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Remembering to Honour Our Ancestors

September 8, 2014 at 6:50 am

Sanaatan Dharma has always stressed the importance of remembering and honouring our ancestors (purvaj) in a meaningful way. To this end, the period of Pitra Paksha, the dark fortnight in the month of Aashwin (September/October), is set aside for the remembrance of our departed ancestors (pitris). During this period, Hindus are advised to refrain from beginning any important projects, or from engaging in yagyas and major ceremonies such as the vivaah sanskaar (marriage) and the upanayan sanskaar (janeu).

Due to these necessary restrictions, however, there is often confusion and sometimes fear about pitra paksha. I wish to emphasize that it is not that this is an entirely inauspicious period, but rather, that it is very auspicious for offering worship in the name of our ancestors. It is important to note also, that all nitya karma, our essential daily worship including the offering of jal to Surya Dev and the lighting of the deeya at sandhya should continue as normal.

Our scriptures remind us that we all have five debts to repay, one of which is the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to our ancestors. One could never accurately measure the extent to which our modest but mighty forebears have influenced Hindu values and morals. They have engendered in us a sincere love and appreciation for our religion. The numerous religious and spiritual practices that they cherished and nurtured have provided an impetus for us to persist along the path towards spiritual perfection. And, significantly also, one cannot ignore the fact that the material wealth that many enjoy today is due largely to the effort and industry of our ancestors. Thus, there is the obvious need to show our gratitude for all that we have been blessed with by making special offerings in their name.

Furthermore, one of the five daily obligations (panch maha yagyas) of all Hindus is the performance of pitri yagya. This does not necessarily mean making physical offerings but may simply refer to the upholding of tradition or the continuance of spiritual practices bequeathed to us by our ancestors. This is said to be absolutely essential; yet today there seems to be a breakdown in the moral/ethical value system left by these extraordinary individuals. It is also meant to serve as a reminder, which is heightened during pitra paksha that we all exist at both the gross and subtle levels. The performance of these simple practices – such as facing south and offering tilanjali (water and black till) or engaging in pitri havan – all help to ease this passage from the physical to the subtle planes of existence. The giving of daan or charity in the name of the ancestors is said to also be very propitious at this time.

One must also understand that every offering that is made in the name of our departed ancestors is actually received by the Divine Lord – Aryamaa Pitra. What our ancestors receive are the blessings that would have accrued from such offerings. Shree Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita (Ch. 9.16) that “I am the offering to the departed….I am verily the act of performing oblations into the fire.” What greater acknowledgement of the efficacy of worship during pitra paksha is there than the Shree Krishna saying that He “is the offering to the departed”.

Pitra paksha offers us the unique opportunity to receive blessings while, at the same time, praying for the continued evolution and elevation of the souls of our departed loved ones. We pray that the souls of our ancestors may find peace and lasting fulfillment. I exhort all to observe Pitra Paksha from September 9 – 23, 2014.

By Pt. Ishwar Madho Maharaj

Who Are The Real Victims?

September 6, 2014 at 7:08 am

While the public servants have a shoulder to lean on, the question begs, ‘on whose shoulder does the common man cry?’ In recent days the nation has once again witnessed another upheaval thrust upon our citizens by the directives of others, resulting in stress, inconvenience, desperation and loss to many.

Without a doubt, health and safety standards are priorities at a work place, but what are the standards required of workers in their capacity as public servants?  Their primary paid responsibility is to citizens and to nation: to serve, serve and serve.  The common saying that ‘Work is worship, Duty is God,’  needs to be studied carefully by public servants who have been directed to sign, leave and collect a salary, drawn from the very citizens’ taxes. This leads us to wonder what has suddenly opened the eyes of workers to these same conditions that they have been tolerating for decades. What is the agenda?

 

The daily ordeal that citizens are made to endure is a most painful one and their tears surely will not be in vain. Poor folk undergo severe sacrifices: leaving home in the wee hours of the morning, in some instances, travelling long distances, standing for hours in the waiting line and then to be denied service. This is most disparaging.  Does the union or the public servants spare a thought for those whom they are paid to serve? Who is there to fight the cause of the ordinary man? Which union ensures that the poor man does not lose his flight because of closure of some office?  Will the union look after the health and safety concerns of the patient who has missed his medical appointment abroad on account of union action? Who is there to protect the rights of the common man? I ask, who should be held liable for the inconvenience, distress and financial losses experienced over the past weeks by many unfortunate citizens who dared to request a service that is duly theirs? Where is the conscience, the spirituality and the desire to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?

 

However, it should be borne in mind that shutting down offices for such a long time, without an iota of consideration for those on the other side of the counter, is plain blackmail, unjustified, dishonest and unspiritual.  While industrial action can be considered a tool of workers’ uplift, there is a limit to everything.  Of course, this can only be derived from one’s genuine commitment to the cause that is being fought. Cause of country, workers and service must come before self.

Most certainly, the kind of coverage that the Immigration shutdown has attracted recently reeks of a scent that not does augur well for our people.  Apart from the negative impact this problem is creating locally and internationally, the repercussions would be felt long after settlement has reached. Should egoism, greed, arrogance and self-centredness be allowed to continue to feed on this situation? It is a sure recipe for instability, further unrest and dissent in other quarters. A breeding ground for new criminals, I dare say!

Can we not make some sincere attempts to enter into mature, intelligent mediation and bring resolution to this issue?  Can we not allow sanity and humanity to guide our leadership style? Of course, people, country, service and spirituality must be at the root of any bargaining process that hopes to end in satisfaction for all. As long as these conditions prevail, there is hope. If not, the backlash of the pressure that is being placed on the nation will leave little time for attrition or change.  Should we not take the route of building instead of burning the bridges that uphold our national watchwords of discipline, tolerance and production?  If not, we will become victims of our own misdeeds.

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad

Spiritual Head

SWAHA

Digging Deep for Flying High!

September 6, 2014 at 7:02 am

How deep does one need to go in the pursuit of happiness? What about gaining knowledge? Experiencing contentment? How long will it take to find satisfaction with oneself? Will it be in the acquisition of material objects and/or spiritual achievement? These questions drive our routines and guide our lives whether we are aware of it or not. At the end of each day, we can analyse our entire life in the few deep breaths before we sleep and depending on our level of contentment, the sleep we experience can either be peaceful or we may toss and turn on the bed.

A life of happiness and contentment depends on the quality of knowledge we gain and the type of knowledge we choose to study and understand. It is why one man can have nothing but be truly happy and contented whilst another can have everything but experience terrible unhappiness. All quandaries are put aside when we understand the nature of both contented and discontented lives. We are made to understand by Tulsidasji in the Shri Ramcharitra-manas that a life lived in full is a life lived for others. It is not as simple as it sounds. The best bet one would think is to live for oneself and focus solely on one’s own spiritual and material development; this would bring the fastest results. However, that is not the case, for it is also mentioned that a man’s true spiritual development begins with a Guru and is strengthened only when he gets a wife and vice versa. A selfish life is the fastest way to one’s own downfall.

One may also ask how is it possible to spend so much time on other people and gain even more merit than if one were to spend it on one’s own development? It is by spending these hours every day that the mind becomes conditioned to think good thoughts that in turn drive good deeds which feed and nourish our souls with good karma. We become addicted to positive thoughts and deeds and become restless when there is no opportunity to express our new way of life. It is recommended that elders and young children, the lost and forgotten and most importantly the Guru, the cows and lower forms of creation benefit the most from our actions of goodwill. Why spend hours in lectures – listening or even giving lectures? Instead, use your hands and feet and perform actions that bring greater mental clarity and contentment.

Despite the challenges there are in life, in good and bad, sickness and health, seize the opportunities available to make your life one of substance. The only person who cannot help another is a dead person. Do not see yourself as one who needs help, for there is always another person who is experiencing worse circumstances than yours. Get up, awaken, become aware and make yourself happy.

Parenting In Today’s World

September 6, 2014 at 7:00 am

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The Samuel family has been part of SWAHA for more than ten years, supporting the Tulsi Manas Mandir in Sangre Grande. Ronnie and Sharon Samuel have been happily married for 18 years and have two beautiful children, Jovan (15 years of age and currently a student of Hillview College) and Jodelle (9 years of age and a student of the SWAHA Primary School). Both Ronnie and Sharon have been asked to share with us some of their experiences and parenting tips.
1. Question – Bringing up a teenager and a young girl in today’s world can have its challenges. What would you say is key in ensuring they develop into well-rounded human beings?
Sharon – A lot of patience and understanding. Communication is the key. I’ve always considered my parenting style as “old school”, authoritative. We have established some rules and guidelines that they are expected to follow especially when it comes to showing respect to elders, performing daily religious/spiritual practices, household chores, etc., which appears very structured. However, I’m very much responsive to them and listen to what they have to say. We are open in that we are their parents but also try to be their friends. As a mother you always need to nurture them and show them love and appreciation. For me I believe it’s a balance between being assertive and nurturing.
Seeking the guidance of the guru and ensuring that they are involved in temple activities. They learn about team work, discipline and how to conduct themselves. We spend quality time together as frequently as possible and also have family meetings as well to share our thoughts, strengthen the family bond and keep the communication open.
Ronnie – As a father and with my job as a prison officer, I am constantly reminded of the results of bad parenting and that gives me added fuel to ensure that I do my best to support my children, provide guidance and the love that is needed. I’ve learnt to listen, be slow to react and always think twice before acting. My area of work has thought me certain strategies in how to deal with different types of people. Although these situations are extreme, it still applies to my everyday life. Some people all they need is someone to listen to them and they are quick to comply. In other situations, it requires more assertion and “force” so I’ve learnt how to respond to different situations by determining what situations require.
2. Question – For those who are thinking about starting a family and having children of their own, what advice would you give to them?
Proper planning is important. Ensure that there is a strong support system established with relatives and/or close friends that share same values. In my case, I realised that staying at home was necessary in ensuring that they were taken care of and I’m seeing the fruits of that decision.
3. Question – Closing comments? – Hard work and sacrifices do pay off. We’re not perfect but we are very proud of who they are becoming and feel very fortunate to be part of the SWAHA family, which has provided us with the continued guidance, support and opportunities for growth.
Submitted by Tulsi Manas Mandir

Lord Krishna and the Fruit Seller

August 16, 2014 at 7:13 am

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.

Invitation: Swaha Sanatan Brahma Ganesh Yagna

August 15, 2014 at 9:13 am

swaha sanatan brahma

A Life Worth Emulating – Sant Tulsidas

August 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

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.