Our Five Mothers

The institution of motherhood is highly revered in Sanaatan Dharma and due recognition is given to five mothers: Mother Earth, the cow, our religious texts, our biological mother and the Divine Mother.

These mothers are all sources of life and of sustenance. As such, admiration, reverence, worship and provision for continuity are but a few of the duties of their earthly children.

  1. Mother Earth: The earth is the principal source of food, water and air, the basic needs of all plants and animals, including humans. In puja, Mother Earth is worshipped as “Prithvi Maataa”.
  2. The Cow: Gratitude and reverence are shown to the cow for its importance in the development of the physical welfare of humans.  The only food that is of nutritional value and can be digested successfully at this stage of a child’s life is milk. In puja, the cow is worshipped as “Gow Maataa”.
  3. Religious Texts: It is said that wisdom or enlightenment comes with knowledge. Such knowledge guides humanity towards a positive state of wellbeing.  Reading of scriptural texts is “nitya karma” (daily practice) and is one of the five debts that must be repaid daily.
  4. Biological Mother: “Maatri Devo Bhavah”, the scriptures declare. Mother is God, for she gives life, sustains and maintains it. Indeed, she is God and is worshipped daily by her children.
  5. Divine Mother: Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are forms of the Divine Mother and it is with their blessings, guidance and inspiration that an individual is endowed with intelligence, good health, wealth and success of every kind.

Our mothers play a pivotal role in the development of each of us and dependence on her is a necessity for a successful existence. This month, we wish all our mothers a Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

On July 20th, Vote for…Which P?

Speculation is that election date will be on July 20th or 27th. Krishna Bhagwan has said that everyone must do his or her duty (including civic) so that there must be no inertia in exercising one’s franchise. If we sit idly by and do not ensure that our sisters and brothers are taken care of in a “dharmic” manner, then according to our scriptures, we are not practicing a fundamental tenet of Sanaatan Dharma, that is “paro upakaar” or taking care of our fellow human beings.

How do we decide for which party we should stain our fingers? The system inherited is that the party that wins most seats forms the Government. Unfortunately, we may prefer an individual candidate from another party but we will not vote for that person although we know that the individual will represent us well. Then there is the converse, where there may be candidates who are not fit for office who are being sent up by the party we support (for whatever reason) but we will stifle that reality and cast a vote for that individual because of party loyalty.

There are lots of reasons for the support we give to any party. Some say that we must look at performance, others say to be loyal to social institutions, yet others imply that one’s creed must be a vital consideration,  and yet others say that we should just give somebody else a chance. Then there are those who get their needs fulfilled and are bowled over by promises of more and more goodies. Furthermore, the media may carry stories so as to give a certain perspective and image of contenders for power and so influence voter’s choice.

The layman understands the Government’s policies and the theories of economics and fiduciary issues in terms of realities, such as, prices in the supermarket are high. We can’t get foreign dollars for our travel. Services provided by the civil servants are poor. We can’t get a car licensed in a reasonable time. Tax refunds take months. Passports are difficult to get. Crime is frightening and there is little confidence in the police. Traffic jams are just as bad as before, although billions have been spent on roads. Then there is the big contentious issue of corruption.

We, the voters, have a phenomenal task of making an informed decision. We may make the wrong decision but it will remain with us for the next five years unless the run-off and recall systems are implemented.

SWAHA is postulating that, amongst the above-mentioned notions of voter concerns, one important consideration is that all parties publish a list of persons to be considered for senatorial appointments so we, the voters, can decide if we want to support such appointments. After all, “no one buys cat in bag.”

In the month of May, Indian sentiments will be very high, as the country will be celebrating Indian Arrival Day. In August, Emancipation Day will be celebrated. This is the rationale for choosing the given date of 20th/ 27th July, 2015. These dates will nullify the potential tendency to have the election heavily influenced by race considerations and emotions. May the best team win.

 

By Pt. Gyandeo Persad

More Power In The Name Than The Form

From temple to temple the same forms of God can be found but they are slightly different in appearances.  The artists or sculptors carve the forms in their own style which account for variations in the way they look.  Yet, the names remain the same. Indeed the name Shiva remains Shiva, no matter the differences in appearances from murti to murti. Similarly, Vishnu remains Vishnu, and so it is with all names of God through the ages. Indeed, the names of God are mahaa mantras.

The name of God is superior to the form. Evidence of this statement can be found in scriptures where the repetition of the name brought enlightenment, freedom from struggles and salvation to many devotees. In Ramaayana,  Shri Tulsidas explained that Shri Raam Himself liberated a few, but His name liberated countless.   Again in Shiva Puraana it is recorded that Upamanyu, a five year old child was able to have the ‘darshan’(appearance)  of Lord Shiva by continuous repetition of the Panchakshara Mantra that was taught to him by his mother.  Child devotees Dhruva and Prahalad came face to face with the Divine through repetition of His name.

The question may be asked as to what kind of power lies behind these names of the Divine, these mahaa mantras.  A breakdown of the word ‘mantra’ may bring some answers. Mantra is comprised of ‘man’-meaning mind and ‘tra’- meaning an instrument or tool. A mantra then is an instrument of thought.

The names of the various deities are in Sanskrit. Each letter relates to a particular chakra or energy centre in the body. By the recitation of the name, different energy centres are activated, from which the energy flows through the 72,000 nadis that criss-cross the subtle body, awakening the inner force or shakti  that enables greater awareness of one’s true nature.  One may not be aware of these inner movements but the results are clear. Ratnakar was unaware he was repeating the name of ‘Raam’, yet he was transformed to Sage Valmiki, Adikavi, the foremost of poets.

Continuous repetition of the name of God purifies the mind of the one who repeats it, as well as cleanses the environment wherever it is done.  Mantras are meant for practice. They are like seeds that need to be sown, watered and fertilized . The more they are repeated, the more effective they become. Mantras can be recited aloud, softly or in the mind. They can also be written.

As a tool of transformation, mantras are most useful in one’s life.  It is one of the nine types of devotion outlined by Shri Raam to Shavari in Raaamayan. To schedule the act of mantra-recitation in one’s daily routine is to become engaged in a practice that will sustain, uplift and purify one’s environment as well as oneself.  No doubt, the form has inspired many. The name, on the other hand, is a most potent instrument of thought.

It is said that the surest, safest and the easiest means of expiating sins in this age is repetition of the name of the Divine.

Durga Devi mantras that can be recited during the period of Nava Raatri ( March 20-28, 2015)

Om Sarva Mangala Maangalyay

Shivay Sarvaartha Saadhikay

Sharanyay Trayambikay Gauri

Naaraayani Namostutay

Om Jayanti Mangala Kaali

Bhadrakaali Kapaalini

Durgaa Kshamaa Shivaa Dhaatri

Swaahaa Swadhaa Namostutay

Om Jai Twam Devi Chaamunday

Jai Bhutaar-tihaarini

Jai Sarvagatay Devi

Kaalraatri Namostutay

Om Namas Chandikaayai

Om Hreem Sreem Chandikaayai Namah

Cultural Function Of The Family

Culture is defined as a way of life based on ideas, beliefs, customs and practices.  A landmark of Hinduism is its rich culture of traditions, food, dress, festivals, religion etc. How vibrant a culture is depends on the intensity of its practice.  So how vibrant is Hinduism in our homes? Do we light deeya, offer jal, say mantras, use the greeting “sitaram” on a daily basis? Do our children know how to respond correctly when asked why their gods have many hands, wear snakes as garlands, or have a monkey or elephant face?

A society cannot exist without culture. Culture gives society its identity. Society has established that the family is responsible for teaching cultural practices to its members. Therefore patriarchs and matriarchs of hindu homes have a crucial role to play in this regard. Authentic foods must be cooked, including teaching the art of cooking (how to ‘chonkay a good dhal’), traditional clothes must be worn, festivals must be observed and young family members must be exposed to the art forms of dance, music etc. Children are the biggest mimics of all time. Whatever the adults practise, children will follow.

Practice of our Hindu culture affords us so many merits. The gaiety and splendour of Phagwa fill us with fun times; the sanctity of Divali  brings experiences of spirituality and unity, Raksha Bandhan enhances bonding and the close-knit relationship we traditionally share with grandparents, other elders and the family pundit provides us with on the spot mentors, counsellors and advisors. More importantly, practice of our culture provides us with an identity of who we are. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, identity fulfils our psychological and social need of having a sense of belonging, self-worth and good self esteem, all necessary tools for healthy growth and development. This sense of identity may provide good defence mechanisms for our children against the threat of assimilation into other cultures.

We raise our hands in unity and proclaim “hum hindu hain” when called upon to do so by our pundits.But our pride must go way beyond words. We must become publicly proud as the Hare Krishna devotees (white in ethnicity), who will walk through crowded modern, western Florida South Beach dressed in dhoti and sari,     chanting God’s name and dancing to the beat of dholak and the chimes of manjeera. We must wear our kurta as proudly as Brad Pitt did on his visit to India. We should publicly glorify our culture like the non-hindu yoga instructors who willingly use the terms vinyasa, asanas and who at the end of their demonstration will clasp their hands, bow and say Namaste.

Hindu families can ensure the preservation of their culture by simply passing on the baton of dharma to their children. They can do so by transmitting the traditions, way of life, customs and beliefs from one generation to another to continue the links with our forefathers and so keep our cultural heritage alive.

Mrs. Mala Persad.

11 Essential Study Tips for Students

Here are 11 great study tips to prepare students for upcoming examinations:

  • Create a study timetable and stick to it.
  • Use flash cards to summarize notes.
  • Create graphic organizers, rhythms and songs to remember information.
  • Form study groups so your friends can assist you in weak areas and vice versa.
  • Keep a dictionary at hand.
  • Use modern technology to assist when studying as this will make learning more interesting and exciting.
  • Do brain teasers to challenge the mind. This will keep the mind active.
  • Keep discussing things with your friends to compare answers. This will ensure standardized work.
  • Ensure that you are well rested and fed before starting to study.
  • Access an area that is conducive for study.
  • Set goals and work towards attaining them.

Submitted by Swaha Hindu College

Shri Hanumaan-the brave warrior

During Shri Raam’s fourteen years of exile in the forest, his consort Sita Devi was kidnapped by the Raakshas king, Raavan. The only way to rescue her from the evil hands of the wicked Raavan was battle. Shri Raam’s army comprised monkeys and bears while Raavan had many powerful warriors and weapons.

Hanuman was one of the bravest warriors in Shri Raam’s army. During the battle, many were killed on both sides. One of Raavan’s sons, Meghnaad struck down Shri Raam’s brother, Lakshman, who was unconscious. The only way to revive him was to have a special medicine made from a particular herb which was on the Himalayan mountain, many miles away. This herb had to be given to him before sunrise. How was this possible?

For Hanuman, nothing was impossible, and he set out for the Himalayas, taking his immense form, and flying through the air. Raavan learnt of his intention and sent the dreaded raakshas, Kaalnemi, to stop him but Hanumaan killed Kaalnemi and reached the mountain. However, there he encountered a problem he had not anticipated. The mountain was covered with herbs, and he was unable to identify the right one. There was no time to lose, so he simply lifted the whole mountain and flew back to Lanka!

The medicine was made and given to Lakshman who revived in no time. Indeed, nothing is impossible for Hanumanji.

Celebration of SWAHA Swadeshi Festival

The months of April and May are very hectic months in SWAHA as all its institutions are a buzz of activity in preparation of the annual Swadeshi competition.  The Swadeshi festival is one of the ways that SWAHA celebrates Indian Arrival. This year marks the 170th anniversary since the first East Indians landed in Trinidad. It also marks the 20th anniversary of the Swadeshi Festival, a major celebration that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.

At Swadeshi, both young and old vie for top places in story-telling, Dance, Choral Speaking, Bhajan, Instrumental, Local Song, Visual Arts and Poetry writing.  Training, expression and workshops prelude the actual competition in which participants are afforded the opportunity to learn facets of our unique culture.

The creative talent of the various temples and schools come to the fore as they blend voices, instruments, paints and other media to produce a wonderful melange of colour, costume and swar              (musical notes).

This year the competition will be held on Sunday April 26, 2015 at SWAHA Hindu College. The grand presentation of awards will be held on Indian Arrival Day, May 30, 2015 at UWI’s JFK auditorium.

Best wishes to all participants in this year’s festival.