SWAHA International

Hindu based non-profit organisation based in Trinidad & Tobago

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Beyond The Bond of Raksha Bandhan

Almost all Hindu festivals act as a unifying factor in bringing families, relatives, friends and  entire communities together. Raksha Bandhan is no exception as it is a festive celebration that binds people together in a display of bonding and harmony.

The day of Raksha Bandhan is most auspicious not only because it is the Shraavan Poornima (Full-moon in the month of Shraavan) and Gayatri Jayanti, but it has an inherent power that brings siblings together. Not only siblings but other relations look forward to this day. Raksha Bandhan expands beyond family ties and is an excellent opportunity to also highlight the deep brotherly consideration, respect and bond that many females share with some non-relatives. Many, if not all observances on the Hindu calendar are based on the involvement and participation of all members of the family. The family is the foundation of any society, the bedrock of any civilization and the nutrient of a well-sustained and well-ordained culture. The observance of occasions such as Raksha Bandhan reinforces the importance of families and provides a deeper appreciation for strong family-based moral values.

 

On this auspicious day, the sister ties a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother’s wrist which symbolizes the sister’s love and wish for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s recommitment to his lifelong vow to protect her throughout his life. The festival serves to strengthen the bond of love between the sisters and brothers, and other family members. It is a day of honor, dignity and respect for women.

But hidden beneath the traditional tying of the knot of protection is the deep significance of the occasion that goes beyond the boundary of just brother- sister relationship. The occasion is also one of a social binding, one that spreads the message of harmonious family and community ties. When a rakhi is tied on the wrists of close friends and neighbors, it underscores the need for a harmonious social life, where all members of the community commit to protect each other and the society is considered to be a congregational family.

Additionally, in an age of changing times women’s roles are no longer confined to the home only, but today  females hold the reins of power in the workplace, in huge companies, religious organizations and at a national level. In such a setting, the question is often asked whether they need their brothers for protection. The answer lies in the deep regard and tight links that bind relationships in Hinduism. While the sister may no longer need the physical protection that she grew up with, she forever depends on her brother to be an emotional anchor, a towering shoulder of strength on which she can place her inner burdens.

Apart from the brother-sister bond of protection, the burning question is whether the parent-child bond is also of significance. A glance at the world’s headlines today paint a different picture. Now, more than ever there is need for round-the-clock protection of our young girls and indeed all children, for they are the endangered species among us. The atrocities committed against these vulnerable members of our society are most horrendous. The gruesome news headlines that flash across the news screen daily indicate the poor level of protection provided to them. That strong bond of protection must certainly go way beyond the mere brother-sister relationship but fostered among all children, and among mankind, on the whole.  Not only is the bond reinforced, but all forms of powerful fortresses come to the fore to strengthen the bonds of each other, thereby striving towards making the entire world one family. How badly our torn world needs such unity!

As Hindus celebrate the occasion of Raksha Bandhan on August 07, 2017, each of us, whether brother , sister or friend, we should aim to protect each other, thereby bringing us closer to our own Divinity.

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Be an Agent of Change! Reinforce values!

‘Change brings progress and each of us must be an agent of change.  We must reflect on the past, re-evaluate our lives and reinforce life’s values in order to develop and move ahead successfully. Change is the only constant in all of creation and with it blooms advancement.’ Such was the advice of Spiritual Head of SWAHA, His Holiness Pt. Hardeo Persad, as he delivered the key-note address at SWAHA’s Indian Arrival celebrations on May 30, 2017.

The Awards Distribution and Dinner was held at JFK Auditorium, UWI, St Augustine, where the theme‘Change Brings Progress’ was highlighted in the address. The various cultural stage performances also focused on this theme, sending the powerful message that man is responsible for all his situations and that he must be prepared to look for the light in all circumstances, pleasant or not.

At the ceremony, winners from SWAHA’s religious and educational institutions were awarded for excellence in various areas of arts and culture such as story-telling, choral speaking of Sanskrit verses from the Bhagavad Gita, local song, instrumental, dance and visual arts. Participants in these competitions were judged weeks prior to the celebrations. Performances by outstanding dancer, Karan Rampersad, as well as the choirs of Sukh Shanti Bhakti Mandali and Tulsi Manas Mandir focused on the theme. Story-teller, Keshav Maharaj, winner in the Under Twelve Years age group, confidently narrated his story ‘What Happens is For The Best’, to a most appreciative audience.

In his address, Pundit Persad advised the packed hall to be open to change in all aspects of life, at both the private and professional levels.He added, ‘No matter where we go, we will always face challenges. But Hinduism has taught us that we should not grumble, for time will tell us the reasons for such circumstances. Instead, we should seek to find out where or who is the source of the problem?  The answer is always in front of us. We are at the root of our problems. We create our own situations and difficulties. We put up the wall of resistance to change and this is a deterrent to progress.Instead, we should be dynamic. Seek to venture into the uncharted waters that lie ahead but do so with consideration of time, place and circumstances. Ask questions. Be flexible. Change helps to improve the human condition. Overcoming tough times makes you stronger. Additionally, we grow and widen our scope of knowledge. Change helps us to adapt to new environments, new situations and new people with ease. Many are the benefits of change. We should be open to change for it is the only constant in all of creation. Everyone and everything is subject to change. Embrace it for it is a fact of life. Discover new insights and aspects to your life in the dynamism of change.’

In his closing comments, Paramacharyaji reminded all present that everyone makes mistakes and learns through the process of change. It is a most useful tool of learning for it leads us ultimately, to a state of  self-realization.

As the celebrations ended, the theme of the celebrations reverberated across the airwaves of the clear skies as a rich sense of respect for change and the hope of blessedness  rang through the hearts of all, with  the firm resolve of welcoming the optimism of change in all  circumstances.

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Aachaarya Devo Bhavah- Guru Is God

‘Guru pad pankaj seva  teesri  bhakti amaan’-‘The third type of devotion is selfless service to the Guru’s lotus feet without any desire or pride’. These words of Shri Raam to Shavari in Shri Raam-charitra- manas show clearly the significant role of the spiritual teacher in the life of the spiritual aspirant. Indeed, according to the tenets of Sanatan Dharma, the Guru’s role is most substantial, with him often acting as the intermediary between the soul and the Supreme.   The Guru Gita aptly describes the Guru as “dispeller of darkness” (from gu, ‘darkness’ and  ru, ‘that which dispels’). He is one who, in his attainment of self-mastery, has realized his identity with the omnipresent Spirit. Such a one is uniquely qualified to lead the seeker on his or her inward journey toward perfection.

Hindu scriptures regard the Guru along with the mother and the father as the most venerable teachers of an individual. The maxim ‘Aachaarya Devo Bhavah- The teacher is God’ speaks volumes of the necessity of the Guru in one’s life.  In Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna speaks to Arjuna of the importance of finding a Guru. He says:

‘Acquire the transcendental knowledge from a Self-realized master by humble reverence, by sincere inquiry, and by service. The wise ones who have realized the Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.’

The Guru-shishya tradition is one that focuses on the transmission of teachings from a Guru to a ‘shishya’ (disciple). In this relationship, subtle and advanced knowledge is conveyed and received through the student’s respect, commitment, devotion and obedience. The spiritual teacher beholds God’s presence in everyone and guides the shishya on the road of self realization. He prescribes the ‘saadhan’ or spiritual discipline and instructs the student in the use of the mantra (sacred formula) to assist in his meditation and in the journey towards attaining his ‘saadhya’ or goal. This goal, the ultimate one in man’s purpose on earth, is the attainment of the state of self-realization.The conscientious student recognizes that no amount of theoretical study is of any avail and eventually masters the knowledge that the Guru embodies.The example of the Guru who, though human, having achieved spiritual enlightenment, leads the devotee to discover the same potentialities within himself.He is a living embodiment of scriptural truth. Without doubt, the real way to freedom lies in following one who has traversed the forest of the world process and can lead one safely to God.

The institution of the Guru has evolved over the years as a means of passing along the various basic tenets of Hinduism and transmitting spiritual and fundamental knowledge to the world at large.  In India Gurus formed the axis of the ancient educational system and ancient society, and have enriched various fields of learning and culture by their creative thinking. The Guru tradition has had lasting significance in the betterment of mankind.

Speaking of his Guru, ParamahansaYogananda said, “Only he who knows God can show others how to know Him. When I found such a one, my Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, I realized that God doesn’t teach through mystery, but through illumined souls. God is invisible, but He becomes visible through the intelligence and spiritual perception of one who is in constant communion with Him. There may be many teachers in one’s life, but there is only one Guru.”

About the importance of the Guru, Swami Vivekananda says: “This insufficiency of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters. When it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul. The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru – the teacher; and the person to whom the impulse is conveyed is called the shishya – the student.”

As Hindus observe the auspicious occasion of Guru Poornima on July 08,2017, it is hoped that all shishyas  deeply reflect on the importance of their Gurus on their own spiritual development and express their gratitude to them.

 

Tribute must be paid to all the Gurus of SWAHA, the most esteemed Pundits who have been working tirelessly to spread the illumination of enlightenment across the length and breadth of this land and internationally.  SWAHA remembers the ground-work laid by its founding Guru, the late Shankaracharya Pt Hari Prasad.  Acknowledgement and deepest gratitude must also be extended to the Spiritual Head of SWAHA, Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad who continues unceasingly to build upon these strong pillars through his indefatigable work.

The unending sacrifice made by Gurus in improving the human condition is indeed unique and it is on such firm foundation that many shishyas are guided towards enlightenment.

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Educating Our Children in the Family

In this article we look at providing a strong Hindu environment for our children. We are all familiar with the old adage “you can’t straighten a bent tree.”. With this in mind, it is crucial parents educate their children about Hinduism from a tender age. There are two extremely important reasons for this. Firstly psychologists are of the view that children learn and retain the most from the ages 2-5. So those of us parents who subscribe to the view that “ the chirren too small yet, leh them play”,  must now change our thinking.

Early speech of young children should include the words, ‘Om’, ‘Sitaram’, ‘Shanti’,  simple kirtans and mantras. We can also inculcate within them actions like rising early, offering jal( water-offering), bowing to feet of God and parents. Taking them to the temple is a must because this is the place where they can engage in Hindu activities, especially if little of this is being done at home. Children may start off playfully shouting mantras and bhajans, but soon enough their practices will blossom in serious meaningful living.

I will share two examples that I find beautiful that describes actions of two children under six years. On the occasion of the birthday of one of them, the mother asks, “Do you want to go for pizza or Movietown.” The child responds, “I want to do a pooja. The second child gets up earlier than the adults, races to the yard to get her share of flowers to offer to God, even if it involves leaving none of the limited supply for the rest of family.

I remember ShankacharayaPt. Hari Prasad saying if we are greedy, we should be greedy for God’s blessings. This little child is already following this principle, without even hearing such advice

Secondly, there are five aspects of ourselves, or who we are. Three of these are:  the Physical Self, Social Self and Ideal Self. Our Physical self is not only our body but also includes a picture we carry in our mind called our body image. Parents  can strongly influence their children’s body image to reflect that of a Hindu simply by dressing their young in Hindu attire for appropriate functions  and making them proud to sport their raksha, sindoor, bindi etc. Constant and sustained reinforcement of a Hindu look will help our children to get a positive physical reflection of themselves and to also mentally perceive their physical appearance in a positive way.

Body image helps our children to develop their identity. Identity gives us our place in the community, the society, the world. Projecting a Hindu physical identity for our children might be a deterrent to the many culture ‘bandits’ out there who may just realise “ I won’t get through with this one so easily.” If we as parents help our children to develop a positive Hindu body image, we will be saving them from the unpleasantness of an identity crisis so many Hindu youths today are experiencing.

Mrs Mala Persad

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A Call to Action

We are at a pivotal moment in history, where scientists, world leaders and religious leaders are emphasizing the need for us as global citizens, to take action in whichever way, to ensure the protection of our planet for present and future generations. Our ancestors were the ones who reminded us of the sacredness and beauty of this earth, God’s creation, and the fact that we are not separate from it, but part of it. The oxygen given out by plants and trees are inhaled by us, the sun’s rayswhich we are blessed with each day, help strengthen our immune system, improve ourwellbeing and help plants grow producing food. And these are just to name a few. We live in a world where you see Profit being priority over People and Planet. Where greed and ego drive so called “economic growth” resulting in the destruction of precious ecosystems, the quality of air we breathe and the promotion of products and even food made with chemicals and other toxic ingredients.

For years, we may have been under the “spell” of modern living, but if we wake up, we will see a whole new reality; one which is based on truth. Our spiritual leaders taught us of the ‘Panch Mahaa Yagnas’ which we as Hindus should perform each day; one of which is the service to lower forms of life such as the animals, plants and trees i.e. nature.  While as individuals or families we religiously do this, I strongly believe that now more than ever, we as Hindus need to share this beautiful practice with the wider community and start leading in the environmental movements inspiring others to join in, or even create their own movement. Small acts performed with a sense of duty, devotion and discipline can create ripples of positive change in the world.

With that said, we simple ask that we make the protection of nature a more integral part of our daily lives, starting with education.“Education for Liberation”, the watch words of the SWAHA Hindu College, say this so well.Hindus have so much more to give to the world, and it’s our chance to do so in a bigger way.We are living in very exciting times where we have the opportunity to not just envision the future for ourselves, families and our world, but to create it. The Power lies in the hands of the People and not entirely in those of the Politicians. And we as SWAHA know this very well.

We would like to end by sharing an important research document done by a group of scientists and researchers. It is called PROJECT DRAWDOWN and it shares the one hundred (100) most substantiative, already existing solutions to address global warming. Things we as a people can do to prevent further climate disruption, and in turn help resolve other globally linked issues that currently exist.

 

 

If you look carefully at the chart, you will see that ‘Reduced food waste’, ‘Adopting a plant-rich diet’ and ‘Educating girls’ are in fact higher on the list as compared with projects like solar farms and rooftop solar. In order to reverse global warming, all of the items listed need to be addressed; no one item is less important than the other.  If you do any of these three (3) mentioned, or all of them, you are in fact helping to reduce carbon emissions. Now let’s take it up a notch.

As a proud Hindu, long standing member of SWAHA and an advocate for environmental protection, we need to ask ourselves a very important question; “What are we going to do differently tomorrow to ensure a brighter future for all?”

Lydia Singh

BSc. Eng., PMP, LFA

Living Building Challenge Ambassador

 

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REMEMBERING THE GURU OF SWAHA

As we observe the auspicious day of Guru Poornima on July 08, 2017, SWAHA pays respects to the late Shankaracharya, His Holiness Pt. Hari Prasad, the founding father of this organisation.

Shri Shankaracharyaji was an exemplar in the path of dharma, a mine of knowledge and a teacher to thousands, locally and internationally. His compassion soothed many a heart during his sojourn on earth and his grace shone brightly on the lives of those who sought and sourced his wisdom.In remembering this icon of Sanatan Dharma, one whose vision extended far beyond our contemporary sphere of spirituality, we recall some of his immortal advice for all of humanity.

Here are some of his immortal words:

  1. Attitude to life’s journey

‘We are all travellers in this journey of life. To prepare for this journey, we must ensure that the attitude of Karlay  Kaam  Bhajalay  Raam permeates the entire atmosphere”.

  1. Facing challenges.

“Although the challenges will always exist and hindrances will always be placed in our path, our scriptures urge us not to give up.”

  1. Doing one’s duty.

“Have total faith in God and don’t shun your duty. Develop stability of mind and believe in our scriptures. We must continue to maintain our dharma and live a simple life at His feet. Once we perform self-sacrifice, never comprising our principles and having compassion for those around us, His name will be held high.”

  1. Code to a spiritual life.

“Practise a spiritual life and have moral values. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk too. God is watching you and other good people are watching you too. God has blessed us with everything. Thank God and be humble and faithful. Maintain proper conduct, maintain your dharma and live a simple life. Take the example of the ocean. It is very deep but there are no high waves.

  1. Association

“Association with good-minded people is the first step towards self-realisation. The enemies of failure, indolence, idleness and gossip should be fought with utmost fervour.  Maybe one day Trinidad and Tobago could boast of religious and racial peace, love, equality and harmony among all.”

His hope for the future: “All should remain a united force, tackling social problems with dharma, sevaa and satyam.

Each one of us, in every small way, should do our part, to bring this hope to a reality.

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Pani Up Hill

My name is not necessary but my story is this,
Its details are fleshy and its topic’s never missed.
I dedicate all me and still I am silent,
My heart eats my sorrow as I am alone with God.
No stubborn remarks, not even a moan,
Struggling through rain as I am only human, but left all alone.
“I must be humble, I must, I must!”

As a girl, I do all for Mama and Papa, both chore of boys and girls in one,
This is hectic duty, not one of laugh or fun.
The sun himself sees not through the cloudy heavens clear so how am I to know,
The happiness in real childhood when heart is buried deep into snow.
Garment not even one piece, I’ve got the scrap for work but one suit for school,
Tough life, no time, no conscience for playing fool.
“I must be humble, I must, I must!”

No pani to wash hand or body but Mama say I have brain to rule nation,
I have not a friend to tell, I seem to smell too bad, Papa have no money for W.A.S.A it’s not his fault,
Many of the kids at my school call Papa Cult.
But Papa’s a good man, trying hard like little 8 year old me,
Duty first, it’s a harsh reality.
The world is cruel and barbaric when you live with pocket dry,
But I will spread my feathers to form wings and let them see me fly.
“I must be humble, I must, I must!”

“Papa, God looking at all; look up, see his light”,
My words left Papa speechless, no remarks to fight.
My feet always firm on ground as my bruised body stands strong,
My journey is broad but my distance is long.
Carry pani quite up the hill and back down,
Sell dasheen Bush down town.
“I must be humble, I must, I must!”

Go Temple, pray to Ganesh for health and knowledge in brain,
You don’t get these from inside the drain.
Listen more, talk less is one lesson God gives my heart,
No man can hurt me when I have good start.
My culture has married young as I must do duty once more,
Hope rich man take me at door.
War may come and time may go,
But duty is duty as I am a child, my name is Mineshrie Budna and always learn if life is hard, it stays so.
Life as a girl may not always be royal but when duty calls,
Hands put down, all must be done.

Amy Holder
Form 5 Shanti
Swaha Hindu College

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