Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Lease of Life


||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||

 ||Aum Namo Narayanaya||
My Gurudev

The last words playing in my head as I succumbed to the well turned down bed was from my guide saying: “Please arrive by 6am itself Sir, it will be good to see the sun rise over the river”. The words intercepted my brain in a disjointed garble as my priority after the 7 hour journey to Varanasi was sleep. The sudden annoyance of the telephone solicited much irritation because it seemed that no sooner than I put my head to rest, I had to awake. The voice on the other side was Vijay Kumar, the guide - coming across with a chiding tone, like a teacher who was reprimanding me for not following instructions. “Sir we must leave soon or else we will miss out”. I had to restraint the rebel in me in pursuant of a pleasurable day. It didn’t take long before I presented myself all togged up before the tour entourage. Vijay Kumar didn’t seem too pleased and started to innovatively navigate the driver through the unknown gulleys laden under a cloud of falling mist. It was in two ticks that the roaring diesel engine came to a halt near the Dasaswamedh Ghat - the place puranas depict as the stage where Gods and Saints performed many great austerities and rituals. History simultaneously tells us that Varanasi is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.


At the very point when I alighted from the vehicle I felt nothing… not even a sense of awe, as the stimulus being received was more audio than visual. The rattles, whistles, clanging and chattering announced the start of another day.  I took a deep breath and opened my arms in a wide stretch gazing in the direction of the horizon. There I witnessed night and dawn wrestle for prominence. An audience of chillness revelled as the spectacle of day was about to reveal itself over a city worshipped and revered from time immemorial as the home of Kashi Vishwanatha: ‘the Liberator of Souls’. Without any effort from my part I was whisked onto an oar boat. Four of us were being rowed by one oarsman in competition of many others towards a vantage point from where the miracle of Kashi will be witnessed. The oar struggled against the current and the creaky boat which came across as ancient as the city itself bobbed about on the holy river. Slowly as night started to lose its grip on dawn, an ancient and mystical scene appeared to be painted on the sacrosanct canvas of the most venerated place on the globe.


The muddy waters strewn with garlands and remnants of banana leaves bathed the banks huddled with half naked men busy with their morning cleansing, side by side with woman doing the laundry. In the gaps, devout pilgrims and residents stood transfixed in great concentration toward the Sun holding a gathering of flowers, holy basil and lighted incense contained in a dried leaf bowl. As they slowly one-by-one lowered their offerings into the river as a thanksgiving for the day and life in general… a few feet ahead one- by-one cremated remains were released into the very same waters.  Was this oxymoron the great miracle to be witnessed?


By now, day was gaining strength and life was starting to infuse into the city. There was steam from the chai-stalls and street food vendors dancing to the chime of the bells emanating from the poojas and morning aarthi in the many mandhirs and ashramas around which it seemed the city was developed. It is after this auspicious and important ritual that men and woman -adorned with white ash- make their way to begin their work.  Sadhus, Swamis, ordinary men and women, animals, beggars and death all exist side-by-side without any form of dissent. It then dawned upon me that this place was not a miracle but a great teacher.


Hundreds of thousands make their way to Kashi to breathe their last breath in the hope that they will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death… and attain the heavens. There are also those who work hard against all odds to create a better life by applying their skills at weaving the finest Benares Sarees that will find its way to the world.




Paramahamsa Yogananda said:

Don’t depend on death to liberate you from your imperfections. You are exactly the same after death as you were before. Nothing changes; you only give up the body. If you are a thief or a liar or a cheater before death, you don’t become an angel merely by dying. If such were possible, then let us all go jump into the ocean now and become angels at once! Whatever you have made of yourself thus far, is what you will be hereafter. And when you reincarnate, you will bring that same nature with you. To change, you have to make the effort. The world is the place to do it.


Swami Sumanasananda, President of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa- Durban gave an inspiring and emotive Keynote Address at the 62nd Annual Children’s Cultural Festival over the past weekend. Maharaj unpacked the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda as the panacea of the malaise that is debilitating our youth and society in general.


In this very city of Varanasi, Swami Vivekananda who was being taunted by a group of monkeys and started to retract from them, was instructed by an illumined sage to “face the brutes!!!!” This pivotal point had an everlasting effect and chiselled the firebrand Vivekananda who shook the world of tamas. In His address, Maharaj highlighted that our lives are full of challenges and we must stand up and face them with great force and vigour. “Arise! Awake!” was the clarion call of Swami Vivekananda.


Swami Vivekananda eloquently drew a parallel between life and a Gymnasium. Swamiji said that the world is a great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves morally and spiritually strong. Swamiji further elaborated from the Upanishads that liberation is jivan mukthi or freedom while living in the body. It is not going to another realm or attaining something new, but realising our true nature. It is not freedom from anything, but being in the midst of everything.


The boatman was signalled by Vijay Kumar to start making his way back to the Ghat. It was quite evident from the expression on his face that he was experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms from his morning dose of chai and some fresh puree.  I glanced towards the river as we journeyed back. I realised that the water that passed under our boat shall never touch us again. Time that has passed is time we can never get back.  As I reminisce on the illustrious and glorious life of Swami Vivekananda on His Maha Samadhi day (4 July), we can say that the essence of His life was to work, work and work!!! He will ceaselessly work until each one of us realises that we are one with God. He is truly a voice without form nudging us to awaken from our slumber and use this rare gift of human birth (as mentioned by Swami Tadbashananda in His concluding address at the Festival) to experience the joy of heaven right here in this life.


My earlier annoyance at Vijay Kumar slowly disappeared as I became more appreciative of the great lesson he taught me by dragging me out of bed at the ridiculous hour to experience this miracle and spectacle of Kashi. The Guide had become a Guru. In this month of July on the Purnima, we will offer our great respects and obeisance to our spiritual teachers who row our solitary boats bobbing about aimlessly on the ocean of life towards the safe shores of bliss, joy and fulfilment in life.  In this holy month, I offer my sastanga pranaams to my revered Guru Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj and all the monks of the Ramakrishna order for their guidance and blessings on us always.


All Glories to Master, Mother and Swamiji.  Jai Ma!!!!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Master and Mahadev!!!

6 March 2016: night pronounced itself very prominently in the absence of the moon. It seemed like everything lay siege to the hot and humid condition with the air being hung in lifelessness. There was a tinge of mysticism though as if Mother Nature was taking a gallant bow to Lord Shiva in preparation for the glorious night of Maha Shivaratri which is commemorated around the globe.

As I went to bed my thoughts began circulating around the ideas presented by Swami Sumanasananda (President Ramakrishna Centre SA - Durban and Keynote Speaker) and Swami Tadbasananda (Vice President Ramakrishna Centre of SA – Phoenix) at the 180th birth anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna hosted by the Phoenix centre. Both Swamis exposed Sri Ramakrishna as the incarnation of harmony and the restorer of faith in God at a time that witnessed its colossal decline.

A great portion of our time and energy is spent on arguments and conflicts over religion and its practices which in my view should be kept personal and utilised as a personal path that helps one to reach one’s spiritual pursuits and goal in life. In my last article, I briefly commented on the conflict between religions and highlighted points from Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the World Parliament of Religions when He appealed to the Congress of religious leaders - that the gathering should herald the death of bigotry, fundamentalism, fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

These ideas are not bequeathed to a mind that is constricted to the shallow, narrow and parochial view of this world, but bestowed upon one who has tapped into the universal spiritual consciousness and has become the knower of Brahman. Sri Ramakrishna said that for one who is the knower of Brahman everything becomes known. In my limited understanding, I believe that it is impractical and useless to expect a harmony amongst religions when we amongst ourselves fail to realise and understand the non-duality or oneness within Hindu Dharma itself.

For many years, India had witnessed rivalry amongst the different dominations within Hinduism eg. the Saivites and the Vaishanavites. Heated debates and even lives were lost on account of whose God was the greatest. Of recent, I read an article on a Ramana Maharishi Forum where an incident was described. A satsangh turned into a heated exchange of words between a scholar and devotee when the scholar discussed a verse which cited Lord Shiva was the primordial God. The Lord Vishnu worshipper took offence and argued that Lord Vishnu was. Understanding where this argument may end up, the presenter eventually agreed with the devotee to restore the devotee’s sense of peace and calm.

When our key principle scriptures, the Vedas, in essence propound that there is only one God and that we appreciate the cosmic consciousness as per our faculties of understanding it then begs the question as to why we need to force our idea of God upon one another. We should develop the tolerance and patience to allow people to adore and glorify their chosen ideals without allowing it to affect us personally.

It was Sri Ramakrishna -the avatar of empirical erudition- that proved all paths are true and ultimately reach the same the goal. In this light, we can conclude that if on the macro level that is true then in the micro (within our own folds) it is true as well.

Giving credence to His words, that supreme consciousness that appeared in the form of Lord Krishna and declared in the Bhagavad Gita that “whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an incline unrighteous, from time to time I manifest myself for the protection of creation". At a time of rising religious intolerance and a massive shift in consciousness from the goal of life towards materialism and sensual gratification, Brahman appeared to humanity as Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in the West Bengal town of Kamarpukur.

The following hymn penned by Swami Vivekananda about His Master is the most lucid and grand exposition on the advent of Sri Ramakrishna in my view. It extols the purpose and mission of this avatar in the most succinct and befitting manner.

Sthapakaya cha Dharmasya Sarvadharma Svaroopini

Avataraya Varishthraya, Ramakrishnaya te Namah

To the one who came to establish spirituality, the one who is the personification

of all faiths and religions, the one who the greatest embodiment of the divine,

to that Ramakrishna I offer my salutations.

If I had to put it to a staunch Shiva devotee that on the night of Shiva (Maha Shivaratri) I would worship my Master Sri Ramakrishna with deep devotion, He may take offence. His argument may centre on the fact that it is a night dedicated to Lord Shiva. When one reads Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master we find that details around His birth point to a dream by His father that Lord Narayana will take birth as his son. In this context some may call me insane, but is there a difference between Master and Mahadev. Mathematically, I was thought that 3 reasons where sufficient to prove theorems. I will therefore apply this principle to derive at a conclusion that Master and Mahadev are one:

1.      Mahadev was regarded as dirty and unkempt by his father-in–law. He was a great yogi and ascetic who paid no attention to his physical body and surroundings and was always in deep contemplation.

2.      Master was once asked to attend a Brahmo festival by Devendra but was warned to wear a cloth and shawl over his shoulder should someone say something unkind about his unkempt appearance.. Master who was always contemplating on God and entering into Samadhi had no consciousness of his body and appeared unkempt like Lord Shiva. At times he would walk in his room without his cloth while in deep contemplation.

A)     Mahadev will be found in deep meditation on cremation on burial grounds.

B)     Master meditated in the Panchavati which once was a burial ground.

1.      When the halahala poison emerged from the churning of the milky ocean, Lord Shiva swallowed the poison and held it in His throat for the benefit of creation. He was thereafter known as Neelakanta (blue-throat-one).

2.      Master suffered from throat cancer and once said it was this disease that will keep the genuine seekers to him and others to flee. We have thus seen how the direct disciples have been of great value to the creation through spiritual and relief work.

A)     Mahadeva believed in all paths as one and was all merciful, embracing and compassionate. Worshipped by all, He kept the company of sages, kings, ghouls and ghosts highlighting that all of creation comes from that same source and as per our understanding we will eventually reach our goal.

B)     Master was all-embracing, compassionate and was in the company of great scholars, Muslims, Christians and other faiths and did not discriminate against anyone and thought the ideal of universal harmony.

In my mind, there is no difference between Master and Mahadev. Their aims, purpose and lives reflect that one glorious truth that we are all wending our way towards. It is our duty on this glorious dark night to beseech upon Lord Shiva to give us enlightenment so that vast differences that appear to our shallow minds be removed so to perceive that one consciousness that dwells within each of us.

In the words of Master, the thousands of stars on a dark night disappear in the light of the rising sun. In the same way as we educate ourselves and have the realisation of ourselves… the light of wisdom will remove the ignorance and darkness that shows us differences.

May the grace of Master and Mahadev give us illumination to help us live in peace and harmony. I make a special prayer to relieve our country and province from the drought that we are currently gripped in.

With love and prayers always,


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Maha Kumbha Abishegam - Connecting You Within

IIAum Sri Ramakrishna SharanamII
IIAum Namo NarayanayaII

The dust rose, like in the aftermath of a hundred galloping horses, as everybody busied themselves with the final preparation for the Maha Kumbha Abishegam of the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple. This 100 year old institution prides itself in being relevant and responsive to the needs of the community. With the increasing number of devotees over the years, it was decided on the eve of the Centenary Celebrations to construct a larger Temple according to Indian architecture. This was to be a monument to the pioneering fathers but more importantly to ensure devotees leave inspired after every visit. Elaborately detailed and inscribed artwork depicting various scenes from the puranas flank the walls and speak to the important themes of curbing desires, good over evil and light over darkness.

Temple Domes of the "new" Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple

It finally made sense as to why construction of Temples and Maha Kumbha Abishegams were mainly undertaken by royalty. The accumulative costs from construction to consecration run into the millions. Thankfully by His grace alone many selfless devotees and well-wishers have come forward and donated generously in the name of the festivities. Seven highly experienced and trained Priests were commissioned to turn a stunning structure into a shrine. Sri Girish Hebbar, the Head Priest of the Balaji Temple in Botswana arrived a day before to lead the proceedings. I had met him a few years earlier when I accompanied Swami Vimokshananda to Botswana on a spiritual tour. Beautiful energy and vibrations were created by the chanting of vedic mantras and the ritualistic worship of thekumbhas (brass pots) which were aplenty as they are normally proportional in number according to the deities being installed.

Priests performing the Maha Kumbha Abishegam

To a little extent, it seemed like an anti-climax… with so much of preparations and efforts for a few days of chanting and bathing of the deities with the water thereafter. Was this going to give life to themurthis (deities)? As these questions entertained my mind, I remembered that Swami Vimokshananda once explained to us the spiritual triangle where the two sides consist of the rituals and mythology with the philosophy as the base.  Yes, Yes!!! I rejoiced like having just broken thepinaka dhanush (bow broken by Lord Rama). There must be a philosophy behind this elaborate ceremony that will connect me closer to my divine consciousness. After much contemplation two ideas came to mind. One from recent times and another from way back in time.

Emoto was born in Yokohama, Japan and graduated from Yokohama Municipal University after taking courses in International Relations. In the mid 1990’s, he began studying water in more detail. Emoto believed that water was a "blueprint for our reality" and that emotional "energies" and "vibrations" could change the physical structure of water. Emoto's water crystal experiments consisted of exposing water in glasses to different words, pictures or music, and then freezing and examining the aesthetic properties of the resulting crystals with microscopic photography. Emoto made the claim that water exposed to positive speech and thoughts would result in visually pleasing crystals being formed when that water was frozen, and that negative intention would yield "ugly" frozen crystal formations.

Our gem amongst puranas, the Srimad Bhagavatam tells of a little boy Prahalad, who although being born in an asura family became one of the greatest devotees of Sri Hari. When Hiranyakasipu left his kingdom and went to the mountain known as Mandaracala to execute severe austerities, all the demons scattered. Hiranyakasipu's wife Kayadhu was pregnant at that time, and the devas, mistakenly thinking that she carried another demon in her womb, arrested her. Their plan was that as soon as the child took birth they would kill him. While they were taking Kayadhu to the heavenly planets, they met Narada Muni, who stopped them from taking her away and took her to his ashramauntil Hiranyakasipu's return. In Narada Muni's ashrama, Kayadhu prayed for the protection of the baby in her womb and Narada Muni reassured her and gave her instructions on spiritual knowledge.

The vibrations of the Sage’s voice seeped through the amniotic fluid and left an indelible impression on the infant’s consciousness. As he grew up even in the midst of the most adharmic forces, he was only able to call on his Lord Narayana.

From the above we gather that water is able to transmit and sustain vibrations. The idea of placing the water in a copper kumbha is scientific as copper being a metal is a good conductor of vibrations. Therefore, the primary component of any Kumbha Abishegam is a group of Priests chanting mantras in unison around kumbhas filled with water. The mantras selected from the Vedas are composed to a specific metre and are chanted with much emphasis and force to create the needed vibrations.


After the water is used to bath the deities we term them vigrahas and thus start to offer devotion and praise to them. I believe that the kumbhas filled with water essentially represents our intellect. Our mind is the deities. When the intellect is charged with dharmic and positive ideas it empowers and guides the mind on how to interact with the world in a divine and dharmic manner. Sage Narada had programmed and configured Prahalad’s intellect to dharma, hence even in the midst of the harshest persuasion from his father, his mind could not waver or veer away from the path of righteousness.

As the Priests say the Kumbha Abishegam is a process of giving life to the deities and over a period of time the infant energy grows and becomes more powerful… it is symbolic in our personal development as well. At all times we must try to fortify our intellects with divine and positive ideas and constantly bathe the mind with these inspiring thoughts which then becomes an algorithm against which all stimuli received will be acted upon.

Temple worship is a valuable path to God realisation and should not be denounced as inferior. A great example of its success comes in the life of Sri Ramakrishna who conducted regular pooja to the divine Mother Kali. Through sincere and devout worship, Master was able to translate and internalise His worship to achieve superior results, to the point of becoming a Paramhamsa.

Let us all perform the ritual of turning our body into Bhagwan by regular abishegam of our mind with our charged intellect, is my sincere prayer.

With love and prayers always,

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Living Lotusly!

“Swami Vivekananda is an enduring source of inspiration” said the Honourable Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi, as he together with millions across the world paid respects and remembered this great son of India and inspirer of the world on 4th July, which was Swamiji’s Maha Samadhi Day. How should we view this day? I believe it must be celebrated as a day of victory. It was Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna who said that Naren will leave his body when he had finished his work. Although we all lament His early departure from the earthly planes, Swamiji had “set in motion the machinery” that would develop a new order of beings - more confident, brave, highly progressive, strong and ready to face the world.

The morning broke with much excitement in the Kingdom of the Zulu with the Durban July horse race grasping the attention of many as they pondered upon their attire and obviously on their choice for the winner, in preparation to attend the event. My thoughts however managed to weave past these entirely frivolous distractions and centre on the aim of attending Ashram to offer my respectful obeisance and gratitude to a Saint whose heart cried out to the folly of man in leading an uninspired and aimless life through ignorance of his true nature.

An empyrean vibe accosted the Satsangh Hall which imbued with the essence of sandal incense. The regally adorned altar simply invoked adoration and did not stall in transporting devotees into a realm of supreme tranquillity.  No soon as Kandana Bhava Bandhana (arathi) was sung… my mind was unbounded from the precincts of Durban Ashram and ported to the banks of Belur Math. I could hear the gongs and bells echo in the flamboyant arched halls of the Temple. Tears streamed down the face of devotees as the flames of the arathi flickered and danced for the enjoyment of the seated image of  Master. The concerted and the collective rendition soaked in such sincere devotion drowned out the blaring horn of the nearby jute mill, the foraging crows and the rickety ferries bobbing on the tempestuous Ganga. I pictured Swamiji pacing His veranda with a smoke in His hand, deep in thought, heart bleeding with pain about the condition of humanity. I took solace and comfort knowing that Swamiji will continue to pace His veranda until the work He set in motion -that is to deliver every soul from the abyss of ignorance to the point of understanding it is one with the divine- is realised.

Here in South Africa, the Ramakrishna Mission, through the inspired work of Swami Nischalananda has catalysed and augmented the vision of Swami Vivekananda by channelising youth energy into developing value-based character.

Youth performing at the Childrens' Cultural Festival
Pic Courtesy: SA Devotees
The Childrens' Cultural Festival initiated by Swami Nischalananda show cases the results of immense sacrifice and intense dedication in nurturing and grooming the new order of beings as envisaged by Swamiji. You cannot imagine the delight on the faces of those who watch the cultural feast for the first time, which is completely produced by the youth with the assistance of their Sunday School teachers. For those of us who have attended previously, we are simply stunned by the standards that continuously improve year after year.

It was also heart-warming to see that Swamiji’s instruments - the Monks of the order starting to multiply in South Africa… a definite and clear sign that the spiritual renaissance is going to be given new impetus and vigour over the next few months.  The grace extended through the first President from Belur Math, Swami Vimokshananda, expanded on Saturday when our current President Swami Vishwathmananda returned to South Africa with two new monks who will compliment and intensify the work of Swamiji in South Africa. South Africa is blessed and elated to welcome Swami Sumanasananda and Swami Tadbhasananda to her shores.

Monks of the Ramakrishna Order in attendance at the Childrens' Cultural Festival
Pic Courtesy: SA Devotees

Swami Vivekananda’s life speaks to the search and rescue of the indomitable strength, power and resolve that lies within each one of us.  Swamiji’s life punctuated with its fair share of trials and tribulations resonates amicably with many people who are struggling to keep their head above water in the vast ocean of existence. Struggle has become synonymous with life. Victory comes to those who adopt the correct attitude and temerity to face and resolve the impasses before them.

The burly and authoritative words of Swamiji at once reduces to ashes any smouldering signs of weakness, lethargy, fear and uncertainty flourishing from the root of ignorance. “Face the brutes” - probably one of his most audacious and potent utterances commands immediate fearlessness against challenges that confront us.

The most brilliant and priceless gems emerge out of the confrontation with the cutting-brush. Our inadequacies and inferiority complex has thwarted us from emerging as shining gems against the challenges of life. Our great concern is our youth who have sought the escapist routes of suicide, substance abuse and the life of crime in order to pass the days oblivious of the world.

Youth performing at the Childrens' Cultural Festival
Pic Courtesy: SA  Devotees
Based on the foundations and teachings of Swami Vivekananda, we witness the youth of our Sunday Schools blossoming like the splendid and beautiful lotus in the murky waters of this world. They radiate such confidence and panache and adorn a little smirk of their faces, challenging life to test them.

Positive role models, good literature that develops your intellectual and mental capacity and aligning yourself to values and teachings that help you expose your divine nature is essential for success in this time. I can assure our youth and adults alike that Swami Vivekananda is definitely an enduring source of inspiration and light to you.

May Swamiji, who assured us that he will continue to work 1500 years after He had left His body, guide and help us reach our full potential and lead prosperous lives, is my sincere prayer.

With love and prayers


Friday, 19 June 2015

Attractive Associations

Landing the pen on to the page after 6 months found my mind in turmoil struggling to coalesce the fragments of thoughts into a coherent idea. At that point, I recalled the last post of Swami Vimokshananda before He departed South Africa where He elaborated about an incident related to Kanaka Dasa -a humble and sincere devotee of Lord Krishna- and the association with metal and magnet. The laws of physics explain explicitly the behaviour of a metal in the field of a magnet. The metal becomes extremely excited and active in its presence and goes to rest in the absence of the magnet. In trying to justify my absence especially to those avid readers of the blog who mailed and messaged me to enquire about the distinct silence, I would have to submit to the fact that my magnet of inspiration, Revered Swamiji leaving us, did leave me marooned from the will to write.

Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna in many of His teachings gave prominence to the benefits of pious and holy company. He said: “many warm themselves in the fire kindled by someone else who has taken the trouble of collecting the firewood and the other necessary things, similarity many fix their mind on the Lord by associating with, and following the instructions of holy men who have come to realise the divine after a good deal of hard penance.” Swami Vimokshananda was one such warm and selfless fire who warmed the hearts of all South Africans that associated with Him and those who were in His presence. He gave all that He could whole-heartedly without a single thought for Himself. Hence His departure in a way set in a cold spell of emptiness.

Yesterday was four years since I received the gentle command from Maharaj to pen my thoughts in the form of a blog and like a splint He has always guided, supported, encouraged and inspired me to explore my mind and inner being for answers to enquiries that plague us on a daily basis. The journey has been truly enlightening and rewarding. Like a veracious and unerring magnet that always maintains its attractiveness to metal, Maharaj sent an awakening jolt from Singapore yesterday on the Anniversary of the blog calling for a new post. Like how the metal has to succumb in full co-operation to the power of the magnet, I with full sastanga pranams to my Guru and Maharaj pen this first post for the year.

THUF Poster at the Youth Day Fun Run
The Tongaat Hindu Unity Form hosted yet another astounding and successful Arise Awake Fun Run on June 16th commemorated as National Youth Day in South Africa. Interestingly, India celebrates National Youth Day on the Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda… because of His grand and illuminating ideas on youth development and also for His colossal contributions to the awakening and liberation of India during the prime of his youth.

The word “youth” is trending increasingly on social media. Why has it become the new buzzword? Are youth feeling the pressure of the pressure? What are their expectations? What do adults expect of them? At a Youth Day address in 1995, Nelson Mandela said: “I am confident that South Africa’s youth is more than ready to meet the challenge of freedom. We are firm in our conviction that you deserve a better future.” 21 Years later and even after the deaths of Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Swami Vivekananda and others... their visionary ideas and ideals hold true. The question remains: are youth doing their duty?

Duty, sacrifice and other such beautiful words in the literary pantheon can only be given true meaning if we attach respect and action to them. Action – another pretty word... that has no meaning... if the verb is not carried out. Leo Buscaglia famously said: “the time for action is now, and only you can make the difference.”

Without wanting to diminish the success and achievements of a good portion of the youth in our country -which is sadly polarised by the large number who have become a menace to the society through their deeds and habits- we attribute the negativity to the lack of employment opportunities, skills, social conditions and the association of uninspiring company.

Sri Ramakrishna said that even moist wood placed upon fire soon becomes dry and finally burns. Similarly association with good, inspiring company helps drive away the moisture of weakness, dullness, lethargy and despondency from the heart of a person and then the fire of viveka   (discrimination between good and bad) burns steadily in them.

Swami Saradaprabhanandaji of the Phoenix Sub-Centre always pointed out that young people must be exposed to mind strengthening, character-building literature rather than material that is merely sensational and lacks the ability to inspire you to excel to your full potential.

Youth must ensure that they identify and study sound role models. Amidst all the scandals and inadequacies of leaders in the world, there are role models of impeccable character and who have the force to mould young people into laureate citizens.

In concluding this post, I want to quote from the engraved walls of the Hector Pieterson Memorial Square in Soweto the words of Mbuyisa Makhubo’s Mother (the boy who together with Antoinette Sithole carried the body of Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot... in the iconic picture we’ve come to associate with Youth Day in South Africa): Mbuyisa is or was my son, but he is not a hero. In my culture, picking up Hector is not an act of heroism. It was his job as a brother. It was his duty.

Swami Vivekananda said that He “holds every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense pays not the least heed to them”. This profound statement by Swamiji speaks to the fact that a society cannot progress when certain parts of the society lag behind. It is the duty therefore of every person to help raise the standards of every person to a dignified position. Swamiji further states that there can be no liberation until all are free.

Hence we can deduce that when we perform any act of kindness or seva, it is futile to attempt such for recognition or fame, but to attempt it with a sense of duty as it eventually is for your own well-being and liberation. Let us all collectively work towards ending hatred, bigotry and all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, social status etc. and work towards harmonising the world towards peace, joy and the one goal being God-realisation. 

The 21st of June has been declared International Yoga day by the United Nations. Let us all use this ancient technique to find union with the universe.

May we all strive to be good people and to be good and inspiring company to others, is my sincere prayer.

With love and prayers always

Wishing all Dads a blessed Father’s Day for Sunday, 21st June. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Boxing Day Blues!!!!!

||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||

||Aum Namo Narayanaya||

Swami Vimokshananda
pic- google images
At 09:30pm on Christmas Eve, I retired to bed and the lateral orientation of my body against the embracing mattress was so comforting after a long day. My angled-gaze fixed upon the ceiling caught the reflection of Master, Mother and Swamiji that hung above my bed. The air was dissolved with a heavy silence. It seems the world was fatigued and withdrawn from the activities of the “silly season”. Being a bit of a social animal... solitude comes across like an annoying cousin, so I struck a little conversation with the Trio. I do concede that I returned the quill to the stand until the New Year, but it was divinely summoned from its sabbatical by Swami Vimokshananda for one special post. Hence I pen this blog as a special dedication to Revered Swamiji before His departure from South Africa on Tuesday.

Although this festive season has no direct implication on Hindus or any other faith  - but because of the Christian influence on the world- all activities centre on the Christian calendar. Hence the world winds down and goes into a festive spirit during this time of the Christian commemoration of the birth of Lord Jesus Christ. My enquiry focused around the mechanical and robotic nature of life. We have become so enslaved in the pursuit of material accomplishments that we no longer enjoy the bliss of our free spirit. Our happiness is deferred for an entire year and we try to explode and burst into jubilation and freedom for a predetermined period called the festive season.

As this enquiry was levelling out, my mind soared to the peaks of the Himalayas and the deltas of the Ganges... where in the residual of both was a civilisation that lived and enjoyed the nature of their free spirit. It was during that place and era where life, purpose and contentment happily and congenially embraced one another. The Indus valley civilisation was the seat of the Vedic way of life and culture. Driven by the quest for eternal peace, they ventured inward rather than taking instructions from the senses. This was the oasis and grand manifestation of Sanathana Dharma rooted in values and practicality.

Through attack and invasion the system was contaminated and through force and persistent brainwashing, people were lead to embrace the instant gratification of the senses and lost touch and contact with the joy of freedom within. 

The Trust Deeds lodged with the Government of India will reflect that the Ramakrishna Mission and Math was officially founded on 1 May 1897 by Swami Vivekananda. As a sannyasin monk we ponder what the need for Swamiji to formalise an organisation was? Whilst living with His Guru and Master, His expressed desire to be in 'samadhi' and free was very prevalent. So after the death of Sri Ramakrishna it was the ideal opportunity for Him to roam the lands as a free iterant monk and immerse Himself in 'samadhi'.

However out of His empathy for the enslaved masses and the lost souls of the world, Swamiji bound Himself physically to the work. It was on Christmas the same year of the Master's passing that Swamiji together with a few other disciples took their vow of renunciation before the dhuni fire. It was during this festive period that the seeds of "atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya che" -for one’s own salvation and the welfare of the world- were planted and His mission to make man understand his innate nature of freedom and capacitate him to enjoy the same was crystallised.

Thus I note with intrigue the profound coupling of Christmas Day with Boxing Day. According to recorded history, Boxing Day is an English tradition, today celebrated mostly as a bank holiday. But in the days of yore it was when servants were at work on Christmas Day busy serving their Masters and were given leave from duty on the next day with a box of left-over treats and money. Thus this day became known as Boxing Day. This was the significance of Christmas and Boxing Day in the former days. In contemporary times I see it in a different way.

Swami Vivekananda reached Kanyakumari on the eve of Christmas in 1892, He was burdened with the depression, despair and despondency of what He witnessed throughout His travels of India. He passed into a deep meditation at the tip of the Motherland... on the present and future of His country. He sought to understand the root of Her downfall. With the vision of a seer, He understood why India had been thrown from the pinnacle of glory to the depths of degradation. He reflected on the purpose and achievement of the Indian world. He perceived the realities and potentialities of Indian culture. He saw religion to be the life-blood of India’s millions. He realised in the silence of His heart that India shall rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness that has made Her, at all times, the cradle of the Nations and cradle of the Faith. He saw Her greatness; He saw Her weaknesses as well... the central one of which was that the nation had lost its individuality.

With the Saviour and Messiah being born (Christmas Day) and living through the written word, our aim is put on the boxing gloves as we fight to free ourselves from the enslavement of the senses and mind. And instead of partaking of the left-overs and handouts, we must restore our individuality and partake of the grand feast with the Lord. Freedom is our birth-right and must be enjoyed by all. Let the fight begin.

Let the victory of freedom come to us all, is my sincere prayer.

My dear and Revered Swami Vimokshanandaji - Thank You for all your support and inspiration. Your stay in SA has been in itself a spiritual revolution to many of us. May your new posting bring you much more joy and happiness. You will forever live in our hearts.

Jai Swamiji!!!!!

With love and prayers

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sterling Sarada Ma!!!!

||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||

Master performing pooja to Mother
pic-google images
|| Aum Namo Narayanaya||

There is an English phrase which says: "save the best for last". In many respects we are at the grand finale. Schools are out, places of business have closed for the year, and everything seems to be winding down to the gorge of relaxation from the hectic year that has been. Being a part of the madding crowd, I too, have decided that this shall be my last blog for the year. There have been many highlights and lowlights but in essence when once reflects through a clear mind, a sense of appreciation arouses from the dust of melancholy. The blessings add up when we account for so many things we take for granted that are conspicuously absent in many lives around the globe. In that light I decided to dedicate this post to HOLY MOTHER, who through Her unceasing ever-expanding heart... welling with compassion declared: "I am the Mother of the wicked, as well as the virtuous, when you are in distress always speak this to yourself: I have a Mother."

Born on 22 December 1853 in the humble village of  Jayrambathi, the Mother  followed the customs and traditions of Her lineage with sincerity and devotion. She was married to Sri Ramakrishna at the age of 5 and joined Him at Dakshineswar Temple at the age of 18. Her external life was full of struggle and challenges. At Dakshineshwar, She lived in an eight-square-feet room until She was 32 years but undertook all these discomforts  as spiritual training under the guide of a realised Master and emerged as His finest student. Although Her outer being went though much pain and suffering... Her inner being was the culmination of purity, joy and complete detachment from the outer world.

To the untrained eye, it may come across that the Ramakrishna-Order deliberately polarises the Mother. We always hear Monks ask if people have read Ramakrishna or Vivekananda or speak of the Master and Swamiji with much enthusiasm. It is only from the tongues of the ardent devotees of the Mother will you hear Her gospel. However this is furthest from the truth. When you read the lives of all the disciples and even the Master you will gain an unambiguous insight on how their lives were guided and blessed by the Mother. Her true nature was ultimately revealed by Sri Ramakrishna Himself when He performed the 'shodasi pooja' and worshipped Her as the Mother of the Universe itself.  Swami Nikhilananda intuitively once explained that as heat cannot be separated from fire and lustre from gems, the Brahman cannot be separated from Shakti. Hence, Mother is the power behind Master and Swamiji.

Being guilty myself of ignoring the literature of the Holy Mother in favour of Swamiji and Master, I was superlatively captivated by Her wisdom and teachings which appears as a calming and soothing balm from the burning miseries of this life. The Mother -unlettered- Herself spoke through Her inner awakening catalysed by the Master to give continuity to His mission after His departure.

A doubt or enquiry may arise as to why I continuously refer to the world as miserable and full of pain and suffering when on the contrary it reflects a materially well endowed civilisation... when compared to our ancestors 50 years back. Living on the lap of luxury, advanced science and much progress - where is there room for the misery?

When I glanced at the morning edition of the Daily News this week, it delivered another odious blow to a frustrated and vexed nation dealing with the ongoing power load shedding. Due to the shortage of adequate rainfall and the depleting dam levels, the authorities want to enforce shedding with water as well. On the very same page side-by-side, the article relates to gangs tormenting neighbourhoods with armed robberies... and if you continue to read the other supplements you will come across drug abuse, violence etc, etc........ In fact, finding positive and inspiring news to read has turned into a treasure hunt. So let’s just say my reference to misery is really an inference to the daily murk that hangs over the society as presented in the media. We seem to be caught in the vortex of despair, held frigid in fear we stand helplessly as the ground of hope and faith gives way under us.

But Mother  has assured us: "Don’t be afraid. Human birth is full of suffering and one has to endure everything patiently, taking the name of God. None, not even God in human form can escape the sufferings of the body and mind. Difficulties always come but they do not last forever. You will see they pass like water under a bridge."

Mother’s sagacious wisdom is not far-fetched fairytale false-hope counsel but stems from reality and grounds us with firm understanding that provides nutrition to deal with the situation rather than pretend it does not exist.  Holy Mother further said that one must experience the results of 'prarabdha karma' (karma from previous births which has begun to bear fruit in this life). No one can escape it. But japa or repetition of God’s name minimises its intensity. It’s like the case of a man who is destined to lose his leg, but suffers only from the prick of a thorn in his foot instead.

With such practical teachings and advice, it is no wonder that the Ramakrishna Mission and its work has grown to the state that it is today. Mother's life has taught us that  purity, compassion and boundless love are the necessary nutrients needed to fertilise the humanness that is stagnant within us. Her teachings free us from the shackles of our own minds. Her remedy to all ailments in this age is to not find fault in others. She said: "If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others, rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger my child the whole world is your own."

In all the challenges we face in the world, let’s not find fault in others.Let us go about life with the understanding that we are all one. Instead of getting agitated and pointing fingers at others let us find our own weaknesses and rectify them. Let us build the strength to make positive contributions in finding solutions and always immersing ourselves in God's name. Through devotion and surrender to God, we shall tap into peace and joy.

In these trying times we have the comforting embrace of a Mother. Let us embrace Her and ask Her to take away our troubles. She comes to you in the form of your personal deity. Cling to Her affectionately. Let's live by Her assuring words: "Don’t be afraid... always remember that somebody is protecting you... you always have a Mother".

Jai Ambe Mata ki Jai!!!!!!

Have a safe and blessed festive season. Thank You for your support of the blog in 2014 and for your encouraging feedback.

May Mother bless us all always.

With love and prayers