How can one become a devoted Vaishnava, Shaiva, or Shakta at the same time?

Different forms of God are conceived in Hinduism to meet the different tastes and temperaments of people. While God as Brahman/ Parabrahman is one and is amenable for worship in different forms, saints and sages always advise seekers to concentrate and worship one God whose form is ishta – the most dear to the heart. That way focus will be far better instead of fritting away energy in different directions.

Here is a story narrated by Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) which is quite apt to answer your question:

Dig deep at one place

Once there was a famous devotee. A man from the next village heard about him and therefore came to see him. The visitor waited outside the front yard of the house as the devotee was performing his worship inside the house at that time.

The man peeped inside and noticed that the devotee was sitting in front of his pooja shrine and doing the worship of Lord Ganesha. The visitor, seeing this dug a hole in the ground. The devotee then started worshiping his Guru. The visitor, now dug a second hole. After finishing the hymns praising the Guru, the devotee then started worshiping Lord Muruga. The visitor dug a third hole.

As the devotee then proceeded to worship Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali and so on, the visitor too dug one hole each corresponding the the God worshiped.

After finishing the puja, the devotee came out and he was surprised to see so many holes at his yard. He shouted at the visitor: “What is this? Why have you dug so many holes in my yard?”

The visitor said, “I wanted to get some water and so I dug one hole. Since I didn’t get water there, I dug the next one and the next and so on. I have dug everywhere but could not get any water. Had I dug at one place deep enough, I would have got the water by now and need not have wasted my time”.

The devotee understood immediately. Had he surrendered to  any one of the Gods wholeheartedly and concentrated worshiping him, he could have become a liberated soul by then.

[Amma: The Gods and Goddesses have diverse forms, but in reality all are one. The various names and forms are only to help us in our spiritual practice to suit our diverse tastes. Each one can choose a deity according to his taste and mental make up which will serve as the ladder to reach the supreme.]

Why were Brahmins treated superior in ancient India? Do Brahmins of the present day really think they are superior to other classes of people? Is ‘Brahmin pride’ really justified?

The source of knowledge of all rituals and mantras is Vedas, particularly Yajur Veda for rituals. Only Brahmins were originally entitled to learn Veda and practice the rituals because only brahmins had the required qualities and qualifications for it.

Those who do the poojas, prayers and rituals were expected to live a pure life, be very dedicated, be free from lust and greed, lead an extremely simple life (funded purely by donations/ gifts/ grants from Kings or the dakshina —voluntary offering paid by the ritual seekers). They were expected to eat less, practice austerities of the highest order, never work for a salary, follow vegetarianism, not consume alcoholic drinks etc. These were indeed the essential qualifications for people who were to be fit enough for conducting rituals and also to memorize Vedas and repeat them verbatim, because Vedas were transmitted from generation to generation only through word by mouth.

Of the four varnas, only Brahmins were able to live up to these fundamental expectations. Brahmins had access to Sankrit and they were good in reciting Vedas with proper intonation that is very essential for the mantras to take effect. Naturally, the tradition was followed generations after generations. Further other knowledge like Dhanurveda (scriptures about archery) and philosophy (contained in Upanishads) were to be taught to others for which Brahmins were fit enough and brilliant enough.

Thus even though Brahmins were in exclusive possession of the greatest knowledge source of Hinduism, they opted to live an extremely simple and pure life as per dharma ordained on them. They were free from jealousy, greed and they shunned violence. Naturally, they commanded respect in the society. Kings prospered through their association with Brahmins and they naturally showed lots of respect to Brahmins.

That’s how in ancient India, Brahmins were treated superior to other varnas.

However, in today’s cultural background things are totally different.

Practically all those who call themselves brahmins have only a semblance of  Brahmins  today. If you read “Deivatthin Kural” by Kanchi Maha Swamigal (Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi) (1884-1984), you will find that he has unequivocally said that today’s brahmins are far, far deviated from what true Brahmins are supposed to be and we have little to claim and feel proud to be brahmins in the real sense.

Mind you, Kanchi Maha Swamigal was the pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Matt and he was an extremely revered Brahmin saint, considered to be a Jivan Mukta. When he makes such a statement, we have to take it at its face value.

Who is a Brahmin?

A Brahmin is

  • One whose whole time job is Veda parayana (chanting vedas) , Veda abhyasam (learning veda’s teachings) and Veda Samrakshanam (protecting veda).
  • one who does nitya karma (daily rituals) without fail. It covers
    • 1) Trikala Sandhya Vandanam (worship-thrice-a-day: as Pratha Sandhya — at early morning, Madyaniga Sandhya — at noon and Saayam Sandhya — at dusk) to be done by all males. who have obtained Brahmopadesam.
    • 2) Samithadanam (offerings to fire) recommended daily once, by unmarried Brahmacharis)
    • 3) Aboupasanam (offerings to fire — recommended daily twice, by married Adults and unmarried Brahmacharis)
    • 4) Brahma Yagnyam (recommended to perform daily, once, after Madhyaniga Sandhya)
    • 5) Pithru Tharpanam (offerings to deceased parents — specific dates in a month, Lunar cycle dependent, to be performed ONLY by those Male members whose father has passed away).
  • One who eats his food by begging, or by means of dana obtained from kings
  • one who lives the life of a teacher to teach Vedic knowledge (or arts, archery etc) and lives by guru dakshina (offerings to the guru) which is not to be demanded (i.e. only voluntary contributions).
  • One who leads a life of extreme simplicity (bordering on poverty) as a dharma
  • one who does not work and earn his livelihood by any other means
  • one who abhors possessing of material wealth, accumulating and hoarding
  • one who is extremely careful about his physical and mental purity and takes immediate corrective measures and goes through self-purification ceremonies.
  • is never offensive, always following ahimsa, never retaliating, never killing, always forbearing, sacrificing. having his senses under control, never lustful, non-drinking etc
  • one who strives for Brahma Gnyana (knowledge of the supreme) as the only purpose of life.
  • one who does not resort to doing activities of the other varnas — Kshatriya (warriors) , Vaishya (traders) or Sudra (laborers and artisans).

Of course, it is obvious that not only brahmins but also all other varnas have deviated far away from the type of lives ordained to them in scriptures. Obviously there is virtually no scope of going back.

Most of the brahmins of today are brahmana-kshatryas (rulers and buracrats) , Brahmana-Vysyas (businessmen, company executives, traders) or Brahmana-Sudras (workers and skilled labor force – including IT Engineers!).

Brahmins are supposed to be never running behind money. But every educated brahmin is very much in the rat race of money-making; it has almost come to a stage in Tamil Nadu that if a brahmin boy does not earn in dollars, he is not considered as Brahmin!

Even brahmins fitting into Vedic brahminism (purohits called Vadhyars/ Shashtrigalin Tamil) who conduct rituals like marriages, death ceremonies, Shraddda Karma etc as per vedic practices are extremely money-minded and demand their cut but not necessarily proportionately knowledgeable in mantras and rites.

On the positive side, we should also acknowledge that many Brahmins even today carry better principles and values by way of their strict upbringing; they are in general far more honest, straight forward, free from bad/evil habits, trustworthy, intelligent, reliable, sincere, non-violent and law abiding.

Varnashrama is gone and only castes remain in Indian society. And Brahmins too exist as a caste only, carrying a false sense of superiority, not as per the original definition and exalted role of Brahmins outlined in varnashrama dharma.

If Varnashrama system were ordained by God truly, why is not existing in other cultures or societies across the world?

The Varnashrama Dharma (classification of the society into 4 classes of people based on their work and role in society in Hinduism), which unfortunately got hardened and compartmentalized into a system of castes, is frequently blamed as a major reason for underprivileged people in the lower strata of the society to leave Hinduism for good.

While the caste system and the consequent demarcation of some of them as ‘upper’ and some as ‘lower’ can be blamed for some of the ills in the social practices of Hinduism, it is outright foolhardy to imagine that “Varnashrama” does not exist in any other religion or society!

In any  religion, even where an overt caste or profession-based demarcation does not seemingly exist, there will invariably be the rich, powerful and influential persons who become de facto “upper castes” and the rest who are not so privileged become “lower castes”. Again there will indeed be different levels of people fitting between “upper” and “lower” depending on the clout they have with money, power or influence.

In any part of the world, in any decent society, you will find these sort of people:

  • Teachers, professors, clergies, preachers, research scholars, scientists, intellectuals, linguistics — They are de facto equivalent to Brahmin class
  • Politicians, statesmen, ministers, Top officers in administrative services, chiefs of Defense (Army/ Navy. Air force), military officers — they are de facto equivalent to Kshatriya Class.
  • Businessmen, traders, Industrialists, small Industry owners — they are de facto equivalent to Vysya Class.
  • Laborers, workmen, craftsmen, technicians — they are de facto equivalent to Shudra Class.

In the present times, even in India, it is common place to see Brahmins by caste being engaged in politics, civil services, trading/ business etc. Poor under-educated Brahmins too work as cooks, technicians etc. If a shudra by birth becomes a Sanskrit professor, he is in a way a Brahmin only, as per original definition.

Even if caste systems go, the social class differences between the rich and poor, the elite and the underdog are not going to vanish. That is the reality of human society.

 

What is the strongest argument in favour of Hinduism?

The strongest argument in favour of Hinduism, in my opinion, is the concept of Karma and rebirth existing in Hinduism.

To understand more on this subject, please click:  “The concept of Karma & Rebirth in Hinduism

I believe karma and rebirth theory is very elaborate, exhaustive, very logical and convincing in Hinduism.

How does it compare with after-death-theories offered by Christianity and Islam? This detailed comparison is available in my reply to the following Question:

If someone is kind, loving, considerate, compassionate, law abiding and just a good person all his life, but doesn’t believe in God, would he go to hell?

Why do Brahmins perform all the Hindu rituals?

The source of knowledge of all rituals is Veda, particularly Yajur Veda. Only Brahmins were originally entitled to learn Veda and practice the rituals because only brahmins had the required qualities and qualifications for it.

Those who do the poojas, prayers and rituals were expected to live a pure life, be very dedicated, be free from lust and greed, lead an extremely simple life (funded purely by donations/ gifts/ grants from Kings or the dakshina —voluntary offering paid by the ritual seekers). They were expected to eat less, practice austerities of the highest order, never work for a salary, follow vegetarianism, not consume alcoholic drinks etc. These were indeed the essential qualifications for people who were to be fit enough for conducting rituals.

Of the four varnas, only Brahmins were able to live up to these fundamental expectations. Brahmins had access to Sankrit and they were good in reciting Vedas with proper intonation that is very essential for the mantras to take effect. Naturally, the tradition was followed generations after generations.

Like everything in nature being subjected to degradation, Brahmins too got degraded; Brahmins too became greedy, started demanding money for services, started dominating and demeaning other castes, slackened their grip on sanskrit, diluted vedic practices and so on.

But still, by virtue of the tradition, Brahmins are still seen as best of the lot to continue with the practices of conducting rituals. So it goes on.

If attaining Moksha is the aim of life in Hinduism, why there are mentions about Swarg (heaven) and Narak (hell)?

Let us first read a funny anecdote that Sri Ramakrishna said. Sri Keshab Chandra Sen was a very popular religious leader in Kolkotta and he was the chief of Nav Vidhan Brahma Samajam. The Samajam was one of the prominent and powerful spiritual movement in Kolkotta and Kesab had many admirers and followers. He was quite rich. He was a very powerful orator too and admired by many.

Keshab Chandra Sen & Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

He was fortunate to come across Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and got gradually and deeply attracted to the saint. He could understand that whatever lofty spiritual subjects he was lecturing on, Sri Ramakrishna was a living and practical embodiment of them.

He used to listen to Ramakrishna’s freewheeling talks on religion and spirituality in rapt attention.

One day he said to Sri Ramakrishna, “Swami, I want you to teach me much more deeper insights into spirituality”. Ramakrishna said laughingly, “I can teach you alright, but if you listen to them and act on them, your Samajam and all would vanish!”

Swiftly, Keshab said, “then whatever you have taught me is good enough, Swami”.

Hope you get the purport of this story here. Not all religious people are in search of Moksha. Most of them want happy and prosperous life in this world and they want to enjoy life in higher worlds too. If scriptures say ‘if you do these acts of punya, conduct great fire sacrifices, feed poor in large scale, construct temples and so on, God will be pleased with you and give you a life in heaven post death’.

At the same length, people need to be warned of leading a life of extreme suffering in the hell, if they engage in evil and atrocious acts in this life.

Thus Swarga and Naraga have their purpose to ordinary people who are very much bound to Samsara and have no keenness to get out of it. Despite whatever suffering they undergo, people will still cling to life and hope that enjoyment will come in due course.

The concept of moksha is attractive only to spiritually more evolved people who could understand that life is like a dream of never ending wants and hunting behind happiness by trying to meet the wants but not getting it mostly.

For such people, karma yoga is the path — working without attachment to the fruits of Karma. For them freedom from the hopeless cycle of births and death — moksha is the only meaningful goal in life.

Why do people chant slokas and hymns to praise God? What is the need?

There are two approaches behind praising God.

  1. An ordinary devotee’s love for God is purely materialistic. He wants good things to happen to him, he wants money, wealth and possessions; he wants to escape from suffering. He believes God is like an over-sized superman. Human beings want and love appreciation, words of praise, honors etc and they will positively respond, even out of the way, to help you when you praise and adore them. These devotees apply the same yardstick to God too and hope to reap the benefits in shortcut!
  2. A true and serious devotee who has real bhakti in his heart starts loving God as his dearest. When you are deeply in love with a girl without any pretense, you start appreciating openly her beautiful looks, her manners, her qualities etc. You derive joy in showering your praise because it comes deep from your heart. You write poems about her; send her love letters/ messages etc. These things just come out naturally out of your emotional overflow of love towards her. In the same way, true devotees of God definitely get joy in singing hymns and praising his divine qualities.

When the love of a boy culminates into marriage with the girl, then all the former words of praise don’t flow any more. Their love is so matured now that it is no longer dependent on verbal expressions. In the same way, when a bhakta’s love on God matures into Jnyana (spiritual knowledge), then the devotee no longer feels the urge to keep praising the lord. He turns inwards; he silently meditates on God and start feeling the Sat-chit-Ananda inside.

What is the difference between a Guru, Sadguru and Acharya?

The word Guru means one who dispels darkness – a teacher.

The word Acharya means one who teaches the right conduct – again a teacher, basically.

But other than the straight meaning, in Hinduism both Guru as well as Acharya are associated with a master to whom a religious/ spiritual aspirant goes and seeks guidance in the matter of divine/ spiritual/ adyatma knowledge.

In certain sampradayas (traditions) (e.g. Vaishnava), the master is referred to as Acharya rather than Guru.

Again there are finer differences.

A GURU

Normal Gurus may or may not have the divine authority to teach spirituality to others, but they may act as guru based on appointment as a spiritual heirs of their gurus, or by the strength of whatever spiritual experience or workable knowledge they have gained through experience. Whatever they have gained or experienced through the path or technique they followed or received from the blessings of their Gurus, they will teach to their followers and it could be limited and narrow too (example: worshiping a specific God form only, instructing a specific mantra only, teaching a specific pranayama method only, instructing a particular meditative method only, vouching on a particular religious path and discipline only).

The normal Guru is likely to spread his knowledge as well as his ignorance to his followers (e.g. refusing to acknowledge or approve any other path, any other God forms, any other sadhana technique etc; he may even criticize and condemn others). (Please note: Not all Gurus may behave like this). A normal Guru may also be very possessive about his cult and followers and if any of them leave in search of anything better, they may condemn and criticize them. (Please note: Not all Gurus may behave like this).

In some cases, a guru may not be very learned in scriptures, but he may have personally experienced God. His experience could be anywhere from getting a glimpse of God/divinity, a sighting of light to the highest knowledge, to the highest state of ‘sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi‘ — remaining permanently immersed in the state of unity with God without any duality. A guru of the highest state of personal experience/ attainment is known as Sadguru. (Explained at the end).

AN ACHARYA

At the elite level, an Acharya is the one who, by deeply learning scriptures from competent Gurus and through dedicated self-study, analysis, understanding, tapas (practicing austerities), prayers, meditation and so on gets a very clear idea about a particular school of thought or philosophy that he feels extremely sure of. Then he goes about (by divine will) to teach his school of thought to ardent seekers and followers. He engages himself in intellectual arguments with pundits of different other schools and establishes supremacy of his ideas. (Ex: Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya).

On the other hand, on a normal practical level, an Acharya is invariably quite learned (intellectually) in scriptures and most probably with adequate Sanskrit knowledge. He might have gained quite some sound theoretical knowledge about a particular sect, school of philosophy, Worship of god-form, a specific scripture etc .

An acharya, may or may not have had any personal experience of God or divinity; yet, by virtue of certain sampradayas (traditions) an Acharya may get appointed as the chief of a Mutt by purely the strength of his scriptural knowledge and capacity to lecture. He may take up sanyas by leaving behind his erstrwhile grihasthasrama (house holder life) in order to don that post. (e.g. South Indian Vaishnava Mutts like Srimad Andavan Ashram or Jeeyar).

There may also be certain traditions where only a Brahmachari (unmarried) sanyasin will be appointed as the head/ future head i.e. Acharya of the mutt and not Grihasthas. (e.g. Sankara Mutt).

Acharyas of formal Mutts will strictly teach their sampradaya only to their followers. Depending on their spiritual attainment (if and when they get it) they may or may not acknowledge other paths and methods as valid or acceptable, but they will be strictly bound by their tradition and will not recommend or suggest or openly acknowledge any other method, practice or path as a valid one.

In certain mutts (example: Ramakrishna mutt), there may be several sanyasins, but only some will be authorized act as gurus and acharyas. Those who are recognized as Gurus alone will be authorized to give Mantra diksha to their disciples. Those who are recognized as acharyas will be the ones who have acquired good scriptural knowledge and they will be the ones to conduct scriptural classes, give discourses and lectures etc. Some acharyas may evolve into diksha Gurus too.

A SADGURU (Satguru)

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa — “As many faiths, so many paths”.

Sadguru indeed is the Guru of the highest order; he/she is the one who has experienced divinity in full and remain ever immersed in it. In the path of bhakti he/she will be the one who has attained prema bhakti and attained union with his personal God. In the path of Gnana, he/she  will be the knower of Self , the one who has personally experienced the state of Advaita. In the path of yoga, he/she is the one who is established in Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. A satguru is one in whom the mind has been annihilated. He/she is the one who has totally eradicated ego; he/she is totally freed of vasanas. He/she is a jeevan mukta (liberated while being alive).

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi — “When Palaniswami came and read out various scriptures brought from library, I was surprised: “How come whatever I have experienced are mentioned in these books?”

A satguru may even be unlettered or hardly be educated in primary school. But he/she would have the entire knowledge of scriptures contained in a nutshell in his personal experience. You will find learned pundits and Acharyas falling at his/her feet to get get clarifications and insight into scriptures that they have been learning life long.

A satguru has reached the peak and from the peak, he/she sees that all the paths are leading to just one end. He/she is not bound by any specific sampradaya through which he may have attained the highest state. He/she acknowledges and accepts all the valid paths, gurus, scriptures, techniques and his only interest is to guide people from any path, any sampradaya to follow their path with true understanding and attain God. He/she is not compartmentalized. He/she accepts one and all. He/she goes even beyond boundaries of religion and attracts people from all religions. Love for mankind flows unconditionally from their heart.

A satguru may not really appear in any Guru or Acharya Parampara. A Satguru in all probability will be a swayambu (self existing). A Satguru may be born in a remote village to simple and unassuming parents who have least to exposure to anything divine. A Satguru could be an avatara purusha. He/she arrives by divine will to teach the mankind. To show a new path. To cleanse a stagnant and dirtied religion or a religious sect. He/she is like a large steamer that can carry hundreds of ardent devotees and disciples across the sea of Samsara.

 

Sadguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

When a Sadguru or Avatara Purusha comes, their basic mission is to elevate humankind spiritually. Yet, they may also act in the worldly plane in providing means for common people to meet their essential worldly needs, and in undertaking large scale socially beneficial acts of philanthropy. They may engage themselves in activities like building educational institutions, hospitals, home for destitutes and so on. They may actively engage themselves in relief works after natural disasters. Further, they are also capable of using their extraordinary spiritual powers in helping individual devotees to overcome griefs and sufferings in their personal lives like severe diseases, extreme poverty, emotional problems, addictions, depression and so on. This way, they tend to elevate people’s focus from the mundane issues to more spiritually progressive way of life.

A satguru may come first and a Guru-Sishya Parampara may get established after him. The parampara of his/her main sishyas (future gurus) will spread his light to more and more people. The guru parampara may run for hundreds of years; it may or may not produce any more satgurus in this tradition. It may also get deteriorated and decimated over a period of time.

Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev

Then comes another avatara, another satguru at some other location, at some other context to re-establish dharma suited to the times. It keeps happening so in India from time immemorial. That is the greatness of Bharat and the Sanatana Dharma – Hinduism.

If God’s name is powerful, then will not be fine if I chant “Ram, Ram” or “Shiva, Shiva” etc? Why do I need for any Mantra diksha from a Guru?

Several spiritual masters unequivocally state that God’s name has power and chanting God’s name definitely has the power to purify our mind. When something unpleasant or inauspicious is said or heard, you might have noticed that some old people will quickly utter ‘Rama Rama’ or ‘Shiva Shiva’ and symbolically cover their ears.

When it comes to mantras, they are mostly given by qualified gurus to their disciples through a formal diksha (initiation). Such mantras mostly contain Om or other bijakshraras (like hrim, klim etc) and also additions like namo or namah.

The specific phrasing of mantras have been received through divine communion by our ancient rishis and they have been passed on across generations by various sects of Hinduism through guru-sishya parampara.

Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.

If a person does not presently have access to any Guru or Satguru, then he can definitely take up chanting of Rama Nama or Shiva Nama and keep doing it with total devotion and faith. It will definitely bring in the spiritual benefits.

Satgurus and avatara purushas are capable of initiating different disciples with different mantras depending on the disciple’s taste, mental leaning or attraction to a specific ishta (personal God) and spiritual bend of mind.

According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).

It means that getting a formal mantra diksha from a sadguru is the best to gain the maximum benefit of chanting a mantra.

What does Swami Sivananda say about getting Mantra Diksha from a Satguru?

To receive the Guru-Mantra from a realised saint and Sat-Guru is the rates to good fortune and the most precious of the divine blessings that may be bestowed upon the aspirant. The full glory of this Mantra-Diksha, specially when it is done by a realised soul, can hardly be imagined even fractionally by the initiated who has not yet a proper idea of what the Mantra and Mantra-Diksha really imply.

A most tremendous transformation begins to take place in the innermost core of the conscience of the initiated or the receiver of the Mantra. The initiated is himself unaware of this fact because of the veil of ignorance or Mula-Ajnana that still covers him, even as a poor man sleeping soundly in his humble cottage at night, carried silently and deposited upon a royal couch in the Emperor’s Palace, remains completely unaware of his transfer, because he is still in deep sleep. But nevertheless, this  transformation start with initiation, and like unto a seed that is sown in the earth,  ultimately culminates in the grand fruit of realisation or Atma-Jnana.

To reach fruition, even as the seed has to pass through a process of developing into a seeding, a plant, a sapling and then a full-grown tree, even so the Sadhaka, after receiving initiation, must make earnest and continuous effort in the form of spiritual Sadhana if the Diksha is to become blissfully fruitful as Self-realisation. This part is the Sadhaka’s sole responsibility in which task he will doubtless receive the help, guidance and grace of the Guru in the measure of his firm faith and loyalty to him.      

                                  (Excerpts  from the book Japa Yoga, By Swami Sivananda)

 

Free download of e-book: Japa Yoga by Swami Sivananda :

download pdf Japa Yoga

 

They say some things cannot happen. I ask why can’t they happen when you want them to happen so passionately. Won’t God listen to you?

According to Hindu Karma Yoga, we have got only the freedom to work on whatever we want to accomplish, but giving the result is only in God’s hands. Agreed that you want something to happen so passionately. But who is the judge to decide whether your passion is really for your good, or for others’ good?

I may not be the best judge to decide what is the best for me because my thoughts, ideals and desires are highly contaminated by my ego. My vision of what is right for the future is also highly questionable. Suppose I want to have a huge bungalow near the sea shore for me to live and relax after my retirement. I have the money, I have the land, I have everything to satisfy my desire. But what if a huge tsunami strikes my dream bungalow and washes it away totally on the 3rd day I occupy the bungalow in the future?

Suppose I start my construction of the bungalow and somehow some hurdle or other keeps coming up and frustrating my construction plan. Naturally I will get angry and agitated and start blaming God for not paving the way for the fulfillment of a genuine desire of mine. But think of my mindset when the Tsunami strikes in future!

Of course, the above is only a fictional example. Now I will share with you a real life example that happened to one lady. This story was shared by a relative of that lady in a popular Tamil Weekly magazine some 25 years ago. Since the story had such an impact on my spiritual bend of mind, I still remember it to share it here:

This lady was an ardent devotee of Lord Ganesha. Every little wish or big wish she had in life, she would pray to Lord Ganesha. She experienced that most of her wishes got fulfilled by God that naturally increased her faith in Ganesha.

She had one ambition in life: She wanted her only son to go and study medicine in USA. She was particular that the University should be the top class in its category. She was quite rich and hence spending on her son’s education was no issue.

She motivated him constantly to fulfill her ambition right from his school days. She was constantly praying Lord Ganesha to make her dream come true. The boy was also reasonably brilliant who was willing to satisfy his mother’s dream.

He wrote the necessary Entrance examinations but he failed once or twice. This lady was disappointed. In the next attempt, he passed, but he could not get admitted to that specific University but got some other. The lady could not accept it. She wanted her son to attempt again with renewed vigor to get entry to that specific university campus only.

While motivating her son on one side, her prayers too were quite feverish. She was even questing Lord Ganesha why he had suddenly become deaf and not answering her prayers as he used to do earlier!

Finally, after one more attempt (this way, some 3 years have passed), he scored good ranks and managed to get a seat in the specific, coveted University campus.

The lady felt very happy. She showered praises on her Lord Ganesha for having listened to her ‘genuine prayers’.

The son went abroad and joined the University. After the passage of few weeks, there happened some student unrest in that University and some ethnic clashes took place within different groups of students. A shoot out too happened and in one of the cross firings, her son was unfortunately got shot by a bullet and he died at the campus.

When the news came to the lady, she was shattered beyond redemption. She started hating Lord Vinayaka and became an atheist.

Mind you, this is a real life story.