ARTICLE # 1
SWAMIJI SRI SELVAM SIDDHAR’S
ANSWERS & QUESTIONS
ILLUSION,KARMA & REBIRTH
A SMALL PORTION OF DISCOURSE/ SATSANG HELD ON 2010 MAHA SHIVARATRY DAY
Devotee: The scripture speaks of our dream state and our awakening state; but, at the same time, it says that everything is illusion.
SWAMIJI: It is not illusion. As long as you believe that it is there, you can see it. It is illusion only for the person who cannot see it, and will not see it. When you are seeing it with your eyes and you are believing that it is there, then why do you call it illusion? Who told you that it is illusion?
Devotee: No one.
Swamiji; Does your feeling say that it is illusion?
Devotee: No I don’t think that it is…
SWAMIJI: Then what is the good of saying it is illusion? Somebody is saying something, and you are quoting it. Your heart should say that it is illusion; then, you are free from it. You will not cling to an illusion. Who clings to an illusion? It is an illusion only when you transcend it. When you are experiencing it, why do you call it an illusion? It has a relative reality. It may not be absolutely real, but it is relatively real. It has a workable reality - a tentative reality. What binds you is your feeling that something is real. What the scripture says has no meaning; it has no relevance to you. The scripture cannot bind you, and it cannot liberate you. Your feelings will bind you and liberate you. Do you believe that the world is real? Then you are bound, even if the scripture says another thing. But if you say the world does not exist for some reason - “I have got some conviction that for some reason it does not exist” - then it cannot bind you. But your heart should be convinced that it does not exist, and you must also have a reason why it does not exist. What is the reason you say it does not exist? What are the proofs? Bring the proofs. If the proofs are there, the world will vanish. But you if have no proof to say that the world is not existing, it will be clinging. Merely saying something is not the answer. You must have an argument and a proof and a conviction in the heart that, “For these reasons I can really feel that it is not Ultimate Reality. Therefore, I cannot cling to it.” But if your heart says it is very nice, then why do you call it illusion? It is illusion to a person who is convinced that it does not exist. But if you are not convinced, then why do you call it illusion?
Devotee: Because I did not understand when I was saying to Swami Brahmananda...
SWAMIJI: Let Swami Brahmananda say anything. What are you saying?
Devotee: I said, “How can I say that it doesn’t exist, if for me it exists? Right now it exists. I exist and I can touch my body.”
SWAMIJI: To the extent it exists, is a binding factor. You cannot be free from it. But you must find out the way. Ask Swami Brahmanandaji, “Why do you call it illusion?” You ask him tomorrow.
Devotee: I am leaving tonight.
SWAMIJI: You could not find a better time to ask than now? Than one minute before going? You simply throw the world out and go out from here? In one minute? Why did you not ask Brahmanandaji? You were sitting every day and you would not ask him a question?
Devotee: No, I asked him for examples. He said as an example the bangle and the gold - that everything is gold…
SWAMIJI: Are you convinced that it is gold and not the bangle? The whole world is only gold and not the bangle?
Devotee: Devotee: I can understand that it is gold…
SWAMIJI: You understand?
Devotee: The intellect can understand that I am…
SWAMIJI: Why do you say it is all gold and not bangle? What is the argument behind it?
Visitor: Well, he explained to us that ‘bangle’ is a name that we give to the objects and the subject.
SWAMIJI: We have to deeply meditate on this great truth that all these objects of the world are only variations, formations of a single substance, and, therefore, these variations and forms and diversities are not true. Gold has never become the bangles; it is still gold only, looking a little round.Similarly, the one substance looks like the world because of the shape it has taken through space and time. And you are also included in the various shapes that it has taken. Therefore, neither you exist nor the various forms exist. It is one substance that exists. You should not unnecessarily going on clinging to the form of Mr. So-and-so and the form of something else. It is like clinging to a chain and a ring or a particular ornament, forgetting that it is gold. It requires deep meditation. Whatever you see with your eyes, including your own self, actually is a form of the one Universal Substance. Therefore, when you think, actually the Universal Substance is thinking. You are not thinking; you are not doing anything, nor are you moving from place to place. Nothing is happening, really speaking. It is in the dream world of the Cosmic Consciousness and, therefore, it is one thought that is operating. The Universal Thought is thinking the whole cosmos - which means to say, you are not thinking. The idea that you are thinking must go away from your mind, because you are included in that universal thought; therefore, you are not thinking it. Rather, it is thinking you. Instead of you thinking it, it is thinking you - the other way round. So, all your thoughts should be melted down into one single universal thought, and you should think nothing else but that. Then you will find that what Brahmananda Swamiji said is correct. The world will vanish; it won’t be there afterwards.But, deep meditation along these lines should be carried on day and night.
Devotee: Thank you.
Other Devotee: According to the Panchadasi, avidya is the cause of aviveka. What is the difference between the two of them?
SWAMIJI: The unconsciousness of the existence of a Universal Reality is called avidya, and the incapacity to distinguish between the Universal Reality and the appearance of the world is aviveka. You understand me? The unconsciousness of the existence of the Universal Reality is avidya; the incapacity to distinguish between the Universal Reality and the appearance of the world is aviveka. Do you catch the point? Do you understand what I say?
Other Devotee: Is avidya connectedwith avarana?
SWAMIJI: Yes, you can say that. It is something like that.
Devotee: What is the technical difference between Ishvara and Saguna Brahman?
SWAMIJI: Ishvara is same as Saguna Brahman. There are three stages of the manifestation of the Supreme Absolute, Brahman: Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat. All these three stages - Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat - are also called Ishvara only, in one way. The total concept of the inclusiveness of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat is also called Ishvara, and it is the same as Saguna Brahman. Qualified Absolute - it means Qualified Absolute.
Other Devotee: From an absolute point of view there is no creation, but from a relative point of view there is creation. Do these theories of creation describe a temporal process, or rather do they describe the logical structure of the degrees of Reality?
SWAMIJI: It looks like a temporal process to the human mind which thinks in terms of temporal process. Here you have your great friend Immanuel Kant coming to your aid, who said that the mind of the human being cannot think except in terms of space and time and, therefore, every event is interpreted by the human mind in terms of space and time, which means the temporal process.Though that process might not be temporal, the mind thinks it is temporal. God has not created a temporal process, because God is not existing in time. Do you understand? Therefore, you cannot say that God has created the world as a temporal process. It is not a historical movement that God has initiated. There is no history for God, because that is in time and He is above time. It is a logical process rather than a temporal historical process.
Devotee: How can you prove that perception is the movement of the mind towards the object? How do you prove this movement - that perception is the movement of the mind towards the object?
SWAMIJI: I gave you that little book - you never read that book - that Yoga, Meditation and Japa Sadhana book which I give to all people. The first part of it is only that - and you have not read it. What I meant is, unless your consciousness contacts the object, it cannot become aware of the object. And if the object is different from consciousness in quality, consciousness cannot know that there is an object. Therefore, the object of consciousness cannot be totally outside consciousness. If it is not outside consciousness, it should be within consciousness and, therefore, it is a part of consciousness only. This is the answer. Do you understand the point? Otherwise, you can’t be aware that there is an object, if it is totally outside it. How will you contact the object when it is totally different? What is the link between object and consciousness? Therefore, consciousness must have an inherent, implicit presence in the object itself, which is another way of saying that the object itself is a potential consciousness - concluding thereby that the whole universe is consciousness. Do you catch the point?
Devotee: Yes. When the scriptures say that sound is transmitted by ether and not by the air, how can we make it compatible with the normal physical theory that sound travels through the air?
SWAMIJI: Sound cannot travel without air. When the scriptures say that sound travels through ether, they mean it travels through air, which is in ether. That is the idea. Where air is absent, sound cannot travel. That is the point.
Devotee: About the theory of karma. I think we cannot prove that the things which happen to me in some particular moment are due only to my own previous actions, because it is possible that they are due to the other processes which are external to me.
SWAMIJI: What are the other processes?
Devotee: For example, weather, or somebody comes here…
SWAMIJI: You see, again you are bringing in weather and all that. Weather, etc., are objects of consciousness. And I told you, you cannot have any connection with objects unless your consciousness is implicit in them. So, we should not say some external causes are troubling you. There are no external causes. They are connected with your consciousness. Therefore, they seem to be troubling you. So, there is no external cause. The external cause, so called, is also implicit in your consciousness. Otherwise, you won’t be affected by that. If there is no connection at all between you and the weather, it won’t affect you at all. It has connection with you, because it is also an object, and every object is implicitly consciousness - which means to say, it is connected with your consciousness also and, therefore, there is action and reaction between subject and object. That action and reaction between subject and object is called karma. That is all. It is like the law of gravitation. The whole universe is conditioning you because of your consciousness being connected to everything in the world. Every cell of the brain of a person is connected to every atom in the cosmos; this is the modern theory of physics. Every cell in your brain is connected to every part of the cosmos. And so there is nothing with which you are not connected. Hence, you are a cosmic man basically, wrongly thinking that you are an individual person, and so this action and reaction taking place between your wrong notion of the individuality and the actual Absolute is the cause of this gravitational force, which is morally or ethically called karma. It is like the law of gravitation, which is operative between the individual and the Absolute on account of the wrong notion of the individual that it is separate from the Absolute.Karma will not act if you are identical with the Absolute. Karma acts as long as you are outside it. Do you understand? So, there is no karma for the Absolute. And you also will not have any karma, provided you are merged in the Absolute consciousness in your deep meditation. All karmas will be destroyed in one minute. But if you persist in thinking that “I am Mr. Francis and some separate individual from the cosmos”, it will react upon you. That reaction is called karma. That is the point.
Devotee: Yes, I understand.
SWAMIJI: What I am telling you just now is explained in a little more detail in my book, The Philosophy of Religion, under a section called The Theory of Karma.
Devotee: I am not convinced about the proofs of the theory of rebirth
SWAMIJI: From where do you come - from New Jersey?
Devotee : This individual, this body of mine - what you call ‘I’.
SWAMIJI: Are you Dr Kavita kurakayala?
Devotee: Dr Kavita kurakayala?
SWAMIJI: From where have you come?
Devotee; As far as I know, there was a combination between my father and mother - some biological thing.
SWAMIJI: Who compiled the biological elements into the form of this Francis?
Dr.Reddy;: I don’t know - the biological laws.
SWAMIJI: Who created these laws? Why are the laws so bad that they are creating Francis? They could have created some angel. [laughter] Why are the laws operating so badly? You would have certainly liked to be an angel and a godman instead of a poor little suffering fellow. Why are the laws so bad? Why they are operating in that way? Tell me. Who is initiating it from behind? Without a cause, an effect cannot follow. So you could not have come unless a cause operated. Who is this cause? You cannot say laws, because who made these laws?
Francis: I think that this question may be… It is not possible to ask this question…
SWAMIJI: I want to know who created these laws. Because you want to know the cause of a thing, we are going to probe into the cause. How did the effect follow from the cause, unless the cause has some intention behind it?
Dr Reddy; We can speak of causality inside the world.
SWAMIJI: Inside the world? There is no inside the world. Again you are bringing the inside/outside business. In the world there is no inside/outside; it is a total organism. In a total organism, there is no inside/outside. The idea of inside/outside arises because you have separated yourself from the Universal. The moment you separate yourself from the Universal, the Universal looks like an outside. But if you are actually an organic part of the Universal, where is the question of inside/outside? It is a total action taking place - a total action. Actually, rebirth or birth, whatever you call it, is only your desire. You want to be reborn; that is all. If you don’t want to be reborn, you will not be reborn. If you say, “I don’t want to be reborn. Why should I be reborn? I have no business to be reborn. I have no desire for rebirth” - you would entertain no desire at all for anything whatsoever; then, why should you be reborn? The rebirth stops in one second. But you want to be reborn. Your consciousness concentrates itself in a particular fashion according to the laws, as you are saying, and projects itself into that location. Consciousness condensing itself, solidifying itself and becoming a form for the purpose of fulfilling the existing desires is called rebirth.
Dr Reddy: But I still need proof…
SWAMIJI: How can I prove that you have got desires? What is the proof?
Dr Reddy; I have desires, yes.
SWAMIJI: What is that proof that you have got desires? You yourself are the proof. And you have to fulfill the desire. And you cannot fulfill the desires in this birth, because they are so many in number.
Dr Reddy; But then maybe I will never…
SWAMIJI: You will never fulfill them? You will certainly fulfill them. The law of the cosmos is such that every desire has to be fulfilled.
Dr Reddy: But if we have faith in… or we have faith in a possibility...
SWAMIJI: It has nothing to do with faith. It is a scientific law. It is a scientific law of action and reaction. Even if you have no faith that if you go to the top of a tree you will fall down, you will certainly fall even if you have no faith. Why you want faith? There is no question of faith here; it is an action between you and the Universal. These problems will not arise if you don’t persist in thinking that you are an individual outside the Universal. You have created the problem unnecessarily by thinking that you are outside, and then going on arguing against the Universal.
Dr Reddy: I think this state of consciousness of non-duality …
SWAMIJI: If there is not duality, where is rebirth? The question doesn’t arise.
Dr Reddy; I think this question of rebirth is of vyavaharika…
SWAMIJI: It is vyavaharika only. It is perfectly right. The rebirth is vyavaharika and your existence as Mr Francis is also a vyavaharika existence. Absolutely, you are not existing. Absolutely, you are existing as nothing. So, you have not been born. And therefore, you will need not to be reborn. This is an illusion, as this gentleman was talking about. But it is an illusion only when you identify yourself with the Absolute. Otherwise, if you are yourself convinced that you are outside it, all the laws that operate in the universe will act against you because you have contravened the law of the universal whole. That is all. It is the law of evolution. Something evolved from matter to plant, plant to animal, animal to human being. How can one thing become another thing unless the previous stage has ceased and the second stage has started? And the starting of the second stage is the rebirth of the first stage. What you call evolution as the process in biological law is same as rebirth. How can the higher form come unless the lower form has gone? The lower form dies. That is, there is a mutation taking place. And the mutation of the lower transforms itself into the new form which is the higher form. That new form is what you call the rebirth. What you call rebirth is nothing but the law of evolution taking place, and evolution will not take place if your consciousness is identical with the Absolute. The whole evolution will cease in one second.
Dr Reddy; So then, there is some progress.
SWAMIJI: It is the progress of the Absolute.
Dr Reddy; Is there any purpose?
SWAMIJI: It is the cosmic purpose.
Dr Reddy: There will be some moment when this purpose is fulfilled.
SWAMIJI: It will be fulfilled, and you will never see the universe afterwards.
Dr Reddy: Not the universe, maybe…
SWAMIJI: You will never see the universe.
Dr Reddy; That happens in a new life?
SWAMIJI: The individual will not be there at that time. Then why are you again saying individual? Again you are bringing the individual.
Devotee:: During the night of Brahman, it is timeless. Therefore, it must exist in one moment, and there can be no temporal gap between one day of Brahman and the next one.
SWAMIJI: There is no gap.
Dr Reddy; There is no gap between one day and the next one?
SWAMIJI: Where is the gap between day and night?
Dr Reddy; I mean between one day and the next day.
SWAMIJI: Where is the gap? We are also passing through one day and the next day. Where is the gap? There is a continuity. No gap.
Dr Reddy; Is not deep sleep a temporal state also? So there is no separation between my previous…
SWAMIJI: They are continuous. If they are separated one from the other, then you cannot know that you are one continuous person. The sleeping person, the dreaming person and the waking person are one person; and if each state is different from the other, there would be discontinuity of self-identity. Inasmuch as self-identity is maintained in all the three states, it shows that all the three states are continuous and are not cut off one from the other. Otherwise, the sleeping man would be different, the dreaming man will be another man, and the waking man a third person. It does not happen. It is one continuity.
Dr Reddy: The right eye is more active than the left one during the day.
SWAMIJI: That’s what they say. As they say, the right hand is more active than the left hand. This is a kind of usual traditional belief. Perhaps it has some connection with the two nadis operating, the solar and the lunar, the solar being more powerful than the lunar, and maybe the right side is influenced by the solar side, which is more powerful than the lunar side, the left one.
Dr Reddy; About the idea of rebirth. I will give two arguments - not against the idea but against its importance for spiritual life. The idea of rebirth is not essential in spiritual life because there have been many saints who did not believe in it.
SWAMIJI: Rebirth? If they don’t believe, you need not bother about it. Why are you worried about them?
Dr Reddy; There are saints who attained this spiritual state, who have different beliefs. So it is not essential.
SWAMIJI: A person who has reached the highest state will know everything that is taking place in the cosmos. And rebirth is one of the things that is taking place. Otherwise, he will not be omniscient. Omniscience includes everything, and you cannot say you don’t know something. You must know everything. Otherwise, what is omniscience?
Dr Reddy; I think jivanmuktas are omniscient.
SWAMIJI: Jivanmukta also is a very lesser condition. There is something higher than that - Cosmic-consciousness. It is Universal-consciousness, even above jivanmukta. And they must know everything - every atom - so there is nothing that they cannot understand. They should not say they don’t know something. That is not possible. They will know everything. They can count how many hairs are there on the heads of all the people in the world, such consciousness is there. They can know how many leaves are there in all the forests in the world, by direct perception.
Dr Reddy; If rebirth is true…
SWAMIJI: What is rebirth? It is a kind of transformation taking place in the cosmos. Why are you using that word ‘rebirth’? It is a transmutation taking place in everything in the cosmos. And everybody has to undergo that transmutation. And nobody could have become jivanmukta unless he has undergone this transformation. Otherwise, he would be a pig or a buffalo always. How would the buffalo become a jivanmukta without undergoing transformation? That is called rebirth, which I mentioned to you earlier. The mutation of species for the purpose of a higher state of consciousness is called rebirth. Otherwise, how would you reach God? You would be the same person forever, unless the mutation takes place. It has to take place.
LORD SHIVA & SHIVARATRI
by Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar
We conceive God as glory, as creativity and as austerity. Vishnu is glory and magnificence, Brahma is creativity force, and Siva is austerity and renunciation. You might have heard it said that God is the embodiment of six attributes of which renunciation is one. You will be wondering how God can renounce things. He is not a Sannyasin. He is not an ascetic like a Vairagin or a Sadhu. What is He going to renounce? How do you conceive Siva as an austere Yogin or a renunciate? What does He renounce? The all-pervading Almighty, what has He to give or abandon? Here is the secret of what renunciation is! It is not renunciation of anything, because there is nothing outside Him; renunciation does not mean abandonment of object. If that had been the definition of renunciation, that cannot apply to God. God does not renounce or abandon any object, because all objects are a part of His Cosmic Body. Then how do you represent God as an embodiment of Vairagya (dispassion)? Bhagavan, who is endowed with 'Bhaga' or glories of a sixfold nature, is also embodiment of Vairagya. Do you identify Him with a Sannyasin, possessing nothing? No, never. God is the possessor of all things. Then, how can you call Him a renunciate, a Sannyasin or a Vairagin? The secret behind the concept or the consciousness of Vairagya, renunciation is here, in the identification of this attribute with God. It is only when we interpret things in terms of God that things become clear. Otherwise, we get confused. We cannot know what goodness is, we cannot know what evil is, we cannot know what virtue is, unless we refer all these values of life to the concept of God in His Perfection. The only standard of reference for us in all matters of life's values, is the existence of God. So, the concept of renunciation, which has been very much misused, also gets rectified, clarified and purified when it is understood with reference to the existence of God whose special manifestation, in this context, is known as Lord Siva.
God does not renounce anything. Then, in that case what is renunciation in this context? It is the freedom from the consciousness of externality. This is called Vairagya. How can you abandon things? All things are there in front of you, like trees in a forest or stones in the jungle. There is nothing like abandonment of things, because they are internally related to you. Nobody can renounce anything, because everything in this world is connected to everything else. Then what is Vairagya? Vairagya is not renunciation of any object; it is impossible. Everything clings to you. But the idea that things are outside you, makes you get attached to them. This false attachment is Raga, and its absence is Vi-raga. The condition of Vi-raga is Vairagya. As God has no consciousness of externality, because everything is embodied in Him, there cannot be a greater renunciate than God. And in as much as this Consciousness of God is the highest form of Wisdom, He is the repository of Jnana.
In our religious tradition, Lord Siva is represented as an aspect of God, the Almighty. He presents before us the ideal of supreme renunciation born of Divine Realisation - not born of frustration, not born of an escapist attitude, not born of defeatism, but born of an insight into the nature of things, a clear understanding of the nature of life and the wisdom of existence in its completeness. This is the source of Vairagya, or renunciation. You do not want anything, not because you cannot get things, but because you have realised the interconnectedness of things and the unity of all purpose in consciousness. All desires get hushed, sublimated and boiled down to the divine Being only when this realisation comes. God does not possess things. Possession is a relationship of one thing with another thing. But, God is super-relative. That is why we call Him the Absolute - He is not relative. Anything that is related to something else comes under the category of relative. God is not related to anything else, because He is All-comprehensive. And, thus, in His all-comprehensive Absoluteness, which is height of wisdom conceivable, there is also the concomitant character of freedom from the consciousness of externality, and therefore, as a corollary, freedom from attachment to anything. Thus Lord Siva is the height of austerity, Master Yogin, portrayed as seated in a lotus pose, as the king of all ascetics; not that He has the desire for self-control, but He is what self-control is itself. He does not practise self-control. Self-control itself is symbolised in the personality of Lord Siva. Such a wondrous concept of a glorious majestic picture of the Almighty, as Lord Siva, is before us for adoration during Mahasivaratri.
We observe fast during the day and vigil during the night. The idea is that we control the senses, which represent the outgoing tendency of our mind, symbolised in fasting, and we also control the Tamasic inert condition of sleep to which we are subject every day. When these two tendencies in us are overcome, we transcend the conscious and the unconscious levels of our personality and reach the superconscious level. While the waking condition is the conscious level, sleep is the unconscious level. Both are obstacles to God-realisation. We are shifted from one condition to another. We are shunted, as it were, from waking to sleep and from sleep to waking, every day. But the super-conscious is not known to us. The symbology of fast and vigil on Sivaratri is significant of self-control; Rajas and Tamas are subdued, and God is glorified. The glorification of God and the control of the senses mean one and the same thing, because it is only in God-consciousness that all senses can be controlled. When you see God, the senses melt like butter melting before fire. They cannot exist any more. All the ornaments become the solid mass of gold when they are heated to the boiling point. Likewise, in the furnace of God-consciousness, the sense-energies melt into a continuum of universality.
In the famous Rudra-Adhyaya or the Satarudriya of the Yajur Veda, we have a majestic, universalised description of Lord Siva, a chant which we are accustomed to every day in the temple. Only those who know what Sanskrit is, what the Vedas are and what worship is, can appreciate what this Satarudriya chant also is. It is one of the most powerful prayers ever conceived by the human mind. It is filled with a threefold meaning. According to the culture of this country, everything is threefold - objective, subjective and universal. Everything in the world, from the smallest to the biggest, has an objective character, a subjective character and an universal character. Obj ectively you are something, subj ectively you are another thing and universally you are a third thing. It all depends upon the point of view from which you interpret a particular thing, person or obj ect. When you obj ectively interpret a thing, it looks like one thing; when you subjectively analyse it, it is another thing; and from the universal point of view, it is a third something altogether.
Likewise, this Mantra, the Satarudriya of the Yajurveda, a hymn to Lord Siva, has an objective meaning, a subjective meaning and a divine, supreme, supra-mental, universal meaning. Objectively, it is a prayer for the control of the forces of nature. Subjectively, it is a prayer for self-control and the rousing of the spiritual consciousness. Universally, it is a surge of the soul towards Godrealisation. It has an Adhiyajnika, Adhibhautika, Adhidaivika and Adhyatmika meaning, as we usually put it. It has a tremendous meaning. The Vedas, the Mantras of the Vedas, are filled with such threefold or fourfold meaning. Hence it is difficult to understand the full meaning of any Mantra of the Veda. "Ananta vai vedah": Infinite is the meaning of the Vedas. The meaning of the Vedas is infinite. It has no end at all. It is mathematics; it is chemistry; it is physics; it is Ayurveda; it is psychology; it is metaphysics; it is philosophy; it is spirituality; it is meditation; it is love; it is ecstasy. You will find everything in every Mantra of the Veda. All depends upon how you look upon it, how you feel it. A person may be a father, he may be a brother, he may be a son, he may be a friend, but all the while he is one and the same person. Attitudes are different on account of the various relationships. So the Rudra Adhyaya before us is a majestic prayer for world peace, international peace, subjective peace, universal peace and God-consciousness.
It is difficult to chant this Veda Mantra called the Satarudriya, because it requires a training - as in music, for example. Everybody cannot sing. It requires tremendous training for years together. Likewise, the chanting of the Mantras of the Veda requires training for years together, and not for a few days only. Just as one who does not know how to sing will make a jarring noise and you will like to get up and go away rather than listen to it, so also when you chant the Mantra wrongly, the gods will get up and go away. They will not bear it any more. Hence, it requires training. But once it is properly learnt, it becomes a protection for you from catastrophes of every kind - physical, psychological and what not. So, those who know may chant it, recite it and take part in the recitation of it every day in the temple, at least during the worship on Mahasivaratri.
Those who cannot do this because it is difficult, can chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya', the Panchakshara Mantra of Lord Siva with Om preceding it. It is a Kavacha, a kind of armour that you put on. This armour will protect you from danger of every kind. It will protect you and also all those whom you want to be protected. It will protect your family; it will protect your country; it will protect the whole world. It can cease wars and tensions of every kind, provided you offer the prayers wholeheartedly from the bottom of your heart. Collective prayer is very effective. If a hundred persons join together and pray, it will have a greater effect than one person praying. Of course, if that single person is very powerful, even one person's prayer is all right. But where personalities have their own weaknesses and foibles, it is better that people have congregational prayer. When all the minds are put together they form a great energy. It surges forth into God.
So, during this period preceding Sivaratri, prayer is to be offered to Lord Siva as the Master of Yogin, as the incarnation of all virtues and powers, as a facet of the Almighty Lord. The glory of Lord Siva is sung in the Siva Purana, in the Yajur Veda Rudra Adhyaya, as I mentioned, and in the Mahabharata. You will be wonderstruck at the force with which Vyasa and other sages sing the glories of God - of Vishnu, of Narayana, of Siva, of Devi in the various Puranas and epics - because these masterpieces have been written by those who had the vision of God. Only one who has the vision of God can express with a soulful force. Otherwise, it will be an empty sound without much significance and thought. So, chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya' as many times as possible every day, mentally or even verbally as is convenient, with selfcontrol - which means to say, without any thought of sense-object. If you chant the Mantra together with the thought of sense-objects, then there is divided devotion. It is like dividing the course of a river in two different directions so that the force of the waters gets lessened. Suppose you have five sense-objects, and towards all of them your senses are running, and you are thinking of God also at the same time - then energy is divided, concentration becomes weak and meditation is not successful. No meditation will become successful if the senses are active, because the senses oppose the effort at meditation. While meditation is the collective force of the mind concentrating itself on God-consciousness, the senses, when they are active, do the opposite of meditation and you become a tremendous extrovert. You are connected to the objects of sense rather than the universal concept which is God. God is unity, whereas sense objects are multiplicity. They are the opposite of what you are aiming at in your spiritual life.
With moderate behaviour in every manner in your spiritual life, you will attain success. As the Bhagavadgita beautifully puts it, "Moderate in your eating, moderate in your activity, moderate in your speech, moderate in your sleep" - form the golden mean, the via-media, the golden path. God is the harmony of all powers in the universe. Harmony means the middle course - neither this extreme nor that extreme. You cannot say whether it is or it is not. We do not know what it is. As Buddha said, "'Nothing is', is one extreme; 'everything is', is another extreme. God is in the middle. Truth is in the middle." So, the middle path is the best path, which is the path of austerity with understanding. This is the characteristic of the middle path. When there is understanding without austerity, it is useless. When there is austerity without understanding, that is also useless. There must be austerity with understanding and understanding with austerity, knowledge with self-control and self-control with knowledge; that is wisdom. Knowledge with self-control is called wisdom, whereas knowledge without self-control is mere dry intellectuality. That is of no use. And austerity without understanding is a kind of foolishness. It will have no proper result.
Lord Siva is not merely an austere Being but also a repository of Knowledge. All worshippers of knowledge also worship Lord Siva, as He is the God of all students, scholars and seekers of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Mahasivaratri is a very blessed God-sent opportunity for us. So on this day, pray to Lord Siva with all your heart, with all your soul, fully trusting on the might of God, wanting nothing from the objects of sense, and delighted within that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. God is bound to come. The powers of the cosmos are everywhere and they can be invoked at any time by us, provided we are strong enough in our will and in the method of invocation. We are blessed because we live in the Kingdom of God. We are blessed because we are seekers of Truth. We are blessed because we are disciples of a great Master. We are blessed, thrice blessed, four-times, five-times blessed because we are seeking God who also seeks everything in this creation. God seeks the world and the world seeks God. This is the mystery of creation, the subtlety of the spiritual path and the glory of the meditative life. Jnana and Vairagya combined is Lord Siva, who is worshipped on Mahasivaratri day.
Lord Siva is easily pleased. He is called Asutosh. Asutosh means 'easily pleased'. He is not a difficult Person. You can quickly please Lord Siva. If you call Him, He will come. Sometimes He is also called 'Bhole Baba' - a very simple, not complicated Person. He comes to help you, even unasked. He helped the Pandavas. The Pandava brothers were in war with the Kauravas in the Mahabharata battle, and Lord Siva helped them without their knowing that the help was being offered. Lord Siva helped the Pandavas invisibly - and why would He not help us? He helps all those who tread the righteous path. So let us tread the path of righteousness and be recipients of Divine Grace.
We may look at the whole thing from another angle of vision. The Sanskrit word 'Sivaratri' means 'the night of Siva'. On this holy day we are to fast during the day and keep vigil during the night. You may be wondering why Siva is connected with the night and not with the day - otherwise we could observe vigil during daytime and fast during the night. Instead of that, why has the whole thing been put topsy-turvy? Siva being connected with night has a highly spiritual and mystical connotation. It is not that divinity as manifest in the form of Lord Siva has any special connection with the period we call night. If you study deeply the Upanishads and such mystical texts of high spiritual significance, you will realise that the Supreme Being, the Absolute, is designated in its primordial condition as a Supreme Darkness due to excess of light. This adjective or qualification 'due to excess of light' must be added. It is darkness because of the excess of light. When you look at the sun directly for a few minutes and then look elsewhere, you will see only darkness. The sun has dazzled you to such an extent that all else appears as darkness. It is said in the Mahabharata that when Lord Sri Krishna showed the Cosmic Form in the court of the Kauravas, everything was dark, as it were. The intensity of the light was such that it looked like darkness to the eyes of man. In one of the famous creation-hymns of the Rigveda we have a similar reference made to the original condition of creation. There is the hymn of the Veda called the Nasadiya Sukta, wherein it is said, "Tama asit tamasa gudhamagre":Darkness there was; at first concealed in darkness. According to us, light is perception of objects, and therefore non-perception of objects is regarded by us as night, because knowledge or consciousness unrelated to the perceptual process is unknown to the human mind.
Generally, to know is to know an object; and if it is not to know an object, it is not to know anything at all. For example, take the state of deep sleep. Why do we fall asleep? Do you know the reason? What is the cause for our going to sleep every night? Where is the necessity? The necessity is psychological and, to some extent, highly metaphysical. The senses cannot always continue perceiving objects, because perception is a fatiguing process. The whole body, the whole nervous system, the entire psychological apparatus becomes active in the process of the perception of objects. And without our knowing what is happening, the senses get tired. They cannot go on contemplating things all twenty-four hours of the day. Why should they not be contemplating objects of sense throughout the day, all twenty-four hours of the day? The reason is that perception is an unnatural process from the point of view of consciousness as such. Perception of an object is the alienation of an aspect of our personality through the avenue of a particular sense in respect of its object. All this is difficult for many to grasp. This is a highly psychological secret. Consciousness is indivisible. This is a simple fact. Many of you would have heard about it. Consciousness is undivided; it is incapable of division into parts. So it cannot be cut into two sections - subject and object. On the basis of this fact there cannot be a division between the seer and the seen in the process of perception. To make this clear, let us see what happens in dream.
In dream we see objects like mountains, rivers, persons, etc. But they are not there. Things which are not there become visible in dream. Now, did the mountain you saw in dream exist? It did not. But did you see it? Yes, you saw it. How did you see, when it was not there? Is it possible to see a non-existent object? How can non-existent things be seen? It is contradictory statement to say that non-existent things can be seen. What do you see when things are not there? You will be wonderstruck! What happens in dream is that there is an alienation of the mind into the objects of perception; and the mind itself becomes the mountain there. There is tension created due to the separation of a part of the mind into the object and a part of it existing as the perceiving subject. That is why we are restless in dream. We cannot be happy. It is neither waking nor it is sleep. It is very difficult to be happy in this condition because a tense situation of consciousness is created. What happened in dream, the same happens to us in the waking condition also. Just as the mind in dream divided itself into two sections - the perceiving subject and the object that was seen - in the waking state also, it divides itself into the subject and object. It is like a divided personality. It is as if your own personality has been cut into two halves, of which one half is the 'seer' and the other half is the 'seen'. It is as if one part of your personality gazes at another part of your own personality. You are looking at your own self as if you are a different person. You are objectifying yourself; you alienate yourself. What can be more false and undesirable than this situation? It is a mental sickness.
Now you are able to understand this situation in dream on account of the comparison that you make between waking and dream. When you wake up, you do not see the dream objects, and then you begin to analyse the condition in which you were when you were dreaming. You say, when you are awake, that you are in a world of reality, whereas in dream you were in a world of unreality. How do you know that the world of dream was a world of unreality? It is merely because you compare it with the waking condition which you consider as real. How do you know that the world of waking is real? You cannot say anything about this, because there is nothing with which you can compare it, as you did in the case of the dream. If you can know another standard of reference, higher than the waking condition, you would have been able to make a judgement of it - whether the waking condition is real or unreal, good or bad and so on. When you are dreaming, you do not know that the objects are unreal. You consider them as real and you take it for granted. The comparison between the dream and the waking world is responsible for our judgement of the unreality of the dream world. But with what will you compare the waking world? There is at present nothing to compare it with, and therefore you are in a condition which is self-sufficient, self-complacent and incapable of rectification.
When you feel that you are perfectly right, nobody can teach you. Nobody can set you right, because you think that you are right. The question of teaching arises only when you feel that you are ignorant and you need teaching. The waking world is only an indication as to what could be happening or what is perhaps happening. You cannot know what is happening actually, unless you transcend this condition, which you have not done yet. But, by the conclusion that you can draw from an analysis of the dream condition, you can conclude to some extent that in the waking state also you are in a fool's paradise. What is the guarantee that you will not wake up again from this waking world, into something else? Just as in dream you did not know that you were dreaming, in this waking also you do not know that you are in a state similar to dream. You think that this world in waking is a hard fact and a solid reality, just as you believed the world of dream also to be real. To the senses an absence of perception is equal to darkness - the darkness that we experience in deep sleep.
Let us come back to the subject of Sivaratri, the night of Siva. When you perceive an object, you call it waking. When you do not perceive it, it is darkness. Now in the waking condition - the so-called waking world - you see present before you a world of objects, as you are intelligent. In dream also there is a sort of intelligence. But in deep sleep there is no intelligence. What happens? The senses and the intellect withdraw themselves into their source. There is no perceptional activity, and so the absence of perception is equated to the presence of darkness. The cosmic Primeval condition of the creative will of God, before creation - a state appearing like darkness, or night - is what we call the condition of Siva. It is very important to remember that the state of Siva is the primordial condition of the creative will of God, where there is no externality of perception, there being nothing outside God; and so, for us, it is like darkness or night. It is Siva's night - Sivaratri. For Him it is not night. It is all Light. Siva is not sitting in darkness. The Creative Will of God is Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence - all combined. Sometimes we designate this condition as Isvara.
The Supreme Absolute, which is indeterminable, when it is associated with the Creative Will with a tendency to create the Cosmos, is Isvara in Vedantic parlance, and Siva in Puranic terminology. This is the very precise condition described in the Nasadiya Sukta of the Veda as Tamas or darkness. This is, to repeat again, darkness due to the excess of the Light of the divine Absolute. If you look at God, what will you see? You will see nothing. The eyes cannot see Him because He is such dazzling light. When the frequency of light gets intensified to a very high level, light will not be seen by the eyes. When the frequency is lowered and comes down to the level of the structure of the retina of the eye, only then you can see light. There are various kinds of lights, various intensities or frequencies, and the higher frequencies are incapable of cognisance by the senses on account of their structural deformity. So if you see God, you will see nothing.
As a matter of fact, we are seeing God even now. But we are not able to recognise Him. The world that we see before us is God Himself. There is no such thing as the world. The world does not exist. It is only a name that we have given to the Supreme Being. Call the dog a bad name and then hang it. Who asked you to call it a world? Why do you give such a name? You yourself have given it a name and say, "Oh, this is the world!" You can call it by another name. You are free to give any name to it. Really there is no such thing as a world. It does not exist. The world is only a name that you give to a distortion created in the perception of your consciousness due to its isolation into the subject and the object.
To come back to the analogy of dream again, the mountain that you saw in dream was not a mountain; it was only consciousness. There was no mountain. But it looked like a hard something in front of you, against which you could hit your dream head. You see buildings in dream. It was consciousness that projected itself into the hard substance of bricks and buildings, mountains and rivers, persons and animals, etc., in dream. The world of dream does not exist. You know it very well, and yet it appears. What is it that appears? The consciousness itself projects itself outwardly, in space and time created by itself, and then you call it a world. Likewise, in the waking state also the Cosmic Consciousness has projected itself into this world. The world is Cosmic Consciousness. The Supreme Divinity Himself is revealed here in the form of this world. As the dream world is nothing but consciousness, the waking world also is nothing but consciousness, God. This is the essence of the whole matter. So you are seeing God. I am right in saying that. What you see in front of you is God only. It is not a building. There is no such thing as a building. But you call it a building due to an error of perception, due to ignorance and due to not being able to analyse the situation in which you are involved. We are caught up in a mess, in a paradox, in a confusion; and the confusion has entered us, entered into the bones, as it were, into the very fibre of our being and made us the fools that we are today. It is to awaken ourselves from this ignorance and to come to a state of that supreme blessedness of the recognition of God in this very world, that we practise Sadhana. The highest of Sadhanas is meditation on God.
On Sivaratri, therefore, you are supposed to contemplate God as the creator of the world, as the Supreme Being unknown to the Creative Will, in that primordial condition of non-objectivity which is the darkness of Siva. In the Bhagavadgita there is a similar verse which has some sort of a resemblance to this situation. "Ya nisa sarvabhutanam tasyam jagarti samyami; yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh": That which is night to the ignorant, is day to the wise; and that which is day to the wise, is night to the ignorant. The ignorant feel the world as daylight and a brightly illumined objective something; and that does not exist for a wise person. The wise see God in all His effulgence; and that does not exist for the ignorant. While the wise see God, the ignorant do not see Him; and while the ignorant see the world, the wise do not see it. That is the meaning of this verse in the second chapter of the Gita. When we see sunlight, the owl does not see it. That is the difference. The owl cannot see the sun, but we can. So, we are owls, because we do not see the self-effulgent sun - the Pure Consciousness. And he who sees this sun - the Pure Consciousness, God - is the sage, the illumined adept in Yoga.
Sivaratri is a blessed occasion for all to practise self-restraint, self-control, contemplation, Svadhyaya, Japa and meditation, as much as possible within our capacity. We have the whole of the night at our disposal. We can do Japa or we can do the chanting of the Mantra, 'Om Namah Sivaya'. We can also meditate. It is a period of Sadhana. Functions like Mahasivaratri, Ramanavami, Janmashtami, Navaratri are not functions in the sense of festoons and celebrations for the satisfaction of the human mind. They are functions of the Spirit; they are celebrations of the Spirit. In as much as we are unable to think of God throughout the day, for all the 365 days of the year, such occasions are created so that at least periodically we may recall to our memory our original destiny, our Divine Abode. The glory of God is displayed before us in the form of these spiritual occasions.
THE THINGS YOU CARRY WITH YOU
by Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar
(Swamiji’s speech on March 2010 in one of the Satsang/ Discourse )
I take it that this is a spiritual group. Am I right? It is a spiritual group. Am I right or not? Here is the essential point. Nowadays, anything and everything goes by the name of spirituality, but it is a great secret, which always escapes the notice of even a careful attentive mind.
When you go anywhere, you carry your belongings, your luggage, and your property for the itinerary. These are the visible accompaniments of your travel, but there are certain things which follow you wherever you go, and they follow without you knowing that you are being pursued by them. These things which invariably are associated with you, day in and day out, right from your birth till the end of life, are those things about which you know nothing, and which you never think in your mind at any time. What are these?
When you move, you carry with you all those things which are vitally connected with you. That which does anything, or moves from place to place, is the person that moves. Now, the person is not the physical body that moves. Your mental structure is what you really are. You carry memories, for instance. Memories are not characteristics of the body. You have loves and hatreds, fears and anxieties, expectations, and many other characteristics which go with you wherever you go. You cannot throw your sorrow somewhere into the jungle, and then go on a travel. The sorrow will pursue you, and your joys also will come with you.
There is what is known as environment, very much emphasised these days by environmentalists. You carry with you, wherever you go, the environment in which you are placed. Like a shirt that you put on, the environment always comes with you, and you must know what that environment is.
As an individual, as a person that you are, you are a conglomeration of feelings, determinations, and decisions. Every person is a psychological entity. Sometimes we look like psychophysical individuals, inasmuch as the body cannot totally be dissociated from the operations of the mind. But, truly speaking, our fortune is not in the conditions of the body; it is in the conditions of our mind.
You not only belong to your own self, but you belong to a large area of human society. It is not possible for any individual to totally dissociate oneself from social associations or social conditions. You know very well how much dependent anyone is on the structure of human society. No individual is complete by one's own self. There are things which you can give to others, which others lack and do not have; but there are things which you would like to take from others, which you lack but others have.
Farmers produce wheat, rice, and sugarcane, and shopkeepers move the commodity from place to place for distributing it in the proper manner. Some produce things; some consume things. There is a mutual agreement and understanding between the process of production and consumption, which is one of the characteristics of human society. You cannot yourself till the land, grow harvest, and carry wheat bags with you; and your own self must cook and eat. You require associations from outside.
Not only that, apart from these visible characteristics of social relation, there are unavoidable relations which we maintain; namely, we feel within ourselves that we cannot exist unless we belong to society. We form, generally, small societies for the sake of our security, like family. Family is also a society. It may be of two or three persons. The cooperative coming together of these three or four persons called the family gives security to this group. The family is secure. A single person, totally independent, sitting in the wilderness, cannot feel that one is secure, because the winds of society will blow over the head in any manner.
But even a family cannot be secure unless it has the sanction of protection from a wider atmosphere, which is a larger society. You may call it the nation, or the country. The whole country and the national law protects you, takes care of you. The family cannot be secure if the nation is in danger. Even a nation is not fully secure if the international setup is not well balanced. Nowadays, the world situation affects even little families. The whole world has become one family now, so social associations extend up to the farthest corner of the earth, though we do not think deeply along these lines. None of us feels the necessity to think that we are existing here comfortably because of stable international relations. Theoretically, we may accept this fact, but we do not think that it is essential for us to go on worrying about this. How is it that we take this for granted? A tumult in international relations, which may be of great consequence, will affect every individual in the whole world, and how it will affect us is up to anyone to think for oneself.
The whole world is with you, and you carry it with you wherever you go. Wherever you go, you are in human society. Wherever you go, you are conditioned by these unavoidable associations with the external setup of social relation, even up to the limit of the United Nations. You have a vital connection with the United Nations. You may say, "What connection have I got? I am a simple individual sitting here. Let them do what they like." No, it is not like that. "Let them do what they like" is not correct, because if they do anything which is untoward, this may affect the whole ground of the earth, and as a wise person, you know what it is all about.
This is to say, you carry social relations wherever you go, up to the farthest limit of possibility, and you cannot ignore your obligation to society, inasmuch as the society is also giving you a helping hand in seeing to it that you are safe. Society supplies what your needs are. It gives security in the form of a government, and it produces commodities which you require. The foodstuffs, the clothing, and other facilities that you need come from sources which are outside the physical periphery of your personality.
You are a world individual in one sense. You are not a citizen of one place; you are a citizen of the whole world, if you think over this matter carefully. You belong to the whole world, and the world, in its gesture of goodwill and cooperation, has embraced you and taken you into its bosom. If that had not been the case, you would not have been here breathing the fresh air comfortably. You would be disturbed every moment about what is going to happen outside. You feel that everything is all right; nothing will happen, because of the stability of human society throughout the world. These associations which are inscrutable in their nature and not visible to the physical eye, always escaping the notice of even the greatest power of introspection, do exist.
So, the first thing to remember is that you are a social unit, apart from being a citizen of a particular country. Your belonging to the worldwide organisation of society is a more consequential relation than your belonging to a single country which gives you a passport or a visa. Human society is larger than a country and a particular nation, and that is with you wherever you go.
But, does anybody think like this? "I am a carefree individual. What does it matter? I go wherever I like." You cannot go like that. You cannot go wherever you like. You can go only on the surface of the earth, in the midst of society. This is possible only if the air that is outside, the atmosphere external to you, is cooperative and friendly. You cannot even walk on the road unless the atmosphere of the road is cooperative. Suppose there is fear on the road; then, you cannot walk on the road. But you know that everything is all right. You can walk from here to Delhi without any kind of anxiety because society is so well knit together in a cooperative gesture of indivisibility. You are safe. Socially, you are safe because of the mutual cooperation.
So, in this context you will realise that selfishness is rooted out completely. No person can be selfish. "I mind my business, you mind your business." This kind of thing will not work in this world. You have no business of your own, even as nobody else has a business of his or her own. It is a total business of a world family, to which we belong.
This is to tell you one aspect of that which you carry with you wherever you go. This is also a commodity that you carry - your social relations. But there is another thing which is deeper than this - namely, you carry your relationship with the whole of nature. Nature includes anything and everything that this physical world is. This very earth supports you. I mentioned society supports you. Now I am telling you the earth is supporting you. There are five constitutive elements in physical nature - earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Ether or space gives us accommodation. What we call accommodation is nothing but availability of space, and that space is everywhere. You do not like a narrow, congested little area of space for you to exist; you would like to have a wide area.
The physical body cannot continue to live unless it is fed with the elements produced by the earth which you call diet - food, for instance. The food that is necessary to maintain this body comes from the production of essences of the earth itself. The physical body is made up of earth principle, so it requires to be plastered every day by that which comes from the earth. The earth is supporting itself. The body is a part of the physical earth, and it cannot continue independently without a relationship with the vast earth.
We require water to drink. Suppose there is no water; what will happen? We do not manufacture water. Even food we cannot manufacture, as we think it is. The earth has to permit the growth of foodstuff. It simply can withdraw its essences and there can be drought and dryness everywhere. The sun can heat up the whole earth, and there would be no food to eat, and no water to drink. The elements are our friends.
We said human beings are our friends; all right, agreed. Now we come to another thing: the elements are our friends. The earth can shake, simply; but it does not shake. Why should it not? It can simply blow up the ground if it wants, and what happens at that time? We call it an earthquake. We are sure that the earth, the dear mother of ours, on whose bosom we are sitting and walking, will not do such a thing. We have a faith that the earth underground will not break today. This is a faith, without any reason behind it. Faith has no reason. Why should such a faith be there, that the earth will not break? But we have faith: "No, no. It will not take place. The sun will rise every day." Why should the sun rise every day? Have we any control over that phenomenon? Let the sun not rise for a day and see what happens. All life will perish with cold.
You do not have to manufacture fresh air. Are you paying tax for the air that you get from outside? It is a gesture of God. Let there be no air. Can you manufacture air by any amount of money that you have? The earth gives you free food. Water is given to you freely; air is given you freely. Sunlight is free. What a wonder! All essentials are coming to you freely. What is man-made has to be purchased by a recompense of payment, but what God has made comes to you totally free. Suppose you have to pay a tax for the air that you breathe, or sunlight. What will happen? This is the bounty of nature.
In the same way as we have to be perpetually aligned to the requirement of the international social setup, we have also to be perpetually in harmony with natural conditions. We cannot violate the laws of nature. You must know, as educated persons, what the laws of nature are. You cannot insult nature in any way. You cannot spit at the sun and condemn air, or criticise water, or hate fire. No, you should not say like that. They are divinities. God operates not only in the form of an indivisible social setup for the sustenance of our life; He also operates as nature. Philosophers tell us that the world is the body of God. When God created the world, He did not create human beings first. He created the elements only. Read the bible, the Upanishads, or the Gita. Whatever you read, you will find that man and woman were not created first; they are latecomers. These latecomers are now becoming so proud that they think they are the masters of the whole creation. This is a very great tragedy.
SHAKTI AND ITS YOGA
Visitor: What is Shakti? How does it work?
Swamiji: What is Shakti? Which Shakti? First of all you tell me what you mean by Shakti?
Visitor: Well, Shakti like creature power; Shakti like the Divine Mother.
Swamiji: It works everywhere and in everything, and everything is its manifestation. It is cosmic energy. And everything is constituted of that. Do you know what the latest modern scientific discoveries say? They say that every material object - looking apparently material - is nothing but a formation of cosmic energy. Everything including, your own body, is made up of that one energy, Shakti - which means energy, power, force, etc. It is the stuff of everything, right from earth to heaven. There is nothing else except that. And the more you are able to participate in its working, the more strength you derive. Shakti is not merely physical; it is also psychological, and even spiritual. But you must know how to participate in its working. That means you have to transcend your ego and also, to some extent, your personality and your individuality. Because the cosmic substance is all-pervading, it is not affiliated to some particular individual. So to participate in the universal substance means to get over the limitations of personality - that is, to transcend it. What else do you want to know? What is your question?
Visitor: Is the Shakti connected with the feminine quality?
Swamiji: No, no! It is not connected with any quality, because it has no such distinction as masculine or feminine. It is a universal, impersonal force. It may split itself into various shapes, into not only into feminine and masculine but also into matter - the animate and the inanimate, etc. This is an issue of animate and inanimate. Even that is the creation of the ways of human perception. It has no such distinctions in itself , but it looks as if there is distinction when you look at it from your point of view. It is not male or female; it is impersonal. It is androgynous. Do you know what androgynous means?
Swamiji: It is that.
Visitor: It works also in the individuality.
Swamiji: It works also in the individuality; it works everywhere. In every atom of the world, it is working. It alone exists through all that appears as substances. But it looks to your empirical perception as if it is divided, whereas it is cosmically integrated.
Visitor: There are such things as positive and negative forces. Can the male and female be regarded as such?
Swamiji: This would be a very gross and crude form of expressing the two forces, positive and negative. These two forces of electricity, for instance, are not called feminine and masculine. That is a very peculiar human way of looking at things. They are two electric couplings - neutral forces. One becomes complete by combination with the other. They appear to be different on account of the manifestation of the space-time causal relationship. There are further distinctions, such as male-female, positive-negative, etc. But in what people nowadays call the fourth dimension, there is no such distinction of positivity and negativity. The split of positive and negative, male and female, arises after space and time have been divided. So what you say in this context is correct. But everything is contained in the fourth dimension, and the uniformity of the continuum in its essentiality has no division within itself. There's a difference between the head and the legs, for instance. You have a head and you have legs. Though you can't say either that one is the same as the other, you don't feel the difference. You feel it is one whole, one living mass or personality extending from head to foot. You don't see the distinction from one part to another part of the body. Likewise, the energy does not see the difference that the mind sees. It is one mass, in which everything is comprehended: Pure Awareness.
Visitor: Then why are we not aware of this?
Swamiji: We are not aware of this because we are cut off from the source. This is what is called the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
Visitor: What is the meaning of yoga, please?
Swamiji: The meaning is the realization of the mistaken notion of the isolation of the individual from the cosmic, your feeling that you are cut off from the world. You feel that you are outside things, isn't it? There are so many things like the sun, the moon, the stars, etc., and you feel they aren't connected with you. But it is not true; you are connected with them. The solar rays and the cosmic rays constitute the substance of your body itself. But you feel that you aren't connected. This is your mistake. Your mind is not so made as to appreciate the connection of your existence with other things. This is the inability of the mind to think correctly. That is your problem. And the practice of yoga is nothing but a gradual process of self-identification with the different levels of reality, until gradually you identify yourself with that to which you originally belonged. It is a great art, a tremendous, life-long process - life-long, not a question of a few days and months. And you exist only for this purpose, and have no other duty in life. Every other duty is only for this purpose. What can you do in this world is a step in the achievement of this purpose.
Visitor: So yoga is connecting the individual reality with the Cosmic Reality?
Swamiji: Yes, yes; right, right!
Visitor: Have you to use the mind too . . . .
Swamiji: In the beginning, you've to use nothing else; you have no other faculty. In the beginning, the only faculty you have is the mind and the intellect. But later on, there is no need for you to use the mind and intellect; the soul itself will act. Your soul is your total personality. It is not working always. Generally only a partial part of your total personality works.
Visitor: It is the individuality that works.
Swamiji: Yes. Personality is the outward expression of your individuality. Your individuality is superior. The feeling that you exist as a person or individuality does not work for all times. Either the intellect works, or the emotions work, etc., but the soul does not work. The whole intellect works, the emotions work, the will works, but the soul very rarely acts.
Visitor: Is it because the intellect and the mind are very much conditioned?
Swamiji: They are very much conditioned, and they are not going to be of help at all times. But when you have nothing else, you have naturally to take their help for the time being. When you have no apparatus to rely upon, you have only the mind and the intellect, you have to take their help.
Visitor: What about feeling? Is it conditionless?
Swamiji: It is equally conditioned, as much as the intellect and the mind. It is no less conditioned. Your whole vision of things is conditioned in a particular manner by space and time. As I mentioned to you, you cannot get over this conditioning. But the intellect will help you finally in knowing its own limitations. That is, when you know your own limitations, you have automatically outgrown your limitations. When you know, you can go up higher and further to this level, and you have to some extent known what is above you. When you know the limit of a thing, you also have an idea of what is outside that limit. So when your intellect has reached its farther limits of logic and understanding, you would get a flash from the higher level. And then the soul acts and the intellect stops.
Visitor: What happens to your own personality afterwards?
Swamiji: It all just goes afterwards. It will not exist then. You will become something different. You will become a larger personality and not an individual personality. You become inclusive of all other factors in you. That is what is called a superman. You must have heard of superbeings. A superman is nothing but a higher being in whose personality the existence of the other personality is subsumed. He is a larger individuality with greater dimensions, tending towards a still higher realisation, stage by stage.
Visitor: What is the difference between Jnana Shakti and Kundalini Shakti?
Swamiji: Kundalini Shakti is everything. Jnana Shakti is knowledge. Jnana is a Sanskrit word; the power of knowledge is Jnana Shakti. Kundalini Shakti includes the power of understanding, of feeling, the power of action. It is every kind of Shakti, action, volition, feeling- all these are comprehended within it.
Visitor: Is it included in the practice of yoga? Can we use this term?
Swamiji: Yes ! Kundalini Shakti is included in yoga. All types of energy are included therein, and it is inclusive of everything.
Stories for the Children:
Devayani was the beautiful daughter of Shukracahrya, preceptor to the Asuras, the demons. Shukracharya knew the secret of Mritasanjibani that brings back to life the Asuras, killed in the war with the gods, the devas. The devas also wanted to know the secret of Mritasanjibani. So they sent Kacha, the handsome son of Brihaspati, preceptor to the Devas, to fall in love with Devayani. This is the story of Kacha and Devayani and how the devas learnt the secret of Mritasanjibani.
Long ago, the Devas and the Asuras fought all the time for the lordship of the three worlds. The Asuras were care free and happy as long as Shukracharya, their preceptor, was with them. The valiant Devas, tired of the unequal struggle, went to Kach, the handsome son of Brihaspati, preceptor of the Devas and asked him to go to Shukracharya and learn the secret of Mritasanjibani.
The obedient and dutiful Kacha immediately set out to meet Shukracharya. He humbly presented himself before the great wise man, introduced himself as the son of Brihaspati, and asked to become his disciple.
Shukracharya was a true teacher. He immediately recognized Kacha’s brilliance as a student. Shukracharya did not differentiate between his students. He gave Kacha a warm welcome and accepted him as his pupil.
Shukracharya had a daugher, Devayani, whom he loved dearly. He introduced Kacha to his daughter saying, "Kacha has vowed to be my pupil till the period of his studies is over."
All learning in those days was handed down by word of mouth. The pupil lived with his guru's family as one of the household. In return for his education, the pupil served his guru with love and devotion. However, Shukracharya was very busy either at court or he was deep in meditation. So Kacha helped Devayani with her daily chores and watched after her.
Within a few days of his arrival, Kacha found himself spending all his leisure hours in the company of the lively Devayani. Devayani was slowly drawn towards Kacha and they fell in love.
Shukracharya liked Kacha because he was an attentive disciple.
As the years passed, the Asuras became suspicious of Kacha. They wanted to get rid of him. One day as Kacha was attending Shukracharya’s cattle, the Asuras fell upon him and slew him. Then they cut him into pieces and fed his flesh to their dogs.
When Kacha did not come home at the normal hour, Devayani became alarmed. When the cattle came back without Kacha she ran in a panic to her father and told him that Kacha was missing. Shukracharya closed his eyes and to the great relief of Devayani, Kacha came back to life and appeared before her. When Devayani inquired about his disappearance, Kacha tried to explain in a puzzled voice, "I was killed by the Asuras but I do not know how I came back to life?" Shukracharya just smiled.
The love between Kacha and Devayani grew day by day. The Asuras were worried. They guessed right, Kacha was there to learn the secret of Mritasanjibani.
One day Devayani asked Kacha to get her a particular flower that only grows in the deep forest. Kacha went for it. The Asuras followed him and once again killed him. But this time they carried his body to a secluded spot, grounded up into a paste, and dissolved it in the water of the ocean.
Devayani waited and waited. When Kacha did not return she went again to her father. Shukracharya meditated and once again used the secret knowledge to revive Kacha. Devayani was overjoyed.
The Asuras were now at their wits end. "How can we kill Kacha? Every time we kill him, his guru brings him to life!"
They went to one of the senior Asuras and asked him how to destroy Kacha for good. The senior Asura gave them an idea. The next day, when Kacha went out with the cattle, they again slew him. This time then burnt him in the jungle. Then they took the ashes home and mixed it in a wine which Shukracharya was very fond of. They took the drink to Shukracharya for a taste. Shukracharya loved it. He immediately drank it and blessed the Asuras.
When the cattle once again returned home without Kacha Devajani knew what had happened.
"Will Kacha ever be mine?" she asked herself "The Asuras will never leave him alone!"
She went to Shukracharya and wept. "Father, without Kacha I am as good as dead, please bring him back to life."
Shukracharya waited for a while thinking. "It is no good to bring Kacha to life. The Asuras will only kill him again. "
He tried to console his daughter, "It is futile Devajani to bring Kacha to life. The Asuras are determined to get rid of him. A wise soul, like you, should not grieve at a loved one's death. You are young and beautiful and you have your own life to live."
But Devajani was adamant. So strong was her love for Kacha.
" Father” she said, “Kacha was your best student. I am in love with him. I can not live without him."
Devajani stopped eating. Shukracharya could no longer bear to see his daughter in such agony. Again Shukracharya used his secret knowledge and called upon Kacha to come back to the world of the living. Kacha came back to life and spoke from inside the stomach of Shukracharya.
"The Asuras killed me but I do not know how I happen to be inside your stomach?" echoed Kach.
Shukracharya cursed himself for drinking the wine given by the Asuras. "Henceforth, wine shall be forbidden for those engaged in the pursuit of wisdom," declared Shukracharya in great frustration. Now Shukracharya had a real dilemma of his own. He could ask Kacha to come out but that would mean his own death.
When he told Debjani of his dilemma she was again adamant, "Father, I can not live if either of you dies."
After long deliberation Shukracharya thought of a way out. He knew now the real purpose of Kacha's visit. He addressed Kacha, "I now see why you came and truly you have succeeded. There is only one way by which both of us can ensure Devayani's happiness. I will have to teach you the craft of Mritasanjivani.
With his new knowledge Kacha emerged from Shukracharya's dying body and then immediately brought his guru back to life. Shukracharya could not have been happier with his pupil's progress.
When the Asuras came to offer him wine, Shukracharya shouted, "You fools! Kacha now knows my secret. You helped him learn by your foolish deeds. But rest assured Kacha will continue to live with me because of his love for Devayani.
But Shukracharya was wrong. Kacha too faced the troubling dilemma. Waiting for the period of his studies to come to an end, Kacha kept silent. While his love for Devayani was deep, his sense of duty towards the devas was no less strong.
On the last the day of his studies, Kacha went to Shukracharya for his blessing. As a wise man and a dedicated teacher, Shukracharya concealed his grudge against Kacha but he was wondering how Kacha was going to bid farewell to Devayani.
Devayani waited for Kacha to propose marriage. But when Kacha broke the heart-breaking news that he was going to fulfill his obligations to his own people, her joy turned to tears. Devayani pleaded with Kacha to take her as his wife. But Kacha replied, "Peerless one! I was reborn in your father's stomach. I am therefore your brother. I can't marry you. I must return to heaven."
The broken-hearted Devayani cried out in her grief. She accused Kacha of using her to attain his goal. Distort she cursed Kacha, "You will never be able to use the craft of Mritasanjivani."
Kacha quietly listened and then spoke, "Devayani, it is wrong to curse me. I could have walked away without reviving your father. There is no doubt that my love was sincere and truthful. But, I also have a duty to perform towards my own people. Because of your unfairness to me, I am cursing you. No Rishi's son will ever marry you. I may still teach the craft of Mritasanjivani to others, even though I may not be able to use it myself." Saying this Kacha departed for the abode of Indra, king of the Devas. Shukhacharya gently led Devayani away.
With the passage of time, Devayani completely forgot about Kacha. She once again became playful and lived happily with her father and her playmates in the city of Vrishaparva, king of the Asuras. Of her playmates, the most important was princess Sharmistha, the daughter of king Vrishaparva. In our next story we will tell how Devayani fought with Sharmistha and married king Yayati, a Kshitriya, who belonged to the warrior race.
BRAHMAN AND HIS KNOWLEWDGE
Many years ago, in India, there lived a king named Janashruti (widely known). He ruled over the kingdom of Mahabrisha (meaning the big bull). He was a benevolent and generous ruler. He built rest houses for travelers along the roadside, distributed free food to the poor and needy, built hospitals for the sick and old and he taxed his subjects fairly. Quite naturally Janashruti was pleased with himself for having done so much for his kingdom. Unfortunately it did not take long for him to turn into a vain man.
One evening while he was relaxing on the terrace of his palace he saw two swans flying over him and conversing.
"Be careful while passing over the King Janashruti" one of them said. "The glow of his fame may burn you to ashes."
"You must be joking" replied the partner, "As if King Janashruti is greater than the humble cart-man Raikva!"
The king understood their conversation and became thoughtful.
"Who is this Raikva?" The king pondered. "How could he earn more merit than me?"
King Janashruti felt restless and could not sleep for the rest of the night.
The following morning, when the elaborate ritual of waking up royalty began, the king got irritated.
"Stop all these adulations and empty praises for me. I am not worthy of it."
The king's attendants were puzzled,
"What happened Maharaj?" asked the bard.
The king told the bard about the swan's conversation he had overheard.
"Now go and seek out Raikva," the King ordered, "He is the most pious of all men."
A massive search was soon launched to locate Raikva. Many days had passed and finally they were told by a peasant that Raikva was a cart-man in their village. All the kings men then saw Raikva, a poor cart driver, sitting on the ground and engaged in his own thought.
"Our king wishes to meet you" said an attendant.
"Well, here I am," said Raikva without budging from his place. "The king can come here if he wants to see me."
The attendants were surprised. "What does our worthy king seek from this ordinary man?"
The king was pleased to hear that Raikva was finally found. He ordered to make preparations to leave for Raikva's village the next morning.
King Janashruti took with him an army of men with impressive presents of 600 cows, an expensive gold necklace and a chariot for Raikva.
Upon arriving at the village, King Janashruti introduced himself and said, "I have heard a great deal about you. I am told that you are one of the rarest person who has the personal experience of Brahman, the supreme Lord."
"Oh Raikva" the king continued, "I will give you all that you desire, and in return I ask that you impart me the supreme knowledge of Brahman."
Raikva smiled. "So you want to buy the divine knowledge!"
Then he scolded the king, "Oh ignorant king! The knowledge of Brahman cannot be purchased. It is not a commodity that can be bartered. You are not yet ready to receive the supreme knowledge. Go home."
The disappointed king returned to his palace. He became withdrawn, drowned in his sadness , always wondering, "What do I lack?"
His sadness and sincere anxiety to know Brahman, made him humble. His ego disappeared and King Janashruti became a different person in just a few weeks. He then decided to go to Raikva once again.
Upon reaching the village, the king could not help himself. He fell at the feet of Raikva begging to impart him the knowledge of Brahman.
"Enlighten me" the king cried out "I have no peace. Your knowledge has more richness than my entire kingdom. Please give me a part of it. I beg you with all my sincerity."
This time Raikva saw that the king had lost all his vanity and the genuine desire for knowledge was evident. He picked up the king and said, "I bless you, O virtuous Janashruti. All the knowledge that is mine will now be yours as well."
Raikva then drew the king close to him and spoke at length, "The supreme knowledge cannot be imbibed unless one has shed one's ego. Only the humble can perceive the Brahman. Now that you attained the humility, come with me and I will share wit h you whatever little I have about the knowledge of our creator."
So saying Raikva accepted Janashruti as his disciple. The king could realize that Raikva was materialistically poor but spiritually rich. As time passed by, Janashruti received the gospels of Raikva and dedicated his job of royalty as a service to Brahman without taking the credit of his personal achievements.
Women achievers of India
There are number of Indian women who have surmounted their difficulties and problems. Government of India and other organisations have installed awards in recognition of such women who are known as Women Achievers of India. I am sharing with you their life sketches here which should inspire and motivate young ILites who are in despair with problems.
Government of India, at the instance of Shrimati Sumitra Mahajan, Minister of State of Women and Child Development, has decided to recognize and honour the services of such women who have made outstanding contributions in the life of the nation. This will encourage them further to carry on their work, and to motivate and inspire hundreds of such voluntary women workers throughout the country. Five National Awards, to be known as Stree Shakti Puraskars, were instituted in 1999, in the name of five illustrious daughters of India - Kannagi, Mata Jijabai, Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and Rani Gaindiliu. Each award shall be presented annually and shall carry a cash prize of rupees one lakh and a citation in scroll. The awards shall be given every year for outstanding contributions made by five women.
Continuing the life sketches of 'Women achievers of India, here is the life sketch of the great Mrs. Chinnapillai. It is matter of great pride for all Maduraiites and Tamils when the then Prime Minister of India Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he visited Madurai paid his compliments to Mrs. Chinnapillai.
Mrs. Chinnapillai was born in Pullisery village, Madurai District. She has been deeply involved in organising and working with co-agricultural labourers for undertaking various agricultural operations on a collective basis to maximise the benefits.
She was the founder of a number of Kalanjiams (savings and credit groups) of poor women and was instrumental in forming Vaigai Vattara Kalanjiam, Appantirupathy, which is the First Federation of Rural Women Savings and Credit Group in India. This has a membership of over 40,000 women. The linkages that she has established between the Kalanjiams and the banks and other financial institutions like NABARD, HUDCO etc. has resulted in promotion of income generation for hundreds of poor women to get them rid of the clutches of money-lenders.
She led many struggles to establish the rights and entitlements of poor women against landlords, moneylenders, politicians and officials. The most notable was the right for fishing over the village tank, which was controlled by the landlords.
Her selfless and untiring service for the poor women in the South has earned her Mata Jijabai Stree Shakti Puraskar for the year 1999.
Next in the list of 'Women achievers' is the life sketch of Brahmacharini Kamala Bai. Hers is a real saga of a lady surmounting all odds to succeed in life and make a mark.
Air Commodore Padmavati Bandopadhyaya,
After 32 years in the Air Force, is at 55, the first woman Air Commodore in the Air Force. And that is just one of the firsts in a long string of achievements to her credit.
Commissioned into the Air Force in 1968, Bandopadhyaya was the only woman in her batch of officers.
Graduating in 1967, she was the first woman to enter the field of aviation medicine. She was the first woman officer to have successfully completed the course offered by the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington.
She and her husband, Wing Commander S.N. Bandopadhyaya, were the first husband and wife team to be awarded the Vashist Seva Medal for their work during the 1971 Indo-Pak war:
She was the first Indian woman officer to have conducted research in the Arctic region. And she was the first woman to be made a fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India.
Coming from a conservative Tamilian family, educated in Tamil, when she joined the AFMC, Bandopadhyaya thought she had been paradropped into a whole new world.
Suddenly she was with people who ate with forks and knives, spoke in English and sang English songs. She could only eat using her fingers, spoke little Hindi or English, and knew no English songs. Today, Bandopadhyaya prattles in Bengali as well - a language she picked up after marrying a Bengali Air Force officer.
Trained in Carnatic classical vocal music ("like all south Indian children", she insists), Bandopadhyaya is fond of listening to music and likes mythology as well.
These days, her work as Commandant - entailing a whole gamut of administrative work - takes up most of her time. She does her yoga everyday and cooks elaborate meals - fish fries for the non-vegetarians and sambar for her vegetarian self - on weekends.
Generally men only sing celestial or bakthi in Siva temples called “Oduvars”.
And she belonged to a lower caste not supposed to do that. The lady from Trichy, Malakottai fought against poverty, the tradition that males and upper caste should only sing.
And she is the perfect example that women, if they have will and knowledge, perfection and perseverance can equal men to sing on Lord Siva.
After all Lord Siva gave his half to women. Sure God does not discriminate. Men only do all things to bad (sometimes good) to women.
There are lot of women all over the world who are skilled and shine.
The the brave 23-year-old air hostess who, risking her own life, saved the lives of passengers in a hijacked PAN AM flight in September, 1986. She was seriously injured by the hijackers’ bullets while shielding three children. Neerja was awarded the Ashok Chakra posthumously.
An award has been named after her called the Neeraja Banot Award and it is given to women who have shown exemplary courage in their personal lives.
One of the Neerja Bhanot award winner for the year 2000 — Alice Garg from Jaipur — has been engaged in a constant battle against injustice. The life of Alice not only inspire but also underline the significance of service and sacrifice — the two qualities which describe this woman best.
Starting from scratch, Alice has been braving one odd after another to get justice for exploited women. She has courted fear with a vengeance and has gone ahead to accomplish her chosen missions. She know courage is resistance to fear, not absence of it. Today, she has many reasons to justify her existence, and each reason is more powerful than the other.
Watching Alice Garg talk is like watching a dormant volcano swell up with lava. She seems to hide a tempest behind her calm exterior. One cannot but help wonder how the frail 61-year-old woman could have waged a war against well-connected criminals. Alice is credited with exposing many infamous cases of sexual exploitation against women in Rajasthan, including the Bhanwari Devi gangrape case which hit the headlines a few years ago and the J.C. Bose case, which sends shivers down the spine.
Alice has also helped in the rehabilitation of more than 4,000 migrant labourers, who now dwell in the Jawahar Nagar Katchi Basti in Jaipur. Alice says: "In 1975, the government demolished the slums, thus uprooting thousands of people. We, at Balrashmi, commiserated with them. The government was not prepared for their rehabilitation. So every time the government demolished the slums, they came up again. I helped those people to secure water and electricity connections. That was the first time I invited the government’s wrath."
The story of Ashammafrom Andhra Pradesh, another Neeraja Banot winner, a socially-marginalized woman who has been fighting for her rightful place in society, too follows along the same line.
At 35 years of age, Ashamma has nothing to share with the world expect tears. She comes from Karni village in Mehbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, where women belonging to the lower caste are considered objects of entertainment. Ashamma was made to undergo the jogini ritual when she was seven years old. As per this custom, she was married off to the village deity. Recalls Ashamma, "Since the day of the initiation, I have not lived with dignity. I became available for all the men who inhabited Karni. They would ask me for sexual favours and I, as a jogini, was expected to please them. My trauma began even when I had not attained puberty."
At 11, Ashamma attained puberty. As soon as the news spread, men hounded her all the more. She was forced to sleep with countless people, some of whom were much older than her. Still in her teens, Ashamma delivered a girl child. "I bore the child from the man I loved, but he did not marry me. Later, I escaped from the village," she says. But all the time she was reminded that she was a jogini and should not act like a pativrata.
During those days the Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society was running sanghams in villages. These forums voiced the concerns of sexually exploited women. When Ashamma heard the views of its leaders, she was impressed. She swore to fight against the baseless custom of jogini.
In 1997, Ashamma became the head of the sangham which operated in Karni. As the leader of the forum, she discouraged the practice of jogini. Her mission revolved around thwarting the attempts of villagers to initiate young girls into this evil practice. She still remembers how hard she had to fight in order to save a nine-year-old girl in her village from becoming a jogini. The police had refused to help her and no one in the village was prepared to cooperate with her. But Ashamma sat in protest until she succeeded in preventing the initiation ceremony.
The two courageous women -Alice Garg from Jaipur and Ashamma from Andhra Pradesh were awarded for their services to society in Chandigarh on April 28. The award money comprised Rs 1.5 lakh each. The commitment of these women to their respective cause was evident from the fact that both of them donated a part of the huge sum to their respective societies. Ashamma kept Rs 50,000 for her child and donated the rest to her sangham. Alice donated the money to Rustamji Trust which is dedicated to the amelioration of the plight of the poor.
Born, brought-up and educated in Delhi, Divya Mathur worked as Medical Secretary for nearly 15 years at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, where she committed herself to help the blind. She is Executive Director of a charity in London, which helps the blind to be self-reliant. An MA in English, she has diplomas in Journalism from Delhi and Glasgow. She devised shorthand for Ophthalmology in 1972 to facilitate her work at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences.
Recently honoured with the NRI Literary Award (Aksharam), Divya has been the Arts Achiever of the Year Award-2003 (Decibel sponsored by the Arts Council of England) for outstanding contribution and innovation in the field of Arts. She was given the Experience Corps Certificate of Recognition & Merit to mark her contribution in the community. She was also invited to receive the Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart Award (Honouring individuals of Inspiration and Dedication) by The Peace Meditation Mission of the United Nations. She has also won an Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the International Library of Poetry.
A nominated Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Divya aims at addressing the cultural aspirations of the Indian community and promoting Indo-British dialogue at the level of thoughts and shared experience. In 1992, she joined hands with the team chosen by Minister (Culture) and Director, Mr Gopal Gandhi, to establish The Nehru Centre in London, where she continues to enjoy working as its Senior Programme Officer. She has helped organise thousands of programmes in the last thirteen years. The magnitude of her organisational skills can be seen from the number of programmes she has helped organise - over six hundred programmes in the last three years only.
In January 2006 she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for her collection of essays on contemporary issues, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, but she declined to accept it
She is the Chairman of the Baha’i House of Worship. She is also the Chairman of the Lotus Charitable Trust and Lotus Hospitals Trust.
She has represented the Indian Baha’i community at the UN Millennium Conference for World Religious Leaders and the Baha’i International Community at various UN seminars.
Travelling throughout India, Zena has assisted in the establishment of primary schools, the education of girls, and the transfer of technology to rural India. For her social work, Zena has been named Best Social Worker by Nehru Bal Samiti.
Ruth Manorama is India's most effective organiser of and advocate for Dalit women, belonging to the 'scheduled castes' sometimes also called 'untouchables'.
Ruth Manorama is a Dalit woman. Born in 1952 in Madras, her parents escaped the worst consequences of being Dalits by becoming Christians. In 1975 Manorama took a Master's degree in social work from the University of Madras and has trained in both the community organisation methods of Saul D’Alinsky and the conscientisation methods of Paolo Freire. In 2001 Manorama was granted an honorary doctorate "for the distinguished contribution made to church and society" by the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.
Manorama has been consistently associated with a range of issues – the rights of slumdwellers, domestic workers, unorganised labour and Dalits, and the empowerment of marginalised women. She stresses the interconnectedness between these issues, and the common cause that marginalised people share the world over.
Her work crosses the borders between grassroots movements, mass mobilisation, and international movements. Manorama's working life has been spent on organisation building, mobilisation of people and advocacy on behalf of Dalit women through a large number of organisations. She is:- General Secretary of Women's Voice, founded in 1985, to work with women in slums, struggling for land, shelter and survival rights of the urban poor.
- President of the National Alliance of Women, set up following the Fourth World Conference of Women in Beijing in 1995 to monitor government performance on its various commitments to women and lobby for change.
- Joint Secretary of the Christian Dalit Liberation Movement, formed in the 1980s to mobilise Christian Dalits for affirmative action.
- Secretary of the Karnataka State Slum Dwellers Federation.
-Secretary for organisation building of the National Centre for Labour, an apex organisation of unorganised labour in India.
-President of the National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW), set up in 1995.
In addition, she has a number of regional and international roles (Asian Women's Human Rights Council, International Women's Rights Action Watch – Asia – Pacific, Sisters' Network). She has also been a member of the Karnataka State Planning Board, the State Commission for Women, the Task Force on Women's Empowerment of the Government of India and a number of other state and national bodies. Ruth Manorama was chosen to be included in "1,000 women for Nobel Peace Prize 2005".
Ashminder Kaur Dhadialla,
A Sikh lawyer, was born in Nairobi, Kenya on 17 November 1974. She left Kenya as a teenager and first studied science in Canada before rounding off her law degrees with a Masters at Oxford University in England. Ashminder participated in the 1995 World Debating Championships and was Secretary of the Oxford Univeristy Womens Blues Squash Team.
Following graduation from Oxford, Ashminder worked for leading international law firms and companies, including Clifford Chance LLP in London, however, her key interest remained in undertaking pro bono human rights work and in preserving Sikh culture, history and theology.
Away from corporate finance legal work, Ashminder spends a minimum of ten hours a week on unpaid pro bono work which ranges from assisting in domestic violence disputes to working with international human rights groups on complex and politically sensitive cases of alledged genocide or crimes against humainty. Ashminder also takes a keen interest in legal issues affecting women in her native country, Kenya and the structure of the Kenyan legal system, and prepares restructuring proposals in this regard.
In 2002, to counter Sikh under-representation at leading Universities, Ashminder founded "The Sikh Scholarship Foundation", a charity that provides grants and scholarships to leading Universities, such as Oxford, for Sikhs. The aim is to extend this programme to other under-represented state-less nations with distinct cultures, such as the Bushmen of South Africa and the Aboriginals of Austraila by 2009. All Scholars undergo a parallel programme of study to learn about their own culture, history and theology and to ensure they are equiped and capable of competently addressing the various social and relevant issues facing their communities.
If the eyes say it all, then Piu Sarkar's creations with their large almond-shaped eyes, speak volumes. Her canvases have lovely women with arresting features, quite absorbed in their own world. It is almost as thought they have no cares or worries. "That's quite right," says the self-taught artist, Piu. "I paint women who are enigmatic and sensual; women who have a mind of their own."
Piu herself seems like an extension of her canvases. She is a lovely person, well read and absolutely passionate about her work. The latter evolves around stree shakti, which is the liberation of women that were embodied in mythology and folklore. "The series is also a story of my journey as a woman. It is not a voice against the man's world but her existence and evolution from pages of epics to entertainment," she states.
One of her paintings was inspired by a scene from 'Pather Panchali', a Bengali classic. Charulata or Shakuntala are influenced by old Bengali classics of Bibhuti Bhushan Bandhopadhaye, Tagore and Kalidas.
"All the women that I paint deal with a similar undercurrent of pressure and need strength to sustain them. It is here that the shakti comes in," she explains.
Piu admits that images of women icons of Indian mythology have been her real inspiration as they reflect the social and political strategy of a woman's status from the past to the society in today's times. "The series of my creations have been influenced by eyes and motifs of Ajanta Frescoes, Pala Art of Bengal, Mewar Miniatures and Mathura/ Gandhara Patterns, etc. I have depicted the flavour of Indian Culture and Classics in an individualistic language and presented it in a contemporary palette of Indian Pop Art," she adds.
The striking depiction of these women icons have already won Piu admiration from eminent artist Jogen Choudhury and actress Sushmita Sen. "I did not know that Sushmita had bought my paintings until much later. She then called me up to tell me that the image had 'strength' in its eyes," she says.
For the artist says it's going to be women power that will occupy her canvas for some time. After which she will see what else catches her fancy.
Piu Sarkar has been awarded the 'Woman achiever of Calcutta' recently.
Most New Yorkers probably don't know Desai, but they know her handiwork. In May 1998, the 27-year-old labor activist went head-to-head with the city's combative mayor, organizing one of the biggest 24-hour taxi strikes in New York history to protest city policing of the industry. A history and women's studies graduate from Rutgers, Desai burned with a passion to take up the fight of the cab drivers, some 60 percent of whom, like her, are immigrants from South Asia, many of them working up to 80 hours a week for as little as $18,000 a year without health benefits, or even any certainty that they will be paid.
Desai's family had emigrated from Gujarat to Harrison, N.J., when she was six years old. Her father, who had been a lawyer in India, had trouble finding work and resorted to running a grocery store, and some of Desai's earliest memories were of racist attacks by skinheads. "I remember being chased down the street," she says. "I remember the hostility, and that politicized me." After graduating from Rutgers, she joined New York's Taxi Workers Alliance, where she is now staff coordinator. "I wanted to organize around issues of labor and class," says Desai. "I wanted to organize the immigrants, and it was important for me to go beyond what the AFL-CIO was doing. It was important to focus on life issues and not just the labor."
Desai bridged the ethnic, religious and regional differences among South Asian cab drivers by emphasizing that everyone is subject to the same difficulties. "We speak more than 100 languages," she says, "and yet there is a common language of exploitation that we all know. Because of our common goals, we were able to organize a common front." Now she plans to organize a South Asian Labor Alliance linking workers in the U.S. with those on the subcontinent. "Because our countries are underdeveloped, people are forced to migrate to countries that are often very hostile to them," says Desai. "It is important for us to have solidarity with workers in the Third World. They are not the ones who are stealing the jobs."
Magsaysay award winner
Aruna Roy, born to Tamil parents and brought up in a totally secular tradition, is one of those who did. Six years (1968-1975) in the IAS were enough to convince her that reality lay elsewhere.
In her words: "Frankly speaking, I was not happy with bureaucratic functioning.... There are times when one knows that the decisions being taken by higher-ups are blatantly wrong, but nothing can be challenged."
Aruna left the IAS to join her husband Bunker Roy's Social Work and Research Centre in Tilonia in Rajasthan: "I had my schooling in grassroots work in Tilonia. Before that, I did not even know what a village was!" In 1990, she moved away from Tilonia to join the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), an organisation of poor farmers, both men and women.
The MKSS fought for fair wages to workers, and also became centrally involved in the campaign for the Right to Information (RTI). As Aruna describes it, the RTI campaign—later to blossom into a full-fledged movement—was born from an agitation for minimum wages by MKSS in the late '80s.
Sixty per cent of the members of MKSS are women. It is these women and men who provide the breadth of vision that characterises MKSS. For them, as for Aruna, the RTI is not just a campaign for the right to information. It is a campaign that links together all the natural rights of citizenship—to food, to wages, to work, to dignity, and to a life free of violence.
The presence of women is essential for, according to Aruna, women instinctively understand what it is to be marginalised, and, over time, men in the movement have begun to understand the importance of involving women.
In 2000, when Aruna Roy was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award, she dedicated it to the 'ordinary' people—both women and men—she works with. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to this intrepid and remarkable activist came from the women of Devdungri, where she has made her home, when her mother, herself a remarkable woman, passed away. The bier was carried by women of all castes, religions, backgrounds. Her pyre was lit—in an important deviation from the Hindu ceremony where only males have this privilege—by all the women in her family, giving Aruna, and her mother, a sense of peace.
Chettinad Samayal( Cooking)
Onion Puli Mandi
100 g Madras Onions,1 big lemon sized tamarind,1 tsp turmeric powder
3 red chillies,3 green chillies,1/2 tsp asafoetida powder,1 tsp salt
2 T oil,1 tsp mustard seeds,1 tsp udad dal,1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds,2 sprigs curry leaves
300 ml thick water from washing rice ( I'll substitute water I guess)
Soak the tamarind in rice water for a while. Squeeze out the pulp from tamarind and filter out the water.Slit the Madras onions and green chillis vertically.
Break the red chilli into pieces.Heat the oil in a vessel. Temper with red chillies, mustard seeds, udad dal, fenugreek and fennel seeds. Once they splutter, add the asafoetida powder.After a minute, add the onions, green chillies, turmeric and salt.Wait till the onions are cooked to add the tamarind-rice water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from flame.
1/4 kg Flour for Adai, 50 g Madras Onions,3 green chillies,3 T oil
2 T ghee,1 tsp salt,1/4 tsp asafetida,2 sprigs curry leaves
2 T grated coconut
Finely chop the onions, curry leaves and green chillies.Add the salt to the flour. Soak the flour for an hour in 250 ml water. Mix in the oil and ghee into the soaked flour.
After one hour, mix the asafoetida and chopped curry leaves, onions, chillies into the flour.Heat a dosa tava / flat pan. Grease with oil and pour one ladle of flour and spread into a dosa.Cook one side well and then flip over. Cook until other side is golden brown.Serve hot with coconut chutney.
You can make thick dosas with this batter too. Flour for Adai Uppuma and Instant Adai -1/2 kg chana dal,1/2 kg udad dal,1/2 kg moong dal,1/2 kg tur dal
1/2 kg rice,1/2 kg parboiled rice. Wash all of the above in plenty of water.
Dry them out in the sun. Grind it to the consistency of fine rava. This flour can be used to make Adai Upma and Instant Adai.
Chettinad Pepper Chicken
chicken, jointed – 1.2 kg, thick curd – 1 cup,ginger paste – 1 tsp, garlic paste – 1 tsp
freshly crushed pepper – 11/2 tbsp,lime juice – 1 tsp
groundnut oil – 75 ml,large onions finely chopped - 4,ginger paste – 1 tsp,garlic paste – 1 tsp,large tomatoes blanched deseeded and chopped – 2,salt – to taste
groundnut oil – 25 ml,whole dry red chillies – 2,spring of curry leaves – 1
The chicken should be jointed into medium sized pieces. Prepare a marinade with the whipped curd, ginger – garlic paste crushed pepper and lime juice and marinate the chicken in it for 1 hour.
Gravy: Heat the oil in a degchi; put in the onions and fry over a medium heat till a light golden. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute until golden brown.
Add the tomatoes and stir fry till the oil separates. Add the chicken alongwith the marinade and salt. Stir for 5-6 minutes and add 1 cup of water. Cover and cook till done.
Now, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Put in the whole chillies and curry leaves. Remove when the chillies turn dark and pour at once over the chicken. There should be a very thick gravy.Serve with rice or parathas/ Rotis.
fOR More information please call the mandir in Oh, CA, GA, AND VA @ 678 234 6885 or 408 829 780