SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

My Father, My Mother, My Role Models!

The founder of SWAHA, the late Shankaracharyaji, was questioned once on the topic of parenting. His response was: “If I were asked by the Divine which form of God I would want to see, I would ask to see my parents for they are my Gods. The kind of hard work and sacrifice they have endured for me, I owe everything to them.”

This response is most instructive to both parents and children, especially today, where both speed along opposite lanes on the busy highway of life. How often has it been emphasised that the institution of the family is the bedrock of any society? It is not by chance that the seers of Hinduism, in structuring the syllabus for the life-long development of man, have placed parents as the first and foremost educators, followed by the Guru.

The current global news headlines screech about the spread of adharma. The questions to be posed are: Which of the societal knots has weakened? Who failed whom? Where do the corrective steps begin? The many social and educational re-building programmes being initiated within various fields may slow the whirlpool of adharma. Attempts to review schools’ curricula, to strengthen the focus on the teaching of religion and on character and values education must be applauded and will certainly improve discipline. However, such efforts are an attack on the symptoms of the ills and not the causes of degradation. In the drive to heal the social diseases in our ailing society, we are simply attempting to change the scenery, not the vision. Such measures, though providing short-term relief, can be compared to repainting a dilapidated building.

The pillars of Sanatan Dharma, satyam (truth), soucham (purity), dayaa (compassion) and daan

(generosity) are the foundation blocks upon which the house of social, intellectual, spiritual and physical development is built. These pillars are best cemented in an individual’s development when instilled from childhood by the first teachers, the parents. Chanakya’s famous quote, “Satyam maataa, pitaa gyaanam” – “Truth is mother, wisdom father”, emphasizes the pivotal role of parents in a child’s upbringing. Indeed, the ones who rock the cradle rule the world.

Mothers imbue moral and spiritual worth in their children. The father’s wisdom, like the dharma-rath or chariot of dharma, inspires his children to develop qualities of courage, valour, endurance and fortitude. Such qualities serve as a kavach, an armour, to keep them in good stead as they ride out on the highway of life. Together, parents mould the child into a model human being, ready to journey on towards perfection.

Research has shown that parents’ care and love of their offspring can prevent issues such as psychological maladjustment, substance abuse, depression, emotional disruptions and other similar problems, some of which are at the core of unacceptable social behaviour.

Once parents recognise and live up to the significant role they play in their children’s success, there is hope. Also, when children appreciate their parents’ sacrifices, honour the divinity in them and acknowledge them as their heroes, societal uplift is assured.

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Maun Vrata – Why Keep Silence?

The world is a noisy place. Industrial activity, vehicles, aeroplanes and other forms of human activity contribute to these unnatural sounds. These sounds, believe it or not, destabilize and affect the natural rhythms and vibrations that make up the environment around us. Everyone can accept that the sounds of nature that stem from the gentle waves of the ocean to the chirping of the birds can have positive effects and vibrations on individuals. There are even machines that mechanically produce these natural sounds for people who live in the city or away from nature. They can be purchased as meditation aids. The point remains that natural sound and the absence of sound are phenomena which every individual craves as we attempt to remove ourselves temporarily from the world of manmade noise and so rejuvenate our minds. Hinduism once again comes to the rescue with prescriptions that possess positive side-effects and daily dosages of practices that will remedy the restlessness of the modern human condition.

One such practice that depends only on the individual is that of maun (silence). The Dharma Shastra advises that when one is bathing, eating or performing shraaddh one should be silent. Apart from these activities there are instances in one’s daily life where the practice of maun may prove beneficial. In admiring the life and sacrifices of Mahatma Gandhi, one would appreciate the fact that every Monday he would not speak. This is the man who led masses and provided the world with inspirational thoughts on life and living. However, if our circumstances and job commitments will not allow such a sacrifice then, at least, practise silence for a brief period of time during the day; it can prove to be just as beneficial. This frees the mind to contemplate the serious matters of life, including the spiritual aspect. A habit of introspection is inculcated which can prove useful in the practical life. We all know that silence is the mark of a wise man and speaking less and listening more ensures better productivity especially in daily communication.

Silence is a virtue especially in the weighty matters of religion and spirituality. After all, silence is merely a physical manifestation of meditation. Even those whose profession is to speak require generous spells of quiet or maun-vrata to make their speech more powerful and effective. Remember that an active tongue has created many a war, spoiled many a relationship, generated many misunderstandings, bred many ill feelings, broken many hearts and hurt many more than swords and guns.

Silence is of two kinds – vocal silence and mental silence. The first one involves no speaking. The second one is a harder exercise that requires putting the thinking processes of the mind into neutral gear. It is emptying the mind of all thoughts; this may be difficult for ordinary persons although yogis can do it, after having practised for many years. Normally one can’t stop thinking of something. At best, one can concentrate one’s mind on a single thought. You should

give it a try. The Shastras guide us to make maun a daily ritual in order to strengthen the peace process and make one’s life and the world a happier and more peaceful place.

By Varistha Persad, Teacher III, SWAHA Hindu College

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The Unspoken Sacrifice of My Father

My father worked for 55 years with the same routine of rising early every morning before dawn, taking his bath, offering jal and leaving home at 6.00 am and returning at 5.30 pm.

He also found time to look after any repairs in and around the home. All he ever asked from me, his daughter, was to hold his hammer while he repaired something, just so we could have some time to talk to each other.

I never saw my father taking days off from work or a vacation; nor did I ever see him lie down to take a nap. All his free time at home was spent on taking care of his family.

Later when I got married my father would call me every Sunday morning. He did this for over two decades for he was always interested in how my family was doing. I never once heard him complain about his health, his home or anything in his life.

When my husband and I purchased our house, my father, at 67 years old, spent eight hours a day for four days in the blistering heat, painting it. He would not allow me to pay someone to have it done. All he wanted was a cup of coffee and a chat with him while he painted. But I was too busy with my job and I could not find just a little time to fulfil these small needs.

He even spent many hours putting together a swing for my five-year-old daughter. Again, all he asked was that I get him a cup of coffee and talk to him. But again, I had household chores to do.

Not too long after, he brought some tulsi seedlings to plant so we could have the sweet scent of this auspicious plant in our yard daily. But I was too busy preparing for a trip that weekend and I could not spend time with him.

Not too long after that, a call came that my father was in the hospital. He had a stroke. In no time I headed to his village many miles away. On the way, I thought of all the times I had not taken the time to talk to him. I realized that I had no idea who he was or what his deepest thoughts were. I vowed that when I arrived, I would try to make up for the lost time for which he had virtually begged me.

By the time I arrived my father had passed away. This time it was he who did not have time to talk or time to wait for me. The shock of his death hit me hard. A most painful lesson I learnt was that all children must recognize the sacrifice of their father. He may not say much, but his sacrifice is great, yet he remains silent. All he wants is his children’s love, their companionship and some attention. He may never express the fact that his children are his world, but to him, they are. We should act now to try to make Dad happy.

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Mental Diseases: Part 2

Last month some mental diseases were outlined. Here are some others as described in Uttar Kand of Shri Raamcharitramaanas by Sant Tulsidasji.

In this scripture, he speaks of the diseases of the mind which afflict all mankind. Countless are these diseases which build a cesspool of impurities within, and which create problems for the individual contaminated by them, as well as those with whom he interacts. Outlined below are some of the mental ailments that abound in this age of Kalyug.

1. Irshaa – Envy is a mind-disease which, like an itch, creates a persistent effect of discomfort. The remedy for envy is santosh, contentment.

2. Matsar – jealousy. The inner burning of the rage of jealousy can be compared to the disease of consumption which leaves one paralysed in hatred, consumed in a world of restlessness, distant from God and painfully unhappy. In order to ward off this disease and return to a state of inner peace, a dose of stability must be ingested.

3. Dushtataa – wickedness. Like the contagious disease of leprosy, such negativity afflicts the entire being. It spreads internally and manifests itself in the bumps and lumps of unrighteous thoughts, words and actions, disfiguring the natural beauty of innate spirituality. The medicine for this ailment is peace and forgiveness.

4. Asmitaa – egoism. This is compared to gout which can be very painful, leaving swelling, tenderness and a bruised spirit. Service, forgiveness, compassion and truth guide one towards healing.

5. Kapat – Deceit, hypocrisy, false pride and arrogance are like the disease of sciatica that is characterized by a constant shooting pain. The practice of truth, straightforwardness and forgiveness can help to relieve one of such a painful disease.

6. Trishna – Material cravings are like the disease of dropsy that induces drowsiness in the night of delusion. The cure, of course, is to remain awake and seek one’s true divinity, in the company of Bhagavan Himself.

Healing of the inner self begins from the point of acceptance of these mind diseases and the willingness to pluck them out, thereby striving to attain that condition of self-realization.

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A Vegetarian Diet is the Better Lifestyle

Society is replete with a variety of lifestyles, which are developed based on people’s social, economic and religious backgrounds. One such lifestyle is a vegetarian lifestyle. Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating the flesh of any animal. The statement has been made that a vegetarian diet is the better lifestyle. I strongly agree with this simply because individuals who follow this lifestyle are less prone to diseases, preservation of animal life is encouraged and the farming industry will be more developed.

Firstly, the flesh consumed by the human body takes longer to be broken down into its simplest form in order to supply energy to carry out daily activities. In addition to this, a surplus of meat puts strain on organs to break down the food molecules. Also, non-vegetarian meals are high in saturated fats and low in fibre. Hence, a vegetarian diet is much healthier since its consumers are less prone to diseases.

Furthermore, being a non-vegetarian implies that there is need for animals to be killed for consumption. By doing so, animals can become extinct, which may affect the environment since each living organism has a particular role in the ecosystem. Thus, a vegetarian lifestyle is better since it does not have a negative impact on the environment.

Lastly, vegetarians promote the growth of the farmers’ industry, providing them with income. Think about it. Non-vegetarians mostly hunt to obtain their food, however, vegetarians encourage farming, which can lead to trade between countries to obtain different plant foods, as well as encourage diversification and increased revenue in the country. This demonstrates that vegetarianism is the much better lifestyle not just for the individual but the country as a whole.

One may argue that engaging in a vegetarian lifestyle may not provide an individual with some amino acids and vitamins. However, supplements can be taken to remain healthy. Thus, I remain firm in my position that a vegetarian lifestyle is the better option because individuals who follow this lifestyle are less prone to diseases, preservation of animal life is encouraged and the farming industry is promoted. Always remember, “You are what you eat!”

By Ameera Chaitram Form 4 Shanti SWAHA Hindu College

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Utha Jaaga Musaaphira

Utha jaaga musaaphira bhora bhaee
Aba raina kahaan jo sovata hain

Jo jaagata hai so paavata hai
Jo sovata hai so khovata hai
Tuka neenda say aankhon khola zaraa
Owra apanay prabhu say dhyaana lagaa

Jo kala karanaa to aaja karalay
Jo aaja karanaa to aba karalay
Jaba chiriyon nay chuga khayta liyaa
Phira pachhataaya kyaa hovata hai

Naadaana bhugata karanee apanee
Yay paapee papa mayn chaina kahaan
Jaba papa kee ghataree sheesha dharee
Phira sheesha kyon rovata hai

Arise! Awake! O traveller, it is dawn.
The night is gone.
This is no time to sleep.
Remember, the one who is awake, achieves.
The one who sleeps, loses.
Open your eyes even a little from your slumber and meditate on the Lord.
What is to be done tomorrow, do it today. What is to be done today, do it now.
When the birds have eaten up the entire field,
what will you get by repenting?
O foolish one, suffer for your deeds.
O sinner, where can you find peace?
When the burden of sin hangs over your head,
why hold your head now and cry?

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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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