God or Guru

Why Guru?

Saint Kabir beautifully sings these few lines which when translated mean, “Guru and God both are standing in front of me, and I am confused as to who to bow to first. Praise be to thee, O guru for leading me, and pointing in the God’s direction!”

God and Guru are not in a contest as far as supremacy between them is concerned. We devotees of God and disciples of Guru are confused about their role and supremacy. The conflict stems from our own fear and dual state of mind. Swami Vivekananda treated his guru Ramakrishna as God and never looked elsewhere. His guru, Ramakrishna, showed him the path that leads to enlightenment and merger with God. To achieve or realize God one has to approach a Guru, because a Guru is the gateway to God. Saint Kabir himself was a realized soul at the tender age of 12, yet he needed the guidance and blessings of Guru Ramdas to finally merge with God. It is not who is superior or more important than the other, the simple truth is one leads to the other. You have to seek a Guru if you are earnestly seeking God; both go hand in hand and cannot be ignored. Even God had to be born as human to attain salvation. How can God merge with god? He has to come down to earth, live the life of a human being, aspire for god, thirst for god, seek God and search for a guru who will lead the way! So the road to God is definitely through a Guru alone.

Do we need a Guru?

Many people read a lot of philosophy and religious texts and think they know everything, and they can thus approach God directly, rather they do not need the guru as a middleman! It is like learning to swim reading the swimming manual, without the guidance of a coach. If we wish to do a PhD on any subject is it possible to accomplish the feat without a teacher? Or is it possible even with a teacher who is educated only till the degree level? If the teacher is trained only till nursery levels then how can he/she possibly guide you to the finish line? And which ‘Do -it –Yourself’ manual can really take you the finish line either? Think about this carefully and answer for yourself. You may think of yourself as independent, learned, wise etc, hence not needing a guru, but your individual progress in any direction will be hampered. Like for any qualification on any path you need a teacher and an able guide, similarly to qualify and attain your spiritual goals you need an able guru.

To conclude, God is the goal, guru is the guide to the goal and the path we choose or the guru we choose is left to our better judgment and discernment. The bond with one does not preclude the need the other; it takes our hand, extends itself to lead us to the other.

Travel-tales-Basara

The Goddess of Learning

In my last hub I was talking about the city of Warangal, in Andhra Pradesh state. This is another wonder from the very same state, The Basar Saraswati Temple. This is the only temple dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. The other one is in Kashmir; but that temple is in almost ruins and dilapidated. This gives the Basar Saraswati temple a very unique place amongst the devout Hindus.

From the capital city Hyderabad, Basar is about 200-225 kms. Basar is idyllically on the banks of the river Godavari. A quintessential town in Adilabad district about 50km from Nizamabad, a place you have to cross to reach Basar. A little about the History or the etymology of this ancient temple and then my experience will follow. It is believed that the present structure of the shrine was built by Chalukya Kings. The Saraswati Idol is in Black stone and exceedingly beautiful. The temple is also famous for its Akshara Gnana ritual, which is celebrated for the formal start of a child”s education. History says that Maharishi Vyasa and his disciples and sage Suka came here after the Kurukshetra War, in search of some peace and quiet. The great sage used to bring three fistfuls of sand, from the river Godavari, where he used to go every morning for his regular chores; and place it in three small heaps and made images of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali with his mystic power. This idol made of sand has its face smeared with turmeric. A myth again is that eating a little bit of this turmeric paste will enhance one”s wisdom and knowledge. Since Maharishi Vyasa spent considerable time in prayers, the place was then called “Vasara” which later merged with the prevalent Marathi language and graduated to Basara as it is known today. However, according to the Brahmada Purana the poet Valmiki installed Saraswati and wrote Ramayanahere. There is a marble image of Valmiki and his Samadhi near the temple. It is also believed that this temple is one of the three temples constructed near the confluence of the Manjira and Godavari rivers by Ashtrakutas. A few other stories run parallel. But let me move on to my story and experience at this unique temple.

 

As I already mentioned, this temple is primarily dedicated to the goddess of learning. Many parents who seek an improvement in the academic performance of their children visit this temple to seek this deity’s blessings. For the ardent believers, they are asked to spend the night within the premises, closest to the sanctum sanctorum, in front of the goddess’s idol. She is very likely to come in the dreams of the sleeping devotees and bless them with intelligence and wisdom. Many parents have experimented and reported favorable results and raving reviews. So, we also decided to spend the night in the premises and ‘test’ the Devi! She may appear in my son’s dream and bless him was my propitious thought.

The place was so crowded that we could barely squeeze in and grab a place for ourselves, for the night’s rest. We lay down ram rod straight, my sister with her daughter, me with my son and tried to sleep. The kids complained incessantly of mosquitoes, noise, and no space to move, everything actually. We were drained trying to pacify them and knew that we would not sleep a wink even. When would the children dream and then what chance we had of the Devi appearing in their dreams! Very far-fetched the whole sequence seemed to both of usJ. At last somewhere around 3 am the noise, hustle-bustle subsided and all was quiet. I could see the children settling down and smiled to myself. Immediately I sensed someone rudely shake me up! Startled, I sat up and saw the time, 4 am; I looked around and the whole temple was alive again. I could see busy movement online casino everywhere, people up, packing their night gear and hurrying towards the common washrooms. I was crestfallen; barely one hour of sleep, how in the world could the Devi make her appearance to bless my babies! My children would remain as is, no luck of intelligent and wise children for us sisters. Very sadly I woke up my sibling and we went back to the room we had booked the previous night.

We were back after our ablutions and could perform the puja to our satisfaction. The Idol is mesmerizing and looks straight into you. As if she is literally talking to you and blessing you, individually. It was a much defined moment for both of us, my sister and me. She too felt very different and suddenly elated. The whole night’s circus and the futility seemed fruitful now. We were blessed with intelligence and wisdom, not the children! We needed some sense driven into usJand we could see the humor in it better after the puja.

It is a beautiful temple. Sleep wherever you want and enjoy the serenity of the place. Every temple in my country has a tale attached, we Indians are gullible and discerning in the same breath; a package of contradictions. If you want to be blessed you are blessed and if you feel cursed all the time then so be it, that is exactly how you will be. Blessings or otherwise are a mere reflection of your own thought process. You have to seek for whatever you wish to achieve or have for yourself. And the more awake and aware you are the sooner the realization. For dreams to come true, one needs to keep their wits about them and work towards achieving the dream. That is when the blessings will come true too, right?! Please visit this temple for its wondrous beauty. You will definitely be blessed with, without the dream, without sleeping in front of the deity.

There are many other places you can see in the vicinity. In case you are planning a tour it would be prudent to check the website and plan accordingly. We missed seeing the wild life sanctuary close by because of paucity of time and our unpreparedness.

Giving-Can we?

My experience with giving

We always read and are taught that the more you give, the more you get. Or whatever you give comes back to you multiplied and many others in the same vein. Even I have grown up reading all this, yet when I see a beggar I try to decide how much he/ she will need! If I do not have change I put a ten rupee note and pick out 5-7 rupee coins from the beggars bowl! It did not bother me much earlier. I used to think, ‘What the heck! They surely do not need Rs.10/-! Rs.2 is more than enough, and so on.’ The look on the beggars face was indescribable. I never made eye contact though, simply picked my change and hurried away. Very recently, I read this article:

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, the famous ghazal singer, was known to give, give and give. He returned home to Pakistan, preferring to spend the last days of his life in his homeland. But his Indian Bhajans and songs in praise of Indian Gods was met with opposition; forcing him to return to Bombay, India. He came back a penniless man with no income or wealth. So, his aficionados, the lovers of his music, collected Rs. 20000/- (In those days it was decent amount) and gave it to the maestro.

That very evening, after the concert; somebody came up to Ghulam Ali Saab and started weeping, saying he had no money, not even for food. This great human being pulled out the entire sum of Rs. 20000/- from his pockets and simply gave it all to the weeping person! He retained not a single coin even.

I felt so ashamed, I had nowhere to hide. The whole picking the change from the beggars bowl and the stricken look on the beggars face was right in front of my eyes. I died a thousand deaths in that one moment of realization. I am so self –centered! What a sop to my conscious I gave deciding how much the beggar needed! Who Am I to decide?

My spiritual Guru writes, ’what we receive is to be distributed. Even distributing has its own law which says,”Unless everybody receives, you cannot give to one in particular, except when it is your family.’ Even in a family we do give only one person followed with the instruction of “share it with all “or “distribute equally amongst all present.” When we sow seeds and water our fields, we do not water a particular seed. We water the whole field and which seed grows bears fruit is not in our hands. It is not for us to pre judge the seed and say, ’yes, this will bear fruit, so I will water only this seed!’

Similarly when we have fish in the tank to feed, we do not feed one fish! We feed all of them; you cannot isolate one and say this one’s hunger is more than the other! But when it comes to giving we become very judgmental and stingy too. We will give as much as we want, to who so ever deserves according to us! Why?

Bade Ghulam Ali khan had nothing when he returned to Bombay. He received from others and the very same evening he parted with the entire amount without hesitation. He gave, simply gave away what he had. Whether he had anything for himself was never on his mind and whether the person asking deserved, needed that much also never crossed this magnanimous man’s mind.

He gave, truly gave away!

wake up dads

Through a daughter”s eyes

My sister”s daughter wrote a poem for her dad on his birthday. It was a straight from the heart writing, not at all fancy or rhyming, nothing. It’s just a few lines telling how she felt about her father and how she wished him to be for his own good!

Most dads today are visiting/guest daddies. Actually, maybe even our dad was a visiting dad. But we siblings were more in number, and between us and mother we did not miss our dad much. True? Most of my friends are 4-5 brother sister combination. And none of us remember much about dad spending time with us, taking time off to teach us or us noticing his absence and complaining about it.

India has changed dynamically in the last 3 decades. From predominantly joint family to nuclear family, only father earning member to both the parents working, from 3-5 children to 1-2 children has all happened in this last few decades. It has been one too many changes and too soon for us to be able to cope with.From our childhood to our adult parent life this has been the biggest change and all differences are because of these few changes. My This is strongly indicated by best-horoscope.com for this year. son also notices his dad”s absence and most of my counsel-lees have a word or two about the busy, independent, aloof life styles they seem to lead!

The poem was telling the father that it is good to be ambitious, get rich and successful in life. In the end though, none of these really mattered. She, the daughter, wanted him to be happy and do the things that made him happy even though they may not bring in world renown, money and riches. These things would bring in happiness which would last and the put smile back on his face which she rarely saw these days!She pointed out everything that her father was missing out on in his race to succeed in life! Very succinctly yet in a very unambiguous way she was talking on behalf of all the adolescents and to all dads out there!

Time gone will never comeback dads! Your corporate ladder and empires can be climbed and built but you will be a stranger to your kids. Unlike you, we are half in number and do not have too much company either. We spend our childhood alone in our nests; when the time for us to fly away comes you will be staying home, alone. In case you want the excuse of “This is all for them only!, a logic as a sop to your conscience, maybe you could think again. You earn much more than your parents and your progeny will definitely surpass you! You are not going back and staying at your ancestral home and your children will also follow their destiny and build a life elsewhere! You build an empire for them, which is of what value to them, they will never figure out, in this process you are missing out on the little time that God gave you to be with them, as a family, to know them and love them! Wake up dads, before they fly away from your nest.

parents were kids too

parents were kids!

This picture has the mother too. Pick who is who! Very funnily we forget the day we don the parents garb that we were children once!.As a counselor, specializing in adolescent counseling, “how to tame my wild child ” is the most popular query. And almost nine out of ten parents say, “we were never like this! we used to obey, behave, never question our parents…look at this generation! I did everything exactly the way my parents taught me! In fact, I gave them freedom and raised them in a very unorthodox way! Look at what I got myself into today ” They lament endlessly and I feel very bad interrupting and snapping them out of their self-piteous dream.

careful ,it may snap

I will quote my favorite author again, Khalil Gibran says”Your children The Affordable Care Act does address the growing cost of health care, it’s true focus is on reforming and expanding health individual insurance . are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life”s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday . You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

Shows us the mirror very blatantly, yes? We want our children to become what we could not, our unfulfilled dreams and aspirations are unconsciously pushed under their nose. Some lucky parents are blessed with a progeny which willingly steps into the parents shoes. But many seek different goals and want to walk the path less trodden. It is wiser if the parents learn to adapt to the changing times. what may have been the best during our youth will surely be obsolete today. We must guide them and show them the alternatives available; leaving the decision making to them. The more you stretch the string of the bow the sooner it is likely to snap, rendering it useless altogether. Likewise, when the coercion becomes unbearable, the child snaps and rebels. The misbehaving starts and the parents agitation starts too.

This generation parents have become needlessly competitive. The acceptance levels run low and comparison is the biggest vice. The children are finding it burdensome to live up to their expectations and many are succumbing to the pressure .

what is best for my child?

for my baby

Recently, I was reading an article; a blog in fact. It has an extensive survey report on health drinks! The very popular ‘Bournvita’ ‘Horlicks’ and ‘Complan’ were researched for their stated claims and their true value! The author and the family have used/consumed the above for a certain time frame, observed the results and made the statistical analysis. For the readers who are interested in that data, numbers and equations the site is www.kidsandparent.comFor the result keen parents like me, Complan was voted as the best health drink, followed by Horlicks. And much to my joy (I simply am against Bournvita) Bournvita was at the bottom of the list. All the claims they make in the advertisements are untrue. The DHA component and the advantages it supposedly has are needlessly escalated. Horlicks with the Barley in it is a better health drink. This is for the entire conscious mother’s fraternity; any other research you want to get covered or survey results you are in search of, it is good to go through the blog and put up the requisite queries. The survey currently inline is baby food brands and the best a mother can offer the baby, like Pediasure and Cerelac, Farex etc.

That article set me thinking as to what I gave my kids at that age. Memory digging revealed that with my first born, I was in the exact state of mind that most mothers seemed on that site! I went through identical doubt pangs and used to question everything in an earnest attempt to do my best for my kid. This net research was unheard of in India then and wise aunts’ tips, grandparents’ wisdom, mother-in-laws: “we did this and not this!”, mother’s consolation or Doctor’s advice were our only knowledge banks! I did what all of them said in bits and pieces and suffered a fair share too because of this! My first born is still very susceptible to all infections and viruses! His immunity levels are severely beaten and he is sick at the drop of a hat. By the time I had my second baby; I was experienced and also determined not to make the same mistakes that I made with the first one! Tinned/ canned food and Powder milk never entered my house. Even feeding bottles lasted barely 2 months or so. I can count my visits to the doctor, apart for the regular immunization shots; I went twice in the first year and maybe 3-4 times in the following four years. I had to go almost every month for my first born.

I, personally, am of the feeling that mother’s milk is the best for the infant, as many times as the baby wishes to feed. Secondly, start cereals and grains soups, boiled vegetable blends as far as possible. Keep Pediasure etc only as the last resort. This is your best chance to make minimal visits to the Pediatricians! Natural food is the best immunization for the child. With luck, you can also escape the woes of weaning the kid away from bottle and graduating to sipper and bribing the baby through colorful glasses, flavored drinks just to get the toddler to have a glassful of milk (You save a lot of money, time and effort! Believe me).

Once the energetic bundle reaches five years of age, it is inconsequential which health drink you choose. He/ she may drink milk as it is and in case you have to make a choice do choose the best, to be on the safer side! Raising a healthy child is honestly pretty economical still. Ask the mothers from rural India.

This is the mother of all surveys conclusion:-). Parents can always go and check elsewhere for better options and cross check whether they have made the right choice or not!

my babies

The slim -chubby pair
The slim -chubby pair

sweet and savory

Egg less cake

Again a two minute recipe:-) (not exactly two minute but REAL SIMPLE AND EASY) and kind of impossible to go wrong. Is tasty and can be eaten semi cooked and Over cooked too!!!!

ingredients:

1-1/2 cup flour(maida)

1 cup fresh cream

1 cup castor sugar

1/2 tsp- baking powder

1 tsp soda bi carb

1 tsp vanilla essence

method:

Sieve the flour , baking powder and baking soda together.

mix/blend sugar powder and fresh cream till a smooth paste is formed.

add this sieved flour and mix/ blend again. add essence.

bake in a regular oven for 15-20 minutes.

Try this one first and if this comes out well you can go on experimenting with added flavors.

keep the consistency of the batter same and add all the flavors/ colours you wish to add!!!

yummy yumming:-)

love health and blessings always

Milkmaid fudge

Absolutely instant, impossible to go wrong and even if such a calamity does occur, delicious and yummy anyway!!! noway you can  resist this:-)

Ingredients: 1- tin milkmaid (condensed sweetened milk)

1 cup- dry fruits, preferably, cashews or walnuts(chopped)

1-cup sugar

1-cup white butter, unsalted.

1-cup cocoa powder

method: simply add ALL the ingredients to a non stick pan. cook on slow flame till about 20 minutes or less. when the chocolate starts to leaves the ends of the pan , your chocolate is ready. smear a plate with butter and spread this mix to the greased plate. cut squares when semi hot itself. chocolate is ready!!

a word of caution, stir the mixture regularly so that it does not stick to the bottom and burn.

enjoy:-)

love and blessings ever

manchurian, indian style

ingredients and method: for machurian balls

vegetable- cabbage, onion, carrot. more of cabbage and 1 carrot, 2 onions.

add ginger garlic paste a bit of garam masala powder and salt to taste. white pepper if it is available

make balls  with the above veg mix  add a table spoon corn flour as binding agent, a 2 table spoons white fine flour  and deep fry . keep aside.

for sauce:

olive oil for shallow frying, capsicum- 1no cut to 8-10 pieces, spring onions-a cupful chopped. carrot – diced about 7-10 .

shallow fry the above vegetables in olive oil. add a tea spoon of soya sauce , a table spoon of tomato chilli sauce and and plain tomato sauce.  add some water  with a tea spoon of corn flour for a thick consistency. boil for 3-5 minutes. add the above balls and garnish with parsley.

 

manchurian balls with noodles.

manchurian balls and noodles.
manchurian balls and noodles.

making ribbon murukku (savory)

ingredients:

refined oil to deep fry– may need about 250 gms.

rice flour-2cups

Bengal gram flour-1cup

unsalted white butter- 3 tbspoons

salt to taste. chilli powder to taste.  A pinch of asitofeoda and one teaspoon cumin seeds

method:

Mix the above ingredients to make a smooth dough. The mould cast is available in the market.

This dough needs to be put into the mould and dep fried in the oil. the oil in the pan needs to be just right hot.The test is to put a wee bit of the dough and see that it rise instatntly. then you can deep fry to a nice light brown color and the yummy savory is rrady to eat.

They come out crisp and biscuity in texture and need to be stored in air tight containers.

Self-Awareness

what is discipline?

The simple dictionary meaning of this word is “a set or system of rules and regulations.” and “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.”

Both the meanings look grim and unhappy, don’t they? The meanings imply that you must behave, else be prepared for punishment. That is what discipline is all about. Is this really what being disciplined means?

We often hear our parents saying ‘don’t do this!!’ ‘Don’t go there’

‘Do this, or  …’ why is it always a string of no, no, no and no’s only?

Then how will the child know? What is to be done really? Think and understand the right and wrong? The child has already a rule book in front of him/ her. So the scope of exploring and of learning and thinking and experimenting are gone. He / she have to be disciplined, follow the rule. Else be punished by the elders. And in return what the older child may end up doing? Putting the same rule book under the younger sibling and behave exactly the way the parents behave!!!

What are we teaching the child here, in the name of discipline?My MASTER said” Punishment and the fear of being punished are the tools for bringing about this odd form of discipline.

“If you do not do as I say, you will get a beating”

“If you do not follow the commands of GOD, you will go to hell”

But, as we are told what NOT to do, and not what to do, we become pregnant with guilt.

How to overcome this weakness? How to unite this life while it is still living? Unite it with the ideal? No answer!!”

We are full of fear of doing the wrong and not being able to live up to the expectations of the rule book, we are too burdened and cannot think about what it was that we really should be doing?

It is but human to break rules, when they are forced upon us in the form of restrictions and prohibitions. It is seen everywhere. If a child is beaten to behave nicely to the younger, he will in his turn give it on to someone else—more likely to his younger sister or brother.

Instead of being given the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, correct them and out grow them, we force this disciplinary stuff on ourselves. We dare not cross the lines for the fear of unknown and so we remain a coward and ignorant than ever before.

Rules made for army and institutions are very different from the rules imposed on us in our day to day life. Rules are not meant to rob us of ourselves. They are meant to help us understand the self better. And if we know what to do, and how to do, then mistakes and rule breaking may not occur at all. When things are forced and work against our will, rule breaking and indiscipline tend to occur. Else rules are not needed at all.

Now we are clueless about what to do –they do not give the slightest suggestion of how to evolve into that state where the principles of GOD are followed by heart.

What could have been a blooming openness towards a life of simple righteousness has become a closed – up jail of fear and supposition.

My Master voiced this with concern “Discipline has become a matter of sinning in secret, while keeping a suspicious eye on your neighbor. I believe that this negative approach to life is much deeper rooted in our hearts than we normally think.”How to be disciplined or rather lead simple life without having to worry about rule making and rule breaking? Is it possible that we are told what to do, instead of being told what not to do?

It is better if we punish ourselves for a wrong (according to us) done by our progeny, instead of inflicting punishment on the children? How to make the child grow without fear?

Discipline has unfortunately become synonymous with fear; it should have been the synonym for freedom. Discipline is meant to free us from everything.  We become regular, simple, goal oriented, focused and successful in life with discipline.