SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

Category: Editorial (Page 1 of 15)

Seven Bad Habits You Must Avoid At All Costs

Whether we realise it or not, we are all looking for peace of mind. Though most of us feel we want to be happy, it is a mistake to pursue happiness, as with happiness comes the other extreme of sadness. What we really seek is a constant, peaceful state of mind that is not disturbed by the ups and downs of life. We should aim to be like the deep and calm ocean without the large waves that thrash due to the mental storms of the six mental enemies. These enemies are lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy and they give rise to a range of bad habits. We are advised therefore to avoid the following seven bad habits that lead us down a path of pain and sorrow:

सप्त दोषा सदा राजन् हातव्या व्यसनोदयाःप्रायशो यैर्विनश्यन्ति कृतमूला अपीश्वराः।
स्त्रियोऽक्षाः मृगया पानं वाक्पारुष्यं च पंचमंमहच्च दण्डपारुष्यं अर्थदूषणमेव च ॥
sapta doṣā sadā rājan hātavyā vyasanodayāḥ prāyaśo yairvinaśyanti kṛtamūlā apīśvarāḥ|
striyo’kṣāḥ mṛgayā pānaṁ vākpāruṣyaṁ ca paṁcamaṁmahacca daṇḍapāruṣyaṁ arthadūṣaṇameva ca ||

1. Infidelity: If you are lustful, then you are not in control of the raging desires in your mind and they will drive you to actions that you will regret. In the context of marriage and relationships, being unfaithful to your partner is going against your word to be faithful and true to each other. Do not do anything to spoil your relationship because, once broken, it can never return to the way it was. “A creeper that has been cut can be made to grow again, but it will never look as beautiful as it used to. Similarly, an affectionate relationship that has been spoilt, can be revived again but it will not have the same charm as it used to.” (Nitidvishashtika)

2. Gambling: Gambling is an addiction. It changes your brain in the same way that drugs and alcohol affect your brain, that is, it causes a flood of feel-good chemicals in your brain that reinforce the negative habit. Gambling sets up a vicious cycle that leads you to believe that the next game you play would be a sure winner. It draws you into a hole of debt, depression and despair. Instead of looking for a quick fix for material gain, try to understand the value of hard work and the deep satisfaction that comes from “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”.

3. Hunting: A central tenet of Hinduism is ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Hunting for sport involves taking the lives of animals for sheer pleasure and the karmic ripples of such actions are bound to adversely affect you. Instead of looking to take the life of an animal for your own pleasure, try to protect animal life out of compassion and this will bring mental peace rather than misery.

4. Intoxicating drinks: Addictive alcohol and drugs continue to plague all societies and they wreak havoc with the lives of individuals and families. In modern society, the stress to perform and succeed is countered by the need for the feeling of euphoria on demand provided by addictive substances. A wife or girlfriend may end up an alcoholic because she wants to spend time with her husband or boyfriend who is always at the bar. Children may see adults using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to manage their lives and they then emulate this behaviour without thinking. This leads to a host of other problems as people may lose control of themselves. You must protect yourself and your families from alcohol and drugs at all costs; it is best to identify such problems and seek help as soon as possible.

5. Use of harsh words: Think carefully before you speak. If you speak in anger, then you are only hurting yourself. As the Buddha said, speaking in anger is like grabbing and throwing hot coals at someone else – you are only burning yourself. Before you speak, ask yourself the following three questions: (1) Is it the truth? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it kind? If your words fulfil these three criteria, then you can speak. Otherwise, it would be wise to keep quiet.

6. Inflicting very harsh punishment for minor offences: For those of you in leadership positions, you must aim to be fair in all your dealings. Inflicting overly harsh punishments for minor mistakes are acts of victimisation and break the principle of ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Is your intention to teach a lesson and improve a person’s character or is your intention to be hostile and take out your own frustration on another person?

7. Misuse of the treasury: If you are in a position of responsibility and you use financial and other resources for your own selfish ends, that is, for anything other than what was intended, then you have committed a grave act for which you will pay the karmic consequences. Not only is this stealing, but it is also not performing your duty and breaking your word. It is never a good idea to take what does not belong to you, for this greed will result in even greater loss and suffering. When you see what others possess, be inspired to work for what you want just like they did instead of being greedy for what they have.

Be mindful of these seven bad habits that result from the six mental enemies and experience the peace of mind that results from their avoidance.

By Pt. Dr. Umesh Persad

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Press Release From SWAHA

The recent controversy regarding the portrayal by a particular section of a Carnival band signals the need for greater awareness of the sensitivities of our population. The wave of reaction that has been created amongst members of the Hindu community since the appearance on stage of masqueraders in the ‘ApnaDesh‘ section of Cazabon – The Art of Living is an indication that there is need for deeper insight and appreciation for each other’s culture. Consultation and communication should be the route to avert such unfavourable consequences.

SWAHA recommends that bandleaders acknowledge the prevailing emotions of our multi-religious and multi-cultural population and recognize the need for careful deliberation when conceptualizing and realizing their artistic manifestations. In this regard, we suggest that wherever such presentations feature symbols or articles of religious significance, the likely impact on the sensitivities of the religious community to which these are of importance must be considered in order to clarify doubts and misconstrued concepts.

This will indeed help to safeguard freedom of expression and enhance the creative nature of the depictions,while preventing potentially deleterious effects to a particular religious grouping. Consultation brings enlightenment and fosters greater harmony within society. We can eliminate the confusion and reduce the divisiveness that already exists in our nation.

Paramacharya Pt. HardeoPersad

Spiritual Head

SWAHA Incorporated

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Cultural Function of the Family

Culture is defined as a way of life. Different cultures are characterised by their customs and beliefs. 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 a deeya, offer jal, chant mantras and use the greeting ‘Sitaram’ on a daily basis? Do we fast f orthe required length of time before performing puja or observing religious festivals? Do we keep the Thursday fast even if that Thursday falls on Christmas Day or some other festive occasion? Do our children know how to respond correctly when asked why their God has many hands, wears snakes as garlands, or has 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, the art of cooking must be taught (such as how to ‘chonkay a good dhal’), traditional clothes must be worn, festivals must be observed and young family members must be introduced to the various art forms of dance, music, etc. Since children are the biggest mimics, they will follow whatever is practised by the adults. Soon enough their playful shouts of ‘swaha’, ‘sitaram’, ‘kirtan’ singing and performing ‘aarti’ will blossom into meaningful living. Therefore parents must immerse their world with Hindu culture. We must introduce children to the real superheroes like Hanuman who can fly and ‘beat up any bad person’; Lord Shiva who destroys evil by burning them to ashes with his eyes; Durga Maa who can tame a tiger and destroy demons.

The practice of our Hindu culture affords us so many merits. The gaiety and splendour of Phagwa fills us with fun; the sanctity of Divali brings experiences of spirituality and unity; Raksha Bandhan enhances bonding and the close-knit relationship we traditionally share with our siblings. Grandparents, other elders and the family pundit provide us with on-the-spot mentors, counsellors and advisors. More importantly, the practice of our culture provides us with our identity, a sense of who we are. According to psychologist, Abraham Maslow, identity fulfils our psychological and social needs for 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 assimilation into other cultures.

We raise our hands in unity and proclaim, “Hum Hindu hain,” when called upon to do so by our pundits. However, our pride must go beyond words. We must become publicly proud as the Hare Krishna devotees (usually white in ethnicity), who will walk through Florida’s crowded, modern South Beach dressed in dhoti and sari, chanting God’s name and dancing to the beat of the dholak and the chimes of majeera. 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, aasanas 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 belief from one generation to another to continue the links with our forefathers and so keep our cultural heritage alive.

By Mrs. Mala Persad

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The Transformational Power of Satsang

Satsang literally means ‘truthful association’ and is a central concept to the spiritual development of man. The Shri Raamacharitmanas is rife with references to satsang and its power. In Aaranya Kaand, Shri Raam explained to Sabari Maataa, the nine steps in building devotion (bhakti). He said, “Prathama Bhakti Santana Kara Sangaa”; first among the various devotional practices is satsang.

What is the benefit of satsang and why is this such a powerful practice? Satsang has the ability to transform our lives from negativity to positivity, elevating us when we are on the spiritual path. Whether we are seeking a breakthrough into the world of spirituality or we are spiritual veterans, satsang remains the practice of choice and the basis of spiritual development.

Transformation is defined as a marked change in form or nature. The greatest testimony to the power of satsang is the transformation of Valmiki from a ‘paapi’ or sinner to Adi Kavi or the foremost among poets. Through the power of satsang his life was permanently changed; his nature and appearance exuded spirituality. This conversion occurred while he was trying to perpetrate a crime against a group of saints. Through simple dialogue, the saints were able to bring about this change in the mind of Valmiki.

In the case of the spiritually elevated, satsang remains a tool of choice in maintaining the connection to divinity. This is evident in Shri Raamacharitmanas where Shri Raam always kept the company of the sages and engaged in positive discourse for self development. Shri Raam stated in Uttar Kaand that satsang is necessary for the attainment of bhakti.

What are the mechanics behind satsang? During satsang, the gyaan indriya (senses of perception) are engaged in positive activity. For example, when we attend yagya, our gyaan indriya are immersed in positive experiences as detailed in the table below:

Gyaan Indriya Interacting Experience
Sight Gazing upon the murtis, bedi and pundit
Hearing Listening to bhajan, mantras and uplifting discourse
Smell Inhalation of havan smoke and incense
Touch Bowing at the feet of murtis and pundits and accepting aarti
Taste Consumption of prasad and bhojan


The question is, if satsang is such a powerful tool and we have an abundance of yagya in the country, why are we still seeing such a deterioration in the morality of our citizens? The answer may be simply that the satsang environment, while existing in form is not existing in substance. For example, it is not enough to have a pundit present, but a pundit of substance and depth who is filled with spirituality. Not only must the environment be clean, but the people must be of clean mind. The prasad and bhojan must be prepared by persons who maintain cleanliness of body, mind and speech. Such substance is needed to accompany the physical form of satsang to bring about transformation.

Therefore when satsang exists in form and substance, it remains the greatest instrument in the bhakti toolbox.

Jai Swaha Mata 

By Pt. Jaidath Maharaj

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Hinduism and Humanism.

Understanding the basic tenets of Humanism allows for a deeper grasp of why human beings continuously fall within inevitable disarticulations throughout generations of scientific and philosophical enquiries that sought and continue to seek the removal of ‘God’ for reasoning mankind’s existence and purpose. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, “Humanism is a democratic and ethical lifestance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.” In addition and most important to note, “It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.” In essence, understanding and accepting that the human condition is not dependent on religious historicity, metaphysics and scriptural injunctions allows mankind to delve into meaning-making missions that are bound to result in chaos and absolute failure.

Throughout the various scriptures and Hindu texts, it is evident that the focus and purpose of that soul,having been spiritually evolved to acquire and experience the senses and discriminatory mind of the human body should spend his/her lifetime with an ultimate goal of achieving moksha or freedom. Our ancestors understood that any inquiry into the purpose of man is performed and undertaken with the understanding that a higher force is at play and is involved in the process whether one chooses to accept it or not. An example of a person who is unaware of their own ignorance can be best understood in an analogy-where a farmer appreciates and focuses heavily on the importance of the physical labour necessary when ploughing the land, planting the seeds, watering the crops, and finally harvesting for a successful crop. However, if little attention is placed on the other forces that determine the success or failure of the crop like the exposure to sunlight, the insects and worms that aerate the soil, the nutrients available in the soil, the time of the year, the season and the effects of the moon, the weather patterns and all other forces of nature, then the farmer can expend all that energy and fail in the end. Positioning ourselves at the center of all the action can cause tremendous problems or mishaps in life. We must accept and adhere to the reality that our reality is an illusion. If we do not do so, then there is no technological and scientific advancement that can save us when the forces of creation are at work.

The opposite can also happen, where most of us spend our lives in an existential loop where we wait, wait and wait for things to happen. When some persons are asked why indifference and laziness define their existence, it is easier for such people to find comfort in blaming ‘bad karma’ or ‘bad times,’ where they may be waiting again for ‘good times’ to come again. The life-journey of human beings have become bogged down by the waiting game where essentially, everyone is waiting to finish their education, waiting to get married, waiting to have children, waiting to marry their children, waiting for grandchildren, waiting for retirement and it goes on and on, much like the literary masterpiece, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. This play positions the life of two characters in the same existential loop where they spend their time waiting for someone named Godot who never arrives. Most lives resemble such a ‘tragicomedy’ and as a result exist as insignificant entities in the world devoid of any real purpose.

The message becomes clearer when one worries endlessly about the results of an examination but failed to put in the work necessary to pass in the first place. Some people invoke the power of God to acquire material things and it has even become so perverse to the extent that pujas and yagnas are scheduled to thank God for a new car, new house, overflowing coffers and affluence beyond one’s needs. When did the real reason for worship and sacrifice become so perverted that there remains a tremendous imbalance amongst the legitimate pleasures of this worldly existence; where artha (material wealth) weighs heavily on the scales. The lessons from scriptural narratives of characters like Daksha, Kubera and Raja Bali have all been forgotten? Their meaning-making mission of using their bodies and distorting reality to achieve a different purpose caused their downfall.

It is strongly advised that shifting the focus even for a bit is too much in this age of Kaliyug. This age begins with the end of the narrative of Raja Pareekshit who lost all sense of purpose and value when he put his body, his position and his material acquisitions before his mind, his soul and his sense of morality. Placing the dead snake around the neck of a Sage caused his eventual demise. Let that dead snake remain a symbol of man’s pride in position and authority and the fate Raja Pareekshit faced by devaluing the higher self, the Sage and the journey of enlightenment for eventual freedom from this bondage of sin and suffering. Change the trajectory of our meaning-making mission and allow into our lives the divine bliss and ecstasy we can experience when God comes first.

Pt. Varistha Persad

BA, MA, Pg, Dip.Ed (UWI)

TIII (English)

SWAHA Hindu College

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The Child- The Heart of the Issue of Child Marriage

As the Senate debate focuses on child marriage, topmost priority must be given to the child, who is the key factor in this entire issue. I appeal to all involved in this debate to do the conscionable thing and place the child first among all considerations.

Once again SWAHA, a major Hindu body of Trinidad, reiterates its position of adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years. I wish to re-establish the fact that the issue at hand is not a religious matter as far as Hinduism is concerned. Even though the rituals carried out in the marriage ceremony identify with Hinduism, there are no Hindu scriptural injunctions that dictate the age at which an individual must marry. Child marriage evolved from the culture and traditions of an Indian landscape centuries ago. This was embraced and found support there and then but it is irrelevant to Trinidad today, where our young girls are indicating their choices in no uncertain terms.  A clear example is the excellence in academia displayed in the last few years by our nation’s girls. They have been topping the scholarship charts, inclusive of recent President Scholarship winners, Shivrani Prabhudial and Priya Maharaj. Could they have scaled such heights if married at 14 years of age?  The signs are clear! Our young girls wish to be qualified.  Please allow them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.

I wish to re-emphasize the severe handicaps that are created through child marriage. Such a condition is a barrier to a young girl’s educational, physical and mental health. It is denial of the child’s fundamental rights and strangles any hope of empowerment. It opens the child to vulnerability to abuse of all forms, to psychological scarring as well as economic dependency.  Not to mention the negative impact on infant health. I ask, is this the type of development and future we want for our citizens?

The answer to this question is evident from the responses posted on social media where our young and old have made it clear that marriage at such an early age is a violation to the youth’s rights and a threat to their future. Their claim is that child marriage is a definite deterrent to natural maturity.

As the debate on this burning issue of child marriage continues, it is my sincere hope that the child’s welfare is not compromised for anyone’s vested interest. The child should not be a pawn in the game of political affiliates. It is my opinion that any rational thinking decision-maker will have the child at heart and allow him/her normal growth and development.  In the interest of our children and our future, it is necessary that good sense prevails and that full support be given to adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years.

Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad

Spiritual Head


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Sacrifice – the Key to a Successful 2017

His Holiness Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad, Spiritual Head of SWAHA, recommends the pursuit of sacrifice for success in 2017. In his New Year’s message which was delivered at SWAHA’s Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali, Paramacharyaji presented the possibilities for this year based on the ongoing trends locally and worldwide. He also offered guidelines to making the year a most auspicious one of protection, progress and fulfilment. Here is an excerpt of his address:

Challenges of 2017

We have just left behind another year with the hope that 2017 will bring new beginnings, new hopes and aspirations and renewed resolve to improve our lot. However, we must be prepared to look beyond the surface of situations in order to survive the escalating physical, social, mental and psychological trauma that could envelop us at every step of our lives. Increasing personal safety challenges, financial shocks, unfair treatment of our children are just some of the issues that could have far-reaching effects for us. The financial problems could send many reeling. Many may become suicidal. Many of the problems we may encounter could lead to increased pain, suffering and destruction.

Cause of our problems

Man is propelled by desires which push him forward. It is natural that we all need material possessions but quite often, we allow these things to possess us. One desire leads to another and yet another. The flame of desire spreads far and wide. The list of wants increases faster than the means to acquire them. Desires unfulfilled lead to anger, which leads to loss of reason and ultimately to self-destruction.The triple gates of desire, anger and greed lie at the core of our problems and bring about our downfall. These qualities are at the base of confusion, corruption and the many other outfits of crime. We are the creator of our problems. No one but ourselves must be blamed for our condition. Because of greed, we want more and bind ourselves further in the noose of destruction. We are never satisfied. Contentment is sorely lacking among us. I ask, when is enough really enough?

Success through 2017

However, there is hope that this year can be a successful one. As long as we recognise that we are responsible for ourselves then we can overcome the hurdles ahead. As long as we stick to the spiritual path, close to the Divine Being, we will not be crushed by the throes of worldly challenges. Here are some guidelines to help us:

  1. Be positive. Think positive and make an effort to free yourselves from these diseases of desire, anger and greed. We need to practise sincere discipline and sacrifice. These help us to develop our powers of discrimination and enlightenment that guide us towards making correct choices and to analyze situations critically. Endowed with these qualities, we get our perspectives right and rid our lives of the problems that suffocate us daily. We must apply a concerted effort to control anger, desire and greed and free ourselves from the shackles that enslave us to a degenerating quality of life.
  2. Get close to the Divine. Those who stay close to the Supreme are protected; they are safe. Those who stray can be easily crushed. Build your vibration and build an armour around yourself strong enough that you are protected from all the winds of fury. You cannot change the world but you can change your world.

Success depends on each of us, not on the religious leader or God. If we care about ourselves and our children, we will make the sacrifice to ensure that we survive yet another year.

A blessed year to all.

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