Nirvana (2011 July)

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ISSUE No . 70 JULY- SEP 2011

Ramakrishna Mission Ramakrishna Mission Singapore Singapore

MICA (P) (P) 014/09/2010 014/09/2010 MICA ISSN0218-7183 ISSN0218-7183

State of Spiritual enlightenment or illumination. Nirvana releases humans from the cycle of birth, suffering, death and all forms of worldly bondage.

in this issue... Swami Nikhilananda describes Sri Sankaracharya as “the keenest intellect the world has seen.” In his short life-span of 32 years in 8th century CE, the Acharya travelled the length and breadth of India, established four monasteries in strategic locations and wrote scholarly commentaries on Bhagavad Gita, the Brahma-sutras and the principal Upanishads. While each of his work can be described as a jewel, Vivekachudamani is the brightest of them all. Mr S.V. Unnikrishnan, a retired Auditor General of Kerala, India, presents this jewel in a simple and easy to follow style for the benefit of those keen on realizing the Ultimate Reality envisaged by Sri Sankara. (P.3) In the continuing series on Swami Vivekananda, Dr Achuthan recalls the deep passion Swamiji nourished in reforming India’s educational system. He had wanted the “degree-chasing” system to be changed into a “manmaking” education. More than a hundred years after his Mahasamadhi and more than six decades into independence, that remains a pipe-dream. (P.10) As has been the practice for some years, our Singapore Centre observed 1 May as the Volunteer Appreciation Day. We have a report .(P.16) On the international horizon, World Water Day was observed on 22 April with due emphasis on problems faced by host countries. In Singapore, the otherwise municipal affair was lighted up with the International Religious Organisation, a grouping of all major religions practised in the Republic, joined the relevant authorities to make it a colourful day. (P.19) The Mission’s Belgaum centre held a four-day celebration of spiritual, religious and cultural activities in February. Thousands of devotees and friends attended the various functions such as the opening of the new spacious auditorium by Mr L.K. Advani, senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a Youth Convention at which former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was the Guest of Honour. (P.21) Bharata finally succeeds in his resolve to find Rama. The Royal family has a poignant reunion. . ( P.23) Edited and Published by Swami Muktirupananda, President, Ramakrishna Mission, 179 Bartley Road, Singapore 539784 Tel: 6288 9077 Fax: 6288 5798. email:, Website: Print Production: EAZI Printing Pte Ltd

Pearls of Wisdom Uddhava Gita

Translated by Swami Madhavananda

Śrī bhagavān uvāca Snānadanatapo’vasthā vīryasamskāra karmabhiḥ Matsmrtyā cātmanaḥ śoucam śudhaḥ karmācared dvijaḥ Mantrasya ca parijnānam karmaśudhir madarpaņam Dharmaḥ sampadyate şadbhir adharmastu viparyayaḥ Yatoh yatoh nivarteta vimucyeta tatastataḥ Eşa dharmo nṛnām kshemaḥ śokamohabhayapahaḥ The Lord said: Ablution, charity, austerities, ceremonies and observances performed according to stages of life and strength, and remembrance of Me, serve to purify a person. Thus purified, a twice-born should perform religious acts. The purity of a Mantra consists in its being duly understood; that of work in being offered unto Me. The purity of the above six factors leads to piety, and the reversed of it to impiety. From whatever one abstains, one gets rid of that. This is the righteous conduct that leads to the well-being of men and removes their grief, infatuation and fear. Uddhava Gita, XVI, 14,15,18. (To be continued)



Nature versus Nurture


hich one plays the greater role in shaping the human behaviour and character, nature or nurture? Nature works through genes and environment functions through nurture. There is no clear answer which one is the more determining factor, genes or environment. Because scientists are divided in supporting one or the other theory the debate still persists. Various experiments conducted by both the groups have either supported the influence of heredity or environment. But now there is growing evidence that genes influence environment and in turn environment has bearing on genes. They are dependent on each other. For example, a person’s inborn intelligence or talent cannot flower without proper environment and adequate facilities. They remain in an underdeveloped state. This is the common phenomenon in poor countries, where socio-economic environment is unhelpful. As a result, there is no notable improvement in succeeding generations. Contrary is the case in wealthy and developed countries, where stimulating conditions and modern facilities are available. A person’s inherent intelligence, skill and talent find a fit outlet to express and flower. Each generation becomes better and better than the previous one. It is not enough if one has athletic, musical or intellectual genes. Genes need a proper environment to express and grow. Nurture plays a vital role in shaping genes. The constant interaction between heredity and external conditions determine human nature. All are not born equal, one person is different from another, it is true. Some are more skillful, capable and intelligent than the rest. It is also true all do not get equal opportunities to grow and develop due to socio-economic conditions. Those who are at the lower rungs of the ladder of the human society are not inferior beings. On the contrary, they do not get right enriched environment or outlet to unfold their inherent qualities. Therefore enlightened governments try to create equal opportunities for all people. Rest depends on an individual’s attitude and aptitude. The arugument that heredity is the only decisive factor or external conditions are solely responsible sounds unconvincing. In shaping human personality they contribute equally.


Vivekachudamani The Rational Path to Reality



ivekachudamani of Sri Sankarachaya is a rare jewel of Vedantic literature. This work in 584 elegant and profound verses takes the spiritual aspirant to the very heights of spiritual realization through the path of reason and analysis. As such, the follower of any religion can benefit from this work. Here we try to give a brief survey of the contents of the book.

source of eternal sorrow, as life is a series of changes in which one is lost as in a wilderness. Leading a purely worldly life of the senses is bondage; to get rid of the bondage, one should know the Reality which is unchanging and which sustains the apparent unreality. Knowing this Reality, we stand on firm ground, from where we can witness the changing world as dispassionate spectators. To know this Reality and be rooted in it is freedom from bondage, or, liberation. Man has to strive for it as that alone can deliver him from sorrow and suffering. Hence the philosophical search for Reality. Only human beings can undertake this enquiry as they alone among all the species, have the capacity to question, analyze and arrive at conclusions. So the great teacher Sankara says; a human birth, the desire for liberation and the protection and guidance of a great soul – these are rare blessings obtained by the grace of God alone (verse 3).

Viveka means true knowledge and discrimination – the power of distinguishing between the Real and the unreal. The Real is that which is eternal and unchanging at all times; the transient and changing is unreal, though it has an appearance of reality. Hence the world is unreal, though it has an empirical reality which enables us to deal with it in our day-to-day life. However, it is transient and constantly changing. Something like that should have an unchanging basis, which we call the Real. The unreal can be understood only in terms of the Real. Getting trapped in the unreal is a


In the words of Srimad Bhagavatam (1.2.11), the Supreme Truth is non-dual Consciousness, called by different names as Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavan. Vedanta holds that the Reality of the Universe, Brahman, and the Reality of the individual, Atman, are identical. This is the declaration of the Upanishads. Liberation is not possible by any means other than the realization of this identity, declares Sri Sankara (Verse 6). In Verse 204, he reiterates that true knowledge is the realization of the identity of the individual Self and Brahman. One who desires true freedom should realize this identity. The means to that end is to realize one’s own True Nature which is hidden deep within one’s personality, as any search outside in the everchanging world will be fruitless.

are most essential for an earnest seeker. They are 1) discrimination between the Real and the unreal; 2) absence of any desire to enjoy the fruits of one’s action in this life or afterwards; 3 ) the six spiritual treasures, namely, control of the mind and the senses, withdrawal of the mind from external objects, great forbearance, faith in the truth of the words of the scriptures and one’s guru and concentration of the mind on one’s goal , namely, Brahman; and 4) the desire to attain true freedom from the bondage of the ego, mind, senses and the body. Extremely accurate and classical definition of each of these elements is given by the Acharya. They cannot be achieved without sustained effort over a long period. This is the essential training required in the quest of the Absolute.

A mountaineer desiring to scale the Everest has to undergo tremendous training and needs the assistance of an experienced guide. So too is the quest for the Absolute – it needs great preparation on the part of the aspirant and the guidance of a teacher who is a realized soul. The various elements of the preparation required of the aspirant have been enumerated by Sri Sankara. They are referred to as the four-fold discipline -sadhana chatushtaya- and

Bhakti is termed as the most important means of attaining liberation; it is defined as seeking, or meditating upon, one’s true nature. An aspirant who has to a great extent mastered the above mentioned disciplines and who has a deep desire for liberation should approach a competent guru. The main qualification of the guru is that he should have realized Brahman and is ever established in that awareness.


He should also be free from all desires and have unconditional mercy towards eager souls approaching him for guidance. When an aspirant approaches him with due humility, and seeks the way out of bondage, the guru will extend his protection to him and assure him of proper guidance.

about the Supreme Self. The guru says bondage is due to mistaking the non-Self for the Self and when this wrong identification is given up, the Self will shine forth. Knowledge of the non-Self is, therefore, essential. To know the non-Self in one’s own personality, the guru adopts two methodologies. First, he analyses the three aspects of the human body – the gross, the subtle and the causal. The physical body is the gross body; made of the five elements and full of unclean substances, it is easily perishable and is just like the house in which the soul lives. The subtle body consists of the five senses of knowledge, the five senses of action, the vital airs, the inner organ i.e. the mind, the intellect, chitta and ego. Ignorance of the Self (avidya) and consequent desire for sense-objects and corresponding activity also form a part

The aspirant now becomes a disciple. The guru tells him that by meditating on the Vedantic truths, one gathers spiritual knowledge which would make him free from the sorrow caused by phenomenal existence, The Upanishads declare that the means of attaining liberation are faith, devotion and meditation. Knowledge of the Self is hidden by ignorance (avidya) and removal of this ignorance is the means to achieve freedom. How did this bondage come and how to remove it? – asks the disciple. He also wants to know


of the subtle body. This is what binds the Self. The causal body is Maya, the primordial ignorance and the power of God consisting of the three Gunas. It has got two powers – the power to cover or hide the Self and then to project the Universe. All these three bodies have no independent existence and are therefore, unreal and the non-Self. They derive their existence and power from the Self. Since we identify ourselves with these three bodies, the Self remains hidden from us.

are non-sentient and dependent on the Self. They draw their existence and sustenance from the Self. A detailed study of these five sheaths is an education in human psychology and behavior and is the sure means of gaining a deep understanding of oneself. After analyzing them and finding that they are not the Self, but only dependents of the Self, they should be discarded as unreal. The guru had earlier stated that on removing the five sheaths, the eternally blissful and self-effulgent Self will be revealed (Verse 153). However, the disciple now faces a great difficulty – on discarding the five sheaths, he can see nothing within him, except the absence of everything. Then, what is there to be known as the Self?

The guru proceeds to explain the nature of the Supreme Self. He is the eternal knower, and everything exists due to him. He is the basis of the sense of “I” in everyone but remains hidden in the cave of the intellect (heart) by the veiling and projecting powers of Maya. Even though, as the ultimate Knower, he cannot be “known” in the ordinary sense, he can be experienced by following the process of ‘pancha-kosa-viveka’, distinct examination of the five sheaths covering the Self. This is the second methodology adopted by the guru.

Here comes the most crucial part of the whole work. In another verse (212), the guru had said that when all the sheaths are negated, consciousness, the eternal witness, remains and that is the Self. The disciple probably did not grasp this point! This is what happens to most of us. When we look within ourselves, we see only darkness, or some imagined form. The Self, which is subtler than the subtlest, is hidden deep within the core of our personality. So a guru is required to point out the Self to us. The disciple has come

The five sheaths covering the Self are the physical sheath, the vital energy sheath, the mental sheath, the knowledge sheath and the sheath of bliss. On analysis, it would be seen that all of them


to that critical point. The guru says: Earlier you experienced the ego and other modifications; now you experience their absence. He who experienced both these, but who Himself is not experienced (as an object), that Knower is the Self (Verses 215,216). In other words, the observer is the Reality, not the observed object. There should be someone to experience the absence of everything – that is the Self. Knowing and identifying oneself with this Reality, and detaching oneself from the body, mind and everything else, is the way to liberation (Verse 224).

that experience and get rid of all the vasanas (desires) and thus find true freedom. We are all under the control of three types of vasanas – lokavasana (desire to gain appreciation of others), sastravasana (desire to be a master of scriptures and thus to be known as a great scholar) and dehavasana (desire to nourish and maintain the body in perfect shape). They are strong chains which bind us to the world and have to be cut by constantly keeping the mind on the Self. This exercise leads to the dissolution of the mind and consequently to the destruction of the identification with the body, mind, senses etc. The exercise has to be continued until the identification with the ego, which hides the Self, is fully removed.

The next section of the text is devoted to establishing the identity of Brahman and the individual Self. First, the nature of Brahman is described with reference to the Upanishads and the significance of the statement “Tat-tvam-asi” is explained. Brahman alone is real and the perception of multiplicity is unreal; hence everything is Brahman. Nothing can exist apart from it and any appearance of difference is only an illusion. In ten inspiring and illuminating verses (255-264), the guru describes the nature of Brahman and earnestly asks the disciple to meditate in his heart that he is that Brahman. After realizing one’s identity with Brahman in this manner, one has to remain steadfast in

The guru now cautions the disciple about a great pitfall that the realized Soul faces – carelessness about Reality. He should not forget the Self even for a moment and allow his mind to turn towards the sense-objects which will drag him down the slope of Maya, leading to bondage. Therefore, carelessness is verily death! He should give up attachment to all the sense-objects and be engaged constantly in meditation on the Self. For total destruction of the ego, he should practice nirvikalpa–samadhi, steady, unmov-


ing and total absorption in the Self. Constant meditation will lead to this deep state of absorption in the Self and it is of infinite value. Brahman is fully realized only by that.

the Gita. He is in constant bliss and the world remains practically forgotten. Eventhough his mind is dissolved in Brahman, he remains alert, but free from bodyconsciousness. His awareness of objects will be dispassionate.

Therefore he should control his speech and mind and merge the mind in the Self; he will then attain absolute peace. Dispassion and awareness of one’s identity with Brahman are like the two wings of a bird; with their help, one can attain liberation. Firmly convinced of this identity and giving up all attachment to the ego, one should remain a dispassionate witness of the world of objects.

The final advice of the guru is: “The gurus and Upanishads point out the way to liberation: with a pure intellect, enlightened by the grace of God, you should cross the ocean of phenomenal existence. The individual soul as well as the entire universe is Brahman – this is the conclusion of the Vedanta. Liberation is to remain as Brahman. And, Brahman is nondual as reiterated by the Upanishads ” (Verses 480 and 482).

At the final stage of the illumination, the jnani attains a universal personality – he realizes that he is the entire universe; he is all the gods; there is nothing that is different from him (Verse 390). He realizes himself as the all- pervading, Supreme Brahman. All sense of difference is due to activity of the mind; when the mind is merged in the Self, ignorance and sense of difference are destroyed. The body, thereafter, is of no undue concern to such a jnani.

Following the teaching of the guru, the disciple is absorbed in samadhi for some time, experiencing the ultimate Reality, Brahman. Coming out of samadhi, he exclaims that he has become fully enlightened, having experienced his identity with Brahman (Verses 485-523). “I am Narayana, the undivided consciousness and the witness of everything. I am the infinite ocean of bliss in which the universe arises, exists and dissolves. I am free from bondage of the body. I am Brahman, the substratum and support of everything. Prostrations to the

The characteristics of a liberated person (jivanmukta) are then described. They generally correspond to those of a sthitaprajna described in Chapter 2 of


great guru who has restored me to my true nature.” The tremendous expansion of the heart resulting from this realization leads to the development of universal love and sympathy, of which Sri Sankara himself is an example. The guru gives the final teaching describing the way of the realized soul, who has attained total freedom from the bondage of the body and the world and advises the disciple to follow his

teaching at all times. With this ends the great Vivekachudamani. This is too brief a survey of the great text. The path shown here is utterly rational, with no resort to blind faith and obedience. Every spiritual aspirant can gain from this non-sectarian and humanitarian teaching. The Supreme glory of Sri Sankara as a Vedantic teacher is fully revealed here. It is sure to benefit all earnest seekers of the Truth.

Adi Sankara Janmabhoomi in Kaladi, Kerala References: 1.. Vivekachudamani – Commentary in Malayalam by Swami Siddhinathananda (Ramakrishna Math, Trichur) 2. Message of Vivekachudamani – Swami Ranganathananda ( Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata )



His Educational Vision


Dr P.Achuthan

t is true that Swami Vivekananda was a many-splendoured and ideal hero-figure who drew to himself all those who happened to fall within his magnetic field. But essentially, he was the chief disciple of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna Deva and His apostle who awakened the whole world with the lifegiving message of his Master. No doubt, he did glance at a variety of subjects such as the pathetic condition of the Indian masses, the callous indifference of the rich and ruling classes, the tyranny of orthodoxy and exclusiveness freely practised by the Hindu religious leaders and so on. One such subject which engaged his critical and indignant attention was India’s educational system.

be pertinent to point out here that our educational planners and administrators would do well to make a deep study of Swamiji’s thought on education, particularly in the context of the all-round anarchy prevailing in our academic field. No wonder of it, because education in Independent India is just a continuation of the old English system without any correction in terms of educational goals or methods of teaching. And Swamiji was never tired of pointing out its defects and inadequacies and their ruinous effects on the Indian youth. “In the first place,” says Swamiji, “it is not a man-making education, it is merely and entirely a negative education… The child is taken to school and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool. …. By the time he is sixteen, he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result is that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three Presidencies…” 1 He draws our attention to the same deficiency again, “Take your universities. What have they done during the fifty years of their

Of course, Swamiji was no educational expert in technical terms. However, it was from the vantage point of the Vedantic outlook that he examined India’s educational scene as he did all other matters. Therefore, Swamiji’s educational vision, both at the conceptual and implementational levels, achieved an integration and rounded perfection sadly lacking in our educational system. Incidentally, it might


to show us a way out of this predicament, this educational calamity. “The ideal, therefore,” he says, “is that we must have the whole education of our country, spiritual and secular, in our own hands, and it must be on national lines, through national methods as far as practical.”4 However, he strikes a note of warning to the would-be educational planners of India, “… but if you attempt to get the secular knowledge without religion, I tell you plainly, vain is your attempt in India, it will never have a hold on the people. Even the great Buddhistic movement was a failure, partially on account of that.” 5

existence? They have not produced one original man. They are merely an examining body.” 2 However, it was in his letter addressed to his friends in Madras from Yokohoma that Swamiji had voiced his indignant protest against the evil impact of English education on the Indian youth when he became sadly conscious of the progressive outlook of the Japanese in sharp contrast to that of the Indian: “Come, see these people, and then go and hide your faces in shame. A race of dotards… What are you? And what are you doing now? ... Promenading the seashores with books in your hands – repeating undigested stray bits of European brainwork… Is there not water enough in the sea to drown you, books, gowns, university diplomas, and all?” 3 Swamiji found that the English system of education in India was a failure because it failed to make the educated self-reliant, manly and resourceful; it failed to endow the students with essential human virtues like a reverence for life, love and sympathy and fellow-feeling and a sense of renunciation and service for the well-being of society. In short, there was nothing Indian in our education; it was all English or European, body and soul.

At the same time, Swamiji’s approach to education was very different from that of the orthodox, partisan enthusiasts who stood for ‘Sanskrit and Vedic education only’! It was very liberal, balanced and practical, an educational philosophy in which the secular and the spiritual were held in a happy harmony. “What we want are western science coupled with Vedanta, brahmacharya as the guiding motto, and also sraddha… But the root is religion. Religion is as the rice, and everything else, like curries.” 6 Here, one is inclined to make more than a passing remark that in Independent India when we had the freedom to fashion our educational system with Indian-ness at the core,

And Swamiji was quick and ready


both in letter and in spirit, as was shown by Swamiji, it was a thousand pities that we let slip that opportunity in the name of secularism and a composite culture! Consequently, education, which should be the key to the solution of all national problems itself became the most vexing national problem, the epi-centre of violent ‘youth-quakes’ in our country!!

by the plant itself. So also in education, the teacher and the textbooks, noble thoughts and ideas only help as in removing what covers and hides the knowledge within us and prevents it from revealing itself. They, no doubt, are strong promptings in awakening the ‘educability’ in us. But what really matters is the flaming up of the inner illumination, the fire of knowledge leaping up from within us. It is as Swamiji puts it, “We are to put the chemicals together, crystallisation will be done by nature according to her laws” 8

Now then, Swamiji’s justly famous definition, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.” 7 brings into focus his faith in the Vedantic truth that, as in the case of divinity, perfection or fullness of knowledge is already and always lodged in man. No one can or need give to man any knowledge which is not already in him. In fact, education is not so much a process of putting in as of taking out, not stuffing the brain but training the mind. All growth is from within to without which is true also in the case of the growth of one’s knowledge into fullness. It is like the growth of a plant, says Swamiji, which is determined solely by the innate strength and vitality of the plant. All that the gardener can do is to give it some negative help in the form of removing the stones and thorns, the grass and weeds that choke its growth as well as watering and manuring it. But for all that, the growing has to be done

Again, the process of education is very much like the digging of a well. By digging, we do not produce even a drop of water; digging helps us only to reach the water already stored up deep down the earth. It removes the layers of mud and sand-stones which cover up the under-water stream, and we find the water already existing there. In other words, digging only helps us in un-covering the hidden water storage. The same is true with education in which we dig and dive deep within ourselves to discover or make manifest the knowledge already within us. Here, the sharp drilling instrument used to discover the Light within is our own concentrated mind. Swamiji illustrates the point with Newton’s discovery of the Law of Gravita-


innate spiritual nature?” 10 Again, “A few thousand graduates do not make a nation… Ninety percent of our people are without education – who thinks of that – these Babus, the so-called patriots?” 11

tion. Where did the scientist get the law from – from the earth or from the apple that fell on his head or from his hairless head? From nowhere except from within himself with the help of his own concentrated mind. The falling of the apple only prompted him to go on an enquiry within. This is the process of education, secular or spiritual, as visualised by Swamiji.

Swamiji now goes on to define the educational objectives relevant to Indian conditions. He says, “We must have life-building, manmaking, character-making assimilation of ideas.” 12 This statement looks simple enough, but in terms of the goals it sets down, it is comprehensive. It speaks of three essential functions which any system of education worth its name should perform. Education leastways must give to the student such knowledge and skill as to make him self-reliant and resourceful in order to enable him to earn his livelihood with the sweat of his honest brows. Manly independence is the hallmark of an educated person. The next higher function of education is to make him a man of character, i.e., one endowed with a socially-oriented will. His motto in life will be renunciation of selfinterest for the sake of offering loving service to others. He will be concerned more and more with the performance of his duties to society than with the enjoyment of his rights and privileges.

As a wandering monk, Swamiji could see for himself the largescale poverty and misery of the Indian masses. So pitiable was their condition that they hardly thought that they were human beings. Swamiji thought that they were in that plight primarily for want of proper education. And when he saw the progress and prosperity of America largely linked to the education her people were getting, he was convinced that India’s salvation lay in giving education to her ignorant millions. “The chief cause of India’s ruin has been the monopolising the whole education and intelligence of the land… among a handful of men. If we are to rise again, we shall have to do it in the same way i.e., by spreading education among the masses.” 9 Swamiji was mainly concerned with the condition of the masses. “Can you raise them?” , he asks. “Can you give them back their lost individuality without making them lose their

The primary goal of education


is to earn enough strength and skill for survival. When that is ensured, the next one is to scatter the grains in society from where he has gathered them. These two goals are associated with the social life of man. But the highest educational goal is to reach the state of the man of wisdom which is a whole heaven above the loyalties and affiliations pertaining to society. That is where the lower education, aparā-vidya, leads man to the threshold of the education par excellence, the parā-vidya, which is phrased by Swamiji as the “lifebuilding assimilation of ideas.” This is reaching perfection, the summit of life’s fulfilment, by the progressive unfoldment of the knowledge inherent in man. This is attained by a ‘voyage within’ and by overcoming the forces of our own inner nature by the process of refinement and culture.

universality of man. This can be attained not by the informationgathering education but by the one that transforms man’s being, or by the ‘life-building assimilation of ideas’ as Swamiji puts it. “To me”, says he, “the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not collecting facts.” 13 He touches on the same point again in a half-humorous, half-scornful vein, “If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world, and encyclopaedias are the Rishis.” 14 And, how do we get this kind of real education; what is the method, the way of getting properly educated? Swamiji says, “My idea of education is personal contact with the teacher – guru-grha-vāsa. Without the personal life of a teacher, there would be no education.” 15 Life with the teacher and constant companionship with him enables the student to absorb and assimilate the noble thoughts and ideas lived by the teacher. The teacher not only conveys ideas but communicates the experience of an ideal life to the pupil. Like the good seed, the fertile soil and the expert farmer coming together to yield a rich harvest, guru-grhavāsa brings together a good student, a conducive atmosphere and a great teacher to yield a rich educational harvest. By this method, the student is able to get his own

Human life moves at three levels – the physical and sensate, the mental and intellectual and finally, of the soul or spiritual. It is like the movement of the three hands in a wrist-watch. The hour hand moves the slowest, almost imperceptibly; but its movement is the determining factor in telling the time. Similar is the spiritual level of life in determining the true measure of man, which is not the muchglorified egocentric individuality but the egoless personality or the


torch lit directly from the brightlyburning torch of the teacher. In short, the most effective method of getting education is sat-

sang, companionship with the teacher, like what Swamiji, ‘M’, Girish and others got from the great Master.

Vivekananda University , Belur

References: 1. Lectures from Colombo to Almora, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2006; Pages 232 – 233. 2. Vivekananda, His Call to the Nation: Education and Society, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1992; Page 53. 3. Letters of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2007; Page 37. 4. Lectures, Page 233. 5. Lectures, Page 140. 6. Vivekananda, … Education and Society, Pages 52 – 53. 7. Ibid, Page 49.

8. Letters, Pages 63 – 64. 9. Ibid, Page 328. 10. Ibid, Page 64. 11. Ibid, Page 95. 12. Lectures, Page 233. 13. Vivekananda, … Education & Society, Page 49. 14. Lectures, Page 233. 15. Vivekananda, … Education & Society, Page 53.


Volunteers’ Day

‘Raise Your Antenna a Notch’


he recent spurt in the frequency and devastation wrought by natural disasters in several parts of the world has alerted Volunteerism to the urgent need of keeping up with the challenges. In Singapore, protected as it is against typhoons, tornados or earthquakes, the problem is more of the traditional variety. And volunatary organizations are on the alert to rush to the aid of the needy at home and also fan out to less fortunate neighbour-

ing countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar. For the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda in India in 1897, service is one of its two key mottos – “for one’s own salvation and the welfare of the World” which means service. And Mission centres in India have always responded speedily to floods, typhoons and earthquakes. At the Mission’s Singapore centre, 1 May has been observed for some time as the ‘Volunteer Appreciation Day’ to wel-


come and thank our volunteers, some of whom are committed to more than one organisation.

in man gradually disappears as he realizes that he is but a part of the inter-connected world.”

The function on 1 May 2011 started with an invocation and bhajan (devotional song) by our Saturday bhajan class children. It may be noted that the class is conducted by a group of Volunteers.

The Swami noted that generally people grumble a lot about the quality of life and the perceived lack of this or that facility. “But look around , and we see half the world do not have access to a meal a day or the chance of some much needed medicine or other assistance. Then we realize that our complaints are so petty compared to the problems of mass poverty, illness, lack of access to clean drinking water or basic medical care.” It is this realization or understanding that leads some wellheeled academics and professionals and others to venture

In his welcome address, Swami Muktirupananda, President of the Mission, noted that service may not bring any gain or material benefits to the volunteers. “But it has its own imperceptible returns in the form of silent benefits. Man, by nature, is selfish, but this selfish character is gradually eliminated as he continues to offer voluntary service. The ego


number of participants, it became clear that the basic contours of service were fairly well-known among the volunteers. And using past experience as a guide, the primary objective ahead was to “up the antenna one notch” , i.e. to improve, refine and retool our activities so that maximum benefit can be obtained by the recipients, while the volunteers derive maximum satisfaction.

into poverty- stricken areas to provide whatever help they can. How else can we explain their decision to leave their sumptuous surroundings to slog in mud and filth in affected countries? He concluded by saying, “Take a broad look at the problems. I would say it is an opportunity, a challenge, for all of us to expand our horizons, make the whole world our own. Apart from helping others as best as we can, it will widen our horizons, increase our empathy and give us a sense of satisfaction in more ways than the material sense.”

Volunteers listed their own returns as satisfaction of returning to the society at least a part of the help it gave them, reducing one’s egoistic feelings and increase the “togetherness” bringing the society itself closer.

The group watched a Power Point presentation on the breadth and depth of the services Mission centres in India offer. It then split into groups for an in-depth discussion of the subject. After lengthy discussions and inputs from a large

Before breaking for lunch, Swami Muktirupananda distributed tokens of appreciation to all participants.


Water , Water

May the Goddess Waters be auspicious for us to drink May they flow, they flow with blessings upon us May the Divine Waters which grant us blessings sustain us. -Shukla Yajur Veda, 36.12


t took the international community decades of environmental degradation and neglect to discover the innate truth and potency of these ancient prayers. Thus was born the World Water Day through a declaration of the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. The World Water Day has since been observed with programmes and emphasis tai-


lored to solve the environmental problems of host countries. United Nations member states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have focused attention on critical water issues. Each year a particular theme is focused, such as quality or quantity of water, purity of water, conflict zones etc. This year the water section of

the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had highlighted the theme: Responding to the challenges of water for cities.

Religious Organisation (IRO). The IRO, grouping all the major religions practised in Singapore, including Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, was marking its own 62nd anniversary and joined in the observance with the Republic’s national water agency and civic groups.

In the city state of Singapore, which depends on its neighbour Malaysia for part of its water supply, the day was marked by emphasis on a series of wellplanned measures such as augmenting local catchments, desalinated water and Newater.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Thong helped launch a massive multicoloured kite imprinted with the IRO’s logo after witnessing a taiji display by some 700 practitioners from Taoist temples.

What is normally a bureaucratic event, this year’s observance assumed a religious flavour with the active participation of the Inter-


Belgaum Centre


he Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama in Belgaum, India, hosted a four-day programme of spiritual, cultural and social events early in February. Among the highlights were the

inauguration of the newly constructed Open Auditorium on 4 February by Mr L.K. Advani, senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The function was attended by Swami Smaranananda, Vice-President of the Ram-


akrishna Order, some 200 monks from all over India and a public gathering of some 4000 people. Early next morning, amidst chanting of Vedic texts by monks and singing of bhajans by devotees, the newly constructed Gopuram on the existing Universal Temple was ceremoniously consecrated. Swami Smaranananda performed the Arati of Sri Ramakrishna at the shrine after which senior monks offered Arghya (ritual Hindu worship). India’s former President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was the Guest of Honour at a day-long Youth


Convention, the last of the main events. The theme of the convention, held in three sessions, was how to energize the youth of India based on the inspiring words of Swami Vivekananda. The cultural programmes offered were of top-class. There was a flute recital by the internationally acclaimed Hariprasada Chaurasia, bhajans by the wellknown singer Smt Anuradha Paudwal and a musical monoact on the life of Swami Vivekananda by Shekhar Sen (who, incidentally, has performed in Singapore to a sell-out crowd).

The Ramayana - 20

A Poignant Reunion N.Narandran

(Continued from last issue)


s the sun rose Bharata and Satrughna began their search for Rama’s cottage aided by reports from small search par

ties that they had noticed signs of human inhabitation such as pieces of clothes on bushes and thorns and firewood nearby


On the banks of the nearby Mandakini river, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were ruminating on the last one month they had lived in the cottage they themselves had built. “I have no doubt lost a kingdom in Ayodhya,” said Rama, “but have we not gained a more beautiful one in Chitrakuta?” Casting an affectionate glance at Sita, he continued, “Sharing the fresh fruits and honey and the pure water , O Sita, I have no desire to go back to Ayodhya even after the fourteen-year exile.” As he said this he noticed a cloud of dust to the north and wondered whether it was a hunting party. He asked Lakshmana to climb a tree and find out. He promptly did so and shouted in excitement, “It is not a hunting party, but a very big army with horses, elephants and chariots.” Rama wondered whose army it could be and asked Lakshmana to look for any tell-tale signs. It was a furious Lakshmana who came back with this response, “O, perfidy! It is Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi, who is marching on us with his army. I can see him marching in front. He is coming to destroy us, I am sure.” He added quickly, “Let’s get our bows and arrows, we will kill him.” Rama now tried to pacify an excited and furious Lakshmana. “Re-


member I had promised to give the kingdom to Bharata and now you want me to kill him!” Trying to calm down the excitement, Rama suggested that probably Bharata did not know what happened in Ayodhya till he reached there. “He is very attached to me, and may be he is coming to see me.” Lakshmana felt ashamed of his outpourings. Meanwhile Sita suggested they all return to the cottage and await developments. Meanwhile Bharata’s party approached the cottage and saw the altar and sacred fire and spotted Rama, Sita and Lakshmana seated on blades of kusa grass. Bharata ran and prostrated at the feet of Rama crying, “O my brother, O my brother.” He was so emotionally choked he could not utter another word. Satrughna followed suit. Rama lifted up his brothers, embraced them, kissed them on the head and asked, “Why did you leave our father and come to the forest? Is he alright? How are others in Ayodhya? I hope everything is going on well in the kingdom.” Controlling his emotions, Bharata said, “O Rama, our father is no more. He died a few days after you left. I was away at my uncle’s and returned to Ayodhya after a message from Vasishtha.” Bharata let go his pent-up emo-

turned home in their wet clothes.

tions. He continued, “What have I to do with Ayodhya? You are the king and we are all your servants. You should take the place of father. That is our family tradition. Come, let us go to Ayodhya. We must see you crowned at once.”

Soon after they left the river bank, Vasishtha passed that way leading the queens to Rama’s cottage. They did not fail to notice the remains of the libations offered to the late king. Kausalya, the loving mother of Rama, remarked in a sober mood, “We offer to gods what we eat… So this is the food that my son eats in the forest.”

But these remarks were lost on Rama. He was virtually knocked out on hearing of his father’s death. He was in such deep emotional stress that there were no tears in his eyes. He was almost in a stupor. Sita and Lakshmana were deeply worried. They sprinkled cold water on his face and helped him rest a while. Slowly he came back to the world of realities and began sobbing.

In a short while they reached the cottage. As they neared the gate, Rama rushed out and prostrated in the dust before his mother. She took him in her arms and kissed him affectionately. Looking at Sita close behind, Kausalya exclaimed, “O, how emaciated you have become, my child. What a life for the daughter of King Janaka and the daughterin-law of the king of Kosala!”

Rama blamed himself for his father’s death. “I have not done my duty as a son. You Bharata and Satrughna, you have done yours.” He suggested that all of them go to the banks of river Mandakini and offer libations of water and simple fruits to their late father, all the time conscious of the poor quality of offerings to a noble king. The mourners then re-

It was not all tears, though. The joy of reunion of the royal family, albeit in the remote forest, was evident on their faces as they began to sit down and converse till late into the night. (To be continued)

References: 1. Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari 2. Ramayana by Kamala Subramaniam


24 Saturday 27 Tuesday

08 Thursday 22 Thursday

September 2011

22 Monday 25 Thursday 28 Sunday

Ekadashi Birthday of Swami Abhedananda Ekadashi Birthday of Swami Akhandananda

Ekadashi Birthday of Swami Niranjanananda Sri Krishna Janmashtami Ekadashi Birthday of Swami Advaitananda

09 Tuesday 13 Saturday

August 2011

Ekadashi Guru Purnima Ekadashi Birthday of Swami Ramakrishnananda

11 Monday 15 Friday 26 Tuesday 28 Thursday

July 2011


Discourses and classes are open to all Registration required for Yoga class


Vishnu Sahasranamam Arati followed by Rama-Nama Sankirtanam

Mangalarati Puja Evening Arati & Bhajan


Saturdays 5.00pm Religious-Bhajan & Cultural Classes For Children (Temple hall – I level) 6.00pm Discourse on “Talks on Vedanta” by Swami Satyalokananda (Library) 7.30pm Vedic Chanting & Bhajan Class (Temple) Sundays 9.30am Yoga Class (Sarada Hall) 4.00pm Sanskrit Language Classes (Library) 5.00pm Discourse on “Svetasvatara Upanishad” by Swami Samachittananda (Temple hall – I level) 6.00pm Discourse on “Vishnu Sahasranama” by Swami Muktirupananda (Sarada Hall)

6.00am 9.00am 7.00pm Ekadashi 6.15pm 7.00pm