Containment with Contentment


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We are living in strange times. The pace at which the world is functioning appears like a reminder of a train chugging into the railway station ever so slowly before coming to a grinding halt. A microscopic virus is monitoring all that is happening and not happening on this planet. All channels of knowledge are being tapped into for finding possible panacea from this baffling situation.

When one looks for a possible interpretation of the crisis in our mythology, the Dasha Mahavidyaha offers one. The text extols one of the forms and worship of Adi Para Shakthi as Goddess Bagalamukhi. The etymological interpretation of the name suggests that it is synonymous with that of a horse’s bridle, which means that she reins in her strength to arrest the movement of the universe.

At, the first instance, one is likely to wonder, what kind of a super power could be worshipped for creating obstacles in one’s path. However, a little reflection will reveal that each one of us lead an unleashed life, running a rat race with blinders on as if there is no tomorrow. As a result we have strayed from our home grounds, values, connect with nature and eventually even forgotten to keep in touch with ourselves.

The Shakthi cult says that it is at such times Baghalamukhi, manifests herself as an obstacle to rein in the erring souls. Mythology describes her as the crane (representative of wisdom) faced deity tearing at the tongue of the Asura at her feet. The tongue, the seat of the six taste buds, symbolizes the origin of Arishadvargam. Interestingly, the six sins namely, lust, anger, greed, infatuation, arrogance and jealousy which cause our downfall, originate from the tongue.

Right now, various aspects of human life and living are being led into a hitherto unknown phase, where all action has been arrested by an invisible virus. The only way out of this phase is to accept containment and use it for reflection, introspection and speculation on the essence of existence. When mankind identifies its flaws, unlearns them and relearns universal values like truth and compassion, he will automatically become wiser and responsible. A dose of diligence and discipline will usher in self restraint and contentment.  This in turn will reflect in his actions which will repair the damages made by him and heal the world holistically.

 

Quest for Perfect Happiness


Published in today’s Deccan Herald

The quest for perfect happiness is as old as mankind itself. It is interesting to note that an ancient text like the Bhagavata   Purana offers a formula to arrive at the solution through the story of Puranjana narrated by sage Narada to king Prachinabarhi. The young, handsome and energetic hero of the tale ventures out in search glory, riches and happiness. He comes across a wonderful land with nine gates punctuated with splendour and class. Puranjana is enticed into this magical territory. There he finds an extremely beautiful woman guarded by a serpent with five hoods, ten body guards and one thousand aides. Puranjana is besotted by the damsel, marries her with her consent a decadent life in the Golden City. One day he set out for hunting on his chariot drawn by five horses. He is attacked, tormented  and struck dead.

Since his thoughts revolved around his lovely wife, in his dying moments, he is reborn as a woman. In his next cycle of life he leads the life of a chaste wife and is eventually widowed. It is only at the end of that life, he is enlightened with the truth.

Narada reveals that the story of Puranjana happens to be a metaphor. The word Pura refers to the human body likened to a striking city full of life. The nine gates refer to the openings in the body which help it to learn, entertain and cleanse itself. The various embellishments of the place actually refer to the clothes accessories, attitude, behaviour and parts of the body. The wondrous woman happens to be the human mind which is guarded by the hissing Pancha Pranas and the sense organs and their faculties. When man feels compelled to hunt for greater pleasures, he is led by the senses which are represented by the five horses harnessed to his chariot. He eventually loses his life.

In the next birth he is endowed with some fine qualities of womanhood like loyalty, sacrifice and infinite affection which complements his personality and endows his being a sense of wholesomeness.

The story of Puranjana is a metaphor used to put across that when man allows his mind to rule over him instead of controlling his senses he ends up being its slave. This weakness makes him stray. He loses touch with himself and begins to live in a fool’s paradise. When he does wake up from the reverie, it might be too late for him to pursue genuine happiness.

QUEST FOR PERFECT HAPPINESS

By S. RADHA PRATHI

The quest for perfect happiness is as old as mankind itself. It is interesting to note that an ancient text like the Bhagavata   Purana offers a formula to arrive at the solution through the story of Puranjana narrated by sage Narada to king Prachinabarhi. The young, handsome and energetic hero of the tale ventures out in search glory, riches and happiness. He comes across a wonderful land with nine gates punctuated with splendour and class. Puranjana is enticed into this magical territory. There he finds an extremely beautiful woman guarded by a serpent with five hoods, ten body guards and one thousand aides. Puranjana is besotted by the damsel, marries her with her consent a decadent life in the Golden City. One day he set out for hunting on his chariot drawn by five horses. He is attacked, tormented  and struck dead.

Since his thoughts revolved around his lovely wife, in his dying moments, he is reborn as a woman. In his next cycle of life he leads the life of a chaste wife and is eventually widowed. It is only at the end of that life, he is enlightened with the truth.

Narada reveals that the story of Puranjana happens to be a metaphor. The word Pura refers to the human body likened to a striking city full of life. The nine gates refer to the openings in the body which help it to learn, entertain and cleanse itself. The various embellishments of the place actually refer to the clothes accessories, attitude, behaviour and parts of the body. The wondrous woman happens to be the human mind which is guarded by the hissing Pancha Pranas and the sense organs and their faculties. When man feels compelled to hunt for greater pleasures, he is led by the senses which are represented by the five horses harnessed to his chariot. He eventually loses his life.

In the next birth he is endowed with some fine qualities of womanhood like loyalty, sacrifice and infinite affection which complements his personality and endows his being a sense of wholesomeness.

The story of Puranjana is a metaphor used to put across that when man allows his mind to rule over him instead of controlling his senses he ends up being its slave. This weakness makes him stray. He loses touch with himself and begins to live in a fool’s paradise. When he does wake up from the reverie, it might be too late for him to pursue genuine happiness.

Ethics of Earning


Published in Deccan Herald dated 9th April 2019

Money is important in life. Our ancient philosophy, which subscribes to attaining the meaning of our lives through Purushartha consists of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Hence it has been established since times immemorial that one cannot discount the economic factor in life. However, the moment we allow the financial quotient to take over our lives it amounts to unconditional servility to the monster called materialism. Greed will consume us till we lose touch with ourselves and cannibalize on our identity.

An episode from the Ramayana teaches us subtly to handle this tricky issue in its narrative of sage Agastya’s tryst with wealth.

Once, a highly accomplished princess Lopamudra was struck by sage Agastya’s knowledge, wisdom and keen presence of mind. The sage was also impressed by the lovely lady and entered into a matrimonial alliance with the royal lass. Though the sage had access to all the riches he could ask for by way of dowry, he chose to live a life of austerity with his bride. Several years passed smoothly. Then the couple decided to start a family. They realised that they needed at least the minimum materialistic facilities to give a comfortable life to their wards. Since the couple had led a Spartan life, thus far, Agastya, decided to seek the necessary wealth from one of his contemporary rulers as per the customs of those days. However he followed a certain principle while doing so. He decided that he would take charity only from the excesses of the treasury’s exchequer. Accordingly, he approached the kings one by one. He called for the ledger and examined the income and expenditure of the kingdom at large. He found out that just about every king’s balance sheets tallied. He did not have the heart to accept the generous offers of the just kings because it meant taxing the people of the state. Then he moved away and found his own way to acquire some means to run his family.

The amount of concern, caution and discretion used by Agastya while endeavoring to fulfill his needs speaks in volumes about the code of ethics to be followed while procuring income. If we allow our conscience to screen the money that enters our purses we could squarely obliterate a whole lot of associated crimes by simply following the ethics of earning.

Verify for Veracity


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Misunderstandings can cause rifts in relationships. These days such cases are on a prolific rise because the differences and the distance between the virtual world and the real world is closing in. People are losing track of the difference between the two, mistaking one for the other. While the benefits of such development are unarguable so are the drawbacks.

An ancient saying goes thus, “One must not believe anything that hears about or sees perchance. On the other hand one should verify the matter for truth even if the incident happens right in front of our eyes.” Truer words could not have been spoken.

It is during these times one will do well to ruminate on the story of the descent of the divine river Ganga from the heavens. King Sagara performed an Ashwamedha Yajna. Towards the end of the ritual, the ceremonial white horse was lost. Indra, the lord of the heavens wanted to abort king Sagara’s endeavour. Hence he stole the horse and led it to the nether world and tied it near the hermitage of sage Kapila who was deeply engrossed in penance. Since the Yajna could not be concluded without the animal, Sagara sent his 60,000 sons in search of the horse. They scourged the earth and then made their way into the nether world. There they found the sacred horse grazing casually. Alongside they sighted sage Kapila in profound penance.

The princes deemed the sage to be the horse thief for the lack of the knowledge of the truth. They thought it fit to disturb the sage and berate him soundly for his misdeed. The sage, who was completely unaware of what had transpired, was very angry with the arrogant princes who dared to accuse him wrongly and belittle him unnecessarily. He used the power of his penance and reduced them to ashes within moments.

It is obvious that both the parties involved in this unfortunate incident acted on the basis of what they considered to be true and not on the basis of what was really true. They allowed their ego and anger to rule over them. If they had used a little patience and some discretion, they could have completely avoided the debacle.

Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/631432/gift-teacher-classroom-discipline.html

S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Living in the Present


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There are many a time we put off doing or experiencing something for a later date. It may not always be money. We reserve our best clothing, crockery, candles, and accessories among other things hoping to use them at a premium occasion in our lives. Our usual excuse for doing so is usually a feeling that the present moment is not ideal for the activity.

A tale from the Panchatantra speaks about the dangers of being in the saving mode all the time. Once a hunter shot a wild boar, the wounded animal pounced on him and ripped his flesh apart. The agonised hunter was shocked to death by the boar before it breathed its last. A jackal which was passing by was beside himself with joy when he saw the corpses of the wild boar and the hunter. He realised that he need not go around scavenging for food for several days to come. He circled his newfound treasure and saw the bloodstained bow. He decided to save the bulk of meat for future. He proceeded to lick the life fluid off the bow and in the process triggered the arrow that was ready to be shot, right into his open mouth.

Almost immediately, the jackal fell dead beside his feast. The jackal died in his earnest bid to save the best for the coming days.

Those of us who are at least a couple of decades old must have realised that the precious moment that we have been waiting for may have come, but we may not have always had the time or the mind space to dig into our paraphernalia and fish out what had been saved for the red lettered day. It is also quite possible that our prized possession may not really rise to the occasion or we may have come across a better and a more contemporary and practical substitute to the stowed away goodies.

While it is pragmatic to save for a rainy day, it will do us a world of good to overcome our magpie syndrome and live each day to the fullest. It is said that yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery but today is the present. It is impossible to discount the valuable content of the saying.

Self Respect Vs Ego


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Most misunderstandings and rifts in personal and social relationships can be resolved if people start discerning the difference between having self respect and being egotistic. Oftentimes the two traits are confused for one another. While the former is commendable, the latter can prove to be detrimental. The Mahabharatha chronicles the tale of the foremost Guru Drona who rose to great heights because of his self respecting nature and fell from grace because of his bruised ego.

The immensely talented man of humble origin gained employment as the teacher of martial arts to the princes of Hastinapura. Though the royal household came forth to sponsor his living expenses and that of his family, he politely but firmly declined the offer. Drona had a son about the age of the Kuru princes. Yet never once did the self respecting teacher encourage his son to partake or enjoy the privileges of his highly placed peers. He lived and provided for his family within his means.

Once, his child Ashwaththama saw his regal friends drinking milk. The curious child longed to taste the white liquid. When he expressed his desire to his parents, he was given a tumbler of wheat flour mixed with water which the child drank happily thinking that it was milk. Drona could have had all the milk his son needed. Nevertheless the self respecting man would not accept any help from his employers before it was time to collect his rightful Gurudakshina.

It was around this time Drona’s wife Kripi reminded him of his childhood friend who had become the king of Panchala and requested his friend to seek his help. Drona was reluctant in the beginning, but went along all the same to meet his friend for old times’ sake.

Unfortunately for him, Drupada refused to take cognizance of him and behaved high-handedly. Drona was deeply hurt when his erstwhile chum offered him cows by way of charity to a Brahmin as against the token of friendship. Drona vowed to trounce Drupada’s arrogance.

One thing led to another and to make a long story short when the master’s self respect manifested itself as his ugly ego he failed miserably, to the point that his dead body was beheaded by Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna.