Light the Lamp Within You

Karthigai Deepam in Tamil and Karthika Deepam in Telugu, this festival of lights signifies lighting the lamp within. This post details the story behind this festival and the also the inner meaning conveyed

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Yoga World Record… another testimony to ancient Indian wisdom

The feat of Yogaraj CP, is another testimony to the fact that Yoga helps build stamina and endurance by working on the physical, vital and mental domains, unlike other forms of exercise that work only on one aspect – the physical body.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought Yoga into greater focus by taking efforts to put an international official stamp on yoga through the declaration of 21st June as World Yoga Day. This is Raja Dharma and he should be commended for that achievement. CP Yogaraj, as a yoga practitioner did just that, commended Modi by dedicating this achievement to him.

Modern science and western world should be commended for helping us understand and appreciate through empirical evidences and experiments, various facts stated in Yogic and other ancient Indian scriptures. Several practices which were hitherto thought to be blind beliefs and ritualistic practices were proved to have sound scientific basis in the recent years. (The video in this link is only a representative sample.)

Just because we do not understand today the rationale and logic behind a cultural practice, should we shun that?

If we shun and not put that into practice how can that be preserved?

How can science, as it evolves tomorrow try to understand a non-existing practice?)

After Independence, while the Indian Scientific Community fell prey to the “pseudo-secular” dogma, and Indian community shunned various practices, western world started exploring various statements and claims of Indian scriptural truths through a sincere quest and open mind. This is true expression of scientific temper – trying to know and understand the unknown through the known with a spirit of inquiry. A facet that has to be developed by the Indian Scientific Community. The symposium on “Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit” at the recently concluded Indian Science Congress seems to be a ray of hope, a positive step in this direction.

Over centuries, as human civilization and modern man evolved, man’s understanding of the world and right ways of interacting with it is expressed, preserved and transmitted to future generations in the form of various cultures and their practices. Reasoning and science behind these practices may or may not have been stored in the scriptures of the world community at large. Isn’t it the responsibility of modern societies and scientific communities to try, explore and unravel the hidden truths behind the scriptural claims and cultural practices. One of the responsibilities of science is thus to help explore and understand one’s own culture and civilization better.

That probably is the right tribute, respect and gratitude one can express to the learned wise men of our ancient past.

Have you wondered how our ancient sages and seers understood not only the body, but also mind, energy, psyche and other aspects of our personality when the so-called ‘science’ and ‘scientific temper’ (as described in this article) did not even exist !?!?

And, when none of the modern gadgets and technological advancements existed, What was the technology, science or tool they possessed which help them make these advancements?

Would like to conclude this post with the following fact…

“It was generally believed that the earth was stationary and was the centre of the universe and all heavenly bodies revolved round the earth. But, Aryabhatta-1 held the view that the earth rotates about its axis and the stars are relatively fixed in space. The period of one rotation of earth around its axis according to Aryabhatta is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. The corresponding modern value is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.091 seconds.

– Aryabhatta – Aryabhatiya, Gitika Pada”

Sankranti – Dawn of a new Beginning

Pongal / Sankranti is more than new clothes, mouth-watering sweets, TV, latest movies, etc., that go with any festival. It is even more than signifying harvest or harvest festival, as it is popularly known. It marks the dawn of a new beginning…

We need to understand this in light of

  1. The concept of time as understood in this part of the world and
  2. The month-long Thiruppavai / Margazhi / Ayyappa festivals which precedes Pongal/Sankranti

First about the concept of time…

As a day is roughly divided into 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, a year is divided into six months of day and six months of night.

Roughly coinciding with summer and winter solstices, the period between Jan 15 and Jul 15 is called Uttarayanam or ‘day’ part of the year. The period from Jul 15 to Jan 15 is called Dakshinayanam or ‘night’ part of the year. Considering this the month ‘Margazhi’ falling between Dec 15 to Jan 15 is the pre-dawn hours of the year.

For ages Indians considered the pre-dawn period very auspicious and suitable for meditation and contemplation. Science has now understood and affirms this with predominance of alpha-rays in the environment, changes in ozone layer and other conducive changes in physical, physiological and psychological nature of our body. The same holds true for the month of ‘Margazhi’ which is the pre-dawn period of the year. This is a period marked with lots of festivals and celebrated world over as the divine period of the year.

Significance of the month of ‘Margazhi’ and Thiruppavai…

What is so special about this month? What should one do in this month? Is this month all about rituals and festivals?

As one meditates, rejuvenates and plans for the day during the pre-dawn hours, one need to reflect, ponder, meditate, rejuvenate and plan for the year ahead during this month.

The way to do this is symbolised through the 30 pasurams (stanzas) of Thiruppavai, which are rendered and pondered upon, one on each day. The 30 pasurams of Thiruppavai are but 30 steps to develop the quality of ‘Sattwa’ guna in us. Sattwa guna is signified by the highest qualities – love, care, compassion, empathy, intuition, creativity, planning, all-inclusiveness, etc., one should strive to attain to lead a happy life. In nutshell, it talks about

  • the need to approach a mentor/guru
  • qualities of a good mentee/student
  • qualities of a good mentor/guru
  • right way of approaching a mentor/guru
  • what should one learn from his/her mentor/guru

The goals may be spiritual / material, but the essence of this learning is equally relevant to both. Based on one’s goal, one can reflect upon and plan for the year ahead.

In Tamil it is said ‘Thai pirandal vazhi pirakkum’. It is translated as the birth of ‘Thai’ (the month after Pongal), will open the way forward. As the new harvest also comes home during this period, it is looked forward to with lots of hopes to solve problems. Problems are solved not by following the rituals, but by understanding the significance behind and integrating it into our daily lives.

One need to use this month of festivities and prayers to relax, reflect, ponder, seek necessary guidance, plan and prepare to face the year ahead with rejuvenated vigour and confidence. It is probably for this reason, no personal celebrations like marriages, house-warming ceremonies, naming and cradling ceremonies, etc., are planned during this month. One is provided with enough time to consolidate on the experiences in the year that has gone by, invoke blessings of the divine and start anew with arrival of Pongal or Sankranti.

Another important festival of this month is Ayyappa vratham which also culminates with makara jyothi on the day of makara sankranti / pongal. Having a darshan of makara jyothi is symbolic of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after a month-long penance.

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SSM Lecture Series Inauguration – Photo Feature

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SSM Lecture Series on LifeSkills education

“Sastra Sagara Mathan”

 “Gems of LIFE-SKILLS education from our scriptures – A journey into the Indian Wisdom”

Milk ocean churning

Ancient Indian scriptures abound with universally applicable life-skills wisdom. Ancient Indians evinced interest in the minds of people from across the world as they excelled in all spheres of life – economics, science, politics, astrology, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, education, tourism, trade and commerce, etc. by integrating scriptural wisdom into their life-style.

India was a leading world economy till about four centuries ago. Disintegrating our educational system from traditional wisdom by the colonial powers led to loss of national pride and rapid downfall of our society. It is now time to dive deep into this ocean, bring out gems of wisdom and reach this valuable treasure to humanity in an organized structure so that one can learn, understand and apply the same in daily life to be happily successful in pursuit of life’s goals.

“Sastra Sagara Mathan” is an initiative by Beeja – a trust involved in study, research and archiving of traditional Indian wisdom apart from structuring and evolving programs to enhance the life-skills of children of current generation in an enjoyable format. In these sessions scriptural oceanic treasure is churned by the learned to bring out gems of life-skills education and reach it to the education community to ultimately take it to the children in a joyous format.Samudra-Manthan-The-Churning-of-the-Ocean-of-Milk

The plan…

  • A series of lectures are held wherein one scripture/book of wisdom is taken in each lecture and the expert shares stories, concepts, philosophy, tools and techniques mentioned in the scripture under discussion to enhance one or more domains of life-skills in an Individual.
  • The expert then engages in discussion with the teaching community to clarify doubts and explore means of integrating the wisdom into the education system.
  • The conclusions and learning in the session is then integrated into the life-skills curriculum, syllabus, books and other programs & tools.
  • These sessions are held in schools or common venues with school principals and teachers as invitees apart from other educationists.

Ankur is glad to reach out this series to education community.

Requests for holding SSM lectures in your education institution may be forwarded to ankur@blissgroup.com

Envision Your Success…

Kunti with clarity in vision mothers and nurtures Pandavas, while Gandhari lacking that vision could not provide right guidance to Kauravas. Kauravas, hundred in number had to ultimately face defeat in the hands of five Pandavas.

A clear vision of what you want to be in life, an awareness of what you really value in life will help you pursue the same and plan a successful career.

An idea of where you want to reach, direction of the wind and your current location will help you steer the boat in the direction of your destination. Lack of either of the above would leave you in the midst of the ocean direction-less.

When we talk of vision there are three elements involved

  1. clear sight – the ability to see what is obvious, visible to the eyes
  2. insight – the ability to read between the lines and understand more than what is obvious
  3. foresight – the ability to see what is non-existent today. It is being imaginative and creative.

Envisioning one’s success is dependent on clarity of one’s vision.

Clarity of one’s strengths and weaknesses (clear sight); an insight into the means of building on the strengths and overcoming weaknesses are likened to being aware of one’s current location.

One’s aspirations and goals are likened to the destination one wants to steer the boat towards. In this context, foresight is extended to the ability to envision the likely direction of winds and making alternate plans (paths) to be implemented based on arising circumstances.

Agility, perseverance and endurance guided by intelligence help one to steer the boat successfully towards the destination.

Daily SWAN habit with periodic analysis helps one to develop clear sight and insight.

Visualization meditations, trataka, etc., help to develop foresight.

Creative intelligence fostered with the strength of yamas and niyamas; a clear understanding of the five forces which keep us going; consistent updation of one’s knowledge; and awareness of the changing situations around provides the required agility, perseverance and endurance.

Answer to Misery, Material and Spiritual Pursuits

Measuring Spiritual Evolution

As discussed in yesterday’s post, we cannot measure spiritual quotient similar to the way we do with intelligence quotient, emotional quotient, etc.,

This however can be experienced at the personal level, is very subjective and not for comparison with others. We share below some indicators of spiritual evolution… As mentioned they are only indicative for self-awareness and there are no right or wrong answers…

  • You hear some bad news…
    • an environmental disaster or catastrophe in the other end of the planet. None of the people known to you live there. But still… what kind of feeling it leaves in you? Does that move you? Do you stop a moment and pray for them? or think for them
    • about a person whom you love and are closely attached with. How do you respond to that challenge? Do you get emotionally down or become a source of strength to that person?
    • about someone you are not comfortable with. What is your initial response? Do you feel glad that he had to face that? Do you feel he deserved that? Do you feel sorry for that person?
  • You hear some good news…
    • about someone whom you are not comfortable with or some one whom you hate. What are the feeling that arise in you? How do you respond to that situation?
    • about the success of your competitor, in school or workplace… What are your initial thoughts and feelings about the progress of that person/organisation?
    • about a stranger’s success… Do you feel happy for that and congratulate him/her? Do you feel that you or someone close to you could not achieve that success?
  • On your way to the office in the bus or the train or in the lift, you meet a person who is hurt or wounded… Do you stop a moment to enquire about him? Do you feel sorry for that person within but keep quiet? Are you pre-occupied about something and does not have the time to think about that person?

The list is not a comprehensive one and can go on…

Fullness and Oneness

Spiritual Quotient (SQ) is defined as the ability to act in harmony with the world around and be in balance, realising the “Fullness” within and “Oneness” without.

A cell – an independent functional unit in the organism, acts in the interests of the organisms’ wellness. A cancerous cell violates this principle resulting in ultimate destruction of the organism including the cell.

The cell’s identity is because of the organism. A link exists across all the cells making them a unifying force of existence – the organism. This link while also helping the cell to act in cohesion with the organism, gives it the freedom to act independently. This link – the unifying force, gives a sense of fullness to the cell. This fullness exists only as long as the cell respects the link. Thus the cell is at once, both Independent and United with the organism.

Similarly an individual – an independent functional unit in the universe is free to act according to his will (expression of fullness within) and be in a joyous state by being in harmony with the outer world. All living beings, by default act in adherence to the universal laws, because they don’t have the free will. Humans are the only species which has the privilege of freewill and hence by default has the responsibility to act according to the universal laws. Freedom comes with responsibility.

Unlike other quotients of human personality, Spiritual Quotient is more experiential and cannot be measured. Growth and Evolution in the spiritual domain of human personality is experienced as a feeling of expansiveness, happiness, joy and peace; and expressed as love and compassion one has towards the fellow beings – living and non-living in the world around.

The Guru-Sishya Story

Ankur: “Hi Rishi. I understand that you have been looking for me”.

Rishi :  “Hi Ankur. What are you doing on 12th July?”

Ankur :  “I am not doing anything specific.  What is so special about that day?”

Rishi : “We are celebrating Guru Purnima on that day”.  I am honouring all the reputed teachers in the city on that day. I thought you could help me out in making the arrangements.”

Ankur : “I have been wondering about this Rishi.  When the whole country celebrates teachers’ day on September 5th, you are always in a hurry to celebrate this a couple of months earlier. Why hurry? Relax…”

Rishi :  (Laughs loudly) “Why do you think September 5th is celebrated as Teachers’ Day?”

Ankur :  “It is the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, our former President, who was a great teacher. We celebrate this day as Teachers’ Day in his honour.”

Sarvepalli

Rishi :  “No doubt… Dr Radhakrishnan was a great teacher.  But are you aware that “Teachers’ Day” has been celebrated for thousands of years on full moon day of the lunar month of Ashadh as Guru Purnima; Grand festivities are made on that day and teachers honoured.”

Ankur :  “Wow!  This is interesting.  I never knew that. Why have we been celebrating Teachers’ Day on this particular day?”

Rishi :  “Ankur.  I always appreciate this inquisitiveness in you.  This day is celebrated in honour of Sage Veda Vyasa, our badharayana who is considered as our first Guru.”

veda-vyasa

Ankur : “Is there any specific reason he is considered as the first Guru?”

Rishi : “Actually I need to explain to you two things in answer to this question.  First, our ancient seers had developed immense capabilities beyond their normal senses and were able to come in contact with the universal laws.  For millennia, they passed on these laws to their students orally.  As times passed, capability of humans to grasp the entire knowledge started diminishing.  At this juncture, Sage Veda Vyasa compiled all this knowledge into different sections and simplified them through many stories and historical events so that they are easily available and within the reach of common man.  In this way he made available a huge amount of wisdom to the common man and hence he is considered as the first Guru.”

Ankur : Oh!  This is a very interesting story.  So do you mean to say that he had written a book?  If so, what is the name of the book?  I would like to read that.”

Rishi :  “Sage Vyasa had been a great author.  He wrote lots of books (on palm leaves) in different formats for people with different personality types.  The Four Vedas, several Upanishads, 18 Puranas, Brahmasutras, etc., all together amounts to more than million verses… This is his contribution.”

Ankur :  “Oh!  That is too much.  One would not be able to complete a fraction of that in his life time.  So how is one going to benefit from this?”

Rishi :  “You must remember that he is a master teacher – the prime Guru.  He identified different sets of Gurus and made them each expert in one set of books.  Those teachers in turn passed on the parts of knowledge in which they specialized to their disciples.  In this way the entire wisdom was preserved and handed over across generations for thousands of years.”

gurukul

Ankur :  “To collate and compile all this information requires several TBs of space. Once we put that in cloud anyone can easily access it. This can be an interesting project to compile our wisdom.”

Rishi :  (Laughs again) Now I need to explain to you the other part called the Guru-Sishya parampara or Guru-Sishya tradition.  You may read volumes of information but it will not make sense to you if you don’t understand the inner meaning and its relevance to you.  In Guru-Sishya tradition, the Guru transfers not just the information but also the experience in a way that is appropriate to the student and thus actually it is the experiential knowledge which is transferred from a Guru to his discipline and not bookish knowledge.  It is for this reason that Indian culture and civilization is the longest and the only civilization whose date of origin could not be determined even now.  The computers may go, the papers may go, the palm leaves may vanish, but the wisdom in the form of experiences is there in man and that is transferred to the upcoming generations. As long as man exists this knowledge will remain…”

Ankur :  “Now I understand the greatness of our culture and the importance of Guru-Sishya parampara.  Hey!  Another truth strikes me.  Today there is a lot of buzz happening around experiential learning and activity based learning.  I thought this is a very innovative way for teaching discovered by the west.  But now I realize that is the essence of original Indian educational system.  I love this great country and feel grateful to all the great Gurus for keeping this civilization and culture alive.”

Guru-and-disciple

Rishi : “So what is your plan for next Saturday?”

Ankur : “Of course, I will be with you the whole day.  You are my Guru anyway.  It is my duty to offer my services to you on that day.  Can I invite Ankita also?”

Rishi :  “You are most welcome”

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