as she walked through the house but still no response.

“Mum! Dad!” she shouted through the house, her heart rate increasing as she started to panic. Then the realisation hit her like a bullet. Her parents had never come home last night. That’s why they weren’t there this morning. Amrita called the police to search for her parents but all they said was that they would try to find them. She went up to her parents’ room and curled herself up into a ball and cried. She felt helpless and then she started to blame herself.

“Why did I yell at them last night and wish such a horrible thing?” she cried and looked up. As she did, she noticed that there was a picture of Lord Hanuman. She remembered that her mother had told her that when there are obstacles in the way, God will always clear them. Amrita began to pray to Lord Hanuman to protect her parents and bring them home safely.

Hours passed and nothing happened. Then there was a knock at the front door. Amrita quickly answered it and standing there, soaking wet from the rain outside, were her parents and a policeman.

“Mum! Dad!” she shouted happily, giving them a hug.

“Thank you!” she said to the policeman.

“And thank you for bringing my parents home!” she said to the Lord.

Amrita also promised to never disobey her parents ever again.

By Priya Lakhan, Form 3 Jai, Swaha Hindu College

Guru’s Teachings

As we prepare to celebrate the occasion of Guru Poornima on July 31, 2015, we reflect on the important role that our Gurus play in our lives.

Also referred to as ‘Godfathers’, Gurus are akin to God and, as such, we ought to heed their advice, instructions and words of wisdom. With the Guru’s guidance we shall have all success. We shall never fail.

In the quiz below, see how many of our Gurus’ words of advice you recall, how many you practise and how many you are able to match with the Hindi translation:

  1. SPEAK THE TRUTH.                MAT DARO.
  2. LOVE ALL.              RAAMA BHAJO.
  3. LEARN FROM EVERYONE.    SABSAY SEEKHO.
  4. BE CAUTIOUS.                                  DHEERAJ DHARO.
  5. BE CONTENT ALWAYS.                                    SADAA SANTOSH HO.
  6. GO FORWARD.                                    AAGAY CHALO.
  7. SPEAK SWEET WORDS.                                 MEETHI BOLI BOLO.
  8. HAVE PATIENCE.                                    SACH BOLO.
  9. PRAISE GOD.   SABKO PRAYMA KARO.
  10. DON’T BE AFRAID.      SAAVDHAAN HO.

ANSWERS: 1—H;   2—I;   3—C;   4—J;   5—E;    6—F;   7—G;   8—D;   9—B; 10—A