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Chitter -Chatter

Chitter -Chatter

Chitter- Chatter

 

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

Like this ceaseless Dublin rain,

The monkey hopping from tree to tree

My brain flies too, forever breaking free.

Oh! this constant chitter chatter of my brain

Stop wandering, and get on board a single train

It never sleeps and hungers for all it sees

Its lured, knowing all is truly a mere tease.

Because of this constant chitter chatter of my brain

The Self has more to lose and nothing to gain

If only it stayed and focused, it would easily find

The treasure lies in the heart, not in the mind.

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

The hopping monkey I am unable to train…

Circle of life

Circle of life

 

With my spirit of inquiry mood in full swing and to continue the momentum, I started watching a Television show titled Upanishad Ganga. I urge every reader to watch this show. It is exceedingly aesthetic, very informative and engrossing. This episode titled ‘stages of life’ set me on a different train of thought. We, human beings were always insecure. We had this fear that the minute we are born, we get separated from God, the source. (My Spiritual guru says, Fear is our first samskara!) Our purity starts to get compromised from that very instant; probably that’s the reason why we made these 16 stages; purification steps from birth to death. The moment we are separated from the source till the time we re-merge with the source (hopefully, we are never sure) in the same pristine pure state.  

 

Trying to lift the veil over the 16 sanskaar (Sacraments of life); Garbhadhana (Conception) is the first one. Invocation by parents; a fervent prayer for a child to fulfil the obligation; procreation regarded as imperative for paying off debts to forefathers.  It’s funny, is it not; we do not want to leave the world without leaving a little bit of ourselves! So, we yearn for an offspring, we prefer a male child; only a boy has permission to light the pyre! The beginning itself is with a desire.

 

 Second samskara is Punsavana (Fetus protection); performed during the third or fourth month of pregnancy when the moon is in a male constellation, particularly the Tishya-nakshatra. This symbolises a male child (like I said; a male child is always the first choice). A priest recites Vedic hymns to invoke divine qualities in the child.

 

This is followed by the third samskara; Simantonayan (literally meaning hair-parting. Shrimantham is the more popular known term now; baby shower is the term used in the western world).

 

The significance of this samskara is to bring prosperity to the mother (satiate all her cravings and keep her smiling and happy) and long life to the unborn child. It also wards off evil influence.

 

Then comes the child birth; our fourth samskara, namely Jatakarma. These rituals are performed at the birth of the child. It is believed that the moon has a special effect on the newly born. In addition, the constellation of the planets – nakshatras – also determine the degree of auspiciousness. If birth occurs during an inauspicious arrangement, the jatakarmas are performed to ward off their detrimental effects on the child.

 

Namkaran (Naming ceremony) is the fifth samskara.  Based on the time of birth of the baby, an astrological chart is drawn and the child is named on a day fixed by caste tradition. As per Hindu religious tradition the child is usually named after a deity, holy place or a saint as a constant reminder of the sacred values that name stands for.

 

Nishkrama (First outing); after the first 90 days the baby is allowed to step out. Which marks the sixth samskara. The first outing of the baby is usually to a temple, holy place accompanied by the father or elders in the family.

 

Annaprashan (First feeding with solid food) is the next sanskara and marks a very important occasion. This is usually the 5th month or after the child crosses the 6th month. This ceremony also indicates that the baby is ready to be weaned away from the mother.

 

 Mundan is the eighth samskara and the last samskara before the baby turns one. This is performed during the first or third year of age when the child’s hair is removed by shaving, again in some holy place, after seeking an auspicious date and time. 

 

Karnavedha (Ear piercing) is the ninth samskara and is performed in the third or fifth year. This ceremony was practiced for both, boys and girls. The essence of this ceremony was to enable the child to listen to what is good, have the courage to leave or let go of baseless information.

 

The tenth samskara is Upanayanam; the Sacred thread ceremony. Interestingly, this ceremony used to be performed for all varnas (castes). Another interesting change that has come to light that girls also were introduced in this ceremony. Now, it is only the male child and the Brahmin caste which performs this ritual with great fanfare! This ceremony introduces the male child to a teacher to receive education and marking the entry of the child to Brahmacharya.

 

 Vedarambha or the Study of Vedas is the eleventh stage and this is performed at the time of Upanayana or within one year. The Guru teaches the Gayatri Mantra. In the olden (Golden) days the child used to be sent to Gurukul and spend the coming decade or so under his tutelage.

 

 Samavartana is the twelveth stage which marks the returning home of the child after completion of education. By this time the child is an adult, about 25years of age and which gives the natural progression to our next samskara; vivaha.

 

 After upanaynam marriage is the next big event and the child (now an adult) is ready for the grihastha ashram. Marriage enables the person to achieve the four endeavours of life (purusharths) Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and moksha (salvation). The whole cycle of this child, now an adult will have the chance to pay off ancestral debt; procreate. The real test of life is said to begin in this stage.

 

Completion of duties the couple is ready or needs to prepare for renunciation; vanaprastha the fourteenth samskara. This samskara is performed at the age of 50 to celebrate the departure from the householder stage to the Vanaprastha stage when the person begins to engage in spiritual activities. This graduates to sannyasa, our fifteenth samskara, and is performed after the vanaprsatha stage.

 

 After completing all the worldly responsibilities, the couple hand over the reins and live a life engaging in spiritual practices. This brings us to the closure, the sixteenth samskara, antyesthi or cremation. This samskara is performed after death by his or her descendants.

 

These 16 stages are a purification process; we knew all along that the minute He separates us from Himself we are at a severe risk of never ever making it back with the same purity. Thus, from birth to death; beginning to the finish line it is a preparation, to go back whence we came from, the full circle of life.

 

 Sources:

Ganga Upnishad, Chinmaya Mission

Hindu rites and rituals

 

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’



MY SILLY LOGIC

 

My journey in this city has many experiences; each more endearing than the other. Most of these experiences are with my commuters, the Taxi- drivers of this enchanting city. So, this one is about TACSAI’ (Gaelic for Taxi)

The first Taxi we boarded was to the Immigration office.  It was a wet, windy, cloudy, cold November morning! Our short hiatus in London had prepared us for the rain and gloom; we were gently getting acclimatised to the London cold too, so we were surprised to be caught by surprise! The wind took the wind out of our sails! It went right through us. Barely a few seconds in the open and we were shaking like leaves.  Hurriedly we bundled ourselves into the taxi (here we need not pre – book our cab like we used to do in London; you can ‘hail’ them with the wave of your handJ! Like we do back home, in India) and our very cheerful cabby greeted us thus, “Good morning! A Little wet today, eh! Where do you wish to go?”

The three of us looked at each other with the same thought reflected on our face, “Little Wet! This was ‘little’ wet for him.  He was very unfazed and admirably retained his cheerful demeanour!”  I always believed that the weather of the place dictates the mood and nature of the people living in that place.  Okay, I think I am veering away from the title. But, I must explain this.

For example, in India, Delhi has extreme weather (it is 45 degrees hot or 2 degrees cold, both summer and winter are harsh and inordinately dry) and the people are also extreme in their behaviour. They are extremely street smart, flashy, competitive and have the killer instinct. Whereas, Bangalore, with idyllic weather prevailing all year long, (it rains before it gets unbearably hot and the sun shines before one needs to go and shop for heavy woollen wear) the people here are laid back.  They believe in a calm, frog in the well kind of life. In the last 15 years that I have seen of this place there is minimal change, just the bare minimum they need to do to maintain the place. God has bestowed this place abundantly and made the people also very easy going. To take this analogy a little further; Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai is the financial capital of India. With so much money and glitterati the weather of the place dictates a sense of basic ethics. It has no extremes and yet it always keeps us on the verge of having to try! (I am unable to describe the Mumbai weather properly). The rains are heavy yet come in a very informed predictable way so people are prepared and plan accordingly. It has all the seasons. Summers last the longest and the rest of the seasons are interlaced with this one season. Similarly, most of the people, rich, poor, economically forward or backward, they all seem to find a place in this city. They all come together and all are hard working. The weather dictates toil, discipline and hard work and that is how most of the Mumbai people can be best described. I can go on with such analogies about people and places. Cold places usually have rigid, unyielding and a hard working lot. Whereas, in warm places the exuberance of the place and the life the people breathe into such places is palpable.

London and most of the people in London seemed to follow my dictate, the logical conclusion I had arrived at after years of close observation, about the weather dictating the behaviour and nature of the people residing in that place. Thus, when Londoners rarely smiled, or seemed to be drowned in their phones. Nose buried and eyes boring holes into their shoes; it was not very surprising for me.  With that weather, wetness and gloom how much could anyone muster cheer and stay cheerful?! The rains lashed predictably every day, it was either dark , grey or cloudy , gloomy this was the little variation in the weather with which this magnificent city was endowed and in this variation how much cheer was possible? London’s weather and the people were in symmetry.

Dublin makes silly of my logic, defies it and its people are an absolute contradiction to my self – discovered profound theory.  To begin with the friendly cabby, who had not a care in the world and was unmindful of the rain, wind and cold. It rained incessantly for almost 3 months; a 30 minute or one hour respite may have occurred, when the God’s decided to catch their breath maybe; otherwise it was downpour, showers, drizzles or pitter- patter. But the people we met, all of them, no exceptions at all here (that is another endearing and surprising fact about this place) are cheerful, unmindful of the wetness and gloom. They greet each other, carry animated conversations, have a ringing infectious laughter in their voice and go jogging with raincoats on, their pets racing behind them, equally oblivious to the wetness around.  This scenario reiterates every time I step out of the house for a walk. There cheer and ability to just ignore the gloomy weather amazes me and I too have learnt to ignore the weather nowJ! ‘Wear the right jacket, my friend’: friendly Irish advice!  And it works!

How could I stop myself from drifting away from my TACSAI’ stories? Such is this place. It keeps breaking my self-made theories and never allows me to make a predictable guess.  This is just the tip of the ice berg. Irish food also deserves a separate article. Narrating my experiences and learning’s from the cab driver’s will follow first and then the rest will follow…

Foreigner…

Foreigner…

Not to be boastful; candidly speaking, I have been blessed with a pleasing personality and an appealing, charming persona. Everyone who encounters me is of the opinion that I can make friends easily and get comfortable in alien surroundings with ease. So; the forgone conclusion is; settling in India or abroad would be a cake walk for me. Now, I agree I am a social person, and also accede to the fact about having a pleasing personality. But I think this is where the similarity ends. I definitely can’t make friends and I absolutely shy away from introducing myself and making acquaintances, idle conversations and frivolous outings are very uncharacteristic for me.

Travelling often, the chance of making friends and keeping in touch was always a tough call. Delhi has been the only place where we have stayed long enough to be able to make friends and live a non -‘vagabondish’ life. Moreover, like I mentioned in my previous article, London never was in my good booksL.

Stopping with the preamble; after the settled and cozy life of 9 years in one place and given my inhibitions and ‘preference to solitude’ nature; I was very skeptical about moving to London for more than one reason, this being the pivotal one. Starting life afresh and making new friends and that too abroad, where I would be the ‘foreigner’ caused butterflies in my stomach.  I am so comfortable being on my own and amidst known faces, making new friends seemed like a stretching job. Thus, I stepped into this foreign land planning to befriend ‘my own’ kind from ‘my country’; the most natural and least stressful solution; the outsider in search of other outsiders.

London is very cosmopolitan; being a developed economy; most of the world flocks here in search of a better life. I acknowledge this with mixed feelings that ‘my own’ are more abroad than they are in their own country.  So, finding a foreigner in this country is easier than finding a local.  Even in a locality which is predominantly non Indian I come across Indians every day. My apprehension of being an outsider was unfounded and inconsequential.  And with time a sinking realization came to me that the feeling of being an outsider came more in the company of these other outsiders than in being with the local- foreigners.  This was my bitter sweet learning.

I begrudged foreigners from the developed countries because I sensed an air (wrongly), a kind of a supercilious attitude and the way they ‘looked down ‘upon us. My prejudice could not have been further away from truth. If anyone chances to board a local transport in London and looks around; the magnanimity of this country is very awe inspiring.  90% of the commuters are expatriates or ‘foreigners’. And the minority group is the people belonging to this country, the original residents of London.  Yet, they are welcoming and open minded, smile and befriend without any trace of prejudice, anger or malice. They are not forthcoming; they do not shirk either. With the owners becoming the outsiders and living amidst foreigners I would have cribbed and complained, managed bare civility. But this was not the case here.

In such a short time and with my minimal social interaction also, a veil has verily lifted off my mind. My own are shifty, uncomfortable and it was totally discouraging even to put on my best smile and befriend them.  This whole fancy of befriending my own soon went out of the window and I ended up befriending with who I could connect with, relate to and have a pleasant conversation with.  This place was large hearted and welcoming the outsiders and I found myself to be very stringent and orthodox, unwilling to be half as open minded as my hosts. Much to my misery most of my own are like me, myopic and clouded.  We have taken over their territory and set up our own shop here. We have not really brought any good from our wondrous homeland; instead we have limited ourselves only to financial prosperity.

The first few months had robbed me off my disarming smile and I lost hope of being happy in this place. The weather was dull and wet, places were cold and wet and people too seemed cold and aloof…. Thankfully the fog in my head has lifted; I don’t feel like a foreigner now and better days have come, spreading sunshine and smiles. It is the people that count not the place and the people are warm and welcoming despite the cold depressing weather. I am still a foreigner in a country which makes me feel very much at home and like a ‘resident’.  London has surprised me in many waysJ

Shifted again!

Dear readers,

A long gap again! don’t give up on me please! I have not stopped writing a single day! But what to do?!! We shifted again!

Presently in Dublin, Ireland, still getting used to the place-people and culture. That has kept me busy!  Will soon be writing about this

breathtakingly beautiful country, simple people and rich culture !

In the interim , I have not wasted time friends…I have tried to pen my spiritual journey so far.. ‘ A token of thanks to the Mission and my spiritual Guru’

This  has kept me busier and totally immersed! Before they are out  and available  to all I am posting a few more articles, written during my London days:)

Thank you all for your love and encouragement…

and here comes my next article…

 

Counsellor- Mother

Counsellor- Mother

Being an Adolescent Counselor and a behavioral therapist I always had this lazy, arrogant confidence that I knew it all! Any problem I would chance to encounter with my adolescent children (I definitely would not encounter any) I would come out with flying colors. I could not have been farther away from truth!

The only edge I probably had which could be attributed to my academic background was that I was a very aware mom as far as the psychology of the present generation was concerned. And in accordance, I had tried to raise my children; walking the fine balance of being a modern parent yet passing on all the traditional values with which I was raised.

My first born is a boy and so I was very hands on with all the boy television shows and the latest games that boys of that age played. We never grew up with Pokemon , Bayblade, Power Rangers etc; and to be honest I still find them very bizarre and way too exaggerated; but not only did I play all this with my son , I ended up buying their battle fields and card games and encouraged a collection too! We had a Bayblade battle at home! And the look on my husband’s face is not worth mentioning here! Other mothers would look at me very askance as to why I indulge in such stupidity, especially when I was a stay home mom. I spent every breathing moment with that fellow and yet I bought all these new fangled nonsense. Alongside, I used to sit with him and watch our epics; get him to read about our culture, history and even in Pokemon and Bayblade games the assimilation point or take away was always a value and some learning. The games may have a new name and a Japanese character but the values are always the same and universal. The one thing I refused to indulge in was guns or even the traditional Indian weapon Bow and Arrow. I bought him a beautiful, authentic bow and arrow when he turned 10 and was able to handle it responsibly. Apart for these few ground rules, I managed to be a very up to date mother.

 When I was totally in sync with the boy sports God decided to make me the caretaker of a beautiful girl, our second child. Now, the Pokemons and Bay blades were no good. She fancied bangles, the Indian tattoo or mehendi and her real life dolls were her brother and I. She loved play dough; used to sit and create for hours. Board games were reintroduced because of her. God answered my prayers and she never insisted on Barbies, the then outrage and most sought after toy by every girl ( I dread those skinny, skimpy, buxom, so called perfect figured, dumb looking things they sell in the name of beautiful Barbies). I need to thank my son though; she inadvertently did all that her brother did, and the brother never did fancy Barbie dollsJ. She tried Bayblade and Pokemon shows and collected cards till she did not develop interest in things of her kind, like play dough and board games. Mostly, my girl learnt a lot from her brother; he was her mentor tutor more than I could be. She was a voracious reader because he used to read and tell her stories. He swims well and she desperately tries to excel too. All that he does she aspires to do. Her interests where I participated were all on the creative side, namely singing, dancing and drawing.

So, as a counselor I don’t think I did much yet again. One child I raised trying to walk the fine line between indulgence and discipline. The other one got raised with me trying to find the balance between allowing her to find her true interests and she emulating her brother in every way. To cut the story short, though I did not have many hiccups as a mother I don’t think my counseling skills played a crucial role. The threesome got along like a house on fire and if I was a strict parent they did not seem to mind it much because they got away getting pampered by the dad or consoling each other.

The scene changed when my son entered his teenage and my daughter became an adolescent. My son was engrossed with studies and my daughter had way too much free time on her hands. And sensing their independence I got into a lot of work myself and we kind of had a settled pattern for a few months. I used to be out of the house mostly and they used to report the day’s schedule and things they did, missed and needed to improve upon. I was the superficial observer and playing more of a guest parent (this is on hindsight). They did fairly well and seemed to be sorted always, and the results were also static. They did not plummet and raise any panic, but improvement was never visible from semester to semester. So, during exam time the tension used to be palpable; that was when I remembered that improved results were in order! I wrote down reminders and ordered them to sit and study. I still refused to stay home and monitor for two reasons; one, I really had my hands full with many other things I could not call off; secondly, I had given them my full attention and care and it was time they should be able to manage themselves, they were mature independent and focused too. I, the super mommy, counselor had raised them like that and any issues that did occur they should manage or it should not be more than a minor adjustment problem.

Sadly, I did not make any changes, I could not give them any time, I did not have so much time any more. Apart for that, those two really learnt to live on their own. The older one had a close knit friend circle; spent most of his time on phone or with his friends. When I saw him he was with his books, studying and working hard. Except for the fact that his grades never improved and he always had some unique reason, I had no reason to complain or counter his reasoning. I did not know his studies nor was I in a position to teach him myself. So that always ended on a grumpy note, he saying he will do better next time and I was pacified because I has no reason to disbelieve him. He is a sober boy and you can’t find fault with him even now. Just that he is easy going, not so ambitious and most probably has a very different set of expectations from himself, as opposed to what I expect of him. It was unrealistic to expect an adolescent to live up to the expectations of a middle aged person. It seemed more like I was thrusting my unrealized dreams under his nose. He was under performing and I was over expecting, both were not in sync anymore.  

On the other hand, my daughter fared well in academics, she was in middle school and studies were easy. When I used to spend time with her we used to sing regularly and she also did her dance practice diligently. My absence resulted in both these extra – curricular activities getting neglected. She lost all interest in music. Even dance was a thing of convenience and she did not show real passion or zest in excelling in either. If I asked her she did sit and practice but she continuously grumbled, complained about having a sore throat, leg ache or simply made a grumpy face refusing to sing! She did not want to sing and she would not be forced into practicing against her will. It was tough to reason with her and she could be very stoic and determined in her ways. She was studying well; her brother was also studying all the time, so that was the comparison. Rest did not matter. And again I could do nothing. I repeatedly gave reminders, reprimanded, warned and warned for the last time. But that was all, I finally made peace with myself and let go.

Both my independent children were suddenly out of reach. They were good children and I cannot complain about anything. I sincerely feel if they failed in any way it was my fault. Growing up years is tricky. How can one expect a 17 year old to be more mature than his 17 years? And if the 10 year old is stubborn, the parents have to spend time and thaw the will with adult reasoning. All this takes time, and patience which the parents must give the child unconditionally. Whatever may be the upbringing, age comes with its own changes and challenges. Every child is different and has different challenges to encounter. No academics train us and referring to self-help books help only superficially. The rules and answers are both dependent on the child and parents. And the quality time the parents (not parent) give their children. The upbringing and family dictates the temperament of the child and the solutions also come from the parent and child association. Every parent is a counselor and just needs to be with the child in times of need. If it is a working parent even then to expect a counselor to resolve a problem serves nothing till the parent does not take active interest and participate. My academics did help me reason with the children. But being earnest about it and having the interest to bring a change were the key points. We all did a lot of introspection and made peace together. Trying single handed it was a blame game; relationship and situations only deteriorated. Counseling helps only if we know the problem and we are willing to bring a change. Else all certificates prove to be wall decorations alone. Good boost to the ego maybe but good for nothing in real life situations.

Let me end this with a few true lines on children by my favorite author, Khalil Gibran.

 

Apology..

Dear Readers,

I am re starting my blog after a year long hiatus. Suffice to say I sincerely regret this lapse on my part and will earnestly ensure that this does not happen again.

Too many things kept me pre – occupied, but again, all those are excuses, not worth elaborating upon. I seriously pray that you, my readers have not given up on me and will continue read my upcoming articles.

Apart for being my passion; I pursue writing because of the encouragement I have received from you all in the past. Your comments, suggestions and ideas are always welcome and are a great source of joy to me. They give me hope and a renewal of faith in myself. A small difference to any one reader makes my article a prize winner for me. So please continue to comment, suggest and leave an opinion.

My humble request, Please start reading again; lots is coming up beginning todayJ. My sincere apologies once again and praying for a great time together always…

Love always,

Sharanya

I am completing the unfinished ‘Atma Shatakam’ first ..so, here goes..

Who Am I? – Introduction

Who Am I? – Introduction

This probably is the most ubiquitous question which has bothered everyone.  All of us at some point, stage, age wonder about the self; our real purpose or goal of life. Why we are here and what we have been sent to accomplish or achieve? During our most depressing moments we strive for answers and lean towards introspection searching for meaning; trying to fathom the reason why events are happening the way they are and what is the logic behind all this.

Every human being is unique and every event in the person’s life occurs for a reason or purpose. It is for the individual to figure out the reason and unravel the mystery of who he/she is and his/her real goal of life.

As kids we are so self – absorbed and self – centric that nothing outside of the self we bother to acknowledge, probably the core reason why children are usually happy and so self – assured. All they seek is immediate fulfilment of needs and they are smiling, innocent and in blissful state.  As we grow we begin to get enmeshed with relationships, identity roles, emotional game plays and the more we spread our web the further tightened gets the grip of the web.  Without any realisation, we find ourselves caught in the vicious grip of life, pathways in every direction, leading everywhere, purpose less; mindless and unending. This begins gradually with teenage and hits us as midlife crisis when we find ourselves stuck, unable to move ahead, doing everything right, yet continuously hitting dead ends and experiencing failures or setbacks.

Every lamp has the same potential to burn and emanate light, but it needs some external being, source to illuminate it once. Every seed has the potential to become a fruit bearing tree but again, it needs ideal soil, fertiliser and the tender hand of a loving, wise gardener who will nurture the seed and see it grow to its full potential.  Every stream, rivulet flows ceaselessly moving ahead washing different shores and merging with different rivers; in an attempt to merge with the ocean and become one with it. Every egg hatches into a beautiful chick with proper care.  The beautiful butterfly goes through a long drawn incubation period, in the very unbecoming and ugly larva, caterpillar stage. We all have the potential to become one with the divine or returning to our original state provided we know who we are, why we are here, and how we need to live our life so as to realise our true goal of life.

It is a very striking point to note that when the universe began it was in such a pristine pure state; science and spirituality were one, Religion was one, and we all were one. Every householder was a saint, enlightened and achieving the real goal of life. With time ominously dark clouds started to appear, wisdom became a restricted property. Religion became Religions, and Science and spirituality parted ways. Science looked for reason and doubted everything, Spirituality became the mute spectator. We have uprooted our own culture and heritage in our greed for wealth and scientific advancement. What every householder knew then is an enigma to almost the whole nation now.

 Adi shankaracharya could answer with such simplicity and lucidity then, in 788 – 820 BC; at the mere age of 8; we, today, are yet to decipher and capture the essence of those verses.  This realised soul knew the reason, purpose, source of his existence and the role he had come to play in the short life that God had blessed him with. He sings the beautiful ATMA SHATAKAM, the song of self,  Or NIRVANA SHATAKAM , illustrating and trying to answer the  fundamental question- “who am I?”

Adi Shankaracharya, wandering in Himalayas, seeking his guru, was asked by a seer, “who are you?” The sage the boy was talking to was none other than Swami Govindacharya himself, the teacher Shankarcharaya was searching for.  How the student introduced himself to his Guru is beautifully portrayed in these enlightening verses.

Deep contemplation and repetition of these verses with bhava Or the right attitude , is said to lead to the absolute and bring self- realisation to the seeker.  That is why the name Nirvana Shatakam; Nirvana is the complete equanimity , peace, tranquillity, freedom and joy. Shatakam are the count of 6 verses , the length of this poem. Similarly, atma shatakam; atma is the true self. These are the 6 verses which help one realise their true self, and lead to self-realisation or nirvana.

These verses date back to 788 – 820 CE and speak of non- dualism in the Hindu philosophy and teachings. They form the basic core of Advaita philosophy and find a space in Mandukya upnishad also.

 

In the forthcoming articles, in this series, the writer makes a humble attempt to rewrite a verse at a time; making an attempt to explain and also understand the essence of this most enlightening verses by this unparalleled great seer.  Hopefully, the reader and the writer can take a small step forward on the path of freedom and self-realisation.

 

A pinch of Salt

A pinch of Salt

In this jet paced life when we finally find some time to sit and contemplate, look back, introspect, start to write our life’s journal we begin to relive the past. There, we all have some moments of regret, some filled with pride and joy; some achievements and some failures, a few events which we would change if we stepped back in time and a few we would like to be repeated often because they brought us so much joy and cheer.

Most of this generation in the age group of 35 to 45 is kind of burnt out. We have lived too much too soon, worked too hard too fast thought of nothing but money, career, aspirations to be fulfilled and more money for new dream houses, dream cars and voyages. We all began our career graph well, with lofty dreams of one house, one car or probably for those who were born with a silver spoon dreamt of a few more cars and a few more new businesses abroad; to flourish, grow and succeed has been the pivotal point for this age group. We seem to have been raised with that dream and it is embedded in us and we are incapacitated in a way that we are unable to think of anything else. But now, after crossing 35 years of age we realise we seem to  have lost focus, we are confused more than ever now because no we are raising our children and suddenly we are very aware of the verity that this dream we grew up with has many gaps and lacunae in it!! It is not bringing joy! It is taking us away from family, it is not helping us stay together, instead; it is only piling up frustrations, health concerns and a very bad ethical foundation for the progeny! We are in that conundrum now where the road travelled so far looks pointless and the road ahead is still foggy.

Our parents are sad that we drifted away from them, chasing our dreams. A beautiful family rich with values, bonding and emotional security is today reduced to a nuclear system full of paid helping hands and zero value addition. An emotional crisis seems to be brewing independently in every room of the house and we don’t know what to expect when we reach home, tired from a hard days, dissatisfying work and more challenges to be met tomorrow. Our children are not so happy either, we are never with them! We are always on the phone, we are travelling, and we are busy impressing strangers and trying to keep them appeased because they are giving us business, money and our job vests in their hands. We don’t have a day off because Sunday’s are forcibly dedicated to family chores and pending errands and before we can catch an extra forty winks it is a working day again.

We keep snapping at the kids for no reason and then at the spouse too. We are like that calm sea which is brewing a storm beneath the surface. This age is like that lull before the storm time and when the storm hits it leaves nothing to salvage, it takes it all in its wake of anger and destructive spate. We are unable to unwind, relax, sit back and simply be. Inevitably by the time we touch 45 years we are unable to do it anymore, on the brink of a break down, and if God does take mercy on us, we wind up on the bed with some ailment. Then we are forced to stay in one place, glued to the bed; forced to remain idle, do nothing and then we finally begin to think. Some introspection and most of us may have only one question, ‘Where exactly did we miss the bus?’ So rewinding and coming back to beginning, in this jet paced life when we finally find some time to sit and contemplate…

What we seem to have missed all long is the salt in the potpourri of our life! In this rushed hectic busiest of busy lives also the one thing most of us can’t do without, is salt, right? A sequence of dishes offered on platter every day, three times a day and the one common ingredient that the cook is checking, cross checking  and ensuring that it is in the right measure, not more not less, is – Salt. We can relish a sweet dish which has less sugar and we can forgo sugar altogether too with some effort, but giving up salt in food is probably unimaginable for most of us.

The introspective time we give to one self is like the salt in the potpourri of life’s events and challenges. Without taking time out for one self, ruminate, take a deep dive within and listen to the inner voice, we are living a life bereft of self -worth and awareness. To continue with the same analogy above, in case we think our dish is lacking a little salt we tend to sprinkle some and then eat, unwilling to compromise on the taste or excuse the cook thinking he/she was preoccupied. We comment on the lack of salt and wait till someone brings salt and alters the taste to suit the palete. Yet in the mixed masala life of ours we forget the most important person altogether. We focus on everything and everyone else apart for oneself.

The more this negligence the less the salt in one’s life, and the result is a bland non inspiring confused existence, forever seeking external help and impulsive decision making. Hopefully, we can take as much interest in our own self development and give ourselves the time due in a day. This pinch of salt is the defining difference in our lives, be it busy or relaxed. Don’t you think in this rushed inconsequential existence we all deserve our pinch of salt?

Balanced Life

“There is an ancient Chinese saying, which says, “Every stick has two ends.” At first it seemed to be too simple, a mere statement of a visible fact which all can see. Who can, after all, deny that a stick has two ends? I wondered why an ancient Chinese philosopher had felt it necessary to make this statement at all. It appeared too superficial a truth to have merited any philosopher”s attention. Many years later, after several years of meditation, I realize what a profundity of meaning is hidden within those five words of that long forgotten philosopher.

First I learnt that our existence has two aspects, two areas, to it. They are the material and the spiritual realms of existence. There are not merely two sides to existence. The two sides have to be “balanced” if one is to lead a full and productive existence. This is the second lesson I learnt. All of us live, but few lives have real content, real worth in them. The bulk of humanity leads an animal existence motivated by lusts, inspired by fear and driven by lower urges and appetites unworthy of being called even remotely human. …Principles of Sahaj Marg, P.Rajagopalchari”

All the saints of yore and now have the thread of ‘Leading a Balanced Life’ culminating in a life full of love and self-realization as the common denominator. Looking at the present scenario though, balanced life seems to have lost its meaning totally; the scales are tipped heavily on one side. Before addressing the problems let us try and understand what the seers meant by leading a balanced life, and where exactly did we miss the bus.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, like a bird needs both its wings to soar high up in the sky, so does the human life need both its wings, the material and spiritual to lead a successful life. If any one wing is clipped or unused the flight of the bird is hampered; likewise mankind must maintain a balance between the spiritual quest and the material search in life. Mankind can reach the zenith of existence and success in all fields only by leading a balanced life.

Our country was the epitome of balanced existence up until we started aping the west. The way the role of human being was divided was a very balanced one leading the person from one stage of life to the other nurturing both the wings equally. During the days of Ramayana and Mahabharata people were very advanced scientifically, performing miraculous surgeries sans the present technology. Everyone was rich and content, adept in their skill or trade and very connected to the God within, by way of prayer and steadfast faith. From the time of birth unto death both the aspects of life were weighed equally important, more so the spiritual aspect than the material one. The Gurukul shaped the students to learn the skills of life alongside their spiritual pursuits. They lived with the Guru, ran errands for him, learnt skills and mastered scriptures. The education was all encompassing and complete.  When the students returned to the world they were very cognizant of their role and future course of life. Never did the scales tip to any side; both the roles were accomplished with equal sincerity and earnestness. Most of the vices of ambition, greed, hatred, and jealousy existed then also but the spiritual mind was so strong that the conscience never swayed towards the wrong side for very long.  A peaceful co-existence was more the norm at the cost of a little sacrifice and unbounded love in return.

The more we began to ape the west the lesser was our attention towards the spiritual side. In no time the soul was put to sleep and one wing was clipped off altogether. For some time we did postpone the use of this wing to a later date, old age or after we fulfill our responsibilities of youth and family life but very soon that casino pa natet wing was forgotten and replaced by an inanimate wing for more material gains. The flight of the bird was artificially maintained for awhile but very soon the flaws came to light and life’s journey became a very uphill task. This is how it is today, life’s journey for most of us seems to have become a Himalayan climb and we are grappling with the reason. We seem to be doing everything right, the way our forefathers did and yet we are unhappy and feel stagnated. The west has lost its glory and sheen and India unfortunately has reduced itself to a developing nation, struggling with illiteracy, unemployment and rampant corruption today! Imbalances are so many that counterbalancing them seems impossible and very daunting.

The west is looking at us now for inspiration and a way of life, learning from our scriptures and trying to lead a balanced life. One big reason why almost all the Gurus and preachers are so successful, well accepted and have amassed a huge following abroad, even though they are Indians by birth. What we lost has become their gain yet again, first the material wealth and now the spiritual elixir. The west has always looked towards East for every query, be it material or spiritual. We squandered away our spiritual wealth and looked towards them for all the wrong reasons and look at our plight today.

All we need to do is like Swami Vivekananda said, ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is achieved.’ Go back to our scriptures and revive the spiritual wing, begin to nurture it and start leading a balanced life. It is a verity that a successful wealthy person comes with an expiry date, material wealth at the most maybe lasts 4-5 generations if it is not nurtured with spiritual roots. On the other hand spiritual wealth well nurtured  becomes eternal and like a Banyan tree gives shade for generations to come and spreads its roots below and branches above! It brings material gains with the spiritual contentment and life reaches its zenith in one life time of balanced existence.

So, instead of teaching our children to be competitive and comparative it may be a better idea to teach them introspection and self – discovery. The youth of today has a better chance of changing this nation and creating a better world for their progeny. We adults can take the small right step of steering this youth in the direction of a balanced life, soaring high using both the wings.