Category Archives: Religion

Miracles Do Occur And How!

This anecdote – not sure if this happened for real – is very readable for its strong and never-truer message:

***

A certain company had a tradition of holding a party beginning with a lottery every Christmas Eve.

The rules of the lottery draw were: each employee pays ten dollars as a fund. There were three hundred people in the company. In other words, a total of three thousand dollars could be raised.  The winner takes all the money home.

On the day of the lottery draw, the office was filled with a lively atmosphere. Everyone wrote their nomination on the slips of paper and put them in the lottery box.

However, a young man hesitated when he wrote – he thought of the company’s cleaning lady, her sickly son needed a surgical procedure soon after the dawn of New Year and she had not yet raised the required funds for the hospitalization.

He knew the chance of winning was slim, a miniscule 0.3% percent. Yet he couldn’t help but write the name of the cleaner lady on the note.

The tense moment came. The boss gave the lottery box a vigorous shake and finally drew out a note. The man also kept praying in his heart: hoping against hope the cleaning lady wins the prize…When the winner was announced, the miracle had happened!

Yes, the winner turned out to be the cleaning lady. Cheers broke out in the office, and she hurriedly rushed to the stage to accept the award, almost breaking down in tears.

As the party kicked off, while thinking about this “Christmas miracle”, the man paced to the lottery box. He took out a piece of paper and opened it casually. The name on it was the name of the Cleaning lady!  The man was very surprised. He took out several pieces of paper one after another. Although the handwriting on them was different, the names were all the same – it was the lady’s! The man’s eyes were filled with tears with the thought there was indeed a Christmas miracle in the world, but *the miracle will not fall from the sky – the people were required to create it by themselves!

***

Curiously enough this is also the message carried in our Sanatana Dharma. Here it is said: in this Kali Yuga, in observance of the yuga dharma, divinity presents itself always through an agency, human or otherwise, never ever manifesting directly.

End

A paradox of community, belief and reality

Seth Godin writes:

Belief happens when we combine community with emotion. It’s a way for us to see and understand the world, at the same time that we engage with some of the people around us. Belief is a symptom of shared connection, and community makes us human.

Reality, on the other hand, is widely experienced and consistent. Gravity doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, it’s still here. And that jar of jelly beans has the same number of beans in it, no matter how many times we count them.

When belief doesn’t match our experience of reality, stress occurs.

This stress can surprisingly make community stronger. There’s very little community among people who believe that the Earth is a sphere, no meetings or conventions of the round Earth people. That’s because you don’t need belief to know that the Earth is round.

There is a long history of building community cohesion by encouraging members to ignore the facts of the world around them.

The disconnect between what’s out there and the emotions that lead us to believe something that isn’t real can actually make a community tighter. Sometimes, the disconnect between belief and reality is precisely the point. When the disconnect gets really large and the community becomes more insulated, cults arise.

But in our modern age, this stressful disconnect between belief and reality also makes it difficult to spread the word. The outsider may be hesitant to sign up for the stress that belief in non-real things can cause…

End

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

Who Is A Jagadguru?

Translated from a post in Tamizh from Kamalji Panditji.

This happened in 1933 on a tour to Kashi.

A grand welcome was arranged by the Raja for Sankaracharya. Erudite pundits, aacharya’s, dignitaries had assembled in good number. No shortage of them ever in a premier learning cum spiritual center like Kashi in those days when they were held in veneration.

Where there is scholarship, green-eyed monster of envy resides usually not far away. This occasion was no exception. Among those who had gathered were some who were envious of the attention the sage was drawing and his aura.

‘So this is the young man who carries the title of Jagadguru, eh? Let’s quickly show him for what he is,’ they thought among themselves.

As soon as the sage settled down, one of them heckled him: ‘Who is Jagadguru (jagad = world) here?’

‘I,’ said the humble sage.

So brazen? ‘Oh, so you’re the guru of this jagad, eh?’

‘Oh, no, jagadaam guru na, jagathi bandhyamanaa sarve mama guru.’

<’No guru of the world, I claim. On the other hand all creatures present in this creation (jagad) are my guru’s and hence Jagadguru.’>

The beauty (and ambiguity) of Sanskrit – a poet’s delight and readers’ woe – allows the compound word Jagaduru to be resolved in two different ways – one who is the guru for this jagad or one to whom this jagad is a guru!!

Smiling at them, he inquired, ‘What are these?’ pointing at holes in a wall of the room.

‘Bird nests.’

‘Who built them?’

Kuruvi’s (common house sparrows)’

‘The limbless kuruvi’s can build such beautiful houses for themselves that I cannot with the benefit of all my limbs. Blessed with creativity of this kind, they are my guru’s.’

He did namskarams with all humility and veneration to those kuruvi’s!

His critics were silenced…and won over.

He – Jagadguru Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal – was born this day (18/05) in 1894.

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

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

Show And Tell

The hours of darshan were over, curtains drawn and place was getting readied for the discourse scheduled for the evening.

People, mostly middle aged and some old, were settling down on the huge blankets spread out on the floor.

The pravachankaar (speaker), a man of god, clad in ochre robes cleared his throat and got ready to begin. The mike was adjusted for his easy reach. The subject for the evening was ‘Laukeekam (worldly life) and Aanmeegam (spiritual life).’ A vexing subject if not handled right. Essentially a question of how to ride ‘two horses’ at once, with minds of their own?

Just then, a luxury car sailed in outside the temple. First, a lady got down, fussing around collecting from inside a big wicker-plate of fruits and flowers. Obviously for presenting it to the pravachankaar. A man, her husband, joined her. Aware they were holding up the proceedings, she hurried up to the make-shift dais at the far end. Coming up behind her was the man, walking slowly, head up and looking all around the pandal.  Was there a hint of disdain on his visage?

Up at the dais, she paid her obeisance’s, placing the fruits and flowers before the speaker. Among them was also an envelope most likely to contain some cash contribution. Her man stood behind, unmoved.

The man of god blessed the couple. As she turned to move away, the man came up to the pravachankaar and politely inquired if he could do something good for the bhakta’s who had assembled to listen to the discourse. The speaker nodded his assent.

What he did next shocked his good lady wife and others on the dais.

He pulled out wads of currency notes from a pouch he carried and flung them up in the air – one here, one there, another there…

In a moment, there was complete chaos…everyone scrambling to get hold of as much as they could. And some were not above snatching from another’s hands.

That was not all – the crowning ‘glory’ was the sight of the speaker going gung-ho on all fours clutching lustily a few notes in his hand.

The man winked a ‘I told you so…all fakes’ at his wife. She went pale and stood transfixed.

After a few minutes, peace and order returned.

The smug look on everyone’s face said each got his fair share of the windfall– the man had somehow done a good job of covering them equitably.

And now they were ready for ‘Laukeekam and Aanmeegam.’

When they turned their attention to the dais, the speaker was not found to be at his station.

The lady followed by her man made haste to the waiting car saving herself further embarrassment. On the way out she caught the sight of the pravachankaar down on his haunches beside the few old people left sitting out on the action minutes ago, giving them his collection.

His audience was growing impatient over the delay.  

None in the assembly including the speaker presently knew his act was by happenstance a teaser ‘show’ in real of what the discourse to follow was all about: Life for most of us, Laukeekam, is essentially one horse play, the horse guided and goaded in its ride by cries and calls of Aanmeegam.

End

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Source: Image from Jagran.com

Labor Of Fruits

From Jagadguru Chandrasekhara Swami’s speeches:

 

The flower in a plant/tree is usually is bitter to taste.

When it becomes a budding fruit. It’s astringent in taste (tuvarpu, thurat).

A raw unripe fruit is sour.

It then ripens into a sweet colorful fruit.

It is this ripe fruit that falls to the ground free from its bondage to the tree. Not until then.

When a raw fruit is plucked, ‘tears’ (sap) of ‘sadness’ or ‘reluctance’ ooze out at the (point of) separation of the fruit from the tree.

No such ‘tears’ are shed when a mature fruit falls off the tree.

So with people. For a person, gaining tejas (lustre) and madhuram (sweetness/calmness in disposition) and his progressively breaking his ties with the world around (maya) are mutually reinforcing.

End

Vide Ramesh Babu‎ to ஆன்மீக களஞ்சியம் and image from astroiyengar.com

Charles Schulz Philosophy

      The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.  

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.  

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.  

 4.Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.  

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.  

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.  

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.  

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.  

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.  

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

End

Source: Ray’s Daily, Image from Town & Country Magazine