Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Grandma's Stories!!

My Grandma's Stories !!!

Both my grandmothers were treasure house of mythological stories and spiritual reasoning. My paternal grandmother stayed with us for quite a few years after my grandfather's death. This was a boon to us. She would narrate many stories that we don't get to read in books or hear from others. I shall narrate two stories to you in this post.

First Story: 
Do you know how Gandhari, wife of Dhritarashtra gave birth to a hundred sons? 

When Kunti, wife of Pandu gave birth to Yudhistra, Gandhari felt bad. Being the elder daughter-in-law and having being pregnant for two years, she had not yet delivered. So, in frustration, she hit her womb so hard that she gave birth to a mass of flesh.

Sage Vyasa who happened to be there, filled 101 pots with ghee. Since she wanted a girl child too, he cut the flesh into 101 pieces and put each piece into the pot. In due course, the jars broke and out came 101 children - 100 boys and one girl. They were called as Kauravas since they were born in the Kuru race.
The eldest one was named as Duryodhana. Unfortunately, when he was born, donkeys began to cry, jackals began to howl.There were evil omens around. Sage Vyasa warned this to Gandhari and told her to kill all the sons since she would only have suffering because of these children But the veil of affection overshadowed her and she refused to kill the children. During her resting period, a child was born to dhritharashtra and another lady in the palace. This son was named Yuyutsu., During the Kurukshetra war, it was Yuyutsu who moved form the Kaurava camp to the Pandava camp and supported to Pandavas.

Second story:

2. Karna wanted to learn archery  and master this art. When he approached Drona for the same, he was turned away citing his caste as the reason. Karna in an urge to equal Arjuna in this art, approached Parashurama. Now, Prarashurama was a brahmin and hated kshatriyas. Though a Brahmin, he has mastered the tactics of warfare. His aim was to vanquish Kshatriyas from the face of the earth. Karna in order to become a disciple of Parashurama, lied to him saying that he was a brahmin, Parashurama accepted Karna and taught him the archery skills. Karna became a favourite student of Parashurama. One day, while Parashurama was lying on the lap of karna, a bee came around and disturbed Karna. Karna did not want to wake his guru. He tried to avoid the bee., The bee stung him. He was in great pain. But he didn't move lest he would disturb his guru's sleep. As drops of blood fell on Parashurama. He woke up and was aghast to see the sight. He was very angry with karna and asked him his true identity. A brahmin would never be able to withstand pain. So he doubted Karna to be a Kshatriya (The actual truth). karna then asked for pardon and told him that he was a son of a charioteer (he himeslf did not know his origin). Parashurama was again enraged at a second lie and cursed Karna that he would forget all his master skills when he needed them the most.So, Karna though equal to Arjuna in archery could never get the name and fame that Arjuna got. Two reasons: First, the series of curses he got from may people. Second: the fact that he supported Adharma. No matter how great you are, if you support Adharma, you are bound to lose and get infamy. 

Hope you all enjoyed it

More in next


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Time to celebrate???????

Thank you Amma and Appa

Mother - Nature's best gift. How do we repay her. By being one
Father - Child's first and best teacher. How do we repay him. By being one
Siblings - Our own reflections

Recently, all of us celebrated mother's day. And in a few days or months ( i don't know when the exact date is), we will celebrate father's day too. And , we do have a brother's day, sisters day, and of course not to forget the all time special valentine's day.

Why do we go so gaga over it? This is a western culture. The westerners have a reason to celebrate. The kind of lives that the westerns live is not the same as ours. Indian families have a very strong bonding with parents, sisters, brothers  cousin and others. They are a close knitted family.  They live together as one till the time they get married (most of them) and some even after that. Even if they are separated from parents after marriage, the bonding is still strong and healthy. They share their ups and downs with their loved ones. They
always have parents to look up to  brothers and sisters to lean on. But for the westerners, their childhood gets over very soon. They mature and behave like adults too early in life. They separate from parents and lead independent lives pretty soon. One cannot see the close bonding of the family in their families What  I am stating is among the majority of foreigners  There are special cases. So, in order to remember their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, they identify one day where they bond and express their gratitude tho their loved ones.

Now, should we follow what they do? Cant we introspect or even think why we do what we do. We raise a hundred questions about what our elders have told, we think we are very intelligent when we questions our shastras and not find answers, we feel that we need to know answers before we do what we do. Well, why then are we blindly following what the westerners do? have we ever thought of finding reasons for these celebrations?

A mother, a father, siblings, a wife are all who are to be celebrated everyday. Mother is nature's best gift, father is a child's first and best teacher, and siblings are our own reflections  Do we need a day to remember, honour and express our gratitude to them.?

We have to thank god for giving us relationships through whom we can celebrate life.  By thank you, i don't mean, you have sing a Sahasranama to them. Take care of our parents when they need us, give them words of encouragement and appreciation for the little things they do in life. Specially, when they grow old, they need a lot of support and moral strength. Let us be a pillar of strength, This is the way to express our love and gratitude to them.  

Just because the foreigners do something which may be relevant to them, we cannot and should not blindly follow them. why don't we see how relevant it is for our circumstances? When we question the Shastras and our elders , why not question these practices? 

A sheer lack of self esteem, a lack of belief and a dis regard to our customs is all that can be said. We don't respect our own culture. We don't want to give importance to our values because we think it is old fashioned We have got so damned influenced by western thinking that we have lost that pride in our culture. We have to bring it back. And the only way is to follow those easy and small practices which our elders prescribe. Give up these celebrations of mother's day, father's day etc etc.  We are selling our culture to the westerns. It is like telling people openly that we reject our practices  What our seers, Acharyas, forefathers laid to us are precious gems. They are all to be followed. We are the sole beneficiary of following them. No one else will reap the harvest.  So, let us first get started with small ones. Let us not think that we are doing a favour to anyone by doing these. It is for our own good.

I don't mean to say that western influence is bad. As I have pointed out in my earlier posts, they have a lot of positives which we can adopt but we don't seem to be doing it. 

Even birthday celebrations. Why celebrate someone birthday when we all know that one year in our life has reduced. We are indeed one year closer to death.  Do we need a celebration for this?. We write our own name on a cake and cut it on our birthday. Doesn't this seem inauspicious?. We blow candles on a day when we have to light the lamp of knowledge. Doesn't it sound ridiculous?. 

I have seen people spending lavishly on their children's birthdays. If kids ask for one, fine. Celebrate by calling friends and distributing sweets, have some games and entertainment. But make the child understand that this is not all life. Money is not to be wasted.  Take the child to an orphanage or an old age and show him/her how tough life is and how grateful we have to be for what we are. Go to a temple, do a donation, feed the needy, call a missed one , the ideas can go on...I am sure the child will understand ..It is the parents who want the pomp and show.  Just to celebrate because we are growing old is no reason at all.

So, let us be more reasonable in doing or copying someone. A little thought and its relevance to our lives will make life better and meaningful


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Greatness of Vishnu Sahasranama

HIS best gift

Prayer is a wonderful way of expressing our gratitude to GOD and his benevolence. Prayer does not necessaril mean to ask GOD for any favours, it is a thanksgiving for keeping us alive today, for a good health, a peaceful state of mind and the benefits we enjoy than many many under-privileged people. This expression of thanking is done in many ways like chanting slokas, mantras, music, bhajans, harikathas etc etc. Among these, the most easier and affordable way to thank GOD is chanting slokas. Not everyone has a good a voice, not everyone is entitled to chant mantras but everyone has the privilege to chant slokas anytime and anywhere.

All slokas extol the LORD. His/HER greatness. Be it in Mahalakshmi ashtakam, or the ganesha pancharatnam, all of them praise the lord for what he is to us, his/her beautiful form, compassion, mercy, love and many many other qualitites. Among all the 1000s of chants available for us today, one of the most popular slokas is the Vishnu Sahasranama. A 1000 divine names of the lord Vishnu with each name depicting one of his many unique natures. Each and every great saint like Shri Adi Sankara, Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhvacharya and others have written great commentaries on this.

Why is the Vishnu Sahasranama so important or rather good to chant. ?

When a child returns from school, it loves to narrate to its mother all that happened that day. He would love to tell his mom about his teacher, his friends and the special events at school. If his mom would do something that would make the child happy, the mom would get a lot of praise, a few hugs and kisses for being so special to her child. Little does the child know that all mothers are the same. It always looks towards it mom at times of success or failures. 

In the same way, the Lord is our saviour and protector. He loves to listen to his devotees. When his devotees thank him and sing his praise, he is full of joy. This does not mean to say that GOD has emotions. He is beyond all feelings. The intention is: he wants his devotees to narrate to him, to have 100% faith in his powers. And he is ready to do anything for his bhakta, when we whole heartedly pray to HIM. For example, In gajendra moksham, when the elephant king's leg was caught by the corcodile, it called out to Lord narayana for help. The Lord in Vaikuntam, came so hurriedly from his abode and killed the crocodile to save his devotee. The lord need not have to come all the way from vaikuntam, He could have whirled his sudarshan chakra from his abode and saved the elephant. But the purpose is not that alone. It becomes a necessity to the Lord to appear and show his love to his devotee. When a mother comes to know that her child is not doing well, no matter where she is and how she is, she hurriedly comes to save her child. In the same way, the LORD, a universal mother cannot bear to see his devotees suffering. He is ever willing to help us. All he expects is a 100% faith which we refuse to give him. And that is the cause of all our suffering. 

By chanting the Vishnu Sahasranama, we get our mind cleaned of all our illusions and develop unflinching bhakti.

Who was the first to chant the Vishnu Sahasranama and what are the circumstances that it came into being.? 
There is an interesting story for this. 

After the Mahabharata war, the Yudhistra, the eldest pandava was made king. The first job he did was to visit his grand-sire Bhishma who was lying in the bed of arrows waiting to give up the body and reach his final abode. The pandavas along with Shri Krishna went to Bhishma. Yudhishtra asked the following 6  important questions:

1.Who ("kim") is the greatest ("ekam") Lord ("daivatam") in the world ("loke")?
2. Who is the one ("ekam") refuge ("paraayanam") for all?
3. By glorifying ("sthuvantah") whom ("kam") can man ("manavah") reach the Auspiciousness ("shubam") (peace and prosperity)?
4. By worshipping ("archantah") whom, can a man reach auspiciousness (peace and prosperity)?
5. What ("ko") is, in thy opinion, the Greatest Dharma?
6. By doing japa of what can “creatures” (jantu) go beyond ("mutchyate") the bonds ("bandhanaath") of samsara?

The result of this is the flow of Vishnu Sahasranama from the lips of Bhishma. The beauty of this is that this was chanted in front of the lord himself. The Mahabharata is great in many ways but to us, it has given us two rare and precious gems by which we can attain moksha. The Bagavadgita where the Lord has taken the place of an acharya. The Gita which deals at length about karma, gnana and bhakti is a wonderful dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna  The other is the Vishnu Sahasranama, where the lord is a spectator to his devotee's prayers. A 1000 names of the lord where each name attributes a special quality. Mere chanting gives us immense benefits. What to speak if we knew its meaning while chanting?.

This wonderful piece of divinity can be learnt by anyone. To make it easy, Smt. MS Subbalakshmi has been a virtual guru for lacs and lacs of devotees. Technology is always there helping us in these things too. Google for Vishnu Sahasranama or look for this in you tube. You will find aplenty of this. Regular classes are being held to spread this. As part of LAHARI too,we have uploaded a few parts for the benefit of all.

What will we get if we chant this great sahasranama? Needless to say, we should pray for no benefit. Pray for the sake of praying and not for any favours. Did we ask for good parents, did we ask for a good education, did we ask for all the luxuries. Didn't we get without asking? When all these have come , our needs will be attended too, without asking. He will take care and give what is best for us.  

However, whether you want it or not, chanting the Vishnu Sahasranama gives immense benefit depending with the intention we pray.  The benefits according the phala stuti that comes at the end of the sahasranama are as follows:

That man who hears the names every day or who recites them every day, never meets with any evil either here or hereafter.

If a Brahmana does this, he succeeds in mastering the Vedanta.
If a Kshatriya does it, he becomes always successful in battle.
A Vaisya, by doing it, becomes possessed of affluence.
A Sudra earns great happiness.

 If one becomes desirous of earning the merit of righteousness, one succeeds in earning it (by hearing or reciting these names).

 If it is wealth that one desires, one succeeds in earning wealth (by acting in this way).

 So also the man who wishes for enjoyments of the senses succeeds in enjoying all kinds of pleasures, and the man desirous of offspring acquires offspring (by pursuing this course of conduct).

 That man who with devotion and perseverance and heart wholly turned towards him, recites these thousand names of Vasudeva every day, after having purified himself, succeeds in acquiring great fame, a position of eminence among his kinsmen, enduring prosperity, and lastly, that which is of the highest benefit to him (viz., emancipation itself).

Such a man never meets with fear at any time, and acquires great prowess and energy. Disease never afflicts him; splendor of complexion, strength, beauty, and accomplishments become his.

The sick become hale, the afflicted become freed from their afflictions; the affrighted become freed from fear, and he that is plunged in calamity becomes freed from calamity.

The man who hymns the praises of that foremost of Beings by reciting His thousand names with devotion succeeds in quickly crossing all difficulties.

That mortal who takes refuge in Vasudeva and who becomes devoted to Him, becomes freed of all sins and attains to eternal Brahma.

They who are devoted to Vasudeva have never to encounter any evil. They become freed from the fear of birth, death, decrepitude, and disease.

That man who with devotion and faith recites this hymn (consisting of the thousand names of Vasudeva) succeeds in acquiring felicity of soul, forgiveness of disposition, prosperity, intelligence, memory, and fame. 

Neither wrath, nor jealousy, nor cupidity, nor evil understanding ever appears in those men of righteousness who are devoted to that foremost of beings.

This hymn in praise of the illustrious Vishnu composed by Vyasa, should be recited by that person who wishes to acquire happiness and that which is the highest benefit (viz., emancipation).

Those persons that worship and adore the Lord of the universe, that deity who is inborn and possessed of blazing effulgence, who is the origin or cause of the universe, who knows on deterioration, and who is endued with eyes that are as large and beautiful as the petals of the lotus, have never to meet with any discomfort. 

Wow...looks like a whole bumper offer. Tempts anyone to chant and be blessed. So, let us start learning this at least with the intention of gaining these benefits,  It may seem too long, feel it may take too long to learn, we may be too old to start off. But better late than never.  Even one line or a couplet of lines everyday is enough to start off. Group chanting always helps one to learn faster and easier. 

Let us climb one step. The lord will come down 10 steps and lift us. Let it start as a mundane job, bhakti will slowly flow in. Let it start with a inward force or an unwanted choice. The vibrations and the urge to chant more will slowly flow in. Let us make a beginning today...HE will continue the saga

I would recommend the following website for this great gift of bhishma. It has the sahasranama with meanings too. Also, some recommendations of particular couplets for different nakshatras (birth stars). But please don't restrict yourself to these lines alone. Try learning the entire sahasranamam. Let us try going beyond mere material happiness.

Ram Ram