SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad- Half Century of Service

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, Spiritual Head of SWAHA marks his fiftieth year as a practicing pundit this month, August 2017. Through these five decades, this illustrious Hindu priest/teacher/mentor/spiritual guide has been actively involved in the religious, educational, socio-civic and physical spheres of development, both locally and internationally. This altruistic servant-leader has been walking the path of advancement of human aspirations unceasingly, while nurturing and enhancing the welfare of others. He has been nourishing the dynamism of life through all these years without any expectations of reciprocity. But what was his journey like?

From infancy, the child Hardeo, the first son of Shankaracharya Pt. Hari Prasad and Mrs.Chandrawtie Persad, was deeply inspired by his illustrious father, and wanted to be a pundit of his ilk. This child saw in him a role model and mentor par excellence, a leader who knew the way, walked the way and showed the way. This spark was further ignited by the training he received from his Guru, the late Pt Ramchandra Maharaj. The eager student embarked on formal training in punditai (field of service of a Hindu priest) alongside his pursuit of secular education.  The young pundit embraced his calling with pride, enthusiasm and courage. In August 1967, he conducted his first puja, marking the formal commencement of his service as a pundit. This step also meant his initiation into active Hindu religious services where he began distinguishing himself as a clear inspiration and driving force to enlightenment. This later blossomed into an intense commitment and dedication to the strengthening of religious, spiritual, moral and ethical ideals of Sanatan Dharma in a changing environment.

It is often said that progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to improve and uplift. Of course, innovation with vision and fearlessness is the key factor to change. Such innovation and characteristics distinguished Paramacharya as a leader of man. His genuine interest in the growth of Hinduism drove him to pursue intensely the vision of enlightenment for Hindus through encouragement and empowerment. He saw leadership as a privilege to improve the lives of others. As a leader within the community, he stepped into the world of service, broadening the scope of humanitarian work in the religious, educational, cultural and spiritual spheres. Today, the Amar Jyot Kirtan Mandali and Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali, which were initiated by Paramacharya in the sixties and seventies, are still vibrant institutions that bear witness to the excellence of his mentorship.

Paramacharya pursued the path of service in his professional life at Sangre Grande Junior Secondary and Morvant/Laventille Junior Secondary, where he taught Mathematics.  During these years, his humane and philanthropic touch in handling students’ issues impacted positively on their lives and earned him their deepest respect and gratitude.

On his retirement from the teaching service in 2000, Paramacharyaji intensified his efforts in attending to the human cause. He employed novel strategies for education, training in Hindu value systems, and servicing the welfare needs of the national community. With the formation of SWAHA in 1993, many large-scale service-oriented projects were initiated that impacted positively on the national landscape. Today, the nation has become enriched with the establishment of SWAHA ECCE centres, primary and secondary educational institutions, a Children’s Home and growing religious centres and branches. These are all spread across the length and breadth of country.

Punditji assumed the position of Paramacharya, Spiritual Head of SWAHA in 2008, on the demise of the Shankaracharya. True leader as he is, he continued the journey of his father with the steady support, determination and strength of SWAHA’s Theological Board.

This stalwart of dharma keeps aloft his flag of service wherever he goes. He has completed countless yagyas over five decades, both locally and internationally. The tremendous impact he has created in different areas amidst varying cultures has positively influenced the lives of many. Today, Paramacharya is the Guru of over ten thousand ‘shishyas’(students initiated by Guru).

The straightforward, refreshing views of Paramacharya on topical issues have been frequently sought and publicly expressed on national media. These views are reflective of his depth and clarity of thought.Not only is he a visionary leader but also, a principal agent of change. His five-decade experience of walking the talk has gifted him a voice that has triggered the growth- momentum of Hinduism. He has challenged the status quo in many instances. The recent issue of Child Marriage is just one of several matters which he addressed nationally and for which he recommended an increase in age. The resounding success of his publication ‘What You Need to Know About Hindu Death Ceremonies’ is a clear indication that Paramacharya is indeed a game-changer. Today, his suggestions for modifications are gradually being embraced by Hindus.

As Paramacharya marks his golden anniversary in active service of punditai, he continues to labour in his down-to-earth manner. SWAHA pays tribute to our Spiritual Head, a true soldier of Sanatan Dharma, an individual who serves a cause greater than himself. Amidst it all, he maintains a humble stance. SWAHA extends deepest appreciation to this servant of dharma who continues to journey on the watchwords of humility, perseverance and devotion. To an outstanding son of the soil and a true hero of this nation, may you be abundantly blessed to continue your divine work. May all follow your shining example.

 

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Sri Raam Dhaam’s Janmashtami Celebrations

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Essential Principles of Sanatan Dharma

The essential principles of Sanatan Dharma are easily summarised and remembered if we use the acronym HINDU DHARMA. These principles are as follows (adapted from the book “The Hindu Mind” by Bansi Pandit):

Harmony of Religions: Just as all rivers lead to the one ocean, as Hindus we believe that all religious pathways lead to the same eternal truth. Sanatan Dharma therefore teaches religious tolerance. Even within Hinduism, there are different approaches to reaching the Divine based on an individual’s own characteristics.

Incarnation: Hindus believe that the supreme consciousness manifests itself from time to time when unrighteousness is prevalent. The difference between an incarnation of God and other forms of creation is that an incarnation is always aware of his/her divine nature.

Non-aggression: Sanatan Dharma teaches the principles of non-aggression and compassion for all forms of creation. Though we defend ourselves if attacked, we should not be the perpetrators of violence.

Doctrine of Karma: Hindus believe in the law of Karma (action), reincarnation, and trans-migration of the soul. We are all trapped in the world as a result of performing actions with selfish motives and desires. We endure pain and suffering as a result of these actions. The way to freedom involves relinquishing these desires and performing actions without a sense of doership.

Unity of Existence: The one supreme consciousness underlies all forms of creation, and is the essence of all that there is. The entire creation is just a differentiated form of this one universal spirit.

Dharma: Dharma encompasses all forms of duty that an individual is supposed to perform. We must strive to carry out our responsibilities in all our capacities as parents, children, siblings, spouses, workers, and leaders. We must also repay our debts to God, the holy men, the ancestors, the society, and the lower forms of creation.

Humanism: Hinduism is a humanistic religion in which equality and social service serve as central principles to be upheld.

Atman: The atman or soul is the essential nature of each person. The soul is infinite, indestructible, indivisible and eternal.

Reality: The supreme reality (Brahman), which is the basis of everything, is both formless and with form, impersonal and personal, transcendent and immanent. The same reality is known by different names and with different forms based on the context of worship and the temperament of the devotee.

Moksha: The main goal of each Hindu is to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death, and to realise his/her own nature. Liberation is achieved by giving up attachment and aversion and going beyond the mind and senses to realise that one’s essential nature is that of divinity.

Authority: Sanatan Dharma does not rely on a single text for scriptural teachings. The four Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda) are considered the primary texts which were revealed to the ancient Rishis. Other scriptures such as the Dharma Shastras, the Puranas, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata were authored by individual saints and sages. Together, all Hindu scriptures form a rich knowledge-base of mythology, philosophy and rituals to assist the devotee in achieving self realisation.

 

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Bhajan: Daykho Brindaabana

Daykho Brindaabana kunja mayree

Naachay Nanda-kumaara

 Mora mukuta sira oopara sohay

Gala phoolana kay haara

Peetambara kati beecha viraajay

Murali adhara-sudhaara

 Veenaa taala mridangee baajay

Baajay jhaanjha sitaara

Chhana chhana chhana chhana nupura baajay

Kara-kankara jhankaara

 Sakhiyon kay sangha Raadhaa naachay

Naachay vraja kee naara

Gwaala baala saba milakara naachay

Kara karakay sringaara

 Jalachala mohay thalachala mohay

Mohay nabha sanchaara

Brahmaananda muneeshvara mohay

Bansi dhura niradhaara

See how my Nanda-kumaara (Krishna) dances in the Brindaban forest.

On His hair is a peacock feather and on His neck is a garland of flowers.

Around His waist is tied a yellow cloth on which He keeps His flute.

The Veena, mridang, jhaanja and sitar all play a melodious tune while He dances.

Jingling anklets also add music to this symphony.

Radha and her friends dance to this beautiful sound.

The cowherds gaily dressed, all dance together.

Water, earth and sky- creatures are charmed by this sight.

The poet Brahmanand expresses the hope that he too becomes charmed by the flute.

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The Gayatri Mantra

As the Hindu world observes the occasion of Gayatri Jayanti on August 07, 2017, it is a most auspicious time to delve deeper into the Gayatri mantra and intensify efforts to strengthen the spiritual discipline of chanting it daily.

The Gayatri Mantra, also known as the Savitri Mantra, is a verse taken from the Rig Veda (3.62.10) and is addressed to the Sun. The metre in which this mantra was composed is the Gayatri metre and hence its name. The Gayatri metre is said to be the base or mother of all metres.

 

This mantra is one of the oldest mantras, and generally thought of as being amongst the highest and most powerful mantras of all. This mantra is therefore often referred to as the Mother of the Vedas. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna had proclaimed to Arjuna: “Among all the mantras, I am the Gayatri”.

 

In the Gayatri mantra, the blessings of Soorya Bhagavan are invoked for inner illumination. Gayatri signifies the energy present in the orb of the Sun and it is with this dynamic energy that one ascends spiritually to higher levels of consciousness.

 

The mantra itself is comprised of twenty-four syllables. The first two lines glorify the manifestation of light on the earth, astral region and the heavens. It is an adoration of the effulgence of the Solar Being. The third line is a request for inner illumination.

 

                    When to Chant the Gayatri Mantra

 

The mantra can be chanted at any time of the day but the most ideal times are at the sandhya periods which are dawn, mid-day, and at dusk. Chanting this mantra at dawn is an excellent way to begin the day since it glorifies the Sun without whom, no living being can exist. The practice of chanting this mantra should be done by everyone at least five times daily.

                          Power of Chanting Gayatri

The Gayatri mantra possesses both the power of purification and the power of prayer. The words have been carefully selected and arranged so that they not only convey meaning but also create enlightenment. By mere chanting of the lines, the intrinsic power of Mantra Shakti can be

attained as well as understanding the meaning of it. Hence, the repeated and correct chanting of the Gayatri mantra, with belief and proper understanding of its meaning, is believed to be of the greatest benefit to the individual. One becomes imbued with inner illumination as levels of intelligence, intuition and awareness are heightened.

 

                                    Gaayatri Mantra

Om Bhur Bhuvah Svah

Tat Savitur Varenyam

Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi

Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayaat

 

Translation: We meditate upon the Effulgence of that adorable Supreme Divinity, the source of Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. May that Supreme Radiance be embodied within us, enlightening our intellect and inspiring us to realize the Supreme Truth.

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Sun Power and the influences of the Vedas on a Western Visionary Master of Structure

 

 

We all know that the sun’s energy is vital for proper health as it provides our minds and bodies with pure energy and vitamins such as Vitamin D through our skin. Professor Michael Holick, of Boston University School of Medicine and author of The UV Advantage (I-Books, #6.99), says: “We get about 90 to 95 per cent of our Vitamin D from the sun.It is essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many common cancers.”

As Hindus, we worship Lord Surya daily and we can all attest to the powerful benefits of Soorya Vrat and worship, (http://www.swahainternational.org/articles/benefits-soorya-fast/). There is no doubt therefore that the sun, the main source of energy in our solar system, is not only important for life on earth, but it can in fact be the sole source of electricity to power the entire earth!

 

Did you know that more power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, yet solar only provides a tiny fraction of the energy used in the world? With the current leaps of progress being made globally, it is predicted that solar will become the biggest energy source by 2031! With finite natural resources such as oil and gas becoming more difficult and expensive to obtain, coupled with the fact that burning of these hydrocarbons are one of the largest contributors to man-made Climate Change, we know for a fact that renewable, clean energy is the way forward and the future!

 

A wise man once said, “There is no energy crisis, the only crisis is an ignorance crisis”, and saw that wind (Vayu) and solar (Soorya) power would emerge the best energy sources. This man was Buckminster Fuller, born in the USA in 1895. He was a world renowned half-blind, near-deaf inventor, mathematician, historian, planetary architect, visionary and one of the few souls on the earth who talked with Albert Einstein. Hindus who dialogued with him personally, such as architect Vyom Akhil, happily welcomed the sagely octogenarian as an “honorary Hindu.” Fuller, to them, was one of the few great science minds that unequivocally insisted on the Vedic view that God, creation and energy are one. He felt a deep affinity with Asia and visited India several times, befriended Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi and relished the esoteric teachings of yogic seer Sri Aurobindo. He even named his sailing boat Naga after the Indian snake god. He believed that all form is pure energy(Shakti)particles dancing at various speeds and said that rocks are slow dancers, gasses faster and God the fastest.  His God-in-furious-motion universe clearly resonates the image of Shiva Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer who pulsates all form from inside the atomic core of form.[“Hinduism Today”: Magazine October 1991].

Buckminster Fuller went on to inspire many Architects in his years preceding his death such as Mr. Jason McLennan, one of the most influential individuals in the Green Building movement today who developed the Living Building Challenge- the world’s most progressive, holistic and rigorous Green Building Standard. Anyone who knows the Living Building Challenge can truly understand the unique connection between a western developed program and the wisdom of ancient Vedic teachings; which is truly remarkable! More about the Living Building Challenge and its contribution to the creation of communities which are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative coming soon.

 

Lydia Singh

BSc. Eng., PMP, LFA

Living Building Challenge Ambassador, Renewable Energy Lead

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Shri Krishna Janam Ashtmi: Ecstasy Experienced.

From age to age, the Supreme Brahman manifests on earth for various reasons.  Chapter Four, verses 7&8 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita outlines the chief causes of manifestation. These are:

1) For the protection of the virtuous.

2) To destroy unrighteousness.

3) For the restoration of righteousness.

 

In the age of Dwaapar, Shri Krishna appeared on earth to fulfil these objectives, thereby maintaining sustenance of the world. This form of the Divine, the eighth major manifestation of Lord Vishnu is Vyuha Avataar, a transcendental emanation where the Lord exercises different cosmic functions and controls activities of living beings. He is also considered to be ‘Poorna avataar’ – the one who is complete, possessing all sixteen digits. As ‘Leela avataar, the Lord came to perform the dramas on the world’s stage so man could elicit the many lessons of spiritual evolution, as he progresses on the road to self-realization.

According to Shri Bhagavat Puraan, a Hindu scriptural text, Shri Krishna appeared in the city of Mathura, as the child of Devaki and Vasudev. He was  transported across the River Yamuna to the village of Gokula, to the home of Yashoda and Nand who became his foster parents.  Growing up in this rustic village among the cow herd families, the child Krishna performed countless leelas or transcendental pastimes on the world’s stage. These leelas created  ecstasy in the hearts of the pure and devoted residents with whom he interacted.  At the same time, He used every opportunity to fulfil his mission of destroying unrighteousness, of protecting His devotees and championing their cause. He brought an end to the reign of evil that was perpetuated by the evil King Kans and his cohorts. With the end of Kans at the hands of Bhagavan Krishna, Vasudev was handed rulership of the state and righteousness replaced evil.

Shri Krishna made an indelible impression upon man’s consciousness. He is the central figure in Srimad Bhagavat Gita, in which He educated the world on one’s duty and other facets of a righteous life. Prescribed injunctions and prohibitions are outlined for spiritual development. He guided man on the path of spiritual progress. His example on earth is a model for individuals of all walks of life, the modern world and surely for those in ages to come.

More than a mere allegory, the scriptural episode that outlines the Divne’s manifestation and time on earth, has deep metaphysical implications, bearing much relevance to our lives and empowering us to achieve our true purpose of self-realization.  A brief outline of some of its symbolical representations is as follows:

Shri Krishna -symbolizes the essence of the Vedas; cosmic harmony.

Devaki- the cosmic embryo, the manifestation of Om, a representation of the five-fold functions of Brahman

Vasudev- Vedic literature.

Nand- delight borne out of Supreme Bliss.

Yashoda- ultimate state of bliss borne out of Supreme Delight.

Mathura- the abode of wisdom.

Kans- the age of strife, wickedness and evil.

Gokula- seventh heaven where Shri Krishna sports, a veritable paradise.

Yamuna- the stream of karma or disinterested action.

Cows-thousands of verses that are in the Vedas.

As the Hindu world marks the auspicious occasion of Shri Krishna Janam Ashtmi  on August 14, 2017, it is hoped that  everyone who celebrates  would be drawn closer to the experience  of  cosmic harmony, borne out of delight and Divine ecstasy.

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