SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

Our Blessed Motherland – 172 Years Later

“Trinidad is a blessed land but we need to focus on the positives to ensure the rich legacy of our forebears lives on,” advises SWAHA’s Spiritual Head, His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, whenever the topic of Indian Arrival is discussed. Having arrived in Trinidad and Tobago some 172 years ago, our ancestors settled here and their allegiance, love and loyalty for this our Maatri Bhoomi  must be sustained for meaningful progress.

Paramacharya encourages all citizens to look upon this land as their Mother. He says, “Rise from your slumber and seriously consider the impact of your choices on the level of blessedness and beauty of this our beloved nation. All of us need to make a collective effort to ensure that principles, values and moral behaviour are firmly upheld. I wish to present the recipe for sustained blessedness for us and our nation. This recipe is taken from Uttar Kand of Shri Raamcharitramaanas and holds the key ingredients for success at all levels:

  1. Practice of intense devotion by the citizenry
  1. Material wealth to be dispensed in charity
  1. The intellect should be engaged in the work of enlightened activity
  1. Sincere regard and respect must be accorded the holy ones
  1. The administration of justice must be initiated by the leader
  1. Honour and dignity must be bestowed upon all mothers, sisters and daughters.

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 our quest towards civility and respect for each other.

Truth and straightforwardness must be the watchwords of all leaders. Religious leaders are the watch-dogs of society, yet many have fallen because of unprincipled behaviour. Some wear the garb but do not live up to their roles genuinely. Principles must never be compromised if we are to attract sustained blessings 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. This greed can never be satiated.

Enlightened activity is conducive to prosperity, hope and wellbeing. However, when egoistic attitudes, false pride, arrogance and other materialistic cravings take precedence over principles, the result is degradation, disgrace, exposure and loss. Indeed, the intellect that has a skewed focus is unable to be directed towards enlightened efforts and consequently, blessedness becomes merely a wish.

Each of us must exercise the right options and do our part in adding to the blessedness of this land that was nurtured by the sweat, toil and rich heritage of all ancestors whose wealth needs to be managed efficiently by us in order to bring glory to our nation.

Hope lies in our firm resolve to maintain this beatitude, optimism and wellbeing with every breath and in every spot of earth of our nation.

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Havan ‘Online’- The ‘posthuman Hindu.’

A constructive debate on how we may be forced to perform rituals in the future.

An experience in which I was asked by some relatives abroad to perform a havan on the then popular video-calling application, ‘Skype,’ around seven years ago, forced me to re-think the way rituals are performed in Hinduism and, it should also encourage you, the reader to become open-minded to the way traditions are going to be adjusted in the future. In this discussion, I will use examples from the different scriptures in which ‘communication’ and connections between the divine and the devotee changed based on varying circumstances from physical and ‘direct’ platforms to virtual and wireless ones. In so doing, one should gain a greater appreciation of meta-physics, the nature of the Universe and our existence, in the context of a religion and way of life, which prepares mankind best for the changing conditions of the future world.

Researchers in the field of the Humanities, the Sciences, and Philosophy, have now all begun pooling their research to interrogate theoretical concepts in which to read and analyze the narrative constructions of the ‘posthuman,’ or the ‘human’ of the future. As such, it is safe to say that the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the various stories written on the incarnations of the divine, possess great potential for assimilating the tremendous possibilities ‘man’ can assimilate for creating a better future world-a world in which, ‘human,’ ‘inhuman’ and ‘non-human’ co-exist. In the Ramayan, a rich narrative centered on ‘man’ living in peaceful co-existence with bears, monkeys, birds and other animal species speaks directly to the tenets of research and progressive models in ‘Animal studies,’ the recent field of research which emerged from concerns in ‘Posthumanism.’ Additionally, the use of technology in the Mahabharata, only recently emerging from archeological studies, reveals that weapons were designed and used in tandem with nature, and when necessary, in opposition to it, in which some weapons rivaled the modern-day nuclear bomb. In the field of Eco-criticism, the way these weapons were used, when they were used, by whom and the ethical arguments presented in the pages of these scriptures allow researchers to conclude that our ancestors of the past, possessed great respect for natural law and the need for maintaining a balance in the eco-system, in which a symbiotic relationship should exist between man and nature.

The beliefs and practices of Hinduism are heavily grounded in narrative form for the sole reason that interpretation is necessary for healthy and progressive survival of its philosophical and ritualistic traditions over generations of changes to the conditions of the human being, the world and its constituent parts. This is why the role of the Pundit and the Guru is absolutely crucial. Unique only to Hinduism, it is evident in other world religions in which supportive literatures are not easily deconstructed or open to interpretation because of semantic and syntactic limitations. This leads to religious and philosophical extremism, and segregation, in which ‘sects’ are opposed to each other rather than understood as parts of the same-in which only Hinduism and its various philosophical avenues can boast such a constructive and progressive model for understanding and worshipping the divine.

The ‘online Havan,’ in which the mantras and instructions were communicated on such a platform is and can be accepted as an acceptable way to perform this ritual because of the tremendous limitations the people faced given their circumstances. Even if it does not become the norm, many Hindus will oppose this method because elevating a bedi to accommodate an older or disabled person; using oil or wax instead of ghee in deyas; lighting a small wick instead of layers of wood for havan; conducting Kaartik Nahaan or Ganga Dhaara celebrations on a beach instead of a river or vice versa, and the list goes on, are some changes Hindus at present are unable to accept or assimilate. As the late Shankaracharya, Pundit Hari Prasad confessed, a religious leader in the future will face greater challenges than those of the past. It is time to become more open-minded and find within the belly of our scriptures, the necessary support and guidance.

The devotees performing the Havan proceeded to perform Artee for the Laptop where on the screen, their mother from Trinidad looked on as the Havan was being done. Some passive onlooker may pass this off as nonsense, but only a spiritually evolved person will understand and appreciate that the same way we worship the ‘ideal in the idol,’ the children were worshipping their mother, and not the laptop. In the Ramayan, Hanuman Baba found himself in many situations in which he had to seek the guidance of Shree Ram, and not being able to physically be with him, he was able to communicate telepathically and receive his instructions. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna was able to communicate with his brother and the Gopis in a similar fashion.

The point here is that fundamental changes to our existence allow us to be many places at once. Our image and presence can be broadcasted and downloaded by anyone and on numerous platforms. This change to how we communicate and interact with the world is no different to what Shree Ram was able to do when he made himself visible to each and every devotee in Ayodha, eager to glimpse the Lord after his fourteen years of exile. They would have revered and worshipped him in that duplicated form the same way a copy of the devotees’ mother was displayed and worshipped.

The discourses of SWAHA pundits are now being streamed live or uploaded onto Youtube, Facebook, Vimeo and other sites in which greater accessibility can be achieved and followers who cannot physically be present can access them. In this changing world where economic decline, the rise in crime and other obstacles affect the modern Hindu, all attempts are being made to facilitate such changes not out of convenience or for popularity, but because it has become in recent times, an absolute necessity. Traditions and rituals will not be changed in a haphazard manner and as such, allowing open-mindedness and resulting clarity to take precedence in one’s life will be beneficial. The true strength of Hinduism for ages has been misunderstood and only through careful religious and scriptural support can Hindus navigate the changing dynamics of their posthuman lives.

– Pt. Varistha Persad

BA, MA, Dip. Ed (UWI)

TIII (English)

Swaha Hindu College

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Local Song: SWAHA Tulsi Manas Mandir

Duty Supreme

O Dharma Phal, O Purna Kal
Āj apanē kartavya karanā aur dhan’ya kal laga rahā hai
O Dharma Phal, O Purna Kal

Jīvana āsāna nahīṁ hai
Life is not easy,
Every day with plenty difficulty (2x).
But be strong, do not falter,
Jus’ be stronger than ever.
Bhagvan is always there, for you my son and daughter,
Yes, Shri Raam is always here, my beti an’ beta

D limin’, d drinkin’, d smokin’
Bear no fruits, you end up with nothin’.
Liming, pīnē, dhūmrapāna
kō’ī phala sahana
you end up with nothin’.
Do something each day, live your life in a fruitful way.
Pratyēka dina kucha karanā, live yuh life in a righteous way.
Remember d seeds today you sow, is d world you’ll live in tomorrow.

The lying, the stealing, the cheating
Does make wounds too deep for healing.
Jhūṭha bōla rahī hai, cōrī, dhōkhādhaṛī
Does make wounds, too deep for healing.
Satyam, soucham, dayaa, daan
Is D pillars on which we must stand.
Roots in an honest life could be bitter,
But d fruits are forever sweet.

So with humility, clasp yuh hands an’ pray,
Be thankful fuh d blessings of each day.
So jus’ do wat yuh hav’ to do,
In your heart jus be true
perform yuh duty n do it right.
Keep yuh goals in near sight.
By fulfilling yuh dharma, you creating good karma.
Dharma āpa kō pūrā karanē sē, āpa acchē karma banānē

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Educating our Children in the Home

Home is the first school for our children. It is the place where they learn their alphabet and their first words; they identify names of their surroundings, e.g. sky, moon, sun; names of their physical self, e.g. nose, toes, head, belly, etc. The family teaches us our first lessons in socialisation and our first guidelines in how to relate to others. The traditional Hindu family once produced well-rounded, well-adjusted citizens but, unfortunately, this unit is experiencing some challenges today.
Many of our Hindu youth are falling prey to the ills of society today and so we as parents need to pay more attention to some aspects of our nurturing. Family is the place where children learn to develop values such as honesty, fairness, responsibility and tolerance for others. Let us then inculcate such values so that our children stay out of youth detention centres. In the year 1990, when school resumed after the failed coup attempt, many of my students in northwest Trinidad proudly informed me that their new brand name book bags, shoes and wristwatches were looted items. They further told me they were justified in “taking them cuz dem people with big stores have plenty money”. However, they had no answer when I asked how they would feel if their hard-earned belongings were unlawfully taken from them.
Some of us are falling short in teaching the right roles and responsibilities to our children. We need to distinguish love from discipline. If we are reluctant to wake up our children early on school days, they will never learn punctuality. If we don’t set schedules for them they will play all day, watch television all night and never do their homework. A parent once said to me, “Miss, all he does is watch T.V. day and night.” To which I replied, “Ma’am you doh know where the off button is on the T.V.?” Children expect parents to provide for their physical, emotional and social needs unconditionally. While we must satisfy these needs, we must also socialise them to understand that they are expected to reciprocate by being obedient, doing chores, being respectful and so on. Let us not feed them forever but instead teach them to feed themselves so that they do not need to rely on national social support programmes.
The best way parents can teach discipline is by being effective disciplinarians themselves. Many of our children are undisciplined Hindus. They will not rise early on a Sunday to attend temple, undergo fasting or perform daily rituals. Hindu parents either observe this helplessly or with indifference. Perhaps these children are not proud to be Hindus because they are ignorant of this dynamic, beautiful and rewarding way of life called Hinduism. So parents need to educate them about the marvels of Hinduism. Tell your children Hinduism gave the world astrology, mathematics, science, yoga, meditation, fashion and a rich vibrant culture. Environment is a powerful influential force. Create a strong Hindu environment for your children.

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Ma – She Birthed Me

She birthed me, nurtured and showered me with all her love and care. Ma is the one who is there to take care of me when I’m sick and weak. She soothes my tummy aches and nourishes me with delicious home-cooked food. Ma ensures that I have clean clothes to wear on my body and a roof to shelter me when the clouds aren’t happy. She is there to comfort me when I’m having a bad day or when I have nightmares. She pulls me closer in her arms, whispers, “Hush, little baby” in my ear until I fall back asleep.

Without Ma, the house would be empty and dysfunctional. We’ve gotten so accustomed to waking up to the smell of breakfast and having lunch set on the table waiting to be eaten, that we’ve become helpless without Ma. Papa and bhaiya would live on bread and wear their dirty laundry. Ma is the peacemaker in the family; whenever bhaiya and I argue, she prevents the argument from turning into violence. Without Ma’s months of planning, our family vacations would not be possible. For each event that Ma organises, everyone, friends and family, are brought closer together and the bonds get stronger.

The wise say that one should treat one’s parents the way one treats God. The old say that your Ma is Goddess Lakshmi at home. “Mama” was the first word I learned to say and it’s the last word I say every night after wishing her a good night. Every morning when I wake up, I greet Ma with “Seetaram” and I bow to her feet. With my arms wrapped around her, I make sure to place a kiss on her cheek and put a smile on her face every morning. Ma taught me to put my hands together and chant the Lord’s name to receive blessings. She works hard to provide change in our pocket in case of emergencies, feeds us and educates us.

Ma has the qualities of Goddess Saraswati. In addition to sending us to school, she teaches us life lessons at home; everything that we need to know. Ma sets an example for her children to follow; she’s our role model and number one inspiration. She would wish nothing but the best for us and would not want to see her children fail in life.

Mata Durga would destroy any obstacles or miseries in one’s life. Ma would do the same for her children; she would protect us and do everything in her power to keep us safe and unharmed. Ma would risk her own life to save mine and I would do the same for her. Maa’s love is the most powerful thing is this world and it should not be taken for granted. There are so many other things that mothers do for their children; so many sacrifices and decisions are made for their child’s wellbeing each day. These things are often ignored until Ma is no longer present in one’s life. I’m proud to say that I love and appreciate my Ma with my heart and soul; life without her would be so incomplete. I want to be able to call her and tell her about my day when I reach home from work and find out if she’s doing okay. I want to be able to repay my Ma for every single thing that she’s done for me in my life. Thank you, Ma, for being there when I needed you on both good and bad days. I love you so very much.

By Shivana Ramchune

Form 5 Shanti

Swaha Hindu College

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Vastu Shastra – A Gift from the Supreme Being (Pt.2)

Last month we briefly introduced Vastu Shastra and identified the fact that there are many benefits to overall health and wellbeing when a home, building or even community is designed and constructed in accordance with this ancient Vedic practice. Many temples in India are built in strict accordance with these principles which add to the positive, healing vibrations within and surrounding these spaces.

Below are a few basic Vastu principles that can make a positive impact on the lives of those who occupy the building space:

Right Direction:The orientation of a building has an important impact upon the quality of life of its occupants. The sun’s nourishing energy as it rises from the east puts east-facing buildings at an advantage, as this brings great benefits. From eight possible directions, i.e. the four cardinal and the four diagonal directions, only two directions – east and north – produce wholly auspicious influences. Buildings should be constructed in alignment with the cardinal directions. If your home or building is not constructed in this manner, which is often the case, there are simple Vastu remedies that can be followed without undertaking any demolition work to ensure the right alignment. This will be covered in the next article.

 Right Placement of Rooms:As the sun moves across the sky during the day, it brings different energies at varying times of the day. The sun, our star, is the most powerful object in our solar system and so the different activities that we perform within the various rooms of a home are to be aligned with the appropriate angle of the sun.

The layout below shows the typical placement of rooms in a Vastu-designed home. There are other possible arrangements which can be guided by a Vastu consultant.

Right Proportion:Proportion is a key to successful design in nature. If you closely look at nature, for example a flower, they are designed with perfect symmetry and proportion adding to its natural beauty. The same goes for a building. The right measurement in buildings strengthens the connection of our individual intelligence to the Cosmic Intelligence. Astrology, astronomy and numerology also play an important role.

Green building: The use of natural, non-toxic and eco-friendly sustainable materials play a huge role in Vastu buildings. Green Vastu homes and communities consist of buildings that are powered by clean, pure energy like that from the sun, wind, water (renewable energy). They often re-use the water collected from rainfall on the roof (i.e. rainwater harvesting) and treat it without the use of chemicals such as chlorine. It may even be used to produce its own organic food. More about this in upcoming articles.

Other considerations such as the slope and shape of the land, unobstructed rising sun, influences of the physical environment, including water bodies, and auspicious timing are also considered when designing a Vastu building.

There is a lot more to share about this precious Vedic science of architecture, so stay tuned. Jai Swaha Maataa!

By Lydia Singh

BSc. Eng., PMP, LFA

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Mind Diseases: The Plague of Mankind

In Uttar Kaand of Shri Raamcharitramaanas, Shri Tulsidasji speaks of the diseases of the mind which afflict humankind. Countless are these diseases that build a cesspool of impurities within, creating problems for the individual as well as those with whom he interacts. Outlined below are some of the mental ailments that abound in this age of Kalyug, which, spreading throughout humanity, is without doubt the plague of mankind.

  1. Agyaan or ignorance is the root of all ailments, from which all other diseases arise. Egoism, attachment to materialism, aversion and fear of death are derivatives of ignorance which take humans deeper into the abyss of darkness.
  2. Kaam or lustful desires are like the flame which, when fanned, increases and knows no satiation. Left unfulfilled, these desires lead to anger, which in turn leads to loss of reason and ultimately to self destruction. The antidote for this poison is dhairya (courage).
  3. Lobh or greed can be compared to an infection caused by phlegm, which blocks the smooth passage of air through the nose and throat. In like manner, expression of positive qualities is blocked. One of the suggested means of healing this disease is the practice of santosh or contentment, which breeds within the aspirant the bliss of quietude and inner peace.
  4. Krodh: “Anger is death,” says the astute thinker, Chanakya Maharaj. It is one of the most common afflictions of man, which can be compared to bile. Just as the nauseous and feverish symptoms of this disease, in like manner, anger constantly inflames the breast causing a deep burning within oneself. The practice of kshamaa or forgiveness removes the tendency towards sharp reactions and prevents anger.
  5. Mamtaa or attachment: This can be compared to the disease of the ringworm that opens the sores of instability and unhappiness and induces the rash of inequality and separation. The remedy for this ailment is also contentment.

These are just some of the mental diseases that affect one’s life. This article will be continued next month.

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