On Making Pragmatic Promises


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There is a sea of difference between bravado and an earnest promise meant to be kept. People make tall promises in a moment of generosity or false pride.

When they do keep their word, they end up compromising on their well being or losing their possessions and peace of mind. If we are afraid of going back on our promises, we must give considerable thought to the commitments that we make, lest we end up feeling frustrated or shortchanged for lack of pragmatism.

A story from the Vishnu and Vamana Purana, deals with this aspect of promises in a telling manner. Once Mahabali, an Asura king, wanted to gain power over the three worlds performed a related Yajna. He gave away rich gifts of the receivers’ choice when they came to attend the rites. Then, Mahavishnu manifested himself in front of the king as a dwarfed Brahmana.The Asura king welcomed him with due respect and rituals and requested the lustrous young man to seek gifts from him. When Vamana sought land measuring three times his feet, Mahabali could not help feel amused.

He urged the recipient to ask for more. After all, he was a mighty sovereign, hoping to have the whole universe under his custody. He could certainly afford to give more than three feet of land measured by the tiny feet of the celibate who stood in front of him. The young man refused to alter his stance.The king set out to fulfill his promise in a ceremonial way, much against the counsel of his Guru Shukracharya who thought something was fishy. Mahabali was also intelligent enough to understand that the young midget who stood in front of him was no ordinary boy. Yet, he did not want to retract his vow. When the time came for the mysterious midget, to measure out his land, he grew magically. His giant feet measured the earth in one pace, the heavens in the other. When there was no other place to gain his third measure, Mahabali kneeled humbly before Mahavishnu, offering his head for the third pace.

Nevertheless what needs to be commended is that he made good of his promise even at the cost of his own life, which cannot be expected of mere mortals.

Dignity Of Labour


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Each one of us would like to lead a life of luxury. If that is not possible we at least crave for a life of comforts. There is nothing wrong in wishing so! Yet the fact remains that, not everyone can land a white-collared job.

All the same, let us imagine that the wishful thinking of our collective conscience is translated into reality by the universe. The world would be chaotic. Who will grow the food for us? Who will tailor our clothes for us and clean up after us? You must have got the drift by now. We are a close-knit world where each one of us contributes directly or indirectly to the well being of another. Such being the case, it will be ridiculous for us to assume that one job is superior to another in terms of importance. If everyone does their job conscientiously and earnestly, not only will the world be a better place, we can march ahead of time.

The Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas record the life story of king Harishchandra who was known for his impeccable integrity and his unswerving principle to honour his promise at any cost.

The king of Ayodhya unwittingly got into a situation where he was obliged to pay an astronomical amount of gold to sage Vishwamitra. All the wealth in his treasury could not redeem his promise.

Though the sage tauntingly told the ruler that he was ready to negate the amount, Harishchandra would not hear of it. He gave up his kingdom to pay the price of the capital amount. He still owed the dakshina to Vishwamitra. The king decided to work off the loan. Since the sage had no use for him, he sold his wife and son to a Brahmin as slaves and paid part of the amount. Then the sovereign sold himself to a grave keeper and took up the life of a Chandala in right earnest just in order to honour his promise.

The ability of the king not to stand on formality and take up his diversely varied roles seriously speaks about the importance of dignity of labour. That Harishchandra underwent harsher travails to prove his worth is another story.

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.

Infinite Generosity of the Mind


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Most of us are compassionate by nature and we do not mind helping out people within our radar, if it is within our capacity. Yet, when the individuals or the organization we extend help to come back to us time and again to seek further help, we become uncomfortable.

We start suspecting the recipient of our charity to be dubious or greedy by nature. Sooner or later most of us become wary or aggressive. It really takes a mighty large heart and a sound conviction to accommodate and assist somebody in need unquestioningly.

An instance from the Agni Purana enumerates one such experience of king Satyavrata who was offering his morning prayers on the banks of river Kritamala. When the king scooped up the water from the river, he found a tiny little fish wriggling in the little water in his palms. Satyavrata instantly wanted to return the fish to the river, but he was taken aback when the fish spoke to him and requested that the king protect him from the mighty river.

Satyavrata was filled with compassion for the tiny creature and dropped the fish into his Kamandalam (water jug). When he reached the palace, he was surprised to see that the fish had enlarged and he transferred it to a large golden bowl. A little while later, the fish seemed to have outgrown its station and at its request, the king got it transferred to the water tank in the palace. In no time the size of the fish matched that of the tank. The king was puzzled by the constant growth of the creature. He understood that it was no ordinary living being. Though Satyavrata did not quite understand the happenings with the fish, his sense of confidence prevented him from panicking. His consideration for the fish which sought his refuge did not diminish. At that point of time, Satyavrata did not quite realize that Lord Vishnu had manifested himself as a fish and sought his help to save the world. All the same he got his gigantic refugee transferred into a large river and then the sea. Perhaps this was the reason why lord Vishnu selected Satyavrata to help the world regenerate after the impending deluge which would annihilate the earth.

The Need To Overcome Rivalry


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Rat race is the order of the day. Everyone is rushing headlong to achieve the best in life in terms of money, power and materialistic assets. 

It is interesting to note that there is a certain pattern in which people compete with one another. People invariably tend to compare and contend with those close to them in terms of age, abilities and achievements. This syndrome of rivalry seems to be rampant in just about every conceivable field under the sun across time and space. People are always very conscious about someone who is a few notches higher them in their range of ability. In fact, this universal negative quality is what keeps the world going the way it is.

When one contemplates on this inevitable curse on human society, it is not difficult to see that nature has ordained it so in the scheme of things. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest revolves around this concept. A trip down our mythology reveals that the personality of the lord of gods, Indra, is no different. Devendra had it all. He was the king of very heavens and had power, wealth and influence over the cosmos. Yet, Indra never stopped feeling insecure about his position.

He always found ways and means to abort the penances and efforts of Rishis and mortal kings to excel themselves. A Vedic dictum says that any person who completed 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas successfully could claim the status of Indra.  The Yagna demanded discipline, consistent effort, military prowess and an undiluted sense of purpose in order to qualify for the highest post in creation. Apparently, Indra must have completed the arduous criteria to gain this coveted throne. Yet, these factors do not deter him from resorting to cheap tactics and guile to upset the endeavours of his potential adversary to safeguard his post.

If one hopes to rise above these petty feelings and stop feeling short-changed and jealous, he or she must adopt the attitude of working sincerely towards the goal from respective stations in life without fear or favour as suggested by lord Krishna. If each of us does our bit, the big picture will materialise magnificently.

True Greatness Lies in Humility


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People who have power and position get used to being eulogized and pandered to, to the point that it becomes habitual. When there is a little digression or difference in the way they are treated, th-ey feel offended. If they find another person matching up to their abilities they become insecure.

Then the latent lean mean personality manifests its ugly self, revealing their true colours. The Bhagavata Purana suggests that the only panacea for this condition is that the celebrity should give up jealousy and learn to be humble, broad-minded and feel confident about oneself.

Once, the residents of Gokula decided to offer their annual prayers to Mount Govardhan instead of Lord Indra. The villagers did not mean any disrespect to the lord of the gods. They only wanted to show the-ir appreciation to the mountain that sustained their crops and cattle. Indra did not take the decision of his worshippers graciously. He forgot that they had been his staunch devotees and still were. They were only expressing gratitude towards another benefactor.

Instead of appreciating the fair-minded followers, Indra let loose his anger on them in the form of torrential rains. The hamlet was flooded. Life and property was imperiled. When chaos and confusion took control of the circumstance, Lord Krishna, who was a little lad, asked the populace to follow him with their families, cattle and possessions. When the crowd reached the foothills of Govardhan, little Krishna bent down and picked up the mountain. He ushered the astounded drenched multitudes to sta-nd beneath the base of the mountain. Then he held the mountain effortlessly aloft on the tip of his right hand little finger. The miraculous act of Krishna and standing under the umbrella of Govardhan whom they had worshipped sometime ago was an overwhelming experience for the Gokula residents.

In the meanwhile Indra realised that he had been foolish and unreasonable in is envy. He recognized the supreme soul in Krishna who unassumingly helped the people who were not even aware of his true personality. He stopped the rains and made haste to make reparations for his unwarranted behaviour.

The Purpose of Yajnas


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Radha Prathi, Sep 25, 2015,

Angels and demons reside within each one of us. When we fuel the positive or negative traits in us, they transpose as our character eventually contributing to our personality.

For instance, the Hindu way of living believes that we feed strength to our Gods which happen to be the goodness in us through Yagas and Yajnas.

The Gods who have to be pleased could be either forces or nature or could be presiding over various qualities that we desire to acquire. During these times, the performer of the Yajna follows certain disciplines.

He has to be truthful, abstain from alcohol and cooked food, uphold integrity, and espouse celibacy, apart from reposing faith and belief in the action that he has proposed to perform.

In other words, the Yajaman, the performer of the Yajna cleanses himself physically, mentally and spiritually before setting out to empower the Gods or the natural elements, who actually reside within him.

Then an individual or a team of Yajniks, light a ceremonial fire in a spot which is conducive and feed it with Havis. Havis, is usually pure ghee sourced from cow’s milk cream and is poured in to feed the sacrificial fire.

This action is accompanied by appropriate acoustics by way of mantras invoking the Gods or the forces of nature in a sincere manner. When this action is performed for a couple of hours over a few days, the smoke emanating from the fire and the complementary sound bytes will have an effect on the overhanging clouds. They will get charged which will result in rains.

The periodic rains in an agricultural society will ensure bumper crops. This in turn will usher in prosperity followed by contentment, peace and harmony. Naturally the citizens of the country who live in such an atmosphere will develop a penchant for the development of self and society. Arts, science and commerce will thrive, paving the way for a better standard of living.

The logic behind Yagas and Yajnas has been lost on us for lack of comprehension. Even if people who do understand the underlying principle perform them by the book, the altered environment punctuated with pollution and deforestation seldom fetches the desired results.

However, the new age should not deter us from feeding the God within us.

Yajna can be interpreted as a metaphor. It is an exercise which can help understand that the means are as important if not more as the ends we hope to arrive at. Any project taken up with discipline, passion and perseverance is equivalent to a Yajna which is perfectly capable of delivering the results we look forward to achieve.