A Sacred Song

Ganesha and VishnuWhen we think of a sacred song, the instant recall of many Hindus is the prayer to the Lord who removes obstacles, Ganesha or Vigneswara. In the Vedic heritage, the first words, prescribed traditionally to start your day, is a song/prayer/chant that focusses on Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God. Some schools says that it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

शुक्लाम्बरधरं   विष्णुं   शशिवर्णं   चतुर्भुजम्

Shuklambaradharam Vishnum Shashivarnnam Caturbhujam

प्रसन्नवदनं ध्यायेत् सर्वविघ्नोपशान्तये

Prasanna-Vadanam Dhyaayet Sarva-Vighno[a-U]pashaantaye ||

Meaning:

1: We meditate on Lord Ganesha/Sri Vishnu),
He who is wearing white clothes,
Who is All-Pervading, Who is bright in appearance like the moon
Who has Four Hands

2: He who has a compassionate and gracious face,
Let us Meditate on Him to ward of all obstacles.

This invocation to Ganapati stimulates the brain. We invoke our concentration to focus and to fulfil all the duties and work that we have to perform. This prayer invokes mental peace and equilibrium to perform our actions.

Shuklam – Spotless, Pure
bhaRtram – Preserving, Protecting
Vishnum – Ever working or refers to Lord Vishnu the caretaker, preserver of the universe
Sasi Varnam – Reflecting (Moon colored)
Chatur Bhujam – Four Lobed, Four sided
Prasanna Vadanam – Pleasantly Expressed
Dyayeth – Thoughts
Sarva Vigna – In all actions
Upa Santhaye – Invoke peace

In the Hindu tradition life, worship, music, performing arts, painting, sculpture and every creative effort is entwined with prayer and the Divine.

The four Vedas, Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda are the ancient scriptures that are the four cornerstones of the way of life of the Hindus. The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद) comes from sāman ‘melody’ and Veda ‘knowledge’ and is the third of the four Vedas. In sanctity and liturgical importance, Samaveda ranks next to the Rigveda.

This is a chant by Pandit Jasraj!

Sama Veda consists of a collection (samhita) of hymns, portions of hymns and other verses. The Veda poems are meant to be sung in prescribed melodies called Samagana. The earliest parts of the Sama Veda are believed to date from c. 1700 BCE (the Rigvedic period. The verses are sung with specific prolongation, repetition and insertion of stray syllables (stobha). Various modulations, rests and other musical details are prescribed in the song-books (Ganas).

Sama Vedas are an important sacred song for Indians. Lord Krishna specifically mentions the Sama Veda in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10 called ‘Vibhuti Yoga’. He talks about great souls, different valuable materials and supreme objects that represent the perfect forms on Earth. Among them, the Lord says he is the existing spirit of the Brihat Sama Veda.

The other sacred song for Indians is the Bhagavad Gita, literally meaning The Song of the Bhagavan. It is often referred to as the Gita and contains 700-verses that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Gita is designed as a narrative framework of a dialogue between the Pandava prince, Arjuna and his guide and charioteer, Lord Krishna.

Arjuna is facing a great dilemma—he faces the war as a warrior to fight for Dharma. On the other hand, his enemies lned in front of him are his grand sires, tachers, preceptors, uncles, cousins, friends and foes. The war is a righteous one between Pandavas and Kauravas. He is unable to pick up his bow and attack all the known and beloved faces ahead of him. Then Arjuna is counselled by Krishna to “fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty and to fight a righteous war to re-establish Dharma.

The Bhagavad Gita is a synthesis of the Vedic concept of Dharma that is recorded in the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads. It explores the concepts of devotion or bhakti, yogic ideals of moksha through birth, enlightenment or jnana, karma and Raja Yoga and Samkhya philosophy. The setting of the Gita is a battlefield which has been interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human mind. It addresses the universal limitations that each human being is confronted with in terms of ignorance, sorrow and death.

For centuries the Bhagavad Gita has remained the most influential philosophical text shaping Indian thought and life. It is a training ground for leading a meaningful and enlightened life. It teaches the common man in the simplest and yet most profound terms to share, to help the needy and infirm, to contribute substantively to society, to respect and preserve nature and to go in search for the path of enlightenment.

Just as life begins with Ganesha, the Lord who removes obstacles, who is the embodiment of wisdom, breath is represented by Lord Hanuman, the monkey faced, strong, ardent devotee of the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu called Rama.

Lord Hanuman is called Chiranjeevi, the Immortal One. Lord Hanuman rushes with the speed of wind (he is the son of the wind God, Vayu) to come to the aid of devotees. There is a special sacred song called the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, a poem with 40 verses that was composed by a great devotee Tulsidas who included it in his epic version of Ramayana. Hanuman is an incarnation of Lord Shiva!

Devotees pray to Hanumanji to give them physical and mental strength and to prevent negative and evil influences in their lives. The epitome of bravery and courage he is believed to bestow presence of mind, sharpness of intellect and great devotion.

Classical music in India is inextricably tied up with devotion and most songs are written on one of the main deities of the Hindu pantheon. The emotion called Bhakthi is a strong muse and inspired many great saints and poets to compose poems and to set them to music.

All events in a Hindu’s life culminates with a ‘Shanthi Paat’—or a song of peace that restores the balance in life.

ॐ सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Saha Nau-Avatu |
Saha Nau Bhunaktu |
Saha Viiryam Karavaavahai |
Tejasvi Nau-Adhiitam-Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meaning:

1: Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
2: May God Nourish us Both,
3: May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour,
4: May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility,
5: Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

The final chant of peace three times is significant..it addresses the whole of creation. This is a message to preserve nature, environment and all of creation. We pray for peace and equilibrium within us,  around us and all over the universe!

 

 

Posted in Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium, Heritage, Poetry, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog or Bust!!

In the beginning there was the diary! I never got into the habit of writing one. My father, brother Ramana and husband Raju were recipients of glossy diaries at the beginning of the New Year from various organizations. In fact when my father retired, he would insist on getting a new and notebook sized diary from Ramana and Raju. Later on my son Jai or daughter Nitila kept him supplied with the brand new diary, even if they had to buy one. I have no idea what he wrote in it. My mother also demanded a diary and she wrote something or the other in it.

DIARY-HEADER

I was introduced to the concept of blogging when I sent articles to a website Sulekha. The little pieces that I wrote about simple events in my life and a one page column that I contributed to a women’s magazine took on the avatar of a blog. I signed up on to a blogsite and then was persuaded to migrate to wordpress that I find very convenient. I am able to reach a larger audience through social media sites.

All this is hunky-dory….but a blog has to be consistently posted and there I fall abysymally short…pssst…this topic was due last week and as Ramana pointed out gleefully, the topic Travails of Blogging was suggested by Yours Truly.

I must confess that I am not consistent. I had dropped out of LBC posts because…..because….well…..you see…..I think…..oh, you must have got it by now.

I get sidetracked with Crosswords and jigsaws and Freecell and Spider Solitaire and Facebook and Scrabble. This happens whenever I sit down at my laptop to write.

660601-mop-broomWhen the juices flow, the househelp floats into the  area broom or mop in hand expecting me to vacate the spot.

When the ideas jell, the bell rings with a courier or my vegetable seller at the door brandishing pieces of paper or bunches of spinach or radish.mooli

When a brilliant sentence with original syntax, emotional expression and telling adjectives form in the mind, my husband switches on the TV and the Parliamentary pandemonium drown out the Muse!!

There are so many more travails that I can list and fill one of those 365 days dedicated diaries…..but I am 7 days late! So it is now or never and so, here goes the post!!

The seven other bloggers who write regularly are Ashok, gaelikaa, Maxi, Rummuser, Shackman and The Old Fossil, Lin at Dun-Na-Sead.

Posted in Current Events, Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium, Life skills | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Vegetarianism

veggies
When I was growing up, I really did not think a great deal about being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian. I was brought up in a household where everybody was welcome. So we too visited homes of friends from various communities and ate food from their lifestyles. Samosas from Buharis and a special place in Secunderabad were specialties that we relished. My brother Ramana introduced me to Chinese food and that was a great addition to favs…chicken corn soup became a permanent addition to dinners eaten out. Then it was burgers in Gaylords in Churchgate and Bade Miyan behind the Taj in Mumbai!!

At home, our mother cooked vegetarian food. She was very innovative, a natural cook and recreated traditional fare and any other dish that caught her eye and interest. We also ate wonderful vegetarian food outside with iconic snacks like Bhel Puri and chaat items, puri and chana, cultlets and chick peas, samosas, kachoris and sandwiches declared ‘something to die for’! Pan Indian food was experimented both in and out of the family kitchen. My paternal uncle lived in the same city and their kitchen was a non-vegetarian one. In fact, the arguments for and against vegetarian and non-vegetarian food between our father and uncle were so hot and spicy, that it created a natural abhorrence for any talk about food
indian_chatbig

After my marriage, I gave up eating non-veg to bow down to the wishes of my husband. There was an initial resentment that I ‘had’ to do something. Gradually though, with maturity and deeper understanding and reading of the Vedic heritage, I became convinced that vegetarian was the path that I had to follow.

Food is something that occupies our thoughts, our actions, our plans, our memories and a great deal of enterprise. Sathguru Jaggi Vasudev says the kind of food you eat should not depend on what you think about it, or on your values and ethics, but on what the body wants. Food is about the body and it is important that we eat the kind of food that the body is happy with.
sadhguru-

seed

Enough reasons, arguments, theories and lectures have been put forward about vegetarian choices in contrast to eating meat and fish. One of the reasons I prefer being a vegetarian is that I am not putting an end to another creature’s life to satisfy my own hunger. There are those who say that plants too are a form of life and we are destroying it. The point that appeals to me is when you eat an animal you totally destroy it. When you eat a plant or its produce, it can still propagate or flourish through its seeds, roots, grafts etc.

Vegetarian food is easier to digest. It does not stay in your system for more than 4 hours minimum and 20 hours maximum. The body is able to absorb important nutrients from the material ingested and the residue too helps in the evacuation process. Vegetables have longer shelf life in natural circumstances when compared to meat and poultry that can be preserved only artificially.

Sathguru advises us to try different foods and then to check how our body feels after eating it. If your body feels agile, energetic and nice, that means the body is happy. If the body feels lethargic and needs to be pumped up with caffeine or nicotine to stay awake, the body is certainly sending signs that it is not happy.

Every creature instinctively knows what to eat and what not to eat. Human beings are considered to be the most intelligent on the planet, but they seem to have forgotten their instincts about the best food and the sustenance it can give our bodies. In the Vedic tradition, different organisms are called Jeevaraasi, a single life in different dimensions, each with its own life energies. The food that we eat is best when it comes from earlier evolution of life like plants. Plants eaten raw especially, says Sathguru, is easier to digest because the cells are still alive when consumed. The human digestive system can process these live cell organisms more easily.

A vegetarian diet includes:

Vegetables, fruits, Whole grains, Legumes, Seeds and Nuts
May include eggs and milk

Types of vegetarian diets:

Vegan: This diet includes only plant-based foods. No animal proteins or animal by-products such as eggs, milk, or honey.
Lacto-vegetarian: This diet includes plant foods and some or all dairy products.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This diet includes plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet

A balanced vegetarian diet can provide good nutrition, better health and prevent many diseases. It also helps to:

  • Reduce risk of obesity
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes

As we grow older, Vedic thought helps you to reduce the intake of food. A diet with more fruit, easily digested grains, legumes and minimum cooking methods are adopted. The penultimate stage in the Vedic life is that of a Vaanaprastha. When a person has fulfilled all the duties of a householder and as a member of a society, s/he chooses to move towards the North or the Himalayas to lead an austere life as a dweller of forests eating what is available in nature in the form of fruits and roots and leaves. This is an inward journey as much as a physical movement towards salvation and enlightenment when the soul becomes a part of the eternal Divine.

lord-caitanya-mahaprabhu-in-vrndavan

This is a post for LBC. The seven other bloggers who write regularly are Ashok, gaelikaa, Maxi, Rummuser, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Lin at Dun-Na-Sead .

Posted in Environment, Food and Beverages, Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium, Holistic Cooking, Life skills, Society, Spirituality, Wellness and health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Then Came The Dog!

padmum:

Ahhhhh….

Originally posted on chutkiwoof:

Then came the dog.

View original

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wedding Scenes

In the openIt was the summer of ’97 and my daughter and I were travelling around in Europe. Every place we went to we saw brides and grooms in the customary white dress and morning coat with the carnation in the lapel. We saw them in the Vatican , in the Colosseum in Rome (unbelievable right!), in the beautiful parks in Madrid and oddly enough in the courtyard of the Military Museum located inside an 18th century Barcelona fortress that exhibits an impressive collection of weapons dating from the 15th century to present day. We saw them near the beach, in front of the Eiffel Tower, on the steps of the Rembrandt museum in Amsterdam and in the St Marks Square in Venice and a few floating in their finery in a gondola too!

The wedding couples were of all nationalities—Japanese predominant among them. In fact on the night train between Venice and Paris our fellow passengers in the couchette were a Nigerian diplomat and his daughter who was on her way to get married in the city of love.
This scene repeated itself last year when we stayed in Hitchin, a small town between Cambridge and London. We stayed in a coaching inn and that night there was a wedding and a party to celebrate it. The inn was full of guests staying overnight. This I hear is common in the UK now as very few couple get married in churches. They prefer out of metro towns and arrange the wedding and the party in a package deal of about €2000. Guests are served dinner and a drink and the rest, including stay in the inns/hotels are taken care of by the guests who come for the night or weekend, enjoy a huge complimentary breakfast, relax and then drive back home.Church

The photos of the couple who got married were however shot in front of the church to give it the authentic look. The contrast to the dull grey church walls and creeping ivy to the black and white suit worn by the groom and the flyaway white satin and net concoction worn by the bride was pure Gothic.

At any given time, barring the Tamizh months of Margazhi (December-Jnuary) and Adi (July-August), in temples all over the south, you can catch a wedding or two in most temples. The Thirutani temple and Tirupathi are popular places near Chennai just as the Vadapalani temple in the city for wedding venues. There used to be a time when in the villages the whole street would have a pandal constructed to host the wedding of somebody living on the street. All the houses and the thinnais accommodated visiting people and every wedding was a community affair. With the advent of marriage chatrams and choultries weddings migrated out of homes to public places. Today weddings are held in special mandapams or hotels that cater to every need of weddings.

In the West it was always considered fashionable for the bride to be late. In India, the auspicious time dictates that the wedding—whether it be the seven steps around the fire, the tying of the sacred thread around the brides neck, exchanging rings or giving your ‘kubul’ to the Qazi—should be performed at a particular moment. So the chances of the bride or groom being late are minimal. In the Brahmin weddings, the bride changes into a nine yard sari in between the ceremony and the priests do tend to hassle and create tension the ladies to bring back the bride to the sacred fire to finish the rituals.ahana-dharmendra-hema-esha

In Delhi and Mumbai, if you are invited to a wedding at 6.30 PM (as weddings tend to be performed late in the evening) guests do not arrive until 8.30 or so as they know for sure that the bride and groom will appear only around that time.

This custom is slowly creeping into south Indian functions as well. Especially before the reception hosted in the evening, the bridal couple disappear to beauty parlours to get their make-up and dressing done professionally perfect. They dawdle and casually walk in at least an hour late. In India punctuality is not an important thing. However courtesy demands that the main characters of the event be in their places when invited guests walk in. Most often, the guests are sitting around or standing uncomfortably clutching on to presents and flowers with a blank expression on their faces “What am I doing here?”.

My husband remarked at the last wedding reception that we went to saying, “No show of groom and bride. The people who invited us are also not to be seen. Maybe they are waiting for a crowd to build up so that like film stars they make a late entrance and then can get mobbed by the guests who are waiting to greet them!!” The queues in front of a dais on which couples stand to greet friends and relatives are getting longer and more crowded.

The bevy of photographers, video people and sundry characters standing in front, just below the stage and blocking the happenings can also be quite dampening. That is why some smart hosts arrange huge TV screens to show the couple. Somebody did remark, “To see the wedding on a screen, I might as well have stayed at home or watched the live streaming on the Internet”.

Are we forgetting the simple rules of hospitality?

Posted in Current Events, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sabbatical

In the Indian tradition there is no concept of Sabbatical. Learning is a continuous process. Hinduism and the path of Vedic culture are made up of a variety of customs, ideas, and philosophies. It incorporates a wide range of approaches for allowing people to advance and understand various streams of knowledge like scriptures, philosophy, commerce, governance, medicine, arts and performing arts and the ultimate goal of achieving spiritual knowledge and attaining the ultimate Truth.

Everyone is allowed and encouraged to question existing dogma and knowledge and to reach their own conclusions. The Vedic path encourages a person to increase understanding and to recognize the fact that no single person or prophet has any exclusive claim over the ultimate goal of achieving Brahman or Absolute Truth.

This freedom of expression has given rise to many variations of philosophical thought or schools of religion, but all emanating from the great stream of consciousness  of sanatana-dharma, which is the universal spiritual knowledge and practice that is the essential teachings of the Vedic literature.

priestThe Brahmin student, Brahmachari, used to begin the learning process at a young age after an initiation ceremony when he was endowed with a sacred thread. Then he spent his time totally within the ambience of his Guru or preceptor…usually in the teacher’s home or in a hermitage. Even the King’s sons were sent off to live with the Guru to learn, to imbibe, to watch and absorb the essence of a good life, values and rules of behaviour.

Once the initial education was done, the student entered into the state of the grahastha or householder and used his knowledge to perform the rituals and practices that brought him income. He also took on students and another link in the chain of learning was forged. However, he continued his own studies and his priesthood was jacked up with various qualifications like Archakar (temple priest), Swami (Priest), Purohita (performer for domestic ceremonies) and Rtvij (performer of seasonal ceremonies), Acarya or Upadhyaya (Spiritual teacher); Ganapaadigal who could perform special fire rituals and Dikshitar who had the highest degree. The Sage or Rishi was an evolved soul who had achieved great spiritual powers through penance and rigorous prayers.

hindu-priest

The learning process was a lifelong one as an individual moved on from learning one Veda to the other, one Purana to another, one Upanishad to another. The learning was never done. There was no sabbatical per se. You could stop the learning process and make a living based on your existing knowledge.

This learning cycle was in existence until the British brought in their system of structured education that was book learning and creating a data base of Western systems and curriculums.

Today, youngsters are taking the sabbatical or gap year adapted from Western practices. This gap year they feel will help them to decide on the stream of education that they should take up. Of course, this gap year is restricted to the affluent sections of society. In the middle class world a break from education or career is a luxury and considered to be dangerous as well..higher education admission processes and employers will look askance at breaks in education in India as the urge to be part of the rat race, to finsh the education and start earning is more the norm, a real necessity.

Buddha tried for six years continuously to know what the divine is, and it cannot be said that he left anything undone. He did everything that is humanly possible, even some things which seem humanly impossible. He did everything. Whatever was known up to his day he practiced. Whatever methods were taught to him, he became a master of them.

He went to all the gurus that existed in his time, to everyone. And whatever they could teach, he learned, he practiced. And then he said, “Anything more, Sir?” And the guru said, “Now you can go, because all that I could give you I have given, and I cannot say, as I say in other cases, that you have not practiced. You have practiced. This is all that I can give.” Buddha said, “I have not known the divine yet.”

With each guru this happened. Then he left all the gurus. Then he invented his own methods. Continuously, for six years, he was in a struggle of life and death. He did everything that could be done. Then, at last, he was so tired of doing, so deadly tired, that one day when he was taking his evening bath in the Niranjana River near Bodhgaya, he felt so weak and so tired that he could not come out of the river. He just clung to a root of a tree and a thought came to his mind, “I have become so weak, I cannot even cross this small river. How will I be alive to cross the whole ocean of the world? I have done everything, and I have not found the divine. I have only tired my body.”

He felt that he was on the verge of death. At that very moment he felt that he had done everything, and now there was nothing to do. He relaxed, and new energy came upon him because of his relaxation. All that was suppressed through those six years flowered. He came out of the river, he felt just like a feather, a bird’s feather — weightless. He relaxed under a Bodhi tree.

Buddha

It was a bright full moon night. A girl named Sujata was used to coming to pay homage daily to the Bodhi tree. She has come with some sweets.

Buddha was sitting under that tree..tired, pale, bloodless, but relaxed, absolutely unburdened — and it is a fullmoon night with nobody around. Sujata felt that the deity of the tree had come in person to receive her homage. Had it been another day, Buddha may have refused. He had not rested in the night, nor had he eaten any food in his hectic search for enlightenment. That day, he was totally relaxed. He took the food, and he slept. This was the first night after six years that he really slept.

He was relaxed with nothing to do and there was no worry. There was no tomorrow even, because tomorrow exists only because one has to do something. If one has not to do anything, then there is no tomorrow. Then this moment is enough.

Buddha slept, and in the morning, at five o’clock, when the last star was fading away in the horizon, he woke up from his sleep. He saw the world with no mind, because when you have nothing to do there is no mind. The mind is just a faculty for doing something. With no mind, nothing to do, no effort on his part, indifferent to whether he was alive or dead, he just opened his eyes, and he began to dance. He had come to that knowing to which he could not come through so many efforts.

Whenever someone would ask him how he achieved, he would say, “The more I tried to achieve, the more I was at a loss. I could not achieve. So how can I say I have achieved? The more I tried, the more I was involved. I could not achieve. The mind was trying to transcend itself, which was impossible. It is just like trying to be a father to yourself, just trying to give birth to yourself.”

So Buddha would say, “I cannot say I achieved. I can only say I tried so much that I was annihilated. I tried so much that any effort became absurd. And the moment came when I was not trying, when the mind was not, when I was not thinking. Then there was no future because there was no past. Both were always together. Past is behind, future is in front; they are always conjoined. If one drops, the other drops simultaneously. Then there was no future, no past, no mind. I was mindless, I was I-less. Then something happened, and I cannot say that this something happened in that moment. I can only say that this was always happening, only I was not aware. It was always happening, only I was closed. So I cannot say I have achieved something.”

Buddha said, “I can only say I have lost something — the ego, the mind — I have not achieved anything at all. Now I know that all that I have was always there. It was in every layer, it was in every stone, in every flower, but now I recognize it was always so. Only I was blind. So I have lost my blindness; I have not achieved anything, I have lost something.”

So maybe, a sabbatical brings you to that point of mindlessness and then you are energised to move on to the next level of enlightenment.

The seven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Ashok, gaelikaa, Maxi, Rummuser, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Lin at Dun-Na-Sead to the LBC.

Posted in Heritage, Life skills, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Truth about Corporal Punishment

The Truth about Corporal Punishment.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments