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l 2014 Lama l APRIL [1] H. H. Dalai

Founder's Vision "Om Bhur bhuvah svahah Tat savitur varenyam Bhargo Devasya dheemahi Dheeyo yonah prachodayaat” ----“We meditate on the glory of the Creator, Who has created the Universe, Who is worthy of Worship, Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light, Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance, May the Creator enlighten our Intellect.”

••• Hinduism is not a religion but rather it is a way of life. The term Hinduism is based upon the faith and practices followed by the people of the Indian Subcontinent near the River Sindhu, or Indus – from which also stems the word "India‘’. ‘Hinduism’ is a word given to all those philosophies and practices undertaken by those who lived in the Indian subcontinent taken together, and that indeed makes it a very diverse and inclusive subject. One of the most difficult challenges confronting every modern Hindu practitioner is how to educate themselves and their children about the complexities of Hinduism. With its multitudes of gods, numerous texts, hundreds of traditions, thousands of religious gurus and numerous regional, caste, and linguistic communities, Hinduism is perhaps the most varied religion in the world. There is growing disillusionment with the materialism prevalent in society today. The youth of today are discontented with their bourgeois lives and are seeking a more fulfilling and higher purpose. Through Hindu Today we aim to bring the ancient philosophies and scriptures of the Indian subcontinent back into relevance of modern life. We believe Hindu Today to be a tool for propagating, these ancient wisdoms and cultures so that they remain alive and vibrant. They cannot be relegated to obscurity and lost in the crumbling pages of the dusty shelves of some forgotten library. Sanatana Dharma – The Eternal Philosophy This philosophy is not specific to any faith or belief system, but is common and thus applicable to all people for all time. To illustrate by example, we can compare it to the laws of gravity, mathematics or logic, for example gravity works for Christians, as it does for Hindus or Buddhists- anyone who walks off a roof will end up falling to the ground below. Similarly the subtle, all pervading laws of the transcendent are known as Santana Dharma and over-arch all denominational faiths and belief systems, and stand true regardless of our belief or disbelief in them.

The basic tenets of Santana Dharma are – Aastha - the belief or faith in God - one, allpervasive and all-loving Supreme Being or Superior Intelligence Atman - the belief in the existence of the Soul - Universal Life Force Energy Karma - the laws of cause & effect Ahimsa - non violence Maitri - love, kindness & friendship Karuna - compassion Utpeksha - calmness, composure & equanimity. Vivek - discernment of right and wrong, truth and falsehood Vairagya - non-attachment, the anti-thesis of materialism, Sadhana - a disciplined undertaken in the pursuit of a goal, or more specifically "spiritual practice" Daan/Punya - Alms, Charity, Sharing, Giving with Vairagya, Sacrificing Mudita - Joy & Bliss Moksha/Nirvana - spiritual emancipation or enlightenment Satya - Truth Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of Santana Dharma is its all-encompassing acceptance of other cultures, religions, and views, The Upanishads clearly state - "God is one; though sages call Him by many different names". It encourages us to use both our heads and hearts in how we make decisions and how we approach the Ultimate Truth. We must use both our God-given ability to discern Truth from untruth, in addition to using compassion and love in all important decisions. Sanatana Dharma is a path of reason coupled with compassion. There is no room for fanaticism, fundamentalism, or closed-mindedness anywhere in Sanatana Dharma. Through the institution of Hindu Today we wish to reignite the eternal flame of Sanatana Dharma amongst the youth of today and the re-kindle the light of this Eternal Philosophy in the global community at large. We are indeed one people and one family – Vasudeva Kutumbha Kum. Late Arjan K Vekaria Founder Hindu Today


In This edition

What is the purpose of life?


Ramnavami: Birthday of Lord Rama


The Wonder of Mysore Mahotsavam 14 Four Phases of Religious Practice


Why do Hindus Worship the God of Death?


Are We Steady in Our Faith in God? 22 The Cycle of Time


Essence of Sadhana Panchakam


Do Planets Influence our Health


Mixed-Faith Hindu Weddings on the Rise


Plants in Vedas


Why Hindus Tie Cotton Threads Around Trees?Â


Vegetarian Way of Living


A Beacon of Hope




Cover Story One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life? I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them. I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment....(Continue reading inside).

A Beacon of Hope His achievements are a testament to where hard work and determination can take you. Joginder Sanger's entrepreneurial story appears to have taken straight from a Bollywood blockbuster script but with a difference. Here the protagonist is real and so are his struggle and determination. His phenomenal accomplishments cannot be gauged in a barometer of sheer materialistic means...(Continue reading inside).

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: Late Arjan K. Vekaria


: Shashi Karsandas Vekaria


: Panna Vekaria

Legal Consultant

: Vijay Goel

USA Editor

: Vrndavan Brannon Parker

Africa Editor

: Muljibhai Pindolia

Editorial, Advertisement & Circulation : Vascroft Estate, 861, Coronation Road, Park Royal, London, NW10 7PT Tel: + 44(0) 20 8961 8928 Fax : +44(0) 20 8961 8928 Email : info@hindutoday.org editor@hindutoday.org Hindu Today Published By Panna Vekaria Vascroft Estate, 861, Coronation Road, Park Royal, London, NW 107 PT Printed By Evolution Print & Design Ltd. Unit 12 Lewisher Road, Leicester LE4 9LR Cover Art

: Dalai Lama

Cover Design

: Girish Koshti



From the editor’s desk… In edition after edition Hindu Today dedicates a considerable number of pages in explaining our traditions and rituals to Hindus spread across the world who devotedly follow them without exactly knowing the historical significance of age-old practices. In such articles, we not only throw a beam of light on the relevance of them but also try to explain how and when it was originated and its current significance to us. To begin with I should admit that it has been an enlightening process for all of us know that how our learned ancestors had forethought centuries ago to tackle a way out for possible dangers in our day to day life. This is not a mere hearsay but a testament already recorded in various ancient scripts that serve as a foolproof prescription. For instance, in this issue we have such topics like ‘Do Planets Influence our Health’, ‘Why Hindus Tie Cotton Threads Around Trees?’, ‘Vegetarian Way of Living, Plants in Vedas’ to keep our readers inform as well as educate. Yet at the root of our existence, we ceaselessly ask a fundamental question: What is the purpose of life? How can we enrich it? To answer these and many more similar questions we have a put a brilliant discourse by unarguably one of the finest spiritual leaders His Holiness Dalai Lama. First, a few words on His Holiness' ascendancy: He was more of necessity of the turbulent times than anything else. At a very young age of two, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. In the course of political turmoil in Tibet in 1950, he was called upon to assume full political power after China's invasion of this tiny independent nation. His attempts to have a peace deal with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai failed on expected lines. Soon brutal suppression of the Tibetans followed by the Chinese troops and His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, India. Hindu Today wishes him a long and healthy life. - Shashi Karsandas Vekaria (Editor-in-Chief, Hindu Today)

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What is the purpose of life?


ne great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life? I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them. I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

How to achieve happiness For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace. From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes

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By His Holiness Dalai Lama

from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life. As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose

For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind! Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and

the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

Our need for love Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others. Inter-dependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay. It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others. We have to consider what we HINDU TODAY

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human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we are merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfill our needs. However, since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require. Leaving aside the complex question of the creation and evolution of our universe, we can at least agree that each of us is the product of our own parents. In general, our conception took place not just in the context of sexual desire but from our parents' decision to have a child. Such decisions are founded on responsibility and altruism - the parents compassionate commitment to care of their child until it is able to take care of itself. Thus, from the very moment of our conception, our parents' love is directly in our creation. Moreover, we are completely dependent upon our mothers' care from the earliest stages of our growth. According to some scientists, a pregnant woman's mental state, be it calm or agitated, has a direct physical effect on her unborn child. The expression of love is also very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mothers' HINDU TODAY

breast, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment her milk may not flow freely. Then there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to at least the age of three or four, during which time loving physical contact is the single most important factor for the normal growth of the child. If the child is not held,

hugged, cuddled, or loved, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly. Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child's many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love. Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, in later life they will rarely love their parents and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad. As children grow older and

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enter school, their need for support must be met by their teachers. If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds. On the other hand, subjects taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students' overall well-being will be regarded as temporary and not retained for long. Similarly, if one is sick and being treated in hospital by a doctor who evinces a warm human feeling, one feels at ease and the doctors' desire to give the best possible care is itself curative, irrespective of the degree of his or her technical skill. On the other hand, if one's doctor lacks human feeling and displays an unfriendly expression, impatience or casual disregard, one will feel anxious, even if he or she is the most highly qualified doctor and the disease has been correctly diagnosed and the right medication prescribed. Inevitably, patients' feelings make a difference to the quality and completeness of their recovery. Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feeling we enjoy listen-

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ing, and respond accordingly; the whole conversation becomes interesting, however unimportant the topic may be. On the other hand, if a person speaks coldly or harshly, we feel uneasy and wish for a quick end to the interaction. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others are vital for our happiness. Recently I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high-around twelve percent of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of the others. So, as you can see from everything I have written so far, one thing seems clear to me: whether or not we are consciously aware of it, from the day we are born, the need for human affection is in our

very blood. Even if the affection comes from an animal or someone we would normally consider an enemy, both children and adults will naturally gravitate towards it. I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that, although some modern schools of thought seek to do so, human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.

Developing compassion Some of my friends have told me that, while love and compassion are marvelous and good, they are not really very relevant. Our world, they say, is not a place where such beliefs have much influence or power. They claim that anger and hatred are so much a part of human nature that humanity will always be dominated by them. I do not agree. We humans have existed in our present form for about a hundredthousand years. I believe that if during this time the human mind had been primarily controlled by anger and hatred, our overall population would have decreased. But today, despite all our wars, we find that the human population is greater than ever. This clearly indicates to me that love and compassion predominate in the world. And this is why unpleasant events are news, comHINDU TODAY

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passionate activities are so much part of daily life that they are taken for granted and, therefore, largely ignored. So far I have been discussing mainly the mental benefits of compassion, but it contributes to good physical health as well, According to my personal experience, mental stability and physical well-being are directly related. Without question, anger and agitation make us more susceptible to illness. On the other hand, if the mind is tranquil and occupied with positive thoughts, the body will not easily fall prey to disease. But of course it is also true that we all have an innate self-centeredness that inhibits our love for others. So, since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by only a calm mind, and since such peace of mind is brought about by only a compassionate attitude, how can we develop this? Obviously, it is not enough for us simply to think about how nice HINDU TODAY

compassion is! We need to make a concerted effort to develop it; we must use all the events of our daily life to transform our thoughts and behavior.

True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively. First of all, we must be clear about what we mean by compassion. Many forms of compassionate feeling are mixed with desire and attachment. For instance, the love parents feel of their child is often strongly associated with their own emotional needs, so it is not fully compassionate. Again, in marriage, the love between husband and wife - particularly at the beginning, when each partner still

may not know the other's deeper character very well - depends more on attachment than genuine love. Our desire can be so strong that the person to whom we are attached appears to be good, when in fact he or she is very negative. In addition, we have a tendency to exaggerate small positive qualities. Thus when one partner's attitude changes, the other partner is often disappointed and his or her attitude changes too. This is an indication that love has been motivated more by personal need than by genuine care for the other individual. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively. Of course, developing this kind of compassion is not at all easy! As a start, let us consider the following facts: Whether people are beautiful

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and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. As long as they are human beings experiencing pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave [8] l APRIL l 2014

negatively. Let me emphasize that it is within your power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion. Of course, our selfcenteredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self-existent �I�, works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self- grasping is eliminated. But this does not mean that we cannot start and make progress now.

How can we start We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled. If,

however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us - with no extra effort on their part! - and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind. So as a start, it is useful to investigate whether or not anger is of value. Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence and determination. Here, though, we must examine our mental state carefully. While itis true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind: we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of


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destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others. It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as signs of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: that they are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness. So, when a problem first


arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand, This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill-intent. You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts. Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful.

Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target.

Friends and enemies I must emphasize again that merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them. And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble, So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher! For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Also, itis often the case in both

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personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends. So anger and hatred are always harmful, and unless we train our minds and work to reduce their negative force, they will continue to disturb us and disrupt our attempts to develop a calm mind. Anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary enemies who appear intermittently throughout life. Of course, it is natural and right that we all want friends. I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles, The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser. And is friendship produced through quarrels and anger, jealousy and intense competitiveness? I do not think so. Only affection brings us genuine close friends. In today's materialistic society, if you have money and power, you seem to have many friends. But they are not friends of yours; they are the friends of your money and power. When you lose your wealth and influence, you will find it very difficult to track these people down. The trouble is that when things in the world go well for us, we become confident that we can manage by ourselves and feel we do not need friends, but as our status and health decline, we quickly realize how wrong we were. That is the moment when we learn who is really helpful and who is completely useless. So to prepare for that moment, to make genuine friends who will help us when the need arises, we

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ourselves must cultivate altruism! Though sometimes people laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends. I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. For there are many kinds of smile, such as sarcastic, artificial or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can't they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.

Of course, it is natural and right that we all want friends. I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles, The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! Compassion and the world In conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short piece and make a wider point: individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community. Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other peo-

ple. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same. Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home, If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another. If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others. I believe that at every level of society - familial, tribal, national and international - the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion. ••• His Holiness Dalai Lama His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the very young age of two, the child who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. In 1950, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power after China's invasion of Tibet in 1949/50. In 1954, he went to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. But finally, in 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India.



Ramnavami: Birthday of Lord Rama


am Navami is a festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama. It was a joyous occasion in Ayodhya all those centuries ago when King Dasharath's heir was finally born. It was like a dream come true for the king as the lack of an heir had troubled him sorely for many years. Lord Rama is an avatar of Lord Vishnu who came down to earth to battle the invincible Ravana in human form. Lord Brahma had been receiving complaints from all the gods about the havoc that Ravana was wreaking on earth, but because Lord Brahma had granted Ravana so many boons, he could not be killed by a god. But Ravana had become so


By Radhakrishnan Pillai

overconfident that he would never expect an attack from a human being. So Lord Vishnu agreed to go to earth in the guise of Prince Ram, the son of King Dasharath and Queen Kaushalya. The story of Lord Rama as told in the great epic Ramayana is one that most Indians know irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Lord Rama is a legendary figure, the epitome of all that is good and true, the man who vanquished the demon king Ravana. Lord Rama is not just a hero, but has been given the status of a god by the Hindus. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that his birth is celebrated year after year with great pomp and enjoyment on the ninth day after the new moon in Sukul

Paksh (the waxing moon), which falls sometime in the month of April. So how is Ram Navami celebrated? Some people choose to fast on this day. The diet of such a person would include potatoes made in any form without haldi (turmeric), garlic, ginger or onion. He can also eat fruit and root vegetables of any kind. Curd, tea, coffee, milk, and water are also permitted. Bhajans praising the exploits of Lord Rama, his loyal brother Lakshman and his devoted wife Sita are sung. The house is swept clean and pictures of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman are put on a dais in preparation for the puja. Flowers and incense are kept before the deities. There are two thaalis kept ready in the puja

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Lord Rama was the embodiment of truth and morality. He was a righteous king, an ideal son, an ideal husband and a loving brother. He is considered as an eternal symbol of human ideals.

Image Courtesy: BCCL

area. One contains the prasad and the other the items necessary for the puja like roli, aipun, rice, water, flowers, a bell and a conch. First, the youngest female member of the family applies teeka to all the male members of the family. A red bindi is applied on the foreheads of all the female members. Everyone participates in the puja by first sprinkling the water, roli, and aipun on the gods and then showering handfuls of rice on the deities. Then everybody stands up to perform the arti at the end of which ganga jal or plain water is sprinkled over the gathering. The singing of bhajans goes on for the entire puja. Finally, the prasad is distributed among all the people who have gathered for worship. The auspicious occasion is usually celebrated on the ninth day of Chaitra month (March-April) in the Hindu lunar calendar. Besides celebrating the birth of Lord Rama, the day is also observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita.

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Ram Navami celebrations begin on Gudi Padwa, which falls on the first day of the Chaitra month, and ends on the ninth day. This year's Ram Navami falls on 8 April. Hindu devotees across the country will be celebrating Ram Navami by offering prayers to the Lord. Several devotees would visit sacred places like Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama and Rameshwaram among others to seek blessings from the Lord. They will make repeated chants of the holy name of Rama, which is known as the "Taraka Mantra." It is said that by uttering Lord Rama's name, one can get rid of their sins and attain salvation. There is a belief that repeated chants of his name help one to attain purity, peace, joy and prosperity. The Lord himself had said, "Repetition of My name once is equal to the repetition of one thousand names of God or to the repetition of a Mantra one thousand times," according to hindupedia. Bhajans, songs and dances are performed on this day. People wear new clothes





In south India, since the auspicious day is also considered as the marriage day of Rama and Sita, temple priests perform a wedding ceremony called "Kalyanotsavam." On this day, devotees clean their house and decorate it with colours. They also adorn the entrance doors with mango leaves, which signify prosperity. Devotees cial prayers make dishes gery mixed Kosambri

perform speto the Lord and like Panakam (Jagwith water) and (soaked lentles).

President of India Pranab Mukherjee has greeted citizens on the eve of Ram Navami. In a press release, the President has sent a message saying, "On the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami, I convey my greetings and good wishes to all my fellow countrymen." "Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram is the embodiment of selfless service and the highest moral and ethical principles. May the celebrations inspire us to model our lives on the life and deeds of Shri Ram. Let us strive to spread his noble message of righteous conduct and rededicate ourselves to building a great nation." Vice President Hamid Ansari has also greeted the nation saying, "I convey my warm greetings and good wishes to the citizens of our country on the auspicious occasion of Rama Navmi. As we celebrate the birthday of Lord Rama, let us also emulate his ideals of righteousness, compassion and integrity, so that we build a just and harmonious society." •••



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The Wonder of Mysore Mahotsavam By Punita Prabhakaran


avaratri is a major festival for Hindus spread across the globe. The nine days of Navaratri reflect the beauty of the Goddess in all her forms. It is time for us to empower and awaken the love for one's own inner shakti. Though one continues doing the same mundane chores, it is during these nine days of celebration that one remains in the most meditative mode in tune with the higher energy of Mother Shakti (Prakruti). Like millions of other Hindu women, I am blessed to celebrate the festival in its most divine ways. As the days approached for Vijaydashami, the tenth day of the Dusshera, I was excited to be a part of the festivities in Mysore. Mysore city is recognized as an epicenter of culture and tradition for Karnataka mainly because of its historic Dusshera celebrations. They are not only grand and pomp but also attach great importance to the ancient Hindu traditions of India.

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The Mysore Dusshera procession is renowned throughout the world for its massive elephants and royal pageantry. It is an age old unbroken tradition, which is said to have begun with the Vijayanagara kings as early as the 15th century. Even after the fall of the Vijayanagara kingdom, the Wodeyars of Mysore continued the Dusshera Festival, initially by Raja Wodeyar I in the year 1610 AD at Srirangapatna.

Every year Navaratri is celebrated with great zeal in Karnataka specifically in Mysore. On the day of Vijayadashami, grand procession starts from the palace after the royal couple offer their worship to the Deity of Mother Chamundeshwari. The procession consists of dancers, cultural troupes, music bands, decorated elephants, horses, grand tableaus gracefully going around the city with nearly three million people taking part in it in Mysore. The parade comes to an end near Bannimantap, where the sacred banni tree (prosopis cineraria) is worshiped. The entire nine days of Dusshera culminates on the night of Vijayadashmi with the torch light parade held in the Bannimantap grounds. Arriving in Mysore, we tried to reach the Mysore palace and to our surprise everything was organised, despite the entire city was overcrowded with people. Yet, there was no way we could get to the palace area. As we waited for two hours it HINDU TODAY


was already 2:30 in the afternoon, the climate was fine despite the direct sunlight. Then the beautiful procession began with its own charm, beautiful dancers, cultural troupes, traditional, tribal, modern, classical and even cartoon characters all combined to create a festive scene. These were followed by 42 colourful tableaus depicting various facets of the state, districts and state-run enterprises. India is so diverse it was as if we were witnessing an international fair though all these were much like unity in diversity – the true Indian spirit. It was time for us to witness the historic Jamboo Savari (elephant procession) and Ambari (the golden Howdah of 750 kilogram mounted on the lead elephant 'Ar-

juna' with the deity of Nadadevathe or the state deity Chamundeshwari placed inside). Yet, to get to a good viewing spot was not all that easy? Suddenly we saw a police inspector and to our surprise he agreed to let us move past the barriers onto the very road of the procession. From there we could see the dancers, grand displays, musicians being pulled by a beautifully decorated dark elephants. It was so elegant and classic a sight. We were amazed at the grandeur of this massive preparation. I was excited to see the royal family of the princely city of Mysore just feet away, who was waving to their people from a horseback. They were followed by soldiers and cavalry dressed handsomely. The entire spectacle appeared

to me as if the characters popped out right from the descriptions of the Hindu scriptures full of pomp and ceremony. Seeing the ancient royals up close was more than what I expected in Mysore. I was equally thrilled to witness Arjuna (the lead elephant) carrying Mother Chamundeshwari from a close distance. She was seated on the Ambari (golden Howdah). It was due to the call of the Mother that we could witness all these grand display. Suddenly Arjuna gracefully turned towards us and blessed us with the darshan of Mother. It was so beautiful and endearing to be blessed by Mother. With the chants of "Amma Chamundeshwari Ki Jay" we stood there in awe and as a sense of well being passed through us. We left Mysore with these beautiful moments engraved in our hearts. The royal and mystical legacy of Mysore's Dusshera Festival is not only the pride of Karnataka but also the glory of India! ••• Punita Prabhakaran Pillai She is originally from Mumbai (India), but now resides in Dubai and writes on Hindu related topics. Her love for 'Ladoo Gopal' has always been completely unconditional as her promotion to Dharma and Vedic traditions are.


l 2014 l APRIL [15]


Four Phases of Religious Practice By Mark DeFillo


n Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) there is the concept of the four ‘yuga dharmas’ – the four types of religion – each of which is most suitable to and effective in one of the four yugas, which are vast in an eternal cycle. The time element makes the types of dharma ‘phases’ as well. These phases of practice are not at all limited to India, but instead are global in nature. In this article, we’ll look briefly at how they manifest in Indian thought and culture as a benchmark, and around the world. First, a bit of yuga theory. There are four yugas in a cycle, each being considered progressively worse in many ways. We won’t dwell into the details of them, however, except for the dharmic practices associated with them. The first age is called Satya-yuga, and is characterised by practice of rigorous meditation and, by way of effect, trancework. The second is Tretayuga in which sacrificial ceremonies are the predominant dharma. The third age, Dvapara-yuga emphasizes worship in temples and shrines, usually of Deity-images (Murti). Finally, in the Kali-yuga, our present age by most reckonings, we are to depend on practices of devotionally singing or chanting divine names. In the wide world of Sanatana Dharma, there are many philoso-

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phies and interpretations, so it should be of little surprise that there are those that disagree with this version, but to the best of my knowledge, it is the standard and most widespread. It should also be noted that this yuga-dharma conception is not a rule as to what must be done, it is a description of what is believed to be the most appropriate and useful method in each time. In reality, all practices may well be practiced together, and conversely there are cultures, tra-

ditions and lineages that maintain one or several of them regardless of the current yuga. And so, we can find all of them in the world today in various forms – not necessarily identical nor even greatly similar to the Indian forms, but nevertheless recognizable as belonging to the same classes of practice. The dharma of the first yuga, again, is meditation or yoga. According to tradition, that yuga was very long, and people had long lives, so that they could dedicate vast times to unbroken meditaHINDU TODAY


tion, refining their mental control to extents we today could scarcely imagine. Such meditation is best done, and normally done, away from cities and towns, out in the wilderness, with the practitioner living in a very “primitive” way.

mendation is to look to the dharma of our own yuga, not that of Satyayuga. In any case, we can include shamanic traditions in this class of practice; strictly speaking shamanism relates to mostly-nomadic peoples of northern Asia and Europe.

As such, it should be little surprise to realize that most “primitive” or “indigenous” peoples have very similar modes of spiritual practice. In this age, wherein a lifetime is simply not long enough for meditation alone to proceed very far, we find – both in India and around the world – that some may augment their work with tranceinducing or entheogenic drugs or with severe ascetic practices.

Similar, but distinct, practices can be found among most non-agricultural cultures, whether in the Americas, Australia or Africa, or elsewhere in Asia. Also elements of this kind of practice can be found intermixed into other types of practice. As just one example, in Japan’s indigenous dharma, known most commonly as Shinto, while the most visible practice involves worship at temples and shrines (as in Dvapara-yuga dharma), both shamanic elements can be found,

Others, of course, reject such augmentations. Our own recom-


and ascetic meditation practices. Next, Treta-yuga-dharma focused on sacrifices. We won’t go into details, which may be unsavory or disturbing to many readers. Most cultures have had some variation of this practice, continued right through the age of temples. For example, ancient Judaism, centered on their temple in Jerusalem, kept the inner sanctum completely hidden from all except the high priest, and what people could actually see of and at the temple were the constant sacrifices being done in the courtyard, as mandated by their scripture. To my knowledge, most religions with sacrifices combined them with temple worship, but in India, some lineages have pre-

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served the ancient form, held on specially-sanctified grounds. Similarly, in the ancient Celtic world (most of Europe, before the growth of the Roman Empire), classical Greek and Roman writers say there were no temples, but sanctuaries located in sacred groves (which is also a known Hindu practice, though not connected with the yuga-dharma concepts), and sacrifices held on grounds very much like those of the Vedic sacrificial arenas, according to scholars who have compared the layouts of these with the “nemetons” of Celtic civilization. Dvapara-yuga brings us to the age of temples. Most if not all ancient civilizations focused much religious practice on temples and

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shrines, the dwelling places of either forms of Bhagavan or of lesser devas. In almost all cases, the temple is regarded as the home of the God, who is usually present in some visual form, often appearing as a “statue” or other image, or sometimes as a relic or as a symbolic object. We will not take up the ancient and ongoing arguments among different traditions as to the nature or reality of the objects of worship; this is not the time or place, our present concern is to look at the practices as shared among many peoples. So, normally, the enshrined deity is served by the priests as a master by servants: the Deity is bathed, dressed, offered food, fanned, offered incense, and so

forth. There are many possible combinations and variations, but this kind of service is normal across most of the spectrum of templebased religion. As seen in the last paragraph, sometimes the offerings include sacrifices that might be best considered part of Tretayuga-dharma instead. Finally, the Kali-yuga-dharma is sankirtana-yajna, which means people joining together to sing or chant Names and glories of the Divine. This further ties in to all aspects of religious music. The root of it all, in a sense, may be seen in the Sama-veda of Hinduism; out of the four Vedas, the Sama-veda, is composed of hymns that are meant to sung musically. This type of practice has been particularly



prominent in Hinduism and some of the other Indian religions in recent centuries. Sikhism is based on it to the extent that its main scriptural text, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib consists of a large collection of hymns. Followers of Jainism also do kirtan of their own mantras. In many traditional religions and cultures we find chanting of divine names and attributes and stories to be predominant religious practices; in this perhaps we can loosely include the practices of chanting scriptural passages, as for example done even by hardline Muslims who believe that any other kind of singing is forbidden. At the other end of the Muslim spectrum are those who – particularly in India and its break-away Muslim-dominated regions – sing and chant the same way as Hindu bhaktas and Sikhs do, but using songs of love of God as composed by their holy men. In fact, medieval India had a very remarkable phenomenon, the ‘Sant’ movement, which was in effect a popular, interfaith movement of bhakti mysticism, in which both Hindus of various types and lineages, and liberal types of Muslims, engaged in listening to and singing along with saints of these religions who traveled around to share their songs and teachings. They even developed by this traveling a special lingua franca, the ‘Sant-bhasha’, which was understandable to people all across northern India. Usually more well-known is the ‘Bhakti’ movement, which was – and still is - the particularly Hindu side of this; while some also define the ‘Sant movement’ as simply HINDU TODAY

transcending the sectarian differences altogether. In any case, what unites all of them was and is the yuga-dharma. For Christians, of course, hymn singing is usually a prominent part of religious services, even for those who shun music. Judaism has prominent song as well, with a major part of their scripture being what is called in English, the Book of Psalms, a collection of hymns of praise. Meanwhile, they also have a system of accent marks in their scriptures that encode tunes for properly chanting the scriptures. In the esoteric side of their tradition, called Kabbalah, several features related to the yuga-dharma are prominent, sometimes different ones in different lineages. Indigenous cultures around the world also often have many of these practices. Certainly there is chanting and song as part of shamanistic and Native American religions; and in voodoo and the other Afro-Caribbean religions, and in the indigenous African religions they come from and even to be found among some Muslims in Africa, including Egypt). Naturally, all of these yugadharmas have their local variations and perhaps in some cases deviations (from the Hindu perspective). They also, including in India, usually appear in combination, only rarely in ‘pure’ form. But then, we must remember that yuga-dharma is not defined as the sole religious practice of an age, but rather as the one that is most effective in a particular and therefore most suitable for people to practice, and so it is to hoped that it will be most prominent in that age.

What we can see from all of this is a general unity of humanity in its types of religious practices. This, then, is one reason that Sanatana Dharma thinkers often say that Sanatana Dharma is actually universal, not just confined to India and people and disciple lineages of Indian origin. This unity doesn’t erase the distinct identities of different groups, particularly when they desire to have separate identities, but it shows us common ground that open-hearted, broad-minded people can see and embrace in each other. It should be seen alongside other kinds of common ground, such as shared aspects of social structure and civilization, or symbolism and iconography, etc. In this way, we can continue to search out in far greater detail, and recognize, the shared spiritual heritage of mankind, especially in these four phases and types of spiritual practices, culminating in this aeon’s easy and enjoyable practice of singing together God’s names and praises. ••• Mark DeFillo Mark DeFillo has contributed to a variety of Hindu publications in North America and India. He has regularly volunteered since the early-mid 1990’s in the Jagannatha Ratha-Yatra of New York City, and participates in other festivals of the Hindu and Sikh communities. His particular interests include language and linguistics, including and especially India’ s own ancient field of “Vyakarana” and its underestimated influence on the Western science of linguistics; ancient history, including the relationships and influences between India and other peoples, both related and unrelated; in the religious sphere, bhakti, especially Nam-bhakti, as found in several major parts of Hinduism.

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Why do Hindus Worship the God of Death?


s a Brahmin I worship the Vedic God Yama every day along with Agni, Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Vayu, Arka (Sun), Vageesa (Brihspati/Jupiter) and Vishvedeva. I feel very proud to continue the tradition that began at least 5,000 years ago on the banks of the mighty river Saraswati. I turn towards South and recite a mantra for Yama – Lord of Death – in my daily prayers called Sandhya Vandanam. All the three castes of Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisya in the olden days were performing this ritual known as Sandhyavandhanam (Surya Worship) thrice a day: just before sun rise, mid day and during sun set. Yama is known as Dharma Raja, Mrtyu, Antaka, Vaivasvata, Kala, Sarva Bhoota Kshayakara, Audumbara, Dathna, Neela, Parameshti, Vrukodara, Chitra, Chitra Gupta (14 names) in the mantra. One of the names is ‘Black’ (neelaaya). This is another blow

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By Santanam Swaminathan

to Aryan Dravidian theory. Like Kali, Sanaischara (Saturn), Vishnu, Vyasa, Krishna, Rama, Yama is also black. Black is the colour of death all over the world. Even today Christians and Jews wear only black dress for funeral ceremonies. Without realising this, so called Dravidian political parties of Tamil Nadu also follow this and wear black badges for funerals!! Yama is always associated with South. Why do Hindus, particularly Brahmins, worship Yama every day? Remembering death every day will make them do good things without any delay. This is because Hindus believe that the merits (punya) that one earns in this life will help one in the afterlife. Remembering death every day serve as shock absorbers. As births in any family are common, deaths are also common in all our families. But some people find it very difficult to overcome such a big shock. If they recite Yama mantra every day this

will give them some solace. Because we know Yama will visit us one day with his accountant/assistant Chitra Gupta. This is inevitable. A n other belief

among Hindus is that by reciting certain mantras, you can avoid death until you are hundred years old. Hindus fixed one’s full life span as 100. They were the inventors of decimal system. So all their mantras will have 100, 1000, 100,000 (Lakh= laksha) or Koti (ten million). Brahmins recite one other mantra before this Yama mantra. It is recited in the mid day oblations. They ask for good eye sight, good hearing power, good life, healthy and happy life for 100 years (The mantra begins with Pashyema Sardas satam…). For Hindus, death is like throwing away old shirts (old body) and birth is like taking new shirts. Krishna makes it very simple through HINDU TODAY


We may lie to anyone but not to our conscience. We may pretend that we are following the right path. But our inner conscience contradicts it. Chitra Gupta takes in to account all our good and bad thoughts and deeds. Even our thoughts are counted. If our brain and computers can do billions of calculations, why can’t Chitra Gupta do it?

Prayer to Yama

this simile in His Bhagavad Gita (Sloka 2-22 begins with Vasamsi Jeernanani...). Tamil poet Tiru Valluvar compares death with birds leaving the nests (Kural 338, 339). Tamil and Sanskrit literature is full of hymns and poems on the

Interesting Facts about Yama Yama means twins in general. Yama has a twin sister Yami. Yama was the first man to die. Yama was the son of Vivaswat. His brother was Vaivaswata Manu. Yama is compared to Pluto and Minos in western pantheon. Yama has two dogs with four eyes each. He rides upon a buffalo. In Mahabaharata, he was the father of Dharma. Chitra Gupta’s register is called Agra Sandhani. Yama carries a noose. His wives are Hemamala, Susila and Vijaya. Rig Veda has a hymn on Yama (10-14). Yama’s mother was Saranyu. Yama is compared with Avestan Yema, Lettic jumis, Mir. emuin (all meaning Twins); Latin geminus, gemellus, Greek Didumos according to Guntert. (Source: Yama by Kusum P. Merh) HINDU TODAY

impermanence of life. They are taught to children from very young age through school text books. Mahabaharata has a beautiful episode called Questions of a Ghost known as Yaksha Prasna. Yakshas are tree spirits. The last question of the ghost was: “What is the most wonderful thing in the world?’’ Dharma, while answering this question, said, “Every day people are dying, but yet people think that they are going to be here permanently and don’t bother about death at all.” A couple of observations here won’t be out of place: Yama is called ‘dathnaya’. English word death came from this. Chitra Gupa is called Yama’s accountant who makes a list of good as well as bad deeds we do every day and punishes or rewards after death accordingly. If the balance is in our favour we go to heaven, if it is not then we go to hell. Hindus believe in punya and papa. In fact, Chitra Gupta is an abstract thing. Whatever we think is recorded as mental pictures or impressions. That is known as Chitra Gupta=secret drawing/picture.

“Yamaaya dharma raajaaya Mrutyave cha antakaaya cha Vaivasvataaya kaalaaya Sarva bhoota kshayaaya cha. Audumbaraaya dadhnaaya Neelaaya parameshtine Vrukodaraaya chitraaya chitraguptaaaya vai namaha chitraguptaaaya vai nama om namaha iti.” Translation in English: Yama Vandanam: Salutations to Yama (Lord of Death) who controls everything, Lord of Dharma (righteousness), who is death and who is time, who dissolves all, who terminates everything, who is the son of Vivsvan, who is very strong, who has the name of Dadhna, who is of black complexion, who is worshipped by all, who has a large belly, who preserves all secrets scrupulously and who is a miracle himself. Prostration to Chitra Gupta. ••• Santanam Swaminathan Santanam Swaminathan was born in Nagappattinam in Tamil Nadu. He is working as a tutor at the University of London and a Health Advocate in a London hospital. He hails from a journalist family. His father Santanam was the News Editor of Dinamani in Madurai. He translated Anna Karenina of Leo Tolstoy in 1940s which runs to 1500 pages. It was considered a great achievement at that time.

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Are We Steady in Our Faith in God? By Sri Vidya Rajagopalan


t is an interesting question. This answerer has faith on Sriman Narayana, but this can not be compared with some fellow bhaktas and elders in this. This answerer stands last among them in line on the degree of faith on Sriman Narayana! With not that much gyana this answerer's self-rating in faith is less compared with all other bakthas. A Vaisnava should treat other bakthas as superior to him. It is a self assessment in which where we stand in the superlative affection to God with supreme refuge on him. This answerer has seen number of Vaishnavites who have a steady faith in Sriman Narayana. Religious minded devotees usually quote the various scriptures as proof of their conviction that God takes care of his devotees. The skeptics on the other side have a hard time believing such naïve statements. This dichotomy of opinion has been there ever since man started questioning the Faith of his fellowmen in the supernatural. One should believe 100% and only then one can have a steady faith in God. Sri Kuresa, one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya, has written a short poem of seven verses called ‘Arta-trana-parayana-stotram’. In the very first sloka, he says that God is our sole refuge, saviour and support and that six mythological instances prove this

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beyond doubt. Six Monumental Witnesses: ‘vatsalyad abhaya pradaha samayad artarti nirvapanad audaryad agha soshanad aganita sreyah prapanat sevyah sripatir eva sarva jagatam ete yatah sakshiah prahladas ca vibhishanas ca karirat pancaly ahalya dhruvah’ Because Lord Narayana is very affectionate, He promises to give fearlessness to His devotees, He removes His devotees' sufferings, He is generous, He takes away His

devotees' sins, and He bestows limitless auspiciousness, and because Prahlada, Vibhishana, Gajendra, Draupadi, Ahalya, and Dhruva testify to these virtues, Lord Narayana, the husband of the goddess of fortune Maha Lakshmi, should be served by all the worlds. They are the blessed ones who have received, respectively, superlative affection, supreme refuge, undisputable protection, infinite compassion, total absolution and apex of benefaction, from the Lord. ••• HINDU TODAY


The Cycle of Time


he world has been in existence since eternity and it will continue to be eternal. The world was neither created anytime before nor will it get destroyed later, because matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it only undergoes transformation from one form to another. Similarly this world also undergoes changes in its characteristics, but as such the world was not created out of nothing nor will there be a total annihilation. The cycle of time is best understood with the help of the pic-


ture of the world drama wheel. It illustrates the “flow� of time. In the middle of it is the Fylfot ( Swastika ) which divides the Time into four equal parts. The Swastika is considered to be very auspicious. In the first part of this Wheel of Time, marked by Swastika is shown Golden Age. Here the arm of the Swastika is pointing towards right because the right arm symbolizes what is good or what brings about goodness. In these early times, when the cycle started, people of the diety reli-

gion ( Sanatan Dharma) were possessed of divine qualities and nature and they enjoyed complete purity, 100% peace and complete prosperity. Then came the Silver Age. In this era too, people were possessed of purity, peace and prosperity to a very high degree. But the degree of their divine qualities had decreased a little. They were two degrees less divine than the people of the Golden Age who were divine to the extent of 16 degrees. Therefore the arm of Swastika that indicates this epoch

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is bent downwards because souls in this era had come down from the state of super-righteousness to what is just righteous. Next came Copper Age. After having experienced beatitude and fruition for many a life, turned ti the path of vices or unrighteousness. This is why the arm is reversed because the left hand symbolizes what is impure and auspicious. People then were second-grade by their nature, qualities and actions. Mankind is now divided on various religions; strifes and disputes started to appear and the five vices brought disquiet and sorrow in homes. Steadily, unrighteous doings, ie the actions done under the sway of one or the other of these five vices, led the world to more and more impurity and sufferings and the world came under the yoke of Iron Age (Kaliyuga). Strifes, wars, bellicosity and the

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resulting peacelessness increased rapidly in frequency and intensity in this era. Therefore the fourth of Swastika is shown raising itself up to indicate the rise in conflicts, clashes and calamities. Then, a stage comes when ignorance, lassitude, stupor, moral turpitude and sin become dominant. People become devilish by nature and religion becomes utterly degenerate.

The Significance of the present period At present, we are undergoing through a critical phase in the history of mankind. This is the period of the confluence of the ending phase of the Iron Age and the starting phase of the Golden Age. This is the most important of all epochs, called the Confluence Age, when God, the Highest Being, descends in this world to meet the human beings, His beloved children and gives the most

precious boons of Redemption and Beatitude. Through the Godly Knowledge and the easy Raj Yoga, God creates the Golden Age or new viceless order. The act of ‘creation’ does not mean constructing something out of nothing but it means the moral reconstruction of mankind or the re-establishment of the ancient most Deity Religion. The reader would be pleased to know or, perhaps, surprised to know that God Shiva, the Supreme Father of all, is indeed doing this great task of resurrection of mankind at present. The world will soon be free of all miseries and the paradise, which is full of peace and happiness, will be established again.

The Nature of the World Drama Cycle The cycle of five epochs, comprising Golden-Age, Silver Age, Copper-Age and Iron Age and the confluence Age repeats exactly everytime after it has turned full wheel. During every cycle, the souls who are the actors on this world-drama stage will be the same. Each soul will act the same part in every cycle since, in the soul itself is indelibly ingrained the part it has played life after life in the previous cycle or that it has to repeat cycle after cycle. Just as in a tape record or a gramophone record, a whole song or drama is recorded and it repeats every time the record is played, even so, a soul’s role in this world drama is recorded in the soul itself which is only selfluminous, conscient point. The HINDU TODAY


soul replays the part once every 5000 years because each one of the four eras of the world-drama being equal to 1250 years, the duration of one World Cycle is 5000 years.

Mental Tensions Mental tension is the cause of the crimes in the world. Many diseases are also due to psychological imbalance, nervous strain and hypertension. In order to feel relaxed, some people, nowa-days, take tranquilisers, smoke marijuana or use LSD drugs but this does not provide them with a lasting relief. Rather, these things have harmful effects on man's mental faculties and they make him a slave of the urge to take them again and again. It has now been demonstrated that the best course to be free from mental tension is to practise Raja Yoga daily, even though for a short while. One would naturally like to know as to what exactly it is that leads man to mental tension and how Raja Yoga helps to keep him free from it. In this connection, one should know that the main factor responsible for the mental tension is man's attitude towards events, persons and things. It is well-known that the main mechanism through which man reacts to external stimuli in the form of events, persons or things is man's brain and the network of sensory and motor nerves with which the brain is connected. But it is the soul which is the centre of the consciousness and the soul abides near the pituitary gland. HINDU TODAY

The pituitary receives the external stimuli through the hypothalamus which receives information from the cerebral cortex of the brain and passes it on to the soul. Now it depends upon what attitudes, values or proclivities the soul has. The soul reacts to those stimuli according to its tendencies, beliefs, values etc. through the above-mentioned mechanism. Raja Yoga enables the soul to have proper attitudes, values,willpower and bliss through link with God. If for example, the soul looks upon the world as a drama, it does not feel sad in the face of adverse events. Rather, it takes them as mere passing panorama and remains as a witness. Again, if the soul has the belief that he was originally calm and peaceful and that all other persons also are souls, related to it as brothers, he treats all with love and if others act unrighteously, he pities them and tries to extricate him rather than get disturbed. Further, the soul, because of his belief in God as the omnipotent and merciful Father, who helps those who help themselves by acting according to divine law, remains free of worry, feels secure and also get love from Him. It experiences bliss and this saves the soul from the harmful impact of external stimuli on his consciousness. Thus, Raja Yoga helps the soul to feel relaxed and peaceful.

(Zizypus jujuba), udumbara (Ficus glomerata), kharjura (Phoenix dactylifera) and bilva (Aegle marmelos), etc. Written records, in the form of manuscripts, are available in Sanskrit and several other Indian languages. Sanskrit literature includes the Vedas, the Upanisadas, and epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The lay literature includes prose, poetry, and drama of a number of Sanskrit authors like Kalidasa, Magha and Bhavabhuti, in whose works the information on plants is incidental and given by way of comparison. Technical literature comprises medical works like the Charaka and Susruta samhitas, lexicons like Medininighantu and Amarakosa, as well as the encyclopedic works like Arthasastra and Brhatsamhita. These works generally give excerpts of botany or what is known as Vrksayurveda. In addition, there are a number of exclusive works under the title of Vrksayurveda. Parasara's Vrksayurveda is supposed to be the most ancient work in actual botany, to have been composed during first century BC and first century AD. From the literary evidence it is clear that even in the First Millennium BC, botany was fully systematized and taxonomy well developed. (Courtesy: Ancient Indian Botany)


(Courtesy: Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyala)

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Essence of Sadhana Panchakam By Sri Adi Shankara Bhagawat Pada

'Vedo nithya madheeyatham, thadhuditham karma swanushtiyatham, Thenesaya vidheeyatham apachithi kamye mathisthyajyatham, Papougha paridhooyatham bhava sukhe doshonusandheeyatham, Athmecha vyavaseeyatham nijagruhathoornam vinirgamyatham' 1 Let us read Vedas daily, Let us do rituals based on them, Let the Gods be worshiped based on them, Let us do work without attachment, Let us drive away the crowd of sins, Let us find the mistakes that we do in our life, Let us cultivate knowledge of the soul, Let us go away from our homes. (towards salvation)

Sanga sathsu vidheeyatham, bhagawatho bhakthir druda a dheeyatham, Santhyabhi paricheeyatham, drudatharam karmasu santhyajyatham, Sadvidhwaupasarpyatham prathi dhinam thath padukha sevyatham, Brahmaikaksharamarthyatham sruthi siro vakhyam samakarnyatham' 2 Let us seek the company of good people, Let us build up stable sense of devotion to God, Let us know about states of mind like peace, Let us forsake hard to do karmas, Let us go near a wise teacher and give ourselves up, Let us daily worship his slippers, Let us meditate on the one lettered Brahmam, Let us hear the sentences from Vedas.

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''Vakhyarthascha vicharyatham, sruthi sira paksha samasreeyatham, Dustharkkal suviramyatham, sruthi matha stharko anusandheeyatham, Brahmaivasmi vibhavyatham ahara harghava parithyajyatham, Deheham athirujjadyatham budha janair vadha parithyajyatham' 3 Let us try to understand great sentences, Let us try to understand the import of Vedas, Let us not involve in to bad arguments, Let us try to listen to the arguments of Vedas, Let us try to think “I am Brahmam”, Let us daily forsake being proud, Let us forsake the belief that “I am the body”, Let us not do arguments with learned people.

'Kshuvyadhischa chikithsyatham prathidhinam bhikshoushadham bhujyatham, Swadhannam na thu yachyatham, vdhi vassal prapthena sandhushyatham Seethoshnadhi vishahyatham nathu vrudhaa vakhyam samucharyatham, Oudaseenya mabheepsytam jana krupa naishturyath srujyatham' 4 Let us treat the sickness of hunger, Let us daily eat the medicine of food got as Bhiksha, Let us not start pining for tasty food, Let us become happy with what fate gives us, Let us learn to tolerate heat and cold climate, Let us not talk unnecessary words, Let us start liking tolerance, Let us leave out not being merciful. HINDU TODAY


'Ekanthe sukhamaasyatham, parathare chetha samadheeyatham, Poornathma susameekshyatham, jagadhidham thadbhadhidham drusyatham, Prak karma pravilopyatham, cithi balanna apyutharai slishyatham, Prabhadhandhwiha bhujyadham adha para brabrahmathmana stheeyatham' 5 Let us sit in a place of solitude, Let us fix our mind in the ultimate truth of the soul, Let us try to see the ultimate truth of the soul, Let us try to see the world fully filled with that truth, Let us destroy the effects of all karma done earlier, Let us not get tied up with new Karmas, Let us leave at this point all that is fated, Let us all stay with the ultimate truth.


Ya sloka panchakamidham padathe manushya, Sanchithyanudhinam sthirathamupethya, Thasyasu samsruthi dhavanala theevra ghora, Thapa prasanthi muyathi chithi prasadhal., 6 He who reads these pentet of verses daily, Daily earns and saves stability in life, He does not get affected by the intense, Heat of the sorrow of life, Because this thapas makes him wise.

(Translated by Sri P. R. Ramachander) •••

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Do Planets Influence our Health Adversarial position of planets affects the energy flow between humans and the surrounding atmosphere


mpressions of the actions of the past, circumstances of the present and the unfolding schemes of the future are all stored in the hidden layers of human consciousness. Astrology decodes and interprets them in its own distinctive style. It searches for the root causes of adversities that crop up in life, and offers novel and appropriate preventive and remedial measures.

that locates and illumines the causative factors obscured from view in the mist of the past. Its aim is to make the present life trouble-free and happy. Astrologers hold that the creation is a special form of extremely condensed energy. This energy flow in the cosmos is uninterrupted and indivisible. It is one, only its shape and form undergo changes at different levels and strata.

The literal meaning of astrology, Jyotish, is ‘light’. It is a light

Essentially, we all are linked together. Is this linkage predicta-

ble or unpredictable? What is the pattern of this linkage? Where are we standing in the midst of this mega concentrate of energy? The occult science of Astrology was discovered to provide answers to these questions. Astrology studies man’s position in the universe and his inter-relationship with the cosmic elements. It divides the cosmic flow of energy into three classes; namely 9 grahas (planets), 12 rashis (zodiac signs) and 27 naksatras (stars). They are considered to be connected with human consciousness. Astrology co-relates these energy groupings with individual organs of the human body. Ayurveda , on the other hand, links human nature with these celestial objects. Thus both Ayurveda and astrology are essentially interrelated and approach the same target from different angles. That is why we find the practice of ayurvedic medicines being taken to counter the ill-effects of planetary positions.

The 27 Nakshatras. Image Courtesy:www.maharishiyagya.org

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A comprehensive study of this science is found in the famous treatise of Dr. K.S. Charak titled ‘Essentials of Medical Astrology’. According to Ayurveda , ailments occur on account of an HINDU TODAY


imbalance between the three elemental forces in the body – vata, pitta and kapha – called tridosha. A malfunctioning of vata gives rise to neurological disorders, joint pains etc. A pitta imbalance produces fever as well as liver and gall bladder problems. Kapha is linked with breathing problems, cold, asthma etc. In the science of astrology, the Sun and Mars determine the pitta nature. The Moon is considered a cool planet; hence its connection with kapha, and to some extent with vata. Mercury affects all the three; Jupiter has a bearing on kapha, Venus on vata and pitta, and Saturn on vata. Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and the Moon, in general are considered benign planets while the Saturn, Rahu, Ketu, Mars and Sun baleful. It is this latter category that is regarded as disease causing. In specific and adverse 14 Jan-Feb 2006 configurations, all planets cast baleful effects; the negative effect of already unfriendly planets becoming even more accentuated in this situation. The various positions of the planets are called dasha (phases) depending on time and configuration, and are categorized into ‘vimshottari’ and ‘yogini’ phases. The total duration of vimshottari phases is 120 years and that of yogini 36 years. The positional duration of the Sun is 6 years, Moon 10 years, Mars 7, Rahu 18, Ketu 7, Saturn 19, Jupiter 16, Mercury 17 and Venus 20 years (total 120 years) in the vimshottari phase. Within vimshottari there are furHINDU TODAY

ther subdivisions called mahadasha, antardasha and pratyantardasha. In the yogini phase, the Moon phase is of 1 year, that of Sun 2 years, Jupiter 3 years, Mars 4 years, Mercury 5 years, Saturn 6 years, Venus 7 years, and Rahu and Ketu each 8 years making a total of 36 years. All the nine planets have their own specific zodiac signs attached to them: the Sun – Leo, the Moon – Cancer; Mars – Aries and Scorpio; Mercury – Gemini and Virgo; Jupiter – Sagittarius and Pisces; Venus – Taurus and Libra; Saturn – Capricorn and Aquarius. The planets are the controlling lords of their respective zodiac signs. These signs are considered located in the various organs of our body: Aries in the head; Taurus in the face; Gemini in the shoulders, neck and the

upper part of the chest; Cancer in the heart; Leo in the stomach; Virgo in the waist and intestines; Libra below the stomach; Scorpio in the genitals; Sagittarius in the thighs; Capricorn in the knees; Aquarius in the legs; and Pisces in the feet. A person with these signs in his body is called ‘Kaalpurusha’. Similarly, the nakshatras are said to be located inside the body parts of Lord Vishnu. The NaradaPulastya dialogue in Vaman Puran refers to Lord Vishnu as Naksatra Sharira (body made up of stars). Sage Pulastya describes this body thus: Mool naksatra in the two feet, Rohini in the legs and Ashwini in the two knees; Poorva Asad and Uttar Asad in the thighs, Poorva Phalguni and Uttar Phalguni in the genitals; Kritika in the waist; Poorva Bhadrapada and

Tridoshas. Image Courtesy: www.ayurvedadosha.org

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Uttara Bhadrapada in the two sides; Revati in the armpits; Anuradha in the heart; and Dhanistha in the posterior portion. In Lord Vishnu’s arms is located Vishakha; Hasta in the palms; Punarvasu in the fingers and Ashlesa in the nails; Jyestha in the tongue, Shravan in the ears, Pusya in the mouth, Swati in the teeth, Shatbhisa in the chin, Medha in the nose, Mrigshira in the eyes, Chitra in the forehead, Bharani in the head, and Adra in the hair. These nakshatras have their specific temperaments with which they cast influence upon the earth and the human body. The planetary dashas are based upon these very nakshatras or stars.

'Kaalpurusha' - showing all zodiac signs on its body. Image Courtesy: www.karmicrhythms.com

The adversarial position of planets affects the energy flow between the humans and the surrounding atmosphere. An imbalance here gives rise to multiple kinds of ailments and disorders. Since the Sun promotes pitta temperament, both the weak and strong solar positions create problems. The Sun controls the heart, stomach, bones and the right eye. For this reason, its negative influence causes headache, baldness, irritability, fever, pains,

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acidity, cardiac disorders, eyeailments, bone and skin diseases, impediments in blood circulation, seizures, leprosy etc. An unfavourable Sun means a continuing risk of accidents, enemy action, poisoning, snakebite and theft. The moon is mainly of the nature of kapha with partial admixture of vata. Hence Jan-Feb 2006 15 its adverseness gives rise to mental-emotional disturbances, insomnia and dullness. It is the harbinger of diseases like T.B., blood disorder, diarrhea, dropsy, jaundice, skin diseases, fear psy-

chosis etc. A combination of the Moon and Mars causes gynaecological problems. Mars is bearer of pitta. It generates extreme excitement and aggressiveness. It regulates bile, hemoglobin and cervix, and so all diseases connected with these parts arise from the malevolence of Mars. Favourable Mercury enhances intellectual caliber, but when unfavorable, it combines with Moon to produce mental disorders of various kinds. Mercury is held as the lord HINDU TODAY


of skin, neck, nose, lungs and the forehead. It generates disorders connected with the nerves and mind. Intemperate language and frightening dreams are also produce by unfriendly Mercury. Jupiter is connected with kapha. It regulates liver, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, ears and fat, and consequently diseases of these organs are likely to erupt in the mahadasha of Jupiter. This planet is notorious for causing obesity and inertia. Venus is causative of vata and kapha. It is considered related to sexual lust, which can be controlled by making it favourable. It regulates eyes, genitals, urine bladder, lachrymal glands etc. It is a water-element planet which affects the hormone secreting glands of the body and thereby lies behind genital deformities, urinary troubles, lethargy, ennui, etc. Saturn is of Vata temperament. It is the controlling planet for chest, legs, nervous system, rectum etc. Its adverseness gives birth to incurable and fatal diseases like cancer, paralysis, tumors, mental disorders and the like. Rahu and Ketu are the two shadow planets. Rahu causes leprosy, ulcer, unknown phobias and other incurable diseases. It makes one vulnerable to snakebites. It is the chief factor behind kaal sarpa yoga which turns life into a veritable hell. Ketu too, like Rahu, is the originator of many diseases and makes one’s life terrible. Ketu and Mars also push HINDU TODAY

one into surgery.


The above enumeration makes these planets appear as deadly foes of mankind. But it is not really so. When favourable, these very planets shower boons and fill the life with all kinds of riches, honors and enjoyments. A friendly Saturn elevates one to royalty. Jupiter purifies the thoughts, and Venus liberates from the defilement of carnal lust. The Moon brings about mental peace and serenity.

But how to bring all this about? How to convert the unfavourable into favorable? It is not as difficult as it sounds to be. Indeed, it is a simple and safe process. There are specific mantras to propitiate the planets and make them amiable. If learnt from a competent guide, and regularly recited, they can produce miraculous results.

If Rahu is favourable, it bestows the treasure trove of knowledge. It also grants the pleasure of inland and foreign travels. The Sun is regarded as the lord of planets. If it is favourable, it can regulate and bring in harmony all other planets. It burns away accumulated sins and puts one on the liberating path of spiritual

Alternatively, the japa of Gayatri mahamantra, under the supervision of an enlightened Guru would serve the purpose. Remember, Gayatri mantra is a very potent tool and produces immediate result. It cuts the shackles of pain and makes the future bright. (Courtesy-Akhand Jyoti) •••

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Mixed-Faith Hindu Weddings on the Rise


he incense was there and so was the tikka powder and the ceremonial grains of rice. So were the turbans, the saris, and the kurta pajamas. The wedding had all of the makings of a Hindu shaadi, but in one major way, it was far from traditional. When Neil Bajpayee, a Pennsylvania-born Indian-American, made his vows in Sanskrit to Stephanie Young, a Californian raised in a nonreligious family, he became the first member of his family to marry a non-Indian, non-Hindu. Shukavak Dasa, the Hindu priest marrying the couple, had

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seen it all before.

my children are happy.”’

Weddings between IndianAmerican Hindus and non-Hindus are rare. Pew Research reported as many as 94 percent of Hindus in the U.S. were married to other Hindus in 2012. But even if interfaith Hindu weddings are uncommon now, Dasa sees them as a growing trend.

And that is when Dasa comes in. His specialty is interfaith Hindu weddings.

“In general Indian parents don’t like [interracial, interfaith marriages]; they would like their children to marry nice Indian boys and girls in their own community,” Dasa said, but, he added, “We have a lot of parents who are now saying, ‘I don’t really care, as long as

Dasa, 60, is white. He was raised in Canada in an Anglican family. He took an interest in Eastern religions as a teenager, then studied Sanskrit and Indian studies at the University of Toronto, where he earned a Ph.D. in Eastern theology. Along the way, he also became a devout practitioner of Hinduism. Then in the early ‘80s, he performed his first Hindu wedding. “I had never even seen a Hindu wedding!” Dasa said, with a laugh.



Decades later, weddings have become Dasa’s main business. He is based in Riverside, where he is the head priest of Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple. He performs many Hinduto-Hindu weddings. But word of mouth has made him a go-to officiant for Hindu mixed-religious weddings, not just in Southern California, but also worldwide. He has married couples around the U.S. and in places as far away as Russia and Hong Kong. Dasa said that when he started out, there were few Hindu priests in California. But as South Asian communities have grown in the state, so has the demand for wedding officiants. And he has noticed Hindu priests finding niches.

One foot in both worlds “The Gujarati priest will work with the Gujarati community, the Punjabi priest will work with the Punjabi community, and so on like that,” Dasa said, “The typical scenario for me is, a young Hindu boy or girl goes off to college, falls in love with a Jewish, Christian or non-Hindu partner and wants to get married. ‘Oh, God, what can you do? Call the priest who can put one foot in both worlds.’” Dasa, who is on faculty at the Claremont School of Theology, applies classroom-teaching skills while officiating weddings, taking time to explain Hindu customs. During the Bajpayee-Young wedding in Pasadena last May, he coached the bride’s parents through Sanskrit prayers and explained the symbolism behind the small flame, the flower garlands, and each part of the ceremony to the diverse crowd. Bajpayee pointed out that many of his Hindu relatives had HINDU TODAY

never understood what had been going on during their own weddings. “There’s just this norm in Hindu ceremonies that it’s not understandable sometimes,” he said, adding that his family members enjoyed Dasa’s informative approach to the ceremony. Dasa is willing to customize ceremonies to fit the wishes of the couple. Bajpayee and Young, for example, asked for a shortened version of a traditional Hindu ceremony, which sometimes can last hours.

Weddings between Indian-American Hindus and non-Hindus are rare. Pew Research reported as many as 94 percent of Hindus in the U.S. were married to other Hindus in 2012. But even if interfaith Hindu weddings are uncommon now, Dasa sees them as a growing trend. Dasa also worked with the couple to create a ceremony with more equal gender roles. “One of the vows, literally if you translated it, was like, ‘As your wife I promise to cook you a hot meal every night,’” Young said, “I looked at it not with a lot of judgment, but I thought if I were to go through this, I wouldn’t want that.” Dasa knows not every Hindu would agree with his willingness to occasionally break traditions. But he feels that adaptability is important for keeping millennia-old customs relevant.

parents several years to feel comfortable with his conversion to Hinduism, understands some families’ hesitations about their children straying from the flock. “I know for a fact that a Christian marrying a Hindu is not going to be as Christian and a Hindu is not going to be as Hindu, in general. So in some ways, we’re facilitating the watering down [of faith],” Dasa said. “But the other side of it is, we’re facilitating life.” Dasa has a wife of nearly 40 years who is also a Hindu. Together, they have nine adult children, a few of whom are married. Some have chosen to have Hindu weddings, others have chosen blended or secular ceremonies. Though Dasa is a man of devout faith, he said he is happy to see his children, as well as the hundreds of young couples who he has married, choose their own spiritual paths. Weddings, regardless of their religious style, Dasa said, “are all joyous.” This story is one in an occasional series of reports by students taking part in a class of the USC Annenberg Knight Program on Media and Religion, headed by Diane Winston. Thanks to a grant from the Luce Foundation, Annenberg students have covered global religion, culture and politics for the past four years. This spring, students will report and write on Southern California's Indian community and travel to Pune and Mumbai in March, where they will cover religion, economics and politics. (Courtesy: Southern California Public Radio) •••

Dasa, who said it took his own

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Wisdom Pharmacy

Plants in Vedas Even during first millennium BC botany was fully systematized and taxonomy well developed in India


he most celebrated plant that finds frequent mention in the Rigveda and later Samhitas is the Soma plant. The Vedic Indians hail Soma as the Lord of the forest (vanaraja). The botanical identity of Soma plant, however, has not been decided till today. The probable candidates are Ephedra (a Gymnosperm); Sarcostemma (flowering plant); and mushroom (a fungus). The second most mentioned plant was peepal or the Asvattha (Ficus religiosa) during the Vedic period. The Rigveda refers to utensils and vessels fashioned out of the wood of the Asvattha tree. Some of the other trees that find mention in the Vedas are: (i) Silk cotton (Salmalia malabari-

cum); (ii) Khadira (Acacia catechu) (iii) Simsupa (Dalbergia sissoo); (iv) Vibhitaka (Terminalia bellerica); (v) Sami (Prosopis sp.); and (vi) Plaksa (Ficus infectoria); lksu (sugar cane - Saccharum offcinarum) finds a mention as a cultivated plant in the Atharvaveda, Maitaryani Samhita, and other texts. The Vedic Indians knew about many flower-bearing and fruitbearing plants, like Palasa (Butea monosperma), two varieties of lotus – white (pundarika) and blue (puskara), white lily (kumuda), cucumber (urvaruka), jujuba (Zizypus jujuba), udumbara (Ficus glomerata), kharjura (Phoenix dactylifera) and bilva (Aegle marmelos), etc.

Written records, in the form of manuscripts, are available in Sanskrit and several other Indian languages. Sanskrit literature includes the Vedas, the Upanisadas, and epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The lay literature includes prose, poetry, and drama of a number of Sanskrit authors like Kalidasa, Magha and Bhavabhuti, in whose works the information on plants is incidental and given by way of comparison. Technical literature comprises medical works like the Charaka and Susruta samhitas, lexicons like Medininighantu and Amarakosa, as well as the encyclopedic works like Arthasastra and Brhatsamhita. These works generally give excerpts of botany or what is known as Vrksayurveda. In addition, there are a number of exclusive works under the title of Vrksayurveda. Parasara's Vrksayurveda is supposed to be the most ancient work in actual botany, to have been composed during first century BC and first century AD. From the literary evidence it is clear that even in the First Millennium BC, botany was fully systematized and taxonomy well developed. (Courtesy: Botany)




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Why Hindus Tie Cotton Threads Around Trees?


otton threads of various colours like red, yellow and white are tied around Pipal tree trunks especially in northern and western parts of India. This ritual is performed especially on the Vat Savitri puja day (May-June). During Vat Savitri Puja, the Banayan or Pipal Tree symbolically represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The root of Vat Vriksha is Brahma, the stem is Vishnu and the upper part is Shiva. The Pipal tree plays an important role in the famous story of Satyavan Savitri. It is believed that Satyavan spend his last moments under a Vat or Banyan tree on the full moon day in month of Jyesh-

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tha. And Yamraj appeared here and Savitri pleaded with Yamraj under the Banyan tree. In memory of this event, women go round the Banyan tree for 108 times tying threads and fast for the health and longevity of their husbands. There are also other hidden symbolic meanings – one such meaning is narrated by Bhagwat Shah of Pushtimarg. The Pipal tree represents the tree of life and is sacred in Hindu Religion. It supports life of all sorts and is famous for its long life. The Pipal tree also has the property to purify air. The cotton thread is just the opposite The cotton thread represents

the fragile nature of life, love, trust, faith – and all things that go on to make up a relationship. A single thread may be weak, but, when it is wound 108 times around the trunk, it becomes strong. It is no longer so fragile and no longer easy to break. By walking around the tree 108 times, the wife contemplates on these matters. Love can only be strengthened by trust, faith and desire to make it work! With each step, the woman strengthens her relationship with her husband. She prays not just for her husband’s long life, but an enduring relationship that will last beyond this life and into the next. ••• HINDU TODAY


Vegetarian Way of Living Promotion of vegetarianism doesn’t require any legislation from the state but it does require a change of heart... Eating habits reflect upon a human being’s thought, speech and behaviour. A non-vegetarian diet makes one prone to violence.

Purity of foods leads to purity of hearts. And purity of heart leads to eternal recollection. It is further reflected in Gandhi’s saying: “There is a great deal of truth in the saying that man becomes what he eats, the grosser the food the grosser the body” In India, the land of Ahimsa or Non-Violence, people have traditionally been vegetarian. Hailing from a family of staunch vegetarians, I consider myself fortunate to be living in harmony


with the principles of Nature to which Gandhi adhered. As a Jain follower, I strongly advocate a vegetarian diet, which I find superior not only from a moral stance, but also from the health and culinary points of view. I must say, however, that I do not intend to offend the non-vegetarian people. Nor do I want to impose my own choices upon them, which is in itself an act of violence. Sadly, in the recent times many Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, especially the younger generation are no longer so strict about our precepts and have taken to nonvegetarian food, mostly following

the misconception that meateating is healthy. They consider it fashionable in India to eat meat aping the western lifestyle. When we see the end product of meat in the supermarket or leather in the shoe store, there is a long chain of violence that created it. These products endorse and perpetuate violence in our society contributing to terrorism that is rampant across the world. Gandhi’s message was to return to nature through regulated diet, wholesome and natural food prepared organically. I would like to give you a glimpse into our way of life and thinking,

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which is, after all, the very foundation of our achievements. We are a family of traditionally strict Jain vegetarians. Guests at our home, coming from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian backgrounds, are always overwhelmed with what they describe the unbelievable taste and richness of our vegetarian menu. Many of our overseas and Indian friends often suggest that alongside a publishing house we must also run a pure vegetarian restaurant based on Ayurvedic or organic menu. Along with his mother Gandhi attended lot of religious congregations presided by Shri Bechar Dashji, a Jain householdermonk. Before leaving for further studies to England in 1888, Gandhi gave three vows to his mother and Bechar Dasji that was to stay clear of the vices - wine, women and meat in line with the Anuvratas of Jains. But he soon discovered that living in London in those days was by no means easy. Vegetarian food was one big problem for him! He joined the Vegetarian Society of UK and shortly found himself on its executive committee! Gandhi, in his autobiography says, “As the ideals of sacrifice and simplicity were becoming more and more realised, and the religious consciousness was becoming more and more quickened in my daily life, the passion for vegetarianism as a mission went on increasing. I have known only one way of carrying on missionary work, viz., by personal example and discussion with searchers for

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knowledge.” He made all out efforts by going out of way to monetarily help a German friend, running a vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg, but it closed down because of financial difficulties. Gandhi made yet another desperate attempt to help the theosophist-lady in South Africa by advancing a large sum of money to start a vegetarian restaurant, but the loan could not be paid and the restaurant could not sustain itself in those days. By moving away from food

Gandhi, in his autobiography says, “As the ideals of sacrifice and simplicity were becoming more and more realised, and the religious consciousness was becoming more and more quickened in my daily life, the passion for vegetarianism as a mission went on increasing. I have known only one way of carrying on missionary work, viz., by personal example and discussion with searchers for knowledge.” of violence, we can move rapidly towards world peace which Mahatma Gandhi emphasized time and again. Albert Einstein averred, “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” At the time of killing an animal, it gets frightened and toxic elements enter the body of the person who eats meat and

adversely affects the body, mind and all other organs of a human being. When a helpless animal is killed by deliberate act of violence, it dies in great dread. Its body is flush with hormones produced by fear. These toxic substances enter the body of the person who eats the flesh and adversely affects his or her body and mind. I have always wondered, how can the carcass of an animal that died in mortal fear give good health, refined and spiritual inclinations to its consumer? Truth be told, a vegetarian diet is actually much healthier than one based on animal protein. Vegetarianism supports mental and physical health as well as spiritual cultivation. Most of our greatest animals such as elephant, cow, bull or horse with most vitality are vegetarian. Fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and milk products provide a balanced diet which does not make our system toxic. This is primarily because when an animal is killed, it becomes dead matter. In case of many vegetables, if we eat part of the vegetable and replant another part, it can grow again; it is still a living organism, but this is not true of a lamb. It is argued that there is a lot of protein in meat and eggs, but we do not need so much concentrated protein in our diet. There is plenty of protein in nuts, seeds, pulses and dairy products, which are also far easier to digest. It is important that we should remain vegetarian not only for our health and nutrition, but from the points of view of HINDU TODAY


spirituality, compassion, ethics and economics as well. Economically, a vegetarian diet is preferable to nonvegetarian diet. The same energy one can get from pulses and cereals. It actually costs three or four times as much money to produce an equivalent amount of calories from animal sources as from vegetable sources. Additionally, meat production is one of the most environmentally damaging industries in terms of pollution and inefficient use of agricultural land. According to a 2006 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world, plus it severely degrades land and water. I am not sure you must be aware that there is one simple statistic - if you wish to tackle global warming and climate change, follow a vegetarian diet.


Almost 60 per cent of green house gases are emitted from the livestock and meat industry. By just being a vegetarian, there will be no food shortage in the World as the amount of grains etc., used to feed livestock will be saved. These are just a few examples. I do believe that we are at a point like the smoking industry. A few years ago, if you objected to smoking, you were frowned upon, today, it is frowned upon when there is smoking. It is also necessary to remove the myth and argument that vegetarians will not get enough if the non-vegetarians do not eat meat. This is a fallacy. It has been conclusively proven that more people can be sustained on vegetarian food than a diet based

on meat. Livestock occupy over 30 per cent of our planet’s land surface, and 33 per cent of global arable land is used to grow their feed, pointing to why a meatbased diet requires seven times more land than a plant-based diet. Thus, one of the easiest ways to help restore our environment and feed more people is to stop raising and killing animals for human consumption. We have no right to take the life of an animal when we cannot give it. Perhaps, this accounts for natural catastrophe or calamities as a result of Karmic cycle. Arthur Clark, world renowned science fiction writer, in one of his books entitled, “3000” forecasts that by the year 3000 A.D. the whole world will turn vegetarian due to acute shortage of water across the world resulting from global warming. Anybody found wasting water will be severely published. Thousands of liters of

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water are required to clean the meat after animal slaughter. Can spirituality save the world from global warming, climate change, deforestation, carbon emission and depletion of drinking water resources - endangering the future of our planet! Perhaps yes. Divine intervention and secular spiritual practices including vegetarianism may help us save Mother Earth! These were some of the key issues that were brought into focus during a recent conference in India on climate change, sustainable development and secular spirituality; the need to incorporate spiritual principles in our daily lives was emphasized. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech said: "We must develop a sense of universal responsibility respect to the different issues that confront our planet. Responsibility does not only lie with the leader of our countries, but with each of us individually. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities and so on. Swami Dayanandaji of Arsh Vidya Gurukulum writes, “As a human being I have a custodial relationship to the Mother Earth. Global warming testifies how indifferent and careless we have

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been in discharging our care-taking responsibilities. One needs to have an honest commitment to save the mother earth who has been relentlessly patient and magnanimous since she began bearing life. There are a number of reasons for one to be a vegetarian. People given to meat-eating think that a pure vegetarian diet is optional. But now they have no choice if they are alive to what is happening to this life-bearing planet. There is no justification whatsoever for one to continue to be a non-vegetarian knowing the devastating consequences o f

meat-eating. Promotion of vegetarianism does not require any legislation from the State. It does require a change of heart on the part of meat-eater anywhere on this planet. I cannot appeal to the

tigers and wolves. They are programmed to be what they are. Being endowed with freewill only a human being can make a difference by exercising responsibly his or her choice.” Sequential dependence of air on space, of water on air, of earth on water, of life on earthis the message of the Buddha, a message of harmonious interdependence. It is a healthy sign that more and more people in the US, UK, Europe and other parts of the world are taking to vegetarian diet in modern times, chiefly due to health reasons. There is a growing acceptance in the West that vegetarianism connotes a more positive way of living than flesh eating. In India, pilgrimage destination of ‘Haridwar’ still enjoys the status of being a vegetarian city. Even in Japan, known to be virtually 100 per cent non-vegetarian, you can now find vegetarian restaurants. My friend, Martin Gluckman who runs Vedic Society and teaches Organic and Ayurvedic cooking in South Africa hails Indian vegetarianism thus: “India has the world’s greatest cuisine and most variety of dishes, boasting to its amazing cultural and spiritual heritage. It has a time tested HINDU TODAY


vegetarian cuisine offering a delight for all senses and the heart. India can be proud to have the world’s largest per-capita number of vegetarians (I’ve read reports of more than 40 per cent). No other country can make such a statement of humanity and non-violence for which Mahatma Gandhi is a benchmark. Off the record, this is one of the main reasons I am proud to live partly in India. The vegetarian culture and lifestyle is India’s greatest achievement and gift to the world. Only in years to come will the true value of this gift be known.”

Live and Let Live The principles of love, compassion and respect for all life are familiar to the western mind but in recent centuries, we have restricted them to humans only. What is the definition of life? It is something which is born, which grows flourishes, matures, propagates, decays and dies. Plants satisfy all these requirements of being live. In life big fish eats small fish, lion eats the goat to survive, but man


needs only plants [vegetables and fruits] to survive or live, and this is more than sufficient. Plants are “living” because they grow, because they are involved in the cosmic cycle of moving water, and because they breathe and have sensation of “pleasure and pain” as humans do, like the leaves of Mimosa Podia {Touch Me Not} which close when touched and the flowers turn their face towards the Sun when they experience pleasure. All biological beings have similar

“Human life, animal life, and plant life are all inter-linked... and I invite you to look at the life of a tree.” traits; the philosophy of being a vegetarian is not to give pain and harm, but to live harmoniously, i.e. to co-exist with all livings beings with love and compassion. I quote Ellison Banks Findly from her book, Plant Life: “Human life, animal life, and plant life are all inter-linked... and I invite you to

look at the life of a tree.” It gives its leaves to animals; it shares its flowers with bees. It gives its fruits to peoples. It provides shelter to birds and insects. It takes carbondioxide and gives oxygen to the living world. As herbs it is used in the medicine to prevent and cure human injury and illness. Finally, it sacrifices itself to be used as a transportation and construction material or fuel. It lives and dies for the service of others! Albert Schweitzer, one of the greatest humanitarians, in his book, Indian Thought and its Development writes: “The laying down of the commandment not to kill and not to damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind... So far as we know it is for the first time clearly expressed in Jainism.” Mahavira, the twenty-four ford maker of Jains has very clearly ordered his followers to follow Acarang, the first sacred canonical text of Jains, about Ahimsa and ecological balance: “Thus say all the perfect souls and blessed ones, whether past,

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present or to come-by speak / declare and proclaim thus ‘All things breathing, all things living, all beings whatever, should not be slain or treated with violence, or insulted, or tortured, or ruled or driven away’. This is the pure unchanging eternal law, which the wise ones who know the world have proclaimed in east-westnorth-south and all directions” More than a religion Jainism is a way of life. Jains have been practicing yoga, meditation, environmentalism and vegetarianism – the very foundation of which is Ahimsa. As Jains we have three core practices: Non-Violence, Non-Absolutism and Non-Possessiveness (Ahimsa, Anekantvad and Aparigraha) * Ahimsa or Non-Violence is non-killing, compassion and forgiveness in thought, words and deeds towards all living beings.

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* Anekatvada or Non-Absolutism is respecting multi-dimentional views of others. Jains encourage dialogue and harmony with other faiths. * Apirgraha or Non-Possessiveness is the balancing act of needs and desires, while staying detached from our possessions.

Jain way of life respects and honours all living beings through the practice of ‘Maitreya’ or Friendship, ‘Sadbhavana’ or Goodwill and ‘Kshmapana’ or Forgiveness deeply embedded moral mindsets in ‘Satya’, ‘Ahimsa’, ‘Anekant’ and ‘Aprigraha’. We are all independent and, by living a Jain Way of Life (closest to Nature), we can bring peace and spirituality to our lives and to those around us. Personally, I have been benefited by doing couple of Vipassana meditation courses. After taking a vow of Si-

in 1916, Gandhi said in his speech, “I remember and worship Lord Mahavir even today because he practiced, developed and brought Ahimsa or Non-Violence to its peak-level.” lence, Vipassana helped me tremendously bring about awareness of my mind or self-discovery as well as bringing me closer to Nature; Nature being the real teacher of Ahimsa or Non-Violence; you learn only when you come closer to it. Indeed, it is the real operation of the mind from where emerges Loving Kindness or ‘Karuna’ to all. You may ask me why I did not choose a purely Jain method of meditation because I found Vipassana as a core to all spiritual practices and is more suitable to spiritual cultivation? Gandhi was an example of



Maitreya (friendship) and Sadbhavana (good-will towards all) who taught the immortal message of Non-violence and Truth (Satya) to the entire world in the footsteps of Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha. How Mahatma Gandhi (Bapu) was influenced? During Lord Mahavir’s birthday celebrations at Ahmedabad in 1916, Gandhi said in his speech, “I remember and worship Lord Mahavir even today because he practiced, developed and brought Ahimsa or Non-Violence to its peak-level.” If Lord Mahavir was the revolutionary scientist and saint of the Dharma-yuga (Golden Age), Gandhi was the revolutionary leader and reformer of the Kalyug (Modern Age). Gandhi was so deeply influenced by Lord Mahavir that he used Non-Violence and Satyagraha as a weapon – the very foundational basis of his life to accomplish India’s independence from the clutches of the British. Mahatma Gandhi was an apostle of peace. Truth and non-violence were the key components of his creed. Innovation and creativity, founded on moral authority flowing from his “inner HINDU TODAY

voice” (his term for conscience), constituted the bedrock of whatever campaign he embarked upon. No wonder, Albert Einstein exclaimed: “Generations to come will scare believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood

In spite of his ill health due to severe attack of dysentery Gandhi had taken a vow not to drink milk because he came to know that the method called ‘Phookan’ adopted to extract the last drop of milk from a buffalo or cow is very painful for the animal, thus, violating his vow of non-violence. walked upon the Earth.” Dharma, for Buddhists, is the sacred law, morality and the teachings of the Buddha. It is also all things in nature. Cats, dogs, penguins, trees, humans, mosquitoes, sunlight, leaf dew are all dharmas. So at its very essence, Buddhism can be described as an ecological religion or a religious ecology. Let us now look at the nature of Cow that is selflessly devoted to all. She is very different than most animals on

the Earth. She is a source of love, without defenses and calm. Cow as mother is not a commercial object and cow urine, cow dung, cow milk and cow for friendship and so on comes automatically; whereas a milk-man sees value of cow in the milk and uses all kinds of fair and foul means to extract milk for maximum profit. On December 13, 1918 Gandhi came to Mani Bhavan from Matheran. In spite of his ill health due to severe attack of dysentery Gandhi had taken a vow not to drink milk because he came to know that the method called ‘Phookan’ adopted to extract the last drop of milk from a buffalo or cow is very painful for the animal, thus, violating his vow of non-violence. When Kasturba, (his wife) who made frantic efforts for her husband’s speedy recovery, in a talk with a cowboy passing by Mani Bhavan, got to know that a goat does not suffer pain. She at once turned to Gandhi and said, “Surely, you cannot have any objection to drinking goat’s milk because it suffers no pain when milked” and Gandhi had to yield. •••

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A Beacon of Hope His incredible achievements are a testament to his hard work and determination appointed as the Chairman of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.


oginder Sanger's entrepreneurial story appears to have taken straight from a Bollywood blockbuster script but with a difference. Here the protagonist is real and so are his struggle and determination. His phenomenal accomplishments cannot be gauged in a barometer of sheer materialistic means. It is this other side that most successful personalities don’t measure up to half to what Sanger has consistently achieved over the years. He has been one of the leading patrons of various cultural, religious, social societies, organisations such as Gujarat Hindu society in Preston, Khalsa College in Hayes, Singh Sabha Gurudwara in Southall, Sanatan Hindu Cultural Society & Temple in Bradford and Indian Gymkhana Club in Hounslow, etc. Recently he has been

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Small wonder then, he is taken a lead role as chairman of the fundraising committee of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, which promotes the rich Indian arts and culture and that of Balaji Temple near Birmingham which promotes the Indian vedic culture and traditions as well as inter faith harmony. Sanger sits amongst the

He has been one of the leading patrons of various cultural, religious, social societies, organisations such as Gujarat Hindu society in Preston, Khalsa College in Hayes, Singh Sabha Gurudwara in Southall, Sanatan Hindu Cultural Society & Temple in Bradford and Indian Gymkhana Club in Hounslow, etc. Recently he has been appointed as the Chairman of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. crème de la crème on the list of the most successful Indian entrepreneurs in the UK. From owning a small travel agency in East London in 1965, his business has expanded to owning prestigious hotels in London which include

The Bentley in Kensington, The Washington in Mayfair, Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton in West end, and recently acquired Austin Hotel, various properties, travel agencies and a life insurance company. He has two more hotels under coming up in London and another two in India. His hotels have become a home away from home for Indian film stars, leading VVIPs including the Prime Ministers and Presidents. In recognition to his outstanding and life-long dedication to philanthropic work in the UK and abroad, Sanger was recently awarded a community award from the House of Commons. Like many, success didn't come easy to this proud Sikh. Hailing from a village Apra near Jallandhar in Punjab, Joginder Sanger came to England in 1961 in search of a better life and opportunities. After settling in England for a few months, his father called him back to India. "Once my father found out that I was working in a factory he wanted me to come back. He said, I sent you for studies and now you are working in a factory, why can't you stay here and work on the farm or do some business." However, working in the farm HINDU TODAY


full time as well as looking after other affairs was not difficult but he was haunted by the feeling that people might think that he returned to Punjab as he could not succeed in England. He said “I was unable to answer why I came back when people were longing to go to England for better future.” He had bigger aspirations in life. He reached a point where he said: "Enough is enough, I'm going back to England.” After experiencing life in England, where even an ordinary working person can live a decent and comfortable life, as well as he witnessed clear differences in the both lifestyles. "I saw everything is very disciplined in England. Whereas in India every-thing was in short supply and more demand and without knowing someone you could not get things done.” One thing that impressed me most in England is if you work hard and work honestly, there is opportunity for you. You will be a successful man. But in India you can work as hard as much as you like, but unless there's some godfather you cannot succeed, you cannot get your job done." Sanger’s first job was in a factory and during his first three-four years in England, he worked in various jobs including as conductor in a bus. "I used to make £8.50 a week for a forty-four hour. The first generation should not forget that the right for education for their children has earned the recognition not only for their children but more for their parents." HINDU TODAY

While most would credit the hard work of the first generation in establishing Punjabis in the UK, Sanger thinks otherwise, “In those days we used to say, after earning some money and we'll go back. Our children will never even get the job of a bank officer. But now things have changed. Because our children have proved themselves that they are second to none as far their education goes. They've also brought the recognition for their own parents. This is what the community as well as the country should acknowledge.” He went on to say: “The first generation should feel proud of their right decision to educate their children as the same has earned the recognition not only for their children but also for their parents." Nevertheless, Sanger has done his fair share of hard work, and has also participated community work and projects. From the 1960s, Sanger helped the Indian Workers Association as well as Hindu society in South London. Till 1993, he was chairman of the Indian Sports and Cultural Association to promote kabbadi and Punjabi hockey. When asked what is it about Punjabis that make them one of the most successful communities in the UK? “Punjabis are hard working and honest, but they are gullible too. You can easily mislead them because they believe in virtues of truth. In today’s world it's not a good thing. But in my opinion it’s also a form of virtue. They can stand

“Punjabis are hard working and honest, but they are gullible too. You can easily mislead them because they believe in virtues of truth. In today’s world it's not a good thing. But in my opinion it’s also a form of virtue. They can stand in front of a mirror and say yes, I didn't lie or deceive anyone.” in front of a mirror and say yes, I didn't lie or deceive anyone.” That belief and loyalty still remains an inseparable part of him, "There is no country better than UK.” In 2011, Sanger has been named the Asian of the Year 2011 at the 24th Edition of "Asian Who's Who International" in London. That’s quite an honour for a person who started his career with jobs as a bus conductor and rose to such great heights with his sheer hard work and dedication. Previous recipients of the honour included Lord Swaraj Paul (1987-88), Keith Vaz (1988-89), Lord Bhikhu Parekh (1991-92), Imran Khan (1992-93), Lord G K Noon (1993-94), Baroness Shreela Flather (1995-96), Lord Raj Loomba (1996-97), Lord Navnit Dholakia (2000-2001), G S Gujral (2001-2002), Lord Karan Bilimoria (2002-2003), Dr Kartar Lalvani (2003-2004), Lord Hameed (2007-2008) and Ranjit Singh Baxi (2008-2009). •••

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News Understand religion in right spirit BANGALORE: Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has said people of Karnataka, who have a history of being rooted in tradition while embracing science and technology, should understand the very essence of the religion and keep up its spirit. Speaking at the 151st birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, organised by Himanshu Jyoti Kala Peetha and Malleswaram Brahmana Sabha here, he said that while religion had divided the world, it also had the ability to keep people united when understood correctly. “Religion is pure nectar when understood in the right spirit, and poison when approached the wrong way,” he said, calling upon people to “multiply the spirit of Swami Vivekananda” by understanding the spiritual core of religions. He said that every individual should act according to his or her own ‘dharma’ and added that his dharma was “protecting constitutional values”. This, he said, was a great ‘rajadharma’, which was often not followed. Mr. Bhardwaj exhorted Brahmins to consider themselves “scholars”. Their duty, he said, was explaining the nature of the “cosmic power” to society. Veereshanandaji Saraswathi of Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Ashram, Tumkur, said that Swami Vivekananda was a bridge between the East and the West and provided an alternative model to Western intellectuals. M.V. Savitri, IAS officer, who

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received a national award for best electoral practices, was felicitated at the function. She was the District Election Officer of Chamarajanagar during the Assembly elections. D.B. Chandre Gowda, Bangalore North MP, and director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan H.N. Suresh were present. •••

Art of Living centre torched in Pakistan ISLAMABAD: Armed men have burnt down a yoga centre in Islamabad inaugurated by a world famous Indian Hindu guru who once offered to teach inner peace to the Taliban, police said on Sunday. The Art of Living centre was torched on Saturday night in the upmarket Bani Gala suburb of the capital. It was the Pakistan branch of an international nongovernment organisation founded by Nobel peace prize nominee Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, described by Forbes magazine in 2009 as the fifth most powerful person in India. Nayyer Salim, a police official told AFP some eight to nine people were involved in the attack. “The watch man told us that some eight to nine men armed with pistols and guns came and asked for money. Then they tied up three employees on duty and spread petrol,” he said. The staff members survived the attack, police said. Shahnaz Minallah, the Pakistan co-chair of Art of Living who was in Lahore at the time of the arson confirmed the incident but declined to comment further until she reached the site.

Police said the motive behind the incident was not yet clear but they were investigating whether it was related to the centre’s connection with India. Shankar last visited Pakistan in 2012, telling AFP in an interview: “I would love to stretch my hands to Talibans because I would like them to see from a broader perspective of the universe.” His centres, which have branches all over the world and count some 300 million followers, teach breathing practices designed to relieve stress and jealousies. Its adherents in Pakistan were mainly drawn from the country’s urbane, educated elite. But the branch, built in 2004, has attracted some criticism by some in the media who see yoga as un-Islamic. •••

Hindu temple set on fire in Larkana ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of angry Pakistanis attacked a Hindu temple and set it on fire in southern Pakistan overnight following a rumor that a member of the Hindu community had desecrated the Koran, police and community leaders said on Sunday. The incident took place just before midnight on Saturday after locals in Larkana district alleged that Sangeet Kumar, 42, had torn out pages of Islam’s holy book and tossed them down on the street from the roof of his home. “Our Dharamshala (community centre) has been gutted and the temple has been partially damaged. All the statues have been destroyed by the attackers,” Kalpana Devi, HINDU TODAY


chairperson of the local Hindu committee, told Reuters. Hundreds of students from local Islamic seminaries attacked the temple holding batons, one witness, Javed Shah, said. Police arrived quickly to protect Kumar from the angry crowd. “They acted smartly and took him out after making him put on a police uniform to save him from the wrath of the crowd,” said Shah. “It took nearly 20 minutes to break down the doors (of the temple) before they entered the compound and set it on fire. They

also set fire to the temple before ransacking it.” Sindh province, where the attack took place, is home to most of Pakistan’s small Hindu community which numbers about two million among a population of about 180 million. Pakistan’s rocky relationship with neighboring India, a predominantly Hindu country, has fed tension between the two communities in smaller towns but outright acts of violence are rare. Police said they were investigating the matter.

“The situation is not satisfactory,” Deputy Inspector General of Larkana, Khadim Rind, told Reuters. “Sanjeet Kumar has been accused of desecrating the holy book by the locals. The accused is in our custody.” Tensions were high in the region following the incident, with Muslim protestors taking to the streets in several towns and setting fire to shops belonging to Hindus in the city of Usta Mohammad. (Courtesy: Reuters) •••


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l 2013 l SEP TEM



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A Journe y in Love



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Profile for Hindu Today

Hindu Today April Edition  

Hindu Today is an international, progressive, premier spiritual media network with presence across print, web. Started in 2007 as a print ma...

Hindu Today April Edition  

Hindu Today is an international, progressive, premier spiritual media network with presence across print, web. Started in 2007 as a print ma...