Five-fold Formula For Success


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Which of us would not like to succeed and enjoy our name, fame, money and the status that comes along with it? The desire is but only natural and perfectly legitimate as long as we do not swerve from the path of truth and take to undesirable methods to achieve our goals. True, it is a tough proposition and sometimes it becomes very tempting for us to take up shortcuts to success. If we are under the impression that the said syndrome is the weakness of the human race alone, we must stand corrected.

The Markandeya Purana records a discord among the trinities on this count. Once it so happened that MahaVishnu and Brahma got into an unexpected argument. Each of them felt he was superior to the other. Shiva who was a witness to this altercation offered to find a solution to this issue. Accordingly, he metamorphosed into a linear flame and instructed the two discontented gods to find his beginning and the end. Brahma turned himself into a swan and flew upwards. Maha Vishnu bored into the bowels of the earth in the form of a tusked boar. Though both of them began zealously in right earnest, they were unable to reach their destination. After a considerable amount of effort and time, the two of them returned. Brahma said he had seen the tip of the Shiva Linga and handed over a Ketaki flower to lord Shiva saying that he found it on top of the Linga. MahaVishnu gracefully conceded that he could not fulfill his task.

Even as Brahma braced himself to be accolade for his achievement, lord Shiva pronounced a curse on the creator saying that he will not be included for idol worship on earth. He also vowed that he would not accept the Ketaki flower in his worship.

This tale holds a fivefold message that can be guiding forces to help us lead a successful life. We must steer clear of the one-upmanship game. Honesty is the best policy. There is no shame in accepting our shortcomings or failure. Faked success can burst like a bubble at any time and damage our self esteem and our image forever. The expanse of any subject is infinite like the supreme soul Shiva; we can explore it to the best of our ability but never gain complete access over it.

Perceive with Sensitivity and Sensibility


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War can only precipitate two things in any age and place – death and destruction. When two mighty powers are at loggerheads with each other the lives of the innocent are at stake, no matter to which camp they belong to. Besides appearances can be deceptive and so can perceptions about ideologies.

The third act of the play Veni Samharam written by Bhatta Narayana has a very thought provoking prelude which discusses this syndrome peculiar to human beings. The dramatist employs irony to show the cruelty and the futility of war. Rudhirapriya and Vasagandha, the demon couple, have a very domestic conversation, revolving around the war of Kurukshetra where they discuss about storing the blood and flesh of great warriors who died on either side which will save them the trouble from scavenging for food in the coming months. Though the talk appears to be insensitive and gruesome, a little observation reveals that the conversation of the couple is only reflecting their natural state of mind whereas the fighters on the battlefield, trained and heroic men were behaving like barbarians killing one another in the name of war.

The sensitivity of the so called insensitive trolls  is highlighted further when they point out how the bereaved mother Hidimba who lost her only son Ghatotkacha was consoling Subhadra who happened to be sailing on the same boat  having lost her only son Abhimanyu. The ability of the Rakshasas to empathise the sorrow of the grief stricken mothers impartially speaks in volumes about their compassion, a quality rarely attributed to their kind. It is the author’s subtle way of saying that any war finally punishes doting and affectionate mothers who may send their sons to war voluntarily or otherwise. No one can efface the scorched souls of the kith and kin of the dead heroes who face the brutal brunt of war.

When we perceive with sensibility and sensitivity we  will not only realise about the futility of war but also understand that popular perceptions about typecasting and role play may not always be spot on.

 

Our Naada Habba


Appeared in the student edition of Deccan Herald  23rd September 2019

 

The Pooja vacation is round the corner. A welcome respite for students indeed,         especially as it crops up during the middle of a hectic academic year. Maybe you should keep this article aside and read it at leisure during the vacation.

The Mysore Dusshera our Naada Habba is a world famous event which attracts tourists from every nook and corner of the globe. The reverence towards the goddess Chamundeshwari coupled with pomp and glory exhibited during on these days reflects on the ambience of an age that has flit past. Though one can view the entire ceremony on the television shows which relays the occasion in great detail one must make it a point to enjoy the experience first hand at least once in your lifetime. It can be a joy to re-live the splendour and the grandeur of a prosperous era which is represented by caparisoned elephants, royal relics besides the food and music fit for a connoisseur.

The Dusshera festival is also known as the “Gombe habba” or dolls festival in south India.  Temples and homes have wide stairs built, numbering up to eleven in number and display figurines of gods and goddesses in addition to several dolls representative of historical or contemporary life. This also an occasion to unveil the creativity and imagination by setting up parks, railway stations, cricket grounds to add colour to the occasion.

Dusshera is symbolically celebrated to mark the struggle and the ultimate victory of goddess Chamundi to vanquish the demon Mahishasura. It is believed that this demon assumed the form of a wild buffalo and troubled the sages and disrupted their Yagas. He was very powerful and was blessed with immortality by Bramha who said that the demon would never face death until a woman exterminated him. Mahishasura was extremely pleased with the boon and took his life and power for granted and acted ruthlessly. He knew no woman would dare to even look at him, let alone kill him. It was at this juncture goddess Shakthi assumed the form of Chamundeshwari at the behest of the pantheon of Gods and waged a battle against Mahishasura for nine days.

Puranas reveal that the strength of the goddess was supplemented by Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durga in phases of three days each, to empower her to destroy Mahisha eventually.

A closer look at this story appears to disclose a coded message for us. The assets of the goddesses are representative of different strengths like wealth ( well- being) , education and power. The goddess also employed Yantra (Mechanisations), Mantra ( synthesized information in the form of formulae) and Tantra (Logic) to kill Mahisha. Hence it becomes apparent that one needs a strength which is a combination of physical power and mental power to achieve one’s end for success does not come very easily without a struggle.

To this day we worship machines, even laptops and palmtops on the ninth day of the festival also known as Ayudha pooja day as a mark of deference towards the instruments that play a part in our success. The last day of the festival is called – a day of victory when the victory of the goddess is celebrated.

It is also celebrated as teachers’ day by traditionalists. It is considered as an auspicious day when new learning or projects can be launched without fear of failure.

The north Indians take pride and happiness in celebrating the event as Durga Pooja or Navrathri. The traditional Garba dance in worship of the goddess has caught the imagination of youngsters in a big way nowadays who spend the Pooja holidays in fun and frolic.

The Ramayana mentions that Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Laksmana after his exile of fourteen years during this period. Ram Leela is celebrated with great fervour in Uttar Pradesh and surrounding states when an effigy of the ten headed Ravana is set on fire.

The Mahabharatha says that Arjuna the Pandava prince retrieved his bow Gandeevi from the Banni tree on Vijayadashami after living incognito for a year to fight Duryodhana and his forces as he took the side of prince UttaraKumara.

A closer observation of their activities will reveal that each geographical area has a different custom which has been followed over the ages though the core value and understanding the festival is uniform throughout the country.

Did you know that this Pooja season has a lot of relevance to mans relationship with the environment around him?

For instance, people give a lot of importance to different cereals and food grains during the first nine days of this festive season.

This tradition has a lot of practical connotations when we delve deeper into it. We all know this festival falls at the fag end of the rainy season. There is usually a dearth of fruits and vegetables during this time. The greens also do not thrive during this season. When man is cut off from a major source of nutrition he is likely to fall sick hence he resorted to utilize the food grains stored by him.  The cereals which are a rich source of protein supplement as nutritious food during the season which is punctuated with fasting and feasting.

Down south, families display dolls and images of gods and goddesses recreating myths, historical and contemporary events during the ten days. If you have noticed they also build a small park where they allow food grains to germinate and grow into young plants.  The site of greenery indoors not only lends beauty to the atmosphere but also acts as an indicator of the condition of the soil. In the past, in a predominantly agricultural society the festival proved to be a platform for experimenting on a possible bumper crop using this aesthetic mode. Farmers collected soil from their fields and sowed different food grains and watered them regularly till they developed into healthy little plants. At the end of ten days they got a fairly good idea of the crop which would do well that season in their soil. This little agricultural experiment formed the basis on which farmers could exchange seeds and agrarian know-how.

This custom encouraged the “give and take policy” among people and helped them to live in harmony amongst themselves and the nature around them.

A study of ancient Vedic texts reveals that each food grain was identified for its specific strengths and its ability to nourish and medicate the various parts of the body when consumed or distributed on a particular day of the week. It has been discovered that intake of rice on Mondays, Toor dal on Tuesdays, green-gram on Wednesdays, channa on Thursdays, beans on Fridays, urad dal on Saturdays and wheat on Sundays can prove to be potent. Recent studies by dieticians and healthcare researchers have confirmed the veracity of the tradition.

Just like any other festivity in India, there are several reasons assigned    for the celebration of these ten days which commence on the Mahalaya Amavasya day during the Sharath or the autumn season. Nevertheless they convey the same messages – the triumph of good over evil and how it is important for us to live in harmony with each other.

The festivities begin on a somber note at riversides, beaches and the several water bodies of India which are generally flooded with people who offer their obeisance to their dead ancestors and pray for the peace and general well being of the departed souls. The following nine days are celebrated with variations that suit the geographical and social backdrops of the various regions. It is amazing to know that each one of our festivals have several layers of meanings and relevance to people from all walks of life. They have been tested and formulated by our ancestors in a purposeful manner to bring added meaning and joy into our lives!!! Happy Dussera !!!

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude is the Best Attitude


Published in the Oasis column of today’s  Deccan Herald

In the Ramayana Hanuman, was identified to cross the ocean and scout for Sita the abducted wife of Rama.  When he was midway across the ocean Mount Mainaka rose from the depths of the ocean and intercepted him. Hanuman was annoyed by the obstacle and started pounding the great mountain with all his might. Mainaka bore the brunt gracefully and spoke gently to Hanuman requesting the latter to accept the hospitality of the ocean. He sourced fresh fruits and water from his being and humbly requested Hanuman to avail the same and rest awhile before continuing on the journey. Maruthi was highly appreciative of the hospitality made a token of acceptance and continued with his journey.

The meekness of the once powerful Mainaka may seem in order with his altered status as a refugee. A little introspection of this story will reveal that Mainaka was being humble and grateful for what he received. It is said that long long ago all mountains were winged. They flew around with their massive bodies and landed where they pleased. This exercise proved to be a menace to earthlings. Therefore the Rishis requested Lord Indra to help them. Consequently, Indra chopped the wings off the mountains using his Vajrayudha. Mainaka, the son of Himavaan did not want to lose his wings. He sought refuge in the southern seas. Sagara obliged Mainaka and allowed the mountain prince to hide himself in the bosom of the ocean.

When Sagara learnt that Hanuman was crossing the ocean for Rama, the Ikshavaku prince he bid Mainaka to offer respite to the messenger. Sagara extended this support because he was grateful to Bhagheeratha, an Ikshavaku prince who had added sanctity and volume to his being by bringing down the divine Ganga to earth which eventually flowed into the seas.

This well known story has the mighty and the powerful eager to show their gratitude for favours received, and all of us are well aware that gratitude is the best attitude one can ever have to keep us happy.

 

Cross Six Obstacles to Success


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We cannot, should not and need not live like the Jones’. We can achieve our personal goals by recognising our set of six enemies known as the Arishadvargam and make sincere efforts to overcome them. The Ramayana outlines the life of Vishwamitra who was a Rajarishi. He once visited Brahmarishi Vasishta who lived in austerity but had access to plenty because he possessed the divine wish granting cow Kamadhenu.

Vishwamitra thought that he could put Kamadhenu to better use and demanded Vasishta to hand it over to him. When he was met with refusal, he seized the gentle giver. Vishwamitra was stunned when the divine bovine materialised a massive army to defend herself.

At that moment, Vishwamitra realised the superiority of Vasishta and resolved to become a Brahmarishi like him. He renounced all his worldly titles and commitments. In other words he gave up ‘Lobha’ or greed to pursue the path of spirituality. He performed stringent penances, which were interrupted time and again by his own frailties. He understood that he would have to overcome ‘Kaama’ or passion when he succumbed to grace and charm of Menaka and fathered Shakuntala.

When he resumed penance he became aware that he should conquer ‘Krodha’ or anger when he cursed the celestial nymph Rambha to turn into stone. His ‘Mada’ or ego took a beating when he tried to send the corporal form of Trishanku to heaven. He knew he cut a sorry figure when he created a unique heaven for Trishanku.

He recognised that it was his ‘Matsarya’ or jealousy of Vasishta which was still being an impediment in his lofty pursuit which was nothing but ‘Moha’ or his infatuation for power. This realisation made him submit humbly to the compassionate sage which finally made him Brahmarishi.

Sage Vishwamitra went through a roller coaster of obstacles when he displayed one-upmanship to spite his rival. Yet when he delved into his psyche identified his faults and corrected them he succeeded.

Power of The Puranas


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Our Puranas are nothing but a compilation of stories which are metaphorical in nature. Listening to them or reading them for merely entertainment value can at best keep us amused. Ruminating over them and interpreting them in terms of situations can help us deal with quandaries of our lives in an informed manner. The necessity to look upon these fables beyond the frills and fancies has been put across very lucidly in the Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari was the wayward foster son of a pious Brahmin Atmadeva. Perhaps he was genetically programmed to become a denigrated delinquent wastrel because of the nature of his birth. His mother Dhundhuli was not interested in bearing children. When she was asked to eat a divine fruit  to help her become a mother she fed it to a cow, pretended to be pregnant and went on to make a deal with her pregnant sister Mriduli. When her sister delivered a baby boy she led her husband to believe that her sister’s baby was theirs. The cow gave birth to a human child and was adopted by Atmadeva. The boys were pampered and sent to the best of teachers. While Gokarna thrived on education, Dhundhukari did not seem to learn much. He was more interested in frivolous activities. He was an antithesis of Gokarna. He lacked ethics and values. He distressed his parents with his debauchery. Atmadeva retired into Vanaprastha. Dhundhuli, who was ensnared in the web of deceit committed suicide. Gokarna also left his foster home in search of greater knowledge. This development only made Dhundhukari more decadent. He would stoop to any level to keep his addiction for wine and women alive. Once, the women, whose company he kept, ganged up  and killed him. His unrequited soul wandered about terrorizing those who crossed his path. Once when Gokarna returned home he learned of the new developments. He advised the ghost of Dhundhukari to take up austerity and listen to the narration of Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari did as instructed. At the end of the session he was personally liberated by the lord. When Gokarna was puzzled by the unexpected development, the lord clarified the matter. True, Dhundhukari had been depraved, but he had also made a genuine attempt to correct himself. He listened to the Purana with rapt attention and reflected on it with devotion which redeemed him from his profligate existence.

 

Of Perceptions and Responses


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Many of us respond to a situation as we perceive it. Our perceptions are usually based on the situation, venue and our state of mind. We could be right most of the times, yet there are instances when we can go wrong horribly very simply because we have no clue about the other person’s circumstances.

The Mahabharata lays out one such instance which proves to be fatal to Parikshit the king of Hastinapura. Once, the Kuru king went on a hunting spree. He was lost and exhausted after an energetic chase. Soon he reached a clearing. There he found a sage immersed in a serene state of meditation. The royal scion bowed to Rishi with great reverence and offered the customary respects. Then he asked the Rishi if he could have some water. The Sage did not respond. The king’s repeated queries and request for some water seemed to fall on deaf ears. Parikshit was frustrated. The disgusted king looked around. He found a dead snake lying in the whereabouts. He picked up the carrion with one of his arrows and tossed it around the neck of the sage, mouthed some inanities and insults at the still silent sage.

When Parikshit self righteously turned to go away from the scene, another sage entered the scenario. He happened to be Shringi the son of sage Shamik. The virtuos son was infuriated to see his father insulted with a  dead serpent round his neck. He did not care that the perpetrator of this great sin was the king of the land. He pronounced a terrible curse on the ruler saying that the emperor would die of snake bite in a week’s time. Parikshit became jittery. He was aware of the potency of the curse. He hastened back to Hastinapura and got a royal quarters built on a tall column and moved in, in the hope of averting death. That he was overcome by death is another story.

This episode shows that each man did what he perceived to be right based on his experience and the given situation. It is easy to see that both of them did not act justifiably.

Most of us behave in more or less the same manner and end up wondering about what went wrong when matters turn sour.