Category Archives: Faith

In This World Of Connected Computers….

vide Gopalaswamy

Perhaps more appropriate to eastern cultures?

**

Father is flying a kite.

His son is watching him carefully. After some time son says:

“Dad. because of the string the kite is not able to go any further higher.”

Hearing this, the father smiles and breaks the string.

The kite goes higher and then shortly after that, it comes and falls on the ground.The child is dejected and sad.

The father sits next to him and calmly explains:

“Son, in life we reach a certain level and then we feel that there are certain things that are not letting us grow any further like Home, Family, Culture etc. We feel we want to be free from those strings which we believe are stopping us from going higher.

But, remember son.”That our home , family and culture are the things that will help us stay stable at the high heights .If we try to break away from those strings our condition will be similar to the kite – we’ll fall down soon.”

**

Life is Beautiful 😊Stay connected👍

Wishing you A Happy Makar Sankranti. Pongal Lohri, Bhigu…

End

PS: Makar Sankranti marks the arrival of harvest season. Widely celebrated, kite flying, bonfires, fairs, surya puja in river, feast, arts, dance, socialization, Cow Pooja…mark the festival.

Good Reasons To Be…

…doing the right thing!

A story from Africa vide V Narayanan

**

At the time of the great King Obatala:

Three people came to him dragging a young man with them and said to him:

‘O King!! This man has murdered our father.’

Obatala: ‘Why did you kill their father?’ 

Young man: ‘I’m a goatherd. My goat ate from their father’s farm, and he threw a stone at my goat and it died; so I also took the stone and threw it at their father and he also died.’

Obatala: ‘Because of this, I pass judgment, on charge of murder, by sentencing you to death.’

The Young man said: ‘Oh King, I ask for 3 days before you execute the judgment. My late father left me some wealth and I have a sister to take care of. If you kill me now, the wealth and my sister will have no guardian.’

Obatala: ‘Who will stand for your bail?’ 

The Young man looking into the crowd, pointed at Lamurudu.

Obatala asked: ‘Do you agree to stand for him, Lamurudu?’

Lamurudu answered, ‘Beeni (yes).’

Obatala enquired further: ‘You agree to stand for someone you don’t know, and if he doesn’t return you’ll receive his penalty.’

Lamurudu answered: ‘I accept.’

The Young man left; but after two days and into the third day, there was still no sign of the Young man. 

Everyone was afraid and sorry for Lamurudu who had accepted to receive the penalty of death if the man failed to return.

Just before it was time for meting out the punishment to the poor Lamurudu, the goat herdsman  appeared looking very exhausted and he stood before King Obatala. 

The Young man spoke up: ‘I have handed the wealth and the welfare of my sister to my uncle and I am back to receive the penalty. You may execute the penalty now.’

In great shock and surprise, Obatala said: ‘And why did you return after having a chance to escape the death penalty?’ 

Young man: ‘It would then appear humanity has lost integrity and the ability to fulfill promises kept.’

Obatala turned and looked at Lamurudu and asked him:  ‘And why did you stand for him?’

Lamurudu responded: ‘It would then appear humanity has lost the will to do good to others.’ 

These words and events moved the complainant  brothers who had  wanted justice for their father’s death very deeply and they decided to forgive the young goat herdsman. 

A furious Obatala asked: ‘Why?!!’

They said: ‘It would then appear as though forgiveness has lost place in the heart of humanity.’

End

Sometimes It Pays To Pay…

no attention to…

Women in the village were heading to the river for a bath.

As they were crossing a field, there upon a ridge laid a sadhu reclining with his head on a brick for height. 

One of the women exclaimed, ‘Hey this sadhu is a maha gyani. Let us do pranam and seek his blessings.’

And so they did and as they went river-wards, one of the women remarked loudly: ‘You say he’s a maha gyani, yet he needed the comfort of a pillow!’

After finishing their bath, they returned the same away.

They saw the same sadhu now lying with his head resting on bare ground – he had thrown away the brick.

As they passed by, seeing this, another woman remarked: ‘You say he’s a maha gyani, yet he has an ego that gets pricked?’

The sadhu burst laughing. He got up to get back the brick lying some feet away! The lesson he had learnt early on had come back to him: ‘Let the world say what it wants, do yours.’

End

Based on a pravachan by Shri Vittaldas Maharaj

Some (Secular) Thoughts On What Is Dharma

The concepts herein are based on an illuminating foreword written by Late Shri K. M. Munshi to a booklet on Yaksha Prasna, an episode in Mahabharata with deep meanings, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

While treatises are written on the subject, very simply, Dharma is the defining behaviour of a species, a class, a group…by which it sets itself apart from others.

Like a tiger’s is to hunt a prey, a guru is to teach, guide…why, a thief’s is to steal!

It’s a consistent framework that govern a member’s thoughts, actions, beliefs, methods, measures and principles constituting its integrity.

So far so good. Now comes the interesting and complex part:

Dharma by no means is unequivocal. It is also not monolithic or static. There are desha dharma (specific to the place one lives), yuga dharma and kaala dharma (applicable to the times one lives in)… There are role and pedigree based ones too, like raja dharma (for kings) and kula dharma (for lineage)! While these are termed as visesha dharma (special and specific), at the lowest level is saamanya dharma (the ordinary, common, non-specific principles like ‘don’t thieve’, ‘don’t tell lies’…).

It is not difficult to visualize principles of dharma taking contrary positions in a given situation – dharma-sankat’s. A man is never one thing. A raja (a king, a leader) is also a manusha (a man, a human being), a pati (a husband) to his wife and many more with different dharma’s prescribed for each (Dasaratha’s example)! This is not all. Even in the same role, often saamanya dharma could conflict with viseha dharma (rishi’s example). And within in the same class too, saamanya or visesha!

And our lives are full of them and living is negotiating through these conflicts, big and small. 

Dilemmas such as this are normally resolved by a Guru by his exemplary decisions/actions in a given context – the one strong function of gurukul education, showing the inadequacy of learning merely from books and not watching its roll-out in real. Also the two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – and the multitude of Purana’s bring up a number of scenarios illustrating the application of dharmic principles. Their very purpose, it’s said. Also from the lives of saints and sages of yore and modern-day enlightened souls.

Time for some examples:

One role (raja) versus another (father): This is from sage Valmiki’s Ramayana, Balakanda, Sarga 19. Here sage Viswamitra is pleading with Dasaratha to send young Rama with him to fight the two demons Maricha and Subahu and protect sage’s penances to fruition. The king, extremely fond of Rama, hesitates. Thereupon the sage in his persuasion tells him not to be blinded by paternal affection, it is his raja dharma to protect his subjects and also not to go back on promises made (earlier the king generously promises to give anything he wanted when welcoming the sage to his court).

Saamanya versus visesha: This is in the well-known parable about the rishi (one who has renounced worldly matters) at his ashram (abode) performing meditation in the forest. A deer comes in running to where the rishi is and quickly gets away taking one of the forest routes available to it. Very soon, a posse of hunters also arrive at the spot and ask the rishi if he saw a deer coming that way and which way did it go. The rishi deliberately points wrong way to them. Here the principle of ahimsa (no cruelty to other living beings) overrides the saamanya dharma’s injunction: ‘don’t tell lies’.

In leadership roles where actions have a much broader impact, the principle of ‘Bahu jana sukhaaya, bahujana hithaaya’ (greater good for great many) is often used in conflict resolution. Not to be confused with tyranny of numbers (majority). For instance, consider capital punishment. Killing someone goes against the state’s visesha dharma of having to prevent cruelty to its subjects, the accused in this instance. On the other hand it is in line with the state’s visesha dharma to protect from or prevent crimes against its subjects, possible victims in future at the hands of this accused if let go or others emboldened by him. How best this could be done provides the answer to the legitimacy of state killing anyone. Or take the project of damming a river to provide water all-round the year versus large tracts of village lands going under water in the up-stream catchment area. Requires a close look at the costs and benefits.

Udyoga dharma (dharma of one’s profession) is a modern broad-based need since profession one takes up is no longer related to one’s kula (ancestral family inherited industries like farmer, potter, soldier, blacksmith…) and also because there are some zillion new professions that have come into being in modern societies. Broadly speaking, udyoga dharma could be that:

‘a) A man must perform a honest day’s work.

‘b) He must sincerely and diligently serve the best interests of his customers (internal including the employer and external including the environment).

‘c) An interesting corollary of b is he must constantly hone his skills so he continues to deliver the best.

Another powerful implication of the above is that the service level (b and c) are not adversely impacted by any grievances an employee may hold, genuine or otherwise, in his job! He is called up on to resolve the same independently to the best of his ability.

The straight and simple inculcation and subsequent reinforcement to keep up one’s dharma is the best self-actualizing motivator on a very sound and stable dharmic base scoring over any scheme conceived so far for this purpose.

In fact, it generally applies likewise to performance under all dharmic frameworks.

End

Sources: Life Conflicts and  Valmiki Ramayan Sarga 19. Image from santanmission.com

This Animal Did Change Its Spot

Received this Tamizh clip yesterday – it’s about actor Madhavan who is successfully holding his own for several decades now in the volatile world of seven-day wonders – Kollywood. Though not an avid film goer/watcher, rarely seeing a movie from start all the way to finish, I personally loved his comic sense whenever he appeared on the screen. A serial of his I watched eagerly and in full years ago where he appeared as a South-Indian groom in a Panju family. Not one of those mind-numbing antics passing for comedy, but truly and refreshingly hilarious.

Am told this is an old clip, date and occasion not known to me (My version of WP does not let me upload). He’s talking about Mother’s Day. He recalls affectionately, nostalgically, gratefully three pieces of wisdom given to him by his Mom that kept/keeps him going in his profession, internalizing and living them out:  a) Don’t hurt anyone intentionally b) Don’t cheat anyone out of his money; make a honest living and c) Treat people, big or small, like people with self-respect due to them.

Well, it seems to have certainly worked for him. Kudos to him for his assiduous following and to his mom for the sage advice

**

Got me thinking about my Mom and my life. No more now, my Mom had/was: an unwelcome father-less birth, a SSC-pass (given to reading Times Of India every morning!), a typical house-wife of her times, lived most of her life on my father’s meager income, poor on wiles and guile’s…

But I cannot recall any session with her when she sat me down and imparted wisdom.

The first third of my life was spent joyfully in Matunga where the entire neighborhood was friends, some closer than others. Soft-ball cricket, Chess, Cards, crazy over songs of Shankar-Jaikishen, O P Nayyar…, listening to the latest stories of James Hadley Chase (my friend went one up on his narration), fighting over who was more delightful to watch – Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai or our own Jaisimha…

Strangely no politics, no religion, no academics, no girls (I swear), no restaurants, gyms/clubs…Weird? May be, but it was fun. Mom used to search for and drag me home in the evening.

No time for the parents.

Then came college, job, marriage and children.

Once again, no time yet for the parents. Poor wife and children didn’t fare any better. The job taking away the second and a good part of the final third of my life – it was one big challenge as we were trying to make it in the emerging area of software and exports. We felt it was our show though we owned no part of it, giving it all we had to make it big.

Along the way a dear Aunt passed away, followed by my Father and then the Mother only a few years ago.

Those sessions just didn’t take place.

But in contexts very ordinary, the wisdom did come out, unadorned, unheralded, not in bold, italic or in quotes, that it was not recognized as such until later.  

To bear out what I’m saying, here’s a story:

For years, it was a daily routine every morning for me to go down and pluck flowers off the plants in our building (apartment complex) for pooja. With very few residents in the building, usually I was the only one at it.

One day a lady, probably in her fifties, unexpectedly appeared on the scene. She and her man had taken a flat on rent in our building recently. She began reaching the spot earlier in the morning and cleaning up the flowers before I got there, without any compunction. I was irritated, offended to see a new-comer, on rent at that, asserting herself so unabashedly in regard to admittedly a shared resource in this manner. My long-standing ‘proprietary’ and exclusive access was thwarted. So I did what I could – I rose even earlier to get to the flowers. Many days I did (she did not go entirely without flowers on those days), and some days I didn’t, returning with a poor collection. On those occasions, came home and bitched about it bitterly.

‘Why are you so upset? Won’t gods in her house also need flowers? It would be the same Krishna and Shiva of our house in theirs too. Would you deny them?’ Lifting her head up, my old lady would say it and go back to her chores.

When said, it did nothing to comfort me. Well, I thought why can’t the interloper buy her flowers from the market instead of taking away mine? She can certainly ask her son (living nearby) to get it for her.

Though not at first, the wisdom went home soon enough. And when it did, the profundity of those words facile hit me hard. Made so much sense. Coming from a lady whose views, I held, would not rise above her deep roots in tradition to a fundamentally true spiritual/religious insight, and hence were never taken seriously to avoid arguments. And how she surprised me time and again is a subject for when I feel encouraged to talk about.

Since then, my routine changed. Whenever I reached the flowers first, I would knock on her doors and offer her gladly a part of the collection. So much so, it wasn’t long before she totally stopped coming while I made the deliveries at her door-step.

The two became such a nice couple I grew fond of. How they had changed! (?!?)

Even today I go to pick flowers and freely offer to one or two neighbors who for some reason can’t venture out.

**

This is not the only spot (dhaag/blemish) this animal changed for a happier mind on the old lady’s say-so, totally undramatic without raising the voice, rolling the eyes, pointing the fingers or thumping the table.

As I said, that’s for some other day, may be.

End

Destiny, Circumstances, Fate, Luck, Krishna…Call Whatever

A very short beautiful story on the inexplicable…the invisible hand!

This refers to swayamwara arranged by the King Draupad to find a suitable match for his beautiful daughter, Draupadi.

A tough competition was set up: There was a wheel carrying a fish on its rim and revolving at the top of a pole. The pole was rose erect next to a water-body at its base. One who shot an arrow through the eye of the fish looking merely at the reflection in the waters below would win Draupadi’s hands.

The night before, a vexed Arjuna was talking it out with Krishna.

Krishna advised him: ‘ Arjuna, take care, put your foot forward, concentrate on the eye of the fish in your mind.’

Arjuna, more in despair: ‘If I do everything, what will you do, Krishna?’

Krishna smiled and said softly: ‘What you can do, I know, you’ll do and do well. What you can’t, I’ll.’

Arjuna: ‘And, what would that be?’

Krishna: ‘I’ll hold the water steady for you.’

…call it what you like, no denying the hand of the invisible in our lives.

End

Source: Based on a post from Vasu Kadambi

Stories in Stone

This is from Sri Govindrajaswamy temple , Thiruppathi, consecrated by Sri Ramanuja in 1130 CE.

The intriguing geometry appears on the ceiling slab of a massive gopuram vaasal (gate).

Here is the gopuram:

Here’s a bottom-up view of the ceiling and the stone slabs:

Here’s a close-up of the geometry:

Look at those straight lines. They appear to be the edges of two polygons shifted and superimposed. Right, eh?

Well, they are not. Start from any node, go down or up and trace the edges without lifting the hand – you’ll return to the starting point!!!

**

These salabanjika‘s (a common motif at the entrances) would walk away with the crown for beauty, poise and grace any day anywhere!!

All credits to Amar Reddy for the photographs.

End

A One-Man Religion?

The best reward for me in life is the disproportionately large share of good people I collected around me at different times in life – class-mates, friends, colleagues at work-place and, of course, relatives; people with different strengths, exemplary in their own ways and inspirational to those who care to look; from many of whom I’ve benefited in ways with no capacity or ability to repay in equal kind or measure. I have in the past featured some of them here and there are more to be talked about before time runs out.

This man whom I had wanted to capture and present here for a long time wasn’t easy – the thoughts would not coalesce into a coherent narrative. I have been/am favored with so many acts of his kindness personally that it is easy for me to slip into singing his paeans. Like how he (and a dear cousin) stood by me at my mother’s funeral – it was his birthday, I learnt much later. But I did not want this glimpse of him to be one dimensional, vis-à-vis with me. It would be so unfair for he was/is much more.

While there’s much to be said and written about, I’ll settle for this one incident to reveal the man:

He recently retired from a very senior executive position from a company that owned, operated a chain of medical diagnostic centers that included expensive high-end equipment, a field he had spent all his career in. Post-retirement he took up his first consultancy assignment a month ago; not a son of some industrialist, he needs money like you and I. And yet, he shot this off on his own:

Dear Dr M, as there is a directive for 65 plus citizens to practice social distancing, I am constrained by my family to travel for work and contribute only remotely. As a small gesture from my end I would like to forego my professional fees for this month of March during this time of crisis.

Frankly it didn’t surprise me; for, with him, it couldn’t be anything but…

He goes to the temple almost daily and has his own private talk with the gods therein. Like me, not deep into pooja-paat, Gita and scriptures; wears no distinctive mark on his forehead. What does he do in the temple besides praying? Well, helps them in their banking issues using his contacts, gets them a plumber or a lock-smith they urgently need, brings immobile old folks to the temple in his car and drops them back home…When prasadams are freely distributed in goshti’s, only a small portion for him – anything more or a second turn meant some late-comer would go without, he believes.

It’s almost like he is actively on the lookout all the time to jump in and help in ways he can.

Not a preacher, a social-worker or a breast-beating, placard-holding, glory-hungry, funds-seeking, high-decibel activist. Just an ordinary family man like you and me who makes a difference to someone with a legendary attention to details not many of us are capable of.

One of these days, though it isn’t going to be easy, I intend to find out how did these high personal standards – the very goals of orthodoxy – come about. Parental attention? I doubt, though affection, yes, a lot of it. He grew up as the last child of a large family household that also served as a transit/temp camp for a good number of relatives passing thru or visiting Chennai, helping his mother in her chores. Fetching these guests to and fro railway stations at odd hours, yielding his place to a guest and going up to the terrace with the pillow for the night, waiting for an elder sibling to be done with a single-copy school text book before he could peruse, four years spent in the hostel away from home and not visited even once by his ownso were his younger days. And yet a very balanced and practical head screwed onto the shoulders, combining empathy with expediency,  without a tinge of bitterness or self-sympathy

I see him as a religion by himself, all in action, without the usual accouterments of a holy book, highfalutin theology…

Will certainly revert if and when I gain some insights on what has kept him going!

Presently signing off with prayers for his health and long life and a fervent wish he actively grooms many more youngsters in his ways and with deep gratitude for being blessed with his association.

End

Reading Between The Lines…

From ElangoVelurThiruturaipoondi Tiruvarur‎1.இயற்கை மற்றும் பசுமை

One day Devi Parvathi and Lord Shiva, moving around in the skies, happened to be above the city of Kashi.  The bathing ghats were crowded with pilgrims and devotees taking bath in the river Ganga.

Naatha, I’ve a question,’ Parvathi looked at her consort.

Shiva by his gaze asked, ‘What is it?’

‘It is said in the holy books and also widely believed people taking dips in Ganga attain moksha (salvation from the unending cycle of births and deaths). And look at the crowd here.’

‘So?’

‘If all these people attain moksha and with many more to come – the river is so easily accessible – won’t it get very crowded in the Heavens?’

Shiva smiled, ‘You know, strangely, none of this crowd is going to attain moksha. Except one here, one there. But most of them, no. Let me show you why. Do as I tell you and watch.’

**

Shiva came down to the bathing ghats with Parvathi assuming human forms. He jumped into Ganga and swam up to mid-stream where the currents were strong and waters deep and no one ventured. Putting his hands up, he began shouting frantically for help.

Parvathi in utter despair begged the people on the bank and those nearby in the waters to rush and help him. Many were ready to jump in. That’s when she had a word of caution for them: ‘Only those of you who have no paap (sin) to your account would be able to go across and rescue my husband.’

On hearing this the volunteers one by one dropped away; for none could honestly claim he was free of all paap’s.

With seconds ticking by, Shiva closer to being drowned, Parvathi was helplessly in panic. That’s when a young man came forward in a tearing hurry. Wasting no time, he jumped into the waters.

‘Young man, no use, you know you can help only if…’ shouted someone from the bank.

The young man broke his strokes in the waters long enough to say, turning his head towards the bank, ‘I know I’m not. But I know I’ll be by the time I reach him out there, all my sins washed away by the grace of Ganga Mata.’

**

Back in the skies, Shiva looked at his Devi seemingly to say: ‘Now you know why the Heavens don’t get crowded as you fear. Only those reading the lines and between them carefully of the holy books don’t miss out the essential ingredient for salvation – Faith.’

End