STRENGTH OF KARMA


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The law of Karma makes it amply clear that we will most definitely experience the consequences of our actions.

Largely, people do not have any objections about harvesting the benefits of their good deeds. It is only when we go through a rough passage of life we cringe and cower at the thought of bearing the brunt of our misdeeds.

A level-headed person will understand that when one lands a bad bargain, he or she should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. By doing so, at least the quotient of regret of not having tried enough to circumvent the problem can be done away with.

An episode from the Mahabharata documents this nugget of wisdom through the predicament of Parikshit, the king of Hastinapura. Once, the sovereign succumbed to unreasonable anger. He humiliated a reverent sage Shamik by garlanding him with the flaccid dead body of a snake.

The sage’s son Shringi, who was outraged by the king’s misdemeanor, cursed him to be dead in a week’s time by a snake bite. The petrified king realised that no amount of penitence could salvage him from the imminent death. Nevertheless he thought out the situation pragmatically.

He got a royal residence built on a tall tower and moved in. The food, drink and even the very air that he breathed were scanned before being permitted into the premises. Now it was customary for Brahmins to offer a fruit to the king. That day also, it was given to the king after the usual security check.

When the unsuspecting ruler cut open the fruit, a worm fell on the ground and grew up manifold. Takshaka, the king of snakes, metamorphosed himself into a tiny worm and had reclined in the heart of a lemon. Parikshit recognised Takshaka – and he fell dead when stung by the reptile and the prophecy was fulfilled.

Though Parikshit could not save himself, the fact remains that he left no stone unturned to protect his life. His approach is worthy of being emulated, for while it is sad to fail in one’s mission, it will be a shame and pity for not having tried to decimate the problem. If a righteous sovereign could not salvage himself from the consequences of his misdemeanor, we must think twice before we err consciously!

An Ode to My Music Teacher


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S RADHA PRATHI, SEP 18 2018, 23:25PM IST UPDATED: SEP 18 2018, 23:26PM IST

When my music teacher taught me the Sargam when I was a mere child, she had asked me to visualize them as a set of steps, which I had to ascend and descend. Just like the steps, the musical notes would remain static in their designated places and if I needed access over them, I had to reach out to them. She probably said it just once and may have said it to put across the point, but somehow the image has remained with me ever since. I have always imagined that each step represented a Swara.  I would step, skip, linger or bounce over them in accordance to the lessons taught. Thus I practiced Sarali varase, Genti varase, Dhatu varase and Alankaras  mentally when I paced and hopped up and down the stairs without particularly going up or down. All the jumping left me breathless especially when I tried going through them in the second and third speed. Not to mention, that I would be reprimanded for being so very restless. Now I find it amazing that I had not divulged what was going on in my mind or explained all the ascending and descending. Though the exhausting exercise did not impact the quality of my singing then, I learned the basic difference between constants and variables at an impressionable age. I was able to understand the distinct distances between musical notes which helped me hone my skills as the years passed. However what fascinates me to this day is the fact that whenever I catch myself alone on a staircase, I immediately assign them the Sargam in a raga that catches my fancy at that point of time and  hum a pattern of notes in my mind and step accordingly. In other words, I can never go past a set of stairs without thinking of music.

Interestingly, it was my music teacher who had helped me understand Algebra several years before it was introduced to me in school when she explained the concept of octaves in music. She said in passing (again) that the first note of the Sargam determined the placements of the other Swaras. Whenever, I had to find the value of “x”, in an equation, I could not help thinking of it as the “Aadhar Shadja”. Learning sets and drawing Venn diagrams was cake walk to me in school because I had been taught about complete octaves which paved way to mini ragas with  a few notes, the similarities and differences in the notes between ragas which made them distinct . I could not shake off music when I was taught   the concept of 360 degrees around a point which can be segmented. I was well aware of the raga chart akin to a pie chart into the 72 major ragas were segmented. Sums to be solved on Permutations and combinations seemed easier when I converted marbles or balloons into musical notes. I have never been able to overcome the sense of déjà vu in the mathematics classes.

When I reflect over the deep seated influence on thinking that my music teacher had over me besides helping me to learn music I realise that teachers do have the knack of influencing you for eternity!

Ignorance is Bliss


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The omnipresence of divinity is seldom acknowledged in our day-to-day lives. It could be due to ignorance or simply lack of comprehension. However, our lives tend to become complicated when we do not grasp the lofty universal truths fully.

An anecdote from the repertoire of stories told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa puts across this point succinctly. Once, a layman was enlightened about the omnipresence of god. The happy man left the Ashram with his newfound knowledge. As he was walking down the street, he saw a rogue elephant. The Mahout shouted instructions to the people on the road to get away from the path of the pachyderm. Everyone slipped away in double quick time except the newly edified man. The elephant handled him roughly with his trunk and flung him afar. The hurt man was taken to the Ashram and rendered first aid. Then he was questioned on his foolishness. The naive  man said, “I thought that the God in the elephant would not harm me.” To which, the philosopher replied, “But, why did you not listen to the God who warned you through the Mahout?”

This incident enumerates the fact that spiritually oriented people need a lot of discernment lest they come to foolhardy conclusions like the protagonist in the tale.

An incident in the Ramayana expounds the facility of being in the dark about matters beyond our ken to help us function normally and genuinely. When the exiled prince Rama came to the banks of river Ganga along with Lakshmana and Sita, the local chieftain Guha extends warm hospitality and assures unflinching support to Rama. He even offers his position to Rama without blinking an eyelid. When all his offers were rejected politely, Guha personally takes the trio across the river. If Guha had the slightest inkling about the divinity of Rama he would have been awestruck by the mere presence of the trio. His gestures would have been punctuated with nervousness or simply decimated into inaction. Conversely, his lack of consciousness on the matter not only made him offer all his earthly possessions to the creator, but made him take the celestial navigator who helps his devotees to cross the sea of life to cross the river!

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Unresolved Misery, Remorse Can Be Fatal


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There are moments in life when nothing seems to be under our control. An incident from the Ramayana enumerates one such situation. When king Dasharatha fixed the coronation of his beloved son Rama, he hastened to his favourite queen’s chamber to break the news to her personally. Little did the king realise that Kaikeyi’s mind had been poisoned by her maid Manthara. He was shocked beyond words when he heard her demands to redeem the two boons given by him long ago. He could not digest the idea of exiling his dearest son to the forests for 14 years after fixing his coronation. He was also not very open to the idea of crowning Kaikayi’s son Bharatha as the king of Ayodhya. Repeated pleas to his dear wife got him nowhere and he swooned from time to time. The king was truly caught between the devil and the deep sea.

On the one hand, he could not even dream of going back on his promise because he was a man of his word. On the other hand, he could not bring himself to inflict an undeserving heinous punishment on his faultless son. He tried to cajole and coax his beautiful queen. When she refused to respond, he berated her and even threatened her about her impending widowhood. When she refused to budge from her obstinate demands, he wondered if he was at the receiving end of his own Karma. He imagined that he must have separated thousands of cows from their calves, mothers from their sons and wives from their husbands to have merited such a state. He tried to recollect all the possible evil deeds that may have been perpetrated by him to reap such misery. He succumbed to his end without putting up a fight as he was depressed beyond measure.

Natural disasters, death of a beloved person or separation from a loved one can leave us devastated. Any amount of solace cannot reverse the incident. When misery and remorse envelop us, it will be better for us to accept the situation and contemplate on the next step forward. On the other hand if we choose to wallow in our despondency we might tumble into a bottomless pit of sorrow which can push us to a state of depression or death.

Go with the flow of Life


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Life is certainly stranger than fiction. Yet if we decide to go with the flow of life after overcoming the initial shock, it will not only make life easier for us, but will also make life more bearable to our loved ones.

Sage Dhaumya narrates the story of Maharishi Chyavana and his spouse Sukanya to the exiled Pandavas and their consort Draupadi to help them understand the unpredictable aspects of life. Once, king Sharyathi went on a picnic with his royal family. Sukanya, the young princess wandered away from the group. She was attracted to an anthill. When she got closer, she noticed two shiny spots which seemed to be within the ant hill.

The little lass felt tempted to tease out the glittery worms from their position. She scouted for a long sharp twig and began digging into the spot. What began as a fun exercise, horrified her as she noticed blood oozing out from the anthill, punctuated with agonizing cry of a human being.

The royal family rallied around her after they heard her hysterical shrieks. The king immediately knocked off chunks of the anthill steadily and gently. He was shaken when he saw an old and wizened sage bleeding in the eyes. Young Sukanya realised that she had inadvertently poked the gleaming eyes of sage, mistaking them to be glow worms.

The king and his entourage apologised profusely. The king offered his daughter Sukanya in marriage to the sage to make amends for the damage rendered to his eyes. The princess had no choice but to accept the blind sage as her groom to assuage her guilt and also to uphold her father’s respectability.

Though Sukanya’s marital life began as a compromise over bizarre inequalities, she accepted her new station in life. She took her role as the dutiful and loving wife seriously. She surmounted many more trials, but that is another story. Her intrinsic values and determination to make the best out of the given situation transformed her into a worthy role model. Life sometimes has the penchant to take us through unimaginable paths. At such times it will be in our best interests to remember that if life gives us a lemon, we must make lemonade out of it!

The Four Pillars Of The Success Mantra


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Everybody wants success. However, success does not come to all and sun-dry. Success follows anyone who has the discipline, hard work, passion and perseverance to achieve his or her goal. A story from the Ramayana highlights the four pillars of the success mantra. King Sagara lost his ceremonial horse while conducting his Ashwamedha Yajna. He sent his sixty thousand sons after the horse, which was eventually found in sage Kapila’s hermitage.

The princes misconstrued the sage to be the thief. The enraged sage reduced them to ashes. Sagara’s grandson Anshuman who went in search of his uncles discovered the truth. Garuda the celestial bird advised Anshuman to liberate the souls of his kin by washing their ashes over with the waters of the celestial Ganga. Anshuman did as he was bid, but was unsu­ccessful, so was his son Dile­e­pa. His grandson Bhageeratha, decided that he should redeem the soul of his ancestors. He studied the reasons for the previous failures and realised that his forefathers were trying to row two boats simultaneously. Therefore he renounced his throne and set out to conduct a severe penance to Lord Brahm­a.

The pleased Lord said that he had no reservations about directing the river of gods to descend on earth. Nevertheless he was doubtful whether the earth had the power to bear her form­idable force. He told Iksha­v­a­ku king to request Lord Shiva to control the waters. Bhageeratha meditated on Shiva and arranged for the descent of Ganga. Little did Bhagee­r­a­tha expect Lord Shiva to lock the audacious waters in his matted locks. He humbly performed another penance and impressed upon Shiva to release Ganga to salvage the souls of his forefathers. Just when he thought that all his troubles were over Ganga managed to annoy sage Jahnu who drank her up in a fit of anger. The poor king pleaded with the sage to let go of Ganga and eventually led her to the nethe­r­world and carried out his mission. Any other person in his place would have given up, but not Bhageeratha. The sense of purpose of the fourth generation scion has been epitomised in the phrase Bhageeratha Prayathna which we will do well to emulate, if we hope to realise our most cherished dreams.

Many Dimensions of Life Skills


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Once sage Bhrigu planned to conduct a very great Yajna on the banks of river Saraswathi. He decided to dedicate the Yajna to the best among the trinities. The debate in his peer group failed to arrive at any result. Bhrigu set out to figure out the answer by himself.

He first went to Satya Loka and found the creator Brahma and his consort Saraswathi immersed in their own world. They did not notice Bhrigu. The sage ventilated his temper and walked away from their doorstep. In Kailasa, Shiva and Parvathi did not even recognise the presence of the sage as they were in the midst of an interesting conversation. The sage threw a tantrum and walked out. At Vaikunta, the scene was no different. Mahavishnu was relaxing on Adishesha and Mahalakshmi was pressing his feet. They failed to acknowledge the sage.

The affronted sage kicked Vishnu in his chest much to the chagrin of his divine spouse.
The Lord immediately apologised to the sage and held his feet. Bhrigu was born with an eye on the sole of his right foot. Vishnu gently shut the eye symbolic of the bloated ego of the sage, when he rubbed the area and the eye disappeared. The suitably chastised Bhrigu realised that he had gone overboard in conducting his test.

This episode from the Bhagavatha Purana has covered many facets of human behaviour and life skills.

Bhrigu wanted to honour the best among Gods. He meticulously charted out a test of patience and executed the decision consciously.

The process involved a great deal of risk, but the sage would not settle for anything, but the best. And cost him, it did, for he did cross his limits when he thrust his foot on Mahavishnu’s chest.

The erasure of his third eye which was keeping him from being humble helped the sage to recognise the importance of not stretching his zeal too far.

The righteous anger of Mahalakshmi about the episode highlights the need for the emotion, especially when one’s self-respect or that of a dear one is at stake.

Perhaps, that is why the Lord did not stop her, but it was also because he knew that his true love for her and his fortitude would prompt her return at the earliest.