Thursday, 5 September 2019

Overcoming Obstacles - The Ganesha Way

"Some act till they meet obstacles, others act inspite of obstacles, and conquer them; but some act not, fearing the possibility of some obstacles that might arise en route." 

The very word OBSTACLE indicates to us the attitude required to overcome obstacles. Invoking these attitudes is to invoke the 'Ganesha' within us. 

O - Objective Knowledge - Knowledge is Power. Gain functional knowledge and skills in your chosen field. Lack of knowhow poses many obstacles.  Lord Ganesha's big head represents Knowledge and objectivity.  When we take things objectively and not personally, we can understand the root cause of the problem and cure it.  Taking things personally, we feel hurt and pained. 

B - Broadmindedness - "Life, when properly tuned, can round the sharp edges in our character." In a broader vision of Life in its entirety, obstacles are stepping stones to cultivate an inner perfection and an outer excellence. Lord Ganesha's 2 eyes represent focus on a higher vision and broad-mindedness.  

S - Sensitivity - "Be like a flower. Give happiness and fragrance to all." A flower produces fragrance from mud, dirty water, manure, etc.  When we are sensitive and caring we can understand the difficulties of others and operate out of empathy.  We are able to listen to them and are not caught up in our own ideas and thoughts.  2 large ears of Lord Ganesha help us to listen better and express our love and sensitivity.  Many problems get solved just by listening.  

T - Toughness - "The Suffering depends not on the factual happening but on the texture of one's mind." Cultivate a 'tough' mind through study of the scriptures, faith in a Higher Reality, value - based life etc.   The trunk of Lord Ganesha represents the strength to uproot huge trees or lift heavy weights.  A strong mind can achieve success inspite of the circumstances and does not victimise oneself.  

A - Alertness and Acceptance - "Alert and vigilant living is a sadhana by itself." Alertness helps one to foresee the 'obstacle' and nip it in the bud.  The Noose and the Axe that the Lord holds in his hands represents Alertness.  Whenever we get distracted, the Lord pulls us and goads us back to track.  The Big belly of Lord Ganesha represents acceptance of whatever life brings. The ability to handle life's ups and downs with equanimity, without any resistance or insistence.  

C - Concentration - "Never complain, about the number of hours you have put in to do a job. How much of you was put into each hour of your daily work ?" The sun's rays (mind) when unified through a convex lens (concentration), burns away a piece of paper (problems & negativites) below it.  Lord Ganesha's half tusk is the symbol of focus and tireless efforts.  He was writing the Mahabharata when his pen broke and without getting disturbed, he just broke his tusk and continued to write. He dint complain about number of hours of work he had to do. In fact he had laid down a condition that if the dictation of Sri Veda Vyasa stops, he would disappear.   Unwavering focus inspite of circumstances is the quality of great achievers.  Tusk is also very dear to an elephant.  Breaking the tusk represents sacrifice for the Goal.  Without sacrifice, we cannot achieve focus and success.  

L - Love of God - "Don't tell God how big your problem is. Tell your problem how big God is." 
The mouse near Lord Ganesha truly loves HIM and remains focussed on the Lord.  Modaks, sweets, fruits etc. do not disturb the mouse.  When we love the Lord truly, we have the strength within to face all challenges and are safe and secure within.  We don't depend on anyone else and no one can trouble us.  Prahlad never felt victimised even when each day his father tried a new way to kill him.  

E - Enthusiasm and Efficiency  - "Real men of achievement are people who have the heroism to fuel more and more enthusiasm in their work when they face more and more difficulties. Be Agressively good."  Efficiency is the ability to apply the knowledge into action and achieve great results. When enthusiasm or efficiency gets compromised, then we feel pessimistic and overwhelmed by challenges.   The two feet Lord Ganesha represent Enthusiasm and Efficiency.  One foot is down representing efficiency in action and the other foot is folded, supporting the foot that is down.  The foot that is folded represents Enthusiasm.  Efficiency backed by enthusiasm to meet life and its challenges will ensure that we continue to be proactive and overcome all obstacles.  

When we have the above qualities, we do not need to pray to the Lord to remove our obstacles.  Through these qualities the Lord empowers us to face the obstacles.  His right hand called as Abhaya-Hasta or Varada-hasta assures us that HE is with us always and grants us fearlessness so that we face obstacles without getting disturbed, overcome them and achieve success, happiness and fulfilment represented by the Modak in his hands  

Friday, 21 June 2019

Vision of Yoga in 18 Chapters of the Bhagavad Geeta

On the occasion of the International Yoga Day 2019, lets reflect on what is the Vision of Yoga according to the 18 chapters of Srimad Bhagavad Gita:

Chapter 1: 
Yoga is control and purity of the senses.  Tatah shvetair hayair yuktehe (1.14)

Chapter 2:
Yoga is a higher selfless ideal in which one must establish oneself and act. Yogasthah kuru karmani. 2.48
Yoga is equanimity of mind. Samattvam Yoga Uchyate. (2.48)
Yoga is Dexterity in action. Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam. (2.50)
Yoga is stillness of the mind and beyond. Samadhaavachala budhihi tadaa yogam avaapsyasi. (2.53) 

Chapter 3:
Yoga is selfless action through the senses of action. karmendriyaihi karmayogam asaktah sa vishishyate (3.7)
Yoga is dynamic enthusiasm in all actions.  joshayet sarvakarmani vidvaan yuktah samaacharan (3.26)

Chapter 4:
Yoga is there since the beginning of creation.  The Lord is the source of All Yogas.  Imam vivasvate yogam proktavaanahamavyayam (4.1)
Yoga is clarity in thinking and doubtless knowledge.  Chittvainam samshayam yogam aatishthottishtha bhaarata (4.42)

Chapter 5: 
Yoga is contemplation.  Ekam saankyam ca yogam ca yah pashyati sa pashyati (5.5)
Yoga is detachment from results. Yuktah karmaphalam tyaktva shantim aapnoti naishthikim. (5.12)

Chapter 6:
Yoga is Moderation in food, exercise, work, sleep & spiritual practices.  Yukta-ahara-viharasya Yukta-chestasya-karmasu Yukta svapa-avabodhasya Yogo bhavati dukhahaa (6.17)
Yoga is a divorce from our wedlock to sorrow. Dukha-samyoga-viyoga yoga samjnitam (6.23)
Yoga is great will power, consistent effort and determination(in Contemplation).  Sa nischayena yoktavyaha yogo anirvinnachetasaa (6.23)

Chapter 7:
Yoga is contemplation based on surrender and taking refuge in the Lord  mayyasakta-manaah paartha yogam yunjan madaashrayaha(7.1)

Chapter 8:
Yoga is single-pointed devotion to the Supreme.  ananyacetaah satatam yo maam smarati nityashaha tasyaaham sulabhah paartha nitya-yuktasya yoginaha  (8.14)

Chapter 9:
Yoga is the state of Absolute Non-duality.  Na ca matsthani bhutani pashya me yogam aishvaram (9.5)

Chapter 10: 
Yoga is the Essential Omnipotence of the Lord.  Etaam vibhutim yogamca mama yo vetti tattvataha(10.7)  

Chapter 11:
Yoga is developing a Divine Vision with the Grace of the Lord.  Divyam dadami te chakshuhu pashya me yogam aishvaram (11.8)

Chapter 12:
Yoga is striving with self-control and determination based on contentment. Santushtah satatam yogi yataatmaa drdhanishchayaha(12.14)

Chapter 13: 
Yoga is uniting with the Lord through steady contemplation or witnesshood or selfless action.  Dyanena aatmani pashyanti kechit aatmaanam aatmanaa.  anye sankyena yogena karma yogena chaapare (13.24)

Chapter 14:
Yoga is unwavering devotion to the Lord alone.  Maam ca yo avyabhicharena bhakti-yogena sevate (14.26)

Chapter 15:
Yoga is diligence and discrimination to see the Self within.  yatanto yoginascha enam pashyanti atmani avasthitam(15.11)

Chapter 16:
Yoga is application and abidance in knowledge.  Abhayam sattvasamshudhihi jnana-yoga-vyavasthitihi(16.1)

Chapter 17:
Yoga is non-hankering after the fruits of action.  aphalaakaankshibhir yuktaihi sattvikam parichakshate(17.17)  

Chapter 18:
Yoga is fortitude born out of single-pointedness, sense and mind-control.  yogena-avabhichaarinyaa dhritih saa paartha saatviki(18.33)
Yoga is revealed by the Lord Himself who is the Yogeshawara. Yogam yogeshvarat krishnaat saakshaat kathayatah svayam(18.75)

Where there is dynamic man of action like Arjuna(each of us) and the Grace of Yogeshvarah Sri Krishna, there success, prosperity and fame are assured.  

May we strive to live the True Timeless Vision of Yoga and ensure that the essence of Yoga is not lost in the adaptations and applications for modern life.  

Friday, 19 April 2019

Rare Facts about Sri Hanumanji

  1. Hanumanji’s name from his birth was Sundar.  When Indra struck him with a vajra and he fell down, his chin had a dent and he was called Hanuman
  2. When Sri Rama was to take incarnation, Shiva informs Sati of his intention to incarnate on earth in order to serve him. When Sati protests that she will miss him, Shiva promises to send only a portion of himself and hence to remain with her on Kailash. The two then discuss the problem of what form Shiva should take.   if he assumes human shape, it will violate the dharma of service, for the servant should be lower than the master. Shiva finally decides that if Rama is a Nara(human), then he will take the form of a Vanara(Monkey)  because it is humble and has simple needs and lifestyle: no shelter, no cooked food, and no observance of the rules of caste and stage of life. This will allow maximum scope for service.  When Shiva decides to manifest his amsha as Hanuman, Sati also thinks that what can she do?  She comes to the conclusion that the beauty of a monkey is his tail.  The monkey also loves his tail the most.  So an amsha of Sati becomes the tail of Hanuman.  So Hanumanji is an amsha of both Shiva & Sati.  Hanuman is the 11th Rudra-Avataar of Lord Shiva.  
  3. Background to Hanumanji’s Birth and why is he called - Shankara suvana, Kesari Nandana, Anjani-Putra, Vayu-kumara:
    Lord Brahmaji’s loka was a heavenly abode and beautiful apsaras also lived there. Among them was a beautiful apsara named Anjana. Happy with her services Brahmaji decided to reward her. He asked Anjana her desire and she replied hesitatingly “Lord! Please remove my curse which was placed on me by a Rishi Agnirasa(sage).” Brahmaji asked her to tell him about her curse and assured her that he will try to help her. Anjana started narrating her story, “When I was a child I used to get bored of my luxurious lifestyle and in search of amusement one day I came down to earth to play with earth’s strange creatures. As I was wandering around to look for some friends, I saw a monkey meditating in a forest. Little did I know about this monkey, I started laughing and making fun of that monkey because he was seated with folded legs just like a lotus. Seeing that monkey pose like a human sage, I threw some pebbles and fruits at him.

    Since I was a small child the Sage tried to ignore my foolishness at first but eventually he lost his temper. Soon his eyes opened and I could see anger in his eyes. He was not an ordinary monkey. He was a powerful sage who had disguised himself as a monkey to do his tapasya. My mischief had disturbed his meditation and in his thundering voice he said,” Young apsara, you have committed a sin and you should be punished for that. Since you mocked me of being a monkey, I curse you that whenever you fall in love with someone you will turn into a monkey.”

    I begged and cried in front of him. But sage Agnirasa said that the curse could not be changed but said that inspire of my monkey face someone will fall in love with me.” Anjana said to Lord Brahma, ” This is my curse story, O Lord! please save me from this curse.”

    After hearing her story Brahmaji felt sad for her and uttered, “I think I can help you in removing this curse. As per the curse go and live your life on earth, get married and you’ll remain this way until you give birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva.”

    Anjana was happy to learn that and followed Brahmaji’s advice. Soon she took birth on earth and lived in Kunjar family – one who dwells in forest. One day while returning home from forest she saw a man fighting a mighty lion. She stood there and watched that brave man fight. She looked at that man with love and admiration and after killing the lion when that man turned, he saw Anjana standing there. The moment he looked at her, because of the curse Anjana turned into a monkey as she was in love with that man!

    On seeing this transformation, Anjana covered her face and started to cry. Seeing her crying the man rushed towards her and inquired what the matter was.
    “Talk to me, O beautiful lady, face me,” said the man.
    “Oh brave man, how can I face you. I am cursed and as per the curse if I fall in love I will change into a monkey and I have, so please leave me alone and go, ” said Anjana.
    That man said smiling,”Look at me lady, I am not human but as per a boon from Lord Shiva I can take any form I want.” Peeking through her fingers Anjana saw a monkey- faced man standing in front of her. She was surprised. The man said,” I am Kapiraj Kesari of Mount Sumeru, the king of monkeys. On seeing you I fell in love with you, I ask your hand in marriage – will you marry me?”Anjana accepted his proposal and thought that the Sage’s words came true. This man is willing to marry me besides my appearance.Later both of them got married in the forest.
    But Anjana still wanted to get out of monkey body, she was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and she started performing intense meditation to please Lord Shiva. After seeing her devotion Lord Shiva appeared and asked what she desired. Anjana requested Lord Shiva to be born as her son and free her from the Sage’s curse. So pleased with her bhakti; Lord Shiva granted her, her wish.

    At that same time King Dasharath was also performing the ritual of Putra-kameshti yagna (spiritual ritual in order to have children) in Ayodhya. As a result of that yagna, he received a sacred pudding (Kheer) to be shared by his three wives, leading to the births of Lord Ram, Lakshman, Bharat, and Shatrughna. While Dasarath was giving that prasad to his wife, a kite snatched a fragment of that pudding, flew over the forest and dropped it where Anjana was engaged in meditation. This all happened because of Lord Shiva’s boon.

    Lord Shiva commanded Vayu to deliver that prasad to Anjana. Vayu, the deity of wind, delivered the falling prasad to the outstretched hands of Maa Anjana. Thinking it to be prasad from Lord Shiva, Anjana consumed it with delight. As a result,Hanuman was born to her and she was freed from the curse of Sage Agnirasa. Kesari and Anjana were was very happy to see their monkey- faced baby boy. He was named as Sundar.  He was also called Anjaneya  the son of Anjana or Shankar Suvana as he was born with Lord Shiva’s blessing or Kesari Nandan - son of Kesari and Pavana-Putra - the son of Pavan Devata.
  4. Hanumanji is one of the 7 Chiranjeevis who will be alive till the end of the kalpa.  He is having a form even now and hence his birthday is celebrated as Hanuman Janmotsava and not as a Jayanti (Celebrated for one who has dropped the body).   Bali, Vyasa, Markandeya, Ashwatthama, Vibheesha, Kripacharya are the other Chiranjeevis.  
  5. Hanumanji is the Bhavishyad-Brahma.  After the tenure of the present Brahmaji(Creator) will be completed, Hanumanji will be the next Brahmaji.  Hanumanji visits Brahmaloka for Sri Rama’s Mudrika and there shows his Vishwarupa and  he obtains the boon from Brahmaji that he will be the future Lord of Creation.  
  6. Hanumanji learnt the entire Vedas from Lord Sun, while walking backwards to keep facing Lord sun,  in just 60 hours. Hanumanji asked him what gurudakshina can he give?  Lord Sun told him that his amsha is Sugriva and that Hanumanji should always protect him.  Hanumanji promised to do so.  
  7. Hanumanji marriage:  Being an Aajanma Brahmachari, Lord Hanuman was not eligible to study the Nava Vyakarnas (nine grammers) of Sanskrit, for which the status of being a grihastha (married man) was essential. In order to facilitate the completion of his education, the Trimurtis approached Surya Bhagavan and created a beautiful Kanya, Suvarchala Devi, an Aajanma Brahmacharini, from the Sun’s Kiranas (rays) and arranged a marriage with Hanumanji to make him a Grihastha without Brahmacharya being affected. Whereby he learnt and became a genius in the nine vyakaranas (sanskrit grammar). These details can be found in Parasara Samhita written by Sri Parasara Maharishi(Disciple of Baskala, Not the father of Sri Vedavyasa).    Sri Parasara Maharishi has written the life history of Lord Hanuman from his birth and goes on to depict his life even after the Ramayana. 
  8. There is also a composition called ‘Hanuman Mangalashtakam’ that depicts the Lord thus and a shloka from it says:

    suvarchalaa kalathraaya chaturbhuja dharaaya cha
    ushtraa roodhaya veeraya mangalam sri hanumathe

    The meaning of the above sloka is: “Salutations to Lord Hanuman, having four arms, accompanied by His consort Suvarchala Devi, seated on a camel and exhibiting extraordinary valour.”
    Khagendra samhita, Saunaka Samhita and Sudarshana Samhita also mention about Hanumanji’s marriage.  
  9. Sri Suvarchala-Hanuman wedding is celebrated and performed on the 10th day before the full moon day in Jyestha month.  
  10. At the temple at Thailavaram, the moolavigraha is eight feet tall. The Lord holds the customary mace in his hand that he rests on his right shoulder. His left hand is placed on his hip. The utsava moorthi of Anjaneya is with his consort Suvarchala Devi. The Lord is depicted with four arms and is descriptively called Suvarchala Devi Sametha Chaturbhuja.
  11. Without his Brahmacharya being affected, Hanumanji also had a son - Makaradhvaja. He was a half monkey and a half crocodile.   When the mighty Hanuman set fire to the city of Lanka, he extinguished his tail in the great ocean. He spilled his seed, that had been generated due to the heat of the fire on his tail, into the ocean and without his knowledge, this seed was consumed by a female crocodile and a child was thus conceived. Once this crocodile was brought to the kitchens of Mahiraavana in Paathaala and when her gut was torn open,  the child emerged. Mahiraavana gave him protection and education and he was named Makaradhvaja.  When Hanumanji went to fight Mahiraavana, Makaradhvaja prevented him and it is at that time Hanumanji came to know about his son.  Yet, to free Sri Rama & Lakshmana from Mahiraavana, he fought Makaradhvaja, disarmed him and bound him to finally kill Mahiraavana.   
  12. Before Vali & Sugreeva became enemies, Hanumanji was one of the chief ministers of Vali. 
  13. Hanumanji always served everyone.  He never ruled as a King.  But he was a great king-maker.  He was instrumental in the destruction of enemies and coronation of many kings.  Vali was killed and Sugriva was coronated.  Hanumanji was instrumental in the friendship of Sri Rama & Sugriva.  Ravana was destroyed and Vibheeshana became the King.  Hanumanji had told Vibheeshana to seek refuge of Lord Rama.  Mahiraavana was killed by Hanumanji and Makaradhvaja was crowned the king of Paataala.  In Sri Ram’s Coronation also Hanumanji played a very vital role.  Though Hanumanji did not rule any kingdom, yet he rules the hearts of all. 
  14. Why does Hanumanji have Sindoor all over his body?  One day after the coronation of Sri Ram, Hanumanji saw Sitaji wearing sindhoor and asked what does it signifies? Sitaji replied that it is customary for married women to put sindhoor for the longevity of their husband’s life and his well-being. So Hanumanji thought that if a pinch of sindoor can be good for Sri Ram, then what if i use more.  So he went and smeared Sindhoor all over his body for Lord Rama. That day happened to be a tuesday and  Sri Ram was impressed.  He blessed Hanuman that whoever offers you sindhoor and oil on tuesday,  will find strength to overcome obstacles in their life.  
  15. Hanumanji had met Sri Rama first at Ayodhya when he was taken there by Shivji who assumed the form of a Madari to entertain Sri Ram as a child in his Bal-roop. Sri Ram told him after a few months to return and that he will meet him in Kishkindha and they will be together after that.  
  16. Hanumanji had first met Bharat, on his way back while carrying the Dronachal mountain.  As he was crossing over Ayodhya, Bharat saw him and assumed that some Rakshasa was taking this mountain to attack Ayodhya. Bharat then shot Hanuman with an arrow, which was engraved with Sri Rama's name. Hanuman did not stop this arrow as it had Rama's name written on it, and it injured his leg. Hanuman landed and explained to Bharat that he was moving the mountain to save his own brother, Lakshmana. Bharat, very sorry, offered to fire an arrow to Lanka, which Hanuman could ride in order to reach his destination more easily? But Hanuman declined the offer, preferring to fly on his own, and he continued his journey with his injured leg.  The place where Hanumanji landed to meet Bharat is said to be the Bade Hanumanji’s temple at Prayag.  
  17. There are 9 incarnations of Hanumanji:
    1. Prasanna-Anjaneya
    2. Vira-Anjaneya
    3. Vimshati-bhuja-Anjaneya. He has 20 weapons in 20 hands. 
    4. Pancha-mukha-Anjaneya.  He has 5 faces in this.  Four on four sides and 5th is on top - Urdhva Muka
    5. Ashta-dasha-bhuja-Anjaneya. He has 18 hands in this incarnation.  
    6. Suvarachalapati. Consort of Suvarchala Devi
    7. Four-Shouldered Hanuman
    8. Thirty two shouldered Hanuman with 32 weapons
    9. Anjaneya as a monkey form who has been Sri Rama’s emissary to Sitaji.  There are stories related to each of the incarnations of Hanumanji. 
  18. There are 11 Pithas(seats) of Hanumanji, like the Shakti-peethas of Devi and Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva
    1. Kundina Nagara
    2. Sri Bhadram
    3. Kusa Tarpanam
    4. Pampa Tiram
    5. Candra Konam
    6. Kambhojam
    7. Gandhamaadanam
    8. Brahmaavartapuram
    9. Naimishaaranyam
    10. Sundaranagaram
    11. Sri Hanumatpuram

Jai Sri Ram! Jai Hanuman!

(The above legends are inspired from Parashara Samhita & Anand Ramayana)

Monday, 15 April 2019

Om Tapovana-Shishyaaya Namaha

From an atheist to an Advaitin
From a Political Revolutionary to a Spiritual Missionary
From Passion to Dispassion to Compassion
From Menon to a Phenomenon
From Individual to Universal
From 'born' to Unborn
Is the journey HE went through for us.

May We offer Unto HIM Our Best by realizing the Unborn.  Om Sri Chinmaya Sadgurave Namah.

“A Guru is not a person, he is a personality, an institution.  He is the radio through which the Lord contacts the student.  When a student meets his Teacher, it is always a miracle.”  - Swami Chinmayananda

A student of Law, English Literature, a revolutionary Freedom fighter, a rational journalist, and a self-proclaimed agnostic Balan met Swami Sivananda of Divine Life Society with the intention of exposing the Sadhus & Sannyasis whom he called “Social Parasites and a leech upon society.”  Swami Sivananda transformed his questions into a Quest for the Higher.   By the spring of 1948, Balan decided and moved permanently to Ananda Kutir(Divine Life Society, Rishikesh) with the goal of finding the purpose of human life.  He wanted to take Sannyas but Swami Sivananda told him to undertake a pilgrimage to Char Dham and see if he could sustain the quest.  On route Balan met many Mahatmas.

 His first met Swami Tapovanam of Uttarkashi during his Char Dham Yatra.  Swami Tapovanam knew about Balan as he had come across some of his articles in National Herald.  “During the entire journey, keep a continuous unbroken Brahma-Vichaar(Contemplation on Truth), just as even while one is walking, one remembers a loved one who is far away.” Advised Swami Tapovanam.  Soon after the Char Dham yatra, Balan decided to take Sannyas.   On 25thFebruary 1949(Mahashivaratri Day), Swami Sivananda initiated Balakrishna Menon into Sannyas and named him Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati.  
Swami Sivananda directed Swami Chinmayananda - “You want to master the scriptures, go to Swami Tapovanam, the Great teacher from Kerala”

It is said that Swami Tapovanam was waiting for Swami Chinmayananda to arrive.  Swami Chinmayananda walked from Rishikesh passing through many forests and after many days, finally reached Uttarkashi. Giving the reference of Swami Sivananda he asked Swami Tapovanam whether it would be possible to study Vedanta under him.  Swami Tapovanam was very cold to him.  He replied- What is the proof that Swami Sivananda sent you? Go and get a letter from him.  Swami Chinmayananda was disturbed but he walked down to Rishikesh for the letter.  Swami Sivananda smiled and said – You have passed in your first test.  

When Swami Chinmayananda returned with the letter, he was eager to start the study, but Swami Tapovanam said – “We will start next month after we go up to Gangotri”

In the tradition of Vedanta there are systematic steps to discover Self Knowledge.  Swami Chinmayananda followed these steps beautifully in the short period of 2 years that he was with Swami Tapovanam, as seen in the anecdotes given below. 

1. Selfless Actions - Nishkaama Karma or Karma Yoga. (Removes 'Mala' - 6 impurities)
 "Chinmaya, make a garden for us here in front of my hut," requested Swami Tapovan one sunny day. "Some fresh vegetables would be appreciated by all of us."
"But Swamiji, there's no water supply up here on the hill," replied his disciple.
"What! The mighty Ganga is roaring down at the bottom of the hill-and here's a bucket. You can bring plenty of water for a garden."
"Yes, of course. Yes, sir," Chinmaya mutterred as he eyed the sixty-foot steep climb up a winding path to Tapovan Kutir from the banks of the Ganga.

2. Single Pointedness – Upasana (Removes vikshepa or wandering of the Mind)
As a child Balan had Loved the form of Lord Shiva.  He became an agnostic in his college years.  When he decided to quit the ‘Palace of Life’ & seek Live Divine, his childhood mantra came back to him.  He resumed the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya while he was a student at Lucknow University and continued it at Uttarkashi. 

3. Four Fold Qualifications - Sadhana Chatushtaya
The 4 fold qualifications required to study Vedanta were invoked in Balan during his Journalist days in Delhi, death of Shroff & Char Dham Yatra.  This resulted in his decision to take Sannyas. 

4. Seek a Guru – Guru-Upasatti
Swami Tapovanam put a condition when Swami Chinmayananda approached him for study, “I will only teach once. I will not repeat. If I ask you any question and you cannot answer, you will have to leave.”  Swami Chinmayananda agreed.  He in turn would ask many questions till he was clear.

5. Self-Enquiry – Brahma-Jignaasaa
“I went to Swami Tapovanam with the desire to know directly what the scriptures say in their profound declarations.  I wanted a fuller confirmation of what I had gathered from books in the library, that is, a direct glimpse of the ideas in the Upanishads and the Geeta.” 

6. Serve the Spiritual Teacher - Guru Seva
Tuning with the Spiritual Teacher is important to receive the knowledge of Vedanta.
Swami Chinmayananda would use a large stone as a pillow and be at the Guru's door at 4am, after a freezing cold ganges-bath, with a cup of tea.  Many times Swami Tapovanam left the cup of tea untouched, just to rub away the doership. 

Often he would cook food for his guru. “See one never gets to give up Tapas In these Himalayas.” Chuckled Swami Tapovanam demonstrating one of Chinmaya’s thick, dry rotis which were not round.   

7. Listening – Shravanam
Every morning the class began at 6am with Shantipath. Panchadashi was the first text that Swami Tapovanam taught Swami Chinmayananda.  Swami Tapovanam would read out one Sanskrit verse and explain its word by word meaning, rules of grammar, deeper meaning, an example and the possible misinterpretations.  Though both of them were from kerala & knew English, Swami Tapovanam taught in Hindi & Swami Chinmayananda would listen attentively and make notes in English.

One morning, as Swami Tapovanam was taking the class, a crow cawed.  One of the students looked up.  Swami Tapovanam ended the class saying - Vedanta cannot be learnt by such distracted minds.  

8. Reflection – Mananam
With the exception of class time, if the students even approached Swami Tapovanam or talked amongst themselves, he would chide them: "What are you doing hanging around here? Don't waste a minute! You go do your own reflection. It's all in you!"

9. Contemplation – Nididhyaasanam
With the setting Sun, Chinmaya retired to his humble shelter & spent long, cool nights reflecting  & contemplating on the Truth revealed by his Guru.

Swami Tapovanam was such a pure soul that he saw God in everything.  For him, Ganga was Brahman flowing in Liquid form .  Journeying between Uttarkashi & Gangotri, he would often point out in a contemplative mood, “Loot at those clouds, Chinmaya.  So beautiful is all of nature.  How can anyone not believe the grace and beauty of the Lord when they see His form manifested in this wonderful world of nature.” 
10. Absorption of the Mind - Samadhi
Often Swami Chinmayananda sat all night absorbed in meditation in a quiet corner of the forest or sometimes on a boulder besides the Ganges.   At one point Chinmaya decided that even the proximity of his fellow students & Swami Tapovanam was a hindrance. “Never forget that the peace you are seeking is within”, his Guru cautioned. 

After a few Upanishads, Swami Tapovanam took up the teaching of the celebrated Mandukya Upanishad with karika.  Swami Chinmayananda was enthralled.  “The world is unreal! It never came into existence!” He would rave on for hours like a man possessed.  He dint even think of food or his beloved tea.

Swami Tapovanam had planned to give classes on the Bhagavad Geeta but developed a severe cough.  “Okay, I’ve taught you the Upanishads, now you study the Gita on your own. If you have a question, we’ll discuss it.” With these words Swami Tapovanam ended Chinmaya’s studies from a textbook.  But learning from the teacher did not stop; he would spend another 6 years communicating with the Master. 

The above 10 steps of Vedanta are beautiful for self-unfoldment.  Each of us can apply it in our lives and discover the Infinite Happiness of the Self.  We are fortunate to be under the Guru-Parampara of such great masters.  It’s a sure sign of Divine Grace.  All that is required is our self-efforts to realize the Self.  
Once when Swami Chinmayananda was at Gangotri in 1951, sitting in a place that he called as Faquiristan, on the banks of Mother Ganga, he pondered – “Can I face the educated class of India and bring to their faithless hearts at least a ray of understanding of our wondrous culture? None could argue against the Eternal Truth that man is in essence God. But could I explain it to others?” 
He seemed to hear the words in Mother Ganga’s roar, ‘Son, see me; born here in the Himalayas, I rush down to the plains taking with me both life and nourishment to all.  Fulfilment of any possession is in sharing it with others.’

Inspired by the Ganga, Swami Chinmayananda, with the blessings of Swami Tapovanam, in May 1951 took up an All India Tour. He observed, “The people in the cities were an aimless crowd, out of contact with the values in their own traditional culture. I was miserably disillusioned and disappointed at the working plans of all the ashrams and temples, at the stuff that was doled out as the best of Hinduism.”
In November 1951, He completed his tour of India and returned to Tapovan Kutir in Uttarkashi. He resolved to plan a series of Upanishad Jnana yagnasin all of the great cities of India, beginning with Pune – the city of Intellectuals. Swami Tapovanam gave permission with caution - “Consider yourself lucky if you find five to six listeners for Vedanta, especially when you take the Upanishadsas textbooks.” 
Thus, Gangotri Plan was conceived by Swami Chinmayananda.  With four nickels (annas) in his pocket, he arrived at Pune on Dec. 23rd1951.  The first yagna was from 31stDecember 1951 to 8thApril 1952. 
The rest as they say is history.  Chinmaya Mission was formed on 8thAugust 1953 and it continues to serve humanity with the motto: Maximum Happiness to Maximum People for Maximum Time. It has over 300 centres in 25 countries, 85 schools, 7 colleges, rural development in 1000 villages, hospitals, orphanages, old age homes etc.  
Swami Chinmayananda dedicated his life & his work to his teacher – Sree Swami Tapovanam.  He was a true disciple(shishya) of Swami Tapovanam. Hence one of his apt names is - Om Tapovana-Shishyaaya Namaha.   He always kept the picture of Swami Tapovanam at the altar of a Yagna.  He said that his work was entirely dedicated to Swami Tapovanam and the Shrutis(Vedas). 
“Ours is a great responsibility. We, his sishya-family have to see that He finds an ample field in our individual bosoms to express Himself. It is not sufficient that we evolve ourselves - we must learn to release Him to be visible here. It is a glorious chance now to take a sacred oath upon ourselves that we shall not rest contented until He is fulfilled. Hindu revival is the Tapovana Vratam. I shall consider myself fulfilled if my life and work become my message of adoration and gratitude to my Teacher. Words can never gather Him in their embrace. Love alone can. Let us all adore Him and work for His fulfilment which is the goal of Chinmaya Mission.  Keep him in your heart, let him do the work and purify you.

As disciples, our work should be dedicated to Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda and must be befitting His Glory.  Before we perform any action, let us think – “Will this befit the glory of my Satguru?” His Vision is our Mission.  Let us offer UNTO HIM OUR BEST.  

Om Sri Tapovana-Parama-Gurave Namaha
Om Shri Chinmaya Satgurave Namaha
Om Shri Gurubhyo Namaha

Saturday, 6 April 2019


The most widely accepted New Year’s Day among the Hindus is the Caandramaana Yugaadi, the first day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra(March-April). 

Brahma, the Creator is said to have created this world on this day and the reckoning of time begun from the sunrise of this day.  Hence the name Yuga-Adi (Beginning of an era or epoch).  

Emperor Shalivaahana(circa AD 79) is believed to have been crowned on this day.  Consequently this era is called the Shaka Era or the Shalivaahana Shaka.  

Paschaataapa or repentence for the evil deeds committed during the past year, prayers for forgiveness, performance of Mahaashaanti rites to ward off all future evils or misfortune, worship of the presiding deity of the year as indicated by the day of the week on which the Yugaadi falls, worship of Brahmaa the creator with all the Upacharas, worship to other deities, to units of time and nakshatras or asterisms and finally to Vishnu - are the religious rites specially recommended.  

One must also listen to the reading of the Panchanga by the family priest. 

Taking bath after anointing the body with oil, called Abhyanjanasnaana or oil bath, wearing new clothes, decorating the house, eating a mixture of tender neem leaves and jaggery followed by a sumptuous feast, giving presents to servants and dependents - these are the social aspects of the celebration. 

Listening to the forecasts given in the Panchanga can help one to prepare himself for facing the untoward incidents or circumstances.  

Eating the mixture of the bitter neem leaves along with the sweet jaggery is supposed to be good for health and also an antidote for the illnesses common in the spring season.  Taken in a symbolic sense, it can psychologically prepare one to be equanimous under all circumstances of life, whether bringing pain or pleasure.

Chaandramaana Yugaadi is observed widely as the New Year’s Day in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.  In some parts of the country, especially in Maharashtra, a long bamboo is decorated with a silk cloth and a silver or copper vessel is put over it.  A garland of sweets and neem leaves, it is tied at the upper end.  This is called ‘Gudhi.’  This is then worshipped and hoisted on the terrace of the house.  It is taken down after sunset and the sweets and neem leaves are distributed among all, especially the children, to be consumed as prasada or consecrated food.  Because of this custom of raising the Gudhi on the Padhva(or Pratipad day), the day(yugadi) itself is christened as “Gudhi Padva”

According to one belief, this is actually a flag-hoisting ceremony to commemorate the killing of Vali, the monkey chief of Kishkindha, by Sri Rama on this day. 

- Courtesy “Encyclopaedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda, Ramakrishna Math”

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Amazing facts about Holi

Holi or Holikotsava is not a festival of recent origin.  It is mentioned in Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa Sutras as well as in Kaathaka Grihya sutras

It was at first actually a special rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families and the full moon(Raakaa) was the deity worshipped by them. 

Phalguna purnima is the last day of the lunar calendar as per one system which considers the month to be ending with Purnima instead of Amavasya.  This was the system followed earlier.  According to this the new year heralding the vasanta ritu or spring starts the next day after Phalguna Purnima.  Thus the full moon festival of Holika gradually became a festival of joy, announcing the commencement of spring.  Holi is a time when man and nature alike throw off the gloom of winter and rejoice in the colors and liveliness of spring.

The other names of this festival are Vasanta Mahotsava and Kaama Mahotsava also.  

This day is important for the following reasons

Puranic Significance:
  1. Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kaamdev.  Kaama-Dahan. So Holi is a festival to transform Lust into Love by rising above body identification.  (Story given below)  Kamadeva is the God of love. Kama's body was destroyed when he shot his weapons at Shiva in order to disrupt his penance. For the sake of Kama's wife Rati, Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and mental state of love rather than physical lust. 
  2. It was on this day that Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, who tried to kill the child-devotee Prahlada, by taking him on her lap and sitting on a pyre of wood which was set fire to, was herself reduced to ashes, while Prahlada was unscathed.  So holika dahan is to signify the victory of faith over materialism and oppression of spirituality.  Listen to a podcast on the Narasimha Avataar along with meditation at the end of the session - Click Here
  3. It was on this day that an ogress called Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prithu(or Raghu) was made to run away for life, by the shouts and pranks of the mischievous boys.  Though she had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, this - noise, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys - was a chink in her armour due to a curse of Lord Shiva.  The day itself came to be called “Adaadaa” or Holika since then.
  4. Krishna is believed to have complained about his dark color and Radha's fair color to his mother.   His mother Yashoda playfully suggested that he should smear color on Radha's face too and change her complexion to any color he wanted.  Captivated by the idea, Krishna proceeded to do so. In Vrindavan and Mathura the festival is still celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna)

Harmony in Relationships:
Forgetting the differences and hurts, everyone comes together in an attitude of forgiveness and love and unites by splashing colors of joy and happiness. Take a moment and drop the negatives feelings you have for anyone and forgive them. Send or express your Love to them. 

Ecology & Healing:

Color has an effect on the body. Each color has a healing effect on the body because the body is made up of 7 dhatus and each of these have their own color. Hence 7 colors. Color-Therapy, aroma-therapy etc. is used to cure many diseases by balancing the colors of the body.  Flowers of Palash, rose, rajnigandha etc. are used in holi to balance the 7 colors & prepare to face upcoming heat and strengthen the immunity

Playing with Colors:
  • Some refuse to play with colors.  Some refuse to face life. Some hesitate to have certain colors. Some hesitate to accept life totally.  Those who allow all colors and get colored completely without any self-consciousness they alone truly have ‘fun and blast’.
  • Accept life TOTALLY.  As it comes. As it is. With all its variety and ups & downs Life is a roller-coaster ride…… “Pairs of opposites will come and go. They are not permanent.  Bear them silently.” - Bhagavad Gita.  Watch Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji's video on this - Click Here 
  • One who remains unaffected by these is a wise man and is fit for ‘immortality’  -  Bhagavad Gita 
  • While playing with colors, we are careful not to damage our eyes.  Vision remains clear.  Only then we have   fun.
  • Let not the colors of life, color our perception.  Let the Vision be clear. Attachment colors our vision. Lets be detached and play in the game of life.  
  • We apply oil on ourselves before playing with colors. Similarly apply oil of Devotion before entering into the world to play with colors of life.
  • We enjoy the play of life only if we remain in our ‘true colors’.  When we do our duty and swadharma without imitating someone else we enjoy the play of life. Be Yourself.  Pretension & blind imitation causes tremendous stress. 
  • Colors are temporary.  We don’t judge ourselves based on it. Infact the more colors we have on our face we feel happy.  In life also colors(situations, experiences) are temporary.  Why judge oneself based on these?Play with all the colors and Be the Self – unaffected by all colors like the Screen remains unaffected by all the colors of the movie. 
Holika Dahan
Generally a log of wood will be kept in a prominent public place on the Vasanta-Panchami day(Maagha Shukla Panchami) almost 40 days before the Holi festival.  An image of Holika with child Prahlada in her lap is also kept on the log.  Holika’s image is made of combustible material whereas Prahlada’s, of non-combustible ones.  People go on throwing twigs of trees and any combustible material they can spare, on to that log which gradually grows into a sizeable heap.  On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set fire to in a simple ceremony and one chants the Rakshoghna Mantras of the Rig Veda(4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on).   The next morning, the ashes from the bonfire are collected as Prasada and smeared on the limbs of the body.  Singed coconuts, if any, are also collected and eaten.  

In some houses, the image of Kamadeva is kept int he square yard and a simple worship is offered.  A mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste is partaken as the prasada.  

In Bengal, it is observed in a very beautiful manner as Dol-Purnima or Dolaayaatraa(The festival of swing). The festival, said to have been initiated by the king Indradyumna in Vrindaavana, is spread over 3 or 5 days, starting from the Shukla Chaturdashi of Phalguna.  A celebration in honour of Agni and worship of Govinda(Krishna) in image kept on a swing(Dolaa) are important features.  The fire kindled on the first day is to be preserved till the last day.  The swing is to be rocked 21 times at the end of the festival.  

Thus Holi is a celebration of the following:

  1. Onset of the Spring season
  2. Transformation of Lust into Love
  3. Selfishness transforms to selflessness.  Kaamdev gives up his form for the benefit of the world.  
  4. Victory of Faith over materialism
  5. Power of acceptance, love, forgiveness and social harmony
  6. Colors of nature, of happiness, love and devotion.  

May we live our life in true colors of devotion, dedication and discover the Lord in our heart.  May we experience Bliss and make others also Blissful.  Happy Holi.  

Kaama-Dahana Story

There was an asura called Tarakasura and he had got a boon that only the son of Lord Shiva can kill him.  Sati had immolated herself and Parvatiji was not yet married to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva was in deep meditation and Tarakasura started troubling the Devatas etc.  So Brahmaji and devatas met.  They called Madankumar & party.  Kaamdev was called urgently.  He was told to go and break the meditation of Lord Shiva.  Kaamdev said if i try to disturb HIS Meditation, i will die. Devtas said - its possible.  Kaamdev said - Its for the good of everyone and so even if i have to die, its ok.  Anyways im going to die, let me do some mischief first. 

Kaamdev did such a trick that in entire creation everyone was filled with sexual desires.  Rivers, creepers, animals etc.  Even rishis who were seeing world as Brahman started seeing the world as Narimaya.  Women started seeing men alone in the whole world.  Only a few people whose mind was in the Lord, were saved by the Lord.  Yogis, rishis were wondering what happened to us. Bhogis were very happy.  After sometime, Kaamdev withdrew his power and there was peace in the world.  This went on for one full hour till Kaamdev reached Lord Shiva. 

When he saw Lord Shiva, he was scared but he had to do his duty. So Kaamdev created all music, dance etc. and finally shot 5 arrows at Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva saw Kaam dev and with his third eye Kaamdev was burnt.  

Kaamdev was burnt to ashes and so many Rishis were happy that now our mind will remain in samadhi. Bhogis felt sad.  It is said Rati is the most beautiful woman and Kaamdev - most handsome man. Rati is Kaamdev’s wife. She came crying to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva said - I have burnt him and he doesn’t have a body but without body itself he will be in the mind of all beings.  As a desire Kaam is there in the minds of all.  One of the names of Kamdev is Anang.  Madan, Manasija are other names of Kaamdev.  Lord Shiva also blessed Rati that when Krishna avatar happens, his son will be Pradyumna who will be  Kaamdev in physical form and then you will be united with Kaamdev again 

Devatas felt grateful to Lord Shiva and said that O Lord! You are so compassionate that you punished and blessed him also.  Please get married with Parvati and Lord Shiva agreed.  Their son - Kartikeya finally killed Tarakasura.