Friday, August 19, 2016

Samsara and Moksha - Karma is the Basis

Lila Vibhuti and Nitya Vibhiti - Life, aka Jivatma, is eternal. Based on its Balance of Karma (BOK) it can be traced to be living in Lila Vibhuti (Samsara or the Plane of Mortal Existence (PME)) or Nithya Vibhuti (The Plane of Immortal Existence (PIE)). Change is the differentiating factor between the two planes of existence. "Constant change over a period of time factor" is the defining character of the PME. "No Change over a period of time factor" is the defining character of the PIE.

Nitya, Mukta, Baddha - There are three categories of living beings aka Jivatmas. Jivatmas having any outstanding balance in their BOK keep circulating in different forms of lifes in the Samsara or PME. Jivatmas having Zero balance in their BOK move to and live eternally in the PIE. Such Jivatma, when living in PME are known as Baddha Jivatma. When they move to PIE, they are known as Mukta Jivatma. There are also Jivatmas that have lived eternally in the PIE. They are called Nityasuri. That is, two out of the three categories live in PIE (Nitya and Mukta). Only one category lives in PME (Baddha).

Outstanding Balance in BOK - Baddha Jivatmas presently living in PME have lived here for ever owing to the outstanding balance in their BOK. Baddha Jivatmas keep circulating within PME eternally for only one purpose - that is to exhaust this outstanding balance. The outstanding balance may be exhausted by one of the following means:
1. Experiencing pleasure or pain during any birth form in PME.
2. Doing counter actions known as "Prayaschitta"
3. Seeking Divine Intervention.

The outstanding balance determines the life form one takes during a life time. Based on the balance, the Jivatma combines with Nature to take on a "Mortal Body". At the end of the life term, the Jivatma casts the mortal body aside and takes on a Yatana Shariram (Invisible Travel Body (ITB)).

  1. If it has any outstanding balance, it travels in the ITB through Dark Highway. The Dark Highway goes to yamaloka, and subsequently to the various narakas, and then to svarga and then back to Bhuloka, based on the outstanding balance after the experience of pleasure or pain in the other lokas. While a Jivatma may experience pleasure or pain based on its deeds and outstanding balance in the other lokas, the Bhuloka is the only loka known as Karma Bhumi - one in which the final remaining balance can be exhausted. When born again in Bhuloka, it is called rebirth or reincarnation because it is the same Jivatma that has now acquired another life form in another body. It is not necessary that a human being is reborn as a human being. A human Jivatma, based on its outstanding balance at the time of birth may take on any body - of a unicellular organism, a plant, an insect, a bird, an animal, or a human.  
  2. Once the outstanding balance has been brought to zero, the Jivatma will not remain in PME even for a second. It will cast the Mortal Body aside, take on the ITB and travel via the Bright Highway to the PIE. At the PIE, there is a river called Viraja. It takes bath in river Viraja to get rid of its ITB and take on a "Divine Body". In the Divine Body, it lives eternally in the PIE.   


Avatara: The Nitya Jivatma that has been living in PIE eternally may take avatar and come down to Samsara for fulfilling the Lord's commandments. That type of birth is not due to outstanding balance. Birth which is not owing to outstanding balance in BOK is called Avatara. Contrast this with the Rebirth of Baddha Jivatma, which is always due to its outstanding balance in BOK.

Composition of BOK: There are two types of outstanding balances in the BOK,  The Positives (Punya) and the Negatives (Papa or Sin). A Jivatma has to exhaust both in order to bring its BOK to zero. When one experiences pleasure or happiness, the Positives are getting exhausted. When one experiences pain or sadness the Negatives are getting exhausted.

Acquisition of Karma: Though the purpose of birth is for the Jivatma to exhaust its outstanding balance, being in Karma Bhumi - it can acquire additional karmic balance as well. Good deeds earn it Punya while bad deeds earn it Papa. What determines whether a deed a good or bad? The shastras do. As stated by the Lord in Bhagavad Gita,

Shloka 16-24, "Therefore, let the scriptures be your authority in determining what should be done and what should not be done. Understand the scriptural injunctions and teachings, and then perform your actions in this world accordingly."

The scriptures here mainly includes the shruti's, smriti's, itihasa, and purana,  They are replete with commandments and suggestions - like - do this, refrain from this etc. Doing what it commands one to do - is NOT Punya. But, Not Doing as per a commandment is Papa. For instance, one of the simple commandments of the scriptures is "Snaatva Bhunjeeta" - ie Eat only after taking bath. Without knowing this commandment, if one insists on eating something before taking bath, that Jivatma acquires papa karma to its BOK. These commandments have been codified by our learned ancestors into a daily/period routine - which is why we call Hinduism is a way of life - than a religion. However, in the modern days, a lot of these practices have been abandoned in the name of orthodoxy or superstition. It does not mean, there are no superstitions in Hinduism. One needs to study scriptures, analyze whether a disciplined practice advised or followed by elders in the family is a scriptural injunction or a superstition, and perform actions accordingly.

Nevertheless, it is said that within the blink of an eyelid, we humans are capable of acquiring as much karma in our BOK that cannot be exhausted even if one were to live a period of  Three  Trillion years (One Kalpa).

The hell hole or Black Hole?: While we are here to exhaust our karma, our rate of acquisition is apparently far higher than the rate of exhausting. How will we ever be able to bring it to Zero? Isn't there a way to get out of this black hole or hell hole called Samsara?  Ture, we cannot get out of it through our own effort. But there is help! He, the Lord, is ever willing to help us out of this hell hole. All that he needs, is our permission. He is extending his long arm asking us to hold on to it. We are the one that is refusing to take his help, because of our ignorance and arrogance, thinking we can get out of it by ourselves! Again, as stated by the Lord in Bhagavad Gita,

Shloka 7-14, "My divine energy Maya, consisting of the three modes of nature (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas), is very difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto me cross over it easily.

Divine Intervention is the only answer: True, there is the option of doing counter actions called Prayaschitta. But even that is a self driven effort - one needs to know the scriptures completely and thoroughly before determining what is a prayaschitta! one should know to perform it flawlessly - because, flaws committed in prayaschitta can lead to additional balance in the BOK!  The comparatively superior and yet the simplest strategy of all, is to surrender to the Lord and allow him the permission to take care of us and lead us to the PIE.

Well, What more do we need, when after sensing Arjuna's helplessness, the Lord himself, without Arjuna asking Him, voluntarily revealed this ultimate strategy:

Shloka 18-66
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज |
अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच: || 66||
Abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions and lead you to Moksha; do not fear.

Knowing now, that Krishna, is the one that has offered this advice, is there use in seeking refuge of anyone else?

Has any one other Krishna offered such a clear strategy? Yes, Rama and Varaha have offered similar statements. They are all one and the same  God, the supreme creator, in whom the world rests now, and during the time of mass destruction (Pralaya), i.e Sriman Narayana - the Lord of the PME and PIE, and the one that created the Administrator of Creation - the four faced Brahma. It is He and only He that can lead us out of this hell-hole called Samsara,

Does he need to shed his blood in order to save us? No! Neither has he ever shed blood for anybody's sin. Why should he? Blood is a mere mortal substance! Once we have become strong in our conviction that He alone is the savior, the next step is to surrender to Him.

How to surrender? Is he taking applications now? Yes, he is taking applications always - but he expects us to apply through the proper channel. He is in our own heart watching our every move. He wants us to demonstrate that conviction by approaching one of his avataras (yes, there are right here amidst us!) and taking refuge at their feet. They are called Acharyas. At any time, if we demonstrate our ego and arrogance to even think of an Acharya as a mere mortal human, that conviction in Him as the only savior is lost - we could be back to square one.  Acharyas are none other than Sriman Narayana himself! With that thought deeply embedded in mind, approach an Acharya without delay to acquire your passport to PIE!!!



Monday, August 8, 2016

The Food Chain and Role of Brahmins in Universal Well Being

The following shloka from the Bhagavad Gita says more than what it does literally:

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: |
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: || 3-14||

"Bhutani" refers to all living beings - not merely human beings.

अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि - Annam literally refers to Rice. However, the statement here is that living beings subsist on Rice. We must therefore take Annam to be representative of Food, in general, than purely rice. Why did the Lord choose "Rice" as representative word for Food when He could have chosen other words - perhaps, including Meat? It is possibly because of the emphasis on vegetarianism. Does is means He does not care for subsistence of carnivores? No, understanding this more deeply, deers subsist on grass, and tigers on deers. What it means is that the food chain starts with grass/plants, and other living beings in the food chain can subsist only as long as the beings in the lower level of the food chain can subsist. So let us generalize this - Food at the lowest level of the food chain is herbivores that subsist on plants. Humans (vegetarians) subsist on rice, grains, leaves, vegetables, and fruits provided by plants. And so on. The choice of the word "Annam" primarily points to the Lord's preference for a vegetarian diet for humans, as he is addressing Arjuna here.

Secondly, Herbivorous or Carnivorous, can we image a world that has no vegetation? What would that world be like? Humans eating animals, and animals eating humans, or worse, human eating humans? Can humans or living beings in general subsist in such a world?  Plants, and their products are essential for the survival of all living beings on earth!

पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव: - In this phrase the Lord says that Annam, i.e food, becomes possible because of rains. Having established the importance of plants, we do well understand the importance of rain for plants and vegetation to thrive. Now, one may say that plants also need sunlight to thrive. We must understand that order to establish the food chain, the Lord has chosen rain as the common term to mean all that a plant needs to thrive - air (carbon-di-oxide), water, and sunlight.

यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो - In this phrase the Lord says that rains are caused  by yagna or sacrifices. Now this may be a little controversial even to most believers. In common, we see that rains are simply seasonal. The South West Monsoon arrives around the first week of June in India, no matter somebody has performed a yagna somewhere or not. Otherwise, performing a rain-begetting-yagna would have been common-place practice. And then, it is commonplace understanding that yagnas are always officiated by Brahmins. Is the Lord emphasizing a role for Brahmins in causing rains?

To understand this a little better, let us look at the first line of shloka 3-12.

इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविता: |

In this line, the Lord says that Higher Beings (Devas) grant the desired necessities of life when propitiated through yagna. This does not mean they shower gold coins on us. All those gold coins are not going to buy you any food if there is no rains or sunshine and if plants do not grow!! These higher beings are merely administrators of this world (upon the supreme Lord's order). They give us rains (water), sun-shine (causing water cycle and rain), and air, which in turn causes the soil to become fertile to grow plants. They may also bestow wealth on us in mysterious ways, as long as we propitiate them sincerely as stated in the Vedas.

Now, what needs to be understood is that the Lord has established a symbiotic relationship between  these higher beings, and human beings. An important part of all yagnas that humans do is invocation of the higher beings, and offering them our little mite, in terms of the annam (cooked food) and kusha grass offered in fire. Fire is the celestial messenger/postman that carries our offerings to the higher beings. Fire, personified as a higher being, is himself to be offered respects and propitiated first, in order to act as the messenger to take these offerings to the other higher beings.

That said, the panchabhutas - Prithvi (earth), Aapa: (water), Tejas (Fire), Vayu (Air), Akash (Space) are primary for the survival of the human race and need to be propitiated, along with their leader, Indra (who is instrumental along with Aapa: for causing rains). We are indebted to these higher beings for providing us an opportunity to sustain human life on earth. Being indebted, we are expected to do our duty of "thanking the higher beings" for what they have given us.  Therefore yagnas must be performed for the well being of all human beings. It therefore is not a coincidence that all yagnas end with Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu i.e "may all the lokas subsist as a result of this yagna."

Yagnas are indeed officiated and performed by Brahmins. What it means is that Brahmins are an indispensable part of human life. Not Brahmins who are not living as brahmins - but the emphasis is on "practicing brahmins" who do their yagna every day. It is because of them that human life on earth is in equilibrium.  Brahmins, traditionally, even in vedic society have been minorities. But in Vedic society, Kings recognized their need for the society's well being, and patronized them. They invited brahmins  who were vedic experts to conduct various yagnas and ensured their well being. Kings also used their services to consult them on how to administer the kingdom justly, as stated in the Vedas. Thus, despite being minority, well-versed vedic brahmins were powerful. However, the most learned ones seldom used their power and chose a life of seclusion. There may have been a few of lower-learning in the Vedas that might have misued such confidence expressed by the Kings. That may be reason why brahmins are today marginalized in the modern society.

यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: - Yagna is nothing but performance of ritualistic duties as stated in the Shastras. A grahastha brahmin is supposed to be an agnihotra who does his daily rituals, offering food via fire to the higher beings. Satisfied with that offering, the higher beings bestow equilibrium of natural forces offering fertility of soil, rains, and sun-light, causing plants to grow, which in turn provides enough food for all living beings on earth, causing peace, happiness, wealth, and all-round well being of the society at large. And the brahmin does not do it for himself, because, when he does the rituals, it rains not merely in his field or house - but everywhere; the sun shines, not merely in his locality, but every where.

Universal Well Being (Sukha for Loka Samastha) - the Universe has several lokas of which 14 are important - Bhu Loka is in the center of the 14. The seven upper lokas are Bhu:, Bhuva:, Suva:, Maha: Jana:, Tapa: and Satyam.    The seven lower lokas are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala, and Patala. A brahmin performing his agnihotra duties bestows equilibrium of natural forces in all these 14 lokas causing sukha/happiness.  It causes food to be available to all living beings in Bhu lokas.

That said, if brahmins are marginalized in the society and if they are unable to perform their ritualistics duties due to the pressure of modern "civilization" and the numerous societal pressures - the downside to society is unthinkable. Unfortunately, that is the direction the society is headed. Already a minority, brahmins are today persecuted in every way possible by the modern society. There are no kings anymore and democratically elected governments have nothing but apathy for them. Systematically they are now drawn in to modern societal structure causing them to have lesser and lesser time for practice of ritualistic duties. Schools do not teach anything related to the vedas nor do they prepare brahmin children for the practice of their ritualistic duties. Brahmins are drawn in to mainstream job market - as accountants or teachers or IT software professionals, or some other profession - reporting into bosses who seldom understand the value of a vedic educated brahmin.

It will not take very long, before the brahmins will stop wearing the sacred thread any more. Upanayanam - the sanskar that ought to be done when children are 7 years of age, is already getting delayed. Some delay this all the way to the day before marriage!! There are very few sources available for brahmin children to learn the shastras - and even the very few sources available on the internet are all but biased and distorted, having been translated into English by the likes of Max-Mueller!   And Manu Dharma Shastra is completed derided having been faultily translated - and written as if it promotes discrimination! What was once societal segregation on the lines of division of labor has been misconstrued as racial discrimination! The society needs brahmins, and it needs them to study the vedas and practice their daily duty for the welfare of not merely Bhu loka, but for all 14 lokas! But when charged with racial discrimination that brahmins were not responsible for creating, and marginalized, and persecuted entirely as a community for no fault of theirs, they have no other option but to give up being a practicing brahmin.

The society is taking the Sun, air, soil fertility, and rain for granted. They think it is going to rain, no matter what. They think the Sun is going to shine, no matter what. Yeah, there is global warming - but then it is not so perceivable - it is only gradual. They think we have time to fix global warming. Nations like India are passing food security bills without understanding the connection between brahmins, their practice of yagnas, and the food chain as described above. But once can see clearly that the human civilization on earth is headed in the wrong direction. There will be day when trillions of dollars stashed away in bank will not be able to buy an individual a morsel of food! And as predicted in some of the puranas, as kaliyuga progresses, cannibalism will become the order of the day. Food security is not assured even to the rich. It shudders to think what life will be like down the road in Kaliyuga!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Your Birth is not an accident!

Not even the birth of a plant is an accident! The Lord determines the Yoni (plant body, insect body, bird body, animal body or human body), the place, the time, the family, the species, and all else precisely long before your actual birth. It is based on two factors summed up from all your previous births:
1. Your deeds - good and bad ones
2. Your deepest desires - expressed/wished in mind/prayed aloud to the Lord by you

He determines the best fit that will fulfill your desires.



Friday, June 17, 2016

Thus Thinks Chaturvedi Swamy (From Facebook)

This was an interesting read from Facebook I am sharing. Credits to Shri SAR Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swami.

"Thus Thinks Chaturvedi Swamy"
Issues-Social and Spiritual solutions
The world is viewed as abode of problems by the frustrated minds whereas for the positive minds, it also carries infinite splendours,ways and solutions. To balance the world and ensure solace, solution and success, we have two routes; First is a social process and second a spiritual one.
Social process suggests four tools; awareness, guidance, empowerment and transformation. The ignorant society needs awareness and aimless needs guidance. The weak is lifted by empowerment and the misguided needs transformation. Great social workers strive to eliminate evils like poverty, illiteracy, disharmony and corruption, through these four channels.
The second route to enrich our morale and energies, to ward-off sins and their offsprings; ‘problems’ and to receive and retain progress and spiritual elevation, is ‘spiritual and religious’ services. These may be temple construction, renovation, restoration, maintenance, offerings of all forms, prayers, rituals and worships. In our tradition, the services to Lord is extended to His devotees (Bhagavathas) and glorious masters (Acharyas) by offering them everything possible, needed and ordained in our treatises.
Supreme, temples and society
A common doubt resides in the minds of sceptics as well as beginner-devotees. It is about the necessity of the omnipotent opulent Supreme to ‘reside in a finite deity form and within a limited temple space-frame’ and to encourage, expect, accept and rejoice our simple and great praise, offerings and celebrations.
Our scriptures say that He assumes divine forms and abodes only out of His own will, to facilitate easy view, relation and services for his beginner-devotees and to propitiate his mature devotees by this beauty, simplicity and bounty. (‘Bhaktaanaam tvam prakaashase’).
● Temples and their festivals are meant for assembling, uniting and integrating the devotees enabling them to rejoice divine company and bliss. This is a rehearsal for fostering social unity and transformation.
● Supreme is the seed of every glorious attribute. If we could maintain the standards, sanctity and richness of His temples, we can harvest their impact in the society as order, peace and prosperity. Serving Him in temples increase our mind and might to serve, increase in multiples. Paucity and struggles emerge from negligence and misuse of divine centres and resources and their proper care and application result in sustainable goodness.
● Temples and festivals also serve as source of livelihood of many industries and dependents apart from being the gateways of wisdom, realization and liberation for the mature.
● We are seeing two unpleasant contrasts in the society. First is between the rich temples and the temples of the same Lord inactive and struggling for functioning. Second is between the Lord of justice, unconditional love and wealth seated inside the temple and the surrounding environments of commercialization, corruption, beggary and social negligence. He has provided us enough knowledge, courage and energy not only to use his grants but also to liberate them from misuse, deficits.
Temples and wealth flow
● An affectionate mother takes care of the child and attends with utmost care even before or without the demand of her child, understanding its instinct and needs. Similarly a devotee can understand the soft and simple instincts of the powerful Supreme who is complete and has no needs, and serves accordingly. He wants nothing from us or demands simplest offerings. That is His magnanimity. Devotees want to give big and bigger, more and more, and this is their competitive magnanimity; reflection of His generosity on them. The Lord, in His Bhagavad Gita says that it is enough if a pure devotee offers Him a leaf, flower, fruit or even water (‘patram pushpam phalam thoyam’). But the fervent devotees interpret His verses as diamond, precious gems, gold and silver (Vajram, ratnam, swarnam, rajatham) as per their volume of love and service-enthusiasm.
● A prescribed pattern of richness and its demonstration is a divine tool for alluring, retaining and transforming simple devotees, by name ‘Akarshana’. Gorgeous decorations, elegant festivals and regal shows attracts more people and influences them more strongly.
● It is true that wealth attracts insecurity and mismanagement. But the same problems are common in all other essential centres of wealth such as banks, big shops and companies. What we need is to increase vigilance and security measures and not to develop wealth-allergy. Any form of wealth is meant for the adorning and serving the Supreme only. As mentioned earlier, Lord and His temple are seed and epicentres of all needed benefits. If you need prosperity and security for the society, we have to keep temples reasonably prosperous and completely secure. Any devotee who ends his contract with Lord after giving something to or receiving something from Lord, shares the sin of misuse and thefts. Our duty is to pray, monitor, follow and work for our temple’s safety by all connected means.
● Aishwaryam also induces more awareness, attention and sincerity (jaagarana, avadhana and sraddha). When we commit to maintaining of richness and celebrating grand festivals, we become more responsible. Hence our planning, organizing and executive skills due to necessity of circumstances get naturally shaped, disciplined and enriched. Eventually these qualities will flow into the society and produce good capacity builders and efficient agents. So wealth is required but wealth preserved beyond a limit and is increasing endlessly if not diverted for support of the mass welfare will erode sanctity and safeties of the abode. Similarly, unnecessary shows and ostentatious procedures should be avoided.
● Just as a nation hosts not only royals and elite but also the poor and ignorant, temples also host not only mature and pure devotees, but also gives room to sinner, repenting, beginners, aspirants and practitioners, along with those people who come for entertainment, food, shelter, timepass and tourist visits. These extras, who don’t serve Him are blessed with the benefits of upasthithi (just being inside the temple premises). To shelter, feed, entertain and enlighten masses, wealth and its demonstration in His forms and festivals are components of his beneficial trap.
● He provides opportunities for all types and levels of people. He directs services to those who want to serve, to those want to ward-off sins and purify their wealth and souls and those who want to avoid major or greater losses in their lives or avail major or greater benefits by offering a fragment in temples. It is the foremost function of temples to attract, elevate and settle all those who approach them. He needs a initial grip in them, holding which he may promote their spiritual standards. So wealthy offerings are essential.
Giving to ‘God’
In mature stage, men who are accustomed to only rejoice receiving huge and more, are tempted to offer to right recipients. Supreme, the nourisher of world and repository of richness, in His simplified form, craves for receiving from us.
We have a natural instinct to give and gift to our beloved, whatever we wish or they want. In devotion also, devotee craves to give something to Him due on account of his love and satisfaction. Just as a simple visitor thinks about his family and welfare when he sees the Lord, an advanced devotee will get reminded of Lord and His service even when he sees his beloved and belongings. For Him, Lord is his family or a vital or general part of it. Supreme has manifested himself as Deities in temples only to provide ample provisions for their service.
Everybody in the world is aiming for relief and success. Our great ancestors have prescribed different forms of divine services and described their positive effects on our lives. Simple worships and great festivals of temples such as Brahmotsavam and Theppotsavam are all ordained by Sastras for all-round wellbeing. We can faithfully follow and experience the philosophy and benefits rather than analyzing the same.
Lord Himself is asking us to offer a leaf, flower, fruit or water. His demand of glorification, offering and services and His enjoyment of the same, is not because that He is arrogant, rigid or fame-maniac but only due to His concern on our welfare. When we worship, praise and serve Him, He is happy because we move in an uplifting path by such pious processes (sathgathi) and are deviated from the illusory degrading one (asathgathi). Any father will be pleased to see his child on a progressive direction. As a sensitive and love-packed father, He relishes every word of love we utter and every bit of anything we offer.
In context of divine offering, we often counter the following silly opinions.
● Lord, the creator and owner of this universe has everything in and with Him. Hence we need not offer anything.
● We can never offer something befitting the status and greatness of that unique Supreme personality
● There is nothing in the world that can be offered to Him as everything is what He has created and given to us.
● God never asks for anything as He is only a giver.
Respective brief counters to these misconceptions are;
● Completeness is of two types; personal and mission-oriented. Even though He is personally complete, He feels incomplete without our love, service and surrenders that could lift us from our bondage and make us complete, which is His sole mission. Hence we have to offer our mite.
● Our offering out of love never bothers about His status and standards of our offerings. Even though He is the greatest, our simple submission, endowed with supreme devotion will certainly be greater than that ‘greatest’ and will be duly acknowledged by Him in the same way.
● Everything is His creation and grant. But still, our offering has three meanings. a) As a servant, we should inform the status of our assignments and progress to the management (Master of the Universe) and also offer a very negligible part of whatever He has given. As a gracious master, He wants us just to inform, think and thank, offer a miniscule and serve the needy, and allow us to rejoice everything safely, unlike masters who suck all the gains of their workers. These formalities stipulated by Him are also meant for our sustained welfare only rather than for His personal satisfaction or happiness. b) As a token of gratitude, we should and can offer only what we have, which is nothing but what He has given us. c) Devotion cannot control our urge and fervour to serve Him with whatever we have and we could get. A product of His creation, becomes entirely a new and distinct element, out of ‘creation’ system, when the same is offered back with pure devotion. He feels that the devotee’s offering is different from and greater than what He has created and granted and a devotee can feel that whatever given as His Prasadam is entirely different from and greater than what He has created and given and what he has offered.
● Supreme is also a receiver. He asks for offerings and His injunctions through scriptures also endorse and prescribe the fruits of different types of offerings to Him. Offerings are of two types; that which we offer to Him and are distributed to us and others (like prasadams) and that which are retained for His own rejoicement (like jewels and constructed structures). He receives from us only to relish the love-part of our offering and gives back the same to all of us, filling them with His love, familiar by the name ‘grace’. Even in the case of offerings that He rejoices and retains, He transfers His grace for gaining greater perennial benefits in multiples, to us, through His simple grants like holy basil, holy water, flowers and fruits. The belly of earth receives seeds to foster them and give the same back in multiples whereas He receives simple material things from us and reciprocate with great life gifts and spiritual elevations.
His responsibility and Our responsibilities
There is a mutual exchange or dependence deal between Lord and His devotees. We offer food to Him who feeds the entire cosmos. We decorate Him who has fashioned numerous planets and stars and adorned us with intelligence and spirit. He always praises His devotees and we are singing His immeasurable glory. He is protector of all. He takes responsibility of lifting, elevating and liberating all of us. He is the creator of and ruler immanent in all. His assurance of relief (‘aham tva sarva papebhyo mokshayishyami’) in Geetha, may be more appropriate to the surrenderers but it latently covers every being in His fold. Still, we are guardians of His temples, scriptures, tradition and subjects. Neither Lord needs any protection nor do we have the capacity to protect Him. But He wishes and prefers to induce potential and responsibility (Aasrita sakthi-kartrutva) in us and silence His supremacy (Sarveswaratva). Hence audaciously we can declare ‘mamaadheenaa tava sthithi:’ (you may be our protector. But if anything happens to you before me, your relief is my duty and at my disposal).
Hence we have the prime duty of safeguarding Him; His sthapanas, siddhanta, parikaras and samajam.
● Sthapanam denotes establishments like temples and their properties and can be extended to other institutions and belongings connected to His close associates. We have to be take responsibility for their safety and smooth functioning.
● Siddhanta deals with the glory of Lord and philosophy. Any attempt to damage His glory, dignity and honour should be extirpated and our philosophy should be saved from misinterpretations, interpolations and mispropaganda.
● Parikaras are the beloved associates of the Lord; Bhagavathas and Acharyas. They also should be supported through all possible ways.
● Samajam means the society; His creations. We have to respect and safeguard nature, other species and all humans. Thus the universal meaning and vision of Vaishnavism is emphasized here.
In devotion, mere affinity and knowledge, without responsibility and execution, like loving a child without feeding and caring for it, can make no sense. Real devotee takes complete responsibility of caring for the Lord and all others come only for lip-service, courtesy-visit and exchange offers. Adoption of a temple does not mean mere support but our personal commitment to organize, develop and glorify the temple.
Devotees and services
All temple visitors cannot be brought under a single category.
Many people are formally attached to the Lord and still carrying the illusion of this material ties.
Some are more attached but are mere emotional and do nothing practical or productive.
Some are very formal in their devotion and follow customs due to their inheritance and long term practice.
Some do service in exchange for something that they expect.
Some are sincere but limit their services to the financial limits they set for those services.
A true devotee is the one who feels worried on even hearing about the need or issue of a temple. He would crave to rescue or support the temple by extending his resources or by influencing and connecting others.
When we parent our child, we never fix a limited frame for our services. Dress, education, marriage and anything needed for the child is organized as per the need and the best possible that we could do is rendered, stretching our boundaries. Similarly when we adopt divya desams, more than our limits, we should view only the needs of the temple and ways to enrich ourselves or organize the resources with our prayers and networking.
Divya Desa Sveekaram
This herculean and magnificent ‘adoption’ or Sveekaram project of our entire Sampradaya can be simply started by adopting one of His significant temples that are popularly known as divyadesams.
‘Divyadesam’ or earthly divine abode is the seat and centre of the Supreme, where He resides in the deity form. But specifically it refers only to temples and Supreme forms that have been glorified in the hymns of super-mystical Alwars (Nalayira Divya Prabandham). Similar or even greater glory is attributed to the birth, action and liberation centres of Alwars and Acharyas (avataara, sambandha kshetras and thiruvarasu). All such stations carry the enhanced energies and bliss of Perumal, Alwars, Acharyas and Bhagavathas.
It is pitiable that many Divyadesams don’t even have the basic facilities and foundation today. We have to attend to them as per their immediate, self-propulsion and development needs.
● Temples in ruin or in an unmaintained position need to be renovated with good kitchen, water sources such as well and pond, electricity and holy garden (nandavanam) facilities. Cleanliness should be maintained with utmost care.
● Our next attention should be on daily needs for thiruvaaraadhanam - such as Prasadam (groceries, firewood and other needs), clothes (vastra), basic simple jewels (earrings, nose-rings, sacred threads-mangala sutram and yagnopavitham; and crown) pushpam (flowers, garland), gandham (sandal), doopam (incense) and other accessories, and deepam (lamps). Existing accessories such as utensils, jewels and vehicles (car and other vehicles) should be repaired and replaced and kept in a condition suitable to serve Him.
● Our third concern is about the welfare of temple employees. Their monthly salary, family needs and post-service support should be organized in such a way that both the beneficiaries as well as the supreme benefactor can be worry-free and continue their duties of worship and grace. We can construct revenue generating community halls, guest houses and shops in suitable adjacent areas or handle any other reliable profit-means and divert the income for these primary care needs.
● One of our serious concerns is safety. Many temples don’t have the appropriate facilities to safeguard the temple resources. Even deities and simple elements have become centres of attraction for smugglers and thieves and their mischiefs have become part of daily news.
● The backbone of every temple is its tradition; Sampradaya. One should ensure that ‘chastity of worship’ (focused and exclusively committed to the service of Sriman Narayana and his associates) and traditional rules (as per the agamas (Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa) and Sishtachara (precedent records) and conventions) should never be compromised. Entry of new practices and fading of traditional observances both should be curbed at the earliest.
After elevating temples upto this level, the next paradigm is ‘development’.
● The first step is colonization. Many divyadesams are in and around cities and are all reasonably fertile. In areas, where the population is scarce, initiatives for establishing industries and institutions around the temple will result in development of accessory units, facilitating public attention, participation and safety. Similarly NGOs can establish old age homes, orphanages and social service centres in temple areas and enhance both God-consciousness and service consciousness levels of that zone.
● Special colonies for Vaishnavas should be formed in every divyadesam. Retired professionals/ NRIs, admirers and neighbourhood Vaishnavas can prefer to stay in divyadesam areas either as a permanent resident or even as a temporary guest for a specified period of 2, 3, 6 or 12 months. This continuous flow of Vaishnavas in such centres will make their lives meaningful as well as make Him cheerful. We need to circulate this proposal and motivate many Vaishnavas to initiate due action.
● Next is amalgamation of proximate energies. We should reach out to all nearby villages and towns, and mobilize participation from students, youth women and other public communities, for doing temple services such as cleaning, maintenance, safety and ‘event and crowd management during festival occasions’. Such opportunities will increase the faith, attachment and commitment levels of the participants and develop a strong stable service force for the temple.
● Only after fixing all of these basic problems, we can attempt for making high level services such as gold and diamond offerings and ostentatious expansions and expenses.
● And finally, the most challenging step is recovery or rent regularization of temple properties such as lands, shops and houses that are misappropriated or mismanaged. This requires long time and high resource consuming legal battles or a mass revolution
Classification of temples and prioritization of services
● Affluent temples such as Thirumala-Tirupati which are self-sustained that can also support many other temples also.
● Rich temples such as Kanchipuram and Srirangam
● Temples that can manage day to day rituals, maintenance and festivals with their resources.
● Temples that are self-sufficient to maintain themselves but cannot afford to organize huge festivals.
● Temples that are struggling for even routine maintenance and temples that are defunct and dilapidated.
Every devotee has his own wish; choice of his temple and form of service he is interested in offering. Those who are much attached to Acharyas will prioritize service to them rather than to Divya desams. Few are much engaged only in the service of devotees (Bhagavathas)
But instead of being mere admirers of certain divine forms or abodes or specific contributions, if we focus the entire system as ‘system healers and rejuvenators’, we can understand the foremost priorities and secondaries and collectively serve for the vital needs, even without disturbing the specifically engrossed communities.
● Divya desams are like the central nervous system of Sri Sampradaya. We may have our family, village, proximate and beloved temples and their services. Being a Vaishnava, one should give first preference only to divya desams.
● Even in Divya desams, most needy ones deserve our immediate exclusive attention and action.
● More than our personal settlements, welfare of divya desams should be prioritized which shall consequently bring personal developments.
● When temples are struggling for daily offerings like food and flowers (prasadam and pushpam), we should never prioritize huge celebration ventures.
● When temples need to repair the existing structure and accessories, construction of new temples, attachments, extensions and submission of new accessories should never be prioritized.
● When temples are lacking of accessories in copper, wood and simple materials, contributions in silver, gold and diamonds should never be prioritized.
● Devotees and Lord are two eyes of temple care, service and administrations.In the pretext of increasing facilities for the visitors, we should never dilute the temple’s sanctity by violating and compromising temple procedures and principles. At the same time, organizing grand festivals for Him without providing proper basic facilities for the Sevarthis (devotees) is also wrong.
● Many reform works may cause inconvenience, strain or loss. We have to endure them for solid long term subtle benefits and any adjustment for immediate interim benefits or comforts will bring solid and irreparable losses.
Empowering temples
Every temple acquires its sanctity; source of its strength, gaiety and glory, through many ways.
● The best way is Mangalaasaasanam. The sanctity of the Lord is revived, multiplied and rejuvenated by the earnest wishes that come out of the pure hearts of unconditionally devoted.
● Conducting routine procedures, festivals and celebrations (utsavams) as per the scriptures (agamas) and tradition, with love, fear and sincerity.
● Establishing centres of positive prowess like cow-sheds and Vedic learning centres (Goshala and Veda Patashala) and their due maintenance will phenomenally induce and guard the sanctity of temples.
● Organizing “beneficial special recitations and rituals, (parayanams and homams), prescribed in our scriptures and endorsed by our ancestors” and “wisdom-ritual, enlightening lectures rendered by erudite scholars”.
● All divyadesams are quite spacious and most of the temple spaces remain unutilized. They can be used for conducting spiritual activities like Homams and social activities like free tuition and training centres, and awareness campaigns, without disturbing temple routines and rules. Such activities serve as sources of both monetary and spiritual incomes.
● Harmony and peace in and around the temple itself is a mega-sanctifying force. Similarly, genuine sanctity force is capable of bringing harmony and peace in the surroundings. As they are inter-dependent, parallel measures should be taken to maintain both sanctity and harmony.
● Whenever we approach temples for service, we can experience different forms and levels of direct or substream non-cooperation, friction and oppositions, from the authority groups. Private fights, false egos and personal frustrations make “responsible people” to revenge on non-targets like temples, festivals and procedures. Only proper counseling, arbitration and prayers can heal such complex obstacles and smoothen our march and mission.
Appeal
We have identified about 40 temples that require immediate attention in terms of meeting the basic needs such as day to day thiruvaradhanam, kitchen and toilet facilities, water, electricity, appointment and salaries of archakas (priests), paricharakas (assistants), cook, employees and security-men, and cleanliness. The entire temples list is given at the end. You can comment on the list or even add to them with proper details.
As detailed before, ‘adoption’ is ‘serious responsibility sense’, which is different from mere contributions. We want now more guardians to take care of field works with personal commitment. We may get support of many patrons and collectively contribute many things but at the least ‘one’ should take up the responsibility of delivering the maintenance and progress impacts for the temple either by full-time or part-time personal involvements. We also need to create a local support team to assist and lead them.
Suggestion and complaint boxes could be kept to get useful feedbacks which could be considered for rectification and betterments.
We need to create a monthly/quarterly/biannual and annual progress report that covers developments made, challenges and failures encountered, investigation and remediation tools. This should be made available to all concerned for views, reviews and suggestions.
If each one of us can adopt (sweekaram) one temple and ensure that the adopted temple is developed into a self sufficient and flourishing one, by our personal, collective and networking means, the 1000th birth-anniversary (millennium celebrations) of Sri Ramanuja will become more lifeful, meaningful, colourful and impactful. Such services and glorifying such ‘a great soul’ are indeed pathways to not only our traditional development but also to all-round wellbeing; peace and harmony.
Let us pray the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacharya to bestow on us a stable mind, sharp intelligence and strong will to accomplish this apparently simple but arduous adventure.
Other Sthalams:
S.NO DIVYADESAM DESCRIPTION LOCALITY
1 Mylapore Birth Place of Peyazhwar Chennai District, Tamilnadu
2 Thirumazhisai Birth place of Thirumazhisai Azhwar Thiruvallur District, Tamilnadu
3 Mandangudi Birth place of Thondaradipodi Azhwar Kumbakonam District, Tamilnadu
4 Thiruvanchikkalam
(Kodungallur, TKS Puram) Birth Place of Kulasekara Azhwar Thrissur District, Kerala
5 Thiru Kuraiyaloor Birth Place of Thirumangai Azhwar Nagapattinam District, Tamilnadu
6 Kattu Mannar Kovil Birth Place of Nathamuni and Alavandhaar Cuddalore District, Tamilnadu
7 Manakkal Birth Place of Manakaal Nambi Trichy District, Tamilnadu
8 Sriperumbudur Birth Place of Ramanujar Kanchipuram District, Tamilnadu
9 Kooram Birth place of Koorathazhwan Kanchipuram District, Tamilnadu
10 Pettai Birth Place of Mudhaliyaandan Thiruvallur District, Tamilnadu
11 Madhura Mangalam Birth place of Embar Kanchipuram District, Tamilnadu
12 Siruputthur (Kirangur) Birth Place of Anathazhwan Mandya District, Karnataka
13 Vinjemoor Birth Place of Arulaala Perumal Emperumanaar Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh
14 Chengannur Birth Place of Periyavaachaan Pillai Alappuzha District, Kerala
15 Thirunaarayanpuram (Melkote) Birth Place of Thirunaarayanpuram Aaye Mandya District, Karnataka
16 Sikkil Kadaram (Kothankulam) Birth Place of Manavala Maamunigal Ramanathapuram District, Tamilnadu
17 Erumbi Birth Place of Erumbi Appa Thiruvallur District, Tamilnadu
18 Ramanuja Chaturvedhi Mangalam
(Alwar Thirunagari) Bhavisyathaacharya Vigraha Prathistai by Manavala Maamunigal Tuticorin District, Tamilnadu
19 Kumbakonam Thirumazhisai Azhwar thiruvarasu Thanjavur District, Tamilnadu
20 Mannarkovil Kulasekara Azhwar Thiruvarasu
Birth Place of Vaadhi Kesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar Tiruelveli District, Tamilnadu
21 Ayyampettai Periyanambi Thiruvarsau Thanjavur District, Tamilnadu
22 Jothishkudi(KodikkuLam) Pillailokacharyar Thiruvarasu Madurai District, Tamilnadu
23 Srirangam Manavala Maamunigal Thiruvarasu Trichy District, Tamilnadu
24 Sorgap Pallam - NathamunigaL Thiruvarasu , Jayamkondam
25 Kuppanguzhi NathamunigaL avathara sthalam,Kattumannarkoil.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What exactly is meant by sin (paap)?

I was recently sent this quote by Swami Tejomayananda, the  Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, apparently from its news bulletin of March 2016.
"Today there is so much talk of atmosphere pollution, water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution. But very rarely do we speak of mind pollution. External pollution is nothing but the result of polluted mind. So papam is to be understood as what which pollutes the mind and result in suffering."

In this context I would like to share what Sri Koorathazhvan has stated in Varadarajastavam. This appears to be a more appropriate as it also includes the definition of punya.

Swami Koorathazhvan, says, "An act of ours that pleases Lord Varadan results in Pnnya. An act of ours that displeases Lord Varadan results in Papam." Therefore in each of our action, we need to check whether Lord Varadan will be pleased. Obviously, Lord Varadan will not be pleased with acts that cause harm to His property - all things in the world, including every living being.

Eloborating this further, poorvacharyas have come to an understanding that acts based on Dharma shastras only please Lord Varadan. That is because, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says, "shrutis smritir mamaiva agnja" i.e "That which is stated in the Shrutis and Smritis is my commandment."
Based on this pramanam, one may come to the conclusion that following the Do's and refraining from the Don't's as stated in the Vedas, and Smriti's such as Manu Smriti et al. should be one's way of life.
The dictum of the Shruti and Smriti are very complex for the modern mind which tries to interpret them liberally. That is why our ancestors have tried to understand, codify, and created a way of life that includes the dictum of the Shrutis and Smritis. For further clarification one need to consult appropriate elders in the family. In addition, certain external practices have been put in place that cleanse the mind off the mind pollution, resulting in positive thinking, and therefore good conduct. Achamanam, for example, is deha, manas, and atma shuddi. One has to do achamanam several times a day - after ablution, after wearing clothes, after eating, etc. And, washing of hands, feet and mouth is described as a pre-requisite to performing achamanam. We have forgotten a lot of these practices that were mandated by our ancestors - because of what we call "progress"? Really? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What is the proof or evidence that God exists?

Charuvaka's or Atheists claim that we cannot see (or touch or feel or smell or hear etc.) God and therefore He does not exist.  Abrahamic religions ride partially on Charuvaka's arguments to deride Hindu Gods. Hindus are confused about who is God because of the sheer number of them (33 crores?) who are all collectively referred to as God and many of them even have temples where they are worshipped and revered. But the few Hindus that know some vedanta agree that eventually there is only one God - and that it is He/She that manifests in so many forms (33 crore+) for different purposes. They also agree that He/She is in each one of us as Antaryami or Soul or Self or Atma - whatever technical jargon they want to use.  At the end of the day, 99.9% of the world, irrespective of the religion they choose to live by, wants evidence of God's existence. The lack of evidence is the primary reason why Atheists call the theists as "blind followers".

Swami Nammazhvar says there is no dearth of Gods in this world. What one accomplishes at the end of this life depends on the God that he/she chooses to worship. In other words, most of these Gods that people worship, have limitations on what favors they can give/grant to their worshippers. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Thivaimozhi pasuram

குலம் தாங்கு சாதிகள் நாலிலும் கீழ் இழிந்து எத்தனை
நலம் தான் இலாத சண்டாள சண்டாளர்கள் ஆகிலும்
வலம் தாங்கு சக்கரத்து அண்ணல் மணிவண்ணர்க்கு ஆள் என்று
உள் கலந்தார் அடியார் தம் அடியார் எம் அடிகளே.