Published on 18th June 2018 in the Oasis Column of Deccan Herald
A lot of parents, teachers and team leaders find that they are inadequate when it comes to sorting out rivalry amongst their children, students and teammates respectively. Damages caused by the lack of grace and niceties can actually rankle the mind, leaving long term hurt or irreversible scars. Hence it is of paramount importance for people to exercise infinite patience and profound maturity to handle such situations to the healing point.
A story from the Bhagavatham can be used as a reference point to resolve similar problems in the present age. King Uttanapada had two wives called Suneethi and Suruchi, who had a son each who were called Dhruva and Uttama respectively. The king’s favouritism encouraged Suruchi to cherish the fond hope that her son Uttama would ascend the throne one day despite the presence of the crown prince Dhruva. This confidence also braced up Suruchi to look down upon the legitimate queen mother. One day, the five year old Dhruva saw his little half brother Uttama seated on the lap of their father Uttanapada. The child in him craved to climb on to his father’s lap. Even as he tried to do so, he was reprimanded sharply by his step mother. Suruchi snapped at him saying, “Only God can bestow you with what you want to do.” The confused lad ran to his mother to seek comfort. Suneethi knew that she was powerless to direct the king to do her bidding as he was besotted with Suruchi. At the same time she was mature. She did not want to influence the young mind negatively by telling him about the lopsided equations in her marital relationship. Since Dhruva was persistent, Suneethi worked around the words of Suruchi to advantage. She told Dhruva that there was no greater power than God in the universe. If the supreme power was appealed to with sincere devotion, everything would become possible. Dhruva was consoled and convinced. He went out to seek God. He was initiated by the celestial sage Narada and performed a severe penance. In fact, he not only gained his father’s affections and the kingdom but also went on to become one of the greatest Bhagavathas ever. Suneethi managed to steer her son out of a life of discontent, disappointment and directing him towards eternal glory!
The other day, I watched an interesting documentary on the life of nomads who live in the desert region. They were answering several questions regarding their history, demography and relevance of their lifestyle to a keen interviewer. When the next phase of the show began, the group was asked what they thought about random subjects. Their treasury of knowledge oscillated between the absurd and the astute. For instance some of them did not know the name of the region where they had camped; but seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of the natural resources of the land like where to find water and supplies for their caravan. They hardly cared that their kids were not going to school. Yet they seemed to have been made of grey cells all over. They were able to tell the time and weather without any contraption; they reeled off a dozen home remedies ranging from a bad cold to scorpion bites. They seemed to know a repertoire of words from a series of languages including English, useful for their survival. The tribe did not bother about lack of potable water or sanitation facilities, but were perfectly capable of optimizing what came their way without obstructing or polluting their environment. In other words they epitomized the concept of wild wanderers to the core!
Then there was a query on lord Ganesha. The interviewer called upon an elderly woman in the group and asked her why she thought the lord was pot bellied. Pat, came the answer; “Because, he has the earth in his stomach.” Even as the eyes of questioner lolled with disbelief, a slow and deliberate explanation as if to a child followed. The lord protected the world by placing it in his stomach; it was but natural that the round world bulged over his middle. I mulled over the outlandish answer. For a while it appeared as if the lady had reduced sublime to the ridiculous.
Then, I was reminded of Thomas Paine who once said, “The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately, one step above the sublime makes the ridiculous and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” The words which had seemed like a cryptic code to me until then suddenly came alive.
I was able to appreciate their interpretation of the deity despite appearing different. It was pretty much on the lines of what the devout would say, about the lord protecting the universe. In retrospection I realized that their set of life skills and knowledge albeit different were on par, perhaps even superior to the so called civilized society.
Man is perhaps the greediest creature on planet earth. He has not only exploited nature but also his fellow human beings to fortify his well being. If he continues to behave selfishly, it will not take too long for him to enlist himself in the list of endangered species and eventually face extinction.
It is amazing to note that psychologists feel that it is intrinsic fear that prompts avarice in people. A popular folk tale reiterates this line of thought effectively.
Once a Guru was giving a discourse on the six cardinal sins that destroy a man’s personality and spirit. On that particular day he dwelt on the subject of greed. The subject was discussed at length and he summed up his session by declaring that fear is the root cause of greed. Some of his students were perplexed by the pronouncement. They expressed their doubt to the Guru. The teacher said that he would discuss the subject during the next class.
That night the tutor and the taught sat down to partake supper. The cook hurried towards the Guru and told him that he had cooked for the day but they had run out of provisions. He also mentioned that it might easily take them a couple of days to acquire rations again. The Guru waved the cook away and asked the students to eat their meal.
During the course of the supper he noticed that quite a number of students were gorging on the food. Even frugal eaters were asking for a second helping. He waited for everyone to eat to their fill and then assemble in the courtyard of the hermitage. When all the students filed in, he told them that fear indeed is the root cause of greediness. The pupils who had heard the cook speaking about the shortage of ration feared a possible starvation in the coming days and fed themselves to their teeth.
The students realised that the conversation had been arranged to clarify a point. They felt a little ashamed and also enlightened on the matter. They promised not to give in to fear and the greed that followed thereafter. When we know that insecurity can lead us to become acquisitive by nature, we must address the matter.
Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.
The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.
Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.
For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.
These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and Ã©lan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!
Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:
“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.
And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.
And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.
For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”
It is not what we do, but how we do it that makes all the difference. Perhaps, this is the reason why, we are often counseled to work with passion, dedication and discipline if we hope to achieve success. This concept is also expounded as Karma Yoga by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita. Sage Dhaumya reiterates this tenet by narrating a story to the exiled Pandavas in the Mahabharata.
Once, Sage Kaushika sought alms of a housewife. She happened to be serving lunch to her husband. She requested the holy man to wait till she completed her job. The enraged Kaushika glared at her. The lady of the house told him very calmly that she was not the crane which was burnt down by the sage’s ire. Kaushika was taken aback. The lady had just referred to the incident that had happened on his way to her doorstep. A crane had relieved itself on the sage. It was burnt down to ashes in a moment when the sage had glowered at it. The sage who was proud of his yogic power could not figure out how the lady came to know what had transpired. When he could not contain his curiosity any longer he blurted out his question. The lady told him to meet the butcher Dharmavyadha to clear his doubt.
More surprise awaited Kaushika, when the butcher enquired whether the former had been sent by the lady especially when the sage could not figure out any medium of communication. The sage spelled out his confusion. The butcher gave him a long look, asked the sage to wait and slipped inside his shop. Apparently, he had to attend to the needs of his elderly parents. He emerged after a while and then told the sage that he was committed towards his duty just as the lady was committed towards her husband. The sincerity of purpose with which each of them carried out their duties bestowed them with a superior spiritual power. This in turn helped them to anticipate and understand the events that take place in and around their lives.
Kaushika was enlightened with a new dimension of knowledge. He realised the value of dignity of labour. He learned that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. He had indeed stumbled on a universal truth that being duty conscious can uplift our spirituality quotient.
The third week of January holds promise of hope and goodwill to Bangaloreans who believe in peaceful co-existence and harmony. Vedanta Bharathi, a Veda and Vedanta research study centre based in Mysore has organised a mega event in which it proposes to inspire and mobilise the masses towards a better frame of mind.
Vedanta Bharathi has initiated the mass recitation of Soundarya Lahari composed by Adi Shankaracharya in over 1000 centres. Several enthusiastic volunteers and music teachers are training interested individuals and groups to chant the therapeutic verses. Thousands of school children, adults and senior citizens are already practising to chant the ancient verses on January 28 at Palace Grounds.
Soundarya Lahari Stotra, composed by Sri Shankaracharya, explores the very essence of the power (Shakthi) which rules over the world and personifies it as the Universal Mother who is the conglomeration of Shakthi, Saraswati and Lakshmi. The spiritual explorations in the Stotras can trigger off a change in people if one makes an attempt to comprehend the lines with the help of the coach. Besides this, research has revealed that the phonemes used in the composition lend a natural cadence to the poetry, which when chanted rightly, can bring about change in one’s personality.
Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Mahaswamiji, the Peethadhipathi of Sringeri Sharada Peetha and Sri Sri Shankara Bharathi Mahaswamiji, the Peethadhipathi of Yedathore Sri Yoganandeshwara Saraswathi Matha, are the guiding forces who encouraged Vedantha Bharathi to take up this mammoth project. The disciples of Sri Sri Ravishankar of ‘The Art of Living’are also participating. Vedantha Bharathi invites all interested individuals to participate in the event. Call: 9980568905/06 email:info @vedantabharati.com.